Archive | March, 2014

Book review: A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

31 Mar

The deeper the water, the darker the secrets

There were so many times I thought about telling you the truth, Eva. What stopped me was always the same thing…

When Eva’s husband Jackson tragically drowns, she longs to meet his estranged family. The journey takes her to Jackson’s brother’s doorstep on a remote Tasmanian island. As strange details about her husband’s past begin to emerge, memories of the man she married start slipping through her fingers like sand, as everything she ever knew and loved about him is thrown into question. Now she’s no longer sure whether it was Jackson she fell in love with – or someone else entirely…

The truth is, it was all a lie . . .

Lucy Clarke has done it again! The Sea Sisters was one of my favourite books of last year and A Single Breath is, dare I say it, even better!  This is a brilliantly paced book and hooked me as a reader immediately as Eva’s husband Jackson sets out for an early morning fishing trip and is tragically swept out to sea. As Eva tries to come to terms with her loss she clings to the memories of her short time with Jackson. Desperate to feel close to Jackson again, Eva decides to travel to Australia and meet the family and friends that Jackson grew up with.

Eva knows that Jackson’s relationship with his father and brother is strained but little could prepare her for the cold welcome that she receives. As with her previous novel, Lucy Clarke mixes, travel, adventure and beautiful locations with an emotional journey for her lead character and an absolutely gripping mystery storyline that has numerous twists. As Eva pries into Jackson’s past some shocking secrets are revealed and she begins to question everything about the man she fell in love with and her own judgement.

What starts as Eva’s journey of self discovery quickly becomes entangled in Jackson’s brother Saul’s own emotional journey as the two try to make sense of the actions of the man they both loved. Lucy Clarke really gets inside the mind of her characters and I felt a lot of sympathy for Eva even when she was pushing away her friends and family but it was Saul who really captured my attention in this book. He initially comes across as a bitter loner, we soon find out that there’s much more to him and I really enjoyed the development of his character during the book. I also loved the way Lucy explored the complex relationship between the brothers and also with their father.

One of the things that draws me so much to Lucy’s writing is her obvious love of both travel and the sea. Both elements are again present in this book and despite the emotional storyline, the darker themes are offset by beautiful descriptions of  Tasmania and  Wattleboon (the fictional setting for the book) and of the ocean and freediving. Once again I found myself wishing I could pack my bags and travel to a far flung beach as I read!

With not just one but several big reveals and twists, A Single Breath continued to surprise me right to the end of the story and I didn’t want the book to end. This is a very readable book and I found myself flying through it but it’s also a book that will make you think. With it’s gripping storyline,  secrets and romance, A Single Breath is my favourite book of the year so far and I highly recommend you add it to your reading list!

5/5

A Single Breath is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Lucy Clarke and her writing at: http://www.lucy-clarke.com/

Look out for my stop on Lucy’s blog tour later this week and please do check out the other stops on the tour!

I’d like to thank Harper for providing a review copy of this book.

Choc Lit's Mother's Day story: Part Seven by Margaret James

30 Mar

Today I’m delighted to share the finale to Choc Lit’s lovely Mother’s Day story, written by Margaret James.

Seven Choc Lit authors have contributed to give you one exciting story. Each author has to continue the tale left by the previous author. They have no idea where the story will take them! Not an easy task but makes good reading for us all.

If you missed the first six parts of the story you can catch up by following the links at the bottom of this post.

Happy Mother’s Day from everyone at Choc Lit! We hope you’re having a fabulous, treat-filled day :-) xx

 

Damien watched Kelly go.

He decided she was probably heading for the Ladies’ Retiring Room – there was nothing as low-class as an ordinary ladies’ cloakroom at Grande Architectural Designs, his father had seen to that – and of course there was no way he could follow her there.

Perhaps he could send Janine after Kelly? Get Janine to persuade Kelly to listen to him and to tell him why she’d dumped him?

No, bad plan – he knew Janine had had the hots for him ever since she’d come to work for the company. All that cleavage revelation, teetering high heels, the slap laid on like heavy-duty rendering – there was a woman with her eyes on the prize and the prize was obviously him.

