Friday 29 July 2022

#Blogtour A Killer Legacy by Jim McGhee

 It's my turn on the Blogtour A Killer Legacy by Jim McGhee.

About the Author

Jim McGhee's a former award-winning environmental journalist. Based in East Lothian, near Edinburgh, Scotland, he spends much of each year (in normal times) in the South of France, the main setting for the DI Barney Mains series, with tolerant wife Jean and rampant Irish Terrier, Jack.

After a full-on career as a campaigning newspaper reporter, he and Jean launched their own recruitment company in central Edinburgh and for twelve fun-packed years worked closely together alongside their brilliant team - without spilling a single drop of blood.

The Alpes-Maritimes and Var departments, on the other hand, have provided a host of dramatic locations just perfect as inspiration for the odd spot of fictional gore.

Locals, blessed with scenery ranging from unspoiled mountain villages to the classic palms-and-marinas coast, claim that they can be swimming one moment and skiing a little over an hour later. Though when not writing or travelling en famille, Jim's more likely to be off on a hike in the hills with his ever-ready buddy, Jack. Follow @bigbarneymains, Visit jimmcghee.net

About the book

A serial killer is executed in a courtroom surrounded by police. Who in their right mind would take such a risk? And why? But in a South of France being torn apart by anti-British protests and deadly wildfires, nothing is as it seems. 

Amidst the chaos, DI Barney Mains must somehow distinguish friend from foe. For he has been landed with the victim's dying wish. And it's something he just has to do. Even if it kills him…

Review

This is the third book in the DI Barney Mains series and can be read as a standalone novel. I would however recommend reading the first two books in the series.

Barney, retired and yet never really completely retired, is roped into solving a spate of vandalism, thefts and arson. Simultaneously he is also trying to solve the assassination of the murderer he caught. The irony of it all. Not sure I would try so hard, but then perhaps I'm not as conscientious as Barney - the man is determined to solve the cases he is handed. 

I enjoyed the way the author gives readers a less fluffed out version of ex-pats living in France. The wealthy who would have voted with confidence for the cord to be cut between Europe and the UK, and yet still want the full benefit of living as if the cord hadn't slowly unravelled and is threatening to snap.

The reawakened simmering discord between the French and the English, a historical throwback of tension, and the ever present discord (deep resentment) between the Scottish and the English - all woven into the plot in a light-hearted way. 

The way the essence of morality, the boundary between justice and vengeance, is carried on a platter in front of everyone is this book, and yet swept under the rug bit by bit as the story progresses. An interesting crime read that gives the reader the mystery of the plot, whilst delivering strong character development with the same depth.

Buy A Killer Legacy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

#Blogtour By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley


It's an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register written by Piper Huguley. I loved this book!

About the Author

Piper Huguley is the author of the Home to Milford College and the Migrations of the Heart series. She is a multiple-time Golden Heart finalist. Piper blogs about the history behind her novels on her website. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son. Follow @piperhuguley on Twitter, Visit piperhuguley.com

About the book

The incredible untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America's most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy.

1953, New York City - Less than a week before the society wedding of the year where Jacqueline Bouvier will marry John F. Kennedy, a pipe bursts at Ann Lowe’s dress shop and ruins eleven dresses, including the expensive wedding dress, a dress that will be judged by thousands. A Black designer who has fought every step of the way, Ann knows this is only one struggle after a lifetime of them. She and her seamstresses will find the way to re-create the dresses. It may take all day and all night for the next week to accomplish the task, but they will do it.

1918, Tampa - Raised in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann learned the art of sewing from her mother and her grandmother, a former slave, who are the most talented seamstresses in the state. After Ann elopes at twelve with an older man who soon proves himself to be an abusive alcoholic, her dreams of becoming a celebrated designer seem to be put on hold. But then a wealthy Tampa socialite sees Ann’s talent and offers her an amazing opportunity—the chance to sew and design clothing for Florida’s society elite. Taking her young son in the middle of the night, Ann escapes her husband and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

Based on the true story of one of the most famous designers of the twenties through the sixties who has since been unjustly forgotten, By Her Own Design is an unforgettable novel of determination despite countless obstacles and a triumph celebrated by the world.

Review

Although the story of Ann begins at the end of her life, it perhaps does her more justice, because the battles she fought and the hills she had to climb to achieve her dreams and goals - the reader thinks they know how her journey will progress or at least they think they do. 

The reality of course is that the hardships endured, the racism faced, and the courageous and dangerous decisions made, are the norm for her because she is a black woman. The white privilege she is surrounded by is a pill to be taken daily with a portion of steadily controlled seething anger. And yet at the core is the child, the girl who is plucked from innocence and thrust into the stark reality of womanhood. The girl, who learns to covet and embrace the bonds of sisterhood, maternal strength and the protection of those who endured and survived the same before her.

This is the story of an artist, a woman with an incredible talent for design and fashion, who wrote history and yet has been forgotten by those who wrote it.

I absolutely loved this book and I really hope someone makes a screen version of it - Oscar material right here. The author has fixed an injustice by bringing the important story of Ann to the forefront of our minds, and in doing so ensures that she receives her rightful place in the history of design and fashion. Kudos to the author for the storytelling, the excellent writing and for sharing this story with us all.

