Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

A few books from August

 First, just to let you know that the launch of Dragon in the Snow has been postponed to 7th October and will be viewable on Facebook, so if you can't make it live you can see it later! Let us know at 

contact@kellascatpress.co.uk if you need a link nearer the time.


Right, I seem to be halfway through a lot of books and haven't actually finished so many in August, so here we are in no particular order (this won't take you long, and I think I might have been a bit grumpy this month!):

Past Crimes: A Compendium of Historical Mysteries

OtherJennifer Ashley Gardner, Past Crimes: A collection of shorts from her three series. Well written with only a few Americanisms and they’re quite subtle, like picking up a fork instead of a knife and fork, and cooking ‘flat muffins’ for breakfast. The first centres on a young Victorian cook in London, the second on a Roman gladiator, and the third on Captain Lacey (I’d read one of those books before). I like the style of each, perhaps Captain Lacey least of the three, but then I’m picky about my Georgian crime. Something that particularly irks me (though Gardner is perhaps less guilty of this than other authors) is that neologism to want for ‘I wanted for her to be nice to me’. No. I wanted her to be nice to me. It seems to be creeping in from America and however correct you might argue it to be now, it certainly wasn’t even thought of in Georgian London.

A Corpse in A Caravan (An Izzy Palmer Novella, #1)

Benedict Brown, A Corpse in a Caravan: Roughly novella-sized, this was nicely set in a dismal winter caravan park in the rain, with tantalising allusions to books in the series which I have not read. I liked the quickly-sculpted social circle with all their issues and the way the plot was resolved.

Murder by Misrule (Francis Bacon Mystery #1)

Anna Castle, Murder byMisrule: Francis Bacon, who has offended the Queen, is bemoaning his lot when he comes across the corpse of a venerable lawyer, his old tutor. We’re straight into the action of Elizabethan London here. The style is good if a bit convoluted, and there’s a touch too much background information all at once, but the plot is pleasantly complex and it’s fairly easy to imagine ourselves in the setting.

Where The Truth Lies (DI Ridpath #1)

M.J. Lee, Where the TruthLies: I’ve enjoyed a book by this author before, but in a different series. The main character is a police officer just back from major sick leave and sent to work in the coroner’s office – an interesting set-up, and the first case starts with great promise. Not sure about some of the names – Eileen and Irene (though Eileen is sometimes Cecilia) for young women is unusual these days. There are some nasty scenes, but the main character is very likeable and the secondary characters are unusual without being freakish.

The Scent of Guilt (DI Bliss, #2)

Tony Forder, The Scent ofGuilt: There are a lot of people very enthusiastic about this series, but I'm afraid I don't quite understand the hype - just me, perhaps. Confusingly this starts years after the first in the series, though I gather the author had a good reason for it – just be warned. I’m confused too about the first two victims here, referred to as ‘elderly’ and aged, apparently, 60 and 58, and living in sheltered accommodation – goodness! I waited to hear if there was some odd reason for this. He also refers to his DCI’s PA as ‘elderly, bespectacled’ – I doubt the police keeps them on past 67. Bliss is no spring chicken – he’s 55, to judge by his reminiscences about his wife. Increasingly irritable, I don’t need to know every time he drives that it’s an Insignia, just that it’s a car and not a tractor. In the same vein, I don’t need to know what brand of mobile phone he uses. Bliss is a likeable character, though: he is supportive of junior officers with potential (their glowing remarks about him are a little less credible), has a better degree of common sense than a lot of his fictional equivalents, deals sensibly with his health problems and applies himself to his work without veering into obsession, yet has his believable faults, too, and in the end the book is very readable and enjoyable. But sorry, I still don't think it's outstanding.

The Secrets of Pain (Merrily Watkins, #11)

Phil Rickman, The Secrets of Pain: Perhaps not my favourite in this terrific series, but that might be because I kept being interrupted in reading it and kept losing my way. But as usual the characters continue to grow and the plot, entangling crime and the supernatural, is intriguing.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Book tour - The Backyard Tales, by Aniesha Brahma


About The Book



The Backyard Tales is the story of the bond shared between 17-year-old Mia Basu Roy and her beloved cat, Pippo. She seems to understand him far too well for a human. And he seems have another life that Mia begins to suspect. She follows her cat to their backyard and down a very dangerous road which leads her to witches, talking animals, and a story that’s much bigger than what she initially suspected.


