A Life in Books with Tracey Sinclair

img_0921

This evening I welcome author Tracy Sinclair to my blog to discuss A Life in Books.

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m a freelance writer, author and editor, born and raised in Newcastle but now living by the sea in Brighton. I write across all genres and have written for magazines, websites, stage and screen!

 

 What was your favourite book from childhood?81o2Xe99lzL

I read voraciously as a child so it would be hard to narrow it down to just one, but I did adore The Phantom Tollbooth. I was also obsessed with superhero comics, like The X-Men.

 

What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I never really had a sense of reading ‘age appropriate’ books, so I devoured pretty much everything I could get my hands on, though I particularly loved sci-fi (the Harry Harrison Stainless Steel Rat books were a favourite). The only ‘teenage’ books I remember reading were S E Hinton’s The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, which I loved.

 

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

I honestly can’t remember from school, but I did love Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad when I read it in college.

 

51va2zQsh2LWhat is your favourite classic book?

A tie between several of Jane Austen’s (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion), Ford Maddox Ford’s The Good Soldier, and Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which I liked so much I named one of the characters in Dark Dates after the author!

 

 

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

Gosh, that’s a tough one: I read a lot of books! This year I have been impressed with the thriller the Roanoke Girls, and last year my book of the year was Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, which is exquisite.

 

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

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It’s just so long…

 

 What do you consider to be your favourite book?512C21D+0HL

Alongside the classics listed above: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and probably a handful of Terry Pratchett books. But too many to narrow down!

 

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

Oh, loads. Life is too short to read a book you’re not enjoying: I regularly DNF stuff that isn’t clicking with me unless someone whose opinion I respect has told me to stick with it. I’ve also abandoned plenty of classics because I was bored: Crime and Punishment and anything by Joyce, for starters!

 

61tpaSrlRQLIf you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

The Guards and the Witches Discworld compilations (Terry Pratchett) as they are my go-to comfort reads.

 

Kindle or Book?

Depends on the circumstances. I download a ton of books onto Kindle and like the accessibility and ease (as well as the fact that sometimes cheaper downloads make me take a chance on a book or author I might not otherwise try) but I also love a paper book, especially a nice hardback or something with a lovely cover. Nothing beats browsing in a bookshop or second-hand bookstore and finding something unexpected. I hate snobbery around it, though: I find the whole Kindle-vs-paper argument tedious – they’re all books!

 

Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her books include the romcom The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series, the latest of which, Angel Falls, is out now.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-Falls-Cassandra-Bick-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01AMOGRBY
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bridesmaid-Blues-Tracey-Sinclair-ebook/dp/B00M83Y3VO/
www.darkdates.org
@thriftygal
www.facebook.com/darkdates

Don’t Stop Me Now by Colleen Coleman

IMG_1727

📖📖📖📖

Synopsis

Poppy Bloom has her future mapped out.  After completing her PhD in Psychology she is expected to get a fellowship to stay at Banbridge University, and move into one of the little cottages on site with her boyfriend.  However, she now finds herself unemployed, living back at home with her mum and step-dad, sleeping in her childhood bedroom, and questioning her future.

After Poppy meets her old childhood friend, Leanne, and her brother Tom her life begins to change; she joins Leanne’s netball team, gets an internship at the local radio station, and realises there is more to life than academia; and spending time with Tom is a bonus.

As Poppy negotiates her way through her new life she has to consider where her priorities lie, and can she juggle new friends, romance and a new career or will she end up back where she starred, unemployed and back living at home.

 

Review

After having a bad time with my spondylosis I needed a book that was light hearted, easy to read, had a good plot and had humour and a feel good factor;  Don’t Stop Me Now ticked all those boxes.  I really enjoyed following Poppy’s story, as she negotiated life away from university and deals with the ‘real’ world that she has been sheltered from.

