Monday, 22 May 2017
Widdershins by Helen Steadman
‘Did all women have something of the witch about them?’
Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane will soon learn that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world.
From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witch-finder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.
Inspired by true events, Widdershins tells the story of the women who were persecuted and the men who condemned them.
I am inexorably drawn to stories of witchcraft and the notorious Witch trials of the 17th century and this one in particular called out loudly to me, especially as it is set in the North East of England, as am I. It is based on factual events that will quite frankly make any womans blood run cold!
Narrated in 2 very different first person voices, one to whom I really warmed and one who was so loathsome and despicable I found it quite difficult being placed inside his warped mind.
The first voice is that of Jane Chandler a young woman raised by her Mother Annie and Grandma Meg - both cunning women with a great knowledge of nature and the uses of herbs as treatments for common folk with all manner of ailments from the pains of childbirth to a winter cough and Jane is following in their footsteps and learning the womens family trade.
Meanwhile we have John Sharpe, whom we meet as a small child and I thought I was going to like this little lad who is cruelly mistreated by his father, partly blamed for his Mothers death in his own birth, triggering a deep mistrust and loathing for the midwives who attended his Mothers confinement. As a child accompanying his uncle to a witch trial he grows so utterly hell bent on naming and shaming and denouncing almost any woman as a witch his mind warps and he becomes a violent mysogynist, for whom I was unable to have one shred of sympathy.
Janes story flows beautifully and when tragedy first strikes this carefree young woman I ached for her. but her knowledge as a herbalist inevitably draws her closer to the dangers of being accused of witchcraft and I really began to appreciate just how difficult it must have been back then, for ordinary women in small communities, where any news that filters through is days old and third hand, when a rare visit to Newcastle city centre means a 15 mile walk in either direction, where jobs are almost non existent and women are regarded as little more than livestock by many menfolk.
John Sharpe grows older and more vile, his treatment of his wife and attitude towards women in general made me want to scream. I found it impossible to accept the way he thought that many of the warped ways he behaves are acceptable and his attempts to justify them sickened me.
He follows the nastiest and cruellest path possible and sets himself up to become a witchfinder, performing witch trials and manhandling, testing and pricking innocent women until he could prove them innocent or denounce them as witches and send them to their deaths. Oh Cruel John and innocent Jane lets just hope their paths never meet!
It took me a little while to get into the book but once I did I couldn't put it down. The characters and storytelling are wonderful. The North East of today is so very different to the bustling region of today. Yet because I know the North East region so well I felt right at home in the dark and distant past.
A wonderful scary, very atmospheric, and emotional book which serves as a lesson to all women of today not to be too complacent and trusting and a reminder that some men are just pure evil through and through.
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
Today I'm very excited to be sharing with you an enticing and tempting excerpt from the very latest psychological thriller by one of my favourite and most highly anticipated authors Barbara Copperthwaite.
If you haven't yet discovered Barbara's superb writing you're in for a rare treat, and, lucky thing, you still have her 2 previous, sensational novels to look forward to as well.
Barbara writes wonderfully scary, true to life twisty thrillers about crimes and the impact they have on all the people involved, she puts the reader so deeply inside the characters psyche you emerge
You can find my enthusiastic ravings about her first two books on my blog:
and her second mind blowing thriller Flowers for the dead
I kid you not if you haven't read them yet you really MUST!
But I digress. What we're here for today is to tantalize and tempt you with the release of Barbara's third thriller The Darkest Lies available now.
Here's the blurb to whet your appetite:
A mother desperate for the truth. A daughter hiding a terrible secret.
Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.
Nothing can shake her happiness - until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.
Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk?
As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…
A completely gripping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister and Before I Let You In will be captivated.
I still have this to look forward to reading and I will be posting my review on my blog soon, I can pretty much guarantee its going to be a very favourable review and I'm not often so confident in an author I can say this. Having read this short excerpt I'm absolutely gagging to start devouring Barbara's latest book The Darkest Lies, but will practise restraint and keep the anticipation going for a week or two.
For a taster ..... read on. Then order your copy.
THE DARKEST LIES
The cry for help is ragged and desperate, the voice hitching. There is no one to hear it.
A moon hangs so fat it oozes an aura into the sky that almost blots out the stars surrounding it. It looks down on land as flat as an open palm, and as unforgiving as a clenched fist, and gives no answer to the screams of fear and rage that float up to it.
This is the wind’s playground. It races across the North Sea and hits the land full force. There is nothing to slow it; no hills, few trees or hedges here on land reclaimed from the water to create the marshes and fertile flats of Lincolnshire. It screams ecstatically, punching the handful of houses it comes across, revelling in its unfettered freedom as it rattles windows. On its journey it picks up the entreaties for help that are echoing into the sky. Hurls them across the landscape, as gleeful as a toddler with a toy.
