Friday, March 28, 2014

Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase

I heard about this book online and loved the gorgeous cover and the premise of a bookseller who collects the letters and cards she finds in the books in her second hand bookshop. I was reluctant to read it at first though as I thought it simply couldn't live up to the idea of it that I had in my head. However when my good friend Margaret at Bleach House Library reviewed and recommended to me I knew I just had to give it a go.
Happily I can say that the book did not disappoint. 

It is a a dual timeline story (yes you know my favourite) with Roberta in the present day who collects the memorabilia she finds in the books at work. She works at a second hand bookshop, a job she loves and each Roberta chapter has a little quote from one of her finds. Roberta is a great character she likes her own company and she has developed her own routine and she sticks to it, she is in a bit of a rut, it is only as the story unfolds she realises that she does need other people in her life. Dorothy was my favourite character she has made a disastrous marriage and longs for a baby but as her husband goes away to war and she is not getting any younger that seems unlikely. 

This is a beautifully written book which will appeal to those who are like me fans of the dual timeline novel especially fans of Rachel Hore.

Check out Louise's brilliant and beautiful blog

The Midnight Rose

Lucinda Riley's newest novel is also her most ambitious an epic saga which spans continents and the century. This is a dual timeline story which regular readers of this blog will know is a favourite device of mine. 

1911; Born with the Twentieth century Anahita Chavan is a distant and penniless cousin of Indian royalty so when she is offered the chance to became a companion to the headstrong Princess Indira she grasps at it. She has the opportunity not only to be part of a life of wealth and privilege but also a wonderful education. After a couple of years of running wild at Indira's father's palace the two girls are sent to an English boarding school and although they were supposed to return for the summer the war changes everyone's plans. As Indira grows distant Anahita meets and secretly falls in love with Donald Astbury heir to the beautiful Astbury Hall.

2011; Young American actress Rebecca Bradley arrives at Astbury Hall to film her latest role as a 1920s debutante. She is intrigued my the mysterious owner Lord Astbury and an unexpected visitor to the hall an Indian businessman Ari Malik who wants to learn more about his great-grandmother Anahita's life in England. Together Rebecca and Ari discover some of the secrets at the heart of this once glorious home.
This is a real page turner, the kind of book that hooks you and won't let you go. Perfect for fans of Rachel Hore and Kate Morton. 
I can't wait to read Lucinda's The Girl on the Cliff which is also in my TBR pile. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Writing Process

Thanks so much to the exceptionally talented Kerry Drewery for tagging me in the #My Writing Process meme. Check out Kerry's website and blog here and get thee hence to your local bookshops, preferably Waterstones but I'm not biased or anything and purchase Kerry's utterly amazing YA books; A Dream of Lights; nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the The North East Teenage Book Awards and A Brighter Fear; shortlisted for The Leeds Book Awards.

I used to feel a bit of a fraud calling myself a writer because I am not a published writer unless you count the hundreds of reviews and articles I have had published in various parts of the internet. I don't feel like that anymore. I am half way through a novel, it's my fourth. The first three remain unfinished. I don't see that as failure I see it as practice. Through each book I have worked on I have learned more about myself and my own writing process.

Q1. What am I working on?

I am currently working on a novel set in two time periods. One storyline is in the aftermath of WW1 and features a former soldier who becomes involved in the Irish War of Independence and a British nurse also a veteran of the western front who travels to Ireland to look after her aged aunt.
The modern story thread features a historian working on a book about "Big Houses" in Ireland and a reluctant heir to one of those big houses. I don't want to say too much but there are secrets to be revealed and there is a love story.

Q.2 How does my work differ from others?

This is a hard question and something I have asked myself over and over. I think one thing that maybe hasn't been examined by many writers before is the relationship between the Irish and the British and what unites us rather than separates us. Also there are a number of books appearing at the moment that look at the aftermath of the Great War but I want to see how that affected Ireland's fight for freedom, how loyalties changed so fast and also the legacy that remains almost a hundred years later. Until recently many Irish people didn't talk about their ancestors who fought in The First World War, it was almost shameful. I had relatives in both World Wars as well as relatives who fought in The Irish War of Independence and I am proud of all them.

