Today on the blog I’m taking part in the publication day push for the final instalment in Laura Briggs’ ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’ series. For the past seven books we have been following the fortunes of aspiring writer and hotel worker, Maisie. Now finally we reach the conclusion of a series of books that have been like a little ray of sunshine in a difficult year. We left Maisie in a relationship with the lovely Sidney and on the verge of celebrating her first published book.
However, past secrets return to complicate Maisie’s future with the charming in the final installment of the Cornish romance series.
Picking up where book seven left off, Maisie’s plans to celebrate her book’s thrilling news remain on hold after Sidney has vanished from Port Hewer overnight, following a brush with his secret past. His departure leaves Maisie with a head full of questions and a heart torn in two, made even worse by the rumors flying about him through the town. Where and why has he gone? Will he ever come back again? And—foremost in Maisie’s mind—was the heartache from his younger days somehow to blame for his sudden and mysterious flight?
But when Dean convinces her that Sidney may be facing a choice that could ruin his life, Maisie must set out to find him, once again leaving behind the Cornish seaside haven of Port Hewer she’s come to think of as home, and leaving behind the answer to a secret she’s been longing to know since the beginning. Not knowing when or if she’ll return, she’s taking the biggest risk with her heart so far…and the truth she discovers waiting for her at the end of her journey will make her wonder if things can ever possibly be the same as they were before.
Questions are answered, secrets are spilled, and the biggest reveal of the series is finally unveiled as A LITTLE HOTEL IN CORNWALL reaches its exciting conclusion.
Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.
Synopsis | 17-year-old Billy has just left school with no A levels and he’s desperate to escape middle England. As a grave-digger, he’s working the ultimate dead-end job. Billy’s home life isn’t any better. In the evenings, he observes his dysfunctional family: his Grandad’s engaged to a woman half his age, his xenophobic Dad’s become obsessed with boxing, and he suspects his deeply religious Mum is having an affair.
All the while, celebrities are dropping like flies and Britain is waiting for the EU referendum. Everything is changing, and Billy hates it.
Meeting Eva, though, changes everything. She’s Swiss, passionate about Russian literature, Gary Numan, windfarms and chai tea, and Billy gambles everything for a chance to be with her.
When things start to go wrong, Billy’s journey across Europe involves hitch-hiking with truckers, walking with refugees, and an encounter with suicidal cows. But the further he goes, the harder it is to be sure what he’s chasing – and what he’s running from.
My Thoughts | I cant imagine that when he wrote his debut novel, Phillip Bowne imagined it being published during a global pandemic. There was already a sense of foreboding in the book, considering it’s set in the heated atmosphere leading up to the Brexit referendum where celebrities seem to dying at an alarming rate. Yet the reader knows that things are only going to get worse. So, for me, this book felt like a lifeline in very trying times. I was ready for some light relief, to really laugh with a character, and I certainly did that with Billy. At turns hilarious, then poignant, then darkly humorous, this is just the book I needed to lift me right now.
Billy is a fascinating character with a brilliant story arc; he does some serious growing up throughout the novel. At first he seems a little lost. He leaves school with no plans and his mum gets him a job as a gravedigger – the very embodiment of a dead end job. His family are dysfunctional at best. Dad has a bit of a temper and Grandad (GG) is adding to family strife by planning to marry a woman nobody likes. Bowne creates comedy out of the way this family rub along together, but they’re not one note characters. Bowne knows when to floor the reader with some seriously black humour and when to let us inside these characters and situations with real depth and poignancy. GG has some interesting ways of making money. Billy manages to get an unfortunate nickname at work. However, when we’re party to Billy’s inner world, there’s bewilderment and even sadness at times. The contrast between these feelings, and the hilarious situations Billy can get himself into, are what kept me engaged with his story.