‘Help me! Please! Help!’
There is no one to catch the words.
No one, except a lone figure, turning, walking away towards lights in the far-off distance.
FRIDAY 22 JANUARY
Beth chewed at her thumbnail as she stared at the clothes that were carefully folded in the bottom of the rucksack. Was she doing the right thing? Yes; there’d be no harm done, and no one need ever find out. This was not a big deal. Still she gnawed, worrying at the nail.
The thirteen-year-old suddenly yanked her thumb from her mouth. She must remember not to chew it tonight; it looked as if she was sucking it, like a baby. Tonight, she needed to show that she was grown-up, no longer a little girl.
Right, had she remembered everything? Yep, it looked like it.
It had taken ages to choose both her outfits. One for her parents; one for her secret. She slipped a jumper on and smoothed down the Minnie Mouse picture on the front. It was a firm favourite of her mum’s so it was the obvious choice, even though she didn’t like the childish top herself any more. Everything was perfect for tonight – and her parents would never guess in a million years.
A huge grin on her face, Beth glugged a glass of milk and set it down on her dressing table. Then called out: ‘Mu-um. You ready to go?’
A laugh floated up from downstairs. ‘Isn’t it normally me asking you that?’
Beth hurried downstairs with her rucksack, her dad making the usual joke about ‘a herd of elephants’. She gave him a peck on the cheek and a big hug, which he returned, but peered around her at the television.
‘Ooh, offside,’ he groaned.
‘See you tomorrow.’
‘Have a nice night, Beans.’ He grinned as he used her nickname, but continued watching the football, casting her only a sidelong glance.
Minutes later, Beth and her mum were wrapped in their hats and coats, and striding along with Wiggins by their side. The russet cocker spaniel held his nose high, tail swishing casually from side to side, catching various scents on the cold January air.
‘Hey, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could smell things the way Wiggins does? We could follow scent trails!’ Beth said.
She linked arms with her mum as they took the left-hand lane from the village crossroads on which they lived, towards the home of Beth’s best friend, Chloe.
‘Like a superhero? You could be called Dog Girl,’ her mum joked.
Beth wrinkled her nose. ‘Yeah, on second thoughts… The name’s not great, is it?’
‘What other superpowers would Dog Girl have?’
‘Well, okay, she could take all sorts of things from nature. Like, she could have echo‑location, like a bat, so she could find her way in the dark. That’d be handy now!’
‘What are you up to with Chloe tonight, anyway? Pamper night? Watching a film?’
‘Yeah, we’ll probably watch a film. Not sure about the pampering – Chloe might not have any face packs.’
‘We could nip back and get some. There’s a couple in the bathroom cabinet.’
‘No. It’s fine. We’ll probably watch a film and eat a lot of chocolate.’
‘Want some money for a pizza? It’s a Friday night, you might as well treat yourselves.’
Her mum stopped abruptly, waving the tenner at the sky before handing it over. ‘Look how big the moon is tonight.’
‘Is it a supermoon?’ Beth asked, gazing upward too. There had been one a few months earlier, and her dad had told her about how it was special, being closer to the earth and bringing bigger tides. That had been really cool.
‘Don’t think so, but it’s beautiful, isn’t it?’
She nodded. ‘I can see the man in the moon ever so clearly.’
Given that they had stopped, it seemed as good a time as any to try…
‘So, I might as well walk the rest of the way alone.’
‘No, I’ll walk you to the door. It’s dark, Beth.’
She gave her mum her very best puppy dog eyes look. If the plan were to work, her mum couldn’t take her to Chloe’s house. Despite her parents thinking she’d be spending the night there, she had no intention of setting foot inside the place.
‘I’m a teenager. I’m not a baby. Pur-lease, Mum!’
After a second or two, there came a reluctant nod. ‘Be careful.’
‘I love you to bits and whole again,’ Mum added.
Beth felt her nose prickle with guilty tears. They had been saying that to each other since she was about four. She remembered it vividly, being cuddled on her mum’s lap; her feet tucked under Dad’s legs to keep them extra toasty warm. One hand twirling a piece of hair round and round and round her fingers as Dad read to them. She’d loved to hear the sound of his voice, but no matter how hard she’d fought, her eyelids had grown heavier and heavier and…
The sensation of weightlessness had woken her, as Dad carried her upstairs. When he’d tucked her in, he had stroked her face and kissed her forehead.
‘Sleep tight, Beans. I love you to the moon and back,’ he had murmured.
Beth had stirred sleepily. ‘To the moon? That’s a really, really, really long way.’
‘It is, but I love you so much that it would easily stretch all the way there and back again – and more.’
The next day her mum had walked her across the road to school, holding her hand. As Beth slipped from her grasp, her mum had pulled her back, into a bear hug.
‘Love you to bits,’ she’d whispered.
