It’s a pleasure to be taking part in the cover reveal for the latest book by Stephanie Butland.  Lost for Words is due to be published by Bonnier Zaffre on 6 April 2017. Having read and loved Stephanie’s previous book The Other Half of My Heart, I am very much looking forward to this.

To give you an idea about the book, here’s what others are saying about Lost for Words

 

What an absolute stunner of a book. I LOVED it and cried like a motherf***er. If you care about books (or humans) read it!’ Shelley Harris

‘Burns fiercely with love and hurt. A quirky, rare and beautiful novel, one you’d be delighted to unearth in any book shop. And Loveday Cardew is a character who leaps from the pages into our hearts.’ Linda Green

‘This book will warm and break your heart in equal measure. This is a must-read novel.’
Claire Dyer

 

Now a little about the book:

A bookshop keeps many secrets . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she’ll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can’t hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

 

and finally, the cover

 

I love it and can’t wait to read the book.

 

 

 

Published by HQ/HarperCollins

eBook & Paperback :  9 February 2017

approx 352 pages

 

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

 

It’s a pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for The Breakdown and for my turn on the tour, I have my review AND the publisher is kindly giving away 3 paperback copies.  More details below.

B A Paris’ debut thriller, Behind Closed Doors, was one of my Top 10 books of 2016 and I actually squealed with excitement when a proof copy of The Breakdown arrived through the letterbox.  I did wonder how this second novel would match up to the first – would it be as good? would I be disappointed?   The answer to that is a big fat YES and NO.  This is a cracking read – its a completely different story to that of Behind Closed Doors in my opinion; it’s not as dark a subject matter and is a more ‘typical’ psychological thriller  – one that you can get your teeth into whilst your mind is being messed with!

The story begins with Cass, a teacher, driving home late at night along a deserted country lane during a storm.  She sees a car parked at the side of the road with a woman driver and faces a dilemma. This results in a ‘what would you do’ scenario.  Would you take the risk of getting out of your car, and possibly walking into a trap or would you drive by?  Cass’ decision that night forms the rest of the story.

The tension increases when it seems that somebody is targeting Cass.  Silent phone calls spook her and she is convinced that she is being stalked.  Add in her escalating memory issues – all of which take their toll on her mental health; I guess this is where one meaning of ‘The Breakdown’ could apply.    I felt some sympathy for Cass – my memory is rubbish too but I also wanted to shake some sense into her when her feelings of paranoia overwhelm her and she makes some questionable decisions.  Her husband Matthew is sympathetic at first but he begins to question her sanity.

I really enjoyed this fast paced and insightful thriller.  I did have suspicions from early on about the who and the what however with each new revelation my list of suspects grew and I certainly didn’t know who to trust so I entirely sympathise with Cass when she began to have those same doubts.

B A Paris has certainly shown that she is more than capable of repeating the success of Behind Closed Doors.  This was a suspenseful, addictive read and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for us next.

 

My thanks to HQ stories for the paperback copy to review.

 

 

About the author:

B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, her debut novel. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working in Finance before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Her second novel, The Breakdown is out February 9th, 2017.

 

Author Links:   Twitter  |  Amazon UK  |  Goodreads

 

 

GIVEAWAY

The publisher has allowed me to give away 3 paperback copies of The Breakdown.  Sorry but books can only be posted to entrants in the UK.   Please enter using the Rafflecopter boxes below and 3 winners will be picked when the giveaway ends at midnight on 23 February 2017. Winners will be notified by email and/or Twitter and if no reply is received within 48 hours another winner will be selected in their place. Winners details will be passed to the publisher who will send the books out direct.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Published by Orenda Books

ebook : 20 December 2016  |  Paperback 15 February 2017

approx 276 pages

 

It’s a pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Sealskin by Su Bristow.  Firstly I have a guest post from Su and my review follows.