Kelly locked herself in a stall and tried not to cry. She hadn’t bargained on this. She’d known coming back to work would be a challenge, but she’d honestly thought Damien would want to avoid her at all costs, not invite her to ghastly parties like this one. Or rather inform her she had no choice but to come.

She straightened her shoulders. Okay, she was going home now. She would pay the babysitter and then she and Lucas would have a cosy evening together until it was time for him to go to bed.

If she got a move on, she’d be back in time for his bath and final bottle.

She was about to leave the stall when she heard a familiar clack clack clack.

Janine. It had to be.

Nobody else made such a racket merely walking around.

Kelly didn’t want to face Ms Cosmetic Surgery 2014, so she stood quietly and waited for Janine and whoever was with the wretched woman – evidently someone was, because Janine was nattering away a hundred to the dozen – to go back to the party.

‘Yes, of course we went to bed,’ Janine continued smugly. ‘Old man Grande might have snow up on the mountain top, but there’s still a fire down below! So anyway, as I was saying, afterwards we had a bit of pillow talk. Dad was really worried about Damien – his precious darling boy had got himself tied up with Kelly Whatsit. Yeah, she was a clever girl, well qualified, hard-working. But the old man wanted a daughter-in-law with class, not some dragged-up scrubber from the wrong side of the tracks. So he put me on the case.’

‘What happened next?’ Janine’s companion asked.

‘I told Dad how to split them up. Do as I suggest and very soon she’ll dump him, I said to Dad, and sure enough she did. I got a bonus and some Jimmy Choos as well. Come on, we’re wasting precious time. Damien’s been giving Kelly Girl the eye all evening. I’m worried there’s a chance she might be weakening. But she’s going to have to step aside, because tonight he’s coming home with me.’

After Janine and her mate clacked out, Kelly stood in silent shock for several minutes, staring at her reflection in the glass.

She’d been such a fool!

But now she was going to put things right.

Janine might think that she was going home tonight with Damien.

Janine was much mistaken.

‘Janine, we’ll catch up later,’ said Damien, wishing she would go away and pester someone else. He’d never gone for women like Janine, all surface glitter, smarm and charm but cold and calculating as rattlesnakes inside. When he fell for Kelly, it was because she radiated warmth, sincerity, a natural kindness which had touched his heart.

There was Kelly now, making her way across the room. She looked so beautiful tonight. She might not like him any more, but she could make him reel with passion, could make him want to kiss her more than anything.

He had to get a drink.

But what was this? As he clicked his fingers at the barman, Kelly joined him. What’s more, she was smiling up at him, and it was a sweet and friendly smile.

‘Get a girl a drink?’ she asked him.

‘Oh – yes – sure,’ he said. ‘What would you like?’

‘Vodka martini?’

‘Sh-shaken but not stirred?’ he managed to reply.

‘Perfect,’ she replied.

What had happened?

Why was Kelly being nice to him?

Perhaps it was a trap?

But if it was a trap, he was more than happy to be caught.

‘As you were saying earlier this evening, we need to talk,’ she added, picking up her drink.

‘What do we need to say?’ As Kelly looked at him, he felt how much he’d missed this lovely girl. She had been so right for him – until it all went wrong.

‘We should discuss my job, your obvious need of me – here in the company, I mean. Since I worked here last, you’ve put up some pretty awful buildings. I have exciting plans for future projects.’

‘Where – when would you like to talk?’ he asked, wondering if he was dreaming this, but hoping, praying he was not.

So was he going to get a second chance?

He’d give anything…

‘There’s no time like the present,’ Kelly told him and his heart turned somersaults of pleasure. ‘Let’s go back to my place. There’s someone very special you should meet. Damien, it’s high time you diversified. You’re good at raising hideous office blocks. Now let’s see if you can get to grips with helping raise your son.’

A little bit more about Margaret James:

Margaret James was born and brought up in Hereford and now lives in Devon. She studied English at London University, and has written many short stories, articles and serials for magazines. She is the author of sixteen published novels.

Her debut novel for Choc Lit, The Silver Locket, received a glowing review from the Daily Mail and reached the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in November 2010 and in the same year a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Single Titles. The Golden Chain also hit the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in May 2011.

Margaret is a long standing contributor to Writing Magazine for which she writes the Fiction Focus column and an author interview for each issue. She’s also a creative writing tutor for the London School of Journalism.