Q.3 Why do I write what I do?

I suppose some of the answers to this question lie in my reply to the previous one. I have always been interested in the effect history has on the present as I believe history is all around us, in the streets, the buildings and the people who have lived through it. I have an intense curiousity about the past which a degree in history hasn't quenched. I also like to write about the choices people make and the destiny they make themselves.

Q.4 How does my writing process work

Firstly and most importantly I have learned that I need to plan. Planning (for me at least) involves lots of long walks mulling the idea over in my head and the purchase of new stationery although I don't really need an excuse for that, like books stationery is an addiction. A fresh new notebook is the place to jot down ideas, mood and other things that I want to include in the story. Often I will get an idea when I am not near the nice new notebook so many of my ideas will end up jotted on scraps of paper from around the house, from work or from the general notebook that I carry in my handbag. Once I feel that I have enough fuel to light the story on fire I will plan a rough outline. I know from previous experience that rushing straight into the story without a plan can end with me writing myself into a corner. Once my outline, including the ending is complete I can start the first draft. I tend to research as I go along which can send the writing off in new directions and that can be distracting so I've tried to leave the research aside for now and just get on with the writing, so far it seems to be working and I can correct errors later.

I am going to tag some other writers  on twitter to answer these questions next, I don't know who will reply so I'll update when I find out who's in.
A little update I have tagged Irish authors Niamh Boyce and Hazel Gaynor and will post up their replies asap

Blog Tour for The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules

When I say Scandinavian crime Fiction no doubt you picture skeletal trees, snow drifts, detectives in puffy jackets clutching steaming coffee cups as they investigate another bleak and brutal murder. I admit I would have thought the same and that would have been fine with me. I am a huge fan of Scandi crime drama on TV and in literature but this book is a world away from that.

The title and cover image will reveal a little of the humour, hope and real characters you will meet in this novel. The story begins with Martha Andersson and her group of friends who live at The Diamond House Retirement home, they are all irritated by the drop in standards. The food is all packaged ready meals the coffee and cakes have been cut and Martha is sure they are being drugged to keep them drowsy and acquiescent. When she shows her friends a documentary about standards in Swedish prisons they realise that they would be better off in prison and The League of Pensioners is born. From luxury hotels to multi million pound euro art robbery to outwitting seasoned criminals and the cops. The League of Pensioners set out on a crime spree with hilarious and dramatic results.

A little about the author

Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg is a Swedish author who has written seventeen books in several genres, including popular science, cartoon, children’s and historical fiction. Her individual writing style, featuring depth of insight, and sense of surprise and humour, gives her books a special appeal. So much so that in 1999 she won the prestigious Widding Prize as the best writer of popular history and historical novels.
Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg is a former journalist and marine archaeologist. She now works full-time as an author. To find out more about Catherina, please visit:

Here are a few questions Catharina about her writing.
1)      Do you live in Sweden?

Yes, in Stockholm.

2)      Is The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules your first book?

No, it is my 18th book, but it is the first book in this genre. And this is really what I love to write.

3)   What is your favourite moment in The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules?

My favourite moment is when the League of Pensioners steal the paintings at the National Museum – and the end of the book too.

4) What do you hope readers will take away from reading about Martha and the gang?

I want them to take care of the old, take care of each other, to remember human values and most of all to enjoy life.

Thank you to Natasha Harding of Pan Macmillan for a review copy of this book. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Secrets of Ghosts by Sarah Painter

The Secret of Ghosts is the follow up to The Language of Spells which I reviewed last year check out my review by clicking this link and regular followers may remember that I loved Sarah's deft plotting and clever characterisation. She doesn't disappoint with her new novel which is a kind of sequel although it is written from the point of view of Gwen's niece Katie who is now 21 and training with her aunt to develop her own magical skills. Katie worries that she doesn't have the magical gift of the other Harper women until she discovers a unique ability that her aunt cannot understand. Gwen worries that she has adversely affected Katie by bringing death into her life. (I won't go into detail here as that would spoil the plot of the first book) and seeks the advice of a woman from another magical family. Gwen also has troubles of her own as she is desperate to start a family with Cam but after seven years together there is a no sign of a baby. I enjoyed this book as it focused on Katie's life and revealed more about the town and the history of Pendleford and it was a joy to re-visit this magical Wiltshire village (even if it is fictional). While this story could be read as a stand alone novel I would recommend reading The Language of Spells first to understand the background to Gwen and Katie's story. These books are perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen or Mary Stewart. This book is available for download now from Carina.

