It’s August and the first day of Blogival; a month of bloggers and authors combining to offer reviews, guest posts and more. I am very happy to be part of this fantastic online event.
Today, I welcome Christoph Martin, author of The Expansion to Novel Kicks.
In politics and big business, truth is a matter of opinion.
Straddling the storyworlds of Panama, Washington and London, The Expansion follows British-born geomatic engineer Max Burns, whose revolutionary water-saving system wins him the esteemed position of head engineer for one of the 21st century’s most politically contested megaprojects: the expansion of the Panama Canal.
For Max it is a dream come true: not only is he able to work closely with construction giant and old high-school friend Godfredo Roco in one of the most beautiful tropical environments, but it’s the kind of job Max has been working toward his entire career.
Yet in the arena of global trade and diplomacy, stakes are high, and when a senior official of the Panama Canal Administration is found dead, Max finds himself in the frame for sabotage and murder, and at the centre of a web of political intrigue and betrayal that reaches far beyond the idyllic shores of Central America. The only person Max can trust is his new-found love, Karis Deen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Except Karis herself holds a secret that could not only destroy Max, but could change the entire balance of world power.
Today, thanks to Clink Street Publishing and Christoph, I have an extract from The Expansion to share with you. Enjoy!
N.B: This is the scene that changes Max Burns life forever! Losing his parents and with them also the family fortune and a very comfortable and prosperous future.
They had reached a flying altitude of three thousand feet.
His fingers found what they were searching for: the smooth, plastic sheath that guarded the engine’s idle shut-off valve.
It would only take a moment.
Numb, he turned to his wife. She had covered her lips with her hand, and he heard a sob. In the darkness, the diamonds at her throat had lost their fire.
“It’s the best way. I can’t let them put you in jail,” he said. “Max will be able to make a clean start. One day, I hope he’ll forgive me—”by
A lovely big hello to Rosie Millard who is here with the blog tour for her new book, The Brazilian (released by Legend Press on 14th June.)
Following a sensational scandal at one of London’s most desired postcodes, Jane and Patrick decide to escape the gossip with a family holiday to Ibiza, their eight-year-old son George in tow.
Also on the island that week is a TV reality show involving an eccentric artist, a horny It Girl, a Brazilian footballer and a famous magician.
As hapless celebrities are picked off one by one, Jane is desperate to be on the programme, leaving childcare in the not so capable hands of a teenager.
One lesbian escapade and an explosive row over hair removal later, the contestants of Ibiza or Bust leave the island with more than sand in places they never knew existed…
The Brazilian is the follow-up to Rosie’s previous novel, The Square.
Jane and Patrick want to escape scandal which has made them a subject of gossip in the Square – an exclusive little bunch of houses. They decide to take their son, George to Ibiza for a family holiday but with teenager (and fellow Square resident,) Belle in tow. Patrick just wants a quiet, relaxing holiday for him and for Jane.
At the same time and unbeknown to Jane, Phillip, the Square’s artist has decided to go on a reality TV show called Ibiza or Bust leaving his wife Gilda at home.
When he gets to the house, he causes a stir. Not to mention the fact that TV personality Alan is there too. And they are not the best of friends.
Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.
But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.
Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?
Rachel spent her childhood in Kenya and has returned for the first time in six years having been educated at a boarding school in the UK.
When she arrives there is much that has changed. Her father has a new partner, Sara and even Michael, someone she has known for years is looking at her slightly differently.
This book is set in one of the most turbulent times in African history. Mau Mau violence against Kenyans and British people and the retaliation for this is getting worse. Rachel longs for the happier memories of her childhood.by
I wanted to share six of the new book releases I’m excited about for April.
It’s April. Already four months into the year. It’s also great to finally see some sun, even if it’s only a glimpse. We need to make the most of it whilst we can.
Another month means another set of new book releases and this month has a cracker of a list of new novels.
First up is Night School by Lee Child (released by Bantam Press on 6th April.)
This is the twenty-first outing for Jack Reacher and this title gets its paperback release this month. This novel sees Jack Reacher go back to his army days but now he is not in uniform.
With Sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders.
Another series to see a new release is The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell (due to be released by Harper on 20th April.)
This is the tenth book in the Last Kingdom series and is also being released in paperback.
Britain is in a state of unease. Northumbria’s Viking ruler and Mercia’s Saxon Queen have agreed to a truce.
England’s greatest warrior, Uhtred has at last got a chance to take back the home his Uncle stole from him many years ago and is where his scheming cousin still lives.
However, enemies distract him from his dream and new ones enter the fight for England’s kingdoms. Uhtred is determined to reclaim his birth right but he will need all the knowledge he has gained to try.by
Hello and a big welcome to Trisha Ashley. Her new book, The Little Teashop of Lost and Found was released as an eBook on 9th March by Transworld Digital (with the paperback following in June and published by Black Swan.)
Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.
So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.
Luckily she soon makes friends, including a Grecian god-like neighbour, who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?
I’ve been a devoted follower of Trisha for a number of years now and was honoured to be selected to receive an ARC of her forthcoming novel and so settled down to enjoy a leisurely plod through her offering…so much for good intentions.
Before long (around about page um…3) I found myself immersed in the interwoven worlds that Trisha is so expert at fabricating and had to force myself to slow down, breathe in fact, or else I was sure to finish the book in one fell-swoop. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, I’ve read many a book in one long session before, although I wanted and was determined to savour this one. I’ve never hated myself so much! This turned out to be the right decision though, as by only allowing myself to read a single chapter a day, I made certain to take in each word that was written. Not one was wasted, by the way.by
2017 is promising to be a fantastic year for new book releases, if my TBR pile is anything to go by anyway.
As I have not done a haul in a while, I wanted to blog about some of the fantastic books that my letterbox has received to review. I also haven’t been able to resist buying a load of books too (much to the boy’s complaints.)
The first book in this haul is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (released by Walker Books, May 2015.) I kept seeing the trailer for the film adaptation of this book at the end of last year and it is this that brought the novel to my attention. The imagery in the trailer looked absolutely stunning and the plot looked really intriguing. I knew it was a book I had to go and buy and one I very much look forward to reading. I want to read this before I see the movie. This looks like it would be a story that resonates with a lot of people.
Connor has the same dream every night; the one he’s been having ever since his mother fell ill and stopped having treatments that didn’t seem to be working. This one particular night is different though. When Connor wakes, there is a visitor at his window. Ancient and elemental, it’s a dangerous force of nature and it is wanting the truth from Connor.
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella was released by Bantam Press on 9th February. Becky Bloomwood is one of my favourite fictional heroines. However, I have a big soft spot for books outside of the Shopaholic series too; Can You Keep A Secret being one of my favourite books. This book looks as fantastic as you’d expect Sophie’s novels to be. The cover is incredibly cute and the subject matter does look very topical especially with Social Media seemingly taking over everywhere. This is currently sat on my pile of books to read (having brought it a couple of weeks ago,) and I am itching to read it.
Katie is living the perfect life. She has a glamorous job, a flat in London and a cool instagram feed. In reality, she rents a tiny room with no space, has to commute to a low paid admin job and what she shares on Instagram isn’t even hers. Then, to add insult to injury, she looses her job. Katie ends up moving back to Somerset to help her Dad with his glamping business. Her ex boss books in for a holiday and Katie sees her chance. Should she get revenge or try and get her job back? Also, is her boss living as perfect a life as she portrays?by
A big welcome today to Dinah Jefferies. Her new novel, Before The Rains was released by Viking in February (2017.)
1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .
Hello Dinah, thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel, Before The Rains sounds great. Can you tell me about it and where the idea originated?
I read about and then visited a small palace where, in the past, the royal family had mortgaged the family jewels to pay for an irrigation project. That gave me the idea for the title and one of the themes of the book. I fell in love with Rajasthan and wanted the pages of Before The Rains to shimmer with spice and silk so that the beauty of India would shine through. It’s about an independent female character with an interesting job as a photo-journalist. But above all it’s a story of forbidden love, with an edge to it, and plenty of opposition from either side. I wanted the story to be life-enhancing, despite the mystery of what’s going in the dark recesses of the palace. And so I tried to bring to life the colour and immense luxury of a Rajasthan palace and contrast that with the raw emptiness of the desert that surrounds it. It’s a romantic story that offers something more.
What elements do you need in place prior to writing a novel? Do you need a comprehensive plan, do you edit as you go etc?
I usually prepare a fifteen-page synopsis and stick to it as much as I can as I write. Having said that, there will inevitably be changes, edits and shifts as I go along. Sometimes a new idea will come to me, sometimes I’ll need to take the story in a different direction, sometimes something doesn’t work, so I try to remain flexible throughout. I do loads of revisions and love the editing process once the first draft is done.
What writing rituals do you have?
I’m not really a ritual kind of a person, but I try to write in the mornings while my mind is still fresh. A cup of coffee is a must, as is a warm room. I have a lovely new garden room where I write now and that has made all the difference. I was in a cramped back bedroom before. I now have my den and I love it.
What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite word at the moment is ‘cinnamon’ because it figures widely in the book I am currently writing. I also like the sound of the word and the smell of cinnamon, especially on a cake or pudding. Mmmm! Cinnamon buns and coffee. Now there’s a thought.
Best and hardest thing about being a writer?
The best thing is when you hold a finished book in your hand for the first time. I absolutely love that moment. It has usually taken a long process to reach that point and some of the hardest things happen on the way. The very worst thing is when a manuscript isn’t working as it should but you can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then it feels like you’re grappling with a wild beast intent on devouring you. That’s when your editor is fantastically useful.
Out of all your books, do you have a favourite passage/section?
I love the section on page 20 of The Tea Planter’s Wife when Gwen sees the tea plantation for the first time and describes the tea bushes as a tapestry of green velvet, where women tea pickers looked like tiny embroidered birds.by
Massive happy hellos to Caroline Lea and her stunning debut novel, When The Sky Fell Apart which has just been released by Text Publishing.
Jersey, June 1940: it starts with the burning man on the beach just after the bombs land, obliterating the last shred of hope that Hitler will avert his attention from the Channel Islands. Within weeks, 12,000 German troops land on the Jersey beaches, heralding a new era of occupation.
For 10-year-old Claudine, it means a re-education under German rule, and as she befriends one of the soldiers, she inadvertently opens the gateway to a more sinister influence in her home with devastating consequences.
For Maurice, a local fisherman, it means protecting his wife at all costs. He has heard the whispers from France of what the occupiers do to invalids like Marthe and he is determined to keep them away from her – even if it means endangering his own life.
Edith, the island’s unofficial homeopath, is a Jerriais through to her bones. She sees her duty as caring for those who need her in their darkest time, but even she can’t save everyone, no matter how hard she tries.
And as for English doctor Tim Carter – on the arrival of the brutal Commandant, he becomes the subject of a terrifying regime that causes the Jersey locals to brand him a traitor, unaware of the torment he suffers in an effort to save them.
It’s over to Caroline where she is chatting about her writing process and the magic of editing. I’ve also reviewed the book too.
I’ve always written, but it took having children to compel me to finish my first novel. Perhaps it was the escapism writing offered, or the fact that motherhood has shown me both that I am a huge control freak, and that parenting is hard (why didn’t someone warn me that my kids would have opinions, or that they might prefer fistfuls of sugar to steamed broccoli?). The result was WHEN THE SKY FELL APART, which was written in six months during my children’s nap-times. Children provided me with a useful time constraint—I always respond well to a deadline—and writing provided me with characters I could control, so that it mattered less when my children drew on their faces with sharpie marker pens.
There were many surprises along the road to publication, not least of which was the amount of criticism writers must be willing to accept. The key is to acknowledge it, struggle back up, dust yourself off and continue to write, ignoring the monkey on your shoulder, babbling that you’re a failure. Writers are masters of self-sabotage. It’s easy to sit in front of a blank screen, paralysed by the idea that, whatever you write, it won’t be good enough. At the other end of the spectrum is the eviscerating experience of writing something ‘good’, only to feel utterly shattered by critical feedback from an agent or editor. All this emotional battery can leave hopeful writers feeling like the end product might not justify the years of tears and crushed egos, but I think that the problem is often that we expect to be ‘good’ too soon: we don’t allow ourselves to write badly.
Bear with me. I’m not suggesting that you send out your first draft of poorly shaped plot, with under-developed characters (I tried this with the first draft of my second novel: the response from my wonderful and longsuffering agent was polite but brutal). But I am saying that good work often starts with ‘bad’ writing, and with forgiving yourself for writing badly, and then being ready to endlessly reshape, rework, edit and redraft. This is where the magic happens. Imagine that you’re a sculptor. The first, roughly hewn block of wood will look be underwhelming. You’ll spend hundreds of hours sawing, chiseling, sanding and varnishing it before you have anything worthy of display. On the other hand, there may be things that remain in your novel through all twenty redrafts: WHEN THE SKY FELL APART starts with a burning man on a beach, and the first sentence, which was the impetus for the whole novel, has never changed: When he was on fire, the man smelt bitter.by
A big welcome today to Beth Underdown and the blog tour for her novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister which is due to be released by Viking tomorrow (2nd March 2017.)
‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’
1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.
To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Based on the true story of the man known as the Witchfinder General, this exquisitely rendered novel transports you to a time and place almost unimaginable, where survival might mean betraying those closest to you, and danger lurks outside every door.
Alice has just lost her husband. With little option available to her and nowhere else to go, she has to return to the home of her brother, Matthew Hopkins, ‘the Witchfinder General.’
Many rumours are circulating about Matthew’s conduct. Alice doesn’t want to believe her brother is capable of these things. The longer she is around her brother, the harder it is to avoid the feeling that the rumours are true.
It was easy to sympathise with Alice. She is governed by her circumstances and isn’t really respected by the men around her. Most of all, her brother.by
Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.
Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn – and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking. And then, all of sudden, her world is turned upside down.
Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.
Knowing this story is based on a real-life person (Christie Chapman – look her up and also read her review on Amazon.co.uk) added a slice of intrigue to my reading. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to know any of Christie’s actual story, but if it was as heart-rending and inspiring as PH&SK portrays, then all hats should be doffed to the lady and her son.
Our main characters are Christie and her son Finn and it’s through Christie’s eyes that we see her struggle to support her son, whilst bringing him up as a single parent, not made any easier by the constant worry caused by Finn’s mysterious headaches, which never go away and keep him off school. Her parents are a wonderful source of support and when Christie finds herself jetting off to the USA for a crafting course by an up and coming US-based company, this is thanks to her mother.by
A lovely big massive welcome to S.D Robertson and the blog tour for his new novel, If Ever I Fall which was released by Avon on 9th February 2017.
Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?
Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.
Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?
In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?
Stuart and Avon have kindly given me an extract from the novel to share with you today. I have also reviewed the book below. Enjoy.
Morning, Jack. You’re up bright and early.’
Miles is unloading a large bag of beans into the built-in coffee machine above the oven. I smile at him, say good morning and accept his offer of breakfast. But behind the facade I’m cracking up. How did I get here? I’ve no memory of waking, getting dressed and coming downstairs. And what happened yesterday? Or the day before? My memory’s all messed up: confused by shadows of half-remembered dreams.
The last thing I remember for sure is being in the car with Miles in the village and that weird incident in the hardware shop. Was it real or a dream?
I should tell Miles what’s going on. He is a doctor after all. But I’m not sure I trust him. I’m not convinced he’s ever taken me to the hospital. He says I’ve been there, but I’ve no memory of it.
There’s something off about all of this. What if he’s drugging me? Mind-altering substances could explain a lot. Maybe even what I saw – or thought I saw – in the shop. How has this not occurred to me before?
I wait until he’s finished with the coffee machine and then, as he looks at me, hold my hand to my stomach and wince.
‘Problem?’ he asks.
‘Stomach cramps. Think I’d better get to the toilet.’
‘Oh dear. Hope it’s not the crab we had last night.’
Crab? I’ve no memory of that. Shutting the kitchen door behind me, I head to the foot of the stairs. I wait there for a moment, to make sure he’s not coming after me. Then I slip out of the front door.
It’s cold outside this morning, another biting wind blowing in off the sea. Again, I don’t have my jacket with me, but there’s no time to find it now. I have to get out of here. As far away as possible. And it has to be now.by
Will must run from the gang that controls the estate where he lives or die. He has witnessed the murder of his Aunty and so he is running for his life. He needs to find somewhere to hide
In doing this, he ends up in the area outside the estate he has known all of his life. It’s all very different. People don’t walk around looking over their shoulder and businesses thrive.
He finds shelter in what he calls a ‘glass house.’
Soon after that, he meets Padma and falls in love. He feels he could actually make his life better. Then his past catches up with him.
This book is based around/ is an updated version of Beauty and The Beast. When I started reading, I did wonder how this was going to be achieved. The story is so well-known. It’s all be integrated really well.
The description of the green house and the plants are so vivid. I felt as though I was there. The writing is fast paced and page turning.
I read this in pretty much one sitting (it’s a hundred pages long) but it drew me in. I even like how Amanda included the roses.
Will has been told he is one thing all of his life. He assumes that all he has ever known is all he will ever be. Escaping shows him a different path. You’ve just got to want it. Also, first impressions and appearances are not always to be trusted.
This is a great addition to the Quick Reads library. I enjoyed it very much.
Finding the time to write can sometimes be hard to do. Work, school runs, bedtime routines… there are many things in life that can get in the way.
The other battle is once you’ve sat down to write, your inspiration disappears and that blank space on the page can be incredibly daunting. No matter how long you sit there, the words will not come.
This is why I like writing prompts. Your brain is like a car engine. It works better when it has warmed up. Today I wanted to share two books that I’ve found so helpful.
Form letters by Laura Olin is a series of letters where you fill in the blanks. In the form of a workbook, it has a series of pages that include a letter to an internet friend who you’d like to know better, a note of encouragement to yourself, a letter to your sibling, your valentine and the ex whose instagram you’re stalking.
‘Fill in the blank notes to say anything to anyone.’
If you need something to get the creativity going, this book could be perfect. You never know what these letters will spark.by
A big welcome today to John Marrs and the blog tour for his novel, The One which was published as an eBook in January with the paperback following in May 2017.
How far would you go to find THE ONE?
One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.
A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…
Chris’s verdict on The One:
Imagine a world where all it takes to find your prefect partner is a simple DNA test. Should you follow the science and seek out that person, or follow convention and see where your heart leads you?
The book follows the stories of several individuals who are drawn together because they have received a notice from the DNA match website identifying their match. The characters are a strange group – Intellectuals, officials and even a serial killer.
I found that the book asks various questions; if you find your perfect match will you love them? If you fall in love with someone other than your match then will it, or can it, work out? And if you have met your perfect match will they love you despite your flaws?
The stories all occur simultaneously, following linear time though out the book, with individual chapters for each character which works wonderfully so as to draw you though the book as you always want to know what is going to happen to X or Y next.by
A huge lovely welcome today to Helen Fields and the blog tour for her new novel, Perfect Remains (a DI Callanach thriller,) which was released by Avon on 26th January 2017.
On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.
In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…
Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.
It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.
Helen and Avon have kindly shared an extract from Perfect Remains. Enjoy!
Jayne Magee was about as unlikely a target as anyone could imagine. There was no suggestion that Elaine Buxton was a regular at any church at all, so religion wasn’t the link. The pathologist hadn’t been able to estimate Elaine’s time of death, meaning they had no established pattern to follow, only the knowledge that she’d been missing sixteen days before her body was found. This time, the abductor might keep Jayne alive for weeks or she could be dead already. The killer had become a male in Callanach’s mind. There was no evidence, nothing solid, only years of past cases and what was screamingly obvious. Maybe it was more than one person, he considered, but Ava was right about looking at personality first. He couldn’t see such an obsessive character working well as a team player.
Callanach met with Jayne Magee’s assistant, Ann Burt, that afternoon. She dropped a dripping umbrella into Callanach’s bin then removed and folded her headscarf before sitting down.
Callanach instinctively tidied his desk as she settled in. Stick thin, shrill and at the far end of her sixties, he guessed, Ann Burt told it like it was. She reminded him of his grandmother, distant though those memories were.
‘So I’m talking to the detective inspector, am I?’ she began. ‘You’re the third person I’ve repeated myself to today. Would you like to tell me what’s going on?’by