Monday, July 24, 2017

The Last Lost Girl by Maria Hoey

This is a debut novel published by Poolbeg under their new Poolbeg Crimson imprint which offers 'Fiction with an edge'.  This is the story of Jacqueline Brennan. Set in two time periods; the long hot summer of 1976 when Jacqueline's sister Lily disappeared and years later when Jacqueline returns to her home at Blackberry Lane to look after her aging father. We learn that Jacqueline is the youngest child, the misfit, the loner. Lily was the beauty queen, while middle sister Gayle was the homemaker, the peacemaker. Jacqueline's family have never been able to shake off the sadness, the mystery surrounding the unexplained disappearance of Lily and one by one they had scattered, all except for her Dad who had remained in the family home, stagnant. When Jacqueline returns it as though time has stood still. In 1976 Jacqueline had tagged along after her older, glamorous sister, never quite accepted, a nuisance. Lily had been seeing a boy who worked at the carnival and he had been questioned by police but no-one was ever arrested and Lily's body was never found so Jacqueline has always harboured the hope that her sister simply ran away that she is out there somewhere, waiting to be found. An old postcard of an English seaside town gives Jacqueline a clue about where to start her search but Jacqueline learns as much about herself and her place in the world as she does about her missing sister. This is a beautifully written book about family, secrets and growing up. It's a thriller but it's also very much a family story. Excellent writing. I found it unputdownable.

Thanks very much to Poolbeg for a copy. The Last Lost Girl is out now in paperback. 

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne Blog Tour; The Books That Made Me

A gothic and chilling debut from Kate Murray-Browne about a young family; Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters who have just moved into what should be their dream home in Litchfield Road. Stretched to the limit, the renovations have to wait and they decide to get a lodger in to rent the basement, so they can afford the repayments. Eleanor feels the strange atmosphere almost immediately and begins to suffer with chronic headaches and vomiting. Richard is also affected but he is channeling his unhappiness into a Masters Degree that he hopes will change his life, his career and help him find that spark that his current role as a solicitor doesn't give him. The lodger Zoe has quit her job to work in an art shop and left her long term boyfriend. She is hoping to write, or draw or something. She too is seeking change. The Upstairs Room is left empty. It's walls covered in scrawls and pictures from the little girl who lived there before. Eleanor asks the neighbours and they tell her there was an accident, something bad happened in that house. As Eleanor becomes increasingly ill and starts to see her older daughter's behaviour changing she knows she must do something. This is a dark and clever book which uses the tropes of the ghost story to examine the anxieties of three people worried about the cost of housing, about being trapped by marriage, by jobs, by reponsibilities. This book will be published by Picador on July 27th in e-book and hardback. Thanks to Don Shanahan for an e-ARC.

I asked the author to take part in my Books that Made Me Series and here are Kate's choices.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James – I first read this when I was seventeen, which is maybe why James’s young heroine ‘affronting her destiny’ appealed to me so much. But it stayed with me, and the ideas about choice, limitation and thwarted desire (not to mention the potential disaster of marriage proposals) all found their way into my first novel, The Upstairs Room.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – I read this on holiday in Mallorca, basically the least spooky setting ever, and I was still terrified. I remember feeling very sad finishing it because I thought it was one of the best books I’d ever read, but there was no way I could read it again as it was so frightening. I have braved it since (during daylight hours) and found the evocation of the house and its inhabitants just as compelling and poignant, marvelling at how skilfully Waters manages the ambiguity of the haunting.

Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy – there are lots of wonderful things about this autobiographical essay, but the thing that stands out for me is the way Levy writes about motherhood – I thought about it a lot when writing about Eleanor, one of my protagonist’s, experience of motherhood. I’m incredibly excited about the forthcoming sequel, The Cost of Living (and I half-wanted to steal the title for The Upstairs Room).

The Blog Tour continues see banner for details

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Even more Jane Austen

There are a lot of articles on the web today about Jane Austen, an awful lot so I thought I would curate some of the more interesting ones for you. I am collecting these various strands together as much for myself as anything else since I am working on an article on Jane Austen and her literary legacy.

