Plug of the month (6) – Antonia Honeywell ‘The Ship’.

I first heard of Antonia Honeywell via the Curtis Brown Creative newsletter in an article describing her path to publication. Her description of life juggling work, writing and family sounded just like mine, so I warmed to her immediately. And it was wonderfully encouraging to hear how her place on a Curtis Brown writing course had led her to be signed by the renowned agent Jonny Geller.

Since then, I’ve got to know Antonia on twitter, and she was kind enough to back ‘Echo Hall’ just after we first connected. So I was keen to return the favour and give her debut novel ‘The Ship’ a plug.

ship-cover

‘The Ship’ has been described as a YA adult novel, but I think it fits perfectly well under adult fiction myself. It tells the story of a young girl, Lalla, who is living in a dystopian future where only citizens with papers can access decent resources. As the daughter of a former government official, Lalla lives a privileged existence in a secure flat with food and bottled water, whilst others are forced to camp at the British Museum or parks, scrabbling to survive.

As the years past, the situation becomes more desperate and the government more despotic. Fortunately,  Lalla’s father, Michael, has been making preparations, and the family are able to escape in a large cruise ship with five hundred others. At first, it seems a blessed relief to be away from the oppressive mainland, in a ship stocked with enough goods and food to last two hundred years. But soon, Lalla is questioning her father’s behaviour, watching in horror as her fellow passengers begin to act like members of a brainwashed cult.

‘The Ship’ is a well written and thought provoking novel, with a lead character who is initially self-indulgent and spoilt, but gradually grows up and learns what it means to take personal responsibility.  The story is a compelling one that raises a number of interesting questions. What does it mean to be privileged in an unequal world? What happens to a society if you take away all threat and danger?  Is it better to live a life that is safe but authoritarian,or one that is free and filled with risk?

This is another one to put on your Christmas list, particularly if you like fiction that makes you think. I also highly recommend Antonia’s blog where she is currently posting equally thoughtful Advent reflections each day.  Well worth a look.

Plug of the month (5) – Jackie Buxton ‘Glass Houses’ and ‘Tea and Chemo’

So here’s the thing. I have yet to read either of these books. BUT…I love the sound of them both and having been a Facebook friend with Jackie since we were both shortlisted for a Retreats West competition in 2015, am keen to support her work. Also both are published by Urbane which is an up and coming indie press (who also published Amanda Saint, my third plug of the month, who also hosts Retreat West which may seem a bit incestuous but really isn’t…) and I love indie presses. So please do check these ones out!

 

Glass Houses

Glass Houses sounds fascinating and is immensely topical. When Tori Williams sends a text while driving, she allegedly causes a crash killing three people. As a result, she is publicly condemned, but is she really at fault, and can she prove her innocence?  This has has had great reviews, and came out at a time when many questions have been raised about texting and driving.It’s on my Christmas list, so I definitely think it should be on yours!

Image result for tea and chemo

Jackie’s other book, Tea and Chemo is also on my to read pile. According to the rave reviews this is an honest and moving account of her breast cancer treatment, and I know it has been extremely helpful to women going through treatment and their families and supporters. I have to confess that, having lost a dear friend and my mother to breast cancer, and knowing far too many women who’ve been through it, it still feels a bit too painful to pick this one up. But, I will one of these days, and  in the meantime I recommend it for anyone who is experiencing breast cancer first hand or supporting a loved one through it. And, Jackie, being Jackie, ALL the proceeds are going to cancer charities, so buying  a copy helps in more ways than one.

What are you waiting for? Put these on the list now!

Plug of the month (4) – Rachel Crowther ‘The Things You Do For Love’

This is another post that is long overdue, as Rachel’s second novel was out in August.But it is also another book that will make a good Christmas present. So silver linings…

The Things You Do for Love: Mothers and Daughters, Lovers and Lies (Paperback)

 

I was lucky enough to study with Rachel for two years, seeing first hand what  a fine writer she is. ‘The Things You Do For Love’ (Bonnier Zaffre Press) is her second novel, a great showcase for her talents.

When Flora’s husband Henry dies after a long illness, her previously ordered existence comes to a dramatic end. Having taken early retirement to care for him, his death leaves more than one vacuum in her life, causing her to flee to France to reassess her situation.

Meanwhile her  baffled daughters have problems of their own. Lou’s pregnancy puts her relationship in jeopardy, whilst Kitty is struggling to choose between love and her musical talent.

The novel flits between past and present, framed by a series of Henry’s paintings. This is a clever device which enables the reader to see the truth behind the idealised image of family life that Henry is trying to portray and  helps get to the heart of Flora’s ambivalent feelings towards him.

An emotional story told with great skill and empathy, this will be a perfect Christmas gift for anyone who likes women’s fiction with more than a little depth.

 

Plug of the month (3) – ‘As if I were a river’ by Amanda Saint.

9781910692639

This plug is LONG overdue. Amanda was kind enough to host my post on ‘Echo Hall’ earlier this year. I had intended to return the favour with a post here when the book came out in the summer. Alas! Time has run away with me,  and I never managed it, but at least it means I can give it a shout in time for Christmas.