The Enchantment Emporium

The Enchantment Emporium is a delightful urban fantasy originally published in 2009 and now available in this gorgeous re-issued paperback. The story centers around Alysha Gale who comes from a family of witches. She has returned to the family home after her contract as a research assistant at the Royal Ontario Museum comes to an end.  Although she is 24 and has lived away from home, interference in her personal life is a family sport for Alysha's aunts so when she unexpectedly inherits her grandmother's junk shop on the other side of Canada she jumps at the chance to escape. However it seems that there is something magical happening in Calgary and as her grandmother has disappeared it is looking very suspicious. Along with her cousin Charlie and best friend Michael, Alysha sets about investigating the problem meeting Handsome reporter Graham along the way. This is an exciting page turning and fun read for fans of Kelley Armstrong, Ben Aaronovitch and Charlaine Harris with whip smart dialogue and great characterisation. The second book in the series Wild Ways will be released in April with the third due later this year from Titan Books who are also publishing Tanya's Confederation series of Sci-Fi novels this year. Thanks to Chloe Seager of Titan for a copy of this book for review.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gollancz Digital Price Drop

Some great news for fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Gollancz have just made the following announcement about e-book prices.

Press Release

Gollancz announce strategy to reduce the price of eBook editions of its 2014 debuts to £1.99 for the week of publication.

The science fiction and fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group has decided to reduce the price of the eBook editions of six stunning debut novels to £1.99 for the week of publication. All pre-orders and purchases for these titles, made up to a week after publication, will cost the reader less than a cup of coffee.

Gollancz has a tradition of discovering new writers in the science-fiction and fantasy genre. Over the years they have been proud to launch the careers of authors including Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie, Elspeth Cooper, Elizabeth May, Suzanne McLeod, Hannu Rajaniemi and Alastair Reynolds, and of course the adult fantasy debut of Joanne M. Harris. Gollancz are confident that all of their 2014 debuts are equally exceptional new talents and want to share these remarkable novels with as many readers as possible.

Darren Nash, Digital Publisher at Gollancz, writes:

“When we publish a debut novel, we’re very aware that we’re asking readers to take a chance on something new, rather than spend their money on an established author they know they’ll enjoy. That becomes even more challenging at a time like this, when money doesn't stretch as far as it used to. So, we’ve decided to help. We're confident that all of our debut authors are wonderful new talents that you should read – so confident, in fact, that we're prepared to put our money where our mouth is and make it possible for you to try these books for less than the price of a Saturday newspaper.”

The Gollancz debuts that will be included in this initiative are The Boy With the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick, In Dark Service by Stephen Hunt, Barricade by Jon Wallace, The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano, The Incorruptibles by John Horner Jacobs and The Relic Guild by Edward Cox.

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade * Den Patrick * March 20 2014 * Trade Paperback £14.99 / eBook £7.99

In Dark Service * Stephen Hunt * 15 May 2014 * Trade Paperback £14.99 / eBook £7.99

Barricade * Jon Wallace * 19 June 2014 * Trade Paperback £14.99 / eBook £7.99

The Seventh Miss Hatfield * Anna Caltabiano * 17 July 2014 * Hardback £12.99 / eBook £6.99

The Incorruptibles * John Honor Jacobs * 14 August 2014 * Trade Paperback £14.99 / eBook £7.99

The Relic Guild * Edward Cox * 18 September 2014 * Trade Paperback £16.99 / eBook £8.99
Press Contact: Sophie Calder – / 020 7520 4314

