Interviewed by The Shelf of Unread Books

I was recently interviewed by Amy over at The Shelf of Unread Books about my novel The Forest King’s Daughter and historical fiction more generally. Here’s a link to the interview, if you’d like to read it: https://theshelfofunreadbooks.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/qa-with-kendra-olson-author-of-the-forest-kings-daughter/

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My Review of Smash all the Windows by Jane Davis

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Maggie’s chest rises and falls. Orange buoys, the shape and size of hay bales, move to the same rhythm. There is something bovine about them, but also something desperately sad. At any other time she wouldn’t feel foolish mentioning this to Jules who, she thinks, would dismiss nothing.  

With an impressive array of research at her disposal, a full cast of true-to-life Londoners and a fascinating and timely premise, Davis casts a spell over her readers.

The families of those who were killed in the St Botolph and Billingsgate station disaster have become accustomed to defending their loved ones. For over thirteen years they were told that the victims were responsible for their own tragic deaths but, with London Underground consistently running over capacity and the severe overcrowding that’s resulted from it, the families refused to believe the verdict of the initial public inquiry. With opinion against them, however, it was difficult to know what to do. That was, until gentle-natured law student Eric took an almost obsessive interest in the case. Eric’s certainty that the evidence doesn’t match up leads him to spend all his waking hours investigating. But when his hard work finally pays off and a second inquest declares that the commuters were not responsible, it doesn’t bring about the closure the families expected.

Told through the eyes of the families of the survivors, their grief, anger, frustration and attempts at reconciliation are brought vividly to life. Davis does an excellent job of depicting modern-day, multicultural London, and her diverse cast of characters reflects this. The story is inspired by the Hillsborough tragedy, where 96 Liverpool football fans lost their lives in a crush in 1989, and is highly relevant given their families long battle for justice. Davis’s exploration of personal grief and public tragedy is sensitively rendered and deeply empathetic. Although literary fiction, the novel reads almost like a thriller. Smash all the Windows is an engrossing, addictive novel. I look forward to reading more of Jane Davis’s work in future.

Smash all the Windows  is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Smash-all-Windows-Jane-Davis-ebook/dp/B079MBP3WD/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Smash-all-Windows-Jane-Davis-ebook/dp/B079MBP3WD/

You can read more about the novel on Jane’s website: https://jane-davis.co.uk/books/smash-all-the-windows/

My Review of Violet by Leslie Tate, the third book in his Lavender Blues: Three Shades of Love trilogy

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They picked at the contents, one by one. The nuts came in all sizes; they were whole, lightly roasted and unsalted. Dipping and munching, they shared what they had.

When fifty-year-old café owner Beth Jarvis, divorced and with children, finds herself on a blind date, she wonders what it is she’s doing. Due to her nervousness she’s arrived at the restaurant far too early and now can only watch and wait while other diners arrive,  staring at the door, wondering when—and if—James will show up. Biding her time, Beth sips her wine as she sifts through the letters he’s sent her. Will the real-life version of James be as good-natured and charming?

After James arrives, they share stories over a platter of Indian food. Later that night, Beth is, quite literally, swept off her feet as they dance.  Not wanting the evening to end, they draw it out for as long as possible. When it finally comes time for them to part, they promise to meet again, and soon.

As Beth and James are getting to know each other, they realise that they share very different pasts. James was raised in Chester-le-Street, in Durham, to working class parents. His father worked on the railways and considered himself a revolutionary, of sorts. Later James moved to London, where he married and had children. He works as a gardener and prides himself on seeing the beauty in life. Beth, on the other hand, had an almost idyllic rural childhood, and later married a minister with whom she has two daughters. Her gentle, caring nature means she follows her heart. While this tendency has led her into James’ arms, it’s also meant that she’s sometimes been taken unawares in life. How Beth and James come together as a couple is the focus of the story.

