Monday, 24 April 2017

Dead Woman Walking
by
Sharon Bolton

Guest Review
by
Julie Williams



I'm delighted to have a guest review for Dead Woman Walking for you on the blog today. This sounds like a great psychological thriller by the sounds of Julie's review!



Review

This is my first book by this author and I have to say it has satisfied my current want of good psychological thriller books. The plots are both creative and interesting from the start which held my attention throughout.

The story begins with a balloon ride over the Northumberland National Park with twelve passengers and one pilot aboard, but what should be a tranquil leisure trip turns into carnage as they witness a man murder a young woman on the ground. 

When the balloon crashes with only one survivor she is forced to run as she has looked the murderer in the eye and knows that her life is in grave danger. 

The hunt is on…..


This chilling tale has a mixture of characters including a traveller family, nuns and bent police and with short chapters, that I really like, brings the whole book together. Of course there are some interesting twists that I did not see coming.

Many thanks to Alison Barrow from Transworld books for the ARC and to Julie Boon for posting this review on her fabulous blog.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Girl Below Stairs
by
Jennie Felton


This is the 3rd in The Fairley Terrace saga and what a corker it is! There is just as much suspense and family secrets in this one as in the others, so I couldn't wait to get started!

Edie Cooper is working as a maid for the powerful Fairley family and is asked to become a Lady's Maid to Lady Elizabeth's adopted daughter Christina. Although Edie is overjoyed and very proud to be asked to take on this very responsible role, she knows she has her work cut out with looking after the very immature and wayward Christina. 

When Christina starts asking Edie to help her find out what happened on the night of her birth, Christmas Eve, when she was found supposedly, by Edie's mother on the steps of the Vicarage, Edie starts unravelling some secrets that she wishes she hadn't. Could her own mother be more involved in what happened on that Christmas Eve than she is letting on?

Meanwhile Edie has dreams of growing old with her neighbour Charlie, but he seems to have other plans. He wants to head off to the bright lights of London to make his fortune, but has no intentions of taking Edie with him. 

What I love about this book, as with the others in the series, is the twists and turns involving the characters and the author has brilliantly intertwined them to keep you guessing as to who could be Christina's real mother as well as the other characters who are living at the great house. They are certainly not as innocent as they seem!

Thank you Jennie Felton for yet another great part to this series. I really am enjoying reading about the different families and what happened to them after the mining disaster that ripped the heart out of Fairley Terrace. 



Friday, 14 April 2017

The Traveller's Daughter
by
Michelle Vernal
BLOG TOUR


I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour for The Traveller's Daughter by Michelle Vernal. I love the cover of this book and can't wait to read it. I have a great guest piece from the author below.



