Book review- A Murder of Magpies

51J7-R4ItJLSo you  know those days when you’ve read all your favourite authors’ latest books and their back lists and you really want to crack the whip at them and shout come on, write another one, on social media but you don’t because they are human beings not machines and they are entitled to a life regardless about how desperate you are for their next book?   So you start looking for new super good authors and looking… and looking and out of the blue someone says why not try this? And you do and it’s always a gamble because they might be the next candidate for your keeper shelf, or they may be a DNF (did not finish), or they may simply be enjoyable but forgettable but you’re always looking and you enjoy reading so you go for it.

Well I did. I tried A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders and it was flippin brilliant. So brilliant I went straight out and bought the others in the series. Ms Flanders didn’t just hook me from the start, she made me fall in love with heroine Sam Clair and her policeman love interest. BUT here’s the thing. The affection that the author, through Sam who is a really nice, sharp, intelligent, person, has for her secondary characters shines through and I loved them all as a result. Sam’s mother is just a star- super competent and non judgemental and the neighbours, well they are so excellently drawn and enhance the book so much that they are jewels in their own right. Ms Flanders just does everything well.

As to the mystery- well I didn’t guess the perpetrator in any of the three Sam Clair books I read. To be honest I was so caught up in the joy of the story that I didn’t have the time or inclination to try working out who dunnit.

 

The author has a wry, dry, sly sense of humour throughout and the writing is very clever and kept me, as a reader, on my toes. She obviously knows her stuff.  This is fresh, tightly written cozy crime with lovable characters.

Go on, what are you waiting for? Go and buy it now!

 

 

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Author interview- Angela Wren

With summer coming (yes I know, it does still feel a long way off but it is on its way, I promise) I thought we might turn out eyes to a somewhat warmer place. Today Angela Wren is here to talk about France and what it is that inspired her to write her French set crime novel Messandrierre.

Q: I know you spend a lot of time in France – what is it that is so attractive to you about the country?

Angela: That’s a big question, Viki and I’m not sure I can answer it in anything less than a rather large book!  So, France is 6 times the size of GB but only has about the same population size.  That means there are vast tracts of land that are open and genuinely wild.

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Lac de St Croix, Provence

And when you think about the green and rolling countryside of the Limousin, the ruggedness of the coast of Normandie, the vast forests of Aquitaine and the mountains of Rhône-Alpes and Pyrénées, you quickly realise that it is a country of contrasts and extremes.  As I travel around it seems as if there’s a whole world of scenery within its borders.

Add to that the sunshine, the pace of life – I swear rural French clocks run more slowly than English ones – that quintessentially French attitude to everything and the culture and you have, what is to me, a fascinating and intriguing place to be.  I feel very relaxed and very much at home there.  In addition, the place never fails to amaze me, because there is always something new around the corner:  a different nuance to a word or phrase to remember, a missed bit of history to discover, a new village or town to visit and explore properly.  I don’t think I will ever be bored with France.

Q: I see why France is the influence for your books, but why the Cévennes and where exactly is this?

Angela: The Cévennes is a mountainous area that centres around Monts Aigoual and Lozère in central southern France and sits on the south-eastern flank of the Massif Central.  It’s part of the Languedoc-Rousillon region, to be precise.  It’s a vast untamed area with tiny hamlets and rugged, wild uplands in between.

It was whilst I was there in 2007 that I had the idea for using the area as a backdrop to my novel Messandrierre.  I’d been following Robert Louis Stevenson’s trail through the area and I had his book, Travels with a Donkey, with me as my guide.

It was September, and overnight the weather changed dramatically, and I awoke to find snow on the ground.  What had been a sparse, richly coloured autumnal expanse interrupted by the dark green inkiness of the dense pines was suddenly a wide and bright white vista that seemed to stretch on forever.  As I took a few moments to watch the snow and gaze at the mountain tops, the thought that misdeeds could be so easily hidden here floated across my mind and the first few lines of the book were born.

‘I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual.

My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they brought their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre.’

Q: Does that mean there are real places in your books?

