Archive for the ‘Adult’ Category

Christmas at Woolworths

Elaine Everest
Even though there was a war on, the Woolworths girls brought Christmas cheer to their customers.
Best friends Sarah, Maisie and Freda are brought together by their jobs at Woolworths. With their loved ones away on the front line, their bonds of friendship strengthen each day. Betty Billington is the manager at Woolworths, and a rock for the girls, having given up on love . . . Until a mysterious stranger turns up one day – could he reignite a spark in Betty?
As the year draws to a close, and Christmas approaches, the girls must rely on each other to navigate the dark days that lie ahead . . .
With so much change, can their friendship survive the war?

Excerpt

June 1942

Sitting astride the powerful motorbike, Freda Smith removed a large leather gauntlet from her hand in order to pull tight-fitting goggles from her eyes. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and yawned. Although only the first day of June, the air was sultry and not a day for being covered from head to toe in a heavyweight motorcycle uniform. Freda felt sweaty and would have loved nothing more than to pull off her jacket and feel the wind on her skin as she sped through Kent towards her destination. It had been a long day and no doubt many hours lay ahead before she would see her bed. Gazing towards an angry orange glow that could be seen even in the afternoon sky, she knew her journey was almost at an end. She was close to Canterbury.

Freda had always thought the notion of travelling to Canterbury appealing and she’d planned to visit this famous city just as the pilgrims had done centuries before her. Never in a million years did she believe her trip would be to carry important orders to the Fire Service when Canterbury was under threat from the Luftwaffe. Ahead of her now was a city decimated by enemy action. As a volunteer dispatch rider for the Aux¬iliary Fire Service Freda had longed for excitement, but she now realized that what lay ahead was death and destruction for this beautiful Kentish city and many of the people who lived there. After nearly three years would this terrible war never end?

Freda fervently wished she was back behind her coun¬ter at Erith Woolworths, selling the popular Mighty Midget books and Lumar jigsaws that not only enter¬tained the families but gave youngsters something to concentrate on during long nights when the country was under fire from the enemy. Life seemed so much easier then, even though she was often on fire-watch duties and had to sleep in her landlady’s Anderson shelter on many occasions. Knowing how lucky she was had made Freda yearn to do more to help this beastly war come to an end. She wondered what she’d discover when she reached the city walls. How would she find the fire sta¬tion, where she was supposed to report once she reached Canterbury? Fear urged Freda to turn back and not get any closer to the burning city.

The petite young woman gave herself a silent talking-to. Her job was important and lives depended on her handing over the instructions tucked safely inside the breast pocket of her uniform jacket. She was lucky to be able to work both at Woolies and be a volunteer in the Auxiliary Fire Service. Many people did not have a choice. Freda pulled the goggles back over her eyes and, slipping her small hand back into the gauntlet, she fired up the powerful Triumph motorbike. The bike had been assigned to her when she had completed her training only two weeks ago. Another fifteen minutes and she would reach her destination. Once her duties were com¬plete Freda could do something about the worry that had been nagging at the back of her mind since she left Erith fire station. She would be able to look for her friends. The best place to start her search would be Woolworths. Surely someone could point her in the right direction?

‘Thank you,’ Freda said, as she was handed a tin mug containing piping hot cocoa along with a sandwich by one of the WVS ladies who were dispensing refreshments from a large van to the fire fighters, soldiers and the many civilians valiantly working to find those injured in the destruction of a once noble city and to dampen down the flames from incendiary bombs. Try as she might, Freda couldn’t quite block out the sound of ambulance bells and the shouts for ‘quiet’ as men nearby dug with their bare hands, searching for people trapped in the rubble of what was until recently street upon street of fine shops.

‘You look exhausted, love. Can you find somewhere to put your head down for a while before you head off again?’ a WVS woman said as she wiped the counter.

Freda, who would have liked nothing more than to close her eyes and sleep for a few hours to ease her aching body after the long journey across Kent, smiled at the kindly woman. ‘No, thank you all the same; I need to find my friends and put my mind at rest. Once I know they are safe I can head back home to Erith. Would you happen to know the best way to reach Woolworths? I’m sure staff there will be on fire watch duties and hopefully they can tell me where my friends are.’

The woman stopped and thought for a moment. ‘I do believe that Woolworths is a couple of streets from here, but the road’s been blocked off as there’s an unexploded bomb. I doubt you’d get there anyway, what with so many shops and houses having been bombed. There’s nothing but rubble. Hang on, I’ll check with one of my ladies. She’s a local and may know more than I do.’

