The Cottingley Secret by @HazelGaynor #review @fictionpubteam

The Cottingley Secret by [Gaynor, Hazel]

I’m sure many people will be familiar with the photos of the Cottingley Fairies, photos taken by cousins Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in the early 20th century and which they were adamant for years showed real fairies. It was not until the 1980s that Elsie finally admitted they were faked but Frances insisted that though the fairies in these photos were not real, she genuinely had seen real fairies. The Cottingley Secret explores Frances’ story through an imagined memoir (inspired by Frances’ own writing) and links to the present day story of Olivia, reading the notes she has found in her grandparents’ cottage in Ireland. I thought the way the story moved between the two time periods was simply yet cleverly done with Olivia settling to read Frances’ memoir.

This enchanting story had so many elements which I like in a book so I knew that I would enjoy it. It had two favourite settings, Yorkshire and Ireland, a story taking place during WW1 and a contemporary story with a bookshop at its heart. I did prefer the contemporary story of Olivia as she starts to learn that she needs to believe in herself. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Frances and Elsie’s story, as it was also a charming part of the book. I think I preferred Olivia’s story because of the relationships within it. In particular, the portrayal of her relationship with her much beloved Nana Martha was very touching. She always believed that Martha, though now in a nursing home with dementia, was still the person she always had been at heart. And Olivia never stopped trying to connect with her grandmother and help her recall happy memories.

I particularly liked the setting of the Something Old second hand bookshop. This place which had been so special to Olivia’s grandfather, held so many precious memories for her and was a place which helped her to heal from the sorrows in her life. It was true, as her Grandfather’s old friend Henry told her, that “There’s magic in every bookshop, Olivia, You just have to bring people to it. The books will take care of the rest.” Whether the fairies had a hand in helping Olivia begin to bring the old bookshop back to life is for the reader to decide but it was certainly a place where she realised “it was time to start believing in herself.”.

The Cottingley Secret is a lovely book which blends the past and present beautifully while exploring what it means to believe. It’s a story that will remind you that it’s never too late to believe in yourself and that you can create your own magic to change things. It may also have you wondering if maybe, just maybe, Elsie and Frances really did see fairies all those years ago. 

My thanks to the publishers, Harper Collins, for my review copy of the book. The Cottingley Secret is available now as an e-book (order a copy online here) and the paperback version will follow a week day, 25th January.

From the back of the book

1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


Hazel Gaynor
Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. 

In 2017, Hazel released two historical novels: THE COTTINGLEY SECRET (August, William Morrow/HarperCollins) and LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (October, William Morrow/HarperCollins). 

Hazel was selected by the US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent selection in spring 2015. Her work has been translated into several languages and she is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative Management, New York. 

For more information, visit


Literary Wonderlands edited by Laura Miller @modernbooks @alisonmenziespr

Unusually today, I’m recommending a book I haven’t completely finished. The reason for that is that this isn’t really the kind of book you sit down and read all at once. It’s more a book for dipping in and out of. Literary Wonderlands takes you on 100 adventures to fictional worlds you may be familiar with already or places you have yet to discover.

This beautifully illustrated hardback book is perfect for book-lovers. It will take you from the time of ancient myth and legend, through the golden age of fantasy, right up to the contemporary computer age. As you journey through the ages, these literary wonderlands will also transport you throughout the world.  Some of the locations are real such as the Spain of Cervantes’ Don Quixote or the near future California of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. However, some are purely fictional such as down the rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan’s Neverland and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.  You will also journey to the Moon with Cyrano de Bergerac, under the sea with Jules Verne and to other galaxies with Douglas Adams. Each entry explains a bit about the plot of the book, describes the setting created,  often tells a little of the historical context when the author was writing and talks of the place it held in people’s thoughts then or now. Each entry is also accompanied by original illustrations,  author photographs and occasionally film stills.

