Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Like London Buses by Louise Warman

Cally (who was first and last seen in Follow Me) is back in England.  Living in a shared house in Oxford, life is not as exciting as it was when she was a chalet girl on the piste.  That is until she meets a man on the street and falls in lust.

At the beginning of this book, I didn't care for Cally as I did in the first book.  She seemed a bit snotty about having what could be a dream job for a lot of people.  As the story went on and I got to read about the two men in her life I was keen that she made the right choice.  But what is the right choice?

I warmed to this as it went along.  It possibly helped as I am going skiing in a month's time and I'm feeling the urge to be in the snow just as much as Cally wants to go back.  I look forward to reading the next bit of Cally's life and I hope there's a bit more snow in it.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Interrogating Jodi Taylor

My chair and lamp have been dusted off and the time travelling Jodi Taylor is first up.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I consider myself to be very fortunate. When I wrote my first book – Just One Damned Thing After Another – I had no idea what I was doing. They always say, ‘Write the book you would like to read yourself,’ so I did, and fortunately, everyone else wanted to read it too.
I do get the occasional note from my excellent editor, saying ‘More (or less) description here,’ or ‘Can you insert an explanatory word or two here,’ but otherwise there’s not a great deal of conflict between what I want to write and what people want to read. As I said, I’m very fortunate.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre you write in?

It’s having the opportunity to imagine. To create new worlds – and I’m not talking about creating new planets, but dreaming of different worlds, where different rules apply. Where there are different pasts and the possibilities are endless. Worlds over which I, as an author, have complete control.
Reading through that last bit, I do sound rather like some power-crazed despot, although I assure you, I am quite nice, actually.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc. where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters, - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I was so hoping never to be asked his. I’m sure that proper writers have neat files, or a card index, or even a special box where they store their ideas for the future.
My system is slightly more chaotic. I have discovered through bitter experience  that inspiration can (an often does) strike at the most inconvenient moments and I have learned to have a notebook always to hand so I can scribble something immediately. I have to do this because, sadly, I have the concentration span of a sock.
My best ideas come to me in the bath, so there are several much wrinkled shorthand pads in the bathroom, full of blurry scribbles, which I can barely read.
Any visitor to my home would find many, many scraps of paper, exercise books, and paper napkins from cafes – all covered in cryptic notes and scatted around everywhere. About once a week, I collect them up, squint at them in dismay, and try to work out what on earth I was thinking at the time.
Are you sure you want to continue with this interview? It’s not too late to get in a proper writer if you want to do something spectacular for your 80th!

How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like…er…bunnies)?

Plot bunnies! So that’s what they’re called. I welcome them. It’s a wonderful opportunity to sit, staring into space, weaving ideas, characters, and conversations into something new and wonderful. And if they can’t be used now I might still be able to use them another day.
I don’t think any writer should ever let an idea slip by – no matter how bizarre it may seem at the time.
The best thing of all is that I can sit staring into space, while my mind soars all over the place, and because I’m a writer everyone gets excited about it. Especially if I have a pen in my hand at the time! Gone are the days of parents/employers/teachers/whoever yelling at me for daydreaming. Daydreaming is allowed! So I make my plot bunnies welcome. Maybe I could offer them a plot carrot…or plot lettuce…
Sorry, back to the interview...

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

I think there might be a little bit of me in all of them. Not the same little bit, obviously, but just like all of us, I’m a little bit nice, a little bit naughty, a little bit bad-tempered and so on. I simply take the little bit that I want and inject it into that particular character.
For instance, my heroine and her antagonist had a face-to-face confrontation and I really wanted it to be nasty. Fortunately, because I am a little bit nasty, I found I was easily able to put myself in the antagonist’s position. I myself felt all the jealousy and resentment and hatred of someone who was convinced that she should be the heroine, and all her dislike and spite just flowed out of my pen and onto the page. It was a bit scary, actually.
I think, of all the characters I’ve created, I’d most like to be Mrs Partridge. She moves unobtrusively behind the scenes. Nothing is beyond her and she always looks elegant. Oh, if only …
The one I’d like to be with is Peterson. I know Leon is the hero, but Peterson holds a special place in my heart. If not Peterson then Russell from The Nothing Girl. He’s so chaotic and over the top and such fun to write.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they’re married to you or one of your characters?

Fortunately, I’m not married so that doesn’t arise.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I used to read anything and everything. Now I find I don’t often have the time, which is a little bit ironic. I do a lot of research reading and then reward myself by picking up anything that takes my fancy. I read for pleasure at night in bed, and on Sunday afternoons.
Actually, I just put that last bit in to impress you. I fall asleep in front of the TV on Sunday afternoons.

