All about Books, Meet the Author

Meet the Author: Christina Courtenay

It’s Monday! This means one thing – it’s time to meet an author and I’m excited to introduce Christina Courtenay, author of Whispers of the Runes to my blog, who is loved by myself and those who visit the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf.

Meet the Author: Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay

Welcome Christina, I’m so excited you are here to chat about Vikings and your heroes. Over to you

The word Viking is one most people recognise and it instantly conjures up thoughts of fierce men, hellbent on plunder, rape and violence. But that’s not what I think of when I hear that word, because the majority of the Vikings were not like that. They were determined, courageous and adventurous, and totally fearless. They also had a well-developed justice system that was as fair as it was possible to be. Some totalitarian states of today could learn a thing or two from them!

With my Runes series, I wanted to show a different side to them. That yes, they did go plundering, but not all of them were bad people. They were just like us – some good, some not. And some of the things we think of as bad weren’t necessarily so to them. Also, those people who fell foul of their attacks weren’t really much better – in fact, some of them were far worse in many ways.

The hero of the first book in the series, ECHOES OF THE RUNES goes “a-Viking”, ie. he sets off on a journey with the sole purpose of bringing home thralls and treasure. Yet, he’s not your average marauder because his heart isn’t in it. The only reason he does it is to prove to his wife that he’s not a coward (she’s a horrible woman who knows how to push his buttons). And with the other books, especially WHISPERS OF THE RUNES, I wanted to highlight their intrepid travels across oceans and continents, all thanks to the amazing longships they developed, and their curiosity and sense of adventure. Setting off across the north Atlantic in an open ship, filled with supplies and even cattle, took true courage!

So I guess what I’m really saying is, I wish people would stop giving the Vikings such a bad press and really look at all their amazing achievements, rather than the small percentage who decided to terrorise Western Europe for a while. It would take nearly a thousand years before women in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) regained the sort of rights Viking women had, because once Christianity arrived, they became chattels. And whatever we think of them, an awful lot of us are descended from them because they spread far and wide. So beware what you say – you might be talking about one of your direct ancestors!

  • Your Runes series is based in the times of the Vikings, what attracted you to write about this time in history?
  • I’m half Swedish so the Vikings have always been part of my heritage, and of course at school there the teachers paid special attention to that era. There are reminders all around the country – runestones, graves and artefacts in museums – and as I was a history buff from an early age, I also read all the Norse sagas when I was quite young. They made a huge impression on me. Besides, there is something very romantic about Vikings, wouldn’t you say?
  • Your novels are highly detailed and blend fact with fiction seamlessly, how do you tackle research?
  • Thank you! Like any author writing historical fiction, I research the background and history in general first, then study particular aspects more in depth. I read lots of factual books, watched TV programmes, visited museums and attended events like the Jorvik Viking Festival. I also travelled to some of the places the Vikings were known to have occupied, and I went to outdoor museums where there are reconstructed houses and/or ships. I try not to get too bogged down in research as I’m always impatient to get to the actual story, which to me is the most important thing, but obviously I try my best to get all the facts right as much as possible.
  • What inspired you to write time slip novels? Do you write other genres?
  • Ever since I read one, I’ve wanted to write timeslip myself – it’s my favourite sub-genre. I think it was Barbara Erskine’s Lady of Hay that really tipped the balance for me – it was just such a great story and I loved the premise of having two timelines that intertwine. I have written other genres – pure historical romance and also contemporary YA – and currently I’m writing time travel which is slightly different. (It’s not a dual timeline, instead the protagonist from the present actually physically travels back in time). Timeslip is my preferred sub-genre though and I’d like to continue with that.
  • Rurik and Sara are your latest protagonists in Whispers of the Runes and Rurik also appeared in a previous book. Did you always intend for him to have his own novel or did the idea develop later?
  • He was always going to get his own book as I had planned a trilogy for the three brothers. Also, I really liked him as a character. I had to force myself not to let him steal any of the spotlight when he appears as Hrafn’s brother in THE RUNES OF DESTINY because otherwise the heroine might have fallen for him instead. That would have been awkward!
  • I have a bookcase full of books I will keep forever and regularly reread them. Do you reread books, or do you only read them one?
  • There are some books I reread occasionally – Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion for one as it always makes me laugh – but mostly I only read them once. There are just so many wonderful stories out there and only so much time, and I wouldn’t want to miss the next amazing one.
  • What are you currently reading?
  • I’m currently reading four or five books per week, so it’s a mixture of romance sub-genres. Among them Nicola Cornick’s The Last Daughter, Kylie Scott’s Fake, Kirsty Greenwood’s Big Sexy Love, Sarah Morgan’s The Summer Seekers and Loretta Chase’s Ten Things I Hate About the Duke. A mixture of timeslip, contemporary and Regency this week 😊
  • If you could go back in time, which era would you go to and why?
  • Obviously, I’d like to visit the Viking era to see if I’ve portrayed it correctly in my books, but I would also quite like to visit the haut ton of the Regency. Only if I ended up in a very rich household, of course, and not as someone’s scullery maid!
  • What is your favourite book?
  • Favourite ever has to be Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
  • Who is your favourite author?
  • I can’t really choose just one again, but if I must, Georgette Heyer again
  • Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
  • I suppose we are all influenced by everything we read but I hope by now I’ve developed my own style
  • Where is your favourite place to read or write?
  • Anywhere I can sit with lots of cushions behind me (I have a bad back)
  • When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
  • I began because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum to my first daughter and not have to go back to work and leave her at day care, so I decided to try my hand at writing. As it turned out, getting published was a lot harder than I thought so it wasn’t until she left home, aged 21, that I finally made it into print! Good thing I’d been bitten by the writing bug and didn’t give up. I got my first book published following an introduction to an editor at an RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) party.
Book cover for Whisper of the Runes

