Posted in Netgalley

The House Beneath the Cliffs by Sharon Gosling.

I was drawn to this novel by Sharon Gosling as soon as I read the blurb on NetGalley. I enjoy novels where a character has the bravery to start over, especially if the ‘before’ meant overcoming some sort of adversity. For Anna, a talented chef who decides to move to a tiny village on the coast of Scotland, it’s overcoming years of psychological abuse from her boss and partner, Jeff. They met at catering college and ever since Anna has been working under him in London, helping him to earn several Michelin stars over the years. However, Anna has never really acknowledged or even felt entitled to that success, because Jeff has always told her she needs a strong leader, she’s best in a supporting role; she hasn’t the talent to survive on her own. So, after their split, she moves to the other end of the country and to a bothy in a tiny fishing village on the Moray Firth. Crovie is a village that survives despite everything the sea can throw at it. Under a huge cliff, it has survived storms and landslides in the past. It has the remoteness that Anna is looking for, but as she first sets foot in her new home ‘Fishergirl’s Luck’ she wonders if she can really live in a place like this? However, whether it’s the sea air, the villagers or a blessing from a previous single woman who lived there, Anna soon feels inspired. Could this be the perfect place for a foodie to start a new venture?

The setting was so beautifully rendered throughout the novel. There’s something forbidding about the position of the village, wedged between the cliff and the roaring sea. It’s so vividly portrayed I could almost feel the salt spray on my cheeks and the wind whipping my hair around. Anna’s connection with nature is unexpected and deeply inspiring. She clambers over the rocks, goes out on the boat to see dolphins and collects purslane and razor clams. The sea is both friend and foe, bringer of food and providing work for the fishermen, but also the force that batters the cliffs and erodes the very soil under Crovie. Then in complete contrast we have ‘The Fishergirl’s Luck’ and the way it feels so inhospitable at first, way too small to live in, let alone cook in. Yet, as soon as Anna starts to clean and turn it into a home, something warm and cozy emerges from the dust and grime. Just like the village seems almost pitted against nature, Anna has had to pit herself against the bothy. Now it feels like a shelter, somewhere that will keep her safe.

When she finds previous tenant Brenda’s recipe book and makes her hazelnut and raspberry shortbread, something connects the two women across time. This aspect was interesting because it seems as if Brenda used to receive the similar treatment from the local fishermen, that Anna has received from Jeff. Especially from the irascible Doug McKean who seems to think he was cheated out of the bothy by Brenda and intends to keep the grudge going through Anna’s time there. Brenda wanted to fish in her own right, something the men found ridiculous. She found and fished her own boat, maintained the cottage and named it. Something of Bren’s spirit gets into Anna and it’s like nothing can hold her back – even Jeff turning up all the way to life-changing surprises, she takes them in her stride. She also takes strength from wonderful neighbours like Pat and John, local potter Rhona, fisherman Liam and both young and old Robbie. She meets Liam while looking for fresh fish in hope of reviving her a lunch she’s planning. He brings her a table and bench for the garden that sparks an idea – what if she started a lunch club outside for the summer? Although she thought she’d bought the cottage from an elderly man, Auld Robbie, he turns out to be younger than she expected and a widower with an adorable son. Young Robbie is obsessed with a pod of dolphins in the bay and their welfare is all important to him. Every day he checks them, and asks Anna to join them.

I loved watching her circle widen and her confidence beginning to return. Bren’s notebook is the re-birth of Anna’s love of food and it is her food. Away from any other influence she is now free to experiment and do things her way. I really enjoyed the foraging for ingredients and descriptions of her dishes, which sound delicious rather than fussy or refined. However, I was interested to find out whether she kept her confidence, particularly when old pressures and influences surfaced? There are a lot of books around where a woman makes a new start and often they’re too saccharin or unbelievable. This had it’s predictable moments, but every so often there was enough of a curve ball to to make it feel fresh. The author wasn’t above giving her heroine some mountains to climb here and there, both positive and negative. Anna is a brave woman though and not above taking risks – she’s bought a house without viewing it, started a lunch club in the open air in Scotland, taken on the local misanthrope and accepted the more unexpected surprises life has thrown at her. As a big summer storm approached I wondered whether the luck of the cottage would hold? If not, would Anna take the easy option and leave Crovie or will she keep fighting for what she wants? Blessed with charming locals, stunning scenery and an interesting history, Crovie was a lovely place to spend a few hours.

Meet The Author.

Sharon Gosling lives with her husband in a very remote village in northern Cumbia, where they moved to run a second-hand bookshop, Withnail Books in Penrith. She began her career in entertainment journalism, writing for magazines in the science fiction and fantasy genre, before moving on to write tie-in books for TV shows such as Stargate and the ‘re-imagined’ Battlestar Galactica. She has also written, produced, and directed audio dramas based in the same genre. When she’s not writing, she creates beautiful linocut artwork and is the author of multiple children’s books. The House Beneath the Cliffs is her first adult novel. Follow her at @sharongosling.

Posted in Publisher Proof

Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke.

VIGILANTE

True crime podcaster Elle Castillo has long been obsessed with The Countdown Killer.

VICTIMS

Twenty years ago, he went on a killing spree. Each new victim was a year younger than the last.

VENGEANCE

Now, he’s back.

Elle must stop the deadly countdown before the killer can claim his next victim.

Girl 11 is the perfect read for fans of True Crime, whether they’re addicted to Netflix series or listen to podcasts. True crime podcasts have played a part in two other books I’ve read in the past six months, so their popularity has come to the attention of authors wanting to keep their crime fiction as up to the minute as possible. Here, Elle is a podcaster turned sleuth and she is determined she has what it takes to catch the Countdown Killer. We’ve all sat and watched documentaries – I admit an addiction to Forensics: The Real CSI – and considered the evidence, only to find ourselves screaming at the the detectives on screen to go back and look at x or y that didn’t make sense or a witness who seemed a little too interested in the details of the crime. I imagine what it must be like to psychologically profile a suspect, or to come up against them in interview.

