Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Everybody's Got a Story by Heather Wardell

Both personally and professionally, Alexa knows all too well the power of words. Two years after her boyfriend Christophe's vicious attack, she's still trying to see herself as more than simply 'his victim', still trying to figure out her own story.

After his trial, she moves from New York City to Toronto in an attempt to start over, but his words cling to her and even in a new country she can't see how to move into relationships with the new people in her life while hiding the secret of Christophe's worst offence.

She can't hide that secret from her coworker Jake, though, because the news buff has recognised her from the coverage of the assault and trial and knows every word she can't bring herself to say about her ordeal.

With Jake's help, can Alexa reclaim her story and her life?

The beginning of the story finds us at the trial of Christophe who was Alexa's boyfriend. He is charged with a terrible attack against her which took place two years ago. Alexa is waiting for it all to be over to enable her to get on with the rest of her life but because all the facts of the case are now  being reported she has become the subject of unwanted media attention. The fact that she loved and trusted Christophe who she had been with for a few years makes it all so much harder to move on.

Her parents want her to come home but she feels she would be going backwards in her life. Alexa works as a book editor and Fred her lovely boss suggests she moves from New York to his branch in Toronto to start again. Alexa finds it hard to trust people and because of the permanency of the marks left behind by her attack she knows that if she is ever intimate again with any man she will have to tell him her story. It seems she will never be able to forget her past.
Editing a horrific crime book for author Michael may not be the best idea ever but it could be she has found a kindred soul in Michael and they can help each other.
 My heart really went out to Alexa especially when just as she was getting her life straight she had to deal with Carly at work who was a complete bitch to her. The lovely Jake made up for her and so did Stella the rescue kitten who Alexa takes into her home and it's so sweet as they learn to trust each other and other people together. I found myself cheering for Alexa when she stood up for herself and feeling her pain when she was once again hurt by cruel words.

When we hear of a court case on television we don't often think about where the victim goes from there or whether they want to even be called a victim. I think this book handles that question very well and I found it hard to put down. The first chapter about the court case was slightly disturbing but it was essential to know the horror of what Alexa went through and it certainly grabbed my attention.

I love finding an author I haven't read before and Heather  has written fourteen books which are all interlinked in some way as they are called The Toronto Series. The first one is free to download and you can find it here Life,Love and a Polar Bear Tattoo

I really enjoyed this book and  I'm looking forward to reading more by the author.

Everybody's Got a Story at Amazon UK

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Watery Ways by Valerie Poore

Trading life in the fast lane of Johannesburg for that of Rotterdam's serene Oude Haven, Valerie Poore packs all her worldly possessions aboard the historic Dutch barge Hoop and sets about rebuilding both the boat and her life after divorce - and rediscovering herself and her own capabilities in the process. Along the journey of renovation she is joined by an array of characters, including two dogs and a rather adventurous cat, a smiling but absent-minded 'landlord', a quirky friend and confidante, and an olde worlde charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. Before long Val has to learn to cope with the strenuous demands of acting as Skipper's Mate during numerous nail-biting adventures -frequently with hilarious effect. When the Hoop, her rented home, is sold Valerie relishes the new challenge of hunting down the Vereeniging, another picturesque barge aboard which she builds herself a new home and learns that, when life on the waterways is threatened by rust and insurance critics, it is those who band together to help who make the lifestyle so worthwhile. Valerie's touchingly sincere story is one of discovery and friendship, endurance and love and, most importantly, never allowing the landlubbers to get you down!

When I was younger I loved reading the autobiographies of the rich and famous. The lives lived by the old Hollywood stars really amazed me but what I am now finding more amazing are books written by ordinary people who do something that bit different with their lives. While we may not all want to do the same thing as the people we read about I think part of us wishes or yearns for something different from what we are experiencing now.
One of those people who has changed her life a few times is Val Poore. Her book African Ways is about moving to Africa with her husband and two very young children hoping for a better way of life, my review is here

Still living in Africa, her children have now grown up and fled the nest, Val moves with her husband to the Netherlands for his career choice and as houses were so expensive their eyes were drawn to the barges on the canal. They found a barge and began to restore it but before the dream of living together on it was fulfilled, life took over and their relationship came to an end. After a short spell back in Africa Val decided to go it alone and find a barge to live in by herself.
 Val discovered she was really interested in boat restoration and as word circulated  around the harbour she was offered an old barge to live in and restore by it's owner Philip. This barge had no running water, no electricity and no heating and trying to get Philip to fix those problems was a job itself.

