Wendy Holden is embarking on a blog tour to celebrate publication of her latest novel, Wild and Free, which was published last Thursday. I'm delighted that Wendy is joining me on Reviewed the Book today with a guest post on her favourite places in Yorkshire. Being from Yorkshire myself, I loved reading Wendy's post and I hope you all do too!
Today I'm delighted to be hosting the cover reveal for the beautiful Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley, which will be published, by Transworld, in paperback and for Kindle too on August 13.
I'm delighted to be hosting the cover reveal today for Searching for Steven by Jessica Redland! I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Searching for Steven and it's a really lovely story and the cover is gorgeous and very fitting...
Character Profile: Renee
Renee is the rock chick of the group. She's witty and sassy, with a biting sense of humour and a good heart that she sometimes keeps rather hidden. She has never forgiven her mother, who walked out on her and her father when Renee was just four, to move to Paris with her lover. Renee therefore almost certainly has abandonment issues, which is perhaps why she has never been good at holding down a relationship or a job. She currently works in admin in the housing department of Camden council, but could have done so much more, maybe in design or fashion. Renee has dark hair and cat-like green eyes and has always been stunning-looking - although she used to be punky at college, and dyed her fringe various different colours over the years. She is single, apart from a long-standing affair with a married man called Ed, and although secretly she would love to meet her Prince Charming and settle down, for some reason she finds it very difficult to trust men...
When We Were Friends is the tense and suspenseful story of six women, Sissy, Siobhan, Renee, Natasha, Camilla and Juliette, whose friendship twenty five years after university is now composed of secrets, lies and deceit. The majority of the book focuses on their reunion, for a picnic in Hyde Park, near the Serpentine lake and it was so powerful and compelling, I really loved this part to the story. The tension keeps building and building and then realisation hits that none of their lives are ever going to be the same again. But what really happened at the Serpentine that night?
Six main characters in a book is a lot but I was surprisingly not confused reading about them. Tina builds up a wonderful profile for each character through bringing the book back and forth in time, so we can learn about their individual lives – the relationships and slowly the secrets that turn their reunion into such a mess. No one character is faultless and so none of the characters are impossible not to like, but you do find yourself (or at least I did) liking or identifying with some of their traits and feeling for them. I have since read that When We Were Friends was previously published under a different name and with seven friends, not six. I actually thought there was one character here that didn’t really add anything and it felt like she was just making up the numbers in a way. So maybe I missed something with the use of her character but the other five were developed brilliantly.
The book starts off at quite a slow pace as it builds the scene and creates the characters. I really enjoyed this book from the first page and loved seeing the characters created right in front of my eyes. Tina writes such stunning, multi-layered characters with memorable personalities and all of them are a bit screwed up, to say the least, which makes things interesting. I hope other readers who are averse to a slow start persevere with this book because it’s really worth it. The chapters are short and snappy, making When We Were Friends a thrilling, quick to read book. I read the near 400 pages in one go and I’m still thinking of the characters now, and the way everything turned out. I was gripped with the narration and all the mystery and I wanted the reunion to go on for so much longer because I loved reading it!
There’s a lot of depth to When We Were Friends and it was very intriguing and fascinating. Some aspects were quite like a thriller and I was gripped with the concept which was so different to anything I’ve read before. It’s definitely put me off any plans for a reunion in the future. As the truth began to unfold, I was waiting with bated breath for the one last reveal and to the very last page, Tina Seskis had me hanging off her every word.
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by Anna Jaquiery
Recently, I was driving my 11 year-old son to his tennis lesson after an afternoon of research into hypothermia, and what related signs a forensic pathologist might look for during an autopsy. This research was part of the third book I’m currently writing in the Commandant Morel series. I was so interested in what I’d read that I had to tell my son about it. Funnily enough, he didn’t share my enthusiasm. Halfway through my description, he told me politely to move on to something other than the state of a dead person’s stomach lining.
Researching my novels has provided a glimpse into the world of forensic medicine. While writing The Lying-Down Room and Death in the Rainy Season, I called on the expertise of a forensic pathologist based here in Melbourne. He was good enough to make time in his busy schedule for a crime writer. We met near the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. We talked about drowning. I found it a little surreal, the first time, to be asking him questions about the state of a fictional character’s lungs in The Lying-Down Room. His responses were meticulous. I think for him it was a matter of professional pride. In his view, TV crime series got so many things wrong when it came to forensics. He said he couldn’t watch CSI without losing his temper. The second time, I called him just as he was about to sit down to dinner. While his wife waited patiently for the call to end, we talked earnestly about the jelly-like substance of the brain.
One of the things that has stayed with me, from the conversations he and I have had, is that forensic medicine isn’t an exact science. Sometimes the physical evidence isn’t enough and you have to turn to your powers of deduction. Beyond what the body reveals, you have to look at the circumstances surrounding a person’s death. Skills, experience, and intuition all come into play.
Disclaimer has without a doubt one of the most intriguing premises to a book I’ve seen. Photos of the proof copy have been circling Twitter for months now and I absolutely love the quote on the proof cover.
This is a work of fiction.
Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. **
**Everything you have just read is a lie.
Argh! Just one mention of this book on Twitter had me desperate to read it, hoping it was worth the wait. I’m quite good at convincing myself books are going to be more amazing than they actually are. Disclaimer didn’t blow me away but it’s intelligently written and for the most part, compelling reading. If I’m honest, I found the start a little slow and difficult to really get into but after a little bit of perseverance, the story gets darker and a hell of a lot more captivating. Twists, finely delivered, keep the intrigue up and I loved how wonderful Renee Knight was at turning the story on its head.
The issue with reviewing Disclaimer is I want to shout about SO many things but anything I mention would be a spoiler (I’ll still try). I can say it’s a book you must buy whether it sounds like your kind of thing or not because the concept to it is great.
