Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Silver Witch

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston
Published by Corsair
6th December 2015
Paperback Edition

 
My mind is like the willow; it flexes and springs. My heart is a knot of oak. Let them try to wound me. Let them try.

One year after artist Tilda Forwells loses her husband, she is finally ready to move into the secluded Welsh cottage they were meant to be sharing together.

In the valley below her mountain home is a mystical lake which inspires a strange energy in her. She starts to experience potent dreams, visions, presentiments which all lead her to Seren, the witch and shaman who legend has it lived on this lakeshore in Celtic times.

As Tilda explores the lake's powers and her own, her connection to Seren grows stronger. And when she comes under grave threat, she must rely on Seren and this ancient magic to save her.


This is the first Paula Brackston novel I've read, but it won't be the last.  If you enjoy magic, spells and witchcraft in your reading, then this is an author you will want to discover.  The Silver Witch is set in two different time zones, the present, and back in time to when the Celts were ruling Britain.

Tilda Forwells moves to a remote cottage in Wales, a year after her husband is killed in a road accident.  Drawn instinctively to the cottage, Tilda begins to start her life anew following her bereavement but strange things are afoot within the walls of her new home.  Surrounding the cottage is a lake that seems to carry within it it's own power and Tilda starts experiencing visions and an increasing power that seems to stop electrical forces without her control.  What was it that drew Tilda to this remote part of Wales and how is it affecting her day to day life?

The second story of the book concerns white witch Seren, lover to her prince and powerful seer of all that is to be predicted surrounding her lakeside village.  Her life as a seer is a dangerous one, and there are those who wish her dead, especially once her relationship with a married man are brought out into the open.  What though, is her connection to Tilda and can she finally be laid to rest?

There are lots of historical references in this story and I loved the weaving together of the Celtic past and the modern day story.  I can't wait to read more now.

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Well

The Well by Catherine Chanter
Published by Cannongate
3rd September 2015
Paperback Edition

 
When Ruth Ardingly and her family first drive up from London in their grime-encrusted car and view The Well, they are enchanted by a jewel of a place, a farm that appears to offer everything the family are searching for. An opportunity for Ruth. An escape for Mark. A home for their grandson Lucien.

But The Well's unique glory comes at a terrible price. The locals suspect foul play in its verdant fields and drooping fruit trees, and Ruth becomes increasingly isolated as she struggles to explain why her land flourishes whilst her neighbours' produce withers and dies. Fearful of envious locals and suspicious of those who seem to be offering help, Ruth is less and less sure who she can trust.

As The Well envelops them, Ruth's paradise becomes a prison, Mark's dream a recurring nightmare, and Lucien's playground a grave.

 

I haven't come across any publicity for The Well, it just happened to be an off the shelf purchase a few weeks ago.  It's kind of a dystopian novel set in the present day, about what seems an idyllic place where it almost always seems to rain.  And I don't mean rain as in persistent, leaves you soaking rain, but that sense of freshness and growth that water brings to the plants and air around it.

Ruth and Mark Ardingly escape their London home for a new beginning.  The Well seems to offer them everything they have ever dreamed of, and could hope for, and initially they are the envy of their friends.  They soon discover that their initial joy is to be thwarted by their neighbour's increasing hostility to their apparent succcess in everything they do, whilst all around them, businesses and farms struggle and cease to exist due to a drought that no one can explain.  Whilst at The Well, the water continues to fall.

Alongside this part of the story-line runs the mystery of who killed Lucien, Ruth and Mark's grandson.  No one knows who is to blame, in fact, Ruth isn't sure if she did it, or if it was Mark, or even one of the Sisters who have come to The Well in the form of a religious cult.  As the story progresses, we move back and forth in time, to when Ruth and Mark were first starting out, and all was well, and again to the present day, when Ruth, still under house arrest, is trying to get to the bottom of what happened on that fateful day.

I did find the book's pace quite slow and plodding which meant it actually took me longer to finish that it normally does when I read something I enjoy but that sort of fitted in with the theme somewhat.  It's been selected as one of the current Richard & Judy titles, so is bound to do well.


Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Landfalls

Landfalls by Naomi J Williams
Published by Little, Brown
22nd October 2015
Hardback Edition

 
An epic voyage, undertaken with the grandest of ambitions.

