Thursday, 27 September 2012

Promotional Poster Fame!!

Oh my!   I've just received an email from Orion Books and I'm really thrilled and excited.  My photo has been chosen to be on the new promotional poster for Linwood Barclay's latest novel Trust Your Eyes.

The poster will start to appear on the London Underground from 1 October and will run for around 2 weeks.  I won't see it, but I'm thrilled to be part of it.  I've examined the poster and I can spot at least two other bloggers that I know on there.

I reviewed Trust Your Eyes for Real Readers a while ago (here)  and I really really enjoyed it, I hope it's a huge success for Linwood Barclay.  I've heard that there are plans to make it into a film.  I think it would make the perfect movie - it's a really engrossing psychological thriller and if it's adapted well and has a good cast, then I think the film could be excellent.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Chin Up Britain by Jenny Eclair

The nights are getting darker earlier, the weather has turned ultra nasty, the Government are threatening yet more cuts and Jersey Royals have disappeared from the shops.  After the wonderful world of the Olympics over the summer and the flag-waving celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee it's back down to earth with a bump for Britain.

Chin Up Britain .... Restoring Common Sense to the Nation by Jenny Eclair (with a bit of help from Judith Holder) is the perfect antidote to the general miserableness that I feel at the beginning of Autumn.
Jenny Eclair always makes me laugh, whether she's being a Grumpy Old Woman, roughing it on I'm A Celebrity or trying to cook on Masterchef.

I remember reading her first novel Camberwell Beauty, well over ten years ago now, and laughing so hard and so loud.  I was delighted to come across Chin Up Britain and I would now like to adopt it as my personal bible.   I've been training to be a Grumpy Old Woman for many years now although I'm sure that most people just think I'm a bit of a sarky bitch.

Jenny Eclair calls her book 'part manifesto, part guidebook, part call to arms .... a book for people who want to see some sense restored to society.'    Yes, let's bring back common sense, I am fed up with sighing so much every time I watch the news, or go to the Co-op, or even open my post.

Chapters include; Cheap Chic,  The Chin Up Guide to Gatecrashing and Some Ideas To Make You Feel Richer - I laughed, I nodded, I snorted ...... I seriously considered actually doing some of these.

One of my very favourite tips from the book is under the Home Economics section - How to Feed A Family of Four Without Spending Any Money:

"Simply arrive at people's houses at mealtimes; they'll be far too embarrassed not to ask you to join them. Yum, yum - tuck in."

The perfect pick-you-up, I loved reading this book.  Jenny Eclair is extremely funny, and always right!!

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

A little boy was found dead in a children's playground...
Daniel Hunter has spent years defending lost causes as a solicitor in London. But his life changes when he is introduced to Sebastian, an eleven-year-old accused of murdering an innocent young boy.
As he plunges into the muddy depths of Sebastian's troubled home life, Daniel thinks back to his own childhood in foster care - and to Minnie, the woman whose love saved him, until she, too, betrayed him so badly that he cut her out of his life.
But what crime did Minnie commit that made Daniel disregard her for fifteen years? And will Daniel's identification with a child on trial for murder make him question everything he ever believed in?

The Guilty One is the debut novel from Lisa Ballantyne and was published by Piatkus on 30 August 2012.  Billed as 'The International Debut Phenomenon" and also picked for the WH Smith Richard & Judy Book Club 2012, this novel has had a massive amount of publicity, and is set to be a best-seller.

The Guilty One is two stories in one, both featuring Daniel Hunter.   Daniel is a successful London lawyer and has just taken on a highly-sensitive case.  Defending Sebastian who is accused of murdering eight year old Ben Stokes.    Sebastian is eleven years old.     Daniel himself did not have an easy childhood. His mother was an addict, his father was absent, in and out of care for years and finally adopted by the formidable Minnie when he was a teenager.  Minnie has recently died and the reader learns that Daniel had felt betrayed by her, they had not spoken for years before her death.

