Saturday, 18 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Khan by Saima Mir


Point Blank
1 April 2021

My thanks to Point Blank Publishing, One World Publications
and Sofia at Midas PR for my review copy of this book

Be twice as good as men and four times as good as white men.

Jia Khan has always lived like this.

A successful lawyer, her London life is a long way from the grubby Northern streets she knew as a child, where her father headed up the Pakistani community and ran the local organised crime syndicate. Often his Jirga rule - the old way - was violent and bloody, but it was always justice of a kind.

But now her father, Akbar Khan, has been murdered and Jia must return to take his place. In the past, the police relied on him to maintain the fragile order of the streets. But a power struggle has broken out amongst the various communities and now, nobody is safe.

Justice needs to be restored, and Jia is about to discover that justice always comes at a cost.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Saima Mir came to my attention when I was invited to feature the details of the Desiblitz Festival on my blog and this author's crime novel piqued my interest. She is appearing at the Desiblitz Festival on the 25th September and tickets for the event may be obtained here.

The Festival opens today and runs until the 1st October. Saima Mir's event at the festival is on the 25th September.

Jia Khan leaves her well paid job in London and returns to her home town of Bradford for a family wedding. Jia hasn't been home for fifteen years since a tragedy forced her to leave and even though there are difficult reasons for her estrangement from her family, Jia's loyalty to them is unparalleled.

Jia's wealthy family have quite a reputation, as her father, Akbar Khan is the leader of an organised crime syndicate which he rules with his own special brand of rough justice. That the Khan's are people to be reckoned with comes across loud and clear and Jia's involvement in her family's complicated politics is heightened when her father is brutally murdered. Jia, as the eldest daughter, takes over ruling the syndicate in her father's place however, being a woman in this male dominated and very dangerous world is never going to be an easy ride.

Always respectful of the Pakistani community, their beliefs and culture, The Khan moves forward in a dramatic story which brings into question politics, prejudices and power and which highlights the uncompromising nature of the criminal underworld where neither the fainthearted, nor the weak are allowed to flourish. Old resentments fester, and with Akbar Khan gone, new criminal gangs do their best to force their way into the Khan's territory.

This intelligently written debut brings a really interesting interpretation of the gangland crime genre. The mean and moody streets of Bradford, a city in turmoil, comes vividly to life  and the author's distinctive way of creating atmosphere gives the story an authentic feel. The narrative is beautifully written and so evocative of time and place I felt as if I was in the middle of the action, with a ring side seat, watching as the dramatic events unfolded.

The Khan is a tense and pacy crime novel which has at its heart the concept of loyalty. Loyalty to family, loyalty to beliefs and loyalty to culture and it is this strong code of conduct which makes The Khan such an exciting crime drama. 

About the Author

Saima has written for The Times,Guardian and Independent. Her essay for It's Not About the Burqa (Picador) appeared in Guardian Weekend and received over 250,000 hits online in two days. She has also contributed to the anthology The Best, Most Awful Job: Twenty Mothers Talk Honestly About Motherhood. Saima grew up in Bradford and now lives in London.

Twitter @SaimaMir #TheKhan





Saima Mir's event at the festival is on the 25th September

For more information click here

For tickets to the event click  DESIblitz

Thursday, 16 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Nostalgia ~ Love Story by Erich Segal


I'm really privileged to read so many latest release books which are so current they haven't even hit the book store shelves that I forget about the books which have influenced my reading over the years.

So, welcome to my mid-month Book Nostalgia feature where I'm allowing myself the luxury of going back in time with some of my favourite reads.

Let's wallow in book memories...

1970 edition

Oliver Barrett IV went to Harvard and Jenny Cavilleri to Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. 

He was sporty, she played music.

But they fell in love

This is their story.

Love Story was originally adapted as a screen play and then picked up by Paramount Pictures. The author, Erich Segal was asked to write the play into a novel as a preview for the film, and so, Love Story, all 127 pages of it, was published to coincide with Valentine's Day in 1970. It became a publishing phenomenon spending 41 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. 

This book came to my notice when the movie, starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw, became a box office sensation. After its general release in the UK, I went to see the film with friends from school and my lasting memory is of sitting in a darkened cinema on a summer afternoon watching this tragic tale unfold. It is the first film that made me cry and the only film that I have watched twice back to back on the same afternoon, in the same cinema! It's also the first grown up book I bought for myself.

I was already familiar with Ryan O'Neal having been a teen fan of the American daytime drama Peyton Place in which O'Neal had a starring role but it was Love Story which catapulted this charismatic young actor into the hearts of millions. Safe to say Love Story remains one of the highest grossing films of all time.

Segal's original idea, became THE film of the early seventies, and the book, despite it's small size, has become a publishing giant and is definitely a case of less is more. The story which is simplicity itself is a classic tale of boy meets girl. They meet at college, fall in love, marry against the odds and just when they have struggled through hardships and are facing a more settled future, tragedy strikes at the very heart of the novel. The book has remained in print since the day it was published, and sadly, after a couple of house moves, I lost my original, well-thumbed copy but I quickly replaced it with a new copy in 1987. I've lost count of the amount of times I've read it and it remains one of my favourite stories of all time.

Classic, beautiful, timeless Love Story is the novel which led me, by the hand, into a lifelong love of romantic fiction.

What can you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died? 

