Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Warp The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer guest review by Leah Dillon Age 10



Albert Garrick used to be the most celebrated illusionist in the West End, Known as the Great Lombardi, until during one performance, he actually sawed his beautiful assistant in half. Garrick discovered on that night that he enjoyed taking a life almost as much as he enjoyed the delighted applause from the stalls, and so the magician made a new career of assassination. Riley is Garrick’s apprentice and he must pass a test. The rules are kill or be killed. But Riley doesn’t seem to want to follow in his master’s footsteps...
I read the start of this book and I loved the author's writing style but I am sorry to say that I didn't finish it because it wasn't really suitable for me. It kind of freaked me out...
So I guess that means it's more suitable for teenagers and young adults. Then again, I'm more on the sensitive side so maybe some kids my age would like it, I don't know. Anyway, the writing is great and the plot seems very interesting so those who the book is suitable for should love it. And after the author’s Artemis Fowl series’ success, you can only expect it to be good!


Author Spotlight




Hello again sorry for the unexpected absence but I have returned with an interview with the lovely Susan Lanigan.  

Susan is the author of the amazing White Feathers one of my favourite books this year.

White Feathers is the tale of Eva Downey, neglected daughter of  an Irish family living in London, bright, bookish and stifled she jumps at the chance to attend a school for young ladies in Kent. Here she learns to express herself, makes friends with the charming Sybil and finds a kindred spirit in teacher Christopher Shandlin. However Christopher is a conscientious objector and using the threat of not sending her beloved sister Grace for life saving medical treatment, Eva's family bully her into presenting him with a white feather, the symbol of cowardice. Eva is devastated and throws herself into war work. The impact of the white feather resounds through the years affecting Christopher, Eva and their families. This is a wonderful novel of love, war, family and duty and for me was one of the outstanding debuts of the year. I cannot wait to see what Susan will write next. If you haven't picked this book up yet then get it for Christmas for yourself or a friend and read it you won't be disappointed.


1. Do you plan your work in detail and then research or does your research spark and inform your ideas?

I tend to use the real events the way Tarzan uses ropes to swing from tree to tree – the real event being the next tree and my story being the ropes between. This is especially helpful in first drafts where the plot is coming into shape. For the first draft of White Feathers, I did a month of research and jotted down some notes, but it was hard to know exactly where I was going until I wrote it, and during that draft, the direction changed. There was a character who was only supposed to have one scene but he came in and utterly stole the show, and my heart, so he became a protagonist.

The real events stayed as absolutes. You can’t just move the battle of Loos…though I’m sure the many people who were butchered in that pointless caper would wish otherwise.

2. Do you think historical fiction is enjoying a resurgence and why is that?

At the most basic level – this would be my guess – historical fiction often focuses around dramatic events. This means that things happen, which is good for plot! The greater power struggles also provide a magnifying glass for the meaner, smaller ordinary abuses of power that take place. White Feathers is organised around an individual act of emotional violence that is perpetrated in the wake of a massive historical event, World War I. Everything is on a bigger scale, more dramatic.


3.What draws you to writing about the past?

I write about the past so that I can write aslant about the present. In one part of the book I have a character, Lucia, urging Eva, the protagonist, to “sing it straight” – that’s an operatic term which means without adornment or affectation.

Also the more I got into the characters’ minds, the more irritated I became with the idea that “we in the present” know so much better. What nonsense. These people are intelligent! They know what’s going on.

I have my characters battle emotional and physical violence because I see how power works, then and now. Although I am not writing about Ireland, the cruelty we Irish have inflicted on our own who in any way “let the side down”, or were different, kindles rage in my heart. Anger fires me. Love may light a candle in the darkness, but anger will plug you into the entire National Grid.

4. Do you have a typical writing day?

I never work in the mornings, mostly because all through drafts 1-4 of White Feathers, I had a job and all my energy was focused on getting out the door on time. The fifth draft was done with my editor and I took time out of the workplace for that.

I do everything from Dropbox so it won’t get lost. There is always a ritual to Opening the File. The time between my sitting down to write and Opening the File can be a good half an hour. This is not the fault of Dropbox.

I never work in silence. I always, always, listen to music. Characters have songs. Events have songs. I’m a very aural person.

5. What are you working on now?

Two stories are fighting each other: one is about the Sudetenland and a dangerous romance. The first draft is three quarters done. However a particular individual in White Feathers very much wants her own story and is staking her claim. She is a demanding but charming muse, and difficult to resist.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Return



This month I have been taking part in the annual madness that is Nanowrimo. This is my fourth year to take part and I love it. There are a great bunch of dedicated writers in the local group and a great camaraderie which sustains me even if I know 50,000 words in a month is out of my reach.

The idea of not "winning" doesn't bother me in the least I know that I simply can't work at the pace required. To get to 50,000 words, writers need to churn out 1667 words a day and at the moment at least that is not feasible for me. However it is writing as often as possible and being part of a larger group of people who are all trying to achieve the same thing that keeps me going.

I have had renewed writing mojo not least because I have put my hugely complicated dual time novel to one side and am working my way through a gothic YA novel instead. I am about one third of the way through my first draft and I hope to finish in the new year.

I apologise for my long absence from the blog as a result of my furious scribbling. I do have a back log of interviews to post up and books to review which I will get to as soon as I can, but my focus right now or even write now is on my own book.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Feature Author Caroline Sandon



Caroline's debut novel Burnt Norton now available in paperback from Head of Zeus is based on her own home and it's fascinating past. 

THE NOVEL
Gloucestershire, 1731. When his youngest son is killed in a tragic accident, Sir William Keyt, master of Norton House, busies himself in his fortune. The building of a second mansion on his grounds defies expense
and denies mortality; an emblem of the Keyt name for generations to come. Keyt can tolerate no obstacle to his desires - including his eldest son's love for a young maidservant. Molly Johnson has captured the heart of the heir to Norton House, dividing the household and the family she serves. Driven mad with lust and jealousy, Keyt sets about to destroy Molly's honour and her spirit, breaking the heart of his son, and ultimately, bringing about the ruin of his family. When the worlds above and below stairs collide, a family is destroyed, and a once-grand house is reduced to rubble. This is the tragic story of Burnt Norton.

