Blog Tour: Sugar and snails by Anne Goodwin

 

sugar and snails 2

 

Sugar And Snails

by Anne Goodwin

 

The past lingers on, etched beneath our skin …

At fifteen, Diana Dodsworth took the opportunity to radically alter the trajectory of her life, and escape the constraints of her small-town existence. Thirty years on, she can’t help scratching at her teenage decision like a scabbed wound.

To safeguard her secret, she’s kept other people at a distance … until Simon Jenkins sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, and he expects Di to fly out for a visit. She daren’t return to the city that changed her life; nor can she tell Simon the reason why.

Sugar and Snails takes the reader on a poignant journey from Diana’s misfit childhood, through tortured adolescence to a triumphant mid-life coming-of-age that challenges preconceptions about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be. 

 

This book is the story of Diana Dodsworth’s struggle to be accepted for who she is. At 45 years of age she has barely had a romantic relationship and struggled to have a close relationship even with close family members.

Her story is told in flashbacks from different periods of her life, culminating in a life-changing moment at 15 years of age, that she still hasn’t fully come to terms with at 45 years old. When a new relationship begins, she is forced to confront her issues and try to move forward to make a new life for herself. I didn’t know what the subject was before I began to read but did quickly come to realise what Di’s secret was as I began reading.

I thought Di was a well written character who had had a really difficult life and watching her move into a new phase was satisfying. I have to say that I was a tad disappointed that a large part of the story was left unresolved, I get that it would appear to be a side issue for some, but I would really have liked to have seen what happened. Nevertheless, this is a really good read for anyone who feels outside the norm and a little bit different. It is a well written novel dealing with a difficult subject sensitively and with compassion.

Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy.

 

You can follow the blog tour here:

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                       Author Bio

 

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Anne Goodwin studied Mathematics and Psychology at Newcastle University around the same time as the narrator of Sugar and Snails. After twenty-five years as a clinical psychologist in Newcastle and North Nottinghamshire, she now focuses on writing and reviewing fiction. She has published over 60 short stories and blogs about reading and writing, with a smattering of psychology at annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal.html. 


Sugar and Snails
is her first published novel.

 

 

 

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With Our Blessing

with our blessing

 

 

With Our Blessing

by Jo Spain

 

It’s true what they say . . . revenge is sweet. 1975. A baby, minutes old, is forcibly taken from its devastated mother. 2010. The body of an elderly woman is found in a Dublin public park in the depths of winter.
Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is working the case. He’s convinced the murder is linked to historical events that took place in the notorious Magdalene Laundries. Reynolds and his team follow the trail to an isolated convent in the Irish countryside. But once inside, it becomes disturbingly clear that the killer is amongst them . . . and is determined to exact further vengeance for the sins of the past.

 

An elderly woman is found murdered in a Dublin park. Tom Reynolds and his team head over to Limerick and an isolated convent where the finger of suspician is pointing. The murdered woman was universally hated; but was it one of her colleagues who murdered her, or does the crime involve revenge dating back 35 years?

I really enjoyed the lead detective, Tom Reynolds, he is a likeable man and in a genre that is packed with troubled detectives battling their inner demons, Tom is a refreshing change. He reminded me of his namesake in Midsomer Murders, happily married with one daughter and with normal everyday family worries.

Tom worked well with his team and there was a good mix of humour and gravitas. All the characters were well-developed and their relationships with each other felt natural. I am looking forward to meeting them again in future books and watching them grow.

At the heart of the story is the Magdalene Laundries, which were rife in Ireland in quite recent times, and Jo Spain does a quite brilliant job of exposing the sheer cruelty of the people that ran these institutions and the devastating effects that they had on the young women that were sent there. But she does this in a fair and balanced way; acknowledging that there were some nuns who did not agree with what was going on and tried their best to protect the girls. But the overwhelming power that those in charge wielded meant most of their efforts were futile.

The setting of the book in a convent in rural Ireland is extremely atmospheric and gives an Agatha Christie style closed room mystery. I have to say that I did guess the culprit quite early on but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all. After all you can never be sure you’re right and this book is much more than the sum of its parts.