That she was beautiful. And brilliant. 

That she loved Mozart and Bach. 

And the Beatles.

And me.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Rose Garden by Tracy Rees


Thrilled to be one of the stops on the closing day of this blog tour 

Pan Macmillan
2 September 2021

Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

and to Random Things Tours for the invitation to the blog tour

1895. Hampstead, London.

Olive Westallen lives a privileged, if rather lonely, life in her family’s grand Hampstead home. But she has radical plans for the future of her family – plans that will shock the high-society world she inhabits. For her new neighbour, twelve-year-old Ottilie Finch, London is an exciting playground to explore. Her family have recently arrived from Durham, under a cloud of scandal that Otty is blissfully unaware of. The only shadow over her days is her mother’s mysterious illness, which keeps her to her room. When Mabs is offered the chance to become Mrs Finch’s companion, it saves her from a desperate life on the canals. Little does she know that all is not as picture-perfect as it seems. Mabs is about to become tangled in the secrets that chased the Finches from their last home, and trapped in an impossible dilemma .

πŸ“– My thoughts..

Eighteen year old Mabs Daley finds working on the London Docks to be harsh but with her younger brothers and sisters to support Mabs has little choice but to continue with this back breaking work, that is, until her friend tells her of a job, in service, in the home of the Finch family who have newly arrived in London from Durham. Employed as a companion to the melancholic, Mrs Finch brings Mabs into contact with twelve year old Ottilie Finch, who, left to her own devices explores London with all the enthusiasm of a child breaking free of the restrictions placed upon her by society. Meanwhile, Olive Westallen, a rather unusual, twenty eight year old, uses her family wealth to do good deeds but in doing so shocks polite society.

What follows is a detailed novel which explores the boundaries that Victorian women had placed upon them, not just by a patriarchal society who viewed independent women as something of an anathema, but also even in families, sensibilities could so easily be troubled by the wrong actions. Social attitudes were often greatly offended by doing and saying the wrong things to the wrong people and yet all three of these quite unusual characters found that once their lives started to intertwine a connection between them was allowed to flourish in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. The three voices of Mabs, Ottilie and Olive come cross loud and clear, from the poverty and hardship of Mabs’s family, the opulence of Olive’s Hampstead mansion, to Ottilie, and her rather fractured family, especially her mother, coming somewhere in the middle.

Beautifully written, with an authentic feel for time and place, the late-Victorian era comes alive in The Rose Garden. The author does a great job of bringing everything together in a compelling story which cuts across the social divide and explores family secrets, social mobility and the tentative emergence of women battling to have their voices heard in a male dominated society.

About the Author

Tracy Rees was the first winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. She has also won the Love Stories Best Historical Read award and been shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year. A Cambridge graduate, Tracy had a successful career in non-fiction publishing before retraining for a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant and workshop leader. Tracy divides her time between the Gower Peninsula of South Wales and London.

Twitter @AuthorTracyRees #TheRoseGarden



Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Publication Day Book Review ~ Dad by Steven Manchester


 The Story Plant
14 September 2021

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Three generations of dads, playing traditional roles in each other's lives, arrive simultaneously at significant crossroads. The decisions they make and the actions they take will directly - and eternally - affect each other. After a life of hard work and raising children, Robert is enjoying his well-deserved retirement when he discovers that he has an illness he might not be able to beat. 

At 19, Jonah is sprinting across the threshold of adulthood when he learns, stunningly, that he's going to become a father. And Oliver - Robert's son and Jonah's dad - has entered middle age and is paying its demanding price. While reconciling the time and effort it has taken him to reach an unfulfilling career and an even less satisfying marriage, he realizes that it's imperative that he keep it all together for the two men who mean everything to him. 

When different perspectives lead to misunderstandings that remain unspoken - sometimes for years - it takes great strength and even more love to travel beyond the resentment. Dad: A Novel chronicles the sacred legacy of fatherhood.

Manchester intended for the novel to “pull back the curtain and reveal the inner-workings of male relationships within the family unit.” Since many men have difficulty expressing their emotions, he wanted to change the narrative. Manchester has “endeavored to chronicle the sacred legacy of fatherhood, while capturing the why for many men.”

Raymond A. Levy, founder and director of the Fatherhood Project, said “Dad: A Novel demonstrates the psychological power and importance of fatherhood and a father’s love. This is a welcome addition to the culture’s growing interest in and appreciation for fathers’ emotional engagement with their family.” USA Today bestselling author Robert Dugoni called it, “A must read for men of all ages.” And Greg Bishop, founder of Daddy Boot Camp, said “Few fathers know how important they are to their kids and Steven Manchester's, Dad: A Novel has the potential to show them. Mothers may appreciate it even more.”

My Thoughts..

In Dad we meet three generations of the Earle family, all have different attitudes, hopes and expectations but what draws these three men irrevocably together is that they have a common bond of fatherhood. A grandfather, father and son, all take their specific place in this absorbing story of just what it means to be, quite simply, a dad, and as the old adage goes, any man be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.

Each of them have their own specific worries which impacts on the story in a meaningful way. Patriarch, Robert, now retired, is facing some distressing health worries and is caught between looking back at his life, and his hopes for the future for his son and grandson. Caught in the middle is Oliver who is at a sort of crossroads and is left worrying about the meaning of his life as a father caught up in an unsatisfactory marriage, whilst his son, Jonah, at just nineteen, with his life drifting ahead of him, discovers that, unexpectedly, he is going to be a dad for the first time. As these three very different men face up to the challenges of their lives, they each learn something important about themselves, and each other, in the process.