The Wedding Diary

Where’s a Fairy Godmother when you need one?

If you won a fairy-tale wedding in a luxury hotel, you’d be delighted – right? But what if you didn’t have anyone to marry? Cat Aston did have a fiancé, but now it looks like her Prince Charming has done a runner.

Adam Lawley was left devastated when his girlfriend turned down his heartfelt proposal. He’s made a vow never to fall in love again.

So – when Cat and Adam meet, they shouldn’t even consider falling in love. After all, they’re both broken hearted. But for some reason they can’t stop thinking about each other. Is this their second chance for happiness, or are some things just too good to be true?

The Wedding Diary has a link to Margaret’s Charton Minster Trilogy (The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain and The Penny Bangle).

 

——————————————————————————–

Catch up on the rest of the story now:

Read Part One by Alison May

Read Part Two by Laura E James

Read Part Three by Henriette Gyland

Read Part Four by Berni Stevens

Read Part Five by Beverley Eikli

Read Part Six by Amanda James 

Books for Mother's Day – hot picks

27 Mar

Here are my suggestions for how to celebrate a bookish mothers day with some fab new releases (to be accompanied by a nice cup of tea, her favourite reading spot and an hour (at least) of peace and quiet ;-))

Tell her a story …

My Mummy Is Magic by Dawn Richards and Jane Massey

I love nothing more than cuddling up with my boys and reading picture books. I’m also a big fan of Dawn Richards’ books and Jane Massey’s super cute illustrations. This is a lovely book to celebrate Mummy magic!

 

 

My Mummy Says by Angie Stevens

The first title in a new series about special relationships in the lives of little children. Beautifully illustrated, warm and humorous in tone, the simple story is about a chance encounter, making new friends and the very special relationship that exists between mummies and their children.

Beautifully illustrated and set on a day out to the beach – a beautiful book!

Say thank you …

Love You, Mum by Alana Wullf

A beautifully packaged and illustrated gift book for girls to give to their mums. ‘I would rather go an entire week without my mobile phone than go one day without talking to you! Love you, Mum.’ ‘I promise not to play my music too loudly… If you promise to do the same! Love you, Mum.’ Packed with gorgeous illustrations, photographs and sayings.

Make her laugh…

Mother of the Year by Karen Ross

‘I often think my mother would prefer colonic irrigation to hanging out with me…’ 

Beth Jackson is a national treasure, celebrated for her television shows and winning the Mother of the Year Award three times in a row.

Only, her daughter just wishes that Beth would be more like a normal mum…

Diary of an Unsmug Married by Polly James

What happens to love when life gets in the way?
A funny and perceptive book about real relationships. Perfect for fans of Dawn French, Sue Townsend and Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Meet Molly Bennett. Married to Max and mother to two warring teenagers, she’s just ‘celebrated’ a significant birthday. Bridget Jones would call Molly a “smug married”. So why doesn’t she feel it?

Is it because everyone seems to be having a better time of it than her? Or is it that Max has started showing more interest in ‘business trips’ and less interest in their sex life? Molly begins to despair. And then an old school friend starts flirting with her through Facebook …

Make her cry (in the nicest way possible!)

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

The name of your first-born. The face of your lover. Your age. Your address…

What would happen if your memory of these began to fade?

Is it possible to rebuild your life? Raise a family? Fall in love again?

When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold on to the past when her future is slipping through her fingers…?

 Tiny Acts of Love by Lucy Lawrie

Surviving motherhood? It’s all about having the right support network.

Lawyer and new mum Cassie has a husband who converses mainly through jokes, a best friend on the other side of the world, and a taskforce of Babycraft mothers who make her feel she has about as much maternal aptitude as a jellyfish.

Husband Jonathan dismisses Cassie’s maternal anxieties, but is he really paying attention to his struggling wife? He’s started sleep talking and it seems there’s more on his mind than he’s letting on. Then sexy, swaggering ex-boyfriend Malkie saunters into Cassie’s life again. Unlike Jonathan, he ‘gets’ her. He’d like to get her into bed again, too…

And on top of all her emotional turmoil, she also finds herself advising a funeral director on ghost protocol and becomes involved in an act of hotel spa fraud, never mind hiding cans of wasp spray all over the house to deal with the stalker who seems to be lurking everywhere she looks. Marriage and motherhood isn’t the fairytale Cassie thought it would be. Will her strange new world fall apart around her or will tiny acts of love be enough to get her through?

