Monday, 30 September 2013

Review ~ The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman


16130486
Simon and Schuster
August 2013


The Kessler sisters are as close as two siblings can be, however, during their adolescence this closeness is shattered during a family holiday, when the sisters strike up a friendship with a struggling young artist, Thomas Bayber. By the end of the holiday all three lives are changed irrevocably. Years later, when Bayber, now a renowned but reclusive artist releases a painting entitled the Kessler Sisters, the past which has been long buried is brought back into focus, and secrets which have been hidden are forced into the open.

For the first third of the book nothing much seems to happen, and I was almost on the point of abandoning the book but gradually as the layers of the story start to be peeled away, it becomes more complex, and as the feelings evoked by the divulging of secrets are revealed piece by piece, the novel started to grab my attention.

Overall this is a competent debut novel, with some flashes of brilliance but rather too much drawing out of the story, which I think could have been more succinct in places.


Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for my ecopy of this book

Sunday, 29 September 2013

To The Fair Land Blog Tour - Guest Post - Lucienne Boyce - Giveaway




Wanderers and Writers: The Inspiration for To The Fair Land




I am delighted to welcome Lucienne Boyce

as she talks about who inspired her to write To The Fair Land




The question is not so much what inspired me to write To The Fair Land, as who. It was my literary heroine, novelist and diarist Frances Burney (1752–1840).


To The Fair Land grew out of my fascination with the secrecy surrounding the publication of Burney’s first novel, Evelina. Burney’s motives for keeping her authorship secret are not entirely clear. Perhaps she feared hostile criticism, or losing respectability, or was anxious not to draw attention to family scandals (her brother had just been sent down from Cambridge University for theft). Whatever her reasons, she wrote in secret and published anonymously (although the truth came out eventually).

I began to wonder what would happen if a book was published anonymously with more at stake than a reputation. I imagined the possibility of a publication that meant real danger to people connected with it. But what could be so important? Again, I found the clues in Burney’s novels and diaries. Her brother James served in the Resolution on Captain Cook’s second voyage in search of the Great Southern Continent, a landmass which many believed existed in the southern hemisphere.

What could be more exciting than the quest for new lands? At stake are lives, fortunes, even the fate of a nation…so Ben Dearlove, the hero of To The Fair Land, is in peril because of his obsession with an anonymous book about a voyage to the Great Southern Continent. The heroine, Sarah Edgcumbe, is a homeless wanderer who has to conceal the truth about her past – like the heroine of Burney’s novel The Wanderer. She’s also named, incidentally, after Frances’s step-sister Sarah, and like her namesake is a writer.


It was Frances Burney’s writing that first interested me in the eighteenth century. Now I’m so hooked I’m writing my own novels set in the period. She truly is my inspiration!

***

My thanks to Lucienne Boyce and to Joanna Zefron at Silverwood Books for the generous giveaway and for allowing Jaffa and I to be part of To The Fair Land Blog Tour 2013


a Rafflecopter giveaway



To The Fair Land Book Blurb

A thrilling eighteenth-century mystery about a map, an author, and a vicious killer.

In 1789 struggling writer Ben Dearlove rescues a woman from a furious Covent Garden mob. The woman is ill and in her delirium cries out the name "Miranda”. Weeks later an anonymous novel about the voyage of the Miranda to the fabled Great Southern Continent causes a sensation. Ben decides to find the author everyone is talking about. He is sure the woman can help him – but she has disappeared.

It is soon clear that Ben is involved in something more dangerous than the search for a reclusive writer. Who is the woman and what is she running from? Who is following Ben? And what is the Admiralty trying to hide? Before he can discover the shocking truth Ben has to get out of prison, catch a thief, and bring a murderer to justice.

Good Luck in the giveaway !!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Review ~ Royal Inheritance by Kate Emerson

13547341
Published by Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
September 2013

Audrey Malte , although illegitimate is brought up on the periphery of the Tudor court. Her alleged father is a tailor to King Henry VIII, and in the course of his work, he takes Audrey to court with him, where she comes into contact with the King. The king appears to be quite taken with Audrey, and ensures that she has rather more privileges that the rest of her family, which leads people to assume that Audrey is in fact the king's illegitimate daughter.
Based on a real historical figure, the story is told by Audrey, now married and a mother. She is relaying the story of her life to her rather precocious 8 year old daughter, Hester, who appears to have a grasp of adult relationships far beyond her tender years. The story flits backwards and forwards in time quite well, and describes a believable set of circumstances which the author has blended into a interesting and different look at Tudor England.

For those familiar with Kate Emerson's writing, this book is a continuation of the Secrets of the Tudor Court series, and as such sits comfortably within its genre.

My thanks to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for a digital copy of this book.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Sheryl Browne ~ Romantic Heroes Blog Tour






Safkhet Publishing


My review of Warrant for Love


Leanne, her sister Nicky, and their friend Jade have what you might call rocky relationships with the men in their lives, so when Leanne’s boyfriend, Richard takes advantage of Leanne one too many times, it is only natural that Nicky and Jade would try to convince her to give him up. However, Leanne’s penchant for disastrous relationships means that nothing is ever going to run smoothly and when she is inadvertently arresting for soliciting, by the delectable, but, oh so damaged PC Paul Davis, you get a real sense that life is going to throw up a few obstacles.

The book took me by completely by surprise. I was expecting a light-hearted frothy look at love and relationships but what I got was a book which covered some hard hitting subjects, like divorce, adultery, teenage children, but in a story which was easy to read and difficult to put down. Some parts of the book will undoubtedly make you laugh out loud, but there are also some scenarios which will tug at your heart a little bit. Ultimately, it’s the story of three strong women, who don’t want to be taken advantage of by the men in their lives and who, quite simply, need to protect themselves and each other from continually being hurt.

