Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sorcerer To the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown is the debut novel from Malaysian born and London based author Zen Cho and is a must for fans of Susanna Clarke and Jane Austen blending as it does elements of regency romance and urban fantasy. Zacharias Wythe was freed from slavery and adopted by Sir Stephen Wythe and raised as a gentleman magician. Now with Sir Stephen’s untimely death clouded with suspicion many in the society of Unnatural Philosophers are working against Zacharias to oppose his appointment as Sorcerer Royal believing that his dark skin makes him unworthy to lead them. Meanwhile Prunella Gentleman is a talented sorceress desperate to practise her gift and break out of the confines of the school for Gentlewitches where she has grown up not quite a servant not quite a lady, her dark skin and uncertain parentage ensuring she doesn’t belong anywhere. Well aware of the rules of society Prunella is determined to use them and break them to suit her own ends and when she makes a magical discovery that could make her fortune she uses the visit of the Sorcerer Royal as an opportunity to escape. Zen Cho has assembled a large cast of characters with this book, the first of a planned trilogy and the action is fun and furious. The plot may seem light-hearted but the themes Cho deals with; racism, sexism, class divisions, imperialism, slavery, are dealt with in a clever and candid way. Thoroughly enjoyable. 

Available in hardback and trade paperback now from Pan Books the paperback is published in July.

This review originally appeared on We Love This Book check it out HERE

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

The Bones of You is a powerful and page turning debut reminiscent of the Lovely Bones. Rosie Anderson is a quiet and studious young girl so when she goes missing the community pull together but when her body is found and it is revealed that she was in fact murdered, the small village the Anderson’s live in is shocked and afraid. Her father is a well known TV reporter her mother a glamorous yummy mummy and the family’s home life seems picture perfect. Local gardener Kate is a good friend of the family and with a daughter Rosie’s age her heart aches for the Andersons but as she becomes entangled in their grief and the murder investigation the perfect fa├žade begins to crack. Narrated through Kate, Rosie and her younger sister Delphine this is a portrait of shattered lives of everyday cruelty and of the horror that hides behind closed doors. Set in the heart of middle England this is a tale that gradually peels away the layers cleverly exposing the imperfections underneath. Undoubtedly Howells is a major new talent and this cracking literary thriller will appeal to fans of Paula Daly and Clare Mackintosh.

This review originally appeared on the Bookseller review website, We Love This Book, you can see the original HERE

The Saffron Trail by Rosanna Ley

This is the story of two women who for different reasons feel a connection to Morocco. Nell is grieving for her mother who died suddenly, in strange circumstances and Amy is a photographer; determined to remain aloof and independent. They meet at a cookery course in Marrakech. For Nell the course was a gift from her husband, a chance to explore Moroccan cuisine which has always held a fascination for her and to understand more about her Mother who had grown saffron on her farm in Cornwall. For Amy the trip is work she is illustrating a cookery book and organising an event showcasing the links between Britain and Morocco, but the trip is also a chance to find out more about her cousin Glenn, her Great Aunt Lillian's only child ,who went missing as a young man and the only clue to his whereabouts is a faded postcard with a Moroccan stamp. The two women instantly hit it off and begin to explore the city and its culture. The trip also gives both of them a chance to think about the next step in their lives. Nell is unsure about selling her Mother's farmhouse and Amy is not sure about her relationship with her boss. Interweaving the two central characters stories are the stories of Glenn in Morocco in the 1970s and Great Aunt Lillian looking back over her life. Rosanna Ley creates wonderful characters and writes beautifully about family, relationships, friendship and love. Perfect for fans of Rachel Hore and Kate Morton.

This review originally appeared on the review website of The Bookseller, We Love This Book see the original review HERE

Last Dance in Havana by Rosanna Ley Blog Tour Guest Post

I am delighted to be involved in the blog tour for Rosanna's newest novel Last Dance in Havana. Rosanna is an author I very much enjoy reading, she captures historical periods and exotic locations perfectly but most of all she creates wonderful, believable characters.

I asked Rosanna to tell me about some of her favourite literary destinations.

Rosanna Ley's Five Favourite Locations in Books

Italy – stunning and sensual – is my favourite country. (I’m writing about Sardinia at the moment and

loving it). Anthony Capella set his delightful novel The Food of Love in Trastevere, Rome. I fell in love

with the down town area of Trastevere the first time I visited the city. It’s bohemian, arty and

irresistable. It also sells the best pizzas in Rome.

Mary Anning had a talent for finding fossils in Lyme Regis in the early nineteenth century. Tracy

Chevalier brings Mary’s story alive in Remarkable Creatures and the Jurassic Coast is another

character in Chevalier’s novel - ancient, mysterious, and yielding historical treasures. I’ve written

about West Dorset many times and find the coastline inspirational. I live here! Lucky me...

I discovered another historical setting, 18 th century Bristol, when researching for Last Dance of

Havana. Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade explores the devastating consequences of the slave

trade that existed there, through the eyes of well born Frances and her Yoruban slave Mehuru. I

chose Bristol as a setting for Last Dance because of its connection with the slave trade; my

contemporary characters live in houses very similar to those of the rich merchants in Gregory’s

novel. These days, Bristol, with its waterways and history is a vibrant and eclectic city.

What writer could resist the ‘cemetery of lost books’ and the sweeping story of Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon set in Barcelona? I loved it. Barcelona is a city that you can’t forget and I

enjoyed researching the place for Bay of Secrets.

Finally, I’ve got to slip in Last Dance in Havana. Cuba is a fascinating location. The people are warm

and friendly and the weather and the music are hot. The history is turbulent, the crumbling colonial

buildings in Havana are picturesque and the beaches are to die for. What’s not to love..?

Last Dance in Havana is published by Quercus and available now.

Thank you so much to Rosanna and to Quercus and MidasPR for a copy of the book and a chance to be involved in the blog tour. I hope this inspires your reading and travel choices.
You can read my review of Rosanna's previous book The Villa HERE

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Stones of Winter by Oskar Jensen

The first novel from Oskar Jensen is a thrilling tale of adventure, witches, wolves and spookiness. Astrid and Leif are a brilliant pairing. Astrid is wild and adventurous while Leif is more thoughtful and cautious. The two friends need all of their skills to face the threat of the new religion which Bishop Folkmar is trying to force on them. Our young heroes know that magic is real and very much alive and that the stones are an important part of that magic. Set in Denmark in the tenth century and using some real historical characters as an inspiration Jensen has written an exciting, well crafted and enthralling story suitable for readers of nine upwards. Available now from Piccadilly Press.