Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Diary of the Fall

Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub
Published by Harvill Secker
3rd April 2014
Harback Edition




'I often dreamed about the moment of the fall, a silence that lasted a second, possibly two, a room full of sixty people and no one making a sound, as if everyone were waiting for my classmate to cry out ... but he lay on the ground with his eyes closed'

A schoolboy prank goes horribly wrong, and a thirteen-year-old boy is left injured. Years later, one of the classmates relives the episode as he tries to come to terms with his demons.

Diary of the Fall is the story of three generations: a man examining the mistakes of his past, and his struggle for forgiveness; a father with Alzheimer's, for whom recording every memory has become an obsession; and a grandfather who survived Auschwitz, filling notebook after notebook with the false memories of someone desperate to forget.

Beautiful and brave, Michel Laub's novel asks the most basic - and yet most complex - questions about history and identity, exploring what stories we choose to tell about ourselves and how we become the people we are.


My grandfather didn't like to talk about the past, which is not so very surprising given its nature: the fact that he was a Jew, had arrived in Brazil on one of those jam-packed ships, as one of the cattle for whom history appears to have ended when they were twenty, or thirty, or forty or whatever, and for whom all that's left is a kind of memory that comes and goes and that can turn out to be an even worse prison than the one they were in .
In my grandfather's notebooks, there is no mention of that journey at all. I don't know where he boarded the ship, if he managed to get some sort of documentation before he left, if he had any money or at least an inkling of what awaited him in Brazil.  I don't know how long the crossing lasted, whether it was windy or calm, whether they were struck by a storm one night in the early hours, whether he even cared if the sip went down and he died in what would seem a  highly ironic manner, in a dark whirlpool of ice and with no hope of being remembered by anyone except as a statistic - a fact that would sum up his entire biography, swallowing up any reference to the place where he had spent his childhood and the school where he studies and everything else that had happened in his life in the interval between being born and the day he had a number tattooed on his arm.

Diary of the Fall is a short, but interesting read.  At a 13 year old's birthday party, a prank goes wrong.  The boys giving out the bumps step back at the final moment and João falls to the ground injured.  It leaves one child, our narrator, with a guilt that lasts a lifetime.  There is no rhyme or reason for this prank, other than that João is not Jewish.

Alongside this tale, are the notebooks from the narrator's grandfather who was imprisoned in Auschwitz and who died when his son was only fourteen years old; the son who now has Alzheimer's and for whom the memories are fading.  The notebooks form a sort-of encyclopedia, defining unrelated words such as milk and Sesefredo.

Is our history made up of the history of that of our family before us?  Does every Jew who suffered during the Holocaust inevitably think about this experience all the time?  In Diary of the Fall this is the case: go out to buy bread: Auschwitz.  Say good morning: Auschwitz.  And so on.  Michel Laub mentions Primo Levi's book If this is a Man many a time and I think at some point, I need to read this story of a Holocaust survivor.  Diary of the Fall is not a happy book but a moving, questioning one, of life and love and ultimately, consequence.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

Saturday, 24 May 2014

101 Things for Kids to do Outside

101 Things for Kids to do Outside by Dawn Isaac
Published by Kyle Books
27th March 2014
Paperback Edition



Because it's about time you stopped staring at that screen and had a go at racing snails, playing human croquet, brewing potions, planting wigwams, setting traps, weaving nests, autographing pumpkins, hunting bears, making twig stars, building snow lanterns (and 91 more totally brilliant ideas that just won't fit on the back cover).

I could tell you that my family begins every day with a trek through the woods and ends it by singing songs round a campfire.  I could tell you that but it would be a BIG FAT LIE.  And, if you are that sort of family, who on earth are you sitting around reading this book?  There are bear traps waiting to be set and animal calls to practise.

Right, who's left?

Good.  This book is for you.

It's for those kids who like TV, movies, popcorn, lying in bed, wallowing in baths, hanging upside down off the sofa for no good reason and staying in pyjamas all day.  You see, you're the ones who need to get out a bit more.  You're the ones who suddenly realise it's five to six on a Sunday evening and you haven't left the house ALL weekend.  You're the ones who are so pale it's very difficult to see you when you sleep between white sheets.

And, when your parents gently suggest you might want to go outside for a few minutes, this book is to stop you moaning 'But there's nothing to do outside'.  Because guess what?  There is.  In fact, there are at least 101 things.  I know because I've written them down.

So get outside.  Race snails.  Make potions.  Go on a scavenger hunt.  Plant a potato tower. Get soaking wet.