As always this talented author gets right into the heart of family life and brings meaning and understanding to these important cross generational dilemmas and shows how, with love and kindness, one generation can help those who are following in their footsteps. If we are honest with ourselves all family relationships are complicated and perhaps none more so than for dads who wear so many different guises through the course of their lives, and I think this story shows their vulnerability, along with their strengths.

Dad is a heartwarming, and rather poignant, multi-generational story about the poignancy of ever changing family dynamics, the bonds of fatherhood and the choice of learning from mistakes and going forward into a new understanding of what it means to be , quite simply, a dad.

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoeboxes; the multiaward-winning novel, Goodnight Brian; and the beloved holiday podcast drama, The Thursday Night Club. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show and BET’s Nightly News.

Twitter @authorSteveM


Monday, 13 September 2021

Blog Tour ~ The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy


Delighted to open this blog tour today 

Amazon Publishing
#Lake Union

21 September 2021

My thanks to the publishers and FmcM Associates for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.

Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.

It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart

My thoughts..

This dual time story starts off with a real sense of time and place as all the heat and colourful atmosphere of modern day of Casablanca comes vibrantly to life. Zoe Harris is relatively new to Casablanca and we immediately start to see the city through her, rather uncertain, eyes as she tries to become accustomed to living in this strange new country. Whilst her husband is at work Zoe is left much to her own devices and she cuts something of a lost, and rather lonely, figure and with deepening cracks appearing in her already troubled marriage, she turns for comfort to the pages of an old journal that she found hidden beneath the floorboards of her baby's daughter's bedroom.

In 1941 during the momentous years of the Second World War, twelve-year old Josie Duval and her family have fled France and escaped to Casablanca to escape Nazi persecution. In Casablanca, they find a peace, of sorts, but although their diminishing wealth gives them a life of some comfort it is far from settled especially when Josie discovers that her family are being drawn into clandestine activity which places them all in grave danger.  In her journal, Josie shares her hopes and dreams, her love for books and storytelling, and her fears for her family's safety in a world which seems to be increasingly dangerous.

This is such a strong story which works perfectly well as a modern day look at a marriage which is going nowhere and where sadness is a barrier to future happiness, whilst at the same time bringing to life the fear, and confusion, of living through a time of great change, when danger lurked in hidden corners, and when deadly enemies were sometimes people who you knew well. I was equally absorbed in both time frames for although  Zoe and Josie are separated by age, time and circumstances reading Josie's journal gave Zoe the confidence to make changes to her own way of life. Josie found so much comfort in adding her private thoughts of what it was like to be in Casablanca during such a dangerous time. 

Meticulously researched, The Storyteller of Casablanca a heartwarming, and absorbing, story by an author who truly knows how brings the past alive. The story combines an authentic sense of time and place and brings to life two fascinating female characters whose individual stories will remain with you long after the last page is turned.

About the Author

Source: Goodreads

Fiona Valpy spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007 before returning to live in Scotland. Her love of both these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she has written. She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women especially during the years of the Second World War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with a wonderful sense of time and place.


Twitter @FionaValpy #TheStorytellerOfCasablanca #BlogTour

@AmazonPub #LakeUnion


Saturday, 11 September 2021

πŸ“– The Surplus Girls by Polly Heron


On Hist Fic Saturday

Lets go back to ....Manchester, 1922


My thanks to the author for the copy of this book

After the loss of war, can there be hope for the future?

Manchester, 1922.

Belinda Layton is a surplus girl. One of the many women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, with the death of her beloved fiancΓ©, Ben. After four years of mourning, she's ready to face the future, even though Ben's family is not happy to see her move on, and her own only cares about getting hold of her meagre factory wages.

Then, Belinda joins a secretarial class and a whole new world opens up to her as she quickly finds herself drawn to beguiling bookshop owner Richard Carson. But after all the loss and devastation she has experienced, can she really trust him with her heart.

πŸ“– My Thoughts...

In the aftermath of the Great War when a generation of young men lost their lives there was a huge number of surplus girls who would never have the chance to marry, either because they had lost husbands, fiancΓ©s and boyfriends in the war, or quite simply that there just weren't enough eligible men to go around.

Belinda Layton is mourning the loss of her fiancΓ©, Ben, who died in France in 1918. Whilst living with Ben's mother, and grandmother, helps to keep Ben's memory very much alive, Belinda is still only a young woman who feels that there is more to life than wearing mourning clothes forever. Belinda's home background is one of constant hardship and struggle, and so she becomes determined to make life better for herself, and in doing so she hopes to pull her own family out of poverty. In the hope of improving her employment prospects, Belinda makes the controversial decision to enrol in a newly established secretarial college, however, this decision doesn't sit happily with either Ben's family, or her own hapless relatives who rely on Belinda wages from her job in the mill.

