The Angel in the Stone by RL McKinney #review @bexmckinney @sandstonepress

The Angel in the Stone by [McKinney, RL]

The Angel in the Stone is the second novel by RL McKinney following Blast Radius. You can read my review of that excellent book here. The Angel in the Stone is just as beautifully written.

Three generations of a family tell the story in turns. Calum lives in a quiet part of the West Highlands and still finds it hard to come to terms with the death of his brother Finn in a climbing accident over 20 years before. His difficulty coping with this has led to estrangement from his daughter Catriona, from a previous relationship. Closer to home, his mother Mary is becoming more and more forgetful and suspicious of everything Calum does. When a clearly distressed Catriona arrives unexpectedly at the same time as Mary has had to move in, not only is Calum’s peaceful life disturbed, it seems it may finally be time for the whole family to face up to the past. Always in the background of the book is the shadowy figure of Finn and how his life and death continues to impact on his mother and brother. 

What impressed me with this novel was the way the author has captured so beautifully and convincingly the three different voices of her characters. It can’t be easy to find the voices of a troubled teenager, a middle-aged man and an elderly lady, especially when she has dementia. And yet RL McKinney has managed to give each one a distinctive voice and has done so with aplomb. Calum is truly one of the sandwich generation and it is a welcome change to see a man in this role in fiction. From someone who was pretty much just drifting along, circumstances force him to focus on his family and, like most people in his situation, he more than copes. Because really, what is the alternative?

Young Catriona is running from a difficult situation at home and struggling to articulate how she is feeling to anyone. She and Calum haven’t had the easiest of relationships and it was really quite a risk heading off to see him. My heart went out to this character as she was trying so hard to cope with what happened. I was hoping that Calum would discover some fatherly instinct in himself to form a relationship with his daughter. They were both quite similar really in not wanting to talk to people and trying to keep everything inside.

Mary’s story was the one I found most poignant though. Most people these days will have some experience of a family member with dementia and will recognise her behaviours. I felt that the author had captured perfectly the confusion, forgetfulness and suspicion of those with dementia as well as showing the moments of clarity. The worry caused for the rest of the family was also clear to see.

The Angel in the Stone is a powerful story showing how the past comes with us into our the present day. It shows the importance of family, acceptance, communication and forgiveness. It is a very moving read and another unforgettable book from this author.

My thanks to Ceris at Sandstone Press for sending me a copy of this book. The Angel in the Stone was published by Sandstone Press on 17th August in paperback and as an e-book. At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is on offer at just £1 – you can buy a copy here: The Angel in the Stone

Book synopsis

Having returned to his childhood home in the West Highlands, Calum leads a quiet life. More than two decades after his brother Finn fell to his death, he still relives the event and struggles to find peace of mind. It isn’t so easy, however: his mother, Mary, has Alzheimer’s Disease and his estranged daughter Catriona has arrived out of the blue. Unexpectedly, Calum has his mother and daughter living with him and the house becomes a crucible of old resentments, disappointments, unspoken revelations and fragile but enduring love. Together and separately, Calum, Mary and Catriona retrace the events that have brought them to this point and made them who they are.

Marie Macpherson #AuthorInTheSpotlight #giveaway @MGMacpherson

Marie Macpherson

I’m very pleased to welcome Marie MacPherson as my Author in the Spotlight today. The second in her Knox Blast of the Trumpet trilogy was published in September 2015. You can order a copy online here.  Marie has very kindly offered a signed copy of the book as a giveaway for a UK reader so look for the entry link at the bottom of the page.

First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m an Honest Toun lass, born in Musselburgh and raised on the site of the Battle of Pinkie  – which may explain my passion for 16th century Scottish history. But after seeing the film, Dr Zhivago, I chose to study Russian at Strathclyde University and spent a year in the Soviet Union to research my PhD on the writer Lermontov, said to be descended from Thomas the Rhymer.

What inspired you to start writing?

Taking early retirement from an academic career gave me the opportunity to rekindle my interest in Scottish history, especially the rich history of East Lothian. My initial idea was to write about Mary, Queen of Scots but while researching the Treaty of Haddington that betrothed her to the French Dauphin, I came across Elisabeth Hepburn, the prioress of St Mary’s Abbey. She turned out to be a most amazing character – a strong woman on a male dominated world. The trail then led to John Knox who was born in Haddington around 1523/14. The fiery reformer then hijacked my project.