You can even do these things whilst still wearing pyjamas.  What do I care?  I don't have to wash them.

Your parents are going to love me!


Dawn Isaac has written a fabulous book for every child and parent out there.  101 things to do outside is exactly that - with things to do in all seasons.  I can't wait to get my girls outside spending the holidays doing as much as possible, from setting up a potion lab, to creating a moonlight garden, there is something in here for every day, and more besides.  (In fact, don't tell anyone, as I really don't like snow, but I can't wait to actually build a snow lantern)!

You don't even need to be doing these things in the garden either, there are lots of suggestions for taking to the woods, the park and even on the beach.  Some activities can be done individually, some in teams, and lots involve water!!!!


If, like me, you plan to get your children out doing a bit more this year, Dawn Isaac has written the perfect book for all-year-round adventures.  Now...where's my string?

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix


'My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am a hundred years old - or will be in ten days' time, in the early hours of January 1st, 2000, when I kill myself.'

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix has had enough. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, he is determined to take his own life as the old millennium ends and the new one begins. But before he ends it all, he wants to get his affairs in order and put the record straight, and that includes making sense of his own long life - a life that spanned the century. He decides to write it all down and, eschewing the more usual method of pen and paper, begins to record his story on the walls of the isolated castle that is his final home. Beginning with a fateful first adventure with Emily, the childhood friend who would become his constant companion, Raphael remembers the multitude of experiences, the myriad encounters and, of course, the ten murders he committed along the way . . .

And so begins one man's wholly unorthodox account of the twentieth century - or certainly his own riotous, often outrageous, somewhat unreliable and undoubtedly singular interpretation of it.


This is going to be the longest suicide note in history.  A titanic epitaph.  A monstrous obituary.  A real rolling spouting blue-whale bloody whopper of a confession.  And since it's going to end with The Pill, I might as well start that way too.
     Small and white and round, like a powdery tear, with no obvious defining features save a slight nick in its otherwise perfect circumference, The Pill was made by Emily's father, a pharmacist in turn-of-the-century London.  It is not, admittedly, on the face of it, an object to particularly capture the imagination.  Certainly not one to start as extraordinary a story as I shall forthwith be recounting.  As with so many things in my long and convoluted life, however, there is more to The Pill as meets the eye.  It is, you see, despite its bland and unassuming exterior, absolutely deadly, its constituent parts - one and a half grains of strychnine, one and half grains of arsenic, half a grain of salt of hydrocyanic acid and half of a grain of crushed ipecacuanha root - guaranteeing a swift, painless and permanent demise to any who might happen to swallow them.  Which is exactly what I shall be doing in ten days' time, washed down with a glass of fine, blood-red claret (a Latour '66 perhaps?  Or maybe a '70).


And so begins what is ironically both Paul Sussman's first and last novel.  He began writing The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix over 15 years ago, before the publication of his very successful Egyptian police novels, of which there are three.  The completion of the novel was made possible by Alicky Sussman, Paul's wife, who put together the pages of the manuscript for publication following his untimely death from a brain haemorrhage in May 2012.  I have all of Paul's previous novels, and totally adore them, particularly for their ability to capture Egypt in all it's glory and we often chatted on Facebook about this.  I mourned his passing and also the fact that there would be no more books.  When I heard that Doubleday was publishing this book, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.  I'm so glad I did.

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix is a masterpiece.  It is exactly what it says it is, a suicide note, the life of a 99 year old man, who is planning on ending his life on his 100th birthday with the help of The Pill.  He writes down the history of his life, including the ten murders that he has committed along the way, and of his childhood friend Emily, who mysteriously appears whenever he needs her most.

I don't recall ever laughing out loud whilst reading a book so much as with this one.  I truly chortled and snorted with laughter in every chapter.  Paul Sussman has written a gem of a novel that is both terribly moving, in that it is both a suicide letter and a final novel, but that is also frighteningly funny.  It is an unbelievable account of an old man's life that deserves to be read and treasured by everyone.

I absolutely loved it, and am so glad that Alicky put it forward to be published.  For that I thank her.

In remembrance of Paul Sussman 1966-2012


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
Published by Harper Collins
5th June 2011
Paperback Edition



Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus.  "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized.  "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter."  In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
     In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.  Among other things. She found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner clam; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.


