Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements Review and Competition

Katherine Clements debut novel reads like the work of a much more experienced author, it is a literary piece that remains utterly readable; vibrant and deftly plotted it is filled with incredibly rendered sentences. The Seventeenth Century is my favourite historical era as it is filled with political and religious upheaval and it is a time when ordinary people including women begin to express themselves through the burgeoning printing presses. Katherine's novel is set mid century and features a young heroine searching for a place in the world, after her mother is brutally hanged having been accused of witchcraft. Ruth's mother had been a healer and midwife and Ruth seeks her fortune in London taking nothing but her mother's book of remedies and her crimson ribbon. On her journey she meets a young soldier Joseph Oakes. Joseph is also haunted by his past but each one keeps their secrets at first. Joseph finds work as a printer's apprentice and Ruth becomes a maid to a radical young woman called Lizzie Poole. Katherine Clements  has used the real life Lizzie Poole for whom there are only a few documents remaining and spun a deft thread of intrigue and drama around her which encompasses Ruth, Joseph and even the great players of the age Cromwell and King Charles. If like me you have been watching Channel 4's "New Worlds" then this book is for you. This is perfect for fans of astute, well written historical fiction such as that of Victoria Lamb and  Deborah Swift. If you haven't seen New Worlds check out the trailer and If you didn't see The Devil's Whore the series which preceded it which has some linked characters then I urge you to watch that also.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of The Crimson Ribbon I have one to spare so please comment below (nicely, please) and I'll do a draw at the end of the month.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Dead Ground Blog Tour Review and Q&A with author Claire McGowan

The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan is the second book in the Paula Maguire series. Paula is a forensic psychologist working with the missing persons unit in Ballyterrin a Northern Irish town close to the border with the Republic. It is a town full of secrets and uneasy alliances. It is also Paula's home town and she has a personal interest in finding missing people as her own mother disappeared when Paula was a teenager. In the previous book The Lost, Paula had investigated the disappearances of two teenage girls and was also briefly involved with her married boss and her ex Aidan now she is pregnant and doesn't know who the father is or even if she plans to keep the baby. The town is held captive by heavy snow and ice and gripped by fear as a baby is taken from the local hospital and a local doctor who helps arrange abortions for women  is also missing. There is a strong theme of babies, mothers and of course death running through this novel and of course the religious and moral views held by different sides of the community. This is a compelling and gripping read. I would recommend you read The Lost first, although you could read this novel as a standalone but Claire's writing is so brilliant you'll want to read more. If you enjoy thought provoking crime fiction and are a fan of Tana French, Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips then you'll love this. I was lucky enough to get Claire to stop writing long enough to answer a few questions, check them out below. 

1. Have you always been a writer or is it something you came to after trying other things?
 I’ve been writing since I was about nine, and it was the only thing I wanted to do, but I could never finish anything, so I had other jobs for about six years. But I was quite lucky and got published when I was 30, which is quite young for writing.
2. Do you plan your books very carefully or just see where the characters take you?
 I’m not much of a planner at all. I know what needs to happen to the characters and roughly where the story will end up, but for the rest I just trust that the story will take over and get me there. Of course now I’m at the tying up loose ends stage on book 4, I deeply regret this approach.
3. How many more books about Paula will you write?
 It very much depends on my publishers, but I’d like to do at least six. There’s a whole backstory that needs to be explained, concerning what happened to Paula’s mother.
4. You create a very powerful sense of place in your books, do you came back to visit Northern Ireland often?
Yes, I go back at least six times a year, to see family or do book events. I love listening to local radio when I’m there, to get a handle on the voice and also pick up ideas.

