You can run!

A couple of weekends ago I took part in the York 10 mile race. This was run alongside the Yorkshire Marathon. As you know a marathon is 26 miles (26.2 to be precise, why someone added an extra 0.2 is beyond me, was 26 not enough?) When you look at it in that context, 10 miles doesn’t seem far. If someone said lets go shopping, you’d jump in the car and happily drive off ten miles without thinking twice.

Well I can tell you now, covering ten miles on foot is definitely something to think twice about. In fact you should think three and four times about it, ideally whilst sat in front of the television with a glass of red so you are not tempted to think it’s a good idea. I never really thought it was a good idea, I just didn’t appreciate what a bad one it was. One friend suggested we sign up to do it. I then mentioned it to another friend who was already signed up. He said maybe I would need to train more and should wait until next year. Well that was a stupid thing to say, as obviously I jumped on my high horse and signed up straight away.

The training went quite well. I completed some nice long runs, in fact at one point I ran from pluto to the sun* So I turned up on the day confident I would complete it in my target time of 2 hours. As always before I signed up I checked the results from last year. I’m a very slow runner, but as long as I’m not going to be last then I’m happy to give it a go. Therefore with some 3 hour runners at previous events I was confident I’d be as usual in the middle average.

Of course when looking at previous results I’d concentrated on the slowest people without realising that there was still going to be a rather large number of fast people doing it. I don’t mind getting overtaken by speedy professional looking runners. That’s just part and parcel of being a bit of a fairweather jogger. However when you suddenly realise that you are actually being passed by Zippy and Bungle from Rainbow you do start to think it might be time to hang up the trainers. Luckily one of the best things about these runs is the constant supply of sweets that the kindly spectators are giving out as you drag yourself round. The man in the batman suit might have finished way ahead of me, but I bet I enjoyed my jelly babies more than him.

 The thing with this kind of event though is that as soon as you reach the finish line you forget everything. You forget about the fact that at the half way point you were ready to sit down and wait for a taxi. You forget about the fact that your face is that red you are stopping traffic as you go past. You forget about the fact your toenails will probably never be the same again. As soon as you get your finish time, which in my case was a very respectable 1 hour 44 minutes, you forget what a stupid idea trying to run 10 miles actually is. In fact once you are actually able to walk again you think, what’s my next challenge going to be all pain forgotten. One thing for certain though is I won’t be doing a marathon. 26 miles ok maybe, but 26.2, that’s just silly.

 

*York Solar System Cycle Path obviously!

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Death in the Stars by Frances Brody – a review BLOG TOUR

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction. Despite a degree in history, on the whole I prefer my crime to be a more modern gruesome experience. However I do like my crime to have smart powerful women and a good mystery, and the Kate Shackleton series most definitely has those.
I was lucky enough to read a previous novel by Frances and despite my initial reservations I absolutely loved it. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Frances’ latest novel Death in the Stars.

Death in the Stars is set in 1927 and starts during the total eclipse. The enigmatic Italian singer Selina wants to view the eclipse from the Giggleswick School. According to the Astronomy Society this is going to be the best vantage point. She asks Mrs Shackleton to accompany her and her friend Billy on their flight to the school. During this visit Billy is found dead, which increases Selina’s fears that people close to her are dying in suspicious circumstance. Kate Shackleton runs an investigation agency so is clearly intrigued and starts to look into what is happening.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. This is the 9th novel in the series. I haven’t yet read all of them although am looking forward to going back to the start. However, each of her novels work just as well as a standalone one. I really enjoy all the background in the stories. The descriptions of places ranging from windswept Yorkshire Dales, to inner city Leeds variety houses really bring the stories to life. I think the character of Kate Shackleton is intriguing; although some of her back story has been revealed in the books I’ve read so far it is her that makes me want to start the series from the beginning to find out more about her life. She comes across as a Miss Marple type with added glamour and confidence.

Death in the Stars is an absolutely charming book, and its setting in the 1920’s is the perfect backdrop to this cast of characters. I would recommend to anyone who likes a bit of glamour and gentleness with their murders. This series has definitely changed my mind about historical fiction.

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody was out on the 5th October.

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Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech – a review

I was sent this book as a surprise by the publisher. I have to confess to not really looking closely at it as I assumed it wasn’t really for me, the book not being a traditional murder mystery. However having recently seen some excellent reviews I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did.
Sometimes as soon as you read the first page of a novel you can tell by the style of writing that it is going to be something special. This was definitely one of those books. Maria in the Moon is the story of Catherine. She is living with her friend Fern after her house was one of many flooded during the storms in 2007. She volunteers at the local flood crisis line. Until the age of 9 Catherine was always called by her full name, Catherine-Maria, however at some point during her ninth year people stopped using the Maria. She has no recollection of why or what else happened that year. However gradually she starts to remember things as memories of the past start to resurface.

