Archive | May, 2013

Guest post: What is an historical novel by Gill Paul

29 May

Today I’m delighted to welcome Gill Paul back to One More Page with a fab guest post on writing historical novels. Gill’s latest book, The Affair was released last week and is a brilliant read set in Rome in 1961 and based around the filming of the 1963 film  Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Gill’s previous novel, Women and Children First examined the impact of the Titanic disaster on the lives of those who survived it so Gill is certainly no stranger to writing from an historical viewpoint!

The Historical Writers Association says that to be considered ‘historical’ a novel should be set at least 35 years before the date when it’s written, while the Romantic Novelists’ Association says it should be set before 1960 – so one of them would consider The Affair historical while the other would not. But I think the era in which Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while filming Cleopatra was vastly different from our own in so many fundamental respects that it definitely counts as history.

Homosexuality was illegal, so Elizabeth’s best friend Roddy McDowall had to be very discreet about his lover John Valva, for whom he procured a minor role in the film. Most women hoped to stay at home and be kept by their husbands after marriage, so my character Diana was unusual in pursuing a career, particularly as she did so against her husband’s wishes. Just as in Mad Men, it still considered a harmless bit of fun if men grabbed a woman’s bottom or made personal comments about her figure in the workplace. And while some girls had sex before marriage, they had to be super-careful because abortion was illegal and unmarried mothers were social outcasts.

The furore caused by the Taylor/Burton affair would never be repeated in the modern age. Can you imagine the Vatican cardinals accusing a married movie star who has an affair of ‘erotic vagrancy’? Or an American congresswoman attempting to have her banned from America? Angelina Jolie and Kristen Stewart got off lightly by comparison when they had affairs with married men.

It’s not just the sexual politics that were different. International telephone calls had to be placed through an operator and the lines were crackly, so once Diana was in Rome it was hard to have a conversation with her husband back in London. The technology used in the filming would seem prehistoric to young filmmakers today: a focus puller measured the distance from the camera to the actor’s head in order to set the focus, and they actually had to build a dozen ornate battleships and destroy them for the sea battle of Actium (nowadays it would be done with CGI).

There are some bits of Rome that never change. Café tables still line the Via Veneto and Vespas chug past up the hill. The grand old villas on the Via Appia Antica where Elizabeth Taylor lived with Eddie Fisher and Richard lived with Sybil Burton are still there, hidden behind high walls. The antiquities remain the same, and the original Cinecittà studio commissioned by Mussolini still stands, but it’s now on the metro line and much easier to reach. And there are dozens of trattoria like the ones I describe, where the menus are the same as in 1962; the only difference is that they now charge euros instead of lire.

I had a wonderful time on my research trip to Rome in October 2011, and I read dozens of books on the era, but the 1960s truly came to life for me when I found an actor called John Gayford, who played a centurion in Cleopatra. He went through my first-draft manuscript correcting things like the colour of the doorman’s coat, the layout of the sound stages, the slang terms used, and the type of mineral water they served in the bar. I love having those details correct because they all add up to a stronger sense of the period: a period I maintain that was light years away from ours in almost everything – everything except what it feels like to fall in love.

Thank you Gill.

Find out more about Gill and her novels at: http://www.gillpaul.com/

Book news: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

28 May

This is a book that you’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming months as there’s already a huge buzz about it. The Bone Season is the first in a seven book fantasy series by debut author Samantha Shannon. I was lucky enough to meet Samantha at a recent blogger event and hearing her talk about the book certainly had me very excited about reading it  and with the film rights already optioned by Andy Serkis’ The Imaginarium Studios I’m not the only one who is excited about this book!

Check out the brilliant book trailer below!

 

 Welcome to Scion, no safer place.

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing. It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, kidnapped and drugged, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite creature with dark honey skin and heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season will be released in hardback and ebook versions by Bloomsbury on 20th August.

Find out more about Samantha Shannon and her writing at: http://samantha-shannon.blogspot.co.uk/

Book review: Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty

27 May

Kat Kavanagh is not in love. She has lots of friends, an ordinary job, and she never ever thinks about her past.
This is Kat’s story. None of it is true.

Milo McIntyre loves his mam, the peanut-butter-and-banana muffins at the Funky Banana café, and the lifesaving class he does after school. He never thinks about his future, until the day it changes forever.
This is Milo’s story. All of it is true.

