A Life in Books with Tony Forder.


Today I welcome author Tony Forder to my blog to take part in my feature A Life in Books. Tony’s latest novel, Degrees of Darkness was released on September 19th.  As well as discussing A Life in Books, Tony has also written a guest piece about his new novel, which is published below.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Thank you, Juliet.
I am fast coming up on 60, and I have no idea where all that time went. I do know that, in one form or another, I have been writing for around 50 years now. It was a long time before I took my writing seriously, and when I did I had some success with short stories. My first attempts at novels were average, but when I wrote Degrees of Darkness I thought I had something. That came close to being published, but it wasn’t until many years – and several re-writes – later that it finally emerged on 19 September. It’s done well so far, and the reviews have been amazing.
I live in Peterborough with my wife, still do an occasional bit of IT consultancy for a UTC in the city, but spend as much time as possible these days writing.
My next book, Scream Blue Murder, is being released in November, whilst the follow-up to Bad to the Bone, called The Scent of Guilt, follows in 2018.


 What was your favourite book from childhood?81aiHVbaTQL

That’s a nice easy one – The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I was really into comics – superhero and war stuff. But when it came to books, I suppose it was pretty diverse – from Charles Dickens to Ian Fleming (and I don’t mean Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, either).


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

Sadly, I have no recollection of studying any particular. But at a parent-teacher evening at my Primary school, my parents were astonished that the book in my desk was my dad’s copy of Thunderball.


510TA8rFJPLWhat is your favourite classic book?

I think A Christmas Carol is a classic, but if we’re looking at the books generally deemed to be so, I’d probably say 1984, for all of its dystopian imagery.

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

That’s a really tough one. I think I’d have to call it even between I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes, and 11-22-63 by Stephen King.


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

I think a Hemingway, probably For Whom the Bell Tolls.


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?615WItilpgL

The Silence of the Lambs. No question. An author at his very peak, saying so much with such few words.


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

Several. The most recent being the latest John Puller adventure by David Baldacci. Sloppy writing, tired plotting, and with every character seemingly ‘barking’ rather than saying, it felt like the literary version of the Battersea Dogs’ home.


51Kf+jjhR0LIf you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you
‘How to Escape from a Desert Island’ by literally anybody.
Seriously, I’d have to have Lambs with me, but then it’s a toss-up between a Stephen King, a Charles Dickens, and a Michael Connelly. If pushed, I think it would have to be The Shining.

Kindle or Book?
Book – every time. Can’t be doing with e-readers.

Thank you so much for these great questions. I’ve really enjoyed answering them.




Degrees of Darkness was written a fair number of years ago. I was holding down a full-time job that demanded a lot of my spare time as well, and so creating a piece of work that came in at around 130,000 words in its original form, was hard going. Since January this year, when I have had the luxury of being able to devote many consecutive hours to writing, I have appreciated the difference that continuity brings. It was not always easy at the end of a hard day grabbing an hour here and there and getting straight back into the story or beneath the skin of the characters. It wasn’t for me, at least.

Degrees is a dark, psychological crime thriller that perhaps owes more to my many years of writing horror than it does my more recent experience of writing about crime. Yet when I decided to self-publish towards the end of last year, in preparation for being made redundant, Degrees was the first book I made available. It had been a labour of love, after all. By then I had trimmed around 10,000 words (they call it ‘killing your darlings’ when you have to prune scenes you really like) but at the time I left the setting exactly as I had written it – when the world was a slightly different place to the one we live in now.

When the opportunity came to have it published by Bloodhound, I removed some of the more graphical content, but also used that editing opportunity to update the book. I decided to do so both in case I ever wanted to return to the main character of Frank Rogers in the immediate aftermath of what takes place in Degrees, and also simply to have the reader live in the moment.

In the book, Frank is an ex-detective for the Met, now working as a debt-collector. He is estranged from his ex-wife, but sees his son and daughter regularly. One Monday morning in his office an old colleague visits him with the worst kind of news: Frank’s son and ex-wife are dead, murdered in their new home, whilst his daughter is missing, presumed abducted. Within the day he learns that his daughter, Laura, has been taken by a serial killer/abductor.

