PK Lynch’s latest novel, Wildest of All, was published by Legend Press on 1st September following her highly acclaimed debut Armadillos. Isn’t that a gorgeously atmospheric cover? Today, courtesy of the publisher, I am giving you the opportunity to read the first chapter and win a copy for yourself. If you’re not lucky enough to win, you can order a copy online here.
First of all, what’s the book about?
The Donnelly family are a tight-knit bunch, but when one of their own dies without warning, the mother, the daughter-in-law, and the daughter, despite being united in grief, are each sent hurtling in wildly different directions.
From the churches of Glasgow to the nightclubs of London, can they find their way back to each other before it’s too late? And in the wake of a parent’s death, who exactly is responsible for looking after whom?
If that sounds like your kind of read and you would like a chance to win a copy, then click on the giveaway link below. The prize is a copy of the book which will be sent directly from the publishers. It is a UK only giveaway and you can enter up until midnight on Monday 11th September. I will contact the winner within 24 hours.
“A sulphurous yellow fog, so thick it muffles the chimes of the Sunday Church bells, had fastened overnight to London and refused to be dislodged by even the stiffest of breezes.”
With this atmospheric opening sentence Anthony O’Neill sets the scene for his continuation of the story of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The opening to the book creates a mysterious tone which pervades the whole book, a feeling of mystery and unease as we meet lawyer Mr Utterson, seven years after the disappearance of his friend Dr Jekyll and the death of Mr Hyde. Most people will probably be familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson’s original novella either through reading at school or a film or tv adaptation. Don’t worry if you haven’t read it though, as enough is referred to throughout the book for this story to make perfect sense.
Mr Utterson is just about to inherit Dr Jekyll’s property and estate when he is shocked to find a man has returned to Jekyll’s house claiming to be the man himself. Utterson knows this can’t be true, that the man must be an imposter, as he has documents written by Jekyll himself stating that Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same. And if Hyde is dead, then Jekyll must be dead too. And yet, this man looks exactly like Jekyll and his closest friends and acquaintances believe him to be Jekyll. He knows things only Jekyll could know. Utterson though, is not convinced, and believes him to be a fraudster. He sets out to prove that this man is not the genuine Dr Jekyll.
From that vivid opening paragraph to the striking end of the first chapter I was hooked by this book. Like the original, it is a novella so is a quick and easy read. But it is so entertaining and clever. With its short paragraphs and fast paced action, it’s a book you’ll be eagerly reading and reluctant to put down. I feel that the author has remained true to the spirit and the atmosphere of the original book with the reader never quite sure what is happening and who to believe. I’m quite sure that I would have been convinced by the man claiming to be Dr Jekyll but was equally convinced by Utterson that he couldn’t be.
I could really feel the creeping dread of Utterson as he realised that not only did everyone think that Dr Jekyll was who he claimed to be but also that many close to him had died in mysterious circumstances. I could easily visualise the dark and foggy streets of London that Utterson walked as he tried to prove himself right. The historical details are never intrusive but really add to the authentic feel of the book.
It’s a suspenseful novel full of atmosphere and a really gripping read. I think it works really well as a sequel with the language and concept being similar to the original. Do we all have two sides to us with the darker one just below the surface? How close to madness is anyone at any time and what would it take to tip us over? It also had a more modern feel though with that idea of identity theft and fraud. Highly recommended read.
My thanks to the publishers Black and White for my copy of this book. It is available now in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy directly from the publishers here or from Amazon here.
From the back of the book
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Continues…
Seven years after the death of Edward Hyde, a stylish gentleman shows up in foggy London claiming to be Dr Henry Jekyll. Only Mr Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful lawyer and confidant, knows that he must be an impostor because Jekyll was Hyde. But as the man goes about charming Jekyll s friends and reclaiming his estate, and as the bodies of potential challengers start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life … and questioning his own sanity.
