Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Suspense, Thriller

The Body Lies by Jo Baker

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Body Lies by Jo Baker.

When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget.  But despite the distractions of a new life and single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle.  To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative writing group.

When a troubled student starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate.

Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?

At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times.

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I don’t think I’ve ever felt such fear for a character.  There is something deeply unsettling within this story.  From the very beginning there is a sense of menace deep rooted within and the tension gradually builds and builds until I could hardly bear it.  For the Friends fans amongst you, there was a point where I considered putting the book in the freezer!

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In all seriousness though this is a riveting read.  Afterwards I thought about how much it had got into my head, how much I actually felt as though I was living the story.  The story is written in a first person narrative.  We watch things unfold as our protagonist does.  We go through the first attack and then everything else that follows.  It was intense.  But it wasn’t just this that made it feel so intimate.  It was only afterwards that I realised that I never even knew what this characters name was.  I looked back through, perhaps I’ve missed it but even now she is nameless.  This is one of the things that made me feel so involved,  I couldn’t segmentize her in my mind as Paula or Emma or whoever.  This had an incredibly powerful effect at pulling me into the story and really living it with her.  Superb.  As I drew closer and closer towards the end it made me smile at the cleverness of this author and the way she writes.

The story itself is dark and delves into the effects of writing.  It is often wondered where writers come up with their stories and some consider that there must be an element of truth there and this story touches on the brilliantly.  Jo uses it as another form of harassment.  Yet of course writers are not actually always writing from experience but this novel just goes to show the power stories and words have.

As the synopsis says The Body Lies  is heavily influenced by sexual politics.  As I read I found myself watching the errors of judgement that our narrator took and wanting to say ‘no, no, no’, to stop the fallout I could see coming.  However, it’s easy to judge when looking in from the comfort of your safe, warm, home how we possibly should react in such circumstances.  Yet our narrator is kind, thoughtful and simply trying to do her best with whatever is thrown at her – she really is not deserving if what happens to her.   But I do think that Jo’s message here is important.  Quite often women are held at fault for things that are out of their control: a situation taken advantage of, the fear of reaction and how to deal with something that you want to just ignore and hope will fade away but feels like a ticking bomb.  This is what forces so many to remain silent. The reaction of how others perceive what is happening is key and can make circumstances even more difficult.   Of course what happens here is extreme but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women suffering a similar fate.  I’d say that this novel is a lesson in speaking up and remembering that violence or abuse it is never okay.

All in all this is a thrilling, gripping read where there are moments that you may want to look away…but you won’t be able to, not until you turn the very final page.

The Body Lies has been published by Doubleday, an imprint of Penguin Books.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and for sharing with me this sleep-depriving read. :). I loved it.

About the author

Jo Baker

1-2JO BAKER is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling LONGBOURN and A COUNTRY ROAD, A TREE. Her new novel, THE BODY LIES, is a thrilling contemporary novel that explores violence against women in fiction but is also a disarming story of sexual politics.

Jo Baker lives with her family in Lancashire.

 

 

You can follow Jo on Twitter at @JoBakerWriter

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Today I’m so delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effect on Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work
as a journalist in Edinburgh. Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life. She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

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I’ve been so lucky to have been able to review some wonderful books of late and this has certainly continued with The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.  It is a beautifully poignant tale and one that I was swept away with from the start. Told through the eyes of Emma, we join her in childhood and embark on her journey suffering loses and heartbreaks along the way.  As a narrator she is an incredibly interesting character.  Her world is actually quite small.  The daughter of a famous actor, she is hidden away with her reclusive mother, secluded from the bright lights of the Hollywood lifestyle. Her father visits, seemingly rarely, and although adored by millions, is simply Dad to her.

What’s also interesting is the way that memory is explored within the story.  The villains in Emma’s own story are darkened by her own beliefs and disappointments.  An ‘ordinary’ childhood she did not have.  Her mother is beautiful, swears and drinks a lot and seems to suffer from her own neurosis.  Her father a famous actor who is absent more often than not and who also seems to send her mother into a constant rage.  The characters that surround Emma are given to us how she wants them to be presented but there is much provided between the lines by Charlie that enable us to question and come to our own conclusions.

This wonderful novel touches on so many different themes but the subject of mental health, dysfunctional families and of course the fascinating question of memory were prominent for me. How things are expressed considering whose view point we see it through and the reliability of the narrator are key to interpretation.  I often find a first person narration can be pretty unreliable, especially when our protagonist is remembering traumatic events and what led to them. Yet first person can be incredibly powerful as we get to feel through their words and, I think, one of my favourite viewpoints.  Charlie is very good at it and he brought Emma to life beautifully.

