Sunday, 26 July 2015

My Summer Reads 2015

Here is Norman the Gnome guarding my summer reads for 2015. He looks very happy, doesn't he?
I'm happy too because I've already enjoyed books by all these authors, and I'm looking forward to reading some more of their work.

So, here we go!
The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas
I really enjoyed The Oyster Catcher (see my review here) so I was pleased to find her new book already on sale. This one is about Ruthie Collins who buys an Italian farmhouse on the internet.  Italy is one of my favourite holiday destinations and the blurb says that 'olives and romance might just flourish in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun'.
Sounds just my sort of read!

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke
I was blown away by Lucy's debut novel The Sea Sisters last year: here is my review, so I'm looking forward to reading her new one. Eva witnesses her husband, Jackson, drowning and travels to Tasmania to meet his estranged family, only to find out that the truth about him was all a lie. I'm hoping to immerse(!) myself in the watery imagery which Lucy does so well, all over again!

Love on the Rocks by Veronica Henry.
Late last summer I read The Beach Hut and The Beach Hut Next Door (review here). Unlike Jo Thomas and Lucy Clarke, Veronica has written many novels and I was surprised that I hadn't come across them before. She is brilliant at bringing all sorts of different characters to life having been a script writer on Holby City, The Archers and Heartbeat, and she must have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every  job you can think of to make them realistic. This book is about Lisa and George who throw in their day jobs to buy a rundown seaside hotel, but I'm sure that it won't be all smooth sailing!

Bay of Secrets, Return to Mandalay and The Saffron Trail by Rosanna Ley
Ok, I've gone a bit mad here! I recently read Rosanna's first book The Villa, (reviewand liked it so much, I decided to read all her others! These are set respectively in Spain, Burma and Morocco. In Writing Magazine (June 2015) she says that in Germany, her kind of writing is called 'love and landscape' where place and story are inescapably intertwined, and that's just what I adore. Exotic location, romance and multi-stranded narrative means a perfect summer read for me.

I hope you enjoy your summer reading and that I've given you some ideas for books to take on your holidays!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A Great Day Out at the RNA Conference 2015

This year, as the RNA Conference was at Queen Mary's University, Mile End, London, I decided to just go for the Saturday, but to be honest, as I left at 5.30, I wished I was staying!
I travelled with Jen Gilroy ( who, this year, is an RWA Golden Heart Finalist!! Their conference is in New York this week and I hope that you join with me in wishing Jen the best of luck!
Arriving in time to pick up our goody bags (you can see some of the contents in the photo), my first session was with Jane Wenham-Jones which I was looking forward to because she gives such entertaining talks. This one was a 'Wannabe a Writer We've Heard Of?' workshop, based on her book of the same name. In her inimitable style, she talked about making the perfect elevator pitch which, if it works before the publisher or agent has reached their floor, can be followed up with a good anecdote about why you wrote the book, which I found useful later in the day!
Then after coffee break, where I caught up with Jen and chatted with some people that I'd met on previous conferences (it's a fact that the more conferences you attend, the more people you know!) I went to Hazel Gaynor's 'Promotion Commotion'. With an impressive two video screens, she told us not only to excel at social media, but to also be a real person attending events and meeting people face to face which she did as a self-published novelist with The Girl Who Came Home, and also afterwards when it was taken up by publishers, William Morrow.
Lunchtime was rather crowded, but I did meet up with Rosemary Gemmell, a longtime online friend from Scotland. She is promoting her new book The Highland Lass, and I was impressed with her giveaway in the goody bag: a beautiful tiny thistle tied with tartan ribbon and a heart-shaped chocolate in a tiny cellophane bag together with a mini cover of her book. Irresistable!
After lunch, I went to Rowan Coleman's session about 'Five Reasons Novels Fail and How To Avoid Them'. I thought one of her best pieces of advice was to:
     'Find the time to write 500 words each day, then they will soon add up and you'll be 'in the zone' thinking about writing the story and you'll find it easier to write each day'.
I think that I'll definitely give that a go!
Then it was 'Following your Heart' with Jane Johnson. She had a captivating tale to tell of how she met her husband in Morocco. Being Cornish, she was intrigued to hear an article on Radio 4 about the Barbary Pirates who kidnapped Cornish people as white slaves, and remembered her mother telling her tales about someone from her family who had been kidnapped. Determined to find out more, she visited Morocco to do some research for a novel and, with a friend called Bruce, to do some climbing. She found the perfect Moroccan man to base her Pirate King on, who in turn rescued Jane and Bruce when they got stuck climbing a difficult rock face. And, dear reader, she married him! You can find out more about this by reading The Tenth Gift which I'm add to my reading list!
I actually had an appointment with a publisher during this talk, and was hoping to hear what happened before I had to leave, but luckily Cristal Phillips told me what I'd missed!
At the appointment, I was able to put Jane Wenham-Jones advice to use when I was asked what other books I had written. I'd only been thinking about promoting the current one, but put on the spot, I was able to remember what Jane had said about the perfect elevator pitch!
The last session was Jenny Barden and Joanna Hickson giving an entertaining talk about 'Researching Historical Fiction'. I loved it!
I had a wonderful day at the conference. Thank you Jan, Roger and Jenny who organised it!
But, I think I'll go back to staying the weekend though, next year!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Villa by Rosanna Ley - Read it for Sheer Pleasure!

I know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the covers of Rosanna Ley's books entice me to pick them up, and I can't resist!
I bought Bay of Secrets last summer because of its beautiful cover, but I didn't get round to reading it. However, when Rosanna was featured in Writing Magazine (June 2015), I decided to read all her four novels, starting with The Villa (her first), and I wasn't disappointed!
The article talked about her skills at 'writing multi-stranded epic romance' where 'place and story are inescapably intertwined', and this is just what she's done in The Villa.
It tells the story of Tess, who inherits a villa in Sicily from an mysterious benefactor; her problematic daughter, Ginny, who flunks her A Level exams on purpose so she doesn't have to go to university; and Tess's mother, Flavia, who left Sicily at the age of seventeen, never to return.
Sicily takes centre stage when Tess visits the island for the first time to find out why she's been left the Villa Sirena. Family feuds and tales of murder and deceit concerning the mystery of Il Tesoro, the treasure that the villa is supposed to hide, bring her into contact with Giovanni Sciarra who is very interested in her, but is it for the right reasons? Then there is also the mosaic artist, Tonino Amato, dark and moody, yet he's bothered about her diving alone in the sea. . .
Tess leaves Ginny with her parents, and things seem to be going well until Ginny's father, David, turns up after leaving Tess when she became pregnant all those years ago to go to Australia. (I love Ginny and her alliterative exclamations: 'meandering meerkats' to give just one!)
Running alongside Tess's story, is Flavia's own which she writes down in a notebook, interspersed with recipes, as she's never been able to tell Tess, or even her own husband, Lenny, the whole truth about why she left her Sicilian home and family, after the war, to live at first in smoggy, cold November London.
Throughout the book, the colours and moods of the Sicilian landscape reflect the action in the story and I think it would be a perfect novel to take on holiday, or read for sheer pleasure!