MendeJewishQuarter (2)

Old City of Mendes

Angela: My village is fictional, as are all the characters with which it is populated, but it is modelled in size and detail on the real village where I always stay.  For the book, I had to move the chateau and turn it into ruins, fell a few trees and build some hunting chalets so that Messandrierre would properly support the story I wanted to tell.

Mende, the principle city of the département of Lozère, is referenced in the book several times and a specific incident occurred there that relates to the disappearances that my hero, Jacques Forêt, investigates.  It also features in the second book in the series which is called, Merle.  That is the name I’ve given to a fictitious suburb in Mende where a murder takes place.  Mende, in reality, is a fascinating place with a rich and varied history, and during the 1939/45 war, it was part of Vichy France.  It is well worth a visit for anyone in the area.

Q: Using a 19th century journal as a travel guide rather than a modern guide is different… But why? Very little can be the same surely?

Angela: Stevenson, like me had a great interest in history and as he moves from place to place he comments on what he finds there and how that matches with, or not, his expectations as a result of the history.  He also dismisses some places and items of interest unfairly, in my view.  He travelled through the Cévennes in late September and into October, but I think the best time to be there is in June and July.  For me, the book was like having an old and trusted friend with me.  As I visited Luc, or crossed the bridge into Langogne, or sat eating my lunch by the bridge in Pont de Montvert, I could debate with, or challenge, RLS in my thoughts.  For example, the bridge across the Tarn at Montvert dates from the 17th century.  Just think about that for a minute.  Not only did Stevenson cross that single bridge, so did any number of others, a knight perhaps, merchants and drovers, maybe a troubadour or two, who knows, but it’s sometimes good to just speculate about history.

Road to Langogne02 (2)

The colours of Cevennes

Of course, the best part of making such journeys is to write about them afterwards and my last trip to the Cévennes provided enough material for a series of blogposts about the area. Following Stevenson

 

 

Q:  What are your plans for your next book and your next trip to France?

Angela: The second book, Merle, is with the publisher for editing and should be out later this year.  The third book, Montbel, is my current work in progress and is at an early stage but hopefully will be available sometime next year.

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Bridge across the tarn at Pont-de-Montvert

As for France, I’ve been poring over my maps and I will be heading out there pretty soon.  I’m planning on meandering across the Vivarais plateau in search of WWII history and I will have a very interesting book with me as my guide too!

Thank you Angela! That’s been a fascinating chat. Tell us a bit more about you and your latest release.

My first novel, Messandrierre, is set in France, where I like to spend as much time as possible each year and was published in December 2015.  The follow-up, Merle, is with the publisher for editing and will be available later in the year. I am also working on an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.

About the Book… Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

 

 

 

 

 

 

On meeting old friends and how it isn’t always good to go back!

I’m trying to commit to writing a post a fortnight. This one is now a day overdue but hey! Life happens I guess. On the plus side I have been making good progress with my latest WIP. (‘Work in progress’ for those who aren’t blessed with automatic understanding of writerly shortcuts)

Anyway to get to the point I was in York the other day and had time to kill so I dropped into Oxfam book shop to browse.

York minster, England, UK

York minster, England, UK

The very first bookcase I looked at held ‘vintage’ books. Aside from feeling a bit put out that books from my childhood should now be vintage those packed shelves brought back the memory of my own collection with the intensity of a gut punch. I was instantly full of excitement and anticipation at seeing those rows of brightly coloured, hardback spines but also a feeling of sadness.

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There’s something about rows of hardbacks like this that really presses my buttons. What about you?

 

I’ve always collected books and I started when I was four when my mum took me to buy my first ‘grown-up’ book which was The Wishing Chair, by Enid Blyton.

My books were kept on a bookcase in my bedroom (which I shared) and I used to regularly take them all off the shelves to count them, like a miser counting his hoard. I wrote the number of each book in the top right hand corner of the front page and declared my ownership by writing my name in each one too. Sacrilege I know but at the time they were my property and I wanted that ownership marked so that it was beyond contention.

