Sonia Bellhouse is the author of Fire & Ice, a Scandi-timeslip romance about ice dancing, Norway and Vikings. She is also a contributor to Passages, a short story anthology and a contributor to Writing the Dream, an anthology for published writers both published by Serenity Press. In 2012she won two major awards in the inaugural Rockingham Short Fiction contest.
Sonia's articles and stories are published in various magazines both in Australia and the UK. These include Good reading, Today's Bride, That's Life! and That's Life! Fast Fiction in Australia and Yours, The People's Friend and Best of British in the Uk. Sonia worked as a book reviewer for two years. An avid reader and writer of multiple genres she facilitated a local book club for eleven years. She reluctantly decided to give it up, to concentrate on her writing. Sonia is a long time member of a writers group, regularly engaging authors to present workshops to the group.
Sonia enjoys catching up with friends, ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cat and learning new things. She's taken several online courses with Future Learn and The University of Iowa for both writing and non-writing topics.
It’s a pleasure to welcome author Katrina Coll to talk about her new book
An expat Aussie, Katrina lives in rural Ireland where the countryside really is forty shades of green. She is a keen cook, which is why she’s becoming a reluctant runner with the support of the family dog, Beetlejuice.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book A Match Made for TV which released 16th September.
Ria De Lorenzo is a damn good doctor. Or was. Burnt out before she’s begun, a three-month paid vacation as the medical consultant to a reality TV show is just what she needs to recover her mojo.
Cancer survivor and headline grabber Griffin Stromberg is desperate to reboot his ultra-macho image. Typecast by years of fame, showcasing his softer side with a picture-perfect relationship should do the trick. Until Ria breaches show protocol and gets Griff’s fake girlfriend disqualified.
Now Ria’s only hope of clocking out of reality is to check in to a fantasy by becoming his new partner. Griff, however, wants their relationship to be the real deal, not one of his infamous life-hacks.
Can a man renowned for taking shortcuts prove he’s ready to commit to a forever relationship? Or will reality bite once filming is over?
Note: This is a steamy romance, which includes swearing and steamy bathroom sex.
Oh, sounds great! Are you writing anything else?
My work in progress returns to the world of reality tv with a reunion romance. My couple are paired on a bake-off—one is a chef, the other a cook. The fallout from past betrayals is massive but they have to work through their past for a much bigger reason than a tv show.
We will discuss your writing, but first some quick-fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Late nights. I am not a morning person.
What’s for breakfast? I often do overnight oats in jars with yogurt and fruit.
Night out or Netflix? Netflix on weekends. Weeknights I write.
G &T or Tea/coffee? While I do love a pink gin and elderflower tonic (*Foodie alert), I cannot do without decent coffee.
Perfect weekend? These days it’s any weekend when I get out the house.
What did you want to be when you grew up? An author.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? It ended up a roast rack of rosemary lamb with Catalan-style greens, roasted root veggies, and baby new potatoes. For a bit of fun, here’s a pic:
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Taking the dog for a walk always cheers me up.
Your hero? My nanna. She’s a total legend.
If you could choose three people (living or dead ) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? They’d have to be living because I’m prejudiced against zombies. Actually, I’d just love to be able to hold dinner parties again…
Do you have any non-writing related interests? I’m re-learning the piano (thanks lockdown!) and I’m going for my second black belt. (The first was a loooong time ago.) What would surprise people to know about you? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!
Life lessons-what do you wish you’d know earlier? Persistence is more important than intelligence.
Questions about Writing.What is your writing process like? Iterative. I write, re-write, write, edit. It is not efficient but it’s how my brain works.
Do you have any other projects are in the works? I have two paranormal romances waiting to see the light of day, a medieval romance (currently shelved), and the sequel I mentioned.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? I have some stories on life support so long it’s embarrassing. The bake-off book is one example. I wrote a version before A Match Made for TV but realised that while I had tension, drama and attraction, the relationship never built. Now I build the relationship first.
If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? Fantasy and historical.
What writing resources have been most helpfulto you? The most singularly useful text was Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. But collectively, it’s been by joining writing organisations like the Romance Writers of Australia.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? I wish I’d had critique partners sooner instead of trying to do it all solo.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I’m still at the stage of fitting writing around my work.
What inspired your new book? My love of cooking. And the Aussie TV show the Cook and the Chef.
What is themost difficult part about writing for you? Getting new words down and keeping them.
Did you do any research for your current book? I have a chronic need to research, so yes.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Finish the damn book has to be the best.’
“A writer is a person who writes every day” is the worst.
Best money you have spent as a writer? Buying Scrivener.
What are you reading now? Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews. And the next book on pre-order is The King’s Cowboy by Madeline Ash.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I’m looking looking forward to hearing what readers say about my style.
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Current fave is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Almost everything by Diana Wynne Jones.
Where do you read? I read practically anywhere, my Kindle allows me to take a book wherever I go, but I love the physicality of print books. Like many people, I enjoy the pleasure and comfort of reading in bed. Do you judge a book by its cover? It seems that I frequently do, a realisation that had escaped my notice until now.
The Broken Spine by Dorothy St James.
The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!
Trudell Becket finds herself in a bind when her library is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless ‘technological center’. A library with no books breaks Trudell’s book-loving heart and she decides to rescue hundreds of beloved tomes slated for the recycle center. Under the cover of darkness, Trudell sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to her loyal patrons.
When the town councilman, who was a vocal supporter of the library’s transformation is crushed by an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the prime suspect. She was the only person in the library at the time of his murder, or so the police believe. But the visitors to Trudell’s secret book room were actually all there too.
If she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. To keep herself out of jail, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly finds herself on the same page with a killer who would love to write her final chapter.
By now you have probably realised I have a soft spot for books about books, bookshops, and libraries. So, when I saw this intriguing title, I grabbed it immediately. Trudell Becket is a passionate librarian, who is faced with the imminent destruction of her beloved library. The library is going digital and not just digital, they are going to purge the library of books. It will be a library without a book. When the architect of this scheme is murdered, suspicion falls on Trudell. She knows she is innocent, but how to prove it? I found it an entertaining read with enough red herrings to keep me amused.
The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine.
The new gripping historical novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Lady of Hay.
A nest of vipers, they called us. But that is not how it was.
Mercia, 775 AD. In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with ruthless ambition. Aggressive and relentlessly acquisitive, his three daughters are destined to marry advantageously in service of their country. Eadburh, the youngest, is neither the cleverest nor the most beautiful of the three. But, with her father’s ruthless spirit and the secret gifts passed down from her mother, she is determined to carve her own path in the world.
2021. Simon Armstrong has escaped to a secluded cottage on the English-Welsh borders, desperate to finish his book about Anglo-Saxon King Offa. But he soon finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions. Calling in local expert Bea to identify the issue, Simon hopes to get back some peace – but soon Bea is as embroiled as he is, feeling increasingly connected to a ghostly presence that is growing ever-stronger in its desire for revenge.
And when Simon’s daughter disappears, centuries of secrets and resentment begin to tumble out…
An epic tale of deceit, revenge and exile from the queen of timeslip historical fiction.
Time is running out as the past and present collide…
This book captured my imagination and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I found the transfer from past to present totally believable and kept wanting to read just that bit more. If you are a history aficionado, like timeslip fiction and enjoy a touch of the otherworldly, this book is for you. I found it interesting that due to skilful writing I was able to feel sympathy for some quite unlikable characters.
All You Need Is Love by Jessica Redland.
When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?
Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.
Sam thinks he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?
This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up.
Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?
Escape to Whitsborough Bay for an emotional, uplifting story of love and friendship from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland. This book was previously published as Bear With Me.
I picked this up because I wanted an escapist read, and hadn’t looked at the synopsis, just the cover. Having had a few personal problems in recent months, I wasn’t looking for anything heavy or demanding. For the most part, it delivered, although on a couple of occasions I found something that affected me. That is just a personal reaction and of course, I was always free to give up if I wanted to. In general, though I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened to Jemma and Sam.
Call the Vet by Bruce Fogle.
Arriving in 1970s’ London as a fresh-faced Canadian, Bruce Fogle assumed that because he knew the language, he would understand the English. As a graduate of the world’s best veterinary school, he also thought his profession would come naturally to him. He quickly learned not to make assumptions…
Bruce began his career at the prestigious Woodrow Singleton surgery in the heart of the Knightsbridge. Frequented by Britain’s most distinguished pet owners, from Duchesses and Sultans to Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor, it also cared for the exotic inhabitants of the Harrods’ ‘Zoo Department’. Over the next few years, an arc of clients would cross Bruce’s table, from cats and dogs to alligators, pumas and even a capuchin monkey. Each adventure taught Bruce far more than any textbook ever could, while skilful veterinary nurses provided the greatest lessons of all.
Call the Vet is a wonderfully rich and warmly funny memoir. Set against the vibrant backdrop of 1970s’ London, it explores the unique bond between pets and their owners; the common thread of compassion that unites all cultures and classes, and the discovery of love and joy in unexpected places.
Perfect for fans of Noel Fitzpatrick, Ben Fogle and Kate Humble!
An interesting insight into how vets care for our pets. Bruce Fogle shares stories from the 1970s. It is heart-breaking to realise that at that time, the orthodoxy was that animals don’t feel pain, like humans. Observation and his instincts gave Bruce Fogle the understanding that they do, and that they deserved better treatment. As a ‘celebrity vet,’ he shares stories of some of the famous clientele. He was dating actress Julia Foster and so ,inevitably they met a lot of theatre folk. The stories that resonated most deeply for me were those of Miss Williams, valiant cat rescuer, Pat, the unflappable surgery nurse, and the many ordinary people who loved their pets.
The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz.
“You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…”
These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer. Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise.
Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?
Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business.
But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death…
Another intriguing brain teaser from Anthony Horowitz. Each time I thought I had the solution, another thing popped up which blew that theory apart. The female detective Cara Grunshaw was terrifying, and I imagined her as a belligerent bulldog. At least I guessed who wrote the Doomworld series. As the story unfolds, we are given tantalising hints as to Hawthorne’s mysterious past. So, I guess there will be another Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery soon.
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café by Jessica Redland.
A few minutes of courage might change your life…
Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.
Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.
When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that.
Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?
I was drawn to this book both by its title and cover. Never underestimate the power of a good cover. I think that was what made the book kind of surprising. Although light-hearted, it also deals with betrayal and that betrayal is shocking. To me it felt as if I was it was an amalgam of two books, one the chick lit I was expecting and another that veered into darker territory. I found it an interesting read.
Threadneedle by Cari Thomas
Book one in The Language of Magic series
Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.
Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.
Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.
It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.
Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then .Could it?
I wanted to love this book ,and in parts I did. It has been pitched as an adult book, and its themes are dark, but to my mind, it is better suited to older teens. The premise is intriguing and the paranoia of the Binders truly terrifying, but then what if they do have something to fear? It’s a long book and in places, it dragged for me, but I was interested enough to see how it ended. The dynamics of the relationships, the magic herb lore and spells, were all believable as was the setting of contemporary London. It’s just the sort of place this could happen. Friendships, rivalries, bullying, first love, infatuation , all contributed to the YA theme I adored the magical library that co-existed with the London Library.
Before the Crown by Flora Harding.
Before the crown there was a love story…
’If you’re a fan of The Crown, you’ll love this’ Woman’s Weekly.
‘Fascinating…a beautiful love story’ Woman
Windsor Castle, 1943
As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.
One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.
But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.
He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…
Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.
My Review. It’s a strange feeling to read this fictionalised account of the courtship of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. People I have known of my whole life, but of course, do not know at all. It is written in a plausible style and gave a depth of understanding to these somewhat remote figures. Princess Elizabeth, who is as isolated as any princess in an ivory tower, controversially choosing a man who wasn’t constrained by old ideas and ideals. It also gave me an idea of what it would be like to be a princess .It’s not all tiaras and ballgowns , its often tedium and duty.
Soulless by Gail Carriger.
Book one The Parasols Protectorate.
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.
First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
Having recently read Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey, I wanted to read some of her fiction. Although this isn’t necessarily a book I might have chosen otherwise. It didn’t matter as I was soon hooked and happily chortling away at Alexia’s repartee and character in general. It’s a rip-roaring fast-paced read with enough steamy scenes to make it interesting. I am definitely going to continue reading this series.
The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin.
It’s The Holiday on the Champs-Élysées in a great big love letter to Paris, charming old bookstores and happily-ever-afters!
When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her
Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.
But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new co workers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.
This is absolutely my kind of book. I loved everything about it, it was such a comforting, happy read. The concept of books having lives of their own, rustling their pages, and whispering secrets, resonated with me. I suspect most book lovers would secretly adore owning a bookshop. Ignoring the inconvenient facts that it is work, and often hard work at that! The Parisian vibe had me picturing myself there, strolling along the banks of the Seine. Small town Sarah, exploring the delights of Paris and finding the ‘secret Paris,’ that only true Parisienne’s know. Her relationship with the elusive Ridge. My copy had a bonus addition The Book shop On the Corner, which showed how Sarah and Ridge had come to meet. I was sad to finish this book.
Thanks for joining us Kelvin. I know Kelvin slightly as a fellow member of a writing group I belong to. But I found his answers intriguing and I hope that you will too.
First some getting to know you questions and then we will talk about your writing.
Late nights or early morning? As it happens, I am an insomniac so most nights I’m at the computer in the wee hours, often until the sun comes up.
Whats for Breakfast?
Breakfast, Kelvin’s fabulous home -made muesli. If I wasn’t destined to be a world-famous novelist, I would market my home made muesli and be a millionaire breakfast food magnate.
Night in with or without Netflix or Night Out?
Both night out and in, yes with Netflix and Foxtel
Sadly, when I have finished watching a Netflix series, I realise there must be a shortage of good writers. Some of the scripts are beyond ludicrous.
Certainly, G and T, and of course coffee. As for tea, that’s the main reason the British Empire has diminished in the last 100 years. People realised a nation that chooses to drink the abomination that is tea, don’t deserve to have an empire.
What did I want to be?
I really wanted to be a world- famous rock and roll musician. It seemed the only thing that prevented that was a lack of talent. Apart from that I thought I ticked all the boxes.
Talk about a jack of all trades. Shoe salesman, car salesman, real estate salesman, and a would- be politician. I was a professional musician for many years. Those stories are in my autobiographical book ” Oh How We Rocked”. This slim volume was compiled with an ex-band member and lifelong friend Allan Butler.
What brings me joy? Silly question, a good book.
And then of course we have sport. Bugger sport I loathe any game that has balls in it, so that fortunately rules out most of them.
My hero? There are too many to list. Not too many politicians. Certainly, some authors I admire I’m a fan of Ayn Rand, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and perhaps curiously I remember as a child how enthralled I was with Enid Blyton. She probably helped to spark a lifelong love of literature.
Choose three people alive or dead to invite for dinner.
I would love to have met Mark Twain. My grandfather heard him speak and was enthralled. As a writer his novels are actually far deeper than just adventure stories. Having dinner with Shakespeare, probably the most influential writer of all time, would be a life changing experience. Having a chat with Leonardo De Vinci, just so I could tell him how some of his crazy ideas actually came to fruition.
About Writing, are you a plotter, know what is going to happen or a pantser as in don’t plan, fly by the seat of your pants?
Oh boy, am I a pantser? You bet. I start with the vaguest of ideas and then like a water diviner, I see where it takes me. I like the surprises.
Tell us a little about Spencer’s war.
Life is idyllic for Spencer Marlowe, a successful Gen Y marketing guru, living the dream in Perth, Western Australia. Good-looking, fit and self-assured, Spencer is fascinated by Japanese culture, fluent in the Japanese language, and passionately in love with his Japanese girlfriend, Michiyo. He’s also a formidable karate expert who just can’t stop getting into trouble. After a particularly eventful night, involving bikie gangs and motorbikes, he makes up his mind to marry Michiyo. But on the very same night as his romantic proposal, he is inexplicably transported back in time to Perth in 1942, where he finds himself a recruit in the army and forced to play a war game.As time goes on, with no indication of when he might return to his old life, Spencer embarks on a dangerous mission to Singapore – his assignment to detonate Japanese ships and prevent the invasion of Australia. But can Spencer destroy an enemy he’s come to love? Can he convince his senior officers he’s not a spy? Can he conform to a new culture and its old-fashioned beliefs? And – in this time – can he save the day?Along the way, Spencer’s comrades, and the many colourful characters he meets, become like family. The beautiful and beguiling Trilby Lim, potentially something more. But just as Spencer finds his feet, they’re whisked out from underneath him and he begins to question everything. Including if he wants to go back home..
Yes I have finished book two of the Spencer series. Hawaiian Intervention has just had its final proofread and is about to be uploaded onto Ingram Sparke and Amazon. “Hawaiian” sees Spencer cast back in time to Hawaii, prior to the Japanese attack. I’m very pleased with the finished result.
How Much research did you do? Research on my novels is an ongoing process I research as needed. Thank God for Doctor Google.
I wish I had started to write earlier in my life. Apart from being a prolific letter writer to newspapers I didn’t start to write a novel until I was almost 70. About two and a half years ago. I’m now hooked.
How do you decide character names? I don’t have a formula for names. I try to make them interesting.
What time of the day do you write ? Anytime.
Difficulties? Grammar and sentence construction at times needs a little work.
Do you have a writing schedule? I have been known to write for ten hours straight.
Writing quirk? I’m not sure what quirks I have. As far as I know, I’m not sure my style is like anybody else’s, so that’s a quirk I guess.
In my third Spencer Marlowe novel, yet to be edited I have a female character FBI agent Savannah Steele, who is a slightly psychopathic, but lovable lady. I was so taken with her I’ve written a third novel featuring her. I’m in love. Sadly, she turns out to be a lesbian, so my love is doomed to be unrequited
Can a writer write if they don’t feel emotions? Absolutely so long as it’s instruction manuals for IKEA
Best advice? Keep writing.
Worst advice? You will never succeed.
Best money spent? Hire a good editor.
Favourite author? Impossible to answer. But current faves are Michael Connolly, Peter James and Stephen Leather. Currently reading ” Memory Man” by David Baldacci.
I really couldn’t say who has influenced me the most. Probably an amalgam of Leslie Charteris, Ian Fleming and I hate to say it, Lee Child.
Favourite quote.” If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
Favourite book ‘ Pillars of the Earth’ by Ken Follett.
As a child, my absolute favourite was the ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ by you know who.
You are busy! Anything else in the pipeline?
Recently I was invited to collaborate on a “crime noir” novel with award winning author Dr Bruce Russell. I wasn’t quite sure how a collaboration would work, I don’t think he did either. Bruce has a doctorate in creative writing and has taught in American Universities. The formula seems to be, we take turns writing a chapter each. So far no cross words. We are up to around 40,000 words. I’m pretty excited by the project. It’s entitled ” The King of San Francisco” It’s set in 1978 when the main character, an Australian, visits his younger brother in San Francisco, only to find himself dragged into a world of murder and intrigue. Naturally we have lots of sex and violence. At the speed we are going it will be ready for editing within a couple of months.
The weather was dismal, as we had twenty eight days of rain in July. The last time the rain was so frequent, in sunny Perth, Australia, was seventy five years ago. Home and comfort was the place to be. My local library provided most of the books I’ve been reading this month. Television provided few distractions, so I happily got lost in a good book.