This is the first time I have read any books by this author but I'm sure that I will look out for more of her books. She has a really nice way with words and conveys the essence of a story in a very readable way.

***


Jaffa and I are delighted to have been invited to take part in the Romantic Heroes Blog Tour




Thanks to 



“En Garde! Safkhet Publishing and Sheryl Browne are going on tour and bringing you the entire Sheryl Browne romance collection! Follow the adventures of your Romantic Heroes and get your chance to win signed copies of all Sheryl’s books—Recipes for Disaster, Somebody to Love, Warrant for Love, A Little Bit of Madness, and Learning to Love.” The tour runs from 16th September until 27th September (excluding weekends) and promises to be a lot of fun!

As part of this tour Safkhet publishing is having a fantastic short story competition! The prizes are – Finalists will have their story published in an e-anthology and the winner will be offered a publishing contract. For full details go to http://safkhetpublishing.wordpress.com/ where full terms and conditions can be found.


Closing date now extended until October 31st....

And there’s more! There will be reviews, author interviews and guest posts. Plus, if you’ve ever read any of Sheryl’s books in the past, then you are invited to post the link to your review to be in with a chance of winning a prize!

Now for the small print: This competition is not run in conjunction with Facebook and Facebook is not responsible for any competitions held on this page or for providing prizes.

Join in the fun here https://www.facebook.com/events/630266530351966/



Thursday, 26 September 2013

Review ~The King's Exile by Andrew Swanston

17288666
Published by Transworld/Bantam
August 2013




This is the second book in the Thomas Hill trilogy and continues the story which started in The King’s Spy with Thomas’s role as cartographer and decoder during the English Civil war and of his association with the English King, Charles I.



Thomas Hill is a book seller living in rural Hampshire with his widowed sister and her two daughters. Without warning, in the spring of 1648, Thomas is arrested for the publication of an alleged seditious pamphlet and without any form of trial, he is transported to Barbados to work as an indentured servant to a dreadful set of captors. Life on this sugar plantation is very difficult and Thomas is shown no mercy but with great strength and determination he sets out to prove his innocence.



I do think it would be helpful to have read the first book in the series before embarking on this second book, as there are references made to the previous story which somehow get lost without prior knowledge. However, having said that, I enjoyed this story and felt that the time and place was captured perfectly. The historic involvement of the island of Barbados in the years after the English civil war is well documented, as is the slave trade and its effect on the Colonies, but with a clever blend of fact and fiction, the author has kept the integrity of the story alive and with great skill has produced a fascinating and gripping story.


My thanks to Elizabeth at Transworld for sending me this book as part of the
 Transworld Historical Reading Challenge 2013

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Blog Tour ~ To the Fair Land by Lucienne Boyce


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to add our review of 


by 

Lucienne Boyce 

and 

to be part of her Blog Tour 2013


Published by Silverwood Books
August 2012






Lucienne Boyce was brought up in the Midlands and now lives in Bristol with her husband and hundreds of books. With its exciting maritime heritage, Bristol is the setting for many of her stories. When she is not writing she is happiest walking around the historic city and the surrounding countryside gathering ideas and inspiration.

Find out more at lucienneboyce.com. 




Here are my thoughts on To The Fair Land

The story opens in 1789, as Ben Dearlove, a burgeoning writer, is enjoying a night at the theatre in Covent Garden in London. His concentration of the play, about the exploration of undiscovered lands, is rudely interrupted by a hysterical outburst from a young woman seated next to him. The young woman is not known to Ben, but feeling a chivalric responsibility, he steers her away from the angry theatre audience, who have take umbrage at the woman’s attempt to ruin the stage play, and sees her safely home. When he returns the following day to check on the woman’s safety, her rooms appear to have been burgled and the woman has disappeared. Several weeks later a mysterious novel called An Account of a Voyage to the Fair Land is delivered to Ben, which tells the story of the voyage of the ship, Miranda. As Ben investigates the book further, he begins to realise that An Account of a Voyage to the Fair Land may not be a work of fiction, but could actually be based on truth.

What then follows is a cleverly constructed historical mystery which pulls the reader into a story which thrives on intrigue and nautical and political skulduggery. There is such an atmospheric feel to the narrative that you could almost be walking the streets of maritime Bristol, with the sharp tang of sea air in your nostrils, or wandering the gin-soaked shops and alleyways of eighteenth century London. There are some quite dark elements to the story, which is perfectly in keeping with the book’s content, after all, this is the eighteenth century, but there is also a lightness to the narrative which is complimented by a delightfully quirky set of characters.

Overall, this enthralling story never loses its momentum and combines the best of historical fiction writing with a lively adventure story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.



Come back to Jaffareadstoo on Sunday 29th September to discover who inspired Lucienne Boyce to write To The Fair land and to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this book in  a great giveaway.

***

Our thanks to Silverwood Books and Lucienne Boyce for inviting us to be part of this blog tour

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Longbourn ~ Jo Baker



17612893
Doubleday
August 2013


I'm always a little bit wary when I read spin-offs written around one of the great Jane Austen classics, but I am pleased to say that Jo Baker has done a really good job with this interesting look at life below stairs for the servants of the Bennett family from Pride and Prejudice.

In the actual classic we hear very little of the servants, in fact they remain rather shadowy figures who existed only to keep the Bennetts clean ,warm and fed. But of course, they had lives and loves of their own, and aspirations, hopes and dreams that were not all that different from the folks upstairs.

