Friday 31 August 2012

Friday Recommends

My Recommended book this week



Sophie King

Available as an ebook
Published by Corazon books
July 2012


Tales from the Heart is a collection of twenty short stories which have been previously published in women’s magazines. The author Sophie King, already an established author and journalist, has successfully to put into words all those everyday situations we encounter, and with perception and humour has provided a warm and witty look at life. Whilst some of the stories are quite light hearted, others definitely tug at the heartstrings, and the occasional unexpected twist at the end is a nice surprise.

The art of successful short story writing is quite difficult, and yet Sophie King has managed to make it look easy. The tales flow really well, the characters are likeable, and the everyday situations lend a believability factor which, for me, is sometimes missing from short stories. I’m not going to précis the collection as that would spoil the enjoyment, but for ease of use and an undeniable charm, Tales from the Heart is one of the best collections of short stories I have read in a long time.

My thanks to Ian at Great Stories with Heart for a review copy of this ebook 

Thursday 30 August 2012

Author Interview - Sophie King

I am delighted to welcome Sophie King

Photograph by kind permission of Sophie King

Author of Tales from the Heart
Available exclusively as an ebook

Enjoy these twenty stories of love, family and friendship from the best-selling author of The School Run and The Wedding Party.

A woman cooks a meal for her ex-husband, but has more than food on her mind...
Can a new arrival remind a family of what is really important in life..?
A young couple's love transports an elderly woman into the past...
Will love second time around heal old scars..?
Warring grandparents refuse to see eye to eye...
Are family secrets best kept hidden..?
A wise man's last request brings surprises for his great-niece...

Told with wit, understanding, humour, love and romance - these Tales from the Heart, which have appeared in a range of popular women's magazines such as Woman's Weekly and My Weekly, are brought together in one collection for the first time.

Sophie, welcome to jaffareadstoo ~ thank you for taking the time to answer a few of our questions.

What inspired you to become an author?
My grandfather, whom I never knew as he died before I was born. He was in the merchant navy and read a lot at sea. He passed down his love of reading to his only child, my father. He then read to me at night from an early age while my mother took me to Harrow library every Saturday until I was old enough to do it myself. I must have written stories from a very early age because I still have some of them in very young handwriting.

Where do you get the inspiration for your short stories?

Usually it's an odd word or a quirky event or something that could be seen in a different light that might make it different. I think I see the world in a different way from other people. But then again, all authors would probably say that.

Do you write stories for yourself, or other people?

Great question! To be honest, I start off for my own amusement and then hope that it pleases the magazines I write for!

 Do you have a special place to do your writing?

My newish husband and I moved to the sea three years ago and I write at the top of our house (which used to be a B & B) in my office which overlooks the sea. It's bliss except when the doorbell goes. I'm thinking of dividing my time between my office and the local library. I believe in supporting libraries anyway - they're the backbone of literacy.

What are you writing next?

I've just finished an historical novel: I write them for the German and Italian market. I'm also in the middle of my next novel for RANDOM HOUSE. My last one came out in July and is called THE AU PAIR. It's under my other name Janey Fraser. And I got an idea this morning, when walking my dog, for a short story. So I'll be writing that tomorrow morning. I never discuss ideas before they are written as it takes away the need to tell the story. Very odd, I know.

 What are you reading at the moment? 

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon who also wrote The Shadow Of The Wind. My son has just finished it but while he was in the middle, I sneaked a look at the beginning and was enthralled by the language and mystery. I'm an eclectic reader. One week it's romance and the next it might be historical. I read most of the classics when I was a teenager and then when I was at university. But every now and then, I find something that I haven't read but should have done. One example is The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, which was riveting. 


 Sophie - thank you so much for spending time with jaffareadstoo - we wish you continuing success with your writing career, and look forward to reading more of your books.

Sophie's first novel The School Run is has been reissued in a new ebook edition and is available for download now.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Wishlist Wednesday....

