Book Review: The Village by Caroline Mitchell

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Ten years ago, the Harper family disappeared. Their deserted cottage was left with the water running, the television playing cartoons, the oven ready for baking. The doors were locked from the inside.

Overnight, the sleepy village of Nighbrook became notorious as the scene of the unsolved mystery of the decade, an epicentre for ghoulish media speculation.

For crime journalist Naomi, solving the case has turned into an obsession. So now, with Ivy Cottage finally listed for sale, it’s her chance to mount an investigation like no other. And her husband and stepdaughter don’t really need to know what happened in their new home… do they?

But Nighbrook isn’t quite the village she expected. No one wants to talk to her. No one will answer her questions. And as she becomes increasingly uneasy, it’s clear that the villagers are hiding something―that there is something very dark at the heart of this rural idyll. And the deeper she digs, the more it seems her investigation could be more dangerous than she ever imagined… In raking up the secrets of the past, has she made her own family the next target?

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of The Village by Caroline Mitchell. My thanks to Katrina Power for asking me to review the book and providing me with a copy for that purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

There is nothing more sinister than an abandoned, neglected, isolated house buried deep in the looming woods, is there? It’s a premise that has been quite popular in novels in recent years, and you might think the trope has been done to death, but don’t let that put you off picking up a copy of The Village by Caroline Mitchell, because this book takes the storyline to the next level of creepiness with a historic disappearance and a village full of unfriendly locals that will do anything to see the back of you. Think an adult version of Hansel and Gretel meets The Wicker Man. That is the level of creepiness we are talking about with this book.

Crime journalist, Naomi, has always been fascinated by the story of the Harper family and their unsolved disappearance a decade ago, so when the chance comes to buy the very cottage in the New Forest from which they disappeared, she can’t resist. Dragging along her hostile step-daughter, Morgan, who has secrets of her own, she moves her family there to see if she can solve the mystery, only to meet silence and hostility from the locals. What are they hiding?

This book starts off with tension between Naomi and Morgan, and it does nothing but ramp up and ramp up throughout the book until your nerves are twanging like a banjo string in the duelling scene in ‘Deliverance’ and you will be physically unable to put the book down until you find out what happened to the Harper family. You will find yourself sharing Naomi’s obsession with the disappearance, as well as her fear and distaste and conflicted emotions. This book is a masterclass in keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.

I must warn you, this book is dark. Very dark. It covers some disturbing issues that are going to make you uncomfortable as you read. The author plumbs the murky depths of human behaviour in this story, but stick with it to the end. There is hope. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. All is not darkness and despair is you keep trying. I got a lot more from this book than I was expected when I started it, and it has haunted me more than I anticipated now that it is finished. Affecting and surprising, it has made me want to pick up further books by this author, and I can highly recommend it.

The Village is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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A New York Times, USA Today and Amazon No.1 bestselling author, Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline writes full time, with over 1.3 million books sold worldwide.

As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. Her books have won first place as best psychological thriller in the US Reader’s Favourite Awards, been shortlisted for the International Thriller Awards in New York and been shortlisted for ‘Best Procedural’ in the Killer Nashville awards. Her crime thriller, Truth And Lies is a No.1 New York Times best seller and has been optioned for TV. 

Connect with Caroline:

Website: https://caroline-writes.com

Facebook: Caroline Mitchell Author

Twitter: @Caroline_writes

Instagram: @caroline_writes

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Blog Tour: Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen; Translated by Don Bartlett

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I’m delighted to be taking part in my first blog tour of the year for the new book in the Varg Veum series by Gunnar Staalesen, Bitter Flowers. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially as always.

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PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when three complex crimes land on his desk.

A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool. A young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.

As the threads of these three apparently unrelated cases come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.

What a fabulous way to start off the blogging year. This is my first Varg Veum novel, but it definitely won’t be the last one I read, as I was completely sucked in to his world.

Coming in to the series completely cold, it took me a little while to sort out what Varg’s situation was and who he was as a character, but that just made me more intrigued by the book. We are dropped straight into the action as there is the discovery of a corpse and a disappearance in the first couple of pages, and we are introduced to Varg’s fractious relationship with the local police in Bergen. In the best traditions of hard-boiled PIs, Varg can’t resist getting involved in situations that should really be left to the police and inveigles his way into the heart of the investigation, managing to get information that the police struggle to access, because he doesn’t have to do things by the book.

