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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Death stalks the pages in "Never Coming Home" (Italy)

Set in
USA, England, Italy
Never Coming Home by Evonne Wareham is an engrossing novel from the folks at Choc Lit publishers, this book bowls along at a cracking pace, from the USA, to England and over to Italy. A storyline that twists and turns, slowing a little in its pace as it comes to the final chapters. Is Jamie, the little girl alive or is she not?

And here at TF we absolutely love the cover - and a lot of covers cross our path, both great and not so great. Here, the heat and sun of Italy are evoked: the shadows, the shutters, the shapes all come together to highlight the dark, featureless figure of the little girl in the foreground. The cover gives a brooding sense of foreboding, a dark mystery about to unfold in the pages of this book. 

Available to buy from your local bookshop or through TripFiction by clicking on the cover.


TF In “Never coming Home” you evoke Italy particularly well. What drew to that country as a location?

EW Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed the portrayal of Italy. The locations of my books are important to me, as I want to take the reader to somewhere glamorous and exciting – and then have sinister things happen. I love Italy, and Florence is one of my favourite cities. When I needed to send my heroine, Kaz, to search for her ex-husband in Europe, it was a natural choice. I like to write about beautiful locations, full of sunshine, as I HATE the cold, and it is lovely to re-visit places I have stayed, even if the return visit is only in my memory and imagination! Because the locations in my books are special to me, I’ve created an armchair tour for Never Coming Home, with pictures and more information. It’s on my blog 

TF It’s a fabulous plot that goes back and forth. How did the storyline evolve?

EW I’m not really sure how it worked. I knew what all the threads were and where they were going, but I’m still not certain how they knitted themselves together. I did have panic moments where I had to check that characters were not in two places at once, but it was usually OK. I had a pretty strong idea of the plot before I began writing, but things never quite go as you plan them. I do a lot with time lines and I had multiple ones to cover parts of the story that were taking place simultaneously, but in different parts of the world. 

TF We are particularly drawn to the cover which is infused with the warm “pink” that you see in Italy so often, the shadows make it feel like a really hot climate and the shadowy figure of the little girl leads one to wonder whether she is really there or not. How much input did you have in the design?

EW My publisher, Choc Lit, is very good about involving their authors in the cover choice. There were half a dozen possibilities, and I would have been happy with any of them, but the one that was finally chosen completely sums up the book for me. I’m grateful to Berni, the designer, for the trouble she took. And I’ve been lucky enough to have her design the cover for my second book – Out of Sight Out of Mind - which has a very different look, but is equally gorgeous.

TF How did you first come to writing?

EW I’ve been writing since I was in school and Never Coming Home is the result of a very long apprenticeship! It took me a while to find the genre that I really enjoyed writing. I love creating a balance between the love story and the thriller element and I’ve discovered a darker side to my work that I didn’t know existed. 

TF How did you decide on the names of your characters?

EW Authors will tell you that the names of characters are very important, and it’s true. I try out a lot of ideas in my head, before anything gets written down. I knew very early that Devlin would only use one name. Because of the life he has led, he has had many changes of identity and he’s simply got bored with thinking up new names. Devlin seemed to fit him. Kaz/Katarina started out as Caz, but the spell checker on my machine kept trying to change it and in the end I decided to give in – and when I did, it felt right. When you get the right name it seems to click. It may not even be a name you particularly like, but once it fits, that’s it. 

THANK YOU to Evonne for answering our questions.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Our novel selection for BERLIN

After reading Ben Elton's extraordinarily good novel "Two Brothers" set in Berlin we felt inspired to bring together several top reads which we feel will help understand how Berlin, over the course of the 20th century, came to be what it is today. The city has truly been at the heart of a roller coaster ride, experiencing 2 wars, mass destruction, terrible persecution of minorities, unrest, massive inflation, pomp and partition. And if you are about to visit the city, then these novels will echo with the footsteps of past generations: imagine what it was like walking under the Brandenburg Gate in the build-up to WW2, how full of life the decadent Berlin of the 20s was and how difficult it must have been for many folk living in the divided city until 1989. Enjoy our choices.

