Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Body in the Boat Review and Giveaway



The Body in the Boat is the final book in the Hardcastle and Chaytor mystery series from A. J. McKenzie; the pen name of writing duo and husband and wife team Marilyn Livingstone and Morgan Witzel. The book opens with Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor attending a birthday party thrown by Mr Munro; a respected local banker for his wife. Just days later Mr. Munro is found dead. Of course the Reverend in his position as magistrate must investigate and as always he is assisted by the very capable and unflappable Mrs Chaytor. The mystery involves links to a band of local smugglers as well as rumours that the East Weald and Ashford Bank where Mr. Munro was a partner might be in trouble. This is an intriguing mystery with plenty of twists and turns. The series takes place at the end of the 18th Century during a period of almost constant conflict with France, as well as fears of French invasion. While the Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs. Chaytor may be firm members of the middle class their investigations take them to a wide variety of places and because of this the authors are able to paint a broad picture of Georgain life. There is a wonderful cast of characters from the Reverend's novel writing sister Calpurnia to the laudanum addicted business woman Mrs Redcliffe to the fishermen, smugglers and thugs and the local gentry protected in their grand houses. The Kent landscape is beautifully described and I felt the writing really brought the historical and rural setting to life. This is a thoroughly enjoyable historical mystery. If you have yet to discover this series I highly recommend it particularly for fans of Antonia Hodgson, Andrew Hughes or Andrew Taylor.
The Body in the Boat is available in paperback from today published by Bonnier Books UK. Thanks to Ellen Turner for a copy. Bonnier Books are also providing one copy to give away to readers of this blog.

To enter simply contact me on twitter @LisaReadsBooks and tell me the name of Reverend Hardcastle's sister. This giveaway is UK and Ireland only.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Night Raven by Sarah Painter




I have read several of Sarah's previous books and she very kindly sent me a copy of her latest novel The Night Raven which is a bit of a new direction for the author. Sarah's previous work has included magical realism, dual time fiction and romance. The Night Raven is the first book in a brand new urban fantasy series. The setting is much more urban than Sarah's previous novels and helps to give the book a gritty realism. Lydia Crow has taken a break from her job as a Private Investigator in Scotland and returned to London where her family history stretches back generations. Her uncle has given her the use of a flat he owns and asked for her help in finding her teenage cousin; Maddie, who has gone missing. Lydia has always believed that unlike the rest of her family she has no magical ability but when she discovers that she is sharing her new flat with a ghost it becomes obvious that she has some talent. Lydia feels wary of her powers. She knows that The Crow family are one of the four magical families of London but her parents have always kept her out of that world. Lydia knows that her family are a bit dodgy and she tells her uncle that she doesn't want to know or be involved with that side of things. She is determined to just find her missing cousin and get back to her old life. It's just not that easy though because the pull of magic and of her family is strong and though there has been a truce between the magical families it soon becomes clear that the truce is strained to it's limits. I raced through this book, it's thrilling, fast paced and  full of adventure and intriguing characters. I cannot wait to read more about Lydia so I'm delighted that this will be a series and that there will be more stories about the Crow family. The Night Raven is perfect for fans of Anna McKerrow, Laura Laakso, Ben Aaronovitch and V. E. Schwab. The Night Raven is available in paperback and e-book. 

The Curious Crime by Julia Golding Blog Tour and Q&A



Julia Golding's latest novel for children is a wonderful fantasy set in an alternative 19th Century in which Science reigns supreme and curiosity is a crime. Philosophy and religion are outlawed and life is rigidly structured. Ree and Henri are both curious children; Ree is a talented sculptor and Henri a scholar and amateur detective. Both children face discrimination and set backs but they must work together to solve a mystery. The setting for their adventures is Museum Island home to a vast museum and school of learning where science is celebrated but questioning authority is a punishable offence. Ree's father is sent away for allowing his daughter to become an apprentice stonemason, Henri's progress as a scientist is hampered by those prejudiced against his dark skin. This is a tale of adventure and mystery with a host of brilliant characters including a number of animals, some of which are sadly now extinct, the story is full of intriguing detail about the museum and the animals that live in the menagerie there. The science that is revered is rooted in 19th Century beliefs of female inferiority and disciplines such as phrenology which espoused the idea that the shape of the head was an indicator of intelligence and temperament. There are big questions asked here about whether science and faith can coexist and the danger of being over reliant on one way of thinking. A really intelligent and exciting book which will get young minds thinking and questioning. A must for fans of Julia Golding's Cat Royal mystery series or fans of Robin Stevens and Emma Carroll. 

I had a chance to ask the author some questions about the book and her writing in general:


Q1. Although Museum Island and the setting of your book is your own invention you must have done a huge amount of research into the history of science. Are you a science buff? Are there any discoveries you made while researching that particularly fascinated you?

Gosh, I'd like to be known as a science buff! I'm almost tempted to pretend... OK, OK, I confess! The truth is that, as a writer, I'm used to getting to grips with new areas of knowledge and going to experts for help. Actually, that's part of the fun of being a fiction writer - I've gone up in biplanes, visited theatres, gone to a Tudor banquet... The background knowledge for this novel came out of a non-fiction series for children called The Curious Science Quest which I've written with the help of Andrew Briggs, Professor of Nanomaterials at Oxford University, and Roger Wagner, artist. In six books we look at the history of science as two time-travelling guides, Darwin's tortoise Harriet, and Schrödinger's cat, Milton, visit all the key moments from the cave dwellers to 2018. The style is adventure with illustrations, cartoons and really bad jokes.
I made many discoveries while studying for this but I do have some favourites, such as Aristotle being the first to do a capture and release biological experiment to investigate dolphin snoring. You couldn't make it up! So when you see those statues of bearded Aristotle you can think of him as the 4th century BC David Attenborough.

Q2. The book is set in an alternate 19th Century - do you think there are lessons to be learned to prevent us becoming a society that places science far above faith? Are we turning into that society?

