Monthly Archives: June 2016

Rebecca Bradley – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Rebecca Bradley to the blog. Rebecca is the author of Shallow Waters and her latest novel Made to be Broken was published on 30 June 2016.

Rebecca kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Made to be Broken.

Made to be Broken is the second book in my DI Hannah Robbins series of police procedural crime novels. It starts six months after the end of Shallow Waters, the first in the series, and sees the team pitted against a killer determined to prove a point. 

2. Where did the inspiration come from for the book? 

I wanted to cover something that was feasible, that readers could read and believe this was possible, that yes, they could walk out their doors and this could happen. That is when it can become a little scarier, rather than mad axe men in shower scenes who are rarely a reality. But then I had to consider how it would work within the world I had created at the end of Shallow Waters, and a theme was created. So, it wasn’t so much inspiration as building blocks.  

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?  

I’m still very much at the stage of learning my craft and that includes finding my feet in how I write best. With Shallow Waters I sat down knowing how it started and how it was going to end but that was all and it was a long haul writing everything in between. With Made to be Broken I tried to work differently, planning more; writing a long winded synopsis. I enjoyed this process, it worked for me. So for book three I’m going to expand this even more by plotting out the individual chapters.

4. Made to be Broken is the second DI Hannah Robbins book. What did you learn from publishing Shallow Waters, the first novel and did it shape Made to be Broken? 

I had never written anything before starting writing Shallow Waters. I had to teach myself, reading writing blogs and books on writing. Being edited was a learning process. 

I also learned that the crime community is made up of a pretty awesome group of people. I learned that bloggers are the best. That readers and writers have some of the biggest hearts, and as long as we have a shared love of books then we are in it together. I found a home, a place I feel I belong and it’s comfortable. 

As for shaping Made to be Broken, yes, it definitely did. I made some pretty big decisions within the first book that reverberate throughout the second.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I like to walk my two dogs, cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, read, and watch too much TV. Drama box sets. In the name of watching the story structure you understand! If we can, I like to go away for the weekend with my husband and actually get away from it all. It’s nice to switch off, because in reality, when you’re a writer working from home, you never really stop. For instance, I’m typing this at 11.30 p.m. on a Saturday night…

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

I think this has to be the most difficult question I have ever answered! Really, just one? Okay then… Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. As I put in my review, it was a book that without my noticing, gently reached in and touched my heart.

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During the Q&As and interviews you’ve done before what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

Where do I send the cake? 🙂

Thanks very much for answering my questions and for appearing on my blog.

Thank you so much for having me, Janet. The questions were great and really made me think. It’s been great fun. Now, do I get that cake? 🙂

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You can find out more about Rebecca and her writing on her website.

About the book

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“A rising death toll. A city in panic.

A young mother is found dead in her home with no obvious cause of death. As DI Hannah Robbins and her team investigate, it soon becomes clear that the woman is the first in a long line of murders by poison.

With the body count climbing, and the city of Nottingham in social meltdown, the team finds themselves in a deadly race against a serial killer determined to prove a point.

And Hannah finds herself targeting an individual with whom she has more in common than she could possibly know.”

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Come on Daisy! by Jane Simmons – review

Published by Orchard

Publication date 2 September 2004

Source – own copy

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“Daisy the duckling is lost! Will she find her way back to Mamma?

Mamma Duck tells Daisy to stay close, but Daisy thinks that chasing dragonflies and bouncing on lilypads looks much more fun . . .

This warm and comforting story, starring Daisy the duck, has been delighting children for over 15 years.”

Daisy is a duckling who fails to listen to Mama’s calls to keep up. She is forever distracted by dragonflies, fishes and frogs. After wandering away Daisy ends up on her own and has to find Mama again.

This is the favourite book of the youngest member of the family. My one year old demands the ‘duck duck book’ at night time and I can guarantee I will have to read it at least three times each evening. My reading is accompanied by shouts of ‘come on Daisy, ‘Mamma!’ and theatrical shivering and bouncing at appropriate places in the story. To engage a child so completely in a story and to see the excitement when the book is produced is enough to convince me this is a perfect children’s book.

