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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 “Nailing Jess” by Triona Scully.


Book Feature:

 

Published: 26 June 2017

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Description:

Welcome to Withering, a small town with a big problem in modern, matriarchal Britain. Here the women wear the trousers, while the men hold the handbags. Literally.

There’s a serial strangler on the loose and the bodies of teenage boys are piling up on maverick D.C.I. Jane Wayne’s patch.

Wayne needs to catch ‘The Withering Wringer’, but it’s not going to be easy. Demoted for her inappropriate behaviour, she must take orders from a man—and not just any man—an ugly one.

Still, at least she can rely on her drug stash from a recent police raid to keep her sane…

Shocking. Funny. Clever. A gender-bending, Agatha-Christie-meets-Chris-Brookmyre, mash-up. Simply genius.

Scully’s debut novel takes classic crime and turns it on its head with a deliciously absurd comic twist.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

When a book is recommended to you as “the most shocking thing you will read all year” you can’t help but wonder and if you’re as inquisitive as I am, then it’s odds on that you will want to put this to the test.

Nailing Jess is definitely different from anything I’ve read before, yes it’s a crime thriller but it’s written from the perspective of a gender reversal.  Where we readers would usually see a male detective leading a team of officers, we see that the top positions are held by females and they call the shots, whilst the males juggle careers, home life and childcare.
I have to admit that it did take me a little time to get my head round this reversal, and there were points at which I found it challenging.  However, I do think that this is a very clever way to have written this novel, challenging the preconceived notions that society holds, and it certainly did give me pause for thought.

The main character in this really is a madcap creation!  DCI Jayne Wayne is a tough, sexist, rude protagonist, and with her habits of drinking and smoking dope whilst on duty it’s little wonder that she is demoted.  Her flagrant disregard of policing policy and behaviour towards colleagues means that she becomes even more entertaining to read about when she is placed on a team headed up by a male officer.  The case they are working on is one of a serial strangler targetting teenage boys, a gruesome and graphic case that’s not for the faint-hearted.

The language used in this book is different from other crime thrillers, the word “suck” being used in place of an expletive beginning with F is just one such example of this.  Whilst some of the language used in this book is of a stronger nature, I do think that it is used to enhance the points being made and was done well.  The dark humour that Triona Scully pours into her work does work well, but it does take a little getting used to.

On the whole, an interesting and challenging read that will have readers thinking.

 

 

You can buy a copy of “Nailing Jess” via:

Amazon

Wordery

The Book Depository

My thanks to Triona Scully for the opportunity to read and review a copy of her book and for taking part in “Celebrating Indie Publishing” on The Quiet Knitter.

 


 

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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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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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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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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 “The Revenge of Tirpitz” by Michelle Sloan.  I was also lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Michelle’s time so interrogated her thoroughly for the author feature!


Book Feature:

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Published: 24 August 2016

Description:

TWO BOYS. TWO COUNTRIES. ONE MISSION.

Norway 1944

When Erik strikes up an unlikely friendship with German Radar operator, Hans, the pair soon become involved in a race against time to help destroy the Nazi warship, Tirpitz.

Will their secret mission succeed?

Shetland 2014

Finn’s great-grandfather receives a letter threatening the “revenge of Tirpitz”. They escape on a fishing boat, making the perilous journey to Norway, where they realise that facing up to the past puts their future in danger…

We know what you did.

We know where you are.

Tirpitz will have her revenge.

My Thoughts & Review:

For as long as I can remember, I have held a fascination with WWII stories, whether it’s tales of heroic Resistance fighters, espionage or even just the determination to survive and so when I found out about “The Revenge of Tirpitz” I knew this book would hold a tale of some interest for me.  For those not familiar with the Tirpitz allow me to share a very brief history (if you know your German battleships then please ignore me here, or perhaps do read on and let me know if I’ve missed anything pertinent).

The Tirpitz was the largest battleship built in Germany for the Kriegsmarine (German Imperial Navy).  The specifications of such a ship were impressive and she was viewed as a great threat, she was also the sister ship to the Bismark so reputation alone was enough to strike fear into many.  After the sinking of the Bismark, the Tirpitz was sent to guard the waters of Norway (the Third Reich believing that Norway was vital to conquering Europe).  Various attacks against the ship by the British RAF ended in failure, until 12 November 1944 when the RAF carried out their successful bombing raid.
For detailed information on the raid please head over to the RAF website: RAF: Tirpitz, November 12 1944

Back to the book…..