The setting is fantastical, a wonderful, magical natural history museum that maps out the story of science through its open rooms, dusty corners and abandoned chambers of old ideas. It does, however, have a firm grounding in 19th century thought. I imagined what might've happened to society if a fundamental kind of Darwinism took over - not a version of his thought Darwin would recognise but one that pushed his ideas to an extreme. Scientists in the book become like a ruling religious authority, a high priesthood only allowing scientific questions, not ones of meaning and purpose, the realm of philosophy and religion. It makes for great drama as you can be a thought criminal! 
And yes, I think there is a danger we elevate scientific knowledge above other kinds of wisdom, mixing our categories. Take for example the recent last publication by Stephen Hawking 'Brief Answers to Big Questions'. The press made much of him saying that there is no God or afterlife, as if his view was definitive, a bit like the ruling authorities in my novel. Hawkings isn't giving a scientific answer though, because you can't use scientific method to prove the existence of God or an afterlife either way. It's a category error of knowledge. Think about it a little. Hawking might be saying that he can't see the need for God in what he observed in the universe - or what is traditionally known as the 'God of the gaps' theory (I happen to agree with him under those terms). When we find something we don't understand we shouldn't say 'Ah-ha, that's God's work' but instead we should try to be better scientists and look for an explanation. It might take a while to come. Most religions, though, don't now think of God as popping in to tinker with the machinery; we think of him as the Creator, so rather than say 'Where is God in the universe? I can't see him.' I prefer a question that says 'What kind of God would make this kind of universe? What does that tell us about him? Why can we understand it in the first place? And what does understanding mean?' That's one part of the battle of ideas I'm trying to dramatise in the book: the argument about who gets to say what kind of questions we can ask.

Q3. Do you have any favourite scientists? Especially women scientists who perhaps don't have the fame they deserve?

One of the joys of writing the novel was to learn more about the women in scientific history. If you remember that education for women is an extreme exception for much of recorded history, their achievements are remarkable. Among my heroes is Hypatia, head of the school in Alexandria in around 400 AD (this was the leading place of scientific learning in her era). She was a great mathematician and earned her position through talent. She also lost her life to a mob in a religious riot, showing the particular danger to women taking such a prominent role. I've put her in my book, or at least there's a character who honours her memory. Then there's Caroline Herschel, a survivor of domestic abuse and bullying, who in the late 18th century discovered her own comets and helped her brother, William, in his groundbreaking stargazing work (he discovered Uranus among other things). She was the first woman to be awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and was only denied full membership because of her gender. There are many more women to discover, but that's just a taster.

Q4. Your inclusion of various animals that are now extinct is a reminder of how destructive humans have been in their pursuit of knowledge and resources. Do you have a favourite animal that no longer exists? 

I had great fun making a dodo a main character. He's called Phil and gets into a lot of trouble - in fact, he is one of the reasons Ree, my main female character, starts the book with a major disaster on her hands. But we all know the dodo, so maybe I should mention Ziggy? She is a Tasmanian wolf, a doglike striped creature. This species only went extinct last century so there are photographs of them if you want to look up this largest meat-eating marsupial. She is aggressive and uppity, quite a handful, but that's in part because she is guarding her joey, her baby, Zag, in her pouch.

Q5.What is your writing process like? Are you very organised and plan in detail or do you like to just write and see what happens? 

I wouldn't say I'm organised, but I am efficient. I have a set time of day for writing (morning) and make myself 'go to work' at a cafe to do this. If I stay at home I waste time. I think about what I'm going to write the afternoon and evening before, so that's when the planning happens. If there's something particular I want to include, I'll note it in my notebook, but usually it's just in my head. I've only done very detailed planning for an adult psychological novel I wrote under my pen name Joss Stirling (it's called Don't Trust Me). I had to produce a spreadsheet to make sure the drip-feed of information happened in the right order - very complicated!





Available now Lion Children's Book in paperback and e-book. Thank you to Anna at Midas PR who kindly provided me with a copy. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso



I loved this book from the moment I heard about it. For starters it has a gorgeous cover, which gives an intriguing hint about the story (cover design by Jennie Rawlings) and I was also excited because the book was being published by an amazing small publisher Louise Walters Books. Fallible Justice is the first book in the paranormal crime series Wilde Investigations. Yannia Wilde takes on the task of investigating a murder, Ilana Marsh wants Yannia's help to prove her father's innocence, although her father Jonathan has been found guilty by the Heralds who are said to be infallible. With only a few days to find out what really happened Yannia and her assistant Karrion have to work hard travelling through the paranormal world of Old London and beyond. The plot revolves around the investigation and is itself compelling and rewarding but it is the character development that makes this book a truly fascinating read. Yannia suffers from a chronic illness which can leave her tired and in a great deal of pain and the day to day of struggle of dealing with pain while trying to work, sleep and exercise is very skillfully outlined. Having a chronic illness myself I loved seeing this representation. I also loved the setting, The book straddles the paranormal and urban fantasy genres comfortably and the magic system intrigued me. I am really excited to read more from Laura Laakso and discover more about Yannia's world. Thanks so much to Louise for sending me a proof copy. Fallible Justice is out on November 8th.









Thursday, November 1, 2018

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull Blog Tour



I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Miss Marley, a charming prequel to A Christmas Carol and the final work by Vanessa Lafaye who sadly passed away earlier this year. The book was completed by Vanessa's dear friend and fellow historical novelist Rebecca Mascull. Miss Marley is true to the spirit of Dickens original; opening with the childhood of Jacob and Clara who live in direst poverty scavenging and begging in the streets of London having lost their parents and comfortable home when their uncle forced them out. Jacob is determined to get them out of poverty especially as Clara's health is suffering and when the opportunity comes he seizes it but Jacob's determination to get ahead and to put only himself and Clara's well being above all else will have devastating consequences for them both. This a heartfelt tale which brings alive a truly memorable character that Dickens would have been proud of. Written with the same heart and hope that Vanessa brought to her previous books and her powerful blog Living While Dying and seamlessly completed by Rebecca Mascull, Miss Marley brings a powerful and hopeful message while revitalising a seasonal favourite. Published by HQ stories in hardback/e-book/audio download on November 1st, Miss Marley is a perfect gift.

Thanks to Joe Thomas at HQ for a proof copy 

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths



I am a big fan of Elly Griffiths and I've read every one of her Ruth Galloway series set on the Norfolk coast. Although that series is crime fiction there is in every book a hint of the supernatural so when I  learned that Elly had written a stand alone Gothic mystery novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Clare Cassidy teaches literature and she specialises in the work of the Victorian Gothic writer R.M. Holland. The school she teaches in was once R. M. Holland's home. There are rumours that Holland's wife died in the building and that she haunts it still. Clare may be happy to read and to teach thrilling stories but she is shocked to find herself in the middle of one when her friend and colleague Ella is murdered and a note with a quote from one of Holland's stories found by her body. The police seek Clare's help to find the killer as Clare tries to puzzle things out writing in her diary. However she soon feels the killer may be someone she knows far too well when she discovers someone else has written in her diary. The narrative shifts between Clare, her teenage daughter Georgia and Harbinder the detective investigating the murder and R. M. Holland's story is weaved throughout as the modern narrative starts to echo the older one. A cleverly told story featuring a cast of intriguing characters and a mystery that will have you racing through the pages. A thoroughly dark and engrossing read perfect for dark evenings. If you are fan of books that blend crime with the supernatural; as I am, then you will love this. Perfect for fans of Carol Goodman, Alison Littlewood or Anna Mazzola. Thanks to the kind people at Quercus for sending me an early copy. The Stranger Diaries is available in hardback from today.





Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Some Favourite Witches in Fiction




The Pagan celebration of Samhain or Halloween is a perfect time to celebrate some of the best witchy fiction that I have encountered recently. Witches seem to be an ever popular subject for TV and film but so often they are badly portrayed, presented as worshipers of Satan or actively anti-christian, lumped in with demonic forces, full of lust and sin and evil.  For any followers of the Pagan path this can be very frustrating, so finding a book that presents witches in a more truthful and more flattering light is always a great moment.


One of my most recent witchy reads was Daughter of Light and Shadows by Anna Mckerrow, which is about three young witches who cast a love spell which opens them up to the world of the Fae. Read my review here https://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.com/2018/10/daughter-of-light-and-shadows-by-anna.html



Louisa Morgan's tale of a family of hereditary witches moves from Brittany to Cornwall and London to Wales. It's a wonderful story of family and women supporting each other and also the pain that family secrets can inflict. Read my review here. https://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-secret-history-of-witches-by-louisa.html





Slow Poison is the second book in Helen Slavin's Witch Ways Series it features three sisters who have inherited their grandmother's place as Game Keepers of Havoc Wood. Blending magical realism and dark fairy tale as the sisters struggle to come to terms with their magical abilities. Review here https://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.com/2018/09/slow-poison-by-helen-slavin.html




This is a charming tale set in 1880s New York where the surge of interest in the Supernatural and the Occult means that witches Adelaide and Eleanor can practice their craft openly from their shop Tea and Sympathy offering remedies and spells to the upper class ladies of Manhattan. Review https://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-witches-of-new-york-by-ami-mckay.html





Widdershins is set in the mid Seventeenth Century and features a mother and daughter who practice traditional healing. Set around the Newcastle witch trials this is a wonderfully researched book full of the detail about nature, herbs and their healing properties that many women would have learned at their mother's knee. Review https://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.com/2017/05/widdershins-by-helen-steadman.html





There were not a huge number of witch trials carried out in Ireland in comparison to the rest of Europe. But one famous or rather infamous case was that of the Islandmagee witches. The tale is retold and fictionalised beautifully by Martina Devlin in this fascinating historical novel. Review https://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-house-where-it-happened-by-martina.html

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Halcyon by Rio Youers Blog Tour


Martin Lovegrove is man who dreams of being able to provide a better life for his family. His ten year old daughter Edith has terrifying nightmare visions of violent events, his teen age daughter Shirley is growing increasingly distant and then a terrible tragedy strikes. Shaken by grief and feeling powerless Martin is intrigued when a man he meets in a bar tells him about Halcyon; a community cut off from technology and modern life, where everyone works together and the violent world that is an everyday reality in modern America can become a distant memory. Martin decides that this is the new start his family needs and full of hope he sets off with just a handful of possessions. Halcyon is run by the charismatic Mother Moon and as Martin throws himself into contributing to the community on the island everything seems rosy. Martin himself feels stronger and the whole family have benefited from the fresh air, good food and beautiful setting. But Martin begins to notice some things that just don't add up and so he starts to investigate if Halcyon is really the haven it claims to be. This is a fast paced, heart pounding dark thriller. Despite the fact that it's over five hundred pages I tore through this book frantic to know what happens next. It's a perfect spooky tale for Halloween, ideal for fans of Dean Koontz or Stephen King. Halcyon is out now from Titan books who kindly sent me a copy.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Witch of Willow Hall




The Witch of Willow Hall drew me in long before I started reading. I saw this gorgeous cover and of course it reminded me of the mid century gothic novels such as those written by Victoria Holt, Joan Aiken etc. which I am obsessed with. The stories usually centre around a spooky house in the country, a young woman and a mysterious powerful man. The Witch of Willow Hall at first might appear to fit into this pattern; Lydia Montrose and her family move to Willow Hall when rumour and scandal drive them from their Boston home. A runaway dog and a sudden rainstorm provide a suitably romantic meeting with their neighbour Mr. Barrett. Lydia is smitten but her older and prettier sister Catherine seems equally interested. Lydia has already begun to suspect that the house is haunted but a family tragedy seems to awaken a latent power in her. As Lydia feels herself more and more constrained by the house, her family's scandalous reputation and the scheming of those around her, her anger and her abilities develop. To say much more would be to spoil a fascinating and compelling book that echoes with Austen, Heyer and Du Maurier as well as New England history and folktale. A captivating first novel written with a nod to those authors of the past and those heroines trapped by circumstance. I'm delighted to be part of the blog tour. The Witch of Willow Hall is out now in e-book and paperback from HQ a division of Harper Collins. Thanks to Lucy Richardson for my copy.






Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hallowdene by George Mann



Hallowdene is the follow up to the brilliant Wychwood which I reviewed last year. It's the second in Goerge Mann's new series of crime/horror/urban fantasy novels. I talked to the author about this new series when Wychwood was released, you can read the interview HERE In this instalment Elspeth has begun to really settle into her new life in rural Oxfordshire and a relationship with childhood friend Peter. However temptation arrives in the form of old friend Abigail and a London job offer.
The mystery this time around begins when the grave of a woman tried for witchcraft in the Seventeenth century is excavated by archaeologists on the grounds of Hallowdene manor. Many local people are intrigued by the mysterious tale of the witch Agnes Levett; to some she is a curiosity a way to attract tourists to the town, a bit of fun. To others she is a malevolent spirit and the act of disturbing her grave a very dangerous one. The excavation attracts a lot of attention. Agnes had been buried under a huge stone to prevent her spirit from harming the villagers when the stone is removed and her body disturbed a series of suspicious deaths begin. Peter and Elspeth investigate and wonder if the killer is supernatural or all too human. This is a a compelling and page turning tale, carefully blending crime and horror. A great read for Halloween and for fans of Elly Griffiths, Syd More and Gary Kemble. Thanks so much to Titan Books for my copy. You can pick up Hallowdene in e-book and paperback now. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Q&A with author of Daughter of Light and Shadows Anna McKerrow





Q1. Daughter of Light and Shadows includes lots of Fairy lore, such as Faye's tips about leaving food to placate them and the fairy road that Rav's house is built on causing disturbances in the atmosphere and temperature. Did you do a lot of research into folk/fairy belief in Scotland?