There is of course an important moral to the tale of how it is important to keep close to grown ups, that there are hidden dangers everywhere and that play time can still be fun, its just that it needs to be safe too.

The illustrations perfectly match the story. They are in fact beautiful paintings, the brush work apparent in the images and add a whimsical and soft edge to match the words. The story itself is perfectly paced. It is not a rhyming story but the short sentence structure and repetition of words and phrases aids interaction and allows children to ‘read’ the story for themselves.

This is a delightful story with beautiful illustrations and is the perfect addition to any young child’s reading pile.

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The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola – Review

Published by Tinder Press

Publication date – 14 July 2016

Source – review copy

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“For any fan of THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER or GILLESPIE AND I, this a startling historical crime debut based on a true Victorian murder

Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.

‘With this intricately woven tale of trust, self-trust and deceit, Anna Mazzola brings a gritty realism to Victorian London. Beautifully written and cleverly plotted, this is a stunning debut, ranked amongst the best’ MANDA SCOTT

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?”

Sarah Gale is set to hang. Convicted of aiding and abetting James Greenacre in the murder and dismemberment of Hannah Brown, her plea of clemency has led to Edward Fleetwood being tasked with looking into whether the conviction can be overturned. Edward goes into the investigation with measured unbias. Will it remain that way when he gets to know Sarah?

A huge amount of research went into this novel, and it shows. Whilst it is a work of fiction it is also based on true events. There is a delicacy of dealing with such matter, ensuring that figures of the past are treated with respect, whilst making the story entertaining but not titillating. It is true that none of the characters in the novel, those of them who were real people, are alive to questions how the story is portrayed by thankfully Anna Mazzola deals with the murder of Hannah Brown and the tale of Sarah Gale with respect. That respect only adds to this highly entertaining novel.

It is quite an engrossing read. The reader is soon drawn into the world of Sarah Gale, can image the dank and dismal cells of Newgate prison, surrounded by the cacophony of noise that was 19th Century London.

I’m a huge fan of historical crime fiction. When it is done well it can transport you back convincingly to another time and place. Vivid prose can bring alive a time that we will never see again or truly experience. When it is done well it entertains, educates, advises and remonstrates, painting a picture of the stark realities of a time before civil liberties, equal rights and education for all. The Unseeing is one of the books that does it right. It portrays the calls for retribution that were rife in the criminal justice system, the public’s need to see blood being shed and of the way women were treated with little or no regard, married or tarried with at the whims of men seeking status or money.

I do love books that are based on real life events or characters. If I am particularly enjoying such a novel I find myself looking up the real persona and reading about the actual events in their lives. I found myself doing so in relation to James Greenacre and Sarah Gale.

The characters are extremely well drawn. I could vividly imaging Edward Fleetwood in his chambers, Sarah Gale in her cell and all the sights and sounds of London from the horse drawn carriages to the deprivation of the slums.

This is an assured, engrossing and highly entertaining debut from an author I can see being a leading light in historical crime fiction in the future. I look forward to reading more from Anna Mazzola soon.

My thanks to Tinder Press for the advanced copy.

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The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun-mi Hwang – review

Published by Abacus

Publication date – 7 July 2016

Source – review copy

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“This is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires.

The Dog Who Dared to Dream is a wise tale of the relationship between dog and man, as well as a celebration of a life lived with courage. Translated into English for the first time, it is a classic from Sun-mi Hwang, an international bestselling author.”

My thanks to the publisher for the surprise copy of this book. The following review details my thoughts on the book.

The Dog Who Dared to Dream tells the story of Scraggy, the odd one out of the litter of pups born to a mother who’s life has been series of pregnancies. Scraggly slowly sees her family disappear for various reasons until one day there is just her left. Alone she sets off to see the world outside the gates of her home. We follow her as she encounters other animals and humans, and grows up with her owner Grandpa Screecher.

The novel shows the trials of life through the eyes of Scraggly, grief at losing loved ones, the importance of friendship and the cruelties that can lay at the hands we trust the most.

