Archive | January, 2017

Author interview: Victoria Blake

31 Jan

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Victoria Blake to One More Page on the final stop of her Titan’s Boatman blog tour. Victoria was brought up in The Queen’s College, Oxford and went to university in the same city, studying history at Lady Margaret Hall. She has worked in law, publishing and book selling and is also the author of the Sam Falconer crime series. Welcome Victoria!

victoria blakeYour historical fiction novel, Titan’s Boatman has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

The trigger for the book was my love of Titian’s painting The Man with the Blue Sleeve. When I’m between books I tend to get a bit restless and I went for a wander in The National Gallery and stood in front of him for a long time and realized I always ended up in front of him when I was in a certain restless frame of mind. He’s such a sexy, sardonic rogue. Then I noticed how young Titian was when he painted him – about twenty. That was the start of the book for me.

What drew you to Renaissance Venice and Titian and how did you go about the historical parts of the research?

It was the painting really that began it all. To be perfectly honest although I could have named Titian I knew next to nothing about him before beginning the book but our family had a strong emotional connection to Italy. My father, the historian Robert Blake had a great love of Italy. He had been a POW during the second world war in the south of Italy, had escaped and then been looked after by Italians before making his way through the mountains and back to the allied troops. I don’t think he ever forgot being looked after in that way. It was a very dangerous thing for Italians to do at the time. So when I was child we went to Italy for holidays and Venice was one of the first places I went abroad. It made an indelible impression on me. So there was this combination of factors that came together. For the research I read everything I could get my hands on. Particularly useful were the letters of Pietro Aretino. He was a poet, pornographer, blackmailer and great friends with Titian. He was absolutely clear that Titian was a genius and told everyone. His letters are hugely entertaining. He writes to friends thanking them for sending him salad. He writes to his gondolier advising him not to marry. He even writes letters on the dangers of eating mushrooms. He adored Venice and I loved his letters. I also read Sheila Hale’s fantastic biography of Titian. For research on courtesans I read Margaret Rosenthal’s book The Honest Courtesan about Veronica Franco and I also read Franco’s poetry.

During your research for the book what was the most surprising fact you uncovered?

I think that there was an actual term ‘muneghini’ that was used to describe those young male patricians who visited nuns for sex. The term means ‘frequenters of nuns.’ According to the Renaissance diaries of Marin Sanudo at any rate! That was extremely surprising. And also that there was an episode in 1514 when the nuns of the Convent of San Zacaria got together and stoned the authorities who wanted to interfere with the way their nunnery was run. I loved the idea of mutinous nuns!

Who was your favourite character to write?

I had a real fondness for Tullia, the courtesan. I loved her courage, her sense of humour and her essential good heartedness. I wanted her to not just survive but thrive as well. Apart from her the character I was most involved with was the boatman, Sebastiano. I heard his voice incredibly vividly in my head from the very beginning. I had a very strong visceral impression of him and he tops and tails the book.

If you could travel to any time or place in history where would you go and why?

Ask me that tomorrow and I’d come out with a different answer but today …  I’ve got a stone age axe head that my grandfather, who was a Norfolk farmer, picked up in his fields. I’d like to go back to the moment when the axe head had just been created and take a look at the man who had carved it and was holding it in his hands.

Do you have a favourite Titian painting and for those interested in learning more about him, which books would you titanrecommend?

Apart from The Man with the Blue Sleeve, I love the portrait he did of Aretino. It’s in Florence in the Galleria Palatina. Aretino wears this very splendid orange, velvet gown and has a magnificent beard. He looks like he’s going to jump out of the canvas at you and demand the most recent gossip. You get a real sense of his physical strength as well as his strength of character. For anyone wanting to read about Titian I recommend Sheila Hale’s biography and also Titian: The Last Days by Mark Hudson – that’s a fantastic, highly readable, fascinating book.

And finally … what can we expect next from Victoria Blake?

My next book is a novel about one of the first female war correspondents who goes and reports from the Spanish Civil War. I find female war correspondents fascinating and have watched with a huge amount of respect and admiration over the years fantastic women like Kate Adie, Lyse Doucet, Lindsay Hilsum and Orla Guerin. How do they go into those incredibly dangerous places, hold it all together, report back coherently and then come home without being destroyed by it all? I think they are remarkable people. It’s been interesting reading the obituaries of the war correspondent Clare Hollingworth who has just died at the age of 105. She reported the ‘scoop of the century’ –  that the Second World War had started.