The Happiness Project Manifesto

  • To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • You're not happy unless you think you're happy.
  • Your body matters.
  • Happiness is other people.
  • Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
  • "It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light." - G. K. Chesterton
  • What's fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
  • Best is good, better is best.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Happiness comes from not having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
  • You can choose what you do, but you can't choose what you like to do.
  • "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy." - Robert Louis Stevenson
  • You manage what you measure.
  • Loving actions inspire loving feelings.
  • The opposite of a great truth is also true.


I've been wanting to read The Happiness Project for a while now after hearing about it from some source now since forgotten, so I jumped at the chance of a review copy when I saw that Harper Collins 360 were bringing it out to the UK.  Some self-help books can be a bit preachy, telling you what you are doing wrong in order to improve your life.  I didn't find Gretchen Rubin to be like this at all.  It's her project, her test.  She reads the theory behind it, and gives it a go. 
The book is divided into a chapter a month, and each one focuses on a different aspect, for example, Chapter 4 - April is called Lighten Up and is about making things more fun around the children, and the morning school run less stressful.  I did try out her 'sing in the morning' theory yesterday.  We got to school without a single cross word said, though the children were begging me to stop singing by the tine we got to school!

This is a book you can easily dip in and out of, and is full of useful tips and suggestions.  I do actually feel better after reading each chapter, and think yes, I must do this.  Then the old habits slip in and I sometimes forget.  But overall, I think Rubin has a certain something about how to be happy that is well worth considering.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Dark and Twisted Tide

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
Published by Bantam
8th May 2014
Hardback Edition



Former detective Lacey Flint quit the force for a safer, quieter life.  Or that's what she thought.

Now living alone on her houseboat, she is trying to get over the man she loves, undercover detective Mark Joesbury.  But Mark is missing in action and impossible to forget.  And danger won't leave Lacey alone.

When she finds a body floating in the river near her home, wrapped in burial cloths, she can't resist asking questions.  Who is this woman, and shy was she hidden in the fast-flowing depths?  And who has been delivering unwanted gifts to Lacey?

Someone is watching Lacey Flint closely.

Someone who knows exactly what makes her tick...


I am Lacey Flint, she tells herself, as dawn breaks and she lifts first one arm then the other, kicking hard with legs that are longer and more powerful than usual, thanks to a stout pair of fins.  My name is Lacey, she repeats, because this mantra of identity has become as much a part of her daily ritual as swimming at first light.  Lacey, which is soft and pretty, and Flint, sharp and hard as nails.  Sometimes Lacey is amused by the inherent contrast of her name.  Other times, she admits it suits her perfectly.
     I am Constable Lacey Flint of the Metropolitan Police's Marine Unit, Lacey announces silently to her reflection in the mirror, as she dresses in her pristine uniform and sets off for her new headquarters at Wapping police station, taking comfort in the knowledge that, for the first time in many months, a police officer feels like who she was meant to be.
     I am Lacey Flint, she says to herself most nights, as she battens down the hatches of her houseboat and crawls into the small double bed in the forward cabin, listening to water slapping against the hull and the scrabble of creatures setting out for the night.  I live on the river, work on the river and swim in the river.
     I am Lacey and I am loved, she thinks, as a tall man with turquoise eyes steps once again to the front of her thoughts.
     'I am Lacey Flint,' she sometimes murmurs aloud as she drifts away to the world of what-ifs, could-bes and still-mights that other people call sleep; and she wonders whether there might even come a day when she forgets that it is all a massive lie.


This is the fourth book in Sharon Bolton's Lacey Flint series - the others being Now You See Me, Dead Scared, and Like This, For Ever (my review of which is here).  You don't need to have read them all to be able to enjoy this as a stand-alone novel, for Sharon Bolton manages, as usual, to weave a tale that draws you in with every ounce of your being.

Constable Lacey Flint, swimming alone in the Thames, comes across a body wrapped in cloth.  But who is she, and why and how did she end up bound in the river?  As her identity remains unsolved, other clues emerge and so do other bodies.  Could there be a tangible link here, and more disturbingly, is this the work of a serial killer?

As Lacey tries to deal with these cases, her lover Mark Joesbury vanishes, leaving Lacey to question whether she really knows the undercover cop as well as she does.  And if he does reappear, does she risk putting her job on the line for him, especially when her old nemesis DI Dana Tulloch is brought into the equation.

If you haven't already caught up with her back catalogue, and you are a crime thriller fan, then I recommend you do.  For more information on Sharon Bolton, do check out her website, which has the creepiest music ever!  As for me, I'm eagerly awaiting the next Lacey Flint story, and have no desire to ever live on a houseboat!