This is a charming and moving tale about the relationship between man and dog. The symbiotic relationship and the often times cruel one that can exist. It is also a sad tale, one of the loneliness Scraggly faces as her family leave her.

It is a parable about the vagaries of life, of hardship, sacrifice and love. Scraggly’s children leave, some dying, others sold, never to return and she pines their loss equally. I was soon caught up with Scraggly’s tale, pulled along by the narrative, and oddly moved by it.

This is a short novel, only 160 pages in length but it packs a lot of story into those few pages. There is a fairytale like sense to the book, helped not only by the canine lead character but by the translation, which I always find tends to lend an aura of magic to a story. It opens on the door a little on a different culture, one perhaps unknown and therefore a little mysterious. Because it is such a short novel it is hard to discuss the book without giving too much of the storyline away and so my review will be one of brevity.

A lovely, perfectly paced story that will make you ponder.

 

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My top 5 writing influences by Lisa Dickenson – Guest Post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Lisa Dickenson to the blog. Lisa is the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas, Catch Me If You Cannes and Mistletoe on 34th Street. Her serialised ebook You Had Me at Merlot was published as a paperback complete novel by Sphere on 16 June 2016.

Lisa has written about her writing influences. You can read my review of the funny and heart-warming You Had Me at Merlot here.

My Top 5 Writing Influences

1.       Places – I love writing stories in different locations, so as I start to fall in love with a new corner of the world, ideas start forming in my mind.  It’s a way to keep me going back there, I guess!  So places are a big influence in my writing, as they’re often how my story is born.

2.       TV – I don’t tend to read a lot while I’m writing the first draft of a new book, as I don’t want to copy the style of the book I’m reading, but TV helps focus my mind.  If I’m having a bit of a block, watching my favourite comedy shows gets me in the right headspace.

3.       Jackie Collins – I may not write much like Jackie Collins, but she’s always been a big inspiration and influence for me.  Before I signed my first book deal, whenever I needed a bit of motivation to carry on with writing I’d listen to ‘meet the author’-style podcasts with Ms Collins (being such a star, there are lots out there).  Her soothing voice, confident messages and incredible work ethic always influenced me to turn back to the laptop and carry on.

4.       Conversations – Sometimes the smallest snippets of funny conversation in real life can influence a whole scene in a book.  For example, I was recently hanging out with good friends and one was describing in all earnestness how boobs feel when breastfeeding, but how she compared it was the funniest thing, and I know exactly how it’s going to fit into the next book.

5.       Rooms and buildings – along with larger locations, like cities, counties or countries – a simple room or building can stimulate all sorts of ideas.  Who lives here?  What is this room for?  Could romance happen behind that window?  What secrets are in there?

About the book

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“Romantic, funny and wine-fuelled, You Had Me at Merlot will have you crying with laughter one moment and nodding your head in agreement the next. Perfect for fans of Giovanna Fletcher, Paige Toon and Mhairi McFarlane.

Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they’re single, they’re not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren’t filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine. She likes her independent life, but Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. She has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else’s idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of adventure, You Had Me at Merlot will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of wine).”

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Faith Hogan – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Faith Hogan to the blog. Faith’s debut novel, My Husband’s Wives was published by Aria on 1 May 2016

Faith kindly answered a few questions.

Tell us about My Husband’s Wives:

My Husband’s Wives is a contemporary novel, set squarely in the Women’s Fiction genre. It tells the story of a relationship that evolves between four women who each, in their own way, loved the same man. I’m very often surprised in life at how badly wrong we can be in our judgements of others and this book explores this among other topics. It has been described as ‘a story of love, jealousy and misunderstandings,’ and I think that pretty much covers it!

What Inspired you to write My Husband’s Wives?

Like all books, there was a spark. For me, it was the idea that life can change utterly with a knock on the front door. That is where the book starts, it’s where the story truly begins. It is very much a character driven book and in many ways, I’m proud of each of the four women in the book. I had struggled in the past with writing women’s voices – sometimes joking that men were far less complicated. With these characters, they arrived full formed, laughing and giving out and they didn’t stop talking until their story was told!

