Thursday, 27 August 2015

Guest Post and Competition: Eden Burning by Deirdre Quiery






Northern Ireland, 1972. On the Crumlin Road, Belfast, the violent sectarian Troubles have forced Tom Martin to take drastic measures to protect his family. Across the divide William McManus pursues his own particular bloody code, murdering for a cause. Yet both men have underestimated the power of love and an individual’s belief in right and wrong, a belief that will shake the lives of both families with a greater impact than any bomb blast.

This is a compelling, challenging story of conflict between and within families – driven by religion, belief, loyalty and love. In a world deeply riven by division, how can any individual transcend the seemingly inevitable violence of their very existence?


I have had the pleasure of meeting Deirdre and her Husband and I am delighted to welcome her here today to explain about where and how the ideas for Eden Burning were formed. 



The Making of “Eden Burning” – Deirdre Quiery


“Eden Burning” started as a flicker of an idea almost fifteen years ago. I remember sitting on a red sofa in Oxford watching logs sizzle in the inglenook fireplace. My mother walked into the sitting room holding a plastic bag filled with letters which I had written to her from University in the 1970s. She said,

                
                            “You have to do something with these.”


She smiled at me. It was one of those smiles in which a bond is created – a conspiracy even – to which no-one else is invited. I took the bag from her.


I wonder what she would now make of “Eden Burning”. I think she would like it. She would see herself in there – not as Rose or Eileen or Lily – but she would know that she was there.  


In the plastic bag stuffed with letters still in their envelopes were stories which I told to my mother in the days before the internet – stories of University, of friends and expeditions – which I knew would provide a relief from the reality of Belfast in the 1970s. I knew the importance of being an “entertainer” in a crisis. There were also in the bag some letters which my mother had written to me. It is strange to see a person’s hand writing on a page when they are dead. The writing seems every bit as unique as a fingerprint, louder than a spoken word and more visual than their face in front of you. I filed the letters in date order and wondered what I could do with them. 


The letters came with me to Mallorca when in 2001 my husband and I decided to come here, leaving the security of full-time employment, the company cars and more importantly friends. We sold our house, gave away all our possessions, boarding a plane for Mallorca with two suitcases and our cat Ziggy. 


We rented a house in an olive grove, high in the mountains above Soller. There was no running water. A lorry delivered water once a month, winding its way around the twenty seven bends to the house. There was no fixed line telephone and no television. There was no work. I felt for the first time in my life rooted in the earth. There were no neighbours – only sheep. I had time to look at the orange blossoms change into a small green fruit which grew in size and changed in colour. I marvelled at life. Everything seemed miraculous. Clouds appearing, disappearing, birds singing, dogs barking. Everything was imbued with a sense of wonder. I felt a part of it all – a part of nature. I knew myself to be connected to the earth.  


I opened the filed letters which my mother had given me. I began to write “Eden Burning.” I didn’t want to write an autobiography about Belfast during the 1970s. I did want to honour the spirit of the people who had suffered and who I had met. I wanted “Eden Burning” to offer something positive to the world. There is nothing so dark that cannot be turned into light. There is always hope because fundamentally everything is good as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
 
Julian of Norwich


About the Author:


Based in Mallorca where she runs Seven Rocks Consulting, a leadership development consultancy she founded with her husband, Deirdre brings her vast experience of emotional intelligence and mindfulness to bear in her creative endeavours. Taking inspiration from experience, Deirdre has not only painted with Argentinian artist Carlos Gonzalez in Palma and Natalia Spitale in Sóller, she is also a winner of the Alexander Imich Prize in the US for writing about exceptional human experiences, and the Birmingham Trophy Prize in the UK.
Eden Burning is Deirdre’s first novel and is shaped by her experiences growing up in Belfast during the Troubles. She is already working on her second novel, Gurtha.





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There is a wonderful competition below to win a Paperback of Eden Burning and an Exclusive Print of the above art. Done by our very own Deirdre's hands. My thanks to Urbane Publications for running this competition.



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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Around the World Blog Tour ~ Guest Author Helen MacKinven




The Around The World Blog Tour is a partnership between TripFiction and #BookConnectors ~ bloggers and authors, travelling the world, through fiction.

TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book and help you select good literature that is most pertinent and relevant to your trip. A resource for armchair and actual travellers, it is a unique way of exploring a place through the eyes of an author. We blog, and chat books and travel across Social Media, and love to meet authors and bloggers as we take our literary journey.