Of course, running through the story like a thread is the original story of thwarted love and too much pride, but rather than having a starring role, Darcy's pursuit of Elizabeth plays second fiddle to servant Sarah's infatuation with the Bingley's footman, the aptly named Ptolemy Bingley. However, it is Sarah's realisation that showy manners and sparkling wit are no substitute for the solid and rather more understated feeling she has for the Bennett's own footman, James, which becomes quietly reflective.

Jo Baker has woven an altogether delicious story of warm camaraderie  based on wholesome values, and has instilled in her characters a real sense of purpose. Life certainly wasn't a bed of roses in the servant's quarters at Longbourn House, but in this story, neither was it all unrelenting drudgery.

Well worth a read if you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice.

My thanks to Josette at Risi for lending me a copy of this book.


Monday, 23 September 2013

A conversation with Tracey Garvis Graves

What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else? 


13481759
Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves Penguin eBook £7.99, 17th September 2013 PB coming 24th April 2014




Tracey Garvis Graves      Tracy ~ thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions about your latest book ~ Covet



Your new book Covet explores the temptation of an emotional affair. What inspired you to write this story? Do you think many readers will identify with Claire and her situation?
My inspiration came from a real‐life event. In the fall of 2008, my husband was in danger of being laid
off. He was a valued employee and had been with his company for over fifteen years, but the recession
was in full‐swing and none of that mattered. I was a stay‐at‐home‐mom at the time so the threat of
losing our only source of income weighed heavily on my husband and me. Fortunately, he did not lose
his job, but we knew many couples who weren’t so lucky. Most of my books start out as a question, and
Covet was no different. I wondered, “What if my husband had lost his job? What if he wasn’t able to find
another one? What effect would that have had on an otherwise strong marriage? The answers to those
questions became the basis for Covet’s storyline. I just had to know what the outcome would be.
Men tend to internalize their feelings and withdraw when they’re under pressure. As much as Claire
loved her husband and wanted to be supportive, she was extremely vulnerable to an emotional affair
because her needs weren’t being met at home. I think there are many, many women walking in Claire’s
shoes right now.

The chapters alternate between the points of view of the three protagonists: Claire, her husband Chris, and police officer Daniel. Was it difficult to switch back and forth? How did you get in character?
I knew my characters’ motivations so I tried to really focus on how each character would react in the
situations I put them in. The challenge was to portray their actions realistically, even when they did
things I didn’t agree with personally. I think writers are naturally very observant, so getting into the
character’s heads was based on paying attention to what was going on around me, in real‐life situations
I’d either witnessed first‐hand, or heard about from someone else.

Did you do any research for Covet?
Yes, but nothing as extensive as the research I had to do when I wrote On the Island. Because I live in the
Midwest I’m fairly familiar with Kansas City. And I live in a suburban neighborhood so the setting was a
place I knew very well. I interviewed a police officer so I’d have a good idea of his daily routine. I also
learned everything I could about type 1 diabetes, including sitting down with a gal who used an insulin
pump to manage her diabetes.

What would you like for readers to take away from Covet?
I hope that they find the story relatable. I also hope they find the story realistic and hopeful, with a
thoughtful cast of characters who are doing their best considering the situations they find themselves in.
I think Covet will inspire lively book club discussions based on readers’ personal experiences.

You’ve had an amazing journey from self-published author to bestselling Penguin novelist. What surprised you the most about the process? What did you learn during the process that helped guide your writing of Covet?
The thing I’ve learned the most since I’ve begun writing is to trust the actual process of writing. When I
started writing Covet the manuscript was a mess, with false starts and deleted scenes and plot points I
wasn’t sure how to handle. I’d been through this stage before with On the Island, but for some reason it
really had an unsettling effect on me the second time around. A writer friend of mine had once said,
“The only way to get through the early stage of writing a book is to trust the process. The rest will
come.” She was right and I had to remind myself of that. And if something I’m writing isn’t working, no
matter how much I try to figure it out on my own, I now have a trusted editor who will listen and offer
advice and feedback along the way. That’s a great feeling.

What was that first moment that you realized you wanted to become a writer?
When I was almost done revising On the Island I knew I never wanted to stop writing. Watching a
horrible, messy first draft turn into an actual manuscript was the most fulfilling creative experience I’d
ever had. There is simply nothing like watching a pile of words turn into a story, and I knew I wanted to
do it again and again and again.

Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
During the school year I like to get my kids on the bus and my husband out the door before I settle down
to write. Ideally a workout would come first, followed by a quick shower and my comfiest writing clothes
(yoga pants and a T‐shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the weather). I check Facebook and e‐mail one
last time and then I write until the kids get home from school. But more times than I care to admit I skip
the workout and I’m still in my pajamas when the kids walk in the door. I’ve learned not to mess with a
good thing when the words are flowing.

What authors, books, or ideas have influenced you most?
Jennifer Weiner is an author whose work I greatly admire. I remember reading Good in Bed and
connecting instantly with the book because it put such a fresh spin on women’s fiction. I buy every book
she writes. I also love Kristin Hannah, Emily Giffin, Allison Winn Scotch, and Jane Green. As far as ideas
go, I’m definitely influenced by my love of romantic women’s fiction. I love combining romance and
women’s fiction because at the end of the heroine’s journey, I want to see her get the happy ending she
deserves.

What’s your next writing project?
My next book is only in the research and development stage, but it’s probably my most ambitious
writing project so far. It’s a fast‐paced, plot‐driven story with an element of mystery. The heroine has a
three‐year‐old son from a previous marriage so there’s a “Jerry McGuire” feel to it that I especially love.
I’m really excited about it.

