#Review Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Marie Griffin @griffski @Titanbooks

 

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Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Marie Griffin  Titan Books February 6th 2018

Imagine a world sometime in the future, there is no internet, no mobile phones, a huge epidemic has killed off vast swathes of people and those that have survived have a limb or some part of their body missing.

This is the world in which Nell now resides.  But Nell is different from everyone else, missing a limb not on the outside but the inside, a heart, a heart replaced by a ticking box that increases in volume as she becomes stressed, unsettling those around her.  Her mother is dead and her father, a renowned expert in artificial limbs spends his time locked in his laboratory leaving Nell to her own devices. Nell has her best friend Ruby and Oliver, who professes undying love not reciprocated by Nell.

Each member of society must make a contribution and Nell must decide on hers. With a renowned mother and father the expectations are high, but what can she do? As friendships wane and Nell finds herself alone she decides to build a man, an android, one that will help rebuild their community,  and be her friend, but what Nell doesn’t foresee is the huge gamut of family secrets and trouble her android will bring.

I have to be honest and say that is not the type of novel that I would normally read, it is totally out of my comfort zone, but the blurb intrigued me. It was a novel that took me by surprise and I was soon totally engrossed in Nell’s world.

The novel is very much about Nell, a fantastic character, strong and determined, yet full of emotion and feeling. She constantly battles against inner emotions torn between what she believes is right and a duty to those around her.  Her relationship with her father is distant, yet she wants to impress him, show him that yes, she too can be just as good as he is and as her mother was.

The story itself was well paced and certainly didn’t lack in action and tension, with a twist I didn’t quite expect. It’s concepts were very thought provoking and relevant to society today and certainly raise some very interesting questions around the role of the internet and technology.

It is one of those books that can be read and enjoyed by a wide age range and I for one will be looking forward to what Sarah Marie Griffin will be writing next.

About the authorImage result for sarah marie griffin author

Sarah Maria Griffin lives in Dublin, Ireland, in a small red brick house by the sea, with her husband and cat. She writes about monsters, growing up, and everything those two things have in common.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro @JamieQuatro @alicemaydewing @picadorbooks

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Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro   Picador January 11th 2018

Maggie marries her first serious boyfriend and settles into typical married life with the requisite two children and a comfortable middle class existence. An academic theologian Maggie is as devoted to God as she is to Thomas and her children.

When she begins writing to James, a poet they begin an illicit affair. As the children grow older so does the intensity of their letter writing and although they only meet on a handful of occasions their meetings are erotically charged. As she shirks the sexual advances of her husband and fights her feeling for James, Maggie must confront not only her devotion to Thomas but her devotion to God and her faith.

Fire Sermon is not your normal story of marital strife and an illicit affair. Its uniqueness is in the way it is written, via letters, Maggie’s sessions with her therapist and a series of flashbacks to her past life.

Yet, it also pits theology and faith against wants and desires. As Maggie’s feelings towards James grow so does the guilt that she feels not only to her husband but also to her faith and her strong belief in God. She constantly wrestles with the need or perhaps duty to confess her sins, to absolve herself and feel whole again. Yes, she loves Thomas and is devoted to him, but does the pure physical joy and desire she feels with James warrant leaving her family?

I did get a little frustrated with Maggie and her dilemmas at times but this was perhaps the aim of the novelist, to provoke a reaction and to question what we would do in the same situation.

Quatro’s writing is sparse but extremely eloquent and thought provoking. I found the latter part of the novel particularly emotional and tender.

It is not an easy novel to read and will not be to everyone’s taste. I didn’t form an opinion straight away and put the novel to one side to think about it before I could really appreciate the quality of the writing and its contents and write a review.

It is a very assured debut and I am looking forward to see what Quatro will write next

Thank you to Picador and Alice May Dewing for a proof copy to read and review.

About the authorImage result for jamie quatro fire sermon

Jamie Quatro is the daughter of a doctor and a classical pianist, and was herself trained as a classical pianist. She has an MFA in Fiction Writing from Bennington College Writing Seminars and has had her short stories published in numerous publications.