Frank wants to involve himself, but is initially kept at arm’s length by an old foe within the job. However, the man who has taken Laura shows an interest in playing mind games with Frank, and will only deal with him when he calls the police. Then the bodies start appearing; the bodies of previously abducted girls. They have been tortured and ‘prepared’ in a way no one can fathom. Frank knows then that a countdown has begun, and that his daughter will die if the man is not caught.

Without giving much more away, Frank’s insight is critical to the police tracking down the killer, but his dark mind is also essential to breaking him. The final denouement sees further tragedy and a further impact on Frank’s life that he had not anticipated.

The character of Frank is really an amalgam of many people I have known in my life, together with a soupcon of me thrown into the mix. His daughter Laura is based on my own daughter, and after reading it in manuscript form she has consistently told me that I will be responsible for all of her future therapy bills.

I have a theory about first books (it will be my second published novel, but was written first). I think they emerge from the mind almost fully formed. This is because the idea has probably had a lot of time to stew and foment and take on most of its necessary constituent parts.


A Life in Books with Rita Wilkinson



Today I welcome author Rita Wilkinson to my blog to discuss A Life in Books.


Could you tell me a bit about yourself ?

I was born in Dundee in 1943. I then lived in Newcastle until 1956 when we moved to Heighington a beautiful village in County Durham. I’m married with two daughters, and it wasn’t until I was 69, after years of wanting to write a book but never felt I had the ability, that my first novel ‘Three Feet of Lightning’ was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to and it came out in print in 2013. Since then I have self published my second novel ‘Kitty’s Torment’ in 2016 and my first children’s book ‘Don’t Tell Isabella’ came out in April 2017. I have a great passion for writing now, both women’s fiction and children’s books so I currently have two on the go. A sequel to Kitty’s Torment is being written by special request, and I’m loving writing my second children’s book. Both are currently unnamed but I’m hoping to have them both in print and e-book later this year. All my three books are available in paperback and e-book.


1. What was you favourite book from childhood?51WpflxORsL

Possibly anything by Enid Blyton particularly The Famous Five, but had it been out when I was a child it would have been Cops and Robbers by Janet Ahlberg. A book I loved reading over and over again to a little girl several years ago.


2.  What type of books did you read as a teenager?

Perry Mason Mystery books I loved them. I also read lots of book about the Second World War particularly about the horrors of the concentration camps. I’m sure I must have read them more from the shock of what happened than for pleasure!


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

I don’t really remember ever focusing on any specific book at school perhaps that’s because it was so long ago.


51phi3k3LHL4. What is your favourite classic book?

Possibly Little Women but to be honest I never read a lot of the classics. Perhaps that can be something I will consider reading in the future.


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

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Can I be cheeky and add The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Anne Shaffer and Annie Burrows. This book was bought for my neice but as she is not a reader this was not a book that could tempt her so I read it on her behalf – it is a truly fascinating read.


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

The Kite Runner /A Thousand Splendid Suns–both by Kahled Hosseini or now I feel I should be reading some of the classics!


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?91y0Ad+eDNL

Falling Leaves – Adeline Yen Mah


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

Can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I have just struggled reading No-one’s Girl by Rosie Goodwin but I did finish it.


41UbTw2+EuL9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

The Island by Vicotria Hislop and Philomena by Martin Sixsmith


10.Kindle or Book
Prefer book by must admit I do have a kindle. I often forward my own manuscripts to my kindle and read them on my ipad when I am editing, somehow it seems easier.


Spotlight feature for Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole.


Today I am part of the blog tour for Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole.  Below is a spotlight on the book and details about the author.  I am really looking forward to reading this book when I get a gap in my busy book schedule.


A woman sets out on a cross-country road trip, unknowingly tracing in reverse the path her mother traveled thirty years before.
In the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: She has inherited the estate of Florence ‘Florrie’ Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and,inexplicably, old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.
Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.
In parallel tales, the three women,Louise, Florrie, Ethel, discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.
Tender, touching, original, and rich with delicious period detail of Hollywood’s heyday buckle up, because you’ll definitely want to go on a road trip after reading this delightful book! Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home


03_Jessica Brockmole


Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.




The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton.





24 Merrion Road, Notting Hill, is the home to five very different residents.  At the top lives Sarah, a child psychologist, who has recently got divorced and lost her best friend who also lived at number 24.  In the flat below lives Leo, Sarah’s ex husband with his new wife, interior designer Helena. On the first floor Jane and Tom move in and bring a zest for life that infects he rest of the residents and brings them together.  In the basement lives Lisa, a single mother, whose daughter, Una, is no longer talking after the break up of her parent’s relationship, and finally Mavis, who hides herself away and is well known for being a bit difficult.