Guest Piece from Michelle Vernal

My literary agent, (I love saying that it makes me feel like a proper writer) Vicki Marsdon was asked a question recently by an Australian publisher. What, given The Traveller’s Daughter’s theme and that several of my other books are set there my connection with Ireland was. A fair enough question as I live on the opposite side of the world in a small town near the Alps in New Zealand’s South Island. Erm, my parents are from Liverpool if that counts? Actually, there is no familial connection unless you go back generations. I didn’t think asking her to pass on that I was a U2 fan from way back was what they were looking for either. Oh, and by way back I’m talking riding around suburban Auckland on my Raleigh 20 bike blasting U2’s Pride (in the name of love) on my transistor radio. Nope, not the stuff of a writerly profile.
Instead, I told her that I turned twenty-one in Dublin and that I unknowingly stayed with travellers while I was there. It was in Dublin that I stood out in the snow for the first time while watching swans glide down the Liffey. A love of history flared and ignited on O’Connell Street as staring at the bullet holes in the Grand Post Office’s facade the Easter Rising was brought to life. I went back to Ireland again eight years later. The Celtic Tiger was roaring in 2000 when my now hubby and I embarked on our working holiday. It was in Bad Bob’s Bar on his thirtieth birthday that he got down on bended knee – I thought he’d injured himself due to one too many pints, but he was in fact proposing. I said yes of course, and bought my wedding dress with its bodice overlaid in Irish lace second hand from a work colleague carting it home in my backpack, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first time I visited Ireland was in the early 90’s, and the vibe was very different to what it would be in the millennium boom yet to come. The air that time of year was smoggy and smoky, and there was a pervasive feeling of tough times. I’d been living and working in the UK on my first big overseas adventure and arrived in Dublin’s fair city about to turn twenty-one. I was also sporting a bountiful head of hair which wasn’t helped by the inclement December weather. I blame fellow Kiwi, supermodel Rachel Hunter and the spiral perm for the hair situation. How was I to know her curls were natural? So it was I paid a fortune for the ‘Rachel’ spiral only to wind up with a ‘Cornwall Long Wool’ sheep. Anyway there we were in Dublin, me and my hair, along with a boyfriend who wasn’t a keeper – and not just because of his pride and joy - a Mr Bean Mini with a dodgy starter motor.
Mr Not a Keeper had a group of friends he called the Irish, they’d crossed the sea and found work near his home on the outskirts of London a few years back, and we were going to stay with them. Everywhere we pootled to in that Mini we were greeted with warmth and welcomed and usually wound up staying overnight due to the dodgy starter motor. One night was spent in a caravan in the Wicklow Mountains with a friend of his who lived alongside a cluster of other static caravans all up on blocks. I didn’t realise it at the time, but they were travellers. I do remember feeling a sense of wildness in that lifestyle and the countryside around those caravans, though. I can also recall seeing ponies grazing on the strip of grass outside an urban housing estate in Dublin - unruly kids playing alongside them. They too would have been part of the travelling community housed under brick and tiles thanks to government incentives.
There was something special about that time; it caught my imagination and held it. It wasn’t because of the great weather nor was it down to Mr Not a Keeper and his Mini. It wasn’t even because of the massive crush I had on that Irish guy who sung with The Hot House Flowers. Oh and for the record it was never Bono, I always fancied the drummer. Anyway, maybe it was a combination of my age and the romantic in me. Whatever it was, I lodged and filed those experiences away bringing them back out again when I was writing The Traveller’s Daughter many years later. In Kitty’s and Rosa’s story I
hope I’ve managed to bring a little bit of the magic, I felt in the air back then to the pages of the book.

Words by Michelle Vernal






Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The People at No. 9
by
Felicity Everett
Blog Tour



I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for The People at No. 9 by Felicity Everett. I have a Q&A with the lovely Felicity Everett for you. Enjoy....


Q&A

Hi. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

Hi Julie, thanks for inviting me to your blog. I am a middle-aged, married Mum of four, the youngest of whom has just flown the nest. I studied English Literature at Sussex University where I met my husband Adam. Work took us to London, where we lived for twenty-five years, and raised our family in a street not unlike the one I describe in my new novel The People at Number 9. I worked for a children’s publisher for ten years, writing and editing around twenty works of fiction and non-fiction and then, as family life got more demanding, I went freelance and published another four children’s books before collapsing in a heap! After a couple of years out, finding myself effectively unemployable, I decided I had nothing to lose and might as well have a crack at writing adult fiction, as I had always wanted to give it a go. I enrolled in a creative writing course at Goldsmith’s University, and after producing the inevitable bottom-drawer prototype, I published my first novel The Story of Us in 2011. By the time it came out, Adam’s work had taken us to Melbourne, where I spent four wonderful years. I had plenty of time at my disposal, and put it to good use, writing The People at Number and work-shopping it with the Melbourne writer’s group I had joined. We came back to the Uk three years ago, moving to a cottage in the Gloucestershire countryside, which is idyllic and a little bit spooky.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I can remember saying I wanted to be a writer when I was at primary school, but I never really thought it was an option. Even when I was writing children’s books, I didn’t think of myself as a writer, with a capital W, just someone who worked in publishing. So it wasn’t until I published my first adult novel, that I really admitted to myself that a writer was what I had become. I still have trouble saying it when I meet people. I want to pinch myself.

What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?