And then there is the other story. The one with a twist of fate which somehow brings together a boy from Brighton and a woman in Dublin, and uncovers the truth once and for all. 

This is the story that’s just about to begin . . .

I really enjoyed Ciara Geraghty’s last novel, Finding Mr Flood and I’ve been looking forward to reading this one ever since I saw the intriguing cover image. Combined with the unusual title, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I started reading.  This is a hard book to categorise; it’s excellent contemporary fiction about parents, children, love and relationships and as with Ciara’s previous books that I’ve read I found a cleverly written and insightfully observed story inside the pages.

Ciara is a gifted story teller – I love the ways she uses words and the voices that she creates. In this novel there are two narrators telling the story and interestingly, the link between them isn’t revealed until about half way through the book. It’s difficult to review Lifesaving for Beginners without giving anything away but I loved the twists and turns that the story took and found myself completely captured by the two leads.

The novel opens with a prologue describing the dramatic events of 1st June 2011. For the two narrators of the novel; Milo and Kat, that date means their lives will never be the same again. Kat Kavannagh is a lady with a lot to hide; both from herself and others. I liked her straight away with her dark sense of humour and slightly quirky but very honest take on life. As we meet her, Kat is contemplating her future, her romantic relationship with her boyfriend Thomas and her job. Kat is definitely a thinker and as she retreats into her own world, we discover that there are unresolved events in her past which have had a deep impact on the person that she is now.

Milo is nine years old and I loved him. He was my favourite character in the novel and I thought Ciara Geraghty perfectly captured the voice and thoughts of a young boy going through a life-changing experience. Between them Kat and Milo are both funny and heartbreaking and once I started reading their stories, I couldn’t put this book down. As the chapters alternated between them, I loved their different perspectives on events.

But this isn’t just Milo’s and Kat’s story – Ciara has created a wonderful cast of supporting characters. Kat’s super organised and glam friend Minnie and Milo’s sister Faith were two of my favourites and I was surprised as some of the supporting characters turned out to be more significant to the story than I could have imagined!

This is a book that isn’t afraid to tackle tough topics like bereavement, loss, difficult family relationships, regret and loneliness. It’s a sad read at times that certainly tugged on my heartstrings yet I never found it depressing and I thought the ending was great, leaving me feeling optimistic.

As you can tell, I love the way Ciara Geraghty writes and I’d highly recommend Lifesaving for Beginners to anyone who loves an involving, thought-provoking and ultimately uplifting story.

5/5

Find out more about Ciara and her writing at: http://www.ciarageraghty.com/

With thanks to Eleni at Hodder for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book news: The Keepers by Rae Rivers

24 May

I’m very excited about this upcoming release from new romance imprint HarperImpulse! It’s their first paranormal romance release and as regular readers will know, I love a good paranormal romance and all the more if it involves witches as this one does. Check out the fantastic cover below!

‘Don’t ever look for me again, Archer.’
His mouth curled into a smile. ‘Game on.’

Central Park. Sienna Beckham is jogging, light-footed in the autumn sun, feeling almost ordinary. Trouble is, she’ll never be. Sienna’s a powerful witch with a heavy heart and evil on her tail…

Archer Bennett is searching desperately, racked with fear. As one of her Keepers, he’s blood-bound to protect her.

Sienna must return and defend her hometown Rapid Falls – but only if she can she master her powers in time. And as forbidden feelings blossom between Sienna and Archer, will their love survive the ultimate war?

The Keepers: Archer is the first in a trilogy and will be released on 20th June.

Find out more about HarperImpulse and their other new releases at: https://www.facebook.com/HarperImpulse

Find out more about Rae Rivers and her writing at: http://www.raerivers.com/

 

Book review: The Affair by Gill Paul

22 May

Rome 1961. As the camera rolls on the film set of Cleopatra, the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton love affair is about to capture the world’s attention.

When Diana Bailey arrives on set to begin work as a historical advisor, tensions are running high. The film is in financial crisis and a media storm is brewing over the Taylor-Burton relationship.