Yes, I suppose I did. Some I knew already - like, in Iceland, where roads are diverted around faery mounds to appease the fae, which was something that fed into the faery road that cuts through Rav’s house - and some I learnt from reading. I can recommend The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies by Robert Kirk, which is the supposedly true record of a 17th century Scottish minister’s direct experience with the faery realms. Also great was Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies 500AD to the present by Simon Young and Ceri Houlbrook, which is a compilation/survey type of book and has a chapter on Scotland in particular. Another great book is The Chronicles of the Sidhe by Steve Blamires in which I learnt all about the faery writings of Fiona MacLeod, where we find the origin of the traditional four elemental faery cities: Murias, Falias, Finias and Gorias.

MacLeod was in fact a ‘channelled’ entity, a fae, that a Scottish writer called William Sharp was in contact with, and created a number of poems and writings under her name. So there is a deep history and reasonable amount of scholarship on the subject of faery realms in Scottish lore. Those faery cities as concepts for imagining and working with the elemental kingdoms (earth, air, fore and water) are used by other writers such as hedge witch Rae Beth. Plus, there’s a pretty big version of modern witchcraft which is specifically faery witchcraft, that is, a semi-ceremonial spiritual practice whose deities are the fae. So, reading about that has been very useful and interesting.

For anyone interested, there’s also a very detailed and modern survey of modern faery sightings from all over the world between 2014-2017 here, published in association with Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies 500AD to the present by Simon Young and Ceri Houlbrook: http://www.fairyist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-Fairy-Census-2014-2017-1.pdf  Before you dismiss the 500 records all as being from oddbods, have a read - no-one sounds mad and there is definite synergy of particular locations having high numbers of unconnected faery sightings. Fascinating reading considering that the 500 records included are only from people who would have found out about the survey, and were inclined enough to fill it in, over a three year period. Extrapolated over the history of humankind, and including people that were too frightened to talk about what they saw/thought it was evil/thought they themselves were evil for seeing it/thought they were mad/disbelieved the evidence of their own eyes, that’s a lot of faery sightings.I also love Brian Froud’s faerie oracle which has a very interesting book that comes with the deck: lots of faery types to  learn about in there!



Q2. You are quite a spiritual person, how does that feed into your writing/creativity?


I suppose as anyone could surmise from my first answer, yes, a pagan spirituality is a big part of my life. Everything I write is in some way connected to my interest in witchcraft, in particular, but in general, death, reincarnation, magic and the occult. Writing is also a spiritual practice for me, in that I write sometimes in an open, channelled manner which allows me to connect with, say, deity and energy and ‘free-write’ or even use automatic writing at times. I also do a lot of shamanic journeying, a kind of meditative practice using a drumbeat, which is a very visionary type of experience and helps a lot for writing in terms of imagery. I also write using my own knowledge and experience: how I have experienced spellwork, how I’ve felt connecting to gods, my dreams, how healing feels when you doit, what tarot is like, etc etc.


Q3. Faye's story takes place in Scotland. Is Scotland a special place for you? How important is place and landscape to your writing?


I have a lot of family in Scotland and an ancestry there, so I have a historical connection with Ayrshire, though I set this book in Fife because I know it a bit better, and the coastal regions are very magical. Scotland is a deeply beautiful, resonant land, dense with magic, and so it was a pleasure to write a little bit about that. Land is very important to me, and I think of it as an extra character of its own when I write because setting is so vital for the context of the story. As a pagan, too, I’m always trying to get over to my readers my sense of delight and wonder in the natural world as well as a desire to protect and revere it as holy - as having sovereignty. Like our bodies do too.

And, also, something always about the real, direct, usable power that the land has we can use for our own empowerment, whether that be the now-scientifically-proven fact that our bodies connecting to the earth makes us more healthy (those articles on forest bathing and the benefits of walking barefoot on soil), the benefits of women understanding their menstrual cycles in relation to moon phases and that wisdom of women’s health, or how we can consciously draw power from the earth and the elements and direct it towards good outcomes for ourselves.


Q4. How easy or difficult has it been to switch gears from writing YA to writing for adults?

t’s been okay - much is the same. To be honest it’s quite nice to move away from the self-referential first person teen voice I wrote my first trilogy in - not that I didn’t enjoy it, but good for a change! And in the third person you can adopt a really nice cosy narrator voice that I enjoy.


Q5. You make reference to the Scottish witch trials, Faye campaigns for a memorial to all the women who were condemned including her ancestor Grainne. Do you think you will write about this historical period at some point?


I don’t intend to, no. Partly because there’s so much on the subject I don’t know what I could bring to it that would be new, partly because it’s so dark and I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of headspace there. I referred to it in Daughter of Light and Shadows because I wanted to explore the theme of ancestral healing for Faye - her ancestor was murdered at a witch trial, and she and all her grandmothers after that point have felt it. Faye manages to heal that line, going back generations, helped by the magic of a faery queen. In shamanic traditions, when we have healing, it’s seen as healing us but also healing the seven generations before, and the generations yet to come, which is such a powerful concept. I’ve had healing of this kind and I can only say how profound it was.

Faye reclaims her power, no longer feeling that she shouldn’t take up space, that she’s afraid of being noticed, of standing out because of the power she has. In many ways this is the struggle of women now: survivors of sexual intimidation and rape, a trauma related to being shamed for being a woman, are being brave and taking that power back. Even when we, as women, are not personally victims of rape, we have the experiences of intimidation, fear, harassment and horror connected to being a woman from the generations of women before us, woven into our ancestral DNA. That’s a lot of healing that needs to be done, and a lot of women are starting to do that now.

The commemoration of those experiences - the public acceptance and apology for atrocities such as the witch trials, which are burned into many womens’ souls - is important, just as it’s important that we listen to and believe victims of abuse. A memorial says we see you, we hear you, we are sorry.

There is an almost complete lack of proper remembrance sites for witch trials, perhaps because people still don’t really understand what happened in those years. They haven’t connected the facts that these were ‘ordinary’ people who may or may not have been practising some form of folk magic or medicine, an indigenous practice if so, or, more likely, were poor and a nuisance, or the victim of a neighbour’s ill will (arguably, when it comes to the ‘evil eye’, the accusers were the powerful witches, not the victims).