As I flicked through the book, choosing entries at random to read, many childhood memories were evoked. For example, I remembered how much I enjoyed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, so much that I had to read about all the other adventures set in the magical world of Narnia. I loved the inclusion of the illustrations I remembered from Alice in Wonderland and remember being terrified by the Queen of Hearts! The Wizard of Oz is probably more associated with the film these days but I do remember borrowing the book and some sequels from my library and being surprised at the differences from the film. Perhaps a first introduction that the book is almost always better than a film adaptation!  A more recent discovery (though more years ago than I care to think about actually) is the magical Discworld created by the late great Terry Pratchett. I was introduced to Discworld by my husband who, not long after we met ,recommended that I read Mort. I did and I was hooked – and I don’t normally enjoy fantasy type books.

But as well as bringing back memories, I have also come across new authors to investigate and new literary worlds to explore.  Literary Wonderlands is a real treasury to be enjoyed at leisure, something I fully intend to do as I read more of the book.

Huge thanks to Alison Menzies for my copy of this book. Literary Wonderlands is published in hardback by Modern Books (an imprint of Elwin Street Productions). You can buy in all good bookshops or order a copy online here: Literary Wonderlands.

From the back of the book

Imaginary worlds have captivated readers since the first works of literature. Lovingly researched and beautifully produced, Literary Wonderlands explores the timeless, captivating features of literature’s greatest fictional worlds and the minds that created them. The book is comprised of nearly 100 sections, each of which details the plot of a famous fantasy world, the historical circumstances that surrounded its production, the author’s inspiration, and the place it holds in the public imagination. Roaming from classic tales including C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, this truly global collection chronicles over two thousand years of literary creation. Accompanied by stunning visuals that elucidate the production of each work, Literary Wonderlands is an enchanting read for anyone who has ever been transported to another place through the power of the written word


Heather Richardson – Author in the Spotlight @heatherr911 @vagabondvoices

hr pic 2017

A couple of months ago, myself and Kelly from Love Books Group went to a fascinating talk and walking tour round old Edinburgh led by Heather Richardson. Heather was taking us round places relevant to her book, Doubting Thomas, and also introduced us to the wonderful Vagabond Voices’ In The Freethinker’s Footsteps online resource. You can read about the project here. I’m delighted that Heather has agreed to be one of the first authors in my spotlight for 2018. Read on to find out more about her and her book.

Thanks for joining me Heather. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?

I grew up in Northern Ireland and couldn’t wait to get away. University was a great excuse to escape – I studied English Literature at the University of Leicester. After that I worked as a bus driver, a medical rep, and finally in the Marketing Department of a private hospital in Harley Street. I married an Englishman, and we were lured back to Belfast by a job offer and the appeal of lower house prices. I worked in Sales and Marketing for a few years, but was happy to pack it in when my children were small. I knew I didn’t want to go back to that kind of work, so I managed to talk my way into some part-time Creative Writing teaching at a local college. That went well, and I ended up working for the Open University. When I was in my early 40s I did a distance learning MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster, and then a PhD with the OU. I’m a believer in life-long learning, as you can tell! Outside of writerly pursuits I enjoy crochet and textile art. Part of me wishes I’d gone to art school – there’s definitely a visual artist inside me trying to get out.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a reader – my late mum claimed I could read before I could walk – but it never occurred to me that books were written by someone. I thought they just existed. Then, when I was at school, our English teacher introduced us to the work of Seamus Heaney, and I realised that real people from the here and now of my world could write books. I didn’t write anything myself until after university. I had a bizarre dream one night, and used it as the starting point for a dystopian novel involving an enigmatic scarred anti-hero. Of course, the novel didn’t get beyond the first chapter. Over the next ten or so years I tinkered about with writing. I went to a few writing classes, and was lucky enough to be taught by Lionel Shriver before she hit the big-time. She was a brutally frank critic, and didn’t hold back in telling me that most of my work was banal and predictable. However, there were one or two pieces where I’d pushed myself a bit – written stories that challenged me and scared me a bit – and she felt there was something there worth working on. That was an important lesson for me – not to write what I thought people wanted to read, but to use writing to explore ideas that upset my equilibrium in some way.

Tell me about your journey to publication

I had my first short story published in 1993 as a result of winning a competition. Then I had about five years of rejection before another competition win. I started getting the odd story published in magazines and anthologies, and also wrote a couple of novels – one of which was pretty bad, the other a bit less so – and quite reasonably nobody wanted to publish them. Then I started work on Magdeburg, an historical novel set in Germany during the Thirty Years War. It was published by a tiny Northern Irish publisher in 2010. Funnily enough, it also featured an enigmatic scarred anti-hero. Because Doubting Thomas is set in Edinburgh I thought it would be best suited to a Scottish publisher, so that was who I targeted when I started sending it out. I was delighted when Vagabond Voices took it on, as I thought the subject fitted well with their whole ethos.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

The tagline is ‘sex, drugs and blasphemy in 17th century Edinburgh’, but at heart it’s the story of an imperfect marriage, and how it is destabilised by a young man called Thomas Aikenhead. Aikenhead is a real historical figure, and was the last person to be executed for blasphemy in Britain. The novel blends fact and fiction, and explores how individuals manage to hang on to some sort of personal moral freedom in a dangerously oppressive society.

[You can copy a copy online here: Doubting Thomas]

How did you come up with the title for your book?

With great difficulty! At first it was going to be Death of a Freethinker, then – when I realised all of the main characters were wrestling with religious doubt – Freethinkers. A wise man told me that sounded like an academic text book, so I spent a few months racking my brains for something else. I don’t know why I didn’t think of Doubting Thomas in the first place, as it works on two levels. Not only is Thomas Aikenhead the archetypal doubter, but none of the people around him can quite get the measure of him.

How did you celebrate publication day?

I spent publication day in Edinburgh for the launch, which was lovely. Afterwards I went back to my hotel room, ate a Sainsbury’s sandwich and watched The Apprentice. I did treat myself to a tin of ready-mixed gin & tonic. All very glamorous!

Do you have a work in progress just now?

I’ve completed the first draft of a historical crime drama– think Call the Midwife meets Silent Witness in Restoration London. It’s kind of on the backburner, because at the moment I’m absorbed in something completely different – a text and textile creative nonfiction project where I’m embroidering the words on to a replica vintage dress. I’m charting my progress on Instagram @a_dress_for_kathleen So much of a writer’s life is about tapping away on a keyboard, and I’m really enjoying working on a physical artefact. It really makes me think about words when I write them stitch by stitch.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

I enjoyed Miranda Doyle’s memoir A Book of Untruths. She constructed her family’s story around all the lies she was told growing up – very clever! I tend to take a long time catching up with books that were published ages ago, so I’ve only just read Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson. She’s such a humane writer. The real star read in the last year or so is Liz Jensen’s The Rapture. It has two of the ingredients that work for me – intense psychodrama and the supernatural. The pages were turning in double-quick time!

                               A Book of Untruths by [Doyle, Miranda]    Human Croquet by [Atkinson, Kate]     The Rapture by [Jensen, Liz]


What are you reading just now? 

(Dec 17) I’ve just finished Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield – a wonderfully gothic murder mystery set in 19th century Cornwall, and have started Whistler on Art. It’s a selection of letters and articles by the artist James McNeill Whistler. A lot of his reflections on visual art can apply just as well to writing. I’m also reading a poetry collection, The Work of a Winter by the Irish poet Maureen Boyle.

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

That would have to be the poetry anthology Staying Alive. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book, and helped me fall in back in love with poetry. I was crazy about poetry as a teenager, then lost faith a bit as so much of the new stuff I was reading seemed to be a bit too clever-clever or kind of pointless. In Staying Alive the editor Neil Astley has brought together a huge number of very fine poems that actually evoke an emotional response. I think they’d keep me going on my desert island.

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

The Longest Fight by Emily Bullock would be a great film. It’s got all the ingredients – post-war London, boxing, corruption, murder and family secrets… what more could you want? I’m not sure who to cast. Let’s give some unknowns a chance!

The Longest Fight by [Bullock, Emily]

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

I’m on Twitter @heatherr911 (note the extra ‘r’!)

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

Philip Marlowe from Raymond Chandler’s novels. Or Michael Corleone from The Godfather. I’d like to be a smart, ruthless man with a gun. And a fine selection of well-cut suits.

Creating my character #guestpost from @LK_Chapman

LK Chapman

I’m pleased to be joined by author Louise Chapman today. Louise’s latest novel, The Stories She Tells, was published in October last year and features a character called Rae. In this fascinating guest post, she explains to me how she created Rae and gives an insight into her character. You can order a copy of the book online here and will find info about it at the bottom of the post.

How I created the main character in “The Stories She Tells”

Main character’s name: Rae Carrington. Although during the story you discover Rae has changed her name multiple times…

Job: Full time mum. Relationship status: married. Kids: I don’t want to give any spoilers, but she has at least one child…

Where did the idea for Rae come from?

Rae was originally supposed to be a minor character in a completely different story, as the ex-girlfriend of the main character who was being blackmailed, and she was one of the people he suspected. I always had a clear idea what she looked like – with striking clothes and always with colourful lipstick. She’s a complicated person who is basically trying to hide who she really is behind new identities. One of the characters in the book describes her as having a kind of veneer, that she doesn’t quite seem real. Getting to know her as a character was all about unravelling why she tries to hide the real her and the ways in which the truth about her past tries to escape in things she says and does.

Did you end up changing your book as you developed Rae as a character?

The book was written entirely to accommodate Rae. She took over my original story to such an extent that I completely changed the plot to write about her instead, including chapters from her point of view.

What did you enjoy most as you wrote about Rae?

How she says some quite funny things sometimes. It was fun for me to write her dialogue – she can be blunt, or flippant, or a bit insulting sometimes too, but I find her quite entertaining when she is like that!

Is Rae similar to somebody you know in real life?

I certainly don’t know anyone with a personality like hers! But it was funny because around the time I was creating her one of the contestants on The Great British Bake-off looked exactly like her. Even my husband thought so from the descriptions I’d given him. It was kind of surreal, sometimes while we were watching we called her Rae by accident!

Where is your character’s favourite place?

Her art studio at the bottom of the garden. She feels peaceful and most herself there when she paints the view across fields and watches how the changing seasons affect the landscape.

How would your character describe themselves?

I think Rae would say that she is stylish and sophisticated, sexy and confident. Those sorts of things are very important to her – she bases a lot of her self-esteem on whether men find her attractive, and her appearance is something carefully thought out and designed to help her fill whatever identity she is currently trying to portray. I guess her clothes are almost like a disguise.

How would people close to your character describe them?

The people Rae has most contact with are her husband and her housekeeper. I think they would both describe her as volatile, impulsive, a little childlike, and insecure. They would also probably point out her lack of life skills, and that she seems to need quite a lot of looking after.

Is Rae going to appear in any future books?

I can’t see her appearing in any other books really. I think once her mysteries are unravelled I’ve probably gone as far as I can with her as a character, but you never know!

Do you think you would get on well with Rae in real life?

Probably not… The main thing about her is that she’s hard to get close to and to know on any deep level, so it’s hard to see how a friendship could survive based on that!

 The Stories She Tells: A psychological page-turner with a shocking and heartbreaking family secret by [Chapman, LK]

From the back of the book

When Michael decides to track down ex-girlfriend Rae who disappeared ten years ago while pregnant with his baby, he knows it could change his life forever. His search for her takes unexpected turns as he unearths multiple changes of identity and a childhood she tried to pretend never happened, but nothing could prepare him for what awaits when he finally finds her.

Appearing to be happily married with a brand new baby daughter, Rae is cagey about what happened to Michael’s child and starts to say alarming things- that her husband is trying to force her to give up her new baby for adoption, that he’s attempting to undermine the bond between her and her child, and deliberately making her doubt her own sanity.

As Michael is drawn in deeper to her disturbing claims he begins to doubt the truth of what she is saying. But is she really making it all up, or is there a shocking and heartbreaking secret at the root of the stories she tells? 

About the author

Louise Chapman loves to write because she loves learning about people and she loves stories. A major turning point in her life was the day she realised that no matter how strange, cruel or unfathomable the actions of other people can sometimes be, there is always a reason for it, some sequence of events to be unravelled. Since then she is always asking “why” and “what if” and she is fascinated by real life stories capturing the strength, peculiarities or extremes of human nature. 

LK Chapman’s first novel, Networked, was a sci-fi thriller but now she’s turned her attention to writing psychological suspense. Her first psychological thriller, Anything for Him, was published in 2016, and her new novel The Stories She Tells was released in October 2017.

LK Chapman lives in Hampshire with her husband and young family. She enjoys walks in the woods, video games, and spending time with family and friends.

You can receive a free copy of LK Chapman’s short story Worth Pursuing, as well as news about new releases, by signing up to the LK Chapman reading group:

You can find out more about LK Chapman by visiting her website:

The Confession by Jo Spain #review @spainjoanne @quercusfiction

The Confession: The most addictive psychological thriller of 2018 by [Spain, Jo]

‘Wow, just wow!’ was my reaction on finishing this brilliant thriller.  If you are regular blog reader, you will know that I am a big fan of the DI Tom Reynolds books by the same author and that they have appeared on my Top Reads list for the past two years. It’s only the second week of January and already I had two books on my top reads for 2018. The Confession is a more than worthy addition so, Joanne Spain, looks like you will have a hat trick!

This book is billed as ‘the most addictive psychological thriller of 2018’. Addictive? I’d say so – I was reading it walking along the prom to my exercise class as I didn’t want to wait till I got home again! From the vivid and rather violent opening scene, I was totally enthralled by this story. Unusually for a crime novel, you know almost from the very beginning who has committed the crime but what this book is about is the ‘why?’.

Julie and Harry McNamara are watching a thriller tv programme in their luxurious house in an affluent suburb of Dublin when JP Carney walks in and calmly sets about beating Harry violently with a golf club. Horrified, Julie can do nothing but watch. When he is finished, JP just as calmly walks into the local police station and confesses to the attack. He claims not to have known what he was doing or who Harry was, that it was a completely random attack. But Harry is a very well known banker who has recently been cleared of financial misconduct related to his investment bank’s activities at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom in Ireland. Investigating officer Alice Moodie is convinced that this was no random attack and is determined to prove it. Julie also believes it can’t be random but how is Carney linked to Harry?

From that dramatic prologue, narrated by Julie, the story moves back in time as we hear variously from Julie, JP and Alice.  Jo Spain adeptly relates the story of Julie and Harry’s relationship which is not as perfect as it may have appeared from the outside, despite or perhaps because of their wealth. In fact, this book is as much a dissection of their marriage as it is it a crime novel. As more and more about their relationship was gradually revealed, I couldn’t decide whether to be sympathetic towards Julie or annoyed at her for sticking with Harry for so long. However, with more details emerging, it became clear that the two were dependent on each other to keep each others’ secrets. As we read about JP’s childhood and more recent life, it becomes obvious that this was definitely not a random attack but exactly why is not apparent for a long time. And then we have Alice, still working away at trying to find a connection between Harry and Carney, despite the opinions of the medics and prosecutors. She also provides a little light relief throughout the book with her interactions with her fellow detectives. Through the viewpoints of these three characters, Jo Spain tells the story in a way that will have you reading just-one-more-chapter-oh-is-it-midnight-already? 