Elle takes armchair detecting one step further by carrying out her own investigation into crimes, often involving children. The structure of the book is clever, as a transcript of her podcast is placed between each chapter. This divides the book quite neatly into the detail of Elle’s past research into the crime, and the present day action that drives the story forward. This latest podcast on The Countdown Killer details crimes from twenty-four years ago. The killer abducted and murdered young women according to their age, starting at twenty, but then threatening to count down from there, reducing each victim’s age by one year each time. Then the killer stopped abruptly, leaving most crime enthusiasts thinking he was dead, but Elle isn’t so sure, especially when another child goes missing. When asked by the police to consult on the new case she considers whether it might be the same killer, but her colleagues start to question her judgement. Is she too fixated on the Countdown Killer? Also, is it wrong that every time I read that name I imagined a killer rampaging through the C4 Countdown studio?

I thought the set up of the book was excellent and the first half really grabbed my attention and pulled me into the story. I thought the ritual nature of the original murders and the whole of the cold case, was fascinating and if it was a real podcast I could imagine a lot of people enjoying the content. Yet, having set a brilliant scene and pace, I thought the second half of the book slowed down and didn’t keep me as engaged. I knew what was coming a little too much, and I waited patiently to be disproved or for a huge twist that didn’t come. Having read the Six Stories series of Matt Wesolowski, which also follows a cold case podcast, I felt this wasn’t as inventive as it could have been. I did really enjoy Elle though. She was an interesting and intelligent woman, very good at her job and almost forensic in the detail she brings to her podcasts. I felt there was more than just prurient interest in the crimes she details, she truly wants to solve these cases and get justice for the victims. I enjoyed the interviews she carries out with experts too. I thought her private life could have done with some fleshing out, because I felt I only knew Elle through her work, rather than feeling she was a fully rounded character. This was an interesting debut, and I think the format of the podcasts could work very well as a series going forward and I think there’s much more to come from this author in the future.

Published 26th April 2021 by Pushkin Vertigo.

Meet The Author

Amy Suiter Clarke is the author of GIRL, 11 and is a writer and communications specialist. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she completed an undergraduate in theater in the Twin Cities. She then moved to London and earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing at Kingston University. She currently works for a university library in Melbourne, Australia.

Posted in Monthly Wrap Up

Books Of The Month! June 2021.

Wow! June has been quite a month when it comes to fiction releases and I’ve had an absolute blast reading them. I think this is the biggest number of five star reads I’ve had in one month – usually I might include a couple of four star books here and there on the list, but not this month. There was a point when I’d read four, 5 ⭐️ novels in a row and was scared to pick up another in case I was disappointed! This is going to be a bumper year and I may have to do a ‘21 of 2021’ to accommodate everything I want to include in December. I’m hoping that my reading luck continues into July. Happy summer reading everyone!

I must give special mention to Karen at Orenda Books who said to me back in March that I needed to read the Jubilant June books they were publishing, particularly Everything Happens For A Reason. She said I would cry and I cried buckets, but I absolutely loved it too. Rachel is struggling to cope with the grief, after her baby son, Luke, is stillborn. Using the type of platitude many people resort to in the face of such terrible loss, she is told that ‘everything happens for a reason’. Unable to cope with the idea that Luke’s death is senseless, Rachel latches on to the idea. She thinks about saving the man who wanted to throw himself onto the train tracks and wonders if it is a coincidence that this was the very same day she found out she was pregnant? Rachel looks for the man she saved, in order to find the meaning in her experience. This is a stunning story of love, loss and hope.

In One Last Time we meet Anne, long term carer for her husband Gustav after a series of strokes. Not long after Gustav is transferred to a nursing home, Anne is diagnosed with cancer. This novel is an exploration of living, while dying. However, it’s also about motherhood and the relationship Anne has with her daughter, which was complicated by her caring role. Daughter Sigrid believes she was neglected by Anne, who chose Gustav’s needs over those of her children, but we also see Sigrid’s mothering skills and how they are interpreted by her daughter. This is a novel about the things we want to say to those we love, how they are meant and how they are received. Brilliantly perceptive, moving, honest and real.

Finally from Orenda is This Is What It Means To Be Human. Veronica lives in Hull with her adult son Sebastian. Sebastian is on the autistic spectrum and in a lot of ways acts the same way he did when he was small, even continuing to attend his childhood swimming club. However, there is one new interest in his life; Sebastian wants to have sex and although he is quite humorous in the way he expresses this, it is a natural urge. Usually Veronica helps with his hobbies, but she doesn’t know what to do with this one. After fruitless visits to their GP and a sexual health clinics, Veronica considers an escort. Could this be the answer to Sebastian’s prayers? This is a brilliantly ground breaking book that shows disabled people do have sex. You will laugh and cry at Sebastian’s quest to find a partner and Veronica’s realisation that her son is becoming a man. This really is am incredible novel from a writer at the peak of her skills.

This is a truly exceptional novel, one I’m sure I’ll read again and again. Ruth is struggling for direction in life and thinks she has chosen a path with Alex – a married man who left his wife and children to live with her in her tiny flat. Yet it doesn’t feel like the right fit. Can Ruth end the relationship knowing the havoc caused to Alex’s family? Yet she can’t remain, knowing this wasn’t what she expected. She takes a drastic decision, to leave London and work in a whale sanctuary in New Zealand. However, during her flight the unthinkable happens, Europe is wiped out in some sort of nuclear event that is also on its way down under. Ruth tries to find her destination and ends up on a beach, with a dying stranded whale and a man called Nik. Miraculously saved by climbing inside the whale, Ruth knows they are possibly the last people on earth. This book is extraordinary, not just the post-apocalypse survival story but the examination of love. Is it flowery exclamations or simply working together every day, them waking up one day with the realisation you’re a team and you couldn’t live without each other. It’s also about our definition of ‘self’ and who we are when everything we know and love is stripped away. I absolutely love this stunning novel and expect it to feature in my best books of 2021.

After my love of Elizabeth Buchan’s previous novel The Museum of Broken Promises, I was really excited about reading this on NetGalley. It follows two British women, living and working in Rome; one in the 1970’s as Italy is struggling out of fascism and one in the present day. Lottie has moved to Rome to live with her husband and work at the Archivo Espatriati. Her first job is to catalogue the papers of a woman called Nina Lawrence who worked in Rome in the 1970s as a garden designer, redesigning some of the gardens ruined by war. However, it seems that Nina is a woman of secrets and once Lottie starts to unravel her life and murder, she finds she may be in danger herself, attracting the attention of spies and the Catholic Church alike. The descriptions of Italy, and it’s incredible food, are vividly brought to life by the author and it’s a great chance to enjoy the Eternal City, However, the novel also asks serious questions, about where we belong, whether we drift through life or whether we make decisions based on a deep sense of duty to our religion, our family and our country. I think this novel cements Elizabeth Buchan as a ‘go to’ author for her sense of place, interesting and complicated women, and her wonderful historical detail.

