Thursday 21 December 2017

The Invisible Crowd by Ellen Wiles

What a thought-provoking book title, and a very astute way to describe this particular group of people.

The story is about a refugee fleeing a brutal civil war and the people he encounters on his journey to freedom. The process to remain and the interviews are quite frankly bordering on harassment.

There is being specific and then there is being insulting for the fun of it. Victim blaming is the least of it. I know it is their job to determine whether there is an actual threat waiting for them if they return to their home country, so a certain level of toughness is to be expected.

I'm not going to lie, the headlines from the ever so reliable and never objective newspapers are depressing. It also angers me that the masses are spoon-fed this over-hyped tripe as real news, and of course the majority believes the headlines are not only true, in their minds they also apply them to every single refugee.The masses are whipped into a frenzy and blame everything on any foreigner they can find, even if they are of the fictional variety. There are bad apples in every basket, regardless of which type or brand of apple they are.

Wiles has written an interesting all-round account of the political situation we find ourselves in. In fact she has probably barely broken the seal on the Pandora's box of trauma refugees go through. Human trafficking, profiting from the desperation of others, modern day slavery and just exploitation in general.

It's important that people comprehend the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. A refugee has bag full of trauma by the time they arrive in the safe haven they are heading for. They encounter discrimination, racism, neglect and pure dislike.

Hopefully this story will make a few readers reconsider their opinions on refugees and the personal individual stories behind each person.

Buy The Invisible Crowd at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ellenwiles @HarperCollinsUK


Wednesday 20 December 2017

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

It is has a gothic spooky feel to it mixed with a wee bit of horror.

The reader follows the story of two women in the same grand house. One in the distant past and the other in the more recent past. Elsie's story starts in an insane asylum charged with quite a few murders. The doctor in charge is trying to get her to communicate, because he is convinced there must be more to the story. Why would a well situated woman suddenly go off the deep end and cause such brutal mayhem?

Before ending up in the asylum Elsie is pregnant, has just recently lost her husband and is returning to his childhood home accompanied by her husband's impoverished cousin. This isn't exactly her choice, as her decisions are being made by her much younger brother. Her brother is more concerned about the way it looks to society and any possible scandals.

Women weren't allowed to own anything per se in that era and any property, inherited or otherwise would always fall to the men. This includes husbands, brothers, fathers and cousins.

It isn't long before the women in the household start experiencing strange events. Footprints and messages in the dust, empty rooms suddenly become fully furnished clean ones, and peculiar wooden statues start appearing throughout the house.

A peaceful retreat turns into a fight for sanity and a fight to survive. Elsie finds herself drawn into the dark abyss of the past and the personal tragedies of the previous inhabitants of the house.

It's a decent premise, however the execution could have been better. The companions are an excellent idea, they give the whole story a creepy vibe, and the ending is wonderfully macabre. Purcell is creative enough to pull off a great story, this one just needs a bit of a polish.

Buy The Silent Companions at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Tuesday 19 December 2017

The Mountain by Luca D'Andrea

It takes a special type of person to live in an isolated village where the elements are your closest and most dangerous enemy. The beauty of the surrounding nature is simultaneously also the siren song of the dangers hidden beneath the perfect exterior.

Salinger is traumatized by a helicopter crash on the mountain. The event itself caused emotional turmoil and also hallucinatory events, which leads him to think he is connected with the mountain. The mountain becomes a living breathing entity in his mind. The beast claims its victims without discrimination. It swallows them whole and only spits them out of its icy interior now and again.

D'Andrea describes the mentality of the small village or town environment with great skill. Unless you were born and raised there you will always be the outsider, especially if you are different in any way shape or form. You can live there for decades and still be the foreigner, the intruder or the person they are least likely to trust with secrets from the inner sanctum.

This secrecy is part of the problem when it comes to this small population, because they will do anything to ensure the safety of their fellow inhabitants. This is probably the reason the Bletterbach murders have remained unsolved for so many decades, despite the viciousness of the attack, the possibility of one of them being a killer is a thought they would rather not contemplate.

It's an intriguing combination of existential fears, post-traumatic stress and a calculated killer. There was an element of the story I found a wee bit out there though, and perhaps detrimental to the story, mainly because it made it veer into the beyond belief spectrum.

