#BlogTour! #Review – #TheStoryKeeper by Anna Mazzola (@Anna_Mazz) @TinderPress @AnneCater

annamazzola
It’s TWG’s turn on #TheStoryKeeper blog tour, courtesy of RandomThingsTours! Many thanks to Anne for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and many thanks to the publisher Tinder Press for the review copy. I am delighted to be able to share my review with you all today!

the story keeper cover

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.

What does TWG think?

Where on EARTH do I begin? I apologise in advance if this review ends up being a load of old gobbledegook – I’ll try my best to write sentences that actually make sense. Can’t promise anything though!!

‘The Story Keeper’ has intrigued me since I saw the cover of it on social media last year. I knew straight away that I wanted to delve into the darkness, yet I couldn’t really explain why. I mean, the cover gives nothing away and it is exceptionally dark, a world away from a lot of the other books I read. Maybe, thinking about it now, that was why I wanted to read it? Maybe the darkness of the cover piqued my interest? Maybe it was because it was so different, that I knew I just had to read it?

I didn’t know what to expect from Anna Mazzola’s novel before I started reading it so, because I don’t read blurbs, I read the book ‘blind’ so to speak, and wow, what a book this was!

Yes, the storyline is from a land far, far away (pardon the pun), and yes, the storyline is extremely dark with many chilling moments. However, none of that is a negative in the slightest! Set in Scotland in the mid 1800’s, ‘The Story Keeper’ follows Audrey’s journey in a place she holds dear due to the emotional ties with her late mother. Just like the title of the book suggests, it does contain ‘stories’. Not just any type of ‘story’ though – fairy tales and folklore. We have all heard of fairy tales and folk tales, but did you know about the secrets hidden beneath the words? I had no idea just how magical those stories could be perceived and, despite sitting on the fence in terms of belief, I couldn’t help myself becoming washed away with the rest of the believers every time a story was told.

Don’t fret though – ‘The Story Keeper’ isn’t merely fairy tales and magic, it also has a very creep undertone to it due to the death of a local girl and the fact that nobody knows the how’s, why’s, and wherefore’s behind the particular death. Some of the characters, the believers in the fairytales, were adamant that spirits were involved, yet the non believer type characters refused to belief that something untoward was going on. Why would they believe a young girl who was with child, when in those days that sort of thing was incredibly frowned upon and went against the grain of the religion?

It’s not that I didn’t think that I would enjoy this book, it’s that I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, because I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed the thrilling and highly suspenseful antics of the characters. I was gripped by the feeling of the unknown due to the spirits and strong belief where the fairy tales were concerned. I even adored the fact that I was able to lose myself in the chilling elements of the book, wrapping myself up in the darkness of the tale as the storyline progressed.

‘The Story Keeper’ is an outstanding, powerfully written novel which completely took my breath away. I thought Anna Mazzola’s writing style made the story come alive from all directions, and this author, in my eyes, has now become one to watch for me. I cannot wait to lose myself in more of her future novels if ‘The Story Keeper’ is anything to go about. What a phenomenal, phenomenal read!

Buy now from Amazon

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#BlogTour! #Review – Red Snow by Will Dean (@willrdean) @PtBlankBks #Tuva2 #RedSnow @AnneCater

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Squeal! I am beyond excited to share my review of Will Dean’s ‘Red Snow’, the second book in the ‘Tuva Moodyson’ series. Huge, huge thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and thank you to Point Blank Books for the ARC (and Will Dean for signing it!!). Here is my review as part of the blog tour:

red snow cover

Red Snow is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Dark Pines, selected for ITV’s Zoe Ball Book Club

TWO BODIES

One suicide. One cold-blooded murder. Are they connected? And who’s really pulling the strings in the small Swedish town of Gavrik?

TWO COINS

Black Grimberg liquorice coins cover the murdered man’s eyes. The hashtag #Ferryman starts to trend as local people stock up on ammunition.

TWO WEEKS

Tuva Moodyson, deaf reporter at the local paper, has a fortnight to investigate the deaths before she starts her new job in the south. A blizzard moves in. Residents, already terrified, feel increasingly cut-off. Tuva must go deep inside the Grimberg factory to stop the killer before she leaves town for good. But who’s to say the Ferryman will let her go?

What does TWG think?