I was absolutely enthralled by this great thriller from one of my favourite authors Lisa Jewell. In fact I read it in a weekend as a treat. Sophie and Shaun haven’t been together very long, but when he gets a teaching job at the exclusive private school Maypole House she decides to move out to the country with him. As a crime writer she can work anywhere, but she soon sniffs out a real-life mystery on her new doorstep. One year ago, in the woods behind their new house, Sophie learns that a young couple disappeared after a party. When she finds a buried box in her garden with the invitation to ‘Dig Here’, she can’t resist and unearths an engagement ring. Now she’s determined to find out what happened to young couple Tallulah and Zach, destined for a night in the pub, only to end up at a party at Dark Place – an historic house, situated in the woods. How did they end up with Scarlett Jacques and her friends when neither of them knew her. Mum Kim knows Tallulah would never have voluntarily left her baby, and neither would Noah. Yet neither of them have ever been found. Rumours abound about secret tunnels in the woods and they’re not the only twists and turns in this great thriller, along with a few red herrings and a totally unexpected ending. This book is ‘stay up till 3am’ sort of addictive.

An excellent thriller, filled with childhood trauma, psychological problems and the dynamics between people damaged in this way. Over two timelines we follow Nell in her final year of foster care and in a group home run by foster mum Meagan Flack, then one year later, living on the street in London. There’s a secret, deep down, that Nell can’t share or talk about, but it was the catalyst for her move to London with Joe. However Joe hasn’t weathered a winter on the streets as well as Nell, and when she discovers him entering a house with a blonde woman, she wants to know where he’s been, Nell observes Starling Villas from the coffee shop across the road. She doesn’t see Joe, but notices a young woman leaving the house and heading for a coffee. Thinking on her feet, Nell pretends to be in recruitment and when the girl opens up about the job at the house she concocts a story. Telling the girl her would- be employer is known to sexually harass his staff, she then poses as a potential employee and meets Robin, owner of the house. Now starts a game of cat and mouse, but who is the real predator? This is a great thriller, trying to solve two mysteries – what happened back in Wales a year ago and where are Joe and the blonde woman? Fragile is complex and atmospheric, exploring what happens when psychologically damaged people come together.

This was a book I’d been waiting to read – historical fiction with a focus on the treatment of women and those with mental health issues. Eugénie is the daughter in a middle class Parisian family, who has a very strong affinity with her grandmother. However, Eugénie has been keeping a secret from her whole family; since adolescence she has seen and been able to communicate with the dead. Trusting her grandmother, she confides in her about the presence of her grandfather who wishes to communicate with his wife. Despite seeming calm about Eugénie’s gift, the very next day her father takes her out in the carriage alongside her brother Theo, This is no ordinary outing. As the infamous Saltpétrière Asylum looms into view, she realises her grandmother has betrayed her and that the two men she should be able to trust most in the world are committing her to an asylum. Saltpétrière is run by Dr Charcot who has enthralled Paris society with his use of mesmerism on the women in his care. Coming up is the highlight of Paris’s season – the MadWomen’s Ball – where patients are given costumes to appear in for the amusement and fascination of the Paris elite. This is a book about women and the barbaric ways they could be treated and displayed, at the behest of the men in their family who have found them either mad, too intelligent, too excitable or struck with melancholy. I loved the strong female characters in the asylum, and the complicated relationship between Eugénie and Geneviéve. The novel’s strength is in these fascinating women and the way they defy the rules.

It’s been a very busy reading month with thirteen other books read over the last four weeks! Here are just a few of the books on my TBR in July. I’m hoping to have a quieter August and September so I can catch up on my NetGalley list and some great proof copies sent in the last few weeks. See you in July. Hayley xx

Posted in Publisher Proof

The Lock-In by Phoebe Luckhurst.

Ellen and Alexa have survived hangovers, dodgy landlords and most of their twenties together.

But can they survive this?

After waking up with a terrible hangover, Ellen’s day is about to get much worse. It’s Saturday morning and a flooded kitchen leads best friends Ellen and Alexa into their attic looking for a stopcock. Their scream, after finding a mouse, leads their friend and housemate Jack up there too. But when Ben – Alexa’s date from the night before – walks in, the handle breaks, and all are trapped.

While Ellen nurses her hangover, she watches her best friend fall for this gorgeous stranger. Only to come to the horrifying realisation that she knows him from somewhere. Frantically searching her memories, Ellen wonders: is Ben really who she thinks he is?

And more importantly, what on earth is she going to do about it . . . ?

This is a fun rom-com and one of those deceptively light novels, that’s actually very difficult to write. It feels light-hearted and restricts the characters to one space – an attic within their shared home. I need a wee every five minutes, so I’d have ransacked every box in the attic for something to force the door open! I can’t possibly wee in a room with strangers! On a more serious note, the attic is a great dramatic device because it heightens tensions and seeing how that affects characters, is so interesting.

To create a good sense of the shifting perspectives in the room, the author gave each character their own narrative in the novel. It worked brilliantly because we could get a sense of how the existing relationships in the house worked, and how Ben’s presence changed that dynamic. It gave us different perspectives on what was happening too – who is panicking, who is a natural leader in a group, who comes up with creative solutions to the situation they’re in? It also showed how Alex’s presence with a man, a man she seems to be falling for, affects the others. When friends fall in love we’re happy for them, it’s a good thing, but will it change our relationship with them? Is the beginning of their relationship, necessarily the end of an era as single twenty-somethings sharing a home? I felt for Jack, who feels like an outsider in the house. Everything about him told me he was a warm-hearted and kind. Yet he seemed shy and a little bit awkward to. My heart went out to him.