My Thanks to Francesca at Penguin for the chance to feature this conversation with Tracey


My 5 star review

Chris and Claire’s marriage is fragile. Chris needs to support his family but his new job means that he spends long periods of time away from home. Claire is lonely and responds to the friendship offered by Daniel, a local police officer, who always seems to be there when Claire needs a friend. What then follows is the dissection of a once successful marriage which highlights the effect that social pressures can place upon relationships. The notion that non-physical friendships between men and women can be successfully navigated is perhaps where the book is strongest.

Once I started to read Covet, I really couldn't put it down and probably read the complete book in an afternoon. All the characters are sympathetically portrayed and the story really emphasises the choices that needed to be made both by Chris and Claire whose shared history as a couple meant that they had so much to lose if the marriage failed. And yet, I couldn't help but be drawn into Daniel’s role in the story ~ he comes across as a really lovely guy and one who you know would make a good choice as husband and father.

But throughout Covet, the rocky road of marital infidelity is always bubbling under the surface and the question whether or not men and women can ever be just ‘friends’ forms the basis for a fascinating and powerful story. I really enjoyed it.

This book is currently available as an ebook. With the paperback coming out in April 2014.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for my digital review copy.




Sunday, 22 September 2013

Review ~ Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Lion Hudson PLC
20 September 2013



From the number of reviews on Amazon .com, it would appear that this book has been around for a little while and has now been reissued. This is my first reading experience of this author, and whilst I can appreciate her obvious skill, I'm afraid the concept of Christian writing still leaves me largely uninspired and I 'm afraid that the majority of the story left me feeling like there was something missing.
The concept of children sold into prostitution and following a life of degradation and abuse is not new, however the idea of a personal saviour being based on a biblical character, didn't sit comfortably with me and for that reason I didn't really enjoy the rest of the story.
I am sure that Francine Rivers has a whole legion of loyal fans who adore her books, and who will find much to enjoy in this emotional roller coaster, sadly I'm not one of them.




My thanks to NetGalley and Lion Hudson PLC for a digital copy of this book .

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Liebster Award....discover new blogs !!



Samantha from Bakey’s Book Blog nominated me for the Liebster Award. I'm so happy that Samantha thought of me for this. Thank you !!

The Liebster Award is a way to help blogs you like with less than 200 followers, and to give them some deserved attention so our followers can discover them as well.


Rules:

Link back the blogger that tagged you;
Nominate 10 others and answer the questions of the one who tagged you;
Ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate;
Let your nominees know of their award.



Samantha's Questions:


1. How are you today?

 I'm feeling fine, thank you, looking forward to a quiet weekend with lots of reading time!


2. What are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading Longbourn by Jo Baker, which is a fictional story based around the below stairs servants who looked after the Bennett family from the book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.


3. Who is your favourite author?

Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander series about a 20th century nurse who travels back in time to 18th century Scotland where she meets, and falls in love with Jamie Fraser, a charismatic highlander. I'm eagerly awaiting book 8 in the series, which is due to be published in March 2014.


4. Which genre will you never read?

I never say 'never' to anything as I am constantly surprised by genres ~ however,  I'm not keen on science fiction or horror.


5. Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog because I enjoy discussing books and sharing my love of reading with a wider audience.


6. Do you own an ereader?

I do. I read on Kindle and also on my iPad


7. What's your favourite meme that you take part in?

At the moment I only take part in the Friday Book Beginnings meme which is hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader ~ I enjoy this one as it gives me even more ideas for books I would like to read and it has introduced me to lots of new friends !


8. Are you a member of a book group?

Yes I am. I help to moderate a website which is dedicated to the books of my favourite author, Diana Gabaldon. 

Within this website , I organise a monthly Book of the Month and also several group readalongs . This month we are discussing Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and are just finishing a group read of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

I also attend a local book group once a month in my library. This month's book is Time's Legacy by Barbara Erskine.


9. Have you read any books more than once?

I have read the Outlander series more than once - in fact I have re-read the books too many times to count !


10. The last book you gave up on? 

The Liars Gospel by Naomi Alderman


My Questions are :



1 - The best book you read last year
2 - A book that you've read more than 3 times
3 - Favourite book turned into a movie
4 – Favourite book from your childhood
5 - A book that makes you happy
6 - A book that makes you sad
7 - Most underrated book
8 - Most overrated book
9 - A book you thought you wouldn't like but ending up loving
10 - A Book you have wanted to read for a long time but haven't




My nominees are :


Anne at http://beingannereading.blogspot.co.uk/
Sarah at http://sbroadhurstreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Leah at http://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.co.uk/
Karen at http://essexreader.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne at http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.co.uk/
Kate at http://bookswithbunny.blogspot.co.uk/
Jan at http://beadyjansbooks.blogspot.co.uk/
Bernie at http://wyresworld.blogspot.co.uk/
Lisa at http://bookshelffantasies.com/
JB at http://brookcottagebooks.blogspot.co.uk/









Friday, 20 September 2013

Book Beginnings on Fridays...


Hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader

Book Beginnings on Fridays as stated by the host was started:

 "to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires."

You can share on Google + and social media , please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings and there's also a Mr Linky on the host's blog.




Book Beginning : Longbourn by Jo Baker


17612893
August 15th 2013 by Doubleday

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah thought, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields.

The butler...Mrs Hill and the two housemaids

...There could be wearing of clothes without their laundering, just as surely as there could be no going without clothes, not in Hertfordshire anyway, and not in September. Washday could not be avoided, but the weekly purification of the household's linen was nonetheless a dismal prospect for Sarah....