This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements the original work. And where the original was concerned with the duality of man, this sequel deals with the possibility of identity theft of the most audacious kind. Can it really be that this man who looks and acts so precisely like Dr Henry Jekyll is an imposter?
Anthony O’Neill was born in Melbourne but has since moved to Edinburgh. He is the author of Scheherazade, The Lamplighter, The Empire of Eternity, The Unscratchables, and The Dark Side. Film rights to The Dark Side have recently been purchased by 20th Century Fox for development by Oscar- winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian.
Thanks to the publishers, you have the chance to win a paperback copy of Where In The Dark by Karen Millie-James today. The book was published yesterday by King of the Road Publishing. The book was inspired by the author’s own family history as her grandparents were killed in Nazi concentration camps and her father escaped Germany on the first Kindertransport. The giveaway is open for UK residents only and you can enter up until midnight on Thursday 7th September. I will contact the winner within 24 hours and your prize will be sent from MidasPR. Click to enter the giveaway and find out more about this exciting book below.
Two envelopes. Two holocaust survivors. Two anonymous bearer bonds each worth one million pounds. Corporate forensic investigator, Cydney Granger, with help from beyond the grave, enters a world previously unknown to her to unravel the truth behind a web of secrets, lies, corruption, blackmail and hidden Nazi loot as new horrors of the Third Reich come to light.
Still struggling to come to terms with the apparent death of her husband, Captain Steve Granger, five years’ earlier, Cydney puts her personal feelings to one side and is determined to bring to justice an escaped Nazi criminal, Adolf Weissmuller, living under the assumed name of Albert Whiteman, whose son is about to run for the US presidency. Can Albert ever make amends for his crimes against humanity, or are some actions beyond forgiveness …?
Will Cydney, along with her trusted and tough protector, former sergeant, Sean O’Connell, also uncover the truth surrounding her husband?
The consequences of Cydney’s investigations, stretching back before WWII, are far reaching with the potential to bring down a banking dynasty as she faces insurmountable odds from which there is only one final solution.
The dramatic follow-up to The Shadows Behind Her Smile, a compelling debut which takes the reader from the heart of Cydney’s corporate world to the ruins of war-torn Damascus and where men will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
Karen Millie-James was born in North London to a father who had escaped Germany with the kindertransport in 1939 and a mother who was a talented window dresser and designer in London’s West End. Inspired to do well, Karen studied business and languages at the University of Westminster.
Karen never intended to write a book but what started as a hobby in her spare time away from the office, working in the evenings until late into the night and at weekends, became a new and exciting part of her life. Writing her first book, The Shadows Behind Her Smile, became her passion and was made easier due to her background in business, literature and linguistics and having a vivid imagination.
Karen now lives in the Buckinghamshire countryside with her husband and their dogs. She works full-time in her own business but the remainder is spent writing, playing tennis, going to the theatre and travelling, and having quality time with her daughter who is a professional performer.
I’ve never yet read a Marian Keyes book which I didn’t enjoy, and I have read them all. The Break is no exception and proves once again that she is an expert at blending family drama with humour.
Following the death of his father and a close friend, Hugh shocks his family by announcing that he is taking a six month break from his marriage and heading off on a trip to ‘find himself’. It’s a typical mid-life crisis but a bit more serious than splashing out on a fancy car. His wife Amy is so hurt and angry but has no choice other than to adapt to life without him. With a family of three girls and a busy job as a publicist which involves being in London two days every week, she soon realises just how much of a unit she and Hugh were and resents his leaving her in the lurch. Her anger and sadness isn’t helped when she sees photos of him looking happy and relaxed on South East Asian beaches in his Facebook feed. Though Hugh is having a break and leaving all his responsibilities behind, Amy doesn’t have that choice. But if he is on a break, then does she have the opportunity to have a break from their marriage too?