Well-drawn, believable characters all with their good points and their flaws will have you feeling sympathetic towards them at times while also feeling angry or despairing at their actions. Julie and Harry’s marriage in particular is fascinating to read about proving that old adage that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. Jo Spain takes you right into her characters’ heads and captures perfectly what makes them tick.

The Confession is such a brilliant written, expertly plotted book with lots of revelations carefully revealed at just the right moment to catch you unawares and keep you reading. It’s a book that’s crying out to be made into a tv series and it would keep you on the edge of your seat as you watched.  But don’t wait – read it now and be on the edge of your seat as you read! It definitely could be, as mentioned above, ‘the most addictive psychological thriller of 2018’ so don’t miss out. 

My thanks to the publishers Quercus for my review copy via Netgalley. The Confession is published today in e-book format and will be available in paperback on 25th January. It will be available in good bookshops or you can order a copy online here.

From the back of the book

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. It looks like Harry’s many sins – corruption, greed, betrayal – have finally caught up with him.

An hour later the intruder, JP Carney, hands himself in, confessing to the assault. The police have a victim, a suspect in custody and an eye-witness account, but Julie remains troubled.

Has Carney’s surrender really been driven by a guilty conscience or is this confession the first calculated move in a deadly game?


Holly Seddon #AuthorInTheSpotlight @HollySeddon @corvusbooks

Holly Seddon bw

Today I’m delighted to be joined by Holly Seddon, whose second novel, Don’t Close Your Eyes, was published in paperback by Corvus Books last week. You can order a copy online here. Despite it being publication day, Holly found a little time last Thursday to answer these questions.

Thanks for joining me Holly. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?

I’m a British author living in Amsterdam. My second novel, Don’t Close Your Eyes, has just been published in paperback by Corvus Books who also published my debut, Try Not to Breathe, in 2016. Outside of writing, I love to read (I’m especially enjoying non-fiction at the moment, which feels a little rebellious as I should be getting stuck into my TBR pile/landslide). I also love to life weights, cook, hang out with my family and little dog, Arnie.

What inspired you to start writing?

I know it’s a cliché but, honestly, I just always have. I don’t remember ever thinking “I should write”. My cousin John taught me to write my own name when I was a toddler and I don’t think I stopped writing since.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

Don't Close Your Eyes by [Seddon, Holly]

Don’t Close Your Eyes is about twins, Robin and Sarah, and the consequences that events in their childhoods are still having to this day. It’s a thriller and a family drama in one. 

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Confession: I didn’t. I’m crap at titles and almost always have to be rescued by my agent or editor who are both just plain better at them than me.

How did you celebrate publication day?

I’m answering this on my paperback publication day and I’m celebrating right now with a strong cup of tea and a Ritter Sport Marzipan bar! I always feel a bit weird on the day itself. You don’t know how well the book has sold until some days later, so you’re celebrating your book going out into the world to be judged by readers, which is actually quite a nerve-wracking thing! We’re going out for a celebratory dinner on Saturday night (three days after publication) and I might be feeling less of an oddball by then!

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

Oh that’s really tough. I loved You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood. Also Together by Julie Cohen and Anything You Do Say by my good friend Gillian McAllister. On the non-fiction side, I really loved Outskirts by John Grindrod, a memoir and social history of the green belt.

           You Don't Know Me: A BBC Radio 2 Book Club Choice by [Mahmood, Imran]  Together: An epic love story with a secret you won't see coming by [Cohen, Julie]  Outskirts: Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt by [Grindrod, John]

What are you reading just now? 

Stasiland by [Funder, Anna]

I’m actually reading Stasiland by Anna Funder, first released in 2004. Like I say, I shouldn’t be reading non-fiction from over ten years ago when I have lots of proofs to devour but I’ve been dying to read it for ages. I’m fascinated by the Cold War and especially by the German Democratic Republic, and it’s incredibly well-written.