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My Wishlist Wednesday Book 



Lucinda Riley

The Orchid House: A Novel
Simon and Schuster

From Goodreads

For fans of The House at Riverton and Rebecca—a debut spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from a magnificent estate in war-torn England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist, Julia, and the prominent Crawford family whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences for generations to come.

I am intrigued by this story - dual time narratives always appeal to me and this one looks especially interesting as it is set in the 1930's, and the present day.  I usually read dual time narratives which are set further back in history, so to have one in relative recent time should make for an interesting comparison.

Lucinda Riley is the author of several novels.

The Girl on the Cliff
Hothouse Flower
The Orchid House
The Light Behind The Window

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Author Interview - Liza Perrat

I am delighted to welcome Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels

Photograph by kind permission of Liza Perrat

Spirit of Lost Angels
Triskele Books
2 May 2012
Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her poor peasant roots.

Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in Paris, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the ancien régime. Can she muster the bravery and skill to join the revolutionary force gripping France, and overthrow the corrupt, diabolical aristocracy?

Spirit of Lost Angels traces the journey of a bone angel talisman passed down through generations. The women of L’Auberge des Anges face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

Amidst the tumult of revolutionary France, this is a story of courage, hope and love.

Liza, it's lovely to have you visit jaffareadstoo ~  thank you for spending time with us, and for answering our questions about your love of books and writing.

What inspired you to become an author?

After a childhood spent with my nose in books, I became interested in playing with words at about the age of eleven. I still recall a red-faced primary school teacher trying to explain why one does not write, “He ejaculated with joy,” in a composition about a happy man. But, as is the case with most people, “real life” got in the way and I worked as a nurse and midwife for many years, before I took a creative writing course twelve years ago and started to write seriously.

Where did you get the inspiration for Spirit of Lost Angels? 

Whilst out walking one day around the French village in which I live, I came across a small stone cross – croix à gros ventre (cross with the big belly) – on the banks of the Garon River. From the very helpful people at the local historical society, I learned this cross commemorates two young children drowned in the river in 1717. Who were they? How did they drown? And where are they buried?

croix à gros ventre
Photograph courtesy of Liza Perrat

I felt the urge to write about them; to give these lost little ones an identity, a family, a village. The fictitious village of Lucie-sur-Vionne was thus born, and the family farm, L’Auberge des Anges. 

Once the novel was finished, I decided Spirit of Lost Angels would be the first in a three-part historical series as I was keen to explore how the different generations of L’Auberge des Anges struggled through upheavals such as the Black Death, the French revolution and WWII.

Do you write stories for yourself, or other people? 

Well, I mainly write for myself, in that I can’t not write. I don’t know if this is a good thing, in that I love making up stories, or a bad thing in that it takes up all my time, but the flea has bitten and infested me, and I’d feel as if my life was empty if I couldn’t write. Also, since I gain immeasurable pleasure from reading, I’d like to think readers might enjoy and be entertained by my stories too.

Do you have a special place to do your writing?

I have a desk downstairs, next to the washing machine and freezer and ever-present ironing pile. It’s nothing fancy, but the cat gives sleepy comfort from his odd-socks box beside me, and I can close the door on the mayhem of the upstairs household of teenagers, husband and television.

What are you writing next?

I recently completed the second novel in the series, Wolfsangel, which deals with the same family, village and inn, during the Nazi occupation of WWII. It’s with my agent who, I hope, is trying to sell it! If she doesn’t, I’ll publish, as I did with Spirit of Lost Angels, through our authors’ collective label:

I’m spending this summer researching for the third in the series – Angel of Roses – which is again set in the same village, with the same family, during the 14th century plague years.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I’m slowly making my way through a huge pile of research books about the plague and medieval France. For pleasure, I’m reading Karen Maitland’s The Gallows Curse. 

For readers requiring further information on Spirit of Lost Angels, please refer to my website: or blog: 

Thanks very much Jo, for giving me this opportunity to appear on jaffareadstoo!