As Diana adjusts to a new life away from her troubled marriage, she strikes up a close friendship with Helen, a young make-up artist, and seeks solace in Ernesto, a charismatic member of the film crew. But Helen is harbouring a dark secret of her own, one that will affect Diana in more ways than she could ever imagine…

Set in Rome during the filming of the 1963 film Cleopatra, The Affair is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at one of the most expensive movies of all time. This book is filled with passion and 60’s glamour and if you’re a fan of shows like Mad Men then The Affair should be on your must read list.

As with her last novel (based around the Titanic story), Gill Paul has taken historical fact and woven it into a very personal story. Diana Bailey is an historical expert in the life of Cleopatra and as the book opens she is offered the role of historical advisor on the film with an all expenses paid six month stay in Rome included so that she can be on hand as the filming takes place.

Gill Paul has certainly done her research and I was so wrapped up in the world that she created that I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t real! Her descriptions feel very authentic and there is a wonderful level of everyday detail in the book along with fascinating facts about the film, fashions and sights of Rome at the time.

This is an era that really interests me as in many ways the world was opening up (particularly to educated women like Diana) but traditional values and attitudes still held firm. Freedoms that I take for granted are hard fought and I thought Gill Paul really captured the moment in Diana’s character as she tries to balance the lure of a once in a lifetime opportunity with her duty as a wife and takes a huge risk with her relationship to follow her heart.

Diana’s experiences in Rome are a real eye opener for her as a character and surprised me as a reader! I didn’t know much about the filming of Cleopatra or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and their relationship when I started reading and I was fascinated by the details of their affair and life on the movie set in Rome. But although this is a novel about a very famous affair, that story almost takes back seat to the dramas of Diana’s own life as she settles into her new role. I really enjoyed the parallels between the the love stories in the book and I thought Diana’s contact with Elizabeth was very well done and believable.

I love the way Gill Paul winds supporting stories, sub-plots and minor characters into the bigger narrative of her novels and The Affair is cleverly plotted as we see the Hollywood spectacle from the other side through the eyes of young journalist Scott and an altogether darker side to the story through make-up artist Helen. I would never have guessed that the story would take the twists and turns that it did and the sense that anything could happen made this a real page turner for me.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Cleopatra and this novel has definitely made me want to watch the film! The Affair is a brilliant and passionate read that will transport you to a different era and have you on the edge of your seat as the tension rises. Perfect for fans of historical fiction, classic Hollywood movies and great love affairs!

5/5

The Affair is released on 23rd May in paperback and ebook  formats (and it’s only 99p on Kindle as I write!)

With thanks to Becke at Avon for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Book review: Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellowes

21 May

Introducing… Odeline Milk, a strange young lady from a sleepy, buttoned-down market town.

A young lady with an obsession – you can guess what it is by the way she dresses: white collarless shirt, a waistcoat and billowing black trousers, the bowler hat.

She’s on her way to London, to make her name as a great mime artist. 

She hopes. 

And typical Odeline, she’s arriving prepared. With the small inheritance left her by her mother, she’s bought herself a home, an old canal boat. 

What she doesn’t know yet is that for some the city’s canals have an appeal of their own. They are below the eyeline, a sort of halfworld, a good place to hide for a community of curious outsiders, all with their own stories to tell, stories which might help a certain young lady to think differently about life.

Because there’s a lot Odeline doesn’t know. Not least, that her new home has a history of its own.

Chaplin and Company is a touching and heartfelt novel about a young girl trying to find her place in the world. The unusually named Odeline has always stood out in the little town of Arundel and following the death of her mother sets out to make her own way in the world.

With an ambition to be a mime artist and a canny sense of economy bequeathed to her by her mother, who had a head for accounts, she buys a narrow boat bearing the name Chaplin and Company moored in London’s Little Venice. As we meet her, nineteen year old Odeline is just arriving at her new home. Mave Fellowes’ descriptions of London as seen through the eyes of the naive Odeline are both funny and heartbreaking, capturing perfectly the fear of not knowing what to expect or how to behave, that comes with new places.

Odeline is a curious mix of childlike wonder and optimism, rigorous dedication to her art and sensible practicality and her character certainly intrigued me but despite feeling a lot of sympathy for her I didn’t warm to her as much as I expected to; she has a self important edge to her character and while this provides many of the funniest moments in the book, it stopped me from completely connecting with her as a character. The novel does chart Odeline’s coming of age journey though and she grows up a lot during its course, learning about her place in the world.

