Monthly Archives: November 2016

Author Influences with Christie Barlow

I am delighted to be joined by Christie Barlow, author of fantastically funny and warm women’s fiction.  Christie tells us about which books and authors have influenced her…

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Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

I had many books on my bookshelf as a child and was an avid reader. My favourite childhood author has got to be Enid Blyton. Five on a Treasure Island has stayed with me from the age of seven when I can remember sitting on an old trunk in my bedroom and not moving all day until I’d finished it. The marvellous characters and the adventures of the Famous Five I will never forget and I have introduced my children to this series. These books are absolute classics and every child should have the opportunity to read them, they are truly fantastic.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I loved English in school and I loved my teacher at primary school. She said my story telling and imagination held no bounds. I wrote a diary every day from primary school age up until my first child was born and they are all bound together in the loft waiting to be read one day! Maybe some of those childhood experiences will find their way in to a story plot.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I prefer a feel-good romance book. My favourite author in this genre is Cathy Bramley. Her books have just the right blend of romance and comedy. I prefer to read books that have warm and believable characters – ones you’d want to be friends with. I suppose I have tried to instil some of these characteristics in the personalities in my books.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

I have an idea for a psychological thriller which I hope to write one day. I can really appreciate the research that goes in to writing a believable thriller – so it presents a challenge for me that I want to explore. I already have the idea…so that’s a start!

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

It’s my children who were the impetus behind me writing. Not long after my 40th birthday, we were chatting as a family about careers and what the children could do when they finished school. When they asked me what I would really like to do, I blurted out, ‘Write a book’! Once the words were spoken, I decided I should follow through and show them that anything is possible. Now, with 4 books published and all Amazon bestsellers, I am so chuffed to show them that anything really is possible.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

There is no author in particular that I have to get as soon as it comes out. I enjoy a lot of authors and when I finish a book, I see what takes my fancy at the time.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

Oh, I can easily answer that one! Evil Games by Angela Marsons is totally captivating. It’s not my normal genre, but it had me hooked from page one.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

Now there is a very probing question. I have! GASP! Everyone is currently thinking OMG is Rachel Young real? Does Christie Barlow know a woman named Penelope Kensington who she went speed dating with and named a baby Lulu? I’m sorry to disappoint, but all those characters were off the scale and pure fiction. However, in my novel Kitty’s Countryside Dream, the character Kitty Lewis inherits a chicken farm. This book would have never been written if it wasn’t for a local farmer who sold me my very first chicken seven years ago. Since then, he has taught me everything I needed to know about rearing and breeding chickens. Chickens have become a way of life in our house and it was my very own feathered friends that provided the little spark of inspiration for this book.
My characters aren’t based on specific people but I have drawn on my own experiences and memories. It’s important that I am able to relate to my characters and love who they are – faults as well. It’s all part of creating these unique personalities that you put into your book. But as my favourite primary school teacher said, I have an imagination that knows no bounds! I think it’s why writers write and actors act – it gives us the opportunity to unleash our imaginations and create a fictional experience that pleases our audience.

Thanks Christie for taking part and the great answers.

Lizzie's Christmas Escape

About Christie Barlow

Christie is the author of A Year In The Life Of A Playground Mother, The Misadventures Of A Playground Mother, Kitty’s Countryside Dream and Lizzie’s Christmas Escape.  She lives in Staffordshire with her husband, four kids, horses, chickens and a mad Cocker Spaniel.  Her writing career came somewhat as a surprise when she decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams.  She is a mum who wrote a book to prove to her children whatever you want to do in life go for it.  The book she wrote to prove a point is now a number one bestseller in the UK and USA.

Christie’s latest book Lizzie’s Christmas Escape is out now and can be purchased HERE. 

Connect with Christie

Website: www.christiebarlow.com

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

Facebook: Christie Barlow Author

You can read my review of Lizzie’s Christmas Escape HERE and my review of Kitty’s Countryside Dream HERE.

Cover Reveal – The Escape by C.L. Taylor

Very excited to be able to share with you the cover and blurb for C.L. Taylor’s fourth book, The Escape.  Published on 23rd March 2017 by Avon Books it sounds like a cracker and the cover is stunning!!!!

