Saturday, 18 August 2018

Beezy Marsh - New Novel Spotlight

 New Novel Spotlight: All My Mother's Secrets

I’m delighted to welcome Beezy Marsh to my blog with a spotlight on her new novel and an exciting extract from the novel. I loved Beezy’s novel, Keeping my Sisters' Secrets and I can’t wait to share the review of this new novel too.

More about the novel:

A vivid, heart-warming story of survival 
Annie Austin’s childhood ends at the age of twelve, when she joins her mother in one of the slum laundries of Acton, working long hours for little pay. What spare time she has is spent looking after her younger brother George and her two stepsisters, under the glowering eye of her stepfather Bill. In London between the wars, a girl like Annie has few choices in life – but a powerful secret will change her destiny.
All Annie knows about her real father is that he died in the Great War, and as the years pass she is haunted by the pain of losing him. Her downtrodden mother won’t tell her more and Annie’s attempts to uncover the truth threaten to destroy her family. Distraught, she runs away to Covent Garden, but can she survive on her own and find the love which has eluded her so far?

From the grimy streets of Acton and Notting Hill to the bright lights of the West End, All My Mother’s Secrets is a powerful, uplifting story of a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with her family’s tragic past.

Extract from the new novel:

Acton, May 1934 

Her tears had dried, but Annie’s throat was still hoarse from crying as the tram clattered down the High Street, taking her away from her family and the run-down streets she called home. 
  They’d never had much, struggling to get by, just like everyone else round their way, but they’d stuck together through everything life could throw at them. That had always been enough, until now. 
  Annie clasped the worn leather handles of her carpet bag. Everything she owned had been hurriedly stuffed in there and she’d gone without even writing a note. Even after the countless quarrels that families have, she could never have imagined she’d leave home like this, lifting the latch and sneaking away up the front path. But that was before her whole world had turned upside down. 
  Secrets, half-truths – her head was spinning just trying to make sense of it all. Only one thing was certain: finding out had changed everything. 
  As the tram arrived at the bustling terminus in Shepherd’s Bush, she wiped her eyes and stood up, smoothing the creases from her skirt and straightening her green felt cloche hat. 
  Annie stepped down, joining the crowd of people who had places to go, catching a bus up to the West End of London. 
  Her heart was pounding but she lifted her chin and forced a smile as the bus conductor took her penny fare. 
  Whatever the future held, there was no going back. 

Soapsud Island, November 1918 
Monday was washday. Annie watched the women struggling up Acton Lane, towards the communal laundry at the baths, with bundles of clothing tied up in sheets and slung over their shoulders. 
  For sixpence you could get a nice hot bath, if you could afford it, but the women’s task was to get their clothes clean, bashing their laundry against the washboards at the sinks. Some were bow-legged under the weight of the week’s dirty washing, which would be boiled, scrubbed, washed, rinsed, put through the wringer, starched and pegged out to dry before the day was done; not just hung up any old how on the washing line, either. There was an order to things; it had to be neatly done, on lines in the back yard, or the neighbours would talk. 
  A lucky few housewives had a handcart to wheel the laundry up the narrow winding lane, bordered on either side by rows of glum, sooty little terraced houses. The less fortunate bore their burden, followed by a gaggle of runny-nosed children who should really have been in school, shouldn’t they? 
  Outside the grocer’s shop up on the High Street, a couple of women tutted as they raised their handbags at the passing spectacle, as if to shield themselves from the disorder of the lower classes. They’d come from the big houses, over the other side of the town, in West Acton, but the war meant people weren’t so choosy about where they were seen these days. Word got around about any shop that did a half-decent loaf and didn’t try to short-change you or give you a little under what you’d paid for. 
  The smell of freshly baked bread wafted out of the bakery down the road, making Annie’s stomach rumble; she hadn’t had time to have anything more than a quick cuppa for breakfast once she’d filled the copper in the scullery – that had taken six buckets of water. Then she’d put the whites in to soak while she popped up the road to the shop. 
  She caught sight of the ladies’ gloved hands and felt her rough, cracked knuckles. It made her want to cry, having her hands in such a terrible state, but her mother had told her time and time again there was no shame in bearing the marks of a hard day’s work. It was just that she dreaded the arrival of winter when the keens would crack and bleed and she’d spend every night with her swollen fingers coated in lanolin to try to soothe them, or dunking them in warm, salty water to stop them getting infected. 
  The two ladies stopped twittering away to each other like a pair of linnets and looked her up and down. The toes of their polished boots were just peeking out of their long skirts and the pure white lace collars of their blouses sat perfectly against their slender throats. One had a watch on a long gold chain around her neck and the other had a beautiful amethyst brooch pinned to the lapel of her fur-tipped coat. Annie met their gaze, just as her mother had taught her. 
  She fumbled to do up the buttons on her cardigan, to make herself look as smart as she could. Her long, chestnut hair hung in loose bunches secured by ribbons and her blunt fringe was the work of her mum’s scissors. They’d probably notice that her black woollen pinafore had seen better days and the collar of her blouse was fraying, but at least it was bleached and starched nicely. She had come here to do some shopping, just like them, and her money was as good as anybody else’s.