Are you a plan, plan, planner? Or…

I’m a bit of both. Certainly, I’ll sit for many weeks, looking as writerly as I can, while I stare into space and let my imagination run riot. It is the only way to really develop a story that resonates for me. I love a chart, I love mapping things out, post it’s are my best friend, as is the ruler and lots of different colour markers. I’ll probably map out the novel three times during the various drafts – but sometimes, I do wonder, is it all just procrastination? At the end, the novel looks nothing like the plan – and I actually think this is a very good thing indeed.

My Husband’s Wives is your debut novel – what has surprised you about the process of getting published?

There are many answers to this question and if I was asked the same thing in a week’s time, I’d probably come up with a range of different points. However, off the top of my head… I’d say that I love how everyone is so enthusiastic – they adore the industry they are working in. I haven’t met one person who is jaded and that goes right across the board. There’s a super vibe from everyone you connect with from the publishers, the agent, the publicist to the bloggers, the readers and the media. There is a great love of books that just pulls everything and everyone together.

The other thing that the whole experience has thrown at me is that I’ve learned a lot. Take heart if you’re waiting and waiting to get published, because it is true, the more you write, the more you learn. I feel a lot more comfortable in my own shoes now than I would have if I’d signed a publishing deal a decade ago.

If you could read only one book…

I would re-read Ivanhoe. I read it for the first time as a teenager, more because it was there than for any other reason. I’ve dipped into it again, but truly, I would need less distractions to really get the most out of it now.

When you’re not writing…

I’m a walker. I love walking in the nearby woods, on the beach or just around the town. I will walk in rain, sun (infrequent in the west of Ireland) and snow. I feel the day is not complete unless I get to breathe some fresh air and move around a bit!

When I’m not writing, I have four children, a husband and a demanding cat to look after and there’s nothing nicer than everyone sitting down for a movie or heading out for a day if the weather is nice.

And, did I mention that I’m quite fond of reading…

What question have you never been asked in a Q&A that you’ve always wished you were…

Would you like dark chocolate or truffles with that latte?

I’ll have both, thank you!

Many thanks, Janet for having me on your great blog. It’s a great thrill to be featuring alongside so many super authors!

Faith x

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Faith Hogan was born in Ireland.  She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway.  She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, children, a very fat cat called Norris and a selection of (until recently!) idle writerly mugs and cups.

Faith was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.

Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin. It was published by Aria, (Head of Zeus) on 1st of May 2016.   She is currently working on her next novel.

Follow Faith on Twitter at @gerhogan or like her on Facebook.comFaithhoganauthor/ or, if you’re really interested, you can catch up with her on http://www.faithhogan.com

About the book:

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“Better to have loved and lost, than never loved.

Paul Starr, Irelands leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young women by his side.

United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all.

The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other forever.

As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul’s death proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.”

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My Favourite Museums by Carys Bray – Guest post and extract

Today I’m pleased to welcome Carys Bray to the blog. Carys is the best selling author of A Song for Issy Brady and the short story collection Sweet Home. Her latest novel, The Museum of You was published by Hutchinson on 16 June 2016.

Carys has written a great guest post about her favourite museums. Keep on reading afterwards for an excerpt from The Museum of You.

In my new novel The Museum of You, twelve year old Clover Quinn sorts through her mother’s belongings and curates an exhibition in the second bedroom of the house she shares with her Dad, Darren.

As part of The Museum of You blog tour, I’m writing about some of my favourite museums. In recent months it has been frustrating to read of the museum closures which appear to be disproportionately affecting the north of England. Museums are a great place to learn about our heritage; they’re often a testament to the efforts and dedication of working people, the men and women who built and made many of the things we take for granted today.

 

The National Football Museum

MOF1 If, back when I had my first child back in 1997, someone had told me that football would play a huge part  in my family’s life, I would have laughed. But it’s true. Three of my four children have played junior league football. Five years ago when one of our son’s football coaches had to quit and it looked like the team might fold, my husband got his FA coaching badge and took over. Now he now coaches three teams.