The same can be said about the world Billy finds himself in. Once he finds himself another job, Billy’s world starts to open up. Beyond the realms of his family and village Billy starts to understand that people have very different life experiences than his, often tragic and difficult. He meets Swiss student Eva and experiences the shifts in society due to the referendum from her perspective. She’s unsettled and scared. They form a friendship, one which could turn into something more. This relationship feels very real, it develops slowly and although there are obstacles, I did find myself rooting for them both. When Eva leaves, Billy decides to follow in an attempt to be reunited with her. This incredible trip through Europe adds to Billy’s growth. He encounters Syrian refugees whose terrible misfortune are beyond anything he has experienced. Whether he reunited with Eva or not, this incredible trip will change him forever. I truly enjoyed his journey and found myself laughing out loud at some points, whilst feeling terribly awkward at others – the fish and chip supper made me squirm a bit. This debut shows a deft writing style from Bowne and was uplifting and touching in equal measure.
About the Author
Philip Bowne lives in London and works as a writer for The Wombles, a children’s entertainment brand.
Like his protagonist, Billy, Phil attended a failing and severely under-resourced school in Bicester, Oxfordshire.However, unlike Billy, Phil ended up studying English Literature and Creative Writing at university.
While studying, Phil published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada and Germany. After graduating, Phil spent time in Europe and the US, working and volunteering in various roles and settings: repairing boats at Lake Como, housekeeping at a mountain lodge in California and working with charity Care4Calais in the former Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp.
Cows Can’t Jump is Phil’s debut novel, which he worked on while managing a bar in London. As well as a writer for The Wombles, Phil also works on a number of independent writing projects, including a musical set in 1970’s Soho and a sitcom set in a failing leisure centre.
When Stephen King recommends a book, we all have to listen! ‘It’s a true nerve shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end’.
‘Books like this don’t come around too often. I would say I inhaled this in one, but I think I was too busy holding my breath throughout. Bravo’ – JOANNE HARRIS
‘A chilling and beautiful masterpiece of suspense. I was completely enthralled’ – JOE HILL
This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…
You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.
In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…
This book was already on my radar, but now I’m dying to read it! Early reviews describe it as ‘deeply disturbing’ and an ‘atmospheric gothic thriller’. All of the elements seem familiar, I feel like I’ve read books like this before but I’m promised something completely different, raw, visceral and terrifying. There simply isn’t a bad review about this book. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything less from the Shirley Jackson and August Derleth award at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. This made her the only woman to have won the prize twice. Reviewers praise the structure, the multiple narrative voices, and the satisfying, unexpected ending.
CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).
She was a Guardian best book of 2018 and her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.
Today on the blog it’s my pleasure to share the trailer for one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.
Light a fire they can’t put out..
Caldonbrae Hall has sat on top of the Scottish cliffs for 150 years, as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. This boarding school for girls promises pupils they will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’. Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher, is the first new hire for the school in over a decade. Rose feels overwhelmed in the face of this elite establishment at first, but soon after her arrival she begins to realise that there may be more to fear than her own ineptitude. Rose stumbles across the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor – a woman whose ghost lingers over everything and who no one will discuss – she learns that there is far more to the school than she has been led to believe. Rose begins to uncover the darkness at the heart of Caldonbrae; a battle that will threaten her sanity as well as her safety…
A brooding, mesmeric novel with a feminist kick…
This has certainly whet my appetite for next February, and the book can be pre-ordered at all the usual outlets.
Emily Proudman’s life is imploding. She’s lost her acting agent, job and home all in one day. Scott Denny also has a problem, one he doesn’t think he can fix. He is a wealthy and successful CEO but neither of these things can help him. Then he meets Emily and she is perfect. He takes her on for a summer job, as housekeeper for his rambling estate in the South of France. Emily thinks she has fallen on her feet and charmed by his wife Nina, and their unusual daughter Aurelia, she throws herself into her summer role. Yet all is not what it seems. The family have dark secrets and
if Emily doesn’t play her part, the summer and even her life could be in danger.
