Category Archives: contemporary fiction

After the Fire by Jane Casey

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The Blurb:

After a fire rips through a North London tower block, two bodies are found locked in an 11th floor flat. But is the third victim that ensures the presence of detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad. It appears that controversial MP Geoff Armstrong, trapped by the fire, chose to jump to his death rather than wait for rescue. But what was such a right wing politician doing in the deprived, culturally diverse Maudling Estate?

As Maeve and her senior colleague, Derwent, pick through the wreckage, they uncover the secret world of the 11th floor, where everyone seems to have something to hide…

My review:

“After the Fire” is the fourth Jane Casey novel, featuring D.C Maeve Kerrigan, that I have read and I enjoyed this one as much as the others. Unfortunately, I haven’t read them in order, but that has not detracted from my enjoyment in the least.

This book, the 6th in the series, is sadly topical. It deals with the aftermath of a fire in a tower block of flats, but unlike the awful reality of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the death toll is less and the novel deals with the distinct possibility of arson and murder.

The police are quickly involved in the aftermath of the fire, when it is discovered that a politician has died, seemingly by throwing himself out of a window to escape the flames and two more bodies are found in a locked room. There are enough pointers here that police involvement is needed and the ensuing tale unfolds many secrets. One of the early surprises is that the politician, Geoff Armstrong, was strangled before being thrown out of the window. The painstaking murder investigation, alongside the search for an arsonist, kept my interest throughout.

As before, one of the reasons I liked this book so much is the relationship between the characters, especially Maeve Kerrigan and her boss, Josh Derwent. These are not two dimensional; there is real depth to their characters which adds so much to this crime fiction. Jane Casey writes in a style which flows, holding interest. For me, this was a real page turner!

Meet the author:

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Jane Casey is an Irish author of crime fiction novels. She writes the Maeve Kerrigan series. Jane is married to a criminal barrister, which gives her insight into the criminal underworld. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award and longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. She lives in London with her husband, James Norman, and their son.

Jane Casey made her debut as a published novelist in 2010 with the standalone novel The Missing. She followed it up later that very same year with the novel The Burning, which began her Maeve Kerrigan series. Below is a list of Jane Casey’s books in order of when they were originally released:

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“The Real Liddy James” by Anne-Marie Casey…..Blog Tour!

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Today, I am delighted to be host to Anne-Marie Casey‘s latest novel, “The Real Liddy James”

In my opinion, “The Real Liddy James” is a book about life and the tricks it can play on you.

In some respects, Liddy James is a highly successful woman: she’s a sort-after divorce lawyer, she’s a writer, she has two sons, and she’s good looking, intelligent and lives in New York. My goodness, she has it all……or so, some might say.

Then, we look a little closer and we see that Liddy is herself divorced. On the surface, she and her ex-husband, Peter, appear to be on fairly amicable terms, but is this a true picture of the situation? Liddy is such a successful lawyer and writer, that she is in demand most of her waking hours. Her life is spreadsheet-organised. It has to be if she is to fit in all her appointments, have time for herself (what is that?) and time for her boys. Matty, a teenager, and Cal, at six years old, have very different needs that have to be accommodated. She has help with this in the form of Lucia, but Lucia has a life outside of the James’ household which may need attention too. It also seems that Peter has a new life ahead with Rose, living in the same house he once occupied with Liddy and Matty.

One may ask why Liddy is so driven. Partly, this is to leave behind her upbringing. Her parents are Irish, from fairly humble roots, who immigrated to America to find a better life. However, their idea of “a better life” didn’t coincide with Liddy’s, who became driven by the ambition to lead her own version of betterment. Success is also addictive; the more successful Liddy became, the more her personal life became squeezed. This is definitely one of the tricks that life can play, thinking that the more money one earns, the happier and easier life will become.

This whirlwind of a life finally unravels during a T.V. interview, when Liddy completely “loses the plot”. In the aftermath of embarrassment, puzzlement and utter weariness, Liddy is offered the chance to recover her equilibrium, with her children, in a remote house in Ireland. We wonder at this point, if the peace and quiet away from New York and all the demands of that life will help the real Liddy James emerge…..or have we met her already? You must read the book to find out!

