What Are You Reading?

I blinked and seem to have missed most of the month of May. It proved to be a busy time in the Fitton household. In between having my head stuck in a book and writing, I hardly came up for air. Apart from going to work and walking the dog –  two things I have to do otherwise I’d get fired! Oh, and keeping the fridge full for exam stressed teens, that is ongoing! Who knew food shopping could be such a source of inspiration?  My birthday at the beginning of last month seems like a lifetime away. It can’t be June, can it?  During the month of May, I wrote and read my socks off. I managed to read 7 books, write over 7,000 words and entered 3 short story competitions. Not bad for someone whose day job involves a lot of travel eh?  Oh, and I made some mean meringues – more on those later. I’m really not looking for a pat on the back (well apart from the meringues, they were rather good). What surprised me was the number of books I read. Usually, I find myself at the other end of the spectrum, we’ve all been there, right? – End of the month and you are still trying to get beyond page 50 of book one? Thought so. Last month, however, marked a change for me. I added early mornings to my late night reading ritual and… ta da… more books read. Rocket science it was not. I even had time to make those stellar meringues everyone is talking about…. I confess… it’s me, just me talking about them. I’m sure others would have talked about them had they lasted long enough. Remember the crazed… sorry, stressed teens? Nuff said. Now, where was I?… Ah yes…books. The number of exciting new books around is staggering. I have been pleasantly surprised and found myself marveling at the beauty of the language, and the complexity of the plots. My taste is quite eclectic, I read pretty much any genre. Sadly, Not every book last month was a winner. They fell into three distinct categories – the good, the bad and the ugly. No, I’m not going to divulge which ones got the rotten tomato award. Suffice to say, more were good than bad! So, onwards I go, armed with a Kindle full of adventure. So what am I reading this month? Here’s what’s on my list so far:

Hear Me ~Julia North

Stillhouse Lake ~ Rachel Caine

Finding Miranda ~ Iris Chacon

If I am to match or even better last month I need some suggestions. Ahem… (clears throat loudly).. This is where you come in. What would you recommend adding to Junes list? What are you reading? As I said, eclectic taste, so please pop your suggestions in the comments below and I shall give them a go.

Oh, the meringues? Yes, I promised you more, brace yourselves….  Meringues

 

Friday Feature ~ Paradise Girl by Phill Featherstone

Today I would like to give a warm West Country welcome to author Phill Featherstone and his novel Paradise Girl. Welcome Phill! As soon as I read the blurb for Paradise Girl I was intrigued! It is very close to the top of my TBR pile now… Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you grew up and perhaps how this has influenced your writing?

I grew up on the Pennines only a few miles from Haworth, where the amazing Brontë sisters lived and wrote. As a child and teenager I roamed the landscape, striding like Heathcliff (I liked to think ) over the peaty moors. After many years living and working in the south and the midlands I returned here, to my roots, and started writing.

Heathcliff eh?… pondering… OK let’s move on.. have you ever had a job other than that of a writer?

I took a degree in English and qualified as a teacher. I taught English in secondary schools, mostly to 6th formers. I’ve also been a taxi driver, worked in a store and sold ice cream (I was Mr Whippy!)

Wow English teacher, now that’s a tough gig, all those teenagers! Yes a tough gig indeed! So tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Paradise Girl?

I live on the hills overlooking a small town in the valley. In the summer of 2013 there was a power cut. The day was still and hot. I worked on my laptop until the battery ran down, then took a cold drink out into the garden. I settled on a bench and looked around, and it struck me: I couldn’t see or hear any movement. None at all, except for the silent revolution of the wind turbines on the opposite hill. There were no signs of life anywhere. It was as if the valley and all around it had gone into a state of suspended animation.

I had a thought. Suppose there was no one else. Suppose everyone had disappeared – perhaps run away, been taken by aliens, or felled by some deadly virus. What would I do? How would I survive? Could I?

The idea for Paradise Girl was born. All that was left was to write it.

I’ve wondered that at times too, sometimes I think it’s a real possibility. What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished a new novel, called The God Jar. It begins with a young couple on holiday on the Cornish coast finding a mysterious jar. The action jumps back 400 years to the court of Queen Elizabeth I and to Dr John Dee, known as ‘the Queen’s magician’. We learn what the jar actually is, something of its potency, and how the Doctor used it to change the course of history.

Back in the present, the couple learn that their find is very special. Others are interested in it and in the power it brings, and they will stop at nothing to get it.

Oh, I think that’s called a time-slip mystery thriller, well that’s what I’m calling it! The God Jar sounds really interesting…em… I can see I shall have to decant my TBR pile onto the floor when The God Jar is released! Now talking of going back in time… If you could go back in time what would you tell your younger self?

Start writing sooner. Don’t hang about or make excuses. Make time, make space, and get on with it!

Really good advice Phill. I think I would tell myself the same thing! Thank you so much for joining me today. Phill will kindly be giving away a signed copy of Paradise Girl to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen at random. To give you a taste here’s the blurb followed by a snippet:

Paradise Girl

Paradise Girl is told through the diaries of 17 year-old Kerryl Shaw. The Shaw family live on a remote hilltop farm, and they think this will insulate them from a highly infectious virus which sweeps the country. It doesn’t, and with her family and all around her gone Kerryl finds herself alone. Her diaries show how isolation and loneliness affect her, and build to a dramatic conclusion on the northern moors.

“…impossible to put down… writing of a high literary standard, with the kind of psychological depth which lingers in the mind long after reading.”

Here’s the snippet:

I messaged my friend Josie. No reply. I called her number but there was no answer there either. I wanted to go to her house to find out what had happened but Lander, my brother, said I was being selfish.