Funny, perceptive and real, Tiny Acts of Love portrays the rawness of motherhood, the flipside of love and the powerful lure of paths not taken.

Take her back in time …

The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn

I didn’t stand a chance: looking back over thirteen years, that’s what I see. In the very first instant, I was won over, and of course I was: I was fifteen and had been nowhere and done nothing, whereas Katherine was twenty-one and yellow-silk-clad and just married to the golden boy…

Jane Seymour is a shy, dutiful fifteen-year-old when her eldest brother, Edward, brings his bride home to Wolf Hall. Katherine Filliol is the perfect match for Edward, as well as being a breath of fresh air for the Seymour family, and Jane is captivated by the older girl. Over the course of a long, hot country summer, the two become close friends and allies, while Edward is busy building alliances at court and advancing his career.

However, only two years later, the family is torn apart by a dreadful allegation made by Edward against his wife. The repercussions for all the Seymours are incalculable, not least for Katherine herself. When Jane is sent away, to serve Katharine of Aragon, she is forced to witness another wife being put aside, with terrible consequences. Changed forever by what happened to Katherine Filliol, Jane comes to understand that in a world where power is held entirely by men, there is a way in which she can still hold true to herself.

The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements

Based on the real figure of the fascinating Elizabeth Poole, The Crimson Ribbon is the mesmerising story of two women’s obsession, superstition and hope.

May Day 1646. The Civil War is raging and what should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn. Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it’s in the Poole household that she finds refuge.

Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie’s world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie’s radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country’s conflict, to the trial of a king.

Treat her to something delicious …

The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan 

Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their flat, she has to move miles away from everyone, to a sleepy little seaside resort in Cornwall, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.

And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it.

Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers.

That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. As their letters criss-cross the ocean that lies between them, friendship and then romance blossom despite Jackson’s colourful love life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be-married daughter. Little by little, Eve and Jack begin to believe that they may have a chance to change their lives and possibly get a second chance at happiness. They just need to actually meet…

A gorgeous, escapist read about food, friendship and falling in love from afar…

Give her a little escape …

Bad Brides by Rebecca Chance 

Good brides promise to obey. Bad brides wouldn’t dream of it… Milly Gamble is an up-and-coming actress, and the perfect English flower child. At 23, she’s always been cast as the innocent heroine. But looks can deceive. Calculating and fiercely ambitious, Milly is determined to be the most famous star in England. And how better to achieve her goal than by dating Tarquin Ormond, lead singer of the biggest folk band of the moment? Tarquin is madly in love with Milly; Milly is only in love with herself.

Brianna Jade is an all-American pageant girl. The daughter of Tamra Maloney, a stunning billionairess, Brianna is a sweet, pretty girl who is more than happy to go along with her mother’s ambitious plans for her. Now Tamra’s brought her to the UK and hooked her up with an Earl. He has a crumbling stately home and needs a rich wife to help restore it to its former glory. Tamra is as ambitious and determined as Brianna is sweet and innocent – is this more a case of mother-in-law-zilla than bridezilla? Both Milly and Brianna’s upcoming weddings will be huge, lavish events that garner national press. But with the cover of the biggest magazine in the country to be won, things are about to get very dirty…

The Key to it All by Joanna Rees

When five random people simultaneously receive ‘the key’, they don’t realize that their lives are about to change forever. Shrouded in secrecy, the mysterious silver key is delivered to each of them along with a code, a web address and a promise that – if used wisely – it can unlock a door to luxury and privilege beyond their wildest dreams.

However, as each of them begins to use the key, they are propelled into a world of hazy moral choices, and soon start to question their enigmatic gift. Who is funding the key’s lavish promises? And why have they been chosen to receive it? Only the bravest will use it to seek the truth . . .

 

 

What would your ideal bookish Mother’s Day treat be?