I enjoyed “The Real Liddy James”; not my usual genre, but it made a pleasant change from some of the “murder and mayhem” novels that I read. Although Liddy’s lifestyle is a million miles from mine, I could identify to a certain extent with the juggling of work commitments, while providing a young family with the time, love and care that they need. I was surprised by some of the feelings evoked by several characters in this novel as it unfolded. Anne-Marie Casey’s writing has an easy flow to it and I was able to zip through this book with great enjoyment.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about how women juggle the dreaded work/life balance. There are romance, humour and relationship issues within the pages – plenty to keep you interested in meeting “The Real Liddy James.”
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with the book to read and review.

Question and Answer with Anne-Marie Casey

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It’s a pleasure to welcome you to my blog today, Anne – Marie.
First of all, I have to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Real Liddy James.” She’s certainly a driven character! Is she based on anyone you know?

While Liddy is certainly based on aspects of people I know (including me!) she had a very precise genesis as a character. I read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s now famous article, Why women still can’t have it all, several years ago. In personal, thoughtful and analytical prose, Slaughter articulated the challenges facing women who want a career and a family. She described how the demands of her life had become overwhelming, and in doing so she voiced the feelings of innumerable other women. Women who had come to the conclusion they didn’t want to live that way. And, more likely, they didn’t think they could.

The following year Lean In arrived. Sheryl Sandberg’s book is a powerful and challenging piece of work. I recognise its importance for women, perhaps particularly for younger women. But being in my forties at the time I read it, having a career and a family myself, having seen several of my brilliant friends have to adapt to (and their careers suffer because of) the demands of divorce, or children with problems, not enough money, or simply not enough sleep, I felt uncomfortable with, and a bit scared by, the emphasis on self-confidence and ambition rather than institutional change. I found myself to be Team Anne-Marie Slaughter all the way.

I had thought about the issues debated by Slaughter and Sandberg a great deal so, when I met my editor to talk about a new book, I said, spontaneously as I recall, that I wanted to write something about a woman “who leaned in so far she fell over”. We laughed. She loved the line and, before I could point out that I didn’t have any more than that, she told me to get started. And that’s how Liddy began.

Why did you choose New York as the setting for this novel?
From the moment I first saw the iconic skyline I have had a love/love relationship with New York City. I’ve spent a lot of time there for work and pleasure, and I guess I just thought it would be fun to inhabit it in my imagination. Also, in the process of feeling free enough to write prose I found it liberating to be so far geographically away from my real life.

Do you personally think that it is possible to create an ideal work/life balance?
NO!!!

I know that you are also a screen writer and a playwright, as well as a novelist. Do you have any preference? What has been your most satisfying work to date?
I am not one of those people who always knew they would be novelists or, like the Brontes, spent endless hours of their childhoods writing miniature books in tiny script to satisfy their relentless urge to tell stories. In fact, writing fiction was never an ambition of mine.

Through my twenties, I worked in Film and TV in London as a producer, but then I fell in love, got married and, with our first baby in tow, my husband and I moved to Ireland where I became a TV writer. (Fortunately I could do it, it was a life that suited me, AND I earned a living from it.) For several years I sat at my desk happily writing scripts that mostly never got made, but then the recession came and bit hard and the two shows I had been working on were cancelled abruptly. What was I to do? I didn’t want to go back into production, and I suspected that production would not want me – by this time I was a working writer, too used to wearing pyjamas all day and mostly talking to myself, and occasionally the dog, to return to all day human interaction. After a couple of days under the duvet, I decided there was nothing for it. I would have to try and write (and sell!) a novel.

When I began writing my first book, I tried to apply the same tools I used when writing a screenplay. There is a rigorous purity in the process of development from storyline, to scene breakdown to script that comes naturally to me. And I love deadlines! I love them so much I give them to myself! (Occasionally I give them to my teenage sons with dispiriting results.) However, to my dismay, I found this didn’t allow me to explore the characters and situations in the way I needed to. In fact, it turned out that the only way I could write a novel was to throw all that planning out, sit down, start writing and see what happened.

Actually I don’t recommend it as an approach, aside from the unoriginal resulting stress dreams, it means I almost always over write and have to self-edit rigorously, but the great surprise to me in becoming a novelist (and two books in I feel okay about calling myself one) is that it has been the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.