The Surplus Girls is set in the 1920s, when there was so much social and economic change, and I think that this story reminds us just how far women have come in the last hundred years, when in 1922, even for a woman to enroll in a secretarial college to learn typing, shorthand and book keeping was viewed with distaste by some parts of society.  Rich in historical detail, The Surplus Girls brings to vibrant life the strength of those people who made the suburbs of Manchester their home. The harsh background of mills and poverty, the snippets of northern humour, and the sheer grit and determination which is so characteristic of this area all help to make this into such an engaging historical saga. 

Beautifully written by an author who knows how to bring northern history alive in the imagination, The Surplus Girls is the first in a series of historical sagas about this forgotten generation of young women.


About the Author

Polly Heron is a historical saga writer living on the North Wales coast. She is originally from Manchester, which is where her books are set.

Twitter @Polly_Heron #TheSurplusGirls


Friday, 10 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Falling for a French Dream by Jennifer Bohnet


Thrilled to be part of this blog tour

Boldwood Books
9 September 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the bog tour

Escape to hills high above the French Riviera with international bestseller Jennifer Bohnet.

After tragically losing her husband, Nicola Jacques and her teenage son Oliver relocate to his father’s family's Olive Farm in the hills above the French Riviera.

Due a family feud, Oliver has never known his fathers’ side of the family and Grandpapa Henri is intent that Oliver will take over the reins of the ancestral farm and his rightful inheritance.

Determined to keep her independence from a rather controlling Grandpapa, Nicola buys a run-down cottage on the edge of the family's Olive Farm and sets to work renovating their new home and providing an income by cultivating the small holding that came with the Cottage.

As the summer months roll by, Nicola and Oliver begin to settle happily into their new way of life with the help of Aunts Josephine and Odette, Henri’s twin sisters and local property developer Gilles Bongars.

But the arrival of some unexpected news and guests at the farm, force Nicole and Aunt Josephine to assess what and where their futures lie.

This book was previously published as The French Legacy.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

When young widow, Nicola Jacques receives a summons to visit her ex-in-laws at the family's olive farm in the south of France she does so reluctantly as there has been a rift in the family for several years. However, Nicola feels that the time is right for her teenage son Oliver to meet Henri Jacques, his paternal grandfather, and get used to the place where his father, Marc, grew up. The visit proves to be momentous in many ways as Nicola, respectful of Oliver's inheritance as his grandfather's heir, is persuaded to make a new life in France, but leaving everything behind in England is never going to be easy for Nicola and Oliver.

I enjoyed spending time at the olive farm at La Prouveresse experiencing both the highs and lows as Nicola and Oliver adjust to a new life, making new friends and putting down roots. Nicola's complicated relationship with the taciturn Henri is never going to be easy but it is made more bearable by her close friendship with her husband's aunts, Odette and Josephine, who bring a welcome lightness into what is sometimes a tense family atmosphere. However, it is Nicola's growing friendship with property developer Gilles that is the still voice of calm in her, sometimes, complicated new world.

Falling for a French Dream is a lovely heartwarming story about the bonds of family, the heartbreak of grief and the joy that second changes can bring.

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

@jenniewriter #FallingForAFrenchDream

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers #BooksandTonic


Thursday, 9 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Man on Hackpen Hill by J S Monroe

Delighted to host a stop on today's Blog Tour stop

Head of Zeus
2 September 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book 
and the invitation to the blog tour

It isn't unusual for crop circles to appear overnight on Hackpen Hill. In this part of Wiltshire, where golden wheat fields stretch for miles, the locals have got used to discovering strange mathematical patterns stamped into the earth. But this time, it's different. Not only because this particular design of dramatic spiralling hexagons has never been seen before. But because of the dead body positioned precisely in the centre of the circle. DI Silas Hart of Swindon Police, is at a loss. Only Jim, a scientist at secretive government laboratory Porton Down, knows the chilling truth about the man on Hackpen Hill. And he wants Bella, a trainee journalist on her first ever story, to tell the world. But Silas has other ideas – and a boss intent on a cover up.

As Bella and Jim race against time, dark forces conspire against them, leading them to confront the reality of their own past and a world in which nothing is as it seems. An original, intelligent and twisty thriller set in rural Wiltshire. Can DI Silas Hart uncover the chilling truth before it's too late?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Crop circles are in themselves a conundrum but when dead bodies start appearing in the centre of some remarkably complex circles, the search is on, not just to find out who is behind these heinous acts of violence but also to discover the meaning behind the intricate crop designs. DI Silas Hart of the Swindon police force is as perplexed by the crop circle designs as he is by the modus operandi of the perpetrator but he and his investigative team are determined to uncover the truth, even if means disturbing some of the more secretive activity which is going at at the government research facility at nearby Porton Down.

The story is understandably complex with some fascinating theories behind the manipulation of crop circles by those who want to leave specific messages, I found I had to concentrate on getting this information clear in my head before I could go onto the next part of the story. Running alongside the murder instigation is the added benefit of meeting Bella, a young Oxford graduate who is currently on her first assignment as a junior reporter, she desperately wants to make her mark on the world of investigative journalism but as the story progresses we realise that there is far more to Bella's fragile state of mind than we first expected.

Multi-layered and deeply complex, The Man on Hackpen Hill is a crime thriller which feels entirely original, and whilst rather dark in places, it definitely kept my attention, from the impact of its disturbing opening chapter, through to the final denouement, which was every bit as complex as the mystery at its core.

J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. His psychological thriller Find Me became a bestseller in 2017, and, under the name Jon Stock, he is also the author of five spy thrillers. He lives in Wiltshire, with his wife and children.

