Thursday, 31 October 2019

Halloween Read ~ Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver



πŸ‘»πŸ‘» Happy Halloween Publication Day πŸ‘»πŸ‘»


Head of Zeus
Paperback 31 October 2019

My thanks to the publishers and ed Public Relations for my copy of this book
‘Wakenhyrst is the story I’ve wanted to write for years’ Michelle Paver


Inspired by a series of real events and fuelled by secrets from her maternal past: from Michelle’s sighting of a murmuration of starlings on a Suffolk marsh; to the discovery of a battered copy of The Book of Margery Kempe by a 15th Century mystic; to the story of the Wenhaston Doom, a medieval painting of the Last Judgement; to the real-life story of Richard Dadd, the Victorian murderer and artist; this is Michelle Paver’s most evocative and personal masterpiece to date. 

In Edwardian Suffolk, a manor house stands alone in a lost corner of the Fens; a glinting wilderness of water whose whispering reeds guard primeval secrets. Here, Maud grows up as a lonely child without a mother, ruled by her repressive and emotionally-absent historian father. When Maud’s father finds a painted medieval ‘Doom’ in a graveyard, an ancient evil is disturbed, and her battle begins. In a world steeped in witchcraft, legend and the even more nightmarish demons of her father’s past, Maud must find a way, not only to survive, but to fly free.

What did I think about it..

In the shadow of the ancient land, Maud Stearne lives with her family at Wake’s End the house which nudges the nearby water of the Suffolk fen, but which for many reasons stands apart from the landscape, for the house has too many secrets and many dark corners, where glimpses of an evil past sometimes surface.

In 1966, when the story opens, three unusual paintings have been discovered which direct public interest back to Edward Stearne, Mauds’s father, who was incarcerated in a mental asylum for many years. The reason for this curiosity in Stearne’s work becomes apparent as we move back in time to the early part of the twentieth century when Maud was growing up in the shadow of her dictatorial father and beautiful, but totally compliant, mother.

Filled with a wealth of supernatural imaginings and with more than a hint towards the gothic gloom of the Edwardian era, Wakenhyrst is an incredibly detailed story, with a wonderful dark imagery, which immediately places the reader right in the centre of the action. To say I devoured this story is absolutely correct, the place, the people, the inherent danger, all drew me in from the very beginning, and I couldn’t wait to see how the story played out.

There is an undeniable darkness to the story for all is not quiet at Wake’s End and Maud’s childhood is a deeply lonely affair, and whilst she is brutally aware of the undercurrents of the dark and dangerous emotion which plague her parents’ marriage, she finds what comfort she can in the myths and legends of the place she calls home. The stark beauty of the Suffolk fens, and the ancient superstitions which are at the very heart of local folklore are described in such beautiful detail that I could picture myself with Maud in the damp and cold, watching the creeping shadows of the fen come to life as a murmuration of starlings glide and dance in the early evening twilight.

To say much of what happens in the three hundred or so pages of Wakenhyrst would do both the author and the story a complete disservice as this is one of those beautifully plotted stories which takes time to emerge and is all the stronger for taking things slowly.

I’ve now read most of this author’s work, with the exception of her books for children, and I am always aware of how beautifully intuitive her writing is, and how she does her utmost to include the reader every step of the way so that the engagement with the story is utterly consuming from start to finish. There is no doubt that Wakenhyrst is a glorious example of this author writing at her absolute best.


About the Author

©Anthony Upton

Michelle Paver is an international bestselling author with over 3 million copies of her books sold in 37 countries across the globe. She writes for both adults and children and her work includes two of the most critically and commercially acclaimed ghost stories of modern times, Dark Matter and Thin Air and the prize-winning, million copy selling, children’s series, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. A new book in the series, Viper’s Daughter, will be published by Head of Zeus in April 2020. Born in Malawi, Michelle Paver came to England as a child. She studied Biochemistry at Oxford University before becoming a partner in a City of London law firm. She began to write after her father’s death prompted her to take a one-year sabbatical. She has never looked back. Known for her extensive research, Wakenhyrst was inspired by the rich and haunting folklore of the Suffolk fens, chance encounters, and both the personal and universal stories of women’s quest for independence. 



Twitter @MichellePaver #Wakenhyrst

@HOZ_books

@ed_pr

Amazon UK


Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Book Review ~ Imposter by L J Ross


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Dark Skies Publishing
31 October 2019

My thanks to the author and The Book Trail for my copy of this book


There’s a killer inside all of us…


After an elite criminal profiling unit is shut down amidst a storm of scandal and mismanagement, only one person emerges unscathed. Forensic psychologist Doctor Alexander Gregory has a reputation for being able to step inside the darkest minds to uncover whatever secrets lie hidden there and, soon enough, he finds himself drawn into the murky world of murder investigation.

