Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

Another satisfying read by my author friend Linda Finlay with a local setting in Torquay.
Linda Finlay’s extensive research of life in the periods of history she writes about ensure a compelling novel that takes you back in time, this time to 1901 the time of Ragged Schools and the rise of the suffragette movement. ‘Orphans and Angels’ is the author’s second book about the Red Cliffs Ragged School. In it we meet the owner Sarah Sullivan who is still struggling to keep the children safe and the school open, helped in her endeavours by dishy school master Harry Higgins. The inimitable Mrs Daws is still in the kitchen making sure that whatever else befalls them the children have a good meal inside them, and the school has a new teacher in the form of the lyrical Sheena O’Reilly whose delightful presence and skills at story telling sets the scene for conflict and catastrophe.

As in all of Linda Finlay’s writing the characters come to life on the page. I especially enjoyed reading how the children are developing, from new arrival the grieving and surly Soloman to independent Edith, as well as sharing in Sarah’s struggles to stick to her feminist beliefs and retain her friends and overcome her lack of money.

‘Orphans and Angels’ is a wonderfully satisfying read that will keep you engaged until the last page.

Advertisements

Today is my stop on the ‘Dangerous to Know’ Blog Tour.

Dangerous to Know Blog Tour Banner

First a bit about the novel:
‘Dangerous to Know’ by Australian author Anne Buist features troubled forensic psychiatrist Natalie King, who is back from a stay on the psych ward. Seeking a quieter life, she retreats to the countryside on a secondment, but Natalie and trouble have a strange mutual fascination, and she finds herself drawn deep into a mystery that puts her in danger.

My Review:
Like some other reviewers I hadn’t realised this was the second book in a series about forensic psychiatrist Natalie King. And while not having read the first book did not spoil my enjoyment of the second, I did find ‘Dangerous to Know’ a bit hard to follow. Something which I might have avoided if I had read the first novel in the series. There are a lot of characters in this book, some of which I now know were in the first book ‘Medusa’s Curse’ and also a lot of action to take in.

Anne Buist[3448]

Anne Buist


The story benefits enormously from Anne Buist’s own experience of working in the field of psychiatry. It meant that the leading characters that had mental health problems, of which there were a number, were convincing and their characterisation was deepened as a result. Although sometimes I found Natalie’s analysis of their condition distracted from the narrative. But for those seeking to know more about being bipolar, postpartum depression and personality disorder this is an additional fascinating context.
I liked Natalie King a lot. She’s a rebel with bipolar who recently had treatment herself for severe depression and I think there is more about the circumstance that brought this about in book one. She is sassy, intelligent and independent. Anne Buist does an excellent job of placing the reader in Natalie’s head. I could connect to her emotionally in a way I didn’t with most of the other characters. I didn’t warm to Frank the main antagonist and found his alternate first person narration irritating, but perhaps I was supposed to. At first I was convinced he was the one who was dangerous to know but as I read on I kept changing my mind about who it really was, and the reveal at the end came as a surprise.
I did find the first half of the book hard to follow but it was worth the effort as the pace picked up and the plot moved in diverse directions ‘Dangerous to Know’ is an intellectually satisfying book and well worth reading if only to see if you can work out who has done what and why.
Many thanks to Lucy at Legend Press for giving me the opportunity to review this novel.

a22562835865569e28c8b3e3aa45ed39_w700
‘Dare to Remember’ is not shocking in the way that ‘The Girl on the Train’ or ‘The Book of You’ is shocking. It offers shivers of anticipation rather than moments of full blown terror. In fact the details of the attack that protagonist Lisa is trying so hard to remember doesn’t really emerge until well into the book. So, this book may not be shocking and it’s not a thriller in the usual sense but it is certainly an intriguing page turner.

Lisa is a likeable character who is easy for the reader to empathise with as we share her regular visits to her psychologist on her journey towards recovery. The overwhelming fear of living, which descends after her violent trauma, comes vividly alive on the page and graphically illustrates how such an experience can ruin your life. Living in the confines of a self-imposed isolation, Lisa doesn’t share her life with many other people, even her loving mother is kept at arm’s length. But her relationship with her neighbour John and fellow dog walker Jessica are beautifully described as Lisa finds that overcoming her own fears to support other people massively helps her conquer her own demons.

The descriptions of Lisa’s therapy and search for self help solutions feel authentic. If you want to know more about survivor guilt and post traumatic stress disorder, then as well as being a satisfying read this book will take you through the experience and compel you to read on to find out how successful Lisa is in her journey .
Legend Press sent me an advance copy of ‘Dare to Remember’ in return for an honest review.

513n3hd4btlMonday’s Child by Linda Finlay (ref blog review – 23/11/16)
My first pick is a historical saga. The first of the ‘Ragged School’ series, ‘Monday’s Child is set in Torquay on the Torbay coast an area I often visit. Now, thanks to Linda Finlay’s descriptions and lively characters I can image what life would have been like for those children at the Red Cliffs Ragged School and their sassy teacher Sarah. Number two of the series is out in May 2017.

Legend 100

Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney – (ref blog review – 25/6/16)
From a story about children to one of old age. I was sent this book to review by publisher Legend Press and was so glad they had as otherwise I might not have come across it. Short-listed for Amazon’s Rising Star Award of 2016, this lyrical, poignant and funny story about guest house landlady Maeve coming to terms with getting older and opportunities lost takes you back the 1950’s through Maeve’s memories of when she was young. With beautiful descriptions of an era that failed to understand disability or being different, this lovely book makes you realise life in the twenty first century isn’t as bad as we sometimes think.

51bxvOQ-oXL._UY250_
Off the Rails by Karen Taylor – (ref blog review – 3/2/16)
I really enjoyed this edgy young adult thriller from my publisher Endeavour Press. With beautifully drawn characters surviving in a London where affluent ‘suits’ collide with and exploit disaffected homeless young people in the subterranean world of London’s disused underground passages.

BTPrevised2-1

Before the Poison – Peter Robinson (ref blog review – 21/4/16)
I’m grateful to Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group for suggesting we devote one of our meetings last year to the crime novels of Peter Robinson. Before that I’d only watched DCI Banks on the television. I particularly liked this stand alone mystery novel about a retired musician who becomes obsessed with proving the previous owner of his house was innocent of the crime she was hanged for. The rambling old home on the North Yorkshire Moors becomes a character in its own right.

OUTCAST%20DEAD%20HARDBACK%20COVER%20VISUAL

The Outcast Dead by Ellie Griffiths – (ref blog review – 28/1/16)
This was the Sidmouth Crime Fiction Book Group’s first book of the year and a welcome return to Dr Ruth Galloway’s adventures. We love her every day struggle with single parenting, controlling her weight, trying not to be jealous of her glamorous friends and her passion for Radio 4’s Archers. Number eight in the series is out on Kindle on the 23rd of February and if you can’t wait there is a lovely free short story ‘Ruth’s First Christmas Tree’ to get you in the mood.

513n3hd4btl

linda-finlay

 

Monday’s Child is the first of Linda Finlay’s new Ragged School series. This time the story takes place in a turn of the century Torquay already attracting its share of wealthy tourists.

 

All the ingredients of Linda Finlay’s deft storytelling are there: an atmospheric sense of history, a setting that jumps off the page and fully formed characters that develop during the story to keep you turning the page to find out how they fare through all that life throws their way. The Red Cliffs Ragged School comes to life on the page as new owner Sarah and school master Harry strive to keep it open and the children in their care safe.

With plenty of references to social change, especially with regard to womens’ role in society, the girls in the Ragged School are treated as well as the boys and given prospects, whilst adult characters support the sufferage movement. I loved the gentle sense of humour pervading the narrative either through the minor characters like Mrs Snooper and Miss Middle or the amusing dialogue between the Ragged School children or Sarah and Harry.

Monday’s Child is great read for the winter days leading up to Christmas. And I am delighted this novel is the first in a series because I can’t wait to find out what will happen to Sarah, Harry and the lovely Mrs Dawes and the children of Red Cliffs Ragged School next.

Today is my stop on the ‘Beneath the Ashes’ blog tour and I’m delighted to be able to share not only my review of the book but also a some insights into Jane Isaac’s writing in an author Q & A.

jane-isaac29565054

When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.

Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house had been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.

Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

Review
‘Beneath the Ashes’ opens with a prologue which sets the tone for the story to come. A woman is frantically running towards a graveyard. We have no idea who she is or what she will do next but it draws you in.

We go back a week and follow the story through the voices of DI Will Jackman, a likeable well balanced police officer with a family life restricted somewhat by his disabled wife, and Nancy a young shop assistant who wakes up on her boyfriend’s kitchen floor covered in blood but with no idea of how she got there. There is a good working relationship between DI Jackman and his Sergeant Annie Davies and together they go down a series of blind alleys to try and find out the mystery behind Nancy’s attack and the murder of her boyfriend. I particularly liked Nancy. She is feisty and independent and doesn’t always do the right thing. As the three characters delve more deeply, things are not what they seem. Surprising new themes emerge as Nancy struggles to stay safe and make sense of what is happening to her.

The pace quickens towards an unmissable dramatic crescendo when the truth about what has really happened to Nancy’s boyfriend starts to emerge and you are compelled to read to the end to find out why.

This is the second book in the DI Will Jackman series but ‘Beneath the Ashes’ sets the scene and introduces the main characters with clarity and enough background information to create  a satisfying and enjoyable read whether you are meeting DI Will Jackman for the first time or as an old friend.

Many thanks to Lucy at Legend Press who sent me a copy to review

Q & A with Jane
Who was your favourite character to write in ‘Beneath the Ashes’?

I really like Jackman’s sidekick, DS Annie Davies. She’s sharp, intelligent and witty, and has the ability to find the humour in almost any situation, but balances this with bucketloads of compassion. Some of her thoughts and comments made me laugh out loud as the story progressed.

‘Beneath the Ashes’ is a whistle stop read, how long did it take you to write it?
Thank you. The story had been in my head for a quite a while, so it didn’t take too long to write a detailed plan of how I expected the narrative to unfold. Once that was done, I concentrated on the first 10,000 words which really set the foundations in place. The rest of it flowed well, only broken by bouts of research, as I went along. It was about a year from recording the initial idea to actually typing ‘The End’.

Who did you prefer writing, DCI Helen Lavery from your first novel or DI Jackman, and why?

Ooh, that’s a toughie. I enjoy working with them both, for different reasons!

How important is the setting of Stratford upon Avon to ‘Beneath the Ashes and what made you base your novel there?

When I decided to embark on the Will Jackman series, I wanted to set it somewhere that people might know even if they haven’t visited themselves. Stratford upon Avon is known the world over, and also a very beautiful place to visit for research purposes (my family and I have spent many a happy weekend there during the past two years), so it ticked all the boxes!

Whose novels do you read and do you read while you’re working on a novel?
As I’m constantly planning, writing or researching, I do read throughout the process. I tend to read a lot of different novels, mostly crime and psychological thrillers, but I also like travel memoirs too.

Most recently, I’ve been discovering a lot of new writers. There’s something special about debuts that draws me to them. The last book I read was Rubicon by Ian Patrick, a finely crafted debut which is now out for submission and I have everything crossed for him for a book deal. That book really deserves to be published!

How much do you plan your narrative in advance?

I write a detailed outline, usually 4-5 pages, before I start. Things do change as the story unfolds, but I change my outline too so that when I finish my first draft and do my initial read through, I can check back and ensure that everything weaves together.

Where and when do you write?

As I still have a day job, a family and a very demanding Labrador, I tend to fit my writing into the gaps in my day. I can often be seen writing notes on my phone while standing in the supermarket queue, or typing on my laptop at the side of the pool while my daughter is swimming. I have notebooks all over the house, so if an idea comes to me I can record it before I forget!
I suppose my favourite time to write is sitting up in bed with my laptop, late at night when the house is quiet.

How do you get under the skin of your characters?
For me, it’s essential to get to know a character, especially a lead, so that they come to life on the page. Writing through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery in my first two novels was like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that and build her character on that basis.

Creating the male lead of DI Will Jackman for my new series was much more challenging and took me back to basics. I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brothers, my husband and my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got him somewhere near.

What was your first job and has it influenced your writing?

Ironically, my first job (apart from delivering newspapers in my early teens) was as a receptionist for a small marketing newspaper. At the time, I had no inclination to become a writer and was in awe of the journalists there. I was in my forties before I discovered my own love of the pen!

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m just starting the edits for The Lies Within, the third book in the DI Will Jackman series, which is scheduled to be released on 2nd May 2017.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a crime author?
Read voraciously in and around the genre you intend to work with and try to write something every day, no matter how short. When your script is complete, send it to people you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback, then rework until it is the best you can do before you submit.

It can be difficult to find a home for a novel and publishers reject submissions for many reasons which are not necessarily anything to do with your writing: It may not fit with a publisher’s list, they may have something similar, they may not be looking for submissions in your genre at this time. So, if you receive a rejection, don’t give up; take heed of any advice, rework your script if necessary, and submit elsewhere.

Thank you so much for interviewing me Chris. I really enjoyed answering your questions!

Follow the blog tour

beneath-the-ashes-blog-tour

'Alma' collecting money on the Esplanade, Sidmouth

‘Alma’ collecting money on the Esplanade, Sidmouth

sid%20library%203

Fresh Air followed by Cakes!

Join me at 2.30 pm today, 15th of November for a short walk round the locations in Sidmouth that inspired ‘Revenge Ritual’ – followed at 3 pm by tea and cakes at the library and a talk about my novel.

Part of Devon Libraries Active Life, Active Minds programme. Tickets are available from Sidmouth Library, which is where we will start.
For the whole programme see http://www.devon.gov.uk/print/alam16-brochure.pdf