Aside from that it is a well-thought out crime with a surprisingly savage killer and a captivating environment. I wonder if D'Andrea will be revisiting Salinger again.

Buy The Mountain at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Monday 18 December 2017

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Ex-wives. ex-girlfriends and ex-partners in general, they tend to get a bad rap. Their wickedness is legendary, their legacy leaves behind a vast trail of destruction or rather that is what a lot of their ex- partners would have you believe. It is easy to demonize the woman, or man of course, but for the purpose of this story and review I will stick with women, and to blame her for the shambles of a marriage.

Nellie appears to be the needy and jealous type. She is obsessed with her replacement, the younger perkier new fiancé of her ex-husband. She stalks her in an attempt to be part of a life she no longer belongs to, her old life. Her house, her money, her family and her husband. To the reader she appears to be the epitome of a stalker waiting for the right moment to strike.

I found myself identifying with Vanessa when it came to her seemingly drastic approach to sever ties with her hubby. The abusive, controlling person will never concede control unless it is done on their terms, regardless whether that means via divorce, an ocean between you or death.

As long as they have the last word and action in your emotional and often physical demise they feel satisfied that they have retained control over you and your life. This includes maligning your name and reputation, trying to take away what matters the most to you, which is often the children, and any kind of financial stability. Control is the beginning and the end of this type of abusive relationship. If he or she doesn't have the upper hand or makes the checkmate move, then the abused person may find themselves in mortal peril. At the very least they can expect a lifetime of continued harassment. Sounds dire, right? Well it is.

The Wife Between Us is an accurate portrayal of what certain people want you to believe and then somewhere hidden behind closed doors is the actual truth. The next time you hear a story about a crazy vindictive ex just keep in mind that you are only hearing one side of the story or the conveniently edited version of the story. Abusive charmers can be very persuasive and convincing.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story, and I believe the one the abused don't think about and can't afford to think about, is the replacement. You either have to be cold-hearted enough to walk away and never look back or you can try and warn them about what is coming straight for them, bearing in mind that they would never believe you, because hey you're just the crazy obsessive ex.

Hendricks and Pekkanen have managed to create a compelling intense read, which doesn't have to rely on exaggerated scenarios, because it's a story that happens all the time. This is reality. Hopefully it will encourage others to look beyond the shallow gossip and to think twice about passing judgement.

Buy The Wife Between Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any retailer.
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Friday 15 December 2017

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

It is unique, innovative and certainly a compelling piece of fiction, with an almost dystopian like plot.

Think Fallen (1998 with Denzel Washington) with the psychedelic feel of Clockwork Orange and crime element of a 24/7 days a week ongoing Groundhog Day meets Christie mystery.
'Nothing here is arbitrary' and that is exactly what readers have to keep in mind whilst reading this.

Aiden has, as far as he is aware, been summoned to Blackheath to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, and until he can do that he has to relive the same day over and over again. Initially it all sounds like a rather complex murder mystery weekend. Then things start to get a wee bit more sinister and violent.

Aiden awakens each day in the body of a different guest, which gives him the advantage of seeing the crime and clues from a variety of angles. There are also disadvantages to inhabiting a new host every day though. When there are two conscious minds in the same body only one can be in control, which means that might not always be Aiden.

He finds himself struggling to maintain control and to differentiate between friend and foe. There seem to be other players in this nefarious game, the question is whether they are working with him or against him.

I liked the concept in its entirety, especially the retribution angle of the plot. In fact log this as a potential future method for so-called rehabilitation a la Dante's nine circles of hell. I will gladly plan very specific scenarios for certain people, just saying.

I am certain we will be reading more by Turton in the future, and I do hope he manages to maintain his ability to think outside of the box, which in turn gets readers grey cells twisting like tiny tornadoes. I do so like the occasional unpredictable storm in my head.

Buy The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Sunday 10 December 2017

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

Fair warning, this is fair bit of a slog at over 780 pages, however it helps to know that originally this was published as a trilogy. So The Crow Girl (2010), Hunger Fire (2011) and Pythia's Instructions (2012) have now been republished as one volume called The Crow Girl.

Interesting tidbit of info, Erik Axl Sund is a nom de plume used by writer duo Hakan Sundquist and Jerker Eriksson.