In the beautiful hills of County Mayo, Ireland, a killer is on the loose. Panic has a stranglehold on its rural community and the Garda are running out of time. Gregory has sworn to follow a quiet life but, when the call comes, can he refuse to help their desperate search for justice?

Murder and mystery are peppered with dark humour in this fast-paced thriller set amidst the spectacular Irish landscape.

What did I think about it..

When a violent murder devastates Ballyfinny, a small Irish community, Dr Alexander Gregory is drafted in to prepare a psychological profile of the murderer in the hope of bringing the investigation to a swift conclusion. Doctor Gregory is initially viewed with suspicion by the locals as they are distrustful of a doctor who has come all the way from London to delve into their deepest, darkest secrets.

The suspicion of a small community as they look inwards to see who amongst them could be the perpetrator is done with a fine eye for detail, and as individual personality traits come alive so there are a few characters who stand out from the crowd, both in terms of where they stand with the investigation, and also in the strength of their connection to the crime.

The story gets off to a really strong start and there is much to take in, both in terms of plot and malice, and I think that the author does a great job in bringing together all the complicated clues which together form this fast moving crime thriller. The writing flows easily and there are more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. So many times I thought that I had the perpetrator sussed only for the story to veer off in another exciting direction, and I was completely wrong in the end!

Imposter is the first book in a proposed new series which feature Alexander Gregory's skill as a psychologist and it has been fascinating, in this first novel, to learn a little bit about the man himself. He's quite an enigmatic character, supremely flawed like all good crime sleuths, and yet Gregory also has the ability to draw people out of themselves and can glean information from even the smallest of clues. He also has a deep understanding of what makes people act in the way they do, and the reason for his astute observation of the vagaries of human nature become apparent as the story progresses.

I've really enjoyed spending time in County Mayo with this clever criminal psychological, and can only see this new series going from strength to strength in future crime thrillers.



✨ Imposter is published in ebook and paperback on the 31 October 2019  




L.J. Ross is the author of the international bestselling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels. Her debut, Holy Island, was released in January 2015 and reached number one in the Amazon Kindle UK bestsellers chart.

LJ Ross was born in Northumberland, England. She studied undergraduate and postgraduate Law at King's College, University of London and studied abroad in Paris and Florence. She spent much of her working life in London, where she was a regulatory lawyer for a number of years until taking the decision to change career and pursue her dream to write. Now, she writes full time and lives with her husband and son in Bath. 

Imposter is the first book in the Alexander Gregory series of crime thrillers. 



Twitter @LJRoss_author







Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran


 ✨Delighted to be part of this blog tour 


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Avon
3 October 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book
and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

Lexie loves her home. She feels safe and secure in it – and loved, thanks to her boyfriend Tom.

But recently, something’s not been quite right. A book out of place. A wardrobe door left open. A set of keys going missing…

Tom thinks Lexie’s going mad – but then, he’s away more often than he’s at home nowadays, so he wouldn’t understand.

Because Lexie isn’t losing it. She knows there’s someone out there watching her. And, deep down, she knows there’s nothing she can do to make them stop…

What did I think about it..

The prologue gives an enticing look into the life of one of our main characters but the identity of this character is quite ambiguous and it's only as the story starts to evolve that we being to realise the significance of this opening chapter.

This novel goes on to show that you are never really sure of your neighbours, on the surface they could be perfectly ordinary people, and yet underneath the facade something decidedly odd is going on. For Lexie and her boyfriend, Tom, their life is about to be turned upside down but, at first, they have no idea who is playing with their lives. Harriet lives in the apartment adjoining Tom and Lexie's and whilst they don't have anything in common, their lives overlap in a truly creepy sort of way.

The story gets off to something of a slow start which I feel is quite deliberate as it takes time for each of the main characters to reveal their true selves. I found the premise of the story really interesting especially the individual chapters which are narrated in turn by both Lexie and Harriet who are aware of each other through the walls of their respective apartments, and yet their lives couldn't be more different.  There is a genuine creepiness to the story which builds up gradually and the overall feeling of suspicion soon takes over so that you are never really sure of who is being entirely truthful.

The author has written a perceptive debut novel which looks at the minutiae of  two very different lives however it is these very differences which make Through the Wall such a suspenseful psychological thriller.




Caroline Corcoran is an author, journalist and copywriter with over 15 years experience writing and editing words in various guises. Through the wall is her debut novel.