Beth had paused in her squirming. ‘To bits and back?’ she’d checked.
Her mum had laughed. ‘Er, yes, I suppose. To bits and whole again.’
Ever since, that saying had stuck. Hearing her mum use it now, Beth wanted to call a halt to her plan. To throw her arms around her and confess everything. She wanted to go home. She wanted to curl up and watch telly with Mum and Dad, while Wiggins did sneaky trumps that they all tried to blame on each other, laughing, even though they knew it was the dog. She wanted to tell her mum she’d love her forever and ever and ever, to bits and whole again.
Instead, she grinned cheekily, turned and skipped away like a little girl. Taking the mickey was easier than trying to articulate all of those feelings.
The wind plucked at her ponytail as she flew from sparse light pool to light pool between lamp posts until they ran out completely. The darkness swallowed her. Ahead she could feel her fate waiting for her and she rushed towards it eagerly. Tonight was going to be a big night.
Read the rest - buy your own copy now!
Read the rest - buy your own copy now!
Monday, 15 May 2017
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh
Today is my stop on the blog tour for Leopard at the door a gritty historical novel about life in Kenya in the 1950s.
Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.
But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.
Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?
Leopard at the door is not your average historical romantic fiction, it is a dark and powerful look at a time and place when culture clashes and grievances erupted into a regime of utter brutality and violence.
Set in Kenya in 1952, the story is narrated by 18 year old Rachel, who is returning to the Kenya of her childhood, to the family farm where she was brought up, until the age of 12, on her colonial parents remote family farm in a pretty idyllic environment. Her childhood companions the native Kenyans who work for her family, she was even educated by a Kenyan tutor. Roaming around the nearby bush and fishing in the dam, the long sunny days and cries of the wildlife are imprinted firmly on her memory despite being uprooted and shipped off to cold gloomy England at the age of 12 following the sudden death of her Mother.
All she has longed for ever since is to return, but she discovers the Kenya of her childhood is long gone and its place is a country simmering with political tension, threats and terror always just over the horizon. The biggest threat these days is not from the leopard roaring in the bush, but from the natives themselves. Its seldom possible to go back and find things how they were and change is not always for the good.
The story is about how man can turn on the fellow man he has always looked up to, and how if the hand that feeds does it carelessly and disrespectfully, undoubtedly it will be bitten.
The driving force of this story is the Mau Mau uprising of a rebel factor of the Kikuyu tribespeople, and true news headlines and reports are scattered throughout the book as Rachel listens to illicit radio broadcasts from the UK. The Mau Mau are forcing their fellow tribesmen to swear an oath to join them in their revolt against oppression by the white settlers who now aim to claim their lands and virtually enslave them. But by doing this the rebels end up committing vile atrocities against their unwilling fellow natives and ultimately against the British, whom they begin to terrorize and brutally slaughter in violent murderous attacks where folk are hacked to death with Pangas or burned in their beds.
I told you it wasn't an easy read!
What struck me most in this book is the contrast, the beautifully described, idyllic, location of stunningly beautiful rural Kenya, the peaceful Great Rift Valley, the expansive Bush, the wide open spaces, the searingly hot sun and the wildlife. In contrast are the hideous atrocities committed, against livestock, pets, men women and children and also in contrast are the thoroughly dislikeable characters who range in character from the weak and foolish to the truly despicable.
Do not be fooled into thinking this will be a nice gentle holiday read! This is a harsh and brutal telling of a terrible period in history, a tale of barbarity and vicious cruelty and it doesn't pull ANY punches. How could a book based on such a terrible historical event be anything but emotional and harrowing? Yet is is instantly gripping and I was swept through Nairobi to the Rift Valley with the unfolding horrors playing out as a backdrop, much as Rachel was borne along on events over which she had no control but just had to observe. It is terrible in its simplicity and awesome in its barbarity and a thoroughly fabulously researched and deeply emotive tale. The author undoubtedly knows her location intimately and respects its heritage as well as the nature.
I personally found the animal cruelty as distressing as that done to the humans, after all it could be argued that the British brought it on themselves, but their pets? livestock? Children?
It is a very chilling tale, which had me looking over my shoulder for men with cleavers creeping up behind me and listening for the telltale sounds which can mean the Mau Mau are coming.
But don't let this put you off reading it. If you enjoy gritty realistic historical fiction based on true events, let this book be your introduction to the Kenyan Mau Mau uprising.
It educated me about a period in history which took place just before I was born and thus I had only just heard a little about. This plays out in an Africa colonized by the British whilst at home in England the new Queen Elizabeth enjoys her coronation ceremony.
The poignancy of the diversity and tension of the events unfolding make this quite a genre defying historical novel. It is not a romance although there is a simmering, forbidden passion which I failed to be able to regard as romantic, just ill advised and doomed from the outset.
