A Baby’s Bones by Rebecca Alexander – Guest Post – Blog Tour.

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Today it is my pleasure to host a guest post from Rebecca Alexander who talks about how literary and film influenced her writing. But first I will tell you about the book. It is one that I can’t wait to read.

About the Book

Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene, one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love. Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work…

Literary and Film Influences

There is always an overlap between writing history, with its snippets of information lost in ledgers and court documents, and wanting to write a historical fiction with realistic characters. Every writer tackles that overlap differently. Alison Weir, for example, strikes me as a writer who uses every bit of known information them lets imagination fill in the gaps. I find her books wonderfully researched, full of the tiny details of Tudor life. Philippa Gregory manages to convince me in a different way, the characters believable and the story in the foreground, the background authoritative without being too detailed. I enjoy both enormously, and both help me find my way in the morass of historical detail to trust in the story.

I’m a big fan of the 1580s for lots of reasons, and I’m not alone. Films from Shakespeare in Love to Elizabeth: The Golden Years show a glittering world of an England in a cultural renaissance. Ordinary people had seen their prosperity improve, religious freedom started to develop (at least in private) and our modern perspective on things like science and human rights started to evolve. It was also a time of more trading and travel around the world, importing silks and spices, sugar and new technologies. I love C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake mysteries, they are based earlier but reflect the turmoil that England was going through with the upheaval of the dissolution of the monasteries. But when writing the historical strand, my strongest influence came from books like the Giordano Bruno mysteries by S.J. Parris. Bruno is surrounded by many of the characters from my own books like John Dee (the sorcerer and astrologer) and his associate, Edward Kelley. I was also informed by the fascinating The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer, which is so entertaining I read it like a novel when I first found it.

Although I hadn’t read Elly Griffiths’ wonderful Ruth Galloway stories until after I had written A Baby’s Bones, I loved them. I enjoyed the slightly disorganised, strongly independent main character, and the wide range of archaeological puzzles she writes about. I have since read them all and they are wonderful at developing the main characters through the varied storylines and the crimes she investigates.

Writing historical fiction obviously involves reading a lot of research, some of whom tell their own stories. Many books from the era survive, and it’s possible to get lost in the research and struggle to find time to write the story. With A Baby’s Bones I found the story easier to write while wandering around Elizabethan houses, reading ‘receipt books’ like Catherine Tollemache’s and reading Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir’s books.

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A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard -Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Child psychiatrist Kate Wolfe’s world comes crashing down when one of her young patients commits suicide, so when a troubled girl is left at the hospital ward, she doubts her ability to help. But the girl knows things about Kate’s past, things she shouldn’t know, forcing Kate to face the murky evidence surrounding her own sister s murder sixteen years before. A murder for which a man is about to be executed. Unearthing secrets about her own family, and forced to face both her difficult relationship with her distant father and the possibility that her mother might also have met a violent end, the shocking final twist brings Kate face to face with her deepest fear.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew it would be one I would enjoy. It is a psychological thriller that slowly builds up to the main story and I really appreciated knowing more about Kate and her work before learning more about the tragic events from her past.
I liked her a lot, her relationship with her partner James felt real, and you also learned about the pressures in his job. Her fractured relationship with her father,which made her feel guilty for not doing more all made a fictional character real.
The insight into her work helped a lot, I found it to be a very interesting perspective and different to a crime novel that is mainly from a policing point of view. There were a couple of chilling parts in the novel, one was her work and the danger it could put her in. The other was witnessing something that we don’t do in this country. I have read similar before but it was shown here with a lot more feeling.
I enjoyed this novel as a standalone but there were characters in it that I would enjoy meeting again.

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I Remember You by Elisabeth De Mariaffi – Guest Post – Blog Tour.

 

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It is my pleasure today to welcome to my blog Elisabeth De Mariaffi  to talk about writing her novel I Remember You that I hope to read shortly.

About the Book

Heike Lerner has a charmed life. A stay-at-home mother married to a prominent psychiatrist, it s a far cry from the damaged child she used to be. But her world is shaken when her four-year-old son befriends a little girl at a nearby lake, who vanishes under the water. And when Heike dives in after her, there s no sign of a body.
Desperate to discover what happened to the child, Heike seeks out Leo Dolan, a television writer exploring the paranormal , but finds herself caught between her controlling husband and the intense Dolan . Then her son disappears, and Heike’s husband was the last to see him alive …

To purchase the novel see here

Guest Post

When I first began writing I Remember You, I wasn’t sure what I had was a novel at all. The first scene I wrote felt more like myth, like a kind of magical short story: a young mother and her little boy lounge on a raft in the middle of a pond, when suddenly a strange girl surfaces from the water—seemingly, out of nowhere. While her son is enchanted by the girl and immediately begins to play with her, the mother is anxious: Where did this girl come from? Where are her parents? The woods around them are still. When, a moment later, the little girl skips across the surface of the pond and then dives back under, the mother knows something is terribly wrong. She holds her son tight against her, waiting. But the girl never resurfaces.