Twitter @cgcorcoran #ThroughTheWall

@AvonBooksUK









Monday, 28 October 2019

Book Review~ Silent Money by G D Harper

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Matador
28 September 2019

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Michael Mitchell is ambitious, talented and determined to succeed. But he learns the hard way that he will never achieve his goals in life – unless he plays by a different set of rules. He partners with a small-time crook to help the Glasgow underworld launder the proceeds of their crimes. As the operation grows, he is forced to become more and more ruthless to protect what he has built up. Shocked by what he has become, he decides to leave the criminal world behind him and start a new life, respectable and honest. But the past has a way of catching up. Finally, he gambles everything on one last desperate attempt to break free.

What did I think about it...

Michael Mitchell, plays a dangerous game, discontented with his role as assistant branch manager of a Glasgow bank, he realises that his financial skills could be put to much better use, the only problem is that in order to make his fortune he needs to work under the radar as far as the law is concerned.

Bringing 1970s Glasgow alive in the imagination, the author takes us into the dark and often very dangerous world of financial crime, right into the playground of petty criminals and the nightmare of small town thuggery, when so easily being in the wrong place at the wrong time could be a deadly mistake. However, regardless of sailing close to the wind, Michael Mitchell succeeds in creating an empire which, whilst founded on hard work and creativity, is also dangerously volatile.

For all his faults, Mitchell is a very likable crook and whilst I couldn't always reconcile with how he was running his empire the author succeeds in making him extremely personable so although Mitchell's motives to succeed are highly questionable I actually liked the man and bizarrely wanted everything to work out for him. The story is incredibly detailed in terms of how 'dirty' money was laundered and maneuvered, I became quite fascinated in the way vast sums of cash could quite simply disappear, so huge kudos to the author for explaining everything so well and in such meticulous detail.

Although I was never privy to life in 1970s Glasgow, nor have I ever been involved in financial crime, I found that much of the story resonated quite simply because the hedonistic days of the early seventies are explained so well that they really come alive. The excitement of watching the bright and beautiful people strut their stuff in nightclubs with the strident blare of TSOP and Van McCoy's Hustle booming out from forceful speakers took me right back in time, so that I could hear the beat of the music and smell the pungent aroma of stale beer and the macho allure of Aramis aftershave.

The author writes this detailed crime genre with meticulous detail and delivers strong characters with a gutsy story which never fails to entertain from start to finish. In Silent Money it has been fascinating to observe Michael Mitchell's personal story and of his connection to the other characters who pop up in the series. I've now read the whole of this series and it has been really interesting to see just how the story has eventually played out. Silent Money gives us the origins of the story which is continued in Love's Long Road and concludes with A Friend in Deed. 

All three books can be read as standalones although it does make sense to read in some semblance of order.


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About the Author



GD Harper has won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition and placed third in the Lightship Prize for first-time authors.


Twitter @harper_author





Saturday, 26 October 2019

His Fic Saturday ~ Tidelands by Philippa Gregory



On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...1648


44077390
Simon&Schuster
20 August 2019

The Fairmile Series #1


Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.


What did I think about it..

The English Civil war pitted family against family, brother against brother and father against son, and everywhere there was discordance and suspicion, and for a woman, without a man to protect her, trying to eke out a living was a dangerous and lonely time. Alinor does what she can to keep a meagre roof above her head and tries with her limited resources to keep a close watch on her son and daughter, hoping that by some miracle she can continue, despite her husband's mysterious absence, to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. On Midsummer's Eve, when the dead are presumed to walk, Alinor waits by the church for news of her missing husband, but instead she meets James, a young man with dark and deadly secrets of his own, and from that fateful first meeting James and Alinor's fates are sealed. 

Following on from this author's acclaimed Plantagenet and Tudor series of novels, Tidelands sees a welcome return to more romantic historical fiction rather than based purely om the lives of Kings and Queens, and even though Charles I does make an appearance in the novel, this is about the Civil War after all, he doesn't dominate the story. Instead the narrative follows the relationship between Alinor and James and of the troubled times in which they are living.

As always the historical background is exceptionally good and the Sussex tidal lands are beautifully described with a melancholy air which lingers throughout the story. There is unrest and suspicion, particularly against Alinor, and many in this remote village of just a hundred souls view her skill as a healer with more than a touch of misgiving, and even when they visit for herbal cures they're never entirely comfortable with her.  

Within this first story there's a certain amount of scene setting which makes the story a little bit slow in places but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book, or of wondering where the story will go to in the next installment. I rather liked the romantic element which sets the scene for whatever is to come as the series progresses, and as this is only book one, I suspect we have a way to go before everything is Alinor's troubled life is laid to rest.

Years ago I read and enjoyed The Wise Woman by this author and there are the same elements of witchcraft and superstition in Tidelands which appeal to my imagination. And even though this book was first published in the summer time I do think it particularly lends itself to this time of year as we approach Halloween especially with all the superstition which still plays around witchcraft and magic.

