#booktrailadvent Melissa Hill brings the sparkle!

Melissa Hill celebrates Christmas on the booktrail!

MElissa-Hill

Melissa Hill, author extraordinaire has returned to the booktrail to talk about the magic of Christmas and the sparkle that this season can bring.
DIAMOND

And I’ve just read her latest book which celebrates everything to recreate the perfect snowy magical atmosphere at Christmas – a nice wedding in Central Park in Snowy New York with the twinkly lights, the promise of true love and a sparkling Tiffany diamond to light up the magic factor.

So I wanted to ask her more about what Christmas means to her and why this time of year is so special…

Apart from a diamond, what else do you think is a girl’s best friend?

This book is dedicated to the memory of my beloved pet dog Homer, who died while I was writing it. He was fifteen years old and was with me throughout so many highs and lows. As I mentioned in the dedication he was my best friend, better than any diamond, and I still miss him desperately.

 Homermelissa

Two stories – those of Rachel and Gary and then Ethan and Terri intertwine with unexpected results. Two very different stories. Which was the most fun to write?

Garys and Rachels – purely because Gary is such a love/hate character! Like many Irish men, he puts up this macho front which is why hes so difficult for Rachel to read, and he finds it difficult to express his feelings, but is ultimately a softie inside.

 christmassunsetmelissa

Where is your special place at Christmas and why?

Somewhat untraditional really, but my family and I have spent our last three Christmases at a beach house on the Gulf Coast in Florida and its incredibly beautiful and relaxing there.

Stunning Christmas Eve sunsets, followed by celebratory drinks by the pool, then walks on the powder-white sandy beach on Christmas morning alongside the local dolphin family, followed by Christmas dinner on the terrace beneath blue skies and palm trees. Again, quite untraditional but very definitely jolly!

 blog-boathouse500

Life should be fun of sparkle you say on the cover. Which sparkling restaurant or unusual place in New York would you recommend readers visit to capture the spirit of your book?

I adore the Central Park Boathouse, where Gary and Rachels wedding takes place in the book. It sits right in the heart of that gloriously green space with Manhattans breath-taking skyline all around. In summer the front of the restaurant opens up to a wonderfully romantic view right across the water and people (usually couples) rowing boats on the lake. Its the perfect location to celebrate a special occasion and to my mind, theres really nowhere better to capture the true magic of the city.

With many thanks to Melissa for a perusal and use of her lovely photo album of happy and poignant memories. And the cake with diamond frosting we enjoyed was a lovely touch!

Send some sparkle to Melissa via :

Twitter: @melissahillbks

Facebook: /melissahillbooks

Web: melissahill.info/

New York 1848 – The Fatal Flame – Lyndsay Faye

Fatal flame

Why a booktrail?

1848 – New York has always been the city that never sleeps but in 1848 it didn’t even have a chance – the violence and the fires kept everyone awake…

Story

New York in 1848 was a dangerous dark place to be. The notorious Five Points a pivotal part of 1840’s New York and the birth of its Copper Stars are once again the scene of dramatic intrigue and this time…arson

Copper star Timothy Wilde hates fire more than most since his family was killed in one and gave him a permanent scar. But this latest case sees him looking right into the heart of the flame – fires re being started ion the streets of the city for some kind of revenge and Wilde has to find out why quickly before the entire city goes up in flames.

It’s not going to be easy though – there is a lot to stoke the fires – stories of Revenge, murder and blackmail as well as past events from the first two novels in the series.

The Fatal Flame is a hotbed of explosive situations..

Place and setting

Five Points/The Tombs The Tombs - The Five points was the area around the areas of Civic Center and Chinatown. It occupied a full block, surrounded by Centre, Franklin Street, Elm -today's Lafayette, and Leonard Street. Today the Manhattan Detention center is there in White Street. Pell Street The site of the first fire The orphanage The orphanage - The Catholic Orphan Asylum is at the corner of Prince and Mott Street. The famous Bowery is said to be two blocks east. Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street made up the area known as the Burnt District. This was where the textile manfacturing was centered. Cedar Street is about two blocks to the right.  Elizabeth Street The home of Detective Timothy Wilde  Thomas Street The home of Sally Woods Queen Mabs The brothel was located on the corner of Rose Street and Frankfort
Five Points/The Tombs
The Tombs – The Five points was the area around the areas of Civic Center and Chinatown. It occupied a full block, surrounded by Centre, Franklin Street, Elm -today’s Lafayette, and Leonard Street. Today the Manhattan Detention center is there in White Street.
Pell Street
The site of the first fire
The orphanage
The orphanage – The Catholic Orphan Asylum is at the corner of Prince and Mott Street. The famous Bowery is said to be two blocks east.
Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street made up the area known as the Burnt District. This was where the textile manfacturing was centered. Cedar Street is about two blocks to the right.
Elizabeth Street The home of Detective Timothy Wilde
Thomas Street The home of Sally Woods Queen Mabs The brothel was located on the corner of Rose Street and Frankfort