Freda nodded her thanks and bit hungrily into the Spam sandwich while she waited for the woman to return. It had been an age since she’d last eaten, but the grey National bread with its scraping of margarine and thin slice of Spam tasted like a feast fit for a king. Since arriving in Erith from the Midlands at the end of 1938, Freda had come to enjoy her food after most of her childhood was spent going without. Her landlady, and grandmother to her best friend Sarah Gilbert, was a wonderful cook and Freda reckoned her mutton stews, fluffy dumplings and steak and kidney puddings wouldn’t look out of place on the tables of any posh London hotel. Even with rationing taking a grip on the nation’s food supplies, Ruby Caselton could be relied upon to conjure up a tasty meal for any occasion.

Freda had just swallowed the last of the cocoa when the WVS lady reappeared.

‘I was right. You can’t get to where Woolies is as the street’s shut off. It seems the buildings down there have taken a bit of a bashing so I hope your friends are all right. Do they work there?’
Freda tried not to become alarmed. It wouldn’t help matters. She made herself think of everyone back home who would be relying on her to stay strong. ‘Er, no, but one of them is manager of the Erith branch and my other friend works with her. I just need to know they are not hurt. Would you know where I could possibly find them? That’s if they are not badly injured or . . .’

The kindly woman patted Freda on the shoulder. ‘Now, don’t go getting yourself upset. Why, you’re no more than a child yourself and riding that great big motorbike. You’re a brave one and no mistake.’

Freda took a deep breath and composed herself. ‘I’ll be twenty-one later this year. I’m just a bit on the small side for my age.’

‘Well, twenty-one or not, the world’s a bloody scary place right now and we are entitled to be afraid. Just don’t go bottling it all up. Scream and shout at the Hun if you want to. It does me the power of good, I can tell you.’ She placed a protective hand on Freda’s shoulder and pointed with the other. ‘Now, if you take yourself off down that road and turn left, you will come across a church hall. It’s being used as a rest centre as well as a first-aid post. I reckon you’ll get news of your friends down there. Leave your motorbike and helmet here. You can park up behind our van. They’ll come to no harm. I’ll keep an eye on them for you.’

Freda thanked the woman and, after securing her bike, she hurried up the small road to the hall. Struggling to gain entry as the hall was full of people, she pushed and shoved her way through the crowd. So many looked to be in shock, wandering aimlessly about, no doubt look-ing for loved ones just as Freda was trying to do. Spotting an officious-looking ARP warden with a clipboard, she elbowed through the crowd. ‘Excuse me, do you know if my friends, Miss Betty Billington and Mrs Maisie Carlisle, are here?’

The man ran his pencil down a list of names and turned a page. ‘Here they are, Billington and Carlisle. Hmm,’ he said, tapping the pencil on his teeth as he peered at the list. ‘They’ve been moved to hospital. I assume they must be injured, but details haven’t been noted. I do wish people would complete the forms prop¬erly,’ he huffed.

Freda tried to stand on tiptoes to look at the list, but the man was having none of it and held it close to his body. ‘What hospital would that be?’ she asked.

‘Margate General. It’s not too far from here. Local hospitals are overstretched at the moment. Here, take a look at the map.’ He pointed to a large map pinned to the wall.

Freda felt sick as she peered at it. Her head started to spin as she attempted to focus on where her friends had been taken and tried not to think too much about their injuries. They are still alive, she told herself as she thanked the man and rushed back to where she’d left her motorbike. Although now late afternoon, it was still warm and around her she could see men sweating as they pulled at bricks and masonry that had once been thriving businesses and family homes, seeking the living and the dead. Firing up the bike’s engine, she headed off to find Betty and Maisie.

About Elaine Everest

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novel The Woolworths Girls and The Butlins Girls was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty years and has written widely for women’s magazines and national newspapers, with both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to broadcasting on radio about our four legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.
When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school at The Howard Venue in Hextable, Kent and has a long list of published students.
Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors as well as Slimming World where she can been sitting in the naughty corner.

