The Women of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley #BookReview #NewRelease

Heachley

When book illustrator, Miriam Chambers inherits Great Aunt Felicity’s Victorian mansion in the Norfolk countryside, she discovers it is a poisoned chalice.  Either she must live in the run-down, cold building for a year and a day, or it will be auctioned for charity.  Since she is able to work at home she decides to accept the challenge and she employs some local tradesmen to improve the facilities a little.  But it is a lonely house set in overgrown woodland and Miriam is grateful when a strange-looking young man comes to the door offering to chop wood and do odd jobs.  As the creaks and bangs around the house alarm her, she is pleased when Charles, the reticent young man, provides company.

 

Increasingly Miriam tries to find the reason for the conditions imposed in her Great Aunt’s will.  Was there foul play when she had her accident and what happened years before when part of the house burnt down?  This beautifully written mystery weaves a spell around the house and the people connected to it.  It is easy to empathise with Miriam but there is a surprising conclusion which you are unlikely to predict.  Reminding me of the books of Kate Morton, this is a story for lovers of ghost stories, history and romance.  The introductory quote.

“One lives in hope of becoming a memory”

Is an apt description of this haunting story, about the nature of love.

You will find The Women of Heachley Hall on Amazon UK or on Amazon US

Rachel Walkley’s delightful description of herself:-

Aspiring writer who pens Women’s Fiction and magical tales about family secrets.

What else?

An East Anglian turned Northerner – ish.

Information professional, always.

Biologist, in my memories.

Archivist, when required.

Amateur pianist and flautist.

Reluctant gardener.

Scribbler of pictures.

And forever…. a mother and wife.

Oh, not forgetting, cat lover!

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The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman #FridayReads #BookReview

Masked City

After reading The Invisible Library I was looking forward to this second volume of the series in which Library Agent, Irene Winters, faces another challenging mission in alternative worlds.  Her handsome apprentice, Kai has been kidnapped and taken to an alternative Venice ruled by the Fae, therefore rampant with chaos.

Unaided, she must rescue Kai, before the Dragons, lords of “order,” declare war with the Fae.  Setting out to find him before it is too late, Irene makes unlikely alliances with a group of followers of important Fae patrons, as they travel on an incredible train which can move between worlds.  Adopting a carnival mask and an all covering cloak she attempts to move around the dark alleys and gloomy canals of Venice, incognito, but she constantly finds herself in increasing danger from the evil Lord and Lady Guantes.

The city is described in rich detail, maintaining its reputation for murder and fear.  Irene is a bold, creative agent who uses her story telling powers to create narratives which bend reality to her purpose.  Her powers of using the Library Language to open locks and change the state of matter, help her in her task, but cause her pain and exhaustion.  This colourful story is full of vivid images of the iconic buildings in Venice and the sumptuous mythical train, which are a delight to read.   Although all the essential background story is given, you will gain most by reading Book One The Invisible Library first.

The Masked City is available at Amazon UK

More about Genevieve Cogman and The invisible Library

UK2 (Project Renova Series, #3) by Terry Tyler #NewRelease

UK2

The third book in this post-apocalypse story promised fear, revenge and an unknown future.  Vicky, still in shock from the murder of her lover, Heath, has yet to learn the true mastermind behind his death, and her daughter, Lottie, now a mature 18 year old, must reveal what happened.

 

The community in Lindisfarne is disturbed by the visit of Barney, a bullying ex-policeman, who comes to tell them of a wonderful newly developed community UKCentral, down south.  Travis is amazed to see Barney accompanied by his old friend Doyle, who is now managing data analysis at UKCentral, but Doyle is less than enthusiastic about this brave new world.  Several of their community, including “princess” Flora, can’t wait to go to a new life in a modern apartment with hot water and entertainment.  What could be wrong with it?

 

Through the words of Vicky, Lottie, Doyle and Flora, we learn how they feel about the way UK2 is developing and how the community of Lindisfarne is in danger of disintegrating.  Are newcomers, Seren and Hawk, a threat or do they have an answer to their problems?  There is another danger to humanity approaching and it is important to know who you can depend upon.

 

This novel is the perfect conclusion to the trilogy.  Mankind is trying to move on in a world without the internet or communication and bonds are made which establish a future for many. * Tiny spoiler here, I love the Book of Lindisfarne, a biographical parish record.  But like any good conclusion, there are still questions to answer and lives to continue.  If you haven’t started Project Renova yet, I recommend you download the trilogy as soon as possible.

UK2 is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My reviews of Tipping Point and Lindisfarne

An interview with Colt McCall from “An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy”

My heart is pounding with excitement at the chance to interview the irresistible Colt McCall from June Kearn’s book.

Cowboy

What were your first impressions of Miss Annie Haddon?