Tell me about your journey to publication

The first book was rejected by Scottish publishers as being ‘too Scottish’ with its use of Scots language. Luckily, an American publisher – coincidentally called Knox Robinson Publishing – loved the story. Following their suggestion, I modified the Scots vocabulary but was then asked to revert to the original version because it had lost its ‘magic’. Their request for a sequel, better still a trilogy, had me racing back to the history books to research Knox’s story.

In a nutshell, what is your trilogy about?

                     

The First Blast of the Trumpet is based on the early, undocumented life of John Knox and focuses on the trials and tribulations of reluctant prioress, Elisabeth Hepburn, great-aunt of James, Earl of Bothwell, and her relationship with the young Knox. Because so little is known about his life before 1540, when he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, I had more scope to exploit artistic license. It ends with Knox imprisoned in the galleys. The Second Blast of the Trumpet follows Knox into exile, to England where he meets his first wife and then to Geneva where he crosses swords with Calvin. Most surprisingly, it turns out that the notorious misogynist loved female company and The Second Blast explores his relationships with the various women in his life.

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

That was easy. I stole it from Knox’s polemical pamphlet, The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. And of course the next had to be The Second Blast.

How did you celebrate publication day?

The Second Blast was launched with a party in St Mary’s Kirk in Haddington. It was quite a blast with entertainment by musical duo Shatter’d Consort dressed in 16th century costume, wine and nibbles by local café, Lanterne Rouge café, all taking place beneath the pulpit where Knox preached. I like to think he was wagging a finger at us.

Do you have a work in progress just now?

For my sins, I’m now working on the third part of the trilogy, The Last Blast of the Trumpet.

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

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton (Alexander Seaton series Book 1) by [MacLean, Shona]

As a change from my diet of history for research, I’ve been enjoying historical thrillers. S. G. MacLean’s The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, is a murder mystery set in 17th century Scotland involving a fallen minister, a clandestine love affair and lots of historical detail to chew on.

Hare by [Ranscombe, Peter]

Hare, Peter Ranscombe, is another historical thriller about one half of the infamous duo of Edinburgh murderers, Burke and Hare. It follows the tale of Hare who escaped the gallows after turning king’s evidence against Burke.

To Kill a Tsar by [Williams, Andrew]

As a Russophile, I’m intrigued by historicals with a Russian connection including, To Kill a Tsar, by Andrew Williams. It explores the motives of the terrorists who assassinated Alexander II of Russia in 1881 while William Ryan’s series, beginning with The Holy Thief, is set during Stalin’s Great Terror. (Slipped in two for one there!)

What are you reading just now? (June 2017)

The Betrayal by [Dunmore, Helen]

As a tribute to Helen Dunmore who passed away in June, I’m reading The Betrayal, her sequel to The Siege, about the siege of Leningrad. Her writing is wonderfully poetic. Such a sad loss to literature.

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

That’s a really hard choice to make but since I’ve always admired the novels of Edinburgh writer, Dorothy Dunnett, I’d like to take her series, The Lymond Chronicles, set in 16th century Scotland. IMHO, Dunnett is the gold standard for historical fiction writers. Her novels are like crossword puzzles and so will keep my brain busy working out her clues and references.

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

Actually, the producers of Poldark have taken out an option on the Lymond Chronicles and Dunnett fans are discussing their dream cast as we speak. A cop-out I know, but I’d hate to upset them by suggesting who should play their heroes and heroines.

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

My author page: https://www.facebook.com/TheKnoxTrilogy/

My Twitter handle is: @MGMacpherson

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

According to Buzz Feed, I’m Scout Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird – so I’m happy to go along with that.

 

Thanks Marie – great answers. If you’d like a chance to win a signed hardback copy of The Second Blast of the Trumpet, click on the link below. It’s open to UK residents only and you can enter up until midnight on Wednesday 23rd August. I will contact the randomly drawn winner within 24 hours. 

Click here to enter the giveaway

 

My round-up: Thursday 17th @edbookfest

After the rain of Wednesday, Thursday was a beautifully sunny day and the gardens were buzzing all day with people enjoying the lovely weather. You will have to excuse the lack of photos from the events. You’re not supposed to take photos during an event which is fair enough and it’s really too dark anyway.