I’ve written previously about how important traditional fairy tales were to the crafting of the novel, but it wasn’t until after I was well into the writing that I began to understand how important they were to my protagonist, Heike Lerner, as well. As a teenager in the last days of World War II, Heike escaped from Dresden on foot, just days ahead of the fire bombs. By the time we meet her again, her life is completely changed: it’s 1956, and she’s living in a swank summer house in upstate New York with her new husband, Eric, an American psychiatrist, and their young son.

It’s a charmed life, but the hard truth is that the trauma of the war had its effect on Heike. She remembers very little of what came immediately after her escape. All she has to go on is the story that Eric has told her, and that he asks her to repeat back to him: where they met, how they married, the ways they began their life together.

But Heike has a story of her own to tell. At night, when she’s putting little Daniel to bed, she makes up fairy tales as bedtime stories—and one in particular, that she repeats over and over, might just be a clue to her past.

Into all this comes the very charming Leo Dolan, a television writer and producer whose work I based on that of Rod Serling, creator of the ground-breaking series “The Twilight Zone.” Dolan, like the real-life Serling, wants to control his own show in part to get out from under the thumb of network censors. He wants to be able to write stories about real conflicts of the time: racism, fear of the nuclear threat, fear of the unknown. It’s this part of him that is so attractive to Heike: like herself, Dolan is a storyteller. Also, like Heike, he is committed to telling the story the way he sees it, rather than just accepting the version that conservative 1950s society has rubber-stamped. Before I knew it, the book had folded over on itself: stories within stories within stories. For a writer, what could be more enticing?

Once Dolan made his entrance, I got to up the ante. The novel is full of Easter eggs – references to fairy tales are buried throughout, as are hidden nods to some of my own favourite Twilight Zone episodes. In the end, I wanted the entire book to be able to function as a kind of standalone Twilight Zone episode itself – albeit, admittedly, a rather complicated one.

I Remember You blog tour (COMPLETE)

 

The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti – Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

In a quiet town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a school playing field. As journalists flock to the scene, one of them catches a teacher, Nate Winters, embracing a female student. The student claims that she and Nate are having an affair, sending shock waves through the close-knit community. Then the student disappears, and the police have only one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s wife, Alecia, is left wondering if she ever really knew her seemingly loving husband. Nate’s co-worker, Bridget, is determined to prove his innocence and find the missing student. But both women will have to ask themselves do they really know what Nate is capable of?

My Review

The last time I received a book by Kate Moretti ( The Vanishing Year) it came with a lily in a gift box. The Blackbird Season arrived with a handful of black feathers.
I love watching birds and I can’t even begin to imagine a scene where 1000 birds are dead on a school playing field. When the press descend on the area they witness something that manages to take their focus away from what they were meant to be investigating. A teacher and student embracing. When the student then disappears Nate is in danger of losing his family, career and his good name.
When I first started to read the novel I disliked one of the characters, Alecia, immediately. She was Nate’s wife and I should have had sympathy for her but I found her cold and unapproachable. By the time I had finished it, the only character I liked was Bridget. She was the only one who showed any compassion to the student Lucia. It takes place in a town that has nothing left to offer. The mill, which was the main employer had closed and it was no longer a close-knit community. All of the students who were in Lucia’s group were desperate to escape and live their life elsewhere.
I couldn’t work Nate out, was he an innocent Mr Nice Guy who the students could turn to for support or was he somebody who had an unhealthy obsession with his students. My inclination was to go with the latter, if only because of his social media habits.
Bridget, however, grieving the loss of her husband wants to know the truth but knows she needs to maintain her integrity by keeping some distance. She understood a teenage mind a lot better than Nate did.
All of the teenagers were believable. They made me think of a pack of animals circling their prey, looking for a way to cause humiliation or harm. Even though Lucia didn’t make life easy for herself I did feel sorry for her. She did have an intimidating personality though.
I enjoyed reading the previous book The Vanishing Year and even though this book is different I think I prefered it. The author is skilled at creating characters that are difficult to like and in keeping her reader gripped. There were a few times that I thought  knew what happened and then something else would be revealed. Just a little at a time, to keep the reader guessing.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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City of Saviours by Rachel Howzell Hall – Guest Post and Review.