Book Connectors  was created as a place on Facebook for Bloggers, Authors and small Publishers to share their news.

We encourage book promotions; information about competitions and giveaways; news of events, including launch events, signings, talks or courses. Talk about new signings, about film deals .... anything really.

Book Connectors is  a friendly group, there are no rules or guidelines - just be polite and respectful to each other. 


I am delighted to be involved with the blog tour, although I am definitely more of an armchair traveller than an actual traveller. Having never been to Scotland, I am finding the location this month fascinating.

I would like now to introduce my guest today, Helen  MacKinven. She has very kindly written a wonderful piece about Bonnybridge. I have thoroughly enjoyed being paired up with her, she is an absolute delight to work with.



The Truth Is Out There…
Seventeen year old Angela is the main character in my debut novel, Talk of the Toun, and she lives in Bonnybridge in the central belt of Scotland, roughly halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

If you search Visit Scotland’s site it describes Bonnybridge as,” a small town which lies north of the Forth and Clyde Canal near Falkirk. It is situated by Bonny Water, a tributary of the River Carron which runs through the town and lies north of the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The current town was originally developed in the 19th century in association with a new papermill, sawmill and iron foundaries.

To the south east of Bonnybridge is a well preserved section of the Antonine Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the remnants of Rough Castle Fort, the most complete of the surviving Roman forts of the wall.”


It sounds fairly typical of many industrial Scottish towns and after reading this blog post I doubt tourists will flock to the town. But seemingly the Romans weren’t the only visitors to Bonnybridge. Visit Scotland has to stick to the facts but many believe that it’s one of the world’s premier UFO hotspots.  

Allegedly, there have been approximately 300 sightings reported every year in the area which covers from Stirling to the outskirts of Edinburgh and is known as the ‘Falkirk Triangle’. Who needs the exotic Bermuda Triangle! 


The ‘talk of the town’ phenomenon kicked off in 1992 when a local businessman claimed he’d seen strange lights in the sky and further sightings from locals made the town famous as an alleged portal to another dimension. 

But having lived for most of my life in Bonnybridge I can’t add to the claims and if you’re hoping my book will feature aliens and space abductions then you’ll be disappointed. My novel is set in 1985 although it’s the decade that fashion forgot and I’m sure any extra-terrestrial life on a day out would be too scared to stop if they spotted Angela with her crimped Cyndi Lauper inspired hair, fluorescent makeup, RaRa skirt and neon leggings.  And Angela’s teenage cynicism would never allow her to believe that ET had landed in her hometown, unless of course she’d knocked back one too many underage drinks at the disco in Falkirk.


Assign me a case from the X-Files and I’d be with Team Scully. I don’t believe in the existence of aliens but if you’re not a sceptic like me and a fan of Mulder and his theories of paranormal activity then maybe a trip to this intergalactic tourist hotspot to scan the Stirlingshire skies.  Come to Bonnybridge and who knows what you might see…



There will be a review of Helen's book featured here in October, as I have a slot on the blog tour. I cannot wait to read her book.






Helen MacKinven writes contemporary Scottish fiction, with a particular interest in exploring themes such as social class and identity, using black comedy and featuring Scots dialect. She graduated with merit from Stirling University with an MLitt in Creative Writing in 2012. Helen’s short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary journals.
Her debut novel, Talk of the Toun, will be published by ThunderPoint in October 2015. The story is an uplifting black comedy of love, family life and friendship. The bittersweet coming-of-age tale set in the summer of 1985 effortlessly captures the religious and social intricacies of 1980s Scotland with the perfect mix of pathos and humour as two teenagers wrestle with the complications of growing up and exploring who they really are.
Helen blogs at helenmackinven.co.uk and you can find her on Twitter as @HelenMacKinven


With my thanks to Helen for being part of the tour and taking her time to write the above piece.

The next stop on the tour is Anne over at Random Things, she will be having Susi Holliday on her blog. I do hope that you will check in there tomorrow.





Friday, 21 August 2015

** BLOG TOUR ** The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan


This book is published by Hodder and is available now, my thanks to the Author and the Publishers for my review copy.

There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.

Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

My Thoughts 

I will start by saying that although rarely drawn in by cover alone, this one is a beauty. There was a small worry at the back of my mind that this book would be to sugary for my tastes. That theory was dispelled as I turned the first page.

This book tells the story of five amateur bakers who enter a competition to become the new Mrs Eaden, Kathleen Eaden wrote recipes and with her husband George successfully had a chain of shops called Eadens.