THE AUTHOR
Caroline Sandon won her first national poetry competition at ten years old and from that moment dreamt of being a writer. Her life however took a different turn. At eighteen she began a law degree and only a
year later got married. She left the law to become a model working for many years in the fashion industry. As her family grew she moved on from modelling and founded an interior design company working on many
great and grand houses in England. In 1753 what remained of Burnt Norton and its grounds was bought by
Caroline’s husband’s ancestor Sir Dudley Ryder, Lord Chief Justice and the first Baron Harrowby. It has remained in their family’s ownership for over 250 years. Caroline has lived and raised her family there for 15
years. Burnt Norton is her debut novel.

Caroline's Five Favourite Books



Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Irene Nemirovsky, Suite Francaise

Isabelle Allende, The house of Spirits

Daphne Du Maurier, Frenchman’s Creek

Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer.






Caroline's Top Writing Tips.



1.   In my humble way I try to follow the example of Ernest Hemingway. “If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows” I will write a long, wordy paragraph, finish it and then I will go back again and delete anything unnecessary. You must always allow the reader to use his or her imagination.



2.  Don’t write when you are exhausted or when you have writers block. Go away from your work, close your computer and come back to it refreshed. Sometimes it may take days but it doesn’t matter, start something else.



3.  Learn your punctuation and try to avoid spelling mistakes.
When you are sending your manuscript to a publisher they will be annoyed if it is littered with mistakes. They see hundreds of manuscripts; remember yours will need to stand out.


4. Nicholas Evans who wrote the Horse Whisperer told me to always start my story with a bang. You need to capture your audience within the first ten minutes otherwise they might put the book down and move on to another. The first chapter is the most important. In my novel ‘Burnt Norton’ Nick told me to move the carriage accident to the first chapter. I followed his advice.



5. A novelist girlfriend told me to make a plan of each character. Chart the colour of their hair, their eyes, their eating habits, their likes and dislikes. In other words get to know your characters, love them or hate them. I really disliked Dorothy Keyt, and this made her become real.

Q&A



1. Do you plan the story first and then do the research or does reading and research spark ideas?

To a certain extent I plan my novel and research my subject, but the research continues at every stage. As my characters develop, the story changes, obviously keeping within the historical parameters. New research throws up different ideas, different solutions.

2. Do you think historical fiction is enjoying a resurgence and why is that?


I am sure it is. More and more people are fascinated by the past, it draws us and why not?
It is a different world with different surroundings, but the characters live, think and breathe in much the same way as we do today.

3. What draws you to writing about the past?


I am intrigued by the past, what people wore, what they ate, what formed their opinions. I let my imagination take me into the past. In Burnt Norton Sir William Keyt burnt himself to death in the new mansion he had just completed on our lawn. What drove this man to make his greatest achievement his funeral pyre?

4. Do you have a typical writing day?


No I do not. It depends if I am on a creative roll. On those days I will write continuously, sometimes till four in the morning to the annoyance of the rest of my family who are food deprived and conversation deprived!!


5. What are you working on now?


My third novel ‘One More Day’. Even though it is in the first stages of creation I am very excited about it. My second novel Alessandra’s War is still in the editing process! Burnt Norton is out on the shelves and the screenplay for a four part television drama is being completed by Lynn Bointon.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson




This novel marks the debut of an incredibly talented new novelist. The Devil in the Marshalsea is both an excellent whodunnit and an incredible work of historical fiction. It's no surprise then that Antonia won the CWA Historical Dagger. Tom Hawkins is a wonderful creation, young, handsome, arrogant an inveterate gambler and drinker. After he is robbed and beaten he is unable to pay his debts and ends up in the Marshalsea debtors prison. He has asked his friend upright citizen Rev Charles Buckley to help him and Charles has returned with a deal from his patron Sir Philip Meadows who is the Knight Marshal and runs the gaol, an inmate has been murdered and Sir Philip wants Tom to discover the killer. However Tom must be careful because his new cellmate is everybody's prime suspect. As further deaths occur and Tom discovers at first hand the depredation and cruelty in the Marshalsea he must uncover the killer before he becomes the next victim.Tom will learn a great deal about the dark underbelly of Eighteenth Century London. This is outstanding page turning writing. I loved it.

Out now in paperback from Hodder (Thanks to Kerry Hood for a review copy)


Ace, King, Knave by Maria McCann



Maria McCann has with this latest novel moved from the seventeenth century of her earlier novels As Meat Loves Salt (2001) and The Wilding (2010) to the filthy gin soaked streets of eighteenth century London. We meet two heroines; delicate newly married Sophia and hard as nails Betsy-Ann; a former prostitute now a gambler and dealer in stolen goods. The two women live just miles apart but their lives are in stark contrast. Maria McCann has brought the past vividly to life. The depth and breadth of her research is in evidence on every page without ever overwhelming the narrative. The two woman are wonderfully drawn characters and the plot is well paced though the connection between the women quickly becomes obvious. If you read and loved The Devil in the Marshalsea then you will love this book. 
Ace,King,Knave is available in paperback from Faber now.
Thanks to lovereading.co.uk for a review copy.