I Want To Show You More, her debut short story collection was published in 2013 and was a New York Times Notable Book, an NPR best Book of 2013 and an Oprah Magazine summer reading pick.

Quatro currently teaches in the MFA program at Sewanee, The University of the South.

She lives with her husband and four children in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

Fire Sermon is her debut novel.

#Blogtour The Meal of Fortune by Phil Brady @philbradyUK @unbounders @annecater

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The Meal of Fortune by Phil Brady  Unbound

The world of arms dealing, espionage and TV cookery collide in this fast moving comedy caper.

Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch hires him to represent his pop star daughter.

Disaffected MI5 officer Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own career. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again after seventeen years as they’re thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure a notorious arms dealer into a highly unusual trap.

Hard enough without having to deal with the lecherous celebrity chef trying to save his daytime TV career or the diminutive mafia enforcer who definitely has his own agenda. Then there’s the very impatient loan shark who ‘just wants his money back’.

And Anna’s bosses are hardly playing it straight either. But one thing’s for sure. There’ll be winners and losers when the Meal of Fortune finally stops spinning. Oh, and another thing, Anna and Dermot are absolutely not about to fall in love again. That’s never going to happen, OK?

My review

This is a spy thriller like no other, part serious, part humourous it is a tour de force of Russian oligarchs, MI5 agents, failed pop stars, the decline of a TV chef and failed teenage love.

The characters are larger than life, with somewhat exaggerated characteristics, even their names seem somewhat tongue in cheek!  First up is Declan Jack, showbiz agent with only one client, TV chef Marcus Diesel and even he is clinging on by his finger tips. Divorced with a young daughter Declan owes money to a local loan shark who happens to be pursuing him for repayment adding even more mayhem into an already madcap storyline. What amused me even more about Declan was his past as a failed popstar, perhaps explaining his lack of success as a showbiz agent.

Anna, is the no nonsense MI5 operative, daughter of a renowned MI5 agent yet not quite living up her to her Father’s reputation, sidelined to evaluating reports with a boss who seems to have it in for her. Anna comes across as a real tough nut but you start to glimpse a few chinks in her armour as her contact with Declan increases. The opportunity to stop a major arms deal via Declan is her major chance to restart her career. Yes, I wanted her to catch the baddies but a big part of me wanted her to succeed just to prove her to her horrible boss Kate that she wa I need a good MI5 operative.

Yegor Koslov is the Russian henchman of Russian oligarch Oleg Bukin. He comes across as a short stocky guy, someone not afraid to protect his boss at all costs. His relationship with Declan is one of the highlights of the novel with some amusing incidents that really made me chuckle. Look out for the wardrobe and cupboard moments!!

Oleg Bukin is the Russian Oligarch with all the trappings of wealth, a wealth accumulated no doubt via some seriously dodgy means. His obsession with Marcus Diesel’s cookery programme, The Meal of Fortune, is hilarious, particularly his penchant for cooking along with the show!

Last but not least is Oleg’s daughter Svetlana, a wannabee popstar who Declan is roped in to get her a record deal! Svetlana is petulant, spoilt and hiding a secret.

There are multiple strands to this novel all slightly outlandish, but that doesn’t matter as it only adds to the drama and fun. The setting of the Eurovision Song Contest was a stroke of genius, providing an extremely funny and dramatic climax.

The relationship between Declan and Anna is pretty much one of love/hate. You know they had some kind of past just not exactly what it was and Brady did a great job drip feeding the information, scattering little titbits throughout.

The action is unrelenting, fast paced and at times surprising which I loved and I didn’t even guess the little twist at the end!

This was a novel that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it quite as much as I did. It had everything I would want in a crime novel, guns, espionage, and fantastic characters, but most of all it was funny, chaotic and enthralling.

I am so pleased that Brady is writing another novel featuring Anna and Declan and I will definitely be adding it to my TBR pile.