What lengths do you go to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

This is a tricky one. I’m really not sure what the X factor is. I didn’t set out to write a best seller, partly because I didn’t think I could, and partly because everyone – absolutely everyone – is always saying how difficult it is to become a successful writer. I assumed my book would simply disappear into some literary black hole somewhere and that would be the end. I would continue to write and self-publish and my family would loyally buy a copy each, but that would be it.
Whatever the X factor is, someone somewhere recognised it and offered me a publishing deal, but I’m still none the wiser.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist – I go over and over my book until I’m nearly blind. Or insane. Or both. My editor does the same so it’s intensely annoying to find that despite our best efforts, we’ve still missed something.
There was some comment, I think from readers in the US, who queried some of my spelling, but it’s a British book by a British author about British people, so obviously the spelling is British too.
I pass all comments on to my publishers and they do put them right so I am actually quite grateful that people take the trouble.

What is on my near horizon?

Well – I have two short stories going live on Kindle on the 13th November. The fourth in the St Mary’s series, A Trail Through Time is issued by Audible on 11th November. I’m finishing off Book Five, working on an historical novel, blocking out another short story concerning the origins of St Mary’s and trying – somehow – to research a novel I’ve been wanting to write for ages concerning a family labouring under not just one but two family curses.

Where can we find you for more information?

There’s my Facebook page – www.facebook.com/AuthorJodiTaylor or you can email me at authorjoditaylor@gmail.com. I do make every effort to respond.
I have an author page on Amazon, which I must update, so thanks for the reminder, and I’m on Goodreads, too.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jodi-Taylor/e/B00DOSKIHU/?tag=jookuf-21

Many thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions and I hope you find them reasonably entertaining.
Below is a list of my books if you can find the room to post them!

The Chronicles of St Mary’s series (in order).
Just One Damned Thing After Another
A Symphony of Echoes
A Second Chance
A Trail Through Time
When a Child is Born (Christmas short story)
Christmas Present (Christmas short story)

Romance Novels
The Nothing Girl
Little Donkey (Christmas short story)

Friday, 14 November 2014

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

This is the second in the Chronicles of St Mary's series.  The first book set up the concept of St Mary's - a centre for historical exploration.  The members use time travel to chronicle what happened in the past.  Obviously there are bad guys out for their own gain.

This book has a few threads but builds up to an expedition to not just find out what happened then, but to head off the bad guys.  It's a fair chunk of a book and at about 3/4 of the way through I was thinking there might have been one too many "side trips", but everything did lead to where things were going.

In the first book Max, the protagonist was a bit unsure of things but this time round, she's hardened up and at time shocked me with her behaviour.

In the main, this is a fairly light read, but gets serious at times.  I really enjoyed it and like this author and the world she's created.  I was thinking of this when I wasn't reading it.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

A few forumites mentioned this book, saying how wonderful it was, so I had to have a peek, I downloaded the sample and was immediately hooked.

Ove is a grumpy old man, who has his routines and gets very, very annoyed when other people don't do things properly.  This was originally a blog by a Swedish author, so the chapters are mini stories in themselves alternating between Ove's present life and his past history of growing up and meeting his wife.  Reviewers have compared this to "The 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out Of A Window" and is similar in the jumping back and forth in time and being Scandanavian, but I thought the 100 Year Old man was tedious, long winded and uninteresting.  This is snappier and so much better.

Looking back on my feelings reading this, my over-whelming memory is of the love Ove had for his wife.  She was so unlike him, but was his whole reason for being.

As the stories unfolded and I realised facts about the characters, I often had a lump in my throat.  By the time I got to the end, I could hardly see.  But it was happy tears as well as some sad ones.

This book is definitely taking its place in my top 3 books of the year.  I think it is special and I enjoyed it so much.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Married by Midnight by Talli Roland

Kate is due to get married just before Christmas to a guy she's only know for less than a year.  Whilst looking for the perfect wedding dress, she finds it and a note to the future wearer.  To prove that she's marrying the right man, she just has to track down the writer of the note, even though the note may have been written 50 years previously.

For me as a major Talli fan girl, I thought this story was particularly delightful.  I read this in one sitting and might have sniffled.  Some people might dismiss chick-lit as being unsubstantial fluff, but there's always been a place in my world for fluff and long may there always be.  

In summary, a lovely Christmas(ish) tale.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Guardian of the Underworld by Rachel Tetley

Jake thinks he's just an ordinary 11 year old boy.  But on his grandfather's death he finds out that his future is not going to be as ordinary as he expected.  With his new friends Arianna and Noggin he travels to a new world to fulfil 5 challenges and his destiny.

Even though this is a children's book, I thought it was well written and at times quite scary and grown up.  I was enveloped into the story from the start.