There were some times I felt so old and I’m also completely out of touch with urban Iiving. I’m 47 years old and I’ve lived in a rural county my whole life. There were many references lost on me. Their teenage years may well have been spent on MSN messenger, mine was spent drinking on a riverbank and dancing in a psychedelic hoody to the Happy Mondays. My teenage years are pre-internet, which makes me feel prehistoric. I enjoyed the stories of internet dating, but my dates had to run the gauntlet of my Dad and suffer stifled, anxious, phone calls taking place in our living room with my whole family listening. I’ve heard stories of terrible landlords from friends who have lived in London, but here no one can afford to rent anything till they’re in their thirties. So I had to enjoy this as an amused older generation, learning about the world as it is now or might be for my stepdaughters (although that’s slightly worrying).

This is a great summer read, if you’re looking for something light-hearted with characters you’ll enjoy stuck in a very awkward situation. It’s a very modern room-com, bringing the genre bang up to date with some good laughs along the way.

Meet The Author


Phoebe Luckhurst is a journalist and author, who has written for publications including the Evening Standard, ES Magazine, ELLE, Grazia, Sunday Times Style, Guardian, Telegraph and Grazia. The Lock In is her first novel, and she is currently writing her second.

Posted in Random Things Tours

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth.

Do I really see what’s in her mind, Each time i think I’m close to knowing She keeps on growing, Slipping through my fingers all the time. ABBA

Years ago, when Mamma Mia first came out at the cinema, I went to see it with my Mum. When it came to the wedding day and Meryl Streep helping her daughter get ready for the ceremony, I saw so much emotion flow through my Mum’s face. I didn’t want to make a fuss, because I knew that if I touched her or asked if she was ok it would make things worse. It threw me a little bit because I couldn’t remember my mum ever being sentimental about me. I’d always been someone, she thought, could took care of herself. On our drive home I asked her what about the scene made her emotional, and she said it wasn’t the scene it was the song ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’. It talks about a mother who never seems able to fully capture a moment with her daughter, because she moves just out of reach all the time. Away to school, on to grammar school, to new friends, boyfriends, university and into a fully grown woman. I’m not sure I fully understood what she felt, I don’t have children, but more recently I became a stepmum to two teenage girls. I can see now, with my eldest, how girls grow so quick and out of your influence. How friends become the people who understand them, how they’re constantly making plans to get away, to visit other places, to move on, to study in another city. It’s as if the woman they’re becoming wipes away the trace of that little girl you once did everything for. This book is about that point between mother and daughter; Rachel sees her daughter Mia slipping through her fingers.

The backdrop to this mother -daughter story is a heatwave and a scandal. The nightmare begins when Mia’s school friend Lily disappears one night when she’s supposed to be at a sleep over with her friends. Mia socialises in a group of five girls, and in parallel Rachel keeps a What’s App group of their mothers aimed at keeping in touch with their daughter’s plans and keeping them safe. Lily disappears in the midst of the heatwave and the author very cleverly uses it to ratchet up the tension. At home and at Mia’s school, where Rachel works as a teacher, the heat is relentless. Rachel notices the girls in class lifting their long curtains of hair, and twisting it into a top knot just to feel some air on the back of their neck. Everyone is somehow more aware of each other’s bodies: the smells, the damp as you stand up from a sitting position, or on your back as you stop driving and get out of the car. Rachel’s also aware of so much young flesh on show. The girls and their golden legs, without a trace of hair. They’re perfection and by comparison Rachel is aware of her own flesh as less taut, just a millimetre too saggy at the jawline.

At night it’s impossible to sleep. In between the oppressive heat and worry about Lilly, there are short chapters detailing an illicit relationship. It feels obsessive and dangerous. There are no names used. Could it be Lily or is someone else keeping a secret? Then police find that Lily took something with her. A piece of lingerie belonging to her mother. That means she chose to go and for a moment everyone breathes, until they realise that means she didn’t go alone, but with a person is possibly older and might still mean her harm. Rachel asks Lily’s parents if she can look over her bedroom, just in case there is something the police have overlooked. Something that might only have meaning to those who know the girls well. She finds, on Lily’s notice board, some song lyrics and straight away she knows, she knows who Lily is with. The shock reverberates through her. She should tell the police straight away, but she can’t, she needs to process it first. To think it through before the police do find out, because that could bring even worse trouble. Yet, if it’s ever found out that she knew and kept it to herself, she could be in trouble with the police or even lose her job.

I enjoyed the author’s depiction of how Rachel copes with growing older, made especially difficult by her past and Mia’s growing beauty, Rachel has placed a photo outside the downstairs loo. It shows her at her peak of youth and beauty as the singer in a band. In skimpy clothes and torn tights I imagined her look like Courtney Love, the lead singer in Hole back in the 1990s. Rachel seems to be embarrassed when people recognise her, but it seems likely that people will see it, because of where it’s placed. It’s as if she wants to show she was once cool and beautiful. It’s an ego boost for her. There’s a disturbing scene later, when she takes Mia’s prom dress and tries it on. She’s pleased to be able to fit into it, but what seemed harmless turns into something else when Mia comes home. In another scene she has thoughts about Lily, and her first time sharing a living space with a man. Rachel imagines her worrying about how to do all the things that make her beautiful: the shaving, plucking and preening are no longer private and mysterious I l if these concerns were really for Lily or whether they were about her own beauty rituals. Would she ever be able to accept her ageing process and know she can be attractive at any age?

The mysterious man at the centre of Lily’s disappearance exerts a strange hold over the women involved with him. The author doesn’t ever give us his thoughts or feelings. We just get snippets of musical taste, but it’s clear he is either beguiling or emotionally/psychologically abusive. One disturbing scene shows him and his unnamed lover enter a freezing cold river in their underwear. He goes in first as if to give her the motivation and even though he says very little, it’s clear the female feels compelled to move in deeper and deeper until she feels the current trying to carry her away. I sensed that he wants her to feel powerless without him. I wasn’t surprised to learn who the anonymous lovers are in these sections, but the ending did surprise me. As everything comes to a head towards the Prom, Rachel gets a chance to see her daughter anew. Rachel learns so much about herself and how wrong she has been about any things. As she rushes to support her daughter it’s as if that stifling heat has been affecting her ability to think straight. As the rain starts to come down outside, leaving it’s own unique smell rising from the boiling pavements, Rachel’s eyes clear to see that within the beautiful woman in front of her, there is still a glimmer of the little girl inside again.