All the residents hold secrets and over the course of the summer of 2016 their lives become entwined, and the air I fizzes with potential and change.  Secrets can’t stay secret forever.



Every now and then I do like reading a nice easy book with good characters and story line that isn’t too taxing, and The Woman at Number 24 fits this criteria perfectly.  The plot follows the main character, Sarah, as she comes to terms with the loss of her marriage and her crisis in her belief of herself as a child psychologist.  Through her relationship with the other residents we are privy to her thoughts and feelings as she tries to come to terms with her situation.  Anyone would feel for her living in the flat above her ex and his new wife, especially when that ex is pompous, and a lothario who plays on Sarah’s vunrability.  The plot is fast paced, and I really enjoyed the Chinese proverbs at the start of each chapter.  Juliet Ashton’s prose is fluid and relaxed, like the plot itself, which makes the book enjoyable to read.

Juliet Ashton introduces us to a wonderful and diverse set of characters for the reader to engage with.  Mavis, in the basement, is know for being a grumpy and quite horrible character, however during the book we see a different side to her.  She also has a secret that turns the story on its head.  Jane and Tom become close friends to Sarah, and in Tom’s case maybe a bit too friendly putting Sarah in a difficult position.  There introduction to the house is the catalyst for the change in the residents.  In Una Sarah sees herself as a child, she too was caught up in the detritus of her parents divorce, but is having doubts about her ability.  What really comes through from all the characters is their friendship and loyalty to each other, they are very protective over each other, and the house.

The Woman at Number 24 is a beautiful book, and should not be taken at face value.  You may think you know this story but you don’t, there are quite a few twists and turns that change the direction of the story and the characters themselves.  It encompasses a range of emotions, sadness, empathy and a lot of humour to keep you entertained.  A great feel good novel.










My Top Ten Historical Fiction Authors.

Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres, and rather than just choose ten books, which I would find difficult, I decided to choose my ten favourite authors.


Hilary Mantel.

Hilary Mantel has won The Booker Prize an unprecedented  twice for Wolf Hall and it’s sequel Bringing Up The Bodies, both following the life and career of Thomas Cromwell.  Both these books are amazing in their detail and the portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, who is normally seen as a villain, but Mantel brings humanity to his character.  The other book I recommend is A Place of Greater Safety which follows three of the main protagonists of the French Revolution,Georges Jaques Danton, Maximilien Robspierre and Camille Desmoulins, as they come into power in this tumultuous period of history.


C J Sansom.

C J Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake books are one of my favourite series historical fiction.  Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer during the reign of of Henry VIII, and with his assistant Jack Barrack, seem to be involved in cases that pit them against some of England’s most powerful courtiers.  The story lines are well thought out and always keep your interest with their twists and turns, and intrigue of the court and the development of the characters over the books is brilliant. There are six books in the series; Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation, Heartstone and Lamentation.


Philippa Gregory.

Philippa Gregory has written many historical books about the Plantagenet and Tudor Kings and Queens.  Personally, I prefer the Cousins War series about which follows the monarchy from Edward IV to Henry VIII.  She looks at the important women in the kings’ lives and really brings them to the fore.  Again her historical research and detail is brilliant.  I love history and knew a lot about the Tudor dynasty, but not much about the Plantagenets, but after reading these books I have learnt so much and in an enjoyable way.  If you look on line you can get details of her books in order.


Tracy Chevalier.

Tracy Chevalier has written some brilliant historical novels, but is most famous for Girl with a Pearl Earring. There are a lot of strong female leads in her books, and she writes on varied subjects; Remarkable Creatures looks at women and science in nineteenth century, Falling Angels looking at attitudes to women and death in Victoria/Edwardian England; The Last Runaway, follows a young woman who emigrates to America from Dorset in 1850.  These are just a couple of her many books, all of which are compelling reads, full of detail and wonderful characters.


Ken Follett.