There were three particular aspects of this novel that particularly made this book stand out from a run-of-the-mill PI novel. The first was the intricacy and complexity of the plot. Taking the very topical issue of climate change and ecological protest as one of its central plot points, Gunnar weaves together two different crimes to make a story of such devious twistedness that I truly had no idea what was behind the crimes or who was the perpetrator at any point and I would never have got to the conclusion by myself in a million years. The author clearly has a mind like a fiendish labyrinth and how he managed to keep it all straight as he was writing is a skill I would like to learn. I think I need to go back and try and find all the clues I missed the first time now I know how it unravels.

The second aspect I loved was the writing. For a dark crime novel, the writing is utterly poetic. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in this genre where the author manages to wax so lyrical about landscape, people and feelings and have it sit so naturally beside the darker aspects of the plot. It was a real pleasure to read, and made the book stand out for me as a literary cut above the herd.

Finally, and probably most appealing to me, was the beautiful evocation and exploration of the landscape of Norway. The book really brings it to life and it is fascinating to me as a country that is so vastly different to our own. A place of vast wilderness, where travel by ferry is as natural as taking a bus or train. Where being surrounded by nature is the norm and the populace really appreciate and revel in the natural landscape that surrounds them. It is a place that fascinates me and which features at the top of my bucket list, and I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in the sense of place which this book evoked. A book that was transportative in so many different ways.

This book has set a high standard for the coming year and I highly recommend it to fans of Nordic Noir, who are looking for a novel that represents the pinnacle of the genre.

Bitter Flowers will be published on 21 January and you can pre-order your copy from all good bookshops or online here.

Please do check out the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Granite Noir fest 2017. Gunnar Staalesen.

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour); Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

About the Translator

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Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgaard. He has previously translated The Consort of DeathCold HeartWe Shall Inherit the WindWhere Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.

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Book Review: The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo; Translated by Robert Ferguson

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Murder. Assassination. Revenge.

Discover the first short story collection from the King of Scandi Crime.

Meet a detective on the trail of a man suspected of murdering his twin; a hired assassin facing his greatest adversary; and two passengers meeting by chance on a plane, spelling romance or something far more sinister.

In his first ever collection of short stories, this master of crime delivers a gripping, edge-of-your seat read that you won’t be able to put down.

The first short story collection by Jo Nesbo and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this collection really blew me away with the range and depths of the ideas the author explores in these stories. He really mines the darkest and most base instincts of human kind here, and delves into some very dystopian ideas that are all the more disturbing for not being entirely incredible.

Normally I race through a book of short stories quite quickly, because they are consumed in easily digestible chunks – like grazing on snacks rather than consuming a three course meal. This book didn’t unfold that way for me. Firstly, many of the stories are not short, a couple are more like short novellas. Secondly, every one of them is dense and complex, in characterisation, theme and development so, for me, it was just impossible to race through them quickly. Each of them needed slow and careful reading to unpack and appreciate all the nuance contained within. This is a book which has to be read in a considered and thoughtful fashion. A pause after the end of each was necessary to fully absorb what the author have revealed in the story, and I even broke off halfway through and read something a little lighter to break up the experience because of the effect the book was having on me.

Because I found this book quite bleak in general in the issues it explores and the conclusions that are drawn in the stories. These are not tales of uplifting experiences and positive affirmations of human nature. They are all dark, even fatalistic, in tone and paint quite a negative view of humanity. They feel quite appropriate for the way things are developing at the moment, maybe even prophetic, so if you are looking for a book to cheer you up when the current news gets too heavy, this isn’t it. It is, however, brilliantly written, thought-provoking and a masterclass in how to write a complete and satisfying short story. I am more impressed than ever by Nesbo’s writing, and his fans will love it.

The Jealousy Man is available in all formats here.

About the Author

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Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jonesbo.com

Facebook: Jo Nesbo

Instagram: @jonesbo_author

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Blog Tour: Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens

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Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet Andrews is on the run across the Republic of Texas. An accident with a gun killed her best friend but everyone in the town of Blessing thinks it was murder. Even her father – the town’s drunken deputy – believes she did it. Now, she has no choice but to run. In Texas, murder is punishable by death.

