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/