Throughout the book we get little snippets from each of the bakers lives. We come to understand each inviduals reasons for entering the competition. On the whole it seemed that baking was what held them together much like the sugary glue of their Gingerbread houses.

We also get to read about Kathleen Eaden in the cleverly interspersed chapters throughout. It is these chapters that I relished the most. A beautiful lady with certain heartbreak to tell. I was so sad for her in places. In a time when she was getting to do what she loved, she couldn't be truly happy all of the time.

This book is laid out cleverly in sections like Bread, Cakes, Etc. With clever little snippets from Mrs Eaden's book at the beginning of each chapter.

I think one of the reasons why I loved this book so much is that we most certainly all have a memory of baking or being around baking. I remember my Nan teaching me how to bake and waiting as a child in front of the oven ready for my wares to come out. Usually Rock cakes at that age as you can get away with them looking messy. I remember my Nan always going on about Mrs Beeton and I had just assumed that she was her friend from down the road.

I thought this book has been so beautifully written, with a sublime array characters that each have there own story to tell. There is a wonderful gentleness to it that just drew me in and kept me submerged until I turned the last page and swept up the crumbs. Of course this is the kind of book where you should eat cake whilst reading, isn't it?

If you love quality fiction and either/or Great British Bake Off or films like Julie and Julia, then I recommend this book. I fail to see how you can be disappointed. 

I don't usually award stars but if I did, I would award this one:  Five Mille-Feuille

My conclusion: Baking is bonding and baking is love.


About the Author


Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent, she started freelancing. This is her first novel and she is now working on her second. Sarah lives near Cambridge with her husband and two small children.

sarahvaughanauthor.com

@SVaughanAuthor

Facebook:/SarahVaughanAuthor

Please have a look at the other stops on the tour, I was asked to take part. I promise I didn't just gatecrash...



Monday, 17 August 2015

** BLOG TOUR ** The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson


Many thanks to Coronet, Hodder and Bookbridgr for sending me a review copy. Also to Becca for inviting me on the Blog Tour. This book was released in paperback on 13th August 2015.


Nessa Bruce waits for her husband to come through the double doors. She'd waited for him to return home from Afghanistan for what felt like forever, and now the moment was finally here. But Jake isn't... Jake Bruce hasn't come home, and it looks like he never will.
Nessa's life - and that of her daughter Poppy - is turned upside down in an instant. What has happened to the elusive man at the centre of their world? They hold onto the hope that he is still out there somewhere, alive... but as time passes by, Nessa is forced to look at her life, at the decisions she has made and the secrets she has kept. For maybe somewhere within it all lies the answer to the question she's desperate to answer - where is the man she loves?

My Thoughts:

 I read the Author's previous novel Paper Swans last year. I was delighted to be part of that tour too, you can see my review here. http://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.in/2014/08/paper-swans-by-jessica-thompson.html

This book discusses some serious themes; Grief, PTSD, Mental Health, and growing up.

The subject matters are handled by the author warmly and sensitively. The Character of Nessa Bruce is excellent. She is strong and goes through such a difficult time but still seems to hold it all together. Poppy, Nessa and Jake's Daughter is a typical teenager that seems to be rebelling, and standing her ground.

I didn't particularly like the constant bad language that was coming out of Poppy, to me it seemed inappropriate from a character that age. However it is understandable that she reacts in this way, given what she is going through.

I admire the author for tackling the themes that she does in a sensitive and poignant way. She has created characters with all different traits that you actually care about. This story kept me guessing as to how it was all going to unravel. There was a certain sadness throughout, life really is cruel sometimes. Things never turn out as we expect.

Personally I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Paper Swans but I am still glad that I read it, enjoyed it and I would recommend it.   

                                 ------------------------------------------------

 There is a guest post below for you to enjoy. An imagined School Report for Jake from the viewpoint of the author.


A sample school report for Jake.

24.06.1986
Pupil name: Jacob Bruce
Age: 6
Class: 2b
House: Wilberforce

Your son got off to a promising start this school year, immersing himself in new challenges. Apart from some issues that can only be put down to an inherent streak of adventure in his personality, he has continued to do well.

Jacob shows great talent in some areas of his studies, notably, his mathematics, which is outstanding for his age. He has quite remarkable skill with numbers, and is making a success of extra exercises set to ensure he is appropriately challenged. He is able to confidently partition and recombine numbers, and tell the time to the nearest 5 minutes.

