Thursday 30 July 2015

Marshall's Family review and author interview - Anson Welsh

Marshall's Family is the story of Richard Marshall (just Marshall to his friends) who flies a plane for EASAMCo Aviation in Africa.
Marshall is a reserved, unassuming man who wants nothing more than an quiet life, but this isn't always possible when you are married to a woman like Fiona. Social standing and other people's opinions are high on Fiona's list of priorities with Marshall and daughter Kate coming lower down on that list. Fiona has her own way of doing things so that others will look up to her and respect her and heaven forbid that either Kate or Marshall should do anything to show her up.

When Kate arrives home from boarding school with her new boyfriend in tow, Marshall is quick to realise that David Wilson won't be accepted by Fiona as he's black. So between them Marshall and Kate decide that it's better not to mention this until Fiona has been sounded out. Things go as expected and Fiona is soon pushing Kate towards an old ex-boyfriend who is far more socially acceptable. It's no wonder then that Marshall is secretly having an affair with Donna, a coloured nurse who he met through his work and that the secret about David isn't the only one he's keeping.

When a group of soldiers show up at the airfield Marshall soon becomes aware that times are changing in Africa and not for the better. He soon finds himself in a very compromising position but his quick thinking means that he's able to wriggle out of a sticky situation, but it's the first of many.

I loved Anson's writing style, it's a clever blend of thriller and adventure with a little touch of a love story thrown in for good measure.The clever combination of the character's background running alongside the story as it happens is superbly done and it's hard to believe that this is a debut novel as I felt the writing was very accomplished. As the story builds I found I was reading faster and faster to reach the end but at the same time I didn't want the story to finish. Some of the descriptions are brutal and somewhat horrific but they are essential to the story and are in no way gratuitous and if anything they are a true reflection of the world we live in today.

This was a truly thrilling read with a high octane ending and I would highly recommend that you give this debut author a try, I honestly don't think that you'll regret it and I'm already looking forward to reading more from Anson Welsh.

I'm delighted that Anson agreed to have a chat with me and you can read below what he had to say.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born and raised in a South Wales mining valley. My father worked for the Health Service and my mother was a homemaker. We were not terribly well off, though certainly not poor, but money was always tight.

When I was about ten years old someone lent me a copy of ‘Biggles and the Cruise of the Condor,’ though hardly great literature, it did have a huge impact on my life. By the time I had finished the book I had decided that I was going to be a pilot. And that was that, I never once changed my mind.

I started my flying training when I was nineteen, and worked full-time as a pilot from the age of twenty-one until my retirement from airline flying, when I hit the buffers at sixty-five.

I had a modest but varied and enjoyable flying career. Though most of it was spent as a short-haul airline pilot, operating around the UK and Europe, in my younger days I did a season as a glider tug pilot (unpaid - I needed the flying hours), I also worked as a Flying Instructor, a photo-survey pilot, a Flying Doctor Service pilot in Africa for two years, and as a pilot for the oil industry, in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, for eight years.

I met my wife in Africa. She was doing Voluntary Service Overseas, working as a nurse in a children’s hospital. We live in a small market town in Devon, near the moors and not far from the sea. Our three children are all grown up and leading their own lives, though we see them regularly.

I still do some flying, at a flying club in Cornwall, as a part-time instructor. I also own a share in a quaint little aeroplane that is one year older than myself. 

How are you feeling about the upcoming release of your debut novel, Marshall’s Family?
Well, getting this far has been a bit of a long haul, but now that its publication is imminent I am naturally getting rather excited.

What inspired you to write a novel based in Africa? 
Actually, I originally had the idea about the story when the Cold War was still on, so Marshall’s Family was going to be set in a Europe that was being invaded by Russia. The rapprochement between East and West shot that particular fox, but after a little thought Africa seemed an obvious alternative. Apart from having lived and worked there I have always maintained an interest in what is happening on that continent, so it fitted in quite naturally.

How long did it take you to write it?
From a standing start to the first complete draft probably took about six years, but I had the idea a long time before I started bashing the keyboard, and it has been through several re-writes since I first wrote THE END at the bottom of the last page. 

Some parts of your novel are quite graphic but are required for the story. How did you feel writing this?
There has been, and still is, a lot of quite unnecessary cruelty in the world. People chop each other up over trivial differences in skin colour, religion, politics and almost anything else that can be recognised as a difference. It is the supreme failing of the human race and is quite likely to eventually lead to its downfall. Torture, rape, mutilation and murder are everyday occurrences in some parts of the world, but though we don’t see it, Marshall did, and readers will see it too, through his horrified eyes, and maybe think about, as I did when I wrote it, and still do think about, even now.