There’s no one to help her. Her father is incapable and her mother left the state on the last flight to America before the secession. Blue doesn’t know where she is but she’s determined to track her down. First she has to get across the lawless Republic and over the wall that keeps everyone in.

On the road she meets Jet, a pregnant young woman of Latin American heritage. Jet is secretive about her past but she’s just as determined as Blue to get out of Texas before she’s caught and arrested. Together, the two form an unlikely kinship as they make their way past marauding motorcycle gangs, the ever watchful Texas Rangers, and armed strangers intent on abducting them – or worse. When Blue and Jet finally reach the wall, will they be able to cross the border, or will they be shot down in cold blood like the thousands who have gone before them?

Some things are worth dying for.

I am delighted to be one of the blogs opening the tour for the first UK-published title by author, Lori Ann Stephens. Blue Running is a book for both adults and young adults, addressing issues of feminism, nationalism, women’s rights, racial injustice, immigration and gun ownership. My thanks to Midas PR for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for the purposes of review. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is a really compelling and engaging book with a fascinating premise. Set in a slightly dystopian future, the state of Texas has ceded from the United States and now operates as an autonomous Republic, separated from the rest of America by a wall, no one is allowed in or out. The wall is guarded, not only by official Border Guards but also by trigger-happy vigilantes eager to bag illegal immigrants or emigrants. And in this Texas, everyone is required to carry a gun by law. The Republic is very right wing and very religious, and rights are suitably restricted, especially for women. The scariest thing about this book is how entirely plausible the story is.

The protagonist, Blue, comes from a family riven by the cession so, when she suddenly and unfairly finds herself on the wrong side of the law, she feels like she has no option but to go on the run. Over the course of her flight, she is forced to question everything she has been brought up to believe, and learns to stand on her own two feet and discover her own version of right and wrong.

Blue is such a fantastic character to carry this book. At the beginning she is a little naive in the ways of the wider world, but also old beyond her years because of what she has had to deal with due to her absent mother and alcoholic father. She is an endearing mix of toughness and vulnerability and this makes her a person who quickly gets under your skin and makes you want the best for her. The unfairness of the situation she finds herself in, combined with the danger of the outside world that she is thrust into will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and willing her on to get to safety. You will be shouting at her who to trust and who to avoid, wanting to avenge the wrongs done to her and protect the people she cares for. This book is really affecting, and I raced though it to find out what happened.

Blue desperately wants things to be fair, to be able to trust and believe in the people and the ideals that she has been raised to respect, but the world is corrupt and those in charge are the worst of all. Things are not as black and white as she has always thought, and she is struggling to navigate this new world whilst rapidly maturing herself. This is a book of self-discovery, which also explores such important and topical issues of feminism, human rights, gun control, immigration and social injustice. There is so much going on, it will really make you think whilst keeping you entertained from beginning to end. This is a book that will appeal to adults and young adults, and would actually provide a great kicking off point for discussions on some of these topics with teenagers who are just starting to explore these ideas.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the writing, characterisation and the plotting are all excellent and it is a really great read. I highly recommend it, and look forward to seeing what comes next from this author.

Blue Running will be published on 2 December in ebook, audiobook and hardback formats and you can pre-order a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews:

About the Author

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Lori Ann Stephens is the award-winning author of novels for adults and children, including 2018’s Middle Grade novels NOVALEE AND THE SPIDER SECRET (Dragonfeather Books) and PIERRE FRANÇOIS: 5TH GRADE MISHAPS. SOME ACT OF VISION (ASD Press) was the 2013 YA novel winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, hosted by the Romance Writers of America, OK. She’s also the author of SONG OF THE ORANGE MOONS (Blooming Tree Press, Nov 2010) and several short stories, poems, and opera libretti. When she’s not writing or teaching writing, she reads, takes on DIY home remodeling adventures, and eats the best gourmet, home-cooked meals. She is usually not the cook. She lives in Texas with her family.

Connect with Lori:

Website: https://www.loriannstephens.com/

Facebook: Lori Ann Stephens Writes

Twitter: @lorifromtexas

Instagram: @jolietexas

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Blog Tour: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas #BookReview

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Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Goodness, what did I just read? From the very opening chapters of this new book by Louise Douglas, my heart was pounding, I was holding my breath, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end, and I was absolutely glued to the page.

