My review of Lesley Kelly’s A Fine House in Trinity

Today I’m pleased to announce that my review of Lesley Kelly’s novel, A Fine House in Trinity, has been published on Lothian Life.

http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/2016/07/a-fine-house-in-trinity/ 

Advertisements

Interview with Katrina Hart, author of Love in Little Snow (Snow Globe Christmas Collection)

katrina love in little snow

Christmas? But it’s barely summer, I hear you say. Of course, you’re right, and while I’m not quite ready to skip ahead either, I did want to take this opportunity to speak to the very talented young author Katrina Hart about the recent publication of her novella, Love in Little Snow, published by Lovely Christian Romance Press earlier this month. Love in Little Snow is currently available as an ebook and will be released as a paperback during July (full details to come later).

Katrina Hart is also the author of the fantasy novel Finding Destiny which was published by Pilrig Press last year (you can read my interview with her about her debut novel here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/author-interview-katrina-hart-author-of-finding-destiny-fantasy-ebook-just-released-by-pilrig-press/ ).

My review of Love in Little Snow follows the interview.

Welcome, Katrina! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your writing, especially Love in Little Snow.

me photo for blog

Firstly, could you describe the story for readers?

Thank you for having me back.  Love in Little Snow follows Dr Bailey Cartwrite who is devastated when his girlfriend, Lucy, is killed. However, in her last act of love, Lucy appears to Bailey as an angel and sends him to the world of Little Snow – the snow globe world for Christmas. Now he must open his heart to the new woman in his life and find his way back to God before the end of Christmas day.

The novella has a Christmas feel to it, but it also speaks of new beginnings and helping one another and that in turn helps Dr Bailey while he gets used to his life in Little Snow. Also this novella has a lot of love to it. Love in Lucy and her gift to Bailey, and love in Holly and her devotion to Bailey in his new life.

How did Love in Little Snow come about?

I did a bit of reviewing for Lovely Christian Romance Press and the publisher asked if I’d like to take part in her Snow Globe Collection. I love Christmas, not just the lights and snow and happy music, but the feeling of love for family and friends and being together sharing in the magic. So of course I wanted to give it a go and I thoroughly enjoyed writing Dr Bailey Cartwrite’s story.

With summer creeping up on us here in Britain, how did you manage to get in the Christmas spirit while writing your story? Did you carry out any special, pre-writing rituals to assist you, such as drinking hot chocolate or playing Christmas music? If so, could you tell us about them?

I listened to a lot of Christmas music and had my snow scented Yankee candles burning while writing Love in Little Snow. I also drank hot chocolate and cold chocolate and just felt the spirit of Christmas. For me, Christmas can never come quick enough and I think those emotions of the holidays are always there with me when I’m around loved ones; I just feel that love and joy.

What is your writing process like?

For this novella I started with a synopsis and then just began to write with my music on and my candle lit. I love to just follow characters and see where they go and where the story really ends. I did a lot of thinking and day dreaming too on this story…  After I wrote it I sent the story out for editing and then back to the publisher. 

What inspires you?

Authors like yourself inspire me to write, reading great books really gets your mind all in dreamy land ready to write your own stories. My boyfriend also inspired me a lot while writing Love in Little Snow.  Love and the magic of being able to write about snowy lands always has me in a magical world of my own.

Love in Little Snow is a romance, and your first novel, Finding Destiny, is a fantasy. Having read and enjoyed both, I feel that they each contain elements of both fantasy and romance. How important is the idea of genre to your writing? Do you begin a story intending it to be in a certain genre?

Honestly, when writing, I normally just follow my characters and the worlds they are in, not really focusing on genre. I think I often discover where my story fits instead of picking either to fit it in. Although with Love in Little Snow I wrote it intending to create a Christmas romantic feeling.      

Your first publication was a novel. How did you find the experience of writing a novella?

I really enjoyed the experience. I love writing short stories and the novella felt a bit like an extension of writing a short story. It’s lots of fun and can be written in between writing novels.  

The novella seems to have had something of a comeback recently. How do you feel about the form? Do you think that novellas offer new opportunities for writers?

Yes, I think novellas offer other opportunities for writers to do what we love–write stories. And with a novella one can finish it within a week or so then spend time on editing and making it as perfect as one wants it to be. 

I understand that, in addition to Finding Destiny, you’ve also written other novels for which you’re currently seeking a publisher. Could you tell readers a little about these?

Sure. I’ve written two other novels since Finding Destiny. My second novel is called The Lost Town of Man’s Crossing. It follows Suzy and Bill from Finding Destiny on their adventure in a whole new town. Suzy, along with her friend, Bill, find themselves in The Lost Town of Man’s Crossing, a land to which the chosen few are transported by their personal Crossing Creatures to a second chance at life. On arrival, Suzy receives twenty coins and a mission she must complete before her coins run out, in order to move on to a new land – or everyone will die.

