#Blogtour Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalsen #GunnarStaalsen @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #FallenAngels

Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalsen Orenda Books November 12th 2020

The Blurb

Ever-dogged Bergen PI Varg Veum has to dig deep into his own past as he investigates the murder of a former classmate. Eighth in an international-bestselling series of Nordic-Noir thrillers.

When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob – the once-famous lead singer of 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.

Their rekindled friendship come to an abrupt end with a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive … and a killer.

Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writer.

My Review

Staalesen has never been about crashing, fast paced thrillers, his novels have always been about that slow burn, a laying of foundations, the layers piled upon one another as the chapter and the pages flipped by.

Fallen Angels was no exception except this time it was a novel of introspection, of a Veum who had to trawl his own memories, to revisit happy and not so happy times. I have to say I loved this about turn, I felt we got to see a different side to Veum, a more human, caring side, one that craved and perhaps still craved love and closeness but wariness and fear made him take a step back and retreat back within himself.

It brought him back in touch with childhood friends, with his first love, Rebecca his friends group The Harpers and the Bergen music scene they once all frequented. Staalesen was nothing if not brilliant in his ability to portray the in fighting of a band of such diverse characters, of the hangers on, the relationships, marriages and children that sprang up. What Veum and indeed, us could not understand was the sudden break up, the scattering of its members and then years later the deaths. Like Vuem we wondered if there was a connection, if maybe something traumatic had occurred, one that sent someone on a killing spree, acts of revenge.

If Staalesen gave us a glimpse of an alternative Veum he also gave us the usual dogged and pedantic Veum, the private investigator who left no stone unturned, who went where the police neither had the time or the inclination. It took him on a tour of the city of Bergen, of the surrounding area and the islands that floated off its coastline.

I felt like a tourist with the most wonderful tour guide who described the beauty of the mountains, the vastness of the sea, and the differing landscapes of the islands. It wasn’t always beauty, as we travelled to the less salubrious suburbs of the city, of the run down state of the houses the characters found themselves in. The two sides of Bergen so perfectly reflected the two sides of the novel, the light and shade Veum found himself grappling with as the stakes rose higher, as the lies and deceit became ever more tangled and the knowledge that what happened was truly shocking.

The truth when it came was indeed shocking, and whilst the perpetrator had committed crimes I knew were wrong, I somehow couldn’t blame them, could see that they felt there was no alternative, a chance to release all the pent up anger and betrayal that built over many years.

What did it mean for Veum and his friends? For me it was the closing of a chapter, something Staalesen knew he had to do for Veum before he could move him forward. Maybe Veum could now find the love and happiness that he so craved, to take that risk and open his heart to all the good things that might be to come.

Whatever Staalesen has in store for Veum you know you will still get that sense of anticipation and excitment as the new novel falls into your hands and you open the covers and immerse yourself in those first few pages.

I would like to thank Orenda for a copy of Fallen Angels to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Gunnar Staalesen

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sisterwas shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

#Blogtour The Heat by Sean O’Leary #SeanO’Leary @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

The Heat by Sean O’Leary BusyBird Publishing

The Blurb

Jake is a loner who works nights in a Darwin motel and lives at the YMCA. He’s in love with Angel, a Thai prostitute who works out of the low-rent Shark Motel.

A vicious murder turns Jake’s life into a nightmare. He must fight for his life on the heat-soaked streets of Darwin and Bangkok in the wet season to get revenge, and to get his life back.

My Review

There was certainly Heat in Sean O’Leary’s novel The Heat, in fact it practically oozed from the pages of this short novel.

Darwin, Australia was hot and humid a brilliant setting for tensions to rise, as the characters wilted and overheated. Our main protagonist, Jake, was one mixed up individual, a serious mental illness and a penchant for walking into trouble. I don’t think he actually sought it out, I thought he was just unlucky that the places he frequented attracted danger and crime. I think it was O’Leary’s intention and it made Jake extremely likeable, a person who was trying to get his life together but just hit a few obstacles along the way.