Nina is keen to have Emily there, so greets her enthusiastically when she arrives. The mansion is eerie but then so is Nina, who seems to be a quiet and obedient wife. Aurelia is more of a shock. She’s shy to the point of introversion, but that could be down to living in such a remote location. Communication with others seems to be frowned upon as there’s no phone line or internet connection. What if something goes wrong out here? Emily tries to use her time well in looking after Aurelia and even turning her hand to a bit of renovation, but she feels herself becoming little more than a companion to Nina, sometimes losing whole days drinking wine by the pool. Aurelia is difficult to get to know, she flinches if touched possibly down to the rare skin disease she has, but it felt more like she simply wasn’t used to physical affection. Her silence could be shyness, but Emily starts to feel that there is something odd about this girl and the problems she has.
This is a modern Gothic novel, with definite shades of Jane Eyre – the remote mansion, the stepdaughter, a slightly odd wife and a new, young housekeeper/governess. However, instead of the usual first person narration we get multiple narratives but how many of them are reliable? The cover jumped out at me, making me long for sunnier climates and a chance to explore – something that’s even more of a fantasy at the moment! I think the reader is lulled into this holiday feeling, alongside Emily. We know something is wrong here, so does Emily, but working it out, when instead you could lie by the pool with a cold cocktail and a good book, seems unnecessary. When the secrets are finally exposed, Emily might find it’s too late. The characters have more depth than appears at first. Although Nina might seem like the perfect rich man’s wife, there is something else going on underneath. There’s a brittle edge to her character that allows us to glimpse her fragile mental health. Even Emily, turns out to be more intelligent and resourceful than I gave her credit for at first.
When the secrets of Scott Denny and his estate are revealed weren’t too much of a shock. This isn’t one of those twists that makes you rethink the whole book, but nor did it disappoint. Scott reminded me of the estate owner in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw – working away a lot, only briefly at the estate and even then doesn’t really engage with his wife or stepdaughter. Furthermore, when it’s mentioned that Emily has briefly worked for Scott before I wondered whether their meeting was a coincidence or whether it was calculated. Perhaps Emily is the perfect person for this role? I think this was a great beach read and shows great promise for a debut author. I will be looking out for her future work.
My Thoughts | I haven’t read any new poetry for a long time so I jumped at the chance to read this new collection. For me, poetry is very emotional. It’s about whether a poem connects with my feelings in some way; is the poet describing something I recognise, something I’ve felt or seen? There tend to be certain images that make me stop and think and Marc Rahe’s new collection Gravity Well did all of these things and resurrected my interest in poetry.
Some images made me smile because of how clever they were or because of the beautiful combination of words. In Writer Friend the narrator describes an unsettled afternoon as a ‘forecast-come-true afternoon of cloudy and scattered’. I also loved the Schroedinger reference in Our Shared Life of ‘The bee trapped with you inside/ your helmet in traffic, will or will not’. It made me think of that moment before something happens. In that moment, playing simultaneously in the biker’s mind, are the bee that stings and the bee he successfully releases back into the world unharmed. We get another sense of the in-between reading his poem Stellar, as if moments in time are simply Russian dolls with each possibility stacked within each other – touching but separate:
‘This tree was my favorite the day it rained during my walk. Uncanny when it’s raining and it’s sunny at the same time. As if being in someone’s presence and feeling the presence of their ghost’.
Another line I loved was ‘the air was as wet as dog’s breath’ because it made me feel the humidity of a wet day in August, that moisture hangs like warm misted breath in the air.
There were also themes running through the work that interest me greatly, because of my own writing work which is focused on how the body, particularly a faulty or malfunctioning body, interacts with the world. Rahe has a way of describing age and the changes of the body that are surprising and moving. In his poem Appetite I loved the following section:
‘I’ve been reopened along the same incision
and though metal plates and wires, metal screws,
can only be said to ache, I say
it is the metal in this leg that tells me
the sky is so full of mountains and trenches
as the ocean, metal that warns me
of my own weight held past a certain angle from the center.’
I love how he describes the constant ache of the structure that holds the speaker’s leg together, but it isn’t a negative statement, it’s just something that’s there. Also it’s a way of gauging the world, like I know if my joints ache it’s going to be wet or if my muscles seize it’s going to be cold. The unnatural pins and wires he needs for his limb to work naturally, actually link him to the natural world too – to the heights and lows of the lands, and even how the force of gravity can be sensed as he finds the balance of walking with these metal supports.