My Favourite Blogs and why you need to follow them too

Firstly as it's Monday you might be feeling tired; I know I am, weekends are not relaxing for me they are my busiest time as I work Saturdays and occasionally Sundays and Sunday is my day for catching up on reading, writing, blogging and housework. Hence I often post blogs late on Sunday evenings as I did last night. So beginning another week I have a lot on my plate with a house that never seems to get clean, a TBR pile that keeps on growing and the looming deadlines of reviews, interviews and blog tours, as well as the ever looming ideas, notes and research for my novel stacked up on my desk. However I am not complaining I would rather be busy than bored. One of the best things about blogging is the relationships you develop with other bloggers. I am lucky enough to have some blogging friends in real life and I can connect with them on and offline. There are my colleagues in Waterstones Lisa C and Mara who blog with me about Children's Books at my wonderful friend Mags who has guest reviewed for me many times and blogs at another member of my bookclub blogs about books craft and family life at and my NaNoWriMo ML Grace lives nearby and blogs at and there are lot's of other bloggers whom I have never met but I have connected with through this blog, twitter and facebook including; Steph a writer, reader and feminist. They lovely Carole from Canada who is my long lost book twin. Lovely Irish writers Laura Cassidy, Niamh Boyce and Kate Dempsey and some great fun and informative blogs too Mary Esther Judy at is a fellow bookseller, blogger and Children's Book Lover. One day we will meet up I hope. The wonderful writer Essie Fox runs which is a feast of Victorian books, facts and photos. A great writer to follow for writing tips and just because she is fun and incredibly hard working and her books are brilliant, is Another blogging bookseller is Jen who has written Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops which is hilarious and which features our own Mara and some funny incidents in our bookshop.
Great books news, updates and reviews can be gleaned from The Guardian and The Telegraph book blogs and I am a huge fan of The History Girls which features a whole host of women who write historical fiction for children and adults and many of my favourite authors are among them. There are a number of other wonderful blogs I follow just click through on the side bar on the left. Here is some music to listen to while you browse.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Books and and bookish things making the news this month

Apart from the Bailey's longlist announced the other night and which I mentioned in my last post here is a quick round up of interesting books and bookish things which have made the news, some of which are also currently piling up by my bedside.
Liz Nugent's Unravelling Oliver is winning praise from the critics and the book buying public alike. I hope to review this exciting debut psychological thriller very soon my friend and fellow blogger Mags of raved about it here.
The intern who discovered the manuscript of Donal Ryan's award winning The Spinning Heart in the slush pile at Lilliput Press; Sarah Davis-Goff has founded a brand new publishing house with Lisa Coen who has also previously worked at Lilliput. Sarah obviously has a knack for spotting talent and the pair will publish new Irish fiction but they also aim to publish rediscovered gems from Irish writers who have not enjoyed the lasting success of some our famous exports; no doubt many of those re-issued titles will be by female authors (just guessing.)Their website is gorgeous and they have some of the most honest submission advice I've ever seen check it out here
Some lovely literary biographies and memoirs have appeared recently The Road to Middlemarch;My Life with George Eliot by Rebecca Mead looks very interesting as does How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis and out now in paperback is Jane Dunn's Daphne Du Maurier and her Sisters, I want to devour them all. An unusual choice for me is the autobiography of Alan Johnson which I have picked up. No doubt as an ardent fan of Call the Midwife I was drawn in by the idea of reading more about working class life in 1950s London, This Boy is Waterstones Non-Fiction book of the month for March.
The Irish Book of the Month at Waterstones has also drawn my attention. Daragh McKeon is a debut novelist and his All that is Solid Melts into Air has won praise from two of the biggest names in Irish writing the two Colms (Tóibín and McCann) Set around the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and the fall of the Soviet Union this is an ambitious novel blending love story, social commentary and historical fiction.
Vikings are also big news at the moment the exhibition at the British Museum will draw huge crowds and the History Channel's lavish drama is finally being aired in Ireland (where it was filmed.) Giles Kristian has returned to the Vikings for his latest novel out in April and Icelandic author Snorri Kristjansson's debut Swords of Good Men is out now in hardback with a paperback release date of June this year. Joanne Harris has drawn inspiration from Norse Myth for her latest novel The Gospel of Loki and that's out in hardback now just in time for the DVD release of  Thor: The Dark World.
Page to screen adaptations abound at the moment and make for some uneven viewing Quirke a TV series based on Benjamin Black's series of crime novels had three movie length episodes that were hit and miss at best. Beautifully filmed the depiction of 1950s Dublin was flawless but the acting less so and the plotting was tired and clunky. Call the Midwife based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth has just finished it's third series and it remains as popular as ever. I love it the acting is top notch and the plotting superb I admit I've yet to read any of the books but I feel that the story is so well rendered I don't need to. Next week sees a return to our screens of Jimmy Perez the detective in Ann Cleeves "Shetland" series. I've only read one of this series and I enjoyed it but while Cleeves can certainly write I have to admit that Peter May's Lewis trilogy are my lonely and windswept Scottish Island books of choice and I would love to see that series filmed.
A book series that has been just this week been commisioned for TV is Claire McGowan's Paula Maguire series. I reviewed the first in the series The Lost last year read my review here and I will be reviewing Claire's newest book The Dead Ground next month when I take part in her book tour.
Finally I often feel guilty about the many unread books that sit on my shelves; I read a lot but I couldn't possibly read every book that comes into the house, so I take some comfort from this article in the Telegraph.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Bailey's Women's Fiction Prize