I have only ever worked in publishing, so I suppose you could say I was a writer from the get-go, although writing advertising copy promoting medical textbooks such as ‘Surgery of the Anus Rectum and Colon’ is hardly the stuff that dreams are made of! After that I worked for Usborne publishing, writing children’s books, which was great fun in its own right as well as a useful apprenticeship for writing my novels. Some of the best jobs I’ve had were as a teenager and student – I worked as a theatre usherette, and got to see lots of plays for free, which was a great foundation for writing. I also did a brief stint working as a ground hostess at Manchester Airport, where I honed my diction on the public address system!

How do you carry out the research for your novels?

I don’t tend to do much research as I write well within the realms of my own experience and imagination. If I do need to check something, Wikipedia will usually suffice. My secret writing short-cut is to use Pinterest and Google Image as writing prompts when describing a scene or ‘dressing’ a minor character.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

I find writing dialogue easy and I really enjoy it. I find out who my characters are by listening to them talk. I’ve always found description a bit more arduous, but I’m learning to love it and when it goes well, it gives me enormous satisfaction. Perhaps the hardest thing for me, is moving backwards and forwards in time, or having a character digress, during an internal monologue -maybe reminiscing about their child-hood, or some seminal event in their lives – before moving back to the here and now. Judging the length and tone of that kind of digression can be really tricky. The very best example of this I’ve ever read, if anyone is keen enough to look it up, is in a short story by Tobias Woolf called ‘Bullet in the Brain’ in which the writer pauses, in the millisecond that a bullet enters the brain of his protagonist, to recount the formative years of this character up to the moment of his death, going on for several paragraphs, before returning to the action at the end. It’s breathtaking.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing in bed, when I wake up in the morning. It works better if I sneak up on it. I don’t like to consider this a routine, as the idea of routine, to me, is a pressure. It has become one, though, by default. I used to think I needed a special writing place – ideally a picturesque shack in the garden or a monastic cell. Actually, I write best with the noise of family in the background and a sense of being connected, but simultaneously disconnected from life going on around me.

When you're not writing, what do you like to read?

I like to read the kind of books I am striving to write. That is, contemporary, realist novels about the politics of family and relationships and the internal dramas of the human heart. I read the occasional thriller, but on the whole I find the most exciting twists and turns come from people’s real passions and contradictions and the good and bad choices they make. For me, character is plot. The best exponents I know of this sort of fiction at the moment include Jonathan Franzen, Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, Elizabeth Strout and Marilynne Robinson. I am also a massive fan of American short stories and highly recommend The New Yorker’s fiction podcast. I’ve discovered some wonderful writers that way.

Could you tell the readers a bit about your latest book?

My latest book The People at Number 9 is a cautionary tale about a couple-crush between to sets of very different neighbours in a London suburb. Sara and Neil are ordinary down to earth pair with two kids and perfectly happy, if humdrum existence, whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of some new neighbours, Gavin and Lou – arty bohemian and intriguing. The foursome bond, despite their differences, and before long, Sara in particular, has become so obsessed with her new friends that she has started to reshape her life and that of her family in their image. But as their new friends make more and more demands on them, Sara and Neil will discover that every lifestyle choice comes at a cost, and sometimes its not one worth paying.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?

The character I would most like to be is a minor character called Carol. She is seen by my main protagonist Sara as nice, but dull, and for a lot of the book, she is scorned in favour of the much more glamorous Lou. Carol is very straight and even a bit of a snob, but she’s a good person at heart and essentially, she is pretty content with who she is. That’s why she appeals to me.

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?
Maybe, ‘Who is my ideal reader?’

And the answer would be a well-read and quite stroppy friend who would pay me the compliment of reading critically and being honest about the strength and weaknesses of my novel. She’d have to be tactful, mind you, or I wouldn’t ask her round again!


Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.
Thanks for asking me.



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Escape
by
C L Taylor
Blog Tour



I thoroughly loved this latest thriller by Cally Taylor. It had me so engrossed from the beginning as it has a fast paced storyline which is packed with tension and menace.

The central character is Jo Blackmore, mother to 2 year old Elise and wife to crime journalist Max. Jo suffers from agoraphobia and anxiety which began when she miscarried at 4 months with Henry. This sad event has made her over protective of Elise and unknowingly she is pushing her husband away. 