In Fable of the Cephalopod he uses humour to describe a sense of coughing up a foreign body, something that feels like ‘an octopus that was trying to wear a sweater’ giving the reader a sense of how stuck it feels, trying to force eight woollen legs from the ‘wrong bronchial tree’. Later he describes the moment of having a blood test, very routine for me and others who are ill, but tense all the same. He perfectly describes that moment when you almost hate yourself for trying to make the medics life easier. When you feel guilty for being difficult, as if you could control the way your veins and body work:
‘at a blood draw my vein resisted the needle. The needle
slipped aside inside my arm, despite repeated attempts. I made,
for the phlebotomist, a joke I hoped would defuse her growing anxiety.’
I felt a connection with parts of the work, and as always with poetry, I know that re-reading will bring further meaning and interpretation, depending on my mood. Poetry’s meaning lies with the readers once it has left the author’s pen. It may well have had an original meaning, but really the beauty of poetry comes out when the reader brings their ‘stuff’ to the poem. I’m sure there are other bloggers who have had totally different experiences with the images and themes but that’s the beauty of it, it can touch a multitude of people very differently. I thought this was an imaginative and thoughtful collection from a poet I’d never read before. It sparked my interest in poetry again and I am looking forward to reading more for the blog and for my own enjoyment.
Other Reviews | Marc Rahe’s luminous poems find grace in acts of intentional remembrance, in turning back to sing ‘what can be seen / looking behind.’ The speaker’s world resembles our own fraught moment–fallen, divided–but never numb. These poems hum with moments of transcendence, between body and weather, air and breath, between today’s pain and the deep wounds of the past. In precise, lucid lyrics, this voice insists that our capacity to feel is what binds us, ecstatically, to our planet and to one another.–Kiki Petrosino
Ever since his first book, THE SMALLER HALF, was published, I’ve kept my eyes open for new work by Marc Rahe, and whenever new work has come, I’ve celebrated, actually celebrated. No poet writing in English today is better at making poems stuffed full of being and of things seen, things heard, things touched, things tasted, and things thought hard about nonetheless quiet. And yet, though they approach silence, these poems resonate, and, like Rahe’s previous work, they will resonate for years.–Shane McCrae
Biography | Marc Rahe is the author of THE SMALLER HALF (Rescue Press, 2010), ON HOURS (Rescue Press, 2015), and GRAVITY WELL (Rescue Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, jubilat, MAKE Literary Magazine, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, and other literary journals. He lives in Iowa City.
Literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow has started her new job as a lecturer in an English Literature department of the university and is hoping for a quiet life. What she gets is anything but. When she is asked to cover a module for Professor Petrarch Greenwood she expected the students to be a little underwhelmed. He is something of a literary celebrity, having followed his lifelong love of William Blake into TV opportunities and book deals. Yet his students behaviour seems strange to Helen. They are subdued and one is genuinely emotional about him, which rings alarm bells to Helen. Petrarch is flamboyant, holds swish parties at his London flat and has very little time for new feminist theories regarding his hero. On the dark web, a strange literary obsession is being used to stir unrest in its largely male following, and an underground police officer is trying to break into the online community by sharing a love of Blake. Their focus is a an artist who produces a graphic novel based on a Blake character, with a disrespectful and violent attitude towards women. How many of his followers even know or understand Blake? As this unrest grows will Helen be able to come between the innocent and a disturbed gunman bent on making his point with bloodshed?
This is one of those times when I really didn’t need to have read the first novel to enjoy this second instalment in the Helen Oddfellow series. The start was slow but I was intrigued with the larger than life and potentially dangerous Petrarch Greenwood. He’s clearly living a rather decadent lifestyle of bedding young students, and stretching his professional ethics. Officially Helen is covering his classes as he has a book deadline to meet, but we get the sense that really he’s being removed to cover up a scandal. The university can’t afford to lose him as he’s their celebrity professor but they also can’t be seen to do nothing. I sensed a really unpleasant character underneath the charm and wondered if he or his assistant was behind the Blake website.