I wonder whether the lack of witch trial memorials in the UK is due to a continuing false belief about the ‘evil’ and indeed supernatural nature of witches, coupled with a desire on the part of the establishment (church and state) to avoid questions such as if these people weren’t supernatural entities, why were they persecuted? And perhaps therefore what does that say about the continuing fear by both church and state of magic and folk magic traditions? It feels as though, if memorials became more of a thing (which they should be, out of basic decency if nothing else) more people would start seeing that magical practices have been suppressed in many countries by patriarchal religions, corporations and governments, because they know that when people practice empowering traditional magical practices, whatever they may be, they get a little rowdy.




Q6. Who are the writers who inspire and influence you?


So many! All writers are such book nerds of course. I love Ursula Le Guin, the mother of fantasy. I love Margaret Atwood, a complete genius in every way; I’ve read everything she’s written multiple times. I am a big fan of Marge Piercy, Orwell and AS Byatt. I love Neil Gaiman. Starhawk, definitely. I adored Mary Stewart’s Arthurian books, Stephen King, the occult novels of Dion Fortune and Stewart Farrar have been a big influence on me, Game of Thrones, Alice Hoffman, tons of poetry from Eliot to Tennyson to Mina Loy to Yeats. I have an MA in avant garde and experimental poetics and write in that genre too, and I love contemporary artists using text like Sophie Calle, Marina Abramovic, Jenny Holzer, Guerilla Girls, that kind of thing. For short stories I love Kelly Link, Susan Irvine, Flannery O’Connor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Deborah Kay Davis, Nicola Barker, so many, I can’t think of them all! Lots of scifi/speculative fiction too, counterculture things, you name it really.

I read a lot of music biography too - my favourite recently was Just Kids by Patti Smith and Moby’s autobiography with Faber, and a LOT of nonfiction both around what I’m writing for research, but also for general spiritual interest, so books about specific gods and goddesses, other cultures’ spiritual practices, tarot, astrology, places of interest.


Q7. Are you a writer who carefully plans out your work or do you simply start writing and see what happens?


Mostly the latter, though I have to be less devil-may-care now as I’m on tighter deadlines! Detailed planning fills me with dread and I have to say I do rely on the arrival of an out of the blue idea to save a plot, which happens more than you’d think. Plus, I do a lot of the writing in the editing.

Thank you so much Anna for answering all my questions. Daughter of Light and Shadows is out now in e-book, paperback and audio-book from Bookoutre   The e-book is only 99p on Amazon Uk  or $1.30 on Amazon.com


Monday, October 15, 2018

Daughter of Light and Shadows by Anna McKerrow



I am already a fan of Anna McKerrow's wonderful writing and I have loved and recommended her YA novels See My Review of Crow Moon here. Daughter of Light and Shadows is a bit of a departure for the author as it is intended for an older audience. However those who enjoy Urban Fantasy and Magical Realism will not be disappointed. Faye Morgan knows that she is a daughter of witches. She has studied the craft since childhood and carries on the traditions of wise woman handed down through generations. When she loses her mother at 18 she must step into her shoes as the local wise woman and healer and run the shop her mother established with the help of her friends and fellow witches Aisha and Annie. The three young women longing for love and excitement in their lives find an old love spell and soon their lives begin to change. When Finn Beatha; the Fairy King comes into her life Faye is smitten and torn between her own life and the world of the fae. This is a book spilling over with romance and sex as the story dances between the real world of the small village in Scotland where Faye grew up and the fairy world which draws her with it's hedonism, it's romance and it's magic. The charming setting of the small village with its gossip and old fashioned ways is contrasted with Faye and her friends; props to the author for diverse characters and also with the majestic setting of the fairy lands. The first of a new series, I found this an enchanting and magical read and devoured it in two sittings. Perfect for fans of Diana Gabaldon,  Paula Brackston, Sarah Painter, Helen Slavin,  or Alice Hoffman

Available from Bookoutre who kindly provided an e copy Daughter of Light and Shadows is published tomorrow 16th October and available in paperback and e-book.

Tombland by CJ Sansom exclusive audio extract



The Shardlake books are C.J. Sansom's bestselling historical mystery series, set in the reign of Henry VIII and staring lawyer and investigator Matthew Shardlake. The books have won and been nominated for a number of awards and Tombland is the seventh in the series. If you have yet to discover these books then this exclusive opportunity might appeal to you. If you are already a fan, then it definitely will.
I am delighted to share exclusive early access to the new Shardlake novel, thanks to the kind folks at Pan Macmillan. Use the link below to get a new instalment of Tombland each day Monday to Friday, this week only. Audio books are a fantastic resource for book lovers whether you are short on time and want to listen in the car or while out for a run or doing some errands. Audio books are also a fantastic tool for book lovers with disabilities or illness. Pan Macmillan are publishing C. J. Sansom's latest novel in all formats; audio, hardback and e-book this Thursday October 18th. Follow the hashtag #Shardlakelistenathon and check out the link below for your exclusive limited time audio extract and don't forget to check back to hear a new instalment each day until Friday.


Through the PanMacmillan website

Tombland Extract


or via Souncloud

Soundcloud/Tombland



The Price Guide To The Occult by Leslye Walton Review and Q&A



Leslye Walton has written a wonderful follow up to her critically acclaimed first novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. Teenager Nor Blackburn is desperate for a normal life but being descended from generations of witches makes that unlikely. In each generation the Blackburn witches have displayed different powers but a family curse means that the witches carry heartbreak from one generation to the next. Nor thinks that she hasn't inherited any power and hopes to avoid the curse, until a book of spells is released written by Nor's estranged mother and becomes a sensation across the US and beyond as Nor's mother seems able to perform magic beyond her capabilities. However magic has a price and Nor is about to find out exactly how costly and dangerous that price is. A dark and compelling tale for Young Adults and beyond, with great characters, a compelling story and a powerful small town atmosphere, dealing with issues such as self harm and family break up. A page turning read for fans of Anna McKerrow, Sally Green and Melissa Albert.


I asked Leslye some questions about the book and her writing process.


Q1. Both of your novels contain fantastical or magical elements. Who are the authors
(fantasy or otherwise) who inspire you?

I’ve always been inspired by Isabelle Allende, Alice Hoffman, and Joanne Harris. Laura
Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s glorious One Hundred
Years of Solitude are two of my favorite reads of all time.

Q2. Will you revisit the characters of The Price Guide to the Occult in a future book?

I hope to.

Q3. You explore the impact of trauma and self harm in the book. Did that take a lot of
research? Is it a subject close to your heart?