I know the popular saying is ‘never eat yellow snow’, but who agrees that it should be ‘never eat yellow AND red snow’?! For those who aren’t aware, ‘Red Snow’ is the follow-up to Will Dean’s previous novel, ‘Dark Pines’. I hadn’t manage to read the first book before I read this one, and I still haven’t, however I managed to follow the story perfectly well without having the background information of the first. That said, I thought that ‘Red Snow’ was absolutely brilliant and I can assure you that I will be reading ‘Dark Pines’ as soon as humanly possible!!

I don’t even know how to write this review! Seriously! I have never, ever read a book like ‘Red Snow’ before! First of all, the storyline had me hooked before the page numbers reached double figures. Second of all, the entire storyline was laced with intricate complexities which were seamlessly brought together to create such an intense, and addictive read. Thirdly, those characters! Wow! I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took the author to create the multi-layered, flawed, realistic characters like the ones in this book.

Take Tuva for example – she just did not give a monkeys yet still seemed to have the largest heart of all. She was clearly good at her job, but she didn’t seem to understand just when to stop before she found herself knee-deep in snow. And there’s the Grimberg’s! I thought CiCi was absolutely brilliant in a weird and wonderful way. Creepy, I shall be honest, but she had a vibe about her that urged me to find out more.

It’s not often that I find myself reading a book set in Sweden, so when I do, it makes a nice change to ‘visit’ a place I know very little about. I ended up sitting on Google (not literally) to find out more about the place in question – I honestly thought Will Dean was joking when it came to the temperatures! Bloomin’ eck!!

As I said at the start, I thought that this book was absolutely phenomenal! I loved reading about the intense and extremely thrilling situations involving the Grimberg’s! Shivers just kept going up and down my spine whilst I read the book, and no, it wasn’t because of the minus temperatures! Will Dean is an exceptional, exceptional author whose attention to detail is mind-blowing. Usually when I read other books and they contain random pieces of information that make you think ‘what the….?, I can’t help but think the storyline is being padded out, however when Will Dean included those little snippets, it just worked. It was as though the description of the lights outside the pub NEEDED to be in the storyline. Everything Will Dean wrote in the book had a purpose – I really appreciated every word the author wrote. Like I say, I adored it.

I urge you all to put ‘Red Snow’ on your TBR piles pronto! Fantastically written, utterly addictive, and a very strong contender for my top book of 2019…already!!!

Buy now from Amazon

#BlogTour! #GuestPost from author of #TheLiarsGirl, Catherine Ryan Howard (@cathryanhoward) @CorvusBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

Today I am delighted to be sharing a guest post written by author of ‘The Liar’s Girl’, Catherine Ryan Howard. Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and I hope you all enjoy reading the post. Before you get stuck in, here is a little bit more information about the book, as well as the all important ‘buy’ link:

Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse.

Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.

Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget.

Buy now from Amazon

Guest post.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

 

The question ‘where do you get your ideas?’ is a running joke among writers, partly because we’re asked it all the time, and partly because it takes so long to write a book and things change so much during the process that it can be hard to remember what exactly the original idea was. Its origins may be even trickier to pin down, because for many writers idea-generating is like looking for shapes in the fog: sometimes something emerges, and you’ve no idea how or why, but your deadline is in six months’ time so you don’t ask any questions and just go with it. (This analogy may have broken down somewhat… ANYWAY.) I, however, relish being asked this question – because I know the answer. I’ve written three books, the second of which, The Liar’s Girl, has just been published in paperback, and the idea for all three have come from the same place: real life. 

 

In July 2013, I read an article in GQ magazine called ‘The Serial Killer Has Second Thoughts’ by Chris Heath. Above the article itself was a little introduction:

 

In a remote psychiatric hospital in Sweden, there is a man known as Thomas Quick who has been convicted of unspeakable crimes. Over the course of multiple trials, he would tell his brutal stories—of stabbings, stranglings, rape, incest, cannibalism—to almost anyone who would listen. Then … he went silent for nearly a decade. In the last few years, though, he has been thinking about all he has said and done, and now he has something new to confess: He left out the worst part of all.

 

I immediately thought: if I was browsing for a book in a bookshop and I picked up one with that blurb on the back, I would RUN to the cash register with it – because I would have to know what the ‘worst part of all’ could possibly be, considering what this man had already admitted to. 

 

Flash-forward now to April 2015. I’ve written a novel about a serial killer on a cruise ship (Distress Signals, more on that in a minute) and got a 2-bookdeal with Corvus Books. I meet my editor for the first time over lunch and everything’s going great until she says, ‘What about Book 2?’ I mumble something vague about a half-baked idea of mine,but she doesn’t look too impressed and I start to panic slightly. Then I remember: Thomas Quick. I tell her about the article, about the introductory paragraph. I say I want to write a book where that is the blurb – and she says, ‘Wow, I just got chills.’

