Welcome To My Blog

Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Guest Post from Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell - Blood Axe

To celebrate the release of Blood Axe, I am very pleased to have Leigh Russell as a guest on my blog today. Leigh is sharing her thoughts on what it means to be an author.

Recently someone asked me what I do. When I told her I'm an author, she responded with 

a question. 'What makes you call yourself an author, not a writer?' All I could say was that many 

people write, but when you earn your living by writing fiction, you are an author. It's a glib 

response. According to that definition there are many talented writers, and equally many fairly 

untalented authors. 

So what earns me the right to describe myself as 'an author', rather than 'a writer'. Writing is 

a great leveller. Anyone who can write is a writer. How do we distinguish between the dedicated 

and the hobbyist? Is it even a meaningful distinction? 

We all have days when we struggle with questions about what we're doing with our lives - 

or is it just me who sometimes feels like a headless chicken, trying to make sense of the chaos 

around me? I wonder how other people deal with those demons of self doubt. As a writer, they go 

with the territory. Every book I write takes me back to the beginning. 'Is what I'm writing complete 

garbage? This plot is never going to work. What is this character doing?' which leads to the 

inevitable next stage, 'What is my editor going to make of this?' followed by 'What will reviewers 

and fans think of my new book?' 

There are a number of ways I counter my insecurities about my writing, one of which is to 

take a step back to review my progress in this crazy career as an author which, like writing itself, 

seems to follow no rules. 

When I stop to consider how far I've come, I can hardly believe my eleventh book has just 

been published since Cut Short came out in 2009. By the end of 2016, the number of my published 

books will go up to thirteen... and these numbers don't include the different editions, large print 

books, all the titles published in translation... adding them all together, there must be well over fifty 

different covers so far... and yes, I have a copy of every one of them, together with proof copies of 

all the UK editions. I look at my collection sometimes, when I'm having an insecure writing day, 

trying to reassure myself that this is not all a dream. I really have written three series, my research 

has taken me as far afield as Paris, Rome, Greece, and the Seychelles, my books are in 

development for television... 

Yet with all of this success, the insecurity never leaves me. 'So far so good' is all I can say, 

because every book is a precarious new venture. Every day is a different story. Which, I suppose, 

is appropriate for a fiction writer...

Thanks very much to Leigh for her thoughts on writing and where it has taken her so far. You can find out more about Blood Axe below.

Blood Axe

Gruesome, brutal murders, seemingly at random. A killer who leaves no clues. And so another case begins for Detective Inspector Ian Peterson.

Bestselling crime author Leigh Russell returns with the third title in her DI Peterson Murder Investigation series, set against the gothic backdrop of the city of York. Under the shadow of the Minster, DI Peterson is once again tasked with discovering a killer – only this time, he’ll have to use all his skills to uncover who is responsible.

You can find out more and buy a copy, here and here.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Savage Lane by Jason Starr

Savage Lane

This is a dark tale from the start, shot through with a sense of oncoming doom. We begin the story by being plunged right into the bad marriage of Mark Berman and his wife Deb as they argue on the way home from a dinner party.

The setting is Savage Lane - the street, in an idyllic New York suburb, where Mark and Deb live and where, we find out early on, Mark obsesses about their neighbour, Karen Daily.

As the novel progresses we find out more about the location; the goldfish-bowl-like environment with the country club, where everyone discusses everyone else's business; the train that Mark and his male friends and acquaintances catch to go to work in Manhattan every day, and the school which the characters' children attend. It's all very claustrophobic, and maybe that's the root of some of the problems.

We soon find out that it isn't only Mark who is having fantasies of sex with someone other than his spouse, and as we find out how Deb acts out hers the story starts to move into really dark territory.

There is a sense in the first few chapters that we are waiting for something to happen. But the reader is not sure what. Then there is a point where an unexpected and pivotal event is triggered, which takes the plot off in a different direction again. This for me is where the story began to get really interesting. I don't want to say too much more than that for fear of spoilers.

The narrative technique chosen to tell the story is interesting as we get to see aspects of the story told from the point of view of all the main characters. This is revealing because it means we experience all the intrigue, all the fantasies, all the secrets and all the lies. We get to know all the characters really well and although none of them is really likeable, they are all interesting.

I would have liked to see more of the point of view of the police officer who gets involved towards the end of the story, but this is only a minor niggle.

If you like thrillers that are domestic, dark and psychological, this could be for you.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Courted By Jennifer Chance


A guest review from Lady Techie

Courted is a great story about Emmaline, an American visiting a small monarchy in the Mediterranean for a much needed break. I received an early release copy through NetGalley. Emmaline’s parents were in a horrific accident while she was away working on her graduate degree in music. The accident resulted in both her mother and father requiring round-the-clock care. Emmaline put her degree on hold to come home to Missouri to care for her parents. It has been over a year and she has not had a break. Her former college roommates take her to Garronia as part of their European vacation. Early in their trip Emmaline is saved by Prince Kristos while swimming in treacherous waters. Prince Kristos was out on military maneuvers on the beach when he pretty much literally runs into Em. They have a connection that is witnessed by many, including the paparazzi. Kristos is called back to the castle to prepare for taking the throne when his father relinquishes it.  One of his duties to begin choosing a wife when all he wants to do is to be left alone to serve his country in the military which unfortunately is not an option.