YA novels that explore dark themes like trauma and abuse and self-harm help young
people explore some of the horrible sides of humanity within the safety of fiction. They
say 1 in 5 teenage girls will struggle with self-harm. I did a lot of research both before
and while writing PRICE GUIDE. I wanted to make sure I did justice to a character
struggling with such a common ailment.

Q4. What is the one writing tip that you would give to your younger self or to other
aspiring writers?

Whenever someone asks my advice on being a writer, I always recommend that they do
something else. If you can find something to do other then write and still feel fulfilled in
life, go do that other thing. It’s dreadfully difficult to muster up the self-motivation,
determination, and, let’s face it, complete and utter delusion that writing requires while
still figuring out to pay the rent on time.

Q5. What are your writing methods? What comes first; plot or character? Do you plan
meticulously or are you more of a pantser?

For me, writing always starts with the characters. I can’t begin to formulate a story
before I know the people who will be living it. More often than not, the characters tell
me the plot, not the other way around. That said I am definitely an outliner.


The Price Guide to The Occult is out now from Walker Books who kindly sent me a paperback copy to review. 

Strange Ink by Gary Kemble Blog Tour Review and Q&A



Gary Kemble's debut novel, Strange Ink reads more like the work of an established novelist. The writing is powerful, the characters spring off the page and the darkness at the heart of the book is truly chilling. The protagonist Harry Hendrick wakes up hungover with a tattoo on his neck he has no memory of acquiring. Harry is a journalist with a small local newspaper and naturally curious so he's intrigued when he discovers that the tattoo is a representation of an arcane magical symbol. However as he begins to have dark and disturbing dreams and more tattoos appear on his body Harry knows that something supernatural is trying to warn him. As Harry investigates further he discovers a tangled web of darkness tied to a story that almost destroyed his career and he becomes determined to uncover the truth. Strange Ink is a thrill-ride of a book, full of tension and darkness that at times is all too human. Highly recommended, especially if like me, you are a fan of Angela Slatter's Verity Fassbinder series.

I had the chance to ask Gary a few questions about Strange Ink, his writing and his influences.

Q1. Who are your literary heroes and why?

I'm a huge Stephen King fan. I like the way he takes normal settings and gives them a macabre twist. It's something I've tried to emulate in Strange Ink.

On a completely different note, I really enjoy Kurt Vonnegut because he breaks many of the rules of writing and yet it still works. I aspire to be so brave.


Q2. Strange Ink features a main character; Harry being haunted by another character; Rob and yet the difference between the two is made obvious. Was this difficult to write?

Yeah, I didn't want Rob to be too stereotypical. I reached out to people who know former special forces soldiers to see if I could get someone to read the Rob sections, but didn't have any luck so I had to rely on military non-fiction (mostly SAS Sniper by Rob Maylor and Robert Macklin). (Yes, the character in my book is named in Rob Maylor's honour).

The other tricky bit was gauging how much detail to include as Rob's personality begins to bleed into Harry's. I didn't want to be too heavy-handed but I also didn't want readers to miss the clues. I hope I got the balance right!


Q3. Any advice for a debut novelist?

It's handy having a second book pretty much ready to go if/when your first is picked up. That was the situation when I sold Strange Ink (Skin Deep down under) to Australian publisher Echo. It meant I wasn't freaking out about book 2 in the series, because I had a fairly solid draft in my back pocket.


Q4. The story is very much rooted in Brisbane. Is it important for you to make the place and the landscape part of the story?

A large part of it was just not wanting to bite off more than I could chew. I had what I felt was a solid concept. Setting Strange Ink in my hometown meant I could draw heavily on my own experiences and locations I know so well.

I'm proud to have a genre book set in Brisbane on the global stage (following in the footsteps of John Birmingham, Trent Jamieson and Angela Slatter... and more) but I definitely planning on spreading my wings in future books.


Q5. Will you revisit Harry in your fiction in the future? 

Yes! The second Harry Hendrick book -- Dark Ink -- is coming out in 2019. I have drafts for books 3 and 4, but we'll have to see how the first two go, so please keep your fingers crossed!



I'm delighted to hear that there will be more Harry Hendrick books and I look forward to reading the next instalment. Strange Ink is out now from Titan Books in paperback and e-book. Thanks so much to Philippa Ward for a copy. Details of the blog tour below. 


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Literary Gifts Website and a discount offer.


Hey all, I'm going to make a wild assumption here, but I 'm guessing that if you have stopped by my blog then you have an interest in literature. Well if the answer is yes then read on. In partnership with the amazing Literary Book Gifts who create and sell the lovely literary themed items you can see here, I have a special discount code for my blog readers. Just look at the gorgeous things you can buy.





Iliad Tote Bag





The Picture Of Dorian Gray Tote Bag


Beowulf T-shirt


So if you want to get your hands on some gorgeous literary tote bags or t-shirts head to https://literarybookgifts.com/ and use the discount code LISAREADSBOOKS20 which will get you a 20% discount. You can use the code at any time and against any item on the site. Happy Shopping.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Slow Poison by Helen Slavin




Slow Poison is the second book in The Witch Ways series by Helen Slavin. The three Way sisters; Anna, Charlie and Emz have inherited their grandmother's role as Game keepers of Havoc Wood but they know nothing of what this role means or their duties. They are still coming to terms with their grandmother's death and the tragic events of the previous year which saw the deaths of Anna's husband and baby son. However the arrival of mysterious stranger Ailith with a man's severed head wrapped up in rags means they have to figure out their responsibilities and get a handle on their strengths sooner then they might have expected. They girls are still tentative about any magical power they have, so much so that they don't even like using the word magic. Their magic however is very much needed because another stranger; the dark and sinister Mrs Fyfe has cast a strange spell over the town of Havoc causing disorder and nastiness with everything she touches and the girls will have to find a way to defeat her. This book full of sisterly love and witchy magic was a pure joy to read. The atmosphere is wonderfully evoked  and the various different characters of the small town they call home are all brilliantly drawn. This is a perfect book for fans of Paula Brackston, Anna McKerrow, Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic and Sarah Painter's Pendleford Witch books. The publishers were kind enough to send me the first in the series Crooked Daylight and I can't wait to dive in and learn more about the Way family. 


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Leo's War by Patricia Murphy Blog Tour



Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Patricia Murphy to the blog to talk about her latest children's book Leo's War. Patricia is a bestselling children's writer who has brought history to life with her books. 

Q1. What sparked your interest in this particular story/historical period and how much thinking/planning did you have to do?