Thank you Victoria.

Titan’s Boatman is out now in Hardback and ebook formats from Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Victoria and her writing at: https://victoriablakewriter.wordpress.com/

 

Giveaway! Two copies of The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig to be won!

25 Jan

Tomorrow is the paperback release day for The Map Of Bones,  the excellent second book in Francesca Haig’s Fire Sermon Series. To celebrate the new release HarperVoyager has given me two copies of the book to give away to lucky readers!

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The second book in Francesca Haig’s incredible Fire Sermon series.

The Omega resistance has been brutally attacked, its members dead or in hiding.

The Alpha Council’s plan for permanently containing the Omegas has begun.

But all is not entirely lost: the Council’s seer, The Confessor, is dead, killed by her twin’s sacrifice.

Cass is left haunted by visions of the past, while her brother Zach’s cruelty and obsession pushes her to the edge, and threatens to destroy everything she hopes for.

As the country moves closer to all-out civil war, Cass will learn that to change the future she will need to uncover the past. But nothing can prepare her for what she discovers: a deeply buried secret that raises the stakes higher than ever before.

To enter  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick two winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Monday 30th January. Good Luck!

Author interview: Vic James

21 Jan

Today I’m very excited to welcome author Vic James to One More Page to talk about Gilded Cage the first book in the Dark Gifts trilogy – a book which held me gripped from start to finish and presents a wonderfully dystopian alternative Britain.

Vic is a current affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms, and Gilded Cage is her debut novel. She has twice judged the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, has made films for BBC1, BBC2, and Channel 4 News, and is a huge Wattpadd.com success story. Under its previous title, Slavedays, her book was read online over a third of a million times in first draft. And it went on to win Wattpad’s ‘Talk of the Town’ award in 2015 – on a site showcasing 200 million stories. She lives and works in London. Welcome Vic!

VicJames2 C JAY DACYHi Vic. Gilded Cage is released in paperback on 26th January. Please could you tell us a little about it and the inspirations behind it.

Gilded Cage is set in an alternate contemporary Britain ruled by a magically gifted aristocracy, in which everyone else – the 99% of us – must perform a decade of service called the ‘slavedays’. The Hadley family think they’ve avoided being sent to a worktown, by applying to serve the aristocrats on a grand estate, but things don’t go according to plan. Eighteen-year-old Abi is caught up in the dark power-games of the aristocrats, while seventeen-year-old Luke is ripped from his family and treads a dangerous path in Manchester’s brutal worktown.

In the world of the books, the ‘slavedays’ system is 400 years old, but the genesis of the story was a current affairs series I made for BBC2 called The Superrich and Us about our world right now. I realised that the power and influence of the very wealthiest in our society – the 1% – was so great that it was almost ‘like magic’. Ta-da! While the experience of those doing their days, the 99% of ‘us’, is a blend of everything that’s most unfair in our unequal society today: unremitting grind, rubbish jobs, disenfranchisement, and so on.

By way of introduction, imagine Silyen, Jenner and Gavar are on twitter (!) what would their bios say?

- Silyen wouldn’t be on twitter. Or rather, he’d be an egg account, following all the powerful and provocative people who tweet in about 10 different languages. He’d never tweet himself.

- Jenner is a private, reserved person. His bio would be plain and factual: “Second son of Lord Whittam and Lady Thalia Jardine”, with a little location pin for ‘Kyneston, Hampshire’.

- Gavar is more a Rich Kids of Instagram, though his account has fallen strangely silent since he became a father and his girlfriend ‘died’…

I found all of the characters so intriguing and with so much potential; did you have a favourite to write and who caused you the most trouble when writing?

They never cause me trouble. I hear each of them clearly! The person with the most intricate tale to tell is Euterpe, who speaks to us only once, in Chapter 10 – my favourite chapter in the book, and almost a story within a story.

The one who demanded more chapters than I ever imagined is swaggering, obtuse Heir Gavar, whose past behavior has been shocking, yet who somehow occasionally intuits things more clearly than anyone else in his world. Scenes with Silyen are always a treat to write, but I have to use his point-of-view sparingly so as not to give too much away!