A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher



A Little in Love is based on a very familiar story, which many will know from the stage and screen adaptations of Les Miserables. Although I'm sure there are many out there who have tackled Victor Hugo's massive and epic novel, I must admit I have never attempted it. My fifteen year old daughter is currently reading it,so perhaps one day I will. Susan Fletcher's retelling through the eyes of Eponine is much more approachable. It offers YA readers a great introduction to a literary classic as well as a fascinating glimpse into a tumultuous period in French history. Eponine is a wonderful character; she is the daughter of two selfish and thoughtless thieves and she is taught to steal almost from birth yet she transforms herself into a heroine. Her story is tragic and there is no happy ending, the author addresses the heroine's tragic death in the first page but nonetheless we want to read on,to hear her tell her story in her own voice. As a study in character development this book is outstanding but it is also and more importantly for readers a great story. By turns tragic, shocking and heartwarming this is Susan Fletcher's first YA novel and I will be interested to see what she does next.
A Little in Love is published by Chicken House and available in paperback now ( Thank you to the publisher for a copy to review)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Frost Hollow Hall






Frost Hollow Hall is a delightful debut novel from a talented new voice in historical fiction for children.
Despite the spooky nature of the tale – including the icy lake, the haunted halls and the crockery which moves across the room by itself – Frost Hollow Hall is a cosy and satisfying read. Emma Carroll has created a down-to-earth and assured narrator in Tilly, who is rescued from the lake after a skating accident by Kit Barrington – even though he’s been dead for ten years.
Tilly is sure there is a reason his spirit is not at rest, and she is determined to find out what. Betrayed by her own family's disbelief, when Tilly's friend Will Potter refuses to believe her, Tilly takes a job as a maid at Frost Hollow Hall and finds a house still in mourning after a decade of loss – as well as a vengeful spirit who frightens the staff. Tilly has a mystery to unravel and she’ll do it with or without Will Potter.
This is a charming story which, despite dealing with dark themes of grief, poverty and death, remains light-hearted and hopeful. With wonderful description and great characterisation, Emma Carroll is a real find and Frost Hollow Hall is a perfect ghostly mystery for fans of Eva Ibbotson, Ellen Renner and Marie-Louise Jensen.


This review originally featured on welovethisbook.com

Friday Feature Author Emma Carroll



Apologies for missing last week but I have returned to feature a wonderful writer for children the very lovely and very talented Emma Carroll. I have to say I love Emma's book choices. You can get both of Emma's brilliant books in paperback in all good bookshops now and you can read my review of Frost Hollow Hall HERE

When she isn’t writing, Emma Carroll teaches English part-time at a secondary school in Devon. She has also worked as a news reporter, an avocado picker and the person who punches holes into filofax paper. She graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing For Young People. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ is Emma’s debut novel for Faber and won the North East Book Award. Her second novel, ‘The Girl Who Walked On Air’ is set in a Victorian circus. In another life she wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. Emma lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and two terriers. You can find out more about Emma at her blog http://emmacarrollauthor.wordpress.com/

Emma's Top Five Writimg Tips

In no particular order (and said with no great authority as I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to write)

1. Use pictures or film to help you visualize places or settings.
2. Set yourself a do-able daily word count and STICK TO IT.
3. Don’t expect every writing day to be the same: few are almost effortless, most are hard work.
4. Write down ideas immediately they occur- otherwise you’ll forget them.
5. Vary where you write- I tend to move from room to room during the day, just to shake things up!


Emma's Top Five Books (Historical)

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
2. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
3. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
4. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
5. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Emma's Top Five Historical Fiction Books For Children and Teens

1. Witch Child by Celia Rees
2. I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
3. the Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pulman
4. The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth by Julia Lee
5. The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson






Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blog Tour For A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher





This little beauty of a book was published last Thursday and the author very kindly found time to answer a few questions. Thanks so much Susan. 


Re: The Broken Heart of

1. Have you always been a fan of Les Misérables? and wanted to write about the characters?

I knew the book (an abridged version) and the film – and loved both. But it had never occurred to me to write Eponine’s tale, or anyone one else’s. Then Chicken House approached me with the idea of giving Eponine a voice for the YA market – and I just thought it was a wonderful idea. She was the character that had intrigued me the most, in both the book and the play; to have the chance to tell her tale was a gift. I said yes straight away!

2. What draws you to writing about the past?
This is only the second historical novel that I’ve written but it’s a genre I’m certainly fascinated with. I think what I love most of all is the simple truth that humans do not change. Our circumstances might, and we might gain more knowledge and more skills are we progress – but ultimately, we remain the same. A Roman soldier, 2000 years ago, for example, might not have had a telephone or decent healthcare – but he would still have felt homesick or ashamed or heartbroken; he’d have still got chilblains or had nightmares, or been afraid of growing old. We are all the same. I love this truth: to write historical novels with this in mind feels very intimate – and a privilege, too.

3. You have written a number of novels for adults, why have you switched to writing for teens?
Put simply, because I was given the chance to! It hadn’t occurred to me to try to write for a different readership; it was Chicken House’s offer – and their faith in me, their sense that I was the right author to take on Eponine’s tale – that brought me to do it. And I’m so glad that I did! I have loved every second – and I’m very grateful that Chicken House asked me.

4. When you were a teenager what did you read? Do you still have the same favourite books now? Why or why not?
I tended towards the classics, I think. I loved Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I also remember having a summer of devouring all Daphne du Maurier’s novels – and loving Jamaica Inn, in particular! I still love these books; that hasn’t changed. Perhaps what has changed is the fact that I can now read them with adult eyes, and find different nuances than I did at 17. They say that you never read the same book twice and that’s certainly true when returning to a novel after many years.

5. What are your top five tips for aspiring writers of historical fiction

I still feel a bit of a novice, in this genre! And therefore I am not sure how many tips I can give! But there’s one that immediately springs to mind: keep in mind, always, that this is indeed fiction you are writing. I think it’s easy to believe you have to adhere strictly to what actually happened, to only write about what was true. But that’s what non-fiction writers do; we don’t have those same restraints. One’s primary role is to write a good novel: if that means a slight altering of the truth, then it’s allowable. Precisely how far away you go from the historical truth is every writer’s choice; likewise, how much they inform the reader of these changes. But changes are fine! And it’s the novelist’s voice that should take precedence over the historian’s. Other tips … Research, of course! Only once you know the absolute truth of that time, and the people in it, can you make informed choices. As with all forms of writing, I would also suggest not using red pen at any point (subconsciously, we link it with reprimands and mistakes), getting outside every day – and keeping encouraging Post-It notes by the kettle!
A Little in Love is Published by Chicken House and available now.

Thanks so much to Laura for a copy and for Susan for taking part.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Friday Feature Author Antonia Hodgson


I am so sorry I am late with the Friday Feature this week but better late than never and I am delighted to have had award winning and bestselling author Antonia Hodgson agree to take part. Antonia's debut The Devil in the Marshalsea has won The CWA Historical Dagger award and is featuring in The Waterstones and the Richard and Judy bookclubs. 