It was his friendship with Angel that brought him into contact with the less salubrious side of Darwin, the streets and hotels, the everyday tourist might not have frequented. She may have been a prostitute but that didn’t stop Jake from seeing the other side, a person who hated what she represented and did yet the desperation to provide for a family at home in Thailand, the main focus.

It was Jake’s loyalty to Angel that brought danger and a frantic search for her family, but also allowed O’Leary to examine Jake’s own family, the relationship with his father, the absence of his mother. It took the novel away from being purely crime, gave it that added extra human touch and emotion which I enjoyed.

O’Leary didn’t go for long descriptive narrative but kept it short and crisp, his words economical, a technique that I admired as he managed to squeeze so much into very few pages. It meant we gamboled along at quite a fast pace, never time to catch a breath before Jake hurtled into the next fight, or flight from danger.

As a reader I wanted Jake’s crusade to be successful, hoped for reconciliation and a recognition of the good intentions that often lay beneath is mental health induced outbursts. It was a great combination of crime and human issues and I for one was positively melting with The Heat as I finished the last page.

I would like to thank Sean O’Leary go a copy of The Heat to read and review and to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blogtours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Sean O’Leary has published two short story collections, ‘My Town’ and ‘Walking’.  His novella ‘Drifting’ was the winner of the ‘Great Novella Search 2016’ and published in September 2017. He has published over thirty individual short stories and is a regular contributor of short fiction to Quadrant, FourW, Sudo, Close to the Bone (UK) and other literary and crime magazines. His crime novella ‘The Heat’, set in Darwin and Bangkok, was published in August 2019. Drifting and The Heat are both available on Amazon. His interviews with crime writers appear online in Crime Time magazine.

He has worked in a variety of jobs including motel receptionist, rubbish removalist/tree lopper, farm hand, short-order cook and night manager in various hotels in Sydney’s notorious, Kings Cross. He has lived in: Melbourne; Naracoorte; Sydney; Adelaide; Perth; Fremantle; Norseman; Geraldton; Carnarvon; Broome; Yulara; Alice Springs; Kakadu; Darwin and on Elcho Island-Galiwinku. He now lives in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, thinks that test cricket is the greatest game of all and supports Melbourne Football Club (a life sentence). He writes every day, likes travelling and tries to walk everywhere.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seanolearyaustralianwriter

Website: http://seanolearyauthor.simplesite.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oleary4119/

#Blogtour In the Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton @CathBarton1 @LouiseWalters12 @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtourd #InTheSweepOfTheBay

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In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton Louise Walters Books November 23rd 2020

The Blurb

This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

“A tender and moving study of a marriage” Alison Moore, author of the Booker short listed
The Lighthouse

My Review

In The Sweep Of The Bay was an absolute gem, I loved it. My only complaint was that it was too short yet somehow Barton managed to pack so much in, her narrative economical, but to the point and conveyed so much emotion but also joy.

Barton’s characters sparkled from the page even if they didn’t quite sparkle in their lives. It primarily centered around Ted and Rene and followed their marriage in the 1950’s right up to the present day. Their marriage was a historical journey of societal changes, attitudes and opinions and I marveled at Barton’s ability to immerse me in their thoughts and reasonning.

For Rene her role was firmly set in the home and throughout her need to maintain a house that was squeeky clean, and husband and children that walked out of their front door clean and tidy. Yet she also used that role to hide her feelings, to resort to the kitchen when thoughts threatened to over take, to upset the equilibrium. You felt there was someone deep inside that wanted to break away, to shout and scream and as the years progressed to let out all the angst and anger she felt. In true British style and perhaps at the thought of societal constraints and the culture instilled within her she remained quiet and just got on with it.

Ted was sort of your typical husband, a successful businessman with a talent for painting ceramics. He knew his role was to provide for his family, to go out to work but also to expect a clean house and dinner on the table at the end of the day. But, like Rene did he too yearn for something different yet remained because that was expected?

Barton brilliantly infiltrated their relationship, from the first throes of love, to the joy of their two girls, but she injected an edge, doubts in our minds that what we and everyone else saw on the outside wasn’t really what was actually happening on the inside. You got more and more frustrated as their inability to communicate became more and more evident, the little niggles, the coldness, the shrugging away of a gentle, loving hand on a shoulder. There were glimmers of light as an event pushed them together, as a crack appeared in their hard hearts and Barton made you breath a sigh of relief and gave you hope that the love was still there.