I think banging it together as one volume, as opposed to the trilogy it was before, was perhaps detrimental to the plot and original intention of the writers. It is quite simply so long that it often appears disjointed and without focus. I can however see how it worked as a trilogy.

There is so much going on, during which the reader is pulled in a multitude of directions. So many in fact that there are just too many cooks in the kitchen trying to create the perfect dish. The end result is a lack of structure and a lack of a definitive voice.

It is dark. Actually don't expect any lightness whatsoever. Erik Axl Sund pulls the reader into a bottomless pit of depravity, which includes some of the truly inhumane moments of the 20th century and quite a few equally deplorable 21st century crimes.

We are talking child and sex trafficking, paedophilia, child abuse, bestiality, child pornography, corruption and torture. There is no fluffy unicorn to balance this out, instead the rest of the time the authors venture into the world of mental health problems and psychological disorders. I admit there are a few tender moments, however they are overpowered by the fact the reader knows what is really going on with the characters.

The real question throughout is who Sofia really is, and what is she guilty of.or rather what does she think she is guilty of? In a story full of death and pain how much of the narrative, in regards to Sofia, is a reaction to the trauma and just her imagination, and how much of it is based in reality?

The Crow Girl is, despite its bleakness and the harsh reality of the crimes within, an attempt to show the devastation and implications of deep-set trauma, especially when experienced in childhood. It is also an attempt to shine a light on the exploitation of children, the corruption and general apathy towards crimes against children, which in turn has led to neglect and a burying of heads in sand on a major scale.

Buy The Crow Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Thursday 7 December 2017

#BlogTour The Evacuee Christmas by Katie King

It's my turn on the Blog-Tour for The Evacuee Christmas by Katie King and I'm delighted to be able to offer you the chance to read Chapter One of this tearjerker of a read. Enjoy! Oh, and at the bottom of this post is my review.

About the Author
Katie King is a new voice to the saga market. She lives in Kent, and has worked in publishing. She has a keen interest in twentieth-century history and was inspired by a period spent living in South East London.
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Buy The Evacuee Christmas
About the book
Autumn 1939 and London prepares to evacuate its young. In No 5 Jubilee Street, Bermondsey, ten-year-old Connie is determined to show her parents that she’s a brave girl and can look after her twin brother, Jessie. She won’t cry, not while anyone’s watching.

In the crisp Yorkshire Dales, Connie and Jessie are billeted to a rambling vicarage. Kindly but chaotic, Reverend Braithwaite is determined to keep his London charges on the straight and narrow, but the twins soon find adventures of their own.

As autumn turns to winter, Connie’s dearest wish is that war will end and they will be home for Christmas. But this Christmas Eve there will be an unexpected arrival…

Extract - Chapter One of The Evacuee Christmas
The shadows were starting to lengthen as twins Connie and Jessie made their way back home. They felt quite grown up these days as a week earlier it had been their tenth birthday, and their mother Barbara had iced a cake and there’d been a raucous tea party at home for family and their close friends, with party games and paper hats. The party had ended in the parlour with Barbara bashing out songs on the old piano and everyone having a good old sing-song.
What a lot of fun it had been, even though by bedtime Connie felt queasy from eating too much cake, and Jessie had a sore throat the following morning from yelling out the words to ‘The Lambeth Walk’ with far too much vigour.
On the twins’ iced Victoria sponge Barbara had carefully piped Connie’s name in cerise icing with loopy lettering and delicately traced small yellow and baby-pink flowers above it.
Then Barbara had thoroughly washed out her metal icing gun and got to work writing Jessie’s name below his sister’s on the lower half of the cake.

This time Barbara chose to work in boxy dark blue capitals, with a sailboat on some choppy turquoise and deep-blue waves carefully worked in contrasting-coloured icing as the decoration below his name, Jessie being very sensitive about his name and the all-too-common assumption, for people who hadn’t met him but only knew him by the name ‘Jessie’, that he was a girl.
If she cared to think about it, which she tried not to, Barbara heartily regretted that Ted had talked her into giving their only son as his Christian name the Ross family name of Jessie which, as tradition would have it, was passed down to the firstborn male in each new generation of Rosses.
It wasn’t even spelt Jesse, as it usually was if naming a boy, because – Ross family tradition again – Jessie was on the earlier birth certificates of those other Jessies and in the family Bible that lay on the sideboard in the parlour at Ted’s elder brother’s house, and so Jessie was how it had to be for all the future Ross generations to come.

