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.

Social Media Links –

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 –

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Review - The Lighthousekeepers Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

The Lighthousekeepers Daughter by Hazel Gaynor - my review

Can I give it six out of ten please?

The minute I heard about this book I knew I had to read it.
Not only have I read and loved work by this delightful author before, including The Cottingley Secret.

Not only is it a dual time frame historical novel with BOTH timelines set in the past (joy)
but the subject is very dear to my heart ..... (tells a little story of own)
"When I was about 7 years old I remember my (now late) Aunt, tracing our family tree on my Mums side. I was told she had traced it back to the 1800s where she had found a strong family link to Grace Darling. I went to school and told my teacher who incorporated Grace Darling into a lesson. Tragically, my Aunt died and the family tree research she had done has never surfaced. I dabbled with genealogy myself but didn't manage to go into as much depth as she must have and couldn't verify the link but anything connected with this heroine of the North East instantly grips my imagination".

I'm delighted to say that Hazel Gaynor has done Grace Darling great justice and woven a wonderful, heartwarming story around her life and the lives of future generations of light keepers, in this wonderful book about daughters and love, bravery and loyalty, loss and determination.

Two stories interweave skilfully, that of Grace herself in 1838 on the Northumbrian coast, tangles with the stories of Matilda and Harriet 100 years later on the other side of the world.

I will say no more about the storyline as I want everyone to read this book and love it even half as much as I did. I wept brokenly at the end, which is extremely emotional, throughout the book it is haunting and lovely, even when you know it can't end well for everyone there is a tender poignancy and lovely little twists that wrench your heartstrings this way and that.

The Blurb

“They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”

1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.

1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.

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