Tidelands is published in hardback and is available from all good book retailers.




Philippa Gregory is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognised authority on women's history.


Twitter@PhilippaGbooks #Tidelands

@simonschusterUK



Friday, 25 October 2019

☆Author Spotlight ~ Susan Grossey☆



It gives me great pleasure to welcome Susan Grossey back to the blog. 
Susan is the author of the wonderful Sam Plank series of historical financial crime novels.




Hi and welcome, Susan. This is now the sixth book in the Sam Plank series of historical crime novels - will you tell us where you got the inspiration for Sam and is he based on anyone you know?

I was doing some research for a client into the history of their bank and I came across the story of a corrupt London banker in 1824. As I was reading his story, I found that he was arrested by something called a “magistrates’ constable”, which piqued my interest (as I am a magistrate myself and had never heard of such a thing). It turns out that magistrates’ constables existed only for a couple of decades, chronologically between the Bow Street Runners and the Metropolitan Police, and their duty was to execute warrants issued by magistrates. They had no investigative powers and detection had yet to be invented, and yet they had a great impact on reducing levels of crime in the capital. I turned to one of the greatest resources for a writer of historical crime fiction – the transcripts of trials at the Old Bailey, which have been digitised – and found that magistrates’ constables were often called to testify. And in my browsing through these transcripts, I came across a fellow (not a constable, just a layperson witness) called Sam Plank – and I thought it was just the perfect name for a solid, dependable, honest Englishman. So Sam is an amalgamation of all the magistrates’ constables and his name is pilfered from someone else!

With each successive book does the series become easier, or harder, to write and at the start of the series did you have a plan on how Sam’s character would evolve?

When I wrote “Fatal Forgery” – the first Sam Plank story – I had no idea it would lead to a series. In fact, “Fatal Forgery” was first written from the point of view of the banker, not the constable, and then I completely re-wrote it when I realised that the constable was the more interesting character. And by the end of that book I had fallen in love with Sam. I couldn’t face life without him and decided that he could have some more adventures – one per year from 1824 to 1829, when his role was swept away by the creation of the Metropolitan Police. As for the evolution of his character, I have let Sam take the lead. In each book I try to reveal something significant about him – why he became a constable, for instance, or how he met his wife Martha, or how they feel about having no children, and (in this latest outing, “Heir Apparent”) how he copes with the imminent disappearance of his job.

When combining historical fact with fiction it must be quite a challenge to get the balance right. How do you manage this without compromising on authenticity?

I have a very clear policy that I follow: if something is known to be true (e.g. John Conant was the Chief Magistrate at Great Marlborough Street and had a home in Portland Place) then I have to stick to that truth, but if something is uncertain (e.g. how many children the banker in “Fatal Forgery” had) then I am allowed to speculate and fill in the gaps, as long as it fits in with what we do know. London is a joy of a location for the historical fiction writer, as – if you look above shopfront level – so much of it is still in evidence. Mind you, I do have to be careful about street names, as these change; I always refer to the 1827 map of London that was created by the great mapmaker John Greenwood (and is searchable online via the library at Harvard in America – the wonders of modern technology!).

Talk us through your experiences as a self-published author. Why did you go down this route?

When I finished “Fatal Forgery” I did try the “traditional” publishing route – I sent the book to nine agents and publishers. And they all replied with the same answer: it’s a good story, well-written, but we won’t be able to sell it because no-one is interested in financial crime. I thought that was rubbish, because I work every day with people who are fascinated by financial crime, and the self-publishing industry was just taking off. So I decided to go it alone, and it has been an absolute blast – I have loved every minute of indie publishing. You can pick and choose which bits of the process you want to do yourself (I’m very happy with formatting the inside of the book, using a template that I have bought) and which bits you want to farm out (I have no artistic eye and so I use the marvellous team at Design for Writers to create my covers), and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have created something from scratch.

I know that you fit in writing your novels around your ‘day job’ – how easy is it to combine the two and do they ever overlap?

My day job is as an anti-money laundering consultant – I advise businesses on how to avoid criminal money. So the overlap is a complete obsession with financial crime – the awful things that people do for money, and why they do those awful things simply for money. We think that we modern folk have invented financial crime but all that has changed is the technology: there have been corrupt bankers since banks were invented, forgers and thieves since money was invented, and fraudsters and victims since investment was invented. And I enjoy spending my work life looking at the modern versions and my writing life looking at the historical ones. People have always been greedy, amoral, sneaky, naΓ―ve and desperate – and financial crime is the result.

When I read the stories I have a definite image of Sam in my head. If the Sam Plank series were optioned for a TV drama, and I really think it should be - who would you choose to play Sam?

