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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Blog Tour - Dreaming of Florence by T A Williams

Today I am pleased to welcome T A Williams to my blog to celebrate the publication of 'Dreaming of Florence', which is a fantastic book that takes the reader on a tour of Florence. I have never been to Italy, let alone Florence, however while reading 'Dreaming of Florence' I could feel the Italian sun on my skin and the gorgeous scenery surrounding me. The author's writing allowed me to experience the sounds, smells and tastes of Florence from the comfort of my own home. I really enjoyed the story and felt it brought some of the Italian sun to my life during England's dull and gloomy winter months.

The Fascination of Italy

TA (Trevor) Williams tells us why he loves writing books set in Italy and why he chose it for his latest – Dreaming of Florence.

Before we go any further, I must hold my hand up and admit that I am a confirmed Italophile. I lived there for eight years, my wife is Italian, we still speak Italian together - even though we’ve been back in the UK now for forty years - and, just to put the icing on the cake, we have a Fiat 500. I have friends and relatives in Italy and I love going back to visit this wonderful country.

 For a writer, being able to write about a subject with which you are completely familiar is a great advantage. Although I still make regular “research trips” to Italy to check that everything is still as I remember it, I know I’m writing about something very, very familiar. I’m currently thinking about starting a future book in the sweaty jungles of Equatorial Africa and, although you can find out all sorts of information on the internet these days, no computer can give you everything. I want the smells, the imperceptible gestures of the people, the feel of the clothes, or the sound of a black mamba infiltrating its way into my tent (from a safe distance, I trust). Italy has no black mambas, but I do know that unmistakable smell of old incense, dust and humanity that greets any visitor to Florence’s iconic Duomo. I also instantly recognise the hand gestures an Italian uses to tell me the food is good, the girl beautiful, or the driver of the car in front a moron.

Italy is such a diverse country. We have a stereotype of Italy as a composite of gondolas, pizzas, priests in black robes, Roman amphiteatres, and Ferraris driven by handsome Latin Lovers. These do indeed exist, but the country – and the people – differ so very much from region to region. Don’t forget that Italy is a very recent addition to the family of nations. Up to 1861, it was just a collection of different – and often warring – states, and a peasant from Calabria would have been unable to understand a single word spoken by a peasant from Tuscany. And don’t forget that there are still today regions of Italy where they speak French, and others where they speak German – although Italian is taught as the lingua franca. Indeed, my wife’s native language (she’s from the very far north, in the Alps) is a dialect that is still impenetrable to a fellow Italian living only a few hundred kilometres down the road.

This very diversity is what gives the country so much of its charm. In my latest book, Dreaming of Florence, the characters can step out of their doors in the middle of the Florence and be on the ski slopes in little more than an hour and a half. On that very same day, the temperature a bit further down the peninsula might be like a balmy summer day in England. People can be dining outside on the Italian Riviera while less than a hundred kilometres away, the temperature is well below zero, and there is ice on the roads. Italy is a very long country. I remember when, shortly after I arrived in Turin in northern Italy, I was told that the distance from there back to London was considerably shorter than from there to the southern tip of Italy. If you look at a map, you’ll see that Florence is still pretty far north, but the feel of the place is so very different from Venice to the north or Naples to the south.

Florence, in my opinion, has it all. It has a rich and fascinating history, incomparable art and architecture, delightful scenery and warm, welcoming people – although some of them can hide it pretty well at times. I love the city, just as I love the whole country, and I hope some of my love shines through as you read Dreaming of Florence.

Thank you to the publishers, Canelo, and to T A Williams for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Blog Tour - Close to Home by Cara Hunter

Today I am pleased to welcome Cara Hunter to my blog. Cara is currently taking part in a blog tour to celebrate the publication of her debut novel. Close to Home. 

Close to Home is a really good book, full of twists and turns and kept my attention to the very end. When I choose a new author to read, I often refer back to Richard and Judy and their WHSmith Book Club. I have been a fan since the very first list and I still think that they have a great eye to picking great books that a wide audience will enjoy. Therefore when I saw that Close to Home had made it on to the new 2018 Book Club list I knew I was in for a good read, and I definitely was not disappointed. 

Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party.
No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything - or at least that's what they're saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it's someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying...
And that Daisy's time is running out. 
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241283097
Cara Hunter joins me to talk about detective stories on the small screen ......

Watching the detectives…

“It reminds me so much of Broadchurch”. That was pretty much the first thing my editor at Penguin ever said to me and it was just about the nicest compliment she could have chosen. Right from the start, one of the things I wanted to do with Close to Home was give readers the same sort of experience they get from crime TV.

There’s so much superb writing for the screen now – look at Line of Duty or Hinterland. Tightly plotted, with enthralling characters, and fantastic twists. I wanted to recreate some of that same pace and energy on the page, which is what inspired me to develop what I suppose you could call the ‘signature style’ of the DI Fawley books (the second, In the Dark is out in July, and the third next winter). There are lots of short scenes, lots of different points of view, and lots of different types of narrative, from blog posts - like this one! - to Twitter feeds and police interview transcripts. This keeps the story bowling along, and at the same time it also gives the reader the chance to turn detective themselves, as they piece together all the various strands of evidence and come up with what they think really happened.