I loved that collection. In a constantly growing family those books were some of the rare things that were solely mine  and, as none of my siblings liked to read as much as I did, I had no competition when it came to books and I didn’t have to share them.

Shortly after I turned eleven and when my collection was about 18 books short of reaching 200, we were forced to emigrate and I had to leave most of them behind. As any bibliophile can understand, it broke my heart. I loved those books. They weren’t just my possessions, and my escape but they were part of me. Part of who I was.

So when I saw the bookshelf in Oxfam I experienced a kaleidoscope of feelings: coming home, finding a part of myself, being reunited with old friends.

I bought two books, Mr Pinkwhistle by E. Blyton and Adventure Stories also by Ms Blyton.

 

And I sat down and skim read them.

Adventure stories was still a great book. Cousins uncovering spies and doing their heroic bit was wonderful. Sadly though Mr Pinkwhistle was no longer the same seen through the eyes of the adult me. Society has moved on so much, I have moved on20160810_134210 and I have to say I found it downright sinister. Totally icky in fact.

The only things that brought back some of the childish joy for me were the wonderful illustrations. So simple and gentle and full of movement, there’s a wonderful freshness and innocence to them that still resonates with me. I remember what a temptation they were for us and how many of them were coloured in with crayons.

So those books were rather like being at a party and bumping into old, old friends. Some you still have much in common with and you pick up where you left off but others…it can only be a joy when you can say goodbye.

Nowadays I have a new bookcase, several in fact, choc full of books that give me just as much joy and that are mine, all mine but I’ll still go into that Oxfam and browse those ‘vintage’ books. You never know, among those old, old friends I might  chance on the odd, consistent diamond.

What about you? Do you have memories of old books? What did your childhood books mean to you? Did you have favourites?

Author Interview- Rachael Thomas

Squeee! I’m so excited to be hosting author Rachael Thomas on my blog. Rachael writes M&B Presents,  my favourite line and it’s awesome to have her here to find out morRachael Thomase about her and her writing.

Q: Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

A: Definitely a lark. I like to start the day by writing and trying to achieve my word count. That way, whatever else the day throws at me, I’ve done my writing. Of course it doesn’t always work that way!

Q: Your handbag: organized or disorganized?

A: Organized. I like handbags with internal pockets or sections as I like to know everything is in its place. There’s nothing worse than rummaging around in your back in the pouring rain looking for car keys or trying to find a ringing mobile phone.

Q: What do you like to snack on when you’re writing – crisps, popcorn, biscuits, jellybeans? Or maybe you like healthy snacks – fruit, yogurt, nuts, raisins?

A: On the whole, I’m a healthy snacker. I’m partial to dates and cashew nuts and usually have both with a cup of coffee mid-morning. That said, I do enjoy a bar of chocolate!

Q: Describe your favorite heroine? (This doesn’t have to be one of yours.)

A: My favorite modern day heroine is Bridget Jones. She’s so relatable and I love the films and can’t wait for the next installment in her life.

My favorite classic heroine is Elizabeth Bennet and not just because she gets the delectable Mr Darcy.

Q: When did you start writing and why?

A: When I was about nine years old, a teacher read out a short story I’d written as a
n example of how it should be done. That was the moment when I found something I was good at and set my sights on being a writer when I grew up.

Q: How did you come to write  your genre of choice?

A: I’d dabbled with writing historical romance about twenty years ago, but then life took over and writing was put aside. About ten years ago, I came back to it and we were lucky to have Liz Fielding as a guest at my local writing group and it was then I decided that Mills and Boon was where my heart lay. So as an avid reader I embarked on the mission to become a published author of Mills and Boon.

Q: Are you a planner or a pantser, or maybe a little of both?

A: A little of both. I have certain points in the story where I know certain events which need to take place and then I write my way towards it and see what happens along the way.

Q: When crafting the story do you go from beginning to end, or do you jump around writing the scenes that are pushing themselves forward in your brain?

A: I usually work from the beginning to the end, although if scenes pop up in my mind, demanding immediate attention, I will make notes on them.

Q: Which holiday celebrations do you like to incorporate into your stories and why?