When Lapérouse leaves France in the Spring of 1785 with two ships under his command, he knows that he sails with the full backing of the French government. This is to be a voyage of scientific and geographical discovery - but every person on board has their own hopes, ambitions and dreams.

As the ships move across vast distances in their journey of nearly four years, the different characters step forward and invite us into their world. From the remote Alaskan bay where a dreadful tragedy unfolds, to the wild journey Barthélemy de Lessups undertakes from the far east of Russia to St Petersburg, the reader sees the emotional, physical and mental toll exacted by such an endeavour.


I'm a sucker for a book with an aesthetically pleasing cover, and it was the front of Landfalls that led me to read it.  I loved the design so much that it didn't matter what the content was, I was going to read it.  What I experienced was a journey into the history books of the late 1700s on board two French ships.

Jean_Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse is the captain of the ill-fated La Boussole and alongside her sister ship Astrolabe, set sail in 1785 to circumnaivigate the globe and bring back new scientific and geographical knowledge that will bring fame and fortune to all on board.  In this fictional re-telling of this quest for French glory, we follow the narrative of those on board both ships and of the experiences they endure.  The journey was ill-fated in that both ships fail to return to France, yet Naomi J Williams has brought their tale to life in what is a very enjoyable read.

This isn't a dry historical novel but an engrossing story that is filled with sadness as we travel alongside our sailors, knowing, unlike them, that they will never return home to the shores of France.


Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Reading list 2016

Yes, it may only be November, but the titles for next year are rolling in thick and fast.  I'd thought I'd share a preview of what will be coming up next year:

This title is published by Tinder Press, and I've started it already.  I love the originality of the cover design.  It should be published at the end of February.



I love a good psychological thriller, and I've a couple lined up already.  One is from a debut author, Fiona Barton, and is released in January, and the other is by one of my favourites, Alex Marwood and comes out on New Year's Day in e-book format.



I've also got the new Lyndsay Faye book, Jane Steele to read.  It's based around the novel Jane Eyre, so I'm interested to see how this pans out.  It comes out in March.


And finally, for now, I've got the latest Menna van Praag book.  I love her magical realism so I know I am going to love this too - due out in February.

 
 
Which titles are you looking forward to reading in 2016, or is it too early to ask?
 
Happy Reading
 
Miss Chapter x


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Web of Darkness

Web of Darkness by Bali Rai
Published by Corgi Childrens
5th June 2014
Paperback Edition

 

When the incredibly attractive Benedict befriends Lily online, she is thrilled. He is so much more mature than boys her age and he seems to know exactly how she's feeling. She finds herself opening up to him, telling him things she wouldn't tell anybody else.

And she needs someone to confide in more than ever before as a spate of apparent suicides rocks her school - and her group of friends.

But is Benedict the kind, charming person that he seemed to be initially? Lily soon realises that now, with half our lives spent online, you can be found - even if you try to hide . . .

After interviewing Bali for my blog, I just had to get my hands on his latest book Web of Darkness and I was incredibly lucky as he sent me a signed copy to say thank you.  The other week I couldn't choose which book to read, and a twitter friend suggested this title, and I'm so glad that she did, as I couldn't put it down.

We all know about hackers and stalkers etc on the internet, and Web of Darkness explores just that issue.  A group of teenagers are all innocently hacked by two men known only as the Spider and the Other whose sole aims are to destroy their lives.  Facebook is so easily a focal point for this story; a gorgeous American teenager called Benedict sends Lily a friend request and soon they are 'chatting' online all the time.  Benedict is totally hot and though Lily initially questions how he actually 'found' her, soon she has fallen for his charms.

She is not the only one to have a secret online friend however, and it is the fact that these relationships are kept secret that is the key here.  As our hackers are able to manipulate and control these teenagers, they are able to infiltrate their lives and their minds, to devastating effect.

As the book progresses, Lily starts to question Benedict's motives, but it is too late for her to regain control of the situation, or will more lives be lost as the hackers move in for the ultimate kill?

This was a gripping read, and certainly not just for the YA market.  Having read it, and as a teacher myself,  I think it would be fantastic if this book was actually taught as part of the secondary curriculum so that more teenagers could become aware of the dangers of life on the internet if someone sets out to target you.  Web of Darkness is both an exhilarating read, and a worrying realism of our cyber world today.