The Blurb

The Sunday Times bestseller and No.1 Kindle bestseller returns…

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

The Escape

It looks and sounds fantastic!!! Can. Not. Wait!!!

Author Guest Post – Ann Girdharry on Discovering Ten New Authors Of Colour

I’m delighted to be joined by author of Good Girl Bad Girl Ann Girdharry today.  Ann has started a regular feature in the Huffington Post in which she reviews a book by a new author of colour.  One of my favourite books is White Teeth by Zadie Smith, but I have to admit that I have not read many books by authors of colour, mainly because they just don’t seem to be out there, and yet they must be!  Ann is highlighting and spotlighting some of these authors in her new feature and  I will hand over to Ann to tell you more about this…

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Discover Ten New Authors of Colour
Hi Abbie and thanks so much for supporting this series. Why did I decide to dig around to find Ten New Authors of Colour? Well, here are a few of my reasons –
1.I’m an avid reader
Yes, I’m foremost a writer, but I’m also an avid reader and beta reader. I’ve spent many years critiquing work for other authors and, in that time, I’ve come across some fantastic talent – from, as yet, unpublished authors. I’ve read wonderful prose and brilliant story ideas that would blow your socks off.
Quite a lot of these stories don’t get onto our bookshelves. Or, if they do, they’re not backed by the mega-bucks that go into promoting the big, ‘best sellers’, so people don’t get to know about them.
Writing this series is a way to push forward some books that I think are really good and bring them to the attention of readers.
2. Authors of colour are under represented on our book shelves
Go into any bookshop and the vast majority of titles on the shelves will be written by white authors and be full of white characters.
Now, one reader said to me ‘I don’t care about the colour of the author, I only care about good books’.
I understand that, but I think it’s grim there isn’t much more choice available.
Another reader told me she was shocked to realise she’d never read a book with a non-white main character (and that now she realised this, she’d like to).
It’s not always easy to find recommendations. I hope this series is a place to start.
3. Curiosity and tolerance
In my own reading, I like to discover new stories where the writer is coming from a different culture, or a different world view, or has experiences and history different to my own. This ‘flavour’ always comes across in the writing, even if the story isn’t explicitly about race or culture or identity.
It’s my personal belief that finding out about people who we see as ‘other’ is a great foundation for fostering tolerance. It expands our understanding and can make us quietly ask ourselves questions.

4. Where to get good recommendations?
There are some ‘recommended’ reading lists around for those readers wanting to find quality books by authors of colour. I looked at a good one produced by Book Riot (you can find it HERE.
The Book Riot list contains some great iconic writers of colour but out of the twenty recommendations, only five were published since 2010. One book dated from the 1950s and another from the 1960s. Now, I know there are good books way more recent than that…
Hence, this series!
I’ll to be featuring a mix of quality, traditionally published and independently published books – each with something unique to offer.
For each author, I’ll be including a book review and a snap-shot author interview.
You can catch #1 here – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ann-girdharry/discover-ten-new-authors-_b_12191630.html
and #2 here –http://anngirdharry.weebly.com/blog.
#3 is due end of November and I’ll give you a hint that she’s twice been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award. Watch this space and Happy Reading!
Ann Girdharry website http://www.girdharry.com
Ann Girdharry blog http://anngirdharry.weebly.com/blog

Thank you Ann for the great post.  Keep your eyes out for her feature on her blog and the Huffington Post.

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Review – A Man With One Of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell

A Man With One Of those Faces

The Blurb

The first time somebody tried to kill him it was an accident.

The second time was deliberate.

Now Paul Mulchrone finds himself on the run with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence.  Together, they must solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history…

…or else they’ll be history.

My Thoughts

A Man With One Of Those Faces is the debut novel by Caimh McDonnell, a stand up comedian. I was curious as to how a comic would create a crime novel and the answer is…uniquely and brilliantly!

