Amanda Prowse Cover Reveal

A perfect daughter

It gives me enormous pleasure today to bring you brand new cover reveals for two of Amanda’s novels ‘Perfect Daughter’ and ‘Another Love’.

Another love

I have long been a fan of Amanda Prowse and had the great privilege of meeting her recently. Not only is Amanda an amazing author, she’s also a wonderful human being and is an active supporter of The Sepsis Trust where 100% of the monies made from her story ‘Three and a Half Heartbeats’ go.

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Find out more about Amanda on her web site or follow her on Twitter and Facebook

Amanda’s Books are available to purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Living in the Shadows by Judith Barrow

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This lovely historical novel, ‘Living in the Shadows, by Judith Barrow was published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press on 16th July 2015. I’m so pleased to be supporting Brook Cottage Books in bringing it to your attention.

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The story:

It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.

Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.

At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so?

There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.

Praise for Judith Barrow:

Sequel to the acclaimed Changing Patterns and Pattern of Shadows:

Judith Barrow has not written an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today… an excellent debut novel.
Historical Novels Review

Judith Barrow has written, with great intensity of emotions, an absorbing saga…
http://www.gwales.com

well-paced, gritty love story
Western Mail

An unforgettable debut novel – perfectly paced
Menna Elfyn

Barrow’s thoughtful and atmospheric novel shines a light on the shadowy corners of family life…
Lancashire Evening Post

a gripping read.
Tivyside Advertiser

About Judith:

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Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for thirty years. She is the author of three novels, and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children’s books and a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals.

You can follow Judith on Twitter and via her web site.

For more information about Honno Books click here.

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Here’s the chance to win one of three copies of ‘Living in the Shadows’ (open internationally) GIVEAWAY

 

Twenty Four Days To Christmas by Fred Arthur and illustrated by Paul Winward

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It’s an unusual review for me this time as ‘Twenty Four Days to Christmas’ by Fred Arthur and illustrated by Paul Winward is a book aimed at children aged 3 to 5. It is available in ebook and paperback, published by Clink Street on 10th November 2015. I am very grateful to Kate Appleton of www.authoright.com for a review copy in return for an honest review.

Poppy is desperate for it to be Christmas so her Mum and Dad plan twenty-four days of surprises, activities and outings to help make the time pass more quickly. Before she knows it, Christmas Day has arrived.

‘Twenty Four Days to Christmas’ is written in rhyme and is a bit like an Advent calendar in story form which is an excellent idea and one many parents will relish. It is too long to read to a child all in one go but works really well as a story a day up to Christmas. I had intended reading it myself with my 4 year old great-nephew, but I’ll give it to his parents and ask them to report back later.

What I particularly liked about this book is that it has some good ideas for activities to do with children in the run up to Christmas, from making sock snowmen to mince pies and pine cone reindeer. There’s a really positive sense of family and being together. I also liked the concept of Dad, rather than Mum, going Christmas shopping with Poppy to challenge stereotypes though I’d have liked Poppy not to ask for pink lipstick in her letter to Santa, even if that’s what a lot of little girls would like.

The layout of the book is lovely, with baubles as page numbers and super full page illustrations for every day as well as detailed pictures alongside the text. Within the text are very helpful and positive message like cleaning your teeth and washing your face before bed.

There were a few issues that detracted from the quality of the book for me (though I’m sure a three to five year old wouldn’t notice!). There were some inconsistencies of capitalisation and punctuation throughout. The use of the word ‘cos’ instead of ‘as’ irritated me as did ‘bestest’ to describe a dress. I didn’t like the mirror transposed S in one of the illustrations as this book is aimed at children in the early stages of learning to write and correct examples are more helpful. Occasionally I thought the rhyming text a little forced and too advanced for the target age group such as ‘without being impeded’ but again, it’s the gist that most children will grasp and there is nothing wrong with trying to advance a child’s vocabulary.