This is an engrossing read and I really liked Emma and I liked how the echoes of her family history fed into her life and personality.  Families give so much history behind us and there is often so much we don’t know about what went before us, yet we can still feel the aftershock rumbling through our own lives, thoughts and feelings.  This is hit on wonderfully in The Space Between Time.

One of the things that drew me to this novel was the theme of the universe.  How we are all connected.  The talk of stars, dark matter and black holes.  Of course this isn’t just a story about science and mathematics but Charlie does use it to bring a wonderful extra dimension that I found absolutely fascinating. I loved how each chapter title was an equation – compared to many I know very little about it all but their presence made me feel that a message was being conveyed throughout this tale… and it was.  One of life, love, family and the universe, and what an absolute pleasure it was to read too.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Charlie for writing such an engaging enjoyable novel.  I’m now very intrigued to go back and read his earlier novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.

The Space Between Time is published by Accent Press on the 20th June and will be available in both eBook and paperback.

About the author

Charlie Laidlaw

1-2Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

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Musings and Wonderment

For the love of Autumn

Autumn Leaves

I wrote this two years ago now and it’s still as relevant today as it was then…

4th November 2015

Today I awoke to the sound of rain. It’s not an unpleasant sound, not at all. As it entered my consciousness my first thought was ‘I’ll need my wellies today’.

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I love autumn. I love the colours, I love the light as the sun sits low in the sky and gives everything an amazing intensity. Every sense is catered for: The smell of rain and woodsmoke. The taste of a fresh morning, like the first bite into a crisp, juicy apple. Nature provides a feast for the eyes as the leaves on the trees enthrall us with their colour and beauty before they finally, ever so gently, loosen their grip and drift gently to the ground. The sounds of the wind and rain, the splash of a puddle and the crackle of a bonfire. Yes, I do so love autumn.


Adult Fiction, Musings and Wonderment

A blast from the past… because sometimes a novel becomes so much more.

Two years ago I published an article on Kate Kerrigan’s novel The Dress. It’s one of those novels that I enjoyed so much I know I’ll revisit whenever I fancy curling up with an old friend. This novel in particular came to mind when I recently spent some time at the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion Exhibition at the V&A, it was absolutely fascinating and as I wondered around the stunning creations and enjoyed an insight into how they were created my thoughts returned to Kate’s novel. As I learned a little more about Balenciaga’s story it reminded me that behind each garment there is a story of a person, not just of the person who would own it but those who worked in it’s creation. Everything has a story. So as it holds such lovely memories I thought I’d share my article again now. It is after all a rather fabulous novel.

The Dress by Kate Kerrigan

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One of the many highlights for me in a day at Lovereading.co.uk is when a proof lands on my desk for a novel which we feel will meet the high expectations of our fabulous reader review panel. Quite often the cover gives very little away and it can be particularly thrilling when you are presented with few clues as to what lies on the pages within. However, publisher’s will at times make the proofs (almost) as beautiful as the finished copies and as soon as I saw the cover of Kate Kerrigan’s The Dress, I just wanted to pick it up and start reading. And read it I did, along with a selection of members from the Lovereading Reader Review Panel.

How delighted I was to then discover that Kate Kerrigan herself was coming to our local indie bookshop (yes, we’re lucky enough to still have one) in East Grinstead. So on a bright and beautiful Saturday afternoon I found myself amongst some rather lovely, beautifully dressed ladies listening to Kate as she chatted about her inspiration for the book and her life as a writer.

An extremely warm and friendly woman, she made us all feel welcome, as though meeting an old friend for coffee. Instantly everyone was at ease in the comfortable surroundings of the small cafe within the bookshop. As I had read the novel it was a delight to hear her read a familiar chapter and those discovering the story for the first time were inspired enough to purchase one of the beautiful hard backed copies available to buy on the day.

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Ladies in dresses with Kate (2nd from the right) – (Image provided courtesy of Kate Kerrigan)

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Lovely Kate & I – (Image provided courtesy of Kate Kerrigan)

As Kate spoke about her inspiration for the novel she questioned the power a dress has. This question has since been floating around my head. Personally, I’m a big fan of dresses. They are feminine, smart, sexy, beautiful and they come in so many shapes, sizes and styles. Whatever the season, whatever the occasion there is a dress to suit and I just love that. A favoured garment can make us feel confident, attractive, dare I say beautiful? It can pull us out of the dumps and even reignite precious memories. But can a dress really make someone fall in love? Could it even save a marriage?