When I first saw this book I did wonder if I could read a book about life on a barge, was I interested enough? After reading African ways I decided I was and I'm so glad I did. This book is not just about barges or houseboats, it's about life and friends and strangers helping strangers. It's about once being a family of four and then starting again on your own in another country and learning a new language. It's about laughter and finding love.
Val eventually has to move from the barge she is restoring and decides it's time to buy her own. Lots of mistakes are made along the way but with the help of her new barging friends Val gets there in the end.

One of the first questions I had in my head when I started reading this book was, "I wonder if people who live in barges ever fall in the canal?"
Well the answer is,"Yes they do! " Val writes about this happening to her and because of what went on just before her fall I didn't stop laughing for days.
Val brings so much humour to this book as she learns all the rules of living on a canal and tells us of all the mistakes she made. The difficulties of getting elderly dogs on and off a barge and the cat who comes to stay. The warmth of the new friends sometimes brought tears to my eyes and when she met Koos I just knew love was in the air.
I enjoyed learning about the history of barges in the harbour and how to sail it through the canals which is no easy feat. I have said many times that I always like to leave a book having learnt something and I can say that about this book, but most of all it has left me wanting to learn more.

So for a while just forget the fiction books and read about real life and about someone who changed theirs.

Valerie Poore is nearly ready to publish her follow up to to Watery Ways which will be called Harbour Ways and I'm looking forward to re - acquainting myself with all her barging friends.

Amazon.uk (kindle)
Amazon.com (kindle)
The Book Depository  Paper back, free shipping worldwide.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Interview With Author Liz Trenow

Today is publication day for the paperback edition of Liz Trenow's book The Forgotten Seamstress and Liz has kindly agreed to be interviewed by me.
Welcome Liz to Books with Wine and Chocolate. I enjoyed reading your book, it won my book of the year award  here 
Now for my first question.
Liz Trenow

 Your first book was about a silk weaving factory and The Forgotten Seamstress is about a silk in a patchwork quilt, is there a reason you enjoy writing about fabrics?

Liz. My family has been weaving silk for three hundred years, and I was brought up in the house next to the silk mill which is still weaving today.  Although I didn’t go into the silk business myself, I am immensely proud of this long heritage and it has left me left me with a great love of all things to do with fabrics. I am a very amateur seamstress and have made a couple of small patchwork quilts in the past, but I could never say that I was at all expert in any of these crafts!

 Where do you find that first seed of an idea for a book? Is it from something you read about yourself or a place you’ve visited or perhaps something else?

Liz. The ideas for my first book were based on real events and people in my family history, so when I came round to writing the second I felt I had already ‘mined’ my own background and needed to turn to some other inspiration.  I was researching my family’s silk weaving history and at the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree (the two companies were closely linked) and chanced upon a display case of the ‘May Silks’: beautiful damasks and brocades, some with interwoven gold and silver threads, woven by hand for the trousseau of Princess May for her wedding to the heir to the British throne in 1893. The silks themselves were entrancing but it was the story behind them which most intrigued me.
I like to have really atmospheric settings for my novels, and decided to set it in a mental asylum because, as a teenager, I was an inpatient in a ward set aside for minor clinical operations at an enormous Victorian mental hospital close to my home town. The sights and sounds of the place left a deep impression on me. It was like a country mansion set in its own grounds but surrounded by high fences – outwardly grand and yet with such an oppressive and ominous atmosphere.

Does your book evolve as you write it or do you carry through on the original idea?

Liz. That’s such a fascinating question. The answer is ‘some and some’. I tend to set out with an outline of the plot, the main characters and a vague idea of what happens at the end. As I start to do research this changes and becomes added to, depending on historical events and developments of the time. Then, as I write, it starts changing again – new characters arrive, sometimes quite out of the blue, and they start doing things you don’t quite expect, so that takes the action in a different direction from the one you first thought of. That’s the fun bit!

You describe the quilt in the book so vividly, were you describing a real quilt? I would love to see a photo if it exists.

Liz. I’m sorry, Maria’s Quilt does not yet exist, although I had a very clear vision of it in my mind’s eye as I was writing.  But there is a diagram of it, and instructions for making it, on my website at www.liztrenow.org, which were generously devised by the internationally-acknowledged quilter, teacher and author: Lynne Edwards, MBE. Already two groups of quilters have shown an interest in making the quilt, so I am hopeful that we may be able to see a real version of it, or at least their interpretation of it, before too long.
My collaboration with Lynne came through an introduction by a friend. I realised that I needed to know much more about the process of quilting and to make sure that all the details were right and, although busy with her own teaching and writing, Lynne completely embraced the project. Over bottles of wine and lots of laughter, we “devised” the quilt that Maria made, taking into account the influences and sources of inspiration that she would have had at different times of her life, and the sort of fabrics she might have had at her disposal. Lynne really helped me to visualise the quilt and how Maria had made it so that I could write about it convincingly.