Thank you to Unbound for a proof to read and review and to Anne Cater for organising and inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Phil was first inspired to write when he read Lord of The Rings as a child. Back then the ambition was to create a whole fantasy world with dragons and sword fights but, as George RR Martin seems to have cornered that market, he now writes comedy thrillers set in the (almost) real world instead.

He is somewhat obsessed with the public and media’s obsession with celebrity, which forms the backdrop to his books. These also tend to feature spies, gangsters, vicious (if feckless) criminals, washed-up private detectives and daytime TV presenters.

The Meal of Fortune is the third novel he has completed but he is as yet unpublished. The first will stay forever in a locked draw in darkened room with a cool wet flannel over its face. The second, the story of a revenge agency may see the light of day once he has finished his current trilogy.

Phil lives in London with his wife and children and works in marketing. His main rule in life is to never let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green. He hasn’t yet worked out any deep meaning behind this and suspects it is not the soundest of principles by which to live your life by. Although it’s better than quite a few he’s come across down the years. Best not to get him started on that one though.

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#Blogtour Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil @jeanmcneilwrite @Legend_Press

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Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil  Legend Press  15th February 2018

When NGO worker Nick drops unexpectedlyinto the lives of Pieter and Sara Lisson, he feel she has found the parents he never had. Nick is enraptured by their lives of splendour and acclaim as much as the stirring setting of the African city where they live, but he soon senses a secret at the heart of his new family. Nick then meets Riaan, the Lissons’ son, and so begins an intense connection that threatens to erupt into a relationship neither had ever considered. In the shadow of the Brandberg, the glowing mountain that stands at the heart of the desert, Nick will discover that his passion for Riaan is not the only fire which threatens his newfound home.

My review

Who is Nick? Why did he suddenly jump ship and abandon his successful career jetting into the problem spots of the world, providing relief? Is he ill or is it something else?

These are the questions that confronted me as I started McNeil’s novel. It is not until  Nick flees to the parents of a friend, their house sitting in the shadow of the Brandberg Mountain, that his story slowly begins to unravel. Pieter and Sara’s house provides the opportunity for Nick to look inwards on himself, to question who he is, what he is doing and what his future may hold. The interspersed chapters littered throughout slowly filled in the gaps giving more meaning to Nick’s current dilemmas. Indeed Nick is quite a complex character, not hugely likeable, and quite cold, but reading of his distant parents and family background I do not think there is any other way that Nick can be or knows how to be. His relationship with Pieter and Sara soon develops into that of surrogate son, stepping into the vacant shoes of their own two sons who live faraway and rarely visit. He strikes up an interesting relationship with Pieter, an eminent and often controversial novelist. Nick shows great interest in Pieter’s  writing and novels where perhaps his sons had not, and their ensuing conversations and differing perspectives were interesting to read.

The story takes an even more complex turn when Nick meets Pieter and Sara’s son Riaan, who lives in the African bush. Their upbringing and worlds are so far apart yet there is something that draws them together. When Riaan invites Nick to spend some time with him in the bush there is the anticipation that something is going to happen but you are not entirely sure what it is. It is at this point that one of the main characters in the novel comes into its own, that of the African landscape.

McNeil’s vivid imagery and descriptions are brilliantly done. I could taste the arid desert sand, feel the intensity of the heat, and see the beauty of the night sky. The intensity of the heat and the chill of the night perfectly mirrored the relationship between Nick and Rican. I could sense the fluctuating mix of emotion, and confusion as they tried to make sense of their feelings, questioning themselves and each other. I found this to be my favourite part of the novel. It was so wonderfully written and enthralling that I did worry how it would end, where McNeil would take us next.

I needn’t have worried, as McNeil seamlessly guided the novel to its conclusion, and although I did anticipate the outcome it in no way detracted from my enjoyment.

This is not a novel of huge drama, instead it is a novel of emotion, of life, of how we make sense of whom we are, how the landscape and circumstances in which we live can mould us. It is about breaking free, making changes, discovering who we are, and having the courage to live as we want to.

It is an intense and enthralling novel that I enjoyed immensely.

Thank you to Imogen Harris and Legend Press for the review copy and inviting mybookishblogspot to take part in the blogtour.