First event of the day was a recording of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. Presented by Val McDermid it featured Paul Auster, Denise Mina, Andrew Greig, Mike Heron, Sam Lee and Catherine Wilson. Paul Auster was talking about his latest novel 4,3,2,1 which is considerably larger than his previous works and is about four possible lives of his character Archie Ferguson. He said originally it was to be called Ferguson but then the dreadful events at Ferguson, Missouri happened and he felt he couldn’t use that title. He spoke of the tremendous divisions in American society today and how shockingly similar events are to those of 50 years ago.

Next poetry slam champion Catherine Wilson entertained us with a poem about Edinburgh specially written for the event. She is currently taking part in a Fringe Show every evening at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Denise Mina has moved to looking a true crime in her latest novel The Long Drop. It examines the case of Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel. She said that although the majority of the novel was based on the true events, it was very much her imagining of how things might have been, particularly with regards to the court case. She says it  is healthy to question official versions of events and that everyone should read newspapers whose point of view they don’t agree with, to develop a wider understanding of truth.

Andrew Greig has teamed up with Mike Heron from 60s folk band The Incredible String Band to write You Know What You Could Be. It is partly a memoir of Mike Heron’s time with the band but also Andrew Greig’s experiences of being heavily influenced by the band. I particularly liked that he felt it had led him to being a novelist as he realised you could make a living and avoid a proper job!

Folk singer Sam Bell treated us to his interpretation of The Circle is Unbroken by The Incredible String Band. He was taking part in a concert to celebrate the band at the Usher Hall on Thursday night.

You can download a podcast of the show here.

 

Under a Pole Star, Stef Penney’s latest novel, was one of my top reads last year – you can read my review here. It is an epic story about Polar exploration with the main character being Flora Mackie, the daughter of a Dundee whaler. It was fascinating listening to her talking about the detailed research she carried out for many aspects of the book and how much she enjoys her research. She hasn’t actually been to the Arctic area of Greenland which is such a feature of her book so it is even more impressive that she created such an amazing sense of place.

There was a collective gasp of horror in the tent when one of the questions revealed a MASSIVE spoiler. Rule number one at a book event – don’t assume everyone’s read the book already! It was handled very well by the chair Janet Smyth and Stef Penney but it such a shame that anyone who attended the event now begins the book knowing a very key plot point.

 

 

After a meeting with authors Stella Hervey Birrell and Natalie Fergie to discuss something very top secret (all will be revealed soon!),  my last event of the day was to see the much loved and prolific Alexander McCall Smith. This event was chaired by James Naughtie. The two had a great rapport and it seemed like they knew each other well. This event was full of laughter both from the audience and the two gentlemen on stage. Alexander McCall Smith read from the end of the most recent Scotland Street novel, A Time of Love and Tartan. This featured young Bertie attending a rugby match at Murrayfield with his father and his friend Ranald Braveheart McPherson. Scotland were playing New Zealand and emerged triumphant – this really isn’t a spoiler as Scotland Street is an ongoing series. James Naughtie commented that this was the definition of pure fiction! The author could hardly read the book without laughing and the audience couldn’t help but join in. 

We were also treated to a sneak preview of a forthcoming musical version of The Number One Ladies. The author has collaborated with Graham Weir, who was formerly in the band OMD, to produce a musical featuring one of his creations Mma Ramotswe. We got to hear a few of the songs where the African inspired music gave a good flavour of this feel-good musical. I particularly enjoyed Ladies of Traditional Build, which was a lively song and again had the audience laughing along.

Alexander McCall Smith is appearing at four events during the festival. It is a sign of the high esteem in which he is held that all these events are sold out. I think it’s fair to say that he is considered a National Treasure by the people of Edinburgh. 

Next week I am looking forward to seeing Maggie O’Farrell, Stephen McGann (Dr Turner in Call The Midwife), having Afternoon Tea with Sara Sheridan and a few others. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on those events during the week.

Another Woman’s Husband by @GillPaulAuthor #review @headlinepg

Another Woman's Husband: A gripping novel of Wallis Simpson, Diana Princess of Wales and the Crown by [Paul, Gill]

Almost exactly this time last year I was enthralled with Gill Paul’s last novel The Secret Wife which I subsequently included in my Top Reads of 2016. For some mysterious reason, it has become my most read review ever with it being viewed several times every day since then. If you’d like to add to those numbers, you can read the review here: The Secret Wife

As she did with The Secret Wife, Gill Paul has taken a well known historical event  and woven it into a story which imagines what may have happened. She is adept at intertwining fact with fiction to create a compelling novel. The historical aspect of this story looks at the long-lasting friendship between Wallis Simpson and Mary Kirk who met at summer camp in America in 1911. Their friendship lasted many years through various relationships, scandals and heartbreak before finally breaking down over a betrayal. The more modern part of the story is not quite history yet but is set at the time of Princess Diana’s death in a car crash almost 20 years ago in Paris. Newly engaged Rachel and Alex are in a car not far behind hers and are witnesses to the scene. Following her death, Alex becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened and begins investigating for a documentary. Rachel discovers a possible link between Princess Diana and Wallis Simpson and becomes very intrigued with this possible connection.

