Category Archives: Books

Shadows of the Lost Child by Ellie Stevenson

ShadowsA spooky novel set in two very different realities, with flashbacks to a terrible accident in between.

Aleph Jones is trying to escape the memories of a dreadful mistake that keeps haunting him, only to end up in a house that is haunted by its own past. He is drawn into the lives of Cressida, Alice and Guinevere and nothing seems to be what it looks like. Not just the house seems to be lost in the 21st century. Who is crying at night? And why on earth is the fridge standing in the middle of the room?

Over a century ago, unexplainable things happened in this part of the town that was then an area of squalor and exploitation. Tom and Miranda, the main characters of the past setting, are experiencing a challenging learning curve during which their entire world is turned upside down.
And then there is young Alice who seems to have found a mysterious passage.

The author drags her readers on a relentless journey from one century to the other, creating a quirky familiarity with some highly exceptional characters. Whilst personally, I still wouldn’t want to spend time with Aleph, on the other hand Miranda and Tom, at the end of the book, feel like friends you’re sorry to let go.

Shadows of the Lost Child’ was published with Rosegate Publications in September 2014
It is available on Amazon, as a Kindle edition and now also as a paperback version.

“The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” – Spark for immortality novel sprung in Stratford

9780356502571Living one’s life over and over again, re-experiencing the same developments of humankind, and in the process gathering a world of experience… Now there’s an idea that could have sprung from an afternoon spent on Stratford’s Historical Spine.

In fact, it did.

Claire North, real name: Catherine Webb, the author of this mesmerising new fantasy bordering on sci-fi novel, “The first fifteen lives of Harry August”, had the initial idea for the story one hot afternoon, right in the heart of our immortal town.
At the time, in summer 2010, working with the RSC as a lighting technician for the Courtyard productions of Antony and Cleopatra and King Lear, she started immediately, making use of her spare time for the first phase of this novel. The book, by far not her first in her successful writing career, was published in April this year.

Harry August, the title character, lives his many lives from 1919 to usually the Mid-Nineties, thus going through times of incredible change. Each time he dies, he awakes to a new life at exactly the same time and place as ever, a child again, but with all the knowledge acquired before. At the end of life 11, he is confronted with a plea from future generations to stand up against a premature end of the world, caused by somebody’s irresponsible tampering with ‘linear’ development.

Harry August takes on this mission, finding few associates and one near almighty foe, who he chases through several lives.

“The first fifteen lives of Harry August” (follow link for some excerpts) is a fascinating read, picking up pace from exciting to irresistible, until that final moment when, with regret, the last page is turned.

  • 417 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (8 April 2014)

Help with the Henrys

and the Edwards, and the Richards…9781849432412_1

White Hart and Red Lion, the extent of history conveyed by pub signs, a campervan stacked with survival rations of Pork Pie and Pinot Grigio, that is how this most entertaining ‘support book’ takes on its mission.

– So Edward IV, he was Prince Edward, before he became King?
– No, that’s not the same person, his father was Richard Plantagenet.
– Who? The Lionheart?
– Hahaha, no, the Duke of York.
– Hmpf, if you say so, but Henry IV, he’s a Bolingbroke, not a Plantagenet, isn’t he?
– You mean Prince Hal’s father, he is both, and the son of John of Gaunt.

At this point, our own conversations usually ended, over much confused head-shaking. The nobility’s habit of sporting multiple names, including the option to change them, and job titles, repeatedly and for dubious reasons, made the genealogy part of Shakespeare’s history plays near impenetrable – probably not just for me.

Nick Asbury’s book “White Hart Red Lion, The England of Shakespeare’s Histories” appeared, as a stroke of genius, at exactly the right time, just before the circle started with David Tennant on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon as Richard II and well ahead of next year’s Henry IV Part I&II.

As opposed to the many historical summaries I have consulted for a way out of my royalty confusion, Nick Asbury sets his untangling of history’s players into some kind of road movie scenario, from the perspective of a Histories player. As an actor, who has been under the skin of many a highborn participant in Shakespeare’s history plays, Nick follows the development from Richard II, via famous and less famous events and characters, through to Richard III’s undoing at Bosworth, along the English (and occasionally, French) roads and rivers that set the backdrop for 100 years of feuds, wars and bloodshed.