About the author

Jean McNeil

Jean McNeil is a prolific fiction and nonfiction author whose work has been
nominated for and won several major international awards. She is a Senior
Lecturer at the University of East Anglia. Her first novel with Legend Press, seventh
overall publication was The Dhow House
(2016).
Follow Jean on Twitter @jeanmcneilwrite

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#Blogtour Blue Night by Simone Buchholz @OrendaBooks @ohneKlippo and @FwdTranslations @annecater

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Blue Night by Simone Buchholz  Orenda Books February 28th 2018

Meet Chastity Riley, a German prosecutor in the city of Hamburg. After shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels she is relegated to witness protection, in the hope she will cause less trouble. Assigned to the case of an anonymous man under police protection Chastity cannot help but be drawn into a criminal underworld of drugs and the Albanian Mafia.

The novel’s opening is a violent one, one that will set the scene for what is yet to come and it is certainly not hearts and flowers!

In fact this novel is steeped in pure grit and darkness. For me the grittiest element was Chastity Riley a hard drinking, smoking, no nonsense, kick ass prosecutor not afraid to challenge the good and the bad guys. She seemed bereft of emotion, an enigma to the reader with only little hints to her background or family. The connections with other characters are also quite shady. Her boyfriend Klatsche the owner of the Blue Night bar has a criminal past. Haller, an ex policeman who is determined to bring down the local mafia king Gjergj Malaj, by whatever means. Carla Velosa and her husband Rocco Malutki, owner of a cafe/resturant even have a dark past.

The city itself, is dark and foreboding, the backstreets and the infamous Reeperbahn teeming with drugs, prostitutes and criminals. I could almost transport myself to some dark backstreet, constantly watching over my shoulder just in case.

The combination of cast and location provide a heady mix of mystery and intrigue although some may find the structure of the novel a little difficult to follow at first.

Interspersed with the general narrative, Buchholz includes little snapshots of information about each of the characters, some in the past and some in the present and slowly the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together. It is not something I have seen before and when I became accustomed to it, I actually quite liked it, it certainly gave the novel a very unique feel.

I was extremely impressed with my first foray into German crime and am not surprised that Buchholz has receive rave reviews and huge success in her home country. The novel is dark, subversive and just that little bit different from everything in the crime genre. I certainly hope that she has similar success here in the UK because Simone Buchholz definitely deserves it.

Thank you to Orenda Books for providing a review copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me on to the blogtour.

About the author

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Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up for the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

 

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The Hoarder by Jess Kidd @JessKiddHerself @cannongatebooks

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The Hoarder by Jess Kidd  Canongate February 1st 2018

Jess Kidd’s first novel Himself was a huge success so expectations are high for The Hoarder.

Meet Maude Drennan, Irish lapsed Catholic, and care worker, living in a rented flat in London. She is the last in a long line of care workers sent to Bridlemere to look after the cantankerous and notoriously difficult Cathal Flood.

Whats she finds is a ramshackle mansion full of rubbish and cats and a huge giant of a man who clearly doesn’t want her there. As Maud begins to clear the rubbish so she begins to uncover a house full of secrets, secrets that bring out the worst and the best in the characters she encounters.

And what a set of characters Kidd has created.

Maud, is just wonderful. You get the feeling that she puts her heart and soul into the people that she cares for and Cathal Flood is no different. I loved her no nonsense approach, and her unwillingness to give up on him where others had failed. The changes in their relationship are beautifully emotive and touching, as she slowly breaks down his defences and reveals the awful family secrets. But Maud has secrets of her own. Told in flashbacks Kidd writes of Maud’s troubled childhood in Ireland and her struggles to reconcile and come to terms with the events in her own life. There is a funny side to Maud, its not all doom and gloom and I laughed out loud as Maud wrestled with the Catholic Saints who visited her. There is Saint Dympna, patron of those suffering for nervous and mental afflictions and Saint Valentine, patron of love  all trying to warn Maud not to dabble in Flood’s secrets or to do something right for a change.