With such a wonderfully intense and atmospheric opening this book captured my attention immediately, who was this man, why was he hiding from the Nazis, who was helping him, why did he need to get away were all questions running through my mind.  What then follows is a magnificent set of stories from different timelines that interweave perfectly, linking together the Resistance movement of Norway in 1944 and modern day Shetland.

This is a thrilling and enjoyable read, not only does the book have a cracking plot, but it has characters that readers cannot fail to care about.  Add in an abundance of detail and this feels like a book you can actually take some knowledge from, yes I am aware that “The Revenge of Tirpitz” is a work of fiction, but the way that it ties to real events is brilliant writing.  For those interested in more reading about the Shetland Bus, there is a website where information can be found (http://shetlandbus.com/), and for me the link to this added a real authenticity to the tale.

The action packed tales are ones of courage and resolve, the key aspect of the plot for me is that it’s children who are the key to the mission.  Putting a young person into this role makes the tale more accessible for readers, and I am sure the target audience (Young Readers aged 9-12) will utterly love this, the idea that even someone their age could so something so heroic and decisive and make an impact.  That said, I also think that this book is an excellent read for all ages, I might just be more than double the suggested reading age ( plus a few…..) but something about this book resonated within me.

An utterly brilliant wartime tale that I would absolutely recommend!

You can buy a copy of “The Revenge of Tirpitz” via Amazon here or Book Depository here


Author Feature:

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Michelle lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee with her family, feisty cat Lola and silly mutt, Scruff. In between chauffeuring her small people here, there and everywhere, wiping noses and tempering toddler tantrums, she squeezes in precious writing time. Her first picture book, The Fourth Bonniest Baby in Dundee was published in July of this year (Picture Kelpies).

Michelle trained as a Primary Teacher and worked for many years in Edinburgh, before indulging her love of all things theatrical by returning to university to study Drama. After dabbling in performance art in Glasgow, and starring in a one woman show in Edinburgh, Michelle finally settled on a speciality in Arts Journalism and developed a new, unknown passion for writing! After a few reviews for ‘The List’ magazine, she turned to scribbling creatively.

When it comes to writing fiction for older children, Michelle is inspired by the stories and bravery of previous generations – particularly those connected to WW1 and WW2. Focussing on historical fiction gives her a fantastic opportunity to engage in research and to bring those stories to life with an exciting modern day twist.

 

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

It’s definitely a buzz when someone contacts you out of the blue to say they’ve enjoyed reading your book.  That is an amazing feeling! And the writing itself of course is immensely rewarding – when you’re lost in the characters and the plot. It’s blissful escapism.

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

The waiting! When you send off your manuscript it’s a long process to publication. It can be frustrating. And I can’t stop checking my email!

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

Argh! So many! Too many to choose just one. It seems every time I read a book I like I feel a sort of crushing disappointment in myself that I didn’t or couldn’t create something so ‘plot perfect’! Actually, I recently re read The Secret Garden with my children which is just such a beautifully crafted, complete and exquisite children’s book. Damn! I wish I’d written that! You see? It’s why we writers are our worst critics!

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

Reading, waiting and checking my email! Oh and cursing myself for not having written the last book I read….but you also might find me dancing round the kitchen with my children and dog. We’re partial to a disco night.

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

No, not really. It’s more a case of opportunistic squeezing it in between school run, teaching, cleaning, cooking and all things domestic. It’s a challenge and often I’ll procrastinate but the pay off is the reward of maybe 1,000 words on my computer screen. And that always feels like an achievement.

A huge thank you to Michelle for taking part in the author feature and telling us a little about herself (from on kitchen dancer to another!).  Michelle blogs regularly at https://michellesloan.co.uk/ and you can find her on Twitter at @michlsloan

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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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Welcome along to another Friday, and another post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to share another wonderful book from Cranachan Publishing – this time the fantastic “The Beast on The Broch” by John K. Fulton and share a short interview with the author behind this Pictish tale.


Book Feature:

Published: 9 September 2016
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Description:

A lonely girl. A wild beast. An unforgettable friendship.

12-year-old Talorca is a Pictish girl living in North-east Scotland in 799 AD. When Gaelic-speaking Dalriadans attack her village, her world is turned upside down. Her only friend is the mythical Pictish Beast, who has been injured by the Dalriadans. Talorca decides to take a stand against the invaders and hatches a plan to drive them out.