It is a travesty that the voices, the achievements, designs, inventions, and their pivotal input and influence on our developments and history in general, of women - especially women who belong to marginalised and oppressed groups - have been erased from historical narratives. Whitewashed from history. This is a perfect example of every detail being known to the world, except the part where a black woman designed the wedding dress of one of the most well-known historical figures of the 20th century, and yet somehow it has become the one detail that is never mentioned. I highly recommend this book - it's an excellent read.

Buy By Her Own Design at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : William Morrow PB, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

Monday 25 July 2022

#Blogtour Total Control by Alex Shaw

 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Total Control by Alex Shaw.

About the Author

Alex Shaw spent the second half of the 1990s in Kyiv, Ukraine running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for a division of Siemens. The next few years saw him doing business for the company across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa. Most recently he has spent several years in Doha, Qatar.

Alex is an active member of the ITW (The International Thriller Writers organisation) and the CWA (the Crime Writers Association). He is the author of three international bestselling thriller series featuring Aidan Snow, Jack Tate and Sophie Racine, and the standalone ‘Delta Force Vampire’. His writing has also been published in several thriller anthologies.

Total Blackout was Shortlisted for the 2021 Wilbur  Smith Adventure Writing Prize – Best Published Novel.

Alex, his wife and their two sons divide their time between homes in Kyiv - Ukraine, Sussex - England and Doha - Qatar. Follow Alex on twitter: @alexshawhetman

About the book

The target doesn’t exist. - When cyber terrorist Fang Bao abruptly reappears after years in hiding, MI6 agent and former SAS trooper Jack Tate is sent to bring him in – but when Fang is assassinated by an unknown assailant, Tate realises he was only a pawn in a plot that threatens to put the whole world in danger.

The mission is impossible. - Now Tate has to uncover a lethal conspiracy that stretches all the way from Germany through the United States and into the dark heart of the jungle in Myanmar. As the enemy hunt down the owners of military secrets that would make them indestructible, Tate must race to identify not only their next target, but the enemy themselves.

The war is about to begin… Soon he learns the dark truth at the heart of the global conspiracy. The enemy doesn’t want to just assassinate a world leader; they want to make war – and Tate is the only one who can stop them.

Review

This is the third book in the Jack Tate series, which can all be read as standalone novels. This plot is a timely one I think. The necessity of the US and Uk having to work together to combat a common enemy. An insidious game of blame can and will decide the fate of many. A treacherous game of propaganda in the cyber arena. What better way to cause havoc than to present one scenario to fool the world, and in doing so create an explosive situation.

Influencing the outcomes, whilst creating the right kind of weaknesses to exploit. It's the kind of plot that isn't beyond the realms of reality, which is probably what makes it a good read.

It was interesting to see a Tate willing to take a risk and he was certainly teetering quite close to the edge when it comes to controlling his anger. I wonder if it is intentional - a way to show the burden of stress, the result of living a life on a lethal tightrope.

When I recommend books I have quite a few readers (often men) who look for a particular genre, which can be a bit niche. I'm glad I can add another author to the list of recommendations when it comes to this action thriller, with a military vibe. The author knows exactly how to pace the story and keep it rolling until the very end.

Buy Total Control at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HQ Digital pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Harper Collins.

Thursday 21 July 2022

#Review Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish

 A great story based on real events during WW2 - Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish. 'Wartime France. A newly trained agent. A deadly mission.'

About the Author

Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition – chosen from over 4000 entries – in partnership with the Daily Mail. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family. Follow @LouiseMorrish1 on Twitter, Find out more about Louise at linktr.ee/louisemorrish

About the book

1944: newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is faced with an impossible mission: to parachute behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France and monitor the new long-range missiles the Germans are working on. Her only advice? Trust absolutely no one. With danger lurking at every turn, one wrong move for Elisabeth could spell instant death.

2018: Betty is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. With her carer Tali at her side, she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.

Remembering a life shrouded in secrecy and danger, Betty remains tight-lipped. But when Tali finds a box filled with maps, letters and a gun hidden in Betty's cellar, it becomes clear that Betty's secrets are about to be uncovered . . .

Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, Operation Moonlight is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.

The inspiration for Operation Moonlight - The real-life SOE heroines of WW2

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a clandestine government organisation, authorized by Winston Churchill in 1940 to ‘set Europe ablaze’, which recruited and trained over 400 secret agents, 39 of them women. Only a handful of these female secret agents have been remembered for their brave achievements.

In 1942, in an unprecedented move, women were recruited into the organisation. The decision shocked and angered some people, not least because if women were given the right to bear arms they would no longer be protected by the Geneva Convention. This meant that if they were caught by the enemy, they could not expect to be treated as prisoners of war.

Nevertheless, 39 French speaking women, some of them wives and mothers, their ages ranging from 19 to 51, from a variety of backgrounds, were recruited. Once recruited, the women embarked on a 4-stage course, training alongside their male counterparts.

If the agents passed the stringent criteria, they were then sent to paramilitary training in Arisaig, Scotland. Here, they learned to survive in the beautiful, yet wild and unforgiving Scottish landscape. On the remote beaches and secluded moors, they were taught the rudiments of demolition and sabotage.

The second stage of the agents’ course was parachute training, which took place at Ringway Aerodrome in Manchester. Up until now, the women had endured everything the male agents experienced. But when it came to jumping from a plane, the women were only expected to make three practise jumps, their fourth being into France. The men, however, performed an additional night jump, and thus were awarded their ‘wings’.