The book is a riveting tale set in London's Marshalsea prison for debtors in 1727. So we have moved on less than twenty years from the world of last week's featured book but a world away from the isolated Ulster Scots community to the filth, noise and bustle of London.


Q&A


1. Do you plan the story first and then do the research or does reading and research spark ideas.


The initial spark always seems to come from the research - at least is has done for the first two books I’ve written, and I’m just starting to think about the third! It’s quite intuitive - and is also driven in part by character. Tom Hawkins, my protagonist, is a risk taker and very bad with money. So when I first started thinking of him and a possible novel, I decided he would probably be in a debtors’ gaol in the opening pages. Then I stumbled across the story of the Marshalsea and realised I had to set the whole novel in there.

I do plot out a fair bit before I start and I do a lot of thinking about all the main characters. I’ll jot down detailed notes on them and develop the plot as I’m creating character. And vice versa. They’re very much intertwined.

Then I’ll trick myself into thinking I’ve got the whole plot ready and get to work. After about five or six chapters I’ll realise that it’s not fully plotted at all, that characters are doing all sorts of surprising things or the plot I’ve put together doesn’t actually work. Then the fun begins. (And by ‘fun’ I mean agonising self-doubt, chronic pacing about the room and the occasional happy moment of resolution.)

For me, one of the great joys of writing is the way a novel develops as I write. So while I need a plan of some sort, and often have lots of ideas about plot twists, murders, the killer - nothing is sacred. I’ll pull it all apart if need be - and actually that can be fascinating and thrilling.


2. Do you think historical fiction is enjoying a resurgence and why is that?


I think it’s always been popular. I love it because it allows me to escape into a different world while also learning about a moment in history. And then there’s that thrill of connection and understanding - it’s a very powerful thing, to discover how far we’ve changed and how much we’ve stayed the same.


3. What draws you to writing about the past?


I think for the same reasons I’ve described above. Also I really enjoy the research. I like taking what I’ve learned and turning it around in my imagination. I learn a lot, both at the research stage and in its transformation into fiction.


4. Do you have a typical working day?

Write, write, stretch, coffee, write, lunch, coffee, write, write, stretch, write, stop.


5. What are you working on now?

I’m just redrafting my second novel. It’s a sequel to The Devil in the Marshalsea and it needs a title. So I’m working on that, too... I already have an idea for book three and can’t wait to start the research on that. 




Antonia's Top Five Favourite Books


Of course I reserve the right to name five different books tomorrow. It changes all the time.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Heartbreaking.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Also heartbreaking.

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel
A theme is developing...

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Not entirely devastating.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Pure joy.







Antonia's Top Five Writing Tips


1) Give yourself the space to dream. Walk to work if you can. Stare into space. Empty hours are precious and vital. You need to be on friendly terms with your subconscious and give it room to play.


2) Read. Would you trust a singer who doesn’t listen to music?


3) Love writing - or at least feel compelled to do it. If it feels like a chore, or forced, you’ve probably picked the wrong story. If this keeps happening, or you keep finding excuses not to write... maybe try something else. Life is short and there are lots of other pleasant things to do.


4) Be resilient. Rejection is tough but inevitable at some point - everyone goes through it.


5) Agents and editors are not intentionally scary. They genuinely want to find the next great writer. The process of submitting material is terrifying (I know, I’ve been there and I still feel it whenever I hand my editor something new). It’s perfectly normal and indeed rational to feel vulnerable and anxious when you send work out into the world. But don’t feel intimidated by anyone in the industry. They’re just a bunch of people - and most of them are very nice and friendly. Also, their jobs don’t exist without authors. So ‘who’s queen’ now?



Thanks a million Antonia for taking part. The Devil in the Marshalsea is available in paperback now.

The Royalist by S J Deas





The Royalist is the first in a new series of historical crime novels from a bestselling fantasy author. The fate of William Falkland; farmer and soldier in the King’s army seems to be sealed. He awaits the hangman’s pleasure in Newgate prison far from his West Country home and family. He is finally taken from the prison, to his surprise, not to his death but to a meeting with Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell promises to spare Falkland if he will turn investigator for him and travel to the New Model Army’s winter camp where a number of young boys have died in mysterious circumstances. Deas writes at a furious pace and we are soon caught up the mystery of the young men’s deaths. However it is his wonderful description and his creation of a powerfully charged atmosphere that really capture the reader; the sights, smells and the freezing cold of a snow bound village, the claustrophobic feeling of a town that has been invaded, the fear of the local people, the hunger of the scrawny barefoot children, the arrogance of the soldiers who have destroyed churches, thrown people out of their homes and who now resent questions being asked by a King’s man. Falkland is aided in his investigation by his landlady Kate and a constant air of menace pervades the narrative. I look forward to many more of Falkland’s investigations. A perfect read for fans of Shona MacLean and C.J. Sansom. Published by Headline The Royalist is out now.This review originally appeared on welovethisbook.com

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Little in Love Blog Tour

If like me you are a fan of Les Misérables; the book, the musical or the movie then you will be familiar with the character of Eponine, and delighted to hear that Susan Fletcher, winner of the Whitbread Prize for First Novel and the author of Eve Green, Oystercatchers, The Silver Dark Sea and Corrag has written a teen novel based on Eponine's story. Published this Thursday by Chicken House.


Paris, 1832. A street-girl takes a bullet, clutching a love note to her heart. What is Eponine’s story?

As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls’ paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.

Check out the Chicken House website for an extract    http://doublecluck.com/pdf/book_249_extract.pdf

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour details below.



Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Feature Author Martina Devlin



Martina Devlin is an Omagh-born author and journalist. Her eight books range from historical novels – The House Where It Happened and Ship of Dreams – to non-fiction including Banksters and The Hollow Heart. She writes a weekly current affairs column for the Irish Independent and has been named columnist of the year by the National Newspapers of Ireland. Short story awards include the Royal Society of Literature’s VS Pritchett Prize and a Hennessy Literary Award. Martina's latest book is The House Where it Happened published by Poolbeg's Ward River Press.
Her website is www.martinadevlin.com


Q&A with Martina Devlin


1. Do you plan the story first and then do the research or does reading and research spark ideas?
The research sparks ideas for me. I have a general idea of plot, themes, and so on, but I have to hunt for the characters and wait for them to flesh out.