Colleen Coleman’s writing brings the characters and their dilemmas to life.  I would imagine that there are, and have been, may people who have had Poppy’s problem of leaving the world of academia at the age of twenty nine, and having to navigate their way through every day life, unemployment, living back at home and realising that whilst they have been studying their old friends are now married with children, have been working for ten years and own their own homes.  I really admired Leanne’s strength of character, she has so much  motivation and is the tour de force of the netball team, whose camaraderie help Poppy find her feet and encourage her to move forward and have the confidence to move forward with her life.  As a reader you find yourself willing Poppy to make the right decisions, and take some of the advice she gives out to others as a psychologist.  There is a great cast of supporting characters as well, Poppy’s rock-star father, the ex cons who work with her mum at the hair salon, the diverse characters of the net ball team and the not so nice Harriet, her friend from university.  Poppy’s character is given a chance to shine in her interaction with these characters.

This is a well written novel, with a fast moving plot that is engaging and attention grabbing; you feel invested in Poppy’s story and are compelled to keep reading to see where the plot is taking her. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments in this book, but also some poignant moments as well.  Don’t Stop Me Now is a witty and heartwarming tale of self-belief, friendship, love and strong women.  An uplifting and inspiring read that will keep you entertained from start to finish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Walker and Jessica Fairfax on their collection of short stories Big Twists Little Tales.

 

fullsizeoutput_99

 

A Walk on the Fair Side

Carol Walker and Jessica Fairfax are working in collaboration and are celebrating their official launch of their anthology Big Twists Little Tales at Waterstones in Newcastle on the 11 October at 7pm. It is their first ever book launch. The evening will be centred around an interviewed by Newcastle’s own Dr Jacky Collins, Lecturer in European Fiction, Film & TV. Creator and Director of Newcastle Noir.

Carol and Jess first met two years ago while attending a writing group at their local library. Both had writing experience but wanted to meet likeminded people and build on their creative writing skills. With a willingness to learn they were sponges – soaking up everything the group had to offer. Reading out their stories each week they could see that they liked each other’s work and knew soon after meeting that they would work together. And that’s where they started.

The partnership is based on mutual respect and a shared love of murder, mystery, psychology and the paranormal. Basically, anything dark and twisty, including the humour.

They swiftly moved on to produce scripts together where they had great fun in the development stage.

Big Twists Little Tales is their first anthology, with twenty-three short stories and two poems – all of which are exactly what it says in the title, every tale has a twist. They don’t shy away from exploring the darker side of life, tackling subjects such as paedophilia, domestic abuse, stalking, drug use and murder.

How does it work? Good question!
There’s something that is just there; humour, life, values, experiences … there was something there that they both felt they could draw on and work with. So, they decided to give it a go. Everything fell into place when they sat down to write. It just clicked. They support and encourage each other but are each other’s critics as well.

Their individual backgrounds come into play. On paper, it possibly shouldn’t work but it does.
Jessica, originally from Lancashire, moved about a lot in her early years as her father was in the RAF. Her mother had various part time jobs while she was growing up. They settled in Surrey for her teenage years and she moved up to the North East in her mid-twenties, which she says was like coming home. She has a very different working background to Carol and has spent most of her working life in the public sector, with young offenders and with adults and children who needed support physically and/or emotionally. Jessica is also a trained teacher.

Carol is from the North East of England. Her father was a builder and a mother ran a number of different businesses, from a corner shop to a bed and breakfast as a landlady. Her parents were enterprising but struggled financially while she was growing up. On finishing college, she moved to London and worked as an Art Director in advertising agencies. Then she had a stint working in Edinburgh where as a Geordie she was jokingly accepted as an honorary Scot. Returning to the North East she became a lecturer in design and advertising before a move in to IT via internet development. Living on the coast she is back where she belongs.

What is different about working in a partnership?
Openness to discuss ideas is key. It’s a solid sounding board. Jessica and Carol spend time planning and plotting, developing and editing until eventually they might actually form a story. This is great fun, bouncing ideas around and bringing a storyline together.

Working in a team, a partnership made this creative journey less scary and they felt empowered to take risks together. They tell each other how it is, or how they see it and provide constructive criticism as they go. There are a lot of laughs with the rapport these two have but in development a kind of seriousness kicks in.