Running through the book is the treatment of women, from the misogyny on the dark web to gender politics within the university. Helen recounts her own reading on Blake and his wife. The question of how involved his wife was in his work is one that’s been at the forefront of feminist theory, something Professor Greenwood is very dismissive about. He’s dismissive about women in general, in fact one is being physically dismissed from his office when we meet him. The behaviour of the female students in his class is worrying too, some are very subdued and don’t want to meet Helen’s eyes. There’s an unpleasant atmosphere, and an undercurrent that I feared didn’t bode well for some of these women. The story started to focus around the events of Professor Greenwood’s party and this is where the book gripped me.
I’m clearly very dark, because when the truth of the party was revealed I was pleased the author had pushed the story to such a disturbing place. It was a great contrast to the tamer beginning of the book and I think it needed it. I didn’t manage to guess all that had happened so I was able to enjoy all the twists and turns to the end. I enjoyed guessing who had the talent and knowledge to be behind the artwork, but the mind to plan such a terrible act of mass murder. However, this wasn’t the only person with secrets and it seemed only Helen was who she professed to be. She is like the calm centre to the novel, but everything around her felt chaotic and changeable. I worried early on that this would be a novel where women were victims, but actually the ending was quite empowering. The women took control, which was a great way to end. I would have liked to know more about some of the characters so maybe some differing perspectives on events would have been interesting. However, I think it was deliciously dark and turned a light on the type of misogyny that seems to be a constant undercurrent on the internet these days. This was intelligent, surprising and as a literary mystery, quite unique.
Meet The Author
Anna Sayburn Lane is a novelist, short story writer and storyteller, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. Her first two novels introduce the literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow. Anna shares Helen’s love of literature – mysteries surrounding the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe and the Romantic poet William Blake feature in the books. She’s pleased her History and English Literature degree finally came in handy! Anna has published award-winning short stories in magazines including Mslexia, Scribble and One Eye Grey.
If it hadn’t been for libraries this blog wouldn’t exist and I would be a very different person. I have my mum, another avid reader, to thank for this. Every Saturday morning my father would drop us in Scunthorpe and go off to play football. We would do some shopping in the market, pay Radio Rentals for the telly and then best bit – we would go to the library and change our books.
In the 70s/80s the library was a very odd looking building that visitors entered through a glass pyramid. A type of working class Louvre, usually covered in poo from all the pigeons in the square! However, it was the magic gateway to culture for me. A place where the message board advertised local gigs and theatre productions and downstairs housed an art house cinema, where Mum famously fainted after being overcome by Kevin Costner on the wide screen. We were a low income family, living in the middle of nowhere in Lincolnshire. Dad’s basic wage from the drainage board had to keep all four of us and the pets. Books were loved but not a priority in the budget, so I had to wait for Christmas and birthdays to get book tokens. This building was my holy grail of reading and I read classics, comedies, books about growing up. This was my window on the world and it didn’t matter if I didn’t like one, I could just put it to one side and take it back the following week. Mum would go upstairs to choose her books and I was left to browse on my own and I could take all the time I wanted.
After the library we would grab a sandwich and get the 336 bus to Ashby where my grandma and grandad lived. We would stay there until Dad picked us up at teatime. In spring and summer I might sit out in the garden or in Grandad’s shed which always smelled of shallots and had a pair of curtains at the window. While he pottered doing jobs and I would read my book. Or in the colder months we’d be inside, with the gas fire on so high it gave me a headache, and my Grandad in his red all-in-one (he was ahead of his time when it came to onesies). He’d watch rugby league or an old black and white film, while I read or we would read together. Grandad was very fond of pioneer stories, adventure novels and Wilbur Smith.