2. Do you think historical fiction is enjoying a resurgence and why is that?
It never went away, for some of us fans of the genre. But yes it does seem to be having a moment. The past fascinates some readers because we can see where wrong turns were taken but are powerless to shout: Not that way, this way! The end result is already cast. Or is it because we like to replay what-ifs and wonder how they might have changed the course of history? Perhaps it’s nostalgia. Or that we learn while we read. There could be any number of reasons.

3. What draws you to writing about the past?
I’m a history buff. Researching these novels enthralls me. For some bizarre reason, I like to know how much a stamp cost in 1711, and whether or not a servant girl was allowed a half-day off a week.

4. Do you have a typical writing day?
Where possible, I try to write in the morning because my brain is less cluttered and I have more energy, consequently the work is better. It doesn’t always pan out that way, but that’s the ideal. I’ve been adopted by a tortoiseshell cat, who comes and lies in the sun near where I work, and I find her presence soothing. And she seems to find the click-click-click soothing, too. So it’s mutually beneficial, a useful combination.

5. What are you working on now?
Another novel, speculative fiction, in which the protagonist is an outsider trying to make sense of a strange world. I didn’t set out to write speculative fiction, I just wrote the story as it came to me – and was somewhat surprised, at the end of the first draft, to discover that’s what it was. Makes me sound like a hapless channel for stories, doesn’t it? I usually have a short story on the go, too.


Martina's Five Favourite Books

In no particular order, and I could change my mind about the list tomorrow:
1. Samuel Pepys’s diaries, which he kept between 1660 and 1669. He was so fascinated by life. So fascinated by himself. So fascinating to me, hundreds of years later. He blended the personal and the panoramic, and his diaries are a porthole into the social history of his era, the English Restoration.
2. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor because he blends detective and historical fiction to produce a cracking read of Dickensian dimensions. His character Pius Mulvey is compelling. So, too, is his famine narrative.
3. I find myself returning to Seamus Heaney’s poetry: the vividness of the imagery, the strength of the narrative, the love underpinning the portraits of his family – peeling potatoes with his mother, “Never closer the whole rest of our lives”; watching his aunt make scones, “And here is love/Like a tinsmith’s scoop”; the pen pictures of his father in old age. The Economist compared his death to a great tree falling.
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – a revenge story, a love story, a sad story, a masterly story. And it’s set on the haunting Yorkshire Moors. What more could a reader ask for?
5. As a child I was entranced by the Anne of Green Gables series, about an orphan girl sent by mistake to a farm in rural Canada owned by a middle-aged brother and sister. I admired how LM Montgomery refreshed the orphan-made-good formula. However, I should point out that I may have had subjective bias because the heroine had red hair and so do I.


Martina's Top Five writing tips

1. Re-write, re-write, re-write. Cut and polish. No substitute for it.
2. Don’t wait for the muse to strike. Just do it. Start writing. Even if ‘writing’ is a euphemism for staring at a blank screen. Eventually the words will flow.
3. Ask yourself, how would I tell my story in one sentence? Have a clear idea what it’s about.
4. Know your characters inside out: their motivations, their speech patterns, their back story. Make them flawed – nobody is perfectly good or irredeemably bad.
5. Be selective about TV viewing – no need to give it up entirely but be conscious that it can suck you in for hours, so only switch on for specific programmes. Ditto with rummaging round on social media and the Internet. Those lost hours could be spent writing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rethinking the blog





I have been blogging actively for more than three years now and I love it, as it's a great outlet for my love of reading and has helped me to connect with readers and writers and to discover some wonderful books.
However I have had a bit of slump in my enthusiasm recently for a variety of reasons. I have moved from working one day a week to working twenty to thirty hours a week; last week for example I worked thirty two hours. I'm not complaining of course I enjoy my job especially as it revolves around books but of course that means less time free to blog and to read.
This means that I need to make changes in how and when I blog and what I choose to blog about. Blogging for me began with two objectives; to have a place online where I could shout about the books and authors that I love and to talk about writing; share tips, links and competitions. 
As I have been working so much my spare time has shrunk and become even more precious. I want to spend as much time as I can writing and reading but I want to write about the things that matter to me and read the books I want to read. 


I am not for one minute saying that I hate receiving books from publishers, I love it and long may it continue. However I have so may books that I am waiting to read and haven't had a chance to, because I have so many reviews to get through.  In choosing to start my Friday feature interviews I hope I have started to move towards my original goal of making this a blog about writing as much as reading and because I am focusing on authors of historical fiction I am going to focus my reviews on historical fiction also. This means that anything that doesn't fit into my original blog description (which I have reinstated above) "historical, gothic and fantasy fiction" will have to take a back seat or won't feature at all, because I feel that my blog lost focus and so did I. 

I apologise to authors and publishers who are waiting for reviews from me, but I have to review at my own pace if it's not fun then what's the point? I will pass on books that aren't for me to friends and family who will be delighted to read them. 
I will still be reviewing some contemporary authors; my definition of gothic as interpreted through the Oxford Dictionary of Literary terms includes stories with an atmosphere of gloom, suspense or claustrophobia, so I will certainly be reading more from authors like Louise Welsh, Joanna Briscoe, Nuala Ni Chonchuir and Tom Vowler. I will also be widening my definition of Historical Fiction to include time-slip and dual time stories. I will also be including when I can reviews of exceptional historical fiction and fantasy for children and teenagers, as I hope to involve my children especially my ten year old daughter who wants to read more and start blogging with me. 

My blog may be less frequent as a result but it will I hope be more focused. 

Friday Feature Author Debra Daley


Debra Daley is a New Zealand born writer. She won the Lillian Ida Smith award for The Strange Letter Z, has written for New Zealand television and her latest novel is Turning the Stones.