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Ice Twins

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne
Published by Harper
3rd September 2015
Paperback Edition

 

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I wanted to read this book from the blurb itself, it sounded such an original idea for a book, the premise that, if you had totally identical twins, and one died, or went missing etc, then how could you ever be totally sure which one it was.  This is the whole basis behind S. K. Tremayne's gripping novel The Ice Twins when one tragic afternoon, one child, an identical twin, tumbles to her death.  Mother Sarah Moorcroft is quite sure at the time which of her twins has died, but as the months progress, and her remaining daughter's behaviour starts to echo that of her twin sister, she begins to have doubts as to what actually did happen that day, and worse of all, did they actually bury the 'wrong' twin.

Completely identical twins are a rare phenomenon but it does occur and I really enjoyed the whole 'dilemma' that Sarah and her husband Angus are faced with, as to which twin is still alive.  They acually only have Kirstie's word that she is who she says she is, and when they move to an isolated island off the coast of Scotland, then her behaviour begins to be questioned not only by the family, but by outsiders too.

This is a ghost story but it's also that of a family in turmoil, the guilt of losing one's child and the anguish that Sarah and Angus go through as they try to rebuild their lives.  The book has had mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it, and though some parts may seem a little far-fetched, I think that the genre of the book allows for that in every respect, and it didn't stop me turning the pages to reach what I felt was a satisfactory conclusion to this story.  It's a great read for curling up with on a winter's night!

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

UKYA Extravaganza

Two weeks ago I headed off to Nottingham for the second UKYA Extravaganza.  It turned out to be a rather long day, sometimes taking a train can take an age, can't it? but the day itself was brilliant as I was catching up with old and new bloggers, and authors alike.
 
I love listening to authors talk, not only about how they got their publishing deals, and about their writing ways, but also hearing them talk about their books with so much passion, and there were a lot of titles to choose from.  I brought a couple, but could have come away with so many more, and I got them signed too!
 
 
 
I also got these delights from Bali Rai (my interview with him can be found here) as a thank you for featuring him on my blog (though it was my pleasure) and I finished Web of  Darkness last night, a review of it will be up soon, but let me say right now that it's a cracker!
 
 
All in all, it was a fabulous day out and I'd like to thank Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery for inviting me yet again. 
 
 
Happy Reading
 
 
Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Queen of the Tearling

 The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Published by Bantam
16th July 2015
Paperback Edition

 
Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret after her mother – a monarch as vain as she was foolish – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom’s heart, to claim the throne, win the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother’s legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...



This is the first in a trilogy of books by Erika Johansen set in a dystopian world where Kelsea Glynn, now she has reached her 19th birthday, is to be crowned queen of Tearling.  However, having spent the past 18 years in hiding, there are many who want her dead before she is able to become crowned, not least those who work for the Red Queen, leader of the enemy realm Mortmesme.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  In some ways it was disappointing that I knew it was a trilogy before I started reading it, as you sort-of already know that Kelsea is clearly going to survive to at least make it into book two, but that didn't detract from the plot of the story at all.  Some concentration is needed as in any dystopian novel nothing is as it is in the present day, and there are new realms and rules to be discovered through every page of Queen of the Tearling.

There is magic and loyalty, treachery and deceit in every chapter, plus a little romance which made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.  I'm looking forward to reading the sequel which is lined up on my kindle already!  If you loved The Hunger Games trilogy, then I think you'll love reading this too.


Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Black Eyed Susans

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
Published by Michael Joseph
13th August 2015
Hardback Edition


A chilling new thriller that gets into the heart and mind of the killer, and the victim . . .

Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a 'Black-Eyed Susan' by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars - or so she thought.

Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa's bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.

Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter's safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it's too late?

 
I raced through this novel by Julia Heaberlin, and I really enjoyed it.  Thankfully there was no sloppy ending as I've experienced with some crime/thriller novels over the past year or so, and actually, this would make a really great movie.  At the age of 17, Tessie is the only survivor of the 'Black-Eyed Susan' serial killer, found in a hole amongst some of the other discarded bodies.  A defect in the way her heart beats led her to appear to have stopped breathing, thus ensuring she survived.  Fast-forward twenty years, and Tessa, as she prefers to be known, isn't fully convinced that the right man is serving time for this crime on death row.

