Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain

five rivers met on a plain

 

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain

by Barney Norris

 

‘There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life.

 

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain is set in Salisbury, with the cathedral as its focal point. The book opens with a descriptive piece about how Salisbury came into being and the five rivers that converge there.

“The startled world, stirred by this confluence of riverways, started to sing bright notes into the blue air.”

The five rivers are used as a metaphor for the five stories contained in the book, moving along side by side, alone, but at the same time connecting, interweaving, sometimes in ways they didn’t realise.

The first story is Rita’s. Rita is a flower seller, with a sideline in drug dealing. She fears she is about to go to prison and wants to connect with her estranged family. We get a glimpse into a life out of control that is raw and authentic.

The second story is Sam’s. Sam is a schoolboy and the two sides of his life are tearing him apart. On the one hand he is falling in love but at home his father is dying. We follow him as he tries to cope with emotions he doesn’t understand and that are overwhelming him.

The third story belongs to an elderly farmer who has recently lost his beloved wife.

The fourth story is that of an army wife who is at home alone while her husband is on tour in Afghanistan and her teenage son is away at boarding school. She is suffering from acute loneliness and depression.

The last story is of Liam, a security guard, who after breaking up with his girlfriend removes himself from his London life and returns to Salisbury burying himself in a dead end job away from any social life.

This book is extremely well written, and the prose verges on the poetic at times, with some moments of stunning perception that leave you breathless. Unfortunately, for me, the character engagement just wasn’t there. During some of the stories, especially the last two there are prolonged bouts of introspection which in some cases instead of coming across as emotional seem more self pitying. Having said that the author is indeed very talented and the way he weaves the connections between the lives into the various stories and how they all come together is very well done.

There is so much to commend about this book and Barney Norris will have a brilliant career ahead of him. His writing is superb and for anyone who likes their prose poetic and their novels literary I am sure this book will hit the mark. I look forward to his next book.

Many thanks to Sophie Christopher at Transworld Books for sending me a copy.

 

 

 

 

In Her Wake

in her wake#

 

In Her Wake

by Amanda Jennings

 

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

After the death of her mother, Bella returns to her childhood home to comfort her father, but the two have never really had a closeness to their relationship, and her father’s need to tell her something important and his inability to do so makes the distance feel like a chasm.

After another tragedy, Bella finds out things about her life and family that questions everything she has ever known to be true. She finds herself on a journey that takes her to the Cornish coast where she finds people who know more about her than she knows herself.

The descriptions of the the Cornish setting and the weather gives a claustrophobic feel to the book and a deep sense of foreboding infuses the narrative. The Old vicarage, Bella’s childhood home, exudes a malevolence that makes you feel sure that you would never walk through the door.

The depth to the characters in this book is phenomenal. Bella, who we follow as she stumbles through areas of her life that she never knew existed, trying to make sense of the decisions made on her behalf with barely a thought of the devastating ramifications. How she copes, how she struggles, how she feels; Bella is brought to life by Amanda Jennings in a way that touches the deepest part of you.

But the author doesn’t just concentrate on Bella, the other characters are just as well drawn; David, arrogant and controlling; the wonderful Dawn, a survivor, against all odds, trying her best to get through each day; Alice, living with an all-encompassing grief, the sort that rips your heart out and takes away your entire life; Henry and Elaine, the nuts and bolts of this piece; even the lovely Phil who gives Bella, and us, moments of light relief.

Amanda Jennings doesn’t flinch from the stark realities of people’s lives. She exposes the flaws and mistakes but in such an empathetic way that leaves us feeling less judgmental than perhaps would be the case in a lesser author’s hands.

This is a stunning story of heartbreak, identity, love and loss. It has the perfect title, the perfect cover and is the most beautifully written, breathtakingly powerful book.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy.