 I really loved this novel and will be posting the review soon. It is available to buy here:

About the Author:

Beezy Marsh is an award-winning journalist, who has spent more than 20 years making the headlines in newspapers including The Daily Mail and The Sunday Times.

This was never going to be enough for a girl from Hartlepool, whose primary school teacher told her to give up her dream of becoming a poet and concentrate on being a nurse instead. Thirty years later, give or take, she became an author.

Her first novel, MR MAKE BELIEVE, will be published by Ipso Books in April 2017. It charts one imperfect mother’s attempts to find the key to lasting romance, with the help of daydreams about a hunky actor and an internet blog about her life, which catapults her to stardom and into his arms. Will living the dream provide the answers she seeks or is true love just make believe?

Her biography of legendary gangsters Mad Frankie Fraser and his bank robber sons follows the family's 100 years on the wrong side of the law. MAD FRANK AND SONS, published by Pan Macmillan, has been optioned for a film by Bill Kenwright Productions Ltd.

The memoir KEEPING MY SISTER'S SECRETS, tells the moving story of three sisters born into poverty in 1930s London and their fight for a survival through a decade of social upheaval and the Second World War. It will be published by Pan Macmillan on July 27th 2017

Beezy is married, with two young sons, and lives in Oxfordshire with a never-ending pile of laundry. Read her LIFE-LOVE-LAUNDRY blog and get latest book news at

Follow Beezy on Twitter @beezymarsh

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Author and novel spotlight - Helen Christmas

 Author and Novel Spotlight - Helen Christmas

A big welcome to Helen Christmas. Today we are going to look at Helen’s novel, 'Beginnings' and learn more about her as an author. I’m really looking forward to reading her novels and delighted she’s stopping by on my blog today.

Beginnings is a romantic thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. Eleanor Chapman is 16. She has no idea her father is employed in a world of organised crime until the day he is forced to go on the run, leaving her at the mercy of dangerous people.

Her life is spiralling out of control yet on the night she plans to escape, she stumbles across a mysterious prisoner. His name is Jake, a rock musician from Holland and he has a contract on his life.

Their daring escape across London eventually draws them into a place of hiding before Jake's chilling story begins to unfold. He was the one vital witness to a sinister scene leading up to the death of a British MP and now those responsible want him silenced. As two young people, thrown together by fate they develop intense feelings for each other. It does not take long for Eleanor to realise that she will do anything possible to keep Jake alive.

Their tender love bond keeps you turning the pages as they live on a knife edge, desperate to escape London. Will they outrun the deadly enemies who stalk them? Or are the people at the top more powerful than they think?

Beginnings: Book 1 of the series “Same Face Different Place” a romantic British thriller through the decades.

Inspired by the violent criminal underworld of Martina Cole and the strong characters who would expect in a Leslie Pearse novel, this book has been described as an emotional roller coaster and with elements of high tension that make it difficult to put down.

If you like romance and enjoy a good thriller, this book is an excellent choice for fans of both genres.

About the author:

 Helen J. Christmas lives on the south coast of England with her husband. She has a passion for gripping stories with strong characters. With a love of writing since childhood, she started her own series of books 'Same Face Different Place'. Her first book 'Beginnings' is set in the 1970s: a London thriller entwined with romantic suspense. Helen finished her 2nd book, 'Visions,' in 2013: a 1980s psychological thriller set in the counties of London and Kent. Her 3rd book, 'Pleasures' was published in 2015 and new for 2017 comes the final instalment 'Retribution' in 2 parts.

Writing is something she juggles around her family and social life as well as running a web design company, she and her husband set up from home. You can find more by visiting her website which has links to her blog and social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

See other books in the series...