Outlying characters flitted in, Vincenzo and Henry who navigated their homosexual relationship, Madge Ted’s assistant who remained unmarried, loyal, a hint of unrequited love sprinkled thoughout.

What bound them all together wasn’t just love and relationships, but the town of Morecambe, the windswept bay, the sparkle of the summer, the dark and bleakness of the winter. The statue of Eric Morecambe stood tall and proud, a magnet for locals and tourists, a focal point, something to be proud of. It made you question if Ted and Rene were proud of their marriage, or was it full of regrets, of not chasing their hearts, of being happier than they actually were?

Whatever the conclusions, I was totally blown away by In The Sweep of The By it was wonderfully exquisite.

I would like to thank Louise Walter Books for a copy of In The Sweep Of The Bay to read and review and Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Cath Barton. Author pic. Feb 2020.jpg

Cath lives in Abergavenny, Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint.

Her second novella In the Sweep of the Bay will be published in November 2020 by LWB.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CathBarton1

Website: https://cathbarton.com/ Louise Walters Books: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/cath-barton

Louise Walters Books: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/shop-1

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3ez3EwP

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3k7aVF6

Foyles: https://bit.ly/2U0o3Bs

Book Depository: https://bit.ly/3ka6d9Hhttps://bit.ly/3ka6d9H Kobo: https://bit.ly/2U5Nm5c

#Blogtour The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel @HALeuschel @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours

The Blurb

An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, whose own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In The Memories We Bury the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

My Review

There’s nothing like a novel with psychological mind games to immerse yourself in during these dark autumn nights of lockdown and Leuschel definitley kept me hooked.

She gave us Lizzie, newly married to Markus and expecting her first baby. At home all day, no family and very much isolated as Markus worked long hours, often away. She was in many ways a sitting target, ground down by a dismissive husband, hormones all over the place and when baby arrived more vulnerable than even she imagined.

Leuschel’s stand out character, Morag, lived next door, again, lonely isolated, desperate to have what she felt she had lost, the love of her children and grandchildren that she could love. Lesuchel gave us small glimmers of a hardened misguided woman that would stop at nothing to get what she wanted and Lizzie was her ideal and indeed easiest target.

What drew them together? At first it was their shared loneliness, but then Leuschel gave us a glimpse into their past family lives and slowly a clearer picture emerged. Lizzie haunted by a mother that always criticised, was cold, and the death of her beloved Grandfather who gave her all the love that she so desperately craved. Morag, master of control, of perfection, whose children left at the first opportunity, a dead husband who tried and failed to stand up to her.

As a reader we became helpless as we watched the events unfold, as Morag slowly exerted authority, as Lizzie slowly lost control. Leuschel left us wondering how it would end, as she continued her gentle winding of the coils until suddenly they snapped and the narrative became faster, more urgent.

Whatever the ending, which of course you will need to discover for yourself, the Memories We Bury was an intelligent examination of the psychological damage our up bringing can have on our later lives. It was vivid, realistic and utterly compelling.

I would like to thank Helene Leuschel for a copy of The Memories We Bury to read and review and to Love Books Group for inviting My Booksih Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind.

Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists.

She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal. Please find out more about Helene at heleneleuschel.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

https://www.facebook.com/HALeuschel

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15337013.H_A_Leuschel

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/2EcmFHy

#Blogtour How To Belong by Sarah Franklin @SarahEFranklin @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompiulsiveReaders #HowToBelong

How To Belong by Sarah Franklin Zaffre Books

The Blurb

In the follow up to her acclaimed novel Shelter, Sarah Franklin returns to the Forest of Dean, this time exploring what it means to belong to a rural community in a rapidly changing world.

Jo grew up in the Forest of Dean, but she was always the one destined to leave for a bigger, brighter future. When her parents retire from their butcher’s shop, she returns to her beloved community to save the family legacy, hoping also to save herself. But things are more complex than the rose-tinted version of life which sustained Jo from afar.

Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses two miles and half a generation away from Jo, further into the forest. Tessa’s experience of the community couldn’t be more different. Now she too has returned, in flight from a life she could have led, nursing a secret and a past filled with guilt and shame.

Compelled through circumstance to live together, these two women will be forced to confront their sense of identity, and reconsider the meaning of home.

My Review

Two women, thrown together by circumstance were the subject of How To Belong, a story that looked at the reasons home might of might not mean home.

Both women were completely different, Jo, a barrister, intelligent, successful. Tessa, a loner, a farrier, a woman who struggled with everyday life and people.

There was something about Jo that I could relate to, the return home after many years away, somehow expecting things and people to be the same, to slip seamlessly into what was before. I had done the same, I wasn’t a lawyer but had enjoyed a successful career in libraries before switching to a career in GP practice completely out of my comfort zone. I could see the same struggles Jo had with friends who had moved on, didn’t have the same life views, and in her best friend, Liam’s case perhaps resented her, so it as upsetting the equilibrium that had existed.

Tessa was so different and this was where Franklin’s narrative really shone as she showed a woman who struggled with anxiety and mental health issues, who seemed to collapse and lose control as soon as someone probed too deeply or a situation fell out of her control. Her internal anguish was laid bare, her only solace in her work as a farrier until that too fell away. Franklin interspersed the present with Tessa’s past and slowly a picture emerged and you wanted to grab hold of this fragile woman and make everything ok.

Franklin didn’t rush things, she laid foundations, gave reasons for Jo and Tessa’s actions when the time was right or the influence of others pushed their actions to the fore. The relationship between Jo and Tessa was one of frostiness, of wariness before trust ensued and in the end I thought they found solace in each other, answers to a way forward in their individual lives.

Most importantly How To Belong was really a manual, a moral that the place we think we belong was not actually the place that best suited or necessarily where we should be. It showed us that we have to accept where we are in the here and the now, the changes of those around us and that perhaps there is a new and scary way forward.

Whatever you take from How To Belong you will luxuriate in the the wonderful characters and storytelling and be left wondering what happened next to Tess and Jo as Franklin left the novel with an open ending.

Is there more to follow?

I would like to thank Zaffre for a copy of How To Belong to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Author Sarah Franklin

Sarah Franklin grew up in rural Gloucestershire and has lived in Austria, Germany, the USA and Ireland. She lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes University and has written for the Guardian, Psychologies magazine, The Pool, the Sunday Express and the Seattle Times. Sarah is the founder and host of Short Stories Aloud, and a judge for the Costa Short Story Award.

Sarah lives in between London and Oxford with her family. She is the author of the novels SHELTER (2017) and HOW TO BELONG (Nov 2020).

#Blogtour Nine by Rachel Dekker @RachelDekker @RevellBooks @LoveBooksGroup #lovebookstours #NineTour

Nine by Rachel Dekker Revell Books

The Blurb

Zoe Johnson spent most of her life living in the shadows, never drawing attention to herself, never investing in people or places. But when a wide-eyed, bedraggled teenager with no memory walks into the diner where Zoe works, everything changes. Now, against her better judgment, Zoe, who has been trying to outrun her own painful memories of the past, finds herself attempting to help a girl who doesn’t seem to have any past at all. The girl knows only one thing: she must reach a woman in Corpus Christi, Texas, hundreds of miles away, before the government agents who are searching for her catch up to them.

Award-winning author Rachelle Dekker throws you into the middle of the action and keeps the pressure on in this page-turning story that, asks Are we who the world says we are–or can we change our story and be something more?

My Review

I was going to start this review by asking you to imagine that you were sat in the cinema but during these times of lockdown, I shall ask instead to imagine you were sat on you sofa, at home watching Netflix! Ok, here we go, and action! No preamble, no quiet introduction of characters, just two young women running through a forest, bullets whizzing past them as a hoard of men chased them. And this was pretty much the whole tone of Dekker’s novel, Nine. There were the odd breathing spaces, but not many as she ramped up the action and more importantly the tension and the drama. For me, it was nail biting stuff and it didn’t take me long to read the whole novel so eager was I to find out what happened.