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On my blog today, I have a guest post from author Rachel Howzell Hall and a review of her new book City of Saviours.

Character as a Cure by Rachel Howzell Hall

I read a lot.
As a kid, no one knew how I looked because a book always covered my face. From Jackie Collins to Stephen King, from D.H. Lawrence to Alice Walker, I read everything.
Problem was I identified with every character except for characters that represented me, my part of Los Angeles, my experience as an African-American woman.
Sure, Michael Connelly and Walter Mosley, Raymond Chandler and Daschell Hammett put Los Angeles mystery on the map. But in them, I did not see me. And I wondered, what would it look like to have a native Angeleno, a black Angeleno, who grew up working class but went to college and came back home to solve mysteries… What would that look like and who’s gonna write that?
Paula L. Wood wrote that story first in her Charlotte Justice series. These post-Los Angeles riot stories helped meet my need. But I needed more. I deserved more. Hell, I’d purchased my share, and yours, and yours over there of books. Why wouldn’t someone write about my friends, me, my Los Angeles?
In 2002, I’d already published my first novel A Quiet Storm. It’s an L.A. story, with mystery elements but it wasn’t a procedural. I wanted to write that mystery but I was scared—fear of failing, fear of not knowing enough. But then, in 2003, while pregnant with my daughter, I was diagnosed with cancer. That’s when I met true fear.
After successful surgeries and a healthy baby girl, I had another cancer scare. Life had never been a smooth journey for me, but now? So, I asked myself: What do I want to do before I’m taken from this place?
Buy a Benz. Write a crime novel.
Getting the car was easy – my credit was spotless.
Writing that novel, though? I wasn’t a cop. I didn’t know cops. But I knew Los Angeles. And I knew that mystery writers threw some of the best writing conventions ever. And what’s the worst that could happen? I’d beat cancer—nothing could scare me more than that.
Elouise Norton, LAPD Homicide Detective, came out of my frustration as a reader, came out of a desire to see my experience on a page, came out of my embrace of life. She has been my therapy—being a survivor still means living with that threat each day—and she has been my ambassador—I’ve met incredible readers and writers and traveled to so many places because of her.
Lou has changed over the course of four books and in this last, I had to break her. A woman can only be so strong for so long and I wanted to reflect that in her. In City of Saviors, all the stress of the prior three books culminates in this story. She’s weaker, she’s stronger—but she holds fast to hope. Just as I do. She ugly-cries, she laughs, she’s pissed off, she eats bags of Doritos and sometimes, refuses to acknowledge how much she hurts—just like you, just like me.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Lou Norton came out of a selfish need of mine but I’m incredibly proud to share her with you now. Hope she helps—she has certainly helped me.

About the book

Seventy-three-year-old Eugene Washington appears to have died in an unremarkable way, but LAPD homicide detective Elouise “”Lou”” Norton is positive that something isn’t right. Especially when she learns that the only family Washington had was his fellow church-goers. Could the murderer be sitting in one of those red velvet pews? And is someone protecting the wolf in the flock? Lou must force the truth into the light before it’s too late

My Review

City of Saviours is the fourth book in the series to feature Lou Norton but the first that I have read. Obviously, there is a lot of back story but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book and it was easy to read as a standalone. If anything, the back story has made me intrigued about what I have missed.
Lou is my new favourite heroine. A female, black police officer, she has to prove herself more than necessary that she can do her job. She does get respect from her immediate team, although she isn’t entirely trusting of them. There are a few in the force who would be happy to see her fail.
The murder is a strange one. Lou insists that it isn’t natural causes immediately and demands that the property and Eugene’s life is thoroughly investigated. It is when I read books like this that I am reminded that I would be useless working in forensics. With the vivid description of what they had to work through in the property, I could practically see, smell and taste everything. My skin was crawling at times even though living in the North West of England the weather was slightly different to a Los Angeles heatwave.
It wasn’t all about the crime, there was also focus on her private life, the relationship with her ex-husband, best friends and a tentative relationship with Sam. It was this part of the novel where I noticed the back story more.
It is a brilliant introduction to an established series that I plan on catching up with.
With thanks to the author for the fantastic guest post and the publisher for the copy received.