I'm a huge Jane Austen fan,with Pride and Prejudice being my favourite of her books. It's interesting to see this story written entirely from the point of view of the servants below stairs, who are seen only fleetingly in the original version. It's a whole new world .....rarely seen....



What do you think - share your thoughts.



My thanks to Josette for the generous loan of this lovely book


My Review is now on my blog

Find it here

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Review ~ Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson


15795628
September 9th 2013
Shadow Mountain Publishing



This Regency romance is set in Northern England in 1820, and tells the story of Kate Worthington, a strong minded young woman who, whilst determined to escape the restrictions of her family, is also determined never to marry. In order to gain some semblance of freedom and travel to India as she desires, Kate, on her mother’s instructions, must first secure and reject three marriage proposals. However, when Kate journeys to the stately home of Blackmoore, she encounters her dearest childhood friend, Henry and gets more than she bargained for. 


Overall, this is a fairly standard Regency romance, with a likeable enough heroine, but with a remarkably predictable plot. I must admit that I almost gave up on more than one occasion, but skipped through until the book’s conclusion. It’s a light easy read, pleasant enough but not remarkable. The blurb describes it as Wuthering Heights meets Little Women – I’m afraid I wasn’t convinced. 




My thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain books for my ecopy of this book


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

In the spotlight is author ~ Anne Allen ~ Giveaway

I am delighted to welcome 




Author of




Anne ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for answering our questions about your book.



How would you describe dangerous waters?

Dangerous Waters is a romantic mystery set on the lovely island of Guernsey. The story follows a young woman, Jeanne Le Page, who had fled the island 15 years previously after a family tragedy. She now has to return after the death of her grandmother, who has left her a cottage.

Jeanne doesn’t plan to stay longer than it takes to sell her inheritance but things don’t go according to plan and she ends up staying. She discovers that the cottage holds a secret going back to the German Occupation in WWII, and is drawn into finding out more. The tragic accident had never been explained and again, Jeanne wants answers. As she gets drawn into new friendships, she has to question her heart about what – and who – she really wants. And as she slowly uncovers the truth about the accident her life is endangered.

By the way, Dangerous Waters was awarded Silver from the Wishing Shelf Awards 2012, voted on by members of readers groups.


Do you write stories for yourself or other people?


Both. Like all writers I’m an avid reader and used to think, ‘I could have a go at writing a book’, shouldn’t be too difficult. Ha! Dangerous Waters started out as a bit of fun, to see if I could write a book. I got so carried away, I wrote about 110000 words! I eventually edited it down to about 93000 but enjoyed the process so much that I started writing my next novel. I like the idea of making up stories and characters and love being able to control what happens next. It’s quite empowering! Until my editor puts her red lines through it L. Naturally, I do want people to enjoy my books too or there would be no point publishing. But it’s a scary thing, putting your ‘baby’ out into the world and waiting to see what reaction it inspires.


How did you research your novel, and what are your favourite methods of research?

I had spent many happy years in Guernsey, only returning reluctantly to England, the opposite of my character Jeanne! This meant that I knew the island and its history well, so that I didn’t need to do a great deal of research. I did talk to people who had been on the island during the Occupation and also read several books about it, so that I was fairly confident in my portrayal of what it was like then. Another aspect that I needed to research was local and French cuisine, which forms a substantial part of the story. I’ve even included recipes at the back of the book! I’m not an avid cook myself but I do like food J

I think my favourite methods of research are using the internet and talking directly to people. I admire pre-internet authors who had to spend hours in libraries, pouring through dusty tomes. Now, we just click on a website –brilliant!


Are you inspired by any particular era, author or book?

Mm, not sure. I really love historical fiction but couldn’t see myself writing something set, say, in the seventeenth century. But my books (I’ve written two and there’s a third being plotted as we speak) are all set in Guernsey and have links to the Occupation. I prefer to write contemporary fiction because I can relate to it. I know the language and behaviour of modern society. As for an inspiring author, there’s several. I loved Joanna Trollope’s ‘Aga Sagas’, Maeve Binchy’s wonderful gentle stories and Katie Fforde’s romances. Plus grittier tales from Robert Goddard, Stieg Larrson and Mary Higgins Clark.



Can you tell us about what you are writing next?

I’ve nearly completed the edits for Finding Mother, which I hope to have published in October. A romantic family drama, it follows a young woman, Nicole, who after her marriage crumbles, sets out to find her natural mother. Nicole always knew she was adopted by her Jersey parents and had often thought about tracing her real mother, but did nothing about it. She’s now living in England with her husband, but after problems emerge, she decides now’s the time to trace her mother and learn more about herself in the process. Her search takes her to Spain, Jersey and finally Guernsey. Her discovered family have secrets that are forced into the open on Nicole’s arrival, making for some tense situations. And Nicole, like Jeanne in Dangerous Waters, has to find out what and who she wants in her life. Oh, and there’s a secret going back to WWII! Can’t resist those old secrets


Anne is very kindly offering a paperback copy of Dangerous Waters to one lucky UK winner 
of this giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