Ken Follett has written many historical novels from many different periods; from World War II to the Victorian era.  His series, The Century Trilogy is a best seller and follow families, from different backgrounds from the beginning of the twentieth century up to present times.  My favourite series is the Knightsbridge books, Pillars of the Earth, World Without End,and the eagerly anticipated A Column of Fire, which I will review next week.   These books follow the building of Knightsbridge Cathedral, starting in the twelfth century in Pillars of the Earth, then the story picks up in the fourteenth century in World Without End and finally to the sixteenth century in A Column of Fire.  The plot follows descendants of the the original families as we follow the growth of the cathedral and Knightsbridge as a town.


Sarah Dunant.

Sarah Dunant is best known for her series of books set in Renaissance Italy.  Her books are set in Rome, Blood and Beauty, In the Name of the Family, Florence The Birth of Venus, Venice, In the Company of the Courtesan and Ferrara Sacred Hearts.  It was reading The Birth of Venus that finally made me decide to study for my degree in Art History.  Sarah Dunant’s writing is brilliantly detailed, and researched, almost like the paintings described in some of her books.


Marina Fiorato.

Marina Fiorato has written seven historical fiction novels the majority set in Italy.  The Madonna of the Almonds is a story about the history of amaretto liqueur, The Daughter of Sienna introduces the Italian tradition of The Palio and Beatrice and Benedick tells the story of the protagonists of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing telling the story of the lovers and their break up.  These are just a few of her books, but all are descriptive, immersive and utterly compelling.


C. W. Gortner

C. W. Gortner has written historical fiction about some of histories most formidable women; Isabella of Castile, Lucrezia Borgia, Catherine de Medici, Juana, daughter of King Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and Coco Chanel.  He has also written a series of historical thrillers set in the Tudor period.  His writing really makes these historical figures accessible, and brings the sights, smells and atmosphere of the period to life.


Dorothy Dunnett.

I was introduced to Dorothy Dunnett by my Art History tutor when I was studying at the Open University.  Dorothy Dunnett has written two sets of books. the Legendary Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolo which are the series I have read.  The reason they were recommended was that the Niccolo series are set in Renaissance Europe, a key period to my degree.  There is a large cast of characters, both fictional and real, which are listed at the beginning of the books so you can reference when reading.  The research and detail in these books are superb, and they cover not just Italy but France, England, Scotland, and the Far East so the reader gets to see how different the culture was in the different countries during this period.  There are eight books in the series, covering the years between 1460 – 1483 and follow Nicholas de Fleury, a boy of uncertain birth, who rises to the heights of European banking and international political intrigue.


Jude Morgan.

Jude Morgan has again picked real historical characters and weaved a fictional story around them based on actual occurrences.  One of my favourite books by him is Passion which interweaves the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats, whose stories are told by the women who love them.  His other books look at the lives of Harriet Smithson, the wife of Hector Berlioz, Symphony, The Bronte Sisters, The Taste of Sorrow, James, Duke of Monmouth who was the illegitimate son of Charles II, The Kings Touch, and William Shakespeare in The Secret Life of William Shakespeare. Jude Morgan excels in bringing these characters to life and introducing a side to them that we may not know about.



I hope I have inspired some of you to try a book by one of these fabulous authors.










 A Life in Books with Richard Valanga.





Today I welcome author Richard Valanga to my blog to discuss A Life in Books.  Richard’s latest book Complex Hell has just been published.

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I have been writing now for nine years now and I have four books published – Complex Heaven, Complex Hell, Complex Shadows and Blind Vision (a Young Adult novel.) I also have Blood Miracle and The Sunderland Vampire published on Wattpad.    I was working on the third book in my Blood Miracle trilogy when I was nearly killed in a road accident, there was no crash but I was one second away from certain death. This brush with death gave me the idea for Complex Heaven which I describe as an autobiographical ghost story as I am the main character narrating the story.

Complex Hell developed from an unfinished storyline in Complex Heaven and is the conclusion to the story of the young girl called Rose. The story is set in Washington.

Complex Shadows is the third book in the series and explains why my family becomes entangled with the evil Dark Conscious. The second part of the book contains wartime memoirs of my father Charles who fought in Burma during World War Two. The hellish war experiences of my father become crucially integral to the complex story-line .

I am currently working on a paranormal murder mystery set in Rome and also the sequel to Blind Vision.

I was interviewed recently by the radio station Bishop FM and I currently have two book signings arranged in Sunderland: Sunderland Community Library 30 September 11am-1pm: Sunderland City Library 31 October 2.30pm.