But she can only do that with the help of the wild beast on the broch.

My Thoughts & Review:

I absolutely love a story that reaches into the depths of my imagination and kindles my love of folklore and mythology and “The Beast on The Broch” definitely does that.  Incorporating Pictish legend, Scottish history, and a mythological beastie this is a wonderfully rich tale about a young girl coming to terms with an evolving society and finding her place.

Talorca is a marvellous character, so headstrong and driven, and despite her young age she has a remarkably wise head on her shoulders at times.  Other times though, the veil of youth colouring her perception of adult subjects and concerns.  However her love of her people and their traditions cannot be questioned or faulted, so the arrival of Dalriadans in the village is a huge cause of concern and unhappiness for her.
The gradual development of Talorca is masterfully done, she transforms from a ‘wild’ ( I use that in the sense of running around the village in her youthful capers) to becoming wise, refined in her thinking and less hasty in her actions.

The combination of young Talorca scheming of ways to drive out the invading Dalriadans with The Old Woman of the village is superb!  Seeing both old and young coming together to plot and share stories reminds me of time spent with my grandmother – sharing stories, planning mischief and enjoying the company of a loved one.  That’s how I came to look upon the relationship between these characters, Talorca seeking something she felt she could not get from her mother.  Talorca’s mother Mael being described as preoccupied with other things but also trying to parent the spirited child alone following the death of Talorca’s father some years previously.

Through The Old Woman and Father Cormac the reader is swept up in tales of yesteryear and folklore, tales that are rich in detail and full of mystery.  I particularly liked the tale of the “The Wishing Tree”, a tale the author’s father told him when he was growing up.

The Beast, well that’s an odd entity….Pictish stones throughout Scotland have a wealth of beasties carved upon them, and the author has kindly added information about this at the back of the book for interested readers to find out more.  Being lucky enough to live down the coast from the Broch in this tale I have had the pleasure of seeing some Pictish stones and the carvings are magnificent and awe inspiring.  Some of the animals that are depicted make the imagination come alive.  The Beast is a wonderful character, I love the symbolic connection between girl and beast here, the care that this wild creature shows towards Talorca is fascinating.

At the heart of it all, this is a charming tale that has some important themes running through it.  This novel reminds us that acceptance is a two way street, change isn’t always a bad thing but you have to try and be open to it.  But most of all, it reminds us of the importance of owning up to what you have done.

Although “The Beast on The Broch” is marketed towards a younger audience, I would say this is a brilliant read for adults and children alike.  It’s packed with detail and information that brings NE Scotland alive in 799AD, the characters are interesting and engaging, and the story is one that you can happily become transfixed with and spend a happy few hours soaking in every page of this beautifully written novel.

Another eBook that I have to buy the tree book version of!

You can buy a copy of “The Beast on The Broch” via Amazon here or via Book Depository here.


Author Feature:

John K Fulton is the son of a lighthouse keeper, and grew up all around the coast of john-k-fulton-bio-photoScotland, including Tarbat Ness Lighthouse near Portmahomack, which became the inspiration for the setting of The Beast on the Broch. The often remote and lonely locations of his childhood instilled in him a life-long love of books and the sea. After going to school in Edinburgh, Portmahomack, Portree, and Montrose, he studied Classics at the University of St. Andrews, then went on to take a Masters in IT at the University of Dundee. This led to a career as a technical author, which is just like being a proper author, except it’s excruciatingly boring.

He now lives in Leicester with his partner Sandra. While Leicester is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK, their home is stuffed with books, which is the next-best thing. In 2015 his first novel, The Wreck of the Argyll, a First World War spy thriller, won the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize. He regularly blogs and reviews books at www.johnkfulton.com

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

The feeling you get when you finish writing a first draft. There’s been a point in writing every book so far where it seemed like getting to the end was going to be impossible, so to come out of the other side of that is a great feeling. Of course, all the hard work of revision and editing is still ahead, which tempers the celebration somewhat.

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

Having to deal with rejection. Rejection doesn’t end once you’ve been published, and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that it shouldn’t get to you, the cumulative effect can be very disheartening.

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

I was thinking about some of my favourite books (The Hill of the Red Fox, The Lord of the Rings, The Player of Games, Norwegian Wood, Aegypt, Lanark, Black Hearts in Battersea, Mortal Engines) but I really can’t say that I wish I’d written any of them – because then they’d be completely different and probably not as good. All of these books are so distinctive that they just couldn’t have been written by anyone else. I’ll just be content with having written my own books.

