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Welcome along to my Friday post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to bring you another book from  Cranachan Publishing and share my review “Charlie’s Promise” by Annemarie Allan.  I was also lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Annemarie’s time so interrogated her thoroughly for the author feature!


Book Feature:

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Published: 19 March 2017

Would you break the rules or break your promise?

On the outskirts of Edinburgh, just before the outbreak of WW2, Charlie finds a starving German boy hiding in the woods near his home. Josef can’t speak English and is desperately afraid, especially of anyone in uniform. Charlie’s promise to help Josef find his Jewish relatives in the city is the start of a journey that will force them to face their fears, testing their new-found friendship to the limit.

 

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Cranachan Publishing are fast becoming my go to publisher when I want to read something a little different.  Several of the books they have published have been narrated through the eyes of a child and I find this richly rewarding.  There are so many things that when viewed through childhood innocence seem much more poignant and untethered by the politics of adult life and this is one of those books.

Set in the outskirts of Edinburgh in small coastal town called Morison’s Haven in 1938, we encounter young Charlie, who seems unphased by the looming war and will do whatever he can to avoid the school bully.  His luck is challenged one day when he is roped into helping his friend Jean find missing dog Laddie.  The pair of youngsters enter the woods they’d been told to stay away from, warned that collapsed mine entrances posed great danger, but Jean is determined to find Laddie and Charlie cannot let her go in alone.  When they do find Laddie they also discover a starved stranger, a young German boy.  Josef does not speak English, Charlie and Jean speak no German but the trio soon find a way to communicate to help Josef.  Realising that the only clue they have as to how Josef ended up in Scotland is a piece of paper with an Edinburgh address and a name on it, Charlie makes a promise to get his new friend to safety – he just needs to work out a plan first.

This book beautifully portrays a tale of the kindness of strangers as well as the innocence of childhood.  It reminds us to think about those who might need help without having to look for a route cause, and in this instance Charlie saw a young lad that was cold, alone and hungry.  He saw that Josef was scared and needed a friend, he needed comfort and he needed someone to help him find his way.
The characters in this, especially the three main ones are so realistic and you cannot help but take them into your heart.  Charlie needs to do the right thing, even if in a round about way he ends up telling a wee white lie or doing things he shouldn’t, he believes that if he has made a promise that he should honour it and that’s very commendable.  Jean is fearless, to a point.  She is a genuine friend to Charlie, who often is seen as an outcast because of disability.  Jean is the driving force in the duo, headstrong and determined.
Fear plays a big part in the lives of these characters, whether it is the fear of the belt at school, being sent to the headmaster, a warning from parents or in Josef’s case, a fear of strange grown ups and the way in which it is written makes it realistic.  You get a strong sense of the panic that is felt by the youngsters when faced with certain situations.

I found that this was a book I didn’t want to put down, the tale was so wonderfully crafted and expertly woven that I almost raced through it, relishing the small details as well as frantically trying to find out if the trio would make it to Edinburgh and just who Josef was trying to reach.

This book acts as a great reminder about humanity as well as a wonderful resource to teach youngsters about the harrowing events of Kristallnacht.  And although the target audience is 9-12 year old readers I would say this is a book that readers of any age can read and enjoy.

 

You can buy a copy of “Charlie’s Promise” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository


Author Feature:

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Annemarie Allan was born in Edinburgh, lived in California and London, before returning to Scotland, where she decided it was time to take her writing seriously.
Her first published novel, ‘Hox’, won the 2007 Kelpies Prize and was shortlisted for both the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year and the Heart of Hawick book awards. Her third novel, ‘Ushig’, a fantasy based on Scottish myths and legends, was shortlisted for the 2011 Essex Children’s Book Award. Her latest novel, ‘Charlie’s Promise’ is set in Scotland on the eve of the Second World War, but the issues it deals with are still relevant today.
She writes for both adults and children and has authored several booklets on the history of East Lothian, where she now lives. She was a contributor to the historical review of East Lothian 1945–2000, edited by Sonia Baker, which was awarded first prize in the Alan Ball Local History Award 2010. More recently, her short story, ‘Entrapment’, won the flash fiction section of the 2015 Federation of Writers (Scotland) annual competition.
Her novels and short stories range from fantasy and science fiction to historical and contemporary fiction, taking their inspiration from the landscape and culture of Scotland, both past and present.