 

GUEST POST

by Su Bristow

You might be interested to hear a bit more about the names in Sealskin. Donald is simple enough; half the men on the Highland side of my family seem to have been called Donald. The other half, including my own grandfather, were called John. It’s pretty normal in the Highlands and Islands for several children in the same class to have the same name, but of course, in fiction, that makes it hard to tell people apart. I ended up giving different names to all the secondary characters, except for Hugh’s two crewmen, who were both called James, although James Rennie is known by his surname.

And talking of surnames, you tend to find a lot of Macfarlanes or McLeods in the same community, too. I’ve put in a bit of variation so that the minor characters are more distinctive. The only person without a surname is Father Finian, who is also the only ‘outsider’ apart from Mairhi herself. I imagined him as coming from Ireland, perhaps.

I chose ‘Mairhi’ because it reminded me of the Latin ‘mare’ – pronounced ‘mar-ay’ – , which means ‘sea’. In fact, the name is more usually spelt ‘Mhairi’, which in Gaelic would be pronounced ‘Vari’, but the first Mairhi I knew was a girl I was at school with in England, (if you’re reading this, Mairhi Russell, thank you for that!) so I went with that spelling. It’s a variation of ‘Mary’, so there’s the association with purity too.

Children are very often named after their parents or grandparents, so that names travel down the generations. By giving the name of her own dead daughter to Mairhi, Bridie is making her part of the family; and perhaps she is also bestowing upon her some of her own hopes and dreams for her girl-child, which were never fulfilled. In the same way, when Donald gives his father’s name to his new-born son, he is ensuring the continuity into the future of his father’s spirit, and those of all his ancestors who bore that name.

On the other hand, Sorcha is a pure flight of fantasy! It’s pronounced ‘Sorsha’, like the Irish version ‘Saoirse’, and it means ‘freedom’. The story doesn’t tell us how this child of the sea and the land grew up, but it’s a statement of hope that somehow, the loving union that produced her might help to heal the wounds of the past.

Bridie is a shortened version of Bridget, found in both Ireland and Scotland. But it’s also the Celtic goddess Brigid, who presides over healing and childbirth, the fire of hearth and forge, poetry and unity. She taught humans how to use the healing properties of herbs, and as a herbalist myself, she’s definitely my patron. The goddess was Christianised into Saint Bride or Bridget, protector of women and children. In one tradition of Celtic Christianity, she was said to have been midwife to the Virgin Mary.

Her feast day is Imbolc or Candlemas on 2nd February, the time when the first fragile signs of spring begin to appear. It’s a festival of hope in the middle of winter, a time of tenderness when new babies and new projects can be gently midwifed into the world. So it feels particularly appropriate that Sealskin is being released in mid-February.

About the book:

What happens when magic collides with reality?Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous …and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence?Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.

 

My Review:

The Selkie legend was completely new to me; I’m not normally one for stories featuring the mystical or magical – it has to be a very special story to make me put my cynicism aside. However discovering here the mythical story of the Selkies – seals who shed their skin when on land and turned into human form before returning to their skins and to the sea made for such a captivating and engrossing story I could entirely believe this was possible and that is solely down to the talent of the author.

I have to admit to being rather unsettled by the story at the start. I was unable to determine the era but assumed it to be set in the past. Donald’s actions made for uncomfortable reading but as the story progressed, I, and I would assume Mairhi too, forgave him as the story is so much more than one momentary act of madness.

Sue Bristow writes beautifully and her prose is a pleasure to read. I was totally enthralled by the story of this close knit community on the Scottish coast. So many damaged and flawed characters and deep held prejudices, intertwined with kindness and compassion. Even though she doesn’t speak, Mairhi communicates so much through just a look and her actions. The villagers distrust of her was quite understandable however even without any words, her natural charm and calm demeanour work their magic.

One of the highlights of the book for me was seeing the effect that Mairhi had on Donald. When the story began, he was a naive loner; a dehabilitating skin condition making him feel self-conscious and different and hindering his work as a fisherman. The croft he shares with his mother Bridie is his sanctuary. Bullied by some and scorned by others he avoided other people as much as possible however Mairhi’s magical touch was far reaching and life changing.