This was a superb read that I genuinely stayed up stupidly late reading as I didn’t want to stop. It is utterly compelling and incredibly heartbreaking. Catherine is an interesting character. I flitted between feeling incredibly sorry for her and wanting her to just speak up for herself more. One of the elements I really liked about this book was that despite it being very disturbing there are also elements of humour that really bring the novel to life. The descriptions of the flooding are really heartbreaking, skips in the roads and people being displaced are quite upsetting especially when you know this actually happened. Yet this is what makes this book so great, it really is a superb read.

This is the first book I’ve read by Louise although I think it is actually her third novel and it definitely makes me want to read her others. Maria in the Moon is a heartrending book that will stay with you long after the finish, I thoroughly recommend it. 

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The Other Twin by LV Hay – a review

I was given a copy of this via Lovereading and actually read it a few months ago. 

The Other Twin starts with Poppy finding out her sister India has fallen to her death. Poppy then returns to Brighton for the first time in years in order to try and prove that her sister didn’t committee suicide. Whilst back in Brighton she meets up with her old boyfriend Matt, and his wealthy family who own half of the city. She also uncovers the mysterious Jenny who it seems had an online friendship with India. Yet what are they hiding?

The Other Twin was an interesting novel that kept me gripped through to the end. I liked the way the story was told, and the quality of writing meant that it was an easy fast read. I was certainly kept guessing right until the end. My only slight criticism, is that I did find the story a bit difficult to place in a time. It was clearly modern day as there were blogs and phones in use. Yet the characters seemed quite old fashioned to me, (there was a lot of legging wearing which is very 1980) and without wishing to give anything away this old-fashioned quality became even more obvious towards the end. The characters whilst interesting were hard to warm to, but this gives the story a certain edge of the seat quality.

The Other Twin was a nice summer read that I would recommend, despite my misgivings over their clothing choices.

 

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Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell – a review BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to today be taking part in the blog tour for the latest novel by Caimh McDonnell . This one is a prequel to the fantastic Dublin trilogy series.

Angels in Moonlight introduces us to Bunny McGarry. As we know from the previous novels Bunny has some rather unorthodox policing methods, and although he may be younger in this story he certainly hasn’t changed.  Whilst his methods might not strictly toe the policing line they do get results, and it is those results his bosses want to see when he is tasked with bringing down one of Dublin’s most notorious gangs. What is different in this prequel is that we get to see another side of Bunny, he has a softer side that isn’t always evident in his previous cases. We find out how he met Simone who he has mentioned in the other novels.  Although obviously the course of true love never runs smoothly, and this is no exception in Bunny’s case. On top of work and love life Bunny is worried about his straight laced partner Gringo. Gringo’s marriage is on the rocks but it is clear he is hiding something more worrying.

I am a big fan of humour in my crime fiction and this most definitely has that in spades. Caimh McDonnell manages to mix a police procedural with funny escapades incredibly skilfully. This novel felt like a bit of slower read than the previous ones, but that is rather deliberate I imagine as it gives you more of an insight into the detectives head. The writing is funny, but there is an element of sadness within this novel which for me really made this stand out.

The characters are all well written, and although there are a lot of them they are easy to keep track off. Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers but you should definitely look out for the nuns! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend any of this series. I‘m very much looking forward to the final in the trilogy.

Angels in the Moonlight is out now

 

 

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Scorn – Q and A with Paul Hoffman – BLOG TOUR

Today I am pleased to welcome Paul Hoffman to acrimereadersblog. His novel Scorn is being released today. Scorn is about a physicist who turns to eating priests.

Thanks for joining me Paul. What was the inspiration behind Scorn?

A few years ago I was watching a news item on the BBC where its Vatican correspondent concluded by saying that the Catholic Church must deal with the issue of child sexual abuse in order to regain its moral authority. The response to this, it seems to me, is to ask: what moral authority? Answering this question is where the book begins with two rather unusual policemen (when they were soldiers together in Iraq they were known as The Butchers of Basra) investigating the hideous murder of several priests. I wanted to write about my Catholic upbringing in boarding school but do so in an entirely different way – not as a litany of horrors visited on children (though some of that is inevitable) but to celebrate our resistance to the faith that tried any means possible to control our every thought, word and deed. We mocked them (not in their hearing, of course), made up sermons in which appalling eternal tortures were visited on small boys for ridiculous dietary infractions (eating bats was one I particularly loved) and so on. I’ve always loved a good police procedural and I wanted to use the pleasures they give to go into territory not usually associated with crime novels.

Have you always been a writer?