My review


Jeanne le Page has returned to the island of Guernsey to manage her inheritance, which is a cottage left to her by her grandmother, and which evokes memories of Jeanne’s childhood, and the time before she lost her parents in a tragic accident at sea. Jeanne’s life is in transition, with a disastrous personal relationship behind her, she realises that she has some important life decisions to make, and Guernsey seems like the ideal place for her to take stock of her life. During an examination of her grandmother’s personal effects, Jeanne comes across a series of letters, which plunges the story into the heart of the German occupation of the island during the Second World War. The evidence suggests that the cottage and its previous inhabitants have been harbouring long buried secrets.
What then follows is a cleverly constructed mystery which intertwines both past and present, and as Jeanne uncovers the truth about the past, she also realises that exposing this mystery will also place her in extreme danger. Jeanne is a likeable and strong-minded heroine, and yet she has hidden vulnerabilities which are conveyed in a realistic way. It is obvious from the beautiful descriptions of Guernsey that the author knows and loves the island; the imagery evoked is really quite stunning, and with the glorious descriptions, Guernsey really springs into life.
Overall, this is a good read; the mystery draws you in from the beginning and the intertwining of the past and present is nicely done. There is some poignancy to the story which is sensitively explored, and the addition of a lovely romance adds a good contrast. I enjoyed it, and will certainly look out for more books by this talented author.

This book was recently a Silver Medalist in The Wishing Shelf Awards


My thanks to Anne for giving so generously of her time and to Carol at Dizzy C's Little Book Blog for introducing me to this lovely author.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beyond Excited ....



My love for all things Outlandish is no great surprise, and I am beyond excited at the prospect of this fabulous series of books being brought to life on the television screen by the STARZ production company. 


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My love for the books started in 1991,when I borrowed Cross Stitch from my library, and by page 100, I was hooked and devoured the book in a couple of days. When I finished the story of Jamie and Claire Fraser, I did what I have never done before, I turned the book - and it's huge - back to the beginning and read the whole story again. So reluctant was I to return the book and to let Jamie and Claire out of my life that I kept hold of the library copy until I was forced to give it back.

It's hard to imagine pre-internet days, but, in the intervening years ,whenever I inquired of this author in the UK book stores, I was always met with blank stares and a data base which revealed nothing, zilch, nada ....

So, imagine my excitement in 1994, when I spotted a mass market paperback version of Voyager by Diana Gabaldon in WHS, well, my cup literally runneth over....the book data base showed that Ms. Gabaldon had indeed kept her promise, made at the end of Cross Stitch, to write a trilogy,and in the time it took for the store assistant to a click a couple of buttons, I had purchased Voyager, and had placed orders for both Cross Stitch, and the second book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber.

It took a supreme effort of will not to start reading Voyager before I had my hands on a copy of the first two books, but I managed it by locking the book away in a cupboard.... although I did have a sneaky look at the first sentence and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Those who are familiar with the books will understand why .....

And now we are twenty years on , the story goes from strength to strength and rather than the trilogy first promised, the series is now into book 7, with the 8th book - Written In My Own Heart's Blood expected in March 2014. The STARZ television production is well under way, with filming due to start in Scotland this Autumn.

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So, we now have our Jamie and Claire, and a whole host of other talented actors and actresses who will endeavour to bring this story to life...as I said...I am beyond excited.



My own copies of the books are now so well thumbed that I felt it was time, by necessity, to replace my original copy of Dragonfly in Amber, which, as you can see, is rapidly falling apart.


From This ...





To this ...


To This...




Monday, 16 September 2013

Review ~ The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things…
Harper Collins
January 2013
The ‘real’ Jane Austen will forever be an enigma, but this interesting book goes some to way to bring out the hidden and perhaps more homely traits of her personality, which all too often can get lost inside the more academic studies of Jane Austen's life. By taking small and inoffensive items that Jane may have owned, and by using then using these items as a springboard, we are allowed a tantalising glimpse into the life of a woman who was completely comfortable with herself, and who was totally of her time.
Nicely presented, in easily organised chapters, I found that this was one of those books which is easy to dip into and out of at whim, and as the book progresses it’s almost like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, with the end result being that of a complete portrait of one of our most fascinating novelists.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for my digital copy of this book





Saturday, 14 September 2013

Review ~ Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

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Harper Collins
Publication 24 October 2013

When I heard that there was to be a reworking of Jane Austen, I must admit that I was sceptical, and largely fell into the camp of those purists who believed that there was no need for the masterpieces of Jane Austen to be reworked. So it was with some trepidation that I started to read Joanna Trollope’s version of a more contemporary Sense and Sensibility. Initially, I felt that the prose was all wrong; the Dashwoods came across as shallow, weak and rather too insipid, and I seem to be forever comparing them to the more durable description offered by Jane Austen, and that’s when I realised that I had to lay aside my rather battered classic copy of Sense and Sensibility, and started to concentrate on this version as being entirely ‘new’, rather than a pale imitation of the original. After that I started to enjoy the book on its own merits.
The story does indeed lend itself to a light and easy to read contemporary version, and whilst there is much to compare the ruinous nature of today’s rather impecunious society, there is also the same sense of traditional values. It became entirely convincing to see Willoughby’s skill with a top of the range Aston Martin, replace Austen’s description of Willoughby, as there not a being ‘a bolder rider in England’.
All this is beautifully expressed within the novel as with multi layered efficiency, and with no loss of character from the original, Joanna Trollope has infused new life into a story, which some may have said was outmoded and outdated.
It goes a long way to prove that, in the hands of a talented and clever author, even the reworking of a major classic can be deemed to be entirely successful.

It would be utterly wrong of me to assume that I can compare the writing of one of England’s finest novelists with one of her modern day counterparts, so for the Jane Austen purists amongst you who feel it is bordering on the sacrilegious to rework such a classic masterpiece as Sense and Sensibility, I would suggest that you approach this as you would any new venture, with an open mind.

You may even be as pleasantly surprised as I was !

 ***


 My thanks to Lovereading.co.uk and Harper Collins for my advance reading copy of this book.