Order your copy now
Monday, 8 May 2017
A Dangerous Crossing - Rachel Rhys - Review
1939: Europe is on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd, a servant girl, boards an ocean liner for Australia. She is on her way to a new life, leaving behind the shadows in her past.
For a humble girl, the passage proves magical - a band, cocktails, fancy dress balls. A time when she is beholden to no one. The exotic locations along the way - Naples, Cairo, Ceylon - allow her to see places she’d only ever dreamed of, and to make friends with people higher up the social scale who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man who she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings.
But Lily soon realises that her new-found friends are also escaping secrets in their past. As the ship’s glamour fades, the stage is set for something awful to happen. By the time the ship docks, two of Lily’s fellow passengers are dead, war has been declared and Lily's life will be irrevocably changed...
Knowing that this author is an already well established psychological thriller writer would have come as no surprise if I hadn't already known this in advance of reading this change of genre historical fiction romantic drama, as it pulses with mystery, tension and suspense throughout.
Its the most perfect holiday read and fabulously enjoyable reading, which kept me gripped from page one.
A Dangerous crossing is a story of a thrilling and tension filled journey of discovery one young woman takes on a ship to the other side of the world at the outbreak of world war Two. Lily Shepherd is in need of a change of scene, with her working class background and sketchy work history, the opportunity arises to avail herself of a government assisted passage scheme for domestic workers to travel to Australia to fill a glut of domestic positions.
This scheme helps her stretch her horizons much wider than should be usual for a young working class girl. Travelling with others in a similar position ensures she makes friends as soon as she boards the Orontes. Being on board a ship in a close knit environment for a long trip means class distinctions can easily become blurred by the heat of foreign travel and a mix of people from different backgrounds travelling by the same route to the same destination for a wide variety of reasons.
Everyone on boards has secrets. Lily becomes friendly with attractive Edward and his sister Helena travelling together for rather vague health reasons. Vivacious and fascinating very much upper class couple Max Campbell and wife Eliza offer a hand of friendship but they are very obviously far removed from anyone she'd normally socialise with. Each with a mystery or secret.
Its a very eventful voyage with simmering tensions and undercurrents ready to drag the unwary traveller beneath the surface. Hidden agendas, secrets and lies are everywhere and it's totally utterly compelling this story of a young girl way out of her comfort zone and the characters she meets and the events which unfold one season at sea.
There is so much going on with the slightly claustrophobic feeling of being in a close knit community with folk you normally wouldn't mix with. Some amazing characters, nice and not so nice, coupled with simmering tensions of war brewing and change of the horizon and enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed.
The book begins with a woman being escorted from the ship amid a barrage of press attention and rumours, but its left to the reader throughout the story, to assimilate the information revealed and guess who it might be .... I can bet the identity proves to be a huge surprise for most readers!
A fabulous wonderful read I just loved to bits. If you only pack one book to take on holiday this year make it this one.
Monday, 1 May 2017
Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt Blog tour and review.
Amsterdam, 1654: following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five year old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family.
Her new life is vibrant and exciting in a city at the peak of its powers: commerce, science and art are flourishing and the ships leaving Amsterdam bring back exotic riches from the Far East.
When an unwelcome figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees to Delft. There, her painting talent earns her a chance to try out as a pottery painter.
Slowly, the workshop begins to develop a new type of pottery to rival the coveted Chinese porcelain – and Delft Blue is born. But when tragedy strikes, Catrin has a hard choice to make. Rich and engrossing, Midnight Blue is perfect for fans of Tulip Fever and Girl with a Pearl Earring
Every now and again a novel comes along that so clearly calls out to me it might be a bespoke title written for me alone.
Midnight Blue is one of these books.
It was the cover which first drew me towards this book, I think its just gorgeous!
But between the covers I became enchanted with the story.
Firstly it’s set in the vividly described, enticing location of Holland and the centre of Amsterdam, a city with which I am so familiar I could conduct my own guided tours around the canals, having spent much time there some years ago.
This book is set in a bygone era, located in a Holland of the past, the mid 17th century to be precise. My love of authentic historical settings and a longing to time travel back to days gone by and witness life as it used to be, gives this another huge tick in my box.
The heroine, Catrin, is a strong willed and determined individual, a trait I admire. I love to read about books with a strong female protagonist in whose clogs I can firmly place myself.
The cover instantly indicates that the book features the emergence of the Dutch pottery industry and the development of Delft blue, a decorative form I adore which remains popular today.
So now I’ve told you why it’s the perfect read for me, I’ll try and explain how it exceeded every expectation and why YOU need to read this wonderful, enthralling historical novel for yourself.
The story is narrated by a very authentic young woman of 25, Catrin, who is suddenly widowed. Feeling unable to stay in the stifling small village where everyone knows everyone else business, she moves away from her family to the bustling city of Amsterdam, where she lands on her feet being offered a job as a housekeeper.