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

Reading! I’m a great believer in the maxim that you can’t write well unless you read well. For me, that means reading a lot in my own genre (children’s fiction), but also reading other genres of fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy. I don’t read nearly enough non-fiction, but when I do it’s usually targeted towards some writing project I’m working on.

I also watch a fair bit of telly, which can be equally instructive in terms of dialogue, plotting, characterisation, and pacing. Writing is writing, as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes I think the influence can be a little bit too strong, though – I’ve caught myself inserting scene breaks in my books where I think an advert break would be.

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

As long as I’ve got my Scrivener writing software, I’m happy. I write on my iPad on my armchair with a wireless keyboard, or in the study on the PC; I write in silence, or with music (never music with lyrics, though – I prefer classical or film and TV scores when writing); I write on weekdays and weekends, work days and holidays; I write in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening, depending on what time I can fit around my full-time job. My only real ritual, if you could call it that, is more of a trick – at the end of each session, I leave a sentence half-completed. This makes it easier for me to start writing the next day, as I already know what I’m going to write.

A huge thank you to John for taking part and letting us know more about himself, if you’d like to know more about John and his books you can check out his website www.johnkfulton.com or follow him on Twitter @johnkfulton

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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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Welcome along to another Friday, and another post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to introduce you to Cranachan Publishing headed up by Anne Glennie and Helen MacKinven.  Today I have  a review of the awe inspiring “Fir for Luck” by Barbara Henderson to share with you and a short interview with the woman behind the tale.


Book Feature:

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Published: 21 September 2016
5 out of 5 stars

Description:

Would you be brave enough to fight back?

When 12-year-old Janet’s village is under threat– she decides to take action. It’s a split-second decision that could cost her everything: her home, her family – even her life.

Can Janet save her village from being wiped out? Or will her family and friends be forced from their homes to face an uncertain future?

Based on real life events, Fir for Luck is a tale of the brutal Highland Clearances, when land owners cared more about sheep than people.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

When I first saw this book advertised as a “Children’s Book” I was sceptical, would I enjoy it, would it hold my attention, would there be enough story there to fascinate me – these were just some of the initial ponderings I had, and happily I can say I needn’t have worried.

“Fir for Luck” is a magnificently written book,  and one I think may well sneak onto my top books of 2017.
Steeped in rich history, Barbara Henderson weaves together the tale of a young girl in a Highland village who struggles to comprehend the fate of her community.  For those not familiar with the history of the Highland Clearances, this is a book well worth reading, it acts as a little guide to a brutal point in Scottish history, but by adding the human element through young Janet, Henderson really brings the tale alive.  During the Clearances, tenants were driven from their homes and villages (often with violence) to free the land for sheep farming which was seen as the more profitable use for land at the time.  The villagers were given little to no notice that they were to be evicted from their homes, and little opportunity to find somewhere else to go before being left destitute.

One of the best things about this book was the idea of a young girl being the first to find out about the eviction order.  The innocence of childhood, the black and white thinking that comes with a mind uncomplicated by adult themes makes this a truly remarkable read.  Janet is a wonderfully endearing character and one I think many readers will feel a bond with.  Her determination to save her family and community makes my heart break at times but also swell with enormous pride.  Her fierce intelligence and headstrong ways means she is not afraid to speak out when she believes something is wrong (up here we’d call her “thran“).  Her defiance towards following the set gender stereotypes is something I think many of the female target audience will appreciate – why shouldn’t she be allowed to go with the men on Bent Day?

The vivid descriptions used in the writing transport the reader to early 19th Century Sutherland, the reader can smell the peat in the air, see the beautiful rugged setting, envision the smoke filled cramped homes of the villagers.  There’s a richness to this that I had not expected and I thoroughly enjoyed stepping back in time reading this.  The pace of the story is swift and excellently matched to the tale, this makes for a spellbinding read.  The inferences of Scottish folklore and superstition (fir for luck in the chain of the cooking pot, not allowing the Writ to be touched by any of the villagers to complete execution etc.) were a lovely nod to tradition and added an authenticity to the story.

Despite this book being aimed towards an audience of 8-12 year olds, I would recommend it everyone.  Yes, it is a good book for children to read to gain an understanding of the Highland Clearances, but it also teaches the audience to find the courage that lies within them and embrace what lies ahead.