Liza, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions so thoughtfully, Jaffa and I have enjoyed this interview very much . We wish you continued success in your writing career and very much look forward to reading more in the L'Auberge des Anges series.

Any publishers reading this - do pick up Liza's exceptional novels - they really do deserve to be read by a wider audience.

I recently reviewed of Spirit of Lost Angels for newbooksmag.

 My blog review can be found here

Monday 27 August 2012

Review ~ Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox

Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox

Elijah's Mermaid

My thanks to newbooksmag for an advance copy to read and review.

In Elijah’s mermaid, Essie Fox, has with Dickensian precision revealed a passionate story of obsessive love, and sordid betrayal. Beautifully descriptive, the highly regarded worlds of Victorian art and literature, meet the dark and repellent world of the demimondaine, in a story that abounds with duplicity, and scandalous intrigue.

Pearl has been brought up in the notorious brothel, The House of Mermaids, where she has been cosseted and pampered as a child of the house; however, as she nears her fourteenth birthday, she is aware that her innocence will be soon be sold to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, in a secluded country house, the twins Lily and Elijah, who were rescued as children from the Foundling Hospital, live in isolated splendour with their grandfather, the reclusive author Augustus Lamb. In an unexpected incident in London, Lily and Elijah, cross paths with Pearl, and the fickle finger of fate combines, to bind these characters together. 
The dark and socially corrupt world of Victorian London is brought vividly to life, the narrative never falters, and the rich assortment of characters that flutter in and out of the story, add a fascinating glimpse into the shadowy world of the Victorian underclass.

Overall, I found much to enjoy in Elijah’s Mermaid and if you enjoy Victorian Gothic in the style of Sarah Waters excellent books Fingersmith or Affinity,  then this is certainly one to try.

To be published 8 October by ORION Books


Sunday 26 August 2012

One small step for the man in the moon......

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Around 600 million people around the world watched as Neil Armstrong took his first tentative steps on the moon on the 20 July 1969. As an eleven year old I watched as those grainy black and white pictures were beamed back to earth, and couldn't quite believe my eyes, and my grandmother who was 82 at the time, felt she was witnessing a miracle. 

We are 43 years on from that historic day and I agree with my grandmother.

We did witness a miracle.

 Neil Armstrong will always be the man in the moon.


Saturday 25 August 2012

Review - Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

My thanks to Real Readers for an advance reading copy of this book

Trust Your Eyes


Published 27 September 2012


My 5***** Star Review

The computer programme, Whirl360 allows you to visit the streets of the world from the comfort of your PC. Believing himself to be involved with the CIA, Thomas Kilbride is obsessed with this programme, and is on a mission to memorise the streets of the world. When he inadvertently sees something unusual online, he is unsure of how to deal with it, but Thomas is schizophrenic, and occasionally confuses fact with fiction. He’s about to discover that sometimes you really do have to trust your eyes, but convincing other people is another matter entirely. His determination to get to the bottom of this mystery will involve Thomas and his brother Ray, in a whole heap of trouble.

As with all Linwood Barclay novels, there are several strands to this story, but with impeccable ease and fine attention to detail, all the strands are brought together in this fast action thriller. The mystery at the heart of the story is gutsy and exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat, but equally inspiring is the relationship between the two brothers in the aftermath of their father’s death. The subject of mental health is handled really well, the frustration experienced by both men is extremely well done, and yet neither patronises nor over sensationalises what Thomas experiences.

This book certainly confirms Linwood Barclay as a master storyteller, his ability to maintain reader interest is evident throughout, and his original and imaginative storylines just get better and better.
 I read Trust Your Eyes over the space of a couple of days, it’s really difficult to put the book down, and the temptation to read just a little bit more is so enticing that you really don’t notice the passage of time.

Linwood Barclay is the author of several high tension novels. 