 

(Me too, especially when I got out onto the street afterwards and realised that the blurb was ALL I had, that I’d no idea what the plot of the book was, or who would be in it, etc. etc. so mine were different chills, of the panicky kind. But that’s another story…)

The idea for Distress Signals had, four years earlier, also come from an article – this one being ‘Lost At Sea’ by Jon Ronson, about cruise ship disappearances. It mentioned an organisation called International Cruise Victims. That stopped me in my tracks because I wondered what on earth was happening on cruise ships – happy, relaxing places, I would’ve thought – that was creating victims and creating so many of them that this organisation needed to exist. I started Googling…And an idea began to form. A cruise ship is the perfect place to get away with murder. 

 

I’m currently working on Rewind, my third novel which will be out next year, and the idea for that came from an image on PostSecret.com. PostSecret is best described as an art project; people write their secrets on a postcard, anonymously, and mail them in. A few years ago I saw a PostSecret that was an image of a hotel room, on which someone had written, ‘I trade hidden sex-cam footage with other Air B&B hosts.’ A thought struck me: what if you were doing that, not because you were a terrible person but because you were desperate, maybe financially or becauseyou were being blackmailed, and one night you captured a murder on tape? What would you do? What could you do, without getting yourself in trouble?

 

The actual plot of The Liar’s Girl bears no real resemblance to Thomas Quick. It’s the story of Alison Smith who, ten years ago, was a freshman in college in Dublin and in the throes of first love. But her boyfriend, Will Hurley, subsequently confessed to being the Canal Killer who’d drowned five girls in the waters of the Grand Canal. Now, there’s been a copycat murder and, out of desperation, the Gardaí go to visit Will in prison. He says he has information that can help them but will only give it to one person – Alison, who reluctantly returns to Dublin to face the man she’s spend a decade trying to forget. And that’s when she learns that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of it all… 

 http://www.catherineryanhoward.com

@cathryanhoward on Twitter & Instagram

 

#TheLiarsGirl

 

Link to The Serial Killer Has Second Thoughts:

https://www.gq.com/story/thomas-quick-serial-killer-august-2013

 

Link to Lost at Sea:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/nov/11/rebecca-coriam-lost-at-sea

TWG’s #TopBooksOf2018! (@Bookouture @littlebookcafe @PanMacmillan @HarperImpulse @Headlinepg @TeamBATC @bwpublishing @MichaelJBooks @TransworldBooks @OrionBooks @AvonBooksUK @QuercusBooks @Aria_fiction) & more!

Oh my goodness me, what a PHENOMENAL year its been for books! I have had the pleasure of reading some truly amazing books this year, and whittling my 368 reads down to a selection of my favourites was incredibly difficult.

2018 has seen the growth of debut authors with debut novels, brilliant additions to intense series, and authors bringing out standalone novels which made me laugh out loud and my toes curl (clearly I mean two different genre’s…obviously!). Before I start sharing my favourite reads of 2018 with you all, let me just take this moment to say a MASSIVE thank you to all of the publishers who have sent me ARC’s in the post, approved me on Netgalley, asked me to be on blog tours – I am so honoured to work with every single one of you! Huge thank you to the publicists and blog tour organisers who also invite me to take part in some rather fabulous blog tours and who share my posts left right and centre, it is an absolute pleasure to work alongside you. Lastly, thank you SO much to all of the authors who continue to give me the escape and distraction I need from my everyday life with their incredible words – I am so excited to see what the new year brings for all of you. You are all amazing.

Actually, one last thing; thank you to all of my fellow bloggers for just being you and for supporting my posts, especially when I end up being on 6 blog tours in one day. Your support means the world to me and I cannot wait to follow your blogs again next year to see what fabulous reads have tickled your fancy.

So, let’s get to this list shall we? I’m cheating a little bit in my list as I have combined series as I couldn’t pick just one book from the series…so I chose them all. You’ll see what I mean when I get to it. This list is in no particular order, however when I get nearer the end, I will put a couple of the books in order to share my top read of 2018.

Ready? Let’s go!