We are taken to developments in society that still leave their marks on current-day Britain, we learn a thing or two about Ale and language and propaganda…

Nick Asbury’s vivid description, always connected to a sense of place and some helpful trivia, the combination of these three elements makes it a lot easier to understand the connections and changeovers of the multi-named lot. An occasional glance at the map and the family tree right at the front helps solving residuary puzzles.

For those of us who were never quite sure what Aumerle had to do with the hapless Richard II – this is the way to find out. A very enjoyable read, and a problem solver!

A criticism? Just the one: Jeanne d’Arc should have deserved the mention of her birthplace, Domrémy, some 221 miles away from Orléans. But otherwise: great!

White Hart, Red Lion: The England of Shakespeare’s Histories
by Nick Asbury

Paperback: 198 pages, also available as a Kindle edition
Publisher: Oberon Books Ltd. (1 July 2013)
ISBN-10: 1849432414

Rather mysterious

Watching Charlotte Brontë Die   by Ellie Stevenson

An inherited garden shed, a storm-battered Channel island, a smokers’ room, a terrace behind an average house, a flowery sofa, a countryside bus, a tree in a park, and last but not least, a Cathedral Library… mystery does arise in many different places in this collection of 9 stories from somewhat intriguing realities.Bronte3

Be prepared for the unexpected.
Ellie Stevenson takes her readers deep into the heart of her characters. They come from walks of life as far apart as the bullied carer and the literary researcher; one thing they seem to have in common, though, they are insistent in their search for happiness. Some of them achieve their goal better than others, but each story creates room for unsettling questions.

My favourite story from this collection must be the one of Anna Grail, the girl with a fondness for tractor driving. You cannot avoid loving her and cheering her on her way.

It is a bit hard to not read all the stories in one go, but it is recommended. Perhaps you should leave the light on, in the hallway.

 ‘Watching Charlotte Brontë Die’ was published on 10 Jan 2013 at Rosegate Publications
It is available on Amazon, as a Kindle edition and now also as a paperback version.

Incredibly normal Mormons

The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth

A most intriguing storyline set in an off-beat environment. Jenn Ashworth gives a compelling insight into the minds of 5 different members of one family. The background culture, for most people unfamiliar, of a Mormon community, has a strange way of tricking the reader into believing to see reasons for behaviour patterns and quite gently destroying this idea again. It could have happened anywhere, or could it?
It’s a gem of a novel, the kind of book that makes you feel that you have done something very worthwhile with your time.

The story focuses on one Friday in a family of Lancastrian Mormons. They are expecting the return of their son Gary from his deployment as a missionary. It is supposed to become the perfect family event. However, nothing works to plan. In turn, parents and offspring share their thoughts with the reader. Teenager Jeannie doesn’t find her life easy at all; the oldest son, Julian, can’t fit in and dreams of odd escape routes; Martin, the father, seems to have lost his ways; and ‘golden boy’ Gary isn’t very sure of himself at all. The day moves on and nothing becomes easier. Is hell going to break loose amongst Latter Day Saints? Lots of black humour and surprising side effects from the Mormon way of life create an arresting tale of human unpredictabilities.

 

Crime and suspense in and around Stratford upon Avon

A powerful new thriller, The Urge to Kill, the first novel by J.J. Franklin, a local author, takes the reader on a tour de force, and suspense won’t release its grip through to the very last page. The killer, Clive Draper, is known right from the start, but what, if he is not caught soon enough? Empowered by his first kill, he is on the hunt for more, and his charming manners are dangerous bait. Clive’s murderous mind is most ambiguous and even evokes the odd pang of empathy. His cat-and-mouse games are nerve wrecking, not just for DI Matt Turrell, a police officer whose intriguing development involves getting used to a very independent newly wed wife. She, Eppie, after a dramatic change of work and life environment, is looking for a new task, but her choice brings her far too close to the centre of events.

The “boys at the station”, Eppie’s colleagues, Clive’s mother, the story has a lively selection of highly interesting characters readers can relate to, one way or another.

Lemington Spa, Warwick, and, in Stratford, the foyer at the Courtyard Theatre, the banks of the River Avon near the Dell, lovely Warwickshire is showing its darker sides.

J.J. Franklin is a pseudonym that promises to become a trademark for a new set of fascinating British crime stories. More is promised to come, and the next of Matt Turrel’s adventures is something to look forward to.

“The Urge to Kill” by JJ Franklin
self-published 24/06/2012 with Earth Tiger
ISBN-10: 0957193505
ISBN-13: 978-0957193505