Saturday, 25 March 2017

Close to Home ...Claire Brown

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.



Today I welcome Northern Writer


Claire Brown







Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author

I've been a writer all my life, I don't remember a time when I wasn't telling stories. If there was a story I didn't like as a child, I'd write my own ending. Then if I couldn't find a book I wanted to read I started writing my own. I was also badly bullied as a child so my imagination and writing became my safe haven and a place where the characters were friends you could trust. 


Your books are written in the North of England– how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?

I'm a bit of a people watcher, I think most writers are - maybe that should be world watches. I watch life and the people in it and sometimes they spark ideas and thoughts. My Grandfather who was Northeast born and bred is the inspiration behind my latest book, so a lot of the characteristics are based on him. Also some of the locations are based on specific spots in my home town. 


As a writer based in the North, does this ever present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

I think I'm quite remote from the main publishers and areas where you could get out there and push your work physically. I can't get to a lot of writing conferences and events but I try. I think for me being able to self publish helped me get my work out there and I'm not adverse to taking untraditional routes. The internet is great and social media is a massive advantage to authors now for connecting with readers, fellow authors and I try to use it to it's best advantage - I am still learning but the internet is a great place for that too. 


If you were pitching the North as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

It maybe cold, we may have one day of summer a year, but there is no better place in England to find a warm welcome, the people are magnetic and you will meet all kinds within a small space. You can go from being in a rural center to the rugged coast line in twenty minutes and the mythology and history is everywhere - you couldn't help but be inspired. 


Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I use social media mostly - I'm a member of several writing groups / book groups for authors and readers and find it's great to connect, network and ask questions. I've met a lot of great authors who I would probably not have met in any other way and you can learn a lot from just having those brief conversations. 


How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

I have support from family and friends in the area, and my day job peers have been very supportive since I started publishing my work. Unfortunately in my area our local libraries have all been closed so I tend to donate copies of my books to charity shops in the area. 


What can you tell us about your latest novel, The Poppy Garden?

I have always wanted to write a book about my Grandfather and his experience in WW2 - he was an amazing man and had an amazing story to tell. Unfortunately, he died when I was 16 and left me with a lot of blank pages in the book of his life. I tried numerous times to write his story but the blanks provide too hard to overcome, then one day I realised I was looking at the message of the story all wrong. From then on I was able to write The Poppy Garden, based on how he developed methods to cope with PTSD and how the women in my family had to develop strength and coping mechanisms to deal with hardship they never imagined. 


Claire's Nan and Grandfather's Wedding
Photo by kind permission



This became the story 

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
October 2016




Sky Flynn thought she had it all, she was the happiest she’d ever been from the moment she met Nick Robinson until the moment a military officer showed up at her door, then things changed. 

Fighting in Afghanistan Nick is injured in a roadside bombing. Brought home in critical condition, he faces a long fight to recover from his wounds, traumatic brain injury and PTSD. 

Waking up from sedation he cannot remember the last 12 months of his life, blotting out meeting and marrying his wife, Sky. The more she tries to be there for him the more he pushes her away seeking solace in broken relationship with his ex as it's the only one he can remember. 

Fighting to save her marriage and help her husband recover from both physical and mental scars of war Sky has to find away to cope and overcome. With the support of her in-laws, Nick's uncle, his doctor and family she comes up with an idea to see her through his recovery and to help others like him 

Inspired by memories of her grandfather and how he channelled his undiagnosed PTSD into his garden she sets out to create somewhere for recovering service men to go, to assist in their recovery and create a place of beauty to share with their families. 

Constantly challenged by Nick's demanding ex-girlfriend, Rebecca and Nick's ever-changing condition. She finds hope and encouragement in the garden and those who rally round to help. 

As Nick presses on with his life and decides marrying Rebecca is his only way forward, Sky has to find a way to move on, be that with handsome police officer Joe or on her own. 

Can the beauty of the garden she creates heal her husband’s wounds and bring him home to her forever? 


