Booktrail “Most inventive” booksawards 2015

2015-awardsBooktrail Awards for 2015 

This was hard to decide on as there are many novels that deserve an award to be honest. We’ve read and enjoyed so much this year and there are so many more Booktrail statues we could have awarded but I narrowed it down to these little beauties…


Most tears shed over a novel

the-nightingale-978144728307201The Nightingale

Kristin Hannah

Set in Carriveau France

We can’t recommend this novel enough. It’s sad, utterly heartbreaking but so so good and evocative of what women went through during the war. The challenges and choices of two sisters keep us reading through the night and we shed more than a tear at what they went through. Carriveau seems so real we had to check it wasn’t a real place. It’s so evocative and the story of rural France during war time is just brilliantly written and we are giving this as a present to many people this year.

Best North v South banter

edinbThe Strings of Murder

Oscar de Muriel

Set in Edinburgh

Oscar de Muriel is one funny man. Not only does he get Scottish banter spot on, but he weaves so much Scottish culture and supernatural intrigue into his plot that this is a real treat to read. We know and love Edinburgh well and this was so much fun! Creepy too but the humour and banter between the two main characters had us in stitches. And the memory of the policeman from London trying haggis for the first time will never leave us hehe

Best dual culture crime

death in rainyDeath in the Rainy Season

Anna Jaquiery

Set in Cambodia

There’s something very intriguing and special about a French detective investigating in Cambodia. France meets Cambodia was a very new crime backdrop and revealed an evocative setting for murder, politics and a great Cambodian sidekick called Sarit. Morel is a great character – one of the best in a crime novel we’ve read in a long while. The entire plot was just so immersive and so different to anything we’d read before and the way Anna Jaquiery weaved so many strands together in a complex yet smooth and poetic plot – hats off to you.

Best Dubious drama group


Ragnar Jonasson

Set in Siglufjörður

If you’re ever tempted to join a drama group, don’t join the one in  Siglufjörður will you? That’s if you ever get through that small snow tunnel that links or cuts off the town from the rest of the world. The goings on in this very small place with the writing as crisp and chilling as the dubious dealings are quite ingenious. The entire Siglufjörður setting and the silence which is broken, the screams, the 24 hour darkness….blimey this is one killer of a novel

Best use of a boat

sea maidSong of the Sea Maid

Rebecca Mascull

Set in Portugal

Now if we had a boat we would want to sail and have our own adventure.

Kudos then to Dawnay Price who is something of an anomaly. She was a woman who lived in the 18th century and is based on a real person. She defied men and others who said she couldn’t explore. A gutsy herione who fuels her passion and goes off on an adventure is the story we loved to read. With such evocative writing, we were right there with her and we felt as if we learned so much about the Berlengas Islands and history but never did it read like a history lesson. Rather like a song as in the title…

Most inventive use of an elephant

elepahantThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra

Vaseem Khan

Set in India

Ah this has to be a favourite. An elephant as sidekick, a most beautiful colourful cover, a funny and witty author interview. Ah this is a labour of love and was so funny as well as being a gritty crime novel too. The setting and nature of the crimes were unique and the culture seeped into each and everyone. As soon as we put this novel down, we wanted to read the second.

What are your special reads and why? It’s fun to look back at your literary year!

Alaskan Delights – Stan Jones

We’ve just had the great fortune of getting mail all the way from Alaska saying how the booktrail has reached the farthest point of the earth! Well we were shocked  – very pleasantly I might add, and there may have been a happy dance or two around the room. That’s how we heard about Alaskan author Stan Jones who we just had to meet!

TUNDRAAnd so we did, and his books. And today, we’ve tempted him out of the cold to speak to us.

We warm him up with some hot chocolate and a little bit of flaming Christmas pudding and then we chat like crazy!….

Hi Stan!. What a pleasure to meet you and read your Alaskan set stories!

Can you tell us more about StanJones (1)and why he is your lead character?

 Almost from the moment I arrived in Kotzebue, I knew I wanted to write about that lovely part of the world and the fascinating people who live there. Crime novels seemed as good a way as any, because that form offers the author latitude to explore any aspect of culture, society, history, or circumstance that strikes his fancy.

The question was, who should be the cop in crime stories about the Arctic? It needed to be someone with ties to the place and people, but at the same time someone who was conflicted (the first law of fiction being, torment your characters!).