This the city that never sleeps – just as well as it certainly needs to keep at least one eye open as an arsonist seems to be on a rampage around the city torching it at will.

New York policing and politics

The peculiarities of mid-19th century NYC politics and the formation of the New York police force are recreated vividly as are the workings of Tammany Hall – the Democratic political machine that dominated NYC politics at the time. Those fighting for high office did just that – fight – and the ‘war’ between them and the people, the police, was dirty, tiring and a battle of wills. Piest for example is described –

“as honest as the frayed cuffs on his frock coat”

Timothy Wilde however is the man to bring the copper stars, the Five Points, the Tomb and the struggle of police officers in such a desperate city to life. With the use of the Flash language, that used by criminals at the time and documented by the chief of police George Matsell, this is a history lesson which fully submerges you in time and place.

New York city 1848..

Newspaper snippets, political documents, and words from various sources open up each chapter giving an insight into the mood, opinion and politics of the time. In the following chapter a window opens up on women’s rights, the subject of mental health and the frightening truth that someone is lighting fires across the city and many people are dying whilst others are in danger.

This is a city of character  and it’s a character in its own right – the neighbourhoods, the brothels (mab houses) and manufacturing factories are full of noise, sweat, toil and dirt. Pigs wander the streets munching on anything they find. The tenements and the living conditions of people are symbols of various degrees of poverty -women especially have a raw deal and are constantly under the control of men, wild characters with no regard for their health and safety. Working conditions, if that’s what they can be described as, are not worth the paper they are written on.

Women in the city

Women worked as sewing girls in the Bowery or on the streets and the men who run these places are nasty characters with no morals. Life is one long, harsh struggle for almost everyone and particularly the case  if you’re female, Irish or coloured. Working conditions for seamstresses  – those enough lucky enough not to be forced into prostitution – were inexistant and conditions unregulated,wages minimal.

Review

This is exactly the kind of book to read if you love to fully immerse yourself into time and place. The level of research that Lyndsay Faye must have done to get such small details as authentic as they come is staggering and despite not knowing much at all about New York history before reading all three of her novels, I feel as if I’ve learned more via her books than any history lesson could have taught me. This books is akin to no ordinarily history lesson however – oh no – but rather like stepping into the past and wandering around the streets, with the odeur of dirt in your nose, the muck on your feet and the fear on the back of your neck.

How fascinating are the early years of the Copper Stars, the growth of the police force, the birth of Flash, the figure of George Matsell. Oh and my new friends –  Jim, Mercy, Symmes, Piest, Sally, Dunly, Mrs. Grimshaw, Tim and Val. Please don’t let this be the last in the series, I’m going to miss you all too much.

This needs to be on the big screen right now.

Susan Booktrailer

Church of Marvels – Coney Island, NYC – Leslie Parry

church of marvesls

Why a booktrail?

Roll up roll up for what you are about to see will surprise you, shock you and never leave your mind. Are you ready to enter the Church of Marvels…..well, are you?

Story in a nutshell

New York, 1895. The Church of Marvels

The Church of Marvels can be a dangerous place to be. Owned by Friendship Willingbird Church, her two daughters Odile and Belle performed every night. Belle the star of the show as ‘the shape shifter’ and Odile ‘the girl on the wheel’. But now their dreams as well as the sideshow lie in ashes, razed tp the ground. Their mother dead and Belle missing.

Over the water, in Blackwell’s lunatic asylum, Alphie wakes up groggy and confused. How did she get here and why isn’t her husband demanding her release? And just who is that strange girl in the corner who refuses to speak?

Back in the ashes of Coney Island, a young man, Sylvan Threadgill works as a privy cleaner. One night he comes across an abandoned new born baby. Since he is an orphan himself, he takes the baby under his wing and vows to track down its mother.

One night, a lot can happen in the Church of Marvels and a great deal more can happen as a result….