Publisher: Pan Mac
Publication Date: November 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 300
Genre: Historical Saga
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Challenge: None
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The Red Thread

Dawn Farnham

Set against the backdrop of 1830s Singapore where piracy, crime, triads, and tigers are commonplace, this historical romance follows the struggle of two lovers Zhen, a Chinese coolie and triad member, and Charlotte, an 18-year-old Scots woman and sister of Singapores Head of Police. Two cultures bound together by the invisible threads of fate yet separated by cultural diversity.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I have to admit that I love reading books that are full of culture. Books that describe places that I have never visited and may never visit. So when I heard about The Red Thread, I was instantly curious. Normally I am not a big historical fan but the draw of the vibrant Singaporian landscape drew me into giving this book a try and I am so glad it did. This is a very fascinating and beautiful novel. Dawn Farnham has done a brilliant job at creating an atmosphere in this book with unique writing that truly describes everything for the reader. It is informative and entertaining all at the same time. While the book is slow due to the vivid descriptions, this just makes the book more beautiful and lyrical. I was truly mesmerized by this book and cannot wait to read the next books in this series.

Who was your favourite character and why?
There is a vast array of characters in this book which can seem a bit confusing at times. In one chapter near the beginning, Dawn describes just a small portion of the characters and it takes up a fair few pages. But the main characters are all very interesting and alluring to read about. My favourite character was probably Charlotte. She is new to Singapore, moving to be with her brother and I found her to be a spectacular character. She was curious and interesting to follow throughout the book. I won’t say too much more as I do not wish to spoil it!

Would you recommend this book?
I would and I wouldn’t. It honestly depends who I was talking to. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a slow burner, someone who is willing to put time into a book and allow the beautiful narration to sink over them. However if you’re looking for a book with a fast, exciting plot then I definitely would not recommend this book. The Red Thread is perfect for readers who like to be truly transported.

One Sentence Summary (Verdict)
A beautiful, exotic and wonderfully written novel that will capture your heart.

The Red Thread is currently free on Amazon. You can get a copy by clicking here.

Publisher: Monsoon Books
Publication Date: April 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 328
Genre: Historical
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by Publisher
Challenge: None
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The Lie

C. L. Taylor

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes…
Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.
Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.
Jane has tried to put her past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
Initially I loved it. This had me hooked from the very beginning. I listened to this on audiobook and I don’t know if this added to the atmosphere but what I do know is that the atmosphere of this book is so intense and incredible. The book jumps between past and present and always leaves one time era on a cliffhanger before jumping to the next time era. It was a very clever trick to keep the reader turning the page – both metaphorically and literally! I was also gutted when my car journey was over and the audiobook had to be paused for a short while, always eager to return to the story. This is a very well written thriller that has a very intriguing twist at the end. It is the first C. L. Taylor book that I have read but it will not be the last.

Who was your favourite character and why?
Sorry to be boring with you all guys but as usual my favourite character was our main protagonist; Jane. She was just such an interesting character and it was so fascinating to read about how she was five years and how she was now. I absolutely loved how protective she was of animals and how much she cared about the new people in her life as well. I did get a bit disgruntled that she didn’t talk to Will about everything but I also know that when you’re hiding something, it’s probably not easy to just bring it all out into the open. I loved how much she had grown between her past self and her future self but also how much she progressed throughout the book as well. She was definitely and strong and fascinating character to have at the forefront of this book.

Would you recommend this book?
Absolutely. It is an incredible read that will truly hook you from the beginning and will, hopefully, shock you to your core by the end of it too. It’s the type of book that drip feeds you information and leaves you guessing before the big reveal. But even then because we had past and present, there was still more to occur. It was truly wonderful and everything you could wish for with a twisty, heart-racing and addictive thriller. So if you’re looking for a book that is full of vibrant characters, has a dark heart and an ultimate reveal at the end, then you should definitely make sure you read this book.

One sentence summary (Verdict)
An addictive, fast-paced, heart-wrenching thriller read that will have you reaching for the tissues as well as feeling pure hope and happiness too. A whirlwind of a read that you really do not want to miss.
Verdict: A very entertaining, fun and quick read that celebrates diversity and being a little bit different.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: April 2015
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 461
Genre: Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Library Copy
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To Provence, With Love

T. A. Williams
Escape to the south of France with this perfect feel-good summer romance!
Anything is possible…
Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!
So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…
But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?.