If you would like to know more about Annemarie and her writing, you can contact her at:
http://annemarieallan.com/
https://twitter.com/aldhammer

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I love the sense that I’m making something that has never existed before, the challenge of bringing to life the characters who previously lived only inside my head. I also love the opportunity to meet readers and talk about my stories. If you write for children, it’s fairly easy to interact with readers through schools and libraries. I also write adult short stories and it’s much harder to connect with readers when writing that type of fiction.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

I think that would be the sense of rejection when a story is turned down. Almost every fiction writer has a collection of novels, short stories, poems etc, that have been sent out into the world and returned unwanted. It’s hard to be thick-skinned enough to put that to one side and move on, but I tell myself that it’s not always the case that the writing fails to engage the reader. The story might not be polished enough, or might not fit with a publisher’s current priorities. I have found that submitting for prizes as well as for publication is a good way to find out if a story has merit. I took that route twice before I found a publisher. One of my novels was shortlisted for the Saga/HarperCollins children’s book award and another won the Kelpies Prize. It was enormously reassuring to discover that the judges rated the quality of my writing.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why? 

I don’t think I know how to answer this question! Every writer has their own style. Some are so strong you can recognise them from even a couple of paragraphs and I can’t imagine myself writing in someone else’s voice unless it was a parody. There are, of course, a huge number of writers I admire, both past and present. Contemporary ones include Frances Hardwicke, whose fantasies turn the idea of good and evil upside down, especially in ‘The Cuckoo Song’. Or Joanne Harris, who is so skilful at laying a false trail that you have trouble even identifying who is who until the last few pages of the story.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I am an avid reader. Apart from the demands of everyday life, I spend almost all my time with my nose in a book. I also like to walk and I am very grateful that I live in a part of the world where I am close to the sea and the countryside. Apart from anything else, walking is a great way to find time to think about writing! The process of creating a story goes on even when I’m not sitting down to write.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I don’t know if I would call them set rituals, but I like to work at the computer in the morning and go over what I’ve written in the evening or add to my day’s writing with pen and paper. I use a yellow pad for my notes and scribbles. I do have a specific pen that I use for book signings. My daughter bought it for me when I had my first book published and every time I use it, I am reminded of what a wonderful moment that was!

A huge thank you to Annemarie for taking part in the author feature and telling us a little about herself.   If you would like to know more about Annemarie and her writing, you can contact her via her website  http://annemarieallan.com/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/aldhammer

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Hello and happy Friday!  Welcome along to another post to “Celebrate Indie Publishing” and this week the book being featured is “Beware the Cuckoo” by Julie Newman, and the author in the spotlight is Simon Michael.

 


Book Feature:

Published: 18 May 2017

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“Lies, deceit and dark secrets – this is a wonderfully addictive read” – Sheree Murphy, actress and television presenter

They were reunited at his funeral, school friends with a shared past. A past that is anything but straightforward. A past that harbours secrets and untruths.

Karen has a seemingly perfect life. An adoring husband, two wonderful children and a beautiful home. She has all she has ever wanted, living the dream. She also has a secret.

Sandra’s once perfect life is rapidly unravelling. The man who meant everything to her had a dark side and her business is failing. To get her life back on track she needs to reclaim what is rightfully hers. She knows the secret.

As the past meets the present, truths are revealed – and both women understand the true cost of betrayal.

My Thoughts & Review:

It’s not often that a book leaves me genuinely stumped about how to review it.  On the one hand there was a very luring mystery aspect to the plot of this book, but there was also a plot line that I found very uncomfortable to read and if I’m honest I don’t think I would have picked this book up had I known about it.   Abuse of any sort makes for harrowing reading but when it features heavily in a book it puts a reader in a difficult position.  Do they continue reading and hope that this aspect of the plot is handled sensitively and remains utterly relevant to the story or do they stop reading there and then and forever wonder what happens in the other parts of the plot?  This was  a quandary I found myself in earlier this week.

