Author Spotlight: Siobhan Clark

The Bandwagon presents Siobhan Clark, author of The Children of Midgard, an historical fiction novel based in the Viking era, and described as “a Norse saga by a woman for women”.

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The year is 961 and King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark has his gaze firmly set on the Western Kingdoms of Norway where his nephew Harald Greycloak reigns.  Bluetooth has declared Greycloak as his vassal King of Norway and will claim the establishment of the Jomsvikings.  In doing so he will solidify the order, building a keep for the warriors he intends to use to create a fleet of men who will rule the seas under his command.

However, the order is older than one man’s claim and consists of many who have their own destinies separate from the feuding monarchs.  There are men of honour and worth and there are those who seek naught but power and privilege, searching only to prosper from the misery of others.  There are tales of a legendary ring and a child who is said to be the progeny of the All-Father.

The Children of Midgard is available to buy on Amazon. To find out more, visit Siobhan’s website here.

About The Author

scSiobhan Clark is an historical fiction writer based in Glasgow, Scotland, where she lives with her husband.

From a young age, she was introduced to many fictional works by family who encouraged her interest in history, not only of her Scottish/Irish roots, but that of her wider heritage, stretching as far back as the Viking era.

 

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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

I review The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Review

Anna hasn’t left the house in nearly a year. Ten months to be exact. Something happened to Anna, something she blocks out with painkillers and prescription medication and alcohol. She spends her time sleeping, watching old movies, and chatting online to others in similar situations.

Finn has created a very realistic, if not totally likable, protagonist. The information is drip-fed to the reader, catching hold and drawing you in. I must confess that I binge-read this book, so captivated was I by the story and the characters. In order to keep this review spoiler-free, I’m not going to say any more, but the twists and turns in this book are sharp and breathtaking.

My only “issue” with the book was the constant references to old movies, which sometimes got jumbled up. The antagonist was carefully created, crafted to fool both Anna and the reader.

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The Bandwagon is proud to be a part of The Woman in the Window blog tour! Keep an eye out for my post on 30/01/18!

In Bloom: My current work-in-progress

Since last autumn, I’ve been working on my latest project; a full-length, semi-autobiographical novel called In Bloom. I’m currently on my second draft, conducting a full read-through, and getting feedback from beta readers. I’m aiming to have a final draft ready to submit for publication within the next month.

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I want to talk about In Bloom, because writing it has been an incredible journey for me. When I say it’s semi-autobiographical, what I mean is that one of the key events in the novel is based on something that happened to me as a teenager. When I was 15, I was raped by a guy I’d been seeing casually, and had agreed to go off with, but when I wanted to stop, he wouldn’t.

It took a long time for me to realise that this was rape. We were warned about strange men lurking in dark alleys, or even creepy “uncles” who might touch you in the wrong way, but not about this. I was never told that I could say no at any point. That having full body autonomy means that I can give and withdraw consent whenever I wish. And that if someone doesn’t respect my decision, they are doing something wrong.

As girls, we’re taught all the wrong things. To quote my own novel:

It starts when we’re young, of course. We’re told what good girls do, and don’t do. Then we start to have periods and grow breasts, and we’re told to hide ourselves, lest we attract The Wrong Attention. We’re told to be wary of boys, afraid of men, and their questionable intentions. Yet we also have to live with them, trust them, love them, so we don’t know how to cope when those men betray us, hurt us. The world takes us apart, piece by piece, turns us into unsure, trembling, fragile creatures. We’re left bare, vulnerable.

And so it goes, our confidence slowly ripped apart, our sense of self destroyed. How many young women know what constitutes rape? How many young men know what consent actually means? The answer is pretty terrifying.

I didn’t start writing In Bloom so I could name the guy who raped me. The time for that has passed. I’ve changed enough details so it’s unlikely he, or anyone else, will realise the event I’m talking about. I wanted to write this story because writing is my outlet. It’s cathartic, therapeutic. I wanted to tell this story because it’s the story of so many other women and girls; women and girls who may feel that they’re alone, that they’re wrong. In Bloom has a very simple message: You are not alone. You are justified. You are heard.

That scene is pivotal for my protagonist, Lauren, but it isn’t the end of the story. She has to deal with someone sharing a photograph of her from that night – passed out, half-naked, vulnerable. She loses her friends. And then, almost a year later, her sister, Hannah, is found dead.

In Bloom may be a story of pain, of sexual violence and trauma. But it’s also a story of sisterhood, of maturity, of confronting your past, your ghosts. It’s a story of acceptance, not of what has happened to you, but acceptance of yourself, as you are. You are more than the sum of your experiences.

I’m still open for beta readers, though I will caution anyone that this book contains the following themes: rape, child abuse, suicide. But nothing is graphic or gratuitous. Read the blurb below, and if you’re interested, please email thebandwagonreviews@gmail.com.

 

In Bloom

Lauren Winters must return to her hometown, the town she fled from after her sister, Hannah, committed suicide. 

Before Hannah died, she revealed a truth to Lauren that she knew could never be forgiven. After Lauren experiences a traumatic event, she relies on Hannah to keep her safe and sane. But what happens when the one you trust the most betrays you?

Lauren has no choice but to go back, to face the life she left behind. 10 years later, a memorial is being held in Hannah’s honour. And someone is desperate to bring her back to life.