#Review – The Endless Beach by @JennyColgan @littlebookcafe #TheEndlessBeach #publicationday

#BlogTour! #Review – #WeOwnTheSky by Luke Allnutt (@lukeallnutt) @TrapezeBooks

#BlogTour! #Review – #OnlyChild by Rhiannon Navin (@RhiannonNavin) @JessDuffyy @Panmacmillan

#BlogTour! #Review – The Little Wedding Island by Jaimie Admans (@Be_the_spark) @HQDigitalUK @NeverlandBT

#BlogTour! #Review – The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley (@ZaraStoneley) @RaRaResources @HarperImpulse

#BlogTour! #Review – The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans (@HarrietEvans) @headlinepg @Annecater @Bookish_becky

#BlogBlitz! #Review – The Next Girl by Carla Kovach (@CKovachAuthor) @Bookouture

#Review – You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (@CatherineIsaac_) @TeamBATC @SimonSchusterUK @BookMinxSJV

#BlogTour! #Review – #LittleBigMan by Katy Regan (@katyreganwrites) @panmacmillan @MantleBooks @ChablisPoulet

#BlogBlitz! #Review – One Way or Another by Colleen Coleman (@CollColemanAuth) @Bookouture

#BlogTour! #Review – The Gravity of Love by Noelle Harrison (@NoelleHarrison) @bwpublishing

#BlogBlitz! #Review – The Almost Wife by Jade Beer (@JadeBRIDES) @Bookouture

#BlogTour! #Review – The Island Villa by Lily Graham (@LilyGrahamBooks) @Bookouture

#BlogTour! #Review – No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister (@GillianMAuthor) @MichaelJBooks @JennyPlatt90

#BlogTour! #Review – #NowYouSeeHer by Heidi Perks (@HeidiPerksBooks) @arrowpublishing

#BlogTour! #Review – Oh Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman (@KathrynFreeman1) @ChocLitUK @RaRaResources

#BlogTour! #Review – #TheLightBetweenUs by Katie Khan (@Katie_Khan) @TransworldBooks @hannahlbright29 @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

#BlogTour! #Review -Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard by Jo Thomas (@jo_thomas1) @AnneCater @HeadlinePG @Bookish_Becky @DavidHHeadley

#Review – My Mad Dad by Robyn Hollingworth (@MyMadDadStory) @trapezebooks @orionbooks

#BlogTour! #Review – In Bloom by C.J.Skuse (@CJSkuse) @HQStories

#BlogTour! #Review – Kiss of Death by Paul Finch (@paulfinchauthor) @AvonBooksUK #KissOfDeath

#BlogTour! #MiniReview – #WhileIWasSleeping by Dani Atkins (@AtkinsDani) @simonschusteruk @TeamBATC

#BlogTour! #Review – Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne (@Raeannethayne) @MillsandBoon

#BlogTour! #Extract – Perfect Silence by Helen Fields (@Helen_Fields) @AvonBooksUK

I’ve popped one book here for Lisa Regan and D.K.Hood, but for me the entire series are absolutely brilliant and I urge you to buy them all!

#BlogTour! #Review – Her Final Confession by Lisa Regan (@lisalregan) @Bookouture

#BlogTour! #Review – The Crying Season by D.K.Hood (@dkhood_author) @Bookouture

#BlogTour! #Review -Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer (@kelrimmerwrites) @headlinepg @phoebe_swinburn @annecater

#BlogBlitz! #Review – The Last Lullaby by Carol Wyer (@carolewyer) @Bookouture

#BlogTour! #Review – The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul (@GillPaulauthor) @Headlinepg @annecater

Right, we are nearing the end now so here are my favourite reads of 2018 numbers 11-2 (in no order)

#BlogBlitz! #Review – Moonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood (@lwestwoodwriter) @aria_fiction @rararesources

#BlogTour! #Review – I Wanted To Tell You By Anna Mansell (@AnnaMansell) @Bookouture

#Review – How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (@katherinecenter) @Panmacmillan @EllisKeene

#BlogTour! #Review – The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper (@ItsEmmaCooper) @HeadlinePG @AnneCater

#BlogTour! #Review – The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis (@EmilyGunnis) @HeadlinePG @AnneCater @Phoebe_Swinburn

#BlogTour! #Review – This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell (@JillMansell) @Headlinepg @AnneCater

#BlogTour! #Review – The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave (@HollyACave) @QuercusBooks #MemoryChamber

#BlogTour! #Review – #TheConfession by Jo Spain (@spainjoanne) @QuercusFiction @AnneCater @QuercusBooks

#BlogTour! #Review – I Give You My Heart by SarahJane Ford (@sjfordauthor) @RaRaResources

#BlogTour! #Review – #MakeOrBreak by Catherine Bennetto (@cathbennetto) @Simonschusteruk @TeamBATC