I am by no means a royal watcher but, I have found a love for these royal stories. They are a welcome break from some of the darker books I read. I enjoyed the adventure of Kristos and Em as they try to stay one step ahead of the paparazzi and Kristos parents and guards. The chase scenes, though quite dangerous, were exciting. The romance between Kristos and Em was well developed and keeps the reader’s attention. Jennifer Chance also has a way of writing the sex scenes so that they are hot but not dirty. Another good aspect of Courted was watching both Emmaline and Kristos grow. Emmaline always understood her duties to family but she managed to lose herself while caring for her parents. It takes Kristos a bit more to come to terms with family duty, though both of them appear to be grieving without realizing it. It is great to watch them come together and support each other’s choices and learn from each other despite the short amount of time they have known each other. One of the best lines in the book is when each of them describes when they realized they loved the other person. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. 

Review can also be seen at Lady Techie’s Book Musings http://ladytechiesbookmusings.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

The Tea Planter’s Wife

I absolutely loved this novel. Right from the first moment we meet Gwen, the main character, on a boat to Ceylon to meet her new husband and start her new life, we are swept up into her world: the colours, the smells, the noise of her new environment assault our senses in the same way they will have assaulted hers, making the whole story seem very vivid and authentic.

Gwen cannot know what significance her chance meeting on the boat with Savi Ravisinghe will have, but as we follow her story more and more is revealed about how his life becomes intertwined with hers.

The short prologue to the novel suggests that all might not be smooth running for Gwendoline when she arrives at her husband's tea plantation. But this is so skilfully written that it does not give too much away and we are left not knowing what the challenges that Gwen has to face will turn out to be.

The reader quickly identifies with Gwen in the new life she is facing. She does not know how things are done in Ceylon, so she has to rely on picking up her cue from others. But who can she trust and who might lead her astray?

Inevitably Gwen makes mistakes and causes problems for herself and others. But she is also plunged into a turmoil not of her own making that leads her into having to make a terrible and heart rending choice which will have serious consequences for her, her husband and everyone around them.

I found this a very emotional story. It is shot through with sadness and regret. But Gwen is such a strong character that the reader continues to identify with her throughout and really experience the ups and downs with her.

The depiction of Ceylon, and the way life was lived by British people on the plantations is sensitively and evocatively depicted. The way we are taken as readers to a totally different time and place is masterful.

The story is one that stays with you as a reader due to a combination of living and breathing characters, an inspired setting and a compelling plot.

I highly recommend this book for its satisfying mix of romance, family story and adventure.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Something Only We Know by Kate Long

Something Only We Know

 by Kate Long

This latest novel from Kate Long explores some important themes. At heart, it is a story of two sisters; a story of a family that has been damaged by the past but is nevertheless holding itself together. But it also explores political themes including environmental issues, consumerism and animal welfare.

We see the story through the eyes of Jen, the younger of the two sisters. Her life has been lived in the shadow of her older sister Helen, who has always been known as 'the beautiful one' casting Jen into the shade. But Helen has also been anorexic and that has also cast a shadow over the whole family.

The novel discusses issues around eating disorders and body image as both Jen and Helen try to make sense of their shared past. It is also a story about secrets. Who is telling the truth about the past and who isn't? Who can be trusted and who can't? 

Although the subject matter is quite sensitive, this is not a downbeat book. Jen's job in the local newspaper offers some lighter moments and her colleagues are great, especially her monstrous boss Rosa. Jen tries really hard to be a success at work, but missing diaries, a slightly too thorough fridge clean out, and an over generous offer of publicity to friends all conspire to make her fall foul of Rosa and incur her wrath. The little snatches we are given of the features Jen writes for the paper are also very effective. 

There are some really touching moments between the two sisters which lift the narrative out of the ordinary. And Kate Long's love of animals shines through with details of Helen's job caring for dogs, a pet hamster and Jen's mission to expose the ills of fox hunting.

I found this novel authentic and touching. Jen is really put through the mill emotionally. Not only does she have to cope with the demands of her relationship with her fragile sister, but she also has to deal with the fallout caused to her parents by Helen's illness. In addition, she has romantic problems to face up to. Will her boyfriend Owen ever properly commit? What is going on in Helen's relationship with her partner Ned, and what has led to her desire to delve into the past to track down her ex Joe, implicating Jen in the search.

There are all sorts of questions to be answered and mysteries to be solved and that adds to the page-turning quality of the book.

Overall this is a great read which had me gripped. Well-drawn characters, an original plot and very fine writing indeed add up to a top-notch read.

You can find out more here.