Twitter @JSThrillers #TheManOnHackpenHill



Wednesday, 8 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Olive Grove by Eva Glyn


Delighted to share my book review on the penultimate day of this blog tour

One More Chapter
3 September 2021

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

An English woman searching for a different future

A man desperate to escape his war-ravaged past

Can these two find what they are looking for on the beautiful Croatian island of Korčula?

Antonia Butler is on the brink of a life-changing decision and a job advert looking for a multilingual housekeeper at a beautifully renovated Croatian farmhouse, Vila Maslina, is one she can’t ignore.

Arriving on the tiny picturesque island of Korčula, Antonia feels a spark of hope for the first time in a long time. This is a chance to leave the past behind.

But this island, and its inhabitants, have secrets of their own and a not-too-distant past steeped in tragedy and war. None more so than Vila Maslina’s enigmatic owner Damir Maric. A young man with nothing to lose but everything to gain...

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Antonia Butler realises that her life in England is going nowhere so when an opportunity arises to work as a housekeeper at Villa Maslina on the beautiful Croatian island of Korčula, Antonia takes a chance, not just on relocating, but also in getting to know the young owner of the villa. Damir Maric, is a troubled man whose enthusiasm, and joie de vivre, is hampered by the secrets and tragedy of his past, a past which has so many troubling memories that Damir prefers to keep them well hidden. Antonia and Damir get to know, and like each other, and the business at Villa Maslina starts to thrive, and succeed, but Damir's troubling memories seem to be hampering his ability to move on with his life.

The Olive Grove brings to vibrant life the warmth and sunshine of a Croatian summer whilst at the same time alludes to the troubled past of the former Yugoslavia during the momentous years of the Croat-Bosniak War. In keeping the narrative light, but compassionate, the impact of the troubles is in no way diminished but is rather made all the more poignant by being so much part of the story.

I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters, Antonia in particular has her own problems to sort out but her warm nature and sheer common sense help to move this really lovely story along in a sensitive and compassionate way. There is a sense of putting right the sins of the past and the author does this really well whilst at the same time brings the beautiful island of Korčula to life with descriptions of its sunny climate, cosy bars and restaurants, and of course, the eponymous olive grove, which is such an integral part of the story.

From its beautiful cover, to its emotional and heartwarming content, The Olive Grove is every bit as captivating as I knew it would be from this talented storyteller. 

Eva Glyn writes emotional women’s fiction inspired by beautiful places and the stories they hide. She loves to travel, but finds inspiration can strike just as well at home or abroad.

She cut her teeth on just about every kind of writing (radio journalism, advertising copy, PR, and even freelance cricket reporting) before finally completing a full length novel in her forties. Four lengthy and completely unpublishable tomes later she found herself sitting on an enormous polystyrene book under the TV lights of the Alan Titchmarsh Show as a finalist in the People’s Novelist competition sponsored by Harper Collins. Although losing out to a far better writer, the positive feedback from the judges gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams.

Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.

Twitter @JaneCable #TheOliveGrove



Tuesday, 7 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Angels of Mud by Vanessa Nicolson

 Thrilled to be part of this blog tour

Harbour Books
29 July 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and to Grace Pilkington Publicity for the invitation to the blog tour.

In Angels of Mud we jump through time, between the interwoven stories of mother and daughter. The readeris immediately transported to Clerkenwell soon after the end of World War II, where they learn Mary’s story;about her marriage and the upbringing of her daughter Cara. Through this narrative, Nicolson paints a vivid picture of women’s lives in one of London’s Italian communities.

Cara’s story begins in 1966, when she accepts a job in Florence and witnesses the catastrophic Arno flood,which kills over 100 people and destroys millions of artworks and rare books. It is a pivotal event in Cara’s life and she becomes one of the volunteers, an ‘Angel of Mud’, helping to recover the damaged artefacts. Great personal turmoil takes place in times of national disaster, and Cara is faced with important questions about who she is and who she wants to be.

This tale, with its twists of thwarted love and concealed sexuality, offers fresh insight into the daily lives of Fiorentini at a key time in the history of the city, while also providing, by contrast, a vivid picture of life in post war Clerkenwell.

Vanessa Nicolson beautifully captures raw emotion and the complex nature of mother and daughter relationships and how easily and unwittingly a daughter can find herself following in her mother’s footsteps. She writes with an acute historical sensitivity about the two cities, both of which she knows well. Angels of Mud is as rich in topographical detail as it is in emotional truth.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Mary Williams lives in the Little Italian area of Clerkenwell. Her hasty post-war marriage, in 1946, to book shop owner, Geoffrey, is largely unexciting, and constrained within the bonds of respectability she simply follows the pattern of life her mother, Nora, has set out. Mary doesn't know how much she craves excitement, until temptation beckons.

Twenty years, later Mary's only daughter, Cara, is at a crossroads in her life and when an opportunity to live and work in Florence presents itself, Cara decides to take up the challenge of being an independent women, after all, it's the swinging sixties and women now have more freedom than at any other time and certainly more than Mary could ever have dreamed of. 

