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I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Barbara Henderson’s latest novel Wilderness Wars, an eco thriller set on a Scottish island. And if this wasn’t brilliant enough, Barbara has also written a guest piece for today’s stop on the tour “The Supernatural in Wilderness Wars”.

Wilderness Wars Ebook Cover with Quote

** My thanks to the lovely folks at Cranachan Books and Barbara Henderson for my copy of this book and for inviting me to take par in the blog tour **

 

Description:

What if nature fights back?

Still in a daze, I take it all in: the wind, the leaden skies, the churning moody sea.
And, far in the distance, a misty outline.
Skelsay.
Wilderness haven. Building-site. Luxury-retreat-to-be.
And now, home.

When her father’s construction work takes Em’s family to the uninhabited island of Skelsay, she is excited, but also a little uneasy. Soon Em, and her friend Zac, realise that the setbacks, mishaps and accidents on the island point to something altogether more sinister: the wilderness all around them has declared war.

Danger lurks everywhere. But can Em and Zac persuade the adults to believe it before it’s too late?

My Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit to being a huge fan of Barbara Henderson’s writing, I have been since I read her first book Fir for Luck. There’s a richness in the words that she skillfully weaves together to paint a vivid picture of the story playing out before your eyes.
Like in each of her books, strong characters come to life from the pages and lead readers on a merry adventure through the book.

Em is a young lass who has moved with her family, and several other people to an uninhabited island named Skelsay with the plan of building a luxury hotel and holiday resort. Immediately I felt a connection with Em, something about this feisty young girl made my heart soar with pride. She’s not too happy about the family’s move, she wanted to stay in Glasgow, not move to a remote island, especially not to cramped living quarters or being cooped up with her annoying little brother so much. There’s something in Em’s personality that readers will be able to connect with, she struggles to comprehend the adult world and the decisions they make at times. Whilst she’s not an adult, she does have the makings of a mature head on her young shoulders, demonstrating that she can understand the importance of doing or saying the right thing at times.

As you might expect from the description of the book, the atmospheric setting plays a very important part in the tale. The vivid imagery conjures a bleak yet intriguing landscape and as the construction work gets underway, it’s not hard to envision the various changes to the surroundings. The way that nature takes on a sinister edge makes this such a gripping read, is the wilderness really turning on the construction workers and their families? Is this all in the imagination of Em and her new friend Zac?

The plotting is exciting and the intrigue interwoven throughout makes this the sort of book that you want to race through to find out how it’s all going to come together, find out what lies ahead. It’s a truly remarkable novel and one that I would heartily recommend to readers old and young.

You can buy a copy of Wilderness Wars via:

Cranachan Publishing
Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

Guest post by Barbara Henderson:

Unbelievable!

A supernatural eco-thriller? For children?

It’s not the genre that would spring to mind when scanning through the 9-12 Market, the readership most likely to read and enjoy my books. Does it need a supernatural element at all?

For large chunks of Wilderness Wars, nothing supernatural happens at all – The workforce moves to the island and spend time setting themselves up as a community: tidying and arranging and organising their lives. Beginning to form a routine. The mishaps and accidents, at the beginning at least, feel utterly commonplace, as if the islanders are simply beset by a little bit of bad luck.

But bad luck on its own does not make for a compelling story. It’s simply not enough. Barry Cunningham, the publisher who famously gave a wee manuscript called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone its first break, has said that the single most important feature he looks for in a story is ‘a formidable opponent’.

There are one or two characters who might fall into this category, but the core idea of the novel ‘What if nature fights back’ requires that the wilderness itself become the opponent, the threat, the one who has it in for my characters.

It is a formidable enemy: Weather, land, sea, plants and creatures unite in my book in a single purpose: to force the tiny workforce of construction workers and their families off this island once and for all. This requires a considerable jump in the imagination: I am asking the reader to suspend their disbelief, and to accept that the whole of the natural world can co-ordinate itself to fight back, to draw the line, and to say: this far and no further.