I started reading this book very late one night just after I had gone to bed, which was a mistake because the book creeped me out right from the off. As soon as you crawl between the pages, you know you are reading something that is going to keep you on the edge of your nerves, so it may not be recommended for readers of a very nervous disposition. Set in an old asylum which then became a strict boarding school in the midst of the brooding expanse of Dartmoor, there could not be a creepier setting for a story. When I was young, I was addicted to the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The thirteenth (coincidence?) of these, Five Go To Mystery Moor, involved spooky goings on on a deserted moor and it scared the bejesus out of my as a kid, so any ghost story set on a moor is guaranteed to give me the wiggins. The author does an absolutely amazing job of bringing the very disturbing setting to vivid life, both in its incarnation as an asylum and a boarding school, a little too vividly for those with active imaginations perhaps!

The story line is divided between three timelines – modern day, 1993 when All Hallows was a boarding school, and the turn of the twentieth century when it was an asylum for those people deemed insane. The narrator in the first two timelines is Lewis Tyler, as a grown man and when he was a pupil at the school. Back in time, we are following the story of Emma Everdeen, a nurse at the asylum. The book switched between the stories with ease, never breaking the tension, and deftly entwining them to great effect. Each of the characters hooked me in, and I was truly feeling genuine fear for all of them by the end. The storytelling is so skilful that it is impossible not to become fully invested in the outcome for all involved.

The story is a clever and intriguing mix of thriller, mystery, ghost story, family drama and exploration of social issues affecting women in the early 1900s. There is something here to appeal to every type of reader, and I can’t imagine there are many people who would not enjoy it (other than those who really don’t enjoy being kept on the edge of their nerves throughout a book.) You can tell that the author did a lot of research into the historical aspects of the book, it is beautifully rich in detail, but this is only used to enhance and not detract from the story. I am honestly so impressed with the authors skill in balancing all the different aspects of this novel to deliver an engrossing, affecting and thrilling story. I think my heart has only just slowed back to its normal speed after finishing it.

I absolutely loved this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Perfect October reading, buy it immediately.

The Room in the Attic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Award-winning author Louise Douglas was a recent guest on the blog, and you can read my fascinating interview with her here.

Make sure you check out some of the other reviews posted by the other marvellous bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Louise

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country. Louise’s first book for Boldwood, The House by the Sea was published in March 2020.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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Book Review: We Watch You by N. S. Ford #BookReview

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FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.

A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.

I was kindly provided with a digital copy of this book by the author for the purpose of review, for which she has my sincerest thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

A really interesting and unusual psychological thriller with a twist that I didn’t see coming, We Watch You by N. S. Ford kept me both reading and guessing right to the end of the book.

As this starts out, it may appear to be a fairly standard thriller concerned with the disappearance of a young woman, which unsettles and baffles her group of friends. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that the friendship group were hiding some secrets that may be pertinent to the disappearance, and that the missing woman may not be the only one of the group who is at risk. There are lots of twists and turns that made it unclear whether any or all of the girls are actually being targeted by who, and the speculation kept me turning the pages.

The main character of Lauren is very interesting as a protagonist and the author has written her very well. You can’t help but sympathise with her predicament, and extend her some latitude in the decisions she has made that may have contributed to the tangle the girls are in.

The structure of the book oscillates between Lauren’s point of view, plus letters and blog entries which reveal insights into the minds of some of the other characters, plus brief chapters written in the first person by two other characters. This provided a clever way of revealing bits of the story Lauren isn’t privy to, and gave the books interesting changes of pace. The only complaint I might have was that the first person chapters written by the two other individuals were confusing to begin with because I had no idea who these two people were. By the end, it had become more obvious but early on I had to work hard to sort them out.

The ending of the book was totally unexpected and a really interesting spin on the genre. I am not 100% sure that I completely understood what the author was trying to do but I think a second read through would help me pull out all the strands from the story. Overall, however, I really enjoyed the book and found it a refreshing take on the genre.

We Watch You is out now in both ebook and digital formats and is available for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. You can buy a copy of We Watch You here.