Terrell Darcy Goodman is a condemned man, with only a few weeks to live before his date to die reaches fruition, but not if his law team can help it.  They are still convinced that he is not the serial killer he has been convicted of being, and with Tessa's help, they aim to get him a stay of execution.

Tessa isn't convinced either, because if Terrell Darcy Goodman is in fact the killer, then who has been planting the flowers synonymous with her attack, near to her home, for the past two decades?

I thought this was well-paced and a gripping read.  There are lots of suspects and un-savoury characters floating around, as well as an old, and new love interest for Tessa, not to mention the life of her own daughter Charlie, who she wants to protect from the past as much as possible.  Is the right man on death row, or is the black-eyed susan killer still out there?

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Monday, 19 October 2015

The House on Cold Hill

The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
Published by Macmillan
8th October 2015
Hardback Edition

 
Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House - a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion - Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.

Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren't the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade's is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House's dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them . . .

This is a stand-alone novel by Peter James and it's certainly a haunting tale.  I read it in a day as I couldn't put it down!  It's a tense, and spookily haunting tale, that will send chills down your spine, so don't read it alone, in a dark, and eerie house!

Ollie and Caro Harcourt put everything they have financially into buying Cold Hill House in Sussex.  It's a Georgian mansion that requires a lot of updating but it's a dream come true for the couple, and their young children.  What they don't know is that Cold Hill House has had many an owner over the years, but none of them have actually ever managed to leave the property alive!

Neither of the adults discuss their suspicious feelings about the supernatural aspects of their house and each of the Harcourt's are disturbed in very different ways once they have moved in.  It appears that whomever, or whatever haunts the walls of the house is not a happy spirit and the family may not be safe within their own home.

The villagers are all keen to offer advice, but it's difficult to know whom to believe, especially when the person you are talking to might not actually still be living!  From beds that move in the night, to emails that can't possibly have been sent, Cold Hill House is not a house you would want to have brought.  However, for the Harcourt's, it might not be a decision that is so easy to reverse, no matter how much they may eventually want to!

 
A perfect Hallowe'en read.


Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Secrets of Ghosts

The Secrets of Ghosts by Sarah Painter
Published by Carina
26th February 2014
Kindle Edition

 
On her twenty-first birthday Katie Harper has only one wish: to become a real Harper woman. Mystical powers are passed down her family generation after generation – some even call them witches – yet every spell Katie attempts goes disastrously wrong.

When her magic does appear, it’s in a form nobody expected and suddenly Katie is thrown into a dangerous new world with shadowy consequences. For the realm of the deceased is not as peaceful as she once thought. The dead are buried with their secrets and only Katie can help the ghosts of the past finally find peace.

If that is what they are looking for…

 
This is a follow-on novel from The Language of Spells, (review here) which I equally loved, but you could easily read as a stand-alone novel.  The Harper women are in Pendleford to stay, and as Katie approaches her 21st birthday, she wishes to know more about her heritage and to finally find out what her magical talent might be.

At the Grange hotel, things are not going to plan.  There seems to be more than one underlying presence around, that only Katie can communicate with.  The problem is, as a beginner in witchcraft, can Katie handle her powers solely on her own, or will she need the help of her aunt Gwen at least to assist her?

Gwen is happily settled with Cam, and her world is starting to become whole after her move to Pendleford seven years earlier, however, is she about to bite off more than she can chew once Katie starts dabbling in magic, and who is the mysterious Max who turns up at the hotel and starts to take an interest in Katie almost immediately?

This is a great tale of witchcraft and magic and I was, once again, thorougly engrossed in the lives of the Harper family and all that goes on in Pendleford.  I only hope there's another book to follow on.

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

In Conversation with Bali Rai

Today on the blog, as part of the UKYA Extravaganza, I'm in conversation with Bali Rai, award winning author of the Shrophsire Teen Book Award for 2015 for Web of Darkness, as well as of the Barrington Stoke series of books.


For anyone who hasn't come across your books before, can you give my readers a brief synopsis of some of your stories?
No problem – I tend to write social realism on the whole, so my first novel, (un)arranged marriage is about Leicester teen whose Sikh parents want him to marry a village girl from India, something he fights against.

Rani & Sukh, which was a GCSE set text until Mr Gove got his hands on the English curriculum, is a Romeo & Juliet inspired love story, also set in Leicester, which incorporates elements of age-old star-crossed lover’s stories from India and other places, alongside a very modern story about teenagers in love, and blood feuds which spiral into violence.
 