 

 

 

 

 

Guest post: Disastrous Dates by Rosie Blake

26 Mar

My delightful guest today is Rosie Blake, debut author of the fabulously titled, How to Get A (Love) Life. Rosie spent her university years writing pantomimes based on old classics. The 2003 production of The Wizard of Odd: Search for the Ruby Strippers enjoyed critical acclaim. This was followed a year later with a successful showing of Harry Potter: The Musical (complete with moving opening number, In my Cupboard I will Stay). Rosie went on to write a winning short story in the La Senza/Little Black Dress Short Story Competition and was shortlisted in a few others including competitions run by Women and Home and The Daily Mail. Welcome Rosie!

Ever had a disastrous dating experience? You’re not alone. In fact, debut novelist Rosie Blake had so many doozies, she decided to write a book about it – How to Get a (Love) Life …

“Didn’t you have long hair at university,” Dan asked, indicating my bobbed haircut.

I patted the ends self-consciously. “I did.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I think you should grow it long again.”

“Oh.”

And so begins one of Nicola Brown’s many disastrous dates …

How to Get a (Love) Life is a rom-com centred around the life of Nicola Brown – a rather uptight heroine, who likes to keep all her balls juggled in the air so to speak. Her loopy work mate Caroline, concerned about her, lays down the gauntlet – Nicola must find love in time for Valentine’s Day. So begins Nicola’s search for that special someone, her prince, and on the way she meets a whole lot of frogs.

It seems we all have our own catalogue of bad dating experiences, dodgy men and disasters. Whilst researching the book I enjoyed dipping into my own personal horror stories. For example. I thought wistfully back to the man who had surprised me with a date to a beauty salon (all good Rosie why the face?). Well, said man then announced we would be in flotation tanks for the next hour. I spent the first 60 minutes trapped in a dark coffin-shaped box trying not to let my recently-applied make-up run. Then there was the man who took me out to watch a local magician. I ended up on-stage over sharing in a massive way. And who could forget the guy with the baby deer antlers? But I am not quite ready to talk about that yet …

Perhaps the weirdest thing about all of these experiences, though, is that I don’t regret any of them. I am glad I got out and met a range of different guys, that I had strange nights out, which ended in – if nothing else – a great story. I stumbled through them all learning a little bit more about myself and the kind of man I wanted to be with. Some of the blokes weren’t unpleasant or odd or into sea kayaking in winter (see book), they just weren’t for me. And that is the bestest thing about dating and getting out there; narrowing down that search and hopefully having a hilarious time doing it.

So be like Nicola and enjoy the ride. Oh, and keep a diary. You never know when those dating disasters will come in handy …

How to Get a (Love) Life by Rosie Blake is out now.

You can follow Rosie on Twitter, too.

 

Book review: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

25 Mar

Once a sinner, always a sinner…

Twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra had taken the normality of her life for granted, until the moment everything changed. Now, convicted of a horrifying crime, she will be one of the first to experience a new kind of punishment.

In the darkness of the Compass Room – an experimental prison – the morality of convicts will be tested, and they will be punished according to their performance. In order to stay alive, Evalyn must relive the events of the fateful day that has brought her here.

Consumed by her own struggle, she never expects to make friends amongst her fellow inmates, let alone fall in love. But in this new and terrifying world, such allegiances are dangerous – because no one will escape unharmed.

The Wicked We Have Done is a real page turner of a book; I was so engrossed that I read it in a couple of days and scenes from it have remained with me since. With elements of horror, thriller, dystopia and romance there’s something to appeal to a wide range of readers in this book and it’s lovely to see the ‘New Adult’ category opening up to different genres. Sarah Harian’s writing is fast paced and the story felt original, taking a clever and thought-provoking look at the notion of evil and right and wrong.

At the heart of the story is The Compass Room which is a complex technical prison designed to test its inmates’ true moral compass and decide whether they live or die. The Compass Room really is as horrific as it sounds and while I was reading this book I half wanted to hide behind a cushion but at the same time couldn’t wait to read what horror would happen next. The ‘tests’ are specifically created to have maximum impact on the individuals they are testing and they are all outright scary involving a good amount of fear and gore. Harian is skilled at building up tension and my heart was in my mouth as I read to see what would jump out of the woods next!