What was the hardest part of writing Marshall’s Family?
Keeping my bottom on the seat and my fingers on the keyboard. There was always something else to be done…

Marshall’s character is extremely heroic. Did you have his complete story in your head before you started writing it?
 No, is the quick answer. I actually started with the opening scene and the final scene and not much in between. However, I did have a very clear picture in my mind about Marshall’s character: essentially a good man, not naturally courageous but able to find courage when the need arose. The rest grew organically as the story progressed.

Did you consider any alternative endings for your novel?
Yes, I did think of making the ending happier, and there was originally a much longer closing scene, involving Fiona, that eventually fell under the ‘delete’ button. 

When did you first realise that you wanted to write a book?
Probably when I was in my thirties, but I could never find the time. However, I did write some articles for an aviation magazine that were well received, which gave me hope that perhaps, when I did have time, I could produce something worth reading. When I started to spend quite long periods away from home, because of my job, I decided there would never be a better opportunity. I often had hours before or after a flying duty with not a lot to do, so I began to write Marshall’s Family. Most of it was written in hotels dotted around the UK and Europe.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

My wife and I love walking so we often go on longish walks on Dartmoor or along the coast. We have also been walking in India, Ethiopia and the United States, as well as many places in Europe. Of course the flying club takes up two or three days a week, when the weather is suitable for flying little aeroplanes, and I read a lot, enjoy television dramas, the cinema and the theatre.

Are you a full or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
Well, I am very much a part-time writer, though I think about writing a lot, particularly when I’m walking. I would say that I spend more time writing in my head than in front of a screen. However, I feel that with one completed novel under my belt I really would like to get on with the next one. I have set myself a deadline, which I shall probably miss, of having it ready by this time next year. It is quite well advanced so we shall see…

What do you think makes a good story? 
I think well defined characters are very important, combined with good plot, full of incident, which builds up to an unexpected ending.

What author’s do you read and why?
I actually read quite a lot of non-fiction. History mostly, I’ve just finished The Santa Fe Trail, by David Dary, which I read because I was about to visit Santa Fe. I was interested to know why such a small town was so important in the early history of the Southwest United States. I also read quite a lot of popular science, nothing too heavy my brain can’t cope. I am a huge fan of Graham Greene and re-read his books from time to time. My aviation literary heroes are Ernest K. Gann and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, I know chunks of Wind, Sand and Stars by heart. Right now I am going through an ‘American’ phase, reading A. B. Guthrie Jr., Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Paul Auster and Paulette Giles. The ‘why’ is difficult to answer, but I think it is because the United States is very different from the UK, where I live, more different than we often realise. The common language makes us forget that it is a foreign country to us, where the people have attitudes and lifestyles often quite different to our own. Fiction helps me to explore the differences.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not really, except that I write at a little round table that once belonged to a Chinese coffee shop.

I believe you’re currently writing novel number two. Can you give us any clues as to what we can expect?
Yes, it is set before, during and after World War II, and concerns a young boy who falls in love with a German girl who is temporarily living nearby. She returns to Germany just before war breaks out. The story follows his experiences as a rear-gunner on B17 bombers raiding Germany, and the terrible life she leads in her homeland, both as a victim of the state and of the bombing. At the centre of the plot is a coincidence, involving them both, which profoundly affects her life.

Is there anything you would like to say to the readers? 
Only, that I hope you enjoyed, or will enjoy, Marshall’s Family and that a little of it will stay with you for a while. Thank you.

I'd like to say a very big thank you to Anson Welsh for taking the time to answer my questions and I'd like to take this opportunity to wish him every success with his debut novel.

Anson can be found  at the places below 

Amazon Profile


Tuesday 28 July 2015

Lost (The Caelian Cycle Book 1) - Donnielle Tyner

I enjoy reading Dystopian books every one in a while (I loved The Hunger Games and I have Divergent somewhere in the depths of my TBR pile) so Lost was a wonderful find for me.

Set one hundred years after a meteorite crash during WW1 some of the population have now developed Talents (special skills) due to a mist changing their DNA and are known as Caelians, whilst others have remained unaffected and are known as Norms. There is conflict between the two and their society is divided.