I just want to say a special mention to Sarah Vaughan’s ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ – I read that book this time last year before it was released early 2018, and it’s a book I will forever be shouting about until I am blue in the face. I’ll even go as far to say that it is still a top book of mine a year after reading it. You can read my review here:

#BlogTour! #Review – #AnatomyofaScandal by Sarah Vaughan (@Svaughanauthor) @simonschusterUK

We have reached TWG’s Top Book of 2018!!!! I may be slightly cheating here as this book isn’t out until 1st February 2019, but due to the fact that I actually read this book this year, I felt that I was able to include it in my favourite reads of this year. I’m sure you’re wondering what that is……

4194amC9ScL
I haven’t written a review of this book yet as I am on the blog tour for it next year. However, ‘The Day We Met’ by Roxie Cooper completely blew my mind and left tears rolling down my cheeks like a homemade waterfall. Stephanie and Jamie are two, highly complex, emotional and brilliantly written characters, I cannot see how anyone wouldn’t fall in love with them like I did. For me this book was everything I could have hoped for and more.

I will do a full review on the blog tour next year, but if you fancy pre-ordering your copy now based on my views above, you can do so now here!

That’s it folks! TWG’s Top Books of 2018! How many have you read? How many are you going to read? Let me know in the comments and keep me posted! Thank you all so much for sticking with me for another year, here’s to yet another fantastic year for books.

See you next year, folks!!

Kaisha x

#BlogTour! #Review – A Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas (@jo_thomas01) @headlinepg @bookish_becky @AnneCater

I have just this moment finished reading ‘A Winter Beneath the Stars’, hence the blog post now! However many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and thank you to Headline for the ARC. Here is my review:

On a courier trip to Tallfors, deep in Swedish Lapland, everything is going to plan. Halley has her bag, with two precious wedding rings inside for delivery… until she doesn’t.

The only way to save the wedding is to team up with mysterious reindeer herder Bjorn, the one person who can lead her across the snowy tundra to be reunited with her bag.

On a journey of a lifetime beneath the stars, with only the reindeer and a bad-tempered stranger for company beside the fire, Halley realises that she will need to confront her past heartaches in order to let the warmth of love in once more…

What does TWG think?

It was made clear from the onset that Halley had a story to tell. What that story entailed, however, was something the readers weren’t made aware of until later in the story. Now, there may be a few readers who would be able to read between the lines where Griff was concerned, but either way, the emotion behind Halley’s story is incredible strong, regardless of what point in the story it became clear for you personally.

As a courier, Halley’s job has taken her all over the world, embarking on adventures she would never have dreamed of before. Like the one in Sweden. After all, it’s not everyday you find yourself digging holes for the dogs now, is it?

I haven’t read many books set in Swedish Lapland, but I have to say that it was such a refreshing change. And no, I don’t mean because of the snow! It was just a unique experience following the journey of a reindeer herder – I can’t say I have ever felt the need to Google it before because, naively, I thought that there wouldn’t be much to it. Boy was I wrong, and wow what a lovely way of finding out about it. As daft as this sounds, I genuinely felt as though I was with Halley all the way, taking on the challenges with her, facing the fears which she had kept locked up for many years. Such a powerful experience for sure.

Jo Thomas is brilliant at telling stories – not only does she set the scene beautifully, she writes with such grace which allows her characters to flourish at their full potential, even when they emotions are being put under the spotlight.

‘A Winter Beneath the Stars’ is such a poignant and heartwarming novel, I didn’t know whether to laugh alongside the characters, or join them as they shed tears. Such a wonderfully written and eye-opening read – Jo Thomas has covered me in goosebumps once again. I loved it.

Buy now!

#BlogTour! #GuestPost from author of #BoneLines; Stephanie Bretherton (@BrethertonWords) @unbounders @annecater

It’s my turn to host Stephanie Bretherton and ‘Bone Lines’ as part of the blog tour organised by Anne Cater (RandomThingsTours). Many thanks to Anne for inviting me to take part in the blog tour where I have a guest post from the author herself. But first, here is more information about ‘Bone Lines’ and how you can purchase it:

 A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluftwrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

Buy now!

Guest post.

A life in the day of a character

 

How do fictional characters come to life? Readers may wonder whether they are pure invention or drawn from ‘biography’ (whether the writer’s own, or from observation, or research). I can speak only from my own perspective, but sometimes there are varying levels of both and sometimes it’s all imagination. My debut novel, Bone Lines, is a dual timeline featuring two very different – yet connected – women: a prehistoric ancestor and a modern-day doctor of genetics. 