I found it  interesting that my reaction to the tests got more emotional as the book went on and I got to know the characters better. For the majority of the characters in the book there is more to their crimes than meets the eye and as details come out in the story, Sarah cleverly draws the reader in and I found myself rooting for certain people to survive.

The main focus of the story is of course Evalyn and as she enters the Compass Room and faces her fate the chapters set in the present are interspersed with the full story of how she got to this point. For me, the plot leading up to Evalyn’s crime was just as gripping as the actual events in the Compass Room as I tried to work out what exactly she had done and why.  The big reveal when it comes is interesting as is the twist at the end of the tale which concludes this part of the story but leaves plenty of scope for the second book in the series.

I enjoyed the romance aspect of the book which had a particular edge as the characters wondered if they would survive and tried to reason the tension between their punishment and the horrors of the Compass Room and their growing feelings for each other. The Wicked We Have Done is a gripping debut from Sarah Harian and  I can’t wait to find out what happens next and see how the relationships established develop in book two. Thankfully, A Vault of Sins is out in September so not too long to wait!

4/5

I’d like to thank Elaine at Headline for sending me a review copy of this book.

The Wicked We Have Done is out in ebook formats now.

Find out more about Sarah Harian and her writing at: http://sarahharian.com/

Read my interview with Sarah Harian

 

Book news: The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene

24 Mar

I loved Vanessa Greene’s debut, The Vintage Teacup Club and have been eagerly awaiting news of her next novel so I was very excited when she revealed the cover of The Seafront Tea Rooms on Twitter earlier today. Isn’t it beautiful?! I’m a huge fan of seaside stories so can’t wait to read this!

 

The Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for.

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine,a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind . . .

Full of romance, tea and cake, The Seafront Tea Rooms is a heart-warming tale about the strength found in true friendship.

The Seafront Tea Rooms will be released in October!

Find out more about Vanessa and her writing at: http://www.facebook.com/VanessaGreeneBooks

Read my review of The Vintage Teacup Club

Read my review of Tuedays at the Teacup Club

 

Book review: When I Was Young by Mary Fizgerald

24 Mar

My lovely guest reviewer Mum is back today with her thoughts on Mary Fitzgerald’s novel When I Was Young which is out later this week.

Previously published as The Imperfect Tense 

‘When I was young the war started. When I was young my father was a soldier. When I was young I moved to the country. When I was young I went to France and fell in love’

1950
Eleanor is sixteen when she goes to the Loire Valley on a French Exchange. But the beauty of her surroundings are at odds with the family who live there. It is a family torn apart by the memories of the German occupation, and buckling under the burden of the dark secrets they keep. 

Etienne, the dark and brooding owner is friendly, but his wife Mathilde’s malicious behaviour overshadows Eleanor’s days. 

As the secrets reveal themselves one by one, Eleanor begins to understand the terrible legacy of war, and when death comes to the vineyard, she learns the redemptive power of love.

I was dubious at first as to whether I would take to this story. Being set mainly in France, I thought it might be too unfamiliar. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Mary Fitzgerald writes so beautifully, covering so many emotions, that the story could have been set anywhere and would still have the same wonderful pang of feeling to it.

Written in the first person, Mary Fitzgerald relays the story of a sixteen year old English girl, Eleanor Gill. From a very basic hill farming background, this story portrays the simple beauty of how people lived and accepted their lot after the end of the war. Better still, it gives the reader an insight as to how the war affected other European countries and their communities.

Eleanor leads a cold existence helping her mother run their hill farm on the bleak Pennines. Life inside the house is almost as bleak as that outside. Meals are very basic like Eleanor’s mother herself. Dada, lives in his mute world – not yet recovered from the atrocities of war. In comparison her friend Suzy comes from a more lavish background.

There are many hidden messages in this story, which make it all the more enjoyable for the reader when suddenly they fall into place. A school exchange visit to France is the beginning of a dramatic change in the teenager’s life, when she is placed on a farm in a remote country setting. I loved how Mary Fitzgerald brought the French setting to life with wonderful descriptions of smells, sounds and sights.

There were times when I squirmed with Eleanor, nearly broke my heart for the young child Lisette and wanted to scratch the eyes out of the evil Mathilde and her besotted son Jean Paul, and although part of me thought that the bond between Eleanor and Etienne, was wrong, I also willed it to be! Grandmere is the most stable influence in the family and even with her often starchy exterior, the reader can find comfort in her control and compassion for her son and her new found daughter.