Violet is an empathetic and skilfully crafted exploration of modern day love. It is also a study in character, and the ways in which a character changes, and is changed by, their experience of relationships. The story is written in a non-linear fashion, moving backward and forward through time, showing Beth from different angles and points in her personal history. The narrative is experimental in style, with some sections written in text-speak and including the letters James and Beth shared. This challenged my perceptions, making me pay closer attention to the writing.  Tate’s in-depth exploration of Beth’s character allowed me to draw my own conclusions about her past and present. This made for an enjoyable and refreshing reading experience.

Violet is the third in Tate’s Lavender Blues trilogy, exploring three generations of the Lavender family and their experiences of love in its many forms. The novel stands alone—indeed, I have yet to read the first two books. The first two books are Purple and Blue. You can read about them here: https://leslietate.com/lavender-blues-three-shades-of-love/

Violet is available to purchase from Leslie Tate’s website: https://leslietate.com/shop/violet/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Violet-Lavender-Blues-Three-Shades-ebook/dp/B07BNR37XK/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Violet-Lavender-Blues-Three-Shades-ebook/dp/B07BNR37XK/

My Review of The Tides Between, a coming-of-age, historical novel by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

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“Elffin, Gwyddno and Taliesin, that’s the way it works, isn’t it? Each of us in every character, the stories shifting and changing as we learn to see differently.”

The year is 1841 and fifteen-year-old Bridie Stewart is emigrating from England to Port Phillip, Australia with her ma, her stepfather Alf Bustle and a book of magical Welsh fairy tales her dad told her before his sudden passing 18 months previously. With her ma pregnant and a new life ahead of them, Bridie’s ma and Alf want her to forget her childhood and grow up. Most of all, they want her to give up on the memory she has of her father as a kind-hearted, misunderstood dreamer. In order to appease them, Bridie has to hide her notebook, the last tangible object on earth she has to remind her of her father.

When it’s discovered, Alf insists that she use the notebook not to write down further stories but to make a record of their ocean crossing. Bridie feels angry and hurt. Luckily, Bridie has become friends with a young Welsh couple, Rhys and Siân, who share her love of stories and who help Bridie feel less isolated on the ship. Rhys is a dreamer, like her dad was, and Siân’s daintiness and mysterious ways remind Bridie of a fairy. But will their mythical ballads, music and storytelling be enough to help Bridie discover her own truth about what happened with her dad?

Corbett’s portrayal of life between decks for the English and Welsh emigrants was realistic and empathetic. She does not shy away from showing readers the harshness of her characters’ lives or the ocean crossing but nor does she allow for this aspect of their experience to dominate. The Tides Between is an enchanting novel, filled with Welsh myths and the magic of possibility.

The Tides Between is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tides-Between-Elizabeth-Jane-Corbett-ebook/dp/B077SS6847/ 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tides-Between-Elizabeth-Jane-Corbett-ebook/dp/B077SS6847/

To find out more about The Tides Between and Eliizabeth Jane Corbett’s writing, visit: elizabethjanecorbett.com

My Review of All the Colours in Between by Eva Jordan

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“Don’t forget that darkness is a force absent of love. just like black is the absence of colour. The more love you can feel, the more colour added, the more light is achieved. And ultimately, in the end, our choices  seal our fate.”

Lizzie Lemalf is now officially writing full time, her first novel having been a success. Maisy and Cassie, her two teenage daughters from 183 Times a Year, the first book in the series, have grown up and flown the nest. Cassie to London where she’s recently finished university and is now working for a well-known record producer and Maisy to Australia where she and boyfriend Crazee run a tattoo shop. Their little brother Connor is now a teenager himself, though nowhere near as much trouble as his sisters ever were. With Lizzie’s mum remaining cancer free, all seems to be going well for the Lemalf family. However, when Lizzie visits Cassie in London, Cassie appears thin and withdrawn. Despite Cassie’s telling her that nothing is wrong, Lizzie can’t help but be concerned. But this is just the beginning of Lizzie’s worries as everything is about to change for the Lemalf family.