I think this is a really useful book for bedtimes as children get increasingly excited before Christmas and I’m sure children in the target age range will thoroughly enjoy it.

A Christmas Romance by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect

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I’m delighted to be bringing to your attention a lovely new ebook by Lynda Renham writing as Amy Perfect. Lynda’s books are funny, heartwarming and thoroughly entertaining.

Published by Raucous on 11th November 2015, Frankie Bell’s Christmas is not going to go quite as she expects, but it could turn out better than she thought.

Just £1.99 for a lovely Christmas read, you can find this and all of Lynda’s wonderful books by clicking here.

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If you’re new to Lynda’s writing, you might like to read my review of one of her other books, ’50 Shades of Roxie Brown’, by clicking here.

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If you’re a regular reader of Lynda Renham’s books you’ll know she is quite mad! Anyone whose books have titles like ‘Coconuts and Wonderbras’ and ‘Frog’s Knickers’ must be!

To catch up with a brilliant selection of reads, see Lynda’s blog, or follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton

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Recently here on the blog I’ve been featuring books that support charities or good causes. Today I’m introducing ‘Rarity from the Hollow’ by Robert Eggleton which is published to raise money to help prevent child abuse.

You can buy Rarity From The Hollow here.

Rarity From The Hollow

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Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire.

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.”

—Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”

—    Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

“…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)

“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” —Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)

“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author

“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

About Robert Eggleton

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Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns.

Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

An Interview with Robert Eggleton

Hello Robert. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

Hi, Linda, and thanks for the opportunity to tell you a little about my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, myself, and how a science fiction story helps to prevent child abuse.

Why don’t you start by telling us about your book?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction that includes serious social commentary presented satirically and comically. I know. It sounds impossible to address topics like child abuse without sounding preachy or serious. Nevertheless, that was my goal – to write a story that tugs heart strings, hard, but that is also a lot of fun to read.

The protagonist in Rarity from the Hollow is Lacy Dawn, a skinny eleven year old who speaks in colloquial voice, but if you think of her as a kid you may be shocked. She is a true daughter of Appalachia who lives in a hollow with her worn-out mom, her Iraq War disabled dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who becomes very skilled at laying fiber optic cable.

Lacy Dawn’s android boyfriend, for when she’s old enough to have one, has come to the hollow with a mission. He was sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp (Shop ’till You Drop): he must recruit Lacy Dawn to save the Universe in exchange for the designation of Earth as a planet which is eligible for continued existence. Will Lacy Dawn’s magic enable her to save the universe, Earth, and, most importantly, her own family?

I understand that you recently retired from the field of children’s mental health. Why did you decide to start writing fiction?

Since winning the eighth grade short story contest in 1964, I’ve dreamed of being a writer. Instead, I went to college and graduated with degrees in social work and have been a children’s advocate for over forty years. Except for a couple of poems published in the early ‘70s, I supplanted my need to write fiction by concentrating on publishing nonfiction related to my work: social services manuals, research, investigative, and statistical reports, you know – the stuff that sidetracks the dreams of aspiring fiction writers.

In 2002, I went to work as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. It was an intensive day program for severely emotionally disturbed kids, most of whom had been abused, some sexually abused. One day in 2006 I was facilitating a children’s group therapy session at work. A couple of seats from the head of the table where I sat, a little girl began to disclose the horrors that she had experienced. But, she didn’t stop at mere disclosure, she continued with hopes and dreams for the future, finding a permanent loving family that would protect and love her. It was inspiring to everybody. She inspired me to pursue my own dream to write fiction. Before the end of that session, I had a protagonist and the seed of a recurring story – victimization to empowerment – Rarity from the Hollow.