These questions are all touched on within the story but there is also so much more within the pages of this delightful novel. I loved the dressmaking details throughout, the dual time setting, glamourous locations and the engaging characters brought to life by Kate. Her characterisation is excellent, as is her attention to detail. During her time with us at The Bookshop, Kate also shared some of her experiences as a writer and divulged the often unrecognised hard work that writing a novel requires. As an (aspiring) writer myself it’s good to know that a book is not just written but nurtured. It takes time, attention and love (and a tough but great editor:) For me The Dress was an engrossing, easy read and a delight from start to finish.

Just a few days after meeting Kate I found myself visiting Killerton House, a National Trust property in Devon. Killerton is home to a fashion collection of over 10,000 items of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing dating from 1690 to the 1970’s (Source – National Trust). Each year the house displays a selection from the collection in an exhibition. This years exhibition, The F-Word: the changing language of fashion, celebrates innovations within the fashion industry and the advances they have brought throughout history. The exhibition features pieces from the past, along with new work created by students from Exeter College.

A selection of dresses from the historic collection at Killerton.

A selection of dresses from the historic collection at Killerton.

Shoes, glorious shoes!

Shoes, glorious shoes!

A knitted wedding dress from the 1970's.

A knitted wedding dress from the 1970’s.

One of the impressive new creations whose story is just beginning.

One of the impressive new creations (a story is just beginning).

As I wandered around the exhibition my thoughts returned to The Dress, Joy, Lily, Honor and Frank. It made me wonder about the stories within each of these historic pieces and if a little of the people who had worn them over the years had been left behind. Maybe some of their energy remained within the folds of fabric, the swish of a skirt or the sparkle of a sequin. Quite often memories are locked into the garments we wear; a wedding dress is treasured, just as a favorite jumper can be. The sorting of clothes after the loss of a loved one can be traumatic and painful. Clothes become part of who we are. This is one thing that most can relate to and why the choice of subject in Kate’s book is so interesting. The Dress feels like a character in itself and I read on intrigued to know it’s fate. It was, after all, the image on the front cover that first drew me to the novel before I had even read the synopsis.

The cover image design was based on descriptions of the dress within the story. It is stunning and inspired me to indulge myself by drawing a version with slight alterations made to fit just me. What decoration would your dress be adorned with? As you may see from the picture below my dress includes images of flowers rather than fairy-tales. Of course the absolute perfect dress for me might well be covered in the titles of my favourite novels.

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Do you have a dress that is special to you? Please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

You can find further information about The Dress by Kate Kerrigan at Lovereading.co.uk or at www.katekerrigan.ie.

Finally thank you so much to Olivia D’Silva for organising the event and to The Bookshop in East Grinstead for hosting and finally to Kate for coming to visit. I wish her every success with her novel and very much look forward to the next.

Picture Books

Poppy and the Blooms by Fiona Woodcock

Firstly, before I go any further, I just have to say that Fiona is a beautiful illustrator. She uses a variety of both medium and techniques that result in some visually stunning images. This is evident in her second picture book, Poppy and the Blooms, an eyecatching book that will demand your attention as it stands proudly on display in any bookshop, library or bookshelf. The images seem to call out to you and I can almost hear Poppy and her friends inviting me to pick them up and have a look. ( I imagine their voices to be fairly high pitched, a little giggly and very friendly.)

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Fiona has created within a book the same effect I experience when I see real flowers when I’m out and about. They grab my attention, make me stop and something about them draws me to gently touch their petals and smell their scent. They’re very evocative. Her illustrations capture this perfectly and I think this is one of the key things that will draw both adults and children to pick up the book. Of course once you’ve began to read you’ll also find that the story is absolutely delightful.

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Today, as our towns and cities continue to expand, we are becoming more and more aware of the need to retain (and add) as much natural landscape as possible. Poppy and her friends are on a mission to save the last park in the city. The stark contrast between the flora and the grey colourless world of a city without green space is clever at highlighting how lost and bleak things would be without our natural surroundings.

When Poppy awakes one morning,

‘with a strange tingling feeling. It fluttered in her tummy… and shivered the tips of her petals.’

she knew that something wasn’t quite right and so with enormous courage for someone so small she hops on her skateboard (LOVE the skateboards!) and sets off with her friends – Dandy, Bluebell and Buttercup – to try and save the last park in the city. And with a little courage, sunshine, magic, and a big dose of determination the four friends make a BIG difference.

‘Hey, Blooms, we did that,’ she smiled.

‘We did it together’, said Dandy and Bluebell and bright little Buttercup.’

A wonderful story to share, this lovely picture book will show your little ones just how little things can make a big difference.

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Published by Simon and Schuster

Published on the 10th August 2017

Visit Fiona’s website here.

Follow Fiona on Twitter: @FionaWoodcock

Or on Instagram: @FionaWoodcock

Visit the Publisher website here.

Follow Simon and Schuster on Twitter: @simonkids_uk

Or on Instagram: @simonkidsuk