Until I read the notes at the end of the book, I had no idea that Mary Kirk was actually a real person! I’m quite glad I didn’t as I would no doubt have succumbed to Google and found out more about her life. As it was, I was able to read this book with no idea what happened to her and just enjoy reading about her life. I liked the way she developed throughout the course of the novel from quite a naive young woman who really should have been less tolerant of Wallis’s actions to a much stronger woman who stood up for herself. She knew a lot of sadness in her life and I really felt for her as she yearned for a happy family life.

Other than the fact that she was the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII gave up the crown, I didn’t know an awful lot about Wallis Simpson either. Although the abdication was of course a huge upset and scandal at the time, I had always thought it was very romantic that he gave up so much ‘for the woman he loved’.  Reading the book I see Wallis in rather a different light now. She seemed a rather selfish woman who only cared about getting what she wanted and showed little loyalty to those who loved and cared for her. I can understand a bit more now about why she was so disliked. 

In the 1990s, Rachel is an altogether more likeable character. She owns a vintage clothes shop although is struggling at the beginning of the story due to a break-in. I’m not really into fashion myself, but even I enjoyed reading about the glamorous clothes and jewellery she bought and sold in her business. The clothes of course, are just one link between the stories of Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana as they were both renowned for their stylish clothes. It is through her business that Rachel comes into contact with another character who has a link to both Diana and Mary adding another layer of intrigue to the story.

I am going to admit that The Secret Wife is still my favourite book but I did thoroughly enjoy this book too. Gill Paul has obviously impeccably researched her real life characters, the historical events, the social attitudes to women at the time and brought all this research together into a fascinating and enjoyable read.

My thanks to the publishers Headline Review for my review copy from Netgalley. Another Woman’s Husband is available in hardback and as an e-book. At the time of writing, the Kindle version is only 99p. You can buy a copy here: Another Woman’s Husband

From the back of the book

Two women who challenged the Crown.
Divided by time. Bound by a secret…

1911
At the age of fifteen, carefree Mary Kirk and indomitable Wallis Warfield meet at summer camp. Their friendship will survive heartbreaks, separation and the demands of the British Crown until it is shattered by one unforgivable betrayal.

1997
Rachel’s romantic break in Paris with her fiancé ends in tragedy when the car ahead crashes. Inside was Princess Diana. Back in Brighton, Rachel is haunted by the accident, and intrigued to learn the princess had visited the last home of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the crash. Soon, the discovery of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world…

Richly imagined and beautifully written, ANOTHER WOMAN’S HUSBAND is a gripping, moving novel about two women thrust into the spotlight, followed by scandal, touched by loss.

 

Edinburgh Book Festival – Wednesday round-up @edbookfest

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Well, it wasn’t exactly a glorious sunny day on Wednesday. The soundtrack to the first couple of events I attended was raindrops drumming on the Baillie Gifford Theatre Tent roof! I think you’ll agree the gardens still look pretty stunning though, even under clouds. I was at four events on Wednesday and hope to give you a flavour of them in this round-up.

My first event of the day was Quintin Jardine at an event chaired by Brian Meechan. Jardine is the author of the Bob Skinner series amongst others and was talking about the 27th Skinner novel, Game Over, which is due to be published in paperback by Headline next month. The 28th Skinner novel, State Secrets, will follow in October. In fact we got a accidental preview of the 29th Skinner as Jardine read us the beginning of that by mistake! He said a question he is often asked is how the crime writing scene in Scotland has changed over the 20-odd years he has been a crime writer. He likened the crime writing scene of the early 90s to a modest pond and said that now it’s more like a loch with shoals of people swimming in it. He also joked that he didn’t mind at all if people said he was the monster in the loch!

When asked if there was any chance of the Skinner books being adapted for tv or cinema he told how he felt he’d had a lucky escape a few years back. Skinner had been optioned but when the script came it bore no resemblance to the books. Names had been changed, different characters were introduced and Skinner had been changed from a policeman to a lawyer! He said this should be a cautionary tale for authors – if you want to see your work on screen, give up writing novels and become a screenwriter.

