Thursday, 3 September 2015

Giveaway :The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne ~ Now out in Paperback !


Happy
****Paperback Launch Day****




I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read and review this exciting book in

February 2015


and


 I'm even more delighted to be able to offer a copy of The Ice Twins to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway.




Praise for THE ICE TWINS:

‘Beautifully paced, teeming with psychological shivers.’ The Times, Best Crime Thrillers

‘A magnificently creepy thriller’ Spectator


‘A knife-sharp thriller.’ Daily Mail
23553419 


Second best selling thriller debut of 2015

Third best selling hardback debut of 2015


One of Sarah’s daughters has died, but can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller that poses the question that haunts every parent – how well do you know your own children?

A year after one of their identical twin daughters Lydia dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives. As winter encroaches Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work. Sarah starts to feel increasingly isolated as the only inhabitants of Angus, and their surviving daughter Kirstie is growing more disturbed, outcast by her classmates at her new school. When she claims her parents have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

‘I am stalling. For the last two weeks I've called her ‘darling’ and ‘Moomin and anything-but-her-real-name, because I am scared she will turn and give me her tranced, passive, blue-eyed stare and say ‘I'm Lydia. Not Kirstie. Kirstie is dead. One of us is dead.


Published in paperback 3 September 2015 by Harper Collins


About the Author

 S. K. Tremayne has previously written under a different name and is also an award-winning travel writer, and a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines around the world. Born in Devon, the author now lives in London. He has two daughters.












My thanks to Louise Swannell and Harper Collins for their generosity in providing this giveaway.





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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Review ~ Ordinary Joe by Jon Teckman

25394478
The Borough Pres
July 2015





Ordinary Joe stars Joe West, a happily married accountant for a film production company, who gets himself in all manner of trouble after an accidental one night stand with leading lady Olivia Finch.

What would you do if…

…you were happily married

…with two gorgeous children

…and the most beautiful film star in the world walked up to you

…And it wasn’t a joke.

…Could you resist?

First of all, I have to say that I was completely taken in by this book cover. It's so bright and cheery that you can't help but want to peek inside to see what's going on ..and believe me when you do peek inside, you will find that there's a lot going on for the hapless Joe West, who is about to commit a sexual folly of epic proportions, something that will have repercussions for a long time to come.

We know very early on in the book that Joe, a very ordinary middle aged accountant,  finds himself in bed with a beautiful film star, it's the stuff of his dreams, the only problem being, that Joe is,....a) very drunk and.... b) very married...and, so, of course,  neither misdemeanors show him in a very good light. When his boss, Joseph Bennett, a man Joe despises,  finds himself unwittingly drawn into the whole sorry affair, well, ...you just know that therein lies disaster.

What then follows is a comedic story which at times reads almost like a farce, you can so well imagine everyone rushing round madly trying to set the just right balance of damage limitations. When I finished the novel, I realised that I had found most of the characters unlikable, but looking back, I think that's a deliberate ploy on the part of the author, and for me it worked well, as then, regardless of outcome, I didn't need to have any sympathy for any of them.

I read the book quickly, it's not one that you need to ponder over too much. And it did make laugh out loud in places, so my advise is just go along with it and enjoy a quirky and wry look at modern life.




About the Author

Jon Teckman


Jon Teckman was born in Northampton in 1963. He served as an advisor on film policy to both Conservative and Labour governments before becoming Chief Executive of the British Film Institute in 1999. ORDINARY JOE was born at an Arvon course in 2007, inspired by Jon’s experience in the film industry. A graduate of Curtis Brown’s creative writing programme in 2013 – tutored by Jeffrey Archer, Jojo Moyes and Tony Parsons – Jon was offered a book deal by Borough Press after sending in his manuscript through their open submission window. He now lives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire with his wife Anne and sons Joseph and Matthew. ORDINARY JOE is his first novel and film rights have been sold to Trademark.




My thanks to Rosie Bathurst at Harper Collins for my copy of Ordinary Joe



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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Review ~ The Curvy Girls Baby Club by Michele Gorman




Notting Hill Press
August 2015




LOVE, LIFE AND A CHRISTMAS DUE DATE


Ellie is fresh back from her honeymoon and can't wait to share her news with her best friends Katie and Jane. To everyone's surprise, mother-of-two Jane has news of her own... The women are due a day apart and Katie can't wait to be an honorary auntie to the babies.