Meet The Author

HAZEL BARKWORTH grew up in Stirlingshire and North Yorkshire before studying English at Oxford. She then moved to London where she spent her days working as a cultural consultant, and her nights dancing in a pop band at glam rock clubs. Hazel is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing course. She now works in Oxford, where she lives with her partner. HEATSTROKE is her first novel.

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Posted in Monthly Wrap Up

Books Of The Month! May 2021

May has been a very busy blog month and had me almost at the edge of my reading limit. I found myself having to take breaks from reading because my eyes were so sore. However, I’ve still managed to read some fantastic novels. All the novelists above are new to me, except for one.

I had read Elizabeth’s MacNeal’s first novel The Doll Factory, so I knew I would love this one. The story of a young girl with birthmarks on her face and body, catches the eye of a passing showman. Jasper Jupiter has seen her dancing round the camp fire with her brother. She has the sort of wild abandon that’s rare in one so shy and reserved. He can see her now, in his circus, perhaps even performing before the Queen if she could be tempted away from mourning Prince Albert. The book flits between the circus and back to Jasper and his brother Toby’s time in the Crimea. We follow Nell as she leaves her village behind to become Queen of the Moon and Stars. However, could Jasper’s eagerness to expand and show in London be their undoing? There are some very interesting disability issues here, including a look at the ethical concerns around freak shows.

This novel was a great surprise. I read this for a blog tour and I really couldn’t stop reading, so had to cope with a couple of regrettable late nights! For the first chapter I expected a bit of an ‘aga saga’. Cass lives a very comfortable life in the country with her husband and daughter. She is a gardener and is very involved in her local community, including a friendship group of very close women friends. Ellie turns up at a Sunday barbecue and makes quite an entrance. Where the other women are in shirts and jeans, Ellie is fully made up, wearing a stunning 1950’s style dress and a pair of towering red high heels. She’s an author and has moved close to Cass, hoping for some quiet to write her novel. Cass wonders whether she’s met a new friend, and Ellie does seem to slot into the group very easily. However, over the coming weeks Cass finds little things going wrong, she’s confused and feels alienated from her friends, but has no idea why. This is a great thriller that will keep you guessing.

This was an incredible debut from this author and a feminist rewrite of the Greek myth Theseus and the Minotaur. Ariadne is the eldest daughter of King Minos of Crete and his wife Pasiphae. She has a sister called Phaedra, but has very mixed feelings about her younger brother Asterion. Asterion was the result of a prank played by Poseidon on King Minos. To embarrass the King, Poseidon placed an enchantment on Pasiphae so she fell in love with a bull. Asterion was the result of their union and at first Ariadne has very positive memories of her baby brother and his little horn buds above huge eyelashes. Yet before long Minos has renamed him the Minotaur, and instructs Daedalus to build a labyrinth to keep him in. Once a year, Minos demands the sacrifice of young men and women from Athens, who are placed in the labyrinth and chased down by the Minotaur. Then, one year, Theseus arrives with the sacrificial group. Ariadne is dazzled by this young man and agrees to help him by placing his weapons inside the labyrinth, enabling him to kill her brother. He promises to take Ariadne with him, when he returns to Athens. So how come she wakes up a day later, on a different island, alone. The author retells this well known story from the point of view of the women and I really enjoyed reviewing it from a disability perspective too.

This was my first Faith Hogan novel and I’ll definitely be buying more. Again, women are front and centre in this story based in a small village in Ireland. Elizabeth is the doctor’s wife and lives in the big house, but her marriage has been far from happy and after the death of her husband she finds they were drowning in debt. Luckily she has a good friend to turn to. Jo lives in a little cottage at the bottom of the village and she has a brainwave to help her friend. Jo’s daughter Lucy is a doctor, taking a break from working in a hospital after her marriage broke down. She brings her teenage and stays at her mother’s, agreeing to keep the GP surgery ticking over until Elizabeth knows what she wants to do. Then Jo receives shocking news that will change life for them all. The women dispel their worries by meeting at night and going wild swimming in the Irish Sea. When they’re laid back in the waves looking up at the stars, life looks different and their worries seem smaller. It also gives them the idea for a fundraiser for their local hospice. I loved this story of female friendship and the support we can give each other.

Finally, there’s this disturbing read, which was an uncomfortable experience since we’re still living in a pandemic. This is another clever debut, set in 2025, where a Glasgow doctor reports a worrying pattern of illness she’s detected. Dr Andrea McLean is horrified when a young man presents with a fever and dies within three hours. It spreads through the hospital with frightening speed, but the powers that be don’t want to acknowledge the problem at first. By the time they do, it will be too late. A pandemic is underway, and strangely this virus seems to only affect men. This book made me think really deeply about what such a pandemic would mean to society. There are all the roles that men usually fill, but also some terrible choices for individual women to make. If your partner was ill, would you leave to protect your male children? Could you leave your elderly father to die, to keep your husband safe? Although this was an uncomfortable read, it was thought-provoking and incredibly clever too.

Looking Forward To in June

Posted in Random Things Tours

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint.

“What I did not know was that I had hit upon a truth of womanhood: however blameless a life we led, the passions and the greed of men could bring us to ruin, and there was nothing we could do.”

I know we shouldn’t choose books based on their cover, but I wanted to mention straight away how stunning the finished hardback of this book really is. A gorgeous design of vines in midnight blue and gold, this would jump out at you in any book store. We all know the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Everything is black and white when we’re small children, so we take in myths like this, accepting everything we’re told. It’s just a story isn’t it? King Minos has a monster called The Minotaur that’s half man and half bull. Every year the city of Athens must send seven of its best sons and daughters to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. Then one year, Theseus arrives in place of one of the chosen boys, with a plan to kill the Minotaur and stop this blood shed. Minos’s eldest daughter, Ariadne, falls in love at first sight and vows to help Theseus, expecting that she will travel back to Athens with him.

However, the plan doesn’t unfold as she expected and we follow her story as she wakes up on a neighbouring Greek Island alone. Having done a small amount of Latin and Greek at school, I’ve read many of the Greek myths and my abiding impression was how cruel the gods were. In modern Christian faith believers tend to trust in God being a comfort and help in troubled times, but these classical gods are usually causing the troubled times. They are either disguising themselves as animals, committing rapes against human women, having relationships with humans, but then retreating to be unfathomable, mysterious, beings when it suits them. I would have found the Greek’s concept of gods to be frightening – they are capricious, childlike and move humans round like chess pieces. So, knowing that the gods interfered in the lives of King Minos and his Queen did not surprise me.