Exclusive Excerpt
Faye went over and clinked her glass against Miss Beech’s, then Eddie’s, and took a mouthful. She watched as Miss Beech sipped her drink pensively before looking up. ‘Here’s something you can put in the book, Faye. They say alcohol slows the activity of the brain, but every time I drink champagne, my mind’s flooded with memories of so, so many good times.’ She stared down into the wineglass. ‘To be quite honest, I’ve never really liked the stuff that much. Those bubbles always seem to go up my nose, but it’s what it represents, I suppose.’
‘Well, I haven’t had the opportunity to drink enough champagne in my life to develop a special taste for it, but this is gorgeous. By the way, talking of wine, thank you so much for all the food and drink you’ve put in the flat. The fridge is absolutely packed.’ As Miss Beech made a dismissive gesture with her hand, Faye took another mouthful of champagne. It really was excellent. She pulled up an ornate wooden stool and sat down to one side of Miss Beech, directly in front of the fireplace. ‘So, go on then, what’s running through your mind at the moment? What memories has this sip of champagne awakened?’
There was a moment’s silence while Miss Beech reflected on the question and then, to Faye’s surprise, she started giggling like a schoolgirl once more. ‘To be totally honest, Faye, it reminds me of the night I tipped a bucket full of ice into my leading man’s lap in an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills.’
Faye gasped, feeling a fit of the giggles rising up inside her as well. ‘You did what?’ She watched as Miss Beech dissolved into laughter, her whole face flushed with pleasure as the memory returned. ‘It was at the end of a day’s filming of Faded Heart.’ Faye knew this to be one of Miss Beech’s best-known films. ‘All that day we’d been riding around on horses. As I recall, I was trying to show him how the stunt boss had been teaching me to jump onto a moving horse.’ She looked up. ‘We did a lot of our own stunts in those days, not like today – and as I leapt to my feet and stretched out one leg to demonstrate, my foot hit the bucket and … splash!’
Faye was laughing by now. ‘Who was the leading man?’
‘Charlton Heston.’
‘Wow, and what was his reaction? Was he angry?’
Miss Beech shook her head. ‘Not at all. He laughed his head off. Said it cooled him down. He was a good, kind man, was Chuck. Not like some others I could mention.’

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: July 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 384
Genre: Romance
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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Bamboo Road

Ann Bennett

Thailand 1942: Sirinya and her family are members of the Thai underground, who risk their lives to resist the World War Two Japanese occupation and to and help British prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma railway. The events of those years have repercussions for decades to come. The book tells Sirinya s wartime story and how in the 1970s she returns to Kanchanaburi after a long absence abroad, to settle old scores from the war years.
Bamboo Road is volume three in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island (the books may be read in any order).

Today we have Ann Bennett on the blog talking about Penang and how it is important to her Bamboo Trilogy.

The beautiful, exotic island of Penang in Malaysia, known in colonial times as the Pearl of the Orient, inspired scenes in both Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island. When I wrote the books I had only visited the island once, for four days, in1985.
It made a huge impression on me, enough to stay with me for decades. It was the place I wanted Tom to dream of from his prisoner of war camp. It was also where Juliet and Rose had their first experience of Malaya in Bamboo Island, fresh off the boat, spending evenings in the Club, and days exploring.


Penang from the Butterworth Ferry

I took a sleeper train down from Bangkok, just as Laura does in Bamboo Heart. At Butterworth we boarded the ferry to Georgetown. I remember crossing the straits at sunset, standing out on deck in the warm evening, and watching the red sky and the mountains behind the town coming closer.


Cathay Hotel

We took rickshaws to the Cathay Hotel, a shabby old Portuguese Villa. The rooms were huge, and it was unbelievably cheap, but oozing old world charm. It seemed to obvious place for Laura to stay when she comes to Penang in search of the elusive Joy de Silva. Penang Hill with its views across the shimmering straits towards the mainland inspired scenes in that book, as did the jungle covered hills of the interior and the powder-white beaches of the north and east of the island.


Batu Ferrinhgi

Written by Ann Bennett

Publisher: Monsoon Books
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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The Positive Birth Book: A New Approach to Pregnancy, Birth and the Early Weeks

Milli Hill
Work out what kind of birth you really want, and learn how to maximise your chances of getting it, in this refreshing, warm and witty guide to pregnancy, birth and the early weeks. Packed with vital and cutting-edge information on everything from building the ultimate birth plan, to your choices and rights in the birth room; from optimal cord clamping, to seeding the microbiome; from the inside track on breastfeeding, to woman-centred caesarean, The Positive Birth Book shows you how to have the best possible birth, regardless of whether you plan to have your baby in hospital, in the birth centre, at home or by elective caesarean. Find out how the environment you give birth in, your mindset and your expectations can influence the kind of birth you have, and be inspired by the voices of real women, who tell you the truth about what giving birth really feels like.
Challenging negativity and fear of childbirth, and brimming with everything you need to know about labour, birth, and the early days of parenting, The Positive Birth Book is the must-have birth book for women of the 21st century.