You can discover more about Christina Courtenay’s new release Whisper of the Runes here.

Purchase link: https://smarturl.it/WOTRCC

Author biography

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the RunesWhispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.christinacourtenay.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinacourtenayauthor?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ChristinaCourtenayAuthor/

Thank you so much Christina Courtenay for popping by and chatting about all things Vikings, books and writing. Good luck in your next project.

Have a wonderful week and take care!

Love

Book review

Book Review: This Shining Life by Harriet Kline

Book Review: This Shining Life by Harriet Kline

Book Cover: This Shining Life by Harriet Kline

Title: This Shining Life

Author: Harriet Kline

Publisher: DoubleDay

Genre: general fiction

Release date: 3rd June 2021

Blurb

For Rich, life is golden.

He fizzes with happiness and love.

But Rich has an incurable brain tumour.

When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through.

At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it?

But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.


Wonderfully funny and achingly beautiful, this is a story about love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.

My Thoughts

Behind the stunning, illustrated book cover that zings with life is a novel which shows the rawness and complexity of grief and love. The emotional story is told through the eyes of those who loved fun-loving and life-embracing Rich, and highlights the different ways grief affects people and how losing a key member of the family can shift the dynamics of relationships to reveal hidden traumas which need to be tackled before healing can begin.

 It’s beautifully written, with distinctive voices which is quite a feat when there are multiple points of view. It was Ollie and his grandmother, Angran, who stole the spotlight from the others, with Gerald, Rich’s father a close third. All were complex characters, troubled and often misunderstood. Ollie is neuro divergent and is used to his dad knowing the routine and what he likes so he is left floundering when he dies but Ollie is also the thread holding the family together and it is his unique way of seeing things and belief that he can make things right which offers the lighter moments once Rich’s voice ends. His dad may only have spoken for a few chapters, but the love the others have for him, makes his personality shine on every page.

Angran’s isolated run-down cottage near the rugged river nicknamed The Ravages is a clever location used to amplify the turmoil and darkness of grief and emotions the characters have.

Would I recommend?

This Shining Life deals with some hard hitting, and heart breaking topics such as death, dementia and depression with sensitivity, accuracy and tenderness. It’s not an easy read because of the subject matter, but has a powerful and uplifting message making it an unforgettable. It would make an ideal book for book clubs because there is a wealth of topics to discuss and characters to explore.

Author Biography

Harriet Kline author photo
Harriet Kline

HARRIET KLINE works part time registering births, deaths and marriages and writes for the rest of the week. Her story Ghost won the Hissac Short Story Competition and Chest of Drawers won The London Magazine Short Story Competition. Other short stories have been published online with LitroFor Books’ Sake, and ShortStorySunday, and on BBC Radio 4.

Image of magpie with the quote 'Treasuring. after all, was what life should be about'

Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with this gem of a book to give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy reading!

Love

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All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Whispers of the Runes by Christina Courtenay

Today, I’m excited to share my review for a romantic time-slip novel, Whispers of the Runes by Christina Courtenay. Firstly, I was attracted to this by the title as I love runes and wondered how they would be incorporated into a story and secondly the time slip to the times of the Vikings. Ever since, I visited York as a child I have been fascinated by the era.

Book Review: Whispers of Runes by Christina Courtenay

Whispers of the Runes by Christina Courtney

Title: Whispers of the Runes

Author: Christina Courtenay

Publisher: Headline

Genre: Time slip, romance

Release date: 24th June 2021

Blurb

Time is no barrier for a love that is destined to be.