 

One is young, vital, active, in danger, but with particular skills and gifts. She is a mother, hunter, shaman, survivor. The other is middle-aged, dedicated and ambitious, wrapped up in thoughts and memories, working through contemporary challenges. She is a scientist, thinker, lover, seeker. Both are independent and isolated but driven by a sense of purpose.

 

Mirror, mirror?

I am often asked how much my character, Dr Eloise Kluft,and I might have in common (and friends often try to identify any real events or people in her world) and while there are many crucial differences and inventions, there are certainparallels when it comes to age, location, passions and concerns. In order to make contemporary characters feel authentic or relatable a writer will often draw on the familiar. However, what intrigues me most is that no one asks whether the prehistoric character (‘Sarah’ – as her bones have been named) is based on me, when both women have emerged from the same source.

 

While Eloise has a few traits that are quite close to home (and her overthinking is certainly a shared flaw) in a strange way, I feel that Sarah may be drawn from an even deeper self – or perhaps a best self – as she arrived almost fully formed and began writing herself, and while I had to wonder what I might do in her situation, she also very much told me what she wanted to do – and how. Some aspects or actions are inspired by research, but only a few details, here and there. (There is also some ‘essence of Holly’ here too, my amazing Aussie niece, who is a park ranger in NSW – and the kind of kick-ass, earth-connected sister who could definitely be one of the ‘Children of Sarah.’) One quality Sarah has that I aspire to (and which many of us may yearn for today?) is her freedom and ability to live in the moment, deeply in tune with the natural landscape.

 

If you imagine it, they will come

It was after watching a documentary about the Toba supervolano in Indonesia 74,000 years ago that the seed was planted for the book. An image came into my mind of a young woman with a child walking away from the fallout of a natural disaster. Then it was the idea of finding a set of ancient remains in the present day – and what we might learn from them – that brought the contemporary narrative into focus. It may have been said by many other writers, but for me, once characters begin to form they have a powerfultendency to make to their own way.

 

Sometimes it can be a battle to channel them back towards your original concepts for the plot, and sometimes they change the plot as they develop. For example, certain lessons Eloise learns during her story had a significant effect on how she would react in a couple of crucial scenes toward the end. Research is also instrumental to the character/plot axis,however, and can help to rein in the self-determination of your creations with a sharp reality check. But also, this can inform particular details or idiosyncrasies in a character. One of the most vital tools in the writer’s workshop, however, is observation. We are such terrible gazers and eavesdroppers! But it’s all those little gestures, nuances, tones and phrases that can make even a minor character recognisable or memorable.

 

And the award for best supporting role…

Protagonists are one thing, but then there’s all the supporting characters, and while the primary purpose of some may be to move the plot along or to demonstrate a key theme, it helps ifthey’re not merely ciphers, but have some intriguing ‘dimensions’ to them, even if only glimpsed. I recently came across a great tip that said all supporting characters should be written as though they think the book is all about them. I like that. However, for the sake of narrative efficiency sometimes you have to combine characters, places and jobs in a way that might not reflect the real world.

 

While accessing a real-life point of view can give you important information and options, whether it changes your fictional characters fundamentally or not depends on your overall objectives for the book – and intended audience. A writer can never hope to please all those involved in a certain profession or activity, especially where dramatic licence may be needed. In every job, vocation or cultural tribe, there are unique individuals. My father was a policeman and while he would enjoy a good story for the story’s sake (as long as there was reasonable plausibility) there were very few fictional police characters that he felt he could relate to personally, apart from Morse.

 

Flaws in Focus

On the subject of real-life research, I had a fascinatingmeeting recently with the lablit society at the Royal Institution, who did me the great honour of choosing Bone Lines for their bookclub. The group included several practising scientists and one or two (very gently) let me know what they might have done differently with Eloise. The book club also kindly offered to act as a focus group for the next book in terms of making sure not only the science is right (which to my great relief seems to be the case with Bones Lines) but also the finer actualities of the life scientific.’ The most heart-warming reaction, however, was to hear how brave they thought it was to choose subjects and characters – so far (and yet so near?) from my own experience – and to bring them to life through something they recognised as ‘a book of ideas’ as much as a story about two curious, courageous – and flawed – women.

 

And that, perhaps, is one of the most important things with which a writer can grace a character – the kind of flaws we might find in ourselves and others – but which we (and others) can hopefully learn to forgive? There’s nothing like the possibility of redemption to give hope to our human story.