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Enemies of Peace by M.K. Williams

Introducing Enemies of Peace, the thrilling new book by M.K. Williams.

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Enemies of Peace literally starts with a bang: an explosion captured by two teenage girls of a house engulphed in flames. In the summer that lead up to the explosion, the Hydroline Corporation hired Timothy Lawson and his firm to represent them in a class-action lawsuit. While juggling his caseload, he and his wife Cynthia decide to buy their first house. It should have been the happiest summer of their lives. Nevertheless, their date with death was looming. 

Who could have possibly done it? Could it be the corporation that Timothy was defending, did he uncover one secret too many? Could it be the cousin that Cynthia has forbidden Timothy to talk with anymore? Could it be the other man who is in love with Cynthia, his jealous rage driving him to kill? Or, could it be the quiet neighbors next door, the unsuspecting extremists living in American suburban splendor?

Enemies of Peace will be released on November 9th 2017. You can read Williams’ Ask The Author interview here.

img_3695MK Williams is an Indiana-born, Philadelphia-raised, Florida-transplant working and living beneath the sunny, and often rainy, skies of Tampa. Williams’ writing influences include a lifetime of watching suspenseful mysteries and action movies and reading Stephen King, Ian McEwan and J.K. Rowling.

 

Goodreads | Amazon UK

Autumn is coming

Yesterday, I noticed the leaves were starting to fall from the trees outside our house. It might still be August, but the scent of autumn is starting to filter through on the breeze.

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Autumn is my favourite season. Cosy throws, fluffy slippers, hot chocolate. Crunchy leaves, Halloween, darkening evenings. And, of course, curling up with a good book. Autumn is the best time for getting stuck into stories, being frightened by a ghost story or thrilled by a thriller.

Each year, I try to come up with a list of books to read during autumn. A couple of years ago, I got stuck into Stephen King. The year before that, I discovered his son, Joe Hill. This year, I’m lining up a bunch of thrillers. Here are my recommendations for autumn 2017.

Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown

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The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

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Slade House by David Mitchell

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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What’s on your autumn reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

I review Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon.

Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever. Someone from her past has returned, and is desperate to get inside.

Sarah can’t go home. Her husband has kicked her out, forcibly denying her access to their toddler. Sarah will do anything to get her daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the dark secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

The novel takes readers back in time to witness the complex family dynamics that formed Robin and Sarah into the emotionally damaged, estranged young women they’ve become. As the gripping and intricate layers of their shared past are slowly peeled away, the shocks and twists will keep readers breathless long after the final page.

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I read Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon when it came out, so I knew I’d want to grab a copy of Don’t Close Your Eyes. Seddon writes classic thrillers as if it’s as easy as breathing – and perhaps it is, for her. She’s that rare talent who deserves all the credit she gets, and more.

Delving into dark subjects such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide, Seddon doesn’t pull any punches. Every character is fully formed, fleshed out into life, and every incident is thrilling, engaging. Robin in particular is so real, it’s hard not to relate to her.

I love books about dysfunctional families – coming from one myself, I know just how twisted it can get. When Robin and Sarah’s mum has an affair with Callum’s dad, everything disintegrates, and their families merge into one big mess. Robin and Callum stay with her dad and his mum, and Sarah moves out to Atlanta with her mum and Callum’s dad. The distance between the sisters grows, in emotional as well as literal terms. The tangles web of their mingled families gets tighter and tighter, until something has to give.

I loved the way Seddon wrote this, engaging the reader by giving snippets of the past, interspersed with chapters from today. This style of writing, although not unique, is always enticing, and Seddon does it well. Overall, I’d say Don’t Close Your Eyes is another winning thriller.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, & NetGalley for providing me with a free review copy.

Goodreads

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

I review The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick.

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

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The Growing Season is a book that looks at motherhood from every feminist perspective. With the advent of the pouch, a way of growing babies outside of a female body, heterosexual couples can share the load of pregnancy, reaching for true equality. Gay couples and infertile women can also experience pregnancy in a way they never could have before. With your male partner sharing the pregnancy, women are no longer seen as a burden, a risk.

But there’s a darker side to this equality. With the pregnancy occurring outside of the woman’s body, what do they need women for? Eva – and before her, her mother, Avigail – campaigned against the pouch for this very reason. Arguing for choice, for the respect of motherhood not to be taken away from women, Eva and Avigail fight for what they believe to be a woman’s right. They fail to acknowledge, at least for the most part, how the pouch helps those who cannot have children naturally, until later on, when Eva manages to adopt a wider view.

The Growing Season takes multiple viewpoints into account. Women are also encouraged to transfer their unwanted foetuses to the pouch, rather than opt for abortion. This would satisfy the pro-life groups (or anti-woman, as I prefer to call them), but the issue of funding these unwanted children rears its ugly head. Many pro-life groups dedicate so much time to telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, they fail to address just how the children will be looked after throughout their lives – and who will be responsible.

This is a complicated story, not least because of the subject material. We are getting closer to developing a way for a baby to be grown outside of the female body. While this is a positive step for some groups, it might not be seen as such by others. There will always be clashing perspectives when it comes to something like this, and no one of them is more right – more righteous – than the other.

Sedgwick has taken a common, relevant theme, and turned it into an engaging, dystopian fiction. It’s real enough to be relatable, understandable, but still with that reassuring distance, almost like we’re holding the future at arms length. Read it.

Goodreads