Almost killed by accident then pursued by a notorious gangland criminal in a case of mistaken identity, Paul Mulchrone, the central character, has to be the unluckiest man alive! Along with Brigit Conroy, a nurse with a penchant for crime novels and Bunny McGarry, an over-zealous, not ‘always-by-the-book’ copper Paul must solve an historical, notorious crime in order not to be killed.

A Man With One Of Those Faces is not, however, your average crime novel. It comes with a wicked sense of Irish humour that has you laughing out loud whilst also keeping you gripped to the crime aspect of the story. I was immediately drawn into the first chapter and compelled to keep reading due to the perfect combination of wit and mystery. Used to crime and thrillers novels that are serious in tone, I loved this mix and Caimh pulls it off perfectly.

Full of fantastic characters – including an 83 year old influenced by programmes such as The Wire and Sons Of Anarchy – I felt a real affection for Paul, Brigit and Bunny and am pleased we will be seeing more from them in Caimh’s next novel. The humour certainly added to the affinity I felt for them and Paul‘s back story is intriguing.

Don’t be fooled though by all my talk of comedy, this is also a thrilling novel and I had no idea how it would turn out. A Man With One Of Those Faces hooked me in quickly and kept me guessing right to the very end. With chapters that are the perfect length and end at exactly the right moment and well paced prose this is also a great crime novel with perfect timing.

Gangland criminals, mistaken identity, an unsolved mystery mixed with cracking Irish humour that reminded me of Father Ted make A Man With One Of Those Faces a fantastic novel. Simultaneously making you roar with laughter and bite your nails, Caimh’s debut is quite unlike anything I have read before and it’s a belter. Can’t wait for the second novel.

A huge thank you to Caimh McDonnell for a the copy of A Man With One Of Those Faces in exchange for my honest review.

Published on 27 August 2016 by McFori Ink.

You can purchase a copy from Amazon UK and Amazon.com

**Novella Week** Review – A Christmas In Cornwall by Laura Briggs

A Christmas in Cornwall

The Blurb

It’s Julianne Morgen’s first Christmas in the Cornish village of Ceffylgwyn, and life seems perfect.  Her job as an event planner couldn’t be better, she’s beginning to feel at home despite being an American in a tiny English village, and her relationship with handsome English horticulturist Matthew Rose continues to slowly blossom from friendship to love.

But when an old flame of Julianne’s appears on the spot, she finds herself tangled up in her own past.  A grand charitable ball planned at Cliffs House for Christmas brings it’s own challenges to Julianne’s world, along with a last-minute wedding in London.  And when she learns that Matthew’s former career in America has invited him back, she worries about what it means for their future together if he says ‘yes’.

Number of pages – 95.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed A Wedding In Cornwall and so looked forward to catching up with Julianne, Matt and all the staff at Cliffs house in this second instalment of Laura’s series.

Julianne has settled into her life in Cornwall and her fledgling relationship with Matt is going well. However, the course of true love does not always run smoothly and it appears that fate may be conspiring against the couple.

A Christmas In Cornwall is very much a classic love story with an added gorgeous setting and a sprinkling of Christmas sparkle. The characters are great and you can’t help but like Julianne, Matt and the rest of the staff at Cliffs House. I got completely absorbed in Julianne’s life and it felt like spending time with an old friend. Unsure of the status of their fledgling relationship, I found myself rooting for Julianne and Matt and hoping their relationship would work out.

Once again, Laura has done a great job of describing Cornwall and the village creating a really warm feel throughout the novella. It still amazes me that Laura has never actually been to Cornwall and she must have undertaken a lot of research.

A lovely festive novella. Great if you want to while away a winter’s afternoon with a light-hearted read.

Thank you to Laura Briggs for my copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

 

**Novella Week** Review – Fresh Air And Empty Streets by Oliver Cable

Fresh Air and Empty Streets

The Blurb

All we are is fresh air and empty streets.

Fifteen years after Alexander left his wife and young child to pursue the life of an artist in Paris, his son Felix is on his doorstep, looking for answers.  On a journey through smoky jazz bars, artist’s studios and along the banks of the Seine, Felix meets the father he never knew, and in doing so, comes to question some lifelong assumptions.