Thus did Nathan Active spring into being: An Inupiaq born in Chukchi, but to an unwed teenage mother who knew she was unfit to raise him. So she adopted him out to white schoolteachers, who soon moved to Anchorage and raised him there. 

Nathan resented his birth mother for giving him away, and grew up trying to pretend she and his birth place didn’t exist. He considered himself an Anchorage boy and set out on a law enforcement career by joining the Alaska State Troopers.

Luckily for fans of the series, life got complicated the moment Nathan completed training. The Troopers, with the customary blind perversity of every bureaucracy since the beginning of time, posted him to Chukchi for his first assignment and he’s been there ever since.

At first, he angled for a transfer back to Anchorage at every opportunity. But, over time, he has reconciled with his birth mother, and has come to appreciate Chukchi for the fascinating place it is. Now he’s there to stay, and has moved on from the Troopers to head the public safety department of the Chukchi Regional Borough. He’s The Law north of the Yukon River and south of the Brooks Range, as he puts it.

Despite all the change, Chukchi is still as unique as ever. As a character put it in the very first Nathan book-White Sky, Black Ice–“It makes sense if you don’t think about it.”

You are a native of Alaska. What is particularly special and dear to you about Chukchi where Nathan Active  is  born?

Caribou hunter's cabin
A Caribou hunter’s cabin (c) Stan Jones

Chukchi is fictional, but is modeled pretty closely on a real village named Kotzebue. My family has lived there at various times and one of my children was born there.

Chukchi (Kotzebue) is about 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the Chukchi   Sea. Because it is above the Arctic Circle, that means there are a few days in summer when the sun doesn’t set and few in winter when it doesn’t rise–talk about the edge of the world!

One of the side-effects of this phenomenon is what they call Village Time, meaning that people don’t pay a lot of attention to the clock. Since it’s either light all the time or dark all the time for much of the year, one time’s as good as another!

Chukchi/Kotzebue is home to about 3,000 people, around 80 percent of whom are all or partly Inupiaq Eskimo.

Kotzebue bluff (c) Stan Jones


The first time I landed there was a clear October day. When I stepped off the Boeing 737 jet, it was about five degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) with the wind rolling in off the sea ice at 15 or 20 mph. It was beautiful and, strange as it may seem to denizens of milder climes, it just felt right to me.

Since that day, the place has never been out of my heart or head. I haven’t lived there in a while, but my wife and I still go back to visit whenever we can.

The last such occasion was September of 2015, when President Obama paid a visit–POTUS on the Permafrost, as the occasion came to be known. While I was there, I managed to give one of his Secret Service agents a signed copy of one of the Nathan Active books, Village of the Ghost Bears. I signed it for the president, and expressed the hope that, having seen the real Kotzebue, he might enjoy reading about the fictional version. Wouldn’t it be cool if he read it and posted a review on Amazon!?

And with that thought (Stan we think he should for sure!) we leave Stan warming his hands by the fire and filling his flask full of hot chocolate ready for the ride home.

You can get the book here: Tundra-Kill

And meet Stan here:

A literary traveller – and all things French

Today we hand over the reins to Emma Cazabonne of the book blog Words and Peace. She is an English to French literary translator and loves French books and books set in France in particular!. Emma it’s over to you:

Emma in her favourite place – Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris

Bonjour and thank you for having me today at The Book Trail.

I was born and raised in France, growing up in the Champagne and the Burgundy regions. I was an English teacher in France and when I came to live in the US fifteen years ago, I started teaching French online. I’m also an English to French literary translator  I am also an artist, painting almost exclusively on rocks.

1. Hi Emma you write the Words And Peace blog which features all things French and books set in France. Why did you start writing this blog?

Actually my book blog, Words And Peace, is very eclectic. I also review lots of historical novels for instance, not set in France, mysteries and nonfiction, among other genres!

Those who know me in real life notice that I can’t refrain from talking about what I read. When I discovered there was a species called ‘book bloggers’, who keep raving about the books they love, I knew I had to join! So I launched Words And Peace just 5 years ago, for a larger place to review the books I love and connect with other book lovers.

2. You’re planning to read So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood by Patrick Modiano set in Paris. Why did you choose this book and can you tell us more about it?