Ted had told Barbara what an honour it was to be called Jessie, and Barbara, still weak from the exertions of the birth, had allowed herself to be talked into believing her husband. She must have still looked a little dubious, though, as then Ted pointed out that his own elder brother Jessie was a gruff-looking giant with huge arms and legs, and nobody had ever dared tease him about his name. It was going to be just the same for their newborn son, Ted promised.
Big Jessie (as Ted’s brother had become known since the birth of his nephew) was in charge of the maintenance of several riverboats on the River Thames, Ted working alongside him, and Big Jessie, with his massive bulk, could single-handedly fill virtually all of the kitchen hearth in his and his wife Val’s modest terraced house that backed on to the Bermondsey street where Ted and Barbara raised their children in their own, almost identical red-brick house.
Barbara could see why nobody in their right mind would mess with Big Jessie, even though those who knew him soon discovered that his bruiser looks belied his gentle nature as he was always mild of manner and slow to anger, with a surprisingly soft voice.

Sadly, it had proved to be a whole different story for young Jessie, who had turned out exactly as Barbara had suspected he would all those years ago when she lovingly gazed down at her newborn twins, with the hale and hearty Connie (named after Barbara’s mother Constance) dwarfing her more delicate-framed brother as they lay length to length with their toes almost touching and their heads away from each other in the beautifully crafted wooden crib Ted had made for the babies to sleep in.
These days, Barbara could hardly bear to see how cruelly it all played out on the grubby streets on which the Ross family lived. To say it fair broke Barbara’s heart was no exaggeration.
While Connie was tall, tomboyish and could easily pass for twelve, and very possibly older, Jessie was smaller and more introverted, often looking a lot younger than he was.
Barbara hated the way Jessie would shrink away from the bigger south-east London lads when they tussled him to the ground in their rough-house games. All the boys had their faces rubbed in the dirt by the other lads at one time or another – Barbara knew and readily accepted that that was part and parcel of a child’s life in the tangle of narrow and dingy streets they knew so well – but very few people had to endure quite the punishing that Jessie did with such depressing regularity.
Connie would confront the vindictive lads on her brother’s behalf, her chin stuck out defiantly as she dared them to take her on instead. If the boys didn’t immediately back away from Jessie, she blasted in their direction an impressive slew of swear words that she’d learnt by dint of hanging around on the docks when she took Ted his lunch in the school holidays. (It was universally agreed amongst all the local boys that when Connie was in a strop, it was wisest to do what she wanted, or else it was simply asking for trouble.)
Meanwhile, as Connie berated all and sundry, Jessie would freeze with a cowed expression on his face, and look as if he wished he were anywhere else but there. Needless to say, it was with a ferocious regularity that he found himself at the mercy of these bigger, stronger rowdies.
Usually this duffing-up happened out of sight of any grown-ups and, ideally, Connie. But the times Barbara spied what was going on all she wanted to do was to run over and take Jessie in her arms to comfort him and promise him it would be all right, and then keep him close to her as she led him back inside their home at number five Jubilee Street. However, she knew that if she even once gave into this impulse, then kind and placid Jessie would never live it down, and he would remain the butt of everyone’s poor behaviour for the rest of his childhood.

Barbara loved Connie, of course, as what mother wouldn’t be proud of such a lively, proud, strong-minded daughter, with her distinctive and lustrous tawny hair, clear blue eyes and strawberry-coloured lips, and her constant stream of chatter? (Connie was well known in the Ross family for being rarely, if ever, caught short of something to say.)
Nevertheless, it was Jessie who seemed connected to the essence of Barbara’s inner being, right to the very centre of her. If Barbara felt tired or anxious, it wouldn’t be long before Jessie was at her side, shyly smiling up to comfort his mother with his warm, endearingly lopsided grin.
Barbara never really worried about Connie, who seemed pretty much to have been born with a slightly defiant jib to her chin, as if she already knew how to look after herself or how to get the best from just about any situation. But right from the start Jessie had been much slower to thrive and to walk, although he’d always been good with his sums and with reading, and he was very quick to pick up card games and puzzles.
If Barbara had to describe the twins, she would say that Connie was smart as a whip, but that Jessie was the real thinker of the family, with a curious mind underneath which still waters almost certainly ran very deep.
Unfortunately in Bermondsey during that dog-end of summer in 1939, the characteristics the other local children rated in one another were all to do with strength and cunning and stamina.