My third novel is called Thawing Hearts. It follows Courtney as she travels to Snowlight City and while there she sees that everyone is frozen until she meets Miss Snowglow, child of Lightcity, who sends her on a mission to stop Xaviershadow, a monster of the water. However, this leads her to find more of herself and her heart than she’s ever imagined.

I’m also working on The Awaking Spark of a Dying Man, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this story leads…

Thanks so much for taking the time to come and speak with us about your work. Best of luck with Love in Little Snow, and with all of your writing!

Love in Little Snow is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FL4SAPQ/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Little-Globe-Christmas-Collection-ebook/dp/B01FL4SAPQ

Finding Destiny is also available from Amazon. In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Destiny-Katrina-Hart-ebook/dp/B00U1WUFSE/

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Destiny-Katrina-Hart-ebook/dp/B00U1WUFSE

Find out more about Katrina’s writing by visiting her blog: https://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com/

Like her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Katrina-Hart-1785712648319624/

Follow her on Twitter: @KatrinaHart2015

Kendra’s review:

As with Katrina Hart’s debut novel, Finding Destiny, this too takes place in a magical world which parallels our own. Of course, not everyone is a fan of Christmas—that one time of year when everything is meant to be perfect, but never quite is. And the main character in this story, Bailey Cartwrite, is no exception.  Since losing his girlfriend, Lucy, in an accident, his life hasn’t been the same. He’s lost faith in everything: love, life, God and himself. But when Lucy appears to him holding a snow globe, his life changes forever. Yet will he be strong enough to take the second chance she’s offering him?

A lovely romance containing all the Christmas touches: there’s hot chocolate, gently falling snow, carollers, snowmen in abundance and (perhaps most importantly) love—not only of the romantic persuasion but also love of family, friends and the less fortunate. While listed as a Christian romance, Love in Little Snow can also be enjoyed by non-believers as it is a story which heartens, and heartening is exactly what is needed at Christmas-time.

By the time you’ve finished reading this, you too will feel that all truly can be made right, and not just for the one day, but year-round, if we’d only let a little of that “Christmas magic” into our hearts every day.

Love in Little Snow is the perfect story to get you in the holiday mood, whatever the month!

Review of My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante (Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels series) translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

P1060223 (3)
Naturally we were improvising. In the course of that back and forth I tried to understand what was really going through Lila’s head, so as to be in tune with her goals.

Lila, aka Raffaella Cerullo, and Lenù, aka Elena Greco, have been best friends since they were small enough to believe their dolls were speaking to them. They grew up together in the same impoverished neighbourhood in Naples, with its overcrowded tenements, domestic abuse, and never-ending struggle of its inhabitants to survive.

Lenù and Lila are constantly in danger of being pulled out of school, their families needing the money that an extra worker could bring in. Early on, their teacher, Maestra Oliviero, recognises Lila’s intelligence, which enables her to continue her education. Lenù, jealous of the attention her friend has received and eager to please the teacher, aims to match her abilities, thereby gaining her place at the school too. And so begins a friendly rivalry which continues for the remainder of their lives, and which, ironically, enables them to thrive in this harsh, patriarchal society.

With a lively cast of characters–from the foreboding, mysterious and ever-dreaded Don Achille, who runs the grocery store, to that of Melina, a love-sick, hysterical widow, and even Marcello Solara, the local big-shot who is the first to purchase a car and parade it through the streets trying to pick up local girls–Ferrante imbues potentially depressing scenes with a sense of vibrancy and passion. While the story is told in first-person, from Lenù’s perspective, the narrative arc of all of her characters is shown. The masterful cohesiveness of this story, combined with Ferrante’s strikingly intimate and detailed prose, brought this small section of Naples to life for me. Indeed, Lila and Lenù’s struggles seemed to mirror that of their entire neighbourhood, which in turn mirrored that of Naples itself.

I look forward to reading the rest of this immersive and engaging series.

Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

P1060191 (3)

“I don’t know why it is,” Abby said, “but these last few years the house has just always seemed the wrong size. When your father and I are alone, it’s too big, and when you all come to visit it’s too small.”

The Whitshanks have always lived in the house on Bouton Road. Red Whitshank, the patriarch of the family, has lived there since he was a small boy. His father, Junior Whitshank, built it with his own hands, making sure that each and every detail was perfect. The building and upkeep of the house became the centre of Junior Whitshank’s life. So, some years later, when Red’s parents were both suddenly killed by a freight train when their car stalled on the tracks, it was natural for Red and his wife, Abby, to step in and take it over. And, as their lives progressed, they too filled the house with children, laughter, love and the inevitable misunderstandings that accompany family life.