5. What is the best writing advice you have received and what advice would you give to those who have just set out on the writing path?
 There’s a book called Writing Down the Bones which I love, and which is all about letting go in your writing and freeing yourself to write anything at all, even if it’s rubbish – just getting words on the page. My advice is always to try and do at least 1,000 words a day for several months. It’s a lot less than it sounds when you aren’t editing. Then after a short while you will have a book that you can work with. So much better than blank pages!
6. Who are your favourite authors and why?
I always admire writers like Tana French and Sarah Waters who are very commercial but also brilliant writers saying something important. I’m a big fan of Lionel Shriver too – she uses detail in such a convincing way. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Interview with Elizabeth Kerri Mahon author of Scandalous Women

Lisa: What made you want to write about history's scandalous women?

Elizabeth: I’ve always been a history geek, ever since I was a child. I used to actually read my history textbooks for fun. Growing up, I was introduced to so many interesting women in history through historical fiction, Anya Seton’s Katherine, That Winthrop Woman, Jean Plaidy’s novel ‘Mine Enemy, the Queen’ about Elizabeth I’s cousin Lettice Knolly’s, that it seemed a natural fit for me to write about scandalous women. And by scandalous, I mean, women who were outside what was considered normal for the time. Today, we might not consider Amelia Earhart or Ida Wells-Barnett scandalous, but they were pioneer, pushing the boundaries of what women were seen as capable of doing. Of course, some of the women that I have written about were truly scandalous in every sense of the word!

Lisa: Do you have any favorite women from history? 

Elizabeth: That’s a tough question. There were some women who I found absolutely fascinating. For example, Emilie de Chatelet, a noblewoman who spent her life devoted to mathematics and science, along with her lover Voltaire. I knew nothing about her until I randomly picked up a book in the New York Public Library. I have great sympathy for Lady Caroline Lamb but if I have to pick a favorite, I would have to say Anne Boleyn and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I have been a little obsessed with both of them since I was a child. Another favorite would have to be Boudica, the Iceni Queen who waged war against the Romans and almost succeeded in driving them out of Britain.

Lisa: Do you uncover many surprises in your research?

Elizabeth: I was surprised when I started researching Calamity Jane. Most of the myths about her and her life in the Old West are just that, myths. Mary Ellen Pleasant’s life story was a huge surprise to me. I discovered her story in a book about women in the Old West. Here was the little known story about an African-American woman who somehow managed to make a fortune in the 1870’s and 80’s in California. At the same time, she conformed outwardly to the stereotypes of the black female servant, despite her wealth.

Lisa: What is a typical writing day for you?

Elizabeth: My morning is spent posting my daily women in history tweets. And then I spent a good deal of time researching the next woman I hope to profile on the blog. I try to write at least four hours a day, typing up my notes from my research and then crafting the blog post. I’m also working on a new book proposal, so that takes up a bit of my time as well.
Other than history what are your passions? I love ballroom dancing, particularly International Latin, but also salsa and hustle. I’ve been studying dancing for several years now, and I can’t get enough. Although it’s an incredibly expensive hobby! Also travel, I have a bucket list of places that I would like to go including Australia and India.

Lisa: Who are your favorite authors?

Elizabeth: Deanna Raybourn, C.W. Gortner, Stephanie Dray, Lauren Willig, Susan Elia MacNeal, Elizabeth Chadwick, Gillian Bagwell, Christy English, Beatriz Williams, Tasha Alexander, Sharon Kay Penman, the list is endless. There are so many amazing writers right now who write historical fiction and mysteries.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New York, New York

I am away for a few days exploring the sights, sounds and most importantly books and culture of New York City. I am very excited and I will be doing some themed reading on my way there and during my stay. I am taking Kate Kerrigan's Ellis Island, a place I hope to visit and also set in the 1920s Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone, For some thrills and spills from the 1840s I have Lyndsay Faye's The Gods of Gotham and finally bang up to date with children's book Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan by Sheila Agnew. I hope to finish them all if only so that I have the excuse to buy more books. (All women you will  notice to keep up the Read Women theme)

When I get back I have some reviews, interviews and blog tours planned I will be featuring The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements, Fever by Mary Beth Keane, Spare Brides by Adele Parks, An interview with author of Scandalous Women Elizabeth K Mahon, The Dead Ground blog tour with Claire McGowan and a review and Q&A with Rebecca Mascull author of The Visitors. There'll even be a giveaway. Plus lots more books to come in May and June. See you soon.


