Monday, June 12, 2017

Widdershins Blog Tour The Books That Made Me


As part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Helen Steadman's first novel I asked Helen to tell me about some of her favourite books as part of my new series The Books that Made Me. Helen responded with three of her favourites from her teenage years and insists that she must have been a contrary young reader as they are rather surprising choices for a writer of historical fiction, nonetheless as the wonderful Meg Ryan said in You've Got Mail "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does" So on with the books.

The Books Made Me: Helen Steadman The Teenage Years

1984 by George Orwell
‘Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.’
This was the most striking book I had ever read, and I don’t think any other book has ever had the same effect on me since. It was the first time I’d read a book underpinned by such enormous ideas. Sinister concepts like thoughtcrime and newspeak were terrifying, as was the totalitarian setting. This book made me think about the world in a different way. It should be compulsory reading for everyone.
Mort by Terry Pratchett
‘Alligator sandwich,’ he said. ‘And make it sna—’
One Saturday afternoon, I found a Discworld book lying in a puddle of beer in the Haymarket, a much-missed Newcastle watering hole. I was a bit bored, and it didn’t seem appropriate to whip out my knitting, so I read the book. It was hilarious and I was immediately hooked on Terry Pratchett. Of all his books, I have a soft spot for Mort, because I love Death as a sandwich artist. Finally, I owe Terry Pratchett because it was in his Discworld books that I first heard the word ‘widdershins’.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
‘Man, when you lose your laugh, you lose your footing.’
This book broke my heart when I first read it because it was so shocking that people should suffer like this, and it was my first real inkling of there being such a thing as mental illness. Beyond the shocking and upsetting subject matter, though, was Kesey’s writing. It was unlike anything I’d ever read previously, making me feel as though I was inside the head of someone mentally ill. He also captured language perfectly, so it felt very real and immediate.


In case you missed my review of Helen's outstanding book you can find it HERE

Thanks so much to Helen for taking part in The Books That Made Me 
Helen's book is published by Impress Books and thanks to Natalie for an early reading copy
The blog tour continues details below.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan Blog tour


Spandex and the City is the second novel from Jenny T Colgan, the pen-name of bestselling and award winning romance writer Jenny Colgan. It's a fairly flimsy disguise especially as the author's lovely, smiling face adorns the back of the book and I'm guessing there are two reason Ms Colgan is hiding her science fiction alter-ego in plain sight; firstly because she is utterly unashamed of her passion for and interest in stories about superheroes and time travelling doctors and secondly because she wants you to try her delightful genre mash-up and admit that you like it too. I am a big fan of science fiction, fantasy, comics, superheroes and romance so the idea of this book really intrigued me. It's a bit like Bridget Jones falling in love with Superman and it's as wild, funny and laugh out loud as that description sounds.
Holly Phillips is hungry for a job in journalism she wants to write about exciting things, but for now she's working in the PR section of the Mayor of Centreton's office writing boring press releases about subway repairs and traffic disruption. One Friday night while clubbing with best friend Gertie she is rescued from a villain by the city's resident superhero Ultimate Man and throwing her over his shoulder he exposes her underwear to the world. Just hours later her image has gone viral and she's become "Panties Girl". Holly just hopes that interest will die down and that'll be the end of it but as an evil super villain tries to attack Centreton again and again Holly just can't help bumping into Ultimate Man and before she knows it, they are on a date, well sort of.
This is a delightful and funny romantic comedy which has some deep moments and some truly laugh out loud moments. I really loved it. Jenny T. Colgan is a smart, sassy writer who knows her genres and yet breaks all the rules to create something new. If you've wondered how Lois Lane puts up with being Superman's girl and all the drama that entails then you'll love Holly's story. Perfect for fans of Superheroes, contemporary romance and Doctor Who.
Available now from Orbit in paperback. Thanks to Clara Diaz for a copy of the book and a chance to take part in the Blog tour.