About the Author

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N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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Desert Island Books with… N S Ford

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It’s cold, wet and windy here in South Yorkshire today, summer is definitely over, so I could quite fancy a sojourn on a warm, tropical island myself right now. Unfortunately, it is not me being whisked away to a deserted island with five books to read at leisure today, but author… N S Ford. Let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.

Book One – Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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Villette is the story of Lucy Snowe, who after an unspecified family disaster, travels from her native England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls’ school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance. 

Villette by Charlotte Brontë. Probably my favourite 19th century classic, Vilette is even superior to Jane Eyre, in my opinion. The book is narrated by Lucy Snowe, a school teacher who appears to be stoic and unromantic but who has a vivid inner life. There is romance, comedy, gothic horror, tragedy, all in one incredibly well-written novel. I’ve read it a few times – I’d be happy to read it many more times on the desert island! – and am always awed by Charlotte Brontë’s talent. She was 37 when Villette, her last novel, was published in 1853. Had she not died only 2 years later, who knows what more this brilliant writer could have achieved?

https://nsfordwriter.com/character-of-the-month-lucy-snowe/

Book Two – Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

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Since its publication in 1988, Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems has become essential reading on any poetry bookshelf. This new edition returns to Larkin’s own deliberate ordering of his poems, presenting, in their original sequence, his four published books: The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows. It also includes an appendix of poems that Larkin published in other places, from his juvenilia to his final years – some of which might have appeared in a late book, if he had lived.

Preserving everything that he published in his lifetime, this new Collected Poems returns the reader to the book Larkin might have intended: it is, for the first time, Larkin’s ‘own’ collected poems.

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. I was first introduced to Larkin’s poetry at college, when I studied his collection High Windows and found that it really spoke to me. Some people dislike his poetry, as it can be depressing, but I prefer to read about real feelings, however uncomfortable they are. Larkin’s poems were published by Faber in a collected edition in 1988, with a 2nd edition in 2003. My absolute favourite poem is ‘Solar’ and indeed it’s about the sun, which will be very relevant to my desert island.

https://nsfordwriter.com/money-sex-death-and-sunshine/

Book Three – The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke

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The Other Side of the Sky presents a glimpse of our future: a future where reality is no longer contained in earthly dimensions, where man has learned to exist with the knowledge that he is not alone in the universe. These stories of other planets and galactic adventures show Arthur C Clarke at the peak of his powers: sometimes disturbing, always intriguing.

The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C Clarke. I re-read this short story collection every few years and my old copy is falling apart! I ought to sellotape it together before taking it to the desert island. These 14 stories are wonderful examples of classic science fiction; funny, playful, sad, sinister, hopeful, suffused with lyrical wonder. They are amazingly prescient and were written well before the first human was launched into space. The most famous story in the collection is ‘The Nine Billion Names of God’. My highlights are ‘Out of the Sun’ and ‘The Star’. Again, we’re talking about the sun! And I should also have a clear view of the night sky from the desert island, perfect for pondering Arthur C Clarke’s themes.

https://nsfordwriter.com/the-other-side-of-the-sky-arthur-c-clarke/

Book Four – Little Women by Louise May Alcott

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Meg – the sweet-tempered one. Jo – the smart one. Beth – the shy one. Amy – the sassy one.

Together they’re the March sisters. Their father is away at war and times are difficult, but the bond between the sisters is strong.

Through sisterly squabbles, happy times and sad, their four lives follow different paths, and that discover the growing up is sometimes very hard to do. . .

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Strangely enough, I didn’t much like this book when I was younger  – perhaps I found it too moralistic – but I have grown to appreciate the wisdom in it. The characters feel like friends and they would keep me company on the island! I recently re-read the book, having treated myself to a new copy which included both volumes (the 2nd volume is sometimes called Good Wives – which wasn’t Alcott’s idea). As with The Beatles, everyone has to have a favourite March sister. I think Beth is underrated and she has a special place in my heart.

https://nsfordwriter.com/little-women-louisa-may-alcott/

Book Five – Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey

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Put a cup of tea in your hand, and what else can you do but sit down? This wonderful new book is a celebration of that most British of life’s cornerstones: taking a break, putting your feet up and having a breather. There is, however, a third element that any perfect sit down requires and it is this: biscuits. As Nicey so rightly points out, a cup of tea without a biscuit is a missed opportunity. Finding the right biscuit for the right occasion is as much an art as it is a science, and it is a task that Nicey has selflessly worked on for most of his tea drinking life.