I would urge caution to readers who may find the abuse detail too much.  The mystery element of the book is written well, the creeping darkness that looms as Karen and Sandra’s shared past is recounted gives the reader a gripping read and the prologue really does grab you.  The pace of this is quite brisk, and the number of secrets that are buried in the plot keep readers on their toes.
Sandra was a character that I struggled to connect with, she was very vain and spoiled as a youth and seemed not have changed much in adulthood.  Karen on the other hand, a vulnerable youth, that survives to adulthood but is troubled by her past and the memories associated with it.  Neither of these women were particularly likeable but I think this helped give a sense of detachment when reading this.

You can buy a copy of “Beware the Cuckoo” directly from directly from Urbane Publications here, or alternatively via  Amazon UK | Book Depository


Author Feature:

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Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne.  Simon writes from personal experience: he was a barrister for 37 years and worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy during what was often considered the “Wild West” of British justice.  The 1960s was a time when the Krays and the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted the evidence and took their share of the criminal proceeds.   Simon weaves into his thrillers genuine court documents from cases on which he worked and the big stories of the 1960s.

Simon was a successful author in the 1980s, published here and in the USA, and returned to writing when he retired from the Bar in 2016.  The first two books in the Charles Holborne series, The Brief published in September 2015 and An Honest Man published in July 2016, have both garnered rave reviews for their authenticity and excitement.  The theme of Simon’s books is alienation; Holborne, who dabbled in crime and in serious violence before becoming a barrister, is an outsider both in the East End where he grew up and in the Temples of the law where he now practices, where he faces daily class and religious prejudice.  He has been compared to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, honourable men surrounded by corruption and violence, trying to steer an honest course.

The third book in the series, THE LIGHTERMAN, will be published in June 2017 and looks set to be another bestseller.

Simon lives with his wife and youngest child in Bedfordshire. He is a founder member of the Ampthill Literary Festival and a former trustee and chairman of the Road Victims Trust, a charity devoted to supporting those bereaved or suffering life changing injury on the roads.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I can lose myself in a parallel world, one very similar to the one I inhabit, but where I control the outcomes.  I can present my characters, in particular Charles Holborne – who bears more than a passing resemblance to me – with the same life choices, the same moral dilemmas and the same dangers that I have faced and have him do better than I did.  It’s a mixture of escapism and self-therapy.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author? 

The inverse of the previous answer: the area where I have no control, i.e. the business side of things.  Like every author I feel that I’m writing something worth reading.  More than that, I also believe I have something to say about the darker side of human nature, how we are all a mix of good and evil, and how in the end good usually prevails.  But having spent months crafting, tweaking and polishing to produce work of the best possible quality I can manage, I have no control over whether the book is a bestseller or it sinks into the abyss with thousands of others.  There’s a huge market out there, and it’s so disheartening how authors of the highest quality (and I’m not talking about myself) just don’t get noticed; so often authors with distinctive voices don’t get the prominence or the sales they deserve.  On the other hand complete and utter copycat pap finds its way onto the best-seller lists because it happens to be the flavour of the month, or because the Amazon behemoth decides to put its marketing heft behind it.  It’s iniquitous, random and dispiriting.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

There are too many to mention, but one book that I have returned to over and again during my life is The Adventures of Hiram Holliday by Paul Gallico.  I first read it in my late teens or perhaps early 20s when I was quite impressionable, and it had a lasting impact on me.  It is set in the late 1930s just as the Nazis are taking over Germany, against the backdrop of a Europe that was shortly to disappear forever.  It is the story of a mild-mannered rather portly old-fashioned American gent who turns out to have the heart and soul of a real hero, and some surprisingly useful talents.  He is not in the least brash and hides his light under a bushel.  He is the sort of gentleman (and hero) I have always aspired to be.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I do a lot of talks to book groups, clubs and associations (for example the WI), and really enjoy it.  Unlike most authors, I don’t talk directly about my writing but about my family’s unusual history, my journey from council labourer to barrister, some of the entertaining stories and personalities I have encountered at the Bar and the themes which inspire my books.  After 38 years of public speaking, I hadn’t realised the extent to which I would miss it when I retired from active practice.  Speaking to these groups allows me to continue performing.