Are there any authors or books that have influenced your work?
I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, and I studied English at University, so it’s almost impossible for me to be specific on this – however here are four books that influenced this novel.

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank.
This is a very important book for me as it was the novel that inspired me to try and be a writer of fiction. The memory of how I felt when I read it, (the sense of emotional connection to the main character, Jane) and my admiration for the simplicity yet boldness of the structure gave me a model of what I sought to achieve.

Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa M Alcott
I came back to these books, which I adored as a child, in 2011, when I adapted them for the theatre and, of course, re-reading them as an adult, I felt an even stronger sense of why they have endured as iconic classics for so many generations of women. As an adult, and a working writer, I find Jo March’s struggle to provide for her family through her work inspirational, as well as her burning desire to marry for love and retain her independence of spirit, most unusual in the context of 19th century literature.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
I always assume that everyone has read something by Nora Ephron, but if you’ve only seen the movies, get this book. It’s got everything; laugh out loud humour, intense emotional punch and recipes. I read a piece by Lena Dunham in which she said that Ephron “called bullshit on a whole host of things including…the idea that one’s writing isn’t fiction if it borrows from one’s life.” I couldn’t have put that better.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
I was thinking about late 19th century novels when I was writing certain sections of my new novel and it was pleasure to go back and re-read several of Wharton’s. If you haven’t read any, I think this is the one to start with (although I have a huge affection for The House of Mirth). I was struck once again by two things about this novel; the emotional complexity of the characters and plot, and yet the readability. That is extremely hard to achieve, yet Wharton makes it seem effortless.

Do you follow a strict routine when you write?
I try to. Without self-discipline nothing gets written, and I have a busy life, so as I am starting a new novel at the moment I have imposed the 1000 words a day rule on myself. As I haven’t written a book for well over a year it is like pulling teeth at the moment so I’m trying a tip a writer friend gave me and I tie my leg to the chair with a belt until the work for that day is done!

What about the future? Do you have anything in the pipe-line that you can tell us about?
I have just finished a screenplay adapted from the novel ‘The Master’ by Jolien Janzing about Charlotte Bronte’s time in Brussels and her doomed affair with her Professor, Constantin Heger. It is the secret love story that inspired Jane Eyre and I’ve really enjoyed writing it. I am also working on a touring version of my stage adaptation of Little Women for the Everyman Theatre in Cork. And I’m tying my leg to a chair most days!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Anne-Marie. It has been a real pleasure to read your novel and also your interesting answers to my questions.

You can buy this book on Amazon:

You can also follow the author on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnneMarieCaseyAuthor/
and on her website:
http://www.annemariecasey.com/

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey

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My review:

 

Although “Let the Dead Speak” is the seventh in a series of crime novels featuring Police Officer Maeve Kerrigan, this is the first that I have read……..and it certainly will not be the last!

Jane Casey’s superb crime novel is so full of intrigue and suspense, that it is difficult to describe the plot in great detail without spoiling the book for others. What appears at first to be a classic case of a bloody and vicious murder turns into much more. Child abuse, fraud, blackmail – all appear as the plot unfolds.

The maze of intrigue and investigation begins when young Chloe Emery returns home unexpectedly, to find her mother is missing and her home looking like an abattoir. The murder squad team, which includes newly promoted D.S. Maeve Kerrigan and D.I. Derwent, are called in and the investigation begins. What appears at first to be a fairly straightforward case becomes anything but when Kate Emery’s body cannot be found and neighbours act suspiciously when questioned.

With each new piece of evidence, with each apparent dead end, the suspense and intrigue grows, making this an unputdownable crime novel. As I said earlier, I have not read the previous six books in this series, but it worked well as a standalone. It has piqued my interest and curiosity to find out more about Kerrigan and Derwent and other cases they have been involved in.

I enjoyed Jane Casey’s writing style. Without being too wordy, she portrays characters and scenes in such a way as to make them live in my imagination.  The characters all have depth and are “real”, to the extent that I cared about what happened to them – or I detested them! I am particularly interested in the past relationship of Kerrigan and Derwent and look forward to back-tracking.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime novel     and would like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review it.