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Whispering

The Whispering by Sarah Rayne
Published by Severn House
30th January 2014
Hardback Edition



Fosse House, home of the reclusive Luisa Gilmore, harbours curious secrets - secrets that stretch back almost a century, to the ill-fated Palestrina Choir in its remote Belgian convent.

When Oxford don Michael Flint travels to the house to trace the origins of the long-dead Choir, he is at once aware of the house's eerie menace. Who is the shadowy young man who lurks in the grounds, and why does his exact likeness appear in a sketch from 1917? What is the strange whispering that echoes through the corridors? And why is Luisa so afraid when a storm makes it necessary for Michael to spend the night inside the house?

Back in Oxford, when Nell West uncovers the story of the infamous 1917 'Holzminden sketch' - the lost, legendary drawing from World War I - a dark fragment of the past begins to stir. A fragment that Michael, in the lonely old house, may not be able to resist.


Memo from: Director of Music, Oriel College, Oxford

To: Dr Michael Flint, English Literature/Language Faculty

                                                              October 201-

     A note to wish you well on your journey into the deepest Fens.  Fosse House is apparently in rather a remote spot, but I'm sure you'll be all right, once you actually get there.  It's a pity Luisa Gilmore didn't feel able to put you up at the house for a couple of nights, but I expect you'll fare well and forage sufficiently at the local pub.  I've never met Miss Gilmore, but she's always been very helpful in our exchange of letters. She's a bit of a recluse, I suspect, and possibly a touch eccentric, but at seventy-odd years of age anyone is allowed a bit of eccentricity, I should hope.  She's never married, and she's lived in the house all her life.  But what's more to the point is that one of her ancestors was part of the ill-fated Palestrina Choir - actually inside the Liège convent when it was destroyed - so there could be a wealth of primary source material in the house.
     The OUP are keen on our idea for a book focusing on the musical influences on the work of the Great War poets.  They're also what they term 'pleasantly surprised' at the level of sales for our joint book on the influence of music on the Romantic Poets last year, and they even mentioned receiving an email from a TV company about making a documentary based on it.  I dare say it won't come to anything, and I expect it's all a flea bite compared to your Wilberforce books (incidentally my small niece is an avid reader of them), but I do feel we've made a modest contribution to the field, and this new oeuvre should add to that.
     I'm looking forward to the results of your sojourn at Fosse House, but do try to stay clear of any peculiar happenings while you're there.  You seem to attract such odd occurrences.  We heard snippets of rather intriguing gossip about your exploits in Derbyshire last year, and if Owen Bracegirdle in the History Faculty can be believed, there were some extraordinary shenanigans in Ireland a couple of years before that.  (Dr Bracegirdle is given to exaggeration, however, not to say outright flippancy).

     Kind regards,


Sarah Rayne knows how to write a ghost story.  She has just the right pace and twists and turns to put goose-bumps on your arms and keep you turning the pages well into the night whilst keeping an eye on things moving in the shadows around you.

Dr Michael Flint is invited to Fosse House, home of the recluse Luisa Gilmore to study papers relating to the horrific demise of the Palestrina Choir.  While he is there, he hears ghostly whispers, figures in the garden, and sees something strange in some of the pictures on the wall.  Unfortunately for him, a storm breaks out and causes a huge tree to fall blocking entry to and from the house - instead of staying at the local pub, Michael Flint is forced to reside at Fosse House; only there is definitely something or someone else trying to get in.

Sarah Rayne weaves a tale of the First World War, of the prisoner of war camp at Holzminden, and of the haunting yet never-seen choir of Palestrina in a Belgium convent.  As Michael Flint, and his partner Nell West continue to delve into the past, Luisa Gilmore is forced to reveal the truth about life at Fosse House, before it is too late.

A perfect ghost-story, and if you haven't read any of her novels before (and there are over 20 of them) I thoroughly recommend checking this, and them, out.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

Friday, 9 May 2014


Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Published by Headline
19th September 2005
Paperback Edition


In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall.  Young Tristan Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is cold and distant as the star she and Tristan see fall from the sky one evening.  For the prize of Victoria's hand, Tristan vows to retrieve the star for his beloved.  It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town's ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imaginating...