BIG TWISTS LITTLE TALES developed a bit at a time. Some of the stories Jess and Carol wrote together but they both had a back catalogue of short stories, which they wrote independent of each other. These were in a raw form and needed further development. This is where the fun began. They didn’t hold their thoughts, or punches. Luckily there were no major injuries but there were a few casualties. A couple of stories were cut and edited, as one or both of them, weren’t happy with how they were shaping up and others were brutally slashed and remain in a folder for another time!

The final cut of stories forms an eclectic mix. There really is something for everyone. A variety of writing styles has been adopted which suit the characters created. The stories are littered with twists and turns. Some are hard hitting and reflect the darker side of life such as The Moral Compass of Barnaby Grey, while others embrace the paranormal such as The Shrieking Woman.

There has been a mixed response to each story. Some people love the horror and the paranormal others like the pacey monologues. There is no dispute it is well written whatever the literary taste. This book is not for the faint hearted in any way and the thought provoking tales leave you wanting more. Already these princesses of darkness have been asked for a volume 2 and they are only just about to officially launched this volume!

 

The official launch of Big Twists Little Tales will be held at Waterstones in Newcastle from 7-9pm on the 11 October. The evening will be centred around an interview by Dr Jacky Collins, Lecturer in European Fiction, Film & TV. Creator and Director of Newcastle Noir. There will be the opportunity to have your book signed by Jessica Fairfax and Carol Walker. And there will be wine.
Everyone is welcome. Tickets are available at www.waterstones.com

Big Twists Little Tales is available in paperback and for kindle at www.Amazon.co.uk.

So, what’s next?
Jessica and Carol continue to work on scripts together – one which they may develop in to a book. They are both working on their own novels, individually but still take time regularly to discuss concepts, plots, direction and characterisation. Jessica’s novel is crime / horror. Carol’s novel is crime / psychological thriller. There are many more ideas in the pipeline at various stages of development. Jessica has a manuscript for a children’s book series out to publishers. Together they have a script out for consideration.

They can’t say they keep each other sane but the only thing better than working on projects you love on your own is working on them with your bestie, your partner in crime.

Book & book mark

 

A Life in Books with Isabella May

 

img_0921-1

This evening I welcome author Isabella May to Bookliterati to talk about A Life in Books.  Her debut novel Oh! What a Pavlova is available to buy now.

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I live in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with my husband, daughter and son. The move from the UK has been one of the best things we ever did; you cannot help but be creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains here. When I’m not having my cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying the children to and from after school activities, I can usually be found writing.
As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – I have also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to my other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).
Oh, and earlier this year I became a Book Fairy, and I’m having lots of fun coming up with imaginative ‘drops’!
Oh! What a Pavlova is my debut novel… and my second novel has already been submitted to my publishers: watch this space…

 

What was your favourite book from childhood?519deIw2jUL

I loved Enid Blyton and really wished I was a boarder at Mallory Towers. It just sounded like so much fun and games. I also devoured the Ladybird pocket books – especially anything featuring geography and travel, and had a real thing about Richard Scarry’s numerous characters, as well as Meg and Mog.

 

What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I will have to hang my head in shame at this question. As a teenager I was an incredibly lazy reader, far more into magazines, music (and boys!) than books.

 

41ot4orpsULWhen you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

I wish I could say that one of them stood out from the pack, but alas the syllabus was so uninspired and narrow. There was Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and then One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. If I went back to any of these now, I am sure they would engage. But between the ages of 13-16, they’re just not what most teenagers want to spend English lesson after English lesson pouring over! College however, was much more promising with the magic of The Little Prince putting in an appearance (in French).

 

What is your favourite classic book?

I am terrible with the classics, shamefully terrible for somebody who calls themselves an author. I have tried and tried but to no avail. The last one I recall finishing was Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and I did quite enjoy that. I must try again with another!

 

What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 51EVNIK0n-Lyears?