From dunking to the Digestive, the Iced Gem to the Garibaldi, everything you’ll ever need to know about biscuits is in this book, and quite a lot more besides. Is the Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit? And have Wagon Wheels really got smaller since your childhood, or have you just got bigger? Unstintingly researched, Nicey and Wifey’s Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down does exactly what it says on the biscuit tin. So go on. Take a weight off, put the kettle on, and enjoy.

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey. The go-to book when I need cheering up! I last read it in early 2020 when the first lockdown was imminent and things were looking scary. Based on a website, which is now quite old in internet terms, this is a funny, quirky book about three traditional British past-times – drinking tea, sitting down and eating biscuits. When I’m on the island, sitting down (but lacking the tea and biscuits) it will be nice to have a reminder of home and to laugh for the hundredth time at the author’s rant about pink wafers.

https://nsfordwriter.com/nice-cup-of-tea-and-a-sit-down-nicey-and-wifey/

My luxury item 

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Let’s ignore the practicalities of shipping an iron-framed 98-year-old upright piano to a desert island and of the humidity, sand, insects etc that will affect the piano once it’s there. Playing the piano is a great way to relax and enjoy music. I was taught up to Grade 5 but I didn’t maintain my skills, particularly once I’d left home and didn’t have anywhere to keep the instrument. However, I’ve had it in my home for a couple of years now and I try to practise almost every day, when time and family life allows. My favourite sheet music to play is Ludovico Einaudi, Depeche Mode and Radiohead.

https://nsfordwriter.com/sheet-music-review-radiohead-the-piano-songbook/

About the Author

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N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.

N S Ford’s debut novel, We Watch You, is out now and you can buy a copy here. I will be reviewing the book on the blog tomorrow.

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FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.

A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.

A dark, twisty thriller which will grip you until the very last page.

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynda Stacey

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This week’s romancing writing guest is my neighbour, good friend and amazing author… Lynda Stacey.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hi Julie, thanks for having me. The books that I write are suspense, however they always have an underlying romance. I like to mix the two, because in normal life, none of us can tell what will happen from one day to the next. So, to ensure that my heroine has a great story, along with a varied lifestyle… I throw everything at her, all at once.

Why romance? 

Because in life, we all love to be loved. I honestly believe that people are like pack animals, they want to be part of a group, a tribe, a couple. So romance is a lovely way to show my hero and heroines softer side, even though most of the time I like to give them truly kick ass attitude.

What inspires your stories?

I really have no idea. It’s normally a house, a hotel, a landscape. There’s always a place, or moment in time that I like to grab hold of. Once I have a location, then I tend to build the story around it.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I grew up devouring Enid Blyton. All of my age group did. I read every book repeatedly. 

As an adult, I love Lesley Pearce, Kate Morton and Nora Roberts, I’ve read almost everything they wrote and to be honest, one of my favourite ever quotes that a reader gave to my books was that I wrote like Nora Robert. It’s an accolade which I find both amazing and terrifying at the same time, because I’d love to be compared to her.

This was the quote:

‘Lynda Stacey is up there with Nora Roberts when it comes to writing jaw-dropping, nerve-twisting and addictive tales spiced with intrigue, passion and suspense.’

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Oh wow, that’s like asking if I have a favourite child. If I were pushed, I’d probably say pretty much anything by Nora Roberts.

Maybe, Sanctuary. It had quite a few twists and turns that I really loved the island setting, along with a ‘will they, won’t they’ love affair that set my spine tingling, that was balanced with the underlying thriller, where you were never sure who was the killer.

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Successful photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she’d escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She’d spent her loneliest years there after the sudden, shattering disappearance of her mother. But now someone is sending Jo strange, candid pictures, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all – a photo of her mother, naked, beautiful and dead.

Jo returns home to face her bitterly estranged family, only to find an unexpected chance for happiness in the form of architect Nathan Delaney. But while Jo and Nathan hope to lay the past to rest, a sinister presence is watching from the shadows. And Jo will soon learn there is no peace at Sanctuary . . .