Amanda Jennings

Amanda is mother to three daughters and lives in chaotic contentment just outside Henley-on-Thames with a houseful of pets and a husband. She is the author of three books, Sworn Secret, The Judas Scar and In Her Wake. She is currently working on her fourth, another psychological thriller set in West Cornwall.

To purchase a copy of In Her Wake click here

 

 

Ten Most Delicious desserts Inspired By Novels

lemon cake

 

Today I have a wonderfully mouthwatering guest post by author Andrea Lochen. Andrea is the author of two novels, The Repeat Year and Imaginary Things, and she has put together 10 of her favourite desserts picked from novels that she loves. Let’s get baking peeps. 🙂

 

 

                  Ten Most Delicious Desserts Inspired by Novels

                    by Andrea Lochen

As an avid reader with a major sweet tooth, I love when authors include the recipes for the yummy desserts they’ve made me drool over throughout their book.  It’s a marriage of two of my favorite activities—reading and baking!  And if you’re a book club member, what better treat to bring to your meeting than a dessert straight out of the novel?  Here are ten of my favorite book-inspired desserts!

 

1) Southern Caramel Cake from The Help by Kathryn Stockett

the help

 

Who hasn’t wanted to try a bite of the scrumptious-sounding caramel cake that Minny makes in The Help?  (Maybe not so much her chocolate pie, however!)  Though Stockett didn’t include the recipe in the back of her book, this food blog has the The Junior League of Memphis Cookbook recipe that supposedly inspired her.

 

http://scrumpdillyicious.blogspot.com/2011/03/minnies-caramel-cake-from-help.html

 

2) Coconut Cake from Amy E. Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

the coincidence of coconut cake

 

The titular coconut cake in Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cake earned its place on the cover of this heartwarming book. To the main character, Lou, baking her grandmother’s cake is the ultimate expression of love. In the book, those who get to eat it earned their slice, which certainly made me crave a piece all the more!

 

http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/recipes-2/grandma-luellas-coconut-cake-recipe

 

3) Crème Caramel Flan from Anita Hughes’ Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story

island in the sea

 

In Hughes’ newest novel set in Spain, she describes how Majorca’s restaurants serve a mouthwatering variety of delicious fresh fish and locally grown vegetables and how many diners like to end the meal with a dessert that satisfies any sweet tooth while not being heavy or cloying.  This creme caramel flan recipe certainly does the trick!

 

http://www.a2zmallorca.com/food_drink/915.htm

 

4) Lemon Cream Cake from Juliette Fay’s Shelter Me

shelter me

 

Fay introduces the concept of “pology cake” in her first novel, Shelter Me, as something you bake for someone you’ve wronged in the hopes of that person forgiving you.  Though according to Fay, it doesn’t need to be a particular kind of cake, her recipe for lemon cream cake in the back of the book and on her author website sounds fabulous!  

 

http://juliettefay.com/pology-cake-bake-as-you-see-fit/

 

5) Peanut butter bars from Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

kitchens of the great midwest

 

Though there are several delicious dishes described in Stradal’s debut novel about Midwestern foodie culture, it was the blue-prize winning peanut butter bars recipe from Lutheran church lady, Pat, that caught my eye.  I made this for my book club and these chocolate-frosted bars are just as decadent as they sound!    

 

http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/peanut-butter-bars/

 

6) Thumbprint Cookies with Jam from Kelly Simmons’ One More Day

one more day

 

Baking figures prominently in Kelly Simmons’ book because in One More Day, the main character, Carrie Morgan, bakes with her grandmother, as she did when she was a little girl. However, it’s not clear whether her grandmother is dead or alive!  These thumbprint jam cookies look like just the thing to bake when you’re in a nostalgic mood (or simply in the mood for something buttery and sweet)!