She couldn’t be sure that she had travelled through time … but deep down she just knew.

And her only way back had just disappeared.

When jewellery designer Sara Mattsson is propelled back to the ninth century, after cutting herself on a Viking knife she uncovers at an archaeological dig, she is quick to accept what has happened to her. For this is not the first Sara has heard of time travel.

Although acutely aware of the danger she faces when she loses the knife – and with it her way to return to her own time – this is also the opportunity of a lifetime. What better way to add authenticity to the Viking and Anglo-Saxon motifs used in her designs?

As luck has it, the first person Sara encounters is Rurik Eskilsson, a fellow silversmith, who is also no stranger to the concept of time travel. Agreeing that Sara can accompany him to Jorvik, they embark on a journey even more perilous than one through time. But Fate has brought these two kindred spirits together across the ages for a reason…

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whispers-Runes-enthralling-romantic-timeslip-ebook/dp/B08L6535FJ/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Runes-enthralling-romantic-timeslip-ebook/dp/B08L6535FJ/

My Thoughts

This is the first book I have read from Christina Courtenay, though I have others waiting patiently on my Kindle which I need to catch up on. I loved it and though it is the third in the Runes series; it works well as a standalone. This highly readable romantic novel follows a modern silversmith, Sara, when she slips into the 9th century thanks to an ancient sword. I quickly connected to her when she meets a shipwrecked Viking, Rurik. Unlike the traditional stereotypical Viking we all expect, he is chivalrous, kind and unphased by her time travelling because he has met a wanderer before in a previous book. I loved this twist because it meant Sara did not have to pretend to be someone she wasn’t, increasing the speed of the story. Rurik is also a silversmith, giving the characters a common thread to discuss and allow the chemistry between them build. He really is a Viking everyone could fall in love with.

As like all time travellers, Sara is faced with dangers from others but this tension is balanced with the everyday life of the Vikings. The highly detailed descriptions of this gave the novel depth and was able to transport me to the tents in the camps immersed in the smells and chat. Unlike some well researched historical fiction the details are perfectly blended with the storytelling and were never a distraction but made it a joy to read.

I can’t wait to be able to nudge the other books in the series up my TBR pile and catch up with the series.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it is a perfect summer read with the perfect gentle hero to fall in love with, set in interesting times and locations. Living on near the East Coast of Yorkshire, I can’t help love books even more if they are located in places nearby, this novel is no different and makes me long for when I can get to York again.

The magic in the Runes series may be subtle but with swords that allow time travel, this novel has a well-deserved place on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and will be popular with many witchy and non-witchy customers of The Enchanted Emporium.

Author Biography

Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).  Whispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.christinacourtenay.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinacourtenayauthor?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ChristinaCourtenayAuthor/

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Whispers of the Runes plus a pair of silver Viking style earrings  (Open INT)*

Click here to enter

Giveaway prizes

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this tour and the advanced copy to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy reading and good luck!

Love

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Tapestries of Life by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

It’s the weekend and I plan to spend it reading and appreciating the garden which is coming into bloom. The last year made me appreciate it more than ever and having somewhere to connect with nature has been a godsend for my mental health while shielding during lockdown. Every time a new species of bird visited the feeder or butterfly appeared, I felt extremely lucky. Today’s book Tapestries of Life by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson discusses this and so much more.

Book Review: Tapestries of Life by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

Title: Tapestries of Life

Author: Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

Publisher: Mudlark

Genre: Non-fiction, Nature, Environmental

Release date: 15th April 2021

Blurb

The second book by the bestselling author of Extraordinary Insects


Trees clean air and water; hoverflies and bees pollinate our crops; the kingfisher inspired the
construction of high-speed trains. In Tapestries of Life, bestselling author Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
explains how closely we are all connected with the natural world, highlighting our indelible link with
nature’s finely knit system and our everyday lives.


In the heart of natural world is a life-support system like no other, a collective term that describes all
the goods and services we receive – food, fresh water, medicine, pollination, pollution control, carbon
sequestration, erosion prevention, recreation, spiritual health and so much more. In this utterly
captivating book, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson sets out to explore these wonderful, supportive elements
– taking the reader on a journey through the surprising characteristics of the natural world.