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

I’d have to say, ‘my hero at home’, my husband Haydn is my everyday romantic hero. We’ve been together for 30 years, and I’m not planning on swapping him anytime soon. So, my perfect romantic weekend with him would be on the Maldives, where we could lie in the sun, scuba dive and drink cosmopolitan’s while watching dolphins leap through the waves and take in the sunset as it slips into the sea.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The RNA is amazing. I love everything about it. From the day I joined, I became part of a tribe. I got to meet and listen to some of the most amazing authors, who freely gave their knowledge, time, and wisdom. The small nuggets of information that you pick up are priceless and I can honestly say that being a part of the RNA put me on the right path. Without them I doubt I’d have ever become a published author.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Listen and learn, and no matter how busy you are each day, take a moment to congratulate yourself for every word you write. It’s one more word that counts and a word closer to writing ‘The End’.

And remember, every word you write means something – even if only to yourself.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book is called No Place Like Home. 

Sister’s Molly and Beth move to a remote, cliff top property that they inherit following their mother’s brutal murder. It’s a house that overlooks the beach, the sea, and the town of Filey and should be the most beautiful place on earth to live. But someone is out to kill them, and they have no intention of stopping. 

It’s a story of loss, of love and of family ties. A story that shows how extremely protective of her sister Molly is, but it also shows the way she struggles with the fact that she’s suddenly become an impromptu parent – to a very vocal teenager. 

Doing all she can to keep Beth safe, she realises that danger could literally be around every corner, she doesn’t know who to trust and, in the end, she finds herself living in a world where almost everyone around her could want her dead. 

Will Molly manage to survive, will she keep Beth safe? Or will life on the edge of a cliff suddenly become more dangerous than she’d thought?

It’s out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. (You can read my review of No Place Like Home here.)

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

About the Author

Me at RNA event

Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

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Book Review: The Chateau by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I really enjoyed Catherine’s debut novel, The Chalet, when I read it last year (you can read my review here) so I was very much looking forward to this follow up, and I can tell you it didn’t disappoint.

The story is a dual timeline, narrated by a married couple, Aura and Nick, who have just purchased a ramshackle chateau in France to renovate. I’d say ‘happily married,’ except that wouldn’t be accurate. They have moved to France after some issues in the UK, the nature of which are gradually revealed through Nick’s narration of the past timeline and their marriage still seems a little shaky, or certainly it looks that way to Aura who is the narrator of the present tense timeline.

As well as the issues in their marriage, they have all the difficulties of integrating into a new community in a new country, and things are certainly a lot livelier and more interesting that a person might imagine life in a quiet rural area of France to be! There are plenty of surprising revelations gradually fed through the story in both the past and present timelines to keep the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.

The characters in the book are drawn in a very interesting way, because none of them are particularly likeable. This is quite a brave step by the author, because it is quite easy to lose the readers if you don’t love any of the characters, but she has given us enough intrigue to keep us hooked regardless. I had no idea really where the story was going, I didn’t see the ending coming and I think the denouement was a surprising and left field step by the author which really worked for me.

All in all, a gripping and entertaining thriller which will delight readers who enjoyed the author’s first book and new readers alike. Highly recommended.

The Chateau is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet was her debut novel.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: http://www.catherinecooperauthor.com/

Facebook: Catherine Cooper Author

Twitter: @catherinecooper

Instagram: @catherinecooperjournalist

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The 2021 Romantic Novel Award Winners Interviews… with Louise Douglas

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In this week’s instalment of my interviews with the winners of the 2021 Romantic Novel Awards, I am chatting with the winner of the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award, author Louise Douglas.

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Louise, congratulations on winning the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2021 with your novel The House By The Sea and thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me for the blog.

Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here.

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award was a new category for the awards in 2020. I remember hearing the new category announced at the 2019 awards and it caused much excitement. How does it feel to be one of the first winners of the award, and to be following in the footsteps of such a titan of the industry?

It feels amazing, something that I shall treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still buzzing! It’s fantastic that the RNA is helping bring the work of wonderful Jackie Collins to new generations of readers and I couldn’t be more proud. #BeMoreJackie

How did you feel on the night when you heard your name announced? You seemed to be stunned that you had won. 

