These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper published 4 May 2016

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Synopsis

In a quiet Parisian street, off the beaten track, is apartment Number 37.  The residents go about their daily lives, rarely speaking to each other despite living in close proximity.  Anäis is lonely and struggling with being at home bringing up her three young children whilst her husband Paul is at work.  Cesar and Chantal seem to lead a very normal, conventional life bur Cesar is keeping a large secret.  Frèdèrique lives in on her own and has a bookshop on the ground floor, and the concierge  Madam Marin runs a hairdresser and a secret night life.  Into this mèle of people arrives Edward, trying to escape the aftermath of a family tragedy back in England.  During the summer the dynamics of these residents shift, the walls that divide will begin to crumble.

Review

These Dividing Walls is a very topical in its look at the troubles facing France and other countries are facing at the moment.  Fran Cooper doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics of racism, religious hatred, terrorism, unemployment in this book.  Through the lives of the residents of Number 37 we see how their lives are effected by these issues.

The characters are very diverse;  the colourful Madam, Marin, the quiet Anäis, the conventional Vincent’s, all come together and show no matter your age, religion, background and politics you all face the same problems life throws at you.  Reading this novel does make the reader feel very voyeuristic, as we see close up the lives the people live, we are party to their secrets, their fears and their hopes for the future.  We are part of the intimacies of their relationships and life and how they deal with the issues raised in this book.  The characters also add humour, in some of their characteristics and how they live their daily lives.

Fran Cooper’s writing really captures the Zeitgeist of the moment.  She shows great insight and understanding of the human condition.  This is an erudite and engaging read, that shows a different Paris far removed from the romantic image portrayed in the holiday brochures and magazines.  This is a darker Paris, where there is menace and hatred in the suburbs.  This is a insightful and entertaining read

A Life in Books with Lucy Felthouse

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This evening I am happy to welcome author Lucy Felthouse to my blog, to answer questions on the books that have been important in her life.  Her book Stately Pleasures is available now.
Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of, and an Amazon bestseller), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award, and an Amazon bestseller) and The Persecution of the Wolves. Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 150 publications to her name. She owns Erotica For All, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. You can also subscribe to her monthly newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

 

51p6qTuVgELWhat was you favourite book from childhood?

I read so much that I couldn’t possibly pick a single one. I loved pretty much anything by Enid Blyton. I just loved getting lost in her imaginative, fun worlds.

 

 

What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I devoured Point Horror books, and also got a lot of hand-me-downs from my cousins, who are a few years older than me. So I probably read some books that were a little too old for me, like some of the saucier Mills and Boon books! But I would pretty much read anything I could get my hands on.

 

What was your favourite book that you studied at school?91KV7n5i55L

It’s a toss-up between Dracula and Frankenstein. They’re memorable, and have spawned so much other literature, film and TV—that’s just such an amazing achievement.

 

 

What is your favourite classic book?

I admit I haven’t read a ton of classics, and not nearly as many as I should have, but ones that stand out are Dracula, Frankenstein, The Secret Garden and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

51WlXfErIzL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWhat would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

Actually, the book I just finished was amazing. I can’t remember the last time I was so utterly gripped by a book. It was Stolen Child by Laura Elliot. I just found it to be a real page-turner. It was deep, but still a very easy read—I read a lot at night just before bed, so if books are too tough to get into, it can take me weeks and weeks to read them, but I whizzed through this one.

 

What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

Oh, sooo many! Insane amounts. There are just so many books in the world. I do think I should read more classics. Maybe I should print off a list (if there is a comprehensive one) and start checking them off.

 

What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

I don’t have a favourite. I read far, far too widely and have done for so many years that I couldn’t choose a single favourite book. I tend to have favourite authors instead.

 

8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

Yes, over the years there have been a few, but I’m not going to name names.

 

 If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you

This is similar to the favourite book—I really don’t think I could choose just two! I think, providing I had some warning that I was going to the island, I would just pick two books that I fancied reading at that moment.

 

Kindle or Book?

Both. I still have one foot firmly in each camp, and probably read equal amounts in paperback and Kindle. I admit that Kindles are much more convenient when travelling, for long plane or car journeys, etc, though. I used to end up with more books in my suitcase than clothes back in the day!

 

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The One by John Marrs published 4 May 2017

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Synopsis

If a simple DNA test could find the ‘One’, the person you were destined to spend your life with, your soul mate, would you take it?

For ten years people have been taking the test to meet their DNA Match and find true love.  This test has no boundaries or discrimination; it crosses the barriers of religion, gender, age, and geographical location.  Its resulted in the reduction of racial and religious discrimination, divorce rates are down as are std’s, all positive.  But is too good to be true, everyone has secrets, and different reasons for taking the test, as Mandy, Jade, Ellie, Nick and Christopher are about to find out.

Review

I have heard a lot about this book on Facebook, in particular TBC on Facebook so I was really looking forward to reading it for myself.  It certainly has an original and interesting plot, that will make you question human relationships and how they are formed; if you believe in the ‘one’ and what that means.  It also raises the moral questions about the reasons people take this test, and if there should be restrictions to stop certain groups from taking the test, i.e. criminals, those with mental health issues.