 

http://kellyasimmons.blogspot.com/2016/02/baking-reading-remembering.html

 

7) Mantecadas from Tina Ann Forkner’s Ruby Among Us

ruby among us

 

In Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann Forkner, Kitty and her granddaughter Lucy spend a lot of time together talking over cookies and tea. Lucy even has a special tea cup that she drinks out of with her grandmother Kitty who is keeping a lot of secrets about Lucy’s past.  Below is a link to Kitty’s secret recipe for Lucy’s favorite cookie, Mantecadas.  Yum!

 

https://tinaannforkner.wordpress.com/novel-recipes/

 

8) Nanaimo Bars from Miracle Beach by Erin Celello

miracle beach

 

Nanaimo Bars are served in the cafeterias of the ferry boats between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada.  In Miracle Beach, when main characters Magda and Jack come to the Island, they fall in love with the sinfully sweet bars.  Author Erin Celello testifies that they’re amazing!

 

http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html

 

9) Damascus’ Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake from The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

the river witch

 

In The River Witch, a family feast brings an estranged southern family together. When ten-year-old Damascus Trezevant’s summer ends with a bounty of pumpkins, she sets out to heal deep wounds with a sweet, old recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake and faith in the magic of a mother’s love.  You won’t be sorry you tried this recipe!  

 

http://kimberlybrockbooks.com/damascus-pumpkin-spice-pound-cake/

 

10) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever from The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochen

the repeat year

What dessert list is complete without a delectable chocolate cake?  In The Repeat Year, main character Olive is named after her maternal grandmother who passed away the week before she was born.  In addition to her grandma’s name, Olive also inherited her recipe for the “best chocolate cake ever” which her mom bakes as a peace offering for their family in a time of major transition.

 

http://addapinch.com/cooking/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe-ever/

   

What are your favorite recipes inspired by novels?  Comment below!  

 

 

andrea lochen

Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year.  She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and her BA in English at the University of Wisconsin.  Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha.  When she isn’t teaching, reading, or baking, she is hard at work on her third novel.  To learn more about her, visit her website: www.andrealochen.com.

 

To connect with Andrea click on the following links:

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6519007.Andrea_Lochen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrea-Lochen-Author/496313260386959

To purchase a copy of Andrea Lochen’s latest novel click on the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/Imaginary-Things-Andrea-Lochen/dp/1941286119/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412872737&sr=8-1&keywords=imaginary+things

 

The Light Between Oceans

the-light-between-oceans

 

The Light Between Oceans

by M. L. Stedman

 

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision.
They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

 

The book is set in Partageuse, South West Australia. Tom Sherbourne, just home from the First World War takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock to counteract the effects of war; needing the silence and nature to soothe his troubled mind. The island is miles off the coast of Partageuse and the store boat only visits every three months, the lighthouse keeper is granted a month’s leave every three years. Tom is meticulous in carrying out his duties and is principled and disciplined. I loved Tom’s character, his quiet dignity and diligence, the love he felt for his wife. A good man put in a terrible position.

Whilst on leave in Partageuse, Tom meets Izzy, the two fall in love and move back to Janus to start married life together. Izzy’s greatest wish is to have a child and when she suffers two miscarriages and then a stillbirth, she is heartbroken.

The crux of the story comes into being when a boat is washed up with a dead man and a baby inside. Against every moral fibre of his being, Tom is convinced by Izzy to let her keep the baby. You know this is not going to end well.

The descriptions of the island and the lighthouse with the weather and the sense of isolation are just wonderful, so evocative that it has you yearning for life on Janus.

The genius of this book is making all the characters real, normal, flawed individuals who are ultimately good people with such tragic life stories that you really feel for them and understand the decisions made…until you meet the person who has been affected by that decision, who is also a good person who life hasn’t treated at all well. The layers keep peeling away like onion skins and you are forced to confront your own moral standpoint.