In this feminist retelling, Jennifer Saint deliberately places the women in the centre of this myth, where they should be. It subtly changes it’s meaning and makes us think again about the version we have always known. King Minos’s daughters, Ariadne and Phaedre, have a living example of how women’s lives are played with by male gods in their own mother Pasiphae, who was tricked into falling in love with a bull. Minos tried to steal Poseidon’s incredible creation of the Cretan bull. In his anger Poseidon filled Pasiphae with lust for the bull and from their rather undignified union came the girl’s brother Asterion, half boy half calf. Possibly thinking of her own troubles, their mother tells them the full story of Medusa, including the part prior to her entanglement with Perseus. In a late version of her story, written by Ovid, Medusa was a beautiful girl with lustrous long hair, and was a priestess of Athena. Poseidon was beaten by Athena into becoming patron of the capital city of Greece, Athens. To punish Athena he ‘seduced’ or raped Medusa in Athena’s temple. However, instead of punishing Poseidon, Athena punished Medusa by turning her hair into snakes. The only version I was ever told, when studying classics at school, was Medusa’s part in the story of Perseus – women are of course, only bit players in the story of these incredible male heroes. These part stories, accepted and understood by me as a young teenager, now make me angry. I was only ever given the male version of these tales and I can understand what pushed the author to write this.

‘I only knew Medusa as a monster. I had not thought she had ever been anything else. The stories of Perseus did not allow for a Medusa with a story of her own.’

As usual though, because I have a disability, the book make me think about how disability and difference is portrayed in the myths. There were some similarities between Asterion and Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. As I was reading about the Minotaur’s origins I started to have feelings for this creature who never asked to exist. The narrator tells us about her mother after his birth, when she’s blank and exhausted but:

‘she cradled a mass of blankets to her breast and she pressed her nose softly to her baby’s head. He snuffled, hiccuped and opened a dark eye to stare into mine as I moved slowly forward. I noticed that it was fringed with long, dark eyelashes. A chubby hand fluttered against my mother’s breast; one tiny, perfect pink nail at the end of each finger. I could not yet see beneath the blanket where the soft pink infant legs gave way at the ankles to dark fur and hard, stony hooves. The infant was a monster and the mother a hollowed-out shell, but I was a child and drawn to the frail spark of tenderness in the room.’

She describes this special time, before he was monstrous and how she felt, even about the more unusual aspects of him.

‘I reached that final inch and bridged the gulf between us. My fingers stroked the slick fur of his brow, beneath the bulging edifice of rocky horns that emerged at his temples. I let my hand sweep gently across the soft spot just between his eyes. With a barely perceptible movement, his jaw loosened and a little huff of breath blew warm against my face.’

She realises he is not a monster, he is her brother. Inexplicably he moves from milk to craving raw meat and eating passing rats. However, Ariadne does not fear him and instead of thinking ahead, she focuses on the here and now and describes trying to teach him table manners and how to be gentle. Even she has realised that Asterion is a victim, and feels a ‘raw pity’ for him that brings tears to her eyes. In the same way that it isn’t Medusa’s fault she is raped in Athena’s temple, it’s not Asterion’s fault that he is created the way he is. Ariadne describes him as Poseidon’s cruel joke and humiliation for a man who has never even deigned to lay his eyes on him. That is until Minos sees he can use Asterion for his own ends. Minos was only proud of his potential monstrousness and the fear he might instil in his enemies. It is Minos who instructs Daedalus to construct the labyrinth that secures Asterion as a slave and even though there is pride in his new weapon, he doesn’t even allow him to keep his own name.

‘And so Asterion became the Minotaur. My mother’s private constellation of shame intermingled with love and despair no longer; instead, he became my father’s display of dominance to the world. I saw why he proclaimed him the Minotaur, stamping this divine monstrosity with his own name and aligning its legendary status with his own from its very birth.’

I was fascinated with the author’s storytelling, it is spellbinding. She shows us that for powerful men and gods like Minos and Poseidon, whether you are a woman or different like Asterion your only worth in this life, is wrapped up in your value to men. If Asterion had remained gentle and docile, Minos would still have banished him in some way. Pasiphae’s psychological break after his birth shows what happens to women who give birth to daughters and monsters. This is a book that truly makes you think, not just about the historical myths we’re told, but who tells them and why? It also made me think about the stories we are told today, by our world leaders (still largely men). How do they shape the way we view the world? Which heroes do they hold up as examples? Which monsters do they wield to control us? Like Ariadne we must learn to question. She learns to her cost, that even the man who appears to be her saviour, is more interested in his own glory. There is so much to enjoy here and on so many different levels. This is a stunning debut and shouldn’t be missed.

‘No longer was my world one of brave heroes; I was learning all too swiftly the women’s pain that throbbed unspoken through the tales of their feats.’

Meet The Author


Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After thirteen years as a high school English teacher, she wrote ARIADNE which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Jennifer Saint is now a full-time author, living in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.

Posted in Random Things Tours

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird.

“Glasgow, 2025.  Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. Within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. This is how it begins.

The victims are all men.

Last year at this time I was reading Eve Smith’s The Waiting Rooms and observing how strange it felt to be reading about a pandemic in a pandemic. I imagined that all would be normal by Christmas. Here I am a whole year later writing about another story of a dystopian pandemic, when apart from moving house I’ve barely moved beyond my own front gate. Last year it felt strangely unreal, while this year it’s all too familiar and the weekend’s footage of people at the first music festival since COVID seemed like an anomaly. Due to my multiple risk factors I’m inside till my second jab, but I think getting out and about again won’t come naturally. This experience definitely affected my response to The End of Men because now it doesn’t feel like reading science fiction, it feels like a possibility, a potential future.

