More reviews? Or not?

Recently some of you may have noticed that I’ve been featuring quite a few book reviews on here. This is partly because I like to include links to my publications, and I’ve become a regular reviewer for Lothian Life Magazine http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/ But not all of the reviews I’ve featured on this blog are from Lothian Life, many of them are my own reviews of books I’ve particularly enjoyed and wanted to share with you. These are, of course, in addition to any Amazon and Goodreads reviews I might write…

Before I began this blog, I had been given the advice to use my blog as a way of giving something of value to my readers. That is easy to say and hard to implement as what is considered useful to one reader may not be particularly useful to another. I’ve noticed that the most successful blogs do this well. For example, Molly Green’s blog http://www.molly-greene.com/ offers marketing and promotional advice to authors with the occasional post about her own Genevieve Delacourt mystery series books. Judging by the number of reviews she has for her novels on Amazon, this is a fairly successful strategy. You can read more about her (very enjoyable) novels here: http://www.molly-greene.com/gen-delacourt-mysteries/

Also, Rebecca Bradley’s blog http://rebeccabradleycrime.com/ has over 5,000 followers. She regularly features book reviews and author interviews as well as featuring her own novel, Shallow Waters, which I have yet to read but have heard is very good. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shallow-Waters-Hannah-Robbins-Book-ebook/dp/B00R9Q4CUM/

Of course, the overall purpose of my blog is to have an author website to help with sales of my novel, The Forest King’s Daughter http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Kings-Daughter-Kendra-Olson-ebook/dp/B00UBTSNBI/  As I particularly enjoy writing book reviews, I’ve wondered if offering more of them on here might be a good way of attracting new readers, and keeping my existing readers entertained. Not that I’ll be hitting 5,000 followers anytime soon, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to try 😉

What do you think, would you like to read more book reviews on here? And, if you are a writer and a blogger, what is your strategy for ensuring your work gets seen?

Oh yes, and before I sign off, I’d just like to mention that if there are any book reviewers reading this who would be interested in reviewing my novel for their blog, I’d be happy to send a copy your way. Just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Have a great weekend!

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The importance of setting: Sarah Leipciger and Rosamund Lupton at The Chiswick Book Festival

Recently I was lucky enough to attend part of The Chiswick Book Festival. It was an interesting affair with several sessions covering everything from children’s books to marketing. I attended four sessions on the Saturday, including two on the book industry/marketing and two featuring authors speaking about their work.

My favourite session was called “Extremes—testing the resilience of plots and people in the wilderness”. It featured London authors Sarah Leipciger and Rosamund Lupton in discussion with Cathy Rentzenbrink. They spoke about the importance of setting for their novels, both of which take place in harsh, isolated wilderness.

Sarah Leipciger’s novel is called The Mountain Can Wait.

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Here’s my review:

A beautifully written, poetic debut novel about a reluctant father raising two children on his own in the wilderness of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

When a young woman’s body is discovered on the road, the victim of a hit and run, the authorities begin searching for the young man whom they suspect hit her. But who would have done such a thing, and why? And will the driver himself remain unscathed by his actions?

When Tom Berry’s wife, Elka, left him with their five-year-old son, Curtis, and their three-month-old infant daughter, Erin, he struggled to cope. Erin refused to eat and had to be taken to the hospital where she received a feeding tube. Curtis never understood their father’s quiet ways and preference for being alone, not to mention his fondness for hunting, an activity Curtis always disliked.

Tom’s work with the forestry service means he lives away from home for part of every year. During this time Erin and Curtis often stay with their grandmother, Samantha. But now that Curtis is older, he has his own place which he shares with a friend. Next year, Samantha will go away to university. With Tom’s planting company becoming successful, he might finally be able to purchase the cabin he’s dreamed of owning for years now. A cabin at higher altitude, where he can hunt, fish and live out his days in the peace and solitude he’s always craved.

Leipciger’s novel deals with the aftermath of events. The setting is described so vividly as to be almost a character in its own right, but she doesn’t let her descriptive powers get away from her. Her writing style remains grounded in the harsh and unyielding wilderness it represents, while remaining fresh, rich, and above all else, compelling.  