I don’t want to go into intricate detail of the story because you really do need to discover it for yourself. My review can’t possibly do this book justice. I loved it for the wonderful writing and captivating storytelling. Although no exact location is given (it is actually set in the Hebrides), there is a wonderful sense of place; the descriptions of the clifftop walks, the harbour are so vivid – all of which allowed me to easily visualise the scene in my head. Community is very important here too. People may have disagreements with each other but when help is needed, grievances are put aside and they come together.

When I finished reading, I tweeted that I had found my first Top 10 Read of 2017. Some days later, I still feel the same and the story is still with me – this is definitely a book you should put on your reading lists.

 

My thanks to Karen of Orenda Books for the paperback copy to review.

 

About the author:

Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written withpsychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Sealskin is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish and Nordic legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writinghas been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

Author Links:  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook | Amazon UK  | Goodreads

 

 

 

Published by Sandstone Press

Ebook & Paperback : 16 February 2017

approx 320 pages

 

It’s a honour to be starting off the blog tour launch celebrations for The Devil in the Snow.  I only received the book last week and haven’t had time to read it yet, but the synopsis immediately appealed and, the fact that (like me) both author and story are Essex based, I simply couldn’t pass this one by.

My review will follow once I’ve had a chance to read but in the meantime I have a great guest post from Sarah on the (not so small) matter of setting.

 

The importance of place

by Sarah Armstrong

It is easy to find where some novels belong in place and time. My first novel, The Insect Rosary, was written about my gran’s farm in Northern Ireland and it couldn’t have been placed anywhere else. Set in the two periods in which I remember it best, the early 1980s and the present day, the novel starts when two sisters arrive at the farm and ends when they leave. My second novel, The Devil in the Snow, wasn’t so easy to place.

I had the central idea of the characters, their family and its lost children, but I couldn’t work out where the story happened. I tried working with places I’d spent time in, and it kept coming back to Colchester and specifically the route I used to walk to school. But I didn’t want to set it in Colchester because it felt too close to where I live now.

Place is vital for novels, and I like to use places I’ve been, but those that are distanced by time so I can look at them clearly: Woolwich, Plumstead Common, Canterbury and Putney. But for some reason this story seemed to be drawn to Shrub End with its wide, cracked roads. Instead of layers of time like The Insect Rosary, this novel was about hidden and secret places and Shrub End felt too open and modern. But, with no other location as strong in my head, I gave in and set it in Colchester.

To get to school I used to trudge across a green, and often muddy, space which sat between three secondary schools. It went from one end of Norman Way, and the 1950s estate off Shrub End Road, to the other end, and the rather more posh Lexden Road. Norman Way itself was never finished, just the two ends, and the space between them was often a place of terror. There were regular rumours that the students from the other schools were going to ‘get us’ on the way home, and tales of them throwing snowballs at each other, packed tight around rusted compasses with the points sticking out. There was also a long alley which led to Bluebottle Grove and Roman earthworks, a place of yet more whispers – the stories have stayed with me, of men lurking in the bushes.

The emotional setting was starting to make sense, but I still didn’t know where my main character lived. I looked at maps of the area, and saw Victoria Road backing onto a connecting field. This reminded me of a line I’d read on a website, years before, about a man who’d seen fairies dancing around the base of a tree on Victoria Road in the 1960s. Now I had the location where two odd people would meet, and my protagonist would live in a house nearby. I could start to write the novel, but thinking about fairies and folk tales had reminded me of another tale which fascinated me – the devil’s hoof prints.

There are a few stories about the devil leaving imprints in rocks and the landscape, both in the UK and the US. The story which I first read concerned hoof prints in the snow, seen in Devon in 1855. These prints led over houses and through towns and villages, across walls, gates and haystacks, relentlessly for miles – some reports said 100 miles. I wondered what it was like to feel that the devil was coming right to your door, and what if it really was you he was after? My new novel, The Devil in the Snow, answers this question.

 

About the book:

All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.

 

About the author:

Sarah Armstrong teaches creative writing with the Open University. Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies, and her novels are published by Sandstone Press. Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children.

http://sandstonepress.com/books/the-insect-rosary
http://sandstonepress.com/books/the-devil-in-the-snow

 

Author Links:   Twitter  |  Amazon UK  |  Goodreads 

 

Goodreads Giveaway : There is currently a Goodreads giveaway for The Devil in the Snow – open from 9 February  – 16 February 2017 (GB only).  The entry link is here

 

and, from the publication day of 16 February 2017, for a limited period, the book will be available to download from Amazon UK for £1.00 (click here for link)

 

Published by Aria (Head of Zeus)

ebook & Paperback:  1 February 2017

 

It’s a pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Secrets We Keep, the second novel by Faith Hogan. Faith has kindly provided a great post on that ‘Second Book Syndrome’.  I have read and very much enjoyed this one. My review will be posted in the next couple of days.

 

Second Book Syndrome?

by Faith Hogan

 

Apparently, it’s a ‘thing.’ Thankfully, I hadn’t heard of it when I sat down to write Secrets We Keep. I had just sent off My Husbands Wives and I knew I had to start something quickly. Not that when I started it I actually thought there was a likelihood that I’d be under any kind of huge pressure to get the second book out. Little did I think, at that point that I would be signed to a three book deal with Aria! No, rather, I know from experience how each second can stretch when you’re waiting to hear back if someone likes your book.

Secrets We Keep had been in my mind for a while. It wasn’t fully formed, it was just a spark. It was the germ of an idea that had floated about, niggling me most when I was deeply involved in other projects. One of those, that you don’t quite trust, just in case it’s an empty distraction – like eBay or Pinterest!

Just a few miles down the road from where I live, there’s a mile of sandy beach, a little tourist town that spends too many months under grey clouds, but fills with holiday making families for the summer months. Tucked into the dark basalt rock, there’s a small castellated building. It’s many years since anyone stepped inside it and now it’s been blocked up, battered by the fierce onslaught of the wild Atlantic ocean and left to crumble sadly so it seems to shrink a little each time I go there.

High above the rock, the main road meanders from Enniscrone pier to the little town itself. A smattering of houses overlook the bay, ostensibly oblivious to the slow demise below. I’m sure many people visit Enniscrone and imagine the possibilities of the old Cliff Baths. For some, it seems like an idyllic place to open a restaurant, for others a romantic holiday home. For me, the only way I could imagine bringing it to life was to give it a story.

Secrets We Keep is the story that grew from the Cliff Baths in Enniscrone.

THE CLIFF BATHS AT NIGHT

And when you see this, seriously, who wouldn’t be inspired – second book syndrome hah! Now, onto book number three!

Till next time, Faith x

 

About the Book:

Two distant relatives, drawn together in companionship are forced to confront their pasts and learn that some people are good at keeping secrets and some secrets are never meant to be kept..
A bittersweet story of love, loss and life. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan and Adele Parks.
The beautiful old Bath House in Ballytokeep has lain empty and abandoned for decades. For devoted pensioners Archie and Iris, it holds too many conflicting memories of their adolescent dalliances and tragic consequences – sometimes it’s better to leave the past where it belongs.
For highflying, top London divorce lawyer Kate Hunt, it’s a fresh start – maybe even her future. On a winter visit to see her estranged Aunt Iris she falls in love with the Bath House. Inspired, she moves to Ballytokeep leaving her past heartache 600 miles away – but can you ever escape your past or your destiny?

 

About the author:


Faith Hogan was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.
Her debut novel, ‘My Husband’s Wives,’ is a contemporary women’s fiction novel set in Dublin. It was published by Aria, (Head of Zeus) in 2016. ‘Secrets We Keep,’ is her second novel out on Feb 1st 2017.

 

Author Links:   Website  |  Twitter |  Facebook  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon.com  | Goodreads  | Instagram  |  iBooks Link  |  Google Play