Web of Darkness is a story about two Year 11 girls who find their lives turned upside down when their use of social media brings evil into their lives. It’s a fast-paced thriller that explores the use of social media and the dangers inherent in that. It’s not a story for those with weak hearts!


Killing Honour is probably my most “adult” YA offering. It’s a very, very dark story that explores honour-based violence through the eyes of a 17 yr old lad whose adult sister has gone missing. It also follows an adult female whose life is falling apart due to the extreme violence her husband subjects her to.
 

City of Ghosts is my only historical novel to date. It’s set around the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, in colonial India – an event Winston Churchill described as “monstrous”. It also takes in the Great War, Brighton in 1915, and is sort of magical realism. A wounded Sikh soldier falls in love with his nurse in Brighton, 1915, and tries to evade an order to be sent “home” to India once recovered. When he fails, the India he returns to is in anti-colonial turmoil, and he becomes the central figure in a web of five stories, all of which climax during the horrific scenes of the massacre. I’m hoping to add a sequel at some point soon!
 

Finally, my only fantasy offering is Fire City. It’s demons and dystopia – a world in which the richest 1% have gained total control with help of inter-dimensional beings (demons), enslaving or killing the rest of the world’s population. It also reworks Western-inspired “Man With No Name” stories. A dark, amoral stranger with strange powers appears in a town ruled by a vicious and violent Mayor, and despite himself, he stays on to help a small group of rebels fight back. The Mayor’s stepdaughter, a feisty teenager called Martha, intrigues the stranger, and together they set in motion a series of events that lead to tragedy and death, and perhaps a semblance of hope for humankind. The sequel is already planned but I’ve yet to start it!
 

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
The biggest inspiration is real life. I’ve always felt that ordinary, everyday people are terribly under-represented British fiction, and that goes double for those from non-white, British backgrounds. So, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve – namely stories about the people who live in multicultural communities such as the one I grew up in, and still live in. Stories that weren’t seen as niche or for any particular community or other – just great characters and plots about people whose voices are ordinarily missing.

Then, of course, there are all the books I’ve read in my life, and those I’ve yet to read. The same is true of film and music, too. I’m inspired by other people’s stories, their thoughts and their emotions.

What are you working on next?
My new YA offering is nearly finished. I call it a state-of-the-nation novel – set amongst the growing underclass in modern Britain, whose lives are blighted by ever-deepening poverty and vicious media and public stereotypes of “undeserving” poor people, “scrounging” from the State. Within that context, I have a teenage girl, Siren, whose mother dies from a heroin overdose, leaving her and her three-year old sister to fend for themselves. Caught in dire poverty, and with a well-founded distrust of the social services and authorities, Siren resolves to make sure that she and her sister aren’t separated. With the help of her mother’s best friend, Siren goes on the run, hoping to find the grandfather she has never met and change her life for the better. However, before leaving she takes fifty thousand pounds from a local criminal called Smithy. With both the police and Smithy searching for her, she faces a long, hard road to safety. It’s extremely gritty and pulls no punches in describing the harsh nature of street life in Tory Britain. I have a working title of ‘Siren’s Cry’ but that may well change!

Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
The advice is always the same, and as honest as I can make it. Being an author is NOT an easy thing. There’s the ideas themselves (the easy-ish bit), getting a workable plot from those initial sparks, working out characters and their motivation, editing, thinking about publication, and on and on… The key is to write – like, actually write, rather than talk about it.

You must also make sure to read as much as you can within the market you want to be published. So, if you’re writing sci-fi, for example, read other, established writers and see what is being published and by whom. Knowing as much about the industry as possible BEFORE you approach an agent etc… is very important in my opinion.

You must be hard headed too. Understand that you’ll probably get rejections, that you’ll feel unsure about your work, have moments when you’re unable to string a sentence together etc…. This is natural and shouldn’t make you quit. The writers that make it as published authors (as in mainstream published rather than self-published) are the ones who work through all of the hurdles, the doubts, fears etc…

Finally – just go for it! If you’ve got an idea, and you’ve got the writing bug, get writing!