Altogether a lovely book! Mary Fitzgerald holds the pace to keep the reader hooked but also fills the story with emotion, tenderness and charm. A wonderful portrayal of time and place.

5/5

When I Was Young is out now in ebook formats and is released in paperback on 27th March.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Mary Fitzgerald and her writing at: http://maryfitzgerald.moonfruit.com/

 

Event news: Hove Book Festival 3rd-5th April

24 Mar

The inaugural Hove Book Festival, founded and curated by bestselling author, Dorothy Koomson will run from Thursday 3rd April to Saturday 5th April 2014. Created to celebrate great storytelling for all ages, the launch line-up includes authors Lynne Truss, Alexandra Heminsley, Bethan Roberts, Araminta Hall, Simon Toyne and Eleanor Moran and a range of events including ‘Write by the Sea’; ‘The Big Book Quiz’ hosted by BBC Radio Sussex and Surrey presenter, Sarah Gorrell, appearances from ‘Stripy Horse’ and a series of ‘How to…’ writing sessions.

Talking about the Festival, Dorothy Koomson says:

“I wanted to celebrate and share my love of reading, books and really good story-telling so thought it’d be a great idea to start a festival near my home. We’re very fortunate with the line-up for the Festival – we have brilliant authors and experts on board, so I’m really excited to get the opportunity to buy their books and have them signed for me. Setting up Hove Book Festival has been a labour of love and I’m looking forward to hearing what all of the authors and experts have to say.”

Events will take place at Hove Library and The Hove Centre, Hove Town Hall, with support for The National Literacy Trust, the charity dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK. WHSmith and British Bookshops, Hove are confirmed as the official Festival booksellers.

Thursday 3rd April at 7pm, Hove Library

Write By The Sea With Simon Toyne, Bethan Roberts & Dorothy Koomson

Three best-selling authors talk about how they got published, how they come up with ideas for their books and what it’s like to be a writer who lives near the sea.

Friday 4 April at 7.30pm, Hove Library

The Big Book Quiz With Lynn Truss, Tom Bale, Joanna Rees, Mark Barrowcliffe and Alexandra Heminsley

5 well-known, local authors will head up 5 teams to find out who knows the most about books. BBC Sussex & Surrey radio host Sarah Gorrell will be asking the questions and interviewing the authors.

Saturday 5 April at 10.30am, The Hove Centre/Hove Town Hall

Stripy Horse Comes To The Seaside

Award-winning children’s authors Karen Wall and Jim Helmore bring their most famous creation, the lovable Stripy Horse to the seaside. They’ll be reading from their first story Who Are You Stripy Horse? and involving the children in discussions about the book. (For 3-5 year-olds)

Saturday 5 April from 1pm, The Hove Centre, Hove Town Hall

How To Write A Bestselling Fiction Series With Elly Griffiths 1pm

Elly Griffiths, the bestselling author of a series of crime books currently in development with the BBC, shares her secrets on how she puts together her complex, linked series of stories.

How To Get Published With Jo Dickinson 2:30pm

The Publishing Director of adult fiction at Simon & Schuster (one of the world’s biggest publishing companies) explains what she looks for when deciding to sign up an author and their book

How To Find Your Writing Voice With Lizzie Enfield & Araminta Hall 4pm

These experienced authors and writing coaches will explain the importance of finding your own ‘voice’ when writing and how you can put that story bubbling away inside down on paper in your own unique way.

How To Write For TV With Eleanor Moran 5:30pm

Not only is Eleanor Moran a bestselling author, she’s also a TV drama producer who’ll be revealing how you can put together a story for the small screen.

For tickets and further information please visit www.hovebookfestival.co.uk or follow @hovebookfest on Twitter

 

Book review: Banished by Liz de Jager

19 Mar

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s living with her unorthodox cousins and sharing their strange lives. Especially since their home-schooling includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.

But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies.