Two Brothers by Ben Elton - It is 1920 and this is the story of two boys who became brothers but who had different biological parents; and how the issue of birth in Germany came to mean so much in the build up to the Second World War. It is poignantly and realistically told, in modern parlance, which I thought would grate, but actually adds to the immediacy of the story. You can hear the footsteps on the streets of Berlin and feel the creep factor of oppression, torment and death. As a reader I felt I was there with the two brothers Ottsy and Paulus, and their Saturday gang made up of Silke and Dagmar. In tandem, as they grow up, the National Socialists are also growing - they were founded on the day of the birth of the boys, 24 Feburary 1920.

It is truly deserving of 5* for both atmosphere and story and setting; should I mention the two things that I thought weren't quite right? One was - a little bottle of olive oil was taken on a picnic at the Wannsee, and am not sure that would have been right for the period...I think olive oil was only used medicinally and not for culinary purposes in those days; and the other, attending a parade of the Freikorps at the Brandenburg Gate the parents, Wolfgang and Frieda have their little babies in a buggy. A commotion starts and Wolfgang commands that they remove the babies from the buggy for fear of being trampled underfoot, and raise the babies above their heads and run (nah, you wouldn't do that, you would cradle them to your chest to protect them). Forget my nit picking, though, it's a truly top read!
(Alexandrine Orff for TripFiction)

The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin -  As the clock chimed the turn of the twentieth century, Lilly Nelly Aphrodite took her first breath. Born to a cabaret dancer and soon orphaned in a scandalous double murder, Lilly finds refuge at a Catholic orphanage, coming under the wing of the, at times, severe Sister August, the first in a string of lost loves.  There she meets Hanne Schmidt, a teen prostitute, and forms a bond that will last them through tumultuous love affairs, disastrous marriages, and destitution during the First World War and the subsequent economic collapse. As the century progresses, Lilly and Hanne move from the tawdry glamour of the tingle-tangle nightclubs to the shadow world of health films before Lilly finds success and stardom in the new medium of motion pictures and ultimately falls in love with a man whose fate could cost her everything she has worked for or help her discover her true self.

And our final choice to round off the the 20th century in this ever changing city is The Moment by Douglas Kennedy. Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine, in touch only with his daughter and still trying to recover from the end of a long marriage, his solitude is disrupted one wintry morning by the arrival of a box that is postmarked Berlin. The name on the box—Dussmann—unsettles him completely, for it belongs to the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin at a time when the city was cleaved in two and personal and political allegiances were frequently haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.

And our final suggestion to complement any trip to the German capital is the city-Lit Berlin guide, a compilation of authors who bring the city to life through words. Another wonderful way to soak up the atmosphere...
Brilliant … the best way to get under the skin of a city. The perfect read for travellers and book lovers of all ages’ Kate Mosse, best-selling author of Labyrinth

There are so many novels set in Berlin - please do share with us in the Comments Box the books that you feel really evoke the feel of city both past and present. And we feature plenty more novels set in Berlin here- if we don't feature your favourite novel, let us know. 

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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Tasmania and the Snotty Trevally

Bay of Fires by Poppy Gee, set in Tasmania

Our review can now be found on the new TripFiction website, here

Saturday, 5 January 2013

When in Rome.....

"Even today, after two years of Roman vacations, I get lost in the center of the city as soon as I leave the perpendicular line of the Corso.  For someone accustomed to the perfect symmetry of Manhattan, the twisting streets of the Italian capital seem a labyrinth of squares and narrow alleys, all the same: a fountain, a column, a flaking wall, a café, a market stall, a wild dog, a motorcycle, a beggar, a group of American or Japanese tourists, another fountain" (extract from Roman Holidays, a Rome Noir short story, by Enrico Franceschini).

Recognise Rome from this short description? The lovely indecipherable impenetrable city with a history going back two and a half thousand years; and this is just one of many descriptions that pepper the book of short stories "Rome Noir" edited by Chiara Stangalino and Maxim Jakubowski. A cocktail of 16 stories set around the capital from Stazione Termini to the Via Appia Antica, Fiumicino to the Villa Borghese. Some stories are like gossamer veils enveloping and captivating, some are downright dark, and others culminate in murderous intent. Others are visceral in their storyline, some are seamy, but there is something for everyone. Tour the city through this collection and get to know areas off the beaten tourist track and experience the stories through the eyes of its citizens.