No Time for Goodbye Too Close to Home Fear the Worst Never Look Away The Accident Never Saw it Coming Trust Your Eyes Clouded Vision

Friday 24 August 2012

Friday Recommends...

My Friday recommended read this week


The King's Mistress


Gillian Bagwell


At the start of The King’s Mistress, England is without a monarch. The heir to throne, Charles Stuart, has attempted, with the help of the Scottish army, to regain his rightful crown, but after the ill-fated battle of Worcester in 1651, and with the wrath of Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarians at his back, he has no choice but to flee his beloved country. From the relative safely of her rural landscape, twenty five year old Jane Lane longs for adventure. When her family are approached to help Charles escape to the coast, Jane grasps this opportunity regardless of personal danger. Disguised as Jane’s manservant, Charles and Jane travel from rural Stafford, to the south coast of England.

In The King’s Mistress, Gillian Bagwell has cleverly combined her impeccable research with fiction, and has produced a thoroughly enjoyable account of the passionate relationship between Charles Stuart and Jane Lane, which was forged in danger, but restricted by protocol. Very little is known about the true nature of the relationship between Jane Lane and the future King Charles II. However, it is without doubt that Charles Stuart owes much to her bravery and tenacity.

It is utterly refreshing to read an historical adventure which features Charles Stuart in the interregnum years before his restoration. All too often we see him portrayed as the seductive ‘merry monarch’, whilst paying scant attention to the time he spent as a penniless exile wandering the courts of Europe. It is intriguing to imagine just how the exiled years away from England shaped him as a future monarch. As we have come to expect, Charles’ penchant for delectable ladies is quite obvious, his sexual allure is without question, and yet his relationship with Jane is revealed as both tender, and passionate in equal measure. Jane is portrayed as a spirited and likeable young woman, and although she’s rather naive at times, you never doubt her capacity to endure whatever fate throws at her.

What I love about Gillian Bagwell’s writing is her fine attention to detail, and her ability to create an utterly believable story, whilst still keeping within the boundaries of credibility. She has taken a little known English heroine, and has produced a wonderful story of bravery, danger and passion.
From the opening page I was immersed in the story of Jane and Charles, and felt quite sad when the book ended.

I am confident that TheKing’s Mistress will appeal to those readers who enjoy books by Anne O'Brien, Philippa Gregory, Emma Campion, Vanora Bennett and Christie Dickason.

I look forward to reading more of Gillian’s intuitive historical novels.

Gillian is also the author of The Darling Strumpet.which I reviewed on Jaffareadstoo in September 2011

The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II

Don't you just love it when you find a new favourite author !!!

Happy Reading !

Thursday 23 August 2012

Author Interview and UK Giveaway ...

I am delighted to introduce to you Gillian Bagwell

Gillian Bagwell
Photo with Kind permission of the author

The King’s Mistress
Published by Avon 19 July 2012
A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Author of The King's Mistress

As a nobleman's daughter, Jane Lane longs for a life outside the privileged walls of her family home. Her quiet world is shattered when Royalists arrive one night pleading for help.
They have been hiding the King, but Cromwell's forces are close behind them, baying for Charles II's blood -and anyone who helps him.
Putting herself in mortal danger, Jane must help the King escape by disguising him as her manservant. With the shadow of the gallows following their every step, Jane finds herself falling for the gallant young Charles, But will she surrender to the passion that could change her life- and the course of history?

Gillian has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for jaffareadstoo.

Welcome Gillian,

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in California from the age of nine (other places in the U.S. before that), and didn’t actually get to England until I was in my early twenties, but I’ve always been and Anglophile and very interested in English history. A big reason for this is probably because my mother read a lot of books to my sisters and me when we were little, including many books set in England such as the Winnie-the-Pooh books, Mary Poppins, The Wouldbegoods, The Wind in the Willows, etc. 

Then there were some wonderful Masterpiece Theatre productions that enthralled me – Upstairs,  Downstairs; Elizabeth R, etc. Another major contributing factor to my interest in British history is my early exposure to and love of Shakespeare.

