Sunday, 9 December 2018

Review - The Taking of Annie Thorne - C.J. Tudor - terrifying.

The Taking of Annie Thorne - by C.J. Tudor.

My thoughts:

Here's one SCARY tale for you, horror at its creepy shivery best.

Wow, this is a fabulous, scary, menacing story, that had me gripped all the way through. It's every bit as good as C J Tudor's wonderful previous book the Chalk man and similar in style and type of setting, though both are very different, stand-alone novels. This is a superb horror story well worthy of comparisons to Stephen King.

Our protagonist is Joe Thorne, he's a teacher who returns to his childhood hometown, an old pit village called Arnhill, near Nottingham, to take up a position teaching at the local school he was once a pupil at. Joe is quite a complex character, though one I really liked. He obviously has a bit of a past, both back when he was a boy and in the intervening 25 years since he left school as he seems to know a few really dodgy characters and it isn't long until he starts bumping into folk from his childhood, this is a small town with that claustrophobic feel, where everyone knows everyone else and you just can't avoid anyone for long.

He doesn't want to avoid people though, he's come back to confront a terrible event which happened when he was 15 and discover once and for all what happened to his little sister Annie, whom he adored. At only 8 years old she went missing. He has had a cryptic anonymous message saying only, it's happening again and he is reluctantly drawn back to this gloomy place, shadowed by the traces of the old mine which created the town in it's heyday, then virtually destroyed it following it's closure. Now turned into a piece of parkland the Pit looms around every corner and it's influence remains in the very air of Arnhill.

Like the authors first book, it is told in dual time as Joe narrates it now and then takes us back to when he was a lad, when the story of what happened to little Annie is the stuff nightmares are made of.

This is one heck of a scary book, creepingly fearful it oozes with a malignant miasma that taints everything it touches. Even the house Joe rents has its secrets. There is a taint of a murder which was committed there, we are treated to chittering, skittering creepy crawlies, and the overwhelming sense that something, or someone is out to get Joe.

Several storylines intertwine and we are never quite sure who, of the many brilliant characters can be trusted and who is to be viewed as an enemy. If you like something to send shivers down your spine this is the perfect book to curl up with by a cozy fire this winter, but maybe not when you're completely alone in the house.

The Blurb.

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn't, or wouldn't, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can't explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn't the same. She wasn't my Annie.

I didn't want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Blog Tour A Good Death - Michael Bagley

I am welcoming Micheal Bagley to Beadyjans Book Blog to celebrate the launch of his new book, A Good Death.

Here Michael reveals the main characteristics of his lead protagonist:

Five characteristics of my main protagonist.

Although one person begins as an antagonist, readers may think he becomes a protagonist later. 

The main protagonist:

He’s 26, middle class, with a ‘good’ job and he drives a new Audi Quattro. Outwardly, then, he’s in the prime of life.

But inwardly he’s stalled, frustrated with life and his job holds no satisfaction for him. The future seems boringly predictable. Like many people, he’s looking for a outlet and a new challenge.

His relationships with the opposite sex remain largely sexual. Meaningful relationships are what he reads in novels.

He does have two close friends, who he sees every Friday night and within this semi-drunken culture he finds solace.

He’s also very intelligent. As his father tells him, “You have an IQ of 144. You should be conquering the world” and, secretly, he knows it.

So If you love books with well planned complex characters A Good Death may well be the novel for you this Christmas.

Heres the blurb to whet your appetite a little more.

The year is 2028 and it’s a stunning spring day on the Lincolnshire Wolds, when Bess finally persuades her Uncle John to tell her the story of the family scandal that’s been merely whispered about at weddings and funerals. We’re then transported back fifteen years where, as a young man, John Stafford is forced to chase his father across the USA and Europe.

We discover, over three time-zones, that A Good Death is essentially about three characters: an embittered, former military father, a quiet, troubled son, suddenly thrust into the midst of a family crisis, and a bright, questioning young woman, who acts as conscience to both uncle and grandfather. The relationship between all three is constantly tested, as John discovers aspects of his father’s past, and is forced to remember disturbing elements of his own history, when he was just a small child.

The novel is about love and hate and betrayal and in parts it’s a dark story. But all three characters are on their own personal journeys – which each feels compelled to make – and they don’t end until back in 2028, where fate, at long last, waits.

Published by Clink Street Publishing the book is out now and can be ordered from your favourite seller. Find it here on Amazon and read more about it on Goodreads

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Blog Tour and review - The Blue - Nancy Bilyeau

Welcome to the Blog Tour for yet another fascinating historical fiction book The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau.

My thoughts on this book with its beautiful blue and white cover.