And yet, is a simple enough concept, and one that readers, so far, have engaged with pretty readily. Just like in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, where the liquid turns a range of colours and the transformation into the monster simply happens. Readers aren’t giving scientific facts: they are given an outcome, and the outcome is the only thing which matters.

The only other flash of the supernatural in Wilderness Wars is Em’s vision. She has a vivid dream of the worst possible outcome, if the adults do not agree to leave the island. Step by step, the various of her vision appear in real life, and she now understands the inevitable destruction which awaits. It sets up the final climax of the novel, a life and death sort of jeopardy which, I hope, propels the reader forward.

Without the supernatural component, it would be a story of predictable morality: look after your environment, respect the wilderness. Yawn, yah-de-yah – a lecture book with no drama.

On the other hand, with the terrifying concept that you have incurred the wrath of the whole natural world around you, it becomes a tense survival story, a chase, a war. There are battle lines and strategies, and ultimately, a final showdown. It delivers all the lessons and provokes all the thinking the boring version would, but subtly hidden within A BARRAGE OF DRAMATIC LIFE AND DEATH ACTION.

I know which version I’d rather read!

 

About the Author: rpt

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. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.
Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition. She blogs regularly at write4bairns.wordpress.com where full details of her writing achievements can also be found.
Barbara is currently based in Inverness.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.barbarahenderson.co.uk/
Twitter: @scattyscribbler
Blog: write4bairns.wordpress.com

 

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As we’re almost half way through the year I figured that it might be a good time to round up some of the great indie books that I’ve featured so far, and some of the great authors who have given their time to take part in the author interviews.

Links to each of the book features and author features are below, alternatively if you want to use the search function at the top of the page just type in the name of the book or author to bring up the relevant page.

The books that have featured:

Book Feature Links:

Goblin – Ever Dundas
The Wreck of The Argyll – John K. Fulton
Blue Night – Simone Buchholz
The Trouble Boys – E.R. Fallon
Last Orders – Caimh McDonnell
Never Rest – Jon Richter
Spanish Crossings – John Simmons
Rose Gold – David Barker
Bermuda – Robert Enright
The Story Collector – Evie Gaughan
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter – Cherry Radford
Rebellious Spirits – Ruth Ball
Ten Year Stretch – Various
The Soldier’s Home – George Costigan
Burnout – Claire MacLeary

 

The authors who have taken part in author features, either alongside a book feature or alone:

 

Author Feature Links:

E.R. Fallon
Derek Farrell
Heather Osborne
Jon Richter
Steve Catto
Mark Tilbury
David Barker
Evie Gaughan
Cherry Radford
Anne Stormont
George Costigan

As always, I am forever grateful to the authors, publishers, and publicists for taking part in my Celebrating Indie Publishing feature.  I’m also deeply grateful to you, the reader for joining me each Friday and sharing my love of indie publishing, joining in, commenting, sharing posts and buying some of these wonderful books.

Without each of the fantastic people mentioned above, none of this would be possible!

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Today I am so excited to share the cover of Barbara Henderson’s new book with you!  If you’ve been following my blog for the past year or so, you will have seen that I have a real soft spot for Barbara’s books.  There’s something so magical about the way she weaves together her stories, the characters pop off the pages and each of her books holds a special place in my heart so it’s a great honour to be able to share the cover of Wilderness Wars with you along with a wee guest post written by Barbara too.

Publication date for Wilderness Wars is 16 August 2018 and I’m pretty sure that preorder links will be available soon (as soon as I get them I will be placing my order so will let you all know!), but meantime, here’s the book blurb before you see THAT cover!

Description:

What if nature fights back?

In a daze, I take it all in: the wind, the leaden skies, the churning moody sea.

And, far in the distance, a misty outline.

Skelsay.

Wilderness haven. Building-site. Luxury-retreat-to-be.

And now, home.