My writing draws heavily on my past and the more than twenty five jobs I’ve had as an adult ranging from boardman in a betting shop, lift attendant, frozen food packer at 10 below zero, teacher in one of the worst and best state schools in England, businessman, and screenwriter. The most interesting of these was the ten years I spent as a film censor at the BBFC. It was there that I started writing fiction but not until I was already in my mid-thirties. I was also writing a screenplay simultaneously based on part of the novel I was writing. This was made into another cop thriller starring Jude law as the very peculiar but charming murderer and Timothy Spall as the sly cop caught between his liking for the man he’s investigating and his determination to get to the bottom of the deaths for which he could be responsible. Sadly a great cast was squandered by terrible direction. It was the second worst experience of my life.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

Amazingly dull. I write for a couple of hours a day usually. I always stop as soon as I feel I’m having to make an effort to go on. Writing is rooted fundamentally in playing. No child, or golfer, or reader for that matter goes on playing or reading when they’ve had enough of playing or reading. They just stop. And that’s what I do. I write with the intention of all times of giving pleasure by taking pleasure in what I do. Despite this I find writing very tiring as if I’ve been using up huge amounts of energy. I’m ashamed to say that I spend the rest of the time sleeping or generally lazing about and thinking.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Generally lazing about and thinking. I find enormous pleasure in just wandering about in my head. This was a habit I picked up in boarding school because as well as being violent it was also very boring. I constructed enormously long novels in my head in which I was, of course, the central character and therefore brave, noble and heroic, and kept them going for months at a time.

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I used to be a voracious reader but not so much now because I find – it’s not true for a great many authors – that writing fiction drains the energy for reading it. It’s a pity, but there it is. The priests used to describe me as wicked and lazy and they may have had a point. Now I tend to dip into my reading habits of the past when I want to look at how someone I admire pulled off some tricky piece of storytelling. In the past month I’ve gone to Ecclesiastes, Catch 22, The Secret Agent, a scene in Julius Caesar where Brutus and Cassius row and then make up, and a scene in one of George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman books where he has a conversation with Abe Lincoln. But I’ll steal from anywhere: one of my books has a line I took from a shampoo advert

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m just about to finish the fourth part of The Left Hand of God trilogy called The White Devil. The first three books deal with the violent life of precociously cunning but psychologically damaged fifteen year-old Thomas Cale as he slips back and forth over the line between good and evil and the thousand shades of grey in between. The fourth book sees him twenty years later having been blackmailed into assassinating John of Boston, a character who is part JFK and part Abe Lincoln.

Thanks very much Paul. 

Scorn by Paul Hoffman is published 7th September by Red Opera, £7.99 in paperback

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Death in Dulwich – Q and A with Alice Castle – BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to welcome Alice Castle to acrimereadersblog. Alice is the author of Death in Dulwich, which I was lucky enough to read on a recent train journey down to London.

Death in Dulwich introduces us to single mum Beth. She has recently got a job as an archivist in a local school. However her first day doesn’t really go to plan when she discovers the body of her boss. Obviously Beth is one of the first to be a suspect so she sets out to clear her name.

Thanks for joining me Alice. I enjoyed Death in Dulwich, and thought the character of Beth was great. Did your writing skills come naturally or did you have to attend courses to help you develop that creative side?
I’ve always loved to write. When I was about ten I started my first magazine, Good Mousekeeping. By the age of eighteen I had a holiday job on Woman’s Own. My first newspaper article was published in the Sunday Telegraph when I was twenty. When I left university, I started work on various newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, and The Times. I worked on The Daily Express as a feature writer for six years, then moved to Brussels and worked on both the English language magazines there, The Bulletin and Away. Brussels inspired my first novel, Hot Chocolate, which was initially published in German. Then when I returned to the UK I started editing and writing for the European Commission and then eventually produced Death in Dulwich.

Good Mousekeeping sounds a great read! What books/authors inspired your writing journey?
The first book I fell in love with was The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis but I loved everything by E Nesbitt, Nancy Mitford, and P G Wodehouse, then progressed to crime via Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, P D James, and Ruth Rendell. There’s nothing nicer than discovering that an author I click with has written a whole series for me to devour. I do read more hard-boiled crime, like Jo Nesbo and Patricia Cornwell, but I have a special place in my heart for cozy crime, where the puzzle is more important than blood on the carpet – or walls.

Do you have any writing rituals? What are they?
I always write first thing in the morning, even though I’m not really a morning person. I write at least a thousand words a day if I’ve got a book on the go. Sometimes that can be done in a flash, sometimes it can take hours. If I’m at the editing stage, I do as much as I can bear!

If you could have written any literary character, who would it be and why?
Oh, I’d love to have written Elizabeth Bennett. She’s a wonderful heroine whose firecracker spirit has resonated down the years and inspired so many other writers and film makers. She grows so much during the course of the novel and her scenes with Darcy are some of the finest and most complicated prose I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Within your genre, is there a subject that you would never write about? What? Why?
I don’t think I would ever dip my toe into writing about really sadistic killings. I just don’t enjoy reading about torture, and I think I would hate writing it too – though of course a simple stabbing is absolutely fine!

Thanks very much Alice. Death in Dulwich is out now:

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