If you were a commoner in the world of The Dark Gifts trilogy, at what stage in your life would you choose to work out your gilded cageten years and why?

I’d put it off as long as possible, until the age of 55! But you can only do that responsibly if you don’t have children. If you die with your 10 years unserved, or incomplete, your debt passes to your children.

How have your own experiences fed into writing Gilded Cage?

It’s all in there! Obviously all the stories I covered in my journalism career – from the world of the superrich, to how politics works to the relentless grind of life at the bottom. But there’s a lot of my life experience in Abi, too. She’s a smart girl from a normal background, sent to a world of privilege of which she has no experience, to which she must rapidly adjust. I can really identify. I come from a working-class home, with two parents who never finished school as teenagers, then went to one of Oxford’s oldest and grandest colleges, a place of beauty and tradition, surrounded by the wealthy and, yes, even the titled!

As it’s still January, the month of resolutions; what are your reading resolutions for 2017?

Read more; read more by diverse authors; and read more nonfiction.

Last year was breakneck busy: I edited Gilded Cage, wrote and edited the sequel, and directed two BBC1 TV programmes. As I write this, in January, we’ve just signed off the sequel, and Gilded Cage is publishing. I can’t wait for life to slow down a little, and I’ve promised myself one dedicated reading day a week. Haven’t managed it so far, but I’m ever-hopeful!

And finally … what can we expect next from Vic James?

Oooh! Well, that all depends on what takes my publishers’ fancy, but there is an intense standalone I’m desperate to write. And I’m simmering an idea for another AU contemporary dualogy or trilogy: intrigue, corruption, secrets and untold history, and a global power struggle, in a world of dark glamour and tradition.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Amanda, and for loving GILDED CAGE! If anyone has any questions – come and find me on twitter @drvictoriajames

You can find out more about Gilded Cage and Vic James at: http://www.vicjames.co.uk/

gilded cageGilded Cage is published in paperback on 26th January by Pan Macmillan and is available an an ebook now.

A modern Britain
An age-old cruelty

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadleys’ turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England’s most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom – or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends’ ideals might cost him everything.

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.

 

Book review: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

20 Jan

a boy made of blocksA father who rediscovers love

Alex loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. He needs a reason to grab his future with both hands.

A son who shows him how to live

Meet eight-year-old Sam: beautiful, surprising – and different. To him the world is a frightening mystery. But as his imagination comes to life, his family will be changed . . . for good.

A Boy Made of Blocks is Keith Stuart’s debut novel; a story inspired by Keith’s own experiences of having an autistic son. It’s a novel of love, frustration, heartbreak, humour  and hope charting dad Alex’s relationship with his wife Jody and eight year old son, Sam.

As a mum to 5 and 8 year old boys there was a lot that I could empathise with in the story; I love my sons to bits but there are days when everything seems like a struggle and I can’t do right for doing wrong! Stuart clearly shows how those days and incidents are many and constant with a child who is autistic. My heart went out to Jody as she explained the constant worry about a simple day at school. What surprised me about this book was how much I disliked Alex initially. I really felt annoyed by his lack of ability to cope with the situations he found himself in and for much of the first third of the story I wanted to give him a good talking to!

In contrast to my feelings for Alex, I loved Sam and thought he was beautifully, believably and sensitively written. When Sam discovers the game Minecraft it literally opens a new world to him and provides the mechanism for Alex to begin to understand his son and build a relationship with him. These parts of the book had me thoroughly captivated and I enjoyed reading as Sam’s world opened up.

In addition to the serious themes of this stoyr; relationship breakdown, the pressures of being a parent, dealing with grief, there’s a lot of humour in A Boy Made of Blocks; some of it dark but I did find it funny and I loved the description of Sam’s responses to the world around him as ‘not being given the rule-book’ which does make for some very blunt and honest statements from Sam that had me smiling. It’s safe to say I went through the whole spectrum of emotions as I read and I did cry at the end – the final chapters weren’t at all what I was expecting but were just perfect.

4/5

A Boy Made of Blocks is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

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

 

Blog Tour: The Wing Jones Photo Blog Tour! #WJPhototour

20 Jan

Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, which came out on 5th January 2017 in the UK. I finished reading Wing Jones earlier this week and absolutely loved it. I’ll be posting my full review soon but it’s such an inspiring book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s even helped to inspire me to take up running – something which I never thought I’d do!