First off? As if a scruffy dog had suddenly appeared and attached itself to me. Yeah, someone’s stray, a pampered pet – one that wasn’t particularly biddable, either. For such a small fry though, she seemed to have a pretty big mouth. A talker, too – mite too fond of her own opinions to my mind, at the time. No idea what she’d landed herself into, either. Not … a … single, solitary clue.

Annie called you intimidating and you certainly don’t suffer fools readily.  Would your life be easier if you were more diplomatic?

Let’s face it, shall we? Annie was white, English, opinionated. Not a hope in hell of understanding someone like me. As for diplomacy! Well, the West belongs to the meat-eaters, always has, always will. The meek don’t inherit much west of Chicago. Anyway, a man needs to show he can defend himself. If people think he can’t, he’s in trouble.

You seem to have a very bad opinion of the English.  What have they ever done to you?

Ha, tried to wipe out all rotten traces of Indian for starters. At Mission School, I was taught by an Englishwoman. She thought I was barely house-trained and had the idea that a daily dose of British poets and Shakespeare was the best way to civilise little hell-raisers like me. Along with not letting me speak my mother’s language, of course – shaving my head and beating manners and the Bible into me.

Yeah, one thing I’ve learned about the English: You don’t tell them, they tell you.

You don’t seem to be a typical Texan and yet you seem to have some good friends.  What do these friends have in common?

I guess they’re all … outsiders? Yeah, every damn one, when I come to think about it. The displaced, the hunted, the ignored. Mostly fighters for their own rights, of course, their own land. For years, we’ve been killing off their food, stealing their hunting grounds, robbing them blind.

Are the divisions of the Civil War still causing problems in Texas?

Well, what do you think? Draw a line down the middle of any country – you’re asking for trouble. Somehow, it makes some folk feel more entitled to boss others around. Take Southerners, for example. Robert E. Lee still adorns many a parlour wall round here. Oh, yeah. Plenty haven’t been too keen on freeing their slaves, either.

You seem to find Miss Haddon just a little too talkative, but do you think she has changed her feelings about Texas since you first met her?

Well, I guess when we first met, Annie was just trying to make sense of everything – questions, questions, questions. Her main concern, first off – if you’d care to believe it – was about losing those bound copies of Dickens in her trunk! While I was just hell-bent on getting us as far away as possible from the Comanche.

Even from her first arrival though, she seemed to love the landscape. Nothing had prepared her, she once told me – for that vast open space, the wide, wide vista. Fluted rock on the horizon soaring to meet limitless blue sky. The throat-catching beauty, the loneliness.
You can’t just pass through this landscape, y’know. It reaches out and draws you in, every time.

And now? Guess Annie knows that she belongs here.

And have you changed your opinion of her?

Oh, yeah. My opinion probably started to shift when she teamed up with two outlaws, swallowed a quart and a half of whisky and started a bar-room brawl – after trying to stare down that Comanche brave, of course.

It was her first ever time away from the protection of her relatives. I’d expected fear, silence, trepidation. Instead, she showed intelligence and courage, plus a real delight at being able to truly be herself.

Thank you, Colt, it’s been a privilege to hear your view of Texas both from your own opinions and those of  “the Englishwoman.”

You can read my review of June Kearn’s book here

An Interview with Lottie from “Tipping Point” by Terry Tyler #Project Renova

Today is the first post in a new series, interviewing characters from books I have reviewed on my blog.  I am proud to begin with a conversation with one of my favourite book characters, Lottie from Terry Tyler’s Project Renova Trilogy.

Lottie 5

Lottie Keating was sixteen at the time of the viral outbreak in July 2024. The first UK case of ‘bat fever’ was discovered in Shipden, the Norfolk seaside town where she lived with her mother, Vicky, and Vicky’s boyfriend, Dex. Within a month, normal life in the UK had broken down.

Tipping

Vicky and Lottie’s story begins in Tipping Point, which is on sale at 99p/99c from February 5 to February 11.  Their tale of survival continues in Lindisfarne, and the third part of the trilogy, UK2, which will be published in the spring.

Here is my interview  with Lottie: 

I very much admire the way that you have adapted to the dramatic change in your lifestyle, and I’d love to hear more about how the collapse of society has affected you.

Q         What do you really miss from your old life when you lived in Shipden?

I miss my friends!  A couple of them got the vaccine, so I hope they’re alive and well somewhere.  I miss Granny and Grandad, and my dad.  I miss ice cream, badly, especially salted caramel Häagen Dazs.  But when I think back to my old life it’s like I’m looking at someone else; it doesn’t seem like me.  I don’t miss the internet.  When it first went off I didn’t know what to do with myself (I kept looking at my phone and thinking, why can’t it just work?), but I soon forgot all about it; I had too much real life to live.  I do miss films, though.  As for social media sites—well, now I talk to people face to face, instead!