Another thing TV crime is really good at is using setting to maximise the menace. I’ll never forget the brooding flatlands of True Detective I, and the cinematography of Hinterland is likewise outstanding. As one person on Twitter put it, the show manages to make the Welsh hills feel like Mordor. For the Fawley books, the setting is Oxford, which has a huge TV ‘hinterland’ of its own, of course. It’s such a gift for me, as a writer, because everyone already has a picture of Oxford in their heads from Morse or Lewis, so I have the luxury of taking all that for granted. I can ‘turn the camera the other way’, and show them a side to the city that’s much ‘closer to home’….  

 I am already looking forward to Cara Hunter's next novel and I recommend Close to Home to all my blog readers.

Thank you to the publishers, Penguin Random House, for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and a copy of the book in return for an honest review and to Cara for visiting me on the blog tour. 

Monday, 1 January 2018

Blog Tour - On The Bright Side (The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen)

Image result for on the bright side hendrik groen

Chaos ensues as 85-year-old Hendrik Groen is determined to grow old with dignity: to rise up against the care home director. NO more bingo. NO more over- boiled vegetables. NO more health and safety.
85-year-old Hendrik Groen is fed up to his false teeth with coffee mornings and bingo. He dreams of escaping the confines of his care home and practising hairpin turns on his mobility scooter. Inspired by his fellow members of the recently formed Old-But-Not-Dead Club, he vows to put down his custard cream and commit to a spot of octogenarian anarchy .But the care home's Director will not stand for drunken bar crawls, illicit fireworks and geriatric romance on her watch.
The Old-But-Not-Dead Club must stick together if they're not to go gently into that good night. Things turn more serious, however, when rumours surface that the home is set for demolition. It's up to Hendrik and the gang to stop it - or drop dead trying . . .

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780718186630

I am a big fan of 'The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old' and so when I heard that the lovable diarist, Hendrik Groen, was returning with his next diary I was eager to read it and I was definitely not disappointed.

Hendrik Groen returns and is determined that there is life outside of the care home in which he lives and he wants to be part of it. Joining up with the fellow members of the Old-But-Not-Dead Club they hatch a plan. Reading their exploits left me in fits of giggles and it is like reading about a group of rebellious teenagers. However, as with life, there are also times of sadness and those tug on the heart strings. 

The book is set in 2015 and there are nods to actual events from those time and also issues which affected the general public both then and now including the threatened closure of the care home and I really enjoy reading books that remind me of years gone by and significant events. 

This is the second diary of Hendrik Groen and although it could be read as a stand alone read I think that I enjoyed it more having read the first book as characters from the previous book are mentioned and it is like catching up with old friends again.

A great book to curl up with on long winter nights.

Thank you to the publishers, Michael Joseph, for sending me the book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Angel's Great Escape (A Christmas Story) by Kirstie Rowson and Kristyna Litten

Angel's Great Escape: A Christmas Story (Paperback)

It's Christmas Eve and Angel is looking forward to a magical Christmas with her decoration friends. There's only one problem, they're trapped in a box at the home of the Mean family. Will they be able to escape? And will they be in time to meet Father Christmas?

Find out in this magical, rhyming, Christmassy tale with cosy illustrations by Kristyna Litten!

When I was younger I remember I had a special Christmas story that I read every year over the festive period and I think this book could be a child's special Christmas story. It is written in rhyme, another favourite style, and the illustrations are beautiful.

The story tells of good v bad and has a lovely Christmassy feel to it. A magical story to read to a child this Christmas time.

Thank you to the publishers, And So We Begin, for sending me the book in return for an honest review. 

Roller Coaster Ride Around The Body by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

A Roller-coaster Ride Around The Body (Hardback)

Shortlisted for the Association for Science Education "Book of the Year 2017"
Jump on board and take a ride around the human body on our read-aloud, rollicking rollercoaster. Created by CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal nominees Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow, prepare to take your inquisitive youngster on a visually led, fast-paced rhythmic trip, from bones to muscles, feelings to sleep. This book is bursting with energy and fun - the perfect way to introduce your enthusiastic little one to a key school topic.
Roller-coaster Ride Around the Body has been designed to promote learning through imagination and humour, building visual and auditory memory, in addition to stimulating questioning and enquiry skills. It is particularly suitable for reading together with pre-school children, individually and in groups, and as a starting point for physical-led expression.

Publisher: Hachette Children's Group
ISBN: 9781445152028

This is the perfect book for an inquisitive child who wants to learn more about the human body. There is lots of information contained within the book and it is displayed in many different ways. There is lots of imaginative prose throughout the book, inviting the reader to take a journey throughout the human body - comparing body shape, colour and ability, while also answering those questions that trouble a child's mind e.g. what is spit for or what are bogies for? The book can be dipped in and out of as questions arise and will be great for school biology topics. It will make a great addition to any resource shelf, school library or for the country's future doctors.