Jessie Burton’s The Muse. Perhaps I am biased as I live in the Andalucian province of Malaga where much of the story is set, but I don’t think so. How an author creates a work like that is a mystery. Poetry in motion, captivating characters, scene setting and plotting: a true work of art.

 

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

Ben Okri’s Starbook. I went to a talk given by Ben – as well as the super talented Joanne Harris – at the Gibraltar Literary Festival, and made a mental note to order his book which sounded just my cup of tea… almost three years later and I still haven’t got around to buying it! I will, Ben. I will!

 

51VFf7fdwTLWhat do you consider to be your favourite book ?

I have favourite books within genres but not a favourite overall book. It would take me too long to list them all here, you’d fall asleep! When it comes to satire though, Julian Fellowes wins hands down.

 

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

This has happened more than a few times. If I am not engaged quickly enough, I will move on, simply because there are so many books out there to read, and only so many hours to do that in! I wanted to love Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, recently. I tried and I tried but in the end it became one of those reads I’d put down after two pages… then have to start all over again. The momentum just wasn’t there for me. And yet Zadie is a fantastic writer. I love the way she nails characters. Nobody else does it quite as wonderfully. In the end I gave up and passed it on to my mum.

 

815pVPvj0NLIf you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

Being a Law of Attraction geek that would be one from Esther Hicks’ uplifting collection, and one of Pam Grout’s, probably Thank and Grow Rich (to help me appreciate my surroundings when I missed home!)

 

Kindle or Book?

Books every time: Hygge is books and books are hygge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett.

IMG_1594

  📖📖📖📖📖

Synopsis

Christmas 1558, and young Ned Willard returns home to Kingsbridge to find his world has changed.  The ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn by religious hatred.  Europe is in turmoil as high principles clash bloodily with friendship, loyalty and love, Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he longs to marry, Margery Fitzgerald.

Then Elizabeth Tudor becomes queen and all of Europe turns against England.  The shrewd, determined, young monarch immediately sees up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions and invasion plans.

Elizabeth know that alluring, headstrong Mary Queen of Scots lies in wait in Paris.  Part of a brutally ambitious French family, Mary has been proclaimed the rightful ruler of England, with her own supporters scheming to get rid of the new queen.

Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed, as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva.  With Elizabeth clinging precariously to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents, it becomes clear that real enemies – then as now – are not the rival religions.  The true battle pitched those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else – no matter the cost.

 

Review

A Column of Fire, is the third in the Kingsbridge series of books.  I read the previous two books, The Pillars of the Earth and  A World Without End, about four years ago and loved them, this third book had a lot to live up to.  I have to say this more than lived up to my expectations, there are not enough superlatives to describe this book; this is how historical fiction should be written, it is amazing.

It may be the third in the series but it can be read as a stand alone novel, as this book begins two hundred years after the second book finished.  In the first few pages there are references to characters from the previous books; Prior Philip, Tom Builder, Caris the nun and founder of Kingsbridge hospital and Merthin Fitzgerald who built the bridge, but this has no impact on the story.  I liked the mention of the previous characters, it had a comforting effect, like meeting old friends, and relaxed me in to the book, which is quite daunting at over one thousand pages long.

The narrative covers sixty two years, starting in 1558 and finishing in 1620, and follows Ned Willard’s life and work for the monarchy.  The time period covers many famous historical events, the French taking back Calais, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the rise and fall of Mary Queen of Scots, and the reign of three different English monarchs.  All this history and the size of the book may seem daunting but Ken Follett is such a talented author, in that he makes this such an easy book to read and follow.  His prose flows seamlessly, with outstanding attention to detail that drags you in and doesn’t let go.  We travel to Spain, France, the Netherlands, the New World and the descriptive writing brings to life the different smells, sounds, and sights of these very different countries.