I thoroughly enjoyed Eva Jordan’s latest novel which is written in her characteristically colourful style. The story is by turns laugh-out-loud funny—she does an excellent job of depicting the speech and perspective of teenagers—and terribly sad. Above all, she captures the love of a modern-day family for one another, through the tragedies and joys of life and, of course, everything in between. There were times where I felt she could have been writing about my own family, as she did such a remarkable job of showing the emotions around life events.

The story is told from several different perspectives, including Lizzie, Connor, Cassie and, occasionally, Salocin, Lizzie’s strong and kind-hearted father. This has the effect of increasing the reader’s empathy for the different characters and their roles within the family. While there were certain characters whose experiences I could relate to more than others, by the end of the book, I felt I could understand all of their motives for acting as they did.

Having read and loved 183 Times a Year, I had high hopes for All the Colours in Between. I was not disappointed. If anything, I’d say that Eva Jordan’s second book exceeded my expectations, possibly being even funnier, more poignant and better written than her first one. The themes she explores within the novel are timeless, as well as being timely. All the Colours in Between is a beautiful novel which will stay with me for years to come.

All the Colours in Between is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B074Q352TS/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074Q352TS/

WH Smith: https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/all-the-colours-in-between/9781911583288

New book cover for The Forest King’s Daughter and enter to win your #FREE ebook copy!

Today I’m excited to be revealing the brand new cover for my historical, coming of age, folk novel The Forest King’s Daughter.

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The novel was published back in 2015 by Pilrig Press and was inspired by my imagining what life might have been like for a young woman emigrating from Sweden to America back in the late 19th century. The title is taken from a fairy story the main character tells her grandkids at the beginning of the book.

Here’s the blurb:

The year is 1886 and Swedish teenager, Ingrid Andersdotter, is about to face a series of life-changing events. When Ingrid forgets to close the barn door one freezing cold night, there will be dire consequences for her family. To make matters worse, her attraction to the new school teacher leads to ostracism and shame. Ingrid’s strong opinions and the pressure of the powerful village church to conform to ideas she doesn’t believe in put her at odds with her traditional community.

Her only option is to leave her home and family. But is she brave enough to make an ocean crossing to a strange new land on her own, leaving everything she knows far behind? And will she find the freedom she dreams of if she takes such a risk?

Told through the lens of a Swedish fairy tale, this epic coming-of-age story, is both a page-turning personal account of one feisty young woman’s determination to seek a better life, and the tale of many single women who emigrated from Sweden to America in the 19th century.

Here’s what readers are saying:

A moving read which deserves every one of its five stars.” Marianne Wheelaghan

“A thoroughly enjoyable read.” C Gault

“I became so involved with this feisty young woman I couldn’t put it down.” Virginia King

To celebrate the novel’s re-release, I’m giving away one free ebook of The Forest King’s Daughter. All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment on this blog, giving one word to describe my new cover, then click the Rafflecopter link below. Meanwhile, I’ve kept a secret list of ten words which I think capture some element of my new cover. When Rafflecopter chooses the random winner, if your word is one of the words on my list, you win the book! In the event that no one chooses a word from my secret list a winner will be chosen at random.

The competition will run from today, the 29th January, until midnight on the 5th February. I’ll then announce the winner on my blog and Facebook page the following day.

Good luck!

And the winner is…Marilyn Pemberton!

Congratulations, Marilyn! I’ll be sending you your copy of The Forest King’s Daughter ebook.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered!

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If you’d like to purchase a copy then you can do so through Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Kings-Daughter-Kendra-Olson-ebook/dp/B00UBTSNBI/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Forest-Kings-Daughter-Kendra-Olson-ebook/dp/B00UBTSNBI/

Itunes/Ibook: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-forest-kings-daughter/id975044199?ls=1&mt=11

New Year Update

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Photo courtesy of matthew_hull at https://morguefile.com/p/171780

Happy New Year everyone! Yes, I know we’re now into the third week of January but my year has gotten off to a slow start due to my extended winter holiday visiting family in the States. Still, I’m determined to make 2018 a success. This year I hope to make reviewing a regular feature of my blog again, release a new (modest length) book and re-release The Forest King’s Daughter. This is in addition to expanding some of my editorial offerings over at kendraolsoneditorial.com (more on that later!).