The final stage of training was known as Finishing School, and took place at various Stately Homes such as Beaulieu in Hampshire. Here, the agents honed their skills in espionage, and undertook pseudo-schemes, evading capture by the Southampton police force, in readiness for their real missions in France.

Of the 39 women who risked their lives as agents, 12 were executed following their capture by the Germans, while one died of meningitis during her mission. The remainder survived the war.

Writing Operation Moonlight, Louise Morrish took inspiration from all the female agents of the SOE, but three women – in addition to Louise’s grandmother Betty – in particular: Noor Inayat Khan, Violette Szabo, and Odette Sansom Hallowes, whom Morrish researched in detail at The National Archives, at Kew.

Review

This is a dual timeline read - the reader is taken back and forth from 2018 and to the 1940s, as the secrets of an old lady who is about to celebrate a milestone birthday start to emerge. Betty still finds it hard to change old habits, which is to let sleeping dogs lie because you've been taught to never say a word, ergo periods of her life have been hidden from everyone around her. It also means there has never been any recognition for the her bravery.

You already low-key know you're going to enjoy a book when you start casting the characters for the screen version shortly after starting the book. It has the emotional bonding of Home Fire with Bletchley House suspense, and I would very much like to throw in a pop culture reference  - it absolutely gave me Fall From Grace vibes.

It's both tragically sad and disappointing that although we remember the casualties of war every year, we seem to forget the service and sacrifice of the living, during the same periods of time in history. It's a strange phenomenon that those who returned were revered less than those who didn't, to live forever in the shadow of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and yet is or was theirs not equally as great.

It's a riveting historical fiction read, which is even more fascinating given the true events it is based on, and the author absolutely does her personal connection to the story justice. These women were incredibly brave, especially considering the lack of support they knew to expect if they were caught. It's an incredible part of history that has taken a secondary place in comparison to the actions and deaths of others.

Buy Operation Moonlight at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Century, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Penguin Uk.

#Blogtour The Stars Among Us by Sanja S. Jungic

 It's my turn on the Blogtour The Stars Among Us by Sanja S. Jungic.

About the Author

Sanja S. Jungic's bestselling debut novel, Zvijezde medu nama (The Stars Among Us) was published in Croatian in 2019. The novel was inspired by Sanja's real life experience on the set of mega-popular show Game of Thrones, gaining a lot of press interest. 

This prompted Sanja to write her second novel, Ti si moje sve (You are My Everything), whilst having Zvijezde medu nama translated into English by the renowned Croatian translator Neven Divjakinja. 

Sanja is very excited to see her bestselling debut published in English for the first time. She lives in Zagreb with her husband Saša and their pets Toya, Cecilije and Egidije. You can find out more about Sanja at sanjasjungic.com. Connect with Sanja on Facebook sanjasrdicjungic, Twitter @ssshedreams1988 and on Instagram @sanjasjungic

About the book

Nora is as shocked as her friends and family when she quits a perfectly good job to become an extra in a Hollywood movie being filmed in Dubrovnik. She hopes it will help her move on from a painful break-up and give her breathing space to find out what she wants to do with her life.

To Nora’s delight she discovers that she loves every minute in her new “temporary” career. It doesn’t hurt either that the handsome assistant director, Ivor, takes more than a passing interest in her. But then events take a dramatic and unforeseen turn when Lucas Winter, world-famous actor and Nora’s teenage heartthrob, unexpectedly arrives on set…

The Stars Among Us is inspired by the author's real-life experience of being an extra on the set of HBO's Game of Thrones. Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Lindsey Kelk and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.


Review
Nora is probably braver and more reckless than a lot of her peers. Discarding everything to follow what others consider to be a pipe dream, but isn't it better to have tried than to always regret not trying at all. There she is in a strange country, struggling financially, and having her first taste of the world of show business. 

The work of an extra on a movie set isn't very glamorous, however things start to look up when Nora connects with the assistant director. That in itself brings certain complications to the table, but nothing like the whirlwind of emotions heading her way when destiny charts her life with the possibilities of two endings.

The writing was a little he said, she said and a bit YA-ish at times which may or may not be the lack of voice coming through via translation, or the style of the author. An emerging voice with a strong premise though.

I think the sentiment that I took from this book, and indeed it is a lens through which I would view my own choices in life, is that: without your story there, wouldn't be our story. It's hard to navigate emotional minefields and baggage to get to the specific details and core of your emotions, and said emotional baggage, where you can accept the aforementioned and view it with such simplicity.

Sometimes you have to wade through the forest to get to the tranquil beach. Do you forget the trek, the scratches or the journey - no, but it fades with time as you enjoy the destination you ultimately chose. Nora embarks on a turbulent adventure indeed.

Wednesday 20 July 2022

#Blogtour The Island House by Mary Considine

It's my turn on the Blogtour The Island House by Mary Considine. 'An unforgettable new memoir that will transport readers to the wilds of Cornwall and a remote island life.'

About the Author

Growing up in the flat landscape of Bedfordshire, Mary fell in love with Cornwall and the sea on her first visit as a small child. Distracted by the garlands of London, she spent the 90s writing and directing plays in the London and Edinburgh Fringe, and scriptwriting. 