As well as different locations there are a large cast of characters, both fictional and historical in this story.  Again, what I found impressive was that I never forgot who anyone was, all the characters were memorable and integral to the plot, but if you are worried Ken Follett has included a list of the characters and where they are from at the beginning, but I never used it.  The characters were larger than life, they jumped out of the page in a good way and this is why I think they stuck in my mind.  There was a verisimilitude to the characters, their emotions, place in society, their relationships all brilliantly written an applied to the narrative; by the end of the book I felt I knew them like life long friends, when in fact it was just the week it took to read.

A Column of Fire is a truly spectacular piece of historical fiction.  It covers all bases; a fantastic plot, believable characters and well written prose.  It has love, intrigue, war, subterfuge, family and political feuds and revenge.  All these combine to make this one of the most breathtaking books I have read.  If you enjoy historical fiction this is a must read, you will be blown away with this outstanding novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top Ten Literary Fiction Authors.

fullsizeoutput_c5

 

This is the second in my series of top ten authors.  Today I focus on what I call literary fiction authors, those who win industry awards like the Booker Prize, and the Costa Prize.  Please remember these are my personal choices and I am sure many of you will have different opinions, and I hope you share those with me.

Maggie O Farrell 

I first came across Maggie O Farrell when I read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which is such a beautiful story.  Since then I have gone on to read several of her other books and have never disappointed.  In 2010 she won the Costa Book Award for The Hand that First Held Mine,that follows the lives of two women fifty years apart, and looks at their roles as mothers.  As with all her books they are very evocative of the time they represent and deal with some difficult issues, I highly recommend her books.

 

Barbara Kingsolver.

I have been a huge fan of Barbara Kingsolver since I was given a copy of The Poisonwood  Bible to read by a friend.  The story is narrated by the wife and four daughters of an evangelical Baptist missionary Nathan Price, who takes his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959.  It is an eye opener of a story and the different perspectives of the women bring different aspects to the fore and make it a fascinating read a w follow their journey and how it effects them later in life.  Since then I have read The Lacuna looking at the McCarthy communist trials in 1950’s America and Flight Behaviour which looks at global warming.  Barbara’s books do not shy away from difficult topics, and she is a wonderful wordsmith making her books an engaging and fascinating read.

 

A S Byatt.

I am often asked to recommend to books to people and they always ask my favourite read.  It is hard to pick one book, but the one  always come back to is A S Byatt’s Possession.  It is a beautiful book, and combines the genres of thriller/mystery, romance and historical fiction.  It is set in the present where the main protagonists are trying to solve a literary mystery and in the nineteenth century where to two writers who are subject of the mystery fall in love with tragic consequences.  I don’t very ofter re read books, unless they are the classics, but Possession breaks that rule.  It is totally immersive as a read and will engage your full attention from start to finish, and it won the Booker Prize in 1990.  I have also read The Children’s Book set in late nineteenth century  England and the world of arts, crafts, and the Fabian Society and follows the family of writer Olive Wellwood.  I have also read her quartet of novels that follow the life of  character Frederica Potter; The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman.  

 

Ian McEwan.

Probably like many others I first picked up an Ian McEwan novel when Atonement was made into a film, and the book is a lot better than the film; I much prefer the ending to the book.  Since then I have read nearly all his books, he is a master story teller, and is expert at catching human emotions, and really bringing the reader in the plot making for an excellent reading experience.  Amsterdam won the Booker Prize in 1998 and I have to say it has one of the best endings to a book I  think have ever read.  His books have very emotive subject matters that will stay with you long after you have finished the book.  I highly recommend Saturday, Enduring Love and A Child in Time, which was adapted by the BBC and on our televisions at the weekend.

 

Donna Tartt.

Donna Tartt is only known for her three novels, The Secret History, The Little Friend and The Goldfinch.  I have read The Secret History and The Goldfinch and thoroughly enjoyed both.  They are both very long books and what comes across is Donna Tartt’s attention to detail and understanding of the human psyche.  I love her characterisation; she brings them to life with a real understanding of who they are.  A common theme in her books is social class, and the entitlement of the rich against the what those with no many stove for.  The narrative of both The Secret History and The Goldfinch take the viewpoint of the poorer character as we watch them navigate life and the situations they find themselves in.  Don’t be put off by the size of these books, you will be drawn in by the plot, characters and writing.  The Little Friend is on my ever growing pile of books to be read.