Sarah's Shadow Blog Tour - 19th May

Sarah's Shadow Blog Tour - 19th May
By Nick Jones and illustrated by Si Clark

 If you could change something about yourself, would you do it? When Sarah Simpkins is teased about her shadow in the school playground, she finds herself wishing she didn't have one. That night she has the chance to make the wish come true. But will losing her shadow really make her happy?

"Sarah's Shadow is a sweet story about wish fulfilment not being all its cracked up to be. It has accessible but expansive vocabulary, impactful illustrations and a message of being comfortable in your own skin (shadow). Lovely stuff." - Jill Murphy, The Bookbag

"I loved the upbeat message of this tale and the power that Sarah finds when she rediscovers her shadow and becomes herself. Si Clark s illustrations are fabulous, especially in the detail of the facial expressions of the characters in the story and Sarah s amazing shadow creatures ... Sarah's Shadow is most highly recommended." - Jack Magnus, Readers' Favorite

My review:

The beautiful story follows the tale of Sarah, who gets picked on at school by an insensitive peer due to her having a tall and lanky shaped shadow. Sarah takes the teasing to heart and rather than wishing that the teasing would stop, she wishes that her shadow would go away. This story has a sweet and powerful message that really sticks with you long after you have read the story. Although this book was a little too 'old' for my two children, as a teacher I could see the potential for this book in the classroom. And as an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it myself anyway! I could see it being used successfully in PSHCE lessons at school for both younger children and to create discussions with upper primary school.

The book is fabulously illustrated. The story leaves you with an important and positive message. A delightful story, that I loved reading and can see becoming a firm favourite when my children are old enough to enjoy.

About the author: 

Nick Jones is a writer originally from Bristol but now living in Congleton, Cheshire. In 2014 he published Gagged and Bound, a book of original gags, puns and one-liners, which went on to become a best-seller on Amazon under Puns & Wordplay. This was followed by Gagged & Bound 2 and 3, and now Nick has returned with Sarah's Shadow, a highly original children's book about a little girl who loses her shadow. Illustrated beautifully by London-based artist Si Clark, Sarah's Shadow is a completely new direction for Nick, but with plenty more ideas up his sleeve it's one he intends to pursue further.

Go to Sleep Blog Tour - 19th May

Review of 'Go to Sleep!' by Marion Adams
19th May

The MULTI-AWARD-WINNING Go To Sleep! by Marion Adams! Tansy the sheep can’t go to sleep. She’s forgotten how to do it! But when she follows the barn owl’s advice and starts counting sheep, she realises that there is something wrong …Moonbeam Award 2017 winner, ebook category. Winner of The Gittle List 2017. Also awarded the Kirkus Star for 'Books of Exceptional Merit.'

"Full of endearing little scenes and huggable sheep, this is a great book for any child’s bedtime."The Children's Book Review

"A beautiful and timeless illustrated children's book about a sheep who can't sleep. Parents and kids will love it in equal measure."The Book Reviewers (5 STARS)

"Children will enjoy reading this book and will want to read it again and again. I would definitely recommend this book to all young readers."Readers' Favorite (5 STARS)

"Charming picture book ... Beautifully illustrated with an evocative text, it has kind messages about scary night-times and will encourage children to practise their counting."The Bookbag (4 STARS)

My review 

I love this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the picture book to my children. I found it engaging and entertaining and they certainly agreed. Great for maths and counting, I would find multiples uses for this book in the classroom too. The illustraions are fantastic and kept both children, including my youngest who is not yet two, involved with the story.

With a great ending that I should have seen coming, but didn't! I was enjoying the journey and experience too much. My son loved the book just as much as I did and regularly asks to have it read to him. I would recommend this picture book for children.

About the author

Marion Adams has been writing for as long as she can remember, usually for fun and sometimes for money as well. She started her career as an in-house copywriter with a publisher and now works as a freelance proofreader and editor. It’s her dream job because she’s paid to read all day (and eat dark chocolate). Over the years, she’s written all kinds of things for both adults and children, some serious and some less so, with published work including magazine stories, articles, poems, plays and non-fiction books.

She has two children who are grown up now, but they still remember having their favourite stories read to them at bedtime. So Marion decided it was about time she wrote a bedtime story with a title that’s sure to resonate with weary parents everywhere: Go To Sleep!
Marion lives in Devon, UK, and when she’s not reading or writing (or eating dark chocolate), she loves going for walks on the wild moors where Go To Sleep! is set.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Guest post on book titles, 'Sense of Entitlement' by Helen Matthews

I'm delighted to welcome Helen Matthews to my blog for a very interesting guest post on book titles.  Over to Helen... 