It was the cover which drew me in, as its so pretty and reminds me somewhat of another book I recently read and enjoyed – Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt which is also historical fiction focussing on the life of a woman involved in decorating porcelain and pottery.

The heroine of Nancy Bilyeau's new book, The Blue is Genevieve Planche – of Huguenot descent, a young woman who desperately wants her ambition to be a famous painter to be taken seriously but in 18th century Spitalfields this is an almost impossible goal.

Parallels here, too as I also recently read BlackBerry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton, set in spitalfields amidst the Huguenot silk weavers. If you like this type of book here are 3 great reads to spend your Christmas book tokens on!

Back to The Blue ....

Trying to emulate her hero the renowned painter Hogarth Genevieve is determined to learn and develop her skills as an artist and feels this will be wasted in the job which she has been offered as a painter of flowers in a factory, little does she comprehend the deadly allure of the secrets of porcelain and in particular the production of the perfect Blue which people are dying to get hold of, literally.

Genevieve is a misfit, her family name marks her out as a Frenchwoman but living in an England at war with France this instantly makes her a bit of a pariah. She is also outspoken, a risk taker and somewhat reckless. Far from the perfect, biddable young lady her uncle tries to mould her into becoming she gatecrashes a party where she knows famous faces in the art world will be present convinced she will be able to persuade one of her idols to take her on as an apprentice. When she is brushed aside and scorned she comes into contact with a charming and rakish young man who promises to be her stepping stone into the society she longs to join, if she will only make a compromise which may prove to be her undoing. 

At this point I felt the book might dissolve into a regency romance a la Barbara Cartland but I needn’t have worried as what evolves is a complex and twisty tale of mystery, deceit and espionage set in an art-filled background. 

There is romance and passion but this is a well-researched and written novel with lots going on to keep the reader gripped. The locations of London, Derby and France are particularly atmospheric and the characters often flawed and complicated. 

With so much going on it gets quite complex at times but never boring and is a must for readers who enjoy historical fiction with enough historical fact and a few real historical characters thrown in to feel realistic as well as entertaining and lively.

Genevieve is charming and rather feckless, sometimes she annoyed me but I was rotting for her all the way, through her adventures and many misadventures. You know she's making bad decisions yet you can also see why she does and what she ends up involved in - well you'll have to read it to find out.

It can be ordered from the usual booksellers and here it is on Amazon.

The Blurb

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. 

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelein, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… 

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. 

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue? 

About the author:

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyleDuJourRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at City University of New York and a regular contributor to Town & CountryPurist, and The Vintage News.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. The third in the trilogy, THE TAPESTRY, was published by Touchstone in 2015. Her fourth novel, THE BLUE, will be publishing on 3rd December.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Twitter: @tudorscribe

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber - wonderful

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber
My Review

Having read and loved the authors two previous books I have waited and anticipated a new title by her for quite some time. So I was eager to read this and very fortunate to receive an advance copy. 

I quite simply LOVED it. 

The author has the amazing skill of creating, convincing characters whose skin you can slip inside for the duration of the book. Strong, credible women who live a life so different to my own it would seem virtually impossible to relate to them. Yet the women she creates have left such an indelible mark on me it feels as though they have left a fine layer of themselves in my soul. 

She writes about well researched austere locations where I have never been yet by the time I finish reading I feel as though I once lived there. This time we visit the location of Rural Utah in a secluded valley amidst harsh yet dramatic landscapes in the late 1800s.

This book is leisurely and gradual, gentle and rather bleak and the narrative is precise and sometimes spare, which creates a real feel of the isolation and loneliness of living in a remote place with few people to talk to. It is set in the middle of a bleak snow-filled January and was the perfect winter read.

For the time I was in this story I WAS Deborah, the glovemaker.

She is one of a small breakaway group of Latterday Saints, Mormons who live apart from most of their faith as they hold themselves slightly apart in that they don't comply with or even condone the plural marriages practised by others of their religion.

Deborah lives with her husband, who is a travelling wheel repairer visiting equally remote villages and farms repairing and making wheels for the folk who need this service. His return home is overdue and as Deborah waits and longs for his arrival, she joins forces with her step brother in law, when a fugitive lands on her doorstep, bringing danger and a real threat to her which she couldn't anticipate.

Don't expect fast-paced, rip-roaring action, this book is deliberate, takes place mainly over a brief period and it is quite sombre and bleak. Yet I completely adored it. 

If you appreciate a well-told absorbing tale, great characters and unique locations you just can't miss this. I felt very bereft when I finished this piece of stunning historical fiction.

The Blurb
From the critically acclaimed author of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree comes The Glovemaker – a stunning historical novel for fans of Cold Mountain.
For almost four years, men came to my cabin carrying trouble on their backs, each one haunted and looking over their shoulders . . . They showed up during the spring, they appeared in the summer and early fall. But never now, never in January . . .
Winter, 1888. In the inhospitable lands of Utah Territory, glovemaker Deborah Tyler awaits her husband’s return home after months working across the state. But as his due date comes and goes without a word, Deborah starts to fear the worst. Facing a future alone, matters are only compounded when a desperate stranger arrives on her doorstep. And with him, trouble.
For although the man claims to just need a place to rest for the night, he wouldn’t be here in the bitter month of January if he wasn’t on the run. And where he goes, lawmen are sure to follow. Lawmen who wouldn’t think twice about burning Deborah’s home to the ground if they thought she’d helped their fugitive.
With her husband’s absence felt stronger by the minute, Deborah must make a decision. A decision that will change her life forever . . .

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Blog Tour - The Merest Loss Steven Neil

Today I am part of the Blog Tour for the New Historical novel from Steven Neil which sounds great, full of rich historical detail and a fast-paced fascinating story.

The Blurb:

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English
hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?

Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?

The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. 

The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.

The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Steven has prepared this blog tour post for Beadyjans's Books illustrating the depth of research he conducts when writing a historical work such as this which features real historical characters and events.

Steven Neil

From Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS:

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

Researching and writing the historical timeline:

I write a historical timeline for the whole novel before I start drafting. This gives me a clear picture of the political setting and the major events but also locates the development of music, theatre and art; invaluable elements for creating an authentic fictional world. The timeline for The Merest Loss spanned 1836-1873 but here is an excerpt.

The Merest Loss: TIMELINE excerpt 1836-1846

1836 King William IV, monarch. Viscount Melbourne, Prime Minister. Charles Darwin returns to Falmouth on HMS Beagle. Battle of the Alamo.  Charles Dickens publishes Pickwick Papers. Robert SchumannFantasie in C  Gaetano DonizettiBelisario Honoré de Balzac - Le Lys dans la vallée ("The Lily of the Valley")
Jean-Baptiste-Camille CorotDiana Surprised By Actaeon Tom Olliver meets Harriet Howard, then Elizabeth Ann Harryet.
1837 Queen Victoria becomes monarch. Euston Station opens. Fourth legislature of the July Monarchy in France. Hector BerliozGrande Messe des Morts
1838 Anti Corn Law league founded. London and Birmingham railway opens. Felix Mendelssohn – String Quartets Op. 44, No. 3 in D Major and No. 5 in E-Flat Major Hector BerliozBenvenuto Cellini Robert Smith Surtees - Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities Jem Mason and Harriet Howard meet.
1839 Chartists riot in Birmingham. Bradshaw’s first national railway timetable published. Felix MendelssohnPiano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49 Frédéric ChopinPiano Sonata No. 2 "Funeral March" Giuseppe Verdi's first opera, Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, opens at La Scala, Milan. Honoré de Balzac Béatrix Charles Dickens - Nicholas Nickleby Edgar Allan Poe -The Fall of the House of Usher Jem Mason wins the first Grand National on Lottery.
1840 Queen Victoria marries her cousin Prince Albert. Adolphe Thiers becomes French Prime Minister. Remains of Napoleon are brought back to France and buried at Les Invalides in Paris. February 11Gaetano Donizetti's opera La Fille du Regiment premieres in Paris. William Makepeace Thackeray - Catherine Victor Hugo - Les Rayons et les Ombres      Louis Napoleon imprisoned near Reims, France after failed coup attempt.
1841 Robert Peel becomes Prime Minister. Adolphe AdamGiselle (ballet) Gaetano DonizettiAdelia Edgar Allan Poe – "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" Dion BoucicaultLondon Assurance
Jem Mason and Harriet Howard living at 277 Oxford Street, London.
1842 Riots against the Corn Laws and in favour of the Chartists. Tom Olliver wins the Grand National on Gaylad. Frédéric ChopinPolonaise for Piano in A flat major, B 147/Op. 53 "Heroic" Felix MendelssohnSymphony No. 3 ("Scottish") Giuseppe VerdiNabucco, March 9 at La Scala, Milan  Honoré de BalzacThe Black Sheep  George SandUn hiver à Majorque ("A Winter in Majorca") Harriet Howard has a son Martin.
1843 SS Great Britain launched. Engels and Marx meet in France. Tom Olliver wins his second Grand National on Vanguard. Frédéric ChopinImpromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, opus 51; Ballade No. 4 in F minor, opus 52  November 13Gaetano Donizetti's final opera Dom Sébastien is premiered at the Paris Opera. Victor HugoLes Burgraves Robert Smith SurteesHandley Cross Harriet Howard comes under the guardianship of Capt. Francis Mountjoy Martin, Life Guards. She is provided with a trust fund and residence (Rockingham House, London) by Mountjoy Martin.
1844 Charles Dickens publishes Martin Chuzzlewit. Thackeray publishes The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Felix Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night's Dream incidental music (including the Wedding March) Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo&The Three Musketeers
1845 Irish potato famine. Bizet writes Carmen. Robert SchumannPiano Concerto in A minor Robert Smith SurteesHillingdon Hall Tom Olliver and Jem Mason regular visitors to Paris to ride in French steeplechases 1845-55.
1846 Lord John Russell becomes Prime Minister. Seventh legislature of the July Monarchy in France. Hector BerliozLa damnation de Faust  Frederic Chopin - Polonaise-Fantaisie
Louis Napoleon escapes from prison and arrives in London. Harriet Howard meets Louis Napoleon in London. Harriet Howard moves to 9 Berkeley Square, London.

© Steven Neil

THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.

Follow Steven Neil on for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Beyond the Bay - Rebecca Burns - Review

Beyond the Bay - Rebecca Burns - my review

In a year which has for me, been the year of great historical reads I'm delighted to add this engaging and satisfying book to my blog and my lists of books I've loved.

What a wonderful discovery and welcome addition this book is! I devoured it from start to finish and longed to keep on reading more about the two sisters I met within its pages when it ended.

This is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction about two women who travel across the world to find new opportunities. Set in Auckland, New Zealand, at the very beginning of the 20th century as women begin to rise and demand the vote and throw off the shackles of total subservience to men which has previously been the norm.

Isobel has been living there for ten years already, she came here as a newlywed settler to escape her domineering Mother and defy her by choosing her own path in life and marry a man of her choosing and eschew a life in England which held little hope or promise.

What a brave choice, but how often decisions don't quite pan out how we imagined. 

Isobel remembers her little sister Esther with fondness, she was still a child when Isobel left. Now Esther is on her way to stay with Isobel, all the way across the ocean. Expecting to find her older sister living the genteel and prosperous life she has described in letters home, what she finds is a great culture shock. Auckland is not yet the grand city it promises to become, settlers still live in rather ramshackle conditions and Isobels home and lifestyle, even the handsome husband Esther remembers all seem lacking.

But change is coming, especially for women and the two sisters begin to pull together and rely on each other as they learn to seize opportunity and be brave in forging their futures in this new land whatever their circumstances.

I won't say any more about the story, as I don't want to be guilty of any spoilers but rest assured this is an extremely good read. The authors style is confident and competent and her ability to weave a story and create some great characters is superb.

If you love books about strong believable women making a stand and lots of well researched historical detail woven through a captivating page-turner then this one's for you. I hope my review helps some more discerning readers to discover and enjoy this lovely book.

Order it now from Amazon

The Blurb

“The night before Esther’s ship was due to dock, her sister dreamed of her.”

Auckland at the turn of the century. A city on the cusp of change. Isobel, a settler of ten years, waits for her sister to cross the ocean to join her. Separated by distance, disappointments and secrets, the women reunite in a land where the rules of home do not apply. Women push for the vote and the land offers opportunity and a future for those brave enough to take it. But some secrets run too deep, some changes too shocking to embrace. Against this backdrop of uncertainty and promise, Isobel and Esther have to determine what – and who – means most.

In this novel, Rebecca Burns returns to the colonial New Zealand explored in her short story collection, The Settling Earth. Beyond the Bay is a novel of hope, redemption, and the unbreakable bond of family.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton - beautiful book in a stunning cover

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton - my Review

Anyone who knows me, even the tiniest bit, will know, as surely as I did the minute I saw the cover of this book, that it is exactly the kind of book I fall head over heels in love with.

And I did. For several reasons.

(1) I swooned when I saw the absolutely gorgeous cover art. I am loving the current trend for historical novels to have a rich tapestry of all-over design and this one is covered with a lavish illustration of the woven floral silks which wind their way through the story.

(2) it is highly recommended by one of my very favourite authors the sublimely talented Laura Purcell (If she told me I'd enjoy reading the labels on sauce bottles, you wouldn't be able to get in my kitchen for ketchup and pickles)

(3) It is set in England, Spitalfields, London to be precise, in the late 18th century - Mmmmm it's piqued my interest.

(4) it is peopled with strong, willful women, who are all utterly believable and their stories individually are compelling. When they begin to overlap and weave together, the chemistry ignites causing an explosive tale of betrayal, deceit, ambition and politics that had me reeling.

(5) It is a luscious, competent and exciting debut brimming with the promise of so much more to come, from this author, who is a wonderful discovery.

So, you will gather, I liked it! I hope you'll be intrigued enough to put this book on your 2019 wishlist, although it isn't due out until early in the New Year, it is most definitely one to wait with bated breath for. 

I am writing my review now as I was one of the VERY lucky few to receive a copy in advance of publication and I want to share the love whilst my feelings aout it are still quite fresh.

So let me tell you a bit about it to whet your appetites:

It is the 1760s and we are in the city of London where Spitalfields, an area filled with merchants houses occupied by Huguenot weavers, jostles side by side with less wholesome neighbours, including brothels and pubs and a bustling marketplace.

Into this area arrives innocent young woman Sara, fresh from the countryside, smarting from what she sees as rejection by her Mother, just wanting someone to care for, brimming with hope for a new life and ready to seize any opportunity which comes her way.

But before the dust even settles she is "helped" by a wily old madam and inveigled into living and working at a notorious brothel.

Esther's life is very different, a respectable married woman living in one of the tall merchants houses with her Huguenot silk weaver husband, although her marriage lacks in love she hopes her husband will understand her desire to be involved in his world and reveals her ambition to be a designer of silks by showing him the delicate floral designs she has drawn. When he scorns and belittles her aspirations, she resolves to make her way despite him not because of him.

A foray into philanthropy sees Esther trying to help their less fortunate neighbours, and whilst distributing Bibles in the poorer quarters of Spitalfields she comes across Sara being bullied by her Madam and takes a chance on offering the girl employment as a maid.

Sara finds attending to the mercurial merchants' wife little less tiresome than lying down for a living, but she manages to make the best of what she's offered and a tentative friendship of sorts, begins between the two women.

But men, as they always do, disrupt the womens lives as they become embroiled in sinister and dastardly doings in the world of silk weaving and still Esther harbours her passion to create her own designs. 

There is very much a sense of who is using whom and why. Everyone has ulterior motives, nobody is perfect and those with minor imperfections meet the deeply flawed head on as we are treated to a whirling and writhing tale of dishonesty, abandonment, determination and recklessness.

It follows therefore that I am urging you to read this book because I ADORED it and if you follow my blog and like similar books to those I enjoy you will love it. It is clever and cunning, literary without being preachy, lush and lavish and never prosaic and it lulls you into several senses of false security before leaving you reeling.


The Blurb:

When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Review - The Familiars - Stacey Halls - a bewitching debut novel

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

My Review

I concur with all the great reviews I've seen for this title.

Firstly I adored the cover the minute I saw it appearing on social media, it's beautiful and very evocative of the story contained within, just perfect.

As soon as I opened my copy and began to read, it held me firmly in its grip from start to finish and never let go.

It is a quite terrifying indictment of how powerless women were, and were expected to be, in an age when men held all the power and quite literally had the power of life and death over women with the capacity to dominate women and decide their fate, just because they were male and could get away with anything.

I found the story all the more shocking as the heroine, with the unusual first name of Fleetwood, is just 17 years old yet is in the midst of her fourth pregnancy. She is an innocent yet proves to have an inbuilt strength she needs to survive. She has a charming but perfidious husband, a mother she despises, no friends and only her faithful rescued hound Puck as a loyal companion.

Fearing she won't survive this pregnancy, it's little surprise that she is delighted when she meets another young woman, Alice who claims skills in midwifery which she promises will help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby safely.

She soon comes to rely on Alice and the two young women from very different backgrounds become friends. But Fleetwood is soon to discover a shocking betrayal, and Alice is to stand accused of witchcraft whilst Fleetwoods struggle for a healthy pregnancy becomes a death-defying nightmarish journey.

Based on the real and notorious Pendle witchcraft trials this books weaves clever and compelling fiction around authentic characters and sweeps us through the 15th century at a gallop. Already receiving much media attention its due out in early 2019. An outstandingly captivating book which weaves its magic around the reader throughout.

My review copy was from Netgalley.
It can be pre-ordered now

The Blurb
In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . .

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women's lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood's stomach continues to grow.

Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Word for Freedom - from Retreat West Books - Blog Tour and Review

Blog Tour The Word For Freedom

I'm thrilled to be helping round up the blog tour for the brand new collection of 24 fabulous short stories celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage; The Word for Freedom.

Compiled for Retreat West Books which is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks, by the founder, Amanda Saint, who is a novelist and short story writer, novelist Angela Clarke and a foreword by Rose McGinty this is a work of collaboration and team work from all the authors who have contributed. 

The book contains short stories contributed by a diverse collection of established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.

My Thoughts

Although I don't often read short stories, this compilation compelled me to read it, with its subject matter linked so closely to the strength of women in differing situations.

With stories set in the past and modern day, each features women in relatable situations from the everyday to the awesome, dealing with life with their own unique fortitude and tenacity.

Each tale is a quick but satisfying complete bite of the cake which embraces women standing up for themselves.

Don't be misled into thinking that every story is about suffragettes chaining themselves to railings and going on hunger strike, although these original suffragettes do feature in this compilation, the fight against injustices against women continue to the present day and even flow into folklore and myth.

The stories within the pages are so concise and complete I think it would be wrong of me to single any out individually. Each one is a quick sharp jolt, which may make you smile or gasp or cheer and every single one provides food for thought, there will be at least one which will relate to any readers own experiences.

The line up of contributors is top rate, featuring some of my favourite authors including: Anna Mazzola, Angela Clarke, Sophie Duffy and introduces some talented new names.

Overall it is a wonderful collection of stories by women for women and there are some wonderfully quirky tales. For quick reads to keep your brain ticking over this is a must read for all  women, of every age and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The book supports Hestia and the UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Order your own copy now

My thanks go to Random Things Tours for my copy and for organizing such great blog tours which I am proud to take part in.

The Blurb

A collection of 24 short stories celebrating a hundred years of women’ suffrage, from both established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories, whether set in 1918, the current day or the future, focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.

A clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster encounters Emily Davison in a broom cupboard; a mermaid dares to tread on land to please the man she loves; a school girl friendship makes the suffragette protests relevant to the modern day; a mother leaves her child for a tree; an online troll has to face his target; and a woman caught in modern day slavery discovers a chance for freedom in a newspaper cutting.

These stories and many more come together in a collection that doesn’t shy away from the reality of a woman’s world, which has injustices and inequalities alongside opportunities and hard-won freedoms, but always finds strength, bravery and hope.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

My thoughts on The Essex Serpent by Sara Perry

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: My thoughts.

This is a book which has been clamouring for me to read it since it first appeared in bookshops over a year ago. The cover drew me in initially, it's beautiful. Many of my peers recommended it and I love historical fiction with a literary feel. But the first 2 or 3 times I tried to read it, it just didn't engage with me so I put it aside and finally last week picked it up again and kept going.

I enjoyed it, with a few reservations. It's very much a character-driven story. Set in Victorian England, in London and the South coast it is the story of Cora, recently widowed, her marriage never happy, she views widowhood as a kind of freedom, she has a son with whom she cannot bond and he is clearly on the autistic spectrum. She has a dour companion Martha who has been her rock, the 2 women act more like equals than mistress and servant and there is a deep connection which binds them.

Then there is Doctor Luke, short of stature, big on devotion, who hides his secret adoration for Cora, under his deep-set eyes and a frequent scowl, he and his wealthy friend, study medicine and dip in and out of their lives.

There are a lot of characters, we get involved in the story of one of the accident victims Luke treats, also friends of Cora, who with the best intentions, meddle in her life and put her on a course to meet the man who is everything she shouldn't admire. She has an interest in science and fossils and he, Will, is a man of the cloth, a small town pastor, with a sweet and delicate wife Stella whom Cora finds delightful.

Then there are the couples 3 children who also feature heavily, and Naomi, friend of their eldest girl. All these rich and well rounded, often flawed, characters weave into a story wrapped around a local legend of a sea monster. An illicit love, affections and the way our lives brush against anothers and set things in motion which cannot be undone.

The prose is lyrical and literary and I almost felt at some points the author was trying too hard to be worthy, but it is gentle and deep like the waterways of Essex which may or may not conceal a dark secret.

My main gripe is, I found very little of a historical feel. The characters all seemed to act in a modern way, speak in parlance you'd never have found in a Victorian drawing room and this jarred with me. Yes, I enjoy reading about one character who is out of their time, forward-thinking or rebellious. But ALL of them?? The narrative jarred with me and I had to keep reminding myself this book was set over a hundred years ago, as almost everything about it seemed far too current. Yes there are many references to events of the era and what is happening around them but I did feel almost every character, and there are many, was far too modern in their way of thinking and behaviour. I was expecting much more of a gothic feel, but what I felt throughout the book, was that I was watching modern actors in period costume converse in their own voices.

However the story is about people and feelings and is so cleverly woven, thoughtfully written and the characters have enough depth for me to be able to put this aside in the main and enjoy it for what it is, a great piece of storytelling and a thought-provoking novel.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Tissue Veil by Brenda Bannister - my Review for the Blog Tour

The Tissue Veil by Brenda Bannister:

Welcome to my blog today where I am taking part in the Blog Tour for the new book by Brenda Bannister called The Tissue Veil.