This isn’t just Odeline’s story though and I actually found myself more intrigued by some of the other characters whose stories are cleverly woven into Odeline’s tale. My favourites were cafe assistant Vera and river warden John, both of whom have a lot to hide and whose back stories surprised me and made me think.

Fellowes’ writing is beautiful and I enjoyed her descriptions of people and places on the canal and the way that the the boat Chaplin and Company is a character in itself with a quirky story to tell. As Odeline goes in search of her missing father and finds herself with a strange attraction to her tattooed neighbour,  I was captivated by the hidden world that the author has created.

A lovely debut about looking beneath the surface and second chances.

4/5

Chaplin and Company is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Ruth at Jonathan Cape for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Book news: Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

20 May

I’ve read all of Lauren Weisberger’s books but my favourite is still The Devil Wears Prada so you can imagine my excitement when the sequel was announced. I predict this will be one of the hottest books of the summer and I love the black and yellow covers (they go perfectly with my new yellow shoes!)

Revenge Wears Prada is released in the UK on 20th June. Which one will you choose?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything’s in place for the season’s hottest launch:

Tall latte (with two raw sugars)? Check.

Gucci trench (draped over desk)? Check.

Outrageous, unreasonable demands? Check.

Andy has just turned thirty and is an incredibly successful magazine editor, working closely with her best friend Emily, another Runway survivor. She’s about to get married – life’s on track and she’s been careful to stay clear of Miranda Priestly, her dreadful first boss. But Andy’s luck is running out. Miranda Priestly isn’t the kind of woman who hides in the background.

She’s back… and more devilish than ever.

Find out more about Lauren Weisberger and her novels at: http://www.laurenweisberger.com/

Book review: My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo

19 May

See to it you can take a slap as easy as a kiss. That is if you want to get anywhere in this world and not be anybody’s fool.

Clara Bishop feels life has served her up far too many slaps and not nearly enough kisses. When she is suddenly jilted by her philandering husband, she follows him to London, determined she must win him back. 

Armed only with a suitcase of vintage clothing inherited from her grandmother, a former film noir actress, Clara discovers that the clothes really do make the woman. Dressed to kill, she adopts a new femme fatale persona: confident, sexy and set on revenge. 

But on the road to retaliation, Clara discovers an unfinished film script that sheds light on her grandmother’s mysterious death years before. As Clara’s life is transported into a living, breathing film from the fifties, she discovers not only the secrets of her grandmother’s past, but the chance to write her own ending too . . .

My Life in Black and White is a very original take on the ‘wronged woman seeks revenge’ story. As Kim Izzo turns her heroine from doormat to Femme Fatale and thrusts her into a shadowy ‘Noir’ world, this book is part movie script, part time-travel adventure mystery and part romance and I loved it.

Following a short epilogue set in a police station in Cirencester, the novel is split into two ‘takes’. The first part of the book sets up the story and provides the reader with the background to Clara’s story set in the present. As her awful husband does the dirty on her and leaves her before jetting off to London with his new love, Clara is in bits and turns to her mother for solace.

Clara lives in Hollywood and has given up on her dream of being a screenwriter, happy to stay in the background as her husband’s star rises. Her mother (a failed actress) advises Clara that a makeover may help her get over her heartbreak and provides Clara with a suitcase full of beautiful vintage clothes that were her grandmother’s (also a failed actress). Despite being sceptical on the makeover front, Clara decides that she needs to follow her husband to London to sort things out and takes her newly acquired vintage wardrobe with her. As she accidentally discovers an unfinished film script hidden in the suitcase, the scene is set for Clara to transform herself and enter a different world!

Part two of the novel finds Clara living in her very own film noir and taking on a new Femme Fatale persona. Set in London in 1952, I loved Clara’s noir world. The descriptions of clothing and places are very atmospheric and I could definitely see this book as a film. The dramatic plot has crosses and double crosses which kept me guessing and is punctuated by scenes in the police station between Clara and the ‘cop’ who is interviewing her in the present.

There’s plenty of comedy, fun and mystery in the story and the imagery, dialogue and plot are a wonderful homage to the classic noir films and brought back warm memories of afternoons watching films like The Big Sleep as part of my media studies A level :-) With three generations of wronged women in her family, I was turning the pages as fast as I could to see if Clara could change history and what the final outcome would be!