I also spend a lot of time doing research (which I like – and which can be very seductive unless you force yourself eventually to get down to the actual writing); marketing (which I dislike) and social media (which I loathe, but see as a necessary evil).

Finally, I have bought a very old rambling farmhouse in Gascony, which I adore, and I go there for peace and tranquillity as often as I can.  My wife still works, so she and my adult children join me as often as their schedules permit.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I don’t have any routine for writing and I desperately need to create one!  My wife and family accuse me of having a “butterfly mind”, which flits from subject to subject and task to task.  If my wife is to be believed, it makes me extremely unproductive.  I point out that I had a very successful career at the Bar for over 30 years, and in less than three years since I took on my last case I have written four novels, not to mention creating the website, doing the marketing, social media, blogging, and so on.  Not bad for someone who is unproductive.

However, she is right to this extent: I need to work to a proper schedule and divide the day into sections for social media/marketing chores, actual writing, and domestic/childcare stuff.  At present it’s the writing time which gets squeezed and squeezed, moved further and further towards the end of the list, and sometimes never reached at all.  And, after all, that’s the bit I like the best.

I have no particular rituals.  When I do get to the writing I sit at my desk, wake up the computer and start.  Once there, four or five hours will pass without my even noticing.

A huge thank you to Simon for taking part and for sharing some more about himself, and I have to say that I did go and look up The Adventures of Hiram Holliday after it was mentioned as it sounds like a book I’d enjoy, and it’s currently at the top of my birthday wish list for next month along with The Lighterman .
If you would like to know more about Simon and his books check out his website or follow him on twitter @simonmichaeluk

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Hello and happy Friday!  And you all know what Friday brings, yes,  its time to share another post to celebrate Indie Publishing and this time it’s Elliott & Thompson in the spotlight!   Today I am honoured to share my review of “Hitler’s Forgotten Children” written by Ingrid Von Oelhafen and Tim Tate and I’m equally excited that this post is also part of the blog tour for this book.


Description:

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‘More than 70 years ago I was a “gift” for Adolf Hitler. I was stolen as a baby to be part of one of the most terrible of all Nazi experiments: Lebensborn.’

The Lebensborn programme was the brainchild of Himmler: an extraordinary plan to create an Aryan master race, leaving behind thousands of displaced victims in the wake of the Nazi regime.

In Hitler’s Forgotten Children Ingrid von Oelhafen shares her incredible story as a child of the Lebensborn: a lonely childhood with a distant foster family; her painstaking and difficult search for answers in post-war Germany; and finally being reunited with her biological family – with one last shocking truth to be discovered.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

The Lebensborn programme was not something I was familiar with before reading this book.  I was aware of the Nazi desire to create a “master race” through carefully planned marriages within the SS etc but “Hitler’s Forgotten Children” has opened my eyes to the true scale of the horror and devious lengths that would be aspired to by such villainous perpetrators.

Ingrid von Oelhafen tells the painful story of how she ended up “stateless”, taken as a young child from her homeland and placed into various homes until being fostered by an approved German family to be “Germanised”.  In essence this is part memoir and part history book, Ingrid recounting the memories of her childhood, the journey she undertakes to find out her identity and her roots, but she also provides detail on a chapter of history that many people may not have heard about.  The inclusion of text from Nazi documents, orders and letters provides readers with a glimpse of the shocking truth about what happened during those dark years.