When her father’s construction work takes Em’s family to the uninhabited island of Skelsay, she is excited, but also a little uneasy. Soon Em and her friend Zac realise that the setbacks, mishaps and accidents on the island point to something altogether more sinister: the wilderness all around them has declared war.

Danger lurks everywhere. But can they persuade the adults to believe them it before it’s too late?

 

 

 

Wilderness Wars EBOOK.jpg

Wow!  What a cover, isn’t it spectacular?  I cannot wait to read this and find out what happens on the island of Skelsay!

 

And now, the fab guest piece by Barbara about the book, the journey to the cover image and why it’s perfect!

 

Wilderness Wars… great title!’ So said a writer friend at the beginning of the writing process. She had no idea what the book was going to be about, and to be fair, neither had I. All I had was the question which would become the tagline: What if nature fights back?

Intrigued by the concept, I began to spin a tale of mishaps and escalation, of real threat and frustration, of danger and ultimately, of disaster. I lived and breathed those moments with my characters. This was a story I didn’t like writing: I LOVED writing this story. The first draft was completed in 2013, and if anyone had asked me what my favourite of my seven completed novels was, I’d have chosen Wilderness Wars without hesitation.

I can’t even explain why – I think my writing is much more poetic in Fir for Luck, and the structure in Punch is probably tighter. But I had a connection with the subject which has only intensified with the subsequent years of Trumpish arrogance: When is it ok to impose our agenda on the natural world, and to take without giving back? And how far is too far? How can we protect the wild places we have left from short-term profiteers like Ian Pratt in my book? I was hugely invested in this book, whether it ever saw the light of day or not. I was ecstatic when Cranachan decided to take it on.

However, without realising it, I also had a fairly fixed idea in my head of what the cover needed:

Threat and darkness. Waves. Earth and sea colours, and drama – lots and lots of it! Could I get away with another running silhouette? How could a battle of such unequal parties be shown, and how could it captivate young people – and the adults who buy books for them

I hadn’t realised how inflexible I had become until Cranachan’s designer Anne Glennie and I had ‘the cover discussion’. I had sent her image after image of, essentially, the same thing: a stylised giant wave. In her patience with me she had a go at manipulating lots of options but also threw in some images which were very different. I dismissed them one after the other in my mind, but the vibrant blue, the jaggy shards of rock and the seemingly idyllic blue sky of this particular design drew me magnetically towards it. It wasn’t what I had thought of, but it was vibrant. Attractive and majestic, without being cosy – the birds have no eyes, for goodness’ sake! Creepy enough to suggest a threat, surely.

Time for the final test: I placed the image on the computer screen and walked away as far as I could in the house. Turning, I opened my eyes and wham! It would have the impact it needed, across a bookshop. The power to draw readers towards it.

This realisation was the thin wedge Anne needed, the seed of doubt which allowed me to finally let go of my boring wave.

And man, am I glad I did. It’s a stunner, this cover, and my screensaver for everything.

EVERYTHING!

I LOOOOOVE it!

About the Author:

IMG_2648

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. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.
Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition. She blogs regularly at write4bairns.wordpress.com where full details of her writing achievements can also be found.
Barbara is currently based in Inverness.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.barbarahenderson.co.uk/
Twitter: @scattyscribbler
Blog: write4bairns.wordpress.com

 

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Another Friday and another wonderful book to share with you from the mind of the hugely talented John K. Fulton.  Last year I was incredibly fortunate to read a copy of John’s second novel The Beast on The Broch  and absolutely fell in love with the way he writes, bringing the stories alive through the eyes of a younger perspective and giving me a glimpse of a world I’d never experienced.  Today I am honoured to be able to share a review with you of The Wreck of The Argyll which is set in 1915 Dundee and is the tale of plucky young Nancy Caird and Jamie Balfour.

 

9781911279297_1

** My thanks to Anne at Cranachan Books for my copy of this wonderful book **

 

Description:

WHEN YOUR TEACHER’S A SPY, WHO CAN YOU TRUST?

Dundee, 1915.