For the boys, being able to run faster than the girls when playing kiss chase was A Very Good Thing.
Jessie had never beaten any of the boys at running, and most of the girls could hare about faster than him too.
It was no surprise therefore, thought Barbara, that Jessie had these days to be more or less pushed out of the front door to go and play with the other children, while Connie would race to be the first of the gang outside and then she’d be amongst the last to return home in the evening.
Although only born five minutes apart, they were chalk and cheese, with Connie by far and away the best of any of the children at kiss chase, whether it be the hunting down of a likely target or the hurtling away from anyone brave enough to risk her wrath. Connie was also brilliant at two-ball, skipping, knock down ginger and hopscotch, and in fact just about any playground game anyone could suggest they play.
Jessie was better than Connie in one area – he excelled at conkers, he and Connie getting theirs from a special tree in Burgess Park that they had sworn each other to secrecy over and sealed with a blood pact, with the glossy brown conkers then being seasoned over a whole winter and spring above the kitchen range. Sadly, quite often Jessie would have to yield to bigger children who would demand with menace that his conkers be simply handed over to them, with or without the benefit of any sham game.
Ted never tried to stop Barbara being especially kind to Jessie within the privacy of their own home, provided the rest of the world had been firmly shut outside. But if – and this didn’t happen very often, as Barbara already knew what would be said – she wanted to talk to her husband about Jessie and his woes, and how difficult it was for him to make proper friends, Ted would reply that he felt differently about their son than she.
‘Barbara, love, it’s doing ’im no favours if yer try to fight ’is battles for ’im. I was little at ’is age, an’ yer jus’ look a’ me now’ – Ted was well over six foot with tightly corded muscles on his arms and torso, and Barbara never tired of running her hands over his well-sculpted body when they were tucked up in their bed at night with the curtains drawn tight and the twins asleep – ‘an’ our Jessie’ll be fine if we jus’ ’elp ’im deal with the bullies. Connie’s got the right idea, and in time ’e’ll learn from ’er too. An’ there’ll be a time when our Jessie’ll come into his own, jus’ yer see if I’m not proved correct, love.’
Barbara really hoped that her husband was right. But she doubted it was going to happen any time soon. And until then she knew that inevitably sweet and open-hearted Jessie would be enduring a pretty torrid time of it.
I think there is a general misconception about the evacuations during the war, and King does go into that in the book. There seems to be this overall consensus that the majority of people or people in general were happy to accommodate complete strangers for there country. A sense of community spirit throughout the entire country, when in fact the opposite was the truth. Evacuation was forced upon both those being evacuated and those taking them in, obviously there were exceptions to the rule.

The government had been planning a mass evacuation since the early 1920s and the process, or first round of evacuations was started during 1939. This period is often referred to as the Phoney War, because the expected destruction and loss of life didn't take place till later and not to the extent they expected. The man in charge of the evacuation, Sir John Anderson, had little foresight about the potential emotional distress and trauma the upheavals would cause, especially in the case of the evacuated children.

Many of the children ended up in the wrong place with insufficient rations and no homes to go to. The children were often lined up like cattle at a market place and people were asked to select them, hence the infamous phrase 'I'll take that one' which already implies a lack of organisation.

Jesse and Connie are evacuated with their fellow school mates, the evacuation of whole schools was quite common, which meant any pre-existing problems automatically went with them. In this case the school bully, who has to deal with his own difficult issues at home, ends up on the receiving end of some of his own medicine.

On a more serious note, Larry's situation was a common fault of the operation. He ends up being neglected and mistreated, and although there is an adult to oversee and rectify the situation in this fictional scenario, that wasn't the case for the majority of children.

The Evacuee Christmas is about family and friendship, and about sticking together and supporting each other in times of difficulty. Strangers and enemies can become friends in the direst of situations. When push comes to shove we are all capable of showing each other kindness.