What are your overall thoughts?
It’s rare for Big Book Little book to feature a non-fiction book, even more so to feature a pregnancy book. For the most part, while I love to indulge my passion for all things birth, I rarely read pregnancy and parenting books, my tastes tend to be a little less mainstream-parenting handbook, more evidence based textbook. Despite my own leanings I realize that for the the number of BBLB readers who would be interested to read an entire book on the hormone oxytocin are likely to be fewer than those who are interested to hear my thoughts on the latest speculative fiction offering from Maggie Stiefvater!

However, when I heard about The Positive Birth Book, I just knew that I was going to have to make an exception, I just had to take a look to see if it lived up to its promise- a no nonsense, factual evidenced based, relatable book about birth with a positive birth slant.

It is fair to say that I started reading The Positive Birth Book with high expectations. On finishing the book I have to confess to feeling torn. On the one hand, The Positive Birth Book completley fulfilled its promise as the new birthing bible. On the other hand, I feel as though the book so successfully covers all of the essentials in the lead up to birth and the birth itself, that my job as an antenatal educator is now redundant!

Hill beautifully manages to balance a humorous and relaxed approach to birth with her informal chatty and friendly tone while managing to clearly explain and explore complex biological, scientific, political and legal issues.

Not only is The Positive Birth Book filled to the brim with evidence based information, explained in clear lay language, Hill also explores exactly where that evidence comes from and provided reliable resources for the reader to obtain further information should they wish to.

The book has a fabulous practice element, in addition to providing an excellent explanation to the well known decision making “BRAIN” mnemonic, Hill has created HEART, a wonderful concise tool to help couples who births might not be following plan A.

She strongly encourages couples to research and develop their own unique birth plans (and plan B’s and C’s…) providing different examples for illustration, and she has co created some beautiful iconography for couples to use when developing their very own visual birth plans.

One of my favorite element of this book is the fantastic use of content from experts. From obstetric consultants, midwives and lactation specialists through to the biggest experts, mothers, Hill has found birth story’s, experiences, tips and examples across the birthing spectrum and in all settings to inspire and reassure any kind of birth can be a positive birth. This liberal sprinkling of women’s lived experiences is very reminiscent of the inspirational stories in Ina May Gaskin’s 1975 Spiritual Midwifery, but with the language and sensibilities of 21st century couples.

Would you recommend this book?
This well written and well-researched book aligns so well with my professional philosophy of care and information provision as a Midwife and antenatal educator, that I am happy to recommend this book with no hesitations. In fact I have already gifted a copy to a soon to be birthing mother!

The Positive Birth Book is a wonderful resource for all pregnant women, whether they are setting out on their pregnancy journey and getting to grips with all of the birth choices before them, or have already developed a strong sense of where and how they wish their birthing experience unfold.

It would also be a valuable resource for birth workers starting out in their career and experienced even for birth workers looking for inspiration for way to effectively communicate complicated ideas.

Verdict: Spiritual midwifery for the 21st century mother

Reviewed by Caroline

*I need to take a quick moment to disclose that although I have never met the author Milli Hill personally I am aware of her work though The Positive Birth Movement (see website here), for which I am a group facilitator. It is through the Positive Birth Movement that I first became aware that Mill was working on and later publishing this book. This has no way affected my review.

Publisher: Pinter and Martin
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: eBook
Pages: 352
Genre: Non-Fiction Pregnancy, Birth
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: British book
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Never Forget

Richard Davis

Saul Marshall is on the run.
As a wave of seemingly random assassinations engulfs California, Marshall finds himself drawn into a situation spiralling out of control.
He soon discovers some of the webs’ most secure protocols have been compromised by a rogue team of former Chinese agents. When Marshall realises what they plan, the stakes are raised…
And that’s before the Secretary of State gets involved. Can Marshall unravel the deceit and tricks before it’s too late? Can he stop the carnage, or will he become part of it? One thing is for certain: either way his enemies will never forget.