After I got home from work that day in 2006, I told my wife about my interest in writing fiction. Rita was very supportive. By the end of the next work day, my wife had named the protagonist — Lacy Dawn. Rita explained that since the mother, a downtrodden victim of domestic violence who quit school in the eighth grade because she had fallen in love and had gotten pregnant – couldn’t afford to buy Lacy Dawn pretty things, she was going to give her a very pretty name at birth. That’s how Lacy Dawn was born and why I started finally started writing fiction.

Lucy Dawn does sound inspiring, but why did you decide to use the science fiction genre as the underpinning of the novel as opposed to another genre?

I selected science fiction as a backdrop for Rarity from the Hollow because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The novel also has elements of horror, fantasy, magical realism, mystery, romance, adventure, self-help, and thriller. It is not a good example of the historical or western genres, although the social issues that we’ve talked about, child abuse, sexism, domestic violence, have been present throughout history, including in the Wild West.

In today’s reality, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. I felt that the traditional literary, biographical, nonfiction genres wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it.

I felt that Rarity from the Hollow had to be hopeful. I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre.  That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?

Lacy Dawn and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers to the pursuit of happiness by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it would take financial investment by benefactors to significantly improve the welfare of children in the world.

Your book is also, in part, a satire. Was that to offset the more stark aspects of Rarity from the Hollow

The satire was both a natural process of writing and consciously inserted to lighten sections. I’ve always loved to read the puns, the double entendres, and satire in the works of others, such as Piers Anthony and Kurt Vonnegut. I’m sure that’s had a big impact on how I write. Some of the satire in this novel evolved as a natural process, while other sections were inserted because I had found the narrative in need of a lighter tone to offset stark aspects. If I found a place during the drafting of the story that I felt was too “heavy” for me to read as its writer, I figured that it would be way too much for the reader. I would look for ways to address the issues honestly, but maintain the novel as a fun read.

What did you find most challenging about writing Rarity from the Hollow?

Writing comes easy for me, but the third scene in the story was challenging. It depicts domestic violence that triggered my own psychological distress, and this is the only graphically harsh chapter in the novel. According to Childhelp, a national fundraising program for the prevention and treatment of child abuse, six million American kids are reported as having been maltreated each year. As a child, I could have been a statistic too. Maybe you or some of your readers experienced some type of childhood maltreatment. It’s more common that most of us want to admit, or even to think about.

When writing the third scene, tears blurred my vision of the monitor each time that I reworked it. For readers, it is a powerful but necessary scene in order to grasp the upcoming empowerment in the subsequent chapters – its harshness amplifies the satire and comedy. The only other challenges that I faced when writing Rarity from the Hollow were the typical ones that all writers of anything experience, such as proofreading what you intended to write instead of what was actually written on the page. So, except for that one harsh scene, I didn’t face any significant challenges when writing the novel.

You mentioned that you wanted to tell us about how a science fiction novel helps to prevent child abuse. What did you mean by that?

Half of author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia (CHSWV) for its child abuse prevention programs. Established in 1893, this nonprofit agency now serves more that thirteen thousand children and families each year. I worked for this agency in the early ‘80s and am familiar with its track record. Unlike some charities which have high salaried executives that may allocate your donation into its administrative costs, I stand behind this agency. The name of the Executive Director is Steve Tuck. We’ve been acquaintances for over thirty years. He’s a good guy. The program is honorable.

CHSWV provides an enormous range of supportive services for families and children. If you would like to find out more about CHSWV or to contact the agency, visit their web site.

Thank you Robert for talking about this important topic with us. I’m even more glad I had the kind of parents and upbringing the children you’ve worked with could only dream of.

Thank again, Linda. If you or anybody has any questions about Rarity from the Hollow, I’m available and will reply to email.

If Robert has made you want to support his writing, you can buy Rarity From the Hollow on Amazon UKAmazon US and from Dog Horn Publishing

You can connect with Robert on FacebookTwitter, the Lucy Dawn web site and the Lucy Dawn Facebook page.

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

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My grateful thanks to Hannah Robinson at Quercus books for a copy of Smoke and MIrrors by Elly Griffiths in return for an honest review. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ was published in hardback on 5th November 2015. It is also available as an ebook.