 

My next event was again in a packed Baillie Gifford Theatre and I was really looking forward to hearing Scots Makar Jackie Kay. She didn’t disappoint. Her first collection of poems as Makar, Bantam, will be published by Picador in October. She read several poems from this collection, beginning with the beautiful love poem in Scots The Lang Promise.  Another I found particularly moving was My Grandmother’s Hair where Kay reflects on what seems like the very full life lived by her late grandmother with reference to her many hairstyles. There was a ripple of laughter and recognition when she read the poem Perfume. I think many of us ladies in the audience remember trying – and failing – to create a beautiful scent from rose petals and water when we were children!

The audience had a very special treat on Wednesday as Jackie Kay premiered her poem specially commissioned to commemorate the centenary of WW1 war poets Wilfrid Owen and Siegfried Sassoon meeting at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh. The exact date is subject to debate though is thought to be about now. There were actually five interlinking poems: Craiglockhart, Sassoon, Outlook Tower, Letter Home and Return. One of the audience who was visually impaired, said that all Jackie Kay’s work should be recorded not just for those with sight problems to enjoy but because she reads with passion and with such a distinctive voice.

There was a lot of laughter throughout this session but I must admit to having a lump in my throat when Kay finished the event by reading the poignant poem Darling. You can read it here but it is so much more powerful hearing it read by the poet.

 

I was in Moscow on holiday with friends earlier this year so was keen to hear former BBC correspondent in Moscow, Angus Roxburgh. His book, Moscow Calling, gives his perspective on Russia from over 30 years experience working there. It was expertly chaired by Alan Little, himself a former Moscow correspondent for the BBC.  Roxburgh began by reading from the introduction of the book explaining how he was first attracted to Russia as a teenager by listening to Russian radio stations in his bedroom. He has certainly had a interesting career from working as a translator for a Russian publisher, to his work for the BBC and he also wrote for the Guardian. The Russia he spoke of with warmth and affection is not the dour image we often see on tv but is of a place where the people are resilient and show concern for each other. He told many amusing anecdotes of his time in Russia such as hailing a snowplough for a taxi! The book sounds like it will be an fascinating and entertaining read for anyone interested in how life has changed in Russia over the past forty-odd years.

 

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Karine Polwart (left) and Laura Barnett

My last event for the day was in the beautiful Speigeltent where Laura Barnett’s event was being chaired by another perfect choice, Karine Polwart. The latter is a songwriter and folk-singer and Laura Barnett’s book, Greatest Hits, is about a fictional folk-singer called Cass Wheeler. I read and enjoyed the book earlier this year and you can read my review here. What was particularly enjoyable about this event is that the audience got to hear the songs which make up the framework of the book. Barnett explained that each section of the book looked at a different part of Cass Wheeler’s life and that each song was meant to have been written by her about those times. She has collaborated with musician Kathryn Williams to create a soundtrack to accompany the book, as away of expanding the reading experience. We listened to the songs Don’t Step on the Cracks and When Morning Comes. Kathryn Williams’ music was just as I had imagined it when reading the book and she has such a beautiful singing voice. Laura Barnett explained that one of the themes she was exploring in the book was the conflict that women, especially creative women face: getting the balance between fulfilling their potential against the expectations of their roles as daughter/mother/wife. The book, along with the album, is a celebration of female creativity. I really enjoyed listening to these two creative women talk about the book and music with such enthusiasm. If you fancy listening to the soundtrack, you can order a copy online here.

 

 

Edinburgh Book Festival: A love letter from Barbara Henderson @edbookfest @scattyscribbler @cranachanbooks

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I’m delighted to have Barbara Henderson with me today. I met up with Barbara at a gathering of authors and bloggers at the Edinburgh Book Festival and as usual, she had a big smile on her face. That’s her at the back with the lovely blue scarf on. As she explains in this guest post, this year more than ever she had a very good reason for that smile!

Edinburgh International Book Festival: A love letter

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View from the train en route to Edinburgh

Edinburgh International Book Festival has been a fixture in my life for nigh-on a decade.