What is this about re-releasing The Forest King’s Daughter? Well, for regular readers of this blog, you’ll know that my debut novel came out back in 2015. When it was released I was studying for my MLitt in Creative Writing and had very little time to devote to marketing. Getting my blog and Twitter account up and running felt like a huge success in its own right. I wasn’t fully prepared for my book release and didn’t really understand how to promote it.

Fast forward a couple of years and I have a blog with several hundred followers, I’m a member of some supportive book groups on Facebook and have additional contacts who (theoretically) might be interested in the book. But I didn’t want to just start talking about the same things again and posting the same images around, so I thought “why not change the cover? It could be fun.” And it was.

I consulted with Les of German Creative over on Fiverr to come up with a beautiful cover I felt reflected the story and genre in an effective way. I was really pleased with what she did as her design grew organically out of my ideas while simultaneously being totally new and creative.

I’ll be revealing my brand new cover here next Monday the 29th January at 7am, UK time. And, to celebrate, I’ll be hosting a competition via Rafflecopter. All you’ll need to do is to come up with one word to describe the cover and, if that word is on my secret list, you’ll receive a free copy of The Forest King’s Daughter! In the event that no one chooses a secret word from my list a winner will be chosen at random. The competition will run from 29th January for one week. I’ll then announce the winner on my blog and Facebook page the following day. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

About The Forest King’s Daughter:

The year is 1886 and Swedish teenager, Ingrid Andersdotter, is about to face a series of life-changing events. When Ingrid forgets to close the barn door one freezing cold night, there will be dire consequences for her family. To make matters worse, her attraction to the new school teacher leads to ostracism and shame. Ingrid’s strong opinions and the pressure of the powerful village church to conform to ideas she doesn’t believe in put her at odds with her traditional community.

Her only option is to leave her home and family. But is she brave enough to make an ocean crossing to a strange new land on her own, leaving everything she knows far behind? And will she find the freedom she dreams of if she takes such a risk?

Told through the lens of a Swedish fairy tale, this epic coming-of-age story, is both a page-turning personal account of one feisty young woman’s determination to seek a better life, and the tale of many single women who emigrated from Sweden to America in the 19th century.

The Forest King’s Daughter is available to purchase from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Seasons Greetings!

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A Christmas tree we “discovered” while hiking in a park in Colorado, where we’re visiting family for the holidays.

A big thank you to all my followers for your contributions, reading and sharing throughout the year. I’ll be back in the new year with more book reviews, blog posts and a few little surprises too. 🙂 So, watch this space! Meanwhile, have a very merry Christmas and a joyous new year.

My review of Sealskin, by Su Bristow

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‘And the thing is, Donald, I’ll never know if it was the best way or not, do you see? You choose your path, and then you have to walk it, all the way. We all do.’

Donald is a gentle and lonely young man living with his mother in a tiny, close-knit fishing village off the west coast of Scotland. Struggling to eke out a living for the two of them, he fishes, keeps crab pots and helps his Uncle Hugh when necessary. Unable to relate to his cousins or to the other villagers, Donald takes joy in nature and being on his own.

When he goes out to check his crab pots late one night, he witnesses something magical. Seized by the beauty of this spectacle, Donald acts out of character and does something unthinkable. Afterward, filled with remorse, Donald hopes to make up for his actions. But it’s too late. He will have to live with his deed for the rest of his life. How he manages the aftermath will make all the difference.

I enjoyed this story, which is based on the legend of the selkies, one of my all-time favourite myths (for more on selkies see my review of this series). Bristow’s exploration of Donald’s character was skilful and refreshing—while Donald does something terrible, the writing is never heavy-handed or judgmental. Bristow shows her characters, presents the dilemma and lets the action play out naturally—no easy feat! Her writing is poignant and evocative of the harsh but magnificent landscape of the west coast of Scotland, an area I was lucky enough to visit last year. This is a beautifully-written and memorable novel, which I hope to reread someday.

Sealskin is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and all good bookstores.