Lisa Ballantyne appears to have effortlessly weaved the two stories together.  The story alternates back and forward; the present-day murder case and then flash backs to Daniel's youth.  The short, sharp chapters keep the reader engaged with this fast-paced, often distressing story.  Daniel's relationship with Minnie develops and their love and respect for each other grows, yet the reader knows that all will not end well, the sense of anticipation builds and builds.  The present-day court case is also handled extremely well, Lisa Ballantyne has obviously researched the subject very well, portraying the defendant very realistically.

Lisa Ballantyne
Within the dialogue of the novel is contained some discussion about the British justice system and the question of the age of criminal responsibility here in comparison to other European countries.  Although this is a fictional account, one cannot help but compare it to some of the real cases that have been very high profile over recent years.  The question of the age of criminal responsibility could be debated for ever, with each side having very good arguments for their case.
I worked within a Youth Offending Team as a mentor for over five years and I was very impressed by just how realistic Lisa Ballantyne's novel is.  She has shied away from the emotion and concentrated on the stern reality that is the justice system but also allows the reader to gain some insight into what can, and often does happen in a child's life that puts them on the path to the Youth Court.

I've been very impressed by this novel, it's fast-paced and gripping and kept me guessing up until the end.  It's realistic and often intense, the characters are excellently drawn.  I especially enjoyed the ending, and the fact that it reflects real life in that many readers will consider it flawed and unfinished - but that's what life is!

Lisa Ballantyne has a website here and also has a Facebook page here

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The World Literary Cafe 2 Day Festival

The World Literary Cafe is holding a two day festival to celebrate 10 award winning books.

Covering both Literary Fiction and Thriller genre, these books have all been named FINALISTS in the Kindle Book Review's Best Indie Books of 2012 contest, beating off stiff competition to claim that accolade.

One of the finalist is Pegasus Falling by William E Thomas, which I reviewed here on my blog back in June this year.

If you nip over to the World Literary Cafe, you can find out more about the books, buy copies from Amazon and enter the competition to win Amazon gift certificates (don't worry that the prizes are shown in dollars, if the winner is from the UK they will receive the equivalent amount in vouchers, redeemable at

The event runs for two days only Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th September.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

Liza Perrat is Australian, and has been living in France for the past twenty years.   Spirit of Lost Angels, published by Triskele Books is the first in a historical series, set against a backdrop of rural France.

Historical fiction has never been my favourite genre. However, when I do choose to read a historical story, I prefer to read about 'ordinary' people, I'm not a fan of stories about royalty and the nobility.

Spirit of Lost Angels concentrates solely on everyday working people in 18th century rural France.  The heroine of the tale; Victoire Charpentier despises the nobility, so she and I have something in common from the start!

Victoire's life begins with tragedy and bad luck and heartache follow her as she matures.  Her childhood home is destroyed by fire, taking the lives of her younger siblings, her travelling Father is trampled to death by a noble-man's coach and horses and her grieving mother is executed for witchcraft.  

Left orphaned and penniless, Victoire goes to Paris to work in a grand household.   Whilst there, she is taken advantage of and her hatred of the nobility is intensified.  

Returning to her childhood village would seem like the answer to Victoire's troubles, but again tragedy follows her and she sinks further and further into the depths of depression and madness.

As the river Vionne flows through the French countryside, it flows through this story too - playing an integral part of Victoire's life.   From exciting playground, to the execution of her Mother, to final  redemption, the river is there in the forefront of the story.

Victoire remains a determined and strong character throughout the story, despite hitting the lowest level possible at time.

Liza Perrat brings to life the sights and sounds of 18th century France.  Her extensive research shines through in her writing, from the superstitions of the villagers to the lives of the more sophisticated Parisians.

There were times when I struggled a little with some of the language, but the novel is so expertly crafted with some excellent dialogue that explains the politics of this era in French history that this was easily overcome.  For someone who had very little previous knowledge of these times, I found it easy to follow and to understand, this is down to the wonderfully accessible style of writing - informative, but not patronising.