Place and setting

Coney island Where the church of Marvels once stood Black well’s island (Roosevelt island) Located in the East River, Blackwell's Island was renamed Welfare Island in 1921 and Roosevelt Island in 1973. There has been a prison, an insane asylum and hospitals here. and is where we meet Alphine Broome street Where Sylvan finds the baby Ludlow street Sylvan’s home Doyers Street Searching for Belle takes the trail here Orchard and Broome (91 orchard) A significant spot in the novel
Coney Island
Where the church of Marvels once stood
Blackwell’s Island (Roosevelt island)
Located in the East River, Blackwell’s Island was renamed Welfare Island in 1921 and Roosevelt Island in 1973. There has been a prison, an insane asylum and hospitals here. and is where we meet Alphine
Broome street
Where Sylvan finds the baby
Ludlow street
Sylvan’s home
Doyers Street
Searching for Belle takes the trail here
Orchard and Broome (91 orchard)
A significant spot in the novel

Roll up roll up for Turn of the century New York city is the real star of the show. There’s a lot to see here –  a whole host of diverse and fascinating characters, performers in a sideshow, animals, a shape shifter, Georgette, with her extra set of legs; Aldovar, half man/half woman and Leland the “dwarf.”

Coney Island is the place to be – you’ll see the world go by by standing on Coney island.  A place of fun and amusement but dark deeds as we venture behind the glittering facade into the depths of New York City….

From the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded, dirty side streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular sideshow to a desolate asylum, this night will link three very different people together for life. And the animals too, don’t forget these creatures –

“Wherever they glittered in the afterlife – flying among the high rafters of heaven, swimming with her mother in an undersea cave – she hoped the tigers had known it, and roared.”

From Broome Street to Ludlow street –  When Sylvan finds the baby, he takes her home and tries to find the mother,a  journey which takes him into the darkest corners of the city.

The island – This is no time to be a woman for one – Belle is missing, gone on the run into Manhattan and another is imprisoned in an asylum on Blackwell island. Now renamed Roosevelt island, this was the site of the first asyulm in New York. The scenes here are shocking and raw. The treatment of those incarcerated will chill you as it did us. All the more shocking if based on true fact or even just research.

‘The heady stench – horseshit and roasting chestnuts and trash barrels pulsing with maggots.”

Meanwhile, Belle, escapes into the bowels of Manhattan. this is no world for a woman and least of all one trying to escape her past. The trail takes her to many places around Manhattan  – Doyers Street or maybe the weaver on  Cherry Street can help?

These three characters will show you sides of New York that you have never seen before and will never see again. Their world is vibrant yet solemn, colourful and yet dark but utterly compelling.

“For I’ve found that here in this city, the lights burn ever brighter, but they cast the darkest shadows.”

Bookish musings

Loved this! So evocative of a time and place gone by but a fascinating one that you might not want to go to for real for what you might see, but where you will end up anyway when the magic of Coney Island hits you.

The stories which wove in and out of the side streets, the islands and the nooks and crannies of this fascinating place were a real mix which painted and illuminated a picture of New York in times past. a time where you could do and be anything unless if you were a woman it would seem. The scenes in the asylum were difficult to read and very emotional but they provide a shockingly accurate account of what went on.

Not sure what I liked best – story, characters or setting. Spoilt for choice – like being in a real Church of Marvels, I didn’t know where to look first and was captivated until I left.  A literary visit which will linger for a long while to come.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Coney Island, New York – Alice Hoffman

the-museum-of-extraordinary-things-9781471112157_hr

Why a booktrail?

Delve into the world of freak shows and magical illusions as we go back to the early days of Coney Island and the New York sites of magic, intrigue and murder…

Story in a nutshell

A story with magic in the air and freak shows in the side streets. Where a web fingered mermaid, Coralie, works in her father’s museum of extraordinary things collecting unusual artifacts and even stranger people to showcase to the masses.

With the public fascination for all things gothic, gruesome and fantastical, the museum grows but disaster is not far behind and Coralie wishes for something more.

At the same time, A jewish immigrant struggles to escape his past and explores the city’s underbelly as a photographer and later detective of sorts. He is skilled at finding the unexpected and delving into places of the city no one dares to go.

When he and the web fingered mermaid meet, theirs is a tale of the most strange and intriguing of all.