Work included Angels, Time Out Critics Choice, The Other Half, commissioned by The Carlton Tv screenwriting initiative; and a short film The Hand Job, shortlisted for the Lloyds Bank/Channel 4 short film competition. 

The noughties were spent teaching drama in secondary schools in the hills of North Yorkshire and, in pursuit of her now husband, back in London, before realising her impossible dream of moving to St George 's Island in 2010.

About the book

Mary and Patrick's dream was to live in London, have 2.4 children, the nice house, the successful jobs. But life had other plans, and one traumatic year that all came crashing down.

bruised and battered, Mary finds herself pulled towards Cornwall and dreams of St George's Island, where she spent halcyon childhood summers. So, when an opportunity arises to become tenants of they renovate the old Island House, they grab it with both hands.

life in the island is hard, especially in winter, the sea and weather, unforgiving. But the rugged natural beauty, the friendly ghosts of previous inhabitants, and the beautiful isolation of island life being hope and purpose, as they discover a resilience they never knew they had.

Review

I think the sentence that resonated most with me was - he knows the island is calling. I think at the core of decisions to sever oneself from the societal norm and rat race, which may or may not go hand-in-hand with trauma, stress, burn-out or other great upheavals there can be an element of gut instinct. The instinct that tells us we need to readjust, re-evaluate and seek change.

The isolation seems to adhere to those lines, although in this case it can bring both peace and hardship. Imagine cutting yourself off from the extended world, where you often rely on nothing else but your own strength and stamina. Survival instinct kicks in, but perhaps also a resonance of forgotten ancestral genetic instincts.

I found the story, the memoir, quite fascinating. There must be plenty of people who think of going slightly off-grid and retreating in a way - I know I certainly have. However I am more realistic about being able to cope with the extreme situations, and reverting to more basic comforts. It's tough, albeit that fact is obscured by the scenery and the fantastical notion one has stepped back in time and staking a claim and place in the unknown. This imaginary fantastical notion of a fantasy life doesn't do justice to the people who actually do make these choices and live in isolated areas.

Buy The Island House at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Monoray; pub date 9th June 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Octopus Books.

Tuesday 19 July 2022

#Blogtour The Yellow Kitchen by Margaux Vialleron

It's my turn on the Blogtour The Yellow Kitchen by Margaux Vialleron. 'Expectation meets Julie & Julia, The Yellow Kitchen is a brilliant exploration of food, belonging and friendship.'

About the Author

Margaux Vialleron is a French-born, London-based writer, self-taught cook and co-host of the The Salmon Pink Kitchen book club, culinary community and podcast. The Yellow Kitchen is her first novel. 

Find out more at her website margauxvialleron.com or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @margauxvlln.

About the book

London E17, 2019. A yellow kitchen stands as a metaphor for the lifelong friendship between three women: Claude, the baker, goal-orientated Sophie and political Giulia. They have the best kind of friendship, chasing life and careers; dating, dreaming and consuming but always returning to be reunited in the yellow kitchen.

That is, until a trip to Lisbon unravels unexplored desires between Claude and Sophie. Having sex is one thing, waking up the day after is the beginning of something new. Exploring the complexities of female friendship, The Yellow Kitchen is a hymn to the last year of London as we knew it and a celebration of the culture, the food and the rhythms we live by.


Review

It's an interesting one. I think it's the kind of story that every reader - specifically women, will relate to - or not, through their own frame of reference. A very specific frame of reference - the relationship and bond between daughters and mothers. 

On the periphery it's also about friendships, close friendships between women, especially long-term ones. The author captures an often overlooked and forgotten aspect of close friendships, when the boundaries of the bonds are slightly adjusted, which can solidify or make them slowly dissipate. The author also captures the minutiae of interactions, micro aggressions, passive aggressive subconscious moves. When two become three it can become a ticking timebomb of emotions.

Claude, Sophie and Giulia ultimately find themselves exploring their own identity, their first bond with another woman, and in a strange way a second sort of coming-of-age. When a woman enters an age of reflection and introspection, when the similarities between the mother and evident in the woman the daughter has become.

The writing style reminded me at times of flash fiction or performance art - many messages and thoughts thrown out into the universe in the hopes that some will provoke, others will make you pause and think. I found it refreshing and innovative.

Buy The Yellow Kitchen at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Simon & Schuster UK; pub date 7 July 2022 | Hardback | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Simon and Schuster.

Thursday 14 July 2022

#Blogtour Burning Secret by R.J. Lloyd

It's my turn on the Blogtour Burning Secret by R.J. Lloyd - An ancestor found, a name change, criminal activity and more in Harry Mason’s great great grandson’s fictionalised retelling of his life.

About the Author

Tracing your ancestors has never been more popular, but what if your ancestor was far more intriguing than you ever thought? 

In R J Lloyd’s fictionalised reconstruction of his lost ancestor, Burning Secret, he explores the rich past of his great great grandfather and what might have been. Follow @rjlwriteruk on Twitter

About the book

As in life, the book begins in 1844, when Enoch Price was born into poverty. An ambitious youth, he becomes a bare-knuckle fighter in London’s underworld. In debt to a violent and unscrupulous moneylender and facing ruin and imprisonment, he escapes to Jacksonville, Florida, abandoning his wife and three young daughters, a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. By the time he arrives in Florida, Enoch Price has become Harry Mason.