My Review

It's an intriguing and heartwarming dual time story set in 1901 and 2001 and features two teenage girls aeons apart but whose lives become as close as though they were divided by a thin sheet of tissue paper, the tissue veil.

Both girls are teenagers with all the angst of young adulthood, facing decisions which could shape their entire futures, so this would make an ideal young adult read, as a coming of age novel, nevertheless I feel it will appeal to any age, I adored it and loved meeting Aysha and Emily.

Aysha lives in the 21st century, in a house in London with her large Asian family, her beloved father moved here from Pakistan when he was a young man, now an ageing invalid he oversees his family from an armchair as he recuperates. Aysha is heading towards her A-levels, trying to reconcile the strict family values instilled on her by her extended, very traditional family who plan that she will soon make an advantageous marriage and be satisfied with domesticity and motherhood, with the normal social issues faced by any teenage girl, boys, friends and studying. Closely watched by her older brothers and strict Mum who still speaks little English and lives an isolated life which revolves around her home and family, Aysha feels a need to make her own niche, but struggles to break free.

As part of her coursework for exams she chooses to research the local history of the area surrounding her home, a large old street house.

This causes her to discover a journal, hidden for almost a century beneath her bedroom floorboard. This diary was written by a former occupant, Emily. Of a similar age Emily confides her worries and problems to her diary, and to Aysha as she reads the words written a hundred years earlier in this same house.

The worries and difficulties Emily was facing in the past, had very different causes but resonate strongly with Aysha. Emily is grieving for lost family and also wanting to make her own way in the world despite living in an age when women were expected to become an obedient wife and mother. Both girls face constraints and expectations within their own homes, which they feel unable to comply with. Then one day Aysha reads her own name in the book and begins to realise that although she has never seen Emily, somehow Emily has seen her!

I loved both girls storylines which are so very different and also extremely similar. I didn't find it hard to believe that communication across the years was possible between the two unlikely friends and watching their lives unfurl before me, was gripping and satisfying. It was like reading two books together which complemented each other perfectly.

It's about clashes of class and culture and above all it's about the strength which, even oppressed women, find when it's most needed. I also loved Daisy and found I could relate more to Emilys story in the past than to Aysha's in the much more recent past.

The Blurb 

What if you discovered a hundred-year-old diary under your floorboards - and then found references in it to yourself? Or if you lived in 1901, yet kept seeing glimpses of a girl from modern times? 
And what if both of you had problems that only the other could really understand? 
Emily and Aysha live in the same Stepney house and an inexplicable link develops between them, fuelled by Aysha's discovery of a journal and Emily's sightings of a 'future ghost'. Each takes courage from the other's predicament - after all, what's a hundred years between friends?

order your copy now 

From Amazon
or a local bookstore

Brenda Bannister

Author Bio –

Brenda studied English at university and later qualified as a librarian, working in various educational settings from schools to higher education. Moving from London to Frome in Somerset in 2010 proved a catalyst for her own writing as she joined local fiction and script writing groups. 

She has had a number of short stories published, plus short plays produced in local pub theatre, but all the while was incubating a story based in the area of Tower Hamlets where she had worked for eighteen years.  This germ of a story became 'The Tissue Veil'.

Brenda is a founder member of Frome Writers' Collective, an organisation which has grown from a handful of members to over a hundred in the past four years, and helped set up its innovative Silver Crow Book Brand. She is also the current organiser of the annual Frome Festival Short Story Competition. 

A lifelong reader, Brenda rarely follows genres, but enjoys modern literary fiction, historical fiction, classics and the occasional detective novel. The latest Bernard Cornwell might be a guilty pleasure, but she'll be even more eager to get her hands on Hilary Mantel's final instalment of Thomas Cromwell's story.

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Friday, 12 October 2018

The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr - Blog Tour

Today is publication day for the new historical novel by Deborah Carr - The Poppy Field and just look at that delectable cover!

As my contribution to the blog tour to help celebrate todays launch of this exciting new title I have a question and answer session with the author for you.

Q&A with Deborah

J: Hi Deborah and Welcome to Beadyjans books.

D: Thanks very much for hosting me and my new book, The Poppy Field published by HarperImpulse.

Deborah Carr.

J: Q1: Firstly can you tell me a bit about The Poppy Field and what inspired you to write it?