 What authors would you read in your spare time, if you have any?

Liz. I read all the time – other novelists are my inspiration. I have just finished (and was blown away by) Colm Toibin’s Testament of Mary, and I’m currently reading Canada, by Richard Ford. These two happen to be by men, there are so many wonderful women writers who I admire for different reasons. I love anything written by Rose Tremain, Carol Shields, Tracy Chevalier, Isabel Allende, Alice Munro, Hilary Mantel, I could go on and on.

 If you had to save only three books from your bookshelves which three would you save?
Liz. The answer to this question would change week by week, I suspect! Currently it would be: Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

 Liz I have enjoyed both your books and I guess one of my questions has to be, what took you so long before you started writing?

Liz. Good question!  Many journalists say they’ve got a ‘novel in their bottom drawer’ and I suppose it was always in my mind that I would write a novel but somehow working full time and being the mother of two children always got in the way. I dabbled with short stories, plays and poetry along the way, but writing a novel was my ‘climbing Everest’ project. When I got made redundant I couldn’t pretend any more that I was too busy:  I had to bite the bullet and start writing. Doing an MA in Creative Writing helped a great deal because we had to write a full-length novel for the ‘dissertation’ and I also met a group of other people who were also serious about writing, which was invaluable.

 Do you have a date for your next book, The Poppy Factory?

Liz. The current plan is that it will be published in August 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. As the title suggests, the story revolves around the work of the real-life Poppy Factory which still employs disabled veterans making Remembrance Day poppies in Richmond, Surrey. Besides a poignant First World War strand it also has a powerful contemporary storyline based on interviews with two extraordinary young women who served as army medics on the front line in Afghanistan.
I have nearly finished The Poppy Factory, and early in 2014 I will start the next one: this will go further back in time to the 18th century – and will be set among the silk weavers of Spitalfields in London, where my family’s silk weaving history began.

Thank you Liz for that lovely interview I really enjoyed it and I'm sure everyone who reads it will find your answers interesting.

Liz. Thank you for the opportunity for ‘talking’ to your readers!

The Forgotten Seamstress was reviewed by me  here
Both the paperback and kindle copy can be found at  Amazon.co.uk  
or for free shipping worldwide The Book Depository
My review of Liz Trenow's first book The Last Telegram can be found  here

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Tabby & Kat by Amanda Egan

                                                       - ROOM TO RENT -

                                                         Fifteen minutes from here
                                                         in large, airy house with garden.
                                                         Mad enough to share with
                                                         fun loving party animals?
                                                        (1 male, 1 female, 1 parrot)
                                                       Things are changing for Tabby and Adam.
                                                       With their friend Polly leaving the ‘Thunky Three’,
                                                       who will fill the void in their cosy house share?

                                                       Enter … Kat... and a whole heap of trouble.

Usually when I download a book to my kindle I will read the opening page just to see how much the story will draw me in. Sometimes it's a few days,weeks or months before I return to read the book and occasionally I don't stop reading it until the end. This is what happened with Tabby & Kat I couldn't put it down.
 Adam and Polly were great housemates but Polly was leaving and it all had to come to an end. Just how to do you find the perfect person to share with? How do you know if you've made the right choice? Tabby and Adam soon find out that their choice in a housemate would change everything they ever thought about themselves and push their friendship to the limits.
Along with the humour there is an aura of danger in this book as I feared for Polly's sanity and indeed her life which kept me turning the page and not wanting to put it down.

 I loved the main character Tabby and her dysfunctional family back home, they were all so lovely especially her grandmother.
Everyone should have a Timothy in their lives, he always managed to say just the right thing at the right time. He had me laughing out loud and brought tears to my eyes, but I'm not telling you why.
The only person in the book I would not want to know is Kat and perhaps we have all met someone at sometime who is slightly like her. 
This is one of those books where I really don't want to tell you any more about the plot because it gave me one surprise after another and I want the same to happen to everyone who reads it.
I will say that it was refreshing to have Adams adult brother James who has learning difficulties as part of the story. He was perhaps the most sensible of them all as he said things just how they appeared to him, straight to the point. His part was written very sensitively by the author where she showed us the caring, happy young man first before the disability.
If I had read this book before the end of the year it would have been in my books award post. Loved it!
Amazon Uk 


The Stolen Child by Jennie Felton

Will anyone believe her baby is gone? When Stella Swift is discovered holding a shard of broken glass near her newborn baby boy, fears...