You may remember that French author Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014. I have loved his novels since I was a teenager. This novel is his latest, published just a few weeks before he got the award.

I was planning to read it in the original language of course, but it was right there on display at my (awesome) publish library. So really, how could I hesitate? I actually plunged into it right away, as I had to wait for someone, and before I left the library, I had already read a third of the book! Did anyone say I am a passionate reader? Lol

I’m not going to review it here, but I can say that it’s a typical Modiano novel, with a “greyish” ambiance, with characters that show up in previous books by him, and where the main character is actually the city of Paris itself. This novel is in between literary fiction and mystery. A short, perfect introduction to Modiano for those who don’t know him yet.

3. Book bingo is a smart feature of your blog. From your 2015 bingo card, can you tell us of a romance book set in France and one with a French word in the title that you would recommend?

Thanks! I have organized a French Challenge for several years, and I thought a bingo twist would be fun for this year.

I personally do not read much romance, but I highly recommend this historical novel, based on a most famous medieval French couple, with a lot of romance and heartache involved: The Sharp Hook of Love, by Sherry Jones

An amazing one with a French word would be Mademoiselle Chanel, by  C. W. Gortner. Stunning!

4. France Book Tours is your virtual book tour company where you showcase books set in France and invite readers to review them on their own book blogs. Why is it important for you to write about books set in your native country and/or written by native writers?

When I got seriously into the world of book blogging, I started signing up to review books for virtual book tours. I noticed virtual book tour companies were usually specialized in a specific genre.

At the same time, I got aware of the impressive number of books published every month that were written in English but set in France, or about France. So I knew this was an undiscovered niche I had to tackle, and that’s how France Book Tours was born.

Americans are very fond of France, but not everyone can afford to travel there on a regular basis. So why not travel through books, right? And when you can get these books for free, what’s not to love? Our readers receive the book for free, they just commit to review it on their own book blog at a specific date, just like it works for any other virtual book tour company.

We also feature books originally written in French and then translated in English: there’s a real mine of amazing writers in France, but if you don’t read French, you may not even hear about them. So if their books get translated, I want as many English readers as possible to discover them.

5. You are a French translator and have translated several novels. Which has been the hardest or most enjoyable to translate and why?

The most challenging has certainly been my very first historical novel, Orgueil et honneur, written by Nathaniel Burns. It’s a rather long novel set at the time of Charlemagne. I had to do a lot of research, for instance on how you would address a bishop in French at that period. Plus, I did this translation through a specific company that has not yet paid me one cent for my hard work…

My most enjoyable translation is a contemporary mystery set in the South of the US: Au nord de Folly-sur-mer, by author Tanya Anne Crosby. It’s a fun book, with great descriptions of the surrounding landscapes, very lively dialogs, and wonderful job in character development.
When a book has so much substance, even though translating is always a difficult challenge, it requires all your creativity, and so is very enjoyable.

Actually I also translated the sequel, just as great, À l’ouest de la mort, and the prequel, Les derniers moments de Florence W. Aldridge.

I’m currently translating another novel by the same author, this time set in Scotland in the 13th century!

6. Can you recommend us some of your favourite books set in France?

(the Da Vinci code really sparked a influx of readers to the Louvre and Saint Sulpice. can you tell us of a place which is important literary style to yourself in some way?)

OMG, there are so many! I have read 30 books set in France so far this year, so I’m going to pick a few titles from this year only.

One of the last great historical novels I read is The Sisters of Versailles, by Sally Christie. It’s great to see that publishers are finally slowly discovering that the French court was just as interesting as the Tudors.

There’s a French mystery writer I really enjoy: The City of Blood, by Frédérique Molay.

And I really enjoyed this short literary novel, about a short ride between Champagne and Paris: The 6:41 to Paris, by Jean-Philippe Blondel.

To discover more, just follow the I Love France Category on my blog.

I don’t have a specific literary place important to me. But I lived in the Champagne region and often too the train, so this last book resonated a lot with me.

Also, I love the Burgundy region where I spent many years, so it’s always fun bumping into it in books. For instance, there’s a whole series translated from the French, about a detective who is also a winemaker. Each cozy mystery in the series focuses on a different wine region. The one on Burgundy is Nightmare in Burgundy, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

One of my pictures taken in Burgundy:

Burgundy (c) Words and Peace

Thanks for having me today and for your wonderful questions.