Off for a Chinotto*. Cheers

Want a couple more books novels to transport you to Rome? Then we suggest these two little gems:

Saving Rome by Megan Williams: Amid the bustle of Rome, the Vespas and the Fiats, the cigarettes and teetering high heals, Megan K Williams, a Rome-based writer and correspondent, captures the essence of this bustling city. This is an insider's eye on the love, mystery and unholy chaos of Rome. In nine funny and insightful stories, Williams delves into the lives of women searching for meaning (and survival) in an ancient metropolis.

It's 2005. The Italian secret service has received news that a group of Muslim immigrants based in the Viale Marconi neighbourhood of Rome is planning a terrorist attack. Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Arabic, goes undercover to infiltrate the group and to learn who its leaders are. Breathtaking set pieces, episodes rich in pathos, brilliant dialogue and mordant folk proverbs combine as the novel moves towards an unforgettable and surprising finale that will have readers turning back to the first page to begin the ride all over again.

* Chinotto [kiˈnɔtto] is a type of carbonated soft drink produced from the juice of the fruit of the myrtle-leaved orange tree (Citrus myrtifolia).

We have a selection of novels for review on the TripFiction site. Click on the logo above to see our current offers and let us know which one you would like to review! And of course, if you have a particular recommendation for a book to read in Rome, then let all our readers know in the Comments Box below.

Night Nurse and Freo Doctor in Fremantle and Perth

5 Peppermint Grove by Michelle Jackson set in Fremantle and Perth

Our review plus author interview can now be found on the new TripFiction website here

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Novel set in Florence - Stottie or focaccia? + Author Interview

A novel that brings two stories from different epochs together, set in modern day Florence.

Titian's Venus of Urbino
From the Piazza della Signoria just enjoy the stunning view...."The sky is a strong azure blue: I can't believe what a perfect day it is. If you glance upwards and away from the crowds, the magnificence of the place is astounding. Wonders of architectural brilliance jostle from the sky line, and the campanile reaches high above us like a spear, away from the crowded foot of the Palazzo to the spacious heavens above, as if pleading to be plucked from the onslaught of visitors below" (extract from Urban Venus).

Click on the cover
to purchase
Transport yourself to Florence, with this short novel that interweavess the touristy, modern day city with the city of the 1540s, the era of Titian. You also have the opportunity to drop in on Bologna.

Lydia Irvine has come to Florence on her year abroad from Newcastle Uni and she is learning the Italian way of life, as she absorbs the flavours, smells and sights of the modern city. And the reader, too, will feel that the city just lifts of the pages of this delightful novel. There are quite a few Italian turns-of-phrase without translation, and rather than leaving the reader floundering as to their meaning, it just adds to the Italian feel (and leaves you believing you can really speak Italian!)

The book is peppered with interesting facts. For the true Italian, you will learn that there are absolutely no milky coffees beyond breakfast; pull some strings and get a ticket to check out the hidden passageway between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti, via the Uffizi and a network of corridors across the city (all lined with works of art not generally seen by the public). Mmmmm, share Pandoro and Bombolone for breakfast.... and finally here's a bit of historical fact gleaned from the book: it was the French who brought syphilis to Bologna in 1495, apparently! And don't forget if you need an emergency ambulance you need to dial 118 (you might need to know this one day!).

A really enjoyable read, that truly brings Italy and Florence to life -  this is a novel that has more depth than the rather weak, sketchy cover might lead you to believe. If you have read it, come and leave a review at and tell others what you think. How much did you enjoy the storyline, did it transport you to the location?