Place and setting

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire , Asch building The building was located at 23–29 Washington Place in Greenwich village neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s now part of NYC university and is known as the brown building. Manhattan - 10th Avenue/Amsterdam Avenue Known as Death avenue for the violence, deadly tram rides and the general sense of unease Hudson river Where Coralie loves to swim and where she feels her most free Central Park “Once a boggy area good only for goats and piggeries and later populated by squatters....had been made into an opulent playground for the residents of the residents of the luxurious town houses of the East Side” The Coney Island Dreamland fairground The site of the fair was located where the NYC Aquarium is now at the corner of Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street Huber’s Dime museum on East 14th street - http://showhistory.com/show-type/dime-museum This is a great site for seeing the magical and mystical side of New York! Known at the time for being a purveyor of the strange and unique
The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire , Asch building
The building was located at 23–29 Washington Place in Greenwich village neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s now part of NYC university and is known as the brown building.
Manhattan – 10th Avenue/Amsterdam Avenue
Known as Death avenue for the violence, deadly tram rides and the general sense of unease
Hudson river
Where Coralie loves to swim and where she feels her most free
Central Park
“Once a boggy area good only for goats and piggeries and later populated by squatters….had been made into an opulent playground for the residents of the residents of the luxurious town houses of the East Side”
The Coney Island Dreamland fairground
The site of the fair was located where the NYC Aquarium is now at the corner of Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street
Huber’s Dime museum on East 14th street – http://showhistory.com/show-type/dime-museum This is a great site for seeing the magical and mystical side of New York!
Known at the time for being a purveyor of the strange and unique

Coney Island 1911

The world of gothic horror, the freak shows, Wolfman and the conjoined twins which people flock to see,marvel and mock.

You would think it would be impossible to find anything new in the world, creatures no man has even seen before, one-of-a-kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous.

But it’s not as we delve straight in the world that Alice Hoffman has recreated with use of fiction and even more fantastical fact. Coney island 1911 – Two things happened that year in real life and this book weaves them in to a magical tapestry that is as fantastical and magical as the freak shows it describes that you may not think any of this could be true.

But then fact is often stranger than fiction

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire – Asch Building, Washington place

Eddie is the photographer who documents the horror of this night when so many people died. This was  real life disaster which shows the brutal conditions of the time when factory workers would lock workers inside to prevent them taking breaks.

The chaos and demand for greater safely stands and workers unions showed the scale of the disaster, the working conditions of the time and the busy chaotic and harsh working life in New York at that time.

In some ways,the museum of Extraordinary Things seemed much safer.

The Dreamland Amusement Park fire on Coney Island on May 27, 1911.

William H. Reynolds, a state senator at the time designed the park to compete with Luna Park  as entertainment in 1911, as Coralie and her father realise, is changing and people want different things.

This park was to be bigger and better than anything and would feature a a railway that ran through a Swiss alpine landscape, fake Venetian canals and a miniature world with dwarf inhabitants

The Museum of Extraordinary things

But its the world of the freak shows, of the circus acts and the strange people which the people of New York shunned in society but paid to look at in a show which sparkles, crackles off the page to the sound of the fair ground music in the background –

There before me were the treasures my father had collected over the years: the had with eight fingers, the human skull with horns, the preserved remains of a scarlet -colored bird called a spoonbill

Yet I knew that life spent inside a museum is not a life like any other

Coralie Sardie has live in this world of wonder and gothic horror and her father later makes her part of the exhibition herself. She joins the long list of acts from the conjoined twins, to the Wolfman who enjoys the wonders of Walt Whitman and Jane Eyre for the way in which the novel reflects his own feeling of being locked away and mocked by society. Such people have feelings and it’s heartbreaking to read how society made them into circus freaks to be mocked. How must it felt to have been cast aside and mocked because of a disability or deformity?

A world of wonder, magic and gothic curiosity abound.

Bookish musings

A love story with a very unique and fantastical background. One to marvel and exclaim at. There is so much in this novel that it is like being at a fair ground with your eyes darting left and right, something happening on the side lines, the wonder of not knowing what to expect.

A fantastical read and an even greater journey into Coney island and its many faces in 1911. What a world of exquisite detail Alice has created and how strange that some is true!

The story of Coralie and Eddie is the main thread but the story of the island and its entertainment – the museum, Coralie’s fate and the horror of how society treated some of its most vulnerable really is quite shocking.

The characters are extremely memorable and everyone from the wolfman to Mitts the dog is well rounded and full of life. Hermit Jacob Van De Beck is sly but extremely funny at times and his views on events is an eye opener!