What makes you want to write Historical Fiction?

I love reading historical fiction—getting lost in an exciting story that transports me to another time and place, so I guess it’s natural to want to write something that I would enjoy as a reader. But my foray into writing novels came relatively late, after many years in theatre. When I was first pursuing an acting career, a friend of mine was getting a lot of attention for a one-man show he was performing. I thought that was a good idea. Someone suggested Nell Gwynn as a subject, and the more I read about her the more I loved her. I did some work on the script but never finished it to my satisfaction—it just wasn’t possible to do her life justice in such a short format.
Many years later, when I was living in London and caring for my terminally ill mother, I decided to write Nell’s story as a novel, and began working on what was published as The Darling Strumpet. When my agent sold that, she also made the deal for my second book—as yet unwritten!—and so I wrote The King’s Mistress.  (It was released in the U.S. last year under the title The September Queen.)

What fascinates you most about Charles II?

There is a lot to be fascinated about. He was a very complex person. People tend to think about the years of his reign as “the Merry Monarch” and his many mistresses, but he was only twelve when the English Civil Wars began and his family scattered, never to be reunited. He spent much of his formative years trying to do the job of a man, nominally being in charge of troops.  When the war was slipping away from the Royalists, he was evacuated from England, and spent years abroad. He was only eighteen when his father was executed and only twenty-one when he made last desperate push to defeat Cromwell and regain his throne at the Battle of Worcester. When he was defeated, he had to run for his life and spent another nine years in impoverished exile. I don’t think any other British monarch has had such an experience of deprivation and difficulty, and it certainly shaped him.
He did a lot of good for England when he was restored to the throne in 1660, opening the playhouses that had been closed under Cromwell, and ushering in a very vibrant period in science as well as art and culture. He was the patron of the Royal Society, built the Greenwich Observatory, and was keenly interested in all kinds of scientific matters.

Why did you choose to write about Jane Lane?

I first read about Jane Lane in the course of researching The Darling Strumpet, and remembered her when my agent wanted to know what I wanted to write next. I was amazed and pleased to find that no one had written a novel about her and her perilous and romantic odyssey traveling with Charles. Georgette Heyer wrote a book called Royal Escape in the 1930s, but it told Charles’s story, and so didn’t follow Jane’s story when she wasn’t with him.
There’s something wonderful about being able to tell a story that many people don’t know about, especially when it involves such an interesting person and compelling adventure.  Lots more exciting for me than the prospect of trying to write about someone whose story is already well-known.

How much research do you do when writing a novel?

I do lots and lots of research! For this book, I read pretty much everything that was available about “The Royal Miracle,” as Charles’s escape after the Battle of Worcester came to be called, and of course much else about the Civil War and the efforts to restore Charles to the throne before it actually happened. After Jane helped Charles escape, she eventually ended up in Paris and then at The Hague in the court of Charles’s sister Mary, the widow of William of Orange. I knew very little about the people and places she would have known—the other members of the royal family; Charles’s supporters in exile; Charles’s first love Lucy Walter, who was the mother of his first child—and some said his wife; Anne Hyde, who later became the Duchess of York and the mother of Queen Anne and Queen Mary—so that was another big area of research.
With a friend, I did a little road trip following the route that Jane Lane took in her travels with Charles and where he traveled before he met up with her. There’s nothing quite like being able to be in the actual places where my characters lived their adventures—getting to see the room in Trent Manor where they stayed, the priest holes where Charles hid at Moseley Old Hall and Boscobel, and so on.

What can you tell us about any future writing projects?

I’m just finishing my third novel, Venus in Winter, based on the first forty years of the life of Bess of Hardwick. She’s a fascinating character. She began life in a poor family of minor gentry and was married and widowed four times, becoming more wealthy and powerful with each husband. She built Chatsworth House and Hardwick Hall, knew all the monarchs from Henry VIII to Elizabeth, and is the ancestor of many noble families in England, including the present royal family. 