Living alone in Italy is something of challenge for Cara, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the city of Florence through Cara's perspective. Her naivety is refreshing, as is her search to find out more about herself in the process of living alone. Cara's newly found independence culminates when she joins a group of women volunteers, known as Angels of Mud, who try their best to save rare manuscripts and art work when the River Arno burst its banks in the floods which devastated Florence in November 1966.

Moving forwards and backwards in time we learn so much about both Mary and Cara and in doing so a vivid picture emerges of women almost imprisoned by the circumstances of their lives, each of them wanting more from life, but neither women really knowing how to reach out to take what is on offer. I felt immense sympathy for Mary, as caught as she is between passion, and propriety, she becomes something of a sad, and rather, lonely figure.

Absorbing, and thought-provoking, this multi-generational novel captures all the insecurity of a fractured mother-daughter relationship. It does so with a perceptive insight into very different generations of women who even though they share a common bond of family, they struggle with life, each of them making mistakes and having to live with the consequences of their actions.

About the Author

Vanessa Nicolson has published two acclaimed memoirs, Have You Been Good? (Granta2015) and The Truth Game (Quartet 2017). Angels of Mud is her first novel. She grew up in Florence and London, the daughter of an Italian mother and Britsh father, and has worked as an art historian, curator and journalist. She lives in Sissinghurst, Kent.

Twitter @GracePublicity #AngelsofMud

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Swindled by S E Shepherd


Hobeck Books
7 September 2021

Sandlin PI  series #1

My thanks to Rebecca at Hobeck Books for my copy of this book


Beautiful, but a little spoilt, Lottie Thorogood leads a charmed life. Returning home from horse riding one day, she finds a stranger, drinking tea in the family drawing room – a stranger who will change her life, forever.


After a bad decision cut short her police career, Hannah Sandlin is desperate to make her mark as a private investigator. She knows she has the skills, but why won’t anyone take her seriously? She’s about to become embroiled in a mystery that will finally put those skills to the test and prove her doubters wrong. It will also bring her a friend for life.


Vincent Rocchino has spent his life charming the ladies, fleecing them and fleeing when things turn sour. How long can he keep running before his past catches up with him?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Swindled is the first in a new series of crime fiction which features Hannah Sandlin, an ex-rookie police officer, now turned private investigator. In Hannah's first big case she meets with Lottie Thorogood who, after a privileged and wealthy upbringing, is now pretty much at rock bottom and is determined to find the man who brought her family down. Sandwiched between the story of what brings these two women together is the story of Vincent Rocchino, a complicated man who, it must be said, is an out and out bad 'un, and whose who escapades and antics make for enjoyable reading.

The story moves around in time, gradually revealing different perspectives and shows why these three very different people are bound together, and it does so with lively dialogue and a good sense of mystery. Everything worked well, the characterisation is great, the plot is well thought out and maintains its credibility from the start, and there are nice touches of humour amongst the twists and turns. I especially liked the unfurling of the relationship between Hannah and Lottie, each have had their share of difficulties but it was good to see them support each other through some difficult experiences. Vincent should have been unlikable, but for all his faults, he has a certain Italian charm which made me smile whenever he appeared on the page.

The author writes this cosy crime genre well, and I sense that the crime series is going to go from strength to strength in future adventures for Sandlin PI.

About the Author

Twitter @thatsueshepherd #Swindled


Monday, 6 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi


Mira Books
22 June 2021

#2 Jaipur Trilogy

It’s the spring of 1969, and Lakshmi, now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At twenty, he has just met a young woman named Nimmi when he leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. Their latest project: a state-of-the-art cinema.

Malik soon finds that not much has changed as he navigates the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s Royal Palace, but only if certain secrets remain buried. When the cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, blame is placed where it is convenient. But Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. As a former street child, he always knew to keep his own counsel; it’s a lesson that will serve him as he untangles a web of lies.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Told in three voices, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is a continuation of the story which began in The Henna Artist.  It's now twelve years later and Lakshmi is settled in Shimla with Doctor Jay Kumar whilst her young protΓ©gΓ©, Malik, now aged twenty, has returned to Jaipur to become an apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace during an exciting time in the construction of a prestigious cinema for Jaipur. The third voice is that of Nimmi, a young widow, who has left her hill tribe in order to create a new life for herself, and her young children, in Shimla. Her gentle beauty attracts the attention of Malik, only for them to be separated when Malik, on the advise of Lakshmi, makes his move to Jaipur.

The story is clearly told by each of the characters in turn and it is very definitely their distinct voices which come across, however, there are occasions when their stories overlap and this is what makes The Secret Keeper of Jaipur into such an interesting story. It was just as fascinating to be in Shimla with Lakshmi, and Nimmi, as it was to return to the pink city of Jaipur with Malik. The continuous drama and complicated twists and turns in the narrative affect the future for all those characters who we came to know so well in The Henna Artist. 

After the success of The Henna Artist I worried that the The Secret Keeper of Jaipur wouldn't live up to my expectations but I needn't have worried as the story is every bit as enthralling as I wanted it to be and I am already looking forward to the third book in the trilogy. I am equally excited that the TV series of The Henna Artist  is currently in production.

Thanks to the Borrow Box facility from my local library, I have listened to the unabridged audio version of this fascinating story, which is expertly narrated by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam and Deepa Samuel. Their wonderful interpretation really brings the story alive in the imagination.

Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts. At age 62, Joshi released her debut novel, The Henna Artist, which immediately became a NYT bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Book club pick, was Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and is being developed for a TV series. The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is its sequel.