A: I recently incorporated New Year’s Eve into a book – New Year at the Boss’s Bidding. I had so much fun writing it and amazingly as I wrote snowy scenes it was actually snowing outside my window.Route de campagne en hiver derrire une ferme

 

 

 

 

 

Q: What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?

A: I am working on an exciting trilogy with two other authors which is great fun. So look out for Antonio and Sadie’s story next summer!

Q: Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.

A: My next book out in September 2016 is To Blackmail a Di Sione and is book three in The Billionaire’s Legacy, an eight part miniseries. Each book can be read alone or as part of the series.

Rachael’s bio: I’ve always loved reading romance and am thrilled to now be a Presents author. I live and work on a farm in Wales, a far cry from the glamour of a Presents story, but that makes slipping into my characters’ world all the more appealing. When I’m not writing or working on the farm I enjoy photography and visiting historic castles and grand houses.

To connect with Rachael:

Rachael’s website

Rachael’s facebook page

Twitter: @rachaeldthomas

Next release – To Blackmail a Di Sione

 

BLURB:

“When you’ve finished making offers for the bracelet, I have a proposition for you.” 

Billionaire Liev Dragunov has spent a lifetime plotting revenge against those responsible for his family’s ruin. Finally he has the way: Bianca Di Sione.To Blackmail a Di Sione

She’s denied their obvious attraction and coolly rebuffs every request to work for him—until he finds her weakness: a diamond bracelet she desperately needs!

Bianca must become his fake fiancée if she wants her trinket! But the taste of revenge isn’t as sweet as desire, and Liev discovers that she is innocent in more ways than one…

Book 3 of The Billionaire’s Legacy

thank you note

 

 

 

 

Thanks for being on my blog, Rachael. I’m really looking forward to reading To Blackmail A Di Sione

Rachael: Thanks for having me here today!

January Monthly Medley

I’ve been enjoying rooting through my keeper shelf prior to packing it up to move to my new home. Although I give my keeper shelf books regular airings it’s still nice to go through them one-by-one and fondle them and browse through all the best bits. So here are my keeper shelf recommendations for January.

A totMoonspinners_smallal classic, Moonspinners by Mary Stewart is a winner. First of all she captures the atmosphere and the countryside of Greece so well, that you could almost be there. I love the characters, the suspense- in general everything. Her stories are also full of nostalgia for me because they were among some of the early romances I read when I was about 14 and living in Greece.

My next recommendation is Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh. Although this is number six in the Bedwyn series, it stands alone quite comfortably.Slightly_tempted_small

The classic sort of story where the hero sets out to seduce the heroine for revenge is soon flipped when the heroine sets out to punish the hero for his behaviour. She does it so well that I never get tired of reading their story.

My next recommendation is for those of you interested in writing romance is Katekate walker_small Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. For anyone setting out to write romance it’s a valuable head start that I wish had been about when I started writing. It would have saved me a lot of grief.

 

Finally I bring you Warprize, the first in a fantasy trilogy by Elizabeth Vaughan. Her excellent writing frames a story that is primarily about a clash between two cultures when a princess is given as tribute to a Warlord. I loved the characters and the plot but what really blows me away is the detailed and realistic world she creates. Awesome!warprize small

November’s Monthly Monday Medley

November’s Monthly Monday Medley

So for the next couple of months on the first Monday of every month  I shall be posting a medley of four books that are either:

a) off my keeper shelf

b) interesting or useful

c) current reads

I’m not writing reviews- these are quite simply recommendations. This is about me wanting to share a read that I enjoyed or found noteworthy for some reason.

The books will be predominantly romance but not entirely. They will be predominantly fiction but not always. I haven’t linked these but they should be easy enough to find on Amazon. Have you read any of them? What did you think of them?

So, in no particular order:

The_House_of_Memories

The House of Memories:  Although I don’t really read much that isn’t clearly genre romance I occasionally pick up something different. This is one of those books. I wept all the way through. It’s a beautiful book, with a HEA (happy ever after) and I can thoroughly recommend it.