Two nights a week are taken up with football training and there are matches every Saturday and Sunday – that’s before anyone gets down to the business of supporting their professional team(s). So, as you can imagine, The National Football Museum was an interesting place for us to visit.

 

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You can pay for a guided tour, but we wandered around at our own pace. Memorable things include the 1930s World cup matchball that looks capable of smashing windows and heads, a replica of the 1966 trophy and Diego Maradona’s hand-of-god shirt. There are collections of match programmes, trophies, toys, games and scarves. Visitors have an opportunity to stop shots and take a penalty.

 

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For me, the most glorious thing in the museum is The Art of the Game, a renaissance style paining of Eric Cantona reigning triumphant following the resurrection of his career. At his feet, disciples David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers pose languidly while, in the background, Alex Ferguson (as Caesar?) is crowned with a laurel wreath. It is a wonderfully bonkers blend of fandom and religious imagery. As Terry Pratchett wrote, ‘The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.’

And that brings me back to Clover Quinn’s museum. The thing about her museum is that it’s not just a museum. It’s much more than that. Part evocation, part conjuration: an attempt to discover her mother’s essence; a conduit to the past; a secret, until the Big Reveal, which will be epic, she hopes.

 

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707 The Museum of You is available from your local bookshop and online.

A moving and surprisingly funny novel – The Independent

The Museum of You – Excerpt

When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.

‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’

She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.

Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’

Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.

The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.

‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.

She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.

When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.

‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’

‘Help me with this, will you?’

They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls.

You can read my review of The Museum of You here.

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Series Link – Jonathan Kellerman

Books with recurring characters are always popular, often leading to almost guaranteed best-sellers once the fan base has been established. I for one love a good series to get stuck into, discovering new characters and watching them grow and develop over a number of novels. I’m also very much a stickler for reading in order. I do sometimes read them out of order but I much prefer to start at the very beginning. Novel series are very much present in crime fiction but are also featured across many different genres. This feature aims to showcase series’. Hopefully you will be able to find a new favourite character amongst them.

First up is Jonathan Kellerman, whose prolific back catalogue includes non-fiction, standalone crime novels and the crime series featuring Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis have earned him his place on the best-sellers list. Alex Delaware is a child psychologist, called in to help disturbed or traumatised children. His work has led him to investigate many murders with his best friend, Detective Milo Sturgis. I personally love this series. I’ve read every one of them (though I admit I didn’t start at the beginning with this one!) I am always eager to read the latest novel to feature the pair. Below is a list of all of the Alex Delaware novels in order. Any hyperlinks should lead through to my reviews.

When the Bough Breaks

Blood Test

Over the Edge

Silent Partner

Time Bomb

Private Eyes

Devil’s Waltz

Bad Love

Self-Defence

The Web

The Clinic

Survival of the Fittest

Monster

Dr. Death

Flesh and Blood

The Murder Book

A Cold Heart

Therapy

Rage

Gone

Obession

Compulsion

Bones

Evidence

Deception

Mystery

Victims

Guilt

Killer

Motive (I’ve read this just still need to write my review!)

Breakdown

You can read more about Jonathan Kellerman and his novels on his website.

Do let me know if you have read any of the Alex Delaware series and what you think to them. And let me know if you have a series you love.

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The Museum of You by Carys Bray – Review