 

Rose Tremain.

Rose Tremain has written many books in different genres, and won a lot of awards for her writing.  I have read quite a few of her books but my favourites are Restoration and Merivel: A Man of His Time, which tells the story of Robert Merivel, a seventeenth century physician of Charles II and his dogs.  Rose’s characterisation and plot detail are brilliant, she brings the court of Charles II, with all its eccentricities, to life.  Another of my favourites is Trespass, which is a thriller set in France.  All her books are beautifully written, have interesting characters and plots that pull you in.

 

Sebastian Barry.

Sebastian Barry is writer of not only novels but plays and poetry.  His 2008 novel The Secret Scripture won the Costa Book of the year.  It is a haunting novel about the story of Roseanna McNulty, who has spent over fifty years in a Mental Hospital.  As Roseanne writes her biography, we hear her story of her childhood and how she ended up in the hospital.  This is a novel that still stays with me today, and I have recommended it to many people over the years.  The writing takes into account Roseanne’s age of one hundred, the language she would have used before she entered the hospital, this gives an honesty to the book, you believe that these journal entries are written  by Rosanna herself.  It is a real eye opener of a story, and looks at the ignorance of the times in Catholic Ireland.  He  latest book, Days Without End, about an Irish émigré who goes to Canada then America to escape the Great Famine, has won the 2016 Costa Book Award and 2017 Walter Scott Prize.

 

Kazu Ishiguro.

Kazu Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day will probably go down as a modern classic, and won the Booker Prize in 1989. The book is narrated by Stevens, a butler who has dedicated his life to his employer and job.  He reflects on his life and his relationship with former housekeeper, Miss Keaton.  It is a beautiful novel of missed chances and his loyalty to Lord Darlington.  I think this is probably the most famous of his books but for me, I prefer Never Let You Go.  This is a wonderful, yet haunting novel about a group of students growing up and coming to terms with their childhood and their future in an alternative England.   This is a book that once read will never leave you.

 

Zadie Smith.

Like Kazuo Ishiguro, Zadie Smith was included in Grants’s list of 20 of the best young authors, she was also included in the 2013 list.  White Teeth focuses on the later lives of two war tome friends, one English and one Bangladeshi, and looks at the relationship between the British and those from former colonised nations.  It won many awards and has been included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 best selling novels from 1923 to 2005.  I favour On Beauty about a mixed-race British/Amreican family living in the United States.  I found this an interesting book in its focus on what is beauty, the differences between cultures and in its value in liberal and academic families and life. It an insightful and in-depth read, showing Zadie Smith to be a skilful writer.  On Beauty won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006.  Her latest book Swing Time is on my very large TBR pile.

 

Colm Tóibín.

As well as being a novelist, Colm Tóibín is a short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet.  Earlier in the year I reviewed his latest book House of Names, which is beautiful retelling of the Greek Tragedy of Agamemmnon and The Curse of the House of Arteus.  This book has a lyrical quality to the prose, and brings to life the characters and their voices the narrative.  I studied Ancient History and love these ancient tales and Colm Tóibín skilfully makes this story accessible to today’s readers, and hopefully help keep these Greek Tragedies alive. Brooklyn won the Costa Award in 2009, and was named in the Observer as one of the ‘Ten Best Historical Novels” Over the years he has received many accolades and prizes for his writing, both for his fiction and non-fiction works.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my top ten literary fiction authors.  Please let comment or tell me on social media some of your favourite literary authors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Life in Books with Tony Forder.

img_0921-1

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.
Tony.

 

fullsizeoutput_99

 

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.

51iVuBmNGzL

A Life in Books with Rita Wilkinson

img_0921-1

 

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.

fullsizeoutput_ad

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.

 

IMG_1187

 

The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton.

IMG_1616

📖📖📖📖

 

Synopsis

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.

 

Review

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.