Ultimate_Weapon

Ultimate Weapon: Gritty romance with a kick ass heroine who makes jewellery for women that contains secret weapons. A hero who can match her as an equal and scorching sex- need I say more?

What I did for a Duke:This book has quick, bright dialogue, funny parts to it but also a poignancy. It’s a relationship between an older man and a woman quite a few years his junior and although when it starts out you think it’s going to be a typical revenge seduction, that is quickly scotched because the heroine is too clever. Lovely lovely book.What_I_did_for_a_Duke

Exotic_AffairsExotic Affairs: A collection of Michelle Reid’s stories. They are all originally published by Mills and Boon. Anyway you’ll see more of her books in my monthly Monday medleys.  She is my favourite Mills and Boon writer. Ever.

Enjoy!

My top ten favourite romance authors

My top ten favourite romance authors

Even though the days are getting longer and the snowdrops are out, winter keeps reminding us that she’s still here and she hasn’t finished having her say yet. I haven’t posted through January- work has been taking up a lot of time, true, and I’ve been struggling with some personal problems that the universe decided to chuck at me, however the truth is that I haven’t posted mainly because I’ve been reading.morso stove

Yes, I’ve succumbed to the log fire and good book syndrome and I have to admit that I’m totally unapologetic. So to make up for it in this post I’m going to post a list of my favourite romance writers. I started looking through my keeper shelf and my last year of Amazon purchases to be sure that I don’t forget anyone and the names just kept coming. What started out as a top ten quickly became a top twenty and may have gone even further if I hadn’t given myself a stern talking to.

Before I go any further I do want to issue a disclaimer. First of all this list is of my favourite romance authors at the moment, and it is always subject to change, of course. I’ve linked to each author so that you can find any you are interested in. I do hope that you get some new reading out of this post.

Top ten that I’m guaranteed to buy as soon as they have a new book out.

  • Joanna Bourne: Historical author. I love her writing, her plots, her characters and her subtlety. http://www.joannabourne.com/
  • Michelle Reid: Mills and Boon author. I never get tired of these. Deeply emotional stories that often make me cry. Her stories are often second chance stories. http://www.michellereid.com/books.html
  • Cherise Sinclair: Only for those with a strong stomach these are very edgy, explicit, erotic stories that venture into the world of BDSM in a major way. Lots of naughty stuff happening but they contain good stories as well. http://cherisesinclair.com/
  • Joanna Wylde: Has written in a variety of different sub genres but for me it’s the Reaper’s motorcycle books she writes that have me hooked. They are gritty, violent, edgy and dark but they work for me. Don’t buy if you are squeamish. https://www.facebook.com/joannawyldebooks
  • Julie Anne Long: An historical author who she writes with a sense of humour. Her dialogues are very clever and witty and they make me smile. Her plots are cool and her characters ace. http://www.julieannelong.com/
  • Nalini Singh: I love all her books but she’s on this list particularly for her Archangels series. Paranormal at a time when it’s lost a bit of its edge she gave it a second wind and hooked me with the terribleness of the angels and the world she’s created. http://www.nalinisingh.com/
  • Lyndsay Buroker: Lyndsay writes in a variety of different subgenres including fantasy/ steam punk and I find all of them fascinating. She creates amazing worlds. http://www.lindsayburoker.com/
  • Jo Goodman: Historical author who also writes western/ cowboy romances. Deeply emotional her characters do tend to face serious issues but unlike other authors they retain a simplicity and never become whiney. http://www.jogoodman.com/
  • Loretta Chase: Write historical with excellent dialogue, witty and emotional and just a bit out of the ordinary. http://www.lorettachase.com/
  • Patricia Briggs: Paranormal books and fantasy. I like her characters and the detail and interaction. Her heroines are strong and capable but without being militant. She is a great creator of worlds. http://www.patriciabriggs.com/

These are authors whose work I’m permanently watching for. Each time one of their books is published I want to ration it but instead I gulp it down.

I wish I could write with their emotional depth, sophistication, and polish. They give incredible pleasure to the reader in me and inspire the writer in me.

Do you have a favourite who you think should feature in a list? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll check them out.