I much preferred the start of the book to the end.  It's not that there was anything wrong with the end, it's just that to me, that was the bit that would have appealed most to the intended audience.  I liked reading about Jake's "journey" rather than his destination.

I took a gamble on this book and I was well rewarded for it.


The Lost Empress by Steve Robinson

This is the fourth in the Jefferson Tayte series of genealogical mysteries and it is back to the dual timeline that the first two books utilised.

This time JT is tracking down Alice who may or may not have gone down when the Empress of Ireland sank in 1914.  Was Alice really a traitor to her country on the eve of war, or just a wife and mother caught up in events beyond her control?

I did enjoy this story.  The set-up of these books whereby you are taken back and forth in time, with the story unfolding concurrently is a pleasure to read.  But I must admit I preferred the previous book where there was more action and it was set in current times.  As a series of books, the stories are well thought out and I look forward to JT's next mystery.


Designs on Daisy by Jennifer Hanning

This story is the follow up to What Happened to Polly and is the next phase of the Hamilton sisters' lives.  The aftermath of the end of that story unfolds.

It had been some time since I'd read Polly and I thoroughly enjoyed that story.  I think I preferred the first book, but not at the expense of my enjoyment of this one.  At times I struggled to remember bits and bobs of the first one, but it wasn't too important to this story.

I felt this one was a bit more "chick-lit" than the first in that it was more about Daisy and her suitors.

As a whole this was a very good read and I'm looking forward to reading the concluding part.  


Monday, 20 October 2014

The Christmas Puzzle by Cecilia Peartree

The Christmas Puzzle is the 8th book in the Pitkirtly series and I think they just get better and better.  This series is my favourite as I just love the characters and the cosiness of their mysteries.

This time Amaryllis is a Christmas elf and she's persuaded, I mean told, Jock he has to be Santa for the up and coming Christmas festivities in Pitkirtly.  Amaryllis seems to be growing up (a bit) in that she is thinking of running for a place on the council. Probably so she can keep a better eye on things.

As usual there is a dead body.  You'd think the local police station would have longer opening hours with all the murders that happen round here.  All the favourite characters appear with a few newcomers.  But which of the newcomers is the murderer?  Is there actually a murderer or was it just an accident?

I find these books a gentle read, with more characterisation than action and that suits me just fine.  As the series goes on, I get to know the characters deeper and deeper and I have hopes for what they do and don't do in the story.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Blue Wicked by Alan Jones

There is a cat killer operating in the Glasgow area.  Eddie the vet is asked to look into this, but he has suspicions that the killer might go onto humans.  Nobody in the police takes him seriously, even when the coincidences are too great to ignore.

This is the second book by this author and whilst I thoroughly recommended the first one to my father-in-law, I'm not sure I would recommend this one.  The first book was a more gentle tale.  This one is rather explicit, and at times nasty, in the murder scenes.

As an overall serial killer story, it was well set out with the reader being just a step ahead of Eddie and Catherine, the young policewoman who is helping him.  Even when the story was particularly nasty, I wanted to keep on reading to make sure that the killer got his justice.

I struggled a bit with the Glaswegian vernacular, but there was a glossary at the end for if I wasn't sure of anything.  Luckily there wasn't too much so it didn't take me out of the story.

I preferred the first story (The Cabinetmaker) but this is definitely an author I'd like to read more of.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Real Elves by Helen Smith

This is another Emily Castles short story.  I like the character of Emily.  This time she has volunteered to help at Santa's grotto.

I thought this story was very sweet, but after finishing it, it was nagging me that I'd read it before.  The ending seemed so familiar.  As it turns out, it was similar to a real-life story, so at least I'd solved a mystery as well as Emily.


The Penal Colony by Richard Herley

Anthony Routledge has been sentence for a crime he didn't commit.  Such was the severity of the crime he gets sent to the highest prison of the land, a penal colony on a small island where the only rule is the rule of the island.

This story cares little about Routledge's innocence, although it does form the basis of his "goodness" amongst such evil humans.  

I enjoyed this story as a microcosm of human life when all you have is what's available on the land (and a few requests that you might or might not get).  Life on the island is quite black and white.  Would you cope with a structured society even if you didn't like the rules or would you prefer every man for himself?  

Most stories I read I don't think of the characters when I'm not reading, but my mind kept wandering back to this one.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Road to Rebellion by George Hamilton

This is an epic tale of the Morley family owning and living on a sugar cane plantation in 18th century Jamaica.

The story starts when Charles is a young man and falls in love with Catalina a slave girl.  His father is not happy and sends him off to London to find a wife, which he does.  He has a child by both his wife and his love, but obviously there are complications and so the family story weaves along the years.