Read this story to discover all of Mia and Pippo’s secrets, be enchanted by magic, and get the answer to a question that has haunted us for ages: does a cat truly love their owner?


Book Purchase Link


Amazon India | Amazon USA


Book Review

This is a sweet book for young teens set in Kolkata and involving cats and an awkward but benevolent young witch - and lots of action, hazard to local animals, travelling between worlds, and crushes on your next door neighbour. Mia is a very sympathetic heroine if a little mad, and the cats are, of course, lovely. Besides the sweetness there is a fair amount of reflection on the pain of teenagers with parents who don't get on,and how they deal with it. The ending is a little rushed and complicated - a bit more gentle explanation would have helped - but pretty satisfying! 

Author Bio




Young Adult and Children’s novelist, Aniesha Brahma, studied Comparative Literature. She started her career has as a social media manager in a publishing house. Currently works as a senior content writer in a digital media agency. When she is not working, she is dreaming up stories, conducting sessions for her popular YouTube Series, Chai & Chill, or planning how to get even more books and bookish content to readers via BUZZ Magazine. You can read more of her work at Aniesha’s Musings and drop a line at: aniesha.brahma@gmail.com

Catch Up with Aniesha Brahma on Social Media


Instagram: www.instagram.com/anieshabrahma

Twitter: www.twitter.com/anieshabrahma

Facebook: www.facebook.com/anieshabrahmaauthor

Website: www.anieshabrahma.com

Email: aniesha.brahma@gmail.com

Monday, 24 August 2020

Some refreshment for a book launch!

The launch of Dragon in the Snow will be on 12th September at 8p.m. British Summer Time, and you're all welcome (on Zoom)!

If you're interested, email contact@kellascatpress.co.uk and we'll be in touch with the link nearer the time. You can also ask questions in advance. 

I don't mind what you drink on the evening - ale and wine were both popular with Vikings - but I thought I should probably stick to something non-alcoholic. Meadowsweet, also known as mead-sweet as it was used to sweeten drinks, was plentiful in Orkney, so last Friday I went and picked some near the allotment, with a view to making a cordial. It likes the damp, but I wasn't quite invisaging having to wade through a temporary stream to get to it ... bit soggy. A cordial like this would have been made in Viking times but my recipe was not very authentic on this occasion! 


You need about twenty heads of meadowsweet, a lemon, a tablespoonful of citric acid and water - and a bit of patience.

Stick the flower heads in a saucepan, 

add the citric acid (traditionally out of date) 

and the quartered lemon. 

Boil a litre or so of water, add it to the saucepan and bring quickly back to the boil. Cover and leave for three days in a coolish place.

Strain the flowers into a large jug ...

And what does it taste like? Well ... if I were you I'd add a bit of runny honey, or maybe some lemonade: it's pretty sharp! But a nice flavour, and very refreshing.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Summer reading


                                         I forgot to post last month! What are months, anyway? So here is June's
                                            reading and July's reading, in no particular order ...

Tales from Daggy Bottom

Tales from Daggy Bottom, Kath Middleton: very funny series of short stories set in the same little village, involving ghosts, thieves, drug dealers, wellie dancers, and all kinds of miscreants. An absolute delight!

Singapore Ghost (Ash Carter #4)
Murray Bailey, Singapore Ghost: I picked this up free and found it's the fourth in the series, but it didn't matter much. I wondered a bit about the tagline,  'A Mystery-Crime Story with an Historical Twist'. It's set in post-Second World War Malaya - that's not an historical twist, that's an historical setting. Some Ian Fleming flavour to it, and I did love the setting, the jungle and the towns and the army bases. For a book which at first sight seems rather gungho, the female characters are stronger than you would expect. I'm not sure I would necessarily make an effort to read more in the series but if you put one in front of me, I'd pick it up.