Sadie is a 17 year old orphan living at St Vincent's and when we meet her she's struggling with the death of her boyfriend and finding her own Talent. A chance meeting with a Calelian boy named Kian is the beginning of a chain of events that puts Sadie and her friends in grave danger but who can she trust?

This is a superb debut novel from Donnielle Tyner and I'm glad that there will be more to come. The prologue provides a brief glimpse into how Sadie came to be an orphan and once I read that, I was hooked. I had so many questions and the only way to resolve them was to read on. The characters are nicely developed, which made it easy for you to root for them when the chips were down and Sadie's character is even more appealing as she isn't your typical teenage protagonist who needs a good shake to get her to make the right decision and turns into a lump of jelly at the sight of the tall, handsome stranger. Although this is aimed at the YA market I think it makes genuinely good reading for older readers as well so don't let that tag put you off. 

Overall this was an enjoyable read, the story flowed well, the characters were colourful and it was a truly engaging read. I would have like a little bit more background on Sadie's grandfather but I'm hoping that I'll find out more in the next book. There are lots of little twists and turns which kept my interest and although things came together at the end you can definitely see why there needs to be another instalment and I wish Donnielle every success with it.

With kind thanks to author Donnielle Tyner for the review copy.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Burn Girl - Mandy Mikulencak

Burn Girl is the story of Arlie who has been physically and mentally scarred after being involved in a meth-lab explosion. Her life so far hasn't been an easy one, her mother's a drug addict, she doesn't know who her father is and she's on the run with her mum from her abusive step-father. When her mum dies of an overdose, Arlie has two choices, call the police or run-away.

Unbeknown to her, she has an uncle called Frank who is willing to take care of her and with his help and her friend Mo she is able to start living the normal life of a teenager, going to school, joining a singing group and finding a boyfriend. Just as Arlie is starting to find her feet she suspects that her step-father, Lloyd has somehow tracked her down and that can only mean trouble.

The idea of this story was a good one but I didn't feel that it was developed as well as it could have been. There were times when I just wanted to shake Arlie and tell her to face up to things instead of running away. Saying that though, I liked the way the author portrayed her friendship with Mo and Cody and the strength Arlie gained from them. I loved Uncle Frank who had his own issues to deal with but was always determined to do the right thing for Arlie and give her a stable home.

Overall this was a good read and I would recommend it for the young adult reader.

With thanks to NetGalley and publishers Albert Whitman & Company for the review copy.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Moving - Jenny Eclair

Moving is the fourth novel by English comedian, author and actor Jenny Eclair. It's a novel about the intricacies of family life told from three different perspectives.

Edwina Spinner has lived at 137 Kennington road for over fifty years but she's now coming to realise that it's far too big for a woman of her age to be rattling around in and she's decided it's time to sell up and move on. As Edwina is showing the estate agent around her home her story is revealed a little more with each room that they enter. She's been married twice and has a step-son as well as her own twins, but where are they now and how has she ended up alone?

The rest of Edwina's story is ingeniously told through the eyes of Fern Woolbright an eighteen year old student and Edwina's step-son Lucas. It's a story of heartbreak, jealousy, lies and secrets. Who is hiding what from who and why?

I really enjoyed reading this book. Edwina's character was beautifully written revealing a complex but warm character who I felt genuine empathy for. At first I wondered who Fern was but I soon understood her relevance to Edwina and the story continued along well. The story through the eyes of her step-son was the final part which pulled the whole novel together well. Initially Lucas was quite a churlish character and it took me a while to warm to him but at the end you realise that his intentions are good and that just because he can't right his previous wrongs there is still one last thing he can do to make amends.

I haven't read any of Jenny Eclair's previous novels but after reading this one I'd be more than happy to curl up with one of her other three.

With kind thanks to NetGalley and publishers Little, Brown Book Group for the review copy.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Life or Death - Michael Robotham

Life or Death is one hell of a read!

Audie Palmer has been in prison for 10 years for his involvement in an armed robbery that left four people dead, but for reasons known only to himself he escapes the day before he's due to be released. Is it because the rumours are true and he does know where the missing millions are, is he planning to meet his brother who was allegedly part of the gang and living the high life with his share of the money or is he looking for revenge? Whichever one it is, all we know initially is that Audie has made a promise to someone and he intends to keep his word. What follows is a cat and mouse like manhunt where we soon discover that not everything is as it seems.