A note from the author on writing.

Why I write

I was always determined to be a writer. If you look on my blog debradaley.com you can see some early manifestos clumsily written when I was six or seven attesting to my compulsion to write. This was not unconnected with the fact that I had recently learned to read. That’s how it has been ever since: reading makes me want to write. Writing makes me want to read. When I was about eight years old and a forlorn little girl, I got a book out of the library whose consoling power profoundly influenced me. I can still remember my amazement at discovering by means of a story that other people in the world felt what I was feeling and that I was not alone. The book was Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden. It concerns a displaced little girl called Nona, living with a hoity-toity cousin who couldn’t care less about two Japanese dolls, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, that have been given to her. When Nona realises that the dolls are lonely, scared and homesick, she tries to make them feel better by building them a little Japanese house to live in. Of course, by building a home for Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, Nona begins to create a home-life for herself. It is a lesson in the transformational powers of empathy. This mind-melding is the point of literature to me—that through a writer’s imagination you can be lifted out of yourself and connected to humanity. It astounds me still that another human being can spin a world out of the air and all it takes to enter it is the ability to read.






Debra's five favourite books from the deep past



Leaving aside all my rave reads of the 20th and 21st centuries, as a historical novelist, these five constantly inspire me:

1. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, 1748. The fiendish rake Lovelace vs. the rapturous virgin Clarissa. A 1,000-page epistolary novel and immersive experience of the 18th century.
2. A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne, 1768. The first modern travel memoir. Clever, self-obsessed, elegantly succinct.
3. The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay, 1728. Okay, it’s a play with ballads, not a novel, but crammed with fantastic thieves, mouthy whores and cracking dialogue. And is there any more attractive anti-hero than Captain Macheath (the original Mac the Knife)?
4. A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift, 1704. A brilliant takedown of idiots and blowhards in positions of power that is still relevant right now.
5. Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897. The ultimate Gothic horror novel and acme of the epistolary style. The last word in atmosphere. Literally wrote the book on How To Create A Memorable Character.



Debra's top five writing tips



1. Assume Nobody Gives a Damn. In other words, don’t waste psychic energy angsting about whether anyone is ever going to recognise your genius. Some amazing, transcendentally wonderful writers never find an agent or publisher let alone public recognition. And some do. That’s the
nature of the beast: talent needs to be allied with luck. So don’t try to second-guess the future. Concentrate on the thing you’re writing. Just write now. Write for yourself. Write because you love writing.

2. Know That To Write Is To Be Rejected. Everyone tells you this, but it can’t be emphasised enough. Do not let rejection stop you from writing. My first novel, The Strange Letter Z, was published by Bloomsbury. Woo-hoo! I spent five years writing an epic second novel, only to have it rejected. I had invested MAJORLY in that novel, not only emotional energy and time, but most of my financial resources. Afterwards, I did a certain amount of lying facedown on the ground sobbing. But what could I do then but keep writing? So I wrote Turning the Stones. On faith. And I got another book deal. It just took years, that’s all. An agent told me recently that it surprised her how many novelists walk away from writing after a rejection. She said they haven’t understood that to be an author is to play a very long innings.

3. Don’t Write What You Know. All right, I’m being facetious, but honestly, if you are writing a historical or fantasy novel, you have the opportunity to create stories and characters that are worlds away from the same-old of your personal life. I really believe that story-making benefits from the surge of excitement you feel inventing situations in times and places that are literally novel to you. My curiosity is always piqued by difference. In real life I’m a white, middle-class mother-of-two. But in my mind I’m a crusty old man in some eighteenth-century predicament.

4. Learn to Wrangle Research. Historical writers can’t do without it, but beware, my loves, Google’s siren call. You can easily get lost in the labyrinth of Interesting Possibilities and find that six months have passed without finding your way to the end of your story. I’m not above the addictive sidebar myself (she says, looking guiltily at a couple of notebooks fat with abandoned facts), but I do try to manage research by first writing a broad outline of my story so that I know where I am going. Be guided by the thread of your narrative otherwise you will never reach that halcyon day when you write, END.

5. Write A Novel By Writing A Novel. It might sound bleedin’ obvious, but a novel won’t write itself. I have found that to write a book you have to work at it more or less every day whether you feel like it or not. I use a cheesy psychological trick to do this. I tell myself I only need write 200 words today. And then accidentally write 1,000. I work paragraph by paragraph, never letting myself dwell on the enormity of the undertaking. In this I am guided by the stupendously great Anne Lamott, who is all about taking one step at a time. If you only read one book about making writing happen for you, let it be Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Feature Author Emma Fraser





After a variety of jobs (waitress, sign painter for archeological sites, barmaid) Emma Fraser trained as a nurse in Edinburgh before going on to study English Literature at university. After graduating she and her husband travelled for a few years, living and working in Australia, rural Africa and the far north of Canada. When they returned to Britain, Emma worked in the Health Sector for a number of years before leaving to write full time. She wrote several medical romances for Harlequin under the name Anne Fraser before her first historical novel, When the Dawn Breaks was published by Sphere in 2013. Her second historical, We Shall Remember, is out in ebook and hardback now and paperback in October. Her stories are about ordinary, but strong and determined women who find themselves in extra-ordinary situations and are based on real people and events.







Emma's Five Favourite Books


I have so many, but these are five of my favourites

Into Thin Air Jon Krakauer
Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
The Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
Bleak House Charles Dickens




Emma's 5 Top Writing tips


Persevere
Sometimes it feels as if writing a whole book is impossible – think of it in chunks and you'll get there. Which brings me to my next tip...


Write first - edit later

I'm a great believer that we use one side of our brain to write and the other to edit. If you try and apply the editing side while you are writing, you will constantly go over scenes and never get to the end.


Learn to love your delete key

After you've written your first draft, go back. If the scene doesn't push your story on, either by revealing character or advancing the plot, the scene has to go. Learn that this is a good thing. (Sometimes if it's too painful to delete something I have spent hours writing, I put it in a deleted scene file and pretend to myself I will use it in another book. I haven't done so far, but it easier for me to use that key.)