'Sense of Entitlement'

There’s no copyright on book titles so why is it so painful for a writer when we discover our perfect title has already been chosen by someone else? 

I’m not the world’s speediest writer. Developing themes and researching the background to my novels is part of the joy of writing. Sometimes it takes me years, not months, of hard labour – creating, workshopping, editing, rewriting – to hone a novel into a shape where it’s ready to meet the world. During this incubation period, I grow to love my characters and their stories. I also become attached to my working title and convince myself it’s ‘the one’.

Back in October 2017, I attended the Killer Women crime writing conference in London. The novel I was working on had been in its gestation period for eighteen months and was close to the final draft. The conference was inspiring, and I left feeling positive and upbeat, clutching my goodie bag of free books – Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of upcoming titles.

On the train home, I dug my hand into the bag to explore my haul. The first book I pulled out was The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, scheduled for publication in early 2018. Feeling a little bit sick, I read the blurb, then turned it back over to the front cover. No, it definitely was still called The Ruin - the exact, same title as my own novel-in-progress. That title was perfect for my story, which opens with a family impulse-buying a tumbledown property in France. But Dervla’s book was coming out before mine and she’d also scooped #TheRuin hashtag.

I went back to the drawing board and scribbled more spider diagrams and mind maps until I came up with a new title Lies Behind the Ruin. If anything, this strikes me as slightly more menacing than the original. I’m hoping this novel will be published in the near future so you can tell me if it fits.

But why was I so bothered? With no copyright on book titles to worry about, I could have kept the same title. I guess I like the idea of exclusivity.

Recently I pre-ordered a brilliant debut novel called She’s Not There, by a writer I know called Tamsin Grey. A few days later, an alert popped up in my Twitter feed, telling me that She’s Not There had been published. This seemed earlier than I was expecting. I checked it out on Amazon and discovered this particular book entitled She’s Not There was by Joy Fielding, a bestselling author of psychological thrillers. I scrolled a bit further and discovered a list of books with this identical title by writers including P J Parrish, Marla Madison and even She’s Not There: a life in two genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan!

It troubled me that someone who wanted to order Tamsin’s novel might click on the wrong one, though the covers are distinctive. You might think that no one would be that daft, or tired, or drunk to make such a mistake, but I’ve done this myself, so perhaps I’m all of those things.  
A while back, and I’m sure it still happens, scammers published books with identical or similar titles to novels that were a commercial success, trying to cash in and divert sales away from hard working novelists. These cloned titles often contained badly-written stories or pure drivel.

I was caught out by this scam, when a novel called Stoner by John Williams was republished and hailed as ‘one of the great forgotten novels of the past century’. I downloaded it onto my Kindle with one-click. I read the first page, furrowing my brow. It wasn’t what I expected of a literary novel. It was a trashy tale about a junkie, permanently stoned on weed and other substances. The prose broke all Stephen King’s rules in his book On Writing and was weighed down with ponderous adjectives and adverbs. I gave up and went back to Amazon. Sure enough, the garbage I’d downloaded wasn’t by John Williams at all but by a fraudster, cynically trying to confuse customers and divert profits into his own bank account. And the saddest part of this saga? I never went back to download the correct John Williams version of the eBook. (Several years later I bought it in paperback).

Titles are important because they set expectations for the reader and help to answer the question Is this for me or not? To use a recent example, if a book has the word ‘secret’ ‘missing’ or ‘girl’ in the title, it’s sending out a signal to thriller fans.

A few years ago, I had a one-to-one with a literary agent at a writer’s festival, discussing the novel I was writing at that time, called Disconnected.
“That’s a Young Adult title,” the agent informed me, asking if I could shave a few years off my protagonist’s age and lighten the plot so it could be marketed to YAs. I couldn’t. But in the end, she did me a favour because that novel, a suspense thriller with themes of human trafficking, modern day slavery and digital detox, has now been published under the far better title of After Leaving the Village.

Available now in paperback and eBook from all good bookshops and from Amazon 

 More about Helen:

'After Leaving the Village' was published by Hashtag Press in October 2017. It is my debut novel and won first prize in the opening pages category at Winchester Writers' Festival. My novel is a gritty contemporary suspense thriller so won't suit all tastes but it's been hailed by reviewers as 'very much a novel of our times' and 'powerful' of the reasons 'why it has been endorsed by anti-slavery charity, Unseen.'