These are just a few of my book choices from those earliest days of picking my own books and cultivating a love of reading:
Little Women: This was the first book I read after completing the reading scheme at school. School had the first book, but I went to Scunthorpe Library to read the next stage of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy growing up in civil war America. I borrowed this series so many times that I still know each girl’s story off by heart. Of course Jo is my favourite. I wanted to be a writer and have a room to work in with lots of books. However, I also grew to love Amy despite her haughty character and snobbish tendencies. These early attempts to seem genteel were affected and often satirised by her older sisters. Yet, Amy grows from there. She keeps a certain steeliness and determination to succeed, but becomes kinder, softer and more vulnerable. Her interest in the finer things though give her a certain polish, she is cultured and this gives her opportunities. Good Wives shows this growth. I love how this series seems to stay relevant for every generation, with the latest film taking an interesting, more feminist slant than before. I love this Puffin ‘In Bloom’ edition of the book.
What Katy Did: I chose to read about more 19th Century growing up with Katy Carr and her house full of brothers and sisters. Katy’s mother had died and her father worked long hours as a local doctor, leaving the siblings to run a bit wild. Until her father’s sister, Aunt Izzy takes over as housekeeper. The strangest thing about reading this series was Katy’s accident on the garden swing that leaves her paralysed. I had an accident and broke my back at a similar age and was temporarily stuck in bed. I remember wanting to be like Katy or her mentor Cousin Helen who was always cheerful and helpful, even though she was in constant pain and a wheelchair user. In later years I wrote about the illness of Katy and other 19th Century heroines such as Beth March and Pollyanna. They all learn to be well behaved and Christian young ladies through suffering, if you read them from a feminist viewpoint. Back then though I just loved the sequels to Katy’s story – the secret societies at school, the trunks of goodies sent from home, Katy’s travels across Europe, particularly the Venice carnival. I’m sure it was this book that made me determined to visit Venice when I was older.
The Bagthorpes Saga: For humour I always enjoyed James Herriot’s stories, and later the Adrian Mole diaries, but the Bagthorpes were in a league of their own when it came to comedy. The four siblings William, Tess, Rosie and Jack were the children of writers – capable Agony Aunt Mrs Bagthorpe and the stressed out and highly strung scriptwriter Mr Bagthorpe. The whole family are always getting into scrapes with Grandma and their psychopathic four year old cousin Daisy behind all sorts of nefarious schemes. The siblings are all busy with accomplishments that Mrs Bagthorpe calls ‘strings to their bow’. All except Jack. Jack is the ordinary sibling, who enjoys walking his dog Zero and doesn’t really excel at anything. Aided by a hedgehog like housekeeper, Mrs Thorndyke, the Bagthorpe family lurch from one disaster to another; fires, floods, hauntings and kleptomaniac four year olds! I read these books over and over.
Pippi Longstocking: Pippi was one of those marvellous heroines who is an orphan so has no restrictions to her imagine or what she can get up to. Pippi Longstocking is only nine years old and lives all by herself with a horse, a monkey, a suitcase full of gold, and no grown-ups to tell her what to do. She’s wild and funny and her crazy ideas are always getting her into trouble! She devises adventures for her new found friends Tommy and Annika. Pippi performs at the circus, is reunited with her long-lost father, and takes her friends Tommy and Annika on a trip to the Canny Canny Islands. She also finds a squeazle, gives a shark a good telling-off, and turns 43 somersaults in the air. I loved her sense of adventure and wanted to feel as free as she did. I love the new gift editions illustrated by Lauren Child, they seem to capture the spirit of Pippi perfectly.
The Moomin Sagas: Oh how I love the Moomins! Today I have a Moomin dress, light box, mug collection and many other reminders of Tove Jansens eclectic characters. The Moomintroll family live in a tall blue house in Finland and are peaceful, happy creatures. Moominmamma is an earth mother type, always willing to feed another at her table and often taking in other creatures to help, such as the Hemulen – a tall, cross dressing botanist with depressive tendencies. Moominpapa likes nothing better than a quiet day fishing and smoking his pipe. Moomintroll is their son and has various friends such as Snufkin, a green clad, flute playing traveller who often wanders off to have adventures. Moomintroll’s love interest is the Snork Maiden, a Moomin with curly eyelashes, blond hair and a few cuddly extra pounds that she worries about (I feel a great affinity with her). There are adventures with eclipses, hobgoblins and comets, but it is the characterisation of these varied creatures that has always stuck with me and their philosophical musings on life. I’m considering a Moomin tattoo, perhaps Little My?
