Sunday, 20 September 2015

Time Travel

Those of you who are regulars to my blog post will know that I love novels which are written with a dual timeline. So here are a few I have read recently:

A Week In Paris - Rachel Hore

I'm a big fan on Rachel Hore so was delighted to download this one onto my Kindle.

As the name indicates this is set in Paris.  The timelines are 1961 and in the run up and during World War II.

In 1961 Faye is visiting Paris as a violinist in a concert tour.  Fay’s mother, Kitty is in a home and Fay is at first reluctant to leave her mother, if only for a week, but is assured that her mother is well enough for her to leave her. Another reason for her to visit Paris is that she has found an ancient rucksack with an address in Paris in a trunk in her mother’s home.

Intrigued Fay decides to investigate and this introduces the timeline of a young woman living in Paris in the run up to war and in a country which is being overrun by the enemy.

If I’m honest I’d say that I enjoyed the story set in the war more than that of the early 1960’s and could have quite happily read that story alone but I still enjoyed the novel greatly and was genuinely afraid for a woman living in occupied France.  Rachel Hore certainly brought this period of history to life in this book.

The Dandelion Years - Erica James

Another of my favourite authors is Erica James.  I love the way she examines the relationships between her characters – you can’t help fall in love with most of the characters she writes about and that, for me, gives her books real page turning quality.

I also love the fact that she sets most of her books around the area where I grew up, which often gives her books an extra likeability for me.

The Dandelion Years is a bit different as it is set both in Suffolk and in the famous Bletchley Park.  It also switches between the present day and 1943/44.

In the present we see Saskia living in a beautiful house called Ashcombe, with her father and two grandfathers.  Saskia and her family have had to overcome a dramatic trauma and over the years it has led them to band together for support, to the extent that they live rather insular existences.

Saskia’s father is a bookseller and Saskia restores old books.  It is through this that she finds an old notebook in a family bible.  The diary tells the story of Jacob a Russian Jewish immigrant working at Bletchley during the war and the woman he falls in love with, Kitty, who is from an aristocratic British family.

Weaved in between this story of the past is the relationship which develops between Saskia and Matthew – a young man who has inherited a mausoleum of a house from a man for whom his mother used to keep house.

Sometimes within dual timelines like this you find yourself becoming more involved with one or the other story, but both stories here were fascinating and worked really well together.

There are tragedies in both but each party learns from them.  A truly satisfying read.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Life On The Cobbles

One of my guilty passions is – Coronation Street.  I was brought up on Corrie, and the opening soundtrack to each episode evokes such a sense of pleasure, I fear that I have turned into one of Pavlov’s dogs. 

OK, as it’s a soap, I have to admit that it can be a bit far-fetched – I mean, just how unlucky can some characters be?  But it also brings some massive issues into the forefront of people’s minds – ie how men can be the victims of domestic abuse (Tyrone), euthanasia (Hayley), depression (Steve), alcoholism (probably several characters here – I mean, how can you drink in the pub at lunchtime and then go back to the factory and sew knickers or mend cars in Kevin’s garage?) and one of the current storylines of an adult being abused by her teenage step-son. As the mother on one teenage son and one soon to be teenage son, this is particularly scary.

But sometimes the smaller stories can also resonate.  The developing relationship between Roy and Cathy is one that springs to mind.  Both of them have recently lost their spouses and both are trying to move on with their lives but are struggling in different ways.  They have feelings for each other but both feel guilty about still being alive when their partners can’t be with them anymore.

Cathy is a hoarder, her house has become her own death-trap and Roy has been trying to persuade her to clear the clutter.  Cathy has admitted that the amount of possessions she has are diminishing her, but they also provide her with a comfort blanket.

In response to her admission, Roy replied with something that I found particularly profound.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he liked to anchor his life in predictability but that the one predictable thing in life is that it has to change.  As I heard him say these words I felt something really connect.  My husband tells me that “it’s not real you know”, but hey, I write fiction and good fiction is about making a connection. 

Perhaps it’s because my own life is about to go through a period of change that this touched a nerve, who knows?  But one thing it did for me was to encourage me to embrace that change.

My children are growing up and need me less (unless they want a lift or money) and although a period in my life has passed, I’m looking for the positives.

Perhaps that has been behind my current need to declutter.  Now, I’m nowhere near the hoarder that Cathy is, but I’m ashamed to say that I have found a stack of magazines which are older than my marriage and therefore older than my teenage son, need I say more?  However, I haven’t been able to throw them out without reading them once more, after all, something in them might be a trigger for a new story.

So, I’m slowly working my way through them and yes, I have to admit, there are things in there that have triggered some writing ideas. And now that I have harvested them, I simply must recycle!!!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


You may have noticed that I've been having a play around with the look of my blog recently as I thought it needed a bit of sprucing up.  Still not sure if I'm happy with it but I think it's better than it was.

I also decided to add a photo of myself, cringe, but the photo has come out rather large and - pun alert - a bit in your face.

Does anyone know how I can make this smaller? I hate photos of myself at the best of times and this one is far too much.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Read, Read, Read

Advice given to aspiring writers is to read, read, read and for most writers that is not as problem as a love of writing tends to follow on from an initial love of reading.

I've been reading quite a bit over the summer, and although its too late for recommending summer reading, the nights are drawing in and so what better excuse that to sit by a fire with a good book.

So here are a couple of books I have read recently starting with some thriller / suspense novels.

This is a book which I first heard about on the Richard and Judy book club and was intrigued enough to download it onto my Kindle. 

The story centers on Yvonne; a geneticist in her early 50’s who is asked to give evidence at a parliamentary Select Committee in the House of Commons.  There she meets a man who is about to have a dramatic impact upon her life.  The novel starts with a prologue where Yvonne is standing in the dock at the Old Bailey as an accessory to murder and the novel charts the path from being at the height of her career to this.

This novel is explicit in some scenes of sexual content but it is all written within the context of the story and is not gratuitous.  At times I found it difficult to correlate how such an intelligent scientist could behave in such an erratic way, with a man whose character I found quite unlikeable.  Perhaps she’s having a mid-life crisis l but I think in Yvonne’s case she was driven to behave so completely irresponsibly because in her life she has always had to be the sensible one.  However, taking something entirely for herself led to dramatic consequences and it made me grateful for the relative safety of my own life. 

This was certainly an intriguing read even if I wasn’t always entirely comfortable with it and couldn’t really understand why Yvonne was behaving as she did.

I’ve read Cally Taylor’s two previous novels and thoroughly enjoyed them, but this one steps away from the romance in her earlier works and tackles the gritty subjects of both domestic abuse and how much parents really know of their teenagers lives.

At the beginning of the novel 15 year old Charlotte is in a coma.  It looks as though she has deliberately stepped under a bus.  Susan, her mother, can’t believe she would do this and begins a quest to find out what really happened to her daughter.  She finds her daughter’s diary but this actually throws up more questions than it answers.  Susan begins to question her daughter’s friends and becomes obsessed with trying to find out the truth – so much so that those around her begin to question her sanity.

But Susan has every reason to be worried with the answer to her daughter’s behaviour finally being revealed in a dramatic climax.

I must admit I did find elements of this story unbelievable but like Susan I was gripped to find out what had happened.  A page turning read.

I read Close My Eyes and reviewed it in September 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading this one.

When Julia finds her friend Liv dead in her flat she cannot believe she has taken her own life even though the police seem to be perfectly satisfied that this is what happened.

Julia sets out to uncover the truth and in doing so discovers that she didn’t know her friend as well as she thought.  She begins to wonder who she can trust.  Her husband had an affair several years ago and although on the surface she has forgiven him, this betrayal has never been far from her mind and now it looks as though he has started up the affair gain.

Unable to confide in him Julia searches for the murderer of her friend alone and in doing so jeopardises both her own safety and that of her family.

I did enjoy this book and was keen to find out what had happened but some elements of the plot just didn’t ring true for me and that did affect my enjoyment of it.  There were some good twists and turns though and it kept me guessing.

I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as Close My Eyes but it did keep me reading.

Well that's it for now, I will review some more of the books I have read recently throughout September.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Back To School

Well the end of the summer holidays is nigh and I for one will breathe a sigh of relief, despite the fact that cold winter days and dark nights are imminent. 

But I’m coming to the end of two weeks off work, and I’m certainly not looking forward to going back.  Event through is only part-time, recently my job has become unbearable and I’m desperately looking for something else so that I can finally move on.  I’ve got a few days left before I go back though, so I’m trying not to think of it and enjoy the time left with my boys. 

We haven’t been away this holiday but during my time off I’ve been trying to organise my life and my house, before the start of the new academic year.

As well as decluttering my house, I’m trying to declutter my hard drive – a necessary evil – and I’ve been revamping and editing stories which have been lying dormant.  Some of them are first drafts and some which need new life breathing into them.  Since my acceptance, I have sent out four more stories, and in September I’m determined to get my writing head back on. 

I’ve always seen September as a fresh start, sometimes more so than New Year, and so now is the time to reassess my goals for the rest of the year and start to make sure that I achieve them.