I really enjoyed this sprawling story.  I learned a bit of history, although I preferred the family saga part of this tale, rather than the historical warring parts.

As with the other books by this author, we get to see how the poor live in a time and part of the world we'd not want to imagine.  However, this story is not sad or depressing, just a good tale.


Santa Clause Lies and Murder by Sibel Hodge

Amber Fox is back and I'm happy to read a new story, even if it is just a shorter filler.
It is Christmas Eve and St Nicholas' bones have been stolen from a small local museum.

Having read and enjoyed the first four Amber stories, I immediately felt at home in the story.  In saying that, I'm sure it works fine as a stand-alone, with just a few references to back story.

As this is a chick-lit mystery, you know how things will pan out, but it's all about the journey and this was an interesting, fun whodunnit.

Sibel Hodge has branched out into other genres recently, but I like this genre by her the best.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Maybe, Misery by C.S. Bailey

I wasn't quite sure what this book was about before I started and it starts off quietly enough.  Talon is a man who wants to cure cancer but ends up, well certainly NOT curing anything.

The story is non-linear.  We go back and forth to particular points in Talon's life, told in the first person, as a diary. It took me a bit of reading to get the hang of this, but once I actually paid attention to the dates at the top of chapters, I could follow it easily enough.  It felt as though Talon was speaking directly to me

I didn't really like Talon as a man.  Whilst he wanted to do good, he was a swearing sex addict, who didn't care about most women.  Once I got into the story, it was very addictive reading, fitting all the pieces together.

On the whole, an enjoyable, gripping bio-thriller.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

One Dark Night by Anna Faversham

Lucy starts her life in early 19th Century Eastern England in a good home as her mother is a maid to a well-to-do family, but they have to leave to a life of poverty.  Well for Lucy anyway and her mother takes all the money she earns.  As she blossoms into late teenage, Lucy find herself the centre of attention of two eligible men who hate each other.

This tale of life in the times of smuggling depicts how hard it is to survive unless you get a chance.  Lucy needs to make a choice, but which should she choose.  As a reader I knew which one I wanted her to go with and at times was annoyed that nobody ever gave their true intentions.  But that seems to be the way it was in those days.  You could wait a few months before finding out the punchline of a joke.

I enjoyed this story even if I though Lucy was a bit child-like at times.  There was enough romance and smuggling action and drama to keep me interested and wanting to read on.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Gathering of Ghosts by David Haynes

A Gathering of Ghosts is a collection of short stories.  David Haynes has moved from his macabre stories and delves into the world of ghost stories.  Again these stories are set in Victorian times and the author is clearly at home writing in this time.

I enjoyed the richness of each story.  They might have been short, but packed a lot of intrigue into them, always making me want to read on.

My favourite was The Silent Bell.  That brought my hackles up.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Pines (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch

Ethan Burke arrives in the town of Wayward Pines but things aren't quite as they should be.  He tries to get out, to contact his family, to go home, but the town doesn't want him to leave.

I definitely found this to be un-put-downable as I read it in one day after a friend recommended the series.   I won't say it is high fiction, but it is definitely fast-paced and I wanted to know what happened next and next and next.  I agree with some reviewers where they say Burke should spend a bit of time resting as he seems to have super human recovery powers as he gets beat up and then keeps going with all his injuries.  Even I was feeling exhausted for him.

This has been compared to Twin Peaks, Lost, Walking Dead, but I didn't get those vibes.  I was imagining it more like (the TV series) setting of Under The Dome.  Being British, I only know "small town rural America settings" from TV series, but the town was quite fleshed out in this story.

In summary, I enjoyed this, even with its flaws and will read book 2 after having a rest.


Murder in the Midi by Cecilia Peartree

I adore Cecilia Peartree's Pitkirtly mysteries and the author herself had said this early story is "not a Pitkirtly", so it languished on my Kindle as I didn't want to be disappointed.

However I was happy to not be disappointed.  This is a reasonably story with a bit of a whodunnit.  It is a light read, nothing too heavy.  

Whilst this is not Pitkirtly - the sun shines in this story - It is not a bad read.


Without A Hitch by Andrew Price

Without a Hitch is almost two books for the price of one.  It's kind of like an episode of Law and Order where the first bit is the Law and the second is the Order.

Two colleagues who are bored in their jobs decide to commit the perfect crime - credit card theft.

The setting up of the "thefts" was enjoyable to read, although I must admit I kept getting the two characters mixed up at the start as it dragged a bit and they seemed much of a muchness.  As the book progressed, it was obvious which was which as their characters and what they wanted from this diverged.

I was rather taken by this story.  It was better than expected and I really enjoyed it.