Find out more about Jane Casey and her work on her Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Casey/e/B003VNABHU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1490280613&sr=1-2-ent

In the Eyes of an Angel by Kimberly Livingston -review and author interview.

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome author, Kimberly Livingston to my blog.

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Blurb:

Camille Ryan is in her final year at Southern State University. Working as a bartender in a local establishment in order to support herself, she knows from her mother’s experience with her alcoholic father not to depend on anyone. That is until travelling businessman Rick Pantanelli decides to visit her bar. He is a handsome, well-off, successful professional and her senior by a full 17 years.

Camille is used to doing everything she is expected to do. But when she meets Rick she is swept away by his good looks, his charm and his ability to take care of her. Rick is used to getting what he wants. But when he meets Camille he is swept away by her beauty and her inner fragility. He finds himself believing he can take care of her. Is this belief strong enough to make him a better man?

My Review:

“In the Eyes of an Angel” by Kimberly Livingston traces the story of Camille Ryan’s life during her last few months at university and her first steps into the world of work.

Our first meeting with Camille finds her working as a barmaid, in an attempt to help pay her bills as she completes her studies. Quickly, we gain the impression of a gentle, decent young woman, but one who has little sense of her own worth. Her family life has been lacking in security – her father is an alcoholic; her mother, a woman who appears to find it hard to show emotion.

Camille is a beautiful young woman and attracts the attention of business man, Rick Pantanelli. The attraction is mutual and a relationship develops between them. However, is this a match made in heaven? Time and circumstances will tell. To say more about the plot would spoil the story for other readers, so I shall leave it there!

What I really enjoyed about this novel was the way in which Camille’s self-confidence grew, alongside her belief that she was worth knowing and had a purpose in life. She had always worked hard, but had lacked the support and time to nurture her sense of self. This was a rocky road for her to travel, and it held my interest throughout. I was also interested in Rick’s character – a successful man, but not very likeable, in my opinion.

I have to admit that I don’t read many romance novels, but I did enjoy this one and look forward to reading the promised follow-up.

 
 Interview with Kimberly Livingston:
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 Hello Kimberly. I’m delighted to welcome you to my blog today. Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me.  What an honor! I am from Colorado, which, for your UK readers, is in the western half of the United States near the Rocky Mountains. I am a Disney FANATIC (my homage to Disneyland is in my novel On a Run) and am so excited to be spending my 50th birthday there in a few weeks!!! I was raised on Happily Ever After stories, even though I realize, those don’t always turn out like the main hero/heroine expected. I am married to my own Prince Charming (I got lucky!) who is a golf fanatic so we spend a lot of time outdoors, and hopefully will make it to the UK to do some golfing before too long!

It would be great if you could come over to the UK!

 Q. Have you always been an author?

A. That’s an interesting question. I’d say….. Yes. I have made up stories and written them down for as long as I can remember. I remember starting my first “novel” back in elementary school. I actually might still have a copy! That novel got to be about a page and a half long, but the concept was there. Who knows, I might finish that novel someday.

Q. Do you have a set routine when you are writing?  

A. I wish! I am an author who still has a day job so my writing time tends to be catch as catch can. I can edit with any distraction going on, but to write I need to have my own head space. Doesn’t matter when, day or night, but once I get started I can write for hours on end. I have been known to write while sitting lake side while my husband fishes, sitting with my laptop in bed all day, or stopping mid walk or run to voice-write a scene I’d been mulling over into my phone.

Q. Are there any authors that have influenced you? What have you admired about their work?

A. I’d say all authors influence me, but the author that I am most similar to style wise is probably Susan Wiggs. I am especially awed by authors who can come up with complex worlds or situations so different from our own. Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus is one example. I wish I were that creative and skilled! I also have loved Barbara Kingsolver’s work. Both of those authors paint such vivid characters and settings. However, as I often read my own genre that gives me comfort to know that a good novel doesn’t have to be long or complex. It just needs to be a good story with relatable characters (and hopefully a happy ending!).

 I loved “The Night Circus” but have yet to read any of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. I’ll have to remedy that!

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Q.I enjoyed reading “In the Eyes of an Angel.” How long did it take you to write it? Did you follow a plan or did the plot and characters evolve as you were writing?