Through a series of thrilling and risky escapades, he plays an important role in the development and history of Jacksonville, building an extraordinary new life of political and financial notoriety, shooting a rival, and concealment of a murder. Despite imploring his wife to join him, she declines, exhausted by his lies. 

Tormented by loneliness and guilt, Harry seeks solace through a bigamous marriage, leading him into a web of deceit as he tries to conceal his true identity. Meanwhile, lauded and enjoying popular success, Harry is elected in 1903 to the Florida State House of Representatives with the prospect of becoming State Governor. He advances his business interests through a series of corrupt practices, becoming a wealthy and  successful politician. 

However, success brings neither happiness nor contentment, and, seeking redemption, Harry plans to return home - but life is never that simple as the First World War breaks out, the Spanish flu takes its toll, and the American government introduces prohibition. Will there be a good end for Harry, or will his secrets prove to be the death of him?

Review

Enoch is hanging on to life outside of prison by the skin of his teeth - it's only a question of time until his troubles catch up with him. He has a wife and three daughters to think of, and he decides to go on the run. With a purpose, with the promise of new beginnings for all of them.

Except it doesn't work out that way, well for him it does, as he reinvents himself and makes his mark on and in a new country, whilst always thinking about his loved ones. His wife no longer trusts him, and in the end Enoch, now Harry, leaves all aspects of the old life in the past and turns to pastures greener.

In the afterword, there is a lot of information about familial connections and their fate, historical and relevant figures to the story. What I would like to know was just how much of the story is based on fact or fiction. Given the extra information I would say the author has merely filled in the blanks and created likely scenarios, regardless of whether they are often seen from a more positive and/or negative perspective given the the main character is family, and there is no way to reproduce how the first family and wife really felt about the way he abandoned them. 

If he was truly tormented then surely he would have done something about it, but then the house of cards would have collapsed, right? It's easier to imagine that life goes on, regardless of his presence, but the real question is whether his presence and/or the status he acquired would have made a difference to their lives. The reality of a woman and three small children being left behind in those circumstances - it would have been tough.

It's a fascinating story that can be interpreted in different ways. You can see the deception and the fact this man led a lifetime of lies or see the man who navigated another path for himself, and made a more positive impact in the second part of his story. Either it is one heck of a story, and life.

Buy Burning Secret at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Matador, pub date 28 June 2022 | ISBN: 9781803131498 | Price: £10.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Troubador - Matador.

Monday 11 July 2022

#BlogTour White Crane Strikes by Ivy Ngeow

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour White Crane Strikes by Ivy Ngeow.

About the Author

Born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Ivy Ngeow is the author of three published novels and numerous short stories, one of which has been performed and broadcast on the BBC World Service. 

Others have been published in literary journals such as Burning Press, Lunate, Fixi Novo anthology and and also broadsheets like The Straits Times. 

Her debut novel won the 2016 International Proverse Prize, and was published in Hong Kong in 2017. She holds an MA from Middlesex University where she was awarded the University’s 2005 Literary Press Prize, an international competition, out of 1500 entrants. Most recently, she was editor of Asian Anthology New Writing Vol.1 which was published in Feb 2022 in London. 

Her latest novel was on a longlist of 12 for the 2021 Avons x Mushens Entertainment Prize for commercial fiction by a BAME writer. Ivy is a regular suburban mum who loves dogs, cake and piano-pounding. She lives in London. Follow @ivyngeow on Twitter, on Instagram @ivyngeow, on Facebook ivyngeowwriter

About the book
An enormous mansion. A Chinese restaurant. A baby on the way. Handyman Jerome “Jay Jay” Lee has landed a dream job. An underground tong seems to think so too.

Chicago, 1971. Jay Jay’s girlfriend wants a big knock-’em-dead wedding and a new bigger apartment with the whole ball of wax. Grateful when her art world schmoozing lands him a fixer-upper gig for a wealthy arts patron, he has no idea about the sleeping dragon he’s about to wake. 

His boss gets him a Chinatown side hustle, and Jay Jay looks the other way when he overhears an organized crime conversation for fear of losing the much-needed extra income and takeout treats. But when the Chinese restaurant manager vanishes, Jay Jay is trapped in threatening tong talk and the chow is now no fun. His family is now deep in hot soup. Will Jay Jay be able to save them before he’s crispier than a burnt wonton?

White Crane Strikes is a standalone. Fans of Lehane, Ovidia Yu and Naomi Hirahara, who like compelling characters, stirring settings and surprising twists, will love this smart and witty thriller.

Review
Jay is a bit here and there, but he is determined to do well for himself and his loved ones. Part of that is being responsible and getting a job, which is how he ends up being hired to rejuvenate an old mansion, the surrounding buildings and the extensive grounds. Not only does he get the job - it is also the beginning of both a mystery and a thriller that is built around it.

What I enjoyed the most about the story was the relationship, dialogue and interactions between Jay and his employer. The actions, reactions and choices Jay makes are often determined by his cultural background, his upbringing and his past experiences The same can be said about the way he interacts with his world in general. The need to succeed, whilst wanting to prove himself, and subconsciously looking for approval from what he perhaps perceives as a father figure.