The story focuses on two families and two main characters – Catherine Ravenscroft and Stephen Brigstocke. The connection between both families is to be discovered, as the book switches between characters and backwards and forwards in time. Catherine’s perspective we read in the third person, as one day she picks up a book on her bedside table, without knowing where it’s come from and definitely without knowing the story is all about her. And no it’s not a love story. We hear from the second main character in the first person, which to me without knowing what was to happen, made it feel quite eerie and sinister – why Stephen would have the luxury of the first person style of writing. Stephen is widowed, a retired teacher and someone who appears to have a bee in his bonnet. I was eager to know why.
Unlikable characters in books seems to be a bit of a thing at the moment and it’s the same here. It’s hard to like anyone in this book although I guess some do have traits maybe you could feel for. I can’t say I particularly did but even though I didn’t like the characters, somehow I did still care for them and how things were going to work out. That’s so annoyingly ambiguous but there’s just nothing I can discuss! The characters are multi-layered and built up extremely well, developing throughout the book and often surprising me to the extent I didn’t know what to expect from them anymore. If I ever did in the first place.
Disclaimer was ultimately, for me, a really clever, fascinating tale about the biggest secrets and how they always come out in the end. This book is full of hatred, obsession, anger and the strongest of emotions. The ending, I have to admit, was a bit of a flop for me and a little forgettable. However, the build-up and the majority of the book was interesting, unpredictable and very impressive. I think what impressed me the most with Disclaimer was its originality. The concept was unlike anything I’ve read before and something highly creative and quite stunning.
This is where trouble erupts
For a man lost in make-believe
Derailing his real-life quest
For a missing negative.
How the hunt works:
• Each clue refers to a landmark or iconic location in a film. The landmark/location is the answer – when you figure it out, make a note of it!
• (If you need a hand, check out the #treasurehunt hashtag on Twitter or Instagram for a hint to the landmark’s location…)
• Clues will be revealed by some fantastic book bloggers from March 26th until April 21st. Keep checking back on Jane Alexander’s dedicated treasure hunt page (janealexander.net/join-the-hunt) or on the #treasurehunt hashtag for links and new clues.
• When all the clues are revealed, the first letter of every answer will make an anagram. Solve the anagram and you have your final answer!
• Email this answer and all the landmarks you figured out to email@example.com by April 30th to be entered into the prize draw. Two entrants will win a signed copy of The Last Treasure Hunt – and if you’ve guessed the most landmarks and locations, you’ll win a goodie bag and something special from Jane personally! On top of that you’ll get bragging rights on Twitter and we’ll publicly dub you queen/king sleuth.
• Good luck!
by Cathy Woodman
I loved revisiting the Otter House vets while writing Shannon’s story in Vets on Call. She is a qualified veterinary nurse who did her training while working for Maz and Emma, the practice partners. Together with head nurse Izzy, she helps out in the consulting room, answers the phones and cares for the in-patients. Here is an interview with Shannon taken from Talyton St George’s local newspaper, the Chronicle.
You have been with the Otter House veterinary practice for some years now. What made you decide to become a vet nurse?
I expect every vet nurse says the same, that they chose vet nursing because they wanted to help animals. I had a black rabbit called Angel and I supported animal welfare, so when the job as trainee vet nurse came up at Otter House, I just had to apply. Maz, one of the vets, interviewed me. I’m not sure what she thought because I was so shy I could hardly speak, but she saw something in me and gave me a chance. At first, I wasn’t any good at cleaning and I fainted at the sight of blood, but I refused to give up. I couldn’t have done it without Maz’s support. She told me the story of how she was inspired by a vet when she was at school, and she wanted to help someone in return.
What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork, but most of all, I love anything that involves puppies. I don’t mind being called out in the middle of the night to help with a caesarean. My role is to support the vet by monitoring the anaesthetic while the vet is operating, and resuscitating the puppies if necessary. During the surgery, the vet removes the puppy from the bitch, and hands it over to me. I check that its nose and mouth are clear of mucus. If it isn’t breathing, I rub it with a towel to stimulate it to take its first breath. Once I’m happy with it, I place it on a warm bed in a white wire cage, and get on with reviving the next one. It’s quite a challenge to keep up when there are several puppies in a litter.
What is it about your job that you like least?
You might imagine that it’s the sad occasions, such as when a patient is put to sleep, but I try to look on the positive side. The vet will only suggest euthanasia if the animal is suffering, and there is nothing else they can do to relieve the pain and distress. As a vet nurse, you have to be professional and help the vet to make it a peaceful time for both the patient and the owner.
So the aspect of my job that I’m least keen on, is cleaning reception and the consulting room at the end of the day. Izzy, the head nurse, can spot a single strand of fur or a speck of dust from a mile away!
How do you relax in your spare time?
What spare time? I’m joking. Although I work long hours and I’m often on call with one of the vets, I like to walk my dog, Seven, every day. I take him down to the Green in Talyton St George and stroll along the riverbank and the old railway line. We always meet other dog-walkers for a chat. I like to go swimming at the local pool too. It keeps me fit and helps me relax after a long, stressful day at the practice.
What is your most memorable vet nursing experience?
It was the first caesarean I ever helped with. The mum was a standard poodle who’d had an illicit liaison with a black Labrador on the Green. When she struggled to give birth naturally nine weeks later, her owner brought her in to Otter House where Maz performed the surgery. The seventh puppy to be born had a harelip. He couldn’t feed from his mum, so I hand-reared him. That’s how Seven came to be mine. I live with my mum who has diabetes and Seven has saved her life, making her aware when her blood sugar levels are unstable. He is one amazing superhero of a dog.
I hope you enjoy reading Shannon’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.