Jacob’s verbal reasoning however does require some attention. Jake struggles with spelling, and also finds expressing himself difficult at times. We will consequently be putting in place some additional opportunities to work on this, so he can improve at a pace in-line with his peers.

Jake is highly energetic, and a joy to have in the classroom (if not a little chatty at times). He is an outgoing, funny, and his classmates adore him. He clearly enjoys anything that involves physical activity.

As you are aware from our last parents’ evening (and some letters home), there have been continued issues during P.E. lessons (running off suddenly, only to be found climbing a tree several hundred yards away). This is a cause of serious concern. I can only hope that together, we can impress on him the importance that he remains near those who are there to look after him and keep him safe.

My primary concern is that Jacob struggles to conform to rules and procedures that the rest of the class takes on willingly. Examples of this are the need to remove his muddy wellington boots after wet play, hanging his raincoat on the right peg and taking his lunch tray to the bins. While this is not out of the ordinary for a child his age, I feel this is important to address.

As I’m sure you fully understand, these early habits will set a benchmark, helping him meet the expectations to be inevitably set by society throughout the rest of his education and eventually in the workplace.

Overall, it has been a pleasure to teach your son this year Mr and Mrs Bruce.

I very much look forward to another successful school year after the summer holidays.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr McDowell





 About the Author:

Jessica Thompson lives in London but was born in Yorkshire. She was a Newspaper Reporter. She is currently studying with the Open University. The Waiting Game is her Fourth Novel.

Find out More...




Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour...





Monday, 3 August 2015

Escape to Perdition by James Silvester ~ Review and Giveaway






Many thanks to the publishers Urbane Publications for sending my review copy and allowing me to host the competition.

Sometimes the only choice is an escape to perdition....

Prague 2015. Herbert Biely, aged hero of the Prague Spring, stands on the brink of an historic victory, poised to reunite the Czech and Slovak Republics twenty-six years after the Velvet Revolution. The imminent Czech elections are the final stage in realising his dream of reunification, but other parties have their own agendas and plans for the fate of the region. A shadowy collective, masked as an innocuous European Union Institute, will do anything to preserve the status quo.

The mission of Institute operative Peter Lowes is to prevent reunification by the most drastic of measures. Yet Peter is not all that he seems a deeply troubled man, desperate to escape the past, his resentment towards himself, his assignment and his superiors deepens as he questions not just the cause, but his growing feelings for the mission target.

As alliances shift and the election countdown begins, Prague becomes the focal point for intrigue on an international scale. The body count rises, options fade, and Peter's path to redemption is clouded in a maelstrom of love, deception and murder can he confront his past to save the future?

 My Thoughts:

To all intents and purposes this book would never be the usual type of book that I would read. History and Spies and Politics. None of these things excite me, maybe it is because the reality scares me. This therefore is actually a difficult review for me to write.

Firstly, I greatly admire the Author for his passion and obvious meticulous research of the area. I cannot tell you as a mere lay person how much is based on facts and how much is fiction. I would say that my knowledge of the Velvet Revolution is none. However that didn't matter, after I had centered myself and got a few chapters in.

I was drawn in to the murky world of international politics. There is a certain richness and quality to the writing that is second to none. The scenes playing out in my mind as sepia. I could almost place myself there in the bar and almost smell the coffee from the shops.

The Author has a turn of phrase that almost puts you, as a reader in amongst the throng of it all. The character of Peter Lowe is appropriately named and for all of the things that he did, I found him almost impossible to dislike. Keep your eyes peeled also for another character that goes by the name of Rasti. Never one to judge, a true friend to Peter.

I found this book scary, scary in the sense that so much of it could be real. So much of it could happen, maybe it does happen. It is as intelligent as it is well written and well perceived.

There were so many twists and turns in this book. Just as you thought that things were calming down, something else happened to try to ruin and overthrow everything. As unpredictable and unstable as I perceive the politics of the region to be.

 This book builds and builds to a crescendo of emotions and although I imagine the ending is almost inevitable, I guess it is up to each reader to decide whether Peter really has found his Escape to Perdition.

I would love to hear from people that have read this book. It comes highly recommended from me and not only that, it would make a wonderful book for a reading group. So many things to discuss and debate.


About the Author:

James Silvester works in the field of Human Resources. He is also a former DJ for modradiouk.net. He can play the Harmonica. Escape to Perdition is his first novel


I am delighted to be able to be hosting a giveaway with the chance to win one of five paperback copies of Escape to Perdition. I would be delighted if you would enter and become entranced with this novel as much as I am.





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