‘What happens if you catch the virus and bring it back?’ he said. ‘Do you want to infect all of us?’

Of course I didn’t, but I was worried about Josie. I called Penny Cross. She lives in the same street as Josie. She said she didn’t know about Josie herself but she’d seen an ambulance outside her house. I said that might mean they were taking somebody to hospital.

‘No,’ she said, ‘nobody goes to hospital any more. They’re using ambulances for hearses now.’

I called Steve. The picture kept jumping but I could see he looked awful. He said everybody was dying and the young people were having a ‘Death’s Doorway’ party. They were going to dance and drink and shag and get high until one by one they dropped. He said people were breaking into the stores and taking what they wanted and there was no one there to stop them. He said I should join him, because if you’ve got to go that’s the way to do it.

He swung his phone in an arc. There were a lot of people in the street. Some of them were half naked, some had bottles, some were dancing. Several were lying on the floor, drunk or maybe dead. In the background a girl was puking up. It made me feel sick.

I told Lander about the pictures. ‘Good for them,’ he said.

I got angry then. How could he not see how awful it was? ‘Why don’t you go and join them if you think it’s so fantastic?’ I yelled.

Lander and I seemed to be quarrelling a lot now. We didn’t used to, well, not as much. We might have gone on as we were for who knows how long. We might all have survived, because as long as we kept to ourselves how could the Infection get us?

Bryst put an end to that. I don’t blame him. He didn’t set out with the intention of killing us. He was just looking for some way to save his boy.

Wow, I can’t wait to read it. Once again thank you so much for sharing Paradise Girl with us Phill. Remember to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy please leave a comment in the box below.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon USparadise Girl

Troubador

 

About the author

Phill was born and brought up in West Yorkshire and trained as a teacher before reading English at Cambridge. He also has an MA in Education.

Phill taught English in schools and colleges in London, Hampshire and Leicestershire and then spent five years as an education adviser for Northamptonshire Local Authority.

In 1997 he and his wife, Sally Featherstone, started a publishing company specialising in resources for the early years. The company won the IPG Education Publisher of the Year award in 2007, and in 2008 the business was acquired by Bloomsbury Publishing. From 2008 until 2014 Phill and Sally ran a company providing training services for teachers. Since then he has spent his time on writing and conservation work. He has co-written with Sally several books for teachers and he now concentrates on fiction.

When he’s not writing, Phill enjoys reading (of course), listening to music, going to concerts, galleries and the theatre, and playing the saxophone (badly). He lives in a farmhouse on the pennines overlooking the Calder Valley. Phill is a member of The Society of Authors.

RPFeatherstone

Connect with author Phill Featherstone:

Author Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Friday Feature ~My Top 5 St Patricks Day Reads

Another year, another St Patricks Day. Time to dye your hair green, kiss everyone in sight and drink yourself into the ground – no?

Perhaps in my more youthful days that may well have been the case, thankfully no longer. I am grateful my youthful exuberence and inebriation were before the time of social media! What a lucky escape we have all had! These days, I am more inclined to read a good book with the obligatory cup of tea or glass of fizz, depending on the time of day. Given today is about all things Irish, I have focused in on Irish authors. Not the usual suspects of Joyce or Wilde but rather some I have come across by chance, and enjoyed most throughly. So for today I offer up to you my pick….

Marian Keyes ~ Making It Up As You Go Along

I absolutely love Marian Keyes! She makes astute observations about life and adds her own brand of wicked humour. Making It Up As You Go Along is a collection of personal stories told with brutal honesty.  They will have you nodding your head and laughing out loud. A great light read, be warned though there are moments of sadness too. Would make a fab holiday read.

 

Marita Conlon McKenna ~ Rebel Sisters

Shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book Awards Rebel Sisters tells the story of Gifford sisters – Muriel, Grace and Nellie growing up in a wealthy Dublin family around 1916. They are strong willed and independant. This book gives you a real insight into the lives of women who stood alongside their male counterparts in the struggle for Irish freedom. A historical novel well worth a read.

Jennifer Johnston ~ The Old Jest

I first read this book back in the 1990s and have recently revisited it. A compelling tale of 18 year old nancy caught up in ‘ the troubles’ of a 1920s Ireland. Johnstons’ writing is beautiful. She manages to evoke a true sense of time and place to The Old Jest. A beautifully written account about coming of age in a changing political landscape.

 

Catherine Ryan Howard ~ Distress Signals

I interviewed Catherine for my blog last year just before the release of her debut Distress Signals. You can find the interview here. If psychological thrillers is your bag then this one is for you. This debut has everything you could possibly want in a thriller – action, intrigue, lots of twists and turns. A veritable feast of page turning adrenaline! Short listed for the 2016 Irish Book Awards, Distress Signals follows Adam Dunne in his search for Sarah, his girlfriend who disappears whilst on a business trip to Barcelona. Throw in shinanigans aboard a cruise liner and you’re away! A great beach read.

 

E M Reapy ~ Red Dirt

Last but by no means least on my list is Red Dirt. Another stunning debut! Red Dirt is a contemporary novel which follows the lives of Murph, Hopper and Fiona. Keen to escape the Irish recession they travel to Australia. This is a book you will either love or hate. It is fast moving, gritty and hard hitting. Split into three sections each told from a different perspective, Red Dirt is not for the faint hearted. The main protagonists make some terrible choices – ultimately it is a story about responsibility. Like I said you will either love it or hate it. I loved it!

 

So my lovelies, there you have it. These books should keep you out of trouble for a wee while! Have a fabulous St Patricks Day and happy reading!