The narrative drive was excellent, the plot racing along feverishly, taking twists and turns aplenty. This really is a cracking good new detective series with a lot of depth and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy.

To purchase a copy of With Our Blessing click here

Or if you are based in or around Manchester give us a call at Urmston Bookshop on 0161 747 7442 and we will get a copy for you.

 

 

 

Guest Post: Rosy Thornton, author of Sandlands.

sandlands

 

Today I am delighted to welcome Rosy Thornton to the blog. Rosy’s new book, a collection of short stories set in Suffolk is garnering wonderful reviews and having read the first story I am more than inclined to agree with them. A full review will appear on the blog once I have read the book. Meanwhile I will hand you over to Rosy who has written a lovely guest post about unearthing the past and its effects.

Stories Unearthed

When I was seven years old, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I buried treasures in the back garden sand pit and dug them up again with an old spoon. At eighteen, I spent my gap year before university volunteering on the French urban rescue archaeology programme – a scheme, as far as I could see, which essentially provided slave labour, digging out the foundations for prospective new developments on sites of putative historic interest. But even those months laying a pickaxe to mid-twentieth century concrete did not quite succeed in curing me of my fascination with unearthing the past.

Now, in my fifties, I find that the preoccupation has reasserted itself, as a recurrent strand in my collection of short stories, Sandlands (to be published by Sandstone Press on 21st July).

I have always loved the ghost stories of M.R. James, written in the years on either side of the First World War. In one story, ‘A Warning to the Curious’, James tells of a young antiquarian who searches for, and digs up, the last of three Anglo-Saxon crowns, said to have been buried on the East Anglian coast to protect the land from invaders. For this despoiling of the past, he is pursued to his death by the ghost of the man whose mission it was to guard the crown. In what seems a particularly unfair twist, the ghost gets our hero even after he’s taken the hint and reburied the crown.

The point, I’ve always assumed, is that the secrets of the past, once uncovered, cannot readily be put back. That notion took hold of my imagination, and inspired me to write a story in homage to James, entitled (appropriately enough) ‘A Curiosity of Warnings’.

There is no doubt that when the earth is disturbed, things long buried can rise up to the surface, unanticipated and unbidden. There is a rare plant species I read about, the sand catchfly, which appears from time to time in the dunes and sandy grasslands of coastal Suffolk. Its seeds can lay dormant for decades, until some plough or earthworks, some agitation of the soil, shakes it awake to germinate and flower. A perfect metaphor, I thought, for how past grief resurfaces when something comes along to churn up the surface of our emotions. ‘All the Flowers Gone’ explores this idea directly – as also, indirectly, do several other stories in the book.

My youthful archaeological leanings meant I had a particular interest in accounts of the dig at Sutton Hoo – close to my Suffolk home where the stories in Sandlands are all set. Excavation in 1940 of one of a series grass-covered mound revealed an Anglo-Saxon burial ship, complete with its stash of treasure. But the image which lodged most firmly in my mind was that of the ship’s wooden hull, and how the timbers turned to dust as soon as they were exposed to air. It set me thinking of how some things seem real and whole and solid but are actually just a memory, a chimera, the ghost of themselves. The final story in my book, entitled ‘Mackerel’, ends with just such an image.

It’s all a far cry, perhaps, from digging up toy jewellery in the sand pit with a spoon. But there’s something about things hidden and found, things buried and unearthed, which still set my imagination racing.

 

sandlands

Sandlands (Sandstone Press, release date 21st July 2016)

From the white doe appearing through the dark wood to the blue-winged butterflies rising in a cloud as a poignant symbol of happier times, the creatures of the Suffolk landscape move through Rosy Thornton’s delicate and magical collection of stories. The enigmatic Mr Napier is feeding a fox rescued from the floods; an owl has been guarding a cache of long lost letters; a nightingale’s song echoes the sound of a loved voice; spiralling rooks recall the dogfights of wartime Spitfire pilot. Through the landscape and its creatures, the past is linked to the present, and generations of lives are intertwined.