‘As if I were a river’ (Utbane Publications) tells the stories of three generations of women: Kate, her mother Laura, and grandmother Una. When Kate’s husband Jimmy walks out one evening and doesn’t return, Kate’s carefully constructed world collapses. Not only does the incident trigger memories of her mother’s disappearance 25 years previously, but she is forced to call into question everything she’s ever believed about her relationship.

When Laura falls for a much older man, her parents disapprove, but then tragedy strikes, leading her to rush into marriage and motherhood. Stifled by domesticity, she begins to yearn for another life, resulting in her making a choice that threatens the stability of her family.

Una seems to be the perfect matriarch, but she has secrets of her own, and what does she really know about Laura’s disappearance?

Amanda is a great writer, who uses these three intertwined stories to explore themes of selfhood, personal autonomy versus responsibility, and redemption. Kate’s unravelling is particularly well drawn, whilst Laura’s struggle to maintain a sense of self when drowned in the needs of her children is also totally believable.

This is a great debut, published by an up and coming indie press. Well worth your support.

Plug of the Month (2) Christmas books by Anne Booth

My dear friend Anne Booth is an enormously talented writer of children’s fiction, who has not one but THREE Christmas books out this December.  So here they are in no particular order:

  1. The Christmas Fairy, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw, published by Nosy Crow.

Clara is so excited that Christmas is coming, and eager to learn how to be a Christmas fairy. The trouble is, she is too excited; her noisy and fidgety behaviour means she won’t be able to do the job.But then Santa arrives, and it looks like she might be able to help after all.

This is a return to the dream team of Anne and Rosalind whose captivating rhymes and illustrations  made ‘The Fairiest Fairy’ such a delightful book. Once more, Anne shows us that it is OK to not quite fit in, because we each have special gifts to share.

 

2. Lucy’s Winter Rescue, illustrated by Sophie Williams, published by Oxford University Press.

The third in Anne’s popular ‘Lucy’ series, tells the story of how Lucy rescues a lost baby otter and with the help of her grandmother finds it a new home. Another warm and compassionate story with a strong environmental message at its heart.

3. Refuge, illustrated by Sam Usher, published by Nosy Crow.

Refuge

Refuge is  an evocative retelling of the nativity story with beautiful illustrations from Sam Usher. Told from the perspective of the donkey, it frames the familiar tale as one of refugees, with Mary, Joseph forced to flee from Herod’s violence in order to protect their baby. Although, ostensibly, a book for children, this will appeal to people of all ages, as the combination of Anne’s words and Sam’s pictures, create a moving, and ultimately hopeful story which stays with you for a long time afterwards.

The first edition (which was produced for free,with everyone waiving their fees) raised £30,000 for War Child. This year £1 of every sale will go towards the same charity. So help a good cause and buy yourself a classic which, I guarantee, you will cherish for ever.

Plug of the month (1)- It’s A Wonderful Life by Julia Williams

 

It’s been a long while since I’ve done Plug of the Month and so I have a massive backlog. It being Christmas, I thought I’d catch up by doing them all in the next few weeks. So if you’re looking for great books to give the readers in your life, look no further…

So first up, is my gorgeous, talented twin, who celebrates her TENTH book in a decade with the publication of ‘It’s  A Wonderful Life’. As long term readers of this blog will be aware, that’s ten times as many books as I’ve  managed to complete in the same period, so I’m more than a little in awe.

And it’s a corker.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ starts with the Christmas from hell, as Beth and Lou’s parents make an unexpected announcement at just the wrong moment. After that things go from bad to worse, as Beth’s chance encounter with a face from her past, leads her to wonder about the path she might have taken. Meanwhile, Lou struggles in the aftermath of a bad breakup as she wonders whether it will ever be possible to come out to her family. Whilst Beth’s husband Daniel is confronted with the father who abandoned him; will he ever be able to find forgiveness in his heart?

As always Julia writes with emotional honesty and warmth, as she leads her characters to realise that it really is a wonderful life, if they can only take a step back to see it.

Enjoy!

 PS And in case you missed it, although ‘Echo Hall’ is fully funded, it is still possible to pledge… You could even come and have tea with us if you like!

Have I Got News for You…

If you’re a follower of this blog, you might have noticed it’s been quiet for rather a long time. Seven whole months according to my dashboard.

So why the silence? Where I have been? What have I been doing?

Working my little socks off to get ‘Echo Hall’ crowdfunded is the answer, a gargantuan task that has been every bit as obsessive and time consuming as writing the novel in the first place.  To get the word out there, I have done guest blog posts, put my characters on twitter, made short films, given talks and basically bombarded everyone I know asking them to help.

And I’m back because…

…HUGE drumroll…

…it worked…

…the book is fully funded!!!

I am still pinching myself, but it really is true. You can see for yourself here.

Thanks to the enormous generosity of friends, family and strangers, I can finally say, the novel is in production, and hopefully will be published sometime next year, thirteen years after I first thought about it. FINALLY, I am that person shrieking with delight on twitter. I’ll try not be too annoying about it.

So watch this space, because things are going to get a little bit exciting…