During the Centenary of the 1916 Rising I visited many schools as my book Molly’s Diary, telling the story of the Easter Rising through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, was a bestseller. These included my nephew’s Sennan school “The Mon” in Killarney. The boys were great crack, very informed. Afterwards when we were having photographs taken, the head Colm Ó’ Súillábháin pointed to a giant mural behind us of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and said, “Behold the subject of your new book.” I had seen his statue in Killarney and was intrigued and read up a bit about him. The Monsignor’s story had everything, drama, jeopardy, and he was a charismatic, fascinating maverick. I was intrigued that all these hard-bitten military men and Italian aristocrats thought the world of him. But it wasn’t until I had an image of Leo and his disabled sister Ruby that the story sparked into life.
I have long been interested in this period of history. I’d previously read History by Elsa Morante and The Path to the Nest of Spiders by Italo Calvino. I’m a big fan of Italian cinema. Rome Open City, Rossellini’s masterpiece is one of my favourite films. It went into production within days of the Nazis leaving Rome in bombed locations and with many amateur actors. It is as close as a film could ever come to the living and breathing reality of the time.
As soon as I started to dig into the history of the Rome Escape Line and how they saved six and a half thousand Prisoners-of-War, partisans and Jews, I was utterly beguiled. I felt this was a story that needed to be told, the story of the Irish Schindler. Monsignor O’Flaherty is not unknown but he’s not a household name and I felt too his story has many contemporary resonances
for a modern child.
He is above all a humanitarian who behaved with compassion and courage in dark times. I am a documentary maker with a background in current affairs. I have investigated institutional abuse in care in the UK. I take an interrogative position on powerful institutions. But I am also open minded and the courage and ingenuity of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty transcended his times. But it was only when I had a vision of the character Leo and his disabled sister Ruby that the story caught fire for me. That was my “in”.


Q2. How much research did you have to do? and what kind of
research? Did you know much about Hugh O'Flaherty before you began writing?


I do a lot of research but I generally research and write in tandem. I usually have some inkling of the period. I do enough to get the outlines of the plot and then the story and characters starts to form and gestate. It’s all about the story and character for me and getting to the core of the facts and events to understand how the people felt and thought. We have the benefit of hindsight when we look back at a historical period, but those living though the times really don’t know how things will turn out.
I write from the point of view of a child and finding the child in history involves quite a lot of detective work. But you can find them, fleeting presences in other people’s narratives, reminiscences in memoirs by people who were children at the time. All the while I read, I am panning for gold, for the telling details and insights that will feed into my story.
I am particularly keen on first person memoirs and accounts and oral histories. This is the closest we can get to meeting people from the time, dispatches from the front.
Contemporary newspapers and letters are also good sources. But
ultimately the research only takes you so far. I am writing a novel that happens to be set in the past, my ultimate goal is a riveting story.
Tell us about your writing methods, do you plan meticulously or do you just write and see what happens?
A bit of both! Once the characters emerge from the murky soup of my imagination, I begin to write, mostly to get the voice of the character. So for example with Leo, I had a strong sense of an obdurate, stubborn boy who is picked on for being different. I ask questions. I often write reams that don’t get used to find the voice of the narrator.
I was lucky also to find a memoir A British Boy in Fascist Italy by Peter Ghiringelli. His father was a fascist supporter and his family had been deported to Italy when Mussolini entered the war. Now Leo is half Jewish and his mother is in the Resistance, so their circumstances were very different. But it was helpful in giving me an insight into how other children would have treated an English-speaking outsider. Peter’s father helped the Resistance later on incidentally. The experience of living in an oppressive regime changed his thinking. There were also other children who were involved in the Resistance and running messages for the Rome Escape Line. Often these were the children of the helpers who hid fugitives at great personal risk. I took threads from these accounts and wove them together.
Sometimes I have a kernel of an idea that turns out to lead to a rich seam. Leo’s Jewish roots took me into the fate of the Jewish ghetto in Rome during the Nazi occupation. And his encounter with an old school-friend who had deserted from the Italian army and become a partisan linked into the Italian Resistance.
The planning comes in when I have the shape of a rough draft and some of the writing done. I’m a great fan of post-it notes. I write out the plot points and turning points on different coloured post-it notes for each main character and snake them along the
pitched roof of my study in the attic. But it’s quite an organic process.


Q3. You have written a number of books for children based around important historical events, it's clearly a passion of yours. What is your favourite period of history and why?


I loved history from an early age. My maternal grandparents were always telling stories about their childhood and family history too so I got hooked from an early age. I was always fascinated by the different threads that make up the warp and weft of family lore. My maternal grandfather for example was in the Fianna Boy Scouts during the War of Independence. But his grandfather had been a Surgeon-Major in the British army. My paternal great-great grandfather was in the RIC. But two of his sons were rebels.
I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to history, I can find something interesting about most periods. I have a strong interest in the English revolution in the 17th century but a lot of my interests cluster in the 19th and 20th century history and obviously Irish history. I am also fascinated by colonial history, mainly from the point of view of the colonised. The expansion of empires has shaped so much of our world today. I’m interested in certain themes, power and the structures of oppression and the position of women, the history of science for example. I’m fascinated by the dynamics of change.
I don’t expressly write about these aspects for children but I’m very interested in how children feel who are caught up in conflict. That is an abiding concern and interest.


Q4. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? Especially those with an interests in writing historical fiction for children?

My main advice for aspiring writers is to keep writing!

-Honour the impulse to write and create by making an appointment to write regularly. Even its just ten minutes a day, first thing when you wake up or last thing at night. Even if at first you just winge or moan on the page, it’s amazing how quickly your real interests emerge. Then before you know it, you might have a kernel for a story or a poem.

-Don’t critique yourself when you write. Allow the words to flow when you are in the creating phase. Then go back later and edit wearing a different hat. Every word isn’t sacred. Think of it like gardening. Slash away at the deadwood and the overgrowth to let the healthy plants emerge. But none of its wasted because its all part of the process.

-Don’t be swayed by what other people are doing or what’s popular now. Look within; follow your heart and interests. By the time you have jumped on a trend the market will have moved on.

- Don’t be too hung up about genre or form. You might think you are a novelist but find that you are more comfortable writing scripts or poems. It’s all storytelling, all creativity.

Specifically with writing historical fiction, these are some of the considerations that help me.

- Pick a period of history that fascinates you, that comes alive in your imagination. Your story about Vikings or Victorians is more likely to live in the imagination of the reader if it’s something that really absorbs you.