I’m a bit nervous about this, if you have your own image of Sam, but I have always thought that Brendan Coyle and Claudie Blakley would make the perfect Sam and Martha – they were married in “Lark Rise to Candleford”, so I know they can do it! And as for a Sunday evening drama, wouldn’t that be perfect?




The latest book, #6 in the series 

Heir Apparent was published 13 October 2019


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A young man returns to London from the family plantation in the Caribbean after an absence of six years to be at his father’s deathbed – and to inherit his estate. But is the new arrival who he says he is, or an impostor? Anyone who doubts his identity seems to meet an untimely end, but his sister swears that he is her beloved brother.With their investigations leading them into the complicated world of inheritance law and due process after death, Constable Sam Plank and his loyal lieutenant William Wilson come face to face with the death trade and those who profit from it – legally or otherwise. Among them is an old enemy who has used his cunning and ruthlessness to rise through the ranks of London’s criminal world. And, in this sixth novel in the series, it’s now 1829: as plans progress for a new police force for the metropolis, Sam and his wife Martha look to the future.


Discover more about Susan's writing and the world of Sam Plank


Twitter @ConstablePlank


☆Huge thanks to Susan ( and Sam) for being the author in the spotlight today 





Thursday, 24 October 2019

Paperback Publication Day ~ The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby



✨✨ Happy Paperback Publication Day  ✨✨


No Exit Press
 24 October 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Set in 1880s Birmingham, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut The Conviction of Cora Burns tells the story of Cora, a young woman born in a prison to a convicted criminal she never knew but from whom she fears she has inherited a violent nature. Perfect for fans of Sarah Schmidt, Anna Mazzola and Hannah Kent.

Cora was born in a prison. But is this where she belongs?

My thoughts..

Right from the start of this story there's a real sense of history and as we are taken by the hand into Cora Burn's fractured life we soon start to understand that she is no ordinary gaol bird. Born into the dark restrictions of a Victorian prison system Cora very quickly learns that to survive with her spirit intact she must use her considerable wit in order to keep one step ahead of a social welfare system that threatens to engulf her.

When Cora is given the opportunity to move away from the only place she has known, she grabs the opportunity but is filled with a real sense of trepidation. Working as a Between Maid in the household of a scientist, Cora soon gets drawn into the very mysterious world of Mr Thomas Jerwood, a gentleman who has, it must be said, a very unusual interest in photography.

Moving seamlessly forwards and backwards over a twenty year period, the author creates a very believable Victorian world which is very dark at times, and yet, which poses an interesting conundrum about the question of nature over nurture. The story opens up the dark and often dangerous world of the Victorian reform system, whilst at the same shining a spotlight on the more unusual scientific practices which seemed to obsess some Victorians. Beautifully written with a real sense of history, Cora Burns, literally leaps of the pages, she is fierce and feisty, not always very likeable as she does some very odd things, but always, throughout the story, she has such a real sense of drive and ambition which is quite wonderful to observe.

To say too much about the way the story plays out would really spoil things, however, if you enjoy the brooding nature of a Gothic mystery combined with a tragic tale of  lives ruined by circumstance, then I am sure that this story will appeal. Without doubt, The Conviction of Cora Burns is a stunning historical debut by an author who knows how to get right into the heart and soul of a story.


About the Author




Originally from the northeast of England, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, before working in public housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language. Her novel The Conviction of Cora Burns, begun in 2013 during a writing course at Faber Academy in London, won the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award and was a runner-up for the DGA First Novel Prize and the Mslexia Novel Competition, Carolyn has two grown daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.


Twitter @novelcarolyn #TheConvictionOfCoraBurns

@noexitpress



The paperback edition is out today (24th October) and the ebook is currently available for 99p until 10th November



Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Book Review ~ The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

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Chatto & Windus
Penguin Uk
10 September 2019

✨✨ Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 ✨✨

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

What did I think about it..

I first picked up The Handmaid's Tale back in the nineteen eighties shortly after the book was published and was completely in awe of the author's imagination in bringing the troubled nation of Gilead into public conscientiousness.  I've read the story more than once and was so excited to see the book finally made visual in the Channel 4 adaptation. When I learned that this talented author felt that it was now time to revisit Gilead, some fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, I was beyond excited and couldn't wait to see just what was happening in this dystopian world which is so vivid in my imagination.

The Testaments starts in a very different place, this is not the Gilead we remember from The Handmaid's Tale, nor is it a continuation of that particular handmaid's story. It is rather a more introspective look at the tenets and beliefs which make this theocracy so complicated and of the cracks and splinters which seem to threaten Gilead's continued existence. Throughout it all we have no better narrator than Aunt Lydia, the aunt who has always struck such terror into our hearts, and who now leads us piece by piece through the complicated maze of Gilead history. Being part of the cloistered world of the Aunts at Ardua Hall is a real privilege and I found especially fascinating the snippets about the Aunts themselves, and perhaps more importantly just how Aunt Lydia became the Aunt Lydia we remember from The Handmaid's Tale.