But it's hard to keep your sense of humour, not to mention your self-esteem, in the face of hemorrhoids and elasticated waistbands. Add a clingy mother-in-law, a career in cardiac arrest and a sex life that makes Mother Theresa look lusty, and soon their lives are as out of control as their bodies.

As the co-founders of The Curvy Girls Club, where loving yourself is the only rule, will the friends be able to practice what they preach?





My thoughts:

I read The Curvy Girls Club last year and really enjoyed the introduction into the lives of Ellie, Kate and Jess. In this latest novella, we meet up with the girls again, but this time they have rather more on their minds than their Curvy Girls support group. With two out of the three friends expecting their first babies, Katie can't help but feel left out, until the fickle finger of fate intervenes.

As always, the story is really fun to read, whilst at the same time it covers some fairly serious topics, like what happens to couples when a baby starts to loom on the horizon,  how clingy mother-in-laws can be more of  a hindrance than a help, and of how pregnant women are viewed in the work place.

The story is warm and witty and filled with such a sense of joie de vivre that you can't help but be pulled into this charming story of impending motherhood. The characters are nicely portrayed without ever becoming caricatures and infuse such a sense of friendship , that you end up wishing you had such a group of friends to rely on.

The novella is really easy to read in one sitting, it's a real feel good story that will bring a smile to your face, and that for me,  is what fiction is sometimes all about.



Michele Gorman




 The Curvy Girls Baby Club officially launches this week


Here are #13 Reasons to Love Yourself More







 Click here to download your own copy of Reasons to Love Yourself more





My thanks to Michele and Notting Hill Press for sharing this novella with me




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Monday, 31 August 2015

Review ~ The Missing Husband by Amanda Brooke

The Missing Husband
Harper
July 2015


Jo Taylor, and her husband David, appear, on the surface, to have a good marriage. Like all couples they squabble and bicker, but their latest silly argument about giving David a lift to the train station was particularly uncomfortable. When David leaves the house early the next morning, Jo pretends to be asleep. Later that same evening when David fails to return home, Jo, and the rest of the family, including the police,  feel that David has abandoned her. Pregnant and alone, Jo has some tough decisions to make and a difficult journey to travel before the truth about David's sudden disappearance is revealed.

I think what comes across so strongly in the story is of  the unpredictability of life, and that however well we think we know someone, there is always a little part of ourselves that remains entirely secret. Jo experiences all sorts of feelings, understandable anger at her husband's callous treatment, sadness that she has been left alone to cope with pregnancy and impending motherhood, and huge financial worries as she struggles to cope alone. All combine to make a really interesting story, and one that for me, became a real page turner. I wanted to see how the story developed, speculated about what had happened to David and empathised with Jo as she struggled to make sense of everything. 

This is now the second story by Amanda Brooke that I have read and as with her previous book, Where I Found You, I was struck by her easy style of writing, and the effortless way she draws the reader into the story. There is a realism to her characters which resonates, and in this story, Jo's constant battle against anxiety and panic is done in such a realistic way that you can't help but become emotionally involved in her desperate search for the truth. I read the book easily over a couple of sittings, it's one of those stories that tugs away at you so that you don't want to stop reading until the story is complete. The ending is cleverly achieved and took me by surprise, as I had anticipated a very different outcome.


Amanda's debut novel Yesterday's Sun was chosen as a Richard & Judy Book in 2012. And I am pleased to learn that the author has a new novel, expected in 2016.




About the Author

Amanda Brooke

Follow on her website
On Twitter @AmandaBrookeAB






My thanks to Jaime at Harper for my copy of this book.




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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday War Poet...

The theme for this month's war poetry

is 

Places







May Wedderburn Cannan

(1893 - 1973)


May Wedderburn Cannan was a British poet who was active in World War I. In 1911 she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and trained as a nurse. In 1918 she went to France and worked in the espionage department of the War Office in Paris.


Rouen

April 29 - May 25 1915


Early morning over Rouen, hopeful, high, courageous morning,
And the laughter of adventure, and the steepness of the stair,
And the dawn across the river, and the wind across the bridges,
And the empty littered station, and the tired people there.

Can you recall those mornings, and the hurry of awakening,
And the long-forgotten wonder if we should miss the way,
And the unfamiliar faces, and the coming of provisions,
And the freshness and the glory of the labour of the day.

Hot noontide over Rouen, and the sun upon the city,
Sun and dust unceasing, and the glare of cloudless skies,
And the voices of the Indians and the endless stream of soldiers,
And the clicking of the tatties, and the buzzing of the flies.

