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

Monday, 17 July 2017

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done

Based on the true story of Lizzie Borden who stood trial for the murder of her father and stepmother, 'See What I Have Done' is a compelling and well crafted novel.

The use of language is experimental in places, and the structure fragmented as Sarah Schmidt takes the reader backwards and forwards in time and in and out of different points of view. This complexity accentuates a story in which there is still much unsolved mystery.

It is not known whether Lizzie Borden did kill her parents or not, and in the novel we are presented with a mosaic of different scenarios. Things that might and could have happened. Reasons why they might have come about. Dark motives at the heart of a fractured family.

The writing is very accomplished and recreates authentically the claustrophobia of the Borden household. Father, stepmother and two adult daughters are living in close proximity to each other with all the tension and awkwardness that creates.

This book is not always an easy read. The visceral and sharply evocative descriptions of decay and death are so realistic that they assault the senses. But the quality of the writing and the execution of the plot are masterly and the overall read is well worth it.

A recommended read for anyone who craves the unusual, and for anyone who is familiar with the real life story of Lizzie Borden and intrigued to enter a fictionalised version of her world.

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

You can find out more here.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister

A guest review from Lady Techie

Wow! I said it from the first pages of the book and I am still saying it as I get to the end. Red Sister is this magnificent fantasy with seriously kick-butt fight scenes and awesome displays of magic that I was lucky enough to receive a copy of from the publisher via NetGalley. Mark Lawrence has outdone himself. I have his other books on my to be read pile but something struck me about this book that I could not wait. As soon as I had a gap in my calendar for reviews owed by specific dates I jumped into this book, feet, mind and heart first. No mistake, this book can be heart-wrenching. From the beginning of the book when the reader is introduced to Nona Grey the reader is heart sick at how she is taken from her village and moved to what must be nothing but slavery where children are trained from a very young age to fight in pits after having been bought and dragged across lands to be sold to different men who house children to make them fight.

Nona is one inch from death when she is moved to the convent of the Sweet Mercy. What is different about Sweet Mercy is that each of the novices are taught not only about the religion that is prevalent in this world, but, also the craft of being an assassin which comes in many forms. What draws the reader to the convent’s world is a cast of amazing characters, from the diverse personality and gifts of the sisters that are training the girls to each of the novices. In the middle of all the training is the promise that there is a “chosen one” in which rumors have floated across the land and it looks like she may have come to Sweet Mercy. This creates an additional rivalry as the students start vying for their roles not only in the school, but also in the world. Ara is brought to the convent under heavy guard to be protected because the emperor’s sister is known to have tried to have her taken from her family.

The convent is the one place where, like Nona, she can be safe. Nona comes to the convent under a cloud of suspicion and known to be from “peasants”.  She is the youngest and smallest when she arrives and initially does not seem to take well to the others, especially after being abandoned by her village. Clera is the first person to take Nona under wing and the second person she calls friend which is of the utmost importance to Clera, so much so it resonates throughout their relationship and especially at the end of this first part of the story and leads me to my most favorite line in the book: “You choose your friends. If you’re going to worship dead people you didn’t choose, then perhaps the bonds of friendship shouldn’t be so easily broken. No?’ At the end of the day, most of us can say we didn’t choose our families, but, we did choose our friends which makes that choice of the utmost importance and something worth protecting. We have to wait until the next book to see how Clera chooses as she seems to always choose economic gain. 

This Review was originally posted at  LadyTechie’s Book Musings.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Leopard At The Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Leopard At The Door

When Rachel returns to Kenya after six years back in England following the death of her mother, she isn't sure what to expect. While she's been in England at boarding school and under the care of her grandparents, she has longed to be back with her father and back in the country she loves and that feels like home.

But when she arrives, things have changed. Her reunion with her father isn't as she'd hoped and she discovers that he has moved another woman, along with her son, into the family home. It's the early 1950s and the political scene has changed as well, so the story unfolds against a backdrop of the Mau Mau uprising.

Things aren't just uncomfortable for Rachel in her new situation, they are actively dangerous as she realizes that she no longer has any idea who she can trust.

The historical details of this story are convincing and give a very authentic feel of the experience of the moral conundrum of being at the centre of colonial unrest. And there are some interesting flashbacks to things that happened when Rachel was previously in Kenya as a child and that, to her adult self, begin to fill in the gaps in her knowledge of what is going on.

Jennifer McVeigh skillfully builds up a sense of menace, of claustrophobic fear and encroaching violence, which rises to a crescendo as everything that Rachel holds dear is threatened. Along the way the themes of betrayal, sexual tension and identity are explored.

I found this an entrancing, sometimes uncomfortable, and complex read and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes a completely absorbing novel with an unusual setting and great characters. Rachel's story is thought provoking, emotional and will stay with you long after you have finished the book.

All in all, a very accomplished and enjoyable read.

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

You can find out more here. And buy the book here.

You can follow the blog tour here.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Interview With Amanda James

Behind The Lie by Amanda James

Today, I have Amanda James here to talk about her new book 'Behind The Lie'. Here's the blurb.

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.
Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.
Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Tell us about your new book, Mandy!