There was a lot going on, and the plot went off in plenty of different directions, however the author does bring it all back together in the end. Personally I thought the plot surrounding Jay and Mr Alfred, and the discovery Jay makes, would have given enough fodder for a fascinating read. The author has a very specific voice when it comes to writing - I look forward to seeing how it evolves going forward.

Buy White Crane Strikes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Leopard Print pub date 30 Jun. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

Sunday 10 July 2022

#Blogtour The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson

It's my turn on the Blogtour The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson.

A small treat for you - Listen to an extract of the audiobook of The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson read by Diveen Henry: https://soundcloud.com/harpercollinspublishers/the-binding-room-by-nadine-matheson-read-by-diveen-henry

About the Author

Nadine Matheson was born and raised in Deptford (one of the murders in The Jigsaw Man takes place five minutes from her front door) and is a criminal solicitor. Nadine is also a winner of the City University Crime Writing competition and you can follow her on Twitter @nadinematheson, and on Instagram @queennads. The Jigsaw Man was her first crime novel and was loved by readers around the world. The Binding Room is Nadine's second novel featuring DI |Henley and the Serial Crimes Unit.

About the book

In this room, no one can hear you scream... The Serial Crimes Unit are called in to investigate when a local pastor is found stabbed to death. As DI Henley assesses the crime scene, she discovers a hidden door that conceals a room set up for torture - and bound to the bed in the middle of the room is the body of a man.

When another body is found, also tied down, Henley realises there's someone out there torturing innocent people and leaving them for dead. But why?

There's nothing that connects the victims. They didn't know each other. Their paths never crossed. But someone has targeted them, and it's up to Henley and the SCU to stop them before they find another binding room...

Review

This is the second book in the Inspector Anjelica Henley series. A dead body accidentally reveals the true inhumanity people are capable of when they believe they are righteous and acting upon the word of a higher power. It opens up a can of depraved worms and the kind of abyss Henley and her team would rather not be confronted with.

I felt as if there was a slight difference in the writing this time. Where before the character's lives and the main plot often seemed to compete with each other for the main stage, this time everything was balanced exactly right. It made for a smoother read - the author is honing her voice and style. That reminds me, if you haven't read Jigsaw Man yet, you should.

There is this moment in the last chapter, an incredibly poignant one when Henley is opening up about something she is accused of doing. The expectation that a certain connection - sorry I have to be vague because of potential spoilers - means you are not doing your job, but rather working for the oppressor. Nice point, because it gives real depth to the main character, her interactions and experiences.

It will be interesting to see where the series goes and what else this author comes up with. Just getting started.

Buy The Binding Room at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HQ pub date 7 July 2022. Buy at Harper Collins. Buy via Harper Collins.

Saturday 9 July 2022

#Blogtour The Halfways by Nilopar Uddin

It's my turn on the BlogTour The Halfways by Nilopar Uddin.

About the Author

Nilopar Uddin was born in Shropshire to Syleti parents, who like the fictional family in The Halfways owned and ran an Indian restaurant in Wales. Every summer her family would travel for their holidays to Bangladesh to visit extended family, and this affection for the country has continued into adulthood; in 2009 she spent some months in Dhaka volunteering for BRAC, one of the largest NGOs in the world.

About the book

Nasrin and Sabrina are two sisters, who on the face of things live successful and enviable lives in London and New York. When their father, Shamsur suddenly dies, they rush to be with their mother at the family home and restaurant in Wales, and reluctantly step back into the stifling world of their childhood.

When Shamsur’s will is read, a devastating secret is revealed that challenges all that people thought and loved about him. It also profoundly changes the lives and identities of the sisters, and creates an irreparable family rift…

Review

The death of a loved one can often mean you get a glimpse into all of their secrets after their death. The kind they sit on and then let you deal with, because they no longer have to and in death you can't hear the reactions. When Shamsur dies his daughters, Nasrin and Sabrina, are confronted with decades old secrets and the intricate cover-up, which has left terrible scars and caused emotional turmoil. The face of their family will never look the same again.

Personally I thought the choice to include a lot of the words and phrases in the story in the origin language was both a bold choice, there are plenty of readers who find things like that a stumbling block, and one that lent an essence of atmosphere to the story. An air of authenticity, which pulls the reader into the very important cultural aspect of this family saga. Glossary at the front will probably solve any grumbles.

Towards the end in the last few chapters the author manages to create this very visceral connection to the vulnerability of one of the characters - a connection that is a common denominator in all cultures. The small gestures of reassurance, the internal fear of abandonment, but above all the invisible woven emotional web of familial ties.

The difficulty of balancing dual nationalities, cultures and identities is really driven home in this story. The Western values clash with the heritage and culture, old and new generations try to bridge these gaps in different ways or not at all. Often this happens in countries where colonialism is the foundation upon which society has been built.

It's a nuanced read, and the author tells the tale through multiple narrators in a way that brings empathy, passion and the cold hard truth of the aftermath of decisions made in the echo chamber of restricted and power hungry societies. Looking forward to more by this author.

The Halfways at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HQ pub date 7 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Harper Collins.

Friday 8 July 2022

#Blogtour One Last Secret by Adele Parks

 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour One Last Secret by Adele Parks.