Now the book is out and published, the story isn't finished - it's now become a charity which aims to build a Poppy Garden to support service personnel. 




You can find more about Claire and her writing on her website by clicking on the following links:




My thanks to Claire for spending time with us today and for telling us about the background to her novel. Jaffa nd I wish you continued success with your Poppy Garden venture.



I hope that you have enjoyed this Close to Home Feature



Coming next week : Barbara Copperthwaite




~***~





Friday, 24 March 2017

Review ~ Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel


31493538
Stane Street Press
2016


What's it all about about ...

When Inspector Shanti de Silva moves with his English wife Jane to his new post in the sleepy hill town of Nuala he anticipates a more restful life than police work in the big city entails. However an arrogant plantation owner with a lonely wife, a crusading lawyer, and a death in suspicious circumstances present him with a riddle that he will need all his experience to solve. 
Set on the exotic island of Ceylon in the 1930s, Trouble in Nuala is an entertaining and relaxing mystery spiced with humour and a colourful cast of characters.


What did I think about it...


Trouble in Nuala introduces us to the delightful, Inspector Shanti de Silva, who, with his English wife Jane, has moved to a new posting in the sleepy hill town of Nuala. Escaping the city, Shanti hopes that his life will take on a more tranquil outlook, that is, until trouble rears its ugly head in Nuala. A suspicious death, on one of the tea plantations, opens up a whole series of complicated questions which mean that Inspector de Silva's ingenuity, and that of his police team, is put to the test.

The author’s descriptive talent comes alive and from the opening pages I was immediately transported back to 1930s Ceylon, which is now modern day Sri Lanka, and taken to a place of great natural beauty, of rich red earth and the jostling of banana and rubber trees and of the scented aroma of jasmine and frangipani blossom. The story gives a lovely portrait of what life could have been like for those colonials who made it their home, and also of the problems faced when living in a small community where everyone's business becomes a matter of great interest

I really enjoyed getting to know Inspector de Silva. I appreciated his wry sense of humour and his steadfast refusal to be beaten by a myriad of complex situations. His interaction with his colleagues, particularity the hapless Constable Nadar, and the slightly more prosaic Sergeant Prasanna made me smile as they are so reminiscent of a bygone time.


Trouble in Nuala is the first of a proposed series of detective books featuring Inspector de Silva and I, personally, can't wait for the next book, Double Trouble, which, I think, is coming sometime in 2017.


Best Read With...Elephant ginger beer and a spicy bowl of Dhal...


About the Author

Harriet Steel is the author of several historical novels including Becoming Lola and Salvation. Her work has appeared in national newspapers and magazines. She is passionate about history and blogs about it at harrietsteel.blogspot.co.uk

Follow on Twitter @harrietsteel1


Harriet Steel



My thanks to the author for allowing me the opportunity to read and review Trouble in Nuala



~***~

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Candlestick Press Launches ~ Ten Poems About Home



...Launched today...


Candlestick Press
23 March 2017


This latest title from Candlestick Press is a haunting selection of poems that reflects our complex feelings about the true meaning of home. Mahendra Solanki’s choices encompass the many ways in which we experience that unique sense of being at home through poems that evoke “the daily furniture of our lives” or echo with the memories of a childhood spent far away. Contemporary poems rub shoulders with more traditional selections to create a vivid sense of the abiding spirit of belonging.


Yeats’s famous poem of longing is evoked in the beautiful cover image created especially for Candlestick by artist Sarah Kirby. Yeats expresses what we all instinctively feel – that home is a place we carry with us always “in the deep heart’s core”.

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”


from ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by WB Yeats

From Harrison to Larkin and from Cavafy to Dharker there are poems here that will delight and intrigue every reader. 

Mahendra Solanki’s poetry has explored notions of home and belonging for over 30 years. His work has been broadcast by the BBC and published in Britain and abroad in magazines and anthologies. His most recent collection is The Lies We Tell (Shoestring Press, 2014).

Poems by CP Cavafy, Imtiaz Dharker, Thomas Hardy, Tony Harrison, Philip Larkin, Linda Hogan, Grace Nichols, Mahendra Solanki, Wislawa Szymborska and WB Yeats. 