What was your favourite book from childhood?

My favourite childhood books were books about the Norse and Greek myths which I would go and get myself from the library. These stories really resonated with my youthful imagination and also with Stan Lee’s I guess with The Mighty Thor. My future as a Marvel fan was sealed.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

As a teenager I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a book called The Psycho (I think) which was a very sinister, psychological read. I have looked for this book for years.


What was you favourite book you studied at school?

At school I did not enjoy any of the exam books but now I understand that Grapes of Wrath is a classic.


810F8J8tY7LWhat is your favourite classic book?

My favourite classic book would probably be Dracula or maybe Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Great Expectations. Dracula is a rich gothic delight and like Frankenstein, a story that was ahead of its time probably.


What would you consider to be one of the best books you have read in the last five years?

One of the best books that I have read recently is the Man Booker prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. I read this as research for my novel Complex Shadows and enjoyed it immensely. Flanagan is an amazing author and his descriptive prowess in this story is unbelievable. Life of Pi by Yann Martel was amazing too I think I should add.


What book do you think you should read but never get around to?

Books I should read would probably include more by Murakami or Jack Kerouac, On the Road or maybe something by Charles Bukowski, I do have Ham on Rye.


What is your favourite book?41Z+O158W0L

My favourite book? This is a hard question – I loved Stephen King’s recent time travel epic 11/22/63 and The Narrow Road to the Deep North but Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice was an amazing read.


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

I usually do try and stick with a book once started; I do not recall ever bailing out on a book but I suppose I must have, maybe that is why I do not remember them.


51fpAJ3zoHLIf you were stranded on a desert island which two books would you take?

Memnoch the Devil is a great theological epic full of mystery and questions, so that might keep my belief alive that someone would answer my prayers and rescue me from the desert island. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about survival in the most desolate of situations so I guess that would keep my spirits and hopes alive on the island too. It is also a love story so I would probably imagine that someone was waiting for me, a reason to survive.


Kindle or Book?

Book, hands down, pages open – I stare at the computer screen enough when typing up my own stories.


Richard’s books are available to buy now.


The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley




Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her father, the elusive billionaire, Pa Salt, who adopted Star and her five sisters.  After his death he left each sister a clue and a set of co-ordinates to their heritage.  Star, keen to step out of the shadow of her sister, CeCe, starts her search and is lead to an antiquarian book shop in London.

A hundred years earlier Flora McNichol leads a happy life in the Lake District looking after her animals and being outdoors and living near her idol Beatrix Potter.  When circumstances change she is thrown into London Society and the home of  one of London’s most notorious players, Alice Keppel, Flora finds herself a pawn in a game that she has no control over.  As the truth comes out, Flora finds answers to questions she has been asking her whole life.

As Star learns more about Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of her sister’s shadow and opening herself to the possibility of love.



The Shadow Sister is the third book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters novels, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and this didn’t disappoint.  Star, is the quietest of the sisters, she has a very close relationship with her sister CeCe, and in this book we see her come into her own.  I always love a book with a dual plot line of past and present, I find it keeps my interest, and make me read faster as I want to find out what happens next on each story line.  In the past we are privy to the contrasting life of Flora, from the sublime nature of the Lake District, to the elegant drawing rooms and society of London, and in particular to the salon of Alice Keppel, mistress of King Edward VII.  Lucinda Riley is brilliant in her writing and bringing both contrasting parts of England to life. In the present the story follows Star in her search for her heritage and how that I turn makes her blossom as an individual and begin to see her potential and live her own life.

Lucinda Riley introduces us to a wonderful cast of characters, both factual and fictional, and all well developed.  There are no surplus characters, all contribute to the plot and the life of both Star and Flora McNichol, and help to show their character and its development.  Star and her sisters are like fairytale characters being brought up on the Island they refer to as Atlantis, and they have lived a life of privilege, but Lucinda Riley is   clever in her writing by making the sisters all seem real and very likeable; they endear themselves to the reader.   I also found Flora an interesting character; intelligent, strong, and ahead of her time.  I admired that she had principles and stuck to them, even if that meant she had to make sacrifices to her own happiness. The wider cast of characters, bring a variety of emotions to the fore and really enhance the book; the eccentric bookshop owner Orlando, his troubled brother Mouse, the delightful Rory, as well as the factual characters of Alice Keppel, Edward VII and Beatrix Potter.