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With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

I can’t believe Wing Jones is Katherine Webber’s debut – her writing feels effortless to read but had a massive impact on me and I love the descriptions she uses when Wing runs and Wing’s voice! Katherine was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers are participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos! Today it’s my turn and I’m delighted to share the next step on Katherine’s journey to publication…

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“Going on submission to publishers was one of the most exciting and terrifying things I’ve ever done! Once we got our first offer in everything happened very fast. WING JONES ended up in a 9 way auction in the UK! I met with all the interested publishers and they were all AMAZING. It was a tough decision, but I knew Walker Books was the best fit for WING JONES. It was so thrilling to see the announcement in the Bookseller, especially when the announcement went out in a newsletter right next to news about Jennifer Lawrence! The day the deal was announced happened to be the day a friend who works with the comedian Dave Chappelle was in London for Dave’s tour and so I celebrated my deal announcement by going to the show and the afterparty! It was pretty surreal having Corinne Bailey Rae and Dave congratulate me on my book deal at the party!”

Wing Jones is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Walker Books.

Find out more about Katherine Webber and her writing at: http://www.kwebberwrites.com/

Exclusive cover reveal! Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

18 Jan

I’m a HUGE fan of Lisa Dickenson’s laugh out loud rom-coms so I was VERY excited to be asked if I’d like to reveal the gorgeous new cover for the paperback release of Catch Me If You Cannes. Of course I said yes so here without further ado is the beautifully sunny new cover for this fabulous book which will be published by Sphere on 4th May!

Cannes

 

WARNING: reading Catch Me If You Cannes may result in embarrassing outbursts of belly-aching laughter on public transport. Romantic, funny and full of Cannes Film Festival magic, it’s perfect for fans of Giovanna Fletcher, Paige Toon and  Mhairi McFarlane.

Jess has decided it’s time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of sun, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they’re staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony’s expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It’s just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Full of hilarious one-liners, sparkling blue seas and plenty of romantic moments, Catch Me If You Cannes is the story of two friends, a few white lies and one very sticky situation . . .

lisa dickensonLisa Dickenson is the pseudonym for Beyoncé. OK, FINE, THAT’S NOT TRUE.

Lisa lives by the Devon seaside, stuffing cream teas in the gobs of anyone who comes to visit, and writing stuff down that she hopes is funny.  Her first novel was the copyright-infringing Sweet Valley Twins: The Twins Holiday Horror, which she wrote in primary school and gave up on after five pages. Twenty-ish years later Lisa went on to be a *real author* and wrote the Novelicious Debut of the Year, The Twelve Dates of Christmas. In summer 2016 out popped You Had Me at Merlot, and in winter 2016 she released the fabulous Mistletoe on 34th Street. Catch Me if You Cannes will be her fourth book available in paperback.

Chat to Lisa (and tell her how much you love her new cover!) at:

www.lisadickenson.com
Twitter @LisaWritesStuff
Facebook /LisaWritesStuff
Instagram lisawritesstuff

Book review: Relativity by Antonia Hayes

16 Jan

relativityEthan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

I’ve been very lucky to start 2017 by reading a series of excellent new books and discovering some wonderful new authors. Antonia Hayes is an author who has jumped straight onto my ‘must read their books’ list; Relativity  is her debut and is a cleverly and beautifully written novel that tugged on my heart strings, made me hug my sons a little closer and left me feeling inspired and hopeful.

This is the story of twelve year old Ethan and his parents. Ethan is astonishingly bright for his age and loves physics and astronomy. Events when Ethan was just four months old have left him and his mum to pick up the pieces. Claire, Ethan’s mum has done all she can to protect him from the truth about what happened and the novel follows their story as events conspire to bring Ethan’s Dad Mark back into their lives at the same time as Ethan is becoming more curious about his Father and why he isn’t in their lives.

Hayes takes a shocking event and plays it forward to examine the impacts both physical and emotional on all parties over a decade later. I liked the fact that the book doesn’t focus too much on what actually happened to Ethan (the actual facts of which are hazy for the majority of the story) and focuses on the after effects. Each chapter of the story has a physics-based title and I loved how Antonia combined physics with the feelings and relationships of Claire, Ethan and Mark to make the scientific emotional and in many ways, magical.