My Thoughts

OK confession time. I wanted to read this book purely for its cover. Like a bright flower to a bee, it drew me in and demanded to be held and read. It promised so much, and it delivered on every count. This book is superb, one of the best and most readable non-fiction books I have read about a complex topic that could have been dry under a different penmanship. It is educational without being preachy. Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson’s passion and knowledge of nature and its connectivity to us is outstanding and shines on the page. Part imparting facts, and part memoir it focuses on how nature and humans interact beyond what we see and how nature is the foundation of our lives and without the help it gives disaster looms. From water, bugs to pharmaceuticals it covers a lot of material. It’s a delight to read, and I reverted to the ten-year-old me who blurted out the random facts I learnt to members of the family when they walked by. It was also horrifying because we are pushing our planet to the limits, and we need to tip the balance in favour of protecting nature even those things we don’t see and help it flourish. This book made me more grateful for what I have and consider ways I can help nature further and also see nature in a different light especially those things like bugs I shy away from. I loved the poems threaded into the book too.

Would I recommend?

Yes! Everyone should read it and every person in the G7 summit also running this weekend should have a copy. Maybe it would convince them to take the issue seriously.

The stunning cover reflects the beautiful book inside. It’s beautifully written, enabling the reader to access knowledge about the connection between humans and nature easily and has changed my outlook for life. It is on my forever shelf and I know I will read it again and again. I look forward to reading her previous book Extraordinary Insects and people who know me will tell you, I usually hate creepy crawlies.

Author Biography

Photo of author Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
A

Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson is the bestselling author of Extraordinary Insects. A professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences(NMBU) in Ås, Norway, she is also a scientific advisor for The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research NINA. She has a Doctorate degree in conservation biology and lectures on nature management and forest biodiversity.

Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with this gem of a book to give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy weekend and reading!

Love

The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is for magic-orientated books only but I know it would make this an exception. Every witch should read this to boost their connection with the nature they already love.

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

It’s June already and the sun is shining. I am pleased to share my review for Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell. I was drawn to this novel because of it’s setting, Dubai. My knowledge of this city is minimal but it sounds exotic, stunning and since I’ve sent one of my character’s husband in my WIP out there to work I thought it was time to learn more. Google is great but there is nothing like a good book to bring a place to life. Thank you Random Things Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing me with a copy to read so i could give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Book Review: Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

Title: Diving for Pearls

Author: Jamie O’Connell

Publisher: Doubleday

Genre: general fiction, crime

Release date: 3rd June 2021

Blurb

‘A hugely engaging novel from a talented new writer’ JOHN BOYNE

‘A compelling tale uncovering a world of secrets, injustice and, for the lucky few, escape’ 
ANNE GRIFFIN, author of WHEN ALL IS SAID

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city…

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?O’Connell expertly weaves a delicate web of intertwining stories, combining dark wit, and devastating emotional truth as fates collide and lives are shattered.

My Thoughts

Diving for Pearls has beautiful cover which suits the location of Dubai perfectly, and it was a joy to hold.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel but the premise drew me in as did the location. I knew the bare minimum about Dubai, so this tale was an eye opener because it gave an insight into this city, which can be the provider of dreams and wealth but also horror and poverty. There are many realistic characters all with flaws and it gave a snapshot into their lives against the backdrop of the death of a young woman. It took a while to understand how the protagonists were linked but once the penny dropped, I enjoyed it more.

The main focus is on an Irish family living in Dubai, Siobhan with her sons and her brother, Trevor, who is visiting. It showcased the overwhelming wealth some people have compared to others but also how it can disappear at any point. Wealth and security are superficial and under the surface is fear and corruption. This was horrifying to read. Gete, the family’s maid stood out as the protagonist I loved. She saw it all and was a calming influence when consumerism wins over family time and discipline. Her inner strength and belief shined through. I would love her to have her own sequel so I could see what she does next. This novel reads like a movie, dipping into the lives without lingering so some of the connection I wanted to have with some characters was lost. In the main, I think this style suited the story but some character’s stories felt unresolved.

The strength of this novel was the ability to create a visual scene in my mind mind and transport me to Dubai, I could feel the sand, heat and air conditioning. The location felt real and atmospheric. Usually when this is the case, the location is added to my setting wish list but despite the draw of large fish tank in a mall, this novel has scared me into staying at home.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it’s different and there is plenty to discuss if read as a book club read. I enjoyed discovering the location without the travel. It was well researched with memorable characters. It’s a debut novel I will remember and feel it could easily be translated to a tv series.

Author Biography

Author Jamie O’Connell

JAMIE O’CONNELL has had short stories highly commended by the Costa Short Story Award and the Irish Book Award Short Story of the Year. He has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition and shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award and the Sky Arts Futures Fund. He has an MFA and MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. He has worked for Penguin Random House, Gill Books and O’Brien Press. Diving for Pearls is his first novel.

Have you ever been to Dubai or read other books set in this location? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Happy reading and writing!

Love

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