Can you recall those noontides and the reek of steam and coffee,
Heavy-laden noontides with the evening’s peace to win,
And the little piles of Woodbines, and the sticky soda bottles,
And the crushes in the “Parlour”, and the letters coming in?

Quiet night-time over Rouen, and the station full of soldiers,
All the youth and pride of England from the ends of all the earth;
And the rifles piled together, and the creaking of the sword-belts,
And the faces bent above them, and the gay, heart-breaking mirth.

Can I forget the passage from the cool white-bedded Aid Post
Past the long sun-blistered coaches of the khaki Red Cross train
To the truck train full of wounded, and the weariness and laughter
And “Good-bye, and thank you, Sister”, and the empty yards again?

Can you recall the parcels that we made them for the railroad,
Crammed and bulging parcels held together by their string,
And the voices of the sargeants who called the Drafts together,
And the agony and splendour when they stood to save the King?

Can you forget their passing, the cheering and the waving,
The little group of people at the doorway of the shed,
The sudden awful silence when the last train swung to darkness,
And the lonely desolation, and the mocking stars o’erhead?

Can you recall the midnights, and the footsteps of night watchers,
Men who came from darkness and went back to dark again,
And the shadows on the rail-lines and the all inglorious labour,
And the promise of the daylight firing blue the window- pane?

Can you recall the passing through the kitchen door to morning,
Morning very still and solemn breaking slowly on the town,
And the early coastways engines that had met the ships at daybreak,
And the Drafts just out from England, and the day shift coming down?

Can you forget returning slowly, stumbling on the cobbles,
And the white-decked Red Cross barges dropping seawards for the tide,
And the search for English papers, and the blessed cool, of water,
And the peace of half-closed shutters that shut out the world outside?

Can I forget the evenings and the sunsets on the island,
And the tall black ships at anchor far below our balcony,
And the distant call of bugles, and the white wine in the glasses,
And the long line of the street lamps, stretching Eastwards to the sea?

When the world slips slow to darkness, when the office fire burns lower,
My heart goes out to Rouen, Rouen all the world away;
When other men remember, I remember our Adventure
And the trains that go from Rouen at the ending of the day.






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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Review ~ Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato

17912283
Hodder & Stoughton
July 2015


I'm ashamed to say that I am not overly familiar with Shakespeare's excellent play, Much Ado About Nothing, on which this book is based, but perhaps that's a good thing, as isn't always advisable to have something so familiar used in a different way. I am sure that the purists who prefer their Shakespeare unadulterated will perhaps be rather more critical of this interpretation, as inevitably, there is something of a modern feel to both the narrative and the dialogue, which would never be found in sixteenth century prose. However, this isn't  a retelling of the Shakespeare's play in its entirety, it's more of a look back at the earlier lives of Beatrice and Benedick and about what shaped their personalities.

It took a little while to relax into the story as there's the inevitable scene setting, and a whole array of characters who need to make sense. I'm pleased to say, though, that here is a good dramatis personnae at the start of the novel, which is helpful as it lists the main characters and their relationships to each other. I liked the way that the story was divided into acts and scenes rather like a play. This author's work is something that I am familiar with having read some of her other books, and as always I am drawn towards her skillful writing and how she allows the history of the time to shine through.  She writes with confidence and passion, bringing to life, the sunlit beauty of Sicily and the imagined love story between Beatrice and Benedick is entirely convincing.

As always by the end of a Marina Fiorato novel I feel like I have travelled to a beautiful place.  Her descriptions of Sicily are evocatively rich in detail and such a feast for the imagination that the story lingers on, even when the last page is turned.




My thanks to Book bridgr and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book.

Marina Fiorato




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Friday, 28 August 2015

**Around the World Blog Tour with Trip Fiction and #Book Connectors** and Margaret Skea





TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book and help you select good literature that is most pertinent and relevant to your trip. A resource for armchair and actual travellers, it is a unique way of exploring a place through the eyes of an author. We blog, and chat books and travel across Social Media, and love to meet authors and bloggers as we take our literary journey.


Book Connectors  was created as a place on Facebook for Bloggers, Authors and small Publishers to share their news.

We encourage book promotions; information about competitions and giveaways; news of events, including launch events, signings, talks or courses. Talk about new signings, about film deals .... anything really.


Book Connectors is a friendly group, there are no rules or guidelines - just be polite and respectful to each other.