Q         What are your thoughts and feelings about Dex and Heath?

I used to think Dex was okay when he lived with me and Mum, before the virus.  He was a bit of a bighead (everything was all about him), but I could see why Mum liked him.  Looking back, I think he was probably cheating on her now and again; you don’t think about stuff like that when you’re a kid (he moved in with us when I was only ten or eleven), but when you’re older you can see what was really going on.  Anyway, he turned out to be a total retard, so who cares?

Heath – awesome.  But I won’t say anything else right now…

Q         Have you changed much since you left Norfolk?

Hope so!  I’m much fitter and stronger, and I can do all sorts of clever things like making fires and baking bread.  I can handle a gun, and I know some seriously awesome moves to throw if I get jumped.  Mac, who is now my boyfriend, taught me how to defend myself.  I think the new world has made me grow up and see the bigger picture.  Especially now I spend my time doing proper stuff instead of sitting on my bed Skyping with my mates and posting dumb selfies.

Q   If anyone had told you a year ago what was going to happen, what would you have thought?

I’d probably have thought, bring it on!  And been really excited and hoped there were going to be zombies; I’d have wanted to be like Rosita in The Walking Dead.  But I wouldn’t have had a clue what it was really like.  You don’t, but you just adapt.

Q         What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I live pretty much day to day.  The main fear is not having enough to eat and getting seriously ill.  Some of our community get stressy about the danger from outsiders, but I think we’re clever and strong enough to deal with anything that comes our way, and, to be honest, conflict gives me a bit of a thrill.  In some ways it’s better now because people don’t worry about bullshit like whether or not they’re ‘fulfilled’, ’cause they’re too busy staying alive.  Hopes?  That we will always live with lots of cool people who want to work together, and that all dickheads (no names mentioned here!) will die painful deaths.

To find Tipping Point on Amazon  or Lindisfarne

With thanks to Terry Tyler for introducing me to Lottie.

For interviews with other book characters:-

Miriam from No More Mulberries

Lachlan from Rack and Ruin

Patsy from Wild Water

If you are an author whose book I have reviewed, perhaps you would like me to interview one of your characters.  If so, please contact me.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Kate A

A God in ruins is a slow boiler. It tells the story of Teddy, a beloved son and brother whose comfortable life changed so dramatically when the second world war began. Moving back and forth through his life, we see him as a gentle, loving grandfather, a much-respected pilot and a dutiful husband. But it is a life full of quandaries; should he marry his childhood sweetheart, how can he communicate with his wayward daughter and how can he defend bombing Germany?

Looking through Teddy’s eyes the juxtaposition of different eras flows logically. I was more at ease with this book than with the artifice of “Life After Life.” Once immersed in the story I could read it forever, but there is a finale and that is both a surprise and yet absolutely right.

There are so many facets to this book such as the delightful stories of the mischievous child, Augustus, written by Teddy’s aunt with him as a model, the awful behaviour and total lack of empathy of Teddy’s daughter, Viola, and the very British, stubborn manner in which Teddy’s wife, Nancy, deals with illness.
I tend to ignore essential words at the beginning of a novel, so it is important to return to the quotes Kate Atkinson begins with, especially the source of her title:

“A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we wake from dreams.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature

I could write so much more about Kate Atkinson’s descriptive prose, her pithy comments, her understanding of humanity and the savage consequences of war, but it would be much better for you to read her book.

My Life in Books (1917 Edition)

Belles

Here’s a bit of Christmas fun courtesy of Roof Beam Reader

The rule is, complete the phrase with books you read this year:

At school I was the: Oath Breaker (Shelley Wilson)

People might be surprised by my: Past Encounters (Davina Blake)

I will never be: Down and Out in Kathmandu (Jennifer S Alderson)

My fantasy job is: Girl in the Castle (Lizzie Lamb)

At the end of a long day I need: My Sweet Friend (H A Leuschel)

I hate it when there’s: No Way Back (Kelly Florentia)

I wish I had: The Honesty of Tigers (David Bridger)

My family reunions are; A Divided Inheritance (Deborah Swift)

At a party you will find me making: The Last Gamble (Anabelle Bryant)

I’ve never been to: Lindisfarne (Terry Tyler)

A happy day includes: Wonders & Wickedness (Carol Hedges)

The motto I live by is: Everybody’s Somebody (Beryl Kingston)

On my Bucket List is: The Little French Guest House (Helen Pollard)

In my next life I want a: Garden of Stars (Rose Alexander)

If you decide to play along, add a link to your post in the comments box on Roof Beam Reader’s post and the comments box on this post so I can take a look at yours.