There is no doubt that Liza Perrat is an incredibly skilled author and has produced a heroine who is realistic, unpredictable, at times flawed but brilliantly drawn.   Historical fiction fans will enjoy this story, as will those, like me, who usually shy away from this genre.

Liza Perrat has a website and blog here.  She is also on Twitter, and has a Facebook page.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the best-selling author of nine novels, her first book Ralph's Party was published in 1999.  Her latest novel, Before I Met You was published in July this year by Century, part of the Random House Group.

Before I Met You is quite different to Lisa Jewell's previous novels.  It is beautifully presented, I love the photograph on the cover which gives the book a more grown-up feel to it.

The story revolves around two women; Betty and Arlette.

Betty's story takes place in 1990s Soho, London and her step-grandmother Arlette's part takes the reader back to the bohemian jazz-scene of the 1920s.

Betty is 22 and has just arrived in Soho, she has spent the last few years caring for the elderly Arlette, in a crumbling house on Guernsey.

Arlette's will held some surprises for Betty and her family, naming a mystery benefactor Clara Pickles.   Betty is determined to trace Clara and to find out what links her to Arlette.    The story goes back and forth from the 90s to the 20s.   Betty soon discovers that Arlette spent time in Soho too, she was part of the new, exciting underground jazz scene, mixing with black musicians and spending time with the 'beautiful' people.

Lisa Jewell has captured the feeling of 1990s London perfectly, the brit-pop scene, the fashion, the music, the clubs and although 70 years apart, Betty and Arlette's experiences in Soho are very similar.  Both of them are fairly innocent girls from Guernsey, both of them find themselves swept up by the musicians of the day and both of them find themselves falling in love.
Lisa Jewell

This really is a delightful read, the two stories blend perfectly together.  Initially I found Arlette's story a little slow moving and preferred the up-beat and quirky modern-day Betty, but as Arlette's story developed I found myself totally immersed in her world too.  
The supporting characters are extremely well developed, with their own back stories that add so much to Betty and Arlette's life and experiences.

I was fascinated by the apparent freedom that Arlette enjoyed in the 1920s, at times it read more like London in the swinging 60s - with smoky nightclubs and daring fashions.  It is clear that Lisa Jewell has done a lot of research into this era.

Before I Met You is beautifully written, it's very emotional, sometimes quite heart-breaking.  It is so well detailed, the characters are charming, realistic and loveable.   I started off by quite liking the novel, I ended up loving it.

Lisa Jewell has a Facebook page here, and is also on Twitter here.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Marie Cure and her Daughters by Shelley Emling

I try to read a couple of non-fiction books every month, I enjoy biographies and travel books.  I was delighted to receive a copy of Marie Curie and her Daughters by Shelley Emling through my letter-box a few weeks ago. The book will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on 20 September 2012.

Science has never really been my 'thing'.  At school I really struggled with physics and chemistry and was much happier in English Language or History classes.  My mind is not structured enough to understand how science works, I'm a bit of a day-dreamer and prefer using my imagination rather than learning facts, figures and formula.  Of course I knew who Marie Curie was, her great achievements, her contribution to science, to medical advances and impact on the world, but other than that, I really had very little idea about her life.

Shelley Emling has based this book on Marie Curie's relationship with her two daughers; Irene and Eve.  The book begins after the early death of Pierre Curie, when Marie is left to carry on the work that they started as a couple and to bring up her two small daughters alone.   Emling has concentrated her book on the correspondence between Marie and her daughters.   She was not an overly-protective mother, nor did she hesitate to spend time away from her daughters, yet this did not weaken their relationship.  Marie was a caring and loving mother, who encouraged her daughters to become individuals, to achieve what the wanted to and to become famous and influential women in their own rights.

