Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Story Keeper

The Story Keeper is the second novel from Anna Mazzola; following the extremely successful The Unseeing. The Story Keeper is a haunting and Gothic tale set on the isle of Skye in the mid nineteenth century. The book opens with Audrey Hart traveling to take up her new position as assistant to Miss Buchanan a local folklorist who wants to collect the tales of fairies, selkies and other beliefs and superstitions as the local area is devastated by the highland clearances. Audrey had grown up hearing the tales her mother had collected before her death. We soon learn that Audrey has run away from a harsh home life and that her mother's death remains shrouded in mystery. She has come to Skye to understand her own and her mother's past as much as to escape her present.
However almost from the beginning Audrey is thwarted by suspicious locals who refuse to tell their tales, strange noises and lights and then girls on the island begin to disappear. This is a top notch thriller full of Gothic twists and with wonderful insight into the Highland customs which were beginning to be lost in this period. Anna Mazzola has clearly done some fantastic research and I love how the thriller elements and the traditional folklore tie together. Audrey is a fantastic character and only one of a handful of strong women characters in this book trying to find their place in a restrictive society. I recommend this if like me the phrases Scottish island or Victorian mystery is enough to get you running to the bookshop. Perfect for fans of Lisa Tuttle or Diana Bretherick

The Story Keeper is published by Tinder Press in hardback in July. Thanks so much to the author and Jenni Leech at Tinder for sending me an early proof copy.

Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly

I am delighted to be opening the Blog Tour for Noel O'Reilly's brilliant debut novel Wrecker. This is an atmospheric and enchanting historical tale set in early Nineteenth Century Cornwall where shipwrecks are a common occurrence. The people of the tiny coastal village of Porthmorvoren have always gathered up whatever the sea washes to shore whether that's liquor or jewels or perhaps a fine pair of boots. Mary Blight has grown up here, with no father and an ill mother she and her sister have long since fended for themselves. When Mary rescues a man from the sea and brings him to her home to help him recover, tongues begin to wag. The stranger is a Methodist minister shocked by the poverty and superstition he finds in the village. As he determines to bring the villagers into the light of salvation he and Mary grow close and jealousy and suspicion grow because even in a village as poor as Porthmorvoren there is always a hierarchy and those who consider themselves Mary's betters are angry at the favour shown to her by a man of God and of learning. A mysterious and dark tale of a world on the cusp of change and a strikingly beautiful but harsh landscape. Noel O'Reilly's characters are utterly believable and the jealousy and rivalry of the women and the aggression and treachery of the men is brilliantly conveyed. If you are a fan of Poldark, The Essex Serpent or the novels of Daphne du Maurier you will enjoy Wrecker.

Thanks to Joe at HQ for a copy. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley

The Beloveds is a gripping Gothic tale of the Stash sisters who grew up in a stunning country pile; Pipits in Somerset. Betty is the eldest and ever since she was supplanted in her Mother's affections by younger sister Gloria, she has been steeped in a dangerous jealous brew. Betty believes that Gloria is a 'Beloved' one of those lucky people blessed with good looks, a sunny disposition and good fortune in life. Betty's one time best friend becomes Gloria's constant companion, Betty's boyfriend meets Gloria and is smitten. So when their mother leaves Pipits to Gloria and Henry, Betty is outraged. Pipits has been Betty's obsession since childhood, she believes her inheritance has been taken from her and she will do anything to get it back. Maureen Lindley's debut is a stunning, page turning study in a character's descent into madness. Every step in Betty's deranged and dangerous scheme seems absolutely logical and fair to Betty while the reader is compelled to read on and ask just how far will she go? This is a psychological thriller that will have you gripped. Perfect for fans of Gilliann Flynn or Liz Nugent. 

Thanks so much to Philippa at Titan for sending me a copy. The Beloveds is out now in paperback. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Q&A with Emily Hauser

Emily Hauser is the author of the Golden Apple trilogy which concludes with the release of the final book; For the Immortal this month. For the final stop on the blog tour promotion, I asked Emily a few questions about mythology and her inspiration. 

1. Classics is no longer a subject that is routinely taught at many schools, however with the popularity of your books and those of authors like Madeline Miller do you think we are seeing a ''golden age'' of interest in the ancient world?

It’s been really interesting to watch this growing interest in the ancient world over the past few years – particularly in fiction. I do think there’s been a real resurgence of interest, particularly among women writers. It’s something I’m interested in as an academic, too – why are women going back to ancient Greece more and more, especially given that it was hardly a place known for its tolerance of women? I think there’s something about the fact that women writers can now find a place for themselves within the canon by rewriting and reworking the classical past. In my own writing, I’ve certainly found it to be an interesting thought experiment: what were the realities of women’s experience in Bronze Age Greece? What was it like to be a Greek, an Amazon – and what difference does it make that I’m writing through a woman’s eyes, as opposed to a man’s (which is almost always how we learn about the ancient world in the historical record)?

2. What do you think are the essential lessons for aspiring writers that can be learned from classical mythology?

The central lessons of Greek mythology collect around issues that are sometimes hard to relate to today – a particular focus, for example, is in opposing hubris, the arrogance that leads mortals to think they are better than the gods. It’s a common theme that the artist or musician who thinks they are better than a deity often ends up losing the competition (and being punished for it). So… don’t compete with the gods?

But seriously: classical mythology is full of rich and competing stories, and to me, that’s the major lesson we can learn – that to every story there is another, for every version that says, for example, that the Trojan War began because of a contest over a golden apple, there’s another one saying it was the attempt of the king of the gods to wipe humans from the earth. Every story has a different possible motivation, a different plot when it’s told from another point of view – and that is where the richness of narrative lies.