Irish Times: Writers on Jane Austen

The Guardian Podcast on Jane Austen with Sara Pascoe and Lucy Worsley

BBC Culture on Jane Austen's final unfinished novel Sanditon

The Guardian asked writers to discuss their favourite Austen novel

and so did The History Girls blog

Lit Hub article on Austen as a political symbol

Finally my friend Meabh wrote a lovely piece on the Jane Austen event we attended last Sunday. There's pictures.

Jane Austen 200

Today is the two hundredth anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and I couldn't let the day go unmarked. I attended a celebration of all things Jane, her life her works and the music, songs, dancing and costumes of the era with a group of fellow Janeites last Sunday. It was great fun and thanks so much to Aislinn Ní Uallacháin of Jane Austen Ireland for organising such a great event. You can like the Jane Austen Ireland page on facebook at the link below and see some photos from the event.

To celebrate the anniversary Rose Servitova author of The Longbourn Letters is running a special offer and the kindle edition of her book is now free for a limited time at the amazon links below.

UK and Ireland                                 USA

Monday, July 17, 2017

Corpselight by Angela Slatter Blog Tour

I am delighted to be involved in the blog tour for Corpselight by Angela Slatter which is the second volume in the Verity Fassbinder series. If you haven't already read the first book Vigil then get it and read it now, for your own good. This is a gritty urban fantasy set in Brisbane featuring Verity a half Normal, half Weyrd so she has a foot in each world but since she works for the Weyrd council she spends a lot of time dealing with Weyrd and weird stuff. Working for the Weyrd council is a bit like working for the city council only more dangerous and with greater probability of encountering tails and fangs. Verity is tough, brave, super strong, pigheaded, cynical, smart thinking and soft hearted. Imagine Phyrne Fisher transplanted to modern day Brisbane and clothed in doc martens, jeans and leather jacket except on top of all that, in this instalment Verity is also heavily pregnant. As Verity investigates mysterious drownings across the city and does some snooping for an insurance company she is targeted by some muderous kitsune and goes into early labour, luckily she is rescued by a mystery woman, who it turns out has a past very much entangled with Verity's. The storytelling is top notch; it's fast paced, wickedly funny and delightfully dark and the plot is never rushed, even though there is a huge amount of story and information conveyed. Each character is properly fleshed out and well rounded and there are twists that you just won't see coming. This is a perfect read for fans of Rivers of London or the Dresden Files or for any reader that likes their comedy razor sharp and their heroines daring, caring and devil may care.
The book is being launched in the UK/Ireland  and Australia simultaneously so the blog tour is international which is really exciting and includes many bloggers who took part in the blog tour for Vigil last year, because Angela Slatter is the kind of author that inspires fandom. Details of the rest of the blog tour are below, just click to enlarge and you can read my review of Vigil HERE

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde Blog Tour

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde. The second novel from Eve Chase is another page turning gothic thriller that you won't be able to put down. There are shades of Daphne du Maurier in the themes explored here and I gobbled it up in a couple of sittings. This is a dual time novel focusing on contemporary protagonist Jessie who is desperate to leave London behind and give her family a new start. She sets her sights on Applecote Manor a beautiful house in need of love and attention in rural Wiltshire. Jessie is mum to toddler Romy, wife to Will and step-mum to teenager Bella, but she feels overshadowed by the ghost of Will's first wife Mandy and Bella seems determined to remind her of her loss everyday. Jessie hopes that escaping London can bring her closer to her prickly step-daughter. But there are shadows and secrets at Applecote too, the locals are reluctant to talk about it but there are rumours of the tragic disappearance of a child. The other strand of the story is that of the Wilde sisters in the 1950s. When their mum takes a job abroad they too leave London for Applecote. They are to spend the summer with their aunt and uncle who have become virtual recluses since the disappearance of their daughter Audrey. As the summer unfolds for Margot Wilde and the winter draws in for Jessie each of them begins to explore the story of the vanishing girl. This is a wonderful story, gothic, dark and yet full of hope and light. Beautiful storytelling, perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Webb.

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is published by Michael Joseph, in the UK and Ireland 13th July. Thanks so much to Gaby Young for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

I asked the author to tell me about some of her favourite gothic novels and here's what she told me.

Gothic fiction – Eve Chase
The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is published by Michael Joseph, 13 July.