At first I wasn’t sure if Jo was suffering from mental health issues or just plain crazy but as the story unfolds my heart ached for Jo and I began to sympathise with her.  

There are some nasty characters’ in this novel; Paula who I am positive is crazy, as well as being a manipulative,deceitful and plain evil individual. Max is also not the normal ideal husband that we are led to believe at the start and it is his shady past that puts both Jo and Elise in danger. 

Jo’s Mum Brigid is a quiet woman who devotes her time to looking after her ill husband but she holds a family secret that plays a part in this drama and unites old friends in Ireland as the story reaches its crescendo.



Thank you Julie for a great review. I too, have read this book and agree that it is a thriller that will keep you gripped and guessing as to who is trustworthy and who isn't. What I love about Cally Taylor's books, is that she involves all the characters to the point where I just don't know who the good guys are!!

Well done Cally for yet another gripping psychological thriller. I have read all of her books now and they just seem to get better and better!


To order a copy of The Escape click here



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Food of Love
by 
Amanda Prowse

Guest Review
by
Julie Williams




Review



The Food Of Love is the latest powerful heart breaker read from the talented Amanda Prowse. In this book Amanda deals with the subject of anorexia which I find is tackled with honesty and knowledge that I am sure comes from hours of research.

The Braithwaite’s are your average normal family unit consisting of Mum Freya, Dad Lockie and their two teenage girls, Charlotte and Lexi. Freya writes about food for a living and strives to nourish her family by providing them with healthy balanced meals. 

One day Freya is asked to come into school as they are concerned about Lexi and it is only then that Freya becomes aware that her daughter has lost weight but she thinks it is only a ‘blip’ that she, as her mother, will be able to fix.

This compelling story pulls no punches and has left me with the knowledge that eating disorders are illnesses that can strike ordinary families at any time. 

This novel shows how this often taboo subject affects over the whole family and not just the sufferer and the complex fragile toll it takes on all the members. 

Freya feels guilt, as her role as a mother to protect and care for her child, cannot be fulfilled in this situation. Also she is aware of abandoning Charlotte's needs as her and husband Lockie’s attention is focused on Lexi. Charlotte feels left out and forgotten at times which puts another strain on events.

 My heart really goes out to Lockie as he comes to terms with frustration and anger as he sees his precious daughter slipping away before his very eyes.

Well done Amanda you have produced yet another tear- jerker and total page turner of a book.


Friday, 31 March 2017

The Little Teashop of Lost & Found
by
Trisha Astley
Blog Tour



I have an extract for you today for Trisha Ashley's new book The Little Teashop of Lost and Found. I love the cover and spring like colours of this book.