Your readers can follow my reading activity on my blog: Words And Peace.

You can subscribe through email or through Bloglovin not to miss a post.

Also through Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.

And there are always great books available for free to review on France Book Tours, as well as giveaways organized every month.

#Booktrailadvent day 2- Liz Fenwick warms us up in Cornwall


It’s the first of December and a cold morning as I sit in my kitchen in Cornwall and look out at the soft orange-pink sky.

The leaves have gone from the trees after the gales that have been blowing, but the silhouetted branches of the pear tree are not bare – they are covered in lichen, soft green grey. The landscape at the start of winter is quieter in one sense and wilder in another. It’s prepared for the coming gales that will blow through with astounding regularity. But Cornwall in winter is the best. The bare bones of the landscape are on display. The bent and twisted shapes of the trees formed by the prevailing wind are like skeletons sticking out of the ground. The fields are visible over the hedges so you can see the shape of the land and the sea – well, that is fierce and wild one day and bluer than you believe possible the next.

Screen shot 2015-12-02 at 10.30.32


Cornwall feels empty but not desolate. It’s during this quiet time of the year when I have the lanes to myself and I can peer into windows in the early evening before curtains are drawn that I feed the well of creativity in me as writer. No other place but Cornwall makes me sees stories around every blind corner.

The view from the Ferryboat Inn (c) Liz Fenwick

At this time of the year the walking is brilliant. You see more and the landscape is more vivid. The land is raw and the history is visible. Plus at the end of the walk the pubs are so welcoming. Pubs have featured in all my books. You can’t beat the Shipwrights Arms in Helford for the view and great food. Those who have read A Cornish Stranger will remember this one in particular for the music – a regular feature all year round.  This pub also features in A Cornish Affair too.


The New Inn Manaccan is now owned by a consortium in the village and visitors are sure of a warm welcome and guaranteed to meet locals. This is where Maddie first saw Gunnar in The Cornish House.

The Ferry Boat Inn (c) Liz Fenwick

Across the river on the north side in Under A Cornish Sky you have Demi, Sam, Victoria and Sebastian going to the wonderful Trengilly Wartha, which at this time of year features delicious warming food.

The Ferry Boat Inn (c) Liz Fenwick

The Ferryboat Inn mentioned in Under A Cornish Sky takes on a bigger role in my next book The Returning Tide. It sits just above the beach in Helford Passage. The food is great and if you are an oyster fan the landlords own the local oyster beds. Can’t get much fresher or shorter food footprint.


In the pubs do try the local cyders…and if you’ve read Under A Cornish Sky you’ll know why. The varieties of local cyders are growing, which has the wonderful knock on effect of reviving orchards long neglected. This brings me back to the view from my kitchen. Our garden was once part of an orchard. Our pear tree is massive and very old. We have three apple trees…I wonder how many were here during the house’s first hundred years…I think I feel another story coming on…


– A book set in Cornwall in the summer time would do wonders to warm you at this time of year…..mulled wine…ginger biscuits, a roaring fire and a visit to Cornwall courtesy of Liz Fenwick. –


Merry Christmas and happy reading!

Scottish wit and wisdom via fiction

Flag-3St Andrew’s Day

Where all things Scottish are celebrated and quite rightly so. Scotland has some of the most stunning scenery in the world and is a top tourist destination. There’s the well known and loved Loch Ness Monster, the Edinburgh tattoo, Haggis, bagpipes and of course Tartan.

But what we love is its humour  and its people. And the many gifted writers who love Scotland so much it becomes a feature in many books. Books that highlight and pay homage to much of Scotland’s magic. And the magic time of the Edinburgh book festival! A book pilgrimage for many.

A short tour if we may….


*Discussing the need to rid Scotland of its darker side in Robertson’s Glasgow:

Every one deid is one less bampot on the streets

edinb*Giving an honest appraisal of  a haggis dish:

“I would rather kiss a public latrine that each something of such foul appearance.”

There is some very fine Scottish food (haggis being one example!) such as bridies, stovies and fine venison!

*Debating the history and legacy of Body snatching …FALLS

At the time, most bodies worked on by anatomists were cold indeed. They were brought to Edinburgh from all over Britain — some came by way of the Union Canal. The resurrectionists — body-snatchers — pickled them in whisky for transportation. It was a lucrative trade.”

“But did the whisky get drunk afterwards?”

Devlin chuckled. “Economics would dictate that it did.”

*Experiencing a wedding on the most northernly Shetland island of Unst during Simmer dim?

TAirA single chord played on fiddle and accordion,a breathless moment of silence …This was the hamefarin’

The Simmer dim was the summer dusk. “So far north it never really got dark in in June.”

*Meeting some of Scotland’s folklore..

Whether it’s the Shetland trowes, or the Loch Ness monster and a modern tale of the search for  it, Scotland never fails to capture the imagination.

And there’s the little dog, Grey Friar’s Bobby, who sat by his master’s grave – immortalised in books, film, tv and a statue..

bertie*And who could forget –

Bertie from 44 Scotland street, Edinburgh. Always full of wisdom when either debating the need for a certain plaque :

“No plaque reminds the passer-by of these glories, although there should be one; for those who invent biscuits bring great pleasure to many.”

or just expressing the dreams of a young Scottish lad:

“Life would undoubtedly improve when he turned eighteen and could leave home to go and live somewhere far away and exotic – Glasgow, perhaps”

Best not venture into Robertson’s Glasgow though eh Bertie?

There’s so much Scotland has to offer Bertie – both in literature and for real.

Happy St Andrews Day and happy reading!

If books be the food of love….read on…

Travelling can be both hungry and thirsty work, so what better way to indulge your cravings and discover a new cuisine along the way than by picking up a book and delving into its delectable aromas and flavours…


FOOD – Street food in Mumbai

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – Mumbai (Bombay) – India – Vaseem Khan

elephantInspector Ashwin Chopra  is due to retire this very day from the Mumbai police department so he’s not expecting to have any more cases to solve before he goes. But then two mysteries fall right into his lap – luckily not literarily as one of them is a baby elephant. The first mystery however is a drowned little boy whose death is suspicious and who no one seems bothered to solve.

But Chopra is not having any of it, and last day or not, he’s going to get to the bottom of it. So he trawls the city of Mumbai looking for clues –  with a baby elephant named Ganesh as his sidekick..

Foodie kicks

Cuppa and a curry with the author –

This is a  Mumbai which is sweaty, noisy, chaotic, vibrant and teaming with a number of characters and colours. Street food vendors stand on street corner peddaling their wares. The busy, complex aromas of the city are all around, the noise,hustle and bustle of dishes being prepared and tastebuds salvating in readiness for a meal to remember. Chopra his food as a ritual since he has an aversion to ginger – it’s these little quirks that made me picture the man as if he was stood right beside me.

FOOD: Haggis in Edinburgh

edinbThe Strings of Murder – Edinburgh 1888 – Oscar de Muriel

Edinburgh, 1888. A violinist is murdered in his home. In his locked practice room whilst the sound of several musicians played in the night. Who could have got in the room whilst it was locked? And who would want to kill a violinist?

Meanwhile in London, the city is awash with panic over the Ripper murders and so Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss, Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray, actually believes in such supernatural nonsense.

Just who or what is crawling the dark dank streets of Edinburgh?

Foodie moments

A cuppa and a cake with the author-

Whoah – this side of Edinburgh is not one you’ll have seen before. It’s not the bustling bright city it is now but one of darkness, the occult, violins played by the devil, a devils sonata and if Inspector Frey is to be believed, bad bad food and even worse weather…

The policeman from the south has trouble finding decent food to eat in the city he says but eventually is told he should try the haggis.Well, if haven’t tried it yet, read this book and then taste it. Go on…

FOOD: Cassoulet from a French villlage

The Fogas Chronicles

Julia Stagg

It’s off to France now to meet Julia Stagg, who brings food into all of her French set novels…


aubergeSet in Fogas, A fictional village  in the French pyrenees, this is a story of an English couple, Paul and Lorna, moving in to a rural French community and trying as best they can to fit in. Fogas is a village you want to happen upon and stay for a while such is its charm despite it being more rural than rural itself –

 There was no shop, no bar and even La Poste had been sensible and placed the commune post office in La Riviere. So apart from the cluster of houses which formed the village and the old communal washbasin with its continually running tap, Fogas was simply the base for the town hall


Foodie moments

In the first book , L’Auberge…

The young English couple have just bought the local Auberge, much to the horror of the locals who fear the English and their cooking in particular.


‘The Auberge has been sold to an outsider’

‘But why is a given that the restaurant will fail just because they are foreigners?’ demanded Christian

‘Because,’ Pascal relied in his lofty manner, ‘the new owners are English!’

Then the adventures continue with The French Postmistress, the Parisians return and a Fete to remember….

A French village offers baguettes, cheese and good old fashioned local grub. Ah the antics of these people will make you laugh but it’s the local cuisine, the French way of eating and the mountain setting which will have you salvating over French fayre. The books all feature the famous French dish of Cassoulet and ah you just have to try it! Julia Stagg the author used to work in a French auberge and so her observations on the food and drink of a French village are spot on.

So whether you are hungry for food in Mumbai, want to try some haggis in Scotland or eat the best Cassoulet this side of the Pyrenees, just pick up one of these three books and tuck in.

Bon appetit!

London – The Ship – Antonia Honeywell


Why a booktrail?

TIME – In the Future. While London burns, and its people live in poverty, a ship holds the only hope for escape…or does it?

Story in a nutshell

London as you know it no longer exists. Civilsation is coming to an end. Oxford Street is burning, Regent’s Street has been bombed and those people who can’t produce an ID card, well you might as well not exist.

The only place which remains remotely recognisable is the British Museum. Well that’s if you can see past the crowds of survivors and disappearing displays from the once grand museum. The Nazareth Act has come into force. All those who can board the ship should do so.

Because the ship is  a floating salvation from this living nightmare….isn’t it?Only the worthy will be chosen but who decides and what kind of world lies on board this ship? 500 people are about to find out.

Place and setting

It's London but not as you know it. The British  Museum is at the centre of this dystopian world
It’s London but not as you know it. The British Museum is at the centre of this dystopian world

Set in the not-too-distant future, the setting of a London under siege, burning, fraught with danger, poverty and disease is nevertheless largely recognisable as the city we know today. Minus the dystopian setting obviously but this recognition of present day places and events makes for a chilling and uncomfortable scene.

London is now somewhat changed – the crowds, the comfortable life which Lalla shares with her parents in Central London, the parks, the British Museum and familiar streets such as Oxford Street and Gower Street in a very different light and they become terrifying places.

This is London but not as we know it. Lalla is cut off from most of the horror since her only trips out are to the British Museum where she looks at the exhibits, notices the homeless who have not been registered and so are not entitled to food or supplies. Regents park for example has become a refugee camp of sorts. Bombs fall on those not registered.

The ship comes into dock as being the one place which could save humanity. Lalla’s father has bought it and equipped it for the hundreds of people he has selected to go on board. A human Noah’s ark if you will. Lalla believes with the others that as this is the end of civilsation then the ship is the only way out. But life on the ship is not what is seems. Everything they do on board is controlled, from the food they eat to the news they hear. But who is controlling what and why?

And what has happened to London and the outside world?


Quick someone head over to the British Museum and check it’s still there? And Regent’s Park….and London now you think about it. I live near the sea and I swear if I look out and see a ship, I don’t know what I’ll do. 

The setting for this was so recongisable as was the language and coming of age feel to it all then I really saw London in a new light. Blimey, I’ll certainly take a new look at life now. It was thrilling to see how Lalla was so protective in her world but then how she came to realise what else was just yards from her own door.

I don’t know what other dystopian worlds are like but this was chilling yet also normal which made it even more chilling. Like Lalla, I was unsettled with the idea of the ship but intrigued to board. It did sound a marvellous place in some respects with its blue velvet benches and chandeliers but in a very creepy way. I really was looking over my shoulder reading this such was the feeling that I was being led astray and knew I shouldn’t be going there.

Can’t really say much more without giving spoilers but this was good. Very very good and I really feel as if I’ve read something I have never read before. I’m going on a ferry in few weeks and am getting nervous sweats already…..

Sailing off into The Blue with Lucy Clarke…

Sailing off into The Blue with Lucy Clarke…

We do love a good travel adventure here at the booktrail so when that lovely Lucy Clarke invited me aboard her yacht for a chat, a swig of rum and some grilled fish, I thought how lovely!

But then this is the author of The Blue – the sailing experience in paradise which turns very sour indeed….Would we be alone on this yacht I asked? How far from land would we be? What about the rules of the passage? Lucy I’ve read your book – I know what goes on!

But of course this is fiction and Lucy is just the friendliest and nicest person ever. We set sail and drift off into a sea of conversation, good food and a sea breeze that whips my hair into a sort of Mr Whippy style. Still, with views like this I’m not going to complain…

Whilst Lucy’s husband grills the fish for lunch, we have a chat.

Lucy Clarke (c) Lucy Clarke
Lucy Clarke (c) Lucy Clarke

Your idea for the novel came from your own yacht trip. Can you tell us what you loved about it?

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a week on board a yacht with my best friend and her extended family. Having never sailed before, it was an incredible experience to spend day and night on the water, to eat our meals on deck, to anchor in deserted lagoons, to fall asleep to the sound of waves. But what stayed with me after the trip was how interesting dynamics can be when you’re confined to the small space of a yacht, as emotions become heightened and events can quickly escalate. By the end of that trip, I knew that one day I’d set a novel on board a yacht.

Where would you sail to in the world if you had the chance and why?

If I could sail anywhere in the world, I’d love to sail around the islands of Micronesia. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s an incredible, remote and beautiful place to explore – and doing so by yacht would be the icing on the cake.

Which five places is your novel based on?

I spent a month in the Philippines researching for the novel, and the places that inspired the settings within The Blue were Busuanga Island (particularly Coron Town), and Coron Island, and El Nido.

Sailing Lucy Clarke style (c) Lucy Clarke
Sailing Lucy Clarke style (c) Lucy Clarke

What food did you eat whilst sailing?

When I was sailing in the Philippines, our meals were usually simple affairs: pancakes and fresh mango for breakfast, salads for lunch, and freshly caught fish for dinner. We used to make a lovely local dish by frying up crushed peanuts, chillies and shredded cabbage.

(Lunch is served at this point and Lucy’s husband comes on deck with most of what Lucy has just talked about. Now that’s the way I love fact and fiction to mix…)

What memorable moment can you tell us about on the yacht?

A memorable moment I had on the yacht was diving from the bow to cool down. Afterwards I lay on my back in the sea, just drifting, looking up at the wide expanse of blue sky. It was so incredibly peaceful, that I think I’ll remember it for ever.

Whilst Lucy goes diving, I sit on deck, watching into the horizon and wondering where we’re sailing off to next. Where will Lucy take her readers to next? I for one can’t wait.

Now where’s that rum….

You can find more about Lucy and her travels here as well as the fantastic novel The Blue –


Revisiting literary friends……Agatha Christie


Books often take you places you never would have gone before. Agatha Christie for me is one such author who has taken me to places I really wish did exist – St Mary Mead for example -although the murder rate is quite high there so maybe not sure about that one.

Still, the places such as Gossington Hall, the inside of the Orient Express,  Betrams hotel are memories which will stay with me for ever. They’ve lasted like faded photographs in  my mind ever since I read them and now with the TV adaptation of her Tommy and Tuppence novels, I thought it was nice to reread them.

Oh and it was like visiting an old friend, seeing the places again that I knew as a child, the very first day an English teacher handed me my first Agatha Christie – A Murder Is Announced – and said “I think you’ll like this”

How do you feel when you wander back into a book you’ve known and loved for years? It felt like wandering back into a house I used to visit frequently, friends I used to know, wondering what has changed and what has stayed the same. Of course it was me who now was older and arguably wiser, now having read many crime and mystery books based on forensics and more brutal cases would my visit to the past be a good one?

Well yes it was and more. For it was like opening up an old treasure trove and marvelling at a time when there was no technology that we rely on today, that clever old Miss Marple who would sit and knit and observe……the head bobbing over the hedge as she listened to some secret chatter, the excitement of wandering into Gossington Hall when it was still owned by the colonel and then when it is taken over by an American actress…

Aah Agatha, your crime stories have stood the test of time for me – they are classics, photos in my memory box, recollections in my mind.


As for Tommy and Tuppence, I had met these two in the story N or M and now they are being republished with the TV images of David Walliams and Jessica Raine as the crime busting couple. A new chance to reconnect with two old friends!

Now then, I think a cup of tea is in order, a comfy rug and a good Christie in preparation for tonight’s visit with Tommy and Tuppence on BBC.

How did you feel reconnecting with characters from your past? Is it good to meet old literary friends?