Number of pages – 140

My Thoughts

In his debut novella Fresh Air And Empty Streets Oliver Cable takes us on a meandering tale of loss, anger, reconciliation and self-discovery along the river Seine in Paris.

Felix has travelled to Paris to meet the father who left him and his mother when he was a young child to pursue his dream of being an artist in Paris. Felix, understandably, finds it difficult to fathom why his father, Alexander, left him all those years ago and feels a degree of animosity towards him. What he doesn’t expect is to make discoveries about himself, his beliefs and to feel an empathy with the man who caused him and his mother so much pain and heartache.

It is clear through his prose that Oliver has a deep love for jazz, art and literature and through these mediums Felix discovers things about himself he wasn’t expecting. As he becomes involved in his father’s artistic lifestyle he begins to understand the power of the pull of Alexander’s creative side and realises that there are always more than one perspective, whether that be of events, life and the arts. Felix is searching for his father but the ultimate search is for himself. Oliver uses a lot of dream sequences to convey to the reader how Felix is feeling at the time and make sense of his feelings.

Oliver is a poet at heart and this comes through in his writing. He captures the essence of Paris whilst also capturing the loneliness Felix feels when he initially arrives in the city. The joy of this book is through the descriptions and the self discoveries that Felix makes rather than any fast paced excitement or drama. He sums up perfectly how I feel about reading and why I love hearing of other people’s interpretations of the written word;

‘ “I consider that the beauty of a painting – it can be anything to anyone. Come to think of it, that holds true for music, literature, dance, you name it. People will look at it through their own frame of reference. Of course they’ll read something else into it than you will.” ’

This is a steady paced book in which the joy comes through the beauty of the prose. If you enjoy books that take more of a philosophical perspective and rely heavily on descriptions of music, surroundings and art to convey the emotions of the character rather than high drama than you will enjoy it.

A beguiling short read quite unlike anything I have read recently, Fresh Air And Empty Streets took me on an evocative journey through the jazz bars of Paris and made me think about how what you believe to be true is never as straight forward as you think. An accomplished debut novel.

Thank you to Oliver Cable for the copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Published on 1 July 2016 by Oliver Cable.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – Errors Of Evaluation by Paola Pica

Errors of Evaluation

The Blurb

Francesca’s presence pervades the lives of those she meets. 

She leaves an indelible mark, the true nature of her personality revealed through other people’s encounters with her. 

Her boldness as a spoilt child.  Her temporary (and just) suffering as the victim of a shrink – an ambiguous and even more unscrupulous person than her in grasping anything graspable.  And the more than explicit revelation of her blind egocentrism, because of which she ignores the one person who has tried tirelessly to help her. 

Three very different characters tell the same story about the enigmatic woman who has entered their lives, each one illuminating who Francesca really is, from their own point of view.  Each character has made an error of evaluation which they realise has prejudiced their lives and their relationships.  An omniscient narrator will have the final say. 

This is the first version in English of Errors of Evaluation by the Italian writer Paola Pica and has been translated by Janice Burberry.

Number of pages – 99.

My Thoughts

‘…it’s enough to know a person’s weak points to do what you want with him.’

Several days after I finished reading Errors of Evaluation I’m still not sure what I think of it or how much I liked it. This very rarely happens to me, I’m usually quite sure of my opinions but this novella has puzzled me, which I guess could be a good thing but it hasn’t made it easy to write this review.

Paola has written a book that concentrates very firmly on four characters. That of Francesca, who the book is essentially about and the three characters who are telling their story of her – Marco, Massimo and Elena. I generally love to hate a character and within Errors of Evaluation there is little to like about any of the characters with the exception of Elena. Francesca has left a definite mark on those she has come into contact with and Marco, Massimo and Elena each give their view of her. The first three chapters are narrated in the first person by each with the fourth chapter being told in the third person. The total detachment from the main character, Francesca, through the lack of her voice and yet the unique insight the reader gets into her personality works really well.