There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire.
     And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was as much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although he never knew the whole of it.
     The tale started, as many tales have started, in Wall.
     The town of Wall stands today as it has stood for six hundred years, out on a high jut of granite amidst a small forest woodland.  The houses of Wall are square and old, built of grey stone, with dark slate roofs and high chimneys; taking advantage of every inch of space on the rock, the houses lean into each other, are built one upon the next, with here and there a bush or tree growing out of the side of a building.
     There is one road from Wall, a winding track rising sharply up from the forest, where it is lined with rocks and small stones.  Followed far enough south, out of the forest, the track becomes a real road, paved with asphalt; followed further the road gets larger, is packed at all hours with cars and lorries rushing from city to city.  Eventually the road takes you to London, but London is a whole night's drive from Wall.
     The inhabitants of Wall are a taciturn breed, falling into two distinct types: the native Wall-folk, as grey and tall and stocky as the granite outcrop their town was built upon; and the others, who have made Wall their home over the years, and their descendants.


This is the second book by Neil Gaiman that I've read, following on from the delight that is The Ocean at the end of the Lane (my review is here) and it was recommended by a friend after I posted how much I loved that book.  It's fair to say, that I adore this one too.  It's also a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer but, even though I know it's been on tv hundreds of times, I've never watched it.  I don't know why, but I haven't, and now, when it's not scheduled, I need to see it!

Stardust is set in the town of Wall.  A strange town in that it is surrounded by a wall, in which there is a gap leading out to a meadow beyond.  Guards stand at the gap preventing folk from getting both in and out of the town, except for one day every nine years, May Day, when a fair comes to the meadow.

A whole host of characters are immersed into Gaiman's grown-up fairy tale; and I don't mean dark fairy tale like those conjured up by Angela Carter, but magical fairy tales like we read when we were small, with fairies and wizards, and true magical love. 

As when I reviewed Ocean, I can't say too much about the story itself, you just have to read it to be swept up into the town of Wall, it's inhabitants and beyond.  It's magic, pure and simple.

I need to go and devour the back catalogue.


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 5 May 2014

In Conversation With Katherine Clements

Today I am in conversation with Katherine Clements, author of The Crimson Ribbon.

The Crimson Ribbon is your first novel.  How did the idea come about?
I first encountered the real Elizabeth Poole in a biography of Oliver Cromwell. She was a religious radical and prophetess who gave evidence of providential visions to the Army Council in an attempt to influence the trial of Charles I. As I say in my Author’s Note, we don’t know very much about her, but she intrigued me.  A bit of research revealed a dark, seductive world of illegal printing presses, extreme spiritual obsession and a mysterious scandal. I thought that a fictional version of her was the perfect vehicle to explore some of the things that interested me about that period of history.

Ruth, the narrator of The Crimson Ribbon, is a fictional character and I created her because I wanted to tell Elizabeth’s story thorugh the eyes of another. Of course, it quickly became Ruth’s story too.

I recently picked up my copy of that same Cromwell biography and found the bookmark I used back then – it was a train ticket stub, dated almost ten years ago, so the idea of Elizabeth has been hanging around for a long time!

As your book is set around the English Civil War, I have to ask - Parliamentarian or Royalist?
It was only a matter of time before someone asked! I’m Parliamentarian, with a soft spot for the Levellers. But I have to say, I can’t help being a little bit seduced by the fascinating characters and glamour of certain Royalists!


You are a Historian (like me) - what is your favourite period of time from the past, and why?
I studied History and Archaeology at university and for a long time was fascinated by pre-history. I like the way that without a documented record, the archaeological evidence is so open to interpretation (great opportunities for a storyteller). As well as the practical stuff about how people lived, theories about religious belief and ritual at prehistoric sites fascinate me.

But I’ve now spent years learning about the early modern period and particularly the English Civil Wars, and I’m still obsessed with it. I love it because it was such an exciting, tumultous time in British history that doesn’t get the attention it should.

You don’t hear much about the English Revolution do you?  The 17th century saw the beginnings of so many things that are important in modern society, for example parliamentary authority and a free press. Some of the things that people were questioning and fighting for then, are still not resolved today.

Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
Three things: Read. Write. Persevere. Reading is just as important as writing. It’s how you learn what good writing is. Then, just write. Write bad first drafts, revise, edit and polish. I spent a long time not writing because I thought everything I wrote had to be perfect first time out. This couldn’t be furhter from the truth. The only way to get good at anything is to practice. And learn everything you can from others who are more experienced than you. I believe that courses, workshops, literary events, writers groups etc., can all be very useful.

The third point is about perseverance. There will always be rejections, there will be self doubt and negative feedback. There will always be people who don’t like what you’re writing. The tough thing is dealing with all that, learning from it and carrying on anyway.