As a writer, I often ask the question - how can a life change in an instant? Sometimes this leads me to explore some dark places. I'd love to know what you think, so please leave a review.

I've won several short story prizes and my story 'Coal' was published in Artificium literary magazine. You can read my travel blogs over on where you'll also find my contact details and can tell me what you loved - or hated - about my novel. 

Thank you so much, Helen, for your fantastic post on my blog. It has definitely got me thinking about my own book titles and how I'd be devastated if someone else chose the same one before I published the novel! Maybe it's best not to get too attached to start with and call the book Untitled? With 'Letters to Eloise' the title almost arrived before the novel even began but with my more recent, 'Rafferty Lincoln Loves...' the title came along after the book was finished.   

Let me know your thoughts fellow authors about your own book titles in the comments...

Emily x

Monday, 7 May 2018

Review of 'My Favourite People' by Rob Keeley

Review of 'My Favourite People' by Rob Keeley

Buy the picture book here

Rob Keeley’s first picture book.
A book for young children all about the importance of relationships.
Comes complete with suggested activities for bringing the book to life.

My favourite people are…

all in this book. And I’m going to tell you all about them. You can meet my Auntie Meg and Uncle Steve, my best friend Alice, my favourite footballer and the band that’s going to save the world. Then I’ll tell you about a brilliant idea I’ve had…

Following his success as a writer of novels and short stories for older children – including the ongoing Spirits series, listed for the Bath Children’s Novel and Independent Author Book Awards – Rob Keeley makes his picture book debut with My Favourite People, a fun illustrated journey through childhood and the friends and family who make it possible. It’s an amusing and insightful look at the world around its central character, an excellent read-aloud or read-alone. It encourages young people to look at relationships and recognise their importance. It will appeal to girls and boys of lower primary age – and to parents and teachers reading the book aloud.

My review

This picture book has a great concept and really appealed to my three-year-old. At an age when he loves talking about people in his life, this was a perfect book to read to him. He loved the bright illustrations, which kept his one-year-old sister engaged too, and talked animatedly about the book.  I encouraged him to talk about similar people in his own life.

A fun and engaging book, I could see how this would appeal to children both pre-school and for use in the classroom for lower primary school. A great introduction for children to encourage them to talk about the people in their lives. 

As both a teacher and parent, I could see the potential for this lovely picture book and would recommend. It flowed easily to read and was enjoyable for the adult reading too. A different read from what I have read by the author, but another fabulous effort nonetheless.

Review of The Mosaic by Chris Keaton

 The Mosaic by Chris Keaton

Buy the novel here:

Twin girls discover a mystical world contained within a crumbling mosaic, and they must restore it before an evil witch seizes its power, even if doing so could tear their family apart.

Secrets. It all started while looking for secret passages. Chloe Tozier’s impulsive twin, Zoe, insisted that all old mansions had them. Grandma denied the existence of any here. Except for the boarded-up service elevator that she conveniently forgot to mention before the girls discovered it, the elevator that didn’t seem to go anywhere. They had been living in this private museum with their grandparents since the death of their parents during an archaeology trip to Egypt.

Mysteries. Why have a museum in a tiny town in the middle of Kansas when what’s on display is nothing unusual? Sometimes packages arrived wrapped in plain brown paper that the girls never saw again. Grandpa disappeared overnight and they haven’t heard from him since. And before going to Egypt their parents had mentioned something about a mysterious mosaic. Maybe Zoe was right about family secrets. Maybe it was time to dig further.

My review 

This exciting young adult fantasy has all the ingredients to make an exciting fantasy read, which is what it accomplished. It has well-written characters, dark secrets and fast-paced action. As Chloe and Zoe explore the house they cause a chain of events to happen. A great beginning to the novel, with an almost Nania feel.

As the children dig further into the family secrets, it has you on the edge of your seat. Although I'm not an avid fantasy reader, I really enjoyed this story. The author talentedly created a plot you couldn't help but fall into and become lost within the magic of the words. The plot had enough twists and turns to keep me enthralled and although the characters of the twins did grate on me a tiny bit, I invested in them enough to really want to find out what happened. The author knew how to create characters to make you hate them or invest in them.

With an exciting ending, this story would easily be easy to recommend for fantasy lovers.

About the author: