Hannah reviews Emlyn and the Gremlin by Steff F. Kneff


I love quality children’s literature. Books for children, in my opinion, require all of the elements necessary in producing a good book for any other age group (a plotline! characters!), but also: whimsical rhymes, eye-catching illustrations, and maybe maybe maybe a gentle nudge in some moral direction.

Steff F. Kneff’s Emlyn and the Gremlin has 2.5/3 of these things, making for a pretty quality read. Emlyn is a little girl with two mothers – but, as the title shows, her parents’ relationship isn’t central to the plot. A very tiny gremlin is. The story begins with Emlyn convinced that a nasty gremlin is stealing and breaking all her shiny things – but she’ll find out, in a gentle way, that maybe she shouldn’t have judged the gremlin before meeting her.

I liked the rhyming, the storyline, and the addition of Emlyn’s dog Moose (cute!). I loved that Emlyn’s two moms weren’t scrutinized or “explained”. Emlyn’s prejudgments about the gremlin could obviously be linked to Emlyn’s parents, of course, but Kneff thankfully took a more nuanced route.

The illustrations could perhaps be improved upon. The characters look vaguely reminiscent of manga characters, and I’m not sure the style quite fits with most current children’s literature. Still, children may very well take to the brightly-colored pictures regardless, and the story is good enough that it shouldn’t be passed up.

Hannah reviews Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters


I’m ashamed to say that Tipping the Velvet is my first Sarah Waters read, but pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint.

Taking place in Victorian England, Tipping the Velvet is a mix of the coming-of-age and coming-out genres; its themes (if I am to reduce a twist-filled tale to such banalities) include leaving home, self-acceptance, and not giving time to people who can’t accept you (and themselves).

What is most memorable, though, is Sarah Waters’s writing. You can always tell a good writer by her food descriptions. Nan starts off as an oyster girl, and wonderful paragraphs are devoted to the texture of their shells, the dirt they leave beneath Nan’s fingernails when she cracks them, and, of course, their taste. I, personally, don’t like oysters, but when Waters describes Nan’s luxurious enjoyment of them, it leaves me craving her version of oysters. Likewise, the first time Nan sees the performer Miss Kitty Butler on stage, the scene is electric. I could literally feel Miss Kitty’s magnetism, and felt just as compelled as Nan to learn more about her.

The book, particularly around the third quarter, becomes much darker than Nan’s initial, sheltered life as an oyster girl. Sex work is discussed openly, and it’s nothing less than depressing. In fact, at times Nan’s situation becomes so dire that I doubted the book’s ability to redeem itself. [spoilers follow] I expected a sad ending; I was pleasantly surprised.

While Nan’s life sinks very, very low, the resolution would not be so satisfying if it didn’t. And, ignoring her darkest hour, this novel is full of scrumptious, sensual depictions of food, fame, clothes, and the stage.

Hannah reviews Mermaid In Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea


This book is a gift to the world. As I read it I imagined wrapping it up in pretty colored paper and giving it to someone I love, to imagine them discovering it for the first time. Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is everything I’ve ever wanted from a Young Adult, “Chosen One” fantasy novel. I began this book looking for a light, summery mermaid read, and found something worth so much more.

Our protagonist, the realistic, sometimes-bratty-but-ultimately-good-hearted Sophie, is the daughter of a working single mother. Her mother is tired, burnt-out, and neglectful. Sophie feels unloved.

This was my favorite part of the novel, although it may seem depressing. I’ve never read a fantasy story featuring a neglectful parent before. Harry Potter has a nasty aunt and uncle and the Disney movie Tangled has an abusive mother – who is not, in fact, an actual mother at all. But in children’s fiction there is a dearth of children who are genuinely unloved or neglected by their biological parents but do amazing things anyway. The world needs these stories. We have an overabundance of dead parents in prose, but there’s always this assumption that these dead parents would have loved their children. Harry’s mother’s love reaches beyond the grave. And that’s a beautiful story, but it’s a story that many children can’t relate to. Give them something they can relate to, and then give them hope. Neglected children, too, get to be the Chosen Ones.

Onwards: I loved the fantasy elements mixed with stark realism. Sophie lives in a grubby city which contains a polluted creek. This creek is not only unimpressive, but thoroughly revolting. And yet it is here where the mermaid lurks, waiting to inform Sophie of her destiny.

The mermaid, herself, is perfectly magical, but she, too, is of this world: She’s from Poland, speaks accented English, and, what’s more, has a very foul mouth. A mermaid with a pirate mouth.

Another important setting is “the dump,” where Sophie discovers that a place filled with discarded items and heaps of broken glass is, just like the mermaid, enchanted: “The whole place was a mixture of sparkle and grit, sort of magical in an ordinary way…”

Throughout the novel the ordinary is made beautiful, the mundane and magical intertwined until the two become indistinguishable from one another. Reflecting this theme is the prose: Michelle Tea writes beautifully, but sometimes conversationally. Her characters, too, speak not like characters in a book but like real people. They curse and have accents and say ‘like’ too many times. This theme – the ordinary is deeply, profoundly beautiful – is reinforced by every aspect of the book.

Also, I know a lot of people don’t like pigeons, but I love them. Michelle Tea, too, has been fortunate enough to realize their beauty, and she writes about them in her book, putting them on the magical pedestal they deserve.

I saw on Amazon that a reviewer said this book would “have difficulty finding an audience.” This book includes American immigrants from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Poland; a lesbian mentor in the form of Angel; a girl with a single-parent household; and more. Sounds like Tea’s reached out to a pretty wide audience to me.

Also, teeny tiny side note: This book has no romantic lead. For a YA book, that is very, very rare. Plenty of YA authors need to insert a romantic subplot before their novels can be published. I was relieved and refreshed to see Sophie too busy with magic to be kissing mediocre thirteen year-old boys (or girls).

I hold this book close to my heart, now. I hope you will, too.

Hannah reviews I Can’t Think Straight by Shamim Sarif


First, let us acknowledge Shamim Sharif not only for her book, but for her book’s title. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m still amused by I Can’t Think Straight.

I Can’t Think Straight is written through the alternating viewpoints of British-Indian Leyla, an aspiring writer, and Palestinian Tala, four-times-engaged and quickly becoming a headache for her traditional Middle Eastern family.

Sharif’s book was made into a movie, and it’s easy to imagine why: the dialogue and characters contain certain cinematic elements – perhaps mostly due to their comedic moments. The ‘cast’ of the book is likewise cinematically large, with Tala especially having siblings and in-laws ad infinitum, but even the supporting characters are well-developed. I never had difficultly remembering who was whom, which is a general sign of good writing.

This book deals a lot with cultural differences and how those differences affect people’s views of Tala and Leyla’s love. Sharif clearly understands both cultures she writes about, as well as how Western and Eastern values clash. From clothes to attitudes regarding finances to casual Anti-Semitism, Sharif’s characters bring the reader into a complicated and diverse world. Enough is explained, in necessary circumstances, for a clueless reader to never be lost.

Generally I’m wary of books in which lesbian women need to accept themselves and come to terms for their sexual orientations. However, this book is always optimistic, never depressing, and Sharif can throw comedy even into the more dramatic moments. It’s a quick, easy read that left me smiling.

Hannah reviews The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer


The Dark Wife is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth involving Persephone and Hades. This myth is one of my favorites, so I picked up its reinterpretation eagerly. Diemer’s tale didn’t disappoint.

This book simply holds a solid, good story. The prose is immediately engrossing and full of similes which paint the ancient world Diemer depicts. The pacing is, perhaps, slow – but this isn’t intended to be a page-turning thriller. This is a kind of fanfiction, if you will, and it allows a lover of ancient myths to indulge herself for a time.

Diemer writes Hades as a woman in such a way that, while reading, I kept forgetting that the ‘actual’ Hades is male. After reading the book, I find Diemer’s characterization preferable. In addition, I appreciated that Diemer didn’t skim across the sexual assaults and crimes committed by the gods (especially one god…). Diemer isn’t an apologist and doesn’t try to make light of any of the darkness in these myths.

This is a wholesome retelling. My sole complaint is that the epilogue could have been longer, but this is hardly a bad thing! The Dark Wife comes fully recommended.

For anyone interested in another expansion (although not a retelling) of an Ancient Greek myth, try The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Hannah reviews Waiting for the Violins by Justine Saracen


I read Justine Saracen’s Waiting for the Violins because it’s chockfull of hearty elements that a make up a good tale: espionage, clever women, French poetry, and romance. Set during WW2, an English nurse, Antonia Forrester, is injured at Dunkirk. During her recovery, her past experience and French skills catch the attention of the British government, and she’s offered a position as a spy in occupied Brussels. She accepts. Meanwhile, Sandrine Toussaint, a Belgian, is working on a Resistance movement of her own.

The book starts immediately on a note of high action, and the excitement continues throughout. It delivers the essentials of an espionage story – full of the ploys, traps, and deceptions that are a pleasure for the reader to decipher. However, it’s also held back by its mediocre prose. The writing is never bad, certainly, but it is a tad stale. Saracen makes what feels like “newbie mistakes” in terms of the narrative. Most of the emotions are told rather than shown, and the point-of-view sometimes switches between omniscient and third person, particularly at the beginning of chapters, when an omniscient narrator will neatly outline the book’s current timeline to the reader before dropping the reader back inside a character’s head (i.e. “While Sandrine was doing this, Antonia was doing this. Antonia thought that…” In cases like this, the reader is apparently in Antonia’s head – but if that’s true, how could Antonia possibly know what Sandrine’s doing?).

There are some general faults in the pacing as well. Sometimes the twists – although ingenious and exciting – are delivered too quickly. On the other hand, Saracen has clearly done her research. The setting and era are woven into every page, and just as the characters’ lives revolve around the war and Resistance, the reader, too, is never permitted to forget that tragedies are taking place all across Europe.

My favorite part, of course, is the romance. A pet peeve of mine is when I can’t fully figure out why two characters would be attracted to one another in a romance story. It was no mystery with Sandrine and Antonia: they’re both brave, self-sacrificing, and very, very smart. Obviously they have chemistry. And in tune with their self-sacrificing natures, they’re also willing to set aside their passion when it’s more appropriate to acknowledge the darkness happening all around them. Not to say that they never get their moments.

So while Waiting for Violins isn’t a flawless book, it’s worth a read. If you like books about WW2 or spies, or simply like reading about incredibly clever and brave women, this is a story for you.

Hannah interviews Ke Payne

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British author Ke Payne has kindly agreed to answer some questions for this blog.

Ke Payne, can you introduce yourself in a few words/lines?

I’m a British YA lesbian author with Bold Strokes Books. I was born and grew up in Bath, in South West England, but now I live in chaotic bliss in the Cotswolds with my partner, one scruffy Jack Russell terrier and two not-so-scruffy guinea pigs.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

I remember reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at school, and it making quite an impression on me. While I had a sneaky feeling that I wouldn’t be visited by ghosts clad in clanking chains in the night if I was mean to someone, I was certainly struck by how important it is to treat everyone equally and with kindness. A book suggesting that one person can be shown the error of his ways, make him stop and think about which way his life is heading, then have a rethink and emerge a better person is as important today as when it was written 160 years ago.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

I’m a fan of Kate Morton, and love both the intricacies and Englishness of her novels. I like that her stories sway from the past to the present and back again, so that you can see how everything that happened in a character’s past influences everything about their present and, possibly, their future.

I wouldn’t say her writing influences me though. I’d love to be able to write something as complex as she does, but I can’t ever see that happening!

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

Sarah Waters is a firm favourite. Her descriptions of London – whether Victorian or Second World War – are so evocative I can almost imagine the smog and noise. I love the way she weaves a story, with its various twists and turns too. Even though I’ve read Fingersmith lots of times, I still really enjoy the twist in it.

I also love a good Gerri Hill novel which, on a long summer afternoon lazing in the garden, can be hard to put down.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to have four novels published so far with Bold Strokes Books: 365 Daysme@you.comAnother 365 Days and The Road to Her. I’ve just had my fifth, Because of Her, accepted too. That’s scheduled for some time in 2014, I believe.

Why do you write YA fiction?

I write YA because I can remember just how much a book written specifically for a teenager/young person affected me at that age, both positively and sometimes negatively. After I wrote 365 Days, I had lots of emails and letters from teenage readers telling me just how true to life it was, and how much it had helped them personally. I also got lots of correspondence from people in their twenties, thirties and forties telling me they wished they’d been able to read a book like it when they were a teenager and going through the same anxieties that Clemmie, the main character, was going through. As a writer, it’s immensely gratifying to know that something you’ve written might have helped someone, in whatever small way, realise that they’re not alone, and that there are others out there sharing the same worries and confusion.

What other YA authors do you enjoy reading?

Michael Morpurgo who wrote, amongst others, War Horse. I think it’s important not to patronise YA readers and not to write more simply just because your target audience happens to be teenagers and young adults. Michael Morpurgo does that perfectly.

What inspired you to write your first novel?

About five years ago I found an old diary of mine on a visit home. It was one from when I was struggling to work out who I was, and every day’s entry was more anxiety-ridden than the last. Even though it made me a bit sad reading it, remembering a time when I was confused about my sexuality and in love with a girl at school who didn’t even know I existed, it still made me laugh as I’d peppered it with humour as, presumably, that was the only way I could cope with things back then.

After reading my diary I knew I wanted to write something that showed that, although being a teenager can be fraught with angst and unrequited love, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and that it’s important to find the funny in the most unfunny of situations. 365 Days was borne out of that, written as a diary, about a girl who, to all intents and purposes, is probably me…

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

That’s a tricky question. I classify lesbian fiction as being fiction written exclusively for lesbians, so I would say I write novels where lesbians are the main characters. The plot should be more than just the fact they are lesbians – the fact that they are is secondary (and a bonus!) The main point is that each character is just trying to go about their lives, but inevitably a girl catches their eye and confuses things.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this kind of novel?

No. I started life as a short story writer for UK women’s magazines but when a friend leant me some Gerri Hill books, I immediately realised that I wanted to write the kind of books that I would rather read myself.

I still write short stories (under a pseudonym) as they help pay the bills, but it’s writing YA novels that I enjoy the most.

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

Definitely. 365 Days and its sequel, Another 365 Days are as British as afternoon tea and biscuits. My humour, too, is very British, and not everyone gets it. As I’m published by a US publisher, they do sometimes ask me to write things that are more universally understood, especially when it comes to brand names which could be exclusively British. Of course, I’m always more than happy to do that. However, I do still read comments from reviewers who complain that they can’t understand my English “slang”, and that, for them, it ruins the book.

Whilst that’s disappointing, it’s still slightly better than the comments I receive complaining about my “English mistakes”, when what they mean is “non-American English”. I guess you can’t please all the people all the time, can you?

How did you conceive the plot for The Road to Her?

My favourite British soap recently had a lesbian storyline, which was a first for that particular soap. It got me thinking: how would the two actresses playing these characters react if their on-screen chemistry spilled over into real life?

So I wrote The Road to Her, where my two main characters are well-known soap actresses who fall in love on screen, only to start to fall for each other off screen too. I wanted to know what they would do. Would they just see it as blurring fiction with real life, and ignore it, or would they act on those feelings? Maybe their careers would be more important to them? Or maybe they’re both just confused. So many questions needing so many answers…

Do you draw your inspiration for your main characters from real life? Or do you totally invent them?

They’re mostly figments of my imagination. However, there is a lovely character in me@you.com called Joey who might just be a little bit like my partner.

Do you have a favourite character? Which one and why?

I’ll always be very fond of Clemmie Atkins from 365 Days and Another 365 Days, possibly because she was my first ever character but more probably because she’s a total klutz and I love her for it.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

As I mentioned earlier, I recently found out that I’ve had another novel accepted for publication in 2014, so I’m really excited about that. It’s calledBecause of Her and features a main character called Tabby Morton whose life is turned upside down when she has to move to London when her father is headhunted by a major finance company. She’s enrolled in an exclusive school in the hope that it’ll finally make a lady of her, but she hates it. It’s only when the kind and lovely Eden Palmer walks into her classroom one day and catches her eye, that Tabby begins to think that life in London’s not so bad after all.

I’m also currently halfway through writing a sixth novel, provisionally titled Once The Clouds Have Gone, about a girl who has to return home after many years when father dies and she inherits his business. It’s another YA romance, so of course there’s a stunning girl waiting in the wings to stir things up a bit…

Thank you Ke for your availability and your time!

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Hannah reviews Snowbound by Cari Hunter


Whether it is the author’s exceptional writing talent, the fact that we have had an uncommonly snowy winter, or a combination of both, but when I started reading Snowbound by Cari Hunter I was immediately drawn into the atmosphere and the plot.

Snowbound is set in the fictional English village of Birchenlow, in the Peak District during a heavy snow storm. Police Officer Sam Lucas and her partner Mac are called on the scene of a robbery. The burglary turns sour, Sam is injured and taken hostage in the middle of nowhere.

When one of the criminals calls and asks for help lest his younger brother might die, Dr. Kate Myles volunteers to go and assist him as well as Sam in the cold and isolated barn where the latter is held captive by the increasingly desperate and dangerous pair.

I do not want to spoil the story for you; suffice is to say that the two women connect in a way they had not anticipated. Sam is still bruised by her former relationship while Kate never seemed to have envisaged that there was more to life than her job and her cat.

I thoroughly enjoyed Snowbound. The novel is fast-paced and well-written. The characters feel real and true-to-life, the kind of women we might actually run into.

[Originally posted at Isabelle’s blog]

Hannah intereviews Cari Hunter


Cari Hunter, author of Snowbound, has kindly agreed to answer some questions for this blog.

Cari Hunter, can you introduce yourself in a few words/lines?

I live near Manchester in north-west England with my partner and two cats. I’ve been a paramedic for eleven years and, more recently, an author with Bold Strokes Books. I like hiking, baking, running, writing, catching up on sleep, and frogs – though not necessarily in that order and certainly not at the same time.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

Growing up, I read voraciously. Sending me to my room as a punishment never worked, as that was where all my books were. Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword shaped a lot of my summer holiday playtime, then later I developed a big crush on Nancy Drew. And if anyone knows the twist at the end of The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler you’ll understand why that was another one of my favourites.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

I’m a fan of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, the first three of which are my regular comfort rereads. More recently, I’ve raced my way through all of Karin Slaughter’s novels. Occasionally her plots are a little shaky, but her character development and story arcs just keep you coming back. She’s also very funny, which is unexpected given the gruesome nature of her themes. Last year, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein stopped me in my tracks and then broke my heart. It’s a long time since a book has done that to me and I’ll recommend it to anyone and everyone till I’m blue in the face. I’m not sure about these authors influencing me, but I’d love to be half as good as them.

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

I’ve only recently got back into reading ‘LesFic’ – the local lesbian book shop closed its doors a few years ago and I fell out of the habit of keeping up with new releases. Sarah Dreher was my first LesFic experience and remains one of my favourite authors. I love her snappy dialogue, her sense of humour and her supporting characters. There’s a real nostalgia to picking up her books these days, which also adds to their charm.

How many books have you written so far? Have you written anything else?

I’ve had two novels published with BSB – Snowbound and Desolation Point – and my third, Tumbledown, is due out in 2014. I’m currently working on a new story; it’s not contracted at the moment, but I live in hope.

I wrote a whole series of fan fiction for the Terminator TV show (Sarah Connor and I have a long-abiding love affair) plus some shorter pieces for Rizzoli & Isles, which is a crappy show but very fun to fic. I haven’t written any fanfic for a while, but it makes for a nice change of pace so I’ll almost certainly get back to it at some point.

What inspired you to write your first novel?

It’s more “who” than “what”: my partner. She wanted a story for Christmas, so I set about writing Snowbound for her. I never imagined it would turn out to be a novel; it was certainly never conceived as such, which explains its rather unconventional structure. Unfortunately for my partner, once I got the writing bug I went off on a tangent and ended up writing a couple of novels’ worth of Sarah Connor fic while she waited for her Christmas present. I did buy her something in the meantime though – I’m not a total cheapskate.

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

I would say I write lesbian fiction. There are tropes and conventions in the genre that I think Snowbound and Desolation Point make use of. Even though Snowbound wasn’t written for publication, I knew of BSB and LesFic in general and I’d read a lot of online fic, so their influence was there in the background.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this kind of novel?

With Snowbound, I knew what kind of story I wanted to write, but I genuinely wrote it for an audience of one, hence setting it close to home (no research necessary!) and focussing on a medical scenario (not much research necessary). It was only after BSB contracted it that I thought, “Bugger, better go and check some of this stuff out.”