If you had to explain your book in a tweet (140 characters), how would you describe it?
Bodies are turning up in California. The Dark Net, a disturbing corner of the internet, has something to do with it. Saul must find out what

Where on earth do you write your books?
I do most of my writing at home – a tiny flat in North London. However, because I understand that it’s good for my immune system to sometimes expose myself to other human beings, I occasionally work in the West End: either from the University College London library or a coffee shop.

Do you have any bad habits while you write?
Loads. Probably my worst is the fact that I compulsively chew things as I write – pens, pencils, phone cases, cutlery – and by the end of the day, my desk is scattered with shards of plastic. I’m sure there’s probably something quite Freudian about this, but I try not to over think it.

What is your favourite part about being published?
The amount of pride it brings my grandparents.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Godot from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Hell, it would be good just to meet him, let alone befriend him – after all, he must be the most elusive character in literature. And imagine the bragging rights if I actually managed to track him down!

If you could live in any fictional world, which world would you choose and why?
I’d quite like to live in the world evoked in the Shrek series of films. I really love how its writers appropriate fairy-tales and fables and redeploy them in clever, comedic ways – it’s a thoroughly postmodern piece of cinema. I think inhabiting that world – with its talking animals, fantastical creatures, and irreverent humour – would be pretty good fun.

What is favourite thing about writing crime books?
The plotting is definitely the most rewarding (and difficult) aspect of writing in this genre. I always plan the entire novel before starting, and this involves me dreaming up a number of complicated situations – which amount to complex riddles – then spending many, many long hours figuring out how to resolve them. It’s frustrating as hell, but really good fun.

If you had to give some advice to aspiring authors, what would you say?
Make sure you plan things thoroughly. At least, that’s what works for me. I personally find it far easier to see a project through when I know exactly where I’m going.

Questions by Faye


Richard Davis graduated from University College London in 2011 and Cambridge University in 2012. The Saul Marshall series was born from Davis’s extensive travels around the United States and his long-standing obsession with thriller fiction. He lives in North London, UK, with his girlfriend.

Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: February 2017
Format: Ebook
Pages: 364
Genre: Crime
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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The Elisenda Domenech Investigation Series

Chris Lloyd

An intense and brilliantly realised crime thriller set in the myth-soaked streets of Girona
A killer is targeting hate figures in the Catalan city of Girona – a loan shark, a corrupt priest, four thugs who have blighted the streets of the old quarter – leaving clues about his next victim through mysterious effigies left hung on a statue. Each corpse is posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom. Which is precisely the point the murderer is trying to make.
Elisenda Domènech, the solitary and haunted head of the city’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, is determined to do all she can to stop the attacks. She believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but her colleagues aren’t convinced and her investigation is blocked at every turn.
Battling against the increasing sympathy towards the killer displayed by the press, the public and even some of the police, she finds herself forced to question her own values. But when the attacks start to include less deserving victims, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him. The question is: how?

1. Where did you get the ideas from these books?
The whole idea for the first book began when I was researching for a travel guide. I was in the city archives in Girona when I came across a whole load of legends about the city. The more I looked, the more myths and stories I discovered – it was tremendously exciting. One of the stories was of a statue of the Virgin Mary that stood over one of the medieval city gates. She was called the Virgin of Good Death, and she was there to give a final blessing to condemned prisoners as they were led outside the city walls to be executed. The gate was not far from the archive, so I went to find the statue and it was there in a niche above the archway. It was seeing the statue and the idea of the legends that sowed the seed of someone using Girona’s history and myths to bring what they thought was justice to the city, announcing their attacks using the statue – a blessing for the condemned.

2. Do you have any writing habits? (i.e. you have to drink coffee/can only write in a cafe)
That probably comes down to rock music and cups of tea. I always start a writing session listening to music through headphones to immerse myself. I associate every character with a song or piece of music, so if I’m going to write about a specific character, I listen to their song to get me into the zone. For Elisenda, I’ve got about half a dozen songs – most of them by her favourite Catalan rock band, Sopa de Cabra – and I listen to a song or two depending on the mood I want for the scene I’m starting with.
Another of my rituals is to leave a handwritten note the previous session that roughly tells me what the first line I’m writing the next day has to say. Having that to hand makes it easier to get the first words on screen – always the hardest moment for me.
And the final ritual is tea. Getting up from my desk to go downstairs and make a cup of tea is a great moment for gathering my thoughts and thinking of the next scene while the kettle’s boiling. The problem is I nearly always let the tea go cold when I start writing again!