The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs was the first gothic story I remember reading, or quite possibly hearing – it’s embedded in that bit of childhood where books and stories spoken aloud are interchangeable, as vividly alive as an imaginary friend. (Children are naturally gothic creatures!) It’s about being granted three wishes and, of course, each wish having a terrible consequence. I was chilled and delighted by it: fear feels damn good when you experience it vicariously, tucked up safely in bed. I still think about that short story’s premise; the ultimate be careful what you wish for. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is another creepy story that’s stayed with me all these years. Not only because I’m a huge fan of the dazzling Wilde and will happily read anything he’s written, or because it works on many different levels – satire, gothic tale, a dilemma of deviance – but mostly because it’s an unbelievably cracking story. It is still modern. It still speaks to us. After all, who wouldn’t be tempted to sell at least some of their soul for everlasting youth and beauty? You wouldn’t? Really? Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is also powerfully universal – the story of a second wife, haunted by the presence of the first - despite its Cornish setting and Maurier’s unique narrative voice. It’s inspired many other novels and writers, myself included, but has never been bettered. While we’re on the subject of mysterious terrible others, creaking houses and forbidden erotic thrills, I’ll confide that my teenage self (still alive and kicking, although my face, unlike Dorian’s, is now inhabiting a more distant decade) also has a soft dark spot for the novels of Virginia Andrews. The best one is Flowers In the Attic, a thrilling yarn of wicked mothers, grand estates and – oh joy! – incest. I tried to read it again recently but couldn’t – it felt like reading a diary of my own teenage years, something private, cringe-worthy and infinitely precious. Great gothic stories knit their narratives into your own life. And they make very reliable imaginary friends.

Copyright Eve Chase 2017
The blog tour continues for the rest of the week, details below.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen

The 18th July this year will be the two hundredth anniversary of the death of a literary icon. Creator of some of the most memorable characters in English fiction, Jane Austen was a master storyteller. There will be celebrations among Janeites all year and all over the world but this weekend sees a celebration commence closer to home, in Limerick in Ireland which will continue until December. I am including the full press release below.



July 16th Austen Afternoon Tea & Talks at No. 1 Perry Square sold out. This event included an introduction to the select teas for the event provided by local tea-merchants, Cahills of Limerick. Serving of Afternoon Tea delights. Historian, Sharon Slater, gives a talk 'Tom LeFroy - Jane's Limerick Beau'."A few words about tea from Emma's friend, Miss Bates of Hampstead" performed by Vanessa Hyde. Presentation and talk from Sinead Ryan Coughlan of the Irish Historical Costumers on Regency Fashion (with model, Sinead Finegan). Melissa Shiels will sing two Irish airs that were found amongst Jane Austen’s music collection.

Other events include;
Culture Night, September 22nd(8pm) at Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick – a free workshop Historical Costumer & Workshop Presenter, Melissa Shiels, will give a very entertaining and informative talk entitle “Georgian Clothing, Customs and Material Culture”. Melissa will have many examples and recreations at hand for what promises to be a great evening.
September 23rd (2pm) at No.1 Pery Square – Austen Afternoon Tea & Talks – Speakers include editor & journalist, Tim Bullamore on “The Joy of Jane”, Kim Arnold presents a talk “Obstinate Headstrong Girl!: Maxims & Manners in the novels of Jane Austen” and we will have a presentation of men's fashion in the late 18th and early 19th century by the Irish Historical Costumers all accompanied by delicious afternoon tea treats and an occasional song. Attendees will also receive a customised keepsake.
October 5th sees two events facilitated by world-renowned period costume designer and Limerick woman, Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh. Eimer worked as costume designer for “Becoming Jane”, “Love & Friendship”, “Brideshead Revisited” and “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” amongst many others. Eimer will visit her former college, The Limerick School of Art & Design, to present an informative talk to students on working in theatre and film. That evening, at a public event, Eimer is guest at “An Evening with Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh” at the intimate drawing rooms of No. 1 Pery Square (7pm). Here she will have some of the costumes from “Love & Friendship” and partake of a Q&A session.
October 23rd 7.30pm– Oscar-nominated movie director and screenwriter, Whit Stillman will join us for a screening of Austen adaptation, the comedy “Love & Friendship” at the University Concert Hall, Limerick. Niall MacMonagle will host a Q&A session with Whit Stillman directly after the screening.
November 3rd (Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock) & November 9th (Belltable, Limerick) host New Zealand woman Penny Ashton’s world tour of “Promise & Promiscuity” in a humourous show as she tackles all of Austen's characters with song, dance and appalling cross-stitching. 
Other events include;
  • a talk by Sandra Lefroy on family connections to Austen and William Wordsworth hosted by the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society.
  • a collaboration between Sound Heritage Ireland and the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance which will see a musical event of the era re-enacted in a Georgian setting.
For further details please check out our facebook page where links to events/tickets/websites will be available once finalised.