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

It definitely makes a difference. Snowbound wears its Englishness on its sleeve. It’s set just down the road from me and it’s chockfull of northern colloquialisms, cups of tea and local foodstuffs. Its police are armed with nothing but batons and a sense of humour, and the plot revolves around that good old-fashioned British obsession: a spell of terrible weather. When I sent it to an American publisher, I was sure it would be rejected for being too damn English, but they wanted it and they kept it exactly as it was, and I love them very much for that.

Desolation Point is a different kettle of fish in that it takes place in the USA, but I knew I wanted to play with the UK/US cultural divide and I had already chosen a mixed pairing for my central characters. While Alex is from Boston, Sarah’s from up here near Manchester, so I could still write a story where someone got to say “bloody hell-fire” and “bollocks”, which suits me just fine.

How did you conceive the plot for Desolation Point?

To be honest, I pinched its main premise from one of my own fics. In my fic, someone runs the lead characters off the road and then spends the night hunting them down. At its most basic level, Desolation Point grew out of that. I had the initial parallel scenes – Alex’s assault and Sarah’s car crash – buzzing around in my head when I was finishing the edits on Snowbound, so I had a good idea of what was going to shape the characters. At first I thought about having a flood trap Sarah and Alex in the park, but I couldn’t make that work, so I sent Sarah up a mountain instead, set the storm against her and then had her stumbling across the main villain, which established the chase element. I had the main beats of the plot sketched out from the beginning, but I’m useless at sticking to a plan, so things remained very fluid throughout.

Did you draw your inspiration for the main characters in Desolation Point from real life? Or did you totally invent them?

I invented them from scratch, but there are odds and sods in the dialogue or descriptions that have come from walks my partner and I have done. We play the “I love my love with an A…” game when we’re knackered and trying to get back home. Sarah talks a lot like me and I too have to drink my tea while it’s hot enough to burn my throat, but otherwise she’s her own character.

In both Snowbound and Desolation Point the setting seems to be an integral part of the story. Could they have been set in another environment? Why did you choose the US as the setting for your second novel?


I regularly walk in the Peak District, which meant I could describe it with confidence in Snowbound. Also, I doubt there are many LesFics set there, so the story has the advantage of novelty in its location as well as in its vernacular dialogue and general Englishness. It was staunchly northern English as well – I’m a proud northerner – and setting it elsewhere would necessarily have diminished that, which would have been a shame.


I have no personal attachment to the North Cascades but, having spent a year working on Desolation Point, I couldn’t envision that being relocated either. The title would have to be changed, for a start, and I’m rubbish with titles. I’ve never been to that particular part of the States, but I did so much research trying to get everything right that I think I could find my way up Desolation Peak blindfolded!

I agonised about Desolation Point’s location before starting it. I didn’t want people to assume I’d chosen America just to broaden my audience (BSB’s readership is primarily American); in fact, I wondered whether I was shooting myself in the foot by not sticking to the English setting from which a lot of Snowbound’s appeal stemmed. Ultimately, though, I needed a couple of things to make the plot in Desolation Point work: one of my lead characters had to be proficient with a gun, and the location had to be expansive enough to get my central pair well and truly lost. I considered the Scottish Highlands and the Peak and Lake Districts over here but they just weren’t remote enough, so I decided to move things across the pond. That also solved the gun problem – as an American ex-police officer, Alex would know her way around a firearm.

Some readers might be a bit put off by the violence displayed in both books. Why did you think it was necessary to include details and descriptions?

Both stories have involved some genuinely nasty characters and I really do believe that if you’re going to have violence in your plot then it should hurt and it should have consequences. I suspect a lot of that stems from my day job, where I see the effects of brutality and trauma on an all-too regular basis. I’ve always tried to write realistically; the women in my novels are not super-humans, just normal people who get caught up in horrific circumstances, and they do things to survive that they’d never imagined themselves doing. If they get hurt, it takes them a while to get up again; and – because I don’t want to write cartoonish, toothless villains either – they do tend to get hurt. I never want to make the violence gratuitous, but nor do I want to shy away from the details or the after-effects. I hate books where a character gets assaulted in one scene and shows no sign of it in the next; anyone who writes like that has never sat opposite an assault victim and listened to them cry or tried to stop them bleeding.