What’s not to love? It’s an excuse to visit the fantastic city where I spent many happy student years! Where I met my husband, had my first child and the setting of countless happy memories. Over the years, popping down the A9 to EIBF was a great way of sharing our love of reading with our kids. Steve Cole, Jaqueline Wilson, Lari Don, Anthony Horowitz, Abi Elphinstone, Katherine Rundell: so many gifted authors to introduce them to! Where do I start? And in between children’s events, I delighted in catching glimpses of Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie milling around into the bargain. Now based in Inverness, the festival became a fixture in our calendar – a lovely way to round off the summer holidays before going back to school.

 

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All this time, I had been writing too. Puppetry scripts, then short stories and eventually children’s novels. I hadn’t told many people this, but I longed for the other side. I admired writers because I knew how hard it was to create tension. Or humour. Or raw emotion. I so badly wanted to be good at it!

In 2013, with our family trip already booked, I discovered the most fantastic news: a manuscript I had entered into the Kelpies Prize had been shortlisted, and I was invited to the ceremony. Guess where: Edinburgh Book Festival! 2013 will always be a very special EIBF memory as it was my first brush with the publishing world. Agents and publishing-insiders milled around at the venue, and published authors I recognised from the backs of book covers spoke to me as if I was one of them. My words were read out to great applause, and then… someone else was announced as the winner. Not this year then, but getting to the last three meant I had been close, so very close. I chose to take some comfort from that and wrote on.

Three novels (and three years) later, it finally happened: Fir for Luck, my Highland Clearances novel for children, was published by Cranachan. Fast forward to August 2017: just last weekend was my very first EIBF with my own book on the shelves. I wasn’t doing an event (I reckon I’m not quite in that league yet), but Fir for Luck was going to be for sale at my annual bookshop-of-pilgrimage in Charlotte Square.

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I was on my own when I first entered, although the place was already busy on the morning of opening Saturday. Slowly, I walked around the Scottish publishers’ shelves in the centre of the tent and my stomach danced when I spotted it – not only on display, but at eye level, too! And all the Cranachan stable of children’s historical fiction beside it! I hadn’t been prepared for this strange mixture of elation and emotion. I took a step towards it, but a family got there first, inspected my book –  and added it to their pile.

Time to be brave – I suck at selfies.

‘Excuse me, would you mind taking a wee picture of me. Yes, right here. BECAUSE THAT’S MY BOOK!!!’

I’d like to think I didn’t actually shout at them. I hope I didn’t. But that slightly tearful, slightly unhinged smile you see in the picture there, that’s it: my EIBF moment which no other will ever top.

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Thanks Barbara for that lovely guest post. I’d be smiling too! Fir For Luck was published by Cranachan Books in September 2016 and you can order a copy online here: Fir For LuckIt has 32 reviews on Amazon and every single one is 5 stars – another reason to smile! If you’d like to read my review, you can do that by clicking here

Broken Branches by @MJonathanLee #review @hideawayfall #20BooksOfSummer

Broken Branches by [Lee, M. Jonathan]

Broken Branches is the first novel to be published by the new publishing house Hideaway Fall and is the last of my #20BooksOfSummer. It is very different from anything I have been reading recently and I was really gripped by it. It’s hard to say what kind of book this is. Is it a ghost story? There are certainly some spooky goings-on. Or is it a psychological thriller? Well, it’s a book that has you wondering what is going on but it’s not a fast-paced twists-and-turns type thriller. Whatever you want to call it, it’s definitely an intriguing page turner perhaps with a hint of a Gothic novel about it.

In the shadow of a large sycamore tree lies Cobweb Cottage, inherited by Ian Perkins following the death of his brother. The house has been in the family for generations but it seems that the cottage or the family may be cursed. Ian certainly believes this to be the case and his determination to prove it to his wife Rachel is threatening their marriage. As he works his way through old family papers and begins to compile a family tree, he discovers that in every generation, a tragedy has occurred. If the curse is real, is his family next?

Throughout the book, the author creates an amazing sense of tension and foreboding. The spooky shadows cast by the tree, the mysterious noises in the cottage, the objects moved about in Ian’s study, the secrets never spoken about all combine to make for an unsettling atmosphere and an uneasy read. It is a book full of mystery and the mystery deepens as the story moves between the present and the past revealing all the tragic events which have happened in the cottage. 

A really original and absorbing read, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Broken Branches and recommend it as something a bit different from other thrillers. It is simultaneously enigmatic, absorbing, disquieting and tender. 

My thanks to Hideaway Fall Publishing for my copy of the book. Broken Branches was published in July 2017 and is available in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy online here: Broken Branches

From the back of the book

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’ 

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family. 

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.