Life in Amsterdam is busy and exciting and the family she is working for are interesting and considerate. Soon opportunities present themselves for her to expand her horizons far more than would ever have been possible in a little rural village.
Catrin has an artistic streak, until now, little more than the ability to decorate simple household objects and make them colourful and pretty with basic paints. When her bored mistress takes art lessons, Catrin absorbs the information and techniques and a longing to use her own artistic talents is born, we even meet some famous historical faces from the art world as Catrins path crosses theirs.
It’s romantic and mysterious:
When romance appears for Catrin and awakens passions of a different kind to those which she feels for art, it leads to possibly disastrous consequences and Catrin finds herself feeling threatened and pursued and is soon on the move yet again. Always there is an air of mystery about her past, especially when a figure from her previous life appears on the scene threatening to disrupt the new life she has built.
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and fortune smiles on her, presenting her with further opportunity and more grief. It seems as soon as fortune finds her, misfortune follows behind and we watch her life unfold amidst a series of lucky coincidences and terrible disasters.
In an era when plague threatens and drama is quick to turn to tragedy, Catrin does all she can to hold her head high and achieve a decent life for herself. Who wouldn’t?
It’s immensely enjoyable:
Midnight Blue is a wonderfully entertaining story of a very determined young woman, whom at times I thought was excessively fortunate and at others felt so unlucky my heart almost broke for her. On occasions her streak of determination shows a manipulative nature and she often makes impulsive and unwise decisions but she genuinely charmed me and I was hooked into experiencing her life as it unfolds.
There is romance, violence, mystery and death amongst the pages to satisfy readers with a wide variety of tastes and in Midnight Blue there is never a dull moment and I loved every moment of my journey through time.
Friday, 21 April 2017
I'm thrilled to be second up on the blog tour for the WONDERFUL new book The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull as I'm not sure I can keep my big mouth shut any longer about quite how ownderful I found this story. Wow The Wild Air blew me away (or maybe I should say FLEW me away)
The Blurb .....
A heart-warming, exhilarating novel about one young woman's determination to follow her dreams of becoming a pilot in the early 20th century.
In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.
When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother's aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.
But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything - and everyone - Della loves.
Uplifting and page-turning, THE WILD AIR is a story about love, loss and following your dreams against all odds.
What an utterly captivating heroine young Edwardian Miss Della Dobbs is.
When I finished reading this book I literally came back down to earth with a thud, I was so lost in the Wild Air with Della.
I was a touch unsure how I’d take to her to be honest as I like my heroines larger than life, feisty and confident and from the start it’s clear that Della is naturally none of these.
So painfully shy she barely ever utters a word, even at home with her family. In a household of folk who know where they’re headed and with plenty to say about where they’ve been she is the misfit, the one with no skills, no personality and no ambitions (or has she?) Cowed and belittled by her (utterly despicable to my mind) self-centred, overbearing father who, denied the continuance of his distinguished career on the stage, makes a career out of being a disabled drama queen and an absolute boor (can you tell how much I disliked this character?)
No wonder that when black sheep of the family, great Aunt Betty, who dared to escape her mothers family folds, when she emigrated to America to marry a Yank, arrives back in England, widowed, childless and not quite socially acceptable, the two very different women are drawn to each other by their very apartness.
As Betty recounts tales of her life in America and the birth of air travel, Della begins to obsess with aeroplanes and pilots and flight, to hanker after being one of the first women to actually fly a plane and in her burgeoning love of flight is born the ambition, drive and determination to help her make her place in a changing world. We watch Della realize her ambitions from learning the rudiments of flight by building and flying kites on the nearby beach, to inveigling her way into a mans world to gain the flying lessons she yearns for.
Throughout this enchanting novel we watch her confidence and character grow and when she finds a love for which she will risk everything, my heart swelled with fondness and pride for her.
This is a coming of age, a love story and a historical novel about early flight which swept me along until I was flying alongside Della, who proves herself to be every bit the daring feisty heroine I wanted her to be all along.
The chacters in this book are all immaculately drawn, believable and real with flaws and failings and little quirks which made me feel I knew them all. The era it is set in is breathtakingly depicted with passion and the speech and mannerisms of the characters is appropriate and mesmerising.
I also became deeply immersed in the history and development of flight, another aspect I was a little unsure of before I began to read this. The authors detailed knowledge and obvious passion for this subject shines through and charmed and entertained me throughout. Such devoted research was translated so engagingly I was educated and enchanted by every word.
Reminiscent of the wonderful book series Flambards by KM Peyton which I adored and devoured in my teens (the very epitome of early young adult fiction) this is a heart-warming and gripping girls own, for adults, story, wonderfully told.