‘Smoke and Mirrors’ is the second in the Stephens and Mephisto series by Elly Griffiths, but not having read the first book made no difference to my enjoyment of this one.

When two children go missing in Brighton during the pantomime season, there are horrible similarities with a murder in another panto almost 40 years earlier. Could they be connected?

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, the title being totally apt as a theme throughout, referring to the actual events in the panto as well as the twists and turns in the story. Elly Griffiths writes so cleverly that the reader is kept guessing along with DI Edgar Stephens and his team.

There’s quite a cast of characters, which I sometimes find confusing in novels, but here all of them were so well portrayed that each was easy to get to know and care about. By the end of the story I wanted to go back and read the first in the Stephens and Mephisto series to learn more about them, especially Max and Ruby, and I am looking forward to finding out what happens to them next. Even the weather feels like a character and helps create brilliant atmosphere.

What makes reading Elly Griffiths so enjoyable is that she constructs a tight plot with natural, almost conversational, writing so that there is no effort needed in reading her – just pleasure. Direct speech is lively and engaging, adding to the narrative in a way that feels perfect for the era and setting.

As the story is set in the run up to Christmas, ending on Christmas Eve, I think Smoke and Mirrors would make a perfect gift for any crime fiction lover. It’s a really good read.

How To Be Brave by Louise Beech

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I’ve been desperate to read ‘How To Be Brave’ by Louise Beech since it was published in paperback by Orenda on 17th September 2015. It is also available as an ebook. So many in the blogging community have been raving about this book that I was delighted to be offered the chance to listen to the unabridged Audible audio version read by Finty Williams. My enormous thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda books for this chance in return for an honest review.

Whilst Natalie’s husband, Jake, is serving in Afghanistan, she finds she has to deal with her nine year old daughter Rose’s sudden and life-threatening onset of Type 1 diabetes. When they both seem to encounter the same familiar man in their dreams and at the hospital Natalie realises there is a story belonging to her grandfather Colin that also needs to be told.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about listening to, rather than reading, ‘How To Be Brave’ but Finty Williams’ delivery of Louise Beech’s spellbinding writing is incredible and I think she does perfect justice to the story, and is obviously assisted by the wonderful quality of Louise Beech’s prose. ‘How To Be Brave’ is stunning. The craft of storytelling is outstanding and all the more so because this is a debut novel. There are spirals of narrative that interweave so that Rose’s condition is closely linked to the story that emerges from her great-grandfather’s diaries as he is stranded on a lifeboat at sea. The style is fluid and natural and almost hypnotising to listen to.

One element that appealed to me too was Rose’s tackling and frequent criticism of Natalie’s storytelling which actually gave me as a reader a real insight into the writing process as well as enjoying this emotional and beautifully written narrative.

The concept of bravery ripples through so that every reader can find someone to relate to in the cast of characters. I don’t usually enjoy children in books, but Rose is utterly believable. She is stubborn, cheeky, frightened, sad and challenging – all the things a nine year old can be, and she is also brave as she endures the injections and blood checks. Equally, Natalie’s attempts to deal with her changed daughter, Jake’s time in Afghanistan, and Colin’s stoic attitude whilst hoping for rescue are acts of bravery that I found so compelling.

I think it’s impossible to encounter this story without being affected by it. I’m finding it difficult to convey how fabulous the writing is – as Louise Beech has left me, to quote her, ‘speechless, full of silent words’ and not a few tears. Given that Louise Beech has based her debut on her grandfather’s diaries and it is grounded in fact, following her own child’s illness, I think her grandfather would be immensely proud of what she’s achieved in creating a book that will stay with readers, and listeners, for a very long time.

This is a book that everyone should read – or listen to.

You can follow Louise on Twitter and find out more about her on Amazon where you can also buy ‘How To Be Brave’.