- It helps me to write about and for children by seeing it through
the eyes of a child. So think about the point of view. Is it a first person narrative or a third person omniscient narrator? Children are usually scrabbling in the margins of history, caught up in the sweeping tides created by adults. But even if they are often invisible, they are engaged in their times seeing events with keen vision. You only have to read Anne Frank’s Diary to see how fresh and humane a child’s eye can be.
- Don’t feel you have to know absolutely everything about the period. It helps of course to read widely and become informed. But history is a protean, partial thing. There isn’t one story. There are gaps in our knowledge, controversies still rage. Allow your imagination to catch fire and trust your story instincts.

- I see it like a bird building a nest. I gather twigs from all kinds of places. Be open to drawing on a diverse range of sources. I am often inspired by photographs for example, and films. I find certain objects have a powerful magic. For example, I remember years ago seeing Chiodi, otherwise known as bobjacks, in a museum in Italy. These were the primitive devices made of nails welded together that were used by the partisans in ambushes to stop Nazi vehicles. Somehow they lodged in my memory and found their way into Leo’s War. Paintings and music too are a great resource. They have a powerful ability to evoke the atmosphere of the time.

Chiodi picture credit Patricia Murphy 



Thank you for your thoughtful questions Lisa. I really enjoyed answering them and thinking about the craft of historical fiction.






Thanks so much Patricia for such great answers 

Other Titles by Patricia Murphy include:
Molly’s Diary – the Easter Rising 1916 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1781999740/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Dan’s Diary – The War of Independence 1920-22 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LBUWY74/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3

Ava’s Diary – The Irish Civil War 1922-23
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/178199882


Check out the rest of the blog tour; details in the banner










Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Restoration by Angela Slatter


I am delighted to once again be part of the blog tour for a new Verity Fassbinder adventure. Sadly this is the last in the current series :( I have absolutely devoured these books and recommended them every chance I can. Angela Slatter's writing is so smart, so witty and so much fun. Her characters are so wonderful to spend time with and the world of the Weyrd folks of Brisneyland is just spectacular. This is urban fantasy with thrills, spills, adventure, horror, romance, battles between good and evil and a kick ass heroine who just doesn't quit. In this latest installment of Verity's adventures she is tasked with helping the Guardian to recover two lost treasures, a bargain she struck to save her family. To keep them safe Verity has to send her family away and of course she misses them like crazy especially baby Maisie. Without the help of the Weyrd council and her former allies Verity is aided by Joyce the kitsune assassin. Can former enemies really work together? If anyone can make that work Verity can. She's going to have to unravel this mystery before the Guardian comes for her if she wants to keep her family and friends safe and she's going to have to do it fast because there's another problem going on as her old ally Police Inspector McIntyre wants her help in discovering why the bodies of women who disappeared decades ago start turning up dead and McIntyre suspects something Weyrd is going on. I loved this book. I read it in one sitting, just dying to know what happened next and I am going to miss Verity and her family. This is perfect for fans of Urban Fantasy; like Ben Aaronovitch, Patricia Briggs, Liz de Jager, Cassandra Clare etc and it's streets ahead of a great deal of the urban fantasy that's out there. I can't wait to see what Angela Slatter does next. Follow the blog tour, details below.


Monday, August 6, 2018

On Bone Bridge By Maria Hoey



Maria Hoey's second novel was released last month and it is an assured and dazzingly follow up to her debut The Last Lost Girl which was shortlisted for both the Kate O'Brien Debut Award and the Annie McHale Debut Novel of the Year Award. Check out my review of The Last Lost Girl HERE

On Bone Bridge is a tense, edge of your seat psychological tale. Opening in the early 1980s with imaginative and lonely only child Kay Kelly who finds herself befriended by the intriguing Violet-May Duff. They even share a birthday. Kay falls in love with the big house the Duffs live in and head over heels for Violet-May's dark haired older brother. However when Kay and Violet-May take a walk to Bone Bridge with Violet-May's two younger siblings a tragedy unfolds which changes all their lives. Years later having lived in London for many years, Kay reconnects with Violet-May and her family and the echoes of that Summer day and its events reverberate as Kay tries to understand what really happened on that long ago day on Bone Bridge before another tragedy occurs. 
As in her brilliant debut novel Maria Hoey explores family, relationships, memory and loss with precision and emotional honesty. I devoured this book in two sittings, desperate to know what would happen next and utterly intrigued by the brilliantly drawn characters; so lifelike and honest. This is a book that is about grief and healing, secrets and lies and the power of love. 

Thanks to Poolbeg Books for a copy. On Bone Bridge is available in paperback and e-book now. 


Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez



Riddle of the Runes is the first children's book from Art Historian and Viking expert Janina Ramirez. I have had the pleasure of meeting the author and hearing her speak about her passion for medieval history and I can confirm that this first in a projected series of books featuring twelve year old Viking investigator Alva is as thrilling, exciting and fast paced as I anticipated. Alva's father has been away for almost a year but a mysterious casket may hold a clue to his whereabouts. Alva must help her Uncle Magnus; an investigator to decipher a code of Viking runes. If that's not enough to entice you there is a talking raven, a tamed wolf and a race against time through the icy Norwegian snow. This is a wonderful historical adventure which will appeal to readers aged 9 and upwards. It is gorgeously illustrated by David Wyatt and there is a handy guide to Viking Runes and Viking words provided at the back. I can't wait to read more of Alva's adventures. This book is available now from Oxford Children's Books part of OUP
(Thank you to the publisher and lovereading.co.uk for sending me a copy)

Greyfriars House by Emma Fraser



It's 1984 and Charlotte Friel is a top criminal defence lawyer, one of the few women in a very male profession. She has thrown all her energy into her work, so much so that she hadn't noticed how frail and ill her mother had become. A trip home to Scotland means she must face the reality that her mother is dying and consumed with guilt she consents to her mother's request that she reconnect with her relatives at Greyfriars House. Greyfriars is the only house on a remote Scottish Island and Charlotte's elderly great aunts live there alone and isolated, cut off from the world since returning from The Far East after the Second World War. Arriving at Greyfriars Charlotte falls under its spell but there is also a sense of mystery, of secrets and a foreboding sense of being watched. A wonderfully written tale that kept me turning the pages until the early hours. Atmospheric, lush and romantic. A thrilling historical mystery ideal for fans of Kate Morton and Tracy Rees.

A big thank you to Emma Fraser for sending me a copy.
Greyfriars House is available in paperback and e-book from Sphere (Little Brown) now.