A tale of control and manipulation, initially I felt that Francesca, although spoilt and narcissistic, was the victim of the men who manipulated her in order to keep her as their trophy. As the book progresses, however, it would appear that Francesca is as grasping as the men she has been in relationships with and manipulates them to meet her own needs. The question for me at the end was who was the greatest at the art of deception?

Paola has created utterly contemptible, unscrupulous characters. She uses a mix of psychological theories to explore the darker side of relationships. Each believes they knew Francesca but at the end they discover that this was not the case and each has been wrong in their assessment of her.

Translated incredibly well and with a beautiful use of language, I really enjoyed the prose in Errors Of Evaluation. It has a very European feel about it despite their being little indication of the setting in Italy. This is a very character-based book and despite the lack of surrounding description I felt myself drawn into it and into their strange psyches.

Very much unlike anything I have read recently I’m not sure that this book will appeal to everybody. If you have an interest in psychology and a penchant for the despicable, you will enjoy Errors Of Evaluation.

Thank you to Paola Pica and Authoright for the copy of Errors Of Evaluation.

Published 26 July 2016 by Clink Street Publishing.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

Blog Tour – The Reading Group by Della Parker

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on The Reading Group blog tour. I love the concept of this – each ebook novella focuses on one of the five women who are part of a reading group and the classic novel they are reading that month reflects what is happening in their lives. Della has created a modern version of each classic within each story. So without further ado I will share my review of each of the first three novella’s in the story and introduce you to the characters…

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What’s The Reading Group About?

Meet the Reading Group: six women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading.  No topic is off limits: books, family, love and loss…and don’t forget the glass of red!

The Reading Group Book 1 – December

The Reading Group December

Grace knows that the holiday season is going to be different this year.  No turkey, no tinsel, no gorgeously wrapped gifts under the tree…how on earth is going to break it to her little boys that Christmas is effectively cancelled? And can she bear to tell anyone her embarrassing secret? Enter the Reading Group: Grace’s life might have turned upside down but there’s no problem they can’t solve.

Number of pages – 17

My Thoughts

In this first instalment we meet Grace an the Reading Group’s book of the month is  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Grace is married with triplet son’s and she is currently going through a difficult time financially and personally as one of her sons has cancer. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, she has no choice but to cancel Christmas this year.

This is the shortest in the series and Della has effectively, in a few pages, created the setting and introduced the characters and the dynamics between them. I couldn’t wait to get reading the next novella in the series.

A story about not keeping your problems to yourself and the power of friendship, Grace learns to open up about her problems and discovers she is not alone and Christmas may end up being magical rather like at the end of A Christmas Carol.

Published on 1st December 2016 by Quercus.  Price: Free.

The Reading Group Book 2 – January

The Reading Group January

Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker – never mod that she’s only go one real success under her belt.  And this year she’s determined to up her game: Little Sanderton’s singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!

But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what’s best for everyone else, her own life couldn’t be less of a fairytale romance.  Between looking after her cranky father, and running her own business, she doesn’t have tome for a relationship.  Her friends in the Reading Group know better through: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected places…

This January the Reading Group is tackling Jane Austen’s Emma…but who’s got time for reading when romance is in the air?

Number of pages – 95

My Thoughts

In January the Reading Group are reading Jane Austen’s Emma and the story centres around Anne Marie.

Again Della has brilliantly crafted a modern version of a classic as we follow Anne Marie setting up her dating agency with disastrous results. This is a really feel-good novella that had me laughing out loud (and getting strange looks from my husband!).

Despite Anne Marie having quite a privileged life – her father is successful and ensures she doesn’t want for anything – she is very likeable and has a kind heart. Despite the brevity of the book Della really gets you to the heart of the character and the setting and it felt like spending time with a friend. I got totally wrapped up with Anne Marie and her story and this was a really delightful read.  I finished the book looking forward to reading the next instalment.

Published 1st December 2016 by Quercus.  Price: 99p.
The Reading Group Book 3 – February

The Reading Group February

Kate has tried to be a good wife to Anton.  Ever since he got demoted at work – answering to a woman no less – Anton simply hasn’t been the same.  Kate wants to help, but as the months pass and Anton pulls away from her both emotionally and physically, Kate can’t help but feel a bit abandoned.