You can find Book Connectors on Facebook




 I am delighted to be part of this Around the World Blog Tour starting in 

Scotland



~And with huge pleasure I introduce my guest on the blog ~







Margaret has won or been placed in quite a number of short story competitions including Neil Gunn, Fish, Mslexia, Historical Novel Society. She now loves writing full length fiction and was thrilled to be awarded the Beryl Bainbridge Best First Time Author Award for her debut novel, Turn of the Tide. 



Turn of the Tide


Turn of the Tide



Set in 16th Century Scotland Munro owes allegiance to the Cunninghames and to the Earl of Glencairn. Trapped in the 150-year-old feud between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries, he escapes the bloody aftermath of an ambush, but he cannot escape the disdain of the wife he sought to protect, or his own internal conflict. He battles with his conscience and with divided loyalties and to age-old obligations, to his wife and children, and, most dangerous of all, to a growing friendship with the rival Montgomerie clan. Intervening to diffuse a quarrel that flares between a Cunninghame cousin and Hugh Montgomerie, he succeeds only in antagonizing William, the arrogant and vicious Cunninghame heir. And antagonizing William is a dangerous game to play...



A House Divided






The sequel to Turn of the Tide, it continues the story of the fictional Munro family, trapped in a notorious vendetta in 16th century Scotland.
Eleven years on from the Massacre of Annock, the Cunninghame / Montgomerie  truce is fragile. For the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.
While Munro risks his life daily in the service of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.
A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of feuding clans, a religious war, and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.




*****



I'm delighted that Margaret has chosen to share her love of Scotland with us .....

Confession time. Although my main focus at the moment is writing Scottish historical fiction, I’m not a Scot.  And despite having been married to a Scot for 36 years and having lived in Scotland for 33 of those 36, I’m still regarded as a ‘blow-in’ ie a foreigner.  (In case you’re counting, I was a child bride, well, close anyway).

But my love of Scotland goes much further back than my marriage – right back in fact to a caravanning holiday when I was 12. How could I forget my dad trying to negotiate Highland roads - single track with passing places almost long enough for the average car - while towing a caravan. Taking a wrong turn meant unhitching the caravan to turn it by hand while a stream of long-suffering locals built up behind us.




Passing Place



As an adult I appreciate the grandeur of the mountains and the fabulous scenery. As a child it was the silence that captivated me: the eerie atmosphere of the remote valleys, the dark lochs lying silent and undisturbed brooded over by ruinous castles that set my imagination aflame and sent me scurrying to my local library to devour every book I could find, both fiction and non- fiction, that focused on Scotland. From Mary Queen of Scots to Montrose, from the Highland Clearances to the Massacre of Glencoe, from Macbeth to Bonnie Prince Charlie, heroes and villains, I loved them all.



Loch Awe




But neither of my novels – Turn of the Tide and its forthcoming sequel  A House Divided feature kilted highlanders, or indeed any of the iconic figures of Scottish history. Instead I have chosen to focus on a period and people and places that most readers won’t have heard of before. How I came to focus on the ‘Ayrshire Vendetta’, a 150 year feud between two families in South-West Scotland, is another story, one which has its roots in Ulster, not Scotland, but to a large extent it is the setting of the Scottish Borders that inspires and informs my writing.

My main character, Munro, is a minor laird, and it wasn’t hard to find a prototype for his house, for the area in which I live is littered with tower houses – rather gaunt and forbidding dwellings, built more for defence than comfort and generally in inaccessible positions. Munro’s home is an amalgam of the two closest to me – Greenknowe, though ruinous, retains enough of the walls to provide an interesting exterior - it is the basis for the cover of my second book.


Greenknowe
                               




Smailholm is complete and allowed me to experience what it would be like to sit by the fireside in the hall, or peer out through the narrow window slits; how much breath it takes to climb up the slope to the tower, or to run up the spiral stair. It gave me the length and breadth and particularly the height of rooms, a sense both of the narrowness of their existence and the pleasure that the rare opportunity to sit at leisure within the shelter of the barmkin on a sunny day might provide.

A major feature of the history of our area is the legacy of the reivers – this panel, part of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, which I was privileged to help stitch -  illustrates a core feature of their lifestyle. Violent men for whom family and loyalty were all important, they rode out on wild, windy nights to steal sheep and rustle cattle from their neighbours … and worse. Suffice it to say the words ‘bereave’ and ‘blackmail’ have their origins in the reivers’ activities.