When She Was Good by Michael Robotham.
Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in this new thriller from author Michael Robotham. Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped Cyrus crack an impenetrable case in Good Girl, Bad Girl. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named…
Although this continues the story which began in Good Girl, Bad Girl, it could be read as a stand-alone. Tautly plotted and filled with tension, the story follows Evie Cormac, aka Angel Face. She was a child discovered at a horrific crime scene. Evie is deeply traumatised, trusting no -one, apart from Cyrus Haven, the criminal psychologist who initially got her to speak. Evie has the unerring ability to know when someone is lying. When she says their lives are in danger, Cyrus doesn’t believe her.
The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah
The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot, the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in the London of 1930.
Hercule Poirot returns home after an agreeable luncheon to find an angry woman waiting to berate him outside his front door. Her name is Sylvia Rule, and she demands to know why Poirot has accused her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met. She is furious to be so accused, and deeply shocked. Poirot is equally shocked, because he too has never heard of any Barnabas Pandy, and he certainly did not send the letter in question. He cannot convince Sylvia Rule of his innocence, however, and she marches away in a rage.
Shaken, Poirot goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man called John Mc Crodden who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…
Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?
MY REVIEW. It’s a while since I read Agatha Christie and I was intrigued to learn that Sophie Hannah had been authorised by the Christie estate to continue the series. I picked this one at random, not realising it was the third in the series. There is a new inspector, Inspector Edward Catchpole, replacing Inspector James Japp. George, Poirot’s Valet also makes an appearance. I missed Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon. Hasting to pose the questions that we all would like to ask. Miss Lemon for her solid devotion to Poirot. The book is cleverly plotted, but for me, it felt a bit flat.
The Charleston Scandal by Pamela Hart.
If you devoured THE CROWN you will love this exuberant story of a young Australian actress caught up in the excesses, royal intrigues and class divide of Jazz Age London, losing her way but reclaiming her heart in the process
London, 1920s: Kit Scott, a privileged young Australian aiming to become a star, arrives in the city to find the Jazz Age in full swing. Cast in a West End play opposite another young hopeful, Canadian Zeke Gardiner, she dances blithely into the heady lifestyle of English high society and the London theatre set, from Noel Coward to Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele. When Kit is photographed dancing the Charleston alongside the Prince of Wales, she finds herself at the centre of a major scandal, sending the Palace into damage control and Kit to her aristocratic English relatives – and into the arms of the hedonistic Lord Henry Carleton. Amid the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, both Zeke and Kit are faced with temptations – and make choices that will alter the course of their lives forever. Readers of Natasha Lester’s A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD will love THE CHARLESTON SCANDAL. Bestselling author Pamela Hart’s energetic, masterful storytelling will have you glued right until the end.
MY REVIEW. From starting this book, I was immersed in its setting and felt as if I was a participant in Jazz Age London. As an ex-pat Brit, I had of course heard all about dazzling David, the Prince of Wales. Later, he became Edward VIII who subsequently abdicated in favour of his brother Bertie, who became George VI. At the heart of the story is a presumed scandal, that the Prince of Wales should be caught dancing the Charleston with an actress. Australian Kit Scott has orders both from her theatre management and the Palace, to appear alongside someone else. They even provide the decoy in Lord Henry Carlton. He is amiable and aimless. He’s a younger son, with nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. This conflicts with the connection that Kit has built with Zeke, her dance partner in the play. There they are both second leads and socialise in the theatrical world. As Colonials they feel a sense of connection, and maybe something more.
A Woman’s Courage by Simon Block.Book Three in the Home Fire Series.
As bombs continue to fall on the North West of England, the members of one town’s WI fight harder than ever to help the war effort. Grieving for men already lost or anxious for those still away fighting, the women of Great Paxford must rely on each other. Amidst the complexities of broken relationships, loss, love, betrayal and sudden freedom, this group of very different women must work together to find a way through.
Despite the chaos of war, behind closed doors they fight more personal battles. Pat is reeling from her own role in her husband’s death, while Steph is struggling to come to terms with significant changes in her life.
Together the women of Great Paxford must find a way through .
Knowing this book was the last in the series, reading it was bittersweet. I can understand Simon wants to get onto other projects, but these characters have become real to so many. We were heartbroken when Britain’s ITV cancelled the series, as it was a cut above so many other dramas. Well scripted, and well-cast, we glimpsed the lives of our grandparents or parents. Despite being set in a Cheshire village, and not a battlefield, plenty was going on. We see the likes of Downton Abbey more frequently than stories of ordinary people. That was what made the series and books so fascinating. Daily challenges such as make do and mend, food shortages, worry about loved ones. Daily life, not as we know it, but how it was for millions of Brits.
Most storylines made sense, some happy, some sad. New characters such as the doctor integrating with our old favourites. What rang true for me was the petty jealousies and gossip, as well as the kindness and pulling together. I am sad to say goodbye to these much-loved characters.
Son of A Witch by Louisa West.Midlife in Mosswood, Book Five.
She knew she’d have to find something old and something new. This wasn’t what she was expecting.
Rosemary Bell is going to the chapel and someone’s gonna get married. But when an unexpected visitor begins causing trouble in Mosswood, the something blue on Tammy’s big day could end up being the bride.
For better or worse, Fox Cottage has a new resident. And mostly, it’s for worse. With Declan struggling to rein in his way ward son, Rosie ends up playing referee as well as bridesmaid–and she doesn’t look good in stripes. Wanting to support her boyfriend and still keep peace in the neighborhood, Rosie is stuck between a diamond and a hard place.
When the teenage troublemakers commit a ceremony foul, will Rosie find herself one family richer or one group of friends poorer?
Freaky Friday meets My Best Friend’s Wedding in this short novel about the vows we make, the promises we break, and the things we do for family’s sake.
MY REVIEW. Rosie’s life keeps getting more complicated, and her magical ability isn’t proving helpful. She’s torn between wanting to keep the peace, or her sanity. Maggie, Rosie’s daughter is slightly in awe of her new sibling. He’s not one for conforming or fitting in. Anyone who has dealt with truculent teens will have sympathy for Rosie and Declan. The book still has the trademark wit and good humour with the characters we have come to know and care about.
The Bermondsey Bookshop by Mary Gibson.
Set in 1920s London, this is the inspiring story of Kate Goss’s struggle against poverty, hunger and cruel family secrets.
Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn’t long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too. Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.
MY REVIEW. I am pretty much guaranteed to pick up any book with a bookshop, or a library in the title. This story though focussed more on the main character Kate Goss. She is an unloved child ,who has been foisted on her aunt. Her mother is dead, and her father has disappeared. The grim surrounding and tough treatment meted out to Kate were very reminiscent of a Catherine Cookson novel. Her deprivation and the cruelty of her family were hard to take. Kate works a difficult and dirty job as a tin worker. When her aunt throws her out, she needs more work to survive. She finds it as a cleaner at the Bermondsey Bookshop. Through her part-time work there, she is gradually drawn into the lives of some of the middle-class patrons. When a Pygmalion transformation takes place, Kate learns how the other half lives. The part I found most interesting was about the bookshop ( based on the real bookshop) and its ethos.
Purls and Poison by Anne Canadeo.A Black Sheep Company Mystery.
When a fellow Black Sheep Knitter is suspected of poisoning her coworker, the group puts down their needles and takes up their friend’s defense . . .
Suzanne Cavanaugh has just about had it with her office rival at Prestige Properties. It’s bad enough that Liza Devereaux is constantly needling her at work, but when she shows up at one of Suzanne’s open houses to poach potential buyers, it’s the last straw. No one in the office fails to hear the two snarling at each other.
When Liza is later found dead in her office cubicle–poisoned by a diet shake–Suzanne becomes the prime suspect. It’s soon discovered, though, that Liza had double-crossed so many around town and stashed their dark secrets in her designer handbags that anyone could be the culprit.
The Black Sheep Knitters have no doubt their friend has been framed–but they need to prove it. Stirred to action, they get together to catch a sneaky killer who’s trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes . . .
MY REVIEW. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it was the cover of this one that attracted me first. Ironically, neither the gorgeous feline nor the string of pearls appears in the book. Did the cover designer mix up pearls and purls?
Work rivals Suzanne and Liza have had a less than cordial relationship in the past, but does that mean Suzanne murdered her rival? The police certainly seem to think so. They know that Suzanne had a very public row with Liza over client poaching. As the case unfolds, Suzanne is helped by her knitting club pals and begins to learn about a different side of Liza. The pace of the story flowed well and gave us a couple of interesting possible suspects. An easy and entertaining read.
Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace by Kate Forster.
Love comes when you least expect it… Tressa Buckland likes her quiet life in Port Lowdy, with its cobbled streets and colourful terraced houses overlooking the sea. Her job at the local paper allows her to pursue her art in her free time, with no one but her tabby cat Ginger Pickles to mind her in Mermaid Terrace. But then the owner of the paper is called away on an emergency, and it’s up to Tressa to run the paper for six months. Her first task: find a new part-time journalist.
Dan Byrne is the angriest man in Ireland – or so the readers of his very successful column, ‘Dan takes on the world’, think. But after a story goes south and he loses his job in Dublin, Dan has no choice but to start afresh. When an opportunity comes up in sleepy Cornwall, Dan and his Golden Retriever Ritchie set off for a new adventure.
For Tressa, Dan’s arrival to Port Lowdy changes everything. Tressa tries not to look too deeply at her own life, but Dan sees a story to uncover in absolutely everyone – even her. The two of them couldn’t be more different… yet, if they can find a way to work together, they may just breathe new life and joy into this sleepy seaside village.
Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace is a heart -warming new village romance about the power of love and kindness, from the bestselling author of Starting Over at Acorn Cottage
Kindle Edition, 263 pages Published February 4th 2021 by Aria.Paperback to follow.
MY REVIEW. Having lived in Cornwall as a child, I do have a soft spot for books set in Cornwall. It was easy to visualise the village and setting. Treena is a lonely character, happily isolated from her family, due to her mother’s expectations. She lives in Port Lowdy, where she feels happy at home. But life changes and her carefully constructed world is upended. George, her boss has left her in charge of the local paper, and she employs Irishman Dan to take on the reporting duties. He arrives with his gorgeous dog Ritchie and soon makes Port Lowdy his home. His charm had everyone telling him their stories and he’s just the one to write them. Treena feels life is brighter with Dan around and begins to trust him. But then, a story threatens to tear them apart. I enjoyed this book, but there was one loss that broke my heart.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce.
Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain. This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries.
MY REVIEW. I was first drawn in by the intriguing title and soon began to appreciate the solitary life led by Miss Benson. An ordinary spinster, in the post-war period in Britain. One out of character event starts her on the path to going on a beetle hunt. She is a relatable character, with her insecurities, and foibles. When she advertises for an assistant, most of the applicants are unsuitable. Still, she embarks on her quest to find the mythical golden beetle. Think Thelma and Louise meet Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture by GailCarriger.
Tired of the hero’s journey? Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously? Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?
The heroine’s journey is here to help.
Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.
In this book you’ll learn:
* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you. * The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative. * A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.
What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common? They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.
From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.
With over a dozen NYT and USA Today bestsellers, and over a million books in print, popular genre author and former archaeologist Gail Carriger brings her cheeky comedic tone and over a decade of making her living as a fiction author to this fascinating look at one of the most popular yet neglected narratives of our time. The presentation she does on this subject sells for hundreds of dollars.
“I’m not sure how you can just rewire my brain to see the heroine’s journey like this and then expect me to make coherent, thought-out comments about the text when all I want to do is hold it in my twisted little grip while I shove it at people screaming like a madman and pointing at passages.” ~ Author Beta Reader
Gail Carriger uses the heroine’s journey to produce bestselling, critically-acclaimed books that genre blend science fiction, cozy mystery, young adult, urban fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and alternate history. In this non-fiction book she uses her academic background and creative writing skills to bring to life the archetypes, tropes, story beats, themes, and messages inherent in the heroine’s journey. Part treatise on authorship, part feminist literary criticism, part how to write guide, Carriger uses mythology, legend, and Gothic Victorian 19th century literature to explore movies, screenwriting, books, and audience desires.
This is an excellent reference guide for genre fiction authors seeking to improve their craft or for readers and pop culture enthusiasts interested in understanding their own taste. It is the perfect counterpoint to The Hero with a Thousand Faces not to mention Save the Cat, Women Who Run with The Wolves, and The Breakout Novelist.
Kindle Edition, 285 pages Published October 1st 2020 by GAIL CARRIGER LLC
MY REVIEW. Finally, a book that makes sense of the heroine’s journey. Tired of trying to fit stories into the prescriptive and restrictive hero’s journey, and wondering where you went wrong? Perhaps like me, you queried where the heroine fitted into the hero’s journey and was answered dismissively. Try as you might your story wouldn’t fit that pattern. It was the wrong pattern- The Heroine’s Journey is the book that might change your writing life.
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz.
A woman crosses a London street.
It is just after 11am on a bright spring morning, and Diana Cowper is going into a funeral parlour to organise her own service.
A mere six hours later she is dead, strangled with a crimson curtain cord in her own home.
Did she know she was going to die? Did she recognise her killer?
Are the two events even related? Because nobody arranges their own funeral, and the gets killed the same day – do they?
Enter Daniel Hawthorne, a detective with a genius for solving crimes and an ability to hold his secrets very close.
With him is his writing partner, Anthony Horowitz. Together they will set out to solve this most puzzling of mysteries.
What neither of them know is that they are about to embark on a dark and dangerous journey where the twists and turns are as unexpected as they are bloody..
MY REVIEW. Anthony Horowitz likes to challenge his readers, not because he doesn’t give them a good, imaginatively creative, and intricately plotted story. He does, but he also does the unexpected. This time, he is a character in the book he is writing. On the one hand, it is interesting to learn about his writing experiences and thoughts on writing. On the other hand, I found it vaguely unsettling, the blurring of fact and fiction. And to add to the confusion, he thanks his fictional detective in the acknowledgements.
A Season in Paris: A Historical Anthology by Ava January, Nancy Cunningham, Sarah Fiddelaers, Clare Griffin.
One Paris shop, four women, four decades of intrigue…
Spring, 1909 When Delphine Altrain purchases a date with Paris’ most eligible bachelor, Gabriel La Pouge, she has one thing on her mind…hats. When her latest design becomes the talk of the Grand Prix, it seems everything she has dreamed of is within her reach, but when the past arrives to destroy her present, Delphine needs to decide, stay and risk heartbreak, or run and always wonder what could have been.
Summer, 1924 Beautiful Edith Carrow appears to have it all. As Coco Chanel’s mannequin her life is full of parties and the adoration of a rich man. But Edith holds a deep secret from her past. When she meets toymaker, Henri, her heart threatens to unravel all she has worked hard to achieve. She must choose, follow her head or listen to her heart and risk losing everything.
Autumn, 1935 Genevieve Dupuis is forbidden from doing two things; painting and falling in love. So when she meets handsome Sebastian on a forbidden painting trip her life becomes ever so slightly complicated. Can a girl who has learned to survive by lies and illusions face up to the truth in time to realise that sometimes surrender is the bravest act of all?
Winter, 1944 SOE agent Therese Lambert is about to risk everything to help free Canadian airman Will – a man hiding his own covert activities beneath an identity she knows isn’t his. Fleeing from the German occupiers and the collaborating French, they escape Paris. Can their budding attraction survive a perilous journey, or will a betrayal put both their lives on the line?
Kindle Edition Published July 26th 2021 by Girl On A Soapbox Press. Paperback to follow.
MY REVIEW. Books about Paris are perennially popular and this one contains four individual stories. Each story highlights a different epoch and aspect of Paris, but all are equally engaging with that ineffable je ne sais quoi of Parisian flair. I read this quickly, finding it an easy and enjoyable read. I received an ARC of this book, but with no obligation to review it.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new books
I actually have three books coming soon. Spirit Talker is a Y.A. Literary novel:
When a grieving teen starts seeing ghosts walk the streets, her sceptical psychiatrist thinks she’s hallucinating, but just because not everyone can see them doesn’t mean they aren’t really there.
City of Quartz is a Y.A. Dystopian Sci-Fi and book two of the Shadow of Nar Series:
On a distance world, where human flaw is eradicated, a teenage space explorer must convince the perfectionist society to provide vital medical aid that will cure her sister’s terminal illness.
And finally, we’re also hoping to get out the first book I’ve co-written with my daughter, Kaylie. Everlasting Sleep is a Y.A. Fantasy:
To cure her sister’s sickness, a dragon-winged teen must venture to Vislume , the land of dreams, where corruption has tainted the landscape and darkness lures dreamers into everlasting sleep.
Some quick-fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Late Nights, although I’m trying to switch this around.
What’s for breakfast? Lately it’s been two soft boiled eggs. This is because I help take care of my stepfather who has Alzheimer’s and soft boiled eggs is one of the four things he still knows how to cook and is in a routine where he cooks it every single morning. But I’ve also been known to have cereal, porridge, smoothies, toast, or croissants.
Night out or Netflix? Netflix. Or Disney Plus or Amazon Prime or Apple TV or YouTube. I’m a subscription service addict. lol Although I play a lot of video games too. 😉
G &T or Tea/coffee? Tea, or Milo. I don’t drink alcohol and I try to avoid caffeine because both have significantly negative impact on my Bipolar.
Perfect weekend? In bed with a book.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A writer. 🙂
What is for dinner tonight? Tonight was roast pork (stepdad cooked – his remaining two meal options are silverside or roast chicken.)
Can you cook? Yes, but I have to be in a good mood to want to.
What would you rather be eating? Sushi!
What brings you joy, lifts your spirits, and chases away a down mood? Spending time with my children. 🙂
Wow, I really don’t know. There are a lot of people I admire and would want to emulate. Most of them are fellow writers although there are also a few entrepreneurs, adventurers, scientists, musicians, actors, etc. I can’t say I have any one particular person I hold to higher esteem and would consider my hero.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Way too difficult to narrow down that list. I’d welcome anyone who would want to hang out with me. Let’s do dinner. Any time. Everyone has their stories, their interests and passions, their inner being. I can enjoy the company of pretty much anyone.
You write in more than one genre. What drew you to them and how do you keep a balance between stories?
To be honest, I don’t. I love lots of genres and I’ve got books in a multitude. Picture Books, Chapter Books, Young Adult, Romance Novellas, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Non-Fiction, even Game Lit. But my heart is most truly in the Y.A. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. And I bundle Sci-Fi and Fantasy together because I often find they overlap a lot.
These days I’m trying to focus solely on Y.A. because it’s very difficult to juggle multiple genres. It’s like having to build multiple careers. Each genre has different readers which means multiple target markets, multiple brands, multiple fan bases, etc. When my children were young we did the kids books as part of our home schooling and for a while I did romance or game lit just to put a few extra dollars in the bank, but these days I get to focus on the stories that are deeply true to myself and my own dreams and passions and inspiration which means I get to focus on Y.A.
