Showing posts from 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…

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…

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 …

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. 
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 Nor…

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 th…

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. Wemeet 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 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 developmen…

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 gri…

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…

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 sk…

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.

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 ri…

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 child…

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
I am delighted to be taking part in the blog…

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

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 …

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 wr…

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 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 di…

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 Mauri…

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…

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 serv…

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 t…

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.

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 …

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 kee…

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 ab…