Marie Curie found an advocate in Missy Meloney, an American journalist who campaigned in the USA on behalf on Marie.   Missy was able to rally support from wealthy and important US women, who in turn raised money so that Marie could continue with her important and ground-breaking research.  It says a lot about Marie Curie and her husband that although they discovered radium and it's remarkable properties, they made the decision not to profit from it.  It was their belief that their discovery should be used for the greater masses and for the advancement of medical treatment.  It was because of these decisions that Marie had to depend on donations to carry out her work, and that she had to carry out tours of the States to make herself known.

Shelley Emling has written a book that is very readable, concentrating more on Marie Curie's private life and her relationship with her family than on the scientific details that could have bogged down the story for me.
Marie Curie is portrayed as a woman of integrity, strong beliefs and views, yet she is not painted as a saint-like figure in any way.  She had her foibles that only add to her humanity.

I was very impressed by Emling's writing style - she has told the story of three extraordinary women who were way ahead of their time in an interesting and very readable manner.

My thanks go to Claire from Palgrave for sending a copy for review.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas

Three very different girls sign up as student nurses in 1936, while England is still mourning the death of George V. Dora is a tough East Ender, driven by ambition, but also desperate to escape her squalid, overcrowded home and her abusive stepfather. Helen is the quiet one, a mystery to her fellow nurses, avoiding fun, gossip and the limelight. In fact she is in the formidable shadow of her overbearing mother, who dominates every aspect of her life. Can a nursing career free Helen at last? The third of our heroines is naughty, rebellious Millie an aristocrat on the run from her conventional upper class life. She is doomed to clash over and over again with terrifying Sister Hyde and to get into scrape after scrape especially where men are concerned.
This utterly delightful novel brings a London pre-war hospital vividly to life.

Donna Douglas is a very successful author of contemporary romance novels, written under the name of Donna Hay.   The Nightingale Girls is her first historical novel,  the first of a planned trilogy and was published by Arrow Books at Random House on 16 August.

The Nightingale Girls of the title are the students of the fictional Florence Nightingale Teaching Hospital, situated in London's East End, the story starts in the 1930s.  

The story centres around three of the students; Dora, Helen and Millie.  Three very different girls, with different backgrounds, different experiences but brought together by their shared mission - to become nurses.

Dora is an East End girl from a poor, working-class district. She is not the usual Nightingale student and is often looked down on by some of the other students.   She is from tough stock and has battled hard to get away from home, and more importantly, to get away from her step-father.

Helen is quiet and studious, and known as a tell-tale.  The other girls don't trust her one bit - her formidable Mother is a Trustee of the Hospital and governs both the staff and her own daughter with a rod of iron.

Millie is an aristocrat, the much-loved daughter of her doting father.  Carefree and often flippant, there are not many people who believe that she will ever qualify as a nurse.

Donna Douglas
Thrown together during training, these three girls form an unlikely alliance, slowly opening up to each as they battle through 14 hour days, stripping beds and washing out bedpans.  On their feet all day, in heavy uniforms and uncomfortable shoes - at the beck and call of the Sister of the ward, and treated as the lowest of the low.

Donna Douglas has created three captivating characters, full of warmth and fun, pain and sadness and honesty.  Her meticulous research into the lives of student nurses in the 1930s shines through into this story, making it a compelling read.  

As a small girl, I never dreamed of becoming a nurse, and as an adult I have spent a fair amount of time as a patient and have the greatest admiration for the nursing profession.  Times can be hard nowadays, but 80 years ago their lives seemed almost unbearable.  No talking to men, no late nights, never speak unless you are spoken to...... and the list goes on.

Despite the hardship and the drudgery, this novel captures the youthful fun side of the students, it is packed with stories from the ward, mishaps and cover ups, impossible patients, arrogant doctors and self-important management.

Each of the students also have their own story, and these are what really made me love this novel. The three girls and their families, and their past are woven into the tales of the hospital wonderfully.

The Nightingale Girls is a joy to read, a real treasure.  I am looking forward to hearing more about Dora, Helen and Millie in the second book of the series.

Donna Douglas has a website and blog here, she is also on Twitter, and Facebook.