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Ha, I reckon I’m probably somewhere between the two. EL Doctorow said that writing was like driving at night – you know where you’re going, but you can only ever see as far as the end of your headlights at any one time. And that’s probably true for me – it often feels like having a road map with pages missing and tea stains on the important bits! I roughly know how things are going to end up, although that changes more often than I’d like to think, but I don’t always know what’s going to happen along the way. I try to map out the key scenes (knowing full well they’re never written in stone), then make a few notes on how I think the story might get to those points and what has to be included and which characters should do and say what, and then I just start writing. As the story develops, other strands and characters present themselves, but the milestone I’m heading for usually stays pretty much the same. Then once I reach that, it’s onto the next milestone and so on until the first draft is finished.

4. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
As a kid, I always wanted to be William from the Richmal Crompton books. He was always well-meaning, but still got into scrapes and adventures – when I was a child, it always struck me as being a pretty neat way of going about things!
As an adult, it might seem strange (and I dread to think what it says about me), but I’d quite like to be Bernie Gunther from the Philip Kerr books about a German detective during WWII. Almost like a much more radical William, he’s an ordinary man trying to be good in bad times. An iconoclast and anti-Nazi, he has to work with the bad guys to work against them. He’s constantly trying to set things right as far as he can in a world going horribly wrong, and he’s often thwarted but still keeps going. I’d love to have his steadfastness and courage, and the front to stand up to scary authority figures the way he does.

5. If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
There are plenty of fictional worlds I’d love to visit, but I’m not sure I’d want to live in any of them – that sounds far too scary. The obvious one here is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I’d be fascinated by Unseen University and sentient furniture, but I know I really wouldn’t want to hang around somewhere as terrifying as Ankh-Morpork too long. I’d want to know that I could get out of there any time I wanted.
The same is probably true for the alternative Swindon of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. In these, Thursday is a literary detective chasing fictional characters who escape from the books they’re supposed to be in. She has a pet dodo called Pickwick and she gets to meet all the greatest characters in literature when they decide to go AWOL. It would be great to meet Jay Gatsby and Jane Eyre, but then imagine being stuck in a world where Moriarty and Hannibal Lecter live just around the corner.
I’d also want to visit the Aberystwyth of Malcolm Pryce’s hugely imaginative Louie Knight stories, about a 1930’s-style gumshoe in a parallel Wales where beautiful Welsh spies dance the tango and druids run speakeasies. But even that’s too frightening a prospect. So, instead of living in any of them, if anyone could arrange a short holiday to these worlds, I’d be at the front of the queue. Just don’t ask me to stay there forever.

6. If you had to give advice to aspiring authors, what would you say?
That’s a really hard question, as we’re all motivated in different ways. One of the pieces of advice you often hear is to write what you know. I’d say that more than that, you should write what you feel. I got my first book deal because I was so incensed by a travel guide unfairly denigrating a part of the world I loved that in a wave of self-confidence I’ve never felt before or since, I wrote to them and told them I could do better… and they called my bluff. I ended up writing four travel guides about Catalonia for them.
The same goes for the Elisenda series. I have a passion for Catalonia and for the many things about the country that I love and that I admire, especially the way they maintain their traditions while embracing change. When there is something like that – it can be a place, a person, a cause, a historical period, anything – it’s so much easier to harness that passion and let it come across in your writing. You also can’t always know everything, but you can feel it or empathise with it. No matter how much I research, there are always going to be aspects of Elisenda’s life and her work that I can’t know, but by using what I feel and my own similar experiences and by transposing that onto her situation, I can put myself in her place and (I hope) convey her world in my writing. The secret is to know your passions and let them take you somewhere you might not have thought you’d go.

7. When you’re not writing, what do you do all day?
That’s easy… thinking about writing.
I also work as a freelance translator from Catalan and Spanish into English. Ideally, I try to translate all morning, leaving the afternoon and evening free to write, although sometimes that doesn’t always go to plan as a rush translation will come in and I have to drop what I’m writing and get it done before the deadline. Even when I’m translating, though, ideas come – especially as the stories are set in Catalonia and the texts I translate are in Catalan – so I keep a notebook next to me all the time to jot anything down. It’s surprising how much the day job can send you off on a train of thought when you least expect it.
When I’m not doing either of those, my life is a hectic social whirl of sitting at home reading, watching TV or listening to music… I also love walking – the Brecon Beacons are half an hour one way and the Gower is half an hour the other, so we’re spoilt for choice – and going to live music or stand-up in Cardiff. My wife’s a painter, so we often go to gallery opening nights and exhibitions, which are great fun – artists are a pretty cool crowd! And, of course, I’m forever planning my next trip to Girona.