About the Author

Adele Parks MBE was born in North Yorkshire. She is the author of 21 bestselling novels including most recently the Sunday Times and eBook Number One bestseller Both Of You. Over four million UK editions of her work have been sold and her books have been translated into 31 different languages. Adele's recent Sunday Times Number One bestsellers Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck were shortlisted for the British Book Awards and have been optioned for development for TV.

She is an ambassador of the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency: two charities that promote literacy in the UK. Adele has lived in Botswana, Italy and London and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey. In 2022 she was awarded an MBE for services to literature. Follow @adeleparks on Twitter, Visit adeleparks.com

About the book

One Last Client - A week at a beautiful chateau in the south of France - it should be a straightforward final job for Dora. She's a smart, stunning and discreet escort and Daniel has paid for her services before. This time, all she has to do is convince the assembled guests that she is his girlfriend. Dora is used to playing roles and being whatever men want her to be. It's all about putting on a front.

One Last Chance - It will be a last luxurious look at how the other half lives, before Dora turns her back on the escort world and all its dangers. She has found someone she loves and trusts. With him, she can escape the life she's trapped in. But when Dora arrives at the chateau, it quickly becomes obvious that nothing is what it seems.

One Last Secret - Dora finds herself face to face with a man she has never forgotten, the one man who really knows her. And as old secrets surface, it becomes terrifyingly apparent that one last secret could cost Dora her life...

Review

I'm a sucker for a woman who says it like it is, sees the world the way it really is, and isn't afraid to take what she wants - regardless of what society says about her.

Dora has no illusions about how she makes her money. It's just a job, right? The risks are kept to a minimal, but of course there is only so much you can control. It also means it's harder to move from one tier of the social structure to another - there are plenty of negative connotations when it comes to her chosen career path.

It has shades of Diary of a Call Girl with Gone Girl, and of course the trademark intense scrutiny and dissection of interpersonal relationships. This author knows exactly how to pour salt into an open wound, get readers to experience a smorgasbord of emotional ping-pong, and create a bond between even the most controversial of characters. 

The first few chapters are spectacular - brutally frank, often gross, and they give readers access to a hidden abyss. 

As far as I am concerned this is her best book yet, and it should be added to her growing list of titles being optioned for television. Like a fine wine gets better with age, Parks pushes her boundaries and creativity with each new book.

Buy One Last Secret at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Harper Collins.

#BlogTour Outcast by Claire Voet

 It's my turn on the BlogTour Outcast by Claire Voet.


About the Author

Claire Voet is an English author, born in Gosport across the shores of Portsmouth Harbour. Claire started writing in 2010 and has since then written a number of books to include The Ghost of Bluebell Cottage, The Other Daddy A World Away, Captain Hawkes, short story A Helping Hand, Echoes In The Mist and the Outcast series.

Claire demonstrates her love for history and also the supernatural in many of her spellbinding stories. As a commercial participator for the BBC Children in Need Appeal, Claire donates money from her book sales once a year. Visit clairevoet.com

About the book

In 1945 Molly Hazleton is heart broken when her fiancé doesn’t return from the war after being reported “missing in action.” So when Aunt Daphne comes to visit with news of having bought a 17th century manor house at auction in Scotland, Molly welcomes the opportunity to start afresh and help her aunt turn Aberdoch Manor into a hotel.

With a strange sense of déjà vu, Molly struggles to understand her connection with the property having never stepped foot inside of it or even Scotland for that matter. Ross McDaniel, the newly appointed gardener, knows more than he is letting on. And when he shows Molly an ancient yew tree named by the locals as the Ghost Tree, after touching it, Molly discovers a remarkable ability to vividly see and experience her own past life - a life of extreme danger and hardship on the road with the Jacobite in 1745, hunted by the Red Coats for crimes she hasn’t committed. She is also in love with a brave, Scot warrior, leader of the McDaniel clan who soon becomes her husband.

Stirring up forgotten memories and an uncontrollable yearning to be back with those she once loved, Molly is hopelessly torn between very different worlds, two hundred years apart! 

Review

The story begins in the past with a brief encounter and a connection created through common ground and self-preservation. It continues in the middle of the 20th century, as the Second World War comes to end. Families and loved ones, are simultaneously relieved and stricken with grief.

Molly is still reeling from her own personal loss, which is probably why she doesn't think twice at leaving her family and life behind, and hitting the restart button. Moving to a manor house in Scotland sounds like an amazing adventure that will hopefully keep her mind off her grief. Little does she know that both the present and the past are waiting for her.

This is a dual timeline story, historical fiction with a wee bit of romance. At the core of it though, is essence of understanding when one door closes another one will appear and open eventually. This is not only the case when it comes to most things in life, but most certainly also when the door represents relationships and love. 

The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, the road taken isn't as clear-cut anymore. I guess the next book is a must read then.

Buy Outcast at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Blossom Spring Publishing pub date 26 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday 5 July 2022

#BlogTour The Blunder by Mutt-Lon

It's my turn on the BlogTour The Blunder by Mutt-Lon, translated by Amy B. Reid.

About the Author

Mutt-Lon is the literary pseudonym of author Nsegbe Daniel Alain. His first novel, Ceux qui sortent dans la nuit (Those Who Come Out at Night, 2013), brought him critical acclaim when it received the prestigious Ahmadou Kourouma Prize in 2014. Les 700 aveugles de Bafia (2020), published in English as The Blunder, is his third novel and the first to be translated into English. He lives in Douala—Cameroon’s most international and cosmopolitan city—and speaks English fluently.