I found this a really addictive read, I literally couldn’t put the book down.  John Marrs is very clever in his writing; each chapter follows the story of the five main characters and their matches and the choices they have to make.  His brilliance is in ending each chapter on a cliff hanger and you can’t find out what happens next until you have read the following four chapters until you get back to that character’s story.

The characters themselves are all from different cross sections of society.  Their diversity gives the chance for the plot to develop and raise questions regarding the problems this test could  incur to be explored thoroughly.  Their different stories will make you laugh, cry and exclaim in shock in the matches themselves snd the situations that arise from taking the test.  I have to say that I wish the book could have been longer as I wanted to find out what happened next for the characters.

The One is an innovative, engaging and most of all an entertaining read.  It is well written with strong characters and an original plot that will keep you enthralled for the duration of the book.  Be warned, you won’t be able to put this book down once you start so clear your day of all plans, make a cup of tea and settle down for one of the most original and compelling books this year.

A Life in Books with Roz White

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This evening I am joined by author Roz White, writer of The Sisterhood Series of books.

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m Roz White, I’ll be 56 this year, I’m married with three adult children. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but it’s really only with the advent of affordable word-processing and the self-publishing boom that I’ve been able to address my writing in terms of a very secondary career and get the work out there to a wider audience. I currently write about a group of fictional trans women (being one myself) in my series The Sisterhood, but my male alter-ego has about a dozen historical novels set in the Viking Age to his pen-name of H.A. Douglas.

I live in the beautiful Orkney Islands at the top edge of Scotland, and the day job involves mending and maintaining lighthouses!

 

What was you favourite book from childhood?

Oh, that’s trickier than it might appear! What age? OK, I’ve now looked at Question 2, so 910t1ypY5KLwe’ll go with early pre-teens! I don’t remember many of my early childhood books, but the Rev W Audrey’s railway stories (now better known as Thomas the Tank Engine) were certainly around. I still have some of them, along with a very tattered copy of Winne The Pooh, inscribed for my 6th birthday.

 

What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I sort-of woke up in my teens, both to literature and music – and humour, come to that. Book-wise, I recall going into a bookshop by the local station on my way somewhere, and coming out with “A Princess of Mars”, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and being blown away by it! It was a time of reading long serials of books: the Mars ones by Burroughs, along with Tarzan of course; then there were “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen books, the Conan stories…and I think I would still have been reading these had I been a girl then as well. No doubt there would also have been more of what were thought of as “girl’s” books as well, and I do wonder what I missed in not getting hold of such works. But the sci-fi and fantasy stuff introduced me to concepts such as heroism, sacrifice, honour and self-esteem, and in that way they were invaluable for my development as an individual.

 

When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Now this is a tricky one, because I seem to recall hating them all! My English teacher seemed to think that great literature petered out around the time of Dickens – and of his, she chose the most long-winded, turgid, slow and dull examples she could find! I still can’t face revisiting “Nicholas Nickelby”, it’s etched in my memory as the worst book ever; when I began studying with the OU many years later there was a Dickens as required reading in my Foundation Year. But “Hard Times” was a revelation – caustic, witty, funny and sharp all the way through. I also had to go to the theatre to get over her treatment of Shakespeare, which was to play us an LP recording of a play and stop the needle every other line to examine it!

We did get to Miller’s “All My Sons”, which was immune to her assaults, and I still think it’s a powerful play for its time, if perhaps a little predictable and hackneyed in today’s age.

 

What is your favourite classic book?

41xK2ftUi3LOh, so many! What, just one?? Oh dear… I could cheat and point to my compendium of Sherlock Holmes, but my bookshelves also contain other Conan Doyle (notably The Lost World – still a firm favourite), Dumas, Orczy… we have the Collected Works of Shakespeare, and masses of both history and science fiction going all the way back to Wells and Verne. In fact, I’m probably going to settle for Wells: The War of the Worlds is still one I go back to time after time, and to my mind the movies still haven’t done it properly yet! It’s grand themes on a very human scale: the downfall of mankind seen through the eyes of one very upper-middle-class man, in one small corner of England. It drips detail, and Wells paints the most vivid pictures in my mind every time I read it.

 

What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

I don’t get to read as much as I’d like to these days, and I’m painfully aware of how much fabulous new writing there is out there that I simply don’t get to. But off-the-cuff, I’m going to say “The New Woman” by Charity Norman. The subject matter is clearly of interest to me anyway (it’s the story of a transition to female and the effects on the family around the central character) but Ms Norman writes incredibly well, and “gets” the emotions involved more than I think any other author I’ve read so far has managed. It’s a rich, rounded, detailed writing style that I find delightfully rewarding to read. I’m also going to give an Honourable Mention to Nichola Upson, who does similarly clever things with her Jaqueline Tey novels.

 

What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

As with question 4, so many!! The Book Club on Facebook has its weekly “hot books” and I don’t ever seem to get to any of them – though I have finally read a novel by Amanda Prowse, whose name comes up so often! But there is John Marrs, Alan Jones, Tara Lyons, Netta Newbound, all of whom regularly garner rave reviews and thus as a wannabe writer myself I really ought to be reading them and learning all I can!