I loved the characters, Zoe and Lucy, both with a whole lot of baggage and troubles that somehow melded them together, made them a force to be reckoned with. Zoe, waitress, loner, drifter, a past you weren’t quite sure about, but knew it shaped her present and her future.

Lucy, an oddity, definitely not your average young women, on the run and pushed under the caring wing of Zoe. It wasn’t until the story unfolded that you began to understand exactly what Lucy was, yes she was a human but a human experiment, one whose memory had been locked, that held secrets the most powerful in the land would kill to obtain.

Zoe and Lucy’s relationship were a real asset in the novel, one that Dekker used to brilliant effect. They were good for each other as Zoe brought out the human qualities in Lucy that she lacked, and Zoe in turn found a friend, one who didn’t ask of anything and filled a hole that seemed to have been missing for so long.

There wasn’t too much time for niceties before authority in the form of FBI agent Tom Seeley caught up with them. Here was a man you weren’t quite sure about as he appeared to help them, yet Dekker sewed a few seeds of doubt as you waited for something to happen. When that ‘something’ happened Dekker pulled out all the stops as the narrative picked up pace and hurtled Zoe and Lucy into even more danger.

You were insure who would emerge intact, and what the future might look like for Zoe and Lucy. What we did know was that Dekker left the novel very much open ended and I got the feeling that maybe another book may be on its way.

I, for one would very much welcome another installment and a return to the rapid, dramatic tense narrative and action with a huge chunk of humanity thrown in.

I would like to thank Revell Books for a copy of Nine to read and review and to Love Books Group for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Rachelle Dekker is the Christy Award-winning author of The Choosing, The Calling, and The Returning in the Seer series. The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker and coauthor with him of The Girl behind the Red Rope, Rachelle was inspired early on to discover truth through the avenue of storytelling. She writes full-time from her home in Nashville, where she lives with her husband, Daniel, and their son, Jack. Connect with Rachelle at www.rachelledekker.com.

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/2YkyjHl

#Blogtour An Island by Karen Jennings #KarenJennings @HHouseBooks #damppebblesblogtours #AnIsland

An Island by Karen Jennings

Book Synopsis

Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude…

A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. In this new man’s presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. To what lengths will a person go in order to ensure that what is theirs will not be taken from them?

A novel about guilt and fear, friendship and rejection; about the meaning of home.

My Review

A short novel but so much packed within its pages to take away and to much to admire, not least her character Samuel. The lighthouse keeper who had spent the last fourteen years on his island, in his house, until a body is washed ashore, this time not dead, but alive.

You could feel the tension as it crept into his body, the fear he felt at another human being so close after so long, the indecision about what to do. That indecision took him back to his past life, a life full of poverty, and most of all the fight for a country lost to a role call of corrupt dictators and promises of a better society.

Jennings brilliantly portrayed a country and its people displaced, stripped of their land and homes, forced onto the streets, a strong hand that pushed them back door should they protest. I liked how she placed Samuel right in the middle, but wasn’t really sure if he knew exactly what he fought for, if he went with the collective to fit in and belong somewhere.

Jennings highlighted the brutality of Samuel’s years in prison, basic human rights stripped from its inmates, interrogation and torture common place, as prisoners ‘disappeared’. You watched as Samuel struck out on his own, his instinct for survival stronger than the need to conform.

Release didn’t feel like freedom as Samuel drifted, the city and the people he once knew all changed beyond recognition. The job as lighthouse keeper gave him stability, his wall around the island there to keep others out, his comfort blanket that wrapped him in certainty and security. It was no wonder that the arrival of a stranger, a refugee, would ignite such fear and trepidation as it threatened his world, who he was, brought the real world to sharp relief, a world he was no longer capable of belonging to.

You could never quite work out what he would do, only that Jennings narrative became tense, Samuel jittery, scared of every movement, every shadow., until finally, his decision came , instinctive, reactive to the situation he found himself in.

An Island wasn’t just a novel, it was a comment on the corrupt regimes that exist not only in Africa but around the world. Of dictators who fill their people with hollow promises of freedom, jobs, a better life, as they line theirs and their families pockets with untold riches. It told of the human cost, of rule by violence, torture, bloodshed and ultimately fear that could a ruin a person’s ability to form relationships, to live a life of security and more importantly hope.