A new world and a wholly immersive experience to marvel at!

Girls on Tour – Around the World – Nicola Doherty

girls on tour

Why a booktrail?

Formerly published at 5 e novellas, now you can literally travel the world with Poppy in Paris, Lily in LA, Maggie in Meribel, Rachel in Rome before heading off the to big apple.

Story in a nutshell 

Even if you’ve never met the four friends who have the most madcap adventures in far flung places around the world, here you can meet them all ‘ on tour’ for the celebrity travellers that they are. Set together in one volume, the journey almost seems like the most extravagant and mad cap adventure in the world.

Poppy, Lily, Maggie, and Rachel. Who will you want to be and where will you want to go? Well now you can now pick this perfect literary package tour. Holiday destinations and a fair few surprises and giggles along the way…

Place and setting

GIRLS-ON-TOUR

There should be a poster for this book – Girls on Tour – certainly reads like a tour and with that song ‘ Here come the girls’ ringing in our ears, this is the perfect moment to read this book.

Paris

Poppy’s off on a work trip to the city of romance. Ironic when she’s in one of her deepest dry spells. Oh and as soon as she arrives and steps off that metro at Odeon station, she sees the familiar Paris sights: the statue of Danton, broad boulevards with tall white buildings, Saint Suplice and the beautiful Jardins de Luxembourg. Oh but the two most iconic sites for a booktrailer are here too – The Shakespeare ad Company book shop and the nearby tea shop ‘ La Fourmi Ailee’ – literally translated as ‘ant with wings’. A very Parisian Jaunt around the city of love, but will it be love for Poppy?

Los Angeles

Lily in LA, where her dream role is ambushed by an all-American dreamboat. Oh the thrills and spills of the city of fame and fortune. Quirky funny observations where Hollywood boulevard reminds her of Bromley! From The treelined avenue of Abbot Kinney boulevard, this is a ride around Venice Beach and the wedding dress shops of the area. But with an American dreamboat not far behind…

Meribel

Maggie is in Meribel, where a romantic skiing holiday turns topsy-turvy.What’s there not to love with the soft white pure snow, hot chocolate, raclette, vin chaud…and plenty of eye candy too to enjoy on the slopes of the French alps

Rome

Ride a Vespa with Rachel in Rome, and follow her and her two besties around the city with history, culture and delectable men. It’s a culinary journey too for it made us want to eat olives, ice cream and sip cappuccinos although not at the same time!

Manhattan

What trip to New York would not want to recreate a little of the Sex and the City magic? Don’t be hungry when reading this for there are cocktails, pancakes and gorgeous treats galore. Oh and when the girls do Manhattan, they do Manhattan – from the tourist sites to the fun things that only girls on holiday can do. There’s a lot of fashion sights too and then Lily shares their real reason for being here..

Bookish musings

Well if you love travel, girlie holidays, thrills and spills of the unexpected, adventure and cocktails then you’re in for a fun ride! Such different characters and different settings for their quirky natures to come alive. Nice how the stories are interlinked and the friendships develop, I wanted to be the fifth girl on the tour to be honest. Thought we’d go to somewhere in Spain, Barcelona for example. Oooh I had it all planned out, the things we would do and the things we would see! I feel I know the girls well enough now to know what each one would like to do on their next jaunt away!

A lot of fun and dashing around the globe seeing each different lifestyles personality and adventures was a great literary trip. Interesting how the settings complimented the girls personalities too – and brought out such different behaviours. I had a song ‘ Girls on tour ‘ with a spice girl theme running in my mind all throughout these five picture postcards of literary jaunts and it made for a great soundtrack.

When you read something like this which could be a travelogue, love story, adventure and challenge to overcome troubles in your life all rolled into one, you just know you’re in for a great ride.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves – St Louis MO – Dave Lowry

Why a booktrail?

Well the title was enough to get us interested. Sounds fun and is set in St Louis Missouri which was a nice surprise.

Story in a Chinese Fortune cookie

Tucker loves to cook and his dream is to become a chef in a restaurant cooking ‘chinese food. He heads off to St Louis but on the way meets up with the intriguing Corinne Chang and agreeing to give her a lift to Buffalo in New York, they strike up one heck of a relationship and start to have the adventure of a lifetime.

Tucker and Corinne are two of a kind – he loves martial arts, speaks Mandarin and loves Chinese cooking and she is a gemologist from Montreal. will they have the skills and the ability to thwart the bad guys after diamonds, the FBI and a whole lot more?

Place and setting

map of usa showing locations in the Chinese cooking for diamond thieves
1. USA – New Hampshire – Beddingfield – Canal Street
Beddingfield College is fictitious but there’s a nice stroll to be had down by Israel river after having visited one of the cafes in town where Tucker may have worked once.
Tucker is his way to St. Louis, MO,
2. St Louis – Busch memorial stadium
Tucker is his way to St. Louis, MO. There used to be a chinatown downtown which was demolished for the building of the Busch memorial stadium in 1966 and no real chinatown has been replaced due to planning restrictions? The area of Hop Alley bounded by Seventh, Tenth, Walnut and Chestnut streets.
3.  St Louis – olive Boulevard
There are lots of restaurants and food stores up and along Olive Boulevard/Skinker Boulevard today
4. St Louis – Forest Park
Forest park is where shots are fired in the book and is also the site of the World’s fair pavilion
5. USA – New York – Buffalo – University Heights
Where Corinne needs a lift to (she works in Montreal, Canada) she stays with a friend who lives in the University Heights area

If you’ve ever wondered how diamond and Chinese cooking could be in the same story then look no further for this is quite a mix and is all brought together via a road trip like no other.

Having been kicked out of college in Beddingfield College in Lancaster, NH, Tucker is  his way to St. Louis, MO, when he picks up hitchhiker Corinne and offers her a ride to buffalo. Via this parents house in Lancaster MA, their road trip becomes one adventure after another  – all told via chapters headed with one of Tucker’s rules and words of wisdom which he uses to guide his actions along the way –

Rule #8: Hitting people is often bad, but if it’s necessary, it’s necessary to hit first–always.

Rule #19: Never pick up strangers at a highway rest stop unless they speak Mandarin.

Rule #94: When the rules don’t cover it, improvise.

The rules as well as the adventure are as wacky as they come and the  sense of adventure as the couple ride through one town after another and get through scraps and other more serious situations is like being there yourself. The camaraderie and chatter in the car is familiar and real. The suspicions and the involvement with the FBI intriguing and the sense that Tucker is a guy who survives on luck as well as his martial arts skills.

There are many worlds within this book – the sense of adventure, the tasty and aromatic world of Chinese cooking which Tucker is extremely passionate about and the world of martial arts. One minute cookery scenes to make you drool followed by action scenes makes for a very unique and brilliant read.

If you are fascinated by the workings of a Chinese kitchen, how the dishes are invented and prepared, how the chef hones his skills and how the food is much more than something you eat then pick up the chopsticks on the cover and tuck in.

Bookish musings 

Drool! I so need to eat Chinese food now. What a fun, often silly but never boring road trip and immersion into the world of Chinese cuisine. Ahh the rice, noodles and all that preparation. Who knew it was such an art form? and as for Tucker who is passionate about martial arts as well as theMandarin chinese language, then he is quite a character I never expected to meet. Corinne brings him friendship, adventure and trouble but all in all this makes for a fun read. A unique title, a quirky cover and  an adventurous read in every sense of the word!

Before We Met – London and New York – Lucie Whitehouse

before-we-metSet in London and New York –

Hannah sits at Heathrow airport waiting to welcome her husband of eight months, home from New York. But when he doesn’t show, she starts to worry. Particularly as she is unable to contact him. then the next flight arrives and he’s not on that either…

Now the griping premise of this book is making you think wht you would do in the exact same situation in which Hannah finds herself in. Where is her husband? Where has  he been, what has he been up to? And did she ever really know him?

Added to this is Hannah’s fear of turning into her mother – a woman who constantly snooped into her husbands affairs and who ultimately drive him away with her nagging. She is keen not to be at all like her so it takes her longer than most to start questioning things and voicing her concerns.

The tension builds before ending in an ending of the thriller variety and although I had guessed the end it was no less exciting to see it play out. Makes you think about your nearest and dearest and what you think you know…

This was quite the thriller as I really got into Hannah’s mindset and started to wonder just what on earth Mark was getting up to? She seem a bit too paranoid at times especially since she had only known him a short time but this still is a situation that we could find ourselves in so it was still scary and dark as I started to question my own life and surroundings. Yes it does make you paranoid but that is the sign of good writing getting into your head.  By visiting the streets and sights in the book, we got into the alleys and backstreets of Hannah’s search for the truth..