 

About the author

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

 

#BlogTour! #Review – Into the Night by Sarah Bailey (@sarahbailey1982) @corvusbooks @annecater

Today is the final day on the #IntoTheNight blog tour, and I am delighted to be able to close the tour alongside my blogging pal, @noveldeelights! Many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and many thanks to Corvus for the ARC. Here is my review:

Senior Detective Gemma Woodstock is a small-town policewoman working on the biggest homicide cases in Melbourne. When an up-and-coming movie star is stabbed to death while the cameras are rolling on his new blockbuster, Gemma, eager to prove herself, is assigned to the case.

 With the whole thing caught from multiple angles, how hard can it be to catch the crazed culprit? And who would want to hurt Australia’s adored boy-next-door? As Gemma uncovers the deadly underside of fame, her investigation turns into a dangerous game against those with money, power and everything to lose…

 

What does TWG think?

‘Into the Night’ is the second book in the series which follows senior detective, Gemma Woodstock. I haven’t yet read the first book, The Dark Lake, but I felt quite able to read this instalment on its own to an extent. I would recommend reading the first book so that events and timelines are a lot clearer. I wish I had done that, I must admit! My error though.

As a huge fan of Australia, the setting of this book definitely got me all excited! I haven’t even been to the country before either! Gemma Woodstock is a very interesting character to follow because she seems to hold her cards very close to her chest, which often meant I was second guessing her views and train of thought. Not a negative thing by any means. The fact she was interesting and unique, piqued my interest as well as heightening my paranoia ready for the events that would follow later on.

Sarah Bailey is a very atmospheric writer and, whilst the storyline didn’t blow me off my feet per se, I did enjoy the questionable circumstances and the way the author had me on edge due to the every growing intensity.

A new author for me, but one I will definitely be reading more of.

Buy now!

#BlogTour! #Review – #NicisChristmasTale by Jean Gill (@writerjeangill) @AnneCater

Third and final post for the day is my review of ‘Nici’s Christmas Tale’ by Jean Gill. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite and review copy.

A stand-alone short story in the multi-award-winning Troubadours Quartet series


1157: Aquitaine. The wolves are coming! At midnight on Christmas Eve, while the blizzard blasts snow through every crack in the castle walls, Nici the Shepherd’s Dog stands guard in the sheepfold.


   Beside him as usual are his pack and the flock they protect but this night is not usual at all. A small boy braves the snowy night, seeking the protection of his great friend while he is banned from his parents’ quarters in the castle.


   Nici recalls other times and other dangers, his trials and failures, the reasons why he ran away with a young girl, now the little boy’s mother. He would still give his life in a heartbeat for Lady Estela. And yet, on this snowy night, he cannot help her. So, while he waits and comforts Estela’s son, he tells his own puppies the story of a dog’s life.

What does TWG think?

I am rather ashamed to say that, until now, I had never picked up a Jean Gill book. How have I only managed to hear about the ‘Troubadours series’ at book number 5?! Don’t panic though, this story can be read as a stand-alone so you don’t need to have read the previous books first.

‘Nici’s Christmas Tale’ is only the second book I have read where the main character was an animal. Having read a lot more books with humans as the main character, trying to change my mindset and remember that if the storyline speaks about urination, it’s the norm for it to be outside!

Nici is such a strong and powerful character, his story telling swept me up in an instance. I was captivated by the way he described his life before the puppies, yet my heart went out to him due to the way he was treated, or should I say ‘mistreated’. No-one should ever be treated like that, especially an animal who wouldn’t be able to defend themself against a human.

Bear in mind that this is a short story with an estimated 58 pages, yet it certainly packed a punch in its own special way.

Jean Gill writes with such authority and poise, I must start this series from the beginning! A unique and captivating story – I really enjoyed it.

Buy now!

About the author.

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named ‘Endeavour’, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.
Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.
Sign up to Jean special readers’ group at http://www.jeangill.com/for exclusive news, offers and a free book. 

Twitter @writerjeangill

#BlogTour! #Review – The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne (@olivia_beirne) @annecater @headlinepg

Apologies for the delay in posting this, internet issues have been the bane of my life and now I need to clear the backlog of posts whilst also reading to catch up. That said, I am delighted to welcome debut author, Olivia Beirne to TWG today as I review her first novel. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and thank you to the publisher for the ARC. Here is my review:

Sometimes all you need is a little push…

When Georgia’s sister is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she promises to do everything her older sibling can no longer do, resulting in a journey that will change her life forever…

Georgia loves wine, reality TV and sitting on the sofa after work. She does not love heights, looking at her bank account, going on dates, or activities that involve a sports bra. And she will never, ever take a risk.