I was stunned! Before the announcement, I was in a virtual ‘green room’ with the other shortlisted authors and it was such a strong line-up; wonderful authors and fabulous books. I still can’t quite believe what happened.

I loved the fact that you thanked bloggers in your acceptance speech, and name-checked a few who obviously had an impact on you. What do you feel that bloggers can bring to the table for authors?

I’m so grateful to the blogging community and have made some treasured friends. Social media is a major part of most people’s lives now and the work bloggers do to champion books, and reading, is so important for us. It’s brilliant for an author when a blogger writes a fantastic review, or, like you’re doing here, makes a bridge between writers and readers. And, as a voracious reader, bloggers often help me decide which book to pick up next. 

Your winning novel, The House By The Sea, is set in an abandoned villa in Sicily. what inspired you to set a book in that particular location? What research did you do to make the setting so authentic?

We went to the south-eastern region of Sicily to explore the World Heritage baroque towns and cities of the Val di Noto made famous in the TV adaptations of the Montalbano novels. I fell head over heels in love with the region; it is one of my top three favourite places on earth and I would recommend it to everyone. It was during this holiday that we found the villa that was the inspiration for the house in the book.

The success of the novel clearly lies in the strong relationship between setting, characters and plot. Which came first for you when you first conceived this novel? Is that the way is usually works in your writing, that one aspect of the novel draws the rest of it together or is it different every time?

That’s an interesting question. I usually start with a location. If a plot idea comes first, I never use it until I find the right location. With the House by the Sea, I’d wanted to write about people who had been badly hurt by life, and Sicily, a beautiful, deeply interesting island that has itself endured much trauma and that has its dark side, was the perfect setting. 

Your award was in the category for a ‘romantic novel with thriller, mystery, crime or suspense elements.’ Which aspect of this are you drawn to most, the romance or the thriller, or do they always have to work together for you? Can you see yourself ever being pulled in the direction of purely one or the other?

I love writing romance but all my books have a Gothic element to them so I can’t imagine writing a love story without suspense or mystery of some kind. I have written mystery/suspense stories with no traditional romance – although there is always love in some guise. 

Much as we all like to celebrate past successes, our focus soon has to turn forwards and on to the next project. What do you have in the pipeline and what influence do you see winning this award having on your writing and future career?

The biggest boost that winning this award has given me, is to my confidence. It’s made a massive difference and because I wasn’t plagued with as many of the usual insecurities, I finished my next novel in record time. It’s being published in October, is called The Room in the Attic and is set in an old Victorian asylum now used as a boarding school. The main characters are an ageing nurse, the child in her care, and two 13-year-old school pupils. I don’t want to jinx the book but these characters are probably my favourites of all those I’ve ever written. Fingers crossed that other people like them too. 

Thank you so much for the interview and for inviting me onto your blog Julie, it’s lovely to be here and I really enjoyed answering the questions. 

Good luck to all the RNA 2022 entrants!

Louise, thank you so much for answering my questions today, I have loved hearing about your experiences.

The 2022 Romantic Novel Awards are now open for entry until 30 September 2021.

Louise’s award-winning book, The House By The Sea, can be purchased here in all formats. Watch out for my review of the book coming soon.

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The new chilling and captivating novel from the bestselling author of Richard & Judy pick The Secrets Between Us.

When Edie’s mother-in-law, Anna DeLuca, dies, she is relieved. Edie blames Anna for the accident that destroyed her family. So, when her will lures Edie to Sicily and the long-abandoned Villa della Madonna del Mare, she sees through Anna’s games.

Suspecting Anna is meddling from beyond the grave to try to reunite her and her ex-husband Joe, Edie is determined to leave Italy as soon as possible. But before she can, the villa starts to shed its mysterious secrets.

Who are the girls beside Anna in her childhood photos, and why has the face of one of them been scratched out? Why does someone, or something, want them to leave the past untouched? The villa is a place where old ghosts feel at home, but does their legacy need to be laid to rest before Edie and Joe can move on…

Bestselling author Louise Douglas returns with a captivating, chilling and unforgettable tale of betrayal, jealousy and the mysteries hidden in every family history.

About the Author

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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