Extract

Once Upon a Fairy Tale Alice Autumn 1995 I grew up knowing I was adopted, so it was never a shocking revelation, merely one of the things that defined me, like having curly copper-bright hair, distinctive dark eyebrows, a fine silvery scar above my upper lip and pale green eyes (like boiled gooseberries, according to Mum, though Dad said they were mermaid’s eyes, the colour of sea-washed green glass). As a little girl I’d sit for hours painting with Dad in his garden studio, while his deep, gentle voice wrapped me in a soft-spun fairy tale, in which my desperate young birth mother had been forced to abandon her poorly, premature little baby, hoping that someone like Mum and Dad would come along and adopt her. Or like Dad, at any rate, since eventually I came to see that Nessa (she’d insisted I call her that rather than Mummy, practically the moment I could string a sentence together) had had no maternal yearnings; she’d just been paying lip-service to his longing for a family, smug in the knowledge that she couldn’t physically carry a child even if she had wanted to. ‘A bad fairy had put a spell on baby Alice, but when the nice doctors had made her lip all better, everyone agreed she was the prettiest princess in the whole of Yorkshire,’ he’d finish his story, smiling at me over his canvas. 12 Trisha Ashley ‘And they put the wicked fairy in a metal cage and everyone threw rotten tomatoes at her,’ I’d suggest – or even worse punishments, for some old fairy-tale books given to me by my paternal grandmother, including one strangely but wonderfully illustrated by Arthur Rackham, had had a great influence on my imagination. We lived near Granny Rose in Knaresborough until moving to a village just outside Shrewsbury when I was eight, and I can still remember her reading to me the long, long poem by Edith Sitwell about Sleeping Beauty, once she’d tucked me up in bed. I’d slowly drift off on a sea of musical, beautiful words about malevolent fairies and enchantments. Other favourites of Granny’s included The Water-Babies and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the latter a favourite of mine, too, since the heroine had the same name. I begged for her lovely old copies after she died and Dad made sure I got them, even though Nessa was hellbent on having a clearance firm empty the whole house. She was a minimalist sort of person . . . except when it came to her own clothes, jewellery and shoes. Our house was a tale of two parts, with most of the creatively chaotic clutter in Dad’s studio, which might have been stables once upon a time – until he married a wicked witch disguised as a flamboyantly beautiful ex- opera singer and she banished him there. Anyway, you can see why I have a tendency to turn everything that happens in my life into a dark-edged fairy tale – ​I can’t help it! ‘They threw stinky rotten eggs at the wicked fairy, too,’ I’d once added firmly to the familiar story. ‘Well, perhaps, but only until she said she was sorry and then they let her out,’ Dad had amended, kind-hearted as always. Over the years we embroidered the story with increasingly ridiculous flourishes at every retelling, but it had served its purpose, for I grew up knowing that I’d been abandoned in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire and adopted, and the filament-fine silvery scar was all that remained to show I’d been born with a harelip. Of course, later I realized Dad had had no way of knowing whether my birth mother was young or not and also, once I became quite obsessed 13 The Little Teashop of Lost and Found with the Brontë family and Haworth, I knew that it was extremely unlikely that she’d tiptoed up to the steps of the Parsonage in the middle of the night and laid me there, in the expectation that he and Nessa would shortly swing by and scoop me up. I mean, it was a museum by then, so it would have been closed, and also, adoption didn’t quite work like that. (I’m still surprised they let Nessa on to the register. I can only think that her opera training kicked in and she hadn’t been able to resist throwing herself into the role of eager prospective mother.) But while Nessa might make extravagant expressions of affection towards me only when her London friends were visiting (one of whom once cattily let fall the information that she hadn’t had that brilliant a voice even before the operation on her vocal cords that ended her career), I’d known real love from Granny and Dad. And I also had Lola, my best friend, and her lovely parents, who owned a nearby smallholding, growing herbs commercially. There we helped look after the hens and goats, ran wild in the fields and learned to bake in the long, cool, quarry-tiled kitchen. All my life, baking – even the scent of cinnamon and dried fruit – would have the power to transport me back immediately to those happy days and transfuse me with warmth and comfort. So it was an idyllic childhood on the whole, though once the rebellious teenage hormones kicked in I began to clash more and more with Nessa. Still, the finer details of my distant past didn’t seem to matter . . . until Dad suddenly died from a massive heart attack when I was nearly eighteen and my safe, secure world collapsed around me like a house of cards. In any ordinary family, his loss might have pulled Nessa and me together, but she was not so much grief-stricken as filled with a volcanic rage, mainly directed at me. And she became so obsessed with money that immediately after the funeral she sold the entire contents of Dad’s studio (he was quite a well-known artist) to an American collector without a word to me beforehand, locking the door so I couldn’t even go in there to find solace among the comforting, familiar smells of oil paint and turpentine. 