I’m thinking of a combi Moomin and reading tattoo to represent this childhood love of reading, all started with a library card.
#The Accidental Medium #TheGinPalace #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour
Synopsis | Tanz is living in London and still grieving her friend Frank, who died in a car crash three years ago. As acting jobs dry up, she has to find a normal job to fund her cocktail habit. When she starts work in a new age shop, Tanz discovers that the voices she’s hearing in her head are possibly real psychic messages, not the first signs of schizophrenia. Alarmed, she confronts her little mam and discovers she is from a long line of psychic mediums. Despite a whole exciting new avenue of life opening up to Tanz, darkness isn’t far away and all too soon there’s murder in the air. In book two, after her fast paced introduction to the world of clairvoyance, Tanz is hiding in bed, having nightmares about a suicidal psychopath, drinking red wine, irritating her cat and waiting to be evicted. Life as she knew it seven months ago has turned on its head and only the prospect of a new TV job in Newcastle and a month with her best friend Milo can help pick her up off the floor. But when she gets home, the Newcastle of more than a century before decides to haunt her bringing all kinds of spooks and horrors with it
Review | Tanz is a cocktail drinking, straight talking, Geordie actress, with a talent for swearing. She is an absolute breath of fresh air. Within pages she felt like my long lost friend and I was mentally inviting her to my fantasy dinner party (alongside Mr. Tumnus, Ruth Galloway, Sugar from The Crimson Petal and the White, Jo March, and Vianne Rocher).
I read both of these short novels in a weekend and have been left longing for more. The story begins as Tanz is working at a new age shop, between acting jobs. She has made friends with one of the ‘readers’ in the shop, but is starting to have an inkling that her own family might have their own gift. Her Mam seems to have prophetic dreams, but doesn’t make a big thing of it even though her grandmother was a Romany. Tanz had started hearing voices, but wondered if it was a symptom of grief following the sudden death of her friend Frank three years before. She even starts to worry if she could he schizophrenic. Luckily she has a great mentor at hand – Sheila is another reader at the shop, an older woman with years of experience in this strange world of mediumship. She describes Tanz as a ‘natural’ and her strong reaction to an odd couple who visit the shop seems to set them on an investigative path. Sheila is vital to Tanz and their friendship grows as the mystery becomes disturbing and dangerous. What are this strange couple hiding and why is Tanz hearing a woman wailing every time they’re near? Despite being terrified Tanz and Sheila let their spirit guides lead them towards the answers and into danger.
The Gin Palace situates Tanz back in her hometown of Gateshead, where she has a role in a TV series after months without work. She would have loved the main role, but is playing the tart with greasy hair, dark circles under the eyes and the shortest skirt. She’s the only one with a genuine Geordie accent. After her introduction to clairvoyance, she was hoping for a quieter time, but it seems the spirits aren’t ready to leave her alone. Tanz finds herself haunted by visions of an 18th Century Gateshead and the tenements down by the docks. On a ghost walk she finds out about the brutal murder of a prostitute, the terrible warehouse fire that razed the tenements to the ground, and the role gin played in the lives of these unfortunate residents. This gives her some background but doesn’t explain the violent man who keeps beating her to death in terrifying dreams. Nor does it explain her visions of a little boy who looks like the Artful Dodger, with the face of a pitiful waif one moment, and eyes that burn like the coals of hell the next. Is she being warned off? Or is there another mystery the spirit world like her to unearth?