Sarah noted during the session that her main character, Tom Berry, was born out of the mud of the landscape that he lives in and where the story takes place.  Her characters all struck me as an organic part of the landscape they inhabit and this was one of the aspects I particularly enjoyed about her novel. Indeed, Sarah herself is Canadian and grew up in a similar environment.

Rosamund Lupton’s latest novel is called The Quality of Silence. It is written, in part, from the point of view of a young deaf girl, Ruby, who has landed in Alaska with her mother, Yasmin. Having never visited Alaska before, she and her mother must traverse the wilderness in search of her father who has mysteriously disappeared and whom the authorities refuse to divulge any information about.

I was struck by the amount of research Lupton carried out in preparation for writing the novel, and also by the fact that her protagonist was a young, deaf girl. Rosamund Lupton said that one of the reasons she made Ruby deaf was because she herself is deaf in one ear and this was something she wanted to explore in her writing. It also meant that Ruby would experience things differently which would make for an interesting character. Rosamund said that as the landscape was new to her characters she was able to explore it along with them, as it was new to her as well.

I was impressed by her courage in writing about a place she was unfamiliar with as I think this is something many authors want to do and are warned against. My novel, The Forest King’s Daughter, was based, primarily, on research. As a writer, I find a sense of freedom in discovering new places, people and plots through my writing.

After hearing so much about The Quality of Silence, I just had to get my own copy.

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I can’t wait to read it!

Have you been to any book festivals recently? If so, what was your favourite session, and why? Do you like novels with a strong sense of place? And what do you think about the adage to “write what you know”?

My review of The Selkie Moon Mystery Series by Virginia King

Virginia King - The Second Path Cover

The Second Path

When Selkie Moon wakes up naked and disoriented on a Hawaiian beach, two weeks after last being seen by anyone, the authorities have given up on trying to find her. They figure if she were alive, she would have turned up by now. But Selkie Moon is very much alive, and it’s lucky for her she has such good friends who have kept a constant vigil for her on the beach.

While her friends take care of her physical needs, Selkie tries to remember where she’s been and what’s happened to her. The last Selkie remembers she went to visit her mother’s gravesite at the famously accursed Bantry’s Bluff. To find the answer Selkie will have to do more than just search her memory, she’ll have to piece together a mystical puzzle which will take her to the other side of the world in her quest for clues.

I very much enjoyed following Selkie on her journey. King skilfully manages the difficult feat of combining mystery, psychology and folklore to make for a beautiful tale of love lost, and found.

After having read, and loved, The First Lie, I had high expectations for the second book. King did not fail to deliver the results I was hoping for. The Second Path is every bit as intriguing as The First Lie, and while this novel could be read as a standalone, I’d highly recommend that readers enjoy them together. Once again, King managed to keep me riveted to the page as I sought to discover clues to Selkie’s missing memory. I love how she combined psychology and mysticism in the novel which makes Selkie’s journey feel both magical and everyday, as though what she experiences could happen to anyone, given the right set of circumstances.

Virginia King - The First Lie Cover

The First Lie

Virginia King paints a vivid portrait of life in Hawaii for the young Australian, Selkie Moon. Selkie has moved to Hawaii to escape her less than enchanting past: a husband she never loved and a father and stepmother who feel they would have been better off without her. Not to mention the memory of her seemingly beautiful and perfect, but dead, mother. Will Selkie’s past catch up with her? The tension in this novel means you won’t be able to stop yourself from reading on to find out.

A beautifully evoked, atmospheric, psychological mystery laced through with myth and the intrigue of the supernatural. Although the thrill of Selkie Moon’s adventure kept me turning pages, the characters and setting made me want to linger. King’s characters are true to life and easy to relate to. Her descriptions are both accurate and lush. Even the food is so brilliantly rendered that I only wanted to eat noodles and sushi while reading this novel.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery, but also to anyone who loves a great character novel, as well as those interested in psychology.

Both books are available from Amazon.

In the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-Series-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y 
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-Path-Selkie-Mystery-Series-ebook/dp/B0139IAN56/

In the US: http://www.amazon.com/Second-Path-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0139IAN56/
http://www.amazon.com/First-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B00K1VC20Y/

You can find out more about the series by visiting Virginia King’s website: http://www.virginiaking.com/