However, Aunt Lydia is not our only narrator through this complicated process, we also have the thought processes of two unnamed witness testimonies, who offer a rather detailed vision, one from one young woman who grew to maturity in Gilead, and the other who didn't, and together these two narratives offer a tantalising glimpse into two very different worlds. 

I think The Testaments is a very timely novel, perhaps in light of the TV adaptation and a new audience, there are questions which needed to be answered. Personally I think that the author has succeeded in drawing Gilead to a close and the literary world is all the richer for this conclusion.  Is it as powerful as the Handmaid's Tale, being honest, no it isn't, nor does it try to be, however, it succeeds on its own merits as a fascinating glimpse into a dark and cruel dystopian world. There's a real sense throughout The Testaments of the author tying up loose ends, drawing together the complicated threads of a story which needed to be explained in more detail. Does it answer every question, perhaps not, but I rather like that we don't get to know absolutely everything, and I feel comfortable with the way the story ended.

My advice would be to read The Testaments for its own sake, marvel at this skilful writer's ability to make this complicated world her own, but don't even try to read it before first reading The Handmaid's Tale.



Margaret Atwood is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her novels include Cat's Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and the MaddAddam trilogy. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid's Tale, went back into the bestseller charts with the election of Donald Trump, when The Handmaids became a symbol of resistance against the disempowerment of women, and with the 2017 release of the award-winning Channel 4 TV series. Atwood has won numerous awards including the Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Imagination in Service to Society, the Franz Kafka Prize, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2019 she was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for services to literature. She has also worked as a cartoonist, illustrator, librettist, playwright and puppeteer. She lives in Toronto, Canada.





Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ Reach for a Star by Kathryn Freeman (Giveaway)


 πŸŒ πŸŒ  Delighted to be hosting today's stop on this lovely blog tour πŸŒ πŸŒ 


Choc Lit
24 September 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Rachel's Random Resources for my ecopy of the book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

What if your dreams were so close you could reach out and touch them? 

How could anyone resist Michael Tennant, with his hypnotic blue eyes and voice like molten chocolate? Jessie Simmons certainly can’t. But Jessie’s a single mum who can’t sing to save her life there’s no way she’ll ever cross paths with the star tenor.

At least that’s what she thinks until she’s unexpectedly invited to take part in a new reality TV show. 
The premise? Professional singers teach hopeless amateurs how to sing. The surprise? Jessie’s partner is none other than Michael Tennant!

As she becomes better acquainted with the man behind the voice, will Jessie find out the hard way that you should never meet your idols? Or will she get more than she bargained for?





What did I think about it..


They do say that you should be careful about meeting your idols as they can so often be disappointing 'in the flesh'. However, for Jessie Simmons meeting best selling singer Michael Tennant is everything she hoped it would be, he's exceptionally good looking and deliciously sexy, the only 'fly in the ointment' is that Michael is mentoring Jessie in a reality singing competition and unlike the dulcet tones of Michael, Jessie can't sing. What then follows is a real feel-good story in which Jessie discovers that, occasionally, dreams really can come true.

What this author does so well is make you feel involved with both the story and the characters from the very beginning. Jessie is every woman you've ever known. She's a single mum with two boys who love football, she stresses about her job, her lack of love life and her one aim is to make everyone happy, but somewhere along the line she has lost the idea that she's an attractive woman, that is until she meets Michael Tennant.

I devoured this story in one sitting as I really couldn't put the book down and whilst not everything goes smoothly for Jessie, I loved her journey, and laughed with her and, yes sometimes shouted in frustration when the complications in her life seemed to get too much but throughout it all there was a really lighthearted feel to the story which just made me smile.

If you like warmhearted love stories with two wonderful central characters who have more than enough angst to cause trouble between them then I am sure that you will love Reach for a Star as much as I did.





A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero. With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers and heroes come in many disguise.


Twitter @KathrynFreeman1




Giveaway to Win a PB copy of Oh Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman (Open INT) 

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Monday, 21 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey


✨✨ Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of this exciting Blog Tour ✨✨ 


45481146
Simon&Schuster
Paperback 17 October 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Random Things Tours for my invitation to this blog tour

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying just the right side of scandal.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina's orbit one night and can never let her go.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, this is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.


My thoughts..

In 1925, Selina Lennox is one of the Bright Young Things who scamper from decadent party to decadent party, living life at top speed, and whose champagne lifestyles are distinctly at odds with those who haven’t been born to a life of privilege. There’s a great sense of history within the story and the author recreates those hedonistic years following the Great War to perfection. It was such a sad time when so many young men failed to return, lost in the mud and mire of Northern France, and yet for those left to pick up the pieces, there was also a sense of fragility as if living life at top speed made up for their sense of loss.