Reivers from the Great Tapestry of Scotland




Nowadays each town has a festival centred around rideouts to out-lying villages and places of particular significance. Large numbers of riders, in some cases as many as 400, take part and those elected as festival principals must lead all the rides. One of my earliest memories of moving to the Borders is of standing in a field on the edge of a village, hearing the distant thunder of hooves and watching as around 130 horses and riders appeared over the brow of the hill, heading straight for us. Hardly surprising then that, although the majority of my characters are historical, Munro, my fictional main character, rode into my head one day on his mare, Sweet Briar, almost a character in her own right.


Common Riding



The landscape of the Borders is just as beautiful and as wild as the Highlands, though on a smaller scale.

Our hills are rolling, punctured by outcrops of rock, smothered in spring and summer by a riot of colour as first gorse and then heather springs into bloom. The moors are bleak, lonely places, criss-crossed by hidden streams and boggy ground making it treacherous underfoot for travellers whether on horse or foot.

While I was training for a charity walk on the Great Wall of China I spent many days walking the Eildons, rough terrain that gave me a real feel for what travel in the 16th century  would have been like.





Gorse




Eildons





Some of the action in both my novels takes place in Edinburgh and I’m fortunate that it is only just over an hour’s drive from me. Some of my most enjoyable research involved wandering up and down the Royal Mile, where if I closed my eyes I could imagine the street lined with luckenbooths*  and hear the stall-holders crying their wares. And if I needed a little extra help in that I could visit Mary King’s Close– part of the medieval city, buried under the existing town, and Gladstone’s Land – a merchant’s house of the period. It was in Gladstone’s Land that I found a medieval baby-walker, almost identical to the one I had for my own children, except that it was wooden rather than metal. That was a detail that I just had to fit into my story somehow!

*Luckenbooths are covered booths or stalls which can be locked.



Mary King's Close



One of the tasks of an historical novelist when writing about people who actually existed is to find out as much information from the historical records as possible about them. In my first novel I broke that rule when writing about one character about whom I knew very little, yet instinctively making him one of my primary villains. Imagine my excitement when, during the editing process, I went to his home, Newark  castle, to check what could be seen from the windows of the Great Hall,  and discovered that in real life he was much more villainous than I had painted him, having gained notoriety as a wife-beater. That really was a ‘eukeka’ moment.


Newark Castle


I have travelled to many of the locations in my novels, scrambling up to stumps of castles, driving the routes that my characters take as the action unfolds, stopping wherever and whenever I can to take pictures to pin up on my notice board to refresh my memory as I write. But landscape isn’t a static thing and  many features change over time: river courses alter, deepen in some places, silt up in others, so an additional challenge is to try to understand what a landscape might have looked like all those years ago. In my second novel my main character hides in a cave system beside a river, but these are now some 12 metres above the water due to the excavation of the gorge by the river.

 Though nothing can beat visiting the locations in my books, it isn’t always possible and when I can’t get to a particular location I spend hours pouring over maps, both modern and ancient – particular favourites are those drawn by Timothy Pont, many of which survive in the National Library of Scotland. It is Pont’s map of Ayrshire that forms the basis for the maps in the front of both my novels, and I’m grateful to the NLS for giving their permission.

Living in such an atmospheric and lovely environment, perhaps it’s not surprising that the part of writing I most enjoy is description, even of weather – and in Scotland we certainly get plenty of that!


*****


Turn of the Tide



I first discovered Margaret's excellent historical novel Turn of the Tide when in November 2011, I watched the Alan Titchmarsh show, always a favourite programme of mine in the afternoons, and I learned about Margaret's involvement in the People's Novelist Competition, in which she was a finalist in the historical fiction category.

Turn of the Tide appealed to my love of historical fiction , firstly because of its Scottish setting, but also because it was about a set of warring families living within a harsh environment and with their own unique moral code. The story is evocative and atmospheric and really brings to life the inherent danger of living within the Scottish clan system of the mid part of the sixteenth century. Based on the true, and it must be said, violent feud between the Cunninghame's and the Montgomeries, the story literally abounds with skulduggery, political conflict and a real sense of rivalry between two stubbornly fierce adversaries.

It's beautifully descriptive, with a real sense of history and conjures sixteenth century Scotland in a such a glorious way that allows time and place to truly come alive in your imagination..


You can find Margaret on her website
Follow her on Facebook
Twitter @margaretskea1



Huge  thanks to Margaret for sharing her love of Scotland so eloquently and to #BookConnectors and @Trip fiction for the invitation to join this exciting Blog Tour around Scotland.



Do follow #BookConnectors on Twitter to discover more authors sharing their love of all things Scottish






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