This book has all the elements I love in a Marian Keyes book. There are times it will make you sad but there are times it will make you laugh out loud, particularly with the supporting cast of a large and eccentric Irish family. She writes so well about all the different kinds of challenges that a modern family can face: aging parents, challenging teens, marriage difficulties, temptations, second chances, choices to be made, friendship issues. There is also sexual tension simmering throughout the book as Amy recalls a flirtation with a colleague and revisits the idea of acting upon it.
The Break is witty, warm and wise and a hugely enjoyable read. Marian Keyes is such a wonderful storyteller that I just get completed wrapped up in her books. I had no idea which way the story would go, and I didn’t actually know howI wanted things to resolve for Amy, but as always, the author got the ending just prefect for all her characters. The Break sees Marian Keyes at her brilliant best and will not disappoint her many fans.
Huge thanks to the publishers, Michael Joseph, for my copy of the book via Netgalley. The Break is published on 7th September in hardback or as an ebook . It will of course, be availbale in bookshops or you can order a copy online here: The Break
From the back of the book
Amy’s husband Hugh has run away to ‘find himself’. But will he ever come back?
‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’
Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her.
He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .
However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.
For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman?
Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .
The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.
Have you ever wondered how an author decides where the action in their book is going to take place? Today I’m joined by author Steve Catto as he tells us about the importance of setting in his recent novel Snowflakes.
I have been asked why choosing the setting for my book was important. For the answer to be meaningful it’s necessary to understand some key aspects of the characters and the plot.
‘Snowflakes’ is a story that can be described in several ways, because it exists on several levels. There are four characters, each of whom has a unique role to play. The two older girls find themselves taken away from their homes by mysterious events, to a strange place where they meet with a handsome hunter called Sam, and are forced to live an isolated existence. At some point they are joined by another girl who never speaks, and whose thoughts and plans are therefore unclear. Their joint struggle for existence, which consists of surviving from day to day both physically and mentally, is tolerable and sometimes enjoyable, until one of the girls discovers what Sam really does at night when he goes out hunting and then they begin to realise that their world may not be what they think it is.
The story involves aspects of day to day life mixed with mysterious happenings, coupled with elements of escapism and adventure. From the very start it was apparent that the setting was going to be as important as the plot and the characters, or perhaps even more so.
The setting is a small abandoned house in the countryside. Although little of importance actually happens at the house it is a central place in the surroundings. This is really a home-from-home for them because none of them belong there, so it made sense for the house to be a ‘lost soul’ as well, and their co-existence can be viewed as symbiotic. It gives them shelter and warmth and a sense of community, and they have rescued it from isolation and further decay. It’s a case of bringing life to an inanimate object and treating it as another character. Writing their names on the wall soon after they settle there serves both to solidify their group and to subconsciously include the little house in it as well, something which can be used for emotional effect much later when we reach the end.
The surroundings needed to be versatile, so a countryside setting was ideal. It represents ‘a world’ for their new life which provides food and water, so a forest and river were obvious additions. The characters are, at least symbolically, trapped there, so the nearby river forms one edge of their world, and a distant range of hills across a plain in the other direction form a second edge. Placing the house on the outside bank of a big bend in the river provides two more edges to their world because there is a limited distance which they would travel along the river path from day to day. This allows the story to hint at the existence of other worlds beyond those limits, where in this case ‘world’ means places and people unknown. The river also allows for imagery and parallels. Like life, it flows remorselessly onwards towards an unknown destination. It can be picturesque and gentle, and it can be dark and foreboding. Its banks are an ideal place to lay in the sunshine and talk about dreams and hopes while watching the clouds, and the track along the bank that leads out along the edge of the forest becomes an easily identifiable path, which could also subconsciously be interpreted as a ‘way of life’, which leads on towards other possible places.
Putting the house in a clearing allows space for action to occur, and for the placing of a fire pit a short distance away, which is another setting for late night discussions about life and the universe. It also provides the location for a quaint old wooden building called The Dovecote, which is nearing the end of its life. This acts as a theatre for important scenes and, like the other characters in the story it is also drifting onwards towards its inevitable death.