About the Translator

Amy B. Reid is an award-winning translator who has worked with authors from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti. Among her translations are the Patrice Nganang titles Dog Days: An Animal Chronicle (2006) and the trilogy comprised of Mount Pleasant (2016), When the Plums Are Ripe (2019), and A Trail of Crab Tracks (2022), as well as Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice (2009) and Far from My Father (2014) by Véronique Tadjo. 

In 2016 she received a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for When the Plums Are Ripe. She holds a PhD in French from Yale University (1996) and is a professor of French and Gender Studies at New College of Florida.

About the book

Cameroon, 1929. As colonial powers fight for influence in Africa, French military surgeon Eugène Jamot is dispatched to Cameroon to lead the fight against sleeping sickness there. But despite his humanitarian intentions, the worst comes to pass: seven hundred local villagers are left blind as a result of medical malpractice by a doctor under Jamot’s watch.

Damienne Bourdin, a young white woman, ventures to Cameroon to assist in the treatment effort. Reeling from the loss of her child, she’s desperate to redeem herself and save her reputation. But the tides of rebellion are churning in Cameroon, and soon after Damienne’s arrival, she is enlisted in a wild plot to staunch the damage caused by the blunder and forestall tribal warfare. 

Together with Ndongo, a Pygmy guide, she must cross the country on foot in search of Edoa, a Cameroonian princess and nurse who has gone missing since the medical blunder was discovered.

As Damienne races through the Cameroonian forest on a farcical adventure that unsettles her sense of France’s “civilizing mission,” she begins to question her initial sense of who needed saving and who would save the day.

Review

Damienne is both the main character and simultaneously the colonial example, ergo a perfect example of the irony and humour the author uses to bring readers this moment of important history. She embodies the white saviour, the colonial attitude towards indigenous people of all countries usurped, used and modified to embody foreign replicas of the home country.

She returns after over three decades to Cameroon, to the scene and aftermath of a terrible injustice and her the part she played in said injustice, and the attempt to stop bloodshed and tribal warfare.

When I read books like this, that have a factual core in the midst of the fiction, and one that has been swallowed into the black hole of history. Forgotten, as many fatal mistakes, atrocities, and in general inhumane acts in the name of colonial regimes. The victors write the history, and in doing so they often omit the details that don't fit in with the white-washed written narrative.

The blunder of Jamot, as it is known, is one of these overlooked omissions - a tragedy that has probably become a bit of a tale of horror passed on through the generations. The need for some people to play the saviour supersedes the necessity for accountability when they make mistakes.

Some translators have the ability to translate both word and voice, which Reid certainly does very well, however I think I was more impressed with the fact its apparent the story was consumed and understood with such clarity. In fact the note by said translator at the end is the perfect add-on to a fascinating read.

Buy The Blunder at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher Amazon Crossing; pub date 12th July 2022 | Paperback £6.99 UK. Buy at Amazon com.

Friday 1 July 2022

#Blogtour Still Water by Rebecca Pert

 A little late, and just catching the tail end of this fabulous Blogtour - it's my turn to talk about  Still Water by Rebecca Pert.

About the Author

Rebecca Pert was born in 1990, the youngest of four siblings. She grew up in a small town in Devon before attending Cardiff University, where she received an MA in Creative Writing. Rebecca was the winner of the first Cheltenham Festival First Novel Competition in 2018. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, son and dog. Still Water is Rebecca’s first novel. Follow @Rebecca_Pert, Visit linktr.ee/rebeccapert

About the book

When Jane Douglas returns to the Shetland Islands, she thinks she has escaped the dark shadows of her childhood. She carves out a simple life on the bleak, windswept island, working at the salmon fishery and spending quiet evenings at home. And for the first time in her life, she’s happy.

Then the body of Jane’s long-missing mother is found in a flooded quarry. Her mother disappeared when Jane was a teenager, following the death of Jane’s baby brother. Jane has spent her life running from her past, living in fear that she has inherited her mother’s demons. Now, Jane must face what actually happened on that fateful, tragic day twenty years ago…

Review

I think it's safe to say Jane lives in a bubble of self-motivated confinement, due to her past trauma. She carefully navigates the world by engaging at the bare minimum with her surroundings. Her work, her lover and her neighbour. Never too close.

The bubble starts to deteriorates when a cold blast from the past brings all the trauma back to the present, and Jane finds it increasingly hard to cope. The body of her missing mother brings everything to the point of teetering on the edge.

For me the core of this premise is the way women are perceived, judged and ultimately treated according to certain misconceptions. The go-to language and judgement always veers towards the negative and the dark side. It's important to keep that in mind, especially when it comes to Jane's mother.

Also, even after so many decades and more understanding surrounding women, childbirth, and the subsequent experience of motherhood - there are still plenty of misunderstood areas when it comes to the aforementioned and women's health in general. Still very much second class citizens, who are fobbed off as hysterical, weak, emotional and misdiagnosed. 

This is a poignant reminder of all of the above, whilst simultaneously speaking truth and why it is always a matter of individual subjective perception when it comes to the often difficult relationships between mothers and daughters. It's a remarkable read.

Buy Still Water at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press pub date 23rd June 2022 | Hardback, eBook and audio £14.99. Buy at Amazon com.