I hope there’s enough humour and lighter moments scattered through the books to counteract their more brutal aspects, though I appreciate that the violence may be too strong for some people’s taste.

Between Snowbound and Desolation Point do you have a favourite character? Which one and why?

Oh, that’s a difficult one! I do have a bit of a soft spot for Sarah. She comes into her own in the latter stages of Desolation Point and she was a real darling to write. Having said that, most of the fun came from having her bounce off Alex, so they sort of come in a pair. Can I have them both? I’m having them both.

How has Desolation Point been welcomed so far?

So far, so good. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and a fair few people telling me they’re looking forward to the sequel, which is a relief! It’s still early days and I know it’s inevitable that there are folks who won’t like it, possibly for some of the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but the majority of people I’ve heard from seem to have enjoyed the heck out of it.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

I finished Tumbledown, the follow-up to Desolation Point, in the year between Snowbound and Desolation Point’s publication dates. It’s my first shot at an all-out twisty thriller and is earmarked for release in 2014. Until the edits for that come back, I’m working on a new story set in England (in the Peak District, again) which is a sort of thriller-mystery in which the two main characters are long-time friends and occasional lovers. I thought it’d be interesting to explore an established friendship rather than the stereotypical two strangers falling rapidly in love. At the moment, its working title (courtesy of my partner) is Aye Up: It’s a New Story! and I have no idea whether it’ll ever reach publication. I’ve got about another 60,000 words before I start worrying about that!

Thank you Cari for your availability and your time!

NB: Both novels have e-book Kindle editions


Hannah reviews Aftermath and Jericho by Ann Mcman

If you’ve enjoyed DustSidecar and most of all Jericho,  you will be pleased to know that Ann McMan has done it again by publishing Aftermath in November of last year.
Even though the introduction asserts that it not a sequel to Jericho, I’d still recommend reading it first. Aftermath picks up eighteen months after Jericho ended, just as a tornado is about to hit the little town where our heroines Syd and Maddie now live together with little Henry whose Dad is still in Afghanistan.
Jericho had a single plot – two women meet by chance; a friendship develops so when friendship turns into love both women need to confront their own fears and anxieties; love finally triumphs. It seems simple but the result was a lovely and delightful feel-good novel.
Aftermath however is a novel of plots – because of the tornado, David and Michael are out-of-work; Syd’s husband contests the divorce; Henry’s father has been badly injured and will soon be discharged from the army; Roma Jean wonders whether she has fallen in love…
When I read Jericho, and Dust, I fell in love with Ann McMan’s character development and witty style.  Reading Aftermath, I was a little disappointed as I did not find she was so successful. Maybe it is because I love to be told a single story (even if sub-plots are welcome) and I found that this was lacking in her latest novel.
Judging from Amazon’s reader reviews however, I am more an exception than the norm. Moreover this mixed review should not deter you from reading Ann McMan’s other novels and keep an eye on what she has in store for the future.

Looking for inspiration and new ideas last year, I googled a few key words and came across raving reviews of Jericho by Ann McMan.

I had never heard of the author but the comments on Amazon and Goodreads made me want to read it. Thanks to the Kindle app on the iPad, I was able to read a sample of the book and got hooked immediately. I purchased the whole book and read on. I went on until I could no longer keep my eyes open; something which incidentally had not happened to me since I first read Pride and Prejudice during my college years.

Jericho is a romantic story between two women, Maddie and Syd, set in rural Virginia. Syd (Margaret) Murphy is relocating to Jericho where she has an eighteen-month contract to set up and run a new library while Maddie has moved back there to take over her deceased father’s medical practice.

Syd is running away from a failed marriage and has no precise plans about her future. Falling in love with a woman is certainly not on her agenda. Yet this is what happens. The two women meet by chance, a friendship develops but when friendship turns into love, both women need to confront their own fears and anxieties.

Jericho is an exciting début novel with unforgettable main characters and a fine cast of supporting characters. It is wonderfully written: the vocabulary is subtle and precise, the tone playful and the dialogues are well-crafted. It is also packed with literary and musical references as well as evocations of mouth-watering meals and good wines.

I strongly recommend this refreshing and delightful novel.