A common theme in all these books is the importance of family, whether that be your biological family or the one your were brought up in, like the sisters who were brought up by their adopted father Pa Salt.  I have to say I admire how Lucinda Riley keeps track of all the different story lines that crossover in these books, it really is a testament to her writing skills, as is her ability to grab your attention and keep it.  I should warn you that this is a very immersive book, it literary makes time fly and is very hard to put down.  There are plenty of twists and turns in both Star and Flora’s story as the mystery of their connection comes to its conclusion to keep you guessing.  The Shadow Sister is a captivating read, full of emotion and detail that will take your breath away.  I really can’t praise this, and the others in the series, they truly are my favourite series at the moment, a superb read.

I have previously reviewed The Seven Sisters and The Storm Sister so please take a look in my archives, you can search on my blog.

In October I am privileged to be reviewing The Pearl Sister the fourth in the series and I have an exclusive interview with Lucinda Riley so keep your eyes on my blog.















Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech.





Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…



Maria in the Moon is a beautiful book in so many different ways; plot, writing, characters, ambiance.  The book follows Catherine Maria as she tries to recall what happened when she was nine years old, and why she can’t remember it.  This book deals with some very dark and difficult topics that are treated with great empathy and understanding.  Louise Beech has a beautiful and lyrical writing style that really engages the reader, drawing them into the story and capturing their attention.  The plot is unique in its subject matter, the journey of a woman trying desperately to understand why she is the way she is and why she can’t remember her ninth year.  It is a difficult and hard to read at times, full of raw emotion, but there is also quite a bit of humour bringing a nice balance to the book.

There is not a large cast of characters which I liked and found very fitting to this book.  The characters themselves are varied, flawed and very realistic.  The main character, Catherine, seems to be on a path of self destruction, she is very troubled and has problems with relationships.  Her relationship with her mother is difficult, they rub each other up the wrong way and are hurtful to each other.  Catherine wants a mothers love but there seems to be a barrier and they are both caustic in there comments to each other.  She also has problems committing to a romantic relationships.  She pushed her ex boyfriend away and instead opts for more casual relationships where she doesn’t use her real name.  I feel that her work at the Flood Crisis Helpline is a metaphor for Catherine’s life, she is at a crisis point herself, there is a growing distance between her and her mother, she has broken up with her boyfriend, argues with her best friend, she is on a downward spiral.  She has a flood of emotions that she can’t put her finger on and have come to the fore after she had to leave her home after the floods.  It is in her relationship with Christopher that she starts to change, he is the catalyst that helps her remember her past, and start to move on.

A theme that runs through the book is the use of names; wether it is your real name or a made up name.  For Catherine, it is the drop of the Maria that hurts her, she can’t remember why she was no longer a Catherine Maria and feels that she changed when she was known only as Catherine.  At the crisis centre she is known as Katrina, and it is under that name that she has the confidence to start a relationship with Christopher.  She has always used the term mother, rather than mum, for her mother, a more formal term that gives insight to their relationship.  It is the same with her boyfriends; Billy she called Will, even though he didn’t like it, and although Christopher is called Chris by friends she prefers to use Christopher. In contrast she refers to her step-dad as dad, less formal and more endearing.  Names are also used to annoy, Catherine doesn’t get on with her step-sister Celine and calls her Sharleen to annoy her.  Her aunt Mary is referred to as aunt hairy, but not in a nasty way.  Names can change who we are and how we are seen, all smoke and mirrors as are parts of Catherine’s life.

Maria in the Moon is a wonderful novel, it is poignant, heartfelt and utterly compelling.  A real page turner, that will leave you with a book hangover, I highly recommend this book.














A Life in Books with Sheila Howes


This evening I welcome fellow blogger and Geordie Sheila Howes to my blog to talk about A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m Sheila, I’m 36 and I’m a housewife in Newcastle upon Tyne! I love to read mysteries and thrillers and occasionally branch out to other genres such as non-fiction and YA. When I’m not reading, I like to travel, eat out and I’m a cinema buff too!


What was you favourite book from childhood?51iXpvyAaFL

I don’t remember having a specific favourite book as such, but Enid Blyton was my favourite author. My favourite series were The Faraway Tree and the St Claires school series.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I discovered a passion for crime in my teenage years. I mostly remember reading Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express is still one of my favourites.