What do you think makes a good story? Characters learning to live into the best versions of themselves. Usually that means embracing their whole self, including their flaws, and figuring out how to chase big dreams or accomplish great things even in the face of adversity or challenge. I think all of us want to see people beat the odds. We want to believe in possibility.
Are you a plotter, more organic, or a mix of the two? These days I’m definitely mostly a plotter. I’ve learned over time that the more foundation I lay before I begin the easier the writing process tends to be. I’ve also learned a great deal about story structure and character development. It’s something I now teach other writers because it was something that completely transformed me as a writer when I discovered it and I’ve been really thrilled to visit a few high schools in the past couple of years where they’re actually teaching this stuff to teenagers! They definitely didn’t teach it when I was in school.
How much research do you do for a story?
It really depends. Sometimes it can be a lot! Sometimes next to nothing. For example, I did very little research for Spirit Talker. Most of it came from lived experience or instinct. I did a little research into the school I chose for her and made sure I had a beta reader who was familiar with the school but beyond that I didn’t need to learn much. But for City of Light, book one of the Shadows of Nar, I did extensive research into ion engines, space travel, faster than light theories, impact of binary stars on planetary conditions, relative distance, etc. I needed to feel confident that I understood the inner workings of the science so that I could write with authority. But my key tip about research is to focus on what you need and leave as much as you can to the second draft not the first. You don’t necessarily need to know all the inner workings and if you research too much in advance then you’ll want to info dump it all into the book and for the most part you don’t need to. You need to know just enough to be confident that it works, and nothing more.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your stories from? Everywhere? It’s been so many years since I was last without a story to write that I really find this kind of question odd because there’s never a scarcity of inspiration or ideas. I wrote about my Idea Waterfall back in 2008 (https://www.rebeccalaffarsmith.com/idea-waterfall/).
What is the best advice you’ve had as a writer? There have been so many brilliant pieces of advice over the years and the “best” tends to depend on my current situation. For example, right now I really resonate with the mantra “it’s the catalogue not the book”. Out of context that sounds kind of lame but it’s been very powerful to me because I experience a LOT of anxiety about the writing process. I was getting so bogged down in wanting to get every single word perfect that sometimes it means I can’t even write a sentence, let alone finish a book. So my mentor taught me to remember that the success or failure of individual books isn’t worth getting hung up on because as a career author I’m building a catalogue of content. Lots of books. And each of those books will have people who love it or hate it. The more books I finish and add to my catalogue the stronger my foundations become. The more books I have the more fans will find me and the more books I’ll sell. So it reminds me to think big picture and to obsess less. Maybe that’s the true take away tip. “Think big picture. Obsess less.” lol
What’s your favourite part of the writing process? Least favourite?
Favourite is outlines and planning. It’s the part that feels natural to me and the part I’m able to help others with the most too. I love developing story ideas, building story structure, fleshing out characters, and seeing the evolution of arcs.
Least favourite is the writing part… Writing is hard.
What’s your process for writing for the male perspective / male characters?
Um… Just write them? Seriously, men aren’t that alien. Sure, there are innate differences between a masculine and feminine character but gender and sex are two different things. A man can be macho or effeminate, and still be a man. A woman can be butch or delicate, and still be a woman. I think it’s important to understand psychology and behaviourism. To understand people. Observe, study, and analyse. When you do that then gender/sex becomes less of a thing to worry about because you’re writing every single character from their uniqueness. When you write sci-fi and fantasy you can’t obsess over gender, because then you’d have to go, “Well how do you write a dragon?” Or “How do you write an alien?” Or “How do you write a sentient flying fluffy creature that’s almost pet-like but has language?” Character is character; define the individuals traits, and write from within the embodiment of that.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? First drafts. Primarily because of that anxiety I talked about earlier. I feel like there’s so much weight and responsibility in finding the best way to tell the stories I want to tell. Each of the books I write have deep cores. They have reasons for being that are really, really big. They’re way more than simple escapism. They all convey really complex themes and messages, hidden in the simplicity of story. I want my books to change people’s lives. That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and it makes it really hard to face the page because a lot of the time I feel like I could never do justice the story that I want to tell. Lots of self-doubt. Lots of fear. I’m working through it, trying to unlock that place because I’d really love to “experience joy, calm, and confidence when I am writing” but it’s something I have to proactively build within myself.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing? I wish I was consistent. I’d love to say I write from such and such to such and such every single day. But I don’t. Especially lately because my chronic health issues are having a nasty flair up so some days I don’t even make it out of bed let alone get to my desk. I do, however, prefer to write in solid blocks at least 90 minutes at a time. And I love writing in cafes. Some days I’ll be in a cafe all day long; others I’ll manage to scrounge a lucky ten minutes while in bed. Some days I manage to get the writing done first. I try to do this because often by the end of a day I’m just too wiped out to be creative. But I’m still inherently a night owl so sometimes it’s not until the evening that I can actually carve out some time for myself and that means I could be writing into the early hours of the morning. So I guess that’s all to say I don’t really have a schedule. I’d like one but I haven’t been able to force myself to be consistent. Another failing I’ve been trying to work on but haven’t quite figured out how to correct. Lol
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I honestly have no idea! I wonder if my readers would be able to identify any particular quirks. I’ve been told that I have some odd sentence structure sometimes which I guess is quirky?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? There’s definitely things an emotion-less writer could write. In fact, they’d be ideal writers for content like research papers and new media. I’d also really love to read poetry by a writer who doesn’t feel emotions because they could still portray incredible imagery and observation. It’s really a question of what strengths and tone and voice could they convey? How well can they evaluate the emotions of others? We all write things that aren’t our lived experience so there’s no reason a person who doesn’t feel emotion couldn’t still be able to study it, understand it, and express it. I’ve never been in space but I can write about it based on research I’ve done from the experience of others.
I have a condition called aphantasia, it’s the inability to see things with my mind’s eye. But that doesn’t make me unable to imagine or describe or create visualisations that others can experience. It also doesn’t make me unable to write characters who can see with their minds eye.
Having said that, I’d really love to meet a person who is entirely absent of emotion. My son is autistic and many people think people with autism don’t “feel” but I have to say from personal experience that his emotional depths are vast. He feels a great deal. He just has trouble expressing that emotion to others. And honestly, I’d love to read the creativity that comes from that unique kind of experience. We need those stories in the world because it’s through the unique perspectives of every writer than we come to better understand the human condition.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?
Worst? “Write what you know.” OMG how limiting is THAT? There is so much I don’t know and I’d much rather have the freedom to explore that. Yes, all of my stories have a lot of what I do know built into them but mostly it’s emotional or social depths that come out there. Situationally I’d much rather explore possibility. I want to consider things that might not exist right now or could never logically exist. That’s what fantasy and sci-fi is all about. It’s living into the maybe spaces and asking, “what if?” That takes having the courage to write outside of what you know and to get creative doing it.
Best? “Write to market.” And more specifically, understand who your target reader is and what tropes and expectations that target market has. For example, there are clearly defined traits that make an Urban Fantasy different from a Paranormal Romance. Similarly, a Space Opera is not a Military Sci-Fi. Readers love the thing they love and if you want your books to succeed you need to know how to satisfy the reader. That means understanding what it is about the niche you write within that readers expect and then deliver above and beyond.
Best money you have spent as a writer? There are a few things that come immediately to mind. One is the illustrators I’ve hired for my children’s books. Both Anton and Adit have been absolutely brilliant and worth every penny. They’re very talented artists and their work makes those books something really special.
Another was the first MacBook I bought in 2010. I bought it because I wanted to use Scrivener, which is novel writing software that I still use and love. At the time Scrivener was only available for Mac so I bought a MacBook and have absolutely LOVED the switch. I’m most definitely and Apple convert. And while it was a big investment at the time it’s been one of the best business expenses I’ve ever made.
Then of course there is always quality in investing in professional editing, professional cover design, and of course production of stock and marketing materials, even advertising. Investing in your business is all part of being in business.
Do you have a favourite author and why? Traci Harding is still my favourite although these days I have lots of other favourites. There are so many talented writers I admire and whose stories I enjoy, but Traci Harding is the reason I write the books I write. When I was a teenager, I read her Ancient Future Trilogy and discovered that fiction is an incredible gateway into truth. It allows big concepts to be conveyed with incredible receptivity. Fiction has the power to influence our beliefs and change our actions. I love writers who do that with their fiction.
What are you reading now? I’m actually going to decline to answer this directly because the book I’m reading right now is one I’m really struggling to like. The concept seemed really cool and the author is someone in Y.A. circles that I like, but the writing or voice just don’t work for me. I’m still holding on, hoping it gets better, but I’m not sure it will. And so, as I read, I pay attention to exactly what it is that’s feeling wrong and I learn from that. I think that’s an important thing for writers to do too. Don’t just read the great books, read the ones that aren’t great and figure out what doesn’t work and why. You learn from failure, your own and others. 🙂 I will say it’s a Y.A. Urban Fantasy that features reapers as the “special world”. See, cool concept, would be great if the execution were better. If you know any other Y.A. reaper stories please share because I’d love to read others.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? Traci Harding as mentioned above. Lauren Kate’s Fallen series. Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers. Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. Demelza Carlton’s fairy tales. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. Then more generally authors more than their books Chris Fox, Derek Murphy, Joanna Penn, Lindsay Buroker, Serenity Woods, Sarah Painter, Brene Brown, Joseph Campbell, David Gaughran. I’m sure there are dozens more. Again, so many people to learn from and who share their wealth of knowledge and creativity with the world.
Favourite quote “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear.” The Princess Diaries (2001)
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Really hard to define a favourite but I’ve given a whole heap of titles above. 🙂
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? I was a huge fan of Roald Dahl as I child. I collected so many of his books and particularly loved Revolting Rhymes. Dahl was a master wordsmith. He played creatively with language. So many of the brilliant children’s book writers do that and the ones that do it brilliantly are remembered through time.