Paula Williams, Burying Bad News: Kat is in trouble again, trying to balance three dodgy jobs. The hair salon is at risk, and her bar job is threatened, but her newspaper is also bought over by someone whse journalistic values are not her own. And then someone else is murdered. Entertaining but very human, this is another good read in the series.

The Mathematical Bridge (Nighthawk #2)
Jim Kelly, The Mathematical Bridge: This lovely, meditative atmosphere again, though we start with a child swept away in the river on an icy night. These are intriguing books, filled with memories of the first war, technicalities of living in Cambridge, the duties of police when war is coming, and nocturnal hospital scenes, and I find them bewitching. 

The Blood Card (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #3)
Elly Griffiths, The Blood Card: I picked this up thinking, for some reason, that it was the first in the Stephens and Mephisto series, but it's actually the third. It didn't take long to get into it, though, and to wriggle into the lives of the two main characters. I've always thought it's brave to write a historical about a period people still remember, particularly when the author themselves would not be of an age to recall it, but this rings very true with the research lightly worn. It was very enjoyable with a tense, exciting ending and lots of interesting detail as well as the usual well-rounded, complicated characters one expects from Elly Griffiths.

Dead Scared (Lacey Flint, #2)
Sharon Bolton, Dead Scared: It's a while since I've read one of these, remembering them as very well-written but a bit too gritty for my mood. But having dived in, I found this one very good. An investigation into too many strange suicides at Cambridge draws Lacey Flint into an undercover job. It's a picky thing, I know, but I find the name Mark Joesbury really irritating - I don't like it at all! But if you take that away the rest of the book was terrific.

Jeremiah's Bell
Denzil Meyrick, Jeremiah's Bell: Excellent as always, chilling in several places, an exciting and hilarious read.

The French Heir (Brighton Heirs 2)
Cecilia Peartree, The French Heir: I do like this series, a kind of Brighton Jane Austen with a spin of adventure and peril. It's interesting, too, that the author moves from one character to another from book to book: in the first the focus was Jack, eventually heir to Marshingdean, and now we're seeing things from the perspective (mostly) of Sebastian, with his mysterious French background. There is a very different atmosphere here from the author's Pitkirtly series, which I absolutely love - you'd almost think you had hit a different writer - but it's very appealing still.

The Heir to Nothing (Brighton Heirs Book 3)
Cecilia Peartree, The Heir to Nothing: Back to the same setting again but this time we focus on a third character, Dev, in another well-plotted tale with hints of smuggling and the French wars and a sweet romantic side. I'm delighted there's to be a fourth in the series - I'd thought it was a trilogy!

The Blood is Still (Rebecca Connolly, #2)
Douglas Skelton, The Blood is Still: Rebecca is in more trouble poking her journalistic nose into murder and local banditry. There is plenty of action here and suspense, too, not just over the murder case (a well-handled plot) but also over the future of poor Rebecca's career in the current climate of print journalism. Good characters and a realistic setting.

Small Mercies (Detective Annie Delamere, #1)
Alex Walters, Small Mercies: A new series for me from an author I've enjoyed before. The lead character is very jagged, defensive and uncomfortable, which means it takes a little time to settle in, but as there's a very odd corpse found in the first few pages, the reader is willing to cut her some slack. I particularly liked Burbage and Wharton who play a minor but amusing part, and the book as a whole was very satisfying - less of a whodunnit and more of a how and why.

Hold Your Tongue (DI Eve Hunter, #1)
Deborah Masson, Hold your Tongue: When the author signed my copy at Granite Noir in February she did apologise for treating her character Lexie so appallingly, and now I see why! A gritty, gory book but very well written: the complexities of her main character's troubled background occasionally need a map, but the plot is pacey.

In the Absence of Miracles
Michael Malone, In the Absence of Miracles: It's over two years since I first saw this author at Granite Noir and intended to follow him up, but I've been a bit slow! A shame, too, as this is immediately intriguing and very well written - a plot with a few twists and turns and a very human problem at the centre of it.

A Whisper of Sorrows (DCI Logan Crime Thrillers, #6)
J.D. Kirk, A Whisper of Sorrows: A really excellent, edge-of-your-seat episode in this terrific series. It's a bit more serious than the other books, but still full of wit - and tragedy.

