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

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


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

Monday, 7 September 2015

The House of Eyes

The Connie Carew Mysteries 1: The House of Eyes by Patricia Elliott
Published by Hodder Children's
2nd July 2015
Paperback Edition

London, 1909 - a time of scientific progress and new freedoms. Ever since the death of her parents, twelve-year old Connie Carew has lived with her aunts - downtrodden Dorothea, and spinster Sylvie, who 'sees things' but is much sharper than she appears - in a large house in Kensington.

Connie has her sights set on becoming an anthropologist when she grows up and travel the world. Her first mystery is upon her already: is the girl who turns up at the front door really her long-lost cousin Ida? If she isn't, who is she? And who is behind the pretence?

This book, again, came about via a twitter recommendation that simply said, "if you love seances, suffragettes and splendid mysteries, don't miss this" - well, clearly I was sold instantly, who wouldn't be?!

This is the first in a set of mystery stories, aimed at children, featuring Constance Clementine Carew, an orphan, who lives with her two aunts in a large Victorian house in central London.  She's a bright, inquisitive twelve year old who is treated pretty much as an adult by her two aunts.  She wants to be an anthropologist and spends as much time as possible at the British Museum, studying the mummies in the Egyptian collection.

One day, a young girl named Ida Brown turns up looking for work.  As luck would have it, she happens to be wearing an identical necklace to that worn by Aunt Dorothea's own daughter Ida who mysteriously disappeared when she was a baby.  Could this really be the missing heiress Ida Fairbanks, who is due to turn eighteen very shortly, and come into a huge inheritance, is she really Connie's long-lost cousin, or is she indeed an imposter?

Connie isn't one to be taken in lightly, despite her aunt's insistance that this is, indeed he own daughter Ida.  With her piano teacher Arthur at her side, she travels around London to find out the truth.  There are lots of twists and turns along the way, and you never know quite who to trust or not in this fantastic tale.  I was drawn in from the very beginning and read it in two sittings.  I particularly liked the fact that the book is set in early 1900s, where technology didn't exist as it did today, therefore our detective must investigate the crime using her wits only.  I think this series will be a huge hit.  I'm recommending it to my 9 year old to read.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Published by Headline Review
1st July 2015
Paperback Edition

Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, this is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock'n'roll era.

Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love, but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn't Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte's sardonic cousin Harry...

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets was originally published ten years ago, but I somehow missed out on reading it until last month when it was reissued by Headline Review.  Billed as perfect for those who have loved and enjoyed books by Nancy Mitford I knew I was pretty much going to fall in love with it from the outset.

Penelope Wallace is waiting at the bus stop one cold November morning in 1954, when she is approached by a young woman of about her age asking if she would like to share a taxi.  Whilst it is not normally Penelope's style to go galivanting off with strangers, something about this woman intrigues her and she agrees.  This is to be the beginning of a wonderful friendship with Charlotte Ferris, her aunt Clare and her cousin Harry.

Penelope's life is somewhat reminiscent of the of Cassandra in I Capture the Castle, as she lives in a dilapidated stately home with her exceptionally beautiful, and young, mother Talitha, and her brother Inigo, who dreams of being a rock star.

The girls are initially drawn together by their love for musician Johnnie Ray (who I must confess I had never heard of) but it turns out they have more in common than they initally think, especially when it turns out that Aunt Clare once knew Christopher Jones, a friend of Penelope's late father.

This is a wonderful novel, full of beauty and glamour, and hardship at the end of the Second World War, where rationing was still imposed and where the young, who had grown up in a world living through a war, don't really know what to do with themselves.  It's also a time of music, and of course, of the wonderful Elvis Presley.

If you didn't catch The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets the first time around, I urge you to grab a copy,  put your feet up and indulge yourself in it now.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

August buys

Amazingly there is always room in your life for more books, isn't there?  It's a pity that the shelf space here doesn't feel the same, but it hasn't stopped me from buying a few more editions to add to the already over-flowing collection of un-read titles currently on the floor bookshelves.

Having recently read Heresy by S J Parris, I've swiftly added books two and three to my shelves, as I got book four last year when it was part of the Specsavers TV Book Club reads.  I really enjoyed Heresy, and there will be a review up soon so I'm looking forward to continuing my adventures with Giordano Bruno.

I found two more Agatha Christie books to add to the shelves!  I haven't caught up with the new Tommy and Tuppence series yet, and have heard mixed reviews about it, but I will endeavour to give it a go regardless.

A twitter friend recommended I buy The Rosie Project as I was looking for an upbeat read after reading two harrowing stalker novels back-to-back.  I wasn't able to get that on my charity shop haunts, but I did get the sequel, The Rosie Effect.

I also found Eva Rice's The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp after devouring her re-published novel The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets - again, review coming soon! 

And on the back of reading that, I've just ordered the almost 700 pages long book Passion by Jude Morgan based on the women in the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats as it was one of the titles included in the back of Eva Rice's book and it sounded rather fascinating.  It might take me a while to get through that one though!

And don't even get me started on the kindle buys!  This week alone I've downloaded The Ice Twins, You and Vanessa and her Sister!

Oh, and on it's day of publication, I bought the new Patrick Gale, A Place called Winter too!

So...what books have you been buying, and enjoying this August?

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x