Booktrail through Hannah’s London – and New York…..

Sights of Before We Met in London
Sights of Before We Met in London

Caffe Nero in Parsons Green – see where Hannah took some time out to sit and think about what was going on

Quarrendon Street   – where she and Mark live a “quiet and unassuming life” or so we think…

Parsons Green tube – Hannah passes through here quite a lot

Manbre Road – where Mark’s company Data Pro is located.

As we leave Hannah at Heathrow waiting for Mark to show up…..we fly off to New York….

Locations in Before We Met -New York
Locations in Before We Met -New York

Hannah calls the W hotel near Wall street to try and find Mark – this is the location of the hotel where he always stay and when he’s not there, she starts to panic

Cobble Hill – well she might want to avoid this place as its where she and Mark meet Ant and Roisin at the place where they sell the amazing eggs with paprika and sourdough bread

Mulberry Street – Best to avoid this place Hannah – you had a date with Mark here – well it all seemed so plausible here didn’t it?

Westville – one of New York’s best places for hotdogs and Mark and Hannah both eat here and remember it well

So – which ever city you decide to visit – just be careful if you sit in Caffe Nero, Parsons Green or eat a hotdog at Westville’s New York – for if you meet a man called Mark, you might want to run for the hills…

Meet the author here – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucie-Whitehouse/206588889395112

The Italian Girl – Italy, New York and London – Lucinda Riley

22057035

Imagine yourself in a grand theatre near the canal in Naples, sitting in the darkened auditorium, scared to breath as you don’t want to break the silence of anticipation. What awaits you is a musical spectacle with some of the greatest performers of their age..

The curtain rises, you shiver with excitement..

What must it feel like for those performing right in front of so many expecting eyes, focused and just waiting to capture every single moment of the spectacular that unfolds..

Lucinda Riley allows us to go behind the curtain of the most glittering opera houses in Italy and those of Convent Garden and New York to meet two great performers whose story behind the scenes was as operatic if not more so than that on the stage..

Settings – Naples, the Metropolitan Opera house in New York and La Scala in Milan. (to name but a few)

Rosanna Menici is just a girl when she meets Roberto Rossini. She has dreams of becoming a great opera singer like him and her journey to becoming a singer with some of the greatest opera houses over the world is a journey paved with obstacles, hardships and an obsessive love. When they fall in love, that’s when Rosanna’s life really starts to play out as if on the stage itself.

Naples and the small narrow streets where Rosanna lives as a young girl
Naples and the small narrow streets where Rosanna lives as a young girl

Rosanna ‘s journey starts from her humble beginnings in the back streets of Naples – in the Piedigrotta. As she writes in her diary –

Walking down the Piedigrotta, it looked as though the residents were in state of perpetual celebration , with the different-coloured clothes on washing lines strung high above our heads.

The locations, as always with Lucinda’s books are stunning and evocative in every way by the sights, sounds, smells and the air around you. You are with Rosanna and her brother as she stands in the garden of a local singing teacher and performs hoping to catch his ear –

The found themselves on the corner of a gracious terrace decorated wit large clay pots filled with dusty-pink geraniums and deep-purple periwinkles.

From that moment, Rosanna’s career begins and as she performs in front of her unsuspecting family who haven’t known she has been having singing lessons, we are sitting in the audience willing her family to accept her –

As the last notes died away, there was silence from the audience. Rosanna stood in a trance as her mamma’s face, the face she had sung to for the past few minutes, disappeared. A storm of Rapturous applause broke in her ears..

What Rosanna would have seen when singing at La Scala
What Rosanna would have seen when singing at La Scala

The setting of the opera scene was not one that I had ever been immersed in before. I’m not an opera fan and have never even been to a performance but that didn’t matter reading this as now I feel as if I was right beside Rosanna every step of the way and that I felt the tension of what it meant to want to be on that stage so badly, and to sing so that the silence afterwards was deafening.

Rosanna’s career takes off yet she never forgets the man who inspired her – Roberto Rossini and the fact she wrote in her diary as a child that one day they would marry. When their paths cross again, an obsessive love forms and we really catch a glimpse of the large personalities that we imagine the opera world to be famous for –

Roberto Rossini –

The packed bar was buzzing with talk of Roberto, who was producing an outstanding vocal performance. Even Paolo had relaxed as he’d watch him command the stage his magnetism eclipsing the other members of the cast.