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
I’d be stuck because I have so many vinyl records and books that I’d want to save in their entirety. I think I’d probably just grab my Macbook and run. Actually, I’d probably be burnt to a crisp deliberating over exactly which reggae record and which book are my absolute favourites!

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
Ah – I’ve never been asked this before! Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, Sue Townsend and James Lee Burke. And, yes, that did take ages to answer! Can’t I have ten????

Bali will be appearing at Waterstone's Nottingham on Saturday 10th October between 1 and 4pm for the UKYA Extravaganza, and so will I (along with my reading, blogging buddy Maia from Maia and A Little Moore). 

And as a little extra (yes I know not to start a sentence with 'and' but this is important), Bali has five signed books to give away to those of you who either leave a comment here on my blog, or retweet the link I'll be putting up on Twitter.  The competition will close at midnight on Monday, UK followers only (sorry) and we'll draw the winners afterwards, so good luck!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

In Conversation With Jackie Marchant

Today on the blog as part of the UKMG extravaganza, I'm fortunate to be in conversation with Jackie Marchant, author of I'm Dougal Trump...and it's not my fault and I'm Dougal Trump...where's my tarantula?

 

Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
Read.  Read, read and read.  Then read some more.  It’s what every author will tell you.  Reading is vital.  It’s also something we thoroughly enjoy doing!

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
My eleven year old son asked me a random question about writing a will.  Sometime later, I found myself in his room, knee deep in mess, when the following line came to me:  ‘To my mother I leave all the mess in my bedroom, so she may put it in a bin liner and throw it out of the window.’  From that came the character of Dougal Trump and those very words are now in published in the first Dougal Trump book.

 
What are you working on next?
As well as working on the next Dougal Trump, I’m writing an epic fantasy, which is totally different.  When it all gets a bit much, I go back to Dougal for some light relief.

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
My laptop.  It’s got everything on it.


What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
I’d love to invite all sorts of people – but would they come?  They’d be too busy doing what they do to sit around a table with an unknown author with average cooking ability, messy house and a mad dog.  Perhaps I could answer that after I’ve become the next J K Rowling?


Thank you Jackie for taking time out to chat on my blog.  You can catch Jackie at the UKMG Extravaganza in Nottingham on October 17th - it looks set to be a fab day out!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 28 September 2015

A Place Called Winter

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
Published by Tinder Press
27th August 2015
Paperback Edition


To find yourself, sometimes you must lose everything.

A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence - until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything.

Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian prairies. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.

In this exquisite journey of self-discovery, loosely based on a real life family mystery, Patrick Gale has created an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love.

This is actually the first Patrick Gale book I've ever read and again, it was due to the comments over on Twitter that made me go out and buy it.  In fact, I dragged my small girls around the shops on our holiday on it's paperback publication day in order to get myself a copy.

I have to say, from the offset, I really enjoyed this book.  It's captivating, moving, atmospheric and wonderfully written, and I've since added more of Patrick's books on to my kindle.  Set just before the start of the First World War, Harry Cane meets the Wells family, due to his younger brother's attraction to George, Mrs Wells' eldest daughter.  While he is there, he and Winifred strike up an easy-going friendship which later leads to marriage, and Harry's life seems all mapped out.

An unfortunate error on Harry's part sees the life he has settled into come to a sudden end, and he is forced to leave Winifred, and his small daughter behind, whilst taking the harsh journey into the unknown, to set up a new life on the recently colonised plains of Canada, to a place called Winter.

The story moves back and forth, from Harry's time at Bethel, a hospital for the very disturbed, back to the days before the war began, when he first met Winnie, and then transporting the reader across to the wilderness of Canada as he strives to build himself a new life.  However, can the secrets that Harry carries with him remain as such, or are there others who will stop at nothing to seek them out and rain destruction on the life of this quiet man?

A Place Called Winter has been called a western, which is some ways it is, but it is also a love story, both tender and heart-breaking at the same time.  I throughly recommend getting a copy.

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Taxidermist's Daughter

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse
Published by Orion
3rd September 2015
Paperback Edition

 

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream . . .

1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years ....

This is a much darker novel than any one of the Languedoc trilogy but I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Set in 1912 along the west coast of England, The Taxidermist's Daughter is both enchanting and gruesome in equal measure.

Connie Gifford, only child, lives with her father in an isolated part of Fishbourne.  Our story begins as the villagers are gathered around the churchyard waiting to see the ghosts of those destined to die within the coming year.  Whilst they are there, unknown to most, a woman is silently killed.