The curator of Jane Austen 200 is Rose Servitova the author of the Longbourn Letters and I asked Rose to tell me about why Jane Austen is such a big influence, why she decided to write a Pride and Prejudice inspired novel and why she felt that Limerick was the perfect place to celebrate 20o years of Jane. This is what she said.

How Jane Austen Inspired Me?
It was at my grandmother’s house on the foothills of the Ox Mountains in Sligo, during summer holidays, that I discovered my love of reading and there, I found all the classics including the works of Jane Austen. I fell in love with her writing and it has stayed with me since. For years, Pride & Prejudice was my comfort blanket - the book I went back to time and again whenever my life sucked for some reason or other. It was like being held, rocked and soothed. The familiar never bored me instead I sought it out whenever the bottom was falling out of my world and it held me together.
For at least ten years, the idea of writing some kind of tribute to Pride & Prejudice had crossed my mind but I had absolutely no idea what to write. Occasionally, Mr Collin’s diary sprung to mind and when I eventually sat down last year and commenced writing, I knew immediately that it would be disastrous. How could anyone read more than a few pages of his self-importance, deluded gibberish? Instantly, the solution came to me in the form of my other favourite character, Mr Bennet. Four letters existed between these two men in Pride & Prejudice so I would merely have to fill in the gaps and continue until it reached a natural conclusion. They contrasted with each other perfectly and gave me the opportunity to write some great dialogue and witty interaction. That is how The Longbourn Letters came about.  I laughed so much when writing it and I hoped that others would too. Because I love Austen so much and find her minor characters so brilliantly drawn, there was no need for me to go off-track but to stay loyal to her portrayal and hopefully add a bit more detail. Her clever, witty dialogue has influenced my writing greatly – it is what I seek out in other novels and hope to emulate in my own.

How I got involved in Jane Austen 200 – Limerick
Before The Longbourn Letters was published, I began connecting with Jane Austen fans and groups all over the world. I was amazed to see how many were organising celebrations for her bicentenary and, in particular, I was amazed that cities that did not exist 200 years ago were having dances, plays, talks etc… I thought ‘well done, guys’. I always felt that Limerick was a perfect spot to host a Georgian festival as we have the largest Georgian quarter outside of Dublin but when I looked into the Jane Austen angle, I found that we also had many connections with the author. As a qualified event manager and without wanting the bicentenary to pass unacknowledged, I decided to organise an afternoon tea and talks event to mark the occasion. A number of weeks later, I found myself curating a whole series of events running from July to December that include theatre, fashion, music, dance, literature, screen, talks/workshops and tea!! It’s great to see that other parts of the country are doing likewise with events  being held in Dublin, Cork and elsewhere.

Rose's book continues the story of the Bennets of Longbourn and Mr and Mrs Collins of Rosings through the letters between the two cousins; the taciturn Mr Bennet and the silly Mr Collins. It is a fitting and joyful response to the original. The perfect book to read this weekend as we celebrate Jane Austen and her legacy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Blog tour alert

I am delighted to be kicking off the Blog tour for Eve Chase's new book The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, check out the details below and watch this space on Thursday.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Irish Women writing YA Fiction and Making it their own

I wrote a piece which Children's Books Ireland kindly featured on their website, on the fantastic Irish Women who are writing Young Adult fiction. And as Louise O'Neill moves to riverrun the new upmarket crime imprint of Quercus Publishing, I mused who might take her place on the awards and bestseller lists. There is certainly no shortage of talented women to add to your reading lists. This article has been shared quite a bit on facebook and twitter so I  am delighted if it spreads the word. You can see it at the link below.