Monday, May 15, 2017

Madwoman in the Attic #6 Frances Power Cobbe


Frances Power Cobbe was born on December 4th 1822 at her family's estate at  Newbridge House in North Dublin. Her family were strongly evangelical in their faith but Frances began to question conventional religious belief and after her mother's death in 1847 she stopped attending church services. In 1855 she published Essay on Intuitive Morals setting out her own belief on religion and ethics. This caused a rift with her father and she left home permanently soon after. Frances travelled extensively in the years that followed and published Italics (1864) about her travels in Italy. She became involved with the Ragged Schools movement in Bristol and her time working with poor, sick and unemployed women fueled her interest in women's rights. She wrote a number of pamphlets and essays on women's education and women's suffrage, campaigning for assault to be grounds for separation. She was a leading member of the National Society for Women's Suffrage. In the 1870s she focused mostly on her campaigns against vivisection and was a founding member of both the National Anti-Vivisection Society and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.
A regular contributor to a number of magazines and periodicals she also wrote an autobiography published in 1894. Frances lived with her lifelong partner the sculptor Mary Lloyd from 1860 until Lloyd's death in 1896. They are buried together at Llanlltyd in Wales were they lived most of their lives.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser



Song of the Current is the debut novel by Sarah Tolcser and it's a thrill a minute tale of river girl Caro and the cargo she must carry to Valonikas. The cargo however turns out to be a snotty, aristocratic although admittedly rather handsome boy. Chased by the Black Dogs Caro soon discovers that the boy is more than just a hindrance aboard her ship, he's much more important than he's letting on and by taking him upriver and being chased by Black Dogs she is endangering all their lives. I really, really enjoyed enjoyed this immersive and romantic fantasy tale. There is a diverse cast, lots of strong women and a great deal of witty rejoinders. Not to mention adventure on the high seas, battles, bullet wounds and dastardly magicians to contend with. A thrilling and fantastic debut. Aimed at the 14+ age range it will appeal to fans of Sarah J Maas, Laini Taylor, V. E. Schwab and Marissa Meyer.  Published in June by Bloomsbury Kids. Thanks to LoveReading for a copy. 

Widdershins by Helen Steadman

Currently Reading


Widdershins by Helen Steadman is based on the Newcastle Witch trials of 1650. Very little is known of the event other than a list of names of those who were executed, and even that is disputed. With so little information it was a subject ripe for fiction and Helen Steadman has delivered a truly compelling and thrilling tale. Divided into two narratives; Scotsman John Sharp and apprentice healer English girl Jane Chandler are the fictional creations who become entangled in this all too tragic occurence. The 1650s were a time when puritan values took hold, when pastors preached fire and brimstone and the evils of the flesh and neighbour turned against neighbour. The depth of Helen's research is immediately apparent. This book is a treasure trove of the cunning woman's knowledge of herbs and healing, birth and death. (Image courtesy of publisher Impress Books)


Jane learns how to make infusions and syrups from a young age. She knows the right berries to pick and the right time to pick them. She doesn't think there is anything sinister in the salves and tinctures that she makes. Her mother makes them too as did her grandmother before her as does their neighbour old Meg. However this is a time of change when old superstitions start to become something else, something darker. Meg upbraids Jane for falling asleep beneath the elder tree in case she is snatched away by the little folk but around the same time John Sharpe is a witness to the trial of Kirstie Slater who is accused of picking bewitched fruit from the elder tree in the kirkyard in order to commune with the devil even Meg refers to the elder as the witch tree. Helen Steadman has placed her story just at the point where the old ways are being scorned and the Puritan ideal is taking hold. The research here is stunning and the story telling is compelling. Jane is a wonderful lively narrator and she grows from wild young girl to wise young mother while John crushed by cruelty early in life grows darker and crueler with time. This is essential reading for anyone with an interest in history particularly the history of the North East of England, the history of medicine, women's history and witchcraft in general. I cannot wait to see what Helen writes next. If you are a fan of Beth Underdown's The Witch Finder's Sister then you need to read this book. I would also recommend it to fans of Karen Maitland, Diana Gabaldon, Nicola Cornick and Hannah Kent. It is excellent. Thanks so much to Natalie at Impress Books for the chance to read an early copy. Widdershins will be published in July. 

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Learn more about Helen at her excellent website    http://helensteadman.com/

Friday, May 12, 2017

More new books to be excited about in 2017

2017 is proving to be an absolutely top notch year for books. Not only are there new books on the way from some of my favourite historical fiction authors Bernard Cornwell, Ken Follett, Hazel Gaynor and Diana Gabaldon as well as new books from fantasy authors Philip Pullman, Celine Kiernan, Frances Hardinge and Ilka Tampke there are all of these lovelies to look forward to also.