This is the first book by Isabel Wolff that I have read and what an introduction. This book blew me away, it is a fantastic sweeping saga of family, war, friendship and love. Jenni is a ghostwriter, her job is to tell other people's stories and she is happy with that. However she is haunted by a tragic event in her past that she has told no-one about. When she is invited to a small village in Cornwall to write the story of a friend's mother, she jumps at the chance especially when she discovers that Klara has led a fascinating life having grown up as a Dutch ex-pat on Java and been in a Japanese POW camp. When Jenni learns that Klara lives in the pretty seaside village of Polvarth she is conflicted because it was here that the tragic accident took place during her childhood. Jenni decides that it's time to face her demons and as Klara tells her story together they put the past to rest. This is my favourite kind of book; two storylines in different decades and two strong female characters creating the perfect blend of readability and emotional resonance. If you want a light throwaway holiday read this is not it, but if you like a book with depth and heart that will linger in the mind long after you turn the last page I highly recommend it. The style reminds me of Rachel Hore so it's no surprise that she has already given it the seal of approval calling it "Wonderful, tender and compelling" Thanks to Ben Hurd at Harper Collins for a review copy.

Beyond Grace's Rainbow

Carmel Harrington's first novel was a self publishing and e-book bestseller and award winner before the author secured a book deal with Harper Collins. The book is now available in paperback in Ireland, the US and the UK look out for it in stores now. I will warn you that you might need tissues for this one, nonetheless this is a wonderful book with a flowing chatty style that kept me turning the pages. Grace has a wonderful little boy, a dream job as an interior designer and a wonderful, supportive group of friends but she has been dealt a cruel hand by fate as a cancer diagnoses means that she urgently needs a bone marrow transplant. Grace has already had hardship in her life; her adoptive parents died when she was still a teenager and her son's father Liam; an alcoholic left her before Jack was even born. However Liam returns determined to stand by Grace and be part of his son's life. I don't want to ruin the story but it is romantic, thrilling and  full of fabulous characters . You can find out more about Carmel on her website or follow her on twitter at @happymrsh. Carmel's newest book The Life You Left will be published on 19th June. I am really looking forward to that. I had the privilege of meeting Carmel last weekend as my book club buddy and fellow blogger Margaret of Bleach House Library won an evening with Carmel and she has blogged about that here We all had a wonderful evening. Happy Reading.

Unravelling Oliver

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent is one of the most beguiling and intriguing debut novels I have read in a long time. Liz is well established as a writer for television and radio but she has certainly not played it safe with her first novel; with multiple viewpoints and a charismatic but horrifyingly nasty protagonist she invites us all into the mind of a monster. With each chapter told through the eyes of many different people in his life we come to know Oliver as layer by layer the truth of his childhood and the dark secret he carries are revealed.
The book opens with the stark line "I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her." It soon becomes clear that Oliver has beaten his wife Alice so badly that she is in hospital and unconscious. The facade of a charmer, a dreamer, an artist is over and Oliver is exposed. The novel then reveals his life through his story and the stories of those who knew him or thought they did. Perfect if you enjoy a dark psychological drama, for example Barbara Vine or Daphne du Maurier. A writer to watch. thanks to Cliona Lewis of Penguin Ireland for a review copy of this book.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Books and Stuff News Round-up

 Virginia Woolf in Portraits Exhibition Follow the link to the guardian article about a new exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in London about this enigmatic and fascinating woman and her circle.

This week saw Cumann Na mBan finally being honoured for their part in the 1916 Rising, one hundred yearsafter their first meeting in Wynne's Hotel. Here is a link to the Irish Independent article about the ceremony.

Irish born writer Fionnuala Kearney has signed a book deal with Harper Fiction details from the Bookseller. Fionnnuala's book deals with a marriage imploding after the husband's indiscretions are revealed.