8.​ Do you have any more books that you’re working on?
I have a few Elisenda stories swirling around inside my head, but right now I’m working on a new idea that I’m finding really exciting. It’s another police procedural, but very different, both in terms of time and place. The story is set in Paris in 1940 in the early days of the Nazi Occupation. It’s a period that’s always fascinated me, and at the moment, I’m devouring newsreels, films and books from the time to immerse myself in the atmosphere.

Lastly, thank you for hosting me on Big Book Little Book today.

Chris was born in an ambulance racing through a town he’s only returned to once and that’s probably what did it. Soon after that, when he was about two months old, he moved with his family to West Africa, which pretty much sealed his expectation that life was one big exotic setting. He later studied Spanish and French at university, and straight after graduating, he hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia where he stayed for the next twenty-four years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in Grenoble, the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a writer and a Catalan and Spanish translator, returning to Catalonia as often as he can.
He writes the Elisenda Domènech series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona. The third book in the series, City of Drowned Souls, is published on 6 February 2017.

Interviewed by Faye

Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Ebook
Pages: 318
Genre: Crime
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
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Sneak Peak: Playlist for a Paper Angel

Jacqueline Ward

One child found, one child missing – what’s the connection?
DS Jan Pearce is still searching for her missing son. When she finds a little girl, Elise, alone in a pram in a busy town centre, she must unravel a mystery that takes her to the edge of her emotions. Then another child, Dara Price, goes missing.
Lisa Connelly, Elise’s mother, has been forced into a life of prostitution and has been leaving her little girl alone. Her gangland boss is holding her prisoner but she wants her little girl back.
Jan finds herself balancing her search for her son with finding Dara. Her right hand man, Mike Waring, is on another case so she and her temporary partner, profiler Damien Booth, must solve the puzzle and find Lisa before time runs out for Dara.

Our reviewer Faye reviewed the first on her own blog last year.

You can find that review here.

This follow up sounds just as enticing, don’t you agree?


Jacqueline Ward writes short stories, novels and screenplays. She has been writing seriously since 2007 and has had short stories published in anthologies and magazines. Jacqueline won Kindle Scout in 2016 and her crime novel, Random Acts of Unkindness, will be published by Amazon Publishing imprint Kindle Press. Her novel SmartYellowTM was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2016. Jacqueline is a Chartered psychologist who specializes in narrative psychology, gaining a PhD in narrative and storytelling in 2007. She lives in Oldham, near Manchester, with her partner and their dog.

Playlist for a Paper Angel is now available to purchase from Amazon UK

Publisher: Kindle Press
Publication Date: January 2016
Format: Ebook
Pages: 282
Genre: Detective Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Sneak Peek: Chasing Shadows

Today I am here to share with you all the wonderful sounding Chasing Shadows by T. A. Williams

Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.
The Present Day: Left blind and without her family, Amy feels she needs to get away. On a trip along the Camino, she is accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. Having been set up to help Amy by a mutual friend, Luke finds he is also running from his past…
1314: A Templar Knight, Luc, is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, now blinded in a terrifying attack: Aimee. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world.
As they travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain, this couple, so very like Luke and Amy, emerge from the shadows of time carrying a treasure of inestimable value.

Definitely has a strong premise, wouldn’t you agree?

My name is Trevor Williams. I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of are read by women. In my first book, “Dirty Minds” one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn’t possibly comment. Ask my wife…
My background, before taking up writing full time, was in teaching and I was principal of a big English language school for many years. This involved me in travelling all over the world and my love of foreign parts is easy to find in my books. I speak a few languages and my Italian wife and I still speak Italian together.I’ve written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I’m enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. My most recent books are the What happens…series. What happens in Tuscany reached #1 in the Amazon.uk Romantic Comedy chart and What Happens on the Beach, the last in the series, came out in July. Chasing Shadows is still romance, but with the added spice of a liberal helping of medieval history, one of my pet hobbies. I do a lot of cycling and I rode all the way to Santiago de Compostela on a bike a few years back. This provided both the inspiration and the background research for Chasing Shadows.
I’m originally from Exeter, and I’ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away down here in south west England. I love the place.

Chasing Shadows is available to purchase now on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: January 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 245
Genre: Romance
Age: Adult
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