Published by Hutchinson

Publication date – 16 June 2016

Source – review copy

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“Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Clover Quinn has been raised by her father Darren. Her mother, Becky, has been missing from her life since she was a baby. Darren has raised Clover by himself, floundering in the unknown world of caring for a baby and raising a girl. Now on the cusp of being a teenager, and trusted to look after herself for the holidays, Clover decides to tackle the spare room where her mother’s belongings are stored. She is going to sort through the items and present them to Darren, creating a museum of Becky Brookfield.
There is a shadow of sadness that runs through this novel. It hangs in the air of the house Clover inhabits with her father, hidden in between the items Darren keeps ‘just in case they ever need it’. It has always been present, shaping the absence of her mother so it’s almost palpable.
It’s a gently told story of living with the absence of someone, of how their memory, or lack thereof, can affect people differently and shape the course of their lives. For Clover, it is as if something is missing from herself, by not knowing Becky she is somehow incomplete. For Darren, he tries to protect Clover by not talking in great detail about her mother and in doing so, allows himself to be selfish in keeping Becky for himself.
This is however one of the few times he acts by putting his own feelings first, and it is done so unknowingly. Darren is portrayed as a patient man, bound by the losses in his life to care a little more for those that remain; his father, who rarely leaves the house, Becky’s brother, who suffers his own illnesses and of course Clover. Clover herself is beautifully portrayed. She is on the confusing cusp, walking the line between child and adult, seeing the world from the edges of both. She still has a child-like belief things, as she notes when she begins to clear the second bedroom and catalogue the ‘exhibits’, attaching histories to items that are contradicted when Darren’s memories of the same objects are revealed in his narratives.
Clover’s museum acts as a catalyst for Darren, allowing him to release feelings he hadn’t been overtly aware he was retaining, giving him the permission he needs to live again, rather than exist solely for Clover and others.  As for Clover, it allows her to find out part of her heritage, to see where her other half comes from. And to also find out more about her father, to view him in a new light.
The other characters all add layers to the tale, be it Darren’s dad, dealing with his own grief in his own way, Uncle Jimmy or Mrs Mackeral, who’s loud misquotes lend a comedic air to the novel. Dagmar adds another youthful edge to the story, allowing Clover the chance to see that everyone else’s lives aren’t always perfect and to open up the possibility of a peer friendship.
Moving and well told, this is a considered portrait of what make us who we are, how we are defined by the people around us but also by those who are absent.
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Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel.

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

I’m part of a wonderful online community called Book Connectors where bloggers, reviewers and authors can discuss all things book related. During one of the threads there was mention of ‘quiet’ books, the ones that miss out on the big publicity push. It was agreed that it was such a shame that certain books weren’t as widely read, as the reading public were missing out on hidden gems. So that sparked a germ of an idea and I decided to do a series of posts highlight titles that myself and other bloggers and authors feel may have gone under the reader’s radar. (That was the working title for this series of posts and as inspiration hasn’t struck me with anything better, its the one I’m going with for now).

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

Today’s first novel is The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, published by Vintage and was suggested by best selling author Sharon Bolton.

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“A notice in The Times addressed to ‘Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine’ advertises a ‘small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April’. Four very different women take up the offer, escaping dreary London for the sunshine of Italy. Among the party are Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arthuthnot, both fleeing unappreciative husbands; beautiful Lady Caroline, sick of being ‘grabbed’ by lovestruck men; and the imperious Mrs Fisher, who spends her time remembering the bearded ‘great men’ she knew in her Victorian childhood. By the end of their holiday, all the women will fall completely under the spell of Italy in this funny, insightful and very charming novel.”
Read more on the Vintage website.

This is what Sharon had to say:

“A book I absolutely love and recommend to everyone is The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim.  First, because every time I picked it up, it made me feel happy and second, because I’m in awe of a writer who can produce such an engaging, wonderful book, in which absolutely nothing happens.”

Sharon’s latest novel, Daisy in Chains is published by Bantam Press and is out in bookshops now. You can read my review here and see a Q&A with Sharon here.

If that’s not enough to persuade you, The Enchanted April has 89 5 star reviews on Amazon.

The second suggestion is An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac, which 61 five star reviews on Amazon, put forward by Caryl who blogs at Mrs Bloggs; The Average Reader.

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“Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder inquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…

Leading her first murder investigation, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?”

This is what Caryl had to say:

“The main characters were well depicted and likeable and the story suspenseful right the way through until the end. There were a number of twists and turns with false trails that left me trying to guess what was happening and I didn’t.”

You can read Caryl’s full review on her blog. You can also read a Q&A with Jane here and you can find out more about Jane and her books on her website.
So there we have it. Two books I have to add to my wishlist as they both  sound fabulous. Do let me know if you’ve got a quiet book you want to shout about.

 

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