However, an inadvertent meeting between society girl, Selina and the impoverished artist/photographer, Lawrence Weston will change the course of both their lives forever. Selina and Lawrence’s story is so beautifully described that right from their very first meeting the poignancy of their situation is revealed, and as the story slips effortlessly between two very different time frames so a story of loss, heartbreak and earth shattering love starts to be revealed. I can’t possibly do justice to the beauty of this story as there’s just so much to share about all the special little details, especially about Selina's young daughter Alice, whose own story, in 1936, forms quite a chunk of the narrative and whose aching vulnerability breaks your heart. ♡

As I have come to expect from this talented author, the writing and historical research in The Glittering Hour is impeccable, but it's not just the strong sense of history that draws me to this author's writing, it is her rare talent to hold the reader in the palm of her hand, and the way that she brings life to characters who, very quickly, become as familiar as friends, and whose loves and losses strike a resonance within your soul. I was so emotionally connected with both the story, and the characters, that I couldn’t put the book down, or stop thinking about it when the story ended.

There’s a shimmering sense of glitter to this story which makes it so very special, and in a year when I have read well over 150 books, The Glittering Hour is right up there at the top of my list and is, without doubt, one of my reads of the year.


About the Author



Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. 

Twitter @Iona_Grey #The GlitteringHour

@simonschusterUK

#RandomThingsTours

Amazon UK



Saturday, 19 October 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Women's at Hitler's Table by Rosella Postorino


On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...WW2




48204543. sy475
Harper Collins
ebook 1 August 2019
Hardback 14 November 2019

Translated by Leah Janeczko

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.

Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?


What did I think about it..

Towards the latter years of WW2 Hitler was becoming increasingly paranoid and even though he was hiding himself away in the Wolfsshanze in East Prussia, the fear of being poisoned was never very far from his mind. In this fictional account ten women are chosen to act as food tasters and so protect Hitler from poison.

Rosa has recently moved from the city to live with her parents-in-law in a supposedly safer environment but soon after her arrival she is chosen to be one of Hitler's food tasters and Rosa realises that she has merely swapped one danger for another far more insidious threat. The SS collect Rosa from her home in a rural community and take her, and others, to Hitler's lair where they are given high quality vegetarian meals as Hitler didn't eat meat, but sumptuous and plentiful though the food was, Rosa couldn't begin to relax enough to appreciate the food on offer.

This is far more than the story about the food on Hitler's table, it's about the horrors of war and the absolute terror of living life with no idea if each day was to be your last. Rosa's somewhat troubled relationship with the other taster women, who see her as a city girl, and Rosa's very real fear for the life of her soldier husband makes the story all the more poignant.

The Women at Hitler's Table is inspired by the true story of Margot WΓΆlk, who was the only survivor of the 15 original women who were chosen as food tasters. Margot only revealed her story, and her horrific wartime experiences, when she was 95 years old. This fictional account is a fitting tribute to her courage and fortitude, and of the immense pressure that the taster women faced on a daily basis.


About the Author

Rosella Postorino is an internationally bestselling author and an editor. She speaks fluent English, Italian, French, and German. The Women at Hitler’s Table is her first novel to be translated into English.

Twitter @HarperCollins





Friday, 18 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Perfect Dress by Louisa Leaman



πŸ‘—I'm thrilled to host today's stop on this perfect blog tourπŸ‘—


Transworld
e-book 17 October 2019
Paperback 6 February 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour


The Whispering Dress is no ordinary wedding dress shop. At this shop every gown is different. Every gown has its story. This shop is a treasure trove of history, filled with gowns from every decade for every type of bride. After all, the most important dress of a woman’s life should surely have something distinct to say.

Something bold for the shy and retiring.

Something simple for the woman who is unafraid to stand out.

And something dazzling for the bride who wouldn’t normally dare to be different.

Fran Delaney matches dresses to brides, influenced by the memories, photos and letters she has collected of the dress’s previous owner. But when Fran meets Rafael Colt, who has reluctantly inherited a gorgeous couture gown, his disinterest in the dress and his refusal to talk about his family history means the dress lies unmatched. To find the right bride for the dress, Fran must untangle the mystery surrounding the cynical but captivating Rafael and his dark family history.


What did I think about it..