The longlist for the prize was announced late last night and it is an interesting list with a lot of debut authors included including Irish writers Audrey Magee and Eimer McBride. The Guardian article below focuses on the lack of British authors making the cut; only four of the twenty longlisted authors are British and the picture gallery below that gives some detail on the titles themselves. I have six of the twenty in my TBR pile so I hope to read and review them before the shortlist is announced in June. Also just look at the judges Mary Beard, Denise Mina and Caitlin Moran to name just three I would love to be part of their discussions, what fun.

Banished by Liz de Jager

Banished is Liz de Jager’s debut novel and it is certain to make her the next big thing in British Fantasy. The book, while aimed at a YA audience will also appeal to adults, particularly fans of Neil Gaiman and other crossover titles such as those of Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. The story features seventeen year old orphan Kit who after the death of her grandmother discovers that she comes from a family of demon hunters. She is soon living with them at the mysterious Blackhart Manor training with weapons and magic. Left home alone to recover and rest after a successful mission Kit instead stumbles upon a Fae prince being attacked by goblins, she rescues him and becomes embroiled in a war between different Fae factions in which Prince Thorn is the unwilling pawn. As the war between fae breaks through into our own world Kit must rely on her own strength and ingenuity to keep herself and her new friend safe. Liz de Jager’s storytelling is a mile a minute thrill ride through mythology, folklore and fantasy. I hope this is the first of many books about the resilient and witty Kit Blackhart.
This review originally appeared on You can see it Here

A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

Louise Welsh has already established herself as the Queen of the intelligent psychological crime thriller and as a big fan of hers I was delighted to hear that she had a new book releasing in early 2014. However I had not anticipated that it would be the first in a trilogy about a mysterious virus spreading across the UK decimating the population surely this was a Science Fiction novel? therefore not my cup of tea? I am pleased to say I was wrong, Louise seamlessly blends aspects of crime and Sci-fi together and her gutsy heroine Stevie is a perfect protagonist; an ex journalist she still has an instinct for a story especially when things don’t add up. When her boyfriend dies suddenly in the middle of an epidemic no-one else seems suspicious but Stevie is convinced he was murdered. So while everyone else is fleeing the capital and the virus known as “the sweats” Stevie is entering dangerous territory and attempting to track down a killer. This is a fantastic, intelligent and heart thumping read the kind of book that will keep you awake in a desperate rush to finish it. I look forward to the next instalment.
Perfect if you love Lottie Moggach and Erin Kelly.
Thanks to for the chance to read an early copy of this book which is published in hardback and e-book by John Murray on March 20th.
I reviewed Louise Welsh's last novel the Girl on the stairs HERE