Gillian- thank you so much for spending time with us - Jaffa and I have loved reading about your inspiration for The King's Mistress and wish you continued success with your writing career.

I am delighted to announce that the publishers of The King's Mistress have kindly offered a paperback copy of the King's Mistress to one lucky winner of this UK only giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Wishlist Wednesday...

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My Wishlist Wednesday Book this week


A Street Cat Named Bob


James Bowen

A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets

From Goodreads

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn't resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other's troubled pasts.

This is definitely one for Jaffa and I to curl up and read together.

The picture on the cover of the book looks more like Jaffa's friend Timmy.

Timmy is more adept at fending for himself and would make an ideal street companion.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Review~ Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)

Abby Abernathy is one of the good college girls; she doesn’t smoke or drink, so when she attracts the attention of bad boy Travis Maddox, her initial reaction is to resist his charms. What then follows is a ‘will they, won’t they ‘ type of relationship, with both Abby and Travis unable to deny that the attraction they have for each other is real, and filled with passion.

I thought that at times the storyline faltered and became rather repetitive, and there were bouts of uncontrolled violence from Travis which I found difficult to rationalise. The burgeoning relationship between Travis and Abby was questionable at times, but there was certainly enough thwarted romance and sizzling passion between them.

Overall, this wasn’t a book for me to enjoy. Maybe, it was because I don’t fit into its targeted YA audience, but also I think because after 50 or so pages into the book, I just didn’t care enough for any of the characters or feel any emotional involvement with them.

My thanks to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for a digital copy to review.

Sunday 19 August 2012

The walk in my week...

Making the most of a morning of sunshine my walk this week took me into Haigh Country Park, which is 250 acres of woodland , once the home to the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres.

History of Haigh

The name Haigh comes from the Anglo Saxon word Haga meaning an enclosure or a secure area to house livestock.The origins of Haigh and the owner of the original manor is not known. The earliest recorded date of title is 1295 when William de Bradshaigh married Mabel le Norreys, the natural heir to the estates of Haigh and Blackrod. The first hall was probably Norman, and a relic of this was enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries with an Elizabethan south facade. A descendant of William, Roger Bradshaigh, lived at the Hall in the 1600s. He was MP for Haigh and made a baronet in 1679.
The Bradshaigh line died out in 1787 and title passed to Alexander Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres after marrying Elizabeth Dalrymple who had inherited the estate from her maternal family, the Bradshaighs. The present Hall was built between 1827 and 1840 using stone from Parbold, wood from Jamaica (the Earl’s own plantations) and furniture from France. The Hall was designed and planned by the the 24th Earl of Crawford.

The plantations were laid out in the 1860s to hide the condition of the landscape after being damaged by the mining activity. The extensive Plantations consist primarily of Beech trees with a proportion of Oak, Horse Chestnut, Sycamore, Ash and Lime and Scots Pine. 

There are lots of paths to choose and the old stone roadside markers still lead the way..

...or you can choose the modern day signpost

The meandering Leeds / Liverpool canal cuts through the landscape...

And a family of ducks came for bread..... 

A bright and colourful canal barge

Hidden paths reveal so much history

- just think about it.... in 1680 Charles II was on the throne...


Haigh Hall

Lily Pond at Haigh Hall

What a lovely walk and home in time to avoid the rain.....

Friday 17 August 2012

Friday Recommends...

Friday again, and it's time for my choice of book for Friday recommends...

This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!

The rules for Friday Recommends are:

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

 My Friday Recommended Read 


The Map of Lost Memories 


 Kim Fay

My 5 ***** Review

The forgotten history of Cambodia is the foundation for this beautifully written novel of discovery. In The Map of Lost Memories, the author, Kim Fay presents a unique and exciting search for legendary copper scrolls, which are believed to describe the ancient Khmer civilization. When museum curator, Irene Blum, is given written evidence that the ancient scrolls exist, she enlists the help of adventurer, Simone Merlin, to help her gain access to this forbidden territory. However, Simone is a volatile and capricious conspirator, and Irene is never really sure of Simone’s loyalty.