Cathal Flood himself, is portrayed as a huge lumbering giant. A man who is unwashed, unkempt and cannot bear to throw anything away. He has a penchant for other people’s cats who run amock in his hovel of a mansion and collecting weird and wonderful antiquities.   As we learn more about Flood and his family so you begin to feel sorry and have huge empathy for him, this man who has lost so much, carrying such unbearable grief and sorrow that he expresses with anger and vitriol to those try to care for him.

Renata is Maud’s landlady and best friend. An ageing transvestite and agoraphobic, ex magicians assistant, she is the wonderful foil to Maud’s reluctance to uncover Flood’s secrets. Renata fancies herself as a detective, finally finding something to lift the mundanity of her everyday existence, even if she gets more than she bargained for. The relationship between Maud and Renata is one based on loneliness, both seeking solace from the other, but also one of deep friendship.

Gabriel Flood, son of Cathal Flood, plays the archetypal villain of the story and you just know that he cares little for his father, intent on only making sure he get what he wants no matter the cost to others.

The writing is superb, perfectly placing you, the reader, in Mr Flood’s rubbish strewn mansion. I absolutely loved Kidd’s description of his wall of National Geographics,

The Great Wall of National Geographics is the gateway to the rest of the ground floor, the staircase and beyond. This remarkable structure is not only a barrier to my progress but also a fitting monument to compulsive collecting. It is over twelve feet high and formed by close packed strata (yellow spines aligned uniformly outwards) of the widely informative magazine. Each copy has been placed carefully, with aptitude and instinct, so that the whole has the arcane strength of a dry stone wall.’

The novel is littered with lots of other such brilliant imagery and descriptions that just let your imagination run wild.

The balance between light and dark, funny and serious was just right.  One moment your sharing a characters despair, the next laughing out loud at their antics, Renate and the Saints providing much of the comedy moments.

There was never a lull, as secrets unraveled, and you slowly began to piece together all the pieces of the complex jigsaw.

I experienced a myriad of emotions with a real tug at the heart strings in some places as I felt a real connection with the characters, testament to Kidd’s wonderful writing.

It is not a novel I will forget in a hurry, it is one that will linger, always a sign of a truly wonderful book.

I received a proof copy after attending the Canongate proof party at Cheltenham Literature Festival in October 2017. It was a real pleasure to listen to Jess Kidd read from the novel and talk about the mechanics behind the writing of The Hoarder

About the author

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Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from Mayo, where she hope to settle eventually. She currently lives in London with her daughter.

Jess obtained her first degree form the Open University and has since taught Creative Writing and achieved a PHD in Creative Writing Studies. Kidd has also worked as a support worker specialising in acquired brain injury.

Her novel, Himself was published by Canongate in 2016. Jess is currenly working on her third novel.

#Blogtour The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale @Robert_Dinsdale @josietturner @EburyPublishing

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale  Ebury February 8th 2018

The Toymakers

It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.
But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…

My review

Cathy Wray is nearly sixteen, and hiding a shameful secret when she reads a circled advertisement in a local newspaper. Seeing it as a means to escape, she finds herself in a  back street of London about to enter a magical world of make believe. Never before has she seen such wonders as when she first enters Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

The aisles were alive. She took a step, stumbled when her foot caught a locomotive of some steam train chugging past. She was turning to miss it when wooden horses cantered past in jagged rhythms, their Cossack riders reaching out as if to threaten the train gliding by.

And this is where I, as the reader had to suspend disbelief and immerse myself into an alternative world of children’s make believe and innocence or so I thought.

As we begin to discover, it is not all make believe and innocence in the Emporium.  Kasper, the elder brother, is the toy maker with the imagination and flair, Emil the younger brother is less flamboyant and it is his jealousy that slowly eats away at the magic. War deepens the rift between the brothers and has an impact on those around them with devastating results.

Dinsdale does not hold back from describing the horrors of war and it was particularly poignant to read of the mental trauma that many suffered, after returning home and the lack of understanding of family members.