Even if you have no interest in the history of flying read this gorgeous tale, I'm confident you too will be utterly swept away by Della's memoirs.
Published by Hachette - part of the Hodder and Stoughton group you can discover more about this talented author at Hachette.co.uk
Rebecca Mascull is the author of THE VISITORS and SONG OF THE SEA MAID. She has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England. Visit her website rebeccamascull.tumblr.com.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
A thoroughly entertaining and gripping psychological suspense story by the wonderful CL Taylor, author of The Accident The Lie and The Missing all taut, suspense filled Domestic Noir/ psychological thrillers.
In The Escape we follow the life of Jo, our main protagonist, who is the Mother of a little girl Elise, and is married to an investigative journalist Max. Jo is suddenly approached and threatened, by a stranger, a woman called Paula who warns Jo that she needs to keep a closer eye on her daughter and that her husband has taken something that belongs to Paula.
Now if Jo's reactions to this encounter seem a touch extreme this is explained when we realise that she is agoraphobic, in fact as we immerse ourselves deeper in her story it is revealed that she has several mental health issues, is somewhat unstable and doubts begin to creep in. My empathy for her began to waver slightly as she becomes the atypical unreliable narrator around which many psychological thrillers are woven and the ideal breeding ground for mistrust and red herrings.
Then more facts about her home life are revealed and I'm back in her corner, rooting for her, but maybe I was right to be sceptical? and so on, the wavering, is she behaving logically or is she a fruit loop keeping me on a knife edge. Who IS this Paula and what is her story? Is husband Max as devoted as he would at first appear?
But it is never in doubt that Jo loves her daughter deeply and it becomes clear that she will stop at almost nothing to protect her. There is a parallel storyline, that of Mary, an older woman who is also battling stress and the prolonged effects of grief after losing a child in terrible circumstances. Coincidence puts these 2 women on a collision course.
I won't reveal too much more about the story, suffice to say that if you loved CL Taylors earlier thrillers you'll devour this one. It's dark and twisty and very clever and its a damned good read to keep you turning the pages late at night.
"Look after your daughter's things. And your daughter…"
When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn't.
The stranger knows Jo's name, she knows her husband Max and she's got a glove belonging to Jo's two year old daughter Elise.
What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo's own husband turn against her.
No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there's only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.
Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Everything but the truth is about relationships and secrets a taut Domestic Noir thriller/ romance.
Rachel and Jack are like any young couple, they are very much of the Social media generation, they haven't been together long enough to really deeply know each other inside out, but what they do know is they are in love, they are in it for the long haul, which is just as well as Rachel is expecting Jacks baby.
Perhaps they should have waited a while, but Things are what they are and they both very much want this baby, after all they have the rest of their lives to get to know the little quirks of each others lives.
But although Rachel is certain that Jacks the man for her to spend the rest of her life with, a judder of deja vu runs through her when, following a glimpse of an email he tries to conceal, she suddenly begins to suspect he may be hiding something from her, after all this has happened to her recently in a previous relationship which crashed when she had cause to mistrust boyfriend Ben. Surely history can't repeat itself?
It soon becomes evident that Jack is hiding something but will Rachel make matters worse if she persists in trying to uncover his past? She is clearly keeping something bottled up herself and her past life as doctor even though she is no longer practising medicine is revealed in snippets and we work out that nothing is straightforward with this couple at all and makes us think perhaps its better not to know than keep digging and digging until the hidden is revealed in its stark hideousness.
The book is very contemporary and Jack and Rachel are the couple of today we see all the time in the cafe sipping their lattes and gazing into each others eyes. Well next time you're people watching maybe this book will make you wonder just what is simmering beneath the surface and ask the question do we really know our partners and ourselves?
With plenty of red herrings, twists and reveals it's a thoroughly entertaining page turner to satisfy the modern romantic with a penchant for examining the darker side of relationships and personalities a taut Domestic Noir for the internet generation.
The Blurb and accolades
Just how much can you trust the person you love?
Everything but the Truth is Gillian McAllister's stunning breakthrough thriller about deceit, betrayal and one woman's compulsive need to uncover the truth
It all started with the email.
Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?
'Packed with twists and turns that will make it almost impossible to put down!' Hello!
'Twisty and emotionally charged. Breathlessly brilliant' Heat
'A gripping, compelling page turner that kept me up half the night' Liz Nugent, bestselling author of Lying in Wait
'You won't be able to put it down!' Hollie Overton, bestselling author of Baby Doll
'Perfection. Intriguing and compelling. An exceptional debut' Clare Mackintosh, bestselling author of I See You
'A beautifully written domestic noir full of secrets and lies' Claire Douglas, bestselling author of Local Girl Missing
Monday, 6 March 2017
I wasn’t sure whether I’d love this book, described as romantic contemporary women’s fiction. Of late I find I’m not always enjoying this genre nearly as much as I did, once upon a time.