As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

Banished is Liz de Jager’s debut novel and the first book in The Blackhart Trilogy. If you love feisty kick-ass heroines, action packed plots and beautifully detailed fantasy worlds teaming with magic and horror then this is the book for you! Kit Blackhart is sixteen years old and has only recently discovered just what being a Blackhart means, or so she thinks. It’s only when she rescues fae Prince Thorn as he flees into our world that the true meaning of her family name becomes apparent.

The rescue is just the beginning of Kit and Thorn’s journey; an adventure which sees them seeking refuge in London and ultimately preparing for war in Scotland. I loved the settings for this book, especially the London locations which were very familiar to me. Reading Banished felt like being given a view into a secret world where evil entities lurk in familiar places; there’s an awesome fight scene in Covent Garden and a chilling visit to the Trolls under Tower Bridge and I loved how Liz wove the world we know and the hidden Otherwhere into her story.

The worlds Liz de Jager creates are complex and detailed and the depth of her knowledge and understanding of legend, lore, mythology and fairytale are impressive and really do show through in the book. Thankfully for people like me who are not so well-versed many of the chapters start with helpful snippets from the government archives or books like The Blackhart Bestiary to help the reader (and Kit, who is still discovering her place in the Blackhart world) to understand.

Whilst I loved the world-building in Banished, for me, it was the three key characters that hooked me in and wouldn’t let go. Kit is fab; she’s feisty, independent and can hold her own. I loved that she is very much an equal to the two male leads and I was mentally cheering when she rescued Thorn! I also loved that there isn’t a hint of a love triangle in the book and although there is an undertone of romance, it wasn’t the key focus of the story. The banter between Kit, Aiden and Thorn is excellent and I can’t wait to see how the relationships between them develop in the second and third books of the trilogy.

Thorn and Aiden (fae prince and werewolf) make a good contrast to each other and again their developing friendship held my interest. As did many of the minor characters in Banished especially Kit’s Blackhart cousins and I hope we’ll see a lot more of them in book two. Banished is a great start to a new fantasy series and I’m already looking forward to book two in the series, Vowed which is out later in the year!

4/5

I’d like to thank Tor for sending me a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Liz de Jager and her writing at: http://www.lizdejager.co.uk/

 

Guest post: Nice to meet you, Hannah… by Hannah Emery

19 Mar

Please welcome debut author Hannah Emery to One More Page today on the latest stop of her Secrets in the Shaows blog tour. Hannah studied English at the University of Chester, and has written stories for as long as she can remember. She loves writing about how fragile the present is and how so much of it depends on chance events that took place years ago. The most important things in her life are family, friends, books, baking on a Saturday afternoon, getting glammed up to go out for champagne and dinner and having cosy weekends away. Hannah lives in Blackpool with her husband and daughter. Welcome Hannah!

Nice to meet you, Hannah…

I have this weird thing where if I’m driving along, particularly near my childhood home, I imagine seeing a younger me, waiting for the school bus, or bicycling to the library (oh yes, I wasthat cool).  I then run through what I’d say to myself and what I might give away about the future.

I think that previous versions of yourself are so fascinating – probably because the past us is so close to us yet so impossibly far.  With this kind of mind, it’s probably inevitable that I’m also obsessed with family history.  I’d love to meet my great great grandmother.  But it’s not so much about going back in time: it’s about bringing the past and present together.  I’d want to give my great-great grandmother (who was also called Hannah, and died when she was around my age) a hot shower, a glass of Pinot and a go of my GHDs.  I’d love to have a night in with my twenty-something mum and talk to her about some of the things that were going to happen.

It’s because of all this that I adore multiple timeline books.  I love placing characters from different times alongside each other, so that you see their lives reflected in one another.  You can see the impact of a word, or a split second decision, fifty years later, clearly laid on the very next page.  You can think about what might have happened if that word hadn’t been spoken, if a different decision had been made.  You can watch the characters from the past with the wisdom of the present.  You can’t do this in real life, but books let you live out these bizarre, impossible dreams.  Books make that kind of thing seem almost possible.

And this is exactly why, if I did bump into a young me, she’d be cycling furiously towards the library, and possibly wouldn’t stop anyway.

Secrets in the Shadows is published tomorrow by HarperImpulse. 

Visit

Find out more about Hannah and her writing at: http://hannahcemery.wordpress.com/

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on Hanna’s tour!