An important and astoundingly good novel.

I would like to thank Holland House Press for a copy of An Island to read and review and to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

Karen Jennings is a South African author. She holds Masters degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town, and a PhD in English Literature from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her debut novel, Finding Soutbek, was shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Fiction. In 2014 her short story collection, Away from the Dead, was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International short story competition. Her memoir, Travels with my Father, was published in 2016, and in 2018 she released her debut poetry collection, Space Inhabited by Echoes. Karen is currently living in Brazil with her Brazilian husband, and last year completed post-doctoral research at the Federal University of Goiás on the historical relationship between science and literature, with a focus on eusocial insects. In September 2019 her new novel, Upturned Earth,will be published by Holland Park Press. Karen is also affiliated with the mentorship programmes run by Writivism and Short Story Day Africa, both of which promote writing in Africa. Broadly speaking, Karen’s interests lie in colonialism, historically and in the lasting impact that it has had on the continent of Africa and beyond. She is particularly concerned with the quiet lives of the everyday people who have been mostly forgotten by the politicians, big businesses and the rest of the world. In this way, she strives to give the ordinary a voice that can be heard and appreciated.

The idea for An Island came to Karen during an afternoon nap at a writers’ residency she was attending in Denmark in 2015. In her sleep, she saw an old man, fiercely defending his island against interlopers. At the time, there was a vast amount in the news about the Syrian Refugee Crisis, which extended to what became known as Europe’s Refugee Crisis. There was a great global outcry against xenophobic responses and calls for humanitarian aid for Syria’s refugees. At the same time, there was almost nothing about refugees from Africa – not about what drove them to flee their nations, or what their dreadful experiences were, nor about their deaths or their futures. Karen chose to explore the relationship between refugee and landowner, but within an African setting, where xenophobia is as rife as in Europe, though it often manifests itself in different ways despite largely being born of colonialism. By reducing the action of the narrative to two characters, Karen felt that a complex issue could be rendered in simple ways that allowed for a focus on individual experiences.

Social Media:

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/34APCHt

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/34yMA6v

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2Txw4h6

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3jFmwuS

Holland House Books: https://bit.ly/3jyb0Br

Foyles: https://bit.ly/3e3DPog

Blackwells: https://bit.ly/2TtTF1Y

Publishing Information:

Published in hardcover, paperback and digital formats by Holland House Books on 12th November 2020

#Blogtour Helen And The Grandbees by Alex Morrell @AlexPaintings @Legend_Times_ #HelenAndTheGrandbees

Helen and the Grandbees_High Res.jpg
Helen And The Grandbees by Alex Morrall Legend Times October 28th 2020

The Blurb

Twenty years ago, Helen is forced to give up her newborn baby, Lily. Now living alone in her small flat, there is a knock at the door and her bee, her Lily, is standing in front of her.

Reuniting means the world to them both, but Lily has questions. Lots of them. Questions that Helen is unwilling to answer. In turn Helen watches helplessly as her headstrong daughter launches from relationship to relationship, from kind Andrew, the father of her daughter, to violent Kingsley who fathers her son.

When it’s clear her grandbees are in danger, tangled up in her daughter’s damaging relationship, Helen must find the courage to step in, confronting the fears that haunt her the most.

Told in Helen’s quirky voice Helen and the Grandbees addresses matters of identity, race and mental illness.

My Review

Oh my, Alex Morrall what have you done? I could not put this book down, so involved did I become with Helen, your wonderful character.

This poor woman who ran away from home, who had her baby taken away and then had to watch her daughter almost self destruct as she and her grandchildren watched on. Alone in her flat we read as Helen had to fight her inner demons and make sense of a world she had shut herself away from.

The tenderness and emotion Morrall infused was remarkable, the way in which she entered Helen’s mind, so full of anxiety and traumatic events so long locked away was, for me the outstanding feature.