But I needn’t have worried. Secrets we keep has completely renewed my faith in books written by women, for women, with a lot of heart and a good few twists along the way. This is so much more than Chick-lit it’s a very competent and compelling dual timeline of love and loss and heartache spanning the generations, set in a small seaside town in Ireland called Ballytokeep.
It is in Ballytokeep that Kate arrives, world weary, tired after years in her successful job as a top London lawyer, looking for a change of pace, a place to calm her soul and put down roots, a place like Ballytokeep.
She comes to stay with elderly distant relative Aunt Iris who, with husband Archie, runs a charming, if slightly faded, guesthouse in this seaside village which charms so many folk who return year after year. You will finish this book desperate to visit Ballytokeep yourself and hoping to meet the new friends you make in the pages of this wonderfully descriptive and atmospheric story.
Then there’s Todd, ageing Rock star who gets a sudden wake up call with a health scare which fundamentally changes his outlook on life and brings him to Ireland for a gentler pace of life.
The stories of all these characters are woven intricately around their pasts and present, many of the secrets being kept evolve around the old Bathhouse, owned by Rita and Archie but lying empty and forlorn waiting for the right person to breathe new life into this seaside spa cum café.
The main historical thread looks back at Iris’s youth and the encounters and men who have moulded her. She has rather a tragic past along with dear, darling Archie who for me was the unsung hero in this book. I was swept along with her story even when she makes a decision or two I found hard to accept.
We also spin back 10 years to discover why Kate is middle aged and single, with little time for romance. There is even a strong story woven around Rita, who becomes a good friend to Kate.
The writing is superb Faith writes like Maeve Binchy for the noughties.
The characters are extremely authentic and their lives detailed, rich and believable. Despite this they are not all perfect, in fact several of them are pretty flawed and boy are there some poor decisions made which have long lasting repercussions. But this entrancing book shows us that, although we must live with our past mistakes, that the past undoubtedly shapes our futures, although we can’t go back and put wrongs right, in moving forward we can atone and come to terms with the secrets hidden in our past.
This book is the most perfect holiday read, one to read whilst relaxing in a vintage tea room with a slice of home-made cake, a cup of coffee in a faded bone china cup and the sound of waves crashing on the shore.
The Blurb - from the Author's own website
Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept.
A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.
The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.
For highflying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?
About the Author:
About the Author:
Faith Hogan was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.
Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin. It was published by Aria, (Head of Zeus) in 2016. ‘Secrets We Keep,’ is her second novel.
Contact Faith or visit her webpage:
Twitter (her favourite)
You can check out her books on:
Saturday, 4 March 2017
My Review of Goldsmith Jones by Sam Taylor-Pye
Goldsmith Jones - It's like Oliver Twist with sodomy!
Set in the wild west, in the gold rush era, the eponymous character is a teenage rent boy and he is a damn' fool! He just never learns from his mistakes and he gets himself into many risky situations he could so easily avoid, yet lands himself in scalding water, again and again.
I'm not really sure why I found this book so engaging, but I rolled with it and really rather enjoyed it. It's certainly different and darkly exciting.
Goldsmith Jones "My name's not Nancy or Boy" arrives, with his long blond hair tucked beneath a greasy cap, in San Francisco in the mid 19th century to find it a lawless and poverty ridden place.
Orphaned and soon on the run from the law, he begins a life of male prostitution to earn himself a roof over his head and a crust and soon falls in with a succession of unsavoury characters, who in the main, treat him badly, apart from the nearest he finds to a real friend, half breed native American boy Raccoon. Everyone else has an ulterior motive and most of them involve sex, violence or law breaking.
It's quite strange and rather explicit and covers a lot of rather graphic gay sex scenes, most of them involving or even instigated by the hapless main character who, when the book begins, is only 14! Hmm, it should be SO very wrong, but it is historical fiction and this kind of thing undoubtedly went on. Not for the faint hearted reader though.
This book reads well, its a rollicking romp through the cesspit that is Saint Francis town (San Francisco) filled with bullies and beasts and paedophiles and I couldn't put this book down. It's full of larger than life dislikeable, flawed and enigmatic characters, including two cross dressers I rather did like, Ally a woman who dresses as man and Violet, a man who dresses as a woman, (but I thought she was a woman until she let herself slide and began to grow facial hair) He has a love/hate relationship with a sailor he calls Sweet Virginia from the fragrance of fresh tobacco he always has, and is taken under the dubious wing of gang leader the vicious and unpredictable Saul Suarez.
If you're offended by a child earning his crust by giving blowjobs to drunken sailors up a filthy back alley and the frequently used term c***sucker offends you, I think it's best you don't read this book.