Devil's Porridge (The Kirsty Campbell Mysteries Book 2)
Chris Longmuir, Devil's Porridge: A complex beginning, where nearly everyone on the train to Carlisle seems connected to everyone else. The setting rings true (apart from a girl called Shannon - it might have happened but it was really only a surname until recently and it sounded too modern to me) and I like to learn things from books, all about the massive construction at Gretna for the munitionettes and their work and entertainment. I found the use of commas a little distracting, but good action, exciting end!

The Death Game
Chris Longmuir, The Death Game: We see more of Kirsty's background here when she is relocated to Dundee to help start the Scottish acceptance of police women. It's hard to know who to trust or who might support her, even amidst her own family, but early 20th century Dundee shines through. There are some places where I would argue about the use of commas, and about a good deal of switching points of view, and as with the first book there are occasions when there's a bit too much research shining through, but it's an exciting conclusion and well-plotted.

Death of a Doxy (Kirsty Campbell Mysteries Book 3)
Chris Longmuir, Death of a Doxy - not to be confused with the Nero Wolfe book of the same name! Again, the historical background is very well done, as is the portrayl of early 20th. century Dundee. I enjoyed the story and it was very thoroughly wound up at the end. I'm not sure if there are more Kirsty Campbell books or not, but I would probably read them.

Tempest in the Tea Room (Jewish Regency Mysteries, #1)
Libi Astaire, Tempest in the Tea Room: I enjoyed seeing Regency London from a different perspective in this fairly light historical crime novel. The close-knit Jewish community, taking in every rank in society, clashes with non-Jewish high society when a new young doctor is accused by a lady of trying to poison her. I'd have liked a little more about the family we started with, but I suspect they appear in other books. A very pleasant read, and interesting.

No Simple Death (Dublin Murder Mystery, #1)
Valerie Keogh, No Simple Death: The first by this author for me, set in Dublin and Cork. From the start I found the characters intriguing and sympathetic, and the plot tantalising. There's a little quiet humour, just enough to keep everything ticking over - I really enjoyed this and hope to come back for more. 

And here? Well, as you may know the third in the Orkneyinga Murders series, Dragon in the Snow, is to appear on 31st. August, and I'm currently plot-wrangling the next Murray. It has, at least, a title - 'The Dead Chase'!

Friday, 31 July 2020

Dragon in the Snow - ready for preorder!

The dragon lunged and burned. Ketil felt its hot breath, but he knew it was only a dream.

When Sigrid goes to stay on Shapinsay, Ketil is unconcerned – nothing ever happens on Shapinsay. But then the fires start, and it seems that Ketil’s dream has come to life. Will he and Sigrid find the arsonist, before a whole settlement is wiped out forever?

Introductory price of 99p!

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Book tour: Gangs of Social Media!

We're on a quick book tour this weekend for this one:

'Gangs of Social Media' is a mirror of our present situation all over the world. Our lives are taken over by Social Media and we are a slave to our apps. And one of the most poisonous side effects of social media is Fake News. 

The story reveals how India’s one and only Forensic Cyber Psychologist, Professor Fabulous is summoned by the National Cyber Defense of India to hunt down the mastermind behind a cyber-attack on social media users who intentionally or unintentionally spread fake news. 

In a desperate race against time, Professor Fabulous encounters online scammers, cyber hacktivist gangs, paid trolls, Social Media business executives, Politicians, Cybersecurity Start-ups, and a forgotten victim of fake news before the mastermind reveals his motive behind the cyber-attack.

Will this be the end of fake news or the end of social media itself? 