The plot for me was breathtaking as I found myself caught up in a carefully crafted web of interwoven stories full of twists and turns, some of which caught me completely off guard. I found myself rooting for Audie, after all the beatings and attempts on his life while he was in prison, it must be time for his luck to change mustn't it?

This is the type of book that you find yourself racing through because you can't wait to find out what happens but at the same time you don't want to reach the end because then the story will be over. The writing was great and there was a real depth to each of the characters we meet along Audie's journey.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Michael Robotham's other novels but after reading this one I'm definitely off to get some and I think I'm in for a real treat.

With kind thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Little, Brown Book Group UK for the review copy.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Your Blood Is A Lovely Colour - Hannah Lily Arbuthnott

Your Blood Is A Lovely Colour is a step in a new direction for me as a reader as this isn't my usual type of read, but I was so intrigued by the blurb I just had to read it.

Sasha is a monster who is incarcerated in a secure unit after having murdered and partially eaten eleven people in broad daylight. But there's more to Sasha than meets the eye. When journalist Mr Smith visits the unit to interview her he gets more than he bargained for when she morphs from human to monster right in front of his eyes and he flees  for his life.

Missy Chase was a witness to Sasha's heinous crime and has been made to sign a confidentially document agreeing not to speak to anyone about what she's witnessed, but when her eighteen year old brother Nate hears the news and sees Sasha's picture on the television he is instantly drawn to her vivid blue eyes  and after to chatting to some friends about the incident on the bus to college he decides he's going to try to get to see her for himself.

Sasha just wants to be free to feed and live her life so after Nate's visit she manages to escape from the unit and heads to him for help. But will he be willing to come to her rescue?

The author has crafted a wonderful and unique novel that is rich in both description and narrative with a prodigious central character in Sasha and her alter-ego Asta, whose story is skilfully told in the form of flashbacks to Ancient Rome, woven throughout the book.

I've thought long and hard to try to decide which genre this beautifully written novel sits comfortably in but to no avail. It could fit  in many including fantasy, paranormal, historical, horror and possibly even romance. If you're looking for something a little different with an intriguing story and a little escapism, then I recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book. I'm glad I did and I'm looking forward to reading more.

With kind thanks to author Hannah Lily Arbuthnott for the review copy.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Glass Cutter: A Sgt Major Crane Thriller - Wendy Cartmell

Glass Cutter is a gem of a book that I luckily stumbled across one day as I was looking through various book related websites that book bloggers look at. Despite being number seven in a series it can easily be read as a stand-alone.

Louise is married to Peter, a Colonel in the army, and they have just relocated to Aldershot. It's not a happy marriage as Peter has lost interest in his wife and only really pays her any attention when they are at army social gatherings.

The story starts when Louise finds a journal wrapped in a silk headscarf hidden in a chest in the basement of their new house. The journal is embossed with the name Matilda Underwood and Louise is instantly intrigued and starts to read it. She discovers that Matilda's life is an unhappy one just like her own and Louise soon feels an affinity with her and begins to look upon Matilda as her only friend.

The more Louise reads, the more admiration she feels for Matilda who has taken a stand against the people who have previously wronged her and influenced by the journal Louise's own life begins to spiral out of control.

I enjoyed reading this book. It's written in a very easy to read style which flows nicely and the plot is well thought out. The author's knowledge of the military comes across well and as it's set in my home town that really appealed to me and I quite often found myself smiling when place names were mentioned. I'm pleased to have found this new author and thrilled to know that Wendy has written more which I will definitely be adding to my TBR at some point very soon.

You can find out more information on Wendy Cartmell and her books here.

With kind thanks to Wendy Cartmell for the review copy.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Follow You Home - Mark Edwards

I couldn't wait to read Follow You Home, the latest offering from author Mark Edwards and once again I wasn't disappointed.

Laura and Daniel are travelling on a night train in Romania when they meet a couple who will turn their lives upside down. It starts with them having their money and passports stolen and then being kicked off the train in the middle of nowhere. When they venture into a forest something literally unspeakable happens.

The next thing you know is that they have somehow managed to get home to London but things between the couple have turned sour and they are no longer together. It all links back to their time in Romania but neither of them are willing to talk to anyone about their experience. When strange things start to happen to them both they are forced to confront their demons with terrifying consequences.