Thank you to the publishers, Orchard Books, for sending me the book in return for an honest review. 

James Mayhew Presents Ella Bella Ballerina and The Magic Toyshop

Ella Bella Ballerina and the Magic Toyshop - Ella Bella Ballerina (Hardback)

Everyone's favourite little dancer, Ella Bella Ballerina, steps into an enchanted toyshop in this magical
ballet adventure.
Discover a world of fairytale toymakers and dancing dolls in in this beautiful introduction to classic ballet, La Boutique Fantastique. With a sparkling foiled cover and exquisitely detailed illustrations, this is the perfect gift for all would-be ballerinas.

This is a beautifully written and illustrated story book that will make a perfect gift for any ballet loving child this festive period. It is perfect for an older child (5+) who loves to share stories with their peers. The book is part of a series which all feature famous ballets: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Swan Lake;Cinderella; The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.

Thank you to the publishers, Orchard Books, for sending me the book in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Blog Tour - Know Me Now by C J Carver

Today I am very pleased to welcome C J Carver to my blog to celebrate the ebook publication of her latest book. Know Me Now.

A gripping suspense thriller for fans of Angela Marsons, MJ Arlidge and Peter May, from CWA Debut Dagger winner CJ CarverA SUICIDE. A MURDER. A CONSPIRACY. DIGGING UP THE PAST CAN BE DEADLY . . .A thirteen-year-old boy commits suicide. A sixty-five-year old man dies of a heart attack. Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 officer, is connected to them both. And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers.But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret. A secret someone will do anything to keep buried . . . 'A top notch thriller writer' SIMON KERNICK 'Perfect for fans of Lee Child and Mason Cross' GUARDIAN'CJ Carver is one of the best thriller writers working today' TOM HARPER
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
ISBN: 9781785760310 

I really enjoyed Know Me Now. I have been reading a lot of easy read, Christmassy books over the last couple of months and I was ready to pick up a book that was completely different, and this was definitely the book to choose. It kept me up reading just another chapter to find out what happened next. I was on the edge of my seat many times during the book as Carver has really done her homework and planned it in so much detail as there are lots of twists and turns throughout the storyline which are so good. 
The suspense and drama happens from the go - Chapter One had me gripped and the pace never slowed throughout the whole book. The storyline was really believable and I love this type of book as it is all imaginable in todays world.  

The author, C J Carver, joins me today and tells me about how she has used her life experiences within her writing .............

I’ve always been interested in the dynamics of long-life friendship, especially how loyal people can be and what they might do when the chips are down.

Personally, I found myself on the horns of a dilemma when a friend of mine turned up on my doorstep wanting to hide from the police.  It turned out they were an addict – which I’d had no idea about – and had broken into an office to steal money.

My friend was a mess.  I brought them in, made them a cuppa, and talked.  Boy, did we talk.  I was fortunate that I didn’t have to call the police because my friend turned themselves in. But if they hadn’t… what would I have done?  How would I have felt if I’d called the police, or if I’d continued to harbour a criminal?

These questions inspired the friendships in this book, between a group of four people who’ve known one another since they were toddlers and are now adults, with children of their own.

I believe all my personal experiences inform my writing in some way, because they make up who I am, and they determine what I write.
For example, I’m very interested in psychology.  What makes people tick.  How they’re shaped by their childhoods.  My own upbringing, on a dairy farm, was pretty happy until I was sent away to boarding school.  Eight years old, badly bullied, I silently hoarded cheese until I thought I had enough, then ran away.  The police eventually picked me up and returned me to school.  When I began hoarding food again, the bullies came to me and asked if I’d let them join me.  I became their leader on a school break-out one Saturday afternoon and although we were picked up by the police fairly quickly, I was never bullied again.
I know what it’s like to be thrown into an alien world where you don’t know anybody; you’re an underdog, misunderstood and vilified.  I like to put my characters in similar situations, where they feel like a fish out of water, uncertain and vulnerable, and then I push them harder to see how they react.  Will they go to the authorities?  Or simply run away?  Turn their backs on something or someone they love in order to save their own skins?  What makes a hero?  Why does one man jump into the water to save his friend from a shark attack while another hides below deck?  Why are some people leaders, and others aren’t?
Writing exposes the author as much as it informs about the calibre of gun the villain uses, and I’m not sure what a professional psychologist would say about me if they studied my books.  Addicted to adventure, perhaps, and good underwear.  I guess I have a bit of a David and Goliath complex from my being bullied  - I do love seeing the bad guys swallow some of their own medicine.
Like all my novels, Know Me Now contains personal, real-life incidents, but I’m just not going to say precisely what they are.  It might spoil the story.
© CJ Carver

Thank you to C J Carver and her publishers, Bonnier Zaffre, for inviting me to take part in the tour and a copy of Know Me Now in return for an honest review. I really enjoyed the book and I hope that my blog readers pick up Know Me Now too and love it as much as I do, one hint though .... block out the whole weekend because you won't want to put it down.