The author has created the ultimate moral dilemma and this book is deeply, deeply affecting and so emotional, it had me sobbing through parts of it. The story covers all sorts of emotions; love, guilt, grief, morality, remorse, but  with such a deft hand that although it is heart rending, it is also beautiful and immensely readable. Unbelievable that this is a debut novel.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough and as it is going to be released as a film in the autumn now is the perfect time to read it.

if you would like to purchase a copy click here

Q&A with Monica Wood, author of The One-In-A-Million Boy

the one in a million boy

 

This book is my favourite book of the year so far and if you want to read my review it is here .

I am absolutely delighted to have Monica answer some questions on the blog today.

monica wood

 

1)      Welcome Monica, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

This is my fifth novel, sixth book. Plus I’ve written three books for aspiring writers. I live in Maine, where I was born and raised. I have a husband/teammate, many friends and family here, lots of beloved nieces/nephews, and a 16-yr-old cat named Minnie.

 

2)      What was the inspiration behind The One-In-A-Million Boy?

That one I’m not sure about. I wrote a failed short story many years ago that had a version of Ona in it, but other than that, all I can say is that the story simply arrived. That happens sometimes.

 

3)      The boy in the title is never named which I think was genius, but was there any special reasoning behind that?

I tried to name him many times, but eventually I realized that because he is gone from the world he is more of a presence than an actual person. To name him seemed too literal and wrong.

 

4)      Music runs through the book because of Quinn, do you have a particular love of music?

Who doesn’t love music, right? But I come from a long line of Irish-lineage music lovers. My brother is a lifelong musician, and I also performed for a while in my thirties. I’m entering my sixties now.

 

5)      How did your writing career come about? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I always wrote stories, ever since early childhood, but I didn’t get started in earnest until my early thirties. I took a writing workshop and the rest is … well, the rest.

 

6)      How do you write? Are you a meticulous planner or do you just start to write and see how it goes?

No planning at all. I just follow the words. After about 100 pages I start to realize what I’m writing. Then I start all over from scratch. I wish there were a shortcut. For me, there isn’t.

 

7)      Do you read a lot and if so what sort of books do you like to read?

I read constantly; part of the job. Right now I’m slogging through THE WARDEN by Anthony Trollope, the complete Sherlock Holmes series, and on my bedside table is THE HATERS by Jesse Andrews and a new nonfiction about Benedict Arnold. I also read a lot about football.

 

8)      If you were having a dinner party which two authors would you invite to join you and why?

George Eliot and Barack Obama. Two bright, engaged, widely educated, curious people from different centuries.

 

9)      Is there a question you always wish people would ask you but never do?

“Would you like a bite of my cake?”

 

You can purchase a copy of the One-In-A-Million Boy here

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Monica, it is a major highlight for me to have you on my blog. Many thanks.

 

Bloq

BLOQ_cover

 

Bloq

by Alan Jones

 

A father waits in Glasgow’s Central Station for his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train has pulled in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why. His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.

 

When Bill’s daughter, Carol, doesn’t show up at Christmas time, Bill travels down from Glasgow to London in search of her. He gets to her flat and realises that she hasn’t been there for a while. he knows something is badly wrong but he can’t get the police to take him seriously.

At the start of the book the chapters alternate between Bill and the search for his daughter, and Carol’s back story of a shy girl with good friends, a promising career, a great future, and how that future crumbled and slipped through her hands like quicksand.

Without the help of the police Bill gets some small leads from one of Carol’s friends and then joins forces with the formidable Anna. Between the two they uncover the seediest side of London: drugs, trafficking and prostitution. A world where evil, corrupt men will do anything for money and power, and use women as nothing more than bartering tools.

The characters are well portrayed, especially the bad guys who are rich, smart and charismatic, but oh so ruthless.

Bill as the main character is a good man thrown into a set of circumstances that he could never have predicted and his journey through the book is both inspiring and heartbreaking. I loved the relationship he forged with Anna as the two tried to make sense of a world gone mad.

About the ending: I hated it, it was perfect, but I so didn’t want it.

This is the first book of Alan Jones that I have read but I will certainly be reading more.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy.

To purchase a copy of Bloq click here