As Gifford drowns himself in drink, Connie discovers a body floating in the river that runs by their house.  But who is this woman in the expensive coat, and how did she get there?  Connie is convinced that her death is nothing short of murder, but it would seem that others disagree.

There are secrets to be kept in the village, and someone seems to have a long memory set on revenge.  For Connie, this is impossible, as an accident as a child has left her with no memory of her early life.  Could she have had any idea of the twists and turns of fate of the next coming days?

It's not easy to tell who is to be trusted in Fishbourne as many of the villagers have a past that they want to keep quite about.  Is Connie able to fully rely on Harry Woolston, whose father, along with Gifford, has mysteriously disappeared?  And who is the man watching the Gifford's home and why is he doing so?

As the rain continues to fall, and the surrounding waters of Fishbourne continue to rise, there can only be tragedy to come.  Coupled with this tale, we also learn much about the detailed work of the taxidermist, of which I'll admit, I knew nothing of beforehand.  It's certainly a most disturbing, yet complicated profession and whilst the extracts from 1820 were quite explicit in their detail, it certainly added to the gothic nature of the book.

 
Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Deadlight Hall

Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne
Published by Severn House
26th June 2015
Paperback Edition


A long-ago crime continues to menace the present in this spine-chilling tale of supernatural suspense. When Michael Flint is asked by a colleague to investigate a reputedly haunted house, he is intrigued. Leo Rosendale's childhood was blighted by a macabre tragedy in the grim Deadlight Hall - a tragedy that occurred towards the end of World War II, involving a set of twins who vanished. The fate of Sophie and Susannah Reiss was never discovered, and Leo has never been able to forget them.

When Michael, together with his fiancee Nell, begins to explore Deadlight Hall's history, he discovers that in the 1880s another pair of sisters vanished from the house - and that there may also be much older and darker secrets lurking within its walls. As Michael and Nell gradually peel back the sinister layers of the Hall's unhappy past, they are unprepared for the eerie and threatening resonances they encounter - nor for the shocking truth of what took place there one long-ago midnight.

 
Sarah Rayne is back with another ghost-inspired novel featuring Nell West and Michael Flint.  This time, we are reminded of the Holocaust, in a frightening tale of disappearing children and unpredictable furnaces.  Our Oxford don Michael is asked if he wouldn't mind visiting Deadlight Hall, a former home that housed ill children during the Second World War by a colleague of his, Leo Rosendale.  Leo was sent to England by his family to escape Nazi persecution, along with other Jewish children, including twins Sophie and Susannah Reiss.  Whilst staying a Deadlight Hall the twins disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and Leo has never been able to forget them, or his time at the big house.

Always fond of a mystery, Michael decides to take a look around the Hall, now being developed by a local builder.  Whilst there, he is sure he hears and sees things that are not of this world.  He and Nell begin to delve into the past lives of those connected to Deadlight Hall, and as they investigate further, they find that the Reiss twins weren't the only children to disappear whilst staying there.  So what secrets is the big, old house hiding, and are any of them actually prepared for what they may eventually find out?

Whilst this hasn't been my favourite of Sarah Rayne's novels, I did enjoy it.  I like her characters of Michael and Nell, who are now in a relationship and considering moving in together, I also like the sub-story of Michael's cat, who I'm surprised hasn't been asked to leave Oxford yet!  The Holocaust sub-setting wasn't one I was hooked by, or that of the missing golem, yet the book did keep me turning the pages in order to find out what really happened at Deadlight Hall all those years ago. 

 

Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Heresy

Heresy by S.J.Parris
Published by Harper Collins
3rd March 2011
Paperback Edition


In Elizabeth’s England, true faith can mean bloody murder…

OXFORD, 1583. A PLACE OF LEARNING AND MURDEROUS SCHEMES.

England is rife with plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and return the country to the Catholic faith. Defending the realm through his network of agents, the Queen’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham works tirelessly to hunt down all traitors.

His latest recruit is Giordano Bruno, a radical thinker fleeing the Inquisition, who is sent undercover to Oxford to expose a Catholic conspiracy. But he has his own secret mission at the University – one that must remain hidden at all costs.

When a series of hideous murders ruptures close-knit college life, Bruno is compelled to investigate. And what he finds makes it brutally clear that the Tudor throne itself is at stake…

 
The Giordano Bruno series is now on it's fourth book, with Treachery being published last year but I've only just discovered it myself, due to a kindle bargain of 99p which prompted me to download Heresy whilst on holiday.  As a result, I now have books two, three and four sitting here waiting to be read. 

For those who don't usually pick up historical fiction, can I start by saying that there is not a dry, boring page throughout this book.  Whilst it is firmly set in Elizabethan England, Heresy romps along, is full of twists and turns, good guys and bad guys, and a few horrific murders to make it a total page-turner.

Our hero, Giordano Bruno is a former Italian monk, who due to his reading matter, has had to flee the only place he has ever been able to call home.  Having lived on the streets trying to escape from his persuers, he has come to England to help Queen Elizabeth hunt out those who want to remove her from the throne. 

Religious turmoil is key here, from those who embrace the new faith, to those who secretly remain firmly Catholic, and it is Bruno's task to find those who covert what has past and bring them to justice.  At Oxford University though, there is clearly someone who has more to prove and a series of grisly murders occur, right under Bruno's nose, but can he find the killer before it is too late?

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Language of Spells

The Language of Spells by Sarah Painter
Published by Carina
1st May 2015
Paperback Edition


When you are ready, seek, and you shall find. It is your gift.

Gwen Harper left Pendleford thirteen years ago and hasn’t looked back. Until an inheritance throws her into the mystical world she thought she’d escaped. Confronted with her great-aunt’s legacy Gwen must finally face up to her past.

The magic she has long tried to suppress is back with a vengeance but gift or burden, for Gwen, it always spells trouble. She has to stay – she has nowhere else to go – but how can she find her place in the town that drove her out after branding her a witch…?

This is the first of Sarah Painter's books to feature the Pendleford witches.  Gwen Harper left Pendleford when she was a teenager, and hasn't returned to the house of her great-aunt since.  However, now the old lady has died, and left her house to Gwen.  Fortuitously, Gwen is currently homeless, so returning to her former home seems an easy thing to do.  However, not everyone in the village seems to welcome her with open arms.  It seems that her aunt's magical powers have left some villagers feeling uncomfortable with Gwen's arrival.

As the book progresses, we see Gwen channelling her inner witch, whilst battling with her sister's denial that there is anything magical in their family.  Cue Gwen's niece Katie who wants to know more about their family secrets.  Oh, and don't forget Cam, the boyfriend Gwen left without so much as a goodbye when she left Pendleford thirteen years ago - of course, he's still living in the village, and as desirable as he was then.

This is a fantastical novel of magic and witchcraft.  If you like this genre, then I think you'll love The Language of Spells and the follow-up novel Secrets of Ghosts (review coming soon).  I was drawn in and loved this book and raced through reading it - anything that features witchcraft is usually a winner with me!


Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x

Friday, 11 September 2015

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Published by Sphere
7th May 2015
Paperback Edition

 
A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh.


Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

 
Yet another book waiting around to be picked up by myself and actually read.  I had heard so many good things about it that I decided the summer holidays was the perfect opportunity to get stuck in and find out what all the fuss was about - and let me say now, it was worth it!

On a cold winter's day, a small child is knocked down by a car when his mother lets go of his hand for a split second.  It was a simple error that couldn't have been prevented, yet it is one that turns Jenna Gray's world upside down.

She decides to escape the past by moving away to a rural Welsh village, that whilst popular with holiday makers in the summer, is deserted for the rest of the year, making it the perfect retreat for someone trying to escape the past.

Jenna eventually settles in to her new life, making new friends, getting a dog and even sensing the spark of romance with one of the locals, however, there is always the sense that there is something she isn't revealing, something she is holding back from those around her.

And here endeth part one with a final sentence that left me yelling at the book because everything I believed to be true was suddenly turned upside down, to the extent that I started flipping back through the pages for anything I might have missed.

I Let You Go is a gripping book and I really enjoyed it.  I don't want to give anything away here so I'm not going to reveal any more of what happens for fear of a spoiler alert but it comes complete with one of those cliffhanger endings that are usually only found in films - and we all know how picky I am about a decent ending; Clare Mackintosh nailed this one in my opinion.

 
Happy Reading

 
Miss Chapter x