Thanks for inviting me, Helen! Okay, Behind the Lie is about a young woman, Holly who’s had a difficult few years. She left a small Cornish village for the bright lights of London to be a model. Unfortunately, she got caught up with the kind of lifestyle that sometimes surrounds a career like that. She became addicted to drugs and sank into depression. Then she met handsome and wealthy doctor Simon West. Holly soon fell for him; they married and she hopes to live happily ever after.  When she falls pregnant with twins she is over the moon, but then tragedy strikes. Only one of her babies survives. She’s so distraught that she refuses to believe that her son is dead and friends and family begin to fear for her sanity. But Holly is determined to find her son and the story is about her quest to do so.

Where did the idea for the plot come from?

Often ideas for stories just appear as if by magic. Sometimes I wake in the night with a whole story in my head, sometimes they come from a title – A Stitch in Time arrived in that way. I was thinking of a catchy title for a novel and the story followed it in six weeks! But for Behind the Lie, one day I was walking on Crantock beach about twenty minutes from my home, and I looked up at one of the gorgeous houses on the side of the hill overlooking the sea. A dream of mine is to live in a house overlooking a beach, but I’m afraid it will remain just that. Anyway, I wondered who might live in a house like that. The answer came back in the shape of Holly West.

How does it make you feel when you have to make bad things happen to your characters, like you do with Holly?

I feel sorry for them of course, but at the same time know that they will eventually overcome their problems. All the nice characters have happy endings in my books. It’s just the nasty ones that meet their comeuppance, I like making bad things happen to them!

Was there much research involved, and how did you do it?

There wasn’t an awful lot of research really, though of course I researched medical aspects of the story and also the grief of losing a child. People I know have sadly been in that position. Then I wrote the book in about 6 months. Three months after that, it was set to be released into the world!

To what extent is this a departure from your previous novels?

Apart from the two time travel books of mine, there isn’t really a departure. As a reader, I love to try and figure out what is going to happen in a book, what the secret is, or who done it etc. I was inspired to write by Dean Koontz, the wonderful American suspense writer. I gobbled up his stories and he certainly influenced me. He often has a romantic element in his stories and so do I. Koontz often has a paranormal angle also and I enjoy writing those too. Summer in Tintagel and Dancing in the Rain are examples of those. I like reading straight suspense novels, but the added excitement and freedom to go ‘outside the box’ which is afforded by the paranormal is very liberating as both a reader and writer.  Behind the Lie has no paranormal element however, and not as much romance as some of my other books. There is a bit though.

What response from readers to Behind The Lie are you most hoping for?

I’m hoping they like it! Even though this will be my seventh published novel, I still get really worried and nervous every time about how the next book will be received.

What’s next for you in your writing career?

I have another suspense set in Cornwall that will hopefully be out before the end of this year. Watch this space.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps and get a novel published?

I would say, never give up; even when you have been knocked down so often that you don’t think you can find the energy and self-belief any more. Perhaps take a writing course and defiantly get someone that’s impartial to read your work. Determination to succeed is paramount. I have been knocked down and battered to a pulp over the years, but I have had reconstructive surgery and managed to keep finding publishers who think I’m not such a bad writer after all, and lovely readers who seem to enjoy my books.

Thanks so much for the chat, Helen! I really enjoyed it x

Thanks, Mandy. It's been really interesting finding out more about you and your work. 

You can buy 'Behind The Lie' here

Amanda James has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.
Amanda has written many short stories and has five novels currently published. Her time travelling debut - A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 and has met with great success.
Amanda lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. Three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and Behind the Lie - April 2017 pub - HQUK ( HarperCollins)
Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Author links – Amanda's blog - http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/
Twitter - @akjames61
Facebook mandy.james.33

Friday, 28 April 2017

We Other by Sue Bentley

We Other

Jess Morgan faces many of the problems that other teenagers face. Living on a rough estate with her alcoholic mother, Alice, and Alice’s violent boyfriend isn’t much fun. Neither is feeling like she doesn’t quite fit in at school, at home, or anywhere else really. Sometimes it seems like her only friend is a homeless man, Mike, who lives in the underpass.

Meanwhile, in a very different world, Ninka, the kind hudskin, takes care of the mortal child Aerith and protects her from the wrath of the evil Catelysma. In the Faery kingdom human life is dispensable and cruelty is never far away.

We follow Jess as she becomes gradually more aware of her status as being different or ‘Other’. Why does she find the chemicals of the modern world so hard to live with? What are the strange bumps beginning to grow from her shoulders, and why does she seem to possess powers and skills that are far out of the ordinary.

When Jess’s path crosses that of young Caleb, also unhappy at home with a bullying father, the plot moves towards the mysterious Windroth, the home of eccentric artist Ivy Stark. Windroth seems to be the focus of Faery activity, although Caleb doesn’t realise that at first.

At Windroth the human world and the world of Faery collide and Jess has to decide whether to follow her destiny. She also has to work out what that means for her, for Alice, and for her growing relationship with Caleb.

There is plenty in this book to keep the reader entranced. The descriptions of Faery are vividly and convincingly done. Sue Bentley really conjures up all the different forms of life from ogres to pixies in a very original and striking way. This contrasts with the grittiness of the real world situations of Jess and Caleb and adds an extra level of interest to the story.

Jess is a really strong character and I enjoyed getting to know her and following her life-changing story. She has to deal with all sorts of issues that other girls her age will be familiar with, from difficult friendships to worrying about a vulnerable parent. But, when the demands of the Faery world are added to that, the story takes on a whole other dimension.

This is a book to really immerse yourself in. By the end you won’t be able to help feeling that you know Jess, and that you have spent time in the world of Faery yourself.

A highly recommended read for adults and young adults alike.

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

You can find out more here