Author Interview with Sara Downing
1. Clearly this novel could be set nowhere other than in Florence. What first brought you to the city?
I first visited Florence during a holiday in Tuscany in 2001 and was instantly smitten by the city.  Bizarrely I had a sense of having been there before – even though I hadn’t – and it felt like a place I could live in quite happily, even though it was vastly different from anywhere I’ve ever lived.  I’ve been back many times since; it’s the sort of city you never tire of – the atmosphere is wonderful, scenery amazing and the cultural aspects are never-ending.  There’s so much to see and do, although very often we simply visit our favourite haunts again and again, or spend an afternoon window shopping in some of the gorgeous shops.  I love just sitting at a restaurant table in the sunshine and watching the world go by – the Italians can be very entertaining! 
2. How did you come to writing?
I’ve always wanted to write, but work and family had prevented it until fairly recently.  Then a few years ago, when my children were all at school, I suddenly found myself with the time – and a supportive husband who was happy for me to experiment with the possibility of a writing career. 
Although I’ve always ‘had a book in me’, I wasn’t sure when it actually came down to it if I’d be able to put pen to paper and be creative, something I hadn’t done in years.  And would what I produced be good enough for people to want to pay good money for?  It was all a little scary to start with; there was no guarantee that after working for a year on a project, it would actually sell.  However in the early days I was lucky enough to have some very positive feedback from a published writer and from course tutors, who gave me the confidence to believe in my writing and carry on.
EBooks, and in particular, Kindle Direct Publishing, arrived on the scene at the perfect time for me.  I published my first novel, ‘Head Over Heels’, in February 2011 and it took off very quickly on Amazon, reaching the UK Top 100 Kindle Books in its first six months.  
3. What was the inspiration behind this particular storyline?
On a writing course in the summer of 2009, one of the exercises was to choose a postcard and write about it.  I picked up a postcard of the ‘Venus of Urbino’ as I’d seen it in Florence and loved it, and quickly scribbled down three or four pages about a girl who visits the Uffizi, falls asleep in front of the painting, and dreams she is that woman.  At that stage I was well into writing ‘Head Over Heels’, but knew there and then that I had the beginnings of my next novel.  It was an exciting moment – I felt like I had been ‘presented’ with this storyline, and I couldn’t wait to get on and write it!
I took the script with me to Florence later that year, went to see the ‘Venus’ in the gallery again, and pretty soon had put together the plot for a full length novel.  I did a lot of research into Titian and his life, which wasn’t easy as, until quite recently, there has been very little written about him.  One fact I did discover was that he had an illegitimate daughter called Emilia.  As this is also my daughter’s name, it seemed like fate, and I knew I just had to write the book.  I felt there was enough mystery surrounding Titian’s life and the painting for me to create my own fictional account of what might be the untold story behind the ‘Venus’. 
4. Is there anything that you feel is a "must" see or do in Florence, from your own personal experience, for someone going there for the first time?
Oh, it has to be all the regular tourist haunts, really.  In some big cities you might advise new visitors to avoid the traditional hotspots, but in Florence these just have to be visited!  No one should miss the Uffizi, of course, or the Duomo, and every visitor should have to fight their way through the crowds across the Ponte Vecchio, stand in the middle and have their photo taken with the Arno in the background.  Then there are the Boboli gardens, and the Piazzas.  The Piazza della Signoria remains my favourite – sitting in one of the cafes or restaurants overlooking the square and the statue of David and people-watching in the sunshine. 
The Palazzo Vecchio is a must-see too.  And simply stroll around, soaking up the atmosphere.  Walk along the banks of the Arno, nip through the tiny alleys full of leather shops….. And visit a Gelateria – frighteningly expensive but the best ice cream ever!
5. From the book it is clear you like art. If you could hang one painting in your home, what would be your choice?
I do love art, and have a particular fascination with the Pre-Raphaelites.  I recently went to see the ‘Cult of Beauty’ exhibition at the V&A and have to say that any of those paintings could hang quite happily on my wall.   Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ is probably my utmost favourite, though - I love the story behind how it was painted, with Lizzie Siddal lying fully clothed in a bath.  Perhaps I love it so much because the character fascinates me – a bit like my Maria in ‘Urban Venus.’ 
6.  How important do you feel location is in a novel?  And what are your plans for future books?
A strong sense of location is as important as a good plot and believable characters, I think.  When I read something, I like to get a feel for the place it’s set in, as it’s all part of the fabric of the story. 
‘Head Over Heels’ is set in a fictional mix of the Worcestershire villages close to where I live.  Many of my friends recognised certain locations (and one, their home!) which I had ‘borrowed’ and dropped into the book.  Conjuring up a good feel for Florence was central to ‘Urban Venus’ for it to work.  Many reviewers have commented on how they’d like to visit or revisit places I mention and a few have advised reading it whilst staying there!
I’m planning to publish my third novel, ‘Stage Fright’, in the spring of 2013.  It’s set in the London of 2012, amid the exciting atmosphere of the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, and I hope it conveys the buzz that could be felt across the city during that summer.