What then follows is an adventure story with three distinct sections, Shanghai, Saigon and Cambodia; all are beautifully placed within the narrative, and yet blend together quite seamlessly to produce a detailed and imaginative journey into an ancient and powerful civilization. Combined with the author’s unique ability to describe this part of the world, the story reads more like a travelogue, the sights, sounds, smells and dangers are so vividly described, I felt like I was travelling with them on a journey filled with mistrust and danger.

An abundance of rich and varied characters combine to make this a really satisfying read. I read it over the space of several evenings, and found myself drawn into the story so much I didn’t notice the passage of time.

I am sure that reading groups will enjoy discussing this book, as there’s enough factual history combined with an intrepid adventure story to occupy the most erudite of book clubbers!

Don't forget to read Kim's fascinating insight into the writing of The Map of Lost Memories in her author interview on jaffareadstoo on the 16th August.

Happy Reading !

Thursday 16 August 2012

Author Interview ~ Kim Fay

I am delighted to welcome Kim Fay, the author of The Map of Lost Memories

Picture courtesy of Julie Fay Ashborn  

Published 16 August 2012
Hodder & Stoughton

The Map Of Lost Memories

The one thing to remember about an adventure is that if it turns out the way you expect it to, it has not been an adventure at all... 

...Shanghai, 1925. Irene, a museum curator (and, unofficially, a treasure hunter) is searching for a set of legendary copper scrolls which describe the forgotten history of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilisation. Her mentor has sent her to China to enlist the help of Simone, a mercurial Frenchwoman who - along with her notoriously violent husband, 'the most dangerous man in the Orient' - has a reputation for both stealing artefacts and starting revolutions. Irene and Simone set off through the Cambodian jungle to search for the scrolls, but it soon becomes clear that each is determined to acquire them for her own reasons, and that once they have located them it will be every woman for herself ...Gripping, evocative, lavish and thrilling, this is an unforgettable book that was listed as one of Amazon's top 100 Breakthrough Novels before it was even finished.

Thank you, Kim for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions about your debut historical novel, The Map of Lost Memories.

What inspired you to become an author?

I was a reader in my heart even before I could read – when I was an infant, while my dad was at work, my mom would read whatever book she was reading for herself out loud to me. As I got older, my parents dropped me off at used bookstores the way other parents dropped their kids off at video arcades, and they always let my sister and me order as many books as we wanted from the Scholastic catalogs that came around school a few times a year.

In addition, I come from a family of storytellers. When I was a young girl, I would tuck under the covers with my sister while our dad made up absurd stories about Raggedy Kojak (a pathetic Raggedy Ann doll that had lost its hair) and his faithful sidekick, Mousiestein. On the nights when he did not whip up one of his episodic tales, our grandpa sat on the side of our bed telling us exotic stories about his life as a sailor in Shanghai in the 1930s.

I think all of these things were influential, but I also think that some people are just born writers. It’s something inside them that can’t be traced to any specific source. It just is. I started writing when I was ten, and I haven’t stopped since. I wrote poetry, short stories and more than a dozen novels in junior high and high school; and as an adult I wrote three “serious” novels before the publication of The Map of Lost Memories.

I can’t not write. In fact, when I go too long without writing, I become depressed.

Are you a disciplined author, and where do you write?

My best answer to that is: I am disciplined when I am writing. For example, right now I need to focus on the upcoming publication of my debut novel, so the bulk of the time and energy I normally spend writing is going in that direction. I am still doing some writing now, but not on the usual disciplined schedule I set for myself – I’m just making sure I have one chapter written when I meet with my writing group every three weeks. Normally, though, when I’m focused on a book, I assign myself 4-5 hours a day, 4 days a week. I find that I write best a few days in a row, and then require a “rest period” where I think about what I have written and am going to write before starting up again.