Try and write most days

I don't write at the weekends (unless I am close to a deadline then I write all the time) but I do try to write most days. If I take long periods off I find it more difficult to get back into my writing. It feels to me a little like when I haven't been to the gym for a while. As Stephen King says in his book On Writing, you can't wait for the muse to come to you. Sit down at your desk every day (or most days) and the muse will come and find you there.



Find someone you trust to be your ideal reader.

I'm lucky, I have my sisters and my daughter who I can show stuff to. They can be brutal, far too honest sometimes, but trust me that's better than having a first reader who doesn't want to hurt your feelings.


Emma's books are published by Sphere . When the Dawn Breaks is available in paperback and e-book and We Shall Remember is available in e-book and hardback with a paperback release planned for later this year.


Blog Tour Review and Interview for Spirit by Daniela Sacerdoti


September 16th sees the release of the final book in Daniela Sacerdoti's YA Fantasty trilogy which tells the story of Sarah Midnight and which I have avidly followed in the previous two instalments Dreams and Tide. To recap Sarah is a grade A student and a talented young musician hoping to study at Scotland's top Music Academy but is plagued by frightening dreams, the dreams guide Sarah's parents who are demon hunters as all of her family have been through the generations. When her parents are murdered Sarah must take on their work and find their killer. Sarah has to use the powers she has inherited, along with the friends she makes along the way. Spirit is a spectacular climax to the series as Sarah and her friends have taken a leap of faith trusting in Nicholas and have begun their journey to the spirit world to confront The King of Shadows. Daniela has wonderfully rounded out her characters as they come of age in this final book and we get some further intriguing hints about the history of the secret families and an insight in to Nicholas also. This is a spectacular series which will appeal to teens (and adults) who have enjoyed Liz de Jager's Banished, Sally Green's Half Bad or Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments. 
The books are published by Black and White Publishing and are available in paperback and e-book.

I asked Dani a few questions about her inspiration and what she is working on right now.



1. How do you feel bringing Sarah's story to an end? Is it the end?


Oooh, I don't know if it's the end! It was very hard to say goodbye to my characters, especially Sarah and Sean. I would love to see them all again. Or maybe explore their past, like what Sean did in Japan before meeting Sarah. I'm writing a short story about that now, so watch this space :)


2. Where did the inspiration come from for the Sarah Midnight series?


It all started from a black-haired girl I saw at a bus stop years ago: she was wearing a school uniform and listening to music, and she had a very intense expression. I thought she would make an ideal character for a story, so she became Sarah!


3. Will you write more YA Fiction?


I hope so. If I find another strong story that really captures me, I hope I'll be able to send it out into the world like I did with Sarah. I was lucky to find a publisher who believed in her.


4. What else are you working on?


I'm working on an adult book, the third set in Glen Avich, called Set Me Free.


5. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?


To work extremely hard and get that novel finished! Also to read a lot, and never ever give up, because sometimes it takes a long time to find a publisher, and there may be many rejections along the way.


6. What are your favourite Fantasy books?


The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. I'm a real Tolkien nerd. I also love The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, and The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. The Bone Season is the first of seven books and only the first have been published, so I'm looking forward to following the saga for the next few years.




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Friday Feature Barbara Kyle

Yes I know it's not Friday but I have two feature authors this week one today and one on Friday, so first up is Barbara Kyle the bestselling Canadian author who writes about family, love and loyalty in Tudor times.



Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Thornleigh Saga historical novels The Queen's Exiles, Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow an English middle-class family's rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She is also the author of the contemporary thrillers Entrapped and The Experiment. Over 450,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries.
Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for writers groups, organizations, and conferences. Her Master Classes have launched many of her students' novels to publishing success. She also mentors writers through her manuscript evaluation service.
Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

 www.barbarakyle.com






Barbara's Five Favourite Books

THE WINDS OF WAR by Herman Wouk
SHOGUN by James Clavell
LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry
POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt
AN OFFICER AND A SPY by Robert Harris





Barbara's Five Top Writing Tips

1. Write an outline. It will save you a lot of grief.

2. Get to the story's inciting incident as soon as possible. Definition of inciting incident: the event that throws the protagonist's world out of balance. The story that follows will be about them striving to restore balance to their life.
3. Build big scenes around a major reversal or revelation.

4. Beware using coincidence as a plot device. It's okay to use coincidence to get characters into trouble, but not to get them out of trouble.

5. Build the story's climax around the hardest choice the protagonist will ever make.







Barbara's Recent Release: THE QUEEN'S EXILES (June 2014)

1572. Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is scattered about the Continent, plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise…
Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him.
But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore the peace that few can remember.




“Riveting Tudor drama in the bestselling vein of Philippa Gregory” – USA Today

“An epic tale of patriotism and treason, political upheaval and oppression, familial love and the ties that bind” – Let Them Read Books blog

“A heart-stopping thriller… Kyle is a master at her craft.” – RT Book Reviews


Thank you Barbara for taking part follow Barbara on twitter @BKyleAuthor

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Feature Rebecca Mascull

This is a brand new regular series featuring authors of historical fiction which I hope will introduce new authors to blog followers and provide essential writing tips to all aspiring authors. First up is the lovely Rebecca Mascull author of The Visitors.



Photos coutesy of Rebecca's website and The Grimsby Telegraph

About Rebecca
I've been writing seriously for about 13 years. I left full-time teaching to take a Masters in Writing in 2001 and have been working towards trying to get published ever since. I wrote three novels before "The Visitors" that weren't published. I secured my agent Jane Conway-Gordon on the strength of the third novel and when we couldn't get a deal on that one, she told me to get on with the next one. I did and that was "The Visitors". Within a week or so of it being sent to Hodder in 2012, we had a publishing deal. It took 11 years to get there, but it was worth it in the end! "The Visitors" has been nominated for the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award readers can vote for it here: https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/first-book-award/vote?book=4911

I attended the festival too and had a wonderful time here's my report on my website http://rebeccamascull.tumblr.com/post/95728118968/edinburgh-bookfest-report As you can see my partner Simon and daughter Poppy are very involved in all my writerly doings and we had such fun.