Thank you Rebecca for this insightful interview and wishing you every success with your new books.
The nights are drawing in, is there anything better than settling down with a book of your choice? This month I had plenty of books to choose from, and the time to read. Often, my reading is accompanied by a sleepy cat on my knee, which means I can’t move for an extended period of time. I’m not complaining!
I had heard a lot about this book and wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. Klune.
A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management, he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
My Review A fairy tale for adults and like most fairy tales there is a hidden meaning to this story. I was captivated immediately by this tale. Linus Baker, the oppressed drudge lives his life by routine. At the Department for Magical Youth, the safest course is to be unremarkable. Linus who works there, lives his life to be unremarkable. A summons from Extremely Upper Management presents him with a terrifying new assignment. One he simply can’t refuse. He is to go and observe an orphanage he hasn’t even heard of The House in The Cerulean Sea. There all his certainties are upended, and he begins to doubt the rule book he has lived his life by up to to this point.
Spring Clean for the Peach Queen by Sasha Wasley
Twelve years had passed since the last Harvest Ball.
I was just eighteen when my hometown crowned me their Peach Queen with a blossom coronet. And I was eighteen when I left.
One tanked career, one badly timed glamour shoot and one dead boyfriend later, thirty-year-old Lottie Bentz is finally going home.
Back in the orchard town of Bonnievale, Lottie embarks on a radical declutter of her life, Marie Kondo-style. She casts out everything that got her into trouble: her phone, socials, make-up and a tendency to tell little white lies – to herself and others. But home has its own issues, not least Lottie’s staunchly feminist mother, who is furious with her.
When Lottie lands herself a place to stay in exchange for helping kindly Mrs Brooker try out the Kondo method, it seems like the perfect farm escape. That’s until Angus, Lottie’s former Peach King and heir to the Brooker orchards, makes it clear she’s not welcome – especially when Lottie’s declutter begins to stir up long buried memories and half-truths.
As Lottie finds her way back to herself, can she use her talents to coax Bonnievale and the Brookers out of the past? After all, everyone deserves to feel love, hope and the occasional spark of joy.
A deeply moving story about forgiving, finding joy and falling in love with life again.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt that the characters were real. Lottie was reinventing herself- especially hard to do in a place that has known you as their Peach Queen. Her Spring clean involves far more than throwing out clutter, lies and fakery are at the top of her list. At times this makes for uncomfortable situations. Her strained relationship with her mother struck a chord with me. Equally having a family member with dementia, I found Mrs Booker poignantly relatable. I also enjoyed the slow burn possible romance.
The Sumer Villa by Melissa Hill.
USA Today bestseller Melissa Hill is back with her most unmissable summer read yet! This summer, escape to Villa Dolce Vita on the Amalfi coast, where love, food and friendship will come together in this satisfying and epic summer read…
MY REVIEW An easy and entertaining escapist read. A summer villa is a chance to escape everyday life. To relish time in a beautiful place, and perhaps have a holiday romance. But what if that romance feels so real, how do you move on from that? The three main characters meet by chance and ally. Six years on they are invited back to the villa, to celebrate its successful relaunch. Mysteries will be solved, and secrets revealed.
Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines. A Sassy Cat Mystery by Jennifer J Chow.
When a local teacher is found dead, LA’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line.
Mimi Lee is on top of the world. She has a thriving pet grooming business, the sweetest boyfriend, and a talking cat to boot. When she arrives at the elementary school where her sister Alice works, she’s expecting a fun girls’ night out—but instead finds a teacher slumped over in her car, dead.
Alice was the last one to see Helen Reed, which instantly marks her as the prime suspect. Unable to sit quietly and let the authorities walk all over her sister, Mimi starts snooping and talks to Helen’s closest contacts, including one jumpy principal, a two-faced fiancé, and three sketchy teachers. With the help of her sassy but savvy cat, Marshmallow, and a cute kitten named Nimbus, the clock’s ticking for Mimi to get to the bottom of yet another case before her sister gets schooled.
Initially, I was intrigued by the cover, as I do love a good cat story. It didn’t disappoint. Although I hadn’t read book one, it was easy to be engrossed in Mimi’s and Marshmallow’s story. Have you ever wondered what your cat would say if it could talk? Marshmallow, Mimi’s cat provides commentary that only Mimi can hear. In turn, Marshmallow’s point of view is engaging, snarky and fun. Their relationship is a highlight of the book. Apart from that, there is a mystery of how a young teacher comes to be found dead in her car. Suspects aplenty, and all with a motive for wanting Helen Reed dead. I loved how the dour detective Brown, melted at the charms of Nimbus the kitten.
The Last Bookshop By Emma Young.
Cait is a bookshop owner and book nerd whose social life revolves around her mobile bookselling service hand-picking titles for elderly clients, particularly the grandmotherly June. After a tough decade for retail, Book Fiend is the last bookshop in the CBD and the last independent retailer on a street given over to high-end labels. Profits are small, but clients are loyal. When James breezes into Book Fiend, Cait realises life might hold more than her shop and her cat, but while the new romance distracts her, luxury chain stores are circling Book Fiend’s prime location, and a more personal tragedy is looming.
A clear winner for me. I love stories about book shops, and this one is set in Perth, my adopted hometown. We have all heard of the pain bookseller are going through, in the age of the e-book. When large chains struggle, it’s a wonder any of the indies manage to survive at all. Cait has built her bookshop on service, and on combining second-hand books with books fresh off the press. It is a niche market that has helped her survive so far. Change is coming to Perth. It’s a boomtown, rents are rising, and a quirky bookshop doesn’t fit with the vision for prestige brands.
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman.
The war is over, but the past is never past …Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill. In desperation, Charlotte accepts …( sorry that is where the description ends)
I will be thinking about this book for a long time, as it poses some interesting questions. While l we all like to think we would be brave and resourceful, none of us knows how we would behave in an unthinkable situation. What would we do, not just to save ourselves, but to keep our loved ones safe? Thankfully, for most of us, that is a hypothetical question. For Parisiennes in war-time France, it was a lived reality. Who could you trust? What could you believe? How to stay alive. The author captured that unnerving atmosphere well and later the accompanying questioning and guilt of someone who survived. Not a love story, but a story about love, forgiveness and letting go of the past.
It’s a pleasure to meet author Fiona M. Marsden, to talk about her new book, A Matter of Trust. Fiona lives in beautiful Stanthorpe, Queensland and spends her time as a dual carer of her mother and younger son and is a volunteer in the disability sector.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book which releases on 4th July 2021.
A Matter of Trust is my first release with Escape Publishing.
Twelve years is a long time to hide a secret…or two.
Forced from his self-imposed exile, Doctor Morgan Cavanaugh must face his demons and confront the girl he left behind. Becca Walters became a woman in that time with life-altering revelations of her own.
Becca fought her way to respectability, but it came at a cost. With Morgan’s return she must face the consequences of long-ago decisions, made without his knowledge. Together they have to face the past; in order to make a future.
Sounds intriguing. What else are you writing?
I’ve just finished a Historical novella for an anthology being released on the 15th July 2021. Secrets of the Soho Club.
Late nights or early mornings? Late nights definitely. I’ve never been a morning person.
What’s for breakfast? Summer it’s whatever catches my fancy. In winter it’s porridge.
Night out or Netflix? It depends. I like action movies on the big screen but happy with anything else on Netflix.
G &T or Tea/coffee? I’m one of those tricky people who don’t drink tea or coffee and most alcohol. I will have a Bailey’s Irish Cream for Christmas and New Year. The rest of the year it’s water, Ginger Beer at home and Frozen Coke when travelling.
Perfect weekend? Reading, reading and maybe some reading.
What did you want to be when you grew up? It would be easy to say writer but that was only one of my ambitions. I wanted to be a singer but sadly my voice is under par for public singing.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?
My family are very much meat and three veg afficionados. Tonight was honey sausages from Woolworths slow cooked in gravy and served with mashed potato with onion and parsley. There would usually be pumpkin with sweet potato mash, cauliflower and greens. Usually broccoli but it was wong bok tonight. I can cook, but would rather be doing other things.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. A good book and time with my family.
Your hero? Am I supposed to say my DH? He’s pretty patient with me but after 39 years we have rubbed off most the rough edges.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? They would probably all be dead. Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer and maybe Dorothy L Sayers. I have a feeling I read somewhere the last two didn’t like each other but that could add spice.
Do you have any non -writing related interests? I have gone through a few hobbies over the years. I collected musical instruments for some time but for financial reasons am starting to divest some of them.
What would surprise people to know about you? I am highly introverted.
Life lessons-what do you wish you’d known earlier? Some things we stress about when we are young, don’t really matter in the long term.
Questions about Writing.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
That’s rather funny. All my life I’ve wanted to travel but have never had the opportunity. I always chose to read books that took me on a journey to a far away place and when I began writing, that was what I tried to write .Now here I am, with my first Rural Romance coming out and it’s very close to home, reflecting my lifelong experience of living in small country towns.
Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between?
Somewhere I have some notebooks from my teen years where I started writing what would be considered fan fiction these days. Mostly Heyer inspired historicals and McCaffrey inspired SFF set in the Pern world. I dabbled a bit over the years but never seriously. In 2010 I had a bit of an epiphany when I realised I hadn’t accomplished any of the things I planned. Even my 12-year-old daughter had written and self-published a book. That was when I started to write again seriously.
What advice would you give to others who took up writing at a similar life phase? Don’t be discouraged. I wrote 13 category length books in that first year and only one is ever likely to see the light of day. Every word you put on the page is one word closer to producing a polished product. I attended numerous seminars and conferences to improve my craft. You can never assume you have learned all you need to know.