Relativity gets to the heart of the mother-child bond perfectly – I had such empathy for Claire. But interestingly, I also felt sympathy for Mark as the book progressed and I liked that Antonia Hayes let me as a reader make judgements on both parents and their actions. This book raises interesting questions about family bonds, forgiveness and the nature of love and I liked that it made me consider that even situations that seem clear cut, often aren’t.

I’ll end my review with a mention for Ethan’s friend Alison who he meets while he’s in hospital – she was one of my favourite characters in the book and although her role is supporting, I loved the way she is written and how she gives Ethan perspective as well as assisting his grand schemes! I sped through Relativity – it has excellent pace and such an engaging story with characters that I could picture and believe in and I highly recommend adding Antonia Hayes to your reading list!

5/5

Relativity is out now in ebook format and is released in paperback on 19th January by Corsair.

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

Find out more about Antonia and her writing at: http://antoniahayes.com/

Book review: The Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

13 Jan

promise of fire“Cat” Catalia Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a travelling circus. She is actually an exceptionally powerful Magoi – known as the Kingmaker – who can divine lies. But Cat has no interest in using her powers – or in being used for them – and stays under the radar, far from the clutches of her power-hungry homicidal family.

An ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, Griffin, is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her – then does everything he can to coax her to help his people willingly.

Cat has worked hard to avoid the dangerous destiny she fears is in her blood but the balance of power in their world is shifting. The old magics are no longer all-powerful and there’s a new, ferocious force at work. To survive, Cat will have to explore the true depth of the powers she’s spent so long running from – and perhaps even learn to work with her enemies . . . .

Amanda Bouchet’s debut, A Promise of Fire is the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy, published for the first time in the UK by Piatkus this month. The Kingmaker Chronicles are high-fantasy romances set in a world divided by those who have magic and those who don’t. I love the cover for this UK paperback edition – it captures the sense of the book perfectly.

Immediately, as I started reading I was thrown into a new world and I enjoyed the vividness of Amanda’s descriptions of the travelling circus where we find Catalia, known as Cat living as a soothsayer. The pace of this story is great and its soon clear that there’s more to Cat than she’s letting on and this sets the anticipation high right from the start as she encounters the hulking Griffin and knows he wants more from her than just his fortune!

Fans of mythology will love that this novel is packed with gods, goddesses, omens, oracles, fantastical creatures and magic. Bouchet has created a vivid and detailed world in which to set her story that links directly to the Greek/Roman mythology creation story (you can read more about it here: http://www.amandabouchet.com/origin-of-thalyria.php). I’m a huge fan of mythology so it was exciting to find a new novel that played into that world. If you’re a fan of Nora Roberts’ Guardians trilogy, I’d definitely recommend that you check this series out.

Cat is a feisty, quick and clever character and I liked her straight away – her inner dialogue made me smile and I enjoyed how Amanda Bouchet slowly revealed more about Cat and the worlds she lives in as the story progressed. There is never a dull moment!  Griffin is Cat’s enemy but he’s nicely drawn as an enemy she (and us readers) can love to hate and Bouchet builds the tension beautifully between them with lots of spiky banter and high action scenes.

I really enjoyed this book – it’s original, action packed and fun. The strong mythology coupled with compelling characters, a gripping story line and a good dose of passion make A Promise of Fire a quick and exciting read and an excellent start to a new fantasy series.

4/5

The Promise of Fire is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Piatkus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

For more information on Amanda Bouchet and The Kingmaker Chrionicles, please visit: https://kingmakerchronicles.com/ or http://amandabouchet.com/

Book review: The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey

12 Jan

stolen childSt Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.

Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed by the strange currents that run through her fingers.

When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.

Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.

Stories that blur the lines between worlds always intrigue me and I was initially drawn to read The Stolen Child by the elements of magic and mystery in it. This is a captivating story that moves seamlessly between the harsh realities of  life on a tiny island off the coast of Ireland and the legends, superstitions, customs and varied beliefs of its inhabitants. The two elements create a story that is equal parts fable, fairytale, mystery and romance and as soon as I started reading I was captivated.