The heartbreaking subject matter of this book can make for difficult reading at times, there were times I was horrified at what I was reading, shocked at the events that had taken place but I was also found this a compelling and addictive read.  I wanted to know how Ingrid would discover her true identity, I needed to know what happened when she met her long lost biological family, but more than that, I was enthralled by the way in which this was written.  Many times I paused whilst reading and considered how I would have reacted to the revelations that Ingrid had discovered during the course of her investigations.  I enjoyed the way that this book challenged my perceptions of nature versus nurture, and reading the accounts of the Lebensborn children certainly gave me pause for thought.

This was a very thought provoking read, that is well researched and thought out.  The struggles Ingrid faced to find out her true roots are similar to many of the victims of the Lebensborn programme, many of them being unable to reconcile the findings.

A highly recommended read!

You can buy a copy of “Hitler’s Forgotten Children” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

My thanks to Elliott & Thompson, especially Alison Menzies for sending me a copy of this wonderful book.


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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Hello and welcome along to another post to Celebrate Indie Publishing, today I am delighted to share a book from the wonderful Orenda Books, today’s fantastic book featured is “Faithless” by Kjell Ola Dahl and I’m delighted to say that this post is also part of the blog tour for the book.


Book Feature:

Published: 15 April 2017

Description:

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When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her—and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers—and the killer—before he strikes again. Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, atmospheric page-turner marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Kjell Ola Dahl was not a name that I was familiar with before I heard about this book, and for those out there that are shaking their heads in shock, horror or disbelief, please accept my apologies.  Kjell Ola is lovingly described as the “one of the fathers of Nordic Noir” by  his publisher Orenda Books, and after devouring this book I can see why.

“Faithless” is actually the seventh book in the series following the Oslo detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda, but happily this book can be read as a stand alone.  I did initially worry that I might struggle to connect with the characters because I came to the series so late but they are written so well that you don’t feel that you’ve missed anything.  The shared history and friendship of the detectives runs in tandem with the main thread of the plot and does not detract from the case at hand, the focus is on the crime and investigation. 

There is something special about Nordic Noir, there’s a realistic simplicity to it, the precise nature of which makes it a joy to read.  This realism shows through in the characterisation, Frølich and Gunnarstranda are time served detectives, they rely on gut instinct and experience rather than modern technology.  The simplicity of doing things the “old fashioned” way gives them an authenticity and fits in so well with the creations I conjured in my head whilst reading.
In keeping with the hallmarks of the genre, there is an unfathomable darkness looming on the horizon.  The tension slowly mounts whilst Dahl masterfully leads his readers on a journey of misdirection and plays with their minds, but all the while the darkness swells until Dahl cunningly stuns his audience and leaves them dumbfounded.  

The plot is clever and the numerous strands of the plot weave so eloquently together to form a conclusion that readers will thoroughly enjoy.

As with any translated book from this publisher, the translation work is superb.  Don Bartlett deserves a huge thank you for taking this wonderful novel and making it read naturally in English.  I will admit that I am somewhat hesitant with some translated books, there is always a worry that subtleties will be lost in conversion into another language, that social or cultural aspects may not comfortably translate but here this is not the case, and I would like to offer my thanks to Don Bartlett for his time and hard work in ensuring that his work is to the highest standard.

You can buy a copy of “Faithless” via:

Amazon
The Book Depository
Wordery
Orenda Books eBookstore


 

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more reviews, guest posts etc.

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Welcome along to my Friday post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to bring you another book from  Cranachan Publishing and share my review “Buy Buy Baby” by Helen MacKinven.  I was also lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Helen’s time so interrogated her thoroughly for the author feature!


Book Feature:

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Published: 7 July 2016

Description:

What price tag would you put on a baby?

Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing.

Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.

Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive Ebay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.

Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.

In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems.

But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…

My Thoughts & Review:

“Buy Buy Baby” was a book that initially spooked me a little, the doll face on the cover creeped me out a little but thankfully the contents are brilliant and that makes up for my wobbles about the creepy cover.