When twelve-year-old Nancy suspects one of her teachers is a German spy, she ropes in the reluctant Jamie Balfour to help her uncover the scheme.

Midshipman Harry Melville is aboard HMS Argyll in the stormy North Sea, unaware of both hidden rocks and German plots that threaten the ship. Nancy and Jamie discover HMS Argyll is in deadly danger and they are drawn into a web of espionage, secrets, and betrayal, where no-one is as they seem and no-one can be trusted.

My Thoughts & Review:

The Wreck of The Argyll is a wonderful tale that explores the idea of WWI and spies through the eyes of 12-year-old Nancy Caird and her unwilling companion Jamie Balfour.  But also gives readers a glimpse into the life of a young Naval crewman on his first mission at sea in what proves to be a drama packed journey.

Nancy is the perfect mix of inquisitive, brave and determined, and so it’s only natural for our young protagonist to feel she’s wasting her time attending school when there’s a war on and her time could be better spent contributing to the war effort.  She fancies herself as a detective and is soon on the case of an enemy agent, following one of her teachers down the darkened streets of Dundee.  She’s sure that he must be a spy, and is out to prove it when she stumbles across a situation that even her quick thinking can’t save her from.  Her rescue by Jamie Balfour marks the beginning of a new friendship, and a new partner in the hunt for an enemy spy.

Meanwhile, aboard the HMS Argyll a young Midshipman is finding his feet on his first ship at sea, a rather stormy sea.  The conditions for sailing are far from perfect and it soon transpires that this ship must get to it’s destination and avoid the enemy at all costs.  Whilst Midshipman Harry Melville may come across as mature and responsible, it’s hard to remember that he is only a young lad, not that much older than Nancy Caird and Jamie Balfour.

The thread of the plot around the ship and crew is fascinating and holds so much intrigue.  The tension is perfectly paced with some superb characters that readers will eagerly race through to find out what will happen next.  But equally, the storyline of Nancy, Jamie and the spy is absolutely wonderful.  The dialogue and characters are spot on and work so fantastically.  The snippets of historical information are cleverly woven into the plot and make this hugely enjoyable, I loved the attitudes and sense of humour of the returning soldiers.

Casting a young person as the driver for the story allows readers a rare glimpse into a mindset that questions things at face value.  The way that Nancy sees something is wrong and feels that she must do something about it is commendable.  Perhaps it’s because of her young age that she’s not world-weary yet, or perhaps it’s her nature, but either way it makes for a wonderfully rich and authentic tale that draws readers in and makes them feel flutters of excitement, momentary dread and carried them off on a whirlwind adventure.

A fascinating and exciting tale that I would highly recommend for all readers with some very important messages sprinkled throughout the text, namely that working together will help you overcome obstacles.

So highly recommended!!

You can buy a copy of The Wreck of The Argyll via:

Cranachan Publishing (publisher)
Wordery
Amazon UK

 

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I am so excited to be able to share the cover of a remarkable book with you today, this has to be one of my highly anticipated reads this year and I’m sure once you see the cover and find out a little more about it you will see why and may be persuaded to check it out too!

A Pattern of Secrets EBOOK COVER FINAL

A Victorian mystery for children, A Pattern of Secrets, is Lindsay Littleson’s third novel and will be published by Cranachan Publishing on 16 April 2018. 

 

Description:

Can the secrets of the past save the future?

The worlds of rich and poor collide in this gripping Victorian adventure as Jim and Jessie unravel the past and its pattern of secrets…

Paisley 1876. 12-year-old Jim has escaped from the Poor House and now he must save his little brother from the same fate.

His only hope lies in a mysterious family heirloom—a Paisley-patterned shawl that has five guineas sewn into its hem—the price of freedom.