The book starts with Abby and Red discussing their troubled and unreliable son, Denny, who has recently called to tell them he’s gay only to promptly hang up before they can respond. Later we learn that Denny has often avoided his family but that once, while working as a cook in a New York restaurant, he invited his family to attend his wedding to the waitress, Carla. Later in the book, Linnie Mae, Red’s mother, tells how she met Red’s father, Junior Whitshank.  The narrative is skilfully interspersed which adds interest to the story as well as allowing the reader to compare and contrast the personalities of the different characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which made me feel as though I were sitting at the dining room table with my grandmother, listening to her tell stories of family members I’d never met, and some that I had.  Tyler’s writing drew me in with its honesty, humour and well-placed, perfect details and made me want to stay within her pages for as long as I could. Just as many garments can be mended from one spool of thread, so can those in a family be patched together from pieces of the same cloth.

I look forward to reading more of Anne Tyler’s novels in future.

My review of The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb by David John Griffin

Firstly, I’d like to thank Sonya Alford and David John Griffin for this book, which I won in a competition on Sonya’s blog https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com . The book design is beautiful, and one of the nicest I’ve seen in a while (you can’t really tell from the photo but the letters are all embossed and the insects appear nearly holographic).

FullSizeRender Alastair Stubb

The shuttered windows became blinkered, sorrowful eyes, the main canopy over its entrance a wet nose and the outer door that gaped open acquired two rows of fine, pointed teeth.

Ever since Eleanor and William lost their first child, who was to be named Alastair, Eleanor has longed for him. She calls his name, pretending he exists, and sees things which aren’t real. Or are they?

She becomes so disturbed by her visions that she ends up in a sanatorium, only being allowed out once she recants them. However, just because she’s recanted them doesn’t mean she doesn’t still see them. While Eleanor’s been away, William’s business has failed. He’s had to sell their house and move in with his aging, manipulative, insect-collecting father. Now that Eleanor’s returned, everyone must do their best to adapt to their changed family circumstances. The big question is, how they’ll manage to do so.

The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a magical realist story set in an alternate reality, nineteenth century English village. It’s told in two parts, with alternating third person viewpoints. As is usual with the genre, at times it’s hard to tell what’s really happening and what’s only in the minds of the characters. Griffin manages to separate them out nicely, thereby clarifying events for the reader, without becoming mired down in the details or losing the magical elements of the story.

Griffin’s prose is lucid and striking in this atmospheric, creepy and ultimately gothic tale dealing with issues of identity, disassociation, schizophrenia and ghosts. But although his novel’s themes may be heavy, Griffin underlies them with a sense of humour. One of my favourite things about this novel were the names of his characters. For example there is Dr. Snippet, the Reverend and Mrs. Musty, Mr. Fishcake and Mrs. Goodwithin, amongst others. His place names were equally clever and amusing, with The Bulldog Fish Tavern being easily my favourite.

If you enjoy gothic tales, psychology and/or magical realism I’d recommend this novel.

The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is published by Urbane Publications and is available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

To learn more about the author, visit his website: http://www.davidjohngriffin.com/

Follow him on Twitter: @MagicalRealized

Review of Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure by Miles Salter

Firstly I would like to thank Miles Salter for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest review.

Howl book cover

 

‘I do apologise, Mr Grindell,’ said Ms Lipps. ‘Most of our children are very good, but we do have one or two who can be a little bit…challenging.’

When class 5D at Rigor Mourtice Community Primary gets a new form teacher for the remainder of the year, James Small and his best friend, Neville Heavy, know they’re in trouble. But then, they always are. Even still, their new teacher, Mr Grindell, is particularly suspect, with his long yellow teeth and hot temper. Grindell isn’t too find of his class either.

Shortly after Mr Grindell takes over, James’s father is called on to take a temporary engineering job in France. While his father’s travelling for work is no longer unusual to James, on this occasion his mum will be accompanying him. Although his parents will only be away for two weeks, this feels a very long time to James. His younger sister, Emma, will be staying with a friend while they’re away. As Neville’s mum has just had a new baby, James will have to stay with an elderly childminder named Mrs Winters instead. She’s a total stranger to him as well as being a strange woman in her own right. However, James can’t help but soften towards her when he is offered a huge slice of homemade chocolate cake, before being shown Mrs Winters moped. But who is Mrs Winters really? And why has she asked James to keep an eye on Mr Grindell?

This hilarious adventure story for children aged seven through ten will appeal particularly to boys, especially those who, like Small and Heavy, may occasionally be seen to be slightly challenging. Salter has a keen eye for children’s speech and thought patterns and is convincing at writing from a young child’s point of view.

Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0993300014

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0993300014

You can follow Miles on Twitter: @MilesWrites

Visit his website: http://www.miles-salter.co.uk/

Like his page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miles.salter.9