A small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - you can read their thoughts on the book here

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope will be available through Lovereading.co.uk and other book stores from the end of October 2013.

Read more about The Austen project here 

Twitter#austenproject
Pinterest/austenproject
facebook /austenproject

Friday, 13 September 2013

Today my author spotlight falls on Emylia Hall...

Jaffa and I are delighted to welcome back to my blog


Photo by kind permission



As she publishes her second novel



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Emylia thank you so much for taking the time in this busy publication week to answer a few of our questions.


What can you tell us about A Heart Bent Out of Shape that won’t give too much away?

The story takes place in the Swiss city of Lausanne, and follows a nineteen-year-old student called Hadley as she spends a year there as part of her studies. When she arrives she's something of a clean sheet, and yet to experience any of life's more intense sensations, but throughout the course of her year abroad that all changes. First love, first loss, true & testing friendship... I basically throw everything at her. I wanted to capture that feeling of being young and abroad and excited and free, while injecting a slightly darker note; the contrast of a perfect place, and an imperfect sequence of events, appealed to me.


Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for the story?

Lausanne is an important city to me as I spent a year there when I was Hadley's age, and loved every minute. It was my first taste of living in the depths of a city, let alone a foreign one (I grew up in the countryside, and my UK university - York - was something of a campus bubble). While I'd travelled fairly extensively in Europe with my family I'd never lived abroad, and it was something I was desperate to do. One of the reasons I chose to study English at York was for its study abroad programme - I was looking at guidebooks for Switzerland at the same time as the university prospectus, and set my heart on going to Lausanne before I'd even stepped foot in Yorkshire! When I look back it was a truly golden year, and the remarkable thing is that I appreciated all of its special qualities at the time too - the whole time I lived there, I never took a day for granted. It felt like a really natural thing for me to set a story in Lausanne - I can't even remember the moment I thought of it - I guess I've always known that such a beloved city would find its way onto the page somehow, somewhere. I just hope I've done it justice in A Heart Bent Out of Shape.


You have set this book in Switzerland - how important is location to your story?

I wanted the city to almost feel like another character in the story. I hope that my novel truly transports readers, so they begin to see the city through Hadley's eyes and love it just as she does. As a setting, Lausanne is wonderfully dramatic, it's on the shores of Lac LĂ©man, ringed by mountains, with twisting cobbled streets, and a luxurious feeling waterfront. It dazzles in the summer but my favourite Swiss season has to be winter... in Lausanne snow blankets the streets and the lake churns with ice-cold water. Vendors sell hot cider and roasted chestnuts, and everyone's dressed very smartly in long coats and tightly knotted scarves. There are also so may of those perfectly crisp and cold, blue-sky days in Lausanne, the kind which are so much rarer in England. It seemed that no matter how cold, how snowy, how grey the sky, at some point the sun would always come out... or maybe that's the rose-tinted spectacles of memory! I took a huge amount of pleasure in writing my version of the city, and feeling like I was sharing it with readers.


A Heart Bent out of Shape is your second novel – did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?

I definitely felt the pressure with my second novel, but that was all entirely self-imposed. The deadline seemed to be a privilege in the beginning, it was exciting to think that I had an agent and editors waiting to read my work, and it made the whole 'being published thing' feel really real... But about halfway through the process I began to sweat a bit. I was worried about not doing justice to the story I wanted to tell, some days wondering if I could do it at all, or finish it on time. But I got myself through that sticky patch with hard work, seriously focused time on the novel, and the support of my 'early readers' - my husband Bobby, my friend Kate, and my family. About five months before my final deadline, something clicked and I began to love the process again, I felt consumed by the story and felt confident in it. That was a great feeling, and I'd far rather it was that way around rather than starting out thinking it's a breeze then stumbling in the final stages.


Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I'm currently working on my third novel, and am about a third of the way through a first draft. I have a really strong sense of the story and what its 'heart' is, but there's a long way to go yet. I think that as a writer you either find this part of the process a joy or a struggle, and right now, I'm leaning towards the latter, but I know I'll get there in the end. When I have a first draft, no matter how rough, that's when I'll start to breathe easier... I enjoy the rewriting, the moving things around, the cutting and tinkering part of the process... The story's mainly set in Cornwall, and I'm loving having a reason to go there as often as possible. You can't beat first hand inspiration, and that's what I'm always looking for when I'm writing.


Emylia ~ thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for giving such insightful answers to our questions.

Jaffa and I love having you visit us.

Come back to see us again soon.

**

My Review

The pretty town of Lausanne in Switzerland is the setting for this compelling story of first love, lost love, hidden desire and tragedy.

When Hadley Dunn takes up the opportunity of studying for a year at a university in Lausanne in Switzerland her excitement is palpable, and as she arrives in the picturesque town with its lake and mountains, she is aware of a sense of freedom, the like of which she has never before experienced. Her friendship with the beautiful and enigmatic Kristina opens her eyes, not just to a world of pleasure but also to the possibility of excitement on a grand scale. However, as the first real snows of winter arrive, there is an overwhelming tragedy and Hadley turns to her tutor, Joel Wilson, a professor of American Literature, for support. However, as Hadley and Joel attempt to discover the uncertainty surrounding the tragedy, the fine line between friendship and desire, threatens to complicate things even further.

At the centre of the story is a well controlled mystery with nail biting suspense, but there is also a sensitive exploration of love and illicit desire. The almost mesmeric quality to the narrative brings the town of Lausanne so wonderfully to life that it very quickly becomes one of the major characters in the novel. The sizzle of the town in its summer heat rests beautifully against the majesty of the spiky French Alps, and the streets and cafes with their picture postcard perfection are realistically exposed to scrutiny.