The Stolen Child stands out as original, heartfelt and beautifully written. The story opens with a prologue set in May 1960 as the occupants of St Brigid’s Island are about to leave their homes for the final time to be evacuated to a bright new housing estate on the mainland. In this short prologue we are introduced to the history and geography of the island and to sisters Rose and Emer, a pair who contrast as only sisters can in both looks and temperament. The story then steps back to explain the events of the last year on the island that have led to the evacuation starting with the arrival of the island’s namesake, American, Brigid.

Brigid and Emer are the leads of the story and their relationship is the catalyst for the events that take place throughout the year. Both are fascinating characters and I enjoyed finding out about their individual histories, experiences and motivations as I read. Chapters in the novel’s present (1959) are interspersed by flash backs to both Brigid and Emer and Rose’s childhoods and I enjoyed how Lisa slowly revealed the events that had made them the women they are when they meet.

Entwined in their stories are legends, fables and stories told to them by their mothers and passed down through generations. Lisa Carey cleverly mixes the fact with the fable and superstition to create a story that is part dark fairytale, part history and part heartbreaking truth. I was struck by Lisa’s wonderful and honest words on motherhood and the bonds that mothers can have with their children. This is a book that examines all aspects of parenthood and particularly motherhood from those abundantly blessed to those who part with their children and those who desperately want a child and are unable. Brigid’s and Emer’s stories took me through the full cycle of emotions as I read.

And as individual stories play out there’s a bigger story taking form in the looming change to the islanders lives. Carey was inspired to write The Stolen Child by the story of the evacuation of the island Inishark and she beautifully captures the highs and lows of living in an inhospitable place where residents are at the mercy of the weather and have no means of communicating with the mainland – even in an emergency. Situations which come to life in beautiful shows of community and celebration but also stark horror during the story.

A magical, thoughtful and impactful read that introduced me to a wonderful new author. I’m looking forward to discovering Lisa Carey’s previous novels in future.

4/5

The Stolen Child is released today (12th January) in hardback and ebook formats published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

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

Find out more about Lisa and her writing at: http://www.lisacareybooks.com/

Book review: Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

11 Jan

meet me at beachcomber bayLove is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is my favourite of Jill Mansell’s novels to date. As regular readers will know, I do LOVE a seaside set novel and Beachcomber Bay gets top marks for a sunny seaside read with romance, heartwarming storylines and lovely characters. The only downside of reading a book like this as I sat on a crowded commuter train in rainy London is that it made me want to give it all up and move to the seaside even more than usual!

Clemency and Belle are stepsisters and are basically chalk and cheese. Clem is the type of character that I’d like to be friends with – the opening scenes with Clem at the airport gift shop and then on a plane home to England, show her personality very well and I couldn’t help but smile as I read. A brief but ultimately doomed connection with a handsome stranger leaves Clem feeling more than a little annoyed but I loved that in the first few chapters Jill clearly demonstrates that Clem does not suffer fools gladly!

The story then skips forward three years to find Clem living back in her hometown of St Carys in Cornwall. Now I’ve read many books in recent years set in Cornish seaside towns and I constantly marvel at the ability of authors to come up with something unique and new. But Jill Mansell has certainly done that and as I met Clem’s fellow estate agent Ronan, postwoman Kate and artist Marina, I couldn’t help fall in love with St Carys and its community. Jill’s characters are so believable and I was soon caught up in the different story lines involving them. When Bell flies (literally) into town, the tension moves up a notch as her rich new boyfriend looks for a place to live and sets off a life-changing turn of events for Clem and her friends.

As much as this is Clem and Belle’s story it’s also Ronan, Marina, Sam and Kate’s stories and for once in a novel I actually liked all of the leading characters – even Belle who took a little while to grow on me! Jill really shows her experience in crafting a story that will keep the reader guessing and I loved that the surprises just kept coming. No spoilers here but I will say that I could not have predicted the endings and I spent a large part of the book wondering if the characters that I wanted to end up together would actually do that!

Beachcomber Bay is just the sort of feelgood read that you need at this time of year to chase away the January blues. I’ve just one thing left to add – Jill,  please can we have a follow up?!

5/5

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is released on 12th January in hardback, ebook and audio formats by Headline.

Find out more about Jill Mansell and her novels at: http://jillmansell.co.uk/