My Questions

Question 1. What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I've just received the copy edit from my publisher for my second novel "Song of the Sea Maid" which is due for publication next June. This involves looking at the many coments from the copy editor that analyse the language and facts of the latest draft. It's a time consuming process, Mostly I just feel honoured that professional people have spent so much time looking at my work, and together we can strive to make the book the best it can be. Once that's done, I'll be starting work on my third novel for Hodder & Stoughton, which will be set in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Question 2. Your top five writing tips?

1. Persevere. It tool me over a decade to get to the point where my work was worthy of being published. Along the way I sent my work out to around 50 agents each time I submitted, and for each of those I only got interest from 1 agent. So you must suffer the slings nad arrows of outrageous fortune, as dear Hamlet once said, and keep trying!

2. Read. I feel very strongly about this one. I do believe writers must read the greats if they wish to write great books. Read the canon, from the 18th Century to the present day, different genres, both genders, read, read, read. Find out what works and why.

3. Be organised. Keep notebooks, files and boxes of notes. Writing a book is a big project and should be treated as such.

4. Check your facts. If you're writing anything based on real events, such as historical fiction, try to ensure you get your information from at least two sources for every fact. Be thorough and don't be satisfied with shoddy research.

5. Love your subject. If you're bored by some aspects of what you're writing, then your readers will be too. Follow your heart and write about what grabs you and what you love.

Question 3. Your five favourite books?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles


Thanks so much Rebecca,  and don't forget to vote for The Visitors at the link above. The Visitors is available from Hodder in paperback and e-book now.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Final Book in the Sarah Midnight Trilogy

Spirit; The Final Sarah Midnight book is published on 16th September and I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour. The Sarah Midnight series are a top notch YA Fantasy series set in Scotland, featuring cracking characters and magnificent world building from the wonderful Daniela Sacerdoti. I'll have more info next week but for now here are the blog tour details.





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Crack in Everything by Ruth Frances Long


I was very excited when I heard that Ruth was publishing a YA Fantasy title with O'Brien Press and not just one book but a trilogy. I loved Ruth's previous YA book The Treachery of Beautiful Things which was based on English folktale and myth and this book does not disappoint as it too blends myth and fantasy. This time it is the Sídhe who take centre stage and Angels are also a major force as the front cover hints (just a little). I have been reading this book on holidays and tweeted Ruth a picture of my daughter sneaking a peek on Dublin bus. I had the book in (and out of ) my bag as I travelled all over Dublin on my holidays which was cool as the book is set in Dublin and Dubh Linn the Sídhe city which overlaps and intertwines our own. Somehow Izzy finds herself on an ordinary summer afternoon in Dublin pushed into the Sídhe world and rescued by a silver studded and incredibly attractive Cu Sídhe called Jinx. When Izzy realises that she's been followed home by strange creeping shadows and that she has a strange mark on her neck she knows that something is not right so she turns to Jinx for answers. However instead of answers she ends up dragging her friends into the Sídhe world and all kinds of mythical creatures chasing after her. As the truth of what the mark on her neck means is revealed Izzy and Jinx find themselves in a race across Dublin and Dubh Linn and against time and although they should be mortal enemies it seems life and love have other plans. This is a smart, modern and entertaining read which will appeal to Fantasy fans young and old. Perfect for fans of Celine Kiernan, Katherine Farmar, Kate Thompson and Orla Melling. I can't wait for the next installment. Thanks to Geraldine at O'Brien for a review copy. This book is published on 1st September and will be launched at the Gutter Bookshop on 4th September.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You By Joanna Briscoe


Having first read Joanna Briscoe when I reviewed her most recent novel Touched I knew I had found a writer whose writing utterly enthralled me and I had to discover her back catalogue so I picked up this novel from 2011. The story is told by mother and daughter Dora and Cecilia in two periods; the 1970s when Cecilia was growing up the second child in Dora and her husband Patrick's chaotic bohemian household with damp walls, hippy lodgers, music, books and running wild on the moors, and now as Cecilia returns to the moors with her own family after years in London to look after her mother who is ill. This book drew me in from the first line "IT'S HAUNTED, she thought" this is Cecilia returning to her childhood home and finding that her past is here waiting for her. She has been estranged from her mother and she needs answers. Dora meanwhile is feeling vulnerable delighted that her daughter has returned and that she will have time with her grandchildren she is also keeping secrets and the guilt like her cancer is eating her up. Both women have had a devastating love affair that they have kept secret and they are more alike than they would care to admit. I said in my previous review that Joanna Briscoe "takes a scalpel to humanity and shows us the human heart in all its darkness and glory. " (July 3rd Review of Touched )
I second that now and this book is even better than Touched. If you haven't read her before get your hands on her work right now she is a writer of amazing talent. 

Last Kiss by Louise Phillips


Last Kiss is the third crime thriller from award winning Irish writer Louise Phillips. I met Louise last year when she came to talk to my book club about her first two books. I really enjoyed both of Louise's previous books but this third one is even better and proves that she is absolutely at the top of her game. Last Kiss like the previous novels is told from multiple view points including the killer which is unusual but doesn't in any way detract from the mystery and the desire to read on. Louise's stories are whydunnits not whodunnits because it is the psychological aspect that interests her and the main protaganist is psychologist Dr Kate Pearson. While this book is the third in a series and I recommend you read the rest of the series in order to understand Kate and the police officers that she interacts with, you could read this book without having read the previous two. In this novel Kate is coming to terms with the disintegration of her marriage, feeling guilty about spending time away from her son and of course getting far too involved with the case she is investigating. The book begins a chilling prologue of a young woman in labour and utterly alone in a forest in rural Ireland. The narrative does not hide the fact that the killer is a woman but we read on because her story is so compelling and heartbreaking. Cassie is a disturbed young woman who uses her sexuality to lure her victims to their death but why does she kill? Travelling from Dublin to Paris and Rome this is a page turning, gut wrenching thriller which will  undoubtedly earn Louise further accolades and hordes of new fans. This book will appeal to fans of Sophie Hannah, Arlene Hunt, Erin Kelly and Claire McGowan.