This book follows the tales of two women, Carol and Julia who both have the same desire in life – to have a baby.  The reader is first introduced to Carol and it is very apparent early on that she has suffered great trauma through the loss of her son in a car accident.  The breakdown of her marriage has robbed her of another chance to be a mother and now she shares her life with her son’s dog and a routine that means she can avoid seeing people unless she really has to.  She is a character that many readers will feel sympathy towards and want a good outcome for her despite having just met her.
Julia on the other hand is career driven, and now almost in her 40s realises she might have left it too late to find Mr Right.  Internet dating hasn’t really worked out well for her and when she found out her long term partner didn’t want children it left her back at square one so to speak.

Enter Dan, everything about him seems “nice” at first glance, but as the story progressed I found that I couldn’t quite make my mind up about him.  He seems to have the magic touch when it comes to both Carol and Julia, his chat up lines seemed to work for both women.  His solution to both of their problems was a bold one, and I think that Helen MacKinven has done a superb job in the way she has written this.  The desperation that both women feel towards motherhood feels very authentic and their determination to do whatever it takes gives much pause for thought.

The writing itself is sharp yet sensitive, the topics covered in this book are ones that require a certain amount of tact and I believe that Helen MacKinven has done this.   But at the same time there are also some wonderfully funny parts in this book, especially moments like Carol talking to Jinksy the dog (and him talking back to her).  The Scots dialect added that extra “something” for me and makes this book stand out more, I do love books that are set in Scotland and when I see local dialects and phrasing used it makes my heart sing.

A truly wonderful read that inspires many thoughts and stayed with me after I’d finished it.

 

You can buy a copy of “Buy Buy Baby” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository


Author Feature:

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Helen’s short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary journals, such as Gutter magazine and one of her novels was shortlisted in a UK-wide competition by Hookline Books. Her debut novel, Talk of the Toun, a coming-of-age story set in 1985 in central Scotland, was published by ThunderPoint in 2015.

Originally from the Falkirk area, Helen moved to a three hundred year old cottage in a small rural village in North Lanarkshire to live with her husband after watching far too many episodes of Escape to the Country. She has two grown-up sons but has filled her empty nest with two dogs, two pygmy goats and an ever-changing number of chickens as she attempts to juggle work and play in her version of The Good Life.

Helen blogs at helenmackinven.co.uk and you can find her on Twitter as @HelenMacKinven

Helen’s second book, Buy Buy Baby, was the very first title published by Cranachan.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

Without a doubt, it’s meeting readers. For someone to tell me that they’ve read and enjoyed my books is very satisfying and makes all the time and effort worthwhile. I also get a huge buzz from seeing my book on display in a bookshop or library. When I was a student, I worked in a library and I would never have believed that one day my book would be on a shelf. It’s a cliché but it’s truly a dream come true.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Writer’s bum! The hours required to sit at a desk have not helped my figure and as a naturally greedy person I battle with my weight. I’ve been going to Weighwatchers now for two years after seeing myself in a photo taken at a spoken word event and it’s helping to combat an occupational hazard.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why? 

When a new writer asks me for advice, I always tell them to, “Write the book you want to read”. There are few novels set in central Scotland from a working-class female’s point of view using urban Scots dialect so I wanted to write a book I could relate to and reflected my world. Although there are many books I love, I don’t wish I’d written them. My literary idols have used their own ‘voice’ which is unique to them and I’m happy with mine.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

Reading is crucial to developing as a writer so I try and read as often as I can and choose an eclectic mix. I love going to the theatre, cinema and art exhibitions. I also enjoy gardening, walking (only when it’s good weather!) and spending time with my pet dogs, goats, chickens and peachicks.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

When I started writing I worked full-time and my sons were still boys which meant that I developed a habit of writing at night. My circumstances have changed but this routine has stuck and I like to have a bath, get my pjs on, snuggle up in bed with my dog at my side and tap away in silence on my laptop.

A huge thank you to Helen for taking part in the author feature and telling us a little about herself.   Helen blogs at helenmackinven.co.uk and you can find her on Twitter as @HelenMacKinven.

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Hello and happy Friday!  And seeing as it’s Friday, that means its time to share another post to celebrate Indie Publishing, this time it’s Elliott & Thompson in the spotlight!   Today I am honoured to share the fantastic “Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When the Birds Sing” by Richard Smyth.