Twitter @alkajoshi


Saturday, 4 September 2021

πŸ“– Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Castilians by VEH Masters


On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to .....1546

Nydie Books

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

1546, and Scotland is under attack from Henry VIII, determined to marry his son to the infant Mary, Queen of Scots. A few among the Scottish nobles, for both political and religious reasons, are eager for this alliance too. They kill Cardinal Beaton, who is Mary’s great protector, and take St Andrews Castle, expecting rescue any day from England.

For a sister and brother – spirited Bethia, living outside the castle in St Andrews, and Will among the rebels inside the castle – the long siege becomes a fight for survival. But it’s also a struggle over loyalties and the choices they each must make: whether to save their family, or follow their hearts…

This debut novel closely follows the tumultuous events of the siege of St Andrews Castle, and its dramatic re-taking.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

In 1546 Scotland is under constant threat from King Henry VIII and emotions, in and around St Andrew's run high, especially after the death of George Wishart, a Scottish Protestant Reformer, whose public execution does little to quell the public disgust at Cardinal David Beaton's involvement. This singular act led to the storming of the castle at St Andrews by a group of rebels, and the grisly murder of Cardinal Beaton resulted in a siege, at the castle, which lasted over eighteen months.

The Castilians takes us through the momentous months of the siege of St Andrews as seen through the combined experiences of teenage brother and sister Will and Bethia, who are both spirited and well meaning, but when their paths diverge it becomes a fight for survival. Will is hot headed and impetuous and moved to sedition by the death of Wishart, his high ideals make him a perfect recruit into the group of like minded rebels, known as 'Castilians'. Bethia, in contrast in more level headed and although hampered by that fact that she is just a young woman in a man's world, she does all she can to ensure her brother's safety.

I have to admit to not knowing very much about the Siege of St Andrews but that didn't matter as the author brings everything to life in a believable and authentic way. The snippets of Scottish vernacular add to the atmosphere as does the lively description of life in a wealthy sixteenth century merchant home. I especially enjoyed Bethia's mother's illusions of grandeur as she seeks to be as good as her richer associates. I also liked Bethia very much, she infuses the page with vibrant personality, desperately trying to understand her brother's political leanings, whilst at the same time needing to be a dutiful daughter to her parents.

The Castilians is an intelligently written historical novel which brings to life a politically significant moment in Scottish history and by interweaving known historical figures, with fictional characters, an interesting story of political unrest, sedition and danger emerges. 

V E H Masters was born and brought up on a farm a few miles outside St Andrews, Scotland.

The first time she ever visited St Andrews Castle was aged 12, when her history teacher took the class on a school trip. They crept down the siege tunnel and peered into the bottle dungeon, where Cardinal Beaton's body was said to have been kept pickled in salt. She was hooked!

The Castilians, her debut novel, tells the story of how the Cardinal's body ended up in the dungeon and why the siege tunnel was built. It closely follows the actual historical events.

Twitter @VickiMasters9

Friday, 3 September 2021

DESIBLITZ LITERATURE FESTIVAL 18th September - 1st October 2021



The DESIblitz Literature Festival 2021 is the UK’s leading South Asian Literature Festival. Opening in Birmingham City Centre on 18th of September with a string of leading British South Asian and South Asian literary stars, the festival, with a mix of in-person and digital events and runs until 1st October. All tickets are free apart from three headline events at £2.99 per ticket with Sathnam Sanghera, Nikesh Shukla and a panel event on Cultural Representation in Literature. Live events will take place at the Rep Theatre and B Music (formerly Symphony Hall) in the city centre.

The festival is designed to encourage young and aspiring British Asian writers but is open to all. It provides a much-needed programme of author events, workshops, performances and panel discussions, showcasing the work of British South Asian authors and poets, and international writers with South Asian heritage. As well as aiming to inspire new creative writers, the festival provides an opportunity to highlight the way writers of South Asian descent have contributed to the literary canon across the world.

Organised by the popular website, one of the festival’s core aims is to create an incubator for British South Asian literary talent, inspiring and encouraging the British South Asian writers of the future. The website has launched the careers of over 40 British South Asian journalists, and the festival was started three years ago to encourage a younger generation of British South Asians to read more books and to become writers.

A literary celebration unlike any other in the UK, the DESIblitz Literature Festival will showcase the work of 18 leading writers and thinkers of South Asian descent, alongside a series of workshops, panel events and poetry readings.

From the biggest new book releases, to up to the minute political debate, there will be events covering fiction, poetry, history, politics, diversity, erotica, psychology, science, art, and much more, that will inspire a love of reading in adults of all ages.

DESIblitz Literature Festival Director Indi Deol said: This is the third annual literature festival curated and produced by As in previous years, the aim of the festival is to provide a platform for new voices from within the British South Asian writing community, as well as feature existing British South Asian voices who are already successful as role models. As well as aiming to inspire new creative writers, it provides an opportunity to highlight the way writers of South Asian descent have contributed to the literary canon across the world. It has never been more important to showcase the incredible and multifaceted talent of Britain’s South Asian literary community.