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

Like, the biggest one I have. I’ve said before that I’d take The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell because I’ve been meaning to read it and it’s so big that I keep putting it off.

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

Oh I’ll just be honest, I’d love to see one of mine made into a film or TV series! Ha, I probably shouldn’t say that! Cast-wise, I would benevolently leave that up to the director. I wouldn’t even demand a cameo…

Try Not to Breathe: Gripping psychological thriller bestseller and perfect holiday read by [Seddon, Holly]

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

I’m on Twitter:

And Facebook:

And Instagram:


Thanks Holly. Great to find out more about you and your books. I hope those publication day figures were pleasing and you enjoyed your celebratory dinner!

The Doll Funeral by @Kate_Hamer #review @faberbooks

The Doll Funeral by [Hamer, Kate]

I enjoyed Kate Hamer’s debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat when I read that a couple of years ago so was really pleased to to be asked to take part in the blogtour to celebrate paperback publication of her latest novel, The Doll Funeral.

The Doll Funeral is a book I find difficult to categorise. It’s not quite a psychological thriller, it’s not quite domestic drama, it’s not quite paranormal but a blend of all three which works remarkably well. Its also quite difficult to talk about without giving too much away. At the heart of the story is Ruby, a thirteen year old who has just been told that she has been adopted. Rather than this being a huge shock, it is instead a huge relief to Ruby. Barbara and Mick have never exactly been the most loving of parents, especially violent Mick, and the fantasy of finding her real parents suddenly becomes reality for Ruby. In between Ruby’s story, we also go back to 1970 and read about Ruby’s birth mother Anna, a young mother struggling to cope with the demands of married life and a young baby in a place far from home.

Ruby is a most unusual girl. She seems wise beyond her thirteen years and is of striking appearance with a vivid birthmark surrounding her eye. She is quite a remarkable character with an unusual way of seeing the world. Indeed, what she can see or believes she can see is a very important strand of the book. There are quite dark themes covered such as mental illness, domestic abuse and the lines between truth and secrets became quite blurred at times. It was difficult to know who or what to trust both for the characters and the reader which made for a really intriguing read.

What really stood out for me in this book was the lyrical quality of the writing. Kate Hamer has a remarkable turn of phrase particularly when describing the Forest of Dean, a place of great significance throughout the book. Through her words she created a very visual image in my head of the canopy of trees, the forest floor, the foliage throughout the seasons as well as the sounds and smells of the forest. 

Relationships between parents and children, particularly mothers and daughters, form an important part of the narrative and it is these relationships which really touched the emotions. It is a haunting book, full of beautiful imagery and mysteries.

My thanks to Joanna Lee at Faber Books for my copy of the book. The Doll Funeral is available now at all good bookshops or you can order a copy online here: The Doll Funeral

From the back of the book

My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say. I’m supposed to say that the bruises on my arms and the black eye came from falling down the stairs.

But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw on the way to bed.

I did tell Mick that I saw the woman in the buttercup dress, hanging upside down from her seat belt deep in the forest at the back of our house. I told him I saw death crawl out of her. He said he’d give me a medal for lying.

I wasn’t lying. I’m a hunter for lost souls and I’m going to be with my real family. And I’m not going to let Mick stop me.

DF blog tour (2)

About the author

Kate Hamer

Kate Hamer’s first novel ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ (Faber & Faber, 2015) was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into 18 different languages. Kate won the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize and she has had short stories published in anthologies such ‘A Fiction Map of Wales’, ‘New Welsh Short Stories’ and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She’s written articles and reviews for The Independent, The Mail on Sunday and The New York Times. Kate grew up in the West country and rural Pembrokeshire and now lives with her husband in Cardiff. Her second novel ‘The Doll Funeral’ was a Bookseller book of the month and an editor’s pick for Radio 4’s Open Book.