Buy The Evacuee Christmas at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

#BlogTour A Pearl for my Mistress by Annabel Fielding

Today it is my pleasure to be part of the Blog-Tour for A Pearl for my Mistress by Annabel Fielding. It is step into a world where women have started to blossom and walk new paths. They are discovering their sexuality, breaching the walls of social boundaries and creating possibilities for future generations.
About the Author
Annabel Fielding is a novelist, a history geek and an international woman of mystery. She has long since pledged her allegiance to travel, tea and books. When she isn't busy writing historical fiction she can be found on her blog There, you will find travel posts, lesser-known facts, some photography and (mostly) historical fiction-related book reviews.
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Buy A Pearl for my Mistress
About the book
A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady's maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…
In a way Lucy and Hester are separated by worlds, and yet the common denominator between the two is their gender, which makes them equal in the basest of ways. Regardless of the difference in status, and believe you me the divide between upstairs and downstairs is a huge one, the two of them start to connect on a personal level.

At first there is the common love of books, reading and expanding their knowledge. Lucy crosses boundaries that have to be kept between the two of them, because the rest of society wouldn't understand their relationship. When the two of them connect on an emotional and physical level it becomes a destructive secret.

Fielding incorporates quite a few hot topics in this story, and for me this wasn't a love story per se, perhaps because it doesn't evolve beyond the physical element. In fact I would go as far as to say that it is more about shedding a light on how women who love women were treated in that particular era. Locked away, disowned, treated like the mentally ill and put in asylums for the insane.

At the same time there is a focus on the gender inequality, which was an issue for women on every rung of the social ladder. Women and girls of a higher status were treated like birds in gilded cages with no voice or power. Any move towards independence was ridiculed and dismissed. Girls over 21 didn't receive the vote until 1928, so the 1930s was still an era of advancement and discovery.

Although Lucy is part of this new-found age for women she still has to maintain the facade of the quiet well-behaved daughter of the household, whilst making her own choices in private. Of course while society is busy infantilizing their daughters and wives, they are also guilty of creating vulnerable women who crave new input, which in turn makes them the perfect target. In this case Lucy is more susceptible to the theories and voices of the far-right. She is drawn in by the shiny glow of the pseudo intellectual arguments and the belief that she is doing what is right for herself and her country.

Her involvement with Hester is a direct contradiction to her interest in Mosley. Hester's possible heritage and exotic appearance would make her a non-entity in the eyes of the Blackshirts. It's as if Lucy chooses to be oblivious to certain opinions the Mosley brigade shout out to the world. In the midst of her anger at her family and her lack of trust, she starts to become what she hates the most.

Fielding combines historical fiction with important social issues of the 20th century. It isn't a love story, it is a story about identity and about discovering the power we yield.

Buy A Pearl for my Mistress at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

#BlogTour Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson

You've come to the right place if you fancy a sneaky taste of Nordic Noir and the Blog-Tour for Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson. He is back with another captivating Dark Iceland story featuring his smart as a whip police inspector Ari Thór Arason.
About the Author
Ragnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 18 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as a lawyer. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.

Follow @ragnarjo @OrendaBooks on Twitter or ragnarjonassonwriter on Facebook
Buy Whiteout
About the book
Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twentyfive years earlier. As the dark history and the secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place. Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.
Ragnar Jónasson  brings us another part of the Dark Iceland series with Ari Thór Arason. It is a subtle combination of old school mystery and detective work, with the fresh breeze of Nordic Noir weaving itself through the story.

This time Ari finds himself on the brink of fatherhood, a road which brings up many nostalgic and painful moments for him, whilst trying to discover why two women and one child have suffered similar fates at the same spot in an isolated part of the country.

Is it some kind of mental illness passed on from one family member to the next or is there something more sinister going on. What kind of secrets are being hidden by the people of this small community? Why did Asta return to a place with so many unpleasant memories? Did she really return just to make a grand gesture to accentuate her actions?

The strong and eccentric characters are part and parcel of the charm of this book. The elderly man who has very friendly relationships with young children, the neighbour who always seems to be in the middle of every situation, and the housekeeper with a dangerously sharp tongue.