Roberto was portrayed as this great maestro in the opera world who despite being quite odious at times, certainly self-absorbed, prone to acting like a drama queen, was still capable of sympathy and understanding to some degree.

It was Rosanna that totally captured me though as this was her journey from Naples to standing on the stages of the opera houses of New York and Covent Garden – this world and the palatial homes she lived in a result were wrapped up in Lucinda’s captivating prose – hard to believe this was one of her earliest books rewritten. Rosanna, was a worthy leading lady..

Rosanna had settled in to her new life in la Scala with surprising ease. She enjoyed the performances to study and learn from the principal singers she worked with

Then there is Covent Garden –

Covent Garden opera house
Covent Garden opera house

Handsome opera stare Roberto Rossini was caught outside one of London’s finest restaurants yesterday holding hands with his co-star, the beautiful young Italian soprano Rosanna Menici. The tow of them are singing La Traviata to packed houses at Covent Garden.

And the metropolitan opera house of New York – 

The Met in New York
The Met in New York

In a few hours time I will stand on the  stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York  and sing an aria……. especially for Roberto Rossini

All growing dreams but as the scenery gets more sumptuous and more glittering, Rosanna finds that the old cliche is true and that all that glitters is certainly not gold. For her obsessive love for Roberto is not nurtured in the way that it should be by him and she finds out secrets from the past are always waiting in the wings….

Take a bow Italian girl...
Take a bow Italian girl…

A glorious epic story of two singers – crackling with the passion and the prima donna mood swings that we might associate with huge stars at times.

But its the story behind the wings – of how they got there and the sacrifices they made along the way which is the most thrilling story of them all.

Take a whirlwind tour of the worlds most stunning opera houses and enter in to the musically crafted world of Lucinda Riley. Rapturous applause

Seven for a Secret – New York – Lyndsay Faye

Want to visit New York when the first police force was created? Yes!
Want to visit New York when the first police force was created? Yes!

Seven for a Secret is the second Gods of Gotham novel and whips you back to New York in 1846 six months following the inception of the first police force in the city.

But this is a increasingly dangerous New York for the city is experiencing an influx of  immigrants. Tensions are high.

This is a novel which is historically rich and perfectly evocative in every line from the use of the Flash language used at the time by the criminal fraternity to the sights, sounds and smells of the cities and its locations –

Five points 1827
Five points 1827

The two most iconic sites in the novel are the Five Points and the tombs – the tombs was the name for the prison and police station at the time and it was situated in the Five points area of the city – a notorious slum full of vice.

However the focus of the novel is the underground railway and the story of the  underworld of New York,  the horrific dealings of the so called Blackbirders –  those who seized so called runaway slaves from the south – (many innocents, free men were captured instead – the story of Solomon Northup is alluded to).

Solomon Northup
Solomon Northup

Many people might know know the story of the Underground Railroad that formed to try to smuggle slaves from plantations up to free states and to Canada, but hardly anyone talks about the fact that free people of color were snatched up all the time and sold in the other direction.

Solomon Northup for example was one such man who was snatched from his family and taken to work on a plantatino in the south.  It is a shocking tale of free African Americans who whilst out for the day minding their own business can be taken off the street and then sold for profit.

Lyndsay Faye
Lyndsay Faye

Allow Lyndsay to take you on a tour herself –

A Castle Clinton B- Chinatown   C Old St Patricks and D Ear Inn
A Castle Clinton B- Chinatown C Old St Patricks and D Ear Inn

Five Points is a perfectly clean corporate spot right by Chinatown, for instance, and even the streets have been changed.

But Old St. Patrick’s is still there, and intact, exactly as Timothy would have seen it when paying a visit to Father Sheehy.

Valentine’s house is worth a visit; there’s a very very old building that would have been quite near the water on Spring Street where Val lives, and it’s a wonderful bar called the Ear Inn–one of the best Guinness pours in the city, and a great lunch to boot.  Val would have lived on the second floor, and I described it just at it is still.

If you want to see Castle Garden where the Democrats throw their fete at the end of Seven for a Secret, that’s no longer out on the water, but it’s definitely still there, though it’s calledCastle Clinton.

You can pay a visit to George Washington Matsell’s grave, he’s buried a few blocks from my old apartment at Trinity way uptown in Washington Heights.  And visit the Tenement Museum, it’s wonderful.

 

On that note, we’ll leave you wandering the streets of Manhattan at your leisure. Happy booktrailing!