Discussions on Diversity in British Publishing

The British South Asian demographic is still hugely underrepresented in British publishing and panel events taking place at the festival will include “Diverse Characters Matter” a panel discussion about the importance of diversity in children’s books, with leading authors Bali Rai, Serena Patel, Sita Brahamchari and Monika Singh Gangotra; “Cultural Representation in Literature” a panel discussion about the importance of diversity in adult writing with Saima Mir, Pragya Agarawal and Sufiya Ahmed; as well as Women of Colour in Publishing a panel discussing the importance of diversity in British Publishing with Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Publishing, and Hannah Chukwu from Penguin.

Workshops to Inspire and Ignite

Workshops taking place in person at the festival include: Genre, Setting and Character led by Bali Rai the award winning children’s author, Writing Memoir led by Shyama Perera, Guardian and Channel 4 Journalist and author of three novels, as well as a South Asian Poetry Masterclass with acclaimed poet Rupinder Kaur - a Birmingham Panjabi writer and performer whose debut poetry book Rooh (2018) was published with Verve Poetry Press.

Author Events:

Highlights from the author programme include talks with the award winning Bangladeshi novelist and Granta Young Writer Tahmima Anam about her critically acclaimed 2021 novel The Startup Wife.

Bestselling author, journalist and screenwriter, Sarfraz Manzoor will be discussing his new book They: What Muslims and Non-Muslims Get Wrong About Each Other.

Nikesh Shukla bestselling author of The Good Immigrant, will talk about his new book Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home.

Social media influencer, podcaster and BBC presenter Anchal Seda will talk about her new book What Would the Aunties Say? A brown girl's guide to being yourself and living your best life.

Acclaimed journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera, will talk about his latest book Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain.

Successful self-published author Preethi Nair will also host a talk on how to get published called “Being Published - Traditional or Indie. The pros and cons.”

Sci-fi, crime & graphic novels

Writer-painter Amruta Patil is India's first female graphic novelist whose work sits at the cusp of ancient Indian philosophy and ecological-feminist stirrings. In 2017, she received a Nari Shakti Puraskar from the 13th President of India for “unusual work that breaks boundaries” in art and literature.

Samit Basu is an Indian SFF novelist. His most recent book, Chosen Spirits, a near-future anti-dystopian Delhi novel, was shortlisted for the JCB Prize, India's biggest literary award.

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian.

Saima Mir is a British Pakistani journalist who grew up in Bradford. Her essay for It's Not About The Burqa (Picador) appeared in the Guardian and received over 250,000 hits online in two days. She will be talking about her debut crime fiction novel The Khan which is currently being optioned for TV.


An evening of Poetry on Sunday 19th will showcase the work of leading South Asian Poets including Founder of Kiota Bristol, Shagufta K Iqbal is an award-winning writer, workshop facilitator and Tedx Speaker and will read from her poetry collection ‘Jam Is For Girls, Girls Get Jam’, described by Nikesh Shukla as ‘a social political masterclass.’ One of the UK’s most exciting young poets and playwrights, Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi who is currently a Sky Writers writer in residence will read from her debut collection of poetry re;desire - longlisted for the Jhalak Prize.

In addition the world leading Pakistani poet Imtiaz Dharker whose work is part of both the GCSE and A-Level syllabus in the UK and has been described by Carol Ann Duffy as “If there were to be a World Laureate, then for me the role could only be filled by Imtiaz Dharker” will read from her extensive poetry collection.

About DESIblitz Literature Festival

The DESIblitz Literature Festival provides a much-needed programme of author events, workshops, performances and panel discussions, working with British Asian authors and poets, as well as those with South Asian heritage. The festival is designed to encourage young and aspiring British Asian writers, but is open to all.’s first venture into literature events began with the production of a specific British Asian Literature strand for the Birmingham Literature Festival in 2017. The organisation then went on to produce a series of high quality, independent festivals every year since then. The festival in 2020 was converted to an online offer owing to the UK wide situation with Covid 19. The festival is grant funded by Arts Council England is a non-profit organisation, dedicated to promoting South Asian literature. In particular we aim to make British South Asians and the wider Desi community aware of the huge catalogue of literature written by and for those with South Asian heritage.

The organisation increased its commitment to supporting creative practitioners from within the British South Asian diaspora with the launch of the dedicated online platform, DESIblitz Arts, in 2020.

DESIblitz Arts is focused on encouraging and showcasing submitted works produced by creatives that include short fiction and poetry which have a South Asian theme.

About Indi Deol: Festival Director and Founder of the DESIblitz Literature Festival

Indi Deol is the Founding Director of the UK’s largest online British Asian magazine DESIblitz where he leads on advertising, leadership development and strategic business growth. He also runs Aidem Digital CIC which is a Social Enterprise and digital media agency focused on delivering projects that produce a positive social return. Indi sits on the board for Culture Central – which is the collective voice of the cultural sector in the West Midlands, the advisory board of Aston University Business School; he is a consultant for BFI Film Audience Network and he sits on the West Midland Combined Authority Cultural Leadership Board. He thrives on achieving success through utilising his digital skills to solve marketing and business problems. His education and background include a strong emphasis on fashion design, and over the last decade, he has been immersed in online media, and content marketing.


Tickets to all events can be booked here:

Most events are free but ticketed, and three events cost £2.99 per ticket.

Venues for live events:

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Broad St, Birmingham B1 2EP

B Music Symphony Hall,8 Centenary Square, Birmingham, B1 2EA