There is a lot of violence as well as a lot of sex in fact there's a fair bit of violent sex. This is a brutal old world, yet its so easy to become immersed in this dark and gritty tale about the dank underbelly of gangland San Franscisco.
It reads like part western (reminded me a little of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick De Witt) part gangland tale. Sometimes Goldmsith comes across as an ingenue, sometimes he's far too knowing, he can be calculating and canny but he always calculates wrongly, always he's a fool to himself and charges in where an angel fears to tread without ever assessing the possible consequences. For much of the book I was thinking "Oh for Goodness sake, you're never going to do that are you?" but he does, and ends up bloody and even more damaged and hurt and I have to be honest I never warmed to him quite as much as I hoped as I just wanted him to grow from his experiences and he really doesn't!
If you're looking for a fast paced, gritty read that's very different from the norm, give this a whirl as long as you're not looking for hearts and flowers, cause you sure won't find any of those here.
San Francisco, 1863. Fourteen-year-old Goldsmith Jones is left stranded in crime-ridden, gangland territory. He finds himself living at The Shades, a home to local street kids.
While selling sexual favours downs the Dead Man's Alley to survive, Jones is charmed by a seaman he knows as Sweet Virginia. Moving further away from the relative security that The Shades and his best friend, Raccoon, offered him, Jones is drawn ever closer to the manipulative Sweet Virginia.
When Raccoon falls gravely ill and is taken to convaless on the rural Rancheria, Jones is left under the controlling powers of the unscrupulous navvy.
Swindled and wrongly accused, he is unexpectedly rescued by the leader of the villanous Suarez Brothers, the charismatic Saul.
Faced with a choice between becoming Saul's 'little brother' and saving Sweet Virginia's life, Goldsmith Jones must embark on a dangerous journey which will change his young life forever.
Thursday, 2 March 2017
Blog tour and Book Giveaway
Before the Rains – Dinah Jefferies
It would be hard to find a more richly descriptive and lavishly depicted book than Before the Rains. Every page bursts with opulent, evocative imagery, colour and vibrancy, including the beautiful cover and it is astonishingly, heart-warmingly, romantic.
Dinah Jefferies is rapidly becoming my go-to author for vivid, plausible escapism. With her words she paints stunning exotic landscapes of epic proportions, which immerse the reader in past cultures, gently educating us about historic events, breaking our hearts a little, before wrapping us in the warmth of a passionate relationship.
In Before the Rains, I was transported to India in the 1930s in the final days of the crumbling British Raj and instantly immersed in the spice laden, colourful, Indian culture, where I met Eliza, a recently widowed British woman of 28.
Wanting to carve out her name as a photographer she accepts a position, through the British Government, to work in a palace as official Royal photographer, a rare and cherished opportunity for a British woman at this time.
Having lived in India as a small child, until the sudden and brutal death of her beloved father Eliza speaks a little of the language and is familiar with many local customs. However it is only after she witnesses the barbaric treatment of a young widow, that she fully appreciates how vital it is to conceal her own state of widowhood for her own safety.
Upon her arrival at the Royal palace she is surprised to discover that she will be living within the palace walls and under constant observation. The culture clashes she experiences make it difficult for her to know who she can fully trust as although she is warmly welcomed by some members of the Royal family she is seen as an interloper by others.
There is an instant affinity between herself and Prince Jay who is easy for her to relate to, having had a very British upbringing due to his education in the UK and she soon feels she’s found a friend. But despite a growing attraction between the young couple it’s clear that a closer relationship must be avoided. A Royal must marry another royal in order to provide legitimate heirs and inter racial relationships are so taboo they can hardly be spoken of, as the secrecy behind the illegitimacy of a young woman called Indi, whom Eliza also tries to befriend, is testament to.
Eliza is in for a rocky ride and despite her determination to be an independent modern career woman things don’t always go smoothly. Close family friend Clifford always seems to have her very best interests at heart but maybe he has an ulterior motive? His pale, sweaty, flushed skin made my skin crawl and despite Eliza obviously viewing him with similar contempt she finds she needs to rely on his protection.
There are mysteries and subterfuge and underlying tensions which simmer away beneath the romantic exterior.
Jay is a handsome, smouldering, heart stopping hunk of a hero who captivated me yet remained an enigma by the glamour and mystery of his life.
I was completely and utterly engrossed in this opulent and vibrant tale of British Rule in India and forbidden love which is the absolute epitome of historical romance. Eliza’s story transported and enthralled me throughout.
Read more about the author and her other sensational books on her own web page
WIN A COPY
Now you too can experience Eliza’s India by winning your very own brand new hard back copy of this delightful book.
To be entered into my free prize draw for one of two copies of Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies all you need to do is post a comment after this blog post telling me …. If you could time-travel back to 1930 and be anywhere in the world where would you go, and why? Or Tweet me @Beadyjan with your answer and the hash tag #BeforetheRains