To continue the Candlestick tradition of supporting a range of charities through pamphlet sales, a donation will be made to Shelter. 


What did I think about it..

I few years ago I discovered the stunning poetry pamphlets published by Candlestick Press and, since then, have not only acquired my own collection, but have given away just as many as gifts to people I care about.

As always, I am charmed by the quiet beauty of these poetry pamphlets and I'm really thrilled to be able to support the launch of Ten Poems about Home. And it's not just because in this pamphlet is one is my favourite  W B Yeats poem,  The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and those who share my love of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon will know why I love this poem so much, but it's also because there are nine other beautiful poems which are all poignant reminders of why we all call home, home.

From, Thomas Hardy's The Self-Unseeing, 'Childlike, I danced in a dream; Blessings emblazoned that day:' to the beautiful simplicity of Mahendra Solanki's verse, Home...'It's what brings us back to earth, another ritual, at home' 

And for me, an emotional response to what has happened in London over the last 24 hours can be beautifully summed up in the opening verse of Philip Larkin's ethereal..


Home is so Sad.


Home is so sad, It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of those who were last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft.



Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Cricket, London, Lesbian and Gay, Revenge, Babies and Fathers. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Like and follow on Facebook   or visit their Website

Follow on Twitter @poetrycandle


With thanks to Candlestick Press I have one copy of Ten Poems about Home
 for One UK Winner of this giveaway.




Good Luck


~***~

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Review ~ When I was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson


**Out 23rd March in Paperback**


25870394
Arrow
23 March 2017


What's it all about..

In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?


What did I think about it..

Two girls both called Veronica/Veronika find that their lives are irrevocably bound together in story which flits forwards and backwards in time, and which reveals the very sad circumstances of two lives shattered by life experiences.

Written with all the trademark flair of this talented contemporary author When I was Invisible sheds light on the invisible bonds of friendship which, although bind people together, can also tear people apart. The girls renamed as Nika and Roni find that their live in adulthood have veered off in very different directions, one as a minor celebrity, and the other as a nun and yet, their combined secrets threaten both of their sanity and well-being.

The author writes very well and weaves a story that takes in different time frames and circumstances and does so with assurance and confidence, and, even though the story evolves quite slowly, there is always something to capture the reader's attention and which makes you sit up and take notice.

I've now read several books by this author and I have never been disappointed either by her stories, or of her clever storytelling ability. I think that When I was Invisible is one of her strongest and saddest books to date.


Best Read with...A noodle stir fry and several glugs of white wine..



About the Author

Dorothy Koomson is the author of eleven novels and has been making up stories since she was thirteen. For more information about Dorothy and her writing visit her website  or follow her on Twitter @DorothyKoomson



My thanks to the publishers and also to Darran at edpr for my review copy of this book.



**When I was Invisible is out in paperback today and published by Arrow**
#WhenIWasInvisible



25870394
Arrow
23 March 2017


~***~







Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review ~ Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough



32321233
Harper Collins
January 2016

Don’t trust this book. Don’t trust this story. Don’t trust yourself.


What's it all about...

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He's a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

As Louise, David's new secretary, is drawn into their world, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can't guess how wrong – and how far someone might go to protect their marriage's secrets.

What did I think about it ...

There's been a lot of hype around this book which came out in late January and whilst I'm a little bit late to the party I can sort of see what all the fuss was about, although there's a little bit of me that was ever so slightly disappointed by that ending.  However, that could just be because I read so many books in this genre that nothing really surprises me too much, but I have to admit that I did guess the ending before it came along, so the hastag #WTFthatending has, I'm afraid, been lost a little bit on me.

Still, I digress, back the story of the relationship triangle between psychiatrist,Oliver, his damaged wife, Adele and David's secretary, Louise. Really, this trio should have nothing in common, the three lives should never have had any real need to come together in the way that they did, but then the fickle finger of fate intervened, and that's when the trouble really started.