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
All over the place. Sometimes from books or television or a song, from something I see or an overheard conversation. Sometimes a line or a picture will just spring into my head and it goes from there. Thinking/dreaming time is really important for me. I find the well runs dry when I’m too busy and distracted by other things. It’s funny but my most successful short stories have all come to mind almost fully formed. I wish that happened more often!

What are you working on next?
I’m working on my second novel – as yet untitled – which is a re-telling of the legend of The Wicked Lady. (You might know the 1945 film with Margaret Lockwood and James Mason that was loosely based on the same story). The legend tells of a noble-born highwaywoman who terrorized Hertfordshire in the 1650s. I’m bringing together research on the real life figure to whom the legend has traditionally been pinned, and the myths surrounding her, to create something entirely new.

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
This is dreadful, but probably my laptop and phone.

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
That’s such a difficult question as there are so many historical figures I’d love to meet. So, I’m going to cheat and say I would invite five of my ancestors – grandparents and great grandparents – and ask them all the questions about my family that I never got to ask.

Katherine's book is available now, published by Headline Review.  You can read my blog post of it here.  Thank you Katherine!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 2 May 2014

Witch Finder

Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton
Published by Hodder Children's
2nd January 2014
Paperback Edition




London, 1880, and eighteen-year-old Luke Lexton is about to endure his initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum - the secretive brotherhood devoted to hunting witches, and the organisation that will help Luke take revenge on the witch who murdered his parents. His final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself.

Luke picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, a witch-girl living in rapidly fading grandeur on the west side of town. She's the last bargaining chip in her family's struggle to avoid bankruptcy and is about to be married off to the handsome, cruel, grotesquely rich Sebastian Knyvet - a powerful member of the Ealdwitan.

As Rosa and Luke get to know each other, Luke realises it will be impossible for him to kill Rosa, just as Rosa knows she will bring disgrace on her family if she does not marry Knyvet. But Knyvet is hiding dark secrets - including the key which will unlock the mystery of Luke's murdered parents. Torn between appeasing their elders and their love for each other, Rosa and Luke must each make their choice between life and death.



Luke lifted his head and sniffed the dusk.  The rich smell of roast chestnuts pierced the cold foggy air, above the more familiar Spitalfields stink: horse manure, coal smoke, rubbish.  Another day he might have searched his pockets for a farthing, bought a paper cone of hot, burst chestnuts and burnt his fingers as he ate.  Not today.  Not with his stomach churning like a wash tub and a fluttering sickness in his gut.

Instead he pushed past the scurrying children and sharp-faced errand boys, and stepped into the foetid, muck-strewn road.

At the Cock Tavern the gas-lamps were it and the working girls called out to him, trying to catch his eye for the evening trade.  Their cheap perfume wafted across the muddy street, cutting through the sharpness of the burning chestnut skins.  He turned up his collar, readying himself to run the gaunlet.

'Come on now, Luke Lexton!' Miriam called as he drew near.  'A man like you can't be a monk all yer life.  I've seen you with those horses, how's about I teach you to ride something a bit more lively?'

'Don't listen to her!' Phoebe twirled her skirts as he passed, flashing her crimson petticoat and stockings.  'I'll give you the first ride for free, Luke.  For a birthday present, eh?'

'My birthday's been and gone yesterday,' he muttered into his muffler.  'And I'm late for me uncle.'
     'Come back with your uncle and all!' Miriam cried.  'William Lexton's a fine figure of a man too!'
     They were still giggling and making eyes over their fans as he rounded the corner.


Set in the late 19th Century, Witch Finder is about a group of men who are part of the Malleus Maleficorum - dedicated witch hunters who have been formed to rid the city of London of those charged with witchcraft.  On the day after his eighteenth birthday, Luke Lexton passes the initiation into this organisation, and learns his prey is sixteen year old Rosa Greenwood.

Luke enters into the Greenwood household in disguise, in order to be nearer to Rosa with the intent of killing her; but as time goes on and he grows to know Rosa for more than her witchcraft, he realises that his quest is not going to be as easy as he once imagined it to be.

Witch Finder is fairly predictable in that hunter and hunted eventually fall in love and have to make tough decisions in order to be able to stay together.  This is the first book in a new series by Ruth Warburton, following on from her Winter Trilogy, and from reading Witch Finder, I think this series will be popular too. 

I really enjoyed the story itself, and there is a lot of detail included her about life in the 1800s in London, particularly of the hazards of working in a match factory.  This is written for the YA market and deserves to do well.  I'm looking forward to reading what happens next to Luke and Rosa.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x