The characters are wonderfully multi-layered and as events unfold so do the differing sides of their characteristics. Cathy is strong and resilient. Papa Jack is quiet, yet with an immense presence, he is the glue that holds them together. Kasper is outgoing, and exuberant to begin with before events take their toll. Emil is Kasper’s opposite, lacks confidence and self-esteem, forever in Kasper’s shadow, gnawed away by jealousy.

The magic that we discover at the beginning slowly ebbs away as adults lose sight of their inner child, and the world becomes more real. The magical toys are never far away, playing their part, bringing people together, forcing others apart. I did find that I had to push reality to one side for the second part of the story but this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story. In some ways it added that extra dimension and uniqueness that is often lacking in todays novels.

The story itself covers quite a long time frame, embracing both the first and second world wars, and it was interesting to see the differing reactions and development of the characters. You never quite knew where the story would take you next, and all I wanted was a happy ending and for the magic to return.

To find out of it if there is happy ending and if indeed the magic does return  I would urge you to avail yourself of a copy of this unique and mesmerising novel. It will sweep you away back to your childhood, it will tug at your heartstrings and totally enthral all who read it.

Thank you to Ebury for providing a review copy and to Josie Turner for organising and inviting mybookishblogspot onto the blogtour.

About the author

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Robert Dinsdale was born in North Yorkshire and currently lives in Leigh-on-sea. He is the author of three previous critically acclaimed novels: The Harrowing, Little Exiles and
Gingerbread. He has a young daughter, and The Toymakers is a book he couldn’t have written without the experience of being a father for thefirst time. The idea for it came to him, almost fully-formed, in a toyshop with his daughter.
The Toymakers is his first venture into magic….

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#Blogtour The Hotel On Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully #DanielaTully @Legend_Press

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The Hotel on Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully  Legend Press  February 1st 2018

Munich, the Third Reich is on the rise and Hitler is bringing Germany closer to war. Martha Wiesberg is a young teenager living with her mother and twin brother, Wolfgang. As Wolfgang embraces Hitler and his indoctrination, Martha is horrified but too frightened to voice her true feelings. When she leaves home to work for a young family her encounters with her brothers friends and the vents that unfold will form the basis of a secret that will stay hidden.

Fast forward to 2017 and her Grandaughter Maya lives a quiet existence running her bookshop. Always close to her Grandmother, they shared a love of books and fairy tales when in 1990 her body was found in the debris of an old landslide on the Montgomery Preserve, a popular weekend destination for the citizens of New York, Maya knows that she must fly to America and find out exactly what happened.

What Maya doesn’t expect is an unraveling of secrets, not only those of her Grandmother, but also the powerful Montgomery family who own the hotel on the Montgomery Preserve.

This novel will take you on a journey from pre first world war America to a Germany in the thralls of the Nazi’s. It was, at times, quite difficult to follow, particularly in the first part but becomes clearer as the story unfolds and the novel progresses.

The intricacies of the Montgomery family are complex but make compelling reading and it took me some time before i finally began to work out the connection between Martha and the Montgomery family.

What I enjoyed most was the author’s descriptions of the rise of the Third Reich and what it meant for the citizens of Munich. Wolfgang’s radicalisation and total belief in Hitlers ideology was terrifying to read. The role and status of women was eye opening and not something I really that much about. Tully was especially skilled at portraying the terror and fear many felt particularly those who disagreed with Hitler and his vision for Germany.

Tully has created some lovely characters. I liked Martha’s bravery and her ability to see the real truth of the Third Reich, as well as her capacity for love and forgiveness.

Maya is in some respects very similar to Martha, but Maya is lost, with no real obvious direction in her life. The process of uncovering her Grandmother’s secrets is cathartic for Maya, it shows her what true love can feel like, and how she can decide what direction and what she wants to do with her life.

The secrets unfold thick and fast, taking the reader on a veritable rollercoaster ride, I certainly found myself turning the pages faster as Tully unveiled yet another revelation. It definitely added more tension and drama to the novel.

The imagery and description of Nazi Germany are very well done and I could certainly feel the fear, and mania that swept through the city. At the other end of the spectrum were the wonderful descriptions of the forests both in America and Germany, giving a little respite from the tensions in other parts of the story.