As David's secretary, Louise should have been content to keep his diary and manage his appointments but a chance encounter with David before he became her new boss meant that they already had personal history together. By far the most compelling character in this menage a trois is the very beautiful but, oh so vulnerable, Adele, who entices and snares Louise into a situation which develops into something which, if I say more, will start to give the game away... so I won't say another word..

I thought that the book was an interesting look at the lengths that people will go to in order to maintain utter control, whilst at the same time keeping a facade of relative normality. It was scary and deeply troubling and yet, there were also parts of the story where I , sort of,  had to suspend belief and go ..no way jose... but then that's what fiction is all about. It takes you to places beyond the ordinary and leads you into situations where you really wouldn't want to go, even in your wildest dreams.

I think Behind her Eyes would translate really well to the screen and I could see that it would make a clever TV drama or movie..


Best Read With...copious pots of Peppermint tea..



About the Author 



Sarah Pinborough is an award winning YA and adult novelist and screenwriter. She's written for the BBC and her last YA thruller 13 minutes has been optioned by Netflix and is in development. 

More information on the author's website

Follow on Twitter @sarahpinborough #wtfthatending



My thanks to Jaime at Harper Collins for my review copy of this book.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Review ~ To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin


25901561
Allen & Unwin
Atlantic Books
February 2017


What's it all about...

In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France--a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear.As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.


What did I think about it...

This interesting love story is set during the glory days of the La Belle Époque when the world was innovated both by design and invention. Widow, Caitriona Wallace, is the paid companion of brother and sister, Jamie and Alice Arrol, and their arrival in Paris is the culmination of a European tour. Caitriona does not expect to find love again, nor does she seek it out, but a chance meeting with, Émile Nouguier, the Eiffel Tower architect, starts a delicate relationship which opens up a wealth of unseen possibilities for Caitriona.

The story is nicely written and brings eighteenth century Paris alive in the imagination. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and think that the author did a good job in demonstrating the expectations of people in different social classes. There are a few really interesting female characters that help to give the book its light and shade. I particularly liked Gabrielle, Émile's feisty mistress, whose chaotic lifestyle clearly showed that life, for some women was never going to be easy. However, I'm not sure that the men come across with any redeeming qualities, Jamie Arrol, in particular, is a bit of a loose cannon and I think that the author captured what it was like for an aimless young man who had too much time and not enough common sense. Émile Nouguier is rather an enigma, and whilst I wanted to like him for Caitriona's sake, I found him rather disappointing as a romantic lead character. The detailed description of the construction of the Eiffel Tower was particularly fascinating as was the people’s reaction to its construction and completion.

To Capture What we Cannot Keep is a quietly confident and intelligently written historical novel. It captures the atmosphere of nineteenth century Paris really well both in terms of its social constraints and also of the magic of living in such a wonderfully inventive age.


Best Read with ... Delicate French pâtisserie..





Beatrice Colin is a novelist based in Glasgow. The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite, a novel set in Berlin in the early twentieth century was translated into eight languages and was Richard and Judy pick. Beatrice has been shortlisted for a British Book award, a Saltire award and a Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award. She also writes plays and adaptations of BBC Radio 4.




My thanks to Karen at Atlantic Books for my review copy of this book




~***~







Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...





Continuing a Spring-like theme



The Place by Francis Ledwidge


Blossoms as old as May I scatter here,
And a blue wave I lifted from the stream.
It shall not know when winter days are drear
Or March is hoarse with blowing. But a-dream
The laurel boughs shall hold a canopy
Peacefully over it the winter long,
Till all the birds are back from oversea,
And April rainbows win a blackbird's song.


And when the war is over I shall take
My lute a-down to it and sing again
Songs of the whispering things amongst the brake,
And those I love shall know them by their strain.
Their airs shall be the blackbird's twilight song,
Their words shall be all flowers with fresh dews hoar.—
But it is lonely now in winter long,
And, God! to hear the blackbird sing once more.




Francis Ledwidge was an Irish writer and poet. He was killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917