 

What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

Again, this would probably be Wells and “The War of the Worlds”, but I strongly suspect that I don’t have a single favourite book. I have favoured biographies, for instance, and histories that I prefer over some others, as well as books like “The New Woman” that I love for completely different reasons to the ones that send me back to Wells time after time.

 

Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

Ah… well, not quite, though there have been some that I’ve gritted my teeth through and got to the end, and then wondered why on earth I bothered! I can’t remember the author but “The Monstrous Burdens of Professor Darkwood” is a steampunk awfulness that started well and then just fell completely to pieces, with bits exploding off in all sorts of bizarre and unexpected directions! Another was “A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza” by Pete Adams, which a number of people raved about but I found almost unreadable, it was so awful! Which is a shame, as Pete himself is a lovely chap – reminds me a bit of Tom Baker’s version of Dr Who – but there we are. I hope he doesn’t read this – or if he does, that he doesn’t take it to heart!

 

If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with 61p3+TQCtoLyou

Oh blimey! Well, “How To Escape From A Desert Island” would be an obvious choice, or perhaps I’d have to write it while I was there! I suspect that variety would be the key here; collections of stories or such might work, so perhaps the collected Shakespeare; I’m tempted to have my collected Sherlock Holmes as the other, simply for the problem-solving stimulation in the tales, which would be a fine counterpoint to the delicate exploration of Self that The Bard excels in.

 

Kindle or Book?

I’m a newcomer to the Kindle – I have the app on my tablet and it’s working really well for me. But I have literally walls filled with books in the house, and there is the point that you can pull out a paperback anywhere and they don’t cause hassle when trying to board an aircraft! I think if printed books could be as cheap as kindle ones then there’d be no contest at all, but since getting the app and joining TBC I’ve bought far more kindle books than print ones, and I think that’s the telling point.
This has been fun – some of those are hard questions! Which is a good thing, I hasten to add: I enjoy thinking and being stretched a little intellectually. Many thanks for inviting me!

 

Oz’s latest book in the Sisterhood series is available to purchase from Amazon now.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fourth-Musketeer-Sisterhood-Book-ebook/dp/B071YNSTL5/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

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Crimson & Bone by Marina Fiorato published 18 May 2017

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Synopsis

London, January 1st 1853 Annie Stride is standing on the parapet of Waterloo Bridge in desperation, in exactly the same place her best friend Mary-Jane committed suicide a few months earlier.   She is a penniless, homeless, prostitute who is also pregnant, she sees death as her only choice.  Just as she is about to throw herself into the icy, dark water of the Thames a hand reaches out to stop her; Francis Maybrick Gill, a pre-Raphaelite artist.

Francis takes Annie back to his house where her makes her his model and muse for his paintings, and in doing so makes her beauty famous throughout London Society.  Annie is elevated from prostitute to a lady able to mix in polite society.  From the pre-Raphaelite’s of London to the Renaissance masters in Florence and Venice, just how long can Annie’s past stay in the past, and will there be a price to pay for this new life.

Review

Marina Fiorato is one of my favourite historical novelists.  Her books regularly combine my favourite subjects; history, art and Italy all of which are part of Crimson & Bone.  This book has a slightly darker, more gothic feel to it than her previous novels.  To stay with an art metaphor this novel is like a Caravaggio painting; the light and focus draw your eye to the main characters but the darkness surrounding them is always threatening to encroach on them.

The plot is similar to Pygmalion in that Frances Maybrick Gill takes Annie and raises her up in society by teaching her how to behave, speak and act like a lady.  As a character Frances seems the hero of this book in his saving Annie from her death and giving her a chance at a better life, but there is something that makes you feel uncomfortable, that he is not all that he seems.

Annie has a hard start to life, begging and stealing from when she was a child, but she hasn’t let it destroy her spirit.  After her brush with death we see that her heart is in the right place and there is a warmth and gentleness to her character that evolves during the  book.  She also shows an aptitude for learning and is a willing student is her progression form prostitute to lady.  It is from Annie’s perspective that the story is told, her progression in life and her feelings for Frances.  As well as Annie, Mary Jane who was Annie’s best friend, opens each chapter telling her story leading up to her death.

Marina Fiorato’s writing is beautifully lyrical in her use of language.  The prose flows seamlessly which makes it pleasurable and easy to read.  Her descriptive writing of London, Florence and Venice is captivating, you are transported back to the mid nineteenth century  with its  sights, sounds and smells.  I also enjoyed her evocation of the art works, both pre-Raphaelite and Renaissance.  Through language she brought the paintings to life which isn’t easy, which enriched the reading experience.  If you are interested you can of course look up the paintings on the Internet, but remember Francis Maybrick Gill is a fictional character although his subject matter was commonly painted by other artists.

The Crimson & Bone is an erudite and exquisite read.  Full of detail with a plot that will keep you engaged from the first page to the last.  This is historical fiction at its best.