Then there is the odd couple relationship between Ari and Tómas. As a reader you get the feeling neither of them quite knows which one of them is in charge. Tómas, the mentor, always appears to pull Ari into these complex cases, then throws his weight around a wee bit, but ultimately Ari always takes over and leads the team towards a solution.

Whiteout has a distinctive Christie flair to it, the whole questioning technique a la Poirot with red herrings, abrupt about turns and a solution buried in years of deception and mystery. The author combines his very unique Nordic flair with a vintage recipe for crime.

Buy Whiteout at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson

Monday 4 December 2017

#BlogTour The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

The Blog-Tour for The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin has been a whirlwind so far and I am stoked to be a part of it. It is a an excellent read with a spectacular plot. Fortin has a wicked imagination with an eye for the unusual and the courage to put it to good use.
About the Author
Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Harper Impulse, Sue Fortin writes mystery, suspense and romance. Sue is a member of both the Crime Writers’ Association and The Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Sue is a USA Today and an Amazon UK #1 best selling author, with The Girl Who Lied and Sister Sister both reaching #1 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Translation rights for both novels have been sold worldwide.

Lover of cake, Dragonflies and France. Hater of calories, maths and snakes. Sue was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex.

Sue is married with four children, all of whom patiently give her time to write but, when not behind the keyboard, she likes to spend her time with them, enjoying both the coast and the South Downs, between which they are nestled.
Follow @suefortin1 @HarperImpulse @HarperCollinsUK
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About the book
Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea
Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises the like of which you can’t imagine.

When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.
One of them is hiding a secret.
And Joanne is planning to reveal it…

A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.

Four friends.
A party to die for. 
Who will survive?
Can you please tell us a bit about The Birthday Girl?
The Birthday Girl is about four women who have been friends for some time, but recently things have been strained between them for one reason and another. One of the women, Joanne, decides to throw a surprise birthday weekend away for the four of them but it soon becomes apparent that clearing the air is not on the birthday wish list. In fact, Joanne has something rather more unsettling planned.

 The Birthday Girl is gripping, and also quite scary at times, despite being set in an idyllic cottage in the country. What do you think it is about the countryside that creates such a sense of fear?
 Town and city life is very much man-made, the infrastructure has been thought out carefully so people can benefit the most, it’s organised and there are lots of rules. In the countryside this is much less apparent, especially somewhere like the Scottish countryside where nature is the dominant force and outside our control.

The Birthday Girl also deals with secrets and the effect they have on friendship, what made you want to exploit those themes?
Friendships are complicated and have many, many layers to them. My family moved around quite a lot as I was growing up, so every 3 years or so, I had establish new friendships. As I got older and hit my teens, I found this to be quite a challenge. As an adult and since having children, I’ve found that friendships come in tranches, depending on your circumstances, what you’re doing, what your priority is at that particular time. Some are quite transient whilst others can be lasting. Some friendships are rock solid and others, when you scratch the surface, have underlying tensions. It’s a totally fascinating theme to explore.

What’s currently on your reading list?
Hundreds! I wish I could read faster. I’m actually reading a proof copy of ‘White Bodies’ by Jane Robins at the moment. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s got my attention already. Then I’ve promised myself ‘A Stranger’s House’ by Clare Chase and then ‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper. After that it will be around Christmas time, so I’ll treat myself to a few Christmas feel-good reads, Sue Moorcroft’s ‘The Little Village Christmas’ being one of them.

What would be your ideal birthday party?
Going to someone else’s! I can honestly say, I’ve never had a birthday party of my own in my life and the thought of being the centre of attention makes me shudder. So, I suppose, my ideal party would be just my husband and children at home or in our cottage in France.
My first thought when I finished this book was oh wow that's so messed up, but in a this author has a knack for the twisted psychological fast-paced compelling read I really enjoy way.

Carys, Zoe and Andrea are invited by their friend Joanne to celebrate her birthday. Nothing strange about that until you take a closer look. The truth is each one of the invited girls seems to have some underlying issues with Joanne, so the invitation is a bit of a surprise. Her behaviour has been passive-aggressive and her running commentary quite snarky. The kind of snarky that makes you wonder if the woman is having a laugh or having a go.