Tully has written a beautiful story of love and war, of family and forgiveness that will have broad appeal and be enjoyed by many.

Thank you to Imogen Harris of Legend Press for organising and inviting mybookishblogspot to be part of the blog tour.

About the author

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Daniela Tully has been working in the field of storytelling for decades, mainly in film and televison. She has been involved in projects such as the critically-acclaimed Fair Game, box-office hits Contagion and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as the Oscar-winning The Help.

She currently lives in Dubai

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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock @girlhermes @HarvillSecker

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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar  Harvill Secker  January 25th 2018

The year is 1785 and merchant John Hancock is sat quietly at home when there is an urgent knocking on his door. Stood on the threshold is the Captain of one of his ships with the news that he has sold it in exchange for a dead mermaid.

Hancock is somewhat baffled and bemused wondering what an earth he can do with a dead mermaid. Persuaded to show his mermaid, his unlikely exhibit begins to garner notoriety and fame and before long Hancock is immersed in the less salubrious side of London society.

When he enters into a business deal to display the mermaid at a party thrown by high class madam Mrs Chappell, his companion for the evening is courtesan, Angelica Neil. Keen to launch herself back onto London society after the death of a wealthy client, Angelica shows little enthusiasm for Hancock, but an unlikely friendship grows between them with surprising results.

Mermaids, love, greed, and high class prostitution, this novel has it all. The characters are just fantastic.

Mr Hancock, the bumbling widower, scruffy, naive, haunted by his dead son, and thrown into a world he has no desire to be a part of. His shock and horror at the shenanigans he witnesses at Mrs Chappells, was so wonderfully described by Gowar, I could feel myself getting hot under the collar just like Mr Hancock! I felt a great deal of affection for Hancock, wanting him to succeed, to win through and be happy.

Angelica Neil is everything you expect a well heeled courtesan to be, buxom, vain and superficial, caring little for the everyday mundane aspects of life. Her companion Mrs Frost is everything she is not, practical, plain, and the voice of reason, reason that Angelica will not listen to, landing her in a whole lot of trouble. Who does she turn to but Mr Hancock and the ensuing friendship is both touching and tender. I loved the slow unveiling of the real Angelica, not necessarily the superficial creature we see at the beginning, but a young vulnerable woman wanting security, love and affection.

And then we have Mrs Chappell. Oh my, what a character! Larger than life, overweight, and overbearing with friends in high places. Mrs Chappell is the owner of a high class brothel, overseeing the education, manners and decorum of her girls. Girls pulled from poor backgrounds, desperate for a new way of life, but totally bound to Mrs Chappell, unless they can buy their way out. My imagination was sent into immediate overdrive as numerous images of what Mrs Chappell may actually look like flashed through my mind such was the vividness of Gowar’s writing.

There are a myriad of secondary characters supporting the main protagonists, all with their own part to play. Central to it all is the mermaid, feared by sailors, bringer of bad luck and catalyst for good and bad in the novel.

Characters are always central to a good novel and so it is with The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, but what sets its apart from others in its genre is the superb quality of the writing. The imagery, the description of a Georgian London and society are just amazing. As I read I felt myself transported back in time, I could smell the heavy perfume of the ladies, imagine the wigs, the dresses, the inside of the brothel, and the streets of London.   This is a long novel but at no point did I feel it was too long, in fact I did not want it to end!

As you can probably tell from my gushing review I absolutely adored this novel. It is just superb. It will make you laugh, smile, make you sad and immerse you in a world you do not want leave. It is a story that would make the most perfect BBC drama and I have my fingers crossed that it will be dramatised.

Bravo Imogen Hermes Gowar on a gem of a novel.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harvill Secker for  the opportunity to read and review.

About the author

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Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History at UEA’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts before going on to work in museums. She began to write about the objects and artefacts in the museums she worked in and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA.

Imogen’s dissertation won the Curtis Brown Prize and eventually developed into her debut novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.

Imogen currently lives and work in south-west London.

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