Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Shogun's Queen



“No-one writes about Japan with more mastery of historical and cultural detail than Lesley Downer” Katie Hickman, author of Courtesan
The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer
Published by Bantam Press | Hardback & eBook Thursday 3rd November 2016 | £16.99
“Completely absorbing...”
Lian Hearn, author of Tales of the Otori From one of the finest chroniclers of Japan, its history, society and culture, comes this gripping and
richly detailed historical novel, telling the true story of Princess Atsu and her struggle to save Japan.
Japan, 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma clan, in Japan’s deep south, the fiery, beautiful and
headstrong Okatsu has been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd and to ride a horse.
But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence, turning Okatsu’s world upside down.
Chosen by her feudal lord, she has been given a very special role to play. Given a new name - Princess Atsu - and a new destiny, she is the only one who can save the realm. Her journey to takes her to Edo Palace, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. There she seems doomed to live out her days - sequestered in the Women’s Palace, home to three thousand women and where only one man, the shogun, may enter.
But beneath the palace’s immaculate facade, there are whispers of murders and ghosts. It is here that Atsu must complete her mission and discover one last secret: the secret of the man whose fate is irrevocably linked to hers...the shogun himself.


Lesley Downer’s mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring and Lesley lived there for some fifteen years. She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and travels to Japan yearly.
She has written many books about Japan and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of the Vanishing World and the gripping Shogun Quartet; The Last Concubine, The Courtesan and the Samurai and The Samurai’s Daughter. The Shogun’s Queen is the first book in the series.

For further information, please contact Hannah Bright HBright@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk | 020 8231 6743 | @hannahlbright29 


My Review

I first became interested in the Far East, particularly China, Japan and Thailand when in my early twenties. There have been a few books detailing various periods in Japan's history but this book by Lesley Downer, although fiction, paints such a detailed picture of life in the women's palace in the mid 1800s that you feel a sense of loss when you realise you have finished the book. Fortunately, The Shogun's Queen is the first in a series of four so I am hoping to get more of my Japanese fix in the near future. Having lived in Japan for fifteen years, Lesley's love for the country and her attention to detail is evident in every page. I loved the character of princess Atsu and the Shogun, who wasn't at all what I expected. The ending, with a look to what might have been is incredibly poignant but I won't say any more for fear of spoiling it. What I really loved though was the picture of every day life, the little details that transport the reader to another time and place. A wonderful historical account of a period in history that, until now, has not been so well documented in English; informative, entertaining and enlightening!

5/5


Leopard at the door

                                                                                   
Leopard at the Door by [McVeigh, Jennifer]

*The perfect summer read, the novel that Dinah Jefferies has called 'A simply stunning novel that will stay with me: magnificent'*

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.
But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently. 
Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

About the author


Jennifer McVeigh

Jennifer McVeigh graduated from Oxford University in 2002. She went on to work in film and publishing, before leaving her day job to do an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.She has travelled in wilderness areas of East Africa and Southern Africa, often in off-road vehicles, driving and camping along the way. The Fever Tree was a Richard & Judy Bookclub Pick. Leopard at the Door will be published by Penguin on 13th July 2017.

My Review

I love books which take the reader on a journey to another time or place and this book did both. Set during the time of the Mau Mau rebellion in 1950s Kenya, it attempts to show the cause and effects from both sides, mainly through the eyes of Rachel, who returns to her childhood home after an absence to find everything changed.Trying to find the happiness she knew as a child before the death of her mother, I felt a lot of empathy towards her, especially when she is warned not to return by her father; whether this is concern for her safety or for ulterior motives I'll leave you to judge.
As you might expect, the subject matter, though not gruesome, is nevertheless dark and although I enjoyed the book, it did leave me feeling very unsettled.
 


4/5

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Summer's Lease

MEET THE SHAKESPEARE FAMILY: FOUR SISTERS, FOUR STORIES . . . FOUR WAYS TO FIND TRUE LOVE
Summer’s Lease
Carrie Elks


Published 13th July
Paperback Original | £8.99


If music be the food of love, books are certainly the appetizers . . .

Cesca Shakespeare has hit rock bottom. Six years after the play she wrote bombed at the box office, she’s unable to hold down a job, keep an apartment, and worst of all her family have no idea how far she’s fallen. So when her fairy Godfather offers her the use of his friend’s Italian villa for the summer, she grudgingly agrees to try writing a new play. That’s before she finds out the house belongs to her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton.

When Hollywood heart-throb Sam Carlton sees his name splashed across a gossip rag, all he wants to do is hide. That’s how he finds himself traveling to Italy, deciding to spend the summer in his family’s empty villa on Lake Como. Except when he arrives it isn’t as empty as he’d hoped.

Over the course of the hot Italian summer, Cesca and Sam have to come to terms with their pasts. What begins as a tentative friendship quickly grows into an intense attraction – and then a scorching fling. But they can’t hide from reality forever . . . as their different worlds collide, Sam and Cesca face a choice: is this just a summer romance, or could their love weather even the coldest winds?

About the author
Carrie Elks lives near London, England and writes contemporary romance with a dash of intrigue. She loves to travel and meet new people, and has lived in the USA and Switzerland as well as the UK. An avid social networker, she tries to limit her Facebook and Twitter time to stolen moments between writing chapters. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found baking, drinking wine or working out how to combine the two.


For further information please contact Clara Diaz on

020 3122 6565 | clara.diaz@littlebrown.co.uk | @ClaraHDiaz

My Review

Cesca Shakespeare ( what a brilliant name) is one of four sisters. When she finds herself unable to hold down a job or pay the rent she turns to her godfather Hugh for help. Hoping that a summer caretaking an Italian villa will help her refind her gift as a playwright, he calls in a favour from an old friend.
The descriptions of Italy, not to mention the food, immediately put the reader into holiday mode. Of course things don't go smoothly for Cesca as before long the son of the owner turns up unexpectedly. When she discovers it is none other than Sam, the leading actor who walked out of her play causing it to bomb, her first instinct is to flee - except she has nowhere to go.
I enjoyed watching the relationship develop between the two as well as the interaction of the handsome Italian next door neighbour. You'll have to read it to see how the story pans out.
Sizzling with summer, I look forward to finding out more about the Shakespeare sisters.

5/5




Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Butlins Girls


                                                                                    



'Molly Missons gazed around in awe. So this was Butlin's. Whitewashed buildings, bordered by rhododendrons, gave a cheerful feeling to a world still recovering from six years of war. The Skegness holiday camp covered a vast area, much larger than Molly expected to see.'
Molly Missons hasn't had the best of times recently. Having lost her parents, now some dubious long-lost family have darkened her door - attempting to steal her home and livelihood...
After a horrendous ordeal, Molly applies for a job as a Butlin's Aunty. When she receives news that she has got the job, she immediately leaves her small hometown - in search of a new life in Skegness.
Molly finds true friendship in Freda, Bunty and Plum. But the biggest shock is discovering that star of the silver screen, Johnny Johnson, is working at Butlin's as head of the entertainment team. Johnny takes an instant liking to Molly and she begins to shed the shackles of her recent traumas. Will Johnny be just the distraction Molly needs - or is he too good to be to be true?

Today I'm delighted to welcome best-selling author Elaine Everest to the blog.

                                                                                  


Elaine Everest was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has written widely for women's magazines, with both short stories and features. When she isn't writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford, Kent, and runs social media for the Romantic Novelists' Association.
Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent.

 Now if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions Elaine?

How is the title significant?
This is my second novel with Pan Macmillan and as the first book, The Woolworths Girls, did so well it was decided to go with a similar formula for this title. Just as in my Woolies book there are three friends who meet whilst working at Butlins and all have their own stories to bring to the book the title worked.

Where did inspiration for this come from?
My maternal grandfather came from a long line of showmen. They owned their own fairground until just after the Second World War. Growing up and hearing the stories of showmen I knew that Sir Billy Butlin was a showman long before he started owning holiday camps and was known to my family. My parents would take us to Warners holiday camps during our childhood and not much had changed from the forties to the sixties when we stayed in wooden chalets and joined in with the fun and games. Whilst reading about the war years I had noted that the holiday camps reopened pretty quickly at the end of the war and Sir Billy’s Skegness camp was the first to open in May 1946. The ideal place for Molly to run away to.

Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
My main character, Molly Missons come from the town of Erith in Kent – now SE London. It is 1946 and after losing her parents she expects to continue on with her life, living in her parents’ house and running her late father’s business but then things start to happen that mean she needs to leave the town for her own safety. She head to Skegness to work in a holiday camp and shares a chalet with Bunty and Plum.
Plum is our posh girl and she has her own secrets that she eventually shares with her two new chums. Although very posh she is loved by all although she always smell of the donkeys and ponies she cares for. Plum’s past is very sad.
My third girl, Bunty, has the biggest secret of all and is in desperate need of a friend or two.
Add to this the handsome Johnny Johnson and Molly’ life becomes very busy.
I needed to have a variety of character who would also get on well together. My girls needed to come from different backgrounds but also be likeable and have some fun.

Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
After The Woolworths Girls I heard from many readers and was delighted to see they come from a wide age range. Younger readers wanting to know about life ‘back then’ and also ladies (and a few men) who had memories of life during the Second World War. I love to chat and share memories and this has been an added delight of writing my books.

What is your writing process like?
My writing process is to supply my editor with a one-page (maximum) story outline. When approved I work on this to expand it into a chapter breakdown with links to historical research. Then I write – usually seven days a week and around 750 words per day – more if I’m doing well. I plan ahead so that if something should interrupt my day I still manage my week’s goal. I belong to an online group for professional writers and we set ourselves a monthly word count and report daily. There’s nothing like having to confess to failing to keep me going!

How did you go about getting published?
I’ve been published with non-fiction books, article and short stories as well as an e-book with which I graduated the Romantic Novelist’s Associations’ New Writers’ Scheme. I run social media for the RNA and whilst compiling a blog post I was contacted by literary agent, Caroline Sheldon. Caroline read my book and asked if I had representation. After a meeting, where I showed her a half page idea (The Woolworths Girls) I was signed to the agency and sent away to write three chapters. Natasha Harding, then an editor at Pan Macmillan, offered me a two-book contract. Since then I’ve signed another two book contract with my new editor, Victoria Hughes-Williams. I’m still pinching myself!

What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
They are mainly good surprises that my books are doing so well. I appreciate how lucky I am as ours is a hard profession to break into. I still surprised that people know my name – what me? - and that new writers like to chat about my work. Bad surprises are very few and I try not to dwell on them. A little cyber bullying that I’m told is through jealousy. It can upset me, as I’m the most non-jealous person there is.
Cake is another good surprise. I tend to eat a lot of it to celebrate good news with my writer friends!

What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
At the moment my writing future is secure as there are three more books in the pipeline with Pan Macmillan that take me up to May 2018. I like to think they’ll offer another contract but that, as they say, is in the lap of the gods!
I’ve recently joined the Crime Writers Association and do have ideas that are more crime and less historical saga. However, I do love the saga genre so may just keep my crime within my historical novels.

Thank you so much for joining us today and good luck with the new release. You can find out more about Elaine via the links below.

Links:
Twitter: @ElaineEverest


Mary Wood







MARY WOOD - Journey to publication

I am the thirteenth child of fifteen born just as war ended in 1945 to parents who were worlds apart in their upbringing, but drawn together by a strong bond of love.

My mother had been brought up in a Middle-Class family. She attended private schools where she was taught how to be a lady. My father was an East-Ender, who, as a boy, took baskets of vegetables around the streets to sell, before going to war as a young man and fighting in the trenches in France.

We were a happy family, and though poor, we were rich in love.

A lot of my growing-up years were spent with my head in a book. We had a cosy place in the kitchen. A small corner next to the Rayburn, big enough for a basket to hold old newspapers ready to kindle the fire with. These provided a comfy seat, where the warmth from the Rayburn seeped into my cold body, and I could be transported to another world by a book.

The seeds were being sown, even then, for me to one day become an author, as the likes of Jane Austin, Charles Dickens and Louisa M Alcott fired my imagination. As did my mother’s tales about my great grandmother, Dora Langlois, who was an author in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am the proud owner of one of her books.

But, my own journey into publication took a long time to happen.
.
I married young and soon children arrived and life took many turns. Earning money was a priority and I took on many jobs, from cleaning to factory work, to caring for the elderly and catering. Anything that would fit in with bringing up our four children.

We had grandchildren by the time I at last put pen to paper to write my first novel, and that is meant literally, as not many folk had a typewriter, and computers were something to come in the future.

My work generated nothing, other than rejection letters. But, I never gave up, and after being duped by a so-called, ‘scout for literary agents’ who took my money, messed with my manuscript and my head, before finally letting me down, I found the help I was looking for on an online site, called YouWriteOn.com. Here, I found other wannabee authors. We critiqued each other’s work, and became friends. The benefit for me was that at last, with all the help and support, I could feel my writing taking on a new direction. My characters were telling the story, not me, and they were dragging me in and along with them. It was from these fellow authors, that I heard about kindle, but was unsure that was the path I wanted to take. Self-publishing had always held a stigma, and was mostly known as vanity publishing.

After retiring from my nine to five, at the Probation Service, due to being struck down by ME – a debilitating illness that left me unable to walk, I was found to have breast cancer. Two major wake-up calls. If I wanted to realise my dream, I had to embrace all the changes that were taking place in the book world. And so, I took the plunge and self-published my work.

My world did indeed change. My health improved and my books all went to number one in genre. Doors began to open. I was approached by Pan Macmillan and offered a seven-book deal!

All of this at the age of 68! Amazing. Dreams do come true.

I now have my seventh title coming out in paperback, and published by Pan Macmillan.

TOMORROW BRINGS SORROW




You can’t choose your family
Megan and her husband Jack have finally found stability in their lives. But the threat of Megan’s troubled son Billy is never far from their minds. Billy’s release from the local asylum is imminent and it should be a time for celebration. Sadly, Megan and Jack know all too well what Billy is capable of . . .
Can you choose who you love?
Sarah and Billy were inseparable as children, before Billy committed a devastating crime. While Billy has been shut away from the world, he has fixated on one thing: Sarah. Sarah knows there’s only one way she can keep her family safe and it means forsaking true love.
Sometimes love is dangerous
Twins Theresa and Terrence Crompton are used to getting their own way. But with the threat of war looming, the tides of fortune are turning. Forces are at work to unearth a secret that will shake the very roots of the tight-knit community . . .
Will Sarah have a chance at a future, and what will become of Jack and Megan? One thing’s for sure: revenge will be sweet.
Available in all book shops, supermarkets and all online stores from May 18th

More about Mary's books on her website: www.authormarywood.com
Follow her on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/HistoricalNovels
And Twitter @Authormary



Come Sundown


                                                                



OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS, AN AVERAGE OF
27 NORA ROBERTS BOOKS HAVE BEEN SOLD EVERY MINUTE

NORA ROBERTS
COME SUNDOWN
Published 30th May 2017 Hardback | £16.99
A powerful and passionate novel of suspense from Nora Roberts the world's greatest storyteller
Love. Lies. Murder. A lot can happen... COME SUNDOWN
Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time...
But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?
As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth before the sun sets on their future together.

                                                                                      


Nora Roberts is the number one New York Times bestseller of more than 200 novels. With over 500 million copies of her books in print, she is indisputably one of the most celebrated and popular writers in the world. She is a Sunday Times hardback bestseller writing as both Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb.
For more information please contact
Kirsteen.Astor@littlebrown.co.uk, 020 3122 6621 Clara.Diaz@littlebrown.co.uk, 020 3122 6565 

                                                                                       


My Review

It's taken me a while to read my first Nora Roberts but what a book to begin with. At first it seemed like there were two separate stories, the ranch and the abduction of Alice. It was difficult to really appreciate the Bodine/ Callan storyline as Nora Roberts kept giving us tantalising glimpses of Alice's story and to me that was by far the more interesting. add to that a parallel love story to Bodine, that of Jessica and Chase and at times the book felt overly long. With young women being murdered and no plausible suspects it was hard to see where this book was going. About half way through I found myself being caught up in all the stories and the ending brings everything together neatly. Be warned though that Alice's story is tragic and very upsetting and needs the HEA of the romances to offset it. Loved the multi-generational storyline and some fabulous characters.

4/5