One of them is hiding a secret from the others and Joanne plans to reveal it in a way they will least expect it. Perhaps Joanne has underestimated the lengths some people will go to, to keep their secrets hidden from the rest of the world. She feels like the cat that got the cream and is acting as if she has the power to do anything she wants, especially in the bizarre location she has chosen to celebrate her birthday.

Needless to say the best laid plans go completely awry and set a sequence of events in motion that are both bizarre and often inexplicable. Behind every door hides a different danger and behind each supposedly friendly face a potential threat.

Within the plot there is a focus on Carys and her personal story. It takes a peculiar and menacing turn a la being chased by an inner madness, and hearing whispers on par with the devil himself sitting on top of her shoulder. What is she hiding and why?

If there is anything you can expect from The Birthday Girl then it is to expect the unexpected. It has a subtle sinister feel to it. Just when you think you have it figured out Fortin throws a wrench in the middle of your theory. There is an intentional or perhaps completely unintentional clue smack bang in the middle of the book, which points towards the guilty party, but hey my lips are sealed.

It's a compelling rule-breaker of a story. Fortin will make you question every detail you think you know and leave you with more unanswered questions than you started with. If you're looking for a rollercoaster read then you have picked the right book, just keep in mind that it might send you full throttle into a cloud of doubt. Exactly the way I like it, I might add.

Buy The Birthday Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday 1 December 2017

#BookTrailer Aphrodite's Tears by Hannah Fielding

Aphrodite's Tears will be published on the 25th of January 2018 by London Wall Publishing. The Blog-Tour takes place from the 15th Jan to 26th Jan 2018. On the 15th of January I will be featuring a fantastic Q&A with the author Hannah Fielding, and of course my review. It is an emotional and colourful extravaganza of mythology, history, culture and romance. Here is a wee taste of what it is all about:

About the Author

Following her huge success as one of the UK’s leading romance authors with total sales of over 130k, Aphrodite’s Tears follows the award winning success of Hannah Fielding’s previous novels Burning Embers, Echoes of Love, Masquerade, Legacy and Indiscretion. Echoes of Love won Romance Novel of the Year at the IPB Awards in 2012 and Burning Embers was Amazon’s book of the month in 2011, while Hannah’s novels have been translated into 13 languages. With its spectacular setting and deep emotional drama, Aphrodite’s Tears will appeal both to fans of her backlist, as well as lovers of atmospheric travel writing including Santa Montefiore, Penny Vincenzie, Victoria Hislop and Lucinda Riley.

Egyptian by birth Hannah is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has lived all over the world, she currently lives between her writing retreat in the South of France and her rambling family home in Ireland. Hannah’s grandmother, Esther Fanous, was the revolutionary feminist writer in Egypt during the early 1900s.

About the book
Summer 1977, Oriel Anderson finds herself on the charming Greek island of Helios hoping to fulfil a long held dream or joining an archaeological dive team. Broken hearted after her university fiancé left her for her best friend, Oriel is determined to prove she can make it in a man’s world heading up an all-male team on her first underwater dig.

Spending her days excavating a Roman shipwreck, surrounded by turquoise waters and scorching sunshine, Oriel thinks that she has found paradise, until she meets her employer and the owner of the Island, Damian Lekkas.

A widower, with a scarred face, Damian is a brooding presence on the island who instantly takes a shine to Oriel, but Oriel resolves to maintain a professional relationship between them.  But the mercurial Damian has other ideas, and Oriel’s stay soon becomes a battle between her head and her heart.

When strange things start happening Oriel doesn’t know what to think. She learns that no other women who had come to work on the dive had lasted more than a few weeks, then a young boy almost drowns on one of the dives, and one morning Oriel finds a dead songbird in her room, its throat slit, and out exploring the beaches on her own Oriel becomes trapped in a cave. Could these things just be a coincidence or is someone trying to send her a warning?

A modern retelling of some of the most popular Greek myths, Aphrodite’s Tears evokes the Legends of the Gods, their power and passion, playfulness and cunning.

Follow @fieldinghannah @midaspr


Visit London Wall Publishing

Buy/Pre-order Aphrodite's Tears at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Don't forget to come back on the 15th of January 2018 for my review and the Q&A with Hannah Fielding, as part of this fantastic Blog-Tour!