Setting much of the story outside, with the river and the forest and the fire, allows me a great deal of scope for descriptive writing. Although the writing gurus are fond of repeating their mantra of ‘show don’t tell’ there is still a place for descriptive writing. Not everywhere of course, but in works that are heavy on the narrative and what is called the ‘omni’ point of view, it does still work, and stories involving settings are perfect for it. The flickering flames, the dark shapes against the trees, the sparks, the smoke, the blue skies and clouds, the beautiful sunsets, the sparkling starlit nights, the thunderstorms, and the snowflakes which spiral out of the sky and lend their name to the title of the book. Billions of snowflakes, one for every soul in the world, and no two the same… or so you might be led to believe.
As a story about lives and worlds and dreams, ‘Snowflakes’ is just as much about the setting as it is about the plot and the characters. It’s such an important element of the the story, and I can’t imagine making it work any other way.
Thanks for that Steve, a really interesting insight into Snowflakes. If you’d like to know more about Steve you can do that here https://SteveCatto.blog
You can order a copy of the book online here: Snowflakes
Back of the book details
Discovering that you can’t find your way back home can be quite disturbing, but when there’s fish to catch, food to grow, animals to hunt, and a boy to share, the world turns out to be quite tolerable really. What more could a girl want?
The problem might be that the world doesn’t find it particularly tolerable, because life is going on and no-one’s really doing anything, except enjoying themselves. That’s got to stop, there’s work to be done!
Time to send in the little grubby girl with the big eyes and the long dark hair… and maybe the monkey. That’ll put the cat among the pigeons.
Book lovers – you must go and buy this little gem of a book immediately! I need only mention some of the chapter headings in this book and I just know that you will be nodding and smiling in recognition: ‘Visiting someone’s home and inspecting the bookshelves’, ‘Impromptu bookmarks’, ‘Hiding yet more purchases from partners’, ‘Spying on what others are reading’, ‘Feeling bereft having finished a book’, ‘Choosing and anticipating holiday reading’. You are already thinking this book is written about you aren’t you? Well that would be the chapter ‘Feeling a book is intimately for you’!
As well as the joy of recognising yourself and your reading habits in the pages of this book, you will undoubtedly appreciate the passion of the author for his subject. As you may have read earlier this week, I went to see Daniel Gray at the Edinburgh Book Festival and he spoke about how reading is a real escape from our busy lives. Other escapes can be more of a distraction such as losing an hour on social media, but reading remains a dedicated escape. He has a real eye for detail, which is why any book lover will recognise themselves in this book.
I was reading the book on the bus on the way to the event and I couldn’t help but laugh when I came to this chapter!
If I could add to the delights listed, I would definitely include reading my own much loved copies of my childhood books to my own girls when they were young. A more recent delight is that now they are in their late teens, I can pass on many of the books I have read and we can talk about them together. It is a true delight to share the love of reading with my daughters. This is a little gem of a book which I recommend to anyone who loves reading – and you do don’t you if you are reading this? I can’t wait to see what delights Daniel Gray will share with us next.
You can of course buy Scribbles in the Margins at all good bookshops and I’m sure it can be ordered if not in stock. I almost hesitate to give you a link to the online retailer but, since so many people sadly no longer have a local bookshop, you can also order a copy here: Scribbles in the Margins You can buy a Kindle version but really, to appreciate the book fully, you should get the beautiful hardback copy.
From the back of the book
We lead increasingly time-poor lifestyles, bombarded 24/7 by petrifying news bulletins, internet trolls and endless noises. Where has the joy and relaxation gone from our daily lives? Scribbles in the Margins offers a glorious antidote to that relentless modern-day information churn. It is here to remind you that books and bookshops can still sing to your heart.
Warm, heartfelt and witty, here are fifty short essays of prose poetry dedicated to the simple joy to be found in reading and the rituals around it. These are not wallowing nostalgia; they are things that remain pleasurable and right, that warm our hearts and connect us to books, to reading and to other readers: smells of books, old or new; losing an afternoon organising bookshelves; libraries; watching a child learn to read; reading in bed; impromptu bookmarks; visiting someone’s home and inspecting the bookshelves; stains and other reminders of where and when you read a book.