As for the specifics, I write in the morning. The earlier the better, since I don’t seem to have any focus in the afternoons and evenings. I write on a laptop at my great-aunt’s secretary desk in the back bedroom/office of my apartment in Los Angeles. My window looks out over rooftops and a few soaring palm trees to the Hollywood hills in the distance. I love this view because the light on the backs of the stucco apartments and over the low hills changes in so many gorgeous ways throughout the day.

On a side note, lately I’ve been working on my new novel on a typewriter. I wrote about this in a recent blog post: Literateinla

What gave you the inspiration for your novel- The Map of Lost Memories?

There are two concrete inspirations for the novel. The first is my grandpa. He was a sailor in the early 1930s, and his stories about Shanghai are the reason the city figures so prominently in the book. The second inspiration is Andreand Clara Malraux. I read about this young French couple in the book Silk Roads. In the 1920s, when they were budding Communists in their early twenties, they traveled to Cambodia to steal a bas relief from the temple of Banteay Srei. They are the original model for Roger and Simone Merlin, although Roger and Simone are quite different from the Malrauxs.

Kim has kindly shared some of the family photographs she used as inspiration for The Map of Lost Memories

An abandoned Khmer temple in the jungles of Cambodia
in the 1920s

One of my gramps photos of Shanghai
that inspired
The Book of Lost Memories
A deserted hallway in
Cambodia's Angkor Wat Temple
in the 1920s

All photographs by kind permission of Kim Fay

Do you write books for yourself, or other people?

I definitely write for myself. I write about subjects that I want to research and about characters that fascinate me. And I’m obsessed with writing about the places I love. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the reader in mind. As I was writing The Map of Lost Memories, I thought about my grandma who had passed away. Her life was very limited by her finances and her health, and so she was a voracious reader – if she couldn’t get out-and-about physically, at least she could travel in her head. I thought often about people like her and how much I wanted to be able to take them on an adventure to a part of the world that meant so much to me.

Can you tell us about any future writing projects?

Early readers of The Map of Lost Memories have mentioned their desire for a sequel in their reviews. And yes, there will be a sequel, although it will take place in 1950s Cambodia and the main characters will be Irene’s daughter and Kiri, the young boy from the jungle. I can’t say anymore without revealing some of the mysteries in The Map of Lost Memories – the two plots will be tightly connected. And in any case, that is coming, but it is not my next novel. It takes me years to plot a book, and while the sequel germinates in my thoughts, I am working on an untitled novel that I carried around in my head while I was writing The Map of Lost Memories.

The main character is an American woman born in Vietnam in 1937. As an adult, she is a culinary anthropologist who studies Vietnamese culinary traditions and feeds American soldiers. This, though, is the backdrop for the mystery/suspense element. I was raised on Nancy Drew, so there will always be a mystery/suspense element in my books! This one will involve the murder of the main character’s best friend. As in The Map of Lost Memories, there will be plenty of family secrets revealed, and all of the characters’ stories will come together in the end. And again, I hope to immerse readers in a time and place that might not be familiar to them.

What are you reading at the moment?

Mostly I’m reading research for my new novel: a biography of Ngo Dinh Diem, Daniel Ellsberg’s Secrets about the Pentagon Papers, The Fall of Saigon, personal accounts of daily life in Saigon in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, and so on.

For my leisure reading I’m almost done with Penelope Lively’s How It All Began. I am a huge fan of Lively and think Moon Tiger is one of the best modern novels I’ve ever read.

Kim - thank you so much for giving such a unique look into the writing process. Jaffa and I have loved reading about your inspiration for The Map of Lost Memories.

We wish you continued success with your writing career and very much look forward to the publication of your next book.

Good luck with the UK publication of The Map of Lost Memories on 16th August 2012