My Life in Black and White is a wonderfully escapist read and having really enjoyed Kim Izzo’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Marriage Manuel she has now  firmly earned her place on my list of ‘must read’ authors. This is a novel that will appeal to vintage movie and fashion lovers, romance readers and fans of chick lit or romantic comedies looking for something a little different!

4/5

My Life in Black and White is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Emilie at Hodder for sending me a review copy.

Find out more about Kim Izzo and her writing at: http://kimizzo.com

Book news: A Girl Like You by Maureen Lindley

15 May

The cover for Maureen Lindley’s second novel is so striking and I’m sure the contents will be the same. I love historical fiction and A Girl Like You covers a period of American history that I know very little about and sounds like a fascinating read featuring a strong lead character. I’m looking forward to reading this soon – it’s published by Bloomsbury on the 6th June 2013 in trade paperback and ebook formats.

 

Thirteen-year-old Satomi Baker is used to being different. It is 1939, and in rural west-coast California being half-white and half-Japanese gets you noticed. Her parents seem so happy together, and so proud to be American, but she has never felt she exactly fits in – even though her striking looks have caught the eye of the most popular boy at school.

When war is declared, Satomi’s father Aaron is one of the first to sign up, and he is sent to the base at Pearl Harbour. He never returns. News of the Japanese attack transmits through the Bakers’ crackling radio. Satomi’s strong, stoical mother Tamura is flung into a private realm of grief – while all around them the world changes irrevocably. The community that has tolerated its foreign residents for decades suddenly turns on them, and along with thousands of other Japanese-American citizens (and anyone with ‘one drop of Japanese blood’ in them) they are sent to a brutal labour camp in the wilderness which future generations will choose to forget.

At Manzanar Satomi learns what it takes to survive, who she can trust, and what it means to be American. But it will be years before she will discover who she really is under the surface of her skin. A Girl Like You is her story, and the riveting and moving story of a lost generation.

Short Story Spotlight: Cupidity by Holly Hepburn

15 May

What if Cupid fell out of love with love?

Cupid is exhausted. Modern day matchmaking is tough – people are busy, their hearts are harder to hit and he’s had enough of wall-to-wall romance. And St Valentine has noticed…

Annelise is a Lost Cause. She runs a dating agency but her heart is colder than a penguin’s feet. She thinks love is about compatibility and has no time for passion.

Can Cupid prove to St Valentine that he hasn’t lost his touch by melting Annelise’s heart? Or is it curtains for Cupid?

As I write, Holly Hepburn’s debut e-novella is the number one best selling short story on Amazon. It’s a well deserved achievement; Cupidity is a fab, fun, romantic, quick read and I really enjoyed Holly’s writing.

If I have a complaint at all, it’s that this book was too short. I could easily have read a full length novel about Cupid and his adventures! As he is sent to earth to rediscover the romance Cupid is transformed into human form and what a handsome human he is ;-)

Holly Hepburn has created a very likeable male lead for her novel and I found I had a lot of sympathy for him – who hasn’t had days when they’ve had enough of their job?! In his earthly form Cupid turns out to be not only gorgeous but  charming and funny and I couldn’t wait to find out how he’d do on his mission.

Cupid’s mission is to put himself back on track by finding love for Annelise Hart, who despite running a dating agency has sworn off love after being badly hurt by a past relationship. Annelise is on the ‘lost causes’ list and it took a little while for me to warm to her as she’s a bit of an ice maiden at first but I liked her shrewdness and as the story progressed I enjoyed the way her character developed.

Cupid’s deadline is Midsummer’s Day giving him just seven days to sort Annelise’s love life out. Will he do it? Can he right the wrongs of Annelises’s past? I’m not going to tell you (!) but it’s well worth the pennies this ebook costs to read the story for yourself and find out :-)

Set in London and Paris, Cupidity has romance in buckets; it’s a light, funny, sweet story and a perfect quick and satisfying read that left me with a smile on my face. I’m already looking forward to reading more from Holly in future.

5/5

Cupidity is out now in ebook formats!

Find out more about Holly Hepburn and her writing at: http://hollyhepburn.com/