You didn’t know what Helen had runaway from, nor the story behind her pregnancy, but Morrall left us hints, suggestions that left you in no doubt it was the reason for so much of her mental illness. For her daughter, Ingrid, it was a problem as she niggled, probed Helen further and further to know who she was, where she was from. This is where I became a little conflicted. on the one hand you almost felt Ingrid had a right to know and you empathised with her, felt her frustration, her need to feel that she belonged somewhere. Flip to the other side and all I saw was Ingrid’s selfishness, her lack of respect and disregard for Helen and her feelings.

What about Helen herself? You knew she hid from her past to protect herself, frightened that if she looked back, let the barriers down, she would plunge into a deep dark chasm never able to emerge. It was the only way she could think of that would protect her daughter, the truth too painful and not something she felt her daughter would be proud of, or may even blame Helen for whatever occurred.

If Helen’s relationship with her daughter was filled with trepidation, her grandchildren, Aisha and Ryan were her saving grace. You read as she poured all her love and energy into them, and love and protection that she was never able to offer Ingrid. I found it so heartwarming as it pushed Helen’s boundaries, forced her to confront real life that she had so long she ran away from.

You knew it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing, that events would conspire against Helen and Morrall didn’t hold back, didn’t shy away from the sheer wretchedness of mental illness. In some respects it was brutal, and one particularly scene will stay with me for a longtime as Morrall’s narrative perfectly portrayed Helen’s sheer agony and utter despair.

I wanted Helen to find that inner strength to fight back, to be able to move forward and the truth when it emerged somehow wasn’t a shock but what you had guessed all along. The truth was important, but I don’t think that was Morrall’s real point in her narrative, her story. Her concern, her point was the devastation an event, an action can have throughout a persons life, the consequences for future relationships, but also the glimmers of hope and the ability to move on is in everyone of us.

To say that Morrall had done this well would be an understatement, the novel, for me, was superb and I was in awe of her skill and ability.

I would like to thank Legend Times for a copy of Helen And The Grandbees to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Alex was born in Birmingham and now lives in south east London, where her voluntary work inspired this novel. She enjoys working using both her creative and mathematical background. She has a maths degree but paints beautiful city scenes and landscapes in her spare time.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexPaintings

#Blogtour The Snow Song by Sally Gardner @TheSallyGardner @HarperCollinsUK @SianBaldwin #TheSnowSong

Snow Song by Sally Gardner HQ November 12th 2020

The Blurb

Perched on a mountain in a land of ancient forests is a village, rife with secrets. Cut off from the outside world it is run by the elders, men to whom tradition is all.

Edith lives alone with her alcoholic father who is forcing her to marry the village butcher. But she is in love with a shepherd who promised to return to her.

As the village becomes isolated in a sea of snow, Edith loses her power of speech. And it is this enchantment that will have far-reaching consequences, not only for Edith but for the whole village.

My Review

Snow Song was a step back in time, almost to a Victorian fairytale as we entered the world of Edith and the small isolated village at the base of mountains where she lived. A world ruled by the Elders, a group of men who used myth and superstition to scare and manipulate the small enclave to their ways and their rules.

Gardners evil villain was the Butcher, a huge overbearing, crude and pompous man who lorded over not only his family, but the Elders and villagers. His betrothal to Edith became his obsession and, you hoped, his downfall. I loved that Gardner took him to the extreme, his cruelty and mindset shocking, but it served a purpose, as he became the moral of the story.

If the Butcher was our villain, then our heroine was Edith and what a beautiful character Gardner created. She had a mystical, ethereal feel about here, almost as if she floated on air with an aura that surrounded her, that acted as a magnet to those in the village. Edith’s love for the shepherd, Demitrious was all encompassing, until he failed to return, her voice muted and a life trapped by marriage to the butcher beckoned.

It was the skill at which Gardner used her muteness that impressed, the women who slowly opened up to Edith, expressed their fears, their opinions, safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be repeated. It was a catalyst that initiated change, little acts of rebellion that gathered pace, that forced men to take notice of the women, of their own actions and consequences.

It wasn’t just the characters that impressed as Gardner used the landscape and of course the snow, to great effect. The dark forest, the bleakness and danger of the isolated mountains and the snow, that brought sorrow and isolation. There were the old tales and superstitions that were both a comfort and a warning, beautifully interwoven into a narrative that lifted the novel out of the ordinary.