Just Published 


The bestselling author of The Bees returns with a powerful environmental thriller about friendship and obsession. Perfect for fans of Rosamund Lupton and Peter May. Out now 4th Estate.


Lucy Atkins third novel features a TV historian, a Victorian diary and a web of secrets and lies. This sounds just amazing. Out now Quercus Books


Rebecca Mascull has just released her third novel and it features women pilots in Edwardian England and the Great War. I am really looking forward to reading this. Out Now from Hodder Books. For fans of Katherine Webb and Helen Dunmore.



A new book from Carol Goodman always makes me sit up and take notice and this one seems intriguing as it features a spooky, possibly haunted house in the Hudson Valley, which is having a menacing impact on the couple who have taken it on. This is out now from William Morrow. Goodman is a must read for fans of Gothic thrillers.

Coming in June




The second book from Irish author of YA fiction Moira Fowley-Doyle. Rose, Ivy, Hazel and Rowan hope that a mysterious spellbook will help to find the things they have lost; big and small but slowly they begin to wonder if its actually revealing secrets that were never meant to be told. Out on June 1st from Corgi Children's part of PRH. 


The new novel from Rowan Coleman features Luna; a young woman reeling from the impact of her mother's death. Somehow Luna is transported back to 1977 and meets her mother as a young woman. Can she save her from suicide? I have heard wonderful things about this novel which is being called spellbinding and heart-breaking. Out on 29th June from Ebury Press (PRH)



The companion to This Savage Song brings V.E. Schwab's Monsters of Verity series to a thrilling and high-octane conclusion. Out on June 13th from Titan Books.


Coming in July



Image result for the midnight queen sylvia izzo hunter

The first book in the Midnight Queen trilogy is released in paperback this summer. It features an alternative 19th Century England fully of myth, magic and intrigue. It's ideal for fans of Susanna Clarke, Genevieve Cogman and V.E. Schwab. (Alison & Busby)


Image result for corpselight by angela slatter

The second book in Angela Slatter's Verity Fassbinder series is coming this July and I cannot wait. I adored the first book about Verity's adventures. Verity is a paronormal investigator with a difference. For fans of Lisa Tuttle, Jim Butcher and Ben Aaronovitch. Read my review of the first book HERE

Coming in August


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First and foremost I have to mention this book by the brilliant Hazel Gaynor. It will be published by William Morrow Books in the US and Canada in August but fans on this side of the Atlantic will have to wait a little longer. There will be a special early edition for Ireland in September and a paperback for the UK next March. (Harper Collins) I actually feel like I have been waiting for this book for so long as I read about it in the Bookseller when Hazel signed the deal for this book. This will be Hazel's fourth novel and is the tale of the sisters who convinced the world that they had photographed fairies in their garden. Hazel is a wonderful writer her books are the ultimate comfort read. This is a story I cannot wait to explore. 


Image result for the strange case of the alchemists daughter

Taking inspiration from some classic horror and science fiction this book features Mary Jekyll on the hunt for clues to her father's past. She seeks the aid of Holmes and Watson and crosses paths with women who are the creations of a secret society of power crazed scientists. It sounds utterly thrilling and will be released by Saga Press NY in August

Image result for the witch of wayside cross

The second book in Lisa Tuttle's dazzling new paranormal crime series sees Jesperson and Lane travel to Norfolk to investigate the curious death of Mr Manning and the strange shrieking pits. I am really looking forward to revisiting these characters and just look at that cover. Read my review of the first in the series HERE  (August Jo Fletcher Books)

Image result for the eye of the north sinead o'hart

A thrilling debut from an Irish author about a young girl kidnapped and taken to the icy north. This looks perfect for fans of Abi Elphinstone and Emma Carroll. From Alfred A Knopf in August. 


and Finally coming this September 

Image result for a skinful of shadows

A new book from Frances Hardinge. Yay. All I needed to hear about this were the words dark historical tale. This is set during the English Civil War and features a family cursed to carry the souls of seven ancestors.  Makepeace Felmotte inherits not only those angry men but the spirit of a bear and it is this strength that she uses to escape. Sounds amazing. Macmillan 21st September.