A very impressive debut novel from a very promising author, one I will be keeping an eye on in the future.  I just need to find out if Barbara Henderson will be at any literary events so I can get a signed copy of this beautifully enchanting book!

You can buy a copy of “Fir for Luck” via Amazon here or Book Depository here


Author Feature:

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Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. She now teaches Drama, although if you dig deep in her past you will find that she has earned her crust as a relief librarian, receptionist and even a puppeteer. Her worst job ever was stacking and packing freshly pressed margarine tubs into cardboard boxes while the plastic was still hot – for eight hours a day. She is still traumatised!

Barbara has been interested in the history of the Highland Clearances since the early 90s. But it was when she stumbled across the crumbling ruins of Ceannabeinne, near the village of Durness on holiday, that her current novel Fir for Luck began to take shape in her imagination – and that story simply wouldn’t be ignored.

Over the years, writing has always been what she loves most: Barbara has won several national and international short story competitions and was one of three writers short-listed for the Kelpies Prize 2013 with a previous novel manuscript.
Barbara currently lives in Inverness and spends her time researching how on earth other people manage to make money from writing. She blogs regularly at www.write4bairns.wordpress.com

 

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

To be honest – there are loads of things I love about being an author. But most of all, I love the way that an idea can take hold of you, and – in time – that very idea, these very characters and situations and places, can take hold of a reader’s imagination, too.

For such a long time, I was the only person who knew about Janet, the main character in my clearances novel Fir for Luck. Now I get kids coming up to me at school visits, saying ‘I like how Janet is so brave’ or ‘Wee Donald is my favourite character’ or (as a kid said to me yesterday) ‘your book is the best book in the world!’ My story, the one that started only in my head, is now in lots of heads. There is no better feeling than that!

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

It’s slow work, and sadly, there is no guarantee that somebody is going to publish, sell or buy your book. I’d love to write full time, but there is not quite enough certainty for that yet. I have written so many manuscripts that have yet to see the light of day. You have to have quite a thick skin! Perseverance and tenacity are probably just as important as talent.

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

This varies a lot. Saying that, I really admire authors who write funny fiction. It’s one of the hardest things to achieve: series like How to Train your Dragon or Mr Gum have me in stitches. Wish I’d written those!

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

I play fiddle, I walk my dog, I hang out with my beyond-crazy family, and I read lots. Boring things like housework and taxi-ing kids around need to happen too – but my part-time job as a Drama teacher is interesting and varied, and I get to spend a lot of time with young people – the very audience I like to write for! All good!

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

Not rituals as such, but coffee helps – ideally from my favourite Inverness café, Velocity. I’ll often go there when I have trouble getting started – at home there are so many distractions! The ‘white’ noise of a café doesn’t disturb me at all, but I find that the traffic of kids and teenagers in my own house is harder to ignore. I leave the last sentence unfinished at the end of a writing session, so it’s easier to start straightaway the next day. I read every word aloud before I show it to a living soul! And photos and images really help me focus on the world I try to create, so the study is plastered with pictures. My best writing happens when others in the house are sleeping: sometimes last thing at night, but often first thing in the morning. The bags under my eyes bear testament to that!

A huge thank you to Barbara for taking part and letting us know more about her, if you’d like to know more about Barbara and her books you can check out her website www.barbarahenderson.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @scattyscribbler

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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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It’s not often that I post anything other than reviews on here, I do occasionally consider writing a “round up” each week of what I’ve read and what reviews are coming up, what blog tours The Quiet Knitter will be participating in etc but I never quite get around to it…..time slips away from me and well I forget entirely once I’ve written and scheduled another review.  But from Friday (10th February), I will be hosting a special feature to celebrate independent publishers, their books and their authors.

For those who have followed The Quiet Knitter over the last year you will probably be aware that I love Indie Publishers, their books are diverse and exciting.  I’m always keen to help put their books in the spotlight and share how great they are and I’ve decided that a good way to do this is to dedicate every Friday to sharing a post about a book/an author/or a publisher.  There are some fantastic publishers lined up to take part and the books that I have to share with you are some of the best ones I’ve had the privilege to read.  There’s also some wee giveaways lined up throughout the year so be sure to check back for details.

The first to feature will be Urbane Publications with a book review of The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes and also an author feature with David Gaffney

Here are some of the fantastic publishers taking part, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to share their books with you.  A huge thanks to these guys and their authors for taking part and most importantly for their devotion to incredible books.

 

If you are an independent publisher and would like to take part in this feature please get in touch.

 

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