Then Kate meets Bob: the handsome, blue-eyed carpenter that Anton has hired to refurbish their kitchen.  Kate instantly feels a powerful physical connection between them…but dare she risk her marriage for a man she barely knows?

This month the Reading Group is enjoying Lady Chatterley’s Lover…and trying no to giggle too much at the naughty parts!

Number of pages – 95

My Thoughts

In February the Reading Group are reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence and the story centres around Kate.

Kate’s intimate relationship with her husband has taken a downward turn since he was demoted at work. When Bob the builder (no not THAT Bob the builder!!!) turns up to re-model their kitchen Kate cannot help but be attracted to him. As her long held beliefs on love are challenged, Kate struggles to keep her marriage going and discovers that what she thought was love may not be in fact the case.

The similarities between Lady Chatterley’s Lover are all there – the difficulties in the intimate side of Kate’s marriage, the class differences and hope that true love can conquer all. This instalment of The Reading Group moved me as Kate struggles to understand her feelings and worries about her marriage. Despite the themes of infidelity and the breakdown of a relationship, Della has again managed to incorporate delicious bites of humour that all adds to fully immerse the reader into the story and makes it a really enjoyable read.

The characterisation is great and by this book I felt as much a part of the reading group as the people I had been reading about. I really loved finding out more about the different members of the group and getting to know them on a personal level.

This is a great series – fantastic if you want a light, humorous read and I love the concept of the stories mirroring those of classic novels. While I love a classic novel they are not for everyone and this series is a great way for people to access those timeless stories who may otherwise may not read the originals. I’m really looking forward to the next novella in the series.

So, grab a cuppa and some cake, turn off your phone, get cosy and spend an afternoon with The Reading Group.

Published on ebook 1 December 2016 by Quercus.  Price 99p.

I adored the first three books in this series.  Della has created wonderful characters that you can identify with and her writing totally immerses you into each individual story.  While they include serious issues for each character, Della adds humour throughout that makes each story more enjoyable.  A huge thank you to Della Parker and Alainna at Quesrcus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for the copies of the first three books.

Introducing The Characters

Grace (December)

Grace has five-year-old triplets, serious money problems and a husband who doesn’t do stress very well. In another life she would have been an artist.

‘Yes. Scrooge is a bit close to home. I thought…well I thought I could blag it through tonight. But I can’t.’

Anne Marie (January)

At just twenty-one, Anne Marie is the baby of the group. Blonde and bubbly, she has a penchant for organizing (she thinks). Less charitable people would call it meddling.

‘I’m going into the matchmaking arena. I shall run speed-dating events in the village. There are plenty of singletons in Little Sanderton. How hard can it be?’

Kate (February)

Beautiful Kate, who has no idea how attractive she is, builds websites for corporate clients and longs for a family.

‘Love is just how I thought it would be. I’m just not interested in other men any more.

Jojo (March)

Jojo is the matriarch of the group. She worries about her size and wishes she had more self-esteem. Sometimes she feels like she needs these women a lot more than they need her.

‘Step One of my Three Step Feeling Better Plan is to eat cake. I think we’ve done Step One, haven’t we, Angel?’

Serena (April)

Headmistress Serena is bossy, wears owlish glasses, loves literature, and freely admits that she calls everyone ‘dear’ to save remembering their names.

‘Is anyone listening to me? How about if I say sex. Yep, that’s right. Sex, sex and more sex. Sex glorious sex!’

Join the online Reading Group!!!!

You are invited to join the #ReadingGroup on 2 December 2016 at 4pm on Twitter.  Hosted by the fantastic Rebecca at @beccasbooksUK join me, @DellaGalton and @QuercusBooks to celebrate the launch of this great new series.  I’m really excited about this and hope to see you there!

Invite

 

**Novella Week** Review – A Time To Tour Ghost City by Anjum Noor Choudhury

A time to tour ghost city

The Blurb

A young woman on vacation with her parents discovers she can see ghosts in the Stone City of  the Crescent Valley.  When her parents are taken hostage by a rogue tour guide, she must mediate with one of the ghosts to get them back.  But ghosts are the least of her problems in this perilous adventure that takes her back thousands of years, to a time when the Valley flourished with life and a legendary brotherhood roamed it’s sands.