D: The Poppy Field is a novel about two nurses, one a contemporary trauma unit nurse, Gemma Kingston, who is suffering from burn-out after a personal tragedy. She’s desperate to find a way to forget what’s happened and travels to a rundown farmhouse outside the town of Doullens to renovate it for her father. The other nurse, Alice Le Breton is a VAD working at a casualty clearing station near Doullens in the First World War. She is escaping her controlling mother back in her home island of Jersey and is desperate to ‘do her bit’ for the war effort. Both woman, have to face up to challenging obstacles in their lives and it’s through getting to know more about Alice’s life that Gemma comes to a decision about her own future.

Charlotte Ledger, Editorial Director at HarperImpulse read Broken Faces, my debut historical romance set during the First World War and commissioned me to write a book commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War. Needless to say, I was thrilled! I’ve always been shocked and fascinated in equal measure by the horrors of that war and what people had to go through to survive it, both the men on the front line and the nurses and VADs who cared for them, to those back at home having to cope with their loved ones’ lives being in danger so far away from them. I was delighted to revisit the period and writing for HarperCollins’ romance imprint HarperImpulse was a dream come true so was relieved when I soon came up with an outline for the book that Charlotte liked.

J: Q2: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, what change made since world war one has had the biggest impact on your life and career?

D: Apart from medical advances brought about through necessity from the shocking injuries caused by shrapnel, men being shot down in their planes as well as instruments of war, such as the dreadful gasses used on the soldiers, the best advance for me personally has to be computers. Drafting a book and being able to change it, countless times, as I go along rather than using a manual typewriter and needing to completely retype each draft must be the biggest impact on my daily life and certainly my writing career.

J: Q3: Do you have a special place to write or somewhere special which inspires your creativity?

D: I have a shed where I write during the summer months. The shed was known as Grumpy’s Palace and won the Office Category in the 2009 Shed of the Year competition – Grumpy was the nickname I gave to my gorgeous Miniature Schnauzer who used to doze in the office next to me on his pink Lloyd Loom chair as I worked from my matching one. I also write on my laptop at the dining room table, outside under a parasol whenever it’s warm enough, upstairs in my office, or anywhere really. I always have a notepad to hand to write things down if I’m not with my laptop.

J: Q4: Can you recommend 3 books which readers of your work may also enjoy?

D: Ooh, that’s difficult. I suppose readers who enjoy Pam Jenoff, or maybe Liz Trenow. My favourite book set during that period was Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.

J: Q5: What advice would you give to budding authors?

D: I’ve included some writing tips on my website: I’m also one third of The Blonde Plotters. We’re three local authors who meet up and talk for hours about writing, we’ve also got writing tips and tips about becoming published on our website:
Personally, I always work out my main plot line, decide the names of my characters and write a vague synopsis before starting to write the first draft of any book. With Broken Faces and The Poppy Field, I also kept a chart for the different chapters and what happened in each one. I’ll develop the synopsis as I go along and as I work out more intricate aspects of my book. It can be easy to fret about a first draft being perfect. I doubt many are, but I think an aspiring author should allow themselves to simply write the first draft of the book. Don’t worry that it’s going to need editing. You can’t edit a blank page. Also, if you want to write, you need to read books. When I’m busy with my writing, especially if I have a looming deadline it’s difficult to take time out to read, but I always catch up on my reading when I’ve finished writing a book.

Another piece of advice I’d give is that all writers receive rejections, so developing a thicker skin and learning when to take note of the rejections - usually if several people are saying the same thing about the book. However, in the past I’ve had rejections from two different publishers completely contradicting each other, so sometimes it’s difficult to know what to think, or do. Writing isn’t a science though, it is subjective and that’s a good thing.

J: Q6: Finally sum up The Poppy Field in just 3 words.

D: Romantic, atmospheric, heartbreaking

Thanks, once again, Jan!

Deborah. x

Many thanks, Deborah it was a pleasure to have you on BeadyjansBooks today and I wish you huge success with your historical romance. I must confess I'd love to spend some time in the wonderfully named Grumpy's Palace!

The Book Blurb
The Poppy Field

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Young nurse, Gemma, is struggling with the traumas she has witnessed through her job in the NHS. Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line.
Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both woman discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times. Through Alice’s words and her unfailing love for her sweetheart at the front, Gemma learns to truly live again.
This is a beautifully written epic historical novel that will take your breath away.

A bit more about where you can find the book and meet Deborah.

Author Bio – Deborah Carr lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands with her husband, two children and three rescue dogs. She became interested in books set in WW1 when researching her great-grandfather's time as a cavalryman in the 17th 21st Lancers.
She is part of ‘The Blonde Plotters’ writing group and was Deputy Editor on the online review site, for seven years. Her debut historical romance, Broken Faces, is set in WW1 and was runner-up in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and given a 'special commendation' in the Harry Bowling Prize that year. The Poppy Field is her second historical novel.

Social Media Links –

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