We also had the suppression of women, their isolation, their need to conform to a male dominated community who had very clear ideas as to their role, their voices drowned out. It was wonderfully interlaced within the narrative of the story, never overpowered but gently provoked the reader into thought. Gardner didn’t thrust them into sudden realisation but rather like a flower that slowly opens in the spring summer time, they opened their minds and found their voices.

Snow Song was made up of a myriad of layers yet at its heart it was simply beautiful story telling that captivated me as a reader and I loved it.

I would like to thank HQ for a copy of Snow Song to read and review and for inviting My bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Sally Gardner grew up and still lives in London. Being dyslexic, she did not learn to read or write until she was fourteen and had been thrown out of several schools, labeled unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Despite this, she gained a degree with highest honors at a leading London art college, followed by a scholarship to a theater school, and then went on to become a very successful costume designer, working on some notable productions.

After the births of twin daughters and a son, she started first to illustrate and then to write picture books and chapter books, usually with fairytale- or otherwise magical subject matter. She has been called ‘an idiosyncratic genius’ by London’s Sunday Time

#Blogtour When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott #CarolineScott @simonschusterUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours #WhenIComeHomeAgain

When I Come Home Again
When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott Simon Schuster October 29th 2020

The Blurb

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.
 
The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home. His doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.
 
When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

My Review

If you loved Caroline Scott’s first novel, The Photographer of the Lost, you are going to love When I Come Home Again even more. For me, Scott took the themes of World War I and its aftermath to another level, one where the layers were deep and complex and utterly fascinating.

The novel revolved around a young man found in Durham Cathedral named Adam by those who found him, a man whose memory appeared locked away, buried deep, seemingly never to materialise. Whisked away to Fellside, a gothic mansion converted to a treatment centre in the Lake District by Dr James Haworth, Adam was the cog from which spokes sprang and lengthened.

Haworth’s attempts to unlock Adam’s memory were frustrating but only to him, I didn’t feel that frustration, I just felt huge sorrow for a man who must have suffered such horrific trauma that parts of his brain shut down and refused to re engage.

Yet Scott didn’t merely concentrate on Adam, as Haworth himself suffered from his own war time experiences, the loss of his brother in law, the guilt he felt, the effect it had on his relationship with his wife. You read as his own mind spiraled and his obsession with Adam intensified as three women emerged all with claims that Adam was theirs.

And this was where Scott made it even more fascinating, how on earth would Adam and Haworth work out just who he belonged to? What of the women themselves, Celia, convinced it was her missing son, Lucy supposed sister and Anne desperate for the return of her husband. Scott gave Adam each of the traits the women knew existed, the sketching, the love of the land, the physical similarities but was that enough?

Scott explored each of the women and you sensed their desperation, the need for Adam to fit, to fill that empty void and give them closure on their search for their missing loved one. But what of Adam, where were his feelings in all of this? Scott left us in no doubt that this was a man who felt stifled, cornered, the pressure relentless and I did wonder how much he did know and felt but was unable to say.

I found myself questioning each woman, even Haworth, and Adam, and I wasn’t entirely sure where Scott was taking me. All I knew was that there was a piece of the jigsaw missing, the one that was destined never to be found.

When Scott arrived at her conclusion, it was dramatic, shocking and not at all what I was expecting but it had glimmers of hope, of finality and a future that may just have been better than their present.

Scott may have written a wonderful emotive story but you couldn’t forget that what she had actually written probably happened thousands of times over to the many men who survived World War I. I admired Scott’s amazing skill in handling such difficult material, to brilliantly enter the minds of Adam and James and of the three women. She didn’t bore us with medical terminology but used her narrative to turn it into a uniquely dark human experience, one that will stay with you long after the closing of the novels final page.

I would like to thank Simon Schuster for a copy When I Come Home to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Caroline Scott
Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She has a particular interest in the experience of women during the First World War, in the challenges faced by the returning soldier, and in the development of tourism and pilgrimage in the former conflict zones. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in south-west France.