Number of pages – 48.

My Thoughts

A wonderful setting, ghosts, and a plucky heroine make A Time to Tour Ghost City an entertaining quick read.

Leela is on holiday in the Crescent Valley with her parents when their tour guide, Altaf, on realising Leela can see the ghosts of the Stone City, takes her parents hostage. In order to free her parents, Leela must help him find the hidden treasure of the Stone City.

As Leela has to negotiate the Stone City and the ghosts that live there in order to assist the guide, they are not prepared for what happens during their mission as it takes them to where they never thought it was possible to go. What ensues is a fast paced story.

Rich descriptions of the Stone City in the present and past conjured up images of Petra for me as Anjum leads us on an Arabian adventure with all the sights, sounds and heat of the setting. She has done a great job of setting the scene and immersing the reader in the surroundings.

I loved the fact that the main characters were Indian and Arabian. I did, however, find it a little difficult to connect with the two main characters which may in part be due to the length of the book as there was not much room for character development. The characters did not feel authentic to me and the relationship between Leela and Altaf was inconsistent at times.

On the whole A Time To Tour Ghost City is an enjoyable easy read reminiscent of Ali Baba but with a modern twist.

Thank you to Anjum Choudhury for the copy of A Time To Tour Ghost City.

Published on 23 August 2016 by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – Thurso by P James Callaghan

Thurso

The Blurb

Rob is running from a drab life and a loveless marriage.  David is running from something but he doesn’t know what.  Alistair would like to run but his dad keeps him locked in his room.  Their paths will inevitably cross but whose life will be changed forever?  Thurso is a novel about cause and effect, memory and guilt.  P James Callaghan does not shy away from his depictions of abuse and mental illness.  But Thurso is also a novel about remorse and redemption.  Callaghan writes efficiently and precisely, with dark humour and an eye for the wondrous in the mundane.

Number of pages – 138

My Thoughts

Thurso is an intriguing book about three people who all have one thing in common – the town of Thurso. Trying to escape to or from Thurso, this very character based book tells the story of the people over the course of eight days.

David is trying to get to Thurso and it is clear from the outset that he is suffering from mental health difficulties. Rob is running away from his relationship difficulties. Alistair is desperate to get away from Thurso and his domineering father. Getting their unique individual perspectives, this book gradually unravels each character’s story.

Thurso touches on mental health issues, abuse and generally the darker aspects of human beings and it is unflinching and raw in it’s portrayal of the subject matters. There are, however, touches of black humour that lighten what could otherwise be an all encompassing sombre mood.

I could not help but be moved by David and Alistair’s stories. The writing is to the point and with no dressing up in relation to Alistair and this can make for uncomfortable reading which may be difficult for some, however it is, I feel, necessary to the story. Rob made me feel uneasy and he was not a character that I warmed to but by the end I understood him and felt a degree of empathy for him. Callaghan has, in Rob’s story, touched on the feelings and behaviour that takes place when a relationship is floundering with an emotional acuity.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, Callaghan has used the scenery to create atmosphere and tension within Thurso and this adds to the bleakness experienced when reading . This is particularly effective in David’s story as the similes used to describe the surrounding countryside sums up David’s state of mind;

‘He heard the forest dozing. The trees stood round a large shallow bowl like mourners round a grave.’

Further tension is added towards the end of the book as the chapters get shorter, pushing the story on towards it’s conclusion, a conclusion that made me re-evaluate what I had assumed about the characters. Callaghan effectively left me mulling over this book for a few days while I absorbed all that I had read.

A tale about the difficulties people can face and how they react to and process them, with unflinching and yet moving, carefully written descriptions of sensitive issues made Thurso an interesting book and an enjoyable read. A ‘make you think’, dark debut from P. James Callaghan, I look forward to reading more from this author.

A huge thank you to P. James Callaghan for the copy of Thurso.

Published 1 May 2016 by ITA Press.

You can purchase a copy HERE.