710K7ND+mIL When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?
I actually wasn’t all that keen on the books that we studied at school. The one I remember reading and enjoying the most was actually a play – The Crucible, by Arthur Miller.


 What is your favourite classic book?

I’ve never really been a reader of classics – apart from what we were forced to read at school. The only potential classic I can remember reading and enjoying was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.


What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 51u7YQZ7aOLyears?

I’ve only been keeping a record for about 3 years! Whilst I only gave it a 4* review, I would say the one that keeps coming back to me is The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. It’s not the type of book I would normally read, but I really identified with most of the characters. It does have some big philosophical ideas though, which I struggled with.


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

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. People rave about it, and it’s still sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I’m slightly bothered it will take me forever to read. As I said earlier, I’m not particularly literary outside crime fiction!


51hXrV+sccLWhat is your favourite book?

I have two – Murder on the Orient Express and Harry Potter (again the entire series, not one particular).


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

I very rarely do not finish books, but there have been one or two I haven’t finished. The last one which stands out was Alex by Pierre Lemaitre. I was meant to be reading it with my book groups but it was far too gory for me – more horror than crime!


If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with 514I8+uoPbLyou

Am I allowed my two favourites? If not, I would choose two books that I haven’t yet read as they have only recently come out – Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staakesen and The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indriðason.


Kindle or Book?
I do prefer books. Having something solid in your hands, something the author can sign. However, since taking up blogging I’ve started to use my Kindle a lot more.


You can read Sheila’s re views on her blog  www.thequietgeordie.wordpress.com

Twitter @thequietgeordie

Facebook Sheila Howes



The Blood of Kings by Angela King




1559. A girl arrives in London to search for her brother. Aalia, an awkward, arrogant teenager plans to bring William to his senses, until she discovers that both their lives are based on a lie. Aalia must unravel a web of secrets but has the weight of her past to contend with. Courageous and undisciplined, Aalia gradually comes to terms with the truth that William, her brother, has royal blood. Deciding to undermine the men who want to use him as a pawn, Aalia must negotiate a world where secrecy arms the powerful. But unwilling to ask for anyone’s help she is forced into making a fateful decision. Who can she trust when everyone around her is plotting? Is the truth really something worth dying for?

This epic story of secrets and betrayal paints a vivid picture of Elizabethan England and asks questions that span beyond the test of time.



Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres so I was very excited to be asked to be part of the blog tour for The Blood of Kings.  I was gripped by the plot from the first page, everyone likes a conspiracy of a boy who could be King.  I like the fact that Angela King did use a completely fictional story line rather than go over historical conspiracy theories that have mooted around for years; the princes in the tower, and Perkin Warbeck who was believed to be one of the missing princes.  Angela really brings Elizabethan London to life with her descriptive writing; we are taken through the busy wharf, to the gardens where bear baiting takes place, the rowdy inns, the Palace at Greenwich and even to Northern England and Scotland where tensions run high after the death of the King of France and the rising star of Mary Queen of Scots.  This really is a history lesson in a novel.

The characters are as colourful as the descriptions of London.  There is a real mix of cultures represented, Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and also a mix of fictional and real characters.  One of my favourite characters was Aalia, she was feisty, headstrong, was very good with a knife, yet had the voice of an angel.  Throughout the book she managed to charm nearly everyone she met, but she was no fool.  There was a mystery about her, we never find out her parentage, although hints are dropped in the story.

I did however find the story confusing in parts.  There are a lot of characters introduced and I don’t think there was enough explanation as to who they were in some cases.  In the very first chapter there are myriad of characters introduced with little information as to who they were, just lots of names which put me off slightly, I found I had to keep going back and checking.  In several places the characters were at times named by their title and then later by their christian name; Lord Scythan then referred to as Simon. The same goes for the organisation of St Thomas, a sort of trading company, an integral part of the plot but again little real detail about who they are and what they do.  I felt there was a lot of room for characters and plot to be developed, which would have added to the enjoyment of the book.  I also felt that the story was a bit flat and slow in parts, I think the balance of the book needed to be readdressed.

Having said all this I did enjoy The Blood of Kings and Angela King’s writing.  It was full of secrets and intrigue to keep your attention,  descriptive writing to draw you in and characters you will feel you know by the end of the book.