Description:

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Birdsong is woven into our culture, our emotions, our landscape; it is the soundtrack to our world. We have tried to capture this fleeting, ephemeral beauty, and the feelings it inspires, for millennia.

In this fascinating account, Richard Smyth asks what it is about birdsong that we so love. Exploring the myriad ways in which it has influenced literature, music, science and our very ideas of what it means to be British, Smyth’s nuanced investigation shows that what we hear says as much about us, our dreams and desires, as it does about the birds and their songs.

At a time when our birdsong is growing quieter, with fewer voices, more thinly spread, A Sweet, Wild Note is a celebration of the complex relationships between birds, people and the land; it is also a passionate call to arms lest our trees and hedgerows fall silent.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

The very first thing that grabbed me about this book, and indeed with any of Elliott and Thompson’s publications is the exquisite cover design.  This is a beautifully eye catching cover that really sparks the imagination of the reader and gives an insight into the wonders that are housed inside.

Living in a rural setting I am often surprised by the different bird sounds that I hear, many I’ve come recognise over the years but I am not a birdwatcher or birder, I can no more tell you a chaffinch from a blackbird.  However, I find the sound of bird song soothing and will admit that I have sometimes wondered just what they are communicating to other birds in the vicinity, whether they are merely singing because the sun in shining etc.

Richard Smyth takes the reader on an investigation through both literary and musical culture, quoting numerous sources to try and explain the answers to a multitude of questions surrounding bird song.  Discussing the works of some of the great poets and their descriptions of bird song, as well as looking at how musicians try to imitate the sounds using instruments and how the sound is being included in music.   This coupled with the lovely introduction primed with humour and warmth where Symth explains the reasons for writing this book.

Through his book, Smyth reminds the reader that birdsong should be appreciated for what it is and is keen to point out the experience of it “the way a bright bird song on a lonely street can lift our mood, or leaven our loneliness, or bring a little bit of countryside into the brick canyons and concrete precincts of the N5.”  And he is right, sometimes hearing the tweeting/cheeping/warble of a bird can lift your mood,

The writing is fantastic, each chapter gives great insight as well as provides entertainment and where relevant sources quoted to allow readers to go off and explore further.  There is also a helpful “further reading” section at the back of the book where Smyth gives a brief explanation of the resources linked to the separate chapters of the book.

For me, “Celebrating Indie Publishing” is about discovering new things; new books, new authors, new information and I can happily say that this book has done that.  Whilst I may not be about to head out birdwatching or learn the difference between a pigeon and a sparrow, I appreciate the sounds of birds more after reading this book.  I certainly look out for the familiar chirps, cheeps and songs whilst I am out and am more aware that they are there.

You can buy a copy of A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When the Birds Sing via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

My thanks to Elliott & Thompson, especially Alison Menzies for sending me a copy of this wonderful book.

About the Author:

Richard Smyth writes about nature, history, books, philosophy, art, sport and anything else that occurs to him. His latest book, ‘A Sweet Wild Note: What We Hear When The Birds Sing’, is an acclaimed cultural history of birdsong.

Richard’s first book, ‘Bum Fodder: An Illustrated History Of Toilet Paper’, was featured on BBC Radio 4 and on national radio in Ireland and Australia; his books on English history have been decribed as “Horrible Histories for grown-ups”.

His first novel, ‘Wild Ink’, was published in 2014, and his prize-winning short stories have appeared in magazines including Structo, The Lonely Crowd, The Fiction Desk, The Stockholm Review, Riptide, Litro, The Stinging Fly, Vintage Script and Firewords Quarterly.

When he is not writing books, he works as a journalist, compiles crosswords, draws cartoons, wastes time on Twitter, and sets questions for the iconic BBC quiz show ‘Mastermind’ (he was a finalist on the show in 2009).

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page

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Published: 23 March 2017

Copy provided by Urbane Publications & Netgalley

 

Description:

Ireland’s gone bust, and with it Aisling Finn’s life.