Gangs of Social Media is a crime mystery thriller set-in present-day India. The story is of 12 hours when Mr. RAJPUT, Deputy National Cyber Defense Chief teams up with PROFESSOR FABLUOS who is India’s only Forensic Cyber Psychologist to hunt down the MASTERMIND of the worst cyber-attack of all time on SOCIAL MEDIA users who often indulge in spreading FAKE NEWS.
The story begins with three nameless youths in three metro cities of India, namely Bangalore, New Delhi, and Mumbai. All three of them heavily use WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter to do one and only one thing, to spread FAKE NEWS motivated by aimless emotion, blind political affiliation, and money. These three represent most social media users in India.
But that day, all the social media users who have been spreading fake news with whatever intention and without any consequences will have to pay a heavy price. A ransomware (computer virus) disguised in the form of a WhatsApp message or Facebook post or as a tweet is circulated and as usual, without thinking of consequences, the users start sharing this message. The moment the users shares any fake news, their device either phone, tablet or laptop or computer will hang, and a message is displayed, demanding a ransom of Rs.1,00,000 to be paid within 12 hours as a consequence of sharing fake news. If users fail to pay the ransom, the devices will be destroyed and all the data on the device will be made public.
Professor Fabulous and Mr. Rajput have a bitter past, but they put their personal differences away to catch the culprit behind this cyber-attack. The story narration is sequential but keeps the reader guessing. The division of the book into 15 chapters with titles that almost foreshadow the narration that would happen in the chapter is marvelously and artistically done by the author.
Gangs of Social Media sounds dangerous but there is not much to be worried about as Professor Fabulous is fabulous at his job. But what happens at the end. Is the search over? Does Professor Fabulous get to the criminal? The book trades us through the process. It takes us from one person to the other. The end is what the reader must discover herself or himself. It’s the most surprising the realistic climax and leaves reader with few open-ended questions.

Book Purchase Links: Amazon India | Amazon USA

Some Interesting Quotes from the Book: 

"Fake news existed in the past and will continue to exist until human civilization exists, there is no escape from it… "- Professor Fabulous

"Three greatest inventions of the 21st century. The Smartphone, the Internet, and Social Media. The device, the medium, and the platform. The holy trinity of Fake news Empire." - Professor Fabulous

“The color of this shirt is blue…that is a fact, and nobody can dispute that. The color of this shirt is awesome!!! That is an opinion… it is highly subjective, biased, and customized to individual needs. The color of this shirt gives me superpowers… that is false or fake news...” - The prime suspect

About the Author

Vasimraja was born on 29th February 1984, in India.  He currently lives in San Francisco Bay Area, California USA. He started reading fiction novels at the age of eight after overhearing a story narration of Sherlock Holmes by his father. He grew up in different towns of Northern Karnataka State before his family relocated to Dharwad, the literature capital of Karnataka where he met celebrated playwright and author, Late Girish Karnad. He was greatly influenced by Karnad’s writing and personality.

Vasimraja works in the field of semiconductor engineering and has two patents on semiconductor memories. He is an avid reader of English, Kannada and Hindi literature.  He presents the most complex ideas in a very simple form, leaving a lasting impression on readers.

Catch up with Vasimraja Bhavikatti On:

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Missing Orkney

O to be in Orkney, now that summer’s here,
O to be in Orkney, and drink Dark Island beer,
I’d ferry up to Westray, and stroll by Skara Brae,
And watch the gentle breezes birl my bobble hat away.
I’d worship with St. Magnus, and visit Judith Glue
And eat huge fresh crab sandwiches, and beremeal biscuits too,
I’d ogle Ortak jewellery, try jerseys on for fit,
And buy more wool than any knitter’d ever hope to knit.
I’d go to the Orcadian, and buy a load of books
And recipes to satisfy long-dead Orcadian cooks
I’d go to the distilleries at Scapa and the Park
And try a Seaglass gin or two – but maybe after dark.
I’d go hiking with the Vikings, and march to Rackwick Bay
I’d crawl inside Maeshowe again, imagine New Year’s Day,
I’d walk the coast of Rousay, and poke in cairns and cists,
And I’d get a lovely suntan – but only to my wrists.
I’d cross the Churchill Barriers, and peer in Scapa Flow
(but never dare to dive to see the blockships down below);
I’d wonder at the Chapel, and the frescoes in the mess
Of the battery that guarded wartime Orkney at Stromness.
I’d visit Orkney Library, and commune with the balls,
But COVID’s set up barriers more terrible than walls.
So I’ll sit here in my study till Northlink says okay,
O to be in Orkney – but I’ll be back one day!