Fran Delaney has the most beautiful wedding dress shop, called The Whispering Dress, where she lovingly stores her vintage gowns just waiting for the right bride to connect with the perfect dress. Fran sources the dresses from boot sales and house clearances, and does all she can to discover, not just the history of the dress, but also about the bride who once wore it on her special day. The  interior of The Whispering Dress sparkles with glittering tiaras whilst gossamer sleek veils shimmer in the light of an Art Deco chandelier. However, taking centre stage are the beautiful vintage wedding dresses, which are made from tantalising tulle and sensuous silk, all just patiently waiting for the perfect bride.

When Fran finds an exquisite couture wedding dress in a house clearance, not only does it bring her into contact with the less than charming, but incredibly handsome, Rafael Colt, but also the discovery of the dress reveals a very dark secret at the heart of the Colt family.

Inspired by a collection of wedding dresses in an exhibition at the V&A Museum in London, the author has given us a very polished first novel, and from the very start of The Perfect Dress I was lost in the story. I loved learning more about the lure of vintage wedding dresses and reading of the history behind each one, rejoicing when a dress found a new bride. And even though the mystery at the centre of the novel allows a more detailed look into the Colt family, I think it is the magic of the wedding dresses themselves which gives the story its heart and soul.

The story has moments which made me smile ,and others which are unashamedly romantic, I mean who couldn't fall for the handsome Rafael, but most importantly it also reminds us that it's not all about the Wedding Day being perfect. What is so vitally important, beneath all the gloss and glamour, is the relationship between the two people who are being married.

The Perfect Dress is a perfect read for all those who enjoy a good love story.



My Perfect Dress 

© Jaffareadstoo


Matching the dress to the bride is perhaps one of the most romantic aspects of choosing a wedding dress and I can remember going to the bridal store with my mother and even though it's over forty years ago every aspect of that shopping trip is stored away in my memory.

I had a definite idea of how I wanted to look, I'm an incredibly unfussy person, so I knew that I didn't want flounces and endless petticoats, and as this was 1979, not quite the era of the meringue dress,  it was still possible to find simple elegance. I would have loved to have worn my mother's 1940's wedding dress but sadly that wasn't still in one piece as my mother, ever thrifty, had used the silk of her dress to make little girlie dresses for me!

I knew as soon as stepped into this dress, and it was the first I tried, that it was the perfect one for me, I loved the Edwardian style, it was just beautifully elegant, and even now, forty years later, I still love looking at it and remembering the perfect dress I wore on my perfect, snowy Wedding Day in December 1979



The author, Louisa studied Art History at Leeds University before becoming a teacher working with children with special needs. After winning the Times Education Supplement’s New Writer’s Award, she turned her hand to writing books for children. In my opinion she currently has one of the coolest jobs writing content for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and her first book, The Perfect Dress, was inspired by the V&As large wedding dress collection.

Twitter @louisaleaman #ThePerfectDress

@TransworldBooks






Thursday, 17 October 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker



πŸ“– Delighted to be part of this blog tour today πŸ“–


World Editions
1 October 2019

My thanks to the publisher and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

In Zagreb is an unusual museum: it displays mementos of broken relationships. Each exhibit describes a unique story of a broken heart, of love gone awry.

When Katia and Goran visit the museum, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. A reminder of two days spent together while he and his mother and brother waited anxiously for visas to America to escape the war.

Encouraged by Katia, a therapist, to reconnect with his lost past, Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars. Similarly Katia, adopted by Americans at one week old after her birth mother was murdered in a gangland killing in Brazil, heads back to Brazil to uncover her own family history.

Meanwhile Tyler, a military veteran and one of Katia’s patients, attempts to put the Afghan war behind him, and finds love in unexpected circumstances.

Drawing upon his own experiences working in conflict zones, Gary Barker’s powerful novels dive deep into human love and longing. Crossing continents, and set against backdrops of war, deprivation, and violence, The Museum of Lost Love is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.

What did I think about it..


This is an interesting idea for a book as not only does it explore the lives of three very different characters but it also gives us a glimpse into the poignant exhibits which are to found in the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.

I found this to be a story of several parts, initially that of Tyler who is an Afghanistan veteran, struggling with therapy, and trying to come terms with the way his life has evolved, and of his tentative relationship with his young son, Sammy. And then running alongside is the story Katia and Goran who are in a relationship but they each have deep emotional issues in their past which need to be properly addressed.

Whilst the character driven element of the novel works well, especially the author’s exploration of the intricacies of their individual lives, I think what worked best for me was the haunting and very personal exhibits which were found in the museum. Reading of love both lost and won, and of the poignant reminders, be they written or physical, made me realise the importance of keeping special such memories alive.

The Museum of Lost Love is a perceptive story which took me to places I can only visit in my imagination and which reminded me that, if we let it, love can tear us apart.


About the Author

Photo credit: Andy DelGiudice


GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC. 


Twitter @WORLDEDBOOKS #MuseumOfLostLove