 Sometimes there is a danger that a second novel won’t live up to the brilliance of the first, but rest assured there is no such danger with A Heart Bent Out of Shape. There is no doubt that Emylia Hall, in just two excellent novels, has captured this genre and I am confident that her writing will simply go from strength to strength. I really can’t wait to see what she does next. 




Here's your chance to win a copy of this lovely story for yourself






~***~







Thursday, 12 September 2013

Jane Green ~ Interview and Giveaway

Tempting Fate by Jane Green

Happy Publication Day


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(Michael Joseph, Paperback Original, 12th September/ £7.99
ISBN:  978-0718157586



When Gabby first met Elliott she knew he was the man for her. In twenty years of marriage she has never doubted her love for him - even when he refused to give her the one thing she still wants most of all. But now their two daughters are growing up Gabby feels that time and her youth are slipping away. For the first time in her life she is restless. And then she meets Matt . . .

Intoxicated by the way this young, handsome and successful man makes her feel, Gabby is momentarily blind to what she stands to lose on this dangerous path. And in one reckless moment she destroys all that she holds dear.
Consumed by regret, Gabby does everything she can to repair the home she has broken. But are some betrayals too great to forgive?

**



Jane thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions about your latest book



Tell us a little about Tempting Fate and what’s in store for your main character Gabby.

I am fascinated by the number of women around me, in their forties, who are teetering on the brink of a mid-life crisis. Something seems to happen to women during our forties,when we look at our lives and ask ourselves whether this is what we expected, or perhaps really wanted. Marriage, kids, life, all feel a little 'pots and pans'; we love our husbands and kids, but we miss feeling beautiful, seductive...alive; we miss feeling excited. If we're lucky, we move over that hump and settle into the afternoon of life, but should someone come along who sees us as we used to be seen, who makes us feel all the things we miss about being young, that can be dangerously intoxicating. Gabby is a woman in her forties who would never be unfaithful, who loves her life, but when a younger man comes along who makes her feel beautiful, she plays along, flattered, intoxicated, not planning on doing anything, just wanting to feel this way for a little bit longer... Tempting Fate is about cherishing what we have before it's too late, and whether we can ever fix it once we have made a mistake.


When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?

I draw from everyone and everything. I can't specifically think of instances where I've used celebrities, but I'm sure it has happened. Certainly I have used characters from non-fiction memoirs, and people in my life, although the characters are never entirely based on any one person. Years ago, when I thought I was writing characters based on friends, I realised very quickly they developed into their own character within a few pages, nothing like the visual snapshot of the real person I held in my mind.


With over 10million copies sold, you are one of the biggest brand women’s fiction authors of all time. What has been your most memorable experience as an author to date?


It is mostly the little things that blow me away. Someone recognizing my name from my credit card in a shop and saying, 'wow, you have the same name as my favorite author!', or being shown to a table in a restaurant and have someone whisper that Jemima J was her most favourite book ever. But I have to confess, being sent to meet Harrison Ford and have him fly me up to Malibu in his helicopter, probably won't ever be matched. He was the real deal: an old school movie star with buckets of humility and charm.


Can you tell us a bit about your average working day?

I am usually up at the crack of dawn, often running to an early meeting - I am in a fellowship of people that meet several times a week - before hitting a small writer's room in town with my laptop and a giant cup of coffee. I'm usually at my desk by 8.30, and sit and write until lunchtime. I set myself a daily quota of words, and won't leave the computer until those words are on the page. The last couple of years I have also taken myself off to a self-imposed writing retreat a couple of times a year. I go to little Inns, or to houses on lakes belonging to friends, and do nothing but write for five days. Those days are much more intensive - I write for around eight hours a day, and am completely exhausted afterwards - the beauty of going by myself is I don't need to do anything afterwards except crawl into bed. I'm now thinking about buying somewhere - a little tiny cabin on Golden Pond does sound rather delicious...


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I cook, garden, decorate, entertain, keep chickens, look after children, dogs and cats, make candles, make jewelry, read... I'm the ever-ready bunny. I keep going until the batteries run out. Which they do at around 8.30pm. I am good at many things, but late-night partying is sadly not one of them.


My thanks to the team at Michael Joseph for the opportunity to feature this interview with Jane Green on my blog.

***

My review of Tempting Fate


I've been a fan of Jane Green’s writing for quite a few years, and am always reliably reassured that whatever she writes will be both entertaining and enjoyable. In this latest book she has taken the idea of a slightly more mature female protagonist and has developed the idea that familiarity in a marriage can sometimes breed contempt.

Forty-something Gabby has been married to her husband Elliot for twenty years, and as she experiences her children growing up into adulthood, Gabby also begins to see her own youth sliding away from her. When she meets, and is attracted to Max, a much younger man who is not just charismatic and successful, but who also manages to make Gabby feel special, we sense that Gabby, already vulnerable in middle age, will find that Max’s appeal is too much to resist.

There is no doubt that Jane Green has captured the intimacy and the inherent danger that all too often heralds the temptation of an extra marital fling, and she mixes it into a believable account of cause and effect. As always the writing is impeccable with a believable set of circumstances, and as the story draws you into the disintegration of Gabby’s reckless year, you experience such a sense of familiarity amongst the characters that you almost find yourself pleading with Gabby to just take a more realistic look at her life, but of course this can’t happen, and such is the power of storytelling that you really have to read on until the conclusion of the book.


And here's your chance to win a paperback copy of Tempting Fate.
(UK only)