The End of Men features a virus that exclusively affects men. It’s 2025 and Dr Amanda McLean raises the alarm. Ironically she’s dismissed as hysterical. When she is finally taken seriously it’s too late. The, largely male, global leadership are slow to accept the reality and slow to act, as the death toll climbs further every day they do nothing. Women can be carriers, but don’t catch the disease. The spread is so diverse that eventually 90% of men are affected. The author tells the story using several different first – person narratives, each one a woman, left behind to deal with what is now a woman’s world. As well as Dr McLean there’s a social historian named Catherine who is trying to document human stories of the plague. As the government tries to organise a new society, they employ the services of Dawn who is an intelligence analyst. Then there’s Elizabeth, desperately trying to develop a vaccine. Through these and other viewpoints we start to see how society will change. The many voices could have been confusing, and there were occasions when I was unsure who I was reading. I soon overcame that and realised that the diversity of characters helped the reader realise the scope of this disaster and how it might affect people differently across gender, race, and class lines. This had me thinking about those voices missed – there are no LGBTQ characters in the book, which seemed odd when the virus is so gender specific. It would have brought a unique perspective to the book.

When I first read the premise of the book I hadn’t fully realised what an effect it would have to lose men. I thought of society turning upside down, no patriarchy, a world ruled by women. Through this book I realised what it would mean day to day – for a start all the professions that men usually dominate like tradesmen – electricians, builders, joiners, and plumbers. Then there’s the armed forces and how lack of defences would weaken countries. A lack of police officers, dustbin men, road sweepers, and funeral directors. There’s the fact that the other half of society will be trying to keep their respective countries together when they’re grieving huge losses of potentially every man in their family. They’re faced with terrible choices and I found myself awake at night wondering what I would do: if I had sons and the government wanted to corral them in a medical facility to keep them safe; or if my husband was sick, would I leave to keep my sons safe; if there were three generations of men in my household who would I ask to leave? Which classes and races would be most affected by the virus due to different living conditions and the financial implications of splitting a household. I thought into the future and wondered whether, once a vaccine was found, would governments start controlling fertility to repopulate the earth with men? Would I want more men and might we end up with gender wars? I kept thinking about parallels with post WWI where villages lost a whole generation of men, and where returning men found women doing their jobs and not wanting to give them up. Some men became violent and committed crimes in their frustration at having no employment to come home to. These would be massive societal shifts and it was hard to comprehend them, especially at a time when we are readjusting to coming out of lockdown. Our heads are already full of which behaviours we might keep – mask wearing, reduced social mingling, working from home – and those we’ll be happy to discard.

It does seem, the more you read, that this book is chillingly prescient. It’s no surprise that people around the author might joke about her Sybil- like tendencies in predicting the end of a world as we understand it. I don’t want to give anything more away because you need to read this and have your own reactions to it, but you should read it. This is beautifully written and compelling to read. Somehow it managed to be both hard to put down and difficult to pick up! I felt like I’d been through the emotional wringer afterwards and couldn’t stop thinking about it. However, it wasn’t just the tough decisions I remembered. It was the incredible resilience of these women and how the human capacity for hope is remarkable. This is an unbelievable debut novel. It will be an excellent book club choice over the coming months and people will want to put themselves in these character’s shoes and wonder – what would they do? Your answers might surprise you.

Meet The Author.

Christina Sweeney-Baird wrote The End of Men in 2018 and 2019 before Corona virus and could never have expected the parallels between the real world and my fiction that would ensue. She was told by some early readers though, that The End of Men has made them feel better about the world we live in today. The book has a lot of hope and is, ultimately, about human resilience and our ability to cope with the extraordinary.

My debut novel, will be released on 29 April 2021 and is to be published in 15 languages. The End of Men explores the question: what would the world look like without men? It follows characters as they try and keep their families safe, recover and rebuild the world after a deadly virus to which women are immune kills 90% of the male population. You follow characters like Dr Amanda Maclean, a Glaswegian A and E consultant, who treats Patient Zero and is desperate to keep her two sons safe; Elizabeth Cooper, a young American scientist who helps to create a vaccine in London; and Catherine Lawrence, an anthropologist who wants to record and commemorate what’s happening in the world.

She lives in London where she works full-time as a corporate litigation lawyer. She writes 1,000 words a day in the evenings and on weekends, fuelled by 7up Free, green tea and snacks.

Posted in Publisher Proof

Shiver by Allie Reynolds.

It’s that time of year again. The time the glacier gives up bodies.

The ‘shiver’ in the title of this novel doesn’t just refer to the icy cold, French Alps where it’s set, but also to the uneasy feeling you get while reading it. The author creates an isolated and claustrophobic atmosphere almost immediately as the group arrive to a deserted ski chalet. There’s no one operating the cable car or to greet them as they enter, but there is a warm casserole pot in the kitchen – someone has cooked their dinner. From that evening, everything conspires to keep them there, including the worst weather they have experienced on the glacier. This is off season and the five are stuck together, once the closest friends, but keeping so many secrets from each other. The ‘icebreaker’ exercise waiting for them in the function room, ratchets up the tension by partially exposing these secrets – more than one of them slept with Heather, one of them knows what happened to Saskia and one of them killed her. The group goes from reunion chums to suspicious and paranoid immediately. Milla, our narrator, suspects Curtis as the instigator of the weekend, in a last ditch attempt to find out what happened to his little sister. Yet, there’s also a tiny part of her that thinks the worst – that this is Saskia, still alive and ready to wreak revenge.

In a second timeline Milla takes us back to the peak of her snowboarding career. Firstly, to the season where she met her friends for the first time, and realises she is very definitely the underdog. Milla isn’t from the sort of family who put their kids on skis as soon as they can walk. She’s from a humble background and has to work hard to afford to compete. She only has one board. Saskia is the competition, and she first visited this glacier at the age of three with her two snowboarding parents. She’s unmistakable on the course, her white blonde hair flying behind her as she practises tricks in the half pipe. Milla really needs to land a top three position, if she’s going to carry on competing. If you want sponsorships you have to be visible. The author develops their rivalry straight away, when Saskia invites Milla on a night out. Milla finds out how far Saskia is willing to go in order to win. In the club they join Odette – a French snowboarder – and some of the other athletes. Milla is surprised they’re drinking, but doesn’t want to be a killjoy. However, when she buys a round at the bar it’s really cheap. She’s confused, until Heather the barmaid tells her that only one of the drinks is alcohol. This nasty trick sets in motion a chain of revenge and counter attack, that continues until Saskia disappears.