I can't really say too much about the plot as I don't want to give anything away and spoil anyone's enjoyment of this great book. What I will say is that the writing is once again superb and the character's are, as always, believable. Just when you think you know what's coming next there's another plot twist which is exactly what happens right at the end of the book. You only have a few pages left to read, the story has reached it's conclusion, the remaining pages must surely just be the epilogue, but oh no, you're suddenly hit with another fantastic plot twist that I for one certainly didn't see coming. Mark Edwards I applaud you, each book you write is better than the last and your  writing is like a spider web, slowly and intricately weaved and once you get your reader hooked you don't let you go.

If you haven't read any of  this author's books and you like your psychological thrillers dark then I suggest you get your hands on a copy of this or any of his back catalogue.

Friday 3 July 2015

The Lives Between Us - Theresa Rizzo

I have a special guest reviewer on my blog today and I'd like you all to welcome my good friend Sarah Mackins, who has very kindly written a review for me. I "met" Sarah through a Facebook group that I joined about a year or so ago and like myself she's a voracious reader. I'd like to say a big thank you to Sarah for sharing her review and without further ado I'll let Sarah take over with her review of The Lives Between Us.

I was pleased to be offered a copy of this free in exchange for an honest review on the basis that I had enjoyed a similar style book.
There are sections I find hard to review without spoilers so I apologise if anything sounds vague.
This book takes on several elements in part in is a romantic story but with an underlying family tragedy and a political battle that bears several viewpoints and medical understanding of the difference between stem cell therapies.
This story is based around Skylar Kendall a journalist who begins this story with a sick niece in need of embryonic stem cell therapy a treatment unavailable due to political opposition by Senator Edward Hastings and because of his opposition Skylar is out to pursue the man and try to make him suffer for his decisions.
Skylar if a formidable journalist who loves her family and will do anything for them but through this love becomes somewhat blinkered to the bigger picture, meanwhile, her sister Faith and brother in law deal with their daughters illness in their own way each bringing about added depth to an already difficult storyline subject.
Regardless of where your own political views stand on the therapies covered by this story it's nice to see the author cover several angles and explain some differences along the way without becoming too wrapped up in medical terminology.
I'm not sure I felt the relationship of Mark and Skylar which is partly why this lost stars in my rating I was much more drawn to the family dynamics of the Hastings family which was much more interesting and better portrayed and the heartache of her sister Faith and her husband. I felt the Skylar / Mark romance storyline lacking somewhat in comparison.
There were twists I saw coming and others that veered off into bigger twists I wasn't expecting though I expected Edward Hastings politics to be tested I hadn't imagined it to unfold quite the way it did and I really enjoyed the medical/political storyline of this story. I loved Noelle's character (Edwards wife) and even though Jeff (their son) was at a rebellious teenage stage of life I really enjoyed seeing his character unfold and the emotional battles of the family as a whole.
The friendship between Edward and Mark left me a little baffled as Mark works in Stem Cell Research and so this surprised me that Edward would be so against the idea, eventually my inner queries were uncovered from background story and it was interesting to find added depth to the politics.
Though I have marked this down I would recommend to readers who like the medical politics of this sort of story but less likely if you are after a romance I think romance readers would find this a bit heavy. Though of course that is just my opinion.
Overall this was well written covering a very difficult subject matter (3.5 stars)

Thursday 2 July 2015

What Milo Saw - Virginia Macgregor

What Milo Saw is the story of nine year old Milo Moon who suffers from a slow degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa which means that he has pinpoint tunnel vision but despite this fact he is a keen observer.

Milo lives with his mum Sandy, his gran Lou and his pet teacup pig, Hamlet that is until, much to his dismay his beloved gran is sent to live at Forget Me Not's nursing home. Milo promises to visit Lou everyday but he soon realises that it's not quite the caring place that was advertised in the brochure. The head nurse, Nurse Thornhill, isn't always the happy, smiling person she makes herself out to be and when Milo realises this he sets out to get his gran home. With the help if Tripi, an illegal immigrant who works at the care home, he forms a plan to expose all the wrong doings going on at Forget Me Not's.

The story flows gently with chapters written from each different character's perspective. Touching on very topical issues such as care for the elderly, divorce, disability and foreign immigrants, this is a book for both young and old. I was disappointed that Milo's condition took a back seat for the majority of the novel and felt that the author could have made more of this. That said, this debut novel is a heart warming tale that will definitely tug at your heart strings and have you rooting for this charming and selfless little boy. It's a poignant read and one that I would recommend.

With kind thanks to NetGalley and publishers Little, Brown Book Group UK for the review copy.