That is, until her braver, bolder, big sister finds out that she won’t be able to tick off the things she wanted to do before turning thirty, and turns to Georgia to help her finish her list.

With the birthday just months away, Georgia suddenly has a deadline to learn to grab life with both hands. Could she be brave enough to take the leap, for her sister?

And how might her own life change if she did?

What does TWG think?

As a chronically ill x8 person, I emotionally welcome stories with chronic illnesses as the focus of the book. This is one of THOSE books and, despite MS not being one of my own illnesses, I still want to thank the author for putting a topic at the heart of her book to spread overall awareness of both the illness, and the way in which chronic illnesses can affect people.

Now, the idea surrounding a ‘bucket list’ in a book is one that has been doing the rounds in several books I’ve read this year. However, the concept has never been delivered in the way that it was in this book – yay to uniqueness!!!

For a lot of people, turning thirty is a big deal as it’s the age where people expect you to have done many things by. I know – why do we adapt our lives based on other people’s ideas as to how we should live? Why do we feel the need to compete with the Joneses so to speak? Answer – we are human. Georgia doesn’t feel as though she matches up to her big sister, Amy, yet Amy feels as though she isn’t as good as her little sister, especially after her recent diagnosis. Georgia can’t help but focus on all of the things she wishes she had, whereas Amy is grieving for the things that she can no longer do or is limited by. That said, both sisters are unaware that they are battling against their own sub-consciences whilst also unintentionally directing it at the other. Following?

I found the concept of this novel rather emotional because of my own personal battles with chronic illnesses. I thought that Olivia Beirne nailed the thought process to a T, highlighting the fact that grieving things you can no longer do, is actually a thing.

Whilst the topic of MS is very strong, there is a lot of humour and witty one liners that seemed to balance the rest of the book. Georgia had me in hysterics multiple times, and it was her personality and Amy’s strength which shone the brightest throughout the book.

Olivia Beirne is a very gifted writer! I have a feeling that this book was written from the heart because there were some things included in the story which I don’t think even Google would have been able to muster!

All in all, ‘The List Which Changed My Life’ gave me food for thought in more ways than one. I really did enjoy following Amy’s journey and I am delighted that chronically ill people are finally getting their time in the spotlight in a positive and realistic manner. I am so looking forward to reading more from this author!

Buy now!

#BlogTour! #Review – Some Old Bloke by Robert Llewellyn (@bobbyllew) @unbounders @annecater

Apologies for another late post, but today was spent with mumma TWG so I’m catching up now! Tonight I am delighted to be reviewing ‘Some Old Bloke’ by Robert Llewellyn, as part of the blog tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:

When writer, comedian and Red Dwarf actor Robert Llewellyn’s son scrawled a picture of him at Christmas and titled it ‘Some Old Bloke’, Robert was cast deep into thought about life and what it means to be a bloke – and an old one at that. In this lighthearted, revealing and occasionally philosophical autobiography, we take a meandering route through Robert’s life and career: from the sensitive young boy at odds with his ex-military father, through his stint as a hippy and his years of arrested development in the world of fringe comedy, all the way up to the full-body medicals and hard-earned insights of middle age.

Whether he is waxing lyrical about fresh laundry, making an impassioned case for the importance of alternative energy or recounting a detailed history of the dogs in his life, Robert presents a refreshingly open and un-cynical look at the world at large and, of course, the joys of being a bloke.

What does TWG think?

I’m not a bloke, nor am I in the same age bracket, nor have I watched much of ‘Red Dwarf’ – with that in mind, I’m sure you’re probably wondering why I would read ‘Some Old Bloke’, right? Well weirdly enough, you don’t need to be a bloke to enjoy Robert Llewellyn witty book! Who would’ve thought it!

I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Llewellyn’s honest and hilarious portrayal of his life and life in general, plus the fact the book contained many eyebrow topics that would no doubt make a lot of people’s eyes go wide in terror. I on the other hand was in hysterics and felt that his delivery was incredibly refreshing.

Even though I haven’t watched many of the programs Robert has been associated with, it didn’t stop me from enjoying reading about his adventures, his misdemeanours, and his insight on a four legged animal. I may not not be an ‘old bloke’ but Robert Llewellyn is definitely ‘Some Old Bloke’ I loved getting to know.

Buy now!