She flees austerity for adventure in the desert.  But the Arabia she finds is not that of her dreams.  Everyone is chasing a fast buck, a fast woman and another G&T.  Expats and locals alike prickle with paranoia.
Debonair fixer, Brian Rothmann, charms Aisling with champagne brunches and nights at Bedouin camps.  But is Brian a hero or a desperate expat prepared to go to any lengths to get what he wants?  Is this Aisling?  Or is he using her as bait?
Her only hope is Hisham, a local activist.  But where do his loyalties lie?  Aisling faces severe peril when the sleazy expat and blood-lusting desert worlds collide, as the Arab Spring erupts. 

She has to ask, whom can she trust?  Can she trust her instincts?  Humanity blisters in this haunting, lyrical thriller about trust and treachery.

My Thoughts & Review:

For once a book has left me speechless, I finished reading “Electric Souk” over a week ago and have struggled to put into words just how brilliant this book is.  Even then I don’t think that brilliant is a word that does this book justice.
I first heard about this book when I featured the lovely Rose McGinty over on my “Celebrating Indie Publishing” post at the beginning of March and was so intrigued by the sound of her book I knew I needed to read it as soon as I could.

The reader is plunged into a tale of an adventure almost instantly when they encounter Aisling heading to the Gulf to start a new job and a new life.  But things aren’t as easy as she hopes, life doesn’t run as smoothly in the desert and danger lurks in the shadows.

The reader is submersed in such authentic and realistic surroundings, the details that Rose McGinty pours into her writing are absolutely amazing.  I felt that I could smell the fragrances, feel the intensity of heat, taste the sand that surrounded Aisling.  I also found the cultural details fascinating to read, the customs and traditions that are observed there were new to me and so I felt that I could take some knowledge from this book.  McGinty writes with such a flair that it is evident that she has spent a lot of time in the Middle East and understands the culture and lifestyle.

I particularly enjoyed the thriller element to this tale, the clever way that the tension was wound tighter and tighter meant that my attention was held fast.  Aisling is in a difficult position, there are people who would manipulate her at any opportunity for minimal gain, even if it were to make another person look bad.  She is also in a dangerous position as she can’t really be sure who is safe to trust.  The friendships she forms are interesting, Angie the lively Liverpudlian is one character that made me laugh and smile.  Moazah on the other hand, oh how I felt so much frustration towards this character.  The levels of manipulation and greed that this character would stoop to in order to further her own agenda were shocking.
Brian Rothmann was a character I struggled to work out initially, he seemed almost “too good to be true”, appearing to be almost too saccharine.

Trust and the lack thereof is the overarching theme in this book, and as the tension rises so too does the creeping paranoia.

For a debut novel I am considerably impressed, Rose McGinty writes with an ease that hints towards years spent writing.  Not only does she bring settings alive, but she creates characters who develop fantastically throughout the novel, creates an atmosphere that is serene yet dangerous and manages to give her readers something that shocks, entertains and delights.

A book I would absolutely recommend to others, and I can already see myself reading it again before the year is out!  It’s definitely one that will be on my list of “Top Indie Books for 2017!”

You can buy a copy of “Electric Souk” directly from the publisher here or via Amazon | Wordery

About the Author:

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Rose McGinty was born with itchy feet, which she has yet to decide is a blessing or a curse.  Certainly, surviving Hurricane Sandy, an earthquake, a spider bite, jumping 192 metres off the Sky Tower in Auckland, and nearly being arrested for inadvertently smuggling a rocket in Vietnam, make her wonder about locking up her passport.  But then, it was her adventures in the Middle East that gave her the itchy fingers to write.

Rose lives in Kent, where as well as enjoying writing short stories, flash fiction and poetry, she also paints.  She works in community health services and has worked overseas in Ireland, Canada, Sweden and the Middle East.  She completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, under the guidance of Richard Skinner, in 2015.  Electric Souk is her debut novel and Rose says of her story, ‘The parts of the story that are true, I probably wish were not; while the parts that are not, I probably wish were true.’

If you’d like to know more about Rose and her books you can check out her  website or follow her on Twitter @rosemcginty

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