What is your writing process like? I think a lot in my head before I really start to put down words. I’m a classic pantser. Once I have my characters sorted in my head, I put them together on the page and push them.
What other projects are in the works? I am about to dive into a sequel to my Tule book from my Kurrajong Crossing series with Dakota Harrison for release mid next year and a sequel to A Matter of Trust is on the go. I also have another historical novella percolating and some sequels to my indie-published books.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? I think an earlier story I’m relooking at it will be the increased skills in writing. It had all the cliché’s of beginning writing but I loved the concept so I will take that and rewrite it from scratch. Fortunately it’s a rural romance so I’m hoping it will fit into one of my current series.
If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? I am already genre-hopping. I was writing straight contemporary first but then made the switch to rural romance for which I have two contracts. Then there are the historical novellas. I do have some SFF manuscripts buried deep on my computer but I need to get my current workload under control before I could look at them.
What writing resources have been most helpful to you?
Conferences in particular. The Friday intensive sessions have made an enormous difference. I have also interacted on the old Harlequin boards and entered the So You Think You Can Write competitions until they finished. Before You Hit Send by Angela James, I’ve done multiple times. Queensland Writer’s Centre seminars. Really anything and everything.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? There’s no money in it? It’s hard work and sucks out your soul and often it feels like there is no reward. Then someone tells you how much they enjoyed a story you wrote and it’s all worth it.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Chaotic. As a carer, I have draws on my time that are often unpredictable. When I can sit down uninterrupted, I can write fast. It’s finding those times.
What inspired your new book? A Matter of Trust is a doctor nurse romance in a rural setting. I’ve always enjoyed romances with professional men rather than the classic billionaires though they can be fun too. I was a nurse before my marriage so it seemed logical if I was to write a rural romance, to start with what I know. A small medical centre in a small town.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Being organised in the chaos.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Interesting is a bit of a difficult question. I write my first drafts on scrivener on a laptop that I don’t have social media set up. I then go for a drive to listen to what I’ve written. My DH feels that’s an expensive way of doing things.
Did you do any research for your current book?
I did a little medical research for A Matter of Trust around medical conditions that appear in the book. I already have a good basic knowledge but things change fast in medicine.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? I wrote a story years ago which I used to hashtag as #sleazeguy on twitter. He was everything I was annoyed by in some heroes I was reading at the time so I guess I wanted to get one of those heroes under my control. He was surprisingly adorable. I am currently bringing his story up to date in the hope of finally putting him out in the world.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? That’s a difficult judgement to make. I’m not sure if there is such a person. We often write about protagonists who have stifled their emotions after some kind of trauma. We never assume they have no emotions at all. Unless of course they’re a cyborg which is a whole other trope.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Write what you know is both. I thought at first it meant only writing within my own lived experience but I realise now that my lived experience gives me an understanding of the human condition that is translatable across a large range of settings.
Best money you have spent as a writer? Membership of Romance Writers of Australia perhaps.
Do you have a favourite author and why? I have multiple authors that I will read everything they write and the ones I reread are probably my favourite. One special book I’m not sure of. If I could only take one book with me to a desert island I would probably take The Lord of the Rings because it is so dense I think it bears study.
What are you reading now? A mix of historical and contemporary. I just finished Pamela Hart’s “Digging Up Dirt” which is a cozy style mystery set in Sydney.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I once did one of those “What famous author do you write like?” things on the internet and the answer was Agatha Christie. Which is probably right because I’ve read all of her mystery novels multiple times. That’s a lot of books.
Favourite quote ? Almost anything from The Princess Bride.
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? That’s hard to define. I am a re-reader so I’ve read many books multiple times.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? The Owl and the Pussycat was my favourite children’s book.
Back to reading ,after a bit of a Netflix obsession. Two choices were a result of watching Netflix this month. Books have always been part of my life,and if I don’t read ,I feel I am missing something vital.
The Newcomer by Fern Britton.
It’s springtime in the Cornish coastal village of Pendruggan, and a newcomer is causing quite a stir…
When the Cornish village of Pendruggan farewells its popular vicar Simon and his wife Penny, they are anxious to find out who will be their new vicar. The newly ordained Reverend Angela Whitehorn is equally anxious. It is her first parish, and she wants to make a success of it. Accompanied by her husband Robert, a well-known political journalist, who is ready to play at house husband and her daughter Faith, it’s a challenge for all of them.
Angela wants to make her mark on the village by starting up new initiatives, such as a book club, women’s circle, and couch to 5k training. She ruffles the feathers of the local ‘Queen bee’, who resists all of Angela’s efforts. Then Angela starts to receive poison pen letters. Who can resent her that much?
Believable characters and the ending ties in with the beginning, which by then I had forgotten, so I was dismayed at the loss of a favourite character.
Nasty Astrology by Richard McDonald.
Exploring exactly what hidden demons lurk within other people’s psyches, Nasty Astrology reveals all the unspoken truths about people’s star signs.
Aren’t you bored with all the astrology books that tell you what a nice person everyone is? Don’t you know, deep down, that there are some very unpleasant aspects to all our characters? Wouldn’t you like to know the truth about the other signs? What makes them tick? What their dark little secrets are?
In this wonderfully nasty book you learn the truth about the personalities of your friends, lovers, boss, colleagues, and even the dark secrets about yourself. Lifting the lid on real astrology, you can know what everybody around you really thinks and feels, about their secrets and motivations, and how to push people’s buttons. With humour and wit, and no holds barred (no, really), Richard MacDonald, unveils saucy secrets, motivations and the unspeakable traits of the zodiac.
The title says it all.
Virgin River by Robyn Carr.
A Netflix Original Series!
Welcome back to Virgin River with the book that started it all…
Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.
When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad, she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving—the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she’s made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning.
I first watched the series on Netflix and decided I’d like to read the book. They are not the same, many similarities , but some parts of the story are transposed or altered. I cant honestly decide which version I liked best.
Pastels for Absolute Beginners by Rebecca de Mendoza
Take your first steps with pastels and learn how to produce modern, lively and colourful artwork with this exciting medium.
Artist and teacher Rebecca de Mendonça offers the beginner a complete course in using pastels. Step-by-step exercises and longer projects help you to build essential skills and allow you to produce a range of pictures, including landscapes, still life, portraits and animals. Vital drawing skills are explained and demonstrated, along with an easy-to-follow guide to colour theory. A huge wealth of finished paintings provide ideas and inspiration for your own future pastel work.
In recent months I have found an escape in art. I have never used pastels before and wanted find out more. I find it relaxing although often frustrating. A good introduction that shows the versatility of pastels and demonstrates various techniques. What I particularly liked was the author showed a variety of subjects, including people and animals, and not just landscapes.
What Cats Want by Dr Yuki Hattori.
An illustrated guide for truly understanding your cat. From the top feline doctor in Japan comes a fun, practical, adorably illustrated “cat-to-human” translation guide to decoding your cat’s feelings.
When your cat’s tail is upright, she’s saying hello. If it’s quivering? She’s happy to see you. But if it swishes ominously from side to side across your living room floor? Beware-your cat is annoyed.
With nineteen bones and twelve muscles, cats’ tails have countless ways of expressing their emotions. What Cats Want is here to uncover the meaning behind every movement, and the motivation beneath every quirk. Did you know, for example, that adult cats love to reconnect with their inner kitten? Or that cats prefer multiple watering holes over just one? Our cats are sophisticated-no matter what any dog lover says-and What Cats Want has the answers to every question asked by cat owners young and old.
An invaluable new guide filled with creative tips and darling illustrations, What Cats Want provides a much-desired glimpse into the minds of our most mysterious pets.
Advice from a feline expert made it easy to understand and with delightful, funny and charming illustrations. A gem.
An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn.
Will she accept the offer before the clock strikes midnight?
Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball. Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, waltzing in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.
Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other— except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breath taking maid makes him weak with wanting her. If he offers her his heart, will he sacrifice his only chance for a fairy-tale love?
Book Three in the popular Bridgerton series, but you don’t need to have read any of the others. This is the story of the second Bridgerton brother, Benedict. There is a distinct Cinderella is feeling in Sophie Becket’s life. She is the unacknowledged illegitimate child of an Earl. Lived in his home as his ward and was educated with his stepdaughters. All that changes on the earl’s death when she is relegated to the role of servant to her vindictive stepmother and stepsisters. Her life of drudgery is unending, until the fateful night, she attends the masquerade ball in borrowed finery. She captivates Benedict and is equally attracted to him. Like Cinderella, she must leave at the stroke of midnight. Disappearing from Benedict’s sight and his life.
After a confrontation with her stepmother, Sophie is almost destitute and decides to leave London. Two years pass as she works as a maid. Occasional glimpses of Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers confirm that Benedict is still single. Sophie has never forgotten him. can it be that he hasn’t forgotten her? Ah, the course of true love and all that.
They meet again when he rescues her from three would-be despoilers. Benedict is attracted to her, but true to the era and his class, he suggests that Sophie become his mistress. This is something that she has vowed never to do, knowing too well the misery of being illegitimate.
It seemed impossible that I hadn’t read any books in March. Life was hectic and filled with the unexpected. but whatever the circumstances I always find time to read. Finally, I found them! Here is what I was reading.
The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley
The brilliant new novel from Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author Trisha Ashley
All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.
With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.
Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.
My review. Returning from France where she’d fled five years previously, after her acrimonious marriage break up, all Marnie wants is a roof over her head and obscurity. The Lancashire village of Jericho’s End promises a fresh start. Here she can work as a gardener, have a place to live and rebuild her life. Of course, it can’t be that simple, can it? I enjoyed this story about rebuilding a garden and a life.