It has also been announced last night that Katherine Rundell has been chosen as the winner of WCBP 2014 that's the Waterstones Children's Book Prize in case you didn't know. Katherine won for her wonderful book Rooftoppers in the 5-12 age group as well as winning the overall prize. The Picture Books Prize went to illustrator Nicola O'Byrne for Open Very Carefully and the Teen prize went to Geek Girl author Holly Smale.

Gollancz, an imprint of The Orion Publishing Group, has bought world rights to a remarkable SF debutWritten by an assured new UK author, Crashing Heaven echoes classic SF and brings a cutting edge digital twist. 
Simon SpantonGollancz Associate Publisher, bought rights for two books from London author Al Robertson in a major pre-empt ahead of an auction, through Sue Armstrong at Conville & Walsh.  The first novel, Crashing Heaven, will be published in June 2015. 
Crashing Heaven follows a unique friendship and ultimately asks what it means to be human in our technologically advancing world. Crackling with energy and wit, it will appeal to fans of everything from detective noir to genre classics like Neuromancer. 
Gollancz Associate Publisher, Simon Spanton said: “From the very first lines of Crashing Heaven I was caught in the tangles of the amazing relationship between Jack and Hugo Fist. It was clear that Al Robertson was a writer completely in command of his material and totally at home in his chosen genre. To find all this, fully formed, in the work of a debut writer is special indeed. Why was I determined to publish this book? It’s a long time since I’ve read a book that takes the familiar and fashions it into something that feels so fresh. And it will be a long time before I can forget the terrifying manic energy, the barely contained rage, the chilling face of Hugo Fist.” 
Sue Armstrong added: “Al Robertson is a master storyteller. Every page of Crashing Heaven sparks with energy and it takes a brilliant craftsman to create and control such an imaginative novel, especially one where the characters are as mesmerising as the ideas. That this is a debut is all the more extraordinary. But extraordinary is what Al Robertson does, I knew that the moment I met Hugo Fist.” 
Al Robertson said: “’Gollancz publish the writers who taught me how to write. They use new worlds to dig into this one, which is exactly what I wanted to do with Crashing HeavenIt’s hugely exciting to be joining them, I can’t wait to start working with Simon and his team.’ 
Al Robertson has already been shortlisted for the BSFA short story award and longlisted for the British Fantasy Award. For more information about Al Robertson you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter: @al_robertson. 
Crashing Heaven * Al Robertson * Gollancz * 9781373203402  
Trade paperback £14.99 * eBook £7.99 
For further information please contact Publicity: Sophie Calder  
Tel: 020 752 4314 /

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Haul

I got a fantastic amount of books the other week (more have arrived since) and I am really looking forward to reading these. Books pictured are:
The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark (Two Roads)
The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements (Headline Review)
The Boy that Never Was by Karen Perry (Penguin)
Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall (Titan)
Falling Light by Thea Harrison (Piatkus)
The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull (Hodder&Stoughton)
The Road to Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead (Granta)
That Touch of Magic by Lucy March (Piatkus)

I have had trouble with taking pictures and sharing them here, (technophobe) so a few other great titles have arrived since and some came before (I took pictures but couldn't share them at the time)
How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis (Chatto&Windus)
Fallen by Lia Mills (Penguin)
The Moon Field by Judith Allnatt (Harper Collins)
Ghostwritten by Isobel Wolff (Harper Collins)
Before the Fall by Juliet West (Mantle)
India Black by Carol K Carr (Titan)
India Black and the Widow of Windsor by Carol K Carr (Titan)
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff (Titan)
A Husband's Confession by Zoe Miller (Hachette Ireland)
After the Wedding by Roisin Meaney (Hachette Ireland)

And then as if I didn't have enough to read; not that I am complaining Eason Book Bind sent out a box of new books for my lovely book club.

Titles here include 
A Song for Issy Bradley, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, The Thrill of it All, Burial Rites, Americanah, Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase and many more.