Author bio:

rosy thornton

Rosy Thornton is a Fellow and Tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and a lecturer in Law at the University of Cambridge. She has published five novels (including Ninepins which won the East Anglian Book Awards prize for fiction in 2012), and Sandlands is her first short story collection. She divides her time between Cambridge and the Suffolk sandlings.

Her books to date are as follows:

More Than Love Letters (Headline, 2007)
Hearts and Minds (Headline Review, 2008)
Crossed Wires (Headline Review, 2009)
The Tapestry of Love (Headline Review, 2010)
Ninepins (Sandstone Press, 2012)
Sandlands (Sandstone Press, 2016)

Links:

My author website is here:
http://www.rosythornton.com

I am also on Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/rosy.thornton
Links to Sandlands at my publisher’s website:
http://sandstonepress.com/books/sandlands

Link to Sandlands on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sandlands-Rosy-Thornton/dp/191098504X

For review copies or press information, please contact my publisher’s publicity officer, Keara Donnachie (keara@sandstonepress.com).

The Finding Of Martha Lost

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The Finding Of Martha Lost

by Caroline Wallace

 

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…

 

Martha lives in Lime Street Station, Liverpool. She is 16 years old and has never left the station. She was left at the lost property office as a baby and sat there for 90 days waiting to be claimed. When no-one came forward, in stepped ‘Mother’, an emotionally abusive woman who brought Martha up to believe she was the devil incarnate and that if she should ever try to walk out of the station it will crumble behind her.

Martha knows nothing of her identity, but when the authorities become aware of her, she must find out exactly who she is or she will lose her home and her job. Working in the Lost Property Office, Martha is the best finder of lost things, but will she she be able to find herself before it’s too late?

Martha is the the most wonderful character who steals your heart from the minute she spins into your life. She has hopes and dreams, she is loving and kind, and also, understandably, a little naive.

Lucky for her she has Elisabeth looking out for her. Her friend owns the cafe next door on the station and is always on hand with a cake or two when needed. Elisabeth is another  brilliant character, trying her best to look after Martha, even when she thinks she doesn’t need it.

Martha and Elisabeth befriend George Harris, who dresses as a Roman Soldier, and William, who lives in the tunnels beneath the station. The four of them come together to try to solve the mystery of Martha’s identity as well as other mysteries; such as a treasure trove found by Aussie, Max Cole, but belonging to Mal Evans, former roadie of the Beatles. This true story is beautifully interwoven into Martha’s tale and brings Liverpool and the Beatles era to life incredibly well.

I absolutely adored this book, its empathy and warmth is evident on each page. it is truly a piece of magical storytelling that should not be missed.

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy via Netgalley.

 

 

 

 

The Improbability Of Love

The Improbability Of Love

 

The Improbability of Love

Hannah Rothschild

 

When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiled Russian oligarchs, avaricious Sheikas, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, all scheming to get their hands on her painting – a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called ‘The Improbability of Love’. Delving into the painting’s past, Annie will uncover not just an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history – and in doing so she might just learn to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.

 

Annie, working in London as a chef, whilst trying to mend a broken heart, finds a painting in a junk shop. Unbeknownst to her it is a lost masterpiece by French painter, Antoine Watteau.

What follows is a mystery that has links to Nazi Germany, a love story, an art history lesson, and a food extravaganza.

It took a while to get into the book. I found there were too many characters, most of whom were not fleshed out and could easily have been dispensed with: rich aristocrats vying for who could spend the most money in the most ridiculous ways.

I enjoyed Annie’s character, her relationship with her mother and Jesse and their attempts to find out the history of the painting. If the book had been pared down to her and the painting’s story it would have been better for it.

The history of the painting is brought to life in an original way by the painting itself, narrating through the 300 years, in chapters throughout the book. Hannah Rothschild is a big player in the art world and her knowledge shines through, giving us an inside view of how the art world works.

Their is much food to be had in the book, as Annie’s career as a chef takes off and these are wonderful chapters. The descriptions of the dishes and the cooking are mouthwatering.

This is a book that I found enjoyable, but would have been more so if the surfeit of superfluous characters had been culled. The ending is, after all the detail, a little rushed to say the least. However if you want to lose yourself in the art world with a mystery and a love story thrown in, you could do a lot worse than this. A good holiday read.