An attempt to fondly weigh up what makes a book so much more than paper and ink – and reading so much more than a hobby, a way of passing time or a learning process – these declarations of love demonstrate what books and reading mean to us as individuals, and the cherished part they play in our lives, from the vivid greens and purples of childhood books to the dusty comfort novels we turn to in times of adult flux.
Scribbles in the Margins is a love-letter to books and bookshops, rejoicing in the many universal and sometimes odd little ways that reading and the rituals around reading make us happy.
From the bright and breezy cover of this book, I thought I would be in for a pleasant, easy-reading chick-lit book. However, The Postcard has a lot more depth and serious issues than I was expecting, in a good way. Penny is a vicar’s wife and television producer who has married late in life and has a young, teething baby, Jenna. As many mothers will all too easily recognise, she is exhausted by the constant sleepless nights. As it draws near to Christmas and her husband, Simon, becomes even busier with Church preparations, Penny is finding it harder and harder to cope. With her position at work threatened and some shocking news from her estranged family, is it finally going to be too much for her?
Fern Britton has painted a very convincing portrait of a mother struggling to cope with a new baby and not wanting to admit it. Most mothers I’m sure will recognise that overwhelming tiredness of early babyhood which can sometimes feel like it will never end. (I have teenagers – trust me it will!). In Penny we also see that guilt and the fear that we are not good enough mothers. Penny’s experiences with her own mother make her even more determined to be perfect for Jenna. Although I did not have post-natal depression, I feel that this is a very realistic portrayal of how it must feel. It was good to see that Penny had so many supportive friends and family to help her through such a difficult time. She certainly needed them when her sister Suzie came on the scene.
It has been a long while since I disliked a character as much as I disliked Suzie! Through Penny’s childhood memories we see how the two girls were treated very differently, especially by their mother, and Suzie was clearly the favourite. In the present day, she comes across as devious and conniving and some of her actions were just awful! She may have been able to fool others but Penny could see her for what she was. At the same time, she felt this need to reconnect with her only sister and I could see why she so wanted to believe Suzie. There were some great characters throughout the book and this was not a twee stereotypical little village. There were a few more traditional characters such as grumpy Piran and wise, but gossipy shop-keeper Queenie. I also liked Ella who was returning to Pendruggan where she had spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Hoping to discover more about her past, she quickly becomes a welcome addition to the local community.
One small criticism: as I was nearing the end of the book there were a lot of quite dramatic events – I was almost reading through my fingers! – and I was wondering how the story could possibly be resolved in the few pages I could see I had left. Although the ending did resolve Penny’s story, it did so very quickly and I would have liked just a few more chapters explaining what happened in a bit more detail. Having said that, the book ended on a tantalising note with the promise of Ella’s story continuing in the next book and I’m certainly keen to read that.
I really enjoyed The Postcard. It’s billed as perfect summer reading but actually half the book takes place in winter and there was plenty snow to make me feel festive! It’s a very intriguing read with lots of family secrets waiting to be discovered. Realistic scenarios, interesting characters and an idyllic setting make this an entertaining read.
My thanks to the publishers Harper Collins for my copy of this book which I won in a Summer Reading competition on Facebook. I’m looking forward to reading my way through the rest of my prize books. The book is available at all good bookshops or you can order a copy online where, at the time of writing, the Kinlde version is only £1.49: The Postcard
From the back of the book
The new witty and warm novel from the Sunday Times best-selling author and TV presenter, Fern Britton.
Secrets. Sisters. The summer that changed everything . . .
Life in the Cornish village of Pendruggan isn’t always picture perfect. Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she’s estranged from her mother and sister. For years she’s kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they’ve been quietly eating away at her. When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything.
Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she’s here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny’s broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn’t lie in the past at all.