The Polly Principleby Davina Stone.
Polly Fletcher loves marrying off her friends. Which is kind of weird considering she has no intention of ever walking down the aisle herself. Social worker by day, sex siren by night Polly has a clear set of principles that guide her life; her Tinder app, her Jimmy Choo shoes and a packet of condoms in her clutch.
So when she meets a sexy, silver-eyed stranger at a friend’s wedding, all she’s after is a wild night between the sheets.
Solo Jakoby has his Ducati motorbike, a backpack of his belongings, and a disaster he’s running away from in Sydney. And sure, he’s wildly attracted to the curvaceous beauty, but he has a job to do, and some unpleasant memories to forget. So what if their night together blew his mind? They’re never going to meet again.
But when Solo and Polly are flung together in quite different circumstances how are they going to handle the chemistry that just won’t seem to let up between them?
And when they start to uncover each other’s past hurts and vulnerabilities, is their crazy attraction set to turn into something deeper? Something that may just challenge Polly’s firmly upheld principle—to never, ever give away her heart.
Published March 29th 2021 by Feathers and Stone Publishing
Exuberant Polly first appeared in The Alice Equation, encouraging Alice to ditch predictability for sexiness and sass. Both are qualities Polly exemplifies when she has a fling at a country wedding. She’s feeling a little down, as her ‘friends with benefits,’ guy is getting married. Not that Polly wants marriage, she’s content with uncomplicated sex, with no promises, and no commitment. So, after that one night, she’s comfortable that Solo, the sexy stranger, will ride his Ducati motorbike away and out of her life. Practical workaday Polly is serious about her job, and she doesn’t encourage any distractions there. But changes are in the air and there are diversions she can’t ignore. Can party girl Polly resist making an appearance, when the new guy at work is sexy as hell? Can colleagues take it up a notch, or does that risk their working relationship? There is depth to the story as it deals with some mental health issues, sensitively and thoughtfully. I received an ARC and this is my honest review.
Fiddling with Fate by Kathleen Ernst.
Chloe has a devil of a time unravelling the mysteries of Norway’s fiddle and dance traditions.
After her mother’s unexpected death, curator Chloe Ellefson discovers hidden antiques that hint at family secrets. Determined to find answers, Chloe accepts a consultant job in Norway, her ancestors’ homeland. She’s thrilled with the opportunity to explore Hardanger fiddle and dance traditions . . . and her own heritage.
Once their plane lands, however, Chloe and her fiancé, cop Roelke McKenna, encounter only disharmony. Chloe’s research reveals strong women and the importance of fiddle music in their lives. But folklore warns against “the devil’s instrument” and old evils may yet linger among the fjords and mountains. As Chloe fine-tunes her search for the truth, a killer’s desire to stop her builds to a deadly crescendo.
My Review. Chloe Ellefson has questions she wants answered. Is it because of grief after her mother’s untimely death, or is there something to find in her ancestral home of Norway? She is fascinated by the Hardanger dance and fiddle traditions. Traditions that are well established, but changed in her American home. Chloe and Roelke-her fiancé and a cop, are dogged by strange occurrences. Roelke’s cop sense tells him these are more than mere coincidence and that Chloe is in danger. Although this is the tenth book in a series, I was able to read it as stand-alone. An interesting look at Norwegian culture combined with a mystery. It appealed to me because I have visited the region mentioned.
Tidelands By Philippa Gregory.
New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory begins a sweeping new series with the story of a poor, uneducated midwife named Alinor who is tempted by a forbidden love affair–but all too aware of the dangers awaiting a woman who dares to step out of the place society carved for her.
England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different . . .
Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.
Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.
Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbours. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.
Paperback, 438 pages Published August 20th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Tidelands begins slowly, but it draws you into this edge of the world place. The book deals with the fate of Alinor, a deserted wife. She ekes out a subsistence existence as a herbalist and midwife. An unexpected encounter leads her to a passion she could never have expected. Intertwined in the plot is the story of the captured King Charles the first and the plans to rescue him. The story speeds up to its almost inevitable end. As I hadn’t realised this was the first book in a series I was left wanting, but feeling let down and reluctant to continue with further books.
A Home From Home by Veronica Henry
Sunshine, cider and family secrets…
Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.
For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…
But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger. Gabriel Culbone has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.
As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?
A Home from Home is the very best of Veronica Henry’s storytelling – gorgeous scenes you wish you could step into, a cast of characters who feel like friends, and an irresistibly feel-good family drama crossing three generations.
Paperback, 416 pages. Published October 8th 2019 by Orion (first published July 25th 2019)
My Review. I generally enjoy books by this author, and this was no exception. I was drawn in immediately by the delightfully named Dragonfly Farm. It is a warm and sheltering home for generations of Melchiors. They live across the river from their rivals the Culbones. A long-ago feud means there is bad blood between the families. Dragonfly Farm is under threat as their uncle’s will has thrown up an unsettling surprise. Tabitha calls the farm home, and it is her cousin Georgia’s second home. They are shocked to learn that a third share of the farm has been left to a Culbone. What possessed Uncle Matthew to do that? The past must be explored to reveal the reasons for this decision.
A Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.
Previously published as four e -books
The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond. A Year at Castle Court is Holly Hepburn’s four Castle Court e-novellas collected together as a novel for the first time.
Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!
My Review. A new author to add to my list. I found it an enjoyable read and it added to my pleasure that it was set in Chester, UK. The story flowed well, as Sadie and Cat began to establish their custom-made biscuit shop. In Castle Court, they find both friendship and rivalry and events that will challenge and change them. and a life.
March passed in a blur and while I cant believe I didn’t read anything, I have not kept any record of what I did read, so apologies and here is my April reading.
The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jamie Admans
Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!
Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life.
That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop!
Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.
Things get even better when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever.
But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?
My Review: As a passionate reader and lover of bookshops, the book appealed to me. The observations about books and the power of reading, also clicked with my feelings. I suspect that like many readers, I dream of owning a bookshop, forgetting the inevitable hard work involved.
The minute Dimitri crashed into the bookshop; I was hooked. Waiting for the inevitable happy ever after. Less happily, I guessed the major plot points before they were revealed. I still found it an enjoyable read.
Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley.
Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events coordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.
As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall – from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos – she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.
But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens.
Paperback, 512 pages Published January 14th, 2016 by Corgi.
My Review: I enjoyed this book and found it easy and amusing reading.
Behind the scenes of a stately home, with newly appointed events coordinator Holly Swift. For her, and for us, it’s an escape into another world. It’s a challenge that she relishes ,as this is her dream job. It comes with its own protocols, challenges, rivalries, and friendships. Then there is Ben, or Benedict, as his mother prefers that he is known. The reluctant heir to Wickham Hall. He has his own dreams and ambitions to fulfil, and they may not include Wickham Hall.
One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan.
USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with this heart-warming novel about the power of friendship, love and what happens when an ending is just the beginning…
To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.
Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.
Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them..
My review: This is the first book I have read by this popular author. The story flowed well, alternating between Grace and Audrey. It was easy and enjoyable reading, and it really came alive when they arrived in Paris. At first, Grace and Audrey seem to have nothing in common, but as the story progresses, more similarities emerge. Well-rounded characters, a believable plot and Paris, it’s a winning combination.
The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.
It’s 1919, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London, and most of all her oppressive and dangerous uncle.
Louisa’s salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursery maid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy – an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.
But then a nurse – Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake – is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret.
My review: Perhaps because this is going to be a series there wasn’t a great deal of information about the Mitford family and their lifestyle. Nancy is an engaging character as is Louisa, however, I found the storyline slightly confusing
The Carer by Deborah Moggach.
From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns.
James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips, and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss. Is this really their father, the distant figure who never once turned up for a sports day, now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and television soaps?
Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and Phoebe and Robert discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. It just moves onto a very different plane – changing all the stories they thought they knew so well.
My Review :I found this an enjoyable read and one that delivered a few surprises. Initially, the siblings regard Mandy almost as a saint and a solution to their problems. Some of her choices that their father James now enjoys, offend their middle-class sensibilities. They’d like to get rid of Mandy,but realise they can’t really do without her. Then everything changes, leaving them questioning everything.
Get Witch Quick By Louisa West.
She should have known better than to put all of her eggs in one basket.
Rosemary Bell has begun a new life in Mosswood, Georgia. But when the town’s annual Easter Fair is ruined by a spell gone wrong, the townsfolk are hopping mad, and it could have grave consequences for her daughter Maggie.
With her daughter’s spellcasting shenanigans all over the national news, Rosie finds herself on the wrong side of the worldwide Council of Witches. When Maggie’s magical ability tests off the charts, the Council decides it’s only a matter of time before she winds up in the news again, putting herself and others at risk. Maggie must be trained by a certified magical instructor and will have to leave Mosswood to do it.
Unless she wants her family split up, Rosie will have to hop to it and train Maggie herself—and time is of the essence.
This Easter, the only way Rosie can keep living her best life is to get witch quick.
Stardust meets Gilmore Girls in this short novel about a mother’slove, a daughter’s lesson, and a family’s leap of faith.
My Review :This could be the best yet of the Mosswood series. This instalment had me snorting with laughter. Yet, there is poignancy too, as Rosie battles with her own fears and feelings for her daughter Maggie. Maggie has always been a happy trusting child. Now, she is becoming argumentative and disobedient. Her magical powers are drawing the attention of people and she can’t or won’t control them. Enter the Witches Council with a proposal that Rosie doesn’t want to accept. If ever you thought magic could solve all your problems, this demonstrates that magic can cause even more problems. I believe in the emotional bond between Rosie and Maggie, but there were times when I wondered how far it could stretch. Can’t wait for the next instalment.