Now Jim must find the shawl and break into the big house to steal it back…

But the girl with the red hair is always watching…

You can pre-order a copy via the publisher today

 

The cover from the publisher’s perspective, Anne Glennie:

We really want our authors to love their covers and one of the advantages of being a small publisher is that we can work closely with our authors. From the beginning, Lindsay had been sending me wee pictures, colour ideas and fabric samples – so I started to build up a mental picture quite quickly. We had to have Paisley pattern fabric, including deep purple shades. As the book is a Victorian mystery, the cover needed to suggest this too – so a fancy Victorian font was in order. Then we needed our protagonists, Jessie and Jim and, although the books are historical, we want them to be just as attractive to our readers – so that means no period costumes; silhouettes were perfect for this cover! Then it was simply a case of adding some final touches to hint at the sewing/fabric theming. Luckily, Lindsay loved all of the cover versions I sent her – the hardest job for us was choosing the final one!

 

The cover from the author’s perspective, Lindsay Littleson:

If I had talent in book cover design, I would have designed this cover for A Pattern of Secrets, so thank you, Anne Glennie of Cranachan Books!

During the last year I have bombarded poor Anne with photographs of random items in bright pink, red and purple Paisley patterns. The famous pattern is such an integral part of my story that I was very keen for it to be on the cover in some way, but had no clear idea of how that could be achieved.

Thankfully, Anne is multi-talented, and when she sent me the first cover ideas I was absolutely thrilled by how she’d managed to include Paisley pattern without making the cover look too busy.  The glowing colours are really striking against the black background and the ornate Victorian title font is gorgeous in gold. The little golden thimble and reels of thread give further hints that this is a story set in Paisley’s rich textile past.

Anne produced several stunning covers, some with a single silhouette, but we both decided that having the boy and girl silhouettes on the front cover was vital, as the story is told from the perspective of both children; Jessie, the feisty daughter of a wealthy Paisley shawl manufacturer, and Jim, a homeless boy on a desperate quest to save his family. Their stories are equally important, two separate strands that weave together as Jessie joins Jim in a frantic race against time to solve the mystery of the missing heirloom before his mother and siblings are torn apart.

With such a gorgeous cover, who wouldn’t want this novel on their bookshelf?

About the Author:

Lindsay Littleson has four grown-up (ish) children and lives near Glasgow. A full-time primary teacher, she began writing for children in 2014 and won the Kelpies Prize for her first children’s novel The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean. The sequel, The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean, is also published by Floris Books. In 2015 her WW1 novel Shell Hole was shortlisted for the Dundee Great War Children’s Book Prize and she enjoyed engaging in research so much that she was inspired to write another historical novel, A Pattern of Secrets, this time focusing on her local area.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.lindsaylittleson.co.uk
Twitter: @ljlittleson

 

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As we close out the year and look forward to the approaching New Year, I wanted to round up all of the posts I’ve been lucky enough to feature from independent publishers and authors this year.  There have been so many brilliant books, wonderful authors and lovely publishers who have been part of my Friday feature and I cannot begin to thank them enough for entrusting me with their books and tales, it’s an honour to be asked to review any book and I always feel so privileged.

I’ve recapped the posts from Urbane Publications, Orenda Books and No Exit Press so far, and due to flu I’ve not had a chance to pull together the posts for the other publishers who have been part of Celebrating Indie Publishing yet, but here goes!  A huge end of year round up of Indie Publishing on The Quiet Knitter.

Bloodhound Books:

Review of Death Parts Us & Author Feature with Alex Walters

Review of End of Lies by Andrew Barrett

Bombshell Books:

Review of The Trouble With Words & Author Feature with Suzie Tullett

Elliott & Thompson:

Review of The Classic FM Musical Treasury by Tim Lihoreau

Review of Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain by Lucy Jones

Review of Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When the Birds Sing by Richard Smyth

Review of Hitler’s Forgotten Children by Ingrid Von Oelhafen and Tim Tate

Review of Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags by Tim Marshall

Review of Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People by Julia Boyd

Review of What’s Your Bias? The Surprising Science of Why We Vote the Way We Do by Lee De-Wit

Review of The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones

Cranachan Books:

Review of Fir For Luck & Author Feature with Barbara Henderson

Review of The Beast on The Broch & Author Feature with John K. Fulton

Review The Revenge of Tirpitz & Author Feature with Michelle Sloan

Review Buy Buy Baby & Author Feature with Helen MacKinven

Review Charlie’s Promise & Author Feature with Annemarie Allan

Review Nailing Jess by Triona Scully

Review Punch by Barbara Henderson

The Dome Press:

Review Sleeper & Author Feature with J.D. Fennell

Black and White Publishing:

Review The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin

Modern Books:

Review De/Cipher: The Greatest Codes by Mark Frary

Review Literary Wonderlands Edited by Laura Miller

 

And not forgetting the wonderful authors who have been involved:

Anne Goodwin

Review of Underneath & Author Feature

Carol Cooper

Review of Hampstead Fever & Author Feature

Clare Daly

Review of Our Destiny is Blood & Author Feature

Ray Britain

Review of The Last Thread & Author Feature 

 

Wow, what a year it’s been!  I can honestly say that I’ve discovered some absolutely brilliant books this year, some were ones that I might not have noticed if I had not been making such an effort to read more indie books – just shows you, there are hidden gems out there, you just have to open your eyes to the possibilities of brilliance!

Thank you authors, publishers, readers, bloggers, everyone who has taken time to read my Celebrating Indie Publishing feature, everyone who has commented on the posts, your support this year has been immense and I definitely would not have managed this without you all.

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Punch cover inc. quotes

** My thanks to Barbara Henderson for my copy of Punch and for inviting me to be part of her blog tour **

 

Description:

Wrong place. Wrong time. A boy on the run.
THE MARKET’S ON FIRE. FIRE! FIRE! THE BOY DID IT!

Smoke belches out through the market entrance.

And me?

I turn and run.

Inverness 1889.

When 12-year-old Phin is accused of a terrible crime, his only option is to flee. In the unlikely company of an escaped prisoner and a group of travelling entertainers, he enters a new world of Punch and Judy shows and dancing bears.

But will Phin clear his name?

And what can he do when memories of a darker, more terrible crime begin to haunt him?

My Thoughts & Review:

Once in a while, an author comes along that possesses the rare gift of being a true storyteller.  A storyteller who can weave together a tale so wondrous and fascinating that you can barely pause for breath or tear your attention away, and for me that is Barbara Henderson.  From the first pages of her debut Fir For Luck I knew that this was an author I would be devotedly following from now on, and you cannot begin to imagine my happiness when I heard about her next book Punch.

A wonderfully rich and exciting plot awaits the reader behind such a vivid cover, and one of the most impressive things about this book is that it is narrated from the perspective of 12-year-old Phin which allows readers the opportunity to experience the world from a very different point of view.  The reason that I am most impressed with this is the fact that as a woman in her 30s, I rarely see the world without my over analytical (and sometimes anxious) mind, whilst the world is never black and white, through the eyes of Phin we see the world entirely different.  Phin’s take on the world around him, and indeed the adults that have thus far shaped his life make for interesting reading and really add another layer to this novel.  He is an exceptional character, and despite the cruel hand that has been dealt to him, he never fails to show compassion and decency towards others.  I was particularly struck by the compassion he showed towards the children in the audience at one of the shows of Professor Merriweather Moffat’s Royal Entertainment Show. 

Victorian Scotland really comes alive from the pages as Barbara Henderson masterfully casts her spell on readers.  The vivid descriptions are utterly beguiling, I could conjure clear images in my head of settings and characters, I felt like I was there in 19th Century Edinburgh and Balmoral.  It was almost like stepping back in time when reading this, and I loved every second of it.

A captivating novel that I have no doubt will steal the hearts of readers across the generations and I know I will be saving my copy of this remarkable book for my daughter to read in a few years time.

I would urge you to buy a copy, I cannot recommend this (and Fir For Luck) highly enough.

You can buy a copy of Punch via:

Amazon
Wordery
Book Depository
Waterstones

 

 

About the Author:

IMG_2648

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

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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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