14 Trisha Ashley That was bad enough. But then, with even more indecent haste, she moved a new man into the house – and a horrible one, at that, who was scarily over-friendly in an old-lech kind of way whenever she was out of earshot – and I came to realize that now I was just an encumbrance and she couldn’t wait for me to go off to university the following year. The pain of Dad’s loss was still raw and I couldn’t bear to see another man in his place, so I had the row to end all rows with Nessa, culminating in my saying that I hated her and I was going to go and find my real mother. ‘She has to be an improvement on you!’ I finished. ‘You’re a foundling, darling, so there’s no way you can find her,’ she snapped cuttingly. ‘And bearing in mind that she dumped you out on the moors on a freezing cold night, she’d be unlikely to welcome you with open arms, even if you did.’ Stunned into silence, I stared at her while I took in the implications of what she’d just told me. ‘She . . . didn’t leave me in Haworth village, but up on the moors, where she didn’t think I’d be found?’ I asked eventually. Nessa looked at me, the fury dying down slightly into a sort of malicious, slightly shame-faced pleasure that shook me: I knew she’d never really loved me, but until recently I’d thought her as fond of me as her self-absorbed nature would allow. ‘Your father never wanted me to tell you the truth, but I think that was a mistake. And maybe she was batty and thought someone would come across you,’ she suggested, possibly divining from my expression that she’d gone too far. ‘No, if she left me at night out on the moors, then clearly she hoped I’d die and never be found,’ I said numbly, for the spell of Dad’s fairy tale was now well and truly shattered and there was no way it could be glued together again. I felt empty, alone and lost . . . and unwanted – totally unwanted – by anyone. ‘I hate you!’ I cried with sudden violence as hot tears rushed to my eyes. ‘I wish you’d died instead of Dad – though you couldn’t have had a heart attack, because you haven’t got a heart. You’ve never loved me like Lola’s mum loves her.’ 15 The Little Teashop of Lost and Found She shrugged. ‘I expect Dolly actually wanted children, which I never did, even if I could have had them. Your father finally wore me down into agreeing to adoption and he was over the moon when we were offered a baby. But you’d only just had the surgery on your face and what with that and the carroty hair, you weren’t exactly prepossessing, darling.’ Now the floodgates of frankness were open, there seemed to be no stopping the hurtful revelations, so I added one of my own: I told her that the day before, when she was out, her creepy new lover had tried to kiss me and made suggestive remarks. ‘You lying snake in the bosom!’ she hissed furiously, clutching those generous appendages as though she’d just been bitten there by an asp. And though of course she didn’t believe me (which was why I hadn’t already told her), there was no going back after that. Dawn found me on a coach heading to Cornwall, with the loan of Lola’s birthday money in my bag, to tide me over. I took only one case with me, leaving with her for safekeeping my most precious possessions, including Granny’s books and a small portrait of me in oils, painted by Dad. Of course Lola had wanted to tell her mum what had happened, but I’d sworn her to secrecy until I’d found a job and somewhere to live. ‘I’ll stay in a bed and breakfast at first, and there are lots of hotels and cafés there where I can get some casual work until I find my feet,’ I assured her. Inspired by some of Dad’s old stories of the Newlyn artists, and our holidays in Cornwall, I had romantic ideas about joining an artists’ colony, where my aspirations to become a writer and painter could be nurtured, though later I realized this was not only unrealistic, but several decades too late. The stark reality was that my arrival, late in the evening and off-season, when many places were shut up for the winter and no one was hiring, left me without any option other than spending the first night huddled in a shelter on the seafront . . . and all too soon my over-active imagination was peopling the darkest corners with evilly muttering goblins and foully hellish Hieronymus Bosch creatures. 16 Trisha Ashley When the cold breeze blew a discarded cardboard cup across the prom I thought it was the clatter of running footsteps and even the soft, constant susurration of the sea sounded like an unkind conversation about me. I’d begun to write my own contemporary mash-ups of fairy tales, fables and folklore, spiced with an edge of horror, but when it came to the crunch, this princess was no kick-ass kind of girl able to rescue herself, but a frightened waif in urgent need of a handsome prince . . . or even a kind, ugly one. Hell, I’d have settled for a reasonably friendly frog. Tears trickled down my face and I shivered as the cold wind picked up and wound its way around my legs. Then, all at once, I heard the staccato tap of high heels and the excited yapping of a small dog. Before I could attempt to shrink even further into my dark corner, it dashed in and discovered me. A torch snapped on and I screwed up my eyes against the dazzling beam, though not before I’d glimpsed the small and unthreatening shape behind it, so that my heart rate steadied. ‘Well, what have we here, Ginny?’ said a surprised female voice with the hint of a highland lilt. ‘A wee lassie?


To order a copy of this book click here