3. If you were going to introduce a reader to Greek mythology, where would you recommend they start?

Greek mythology doesn’t really exist, itself, as a separate entity – what we have from antiquity are retellings of myths, each of them slightly different, and often with the assumption that the reader is deeply familiar with the myth being told. As such, for readers unfamiliar with Greek myth, I would point them either to fictional reworkings like the Golden Apple trilogy – which are intended for an audience who hasn’t grown up knowing classical mythology – or to a good compendium of classical myth, like Vernant’s The Universe, The Gods and Men, which retells the major ancient Greek myths.

4. Do you have a favourite myth or character from mythology and why?

It’s interesting – as I’ve written the books, my favourite mythical character has changed as I’ve got to know them and their stories. At first it was Briseis, one of the main characters in For the Most Beautiful; last year it was Atalanta; and now it’s Hippolyta, the Amazon queen, one of the protagonists of For the Immortal. I had always viewed the Amazons from the perspective I had seen through Greek eyes – terrifying, man-killing, occupying a liminal position at the edge of the world. It was an incredible experience to go into her world and realise how different things seemed from her point of view – to unpick the historical realities beyond the prejudices, and to get a feel for her resilience, and to uncover her incredible and very human story. In a way, it’s the human stories that are sometimes even more fantastic than those of the gods.

5. Who are the writers; both ancient and modern that inspire you?

Homer, of course – my writing began in Homer, as an interpretation of the story of the Trojan War told in the Iliad. But in a way, the Golden Apple trilogy also began because of a modern author – Margaret Atwood, whose Penelopiad (a retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective) inspired me to start writing the stories of Briseis and Chryseis. And Robert Graves has always been a huge inspiration for me: I received I, Claudius for Christmas when I was ten and, as soon as I read it, knew that I wanted to write historical fiction to bring the ancient world alive, too.

For the Immortal is out now in hardback from Doubleday, thanks to Hannah Bright for asking me to take part. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Woman in the Mirror Rebecca James

I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James. This is a dual time novel with two heroines; past and present, and both strands of the story are equally compelling and intriguing. Alice Miller is a governess in 1947 who hopes to heal the wounds of her past with a job at Winterbourne on the isolated Cornish coast. While in the present day, Rachel a New York gallery owner with questions about her past receives a letter telling her she has inherited Winterbourne from an aunt she never knew. There are definite shades of Daphne du Maurier here and the story plays brilliantly and successfully on the tropes of the Gothic novel. There is the isolated house with the ghostly, howling wind, the brooding father damaged by war and the mysterious twins, who say strange things and sleepwalk. I was very excited when I heard about this book as it seemed to be just the kind of book I love; ghostly, mysterious, tragic and full of tangled webs which the modern heroine Rachel must unravel to understand her family and the legacy she has inherited and I was not at all disappointed. I flew through the pages desperate to know more and anxious for a happy outcome for the characters I was rooting for while all the time intrigued by the idea that the family had been cursed and wondering why? I read this in a day and I would highly recommend it to fans of Tracy Rees, Lucinda Riley, Daphne du Maurier or Kate Morton.

You can follow the blog tour over the next few days and check out some other great book blogs, details below.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

The cover, the description and the title of this book made it an instant must have for me. I added it to my wish list as soon as I heard about it. I went to the bookshop looking for it on publication day. I spotted it on the shelf, bought it and started reading it straight away. The book features five heroines; mothers and daughters of the OrchiĆ©re family. They are Roma and hereditary witches who flee persecution in early 19th century Brittany and find refuge firstly in Cornwall and later in Wales and England. Full of wonderful storytelling and compelling characters; both good and bad, the book details the women's fight to preserve their magical power, hand down their craft and traditions to each subsequent generation, avoid detection and keep their secrets. From the humble farm they restore in Cornwall to Buckingham Palace this is a sweeping saga of strong women and the changing world around them. I raced through the pages desperate to know what was coming next. If you loved Practical Magic or Ami Mckay's The Witches of New York then this is for you. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander

A Baby's Bones is the brand new novel from Rebecca Alexander author of the Jackdaw Hammond trilogy of supernatural adventures. While A Baby's Bones is slightly different in style, it has the hallmarks of Rebecca's previous books; well rounded characters, a compelling plot and more than a hint of the dark and thrilling. A Baby's Bones is a dual time narrative featuring stories in the present day and in the sixteenth century, with The Isle of Wight as the setting for both. Archaeologist Sage Westfield is working on a sixteenth century well in the garden of a private residence when she discovers the bones of a newborn baby. The sixteenth century story details the daily lives of the Banstock family; purchases and sales, births, marriages and deaths, carefully building a picture of a community at peace and then in crisis.  The book blends crime procedural with historical mystery, who done it with why done it and adds a sprinkling of witchcraft, folklore and the supernatural. Rebecca Alexander's gift for period detail shines through as does her passion for history. While the drama and suspense will make you turn the pages, it's the careful character details that will hold you there and the supernatural elements will send a shiver up your spine, even if you take this to the beach to read. The character of Sage is fascinating and I'm delighted to discover that this is the first of a series. I look forward to reading much more about Sage and her extended family and friends. This book is a must read for fans of Elly Griffiths and James Oswald. Thanks so much to Titan books for asking me to be involved in this blog tour. Check the banner above for further info. A Baby's Bones is out in paperback now.