A.Phew! I am so happy you enjoyed it. That is the hardest part about publishing. When I write I can love my work, but the moment I put it “out there” it becomes very vulnerable. I wrote In the Eyes of an Angel over about a 6 month period. I was on a leave of absence at the time, so I was able to work on it fairly consistently. I rarely have a “plan” when I write. Okay, I never have a plan.  Typically I have a character or a situation in mind and then my imagination just takes over and the novel writes itself. Sometimes I don’t even have the character or situation in mind to start, I just start daydreaming and the stories emerge.

 

Q. The characters in the book were very “real”. Were they based on anyone you know or figments of your imagination?

A.What a great compliment! My characters are figments of my imagination, though I may see a person or have a memory that sparks a story in my head. One observation may begin the whole story telling process. For In the Eyes of an Angel I used the memory of a bar I worked at when I was in college as the backdrop, but there was no Camille or Rick, they just developed themselves. Often when I am writing I “become” the character, which helps I think in capturing the inner person. The characters become very real to me, so it is nice that that translates to my readers.

 
Q.Can you tell us a little about what you are hoping to have published in the future?

A.I just finished the follow up novel to In the Eyes of an Angel. I felt like one of the characters was truly misunderstood in that book so I wanted to tell the rest of their story. Hence, the title of my new novel is “Book by Another Cover”. I am extremely happy with how it all works out (remember, I never know how a book will resolve itself)! I am currently working on the editing process and developing a cover for it, then it will be up on Amazon Kindle for purchase!

 

Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog. It’s been a pleasure to chat to you and learn a little more about you and your work.

Thank you again for having me on your blog! If you or any of your readers have any follow up questions or would just like to connect they can find me at
kimberlylivingstonnovels. weebly.com
twitter.com/KLnovels
facebook.com/ kimberlylivingstonnovels

 

 

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

First posted two years ago, but worth re-blogging. Another of Jane Cable’s very good novels.

Fantastic Books ...and other interesting reads!

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“The Faerie Tree” is Jane Cable‘s second novel and, I think, in many ways, it is better than “The Cheesemaker’s House”.It is well written and the pace is just right throughout

This book tells the story of Robin and Izzie; of their loves and griefs and how their lives are affected by these two powerful emotions. The story begins with Izzie being recently widowed at the age of 44, left to bring up her teenage daughter, Claire, and continue her work as a teacher. When she bumps into a tramp, she discovers that this is no stranger, but someone she knew many years ago. His name is Robin and it is obvious that this is a person who meant a great deal to Izzie in the past.

The tale unfolds to tell of their earlier relationship and the development of the current one, this time also involving Claire and…

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Another You by Jane Cable

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Jane Cable’s “Another You” has much to recommend it.

A contemporary romantic novel, with a mysterious twist, it is set in a beautiful part of England, mainly focusing on the area around Studland Bay in Dorset. I loved the author’s descriptions of this setting, having visited the region many times myself.

Against this backdrop, the story of Marie and her turbulent relationships unfolds. Marie and her estranged husband, Stephen own and run a pub, with the help of their son, Jude, and two other employees.  To escape the arguments with Stephen, Marie often walks along the cliff tops and this is when she meets an attractive American named Corbin.  He is a soldier and she assumes he is staying in the area for a commemoration and re-enactment event concerning the Second World War.

After a while, Corbin seems to disappear from the area, but a different American soldier appears on the scene. Marie finds Paxton very attractive and they embark on an affair.  This is only one strand of this novel, which also looks at the important decisions that Jude has to make about the direction he wants his life to take.

There is much more to the plot than I’ve written about here, but to reveal more would spoil the book for future readers.

I enjoy Jane Cable’s writing very much. There is a flow to her work which makes it such a pleasure to read.  In “Another You” and her  previous novels, she shows such a talent for setting the scene, not by lengthy description, but using well-chosen words. There is also the element of “other-worldly” mystery that I enjoy immensely.  I also like the realistic depiction of the characters and their relationships – Marie’s stressful life with an unpleasant estranged husband and a son, about to take steps into the unknown, were authentic and rang true for me.

All in all, a very good, satisfying read!