This group have held on to their secrets and their tormentor seems to know how far they will have to be pushed to give them up. People grow more paranoid, suspecting allegiances and rehashing what happened in the past. Milla has found Curtis the most difficult one to let go of and she’s torn between her old feelings and suspecting him as the organiser of this strange reunion. She has to decide whether to trust him or not. Back then there was an immediate chemistry between them, but Milla was scared of it. He was always very close to his sister and she could never work out whether he was being protective of Saskia or the victims of her tricks and games. As Milla explains, athletes have lots of excess energy, and both Brent and Curtis make an offer to Milla, She can knock on the door, and either of them would be happy to have her as a bedfellow. Despite wanting Curtis more, she chooses to sleep with Brent, because she can’t afford the distraction of a full blown love affair. Now she wonders if Curtis still feels the same way about her as he used to, because now she’s close to him again, she knows her feelings haven’t changed.

I love how the chalet gives up small secrets to set the group on edge. Their phones disappear, items go missing from their bags, but strange things appear too, such as Saskia’s ski pass for the final season and a lock of ice blonde hair. The ice axe goes missing from the wall in the dining area and Milla notices that the eyes of a stag’s head mounted on the wall don’t match; it’s one of many cameras watching their every move. Curtis breaks down some of the locked doors determined to find a control room and hopefully get some clues about their culprit. The author skilfully controls what is revealed until you’re so determined to find out what’s going on you stay up reading till 3am! When it’s people that start to go missing, I realised that their tormentor is looking for the ultimate revenge.

I have to say this tale did keep me guessing, not just about who was responsible, but about the psyche of highly competitive people. There’s a level of narcissism and ruthlessness that’s perfect ground for a thriller like this. I didn’t like Saskia because she comes across as spoilt and amoral, unable to empathise with others or share the limelight – even with those she loves. However, she does leap off the page as a fascinating and ruthless young woman. I found myself wanting to know more about her, her upbringing and the environment that had made her so single minded and dangerous. There’s more than one surprise with this turbulent group and in two different timelines. The author has a skill for writing tense scenes that play on certain phobias. I had suspicions about everyone, even our narrator, who does turn out to have a few secrets of her own. The ‘prank’ that really freaked me out, was when Milla is buried alive. I actually found myself unable to catch a breath, because it is one of my worst fears. When the groups tormentor is finally revealed it was the last person I expected and it did seem a little bit improbable, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the novel. This is a taut, well-plotted thriller and a great debut for the author. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

Meet The Author

Born and raised in Lincoln, England, Allie moved to Australia in 2004. She lives on the Gold Coast with her two young boys and a cat who thinks he’s a dog. Many years ago she competed at snowboard halfpipe. She spent five winters in the mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada. These days she sticks to surfing – water doesn’t hurt as much as ice when you fall on it. Her first ever job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, at age 14. She taught English for many years and became a full-time writer in 2018.

You can find her on:
http://www.twitter.com/AuthorAllieR
http://www.instagram.com/authorallier

Posted in Netgalley, Publisher Proof

Tsarina by Ellen Epstein.

Catherine Alexeyevna rose from peasant beginnings to become one of the most powerful women in Russia as the second wife of Peter the Great. Known as Marta to her family she was born in 1684 in the village of Livonia. Her meteoric rise from illiterate servitude to the Russian throne is one of chance, but also, as the author puts it ‘intellect, wit and sensuality’. Her parents sold her into the service of a man called Vasilly from the town of Walk. The author pulls us into the world of this nine year old girl as she experiences the town for the first time. She is overwhelmed by the number of people and all the chimneys she can see, each one representing a family. In her wonder, she loses the count and becomes mesmerised by the foods being sold by street vendors. This experience inspires her and she begins to work in the kitchen, soon able to prepare delicious meals of her own.

It’s very hard not to admire the way this incredible woman rose through the ranks of Russian high society, almost always by catching the attention of men. This was a dangerous and volatile period of history and it must have taken a great deal of resourcefulness and cunning to succeed. She was observant, able to read people and their interactions, successful at manipulation and doesn’t let herself be used by men – unless she wants to be of course. There are moments when she is struggling but the right advice or opportunity seems to come along. She takes to heart a lesson taught by Menshikov, the Tsar’s best friend:

Use life’s surprises to your advantage. See your power over men like a hand of cards; play them, to trump your life’.

I really enjoyed it when the focus was on Catherine (Marta) and her rise. When she reaches her position as Peter the Great’s wife and Empress of Russia, the story starts to open up and include others within the court. When we’re not concentrating on Catherine, I wasn’t as engaged with the book, but maybe that was just me. Her life becomes swallowed up by the demands of being a monarch’s wife – the demands on her to produce an heir resulted in twelve pregnancies! The cruelty of Peter starts to come to the fore as well as his contrary nature. He upholds religious and cultural custom to a stubborn degree and then when it suits him, simply discards custom for his own advantage. He’s a textbook narcissist. Even though Catherine is surrounded by riches, lavish banquets and incredible jewels I didn’t envy her position. She knows the dangers of being his wife, because his first wife ended up in a prison cell and her lover was impaled alive, on a spike in Red Square.

Despite this being more fiction than biography, I think the author researched her subject well and worked hard to bring Catherine to life. There are some really dark moments of rape and torture, but this is probably an accurate portrayal of very bloodthirsty time in history. Its also a very sensual book, not just the lusty moments, which I really enjoyed, but also the author’s focus on the senses. The taste of the incredible dishes she creates, the smell of the incense and incredible interiors of the Russian Orthodox Church, all the way down to the sweat and fear of the torture chambers. When Catherine’s trying to keep Peter’s death a secret in order to keep the crown, I was drawn back into the action. As he lies there, dying in the Winter Palace, Peter has to face the fact he is leaving his country without an heir. His only son Alexei, was killed under interrogation for conspiring against him. This is when Catherine undertakes her greatest political manoeuvre and becomes Queen, despite Alexei’s son being the heir apparent. I enjoyed reading from Catherine’s perspective, especially considering the way her male enemies spread misogynistic stories about her suppose voracious sexual appetite. The book did it’s work in making me want to know more about this time and place in history. I’ll be going to All4 and watching their series starring Helen Mirren to learn more about this fascinating character.

Next month I will be reviewing the author’s next novel

Meet The Author

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories. Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.

‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel. For more information about her literary life follow her on social media.

Coming Soon…