I loved both of these books for their characters and the company of Tanz. I loved her Mam and Dad, who are traditional Northerners through and through. They were very like my parents – always half way down a cup of tea, have tea at 5pm and seemingly happy to potter at home together. Tanz’s dad has his shed to tinker in, but her ‘little Mam is always there with some very down to earth and wise advice. I love how Whitwell presents mediumship and it’s effects on the practitioner. Sheila teaches Tanz how to protect herself against certain types of spirits, but there are still times when she is terrified by what transpires in her own mind and in front of her. Her nightmares affect her sleep, she feels unnerved and often wonders if her gift is worth it. It’s great if it helps someone, but otherwise it’s very inconvenient and not making her any money. It made me think of taking a counselling session, it can be exhausting and the counsellor needs a self-care regime in place to replenish their reserves. I enjoyed Tanz’s loyalty, not just to her close friends, but to those people she picks up along the way and even those from the spirit world who need release. Her bravery in confronting the scarier paranormal events, while being absolutely terrified, is endearing. By the second book she is starting to trust her powers a little, to understand the strength of her gift and her guides. These books are fresh, modern and comfortingly Northern. The mix of gothic and supernatural subjects, with this down to earth, 21st Century heroine is different and such great fun. Tanz is a woman you’d like to go for a few cocktails with and the mingling of her familiar worldly worries and her other worldly gift is irresistible.
Biography|Tracy Whitwell was born, brought up and educated in Gateshead in the north east of England. She wrote plays and short stories from an early age, then had her head turned and ran off to London to be an actress. By 1993 she was wearing a wig and an old fashioned dress and pretending to be impoverished on telly in a Catherine Cookson mini-series, whilst going to see every indie/rock band she could afford.
After an interesting number of years messing about in front of the camera and traveling the world though, Tracy discovered she still loved writing and completed her first full length play. A son, many stage-plays, screenplays and two music videos followed until one day she realised she was finally ready to do the thing she’d longed to do since she was six. She wrote her first novel. A crime/horror/comedy tale about an alcohol-soaked, gobby, thrill-seeking actress who talks to ghosts. (Who knows where the inspiration came from, it’s almost like she based it on her own ridiculous life.) Then she wrote a follow up and realised she couldn’t stop writing books.
Now Tracy lives in north London with her son, still travels whenever possible and has written novel number four. Now being edited.
You can read what other bloggers think to Tanz and her world by checking out the other stops on the blog tour.
Synopsis | Life is short – no one knows that better than seventeen year-old Lenni Petterssen. On the Terminal Ward, the nurses are offering their condolences already, but Lenni still has plenty of living to do. When she meets 83-year-old Margot Macrae, a fellow patient offering new friendship and enviable artistic skills, Lenni’s life begins to soar in ways she’d never imagined.
As their bond deepens, a world of stories opens up: of wartime love and loss, of misunderstanding and reconciliation, of courage, kindness and joy. Stories that have led Lenni and Margot to the end of their days.
Fiercely alive, disarmingly funny, and brimming with tenderness, THE ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF LENNI AND MARGOT unwraps the extraordinary gift of life even when it is about to be taken away, and revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we need it most.
My Thoughts | As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew it was meant for me. This is the type of world I understand; the kingdom of the sick. Not that I have a terminal illness, but I do have a life limiting illness and that puts me into a different bracket in society. I don’t do a 9-5, I have to spend a lot of time at home and I have no idea what the next day will bring. It’s a strange place to be; to have life in front of you, but knowing there are now limits to how I live and possibly how long I live for. It’s about learning to live, while dying.
That’s what Lenni and Margot understand. While the nurses are already saying their goodbyes, Lenni and Margot are making friends and learning how to carry on living. I love the idea of this cross generational friendship, because I do believe we can develop deep connections outside of our own age bracket. We have so much to offer each other. Older people bring their wisdom, experiences and perspective to the table. Whilst younger people can replenish a life with energy, knowledge of popular culture and technology that can enrich an older person, establish connections and reduce isolation. Also both are aware that they have limited time so put their all into the friendship, as well as the new experiences it brings. It sounds like a tearjerker, but one that that’s also uplifting and full of life lessons we could all do with learning.
Biography | Marianne Cronin is the author of ‘The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, which took me six years to write and I’m very excited that their story is now reaching readers. Before She started working on writing fiction full-time, she worked in academia and has a PhD in Applied Linguistics but she doesn’t use the title ‘Dr’ on official documents because She’s scared of being asked to help in a medical emergency and having only a thesis on linguistics to help. She likes to write at night and when not writing, she can be found trying to be funny in various improv groups or watching her recently-adopted cat sleeping under my desk.