#Blogtour The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl @ko_dahl @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl  Orenda Books  April 30th 2018

When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before
Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more
complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy
boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be
involved in the murder.
With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into
the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but
it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.

My Review

This is the eighth book in the series and the first one I have read. My first question was would I have missed out on any background information about the characters. The simple answer was no, this is a novel that stands very firmly on its own.

From the outset the pace is unrelenting, two murders, two investigations, and an author leading the reader through a myriad of twists and turns.

The main protagonist is Lena Stigersand, a detective in her mid thirties. She is a character I instantly liked. I loved her tenacious, feisty nature and her penchant for romantic movies, a complete contradiction, to her outward facing persona.  I admired her ability to push aside her cancer diagnosis and become totally consumed in the murder investigation.

Gunnarstranda was the old hand, very little fazing him, and the one who seemed to hold everything together. There was obviously a back story between himself and Frolich, that I was unaware of but that didn’t matter as Dahl dealt with the present and referred very little or at all to the past.

This could very easily have been a simple murder thriller with the protagonists racing to catch the killer, but by cleverly interweaving the world of politics and world trade Dahl added an extra dimension. The involvement of a high level politician and their abuse of power added a certain amount of realism, and the ensuing events would not be out of place in a government in any country throughout the world.

I thought Dahl got the pacing of the novel just right, hooking me into the story from the very first page. What I liked above all was his skill at managing several plot strands and dropping little clues along the way before finally pulling everything together into a dramatic and fraught final few pages.

A particularly interesting aside were the descriptions of the Swedish capitol, Oslo, and a tour of the underground rail tracks and back streets, which were definitely not on the tourist routes. It is hard to imagine such a beautiful city having a more salubrious side to it, but it provided the perfect setting for the dark and murky story that ensued.

It is a book that I found utterly engrossing with an ending that did not disappoint and after resisting the pull of the whole Scandi Noir book scene I can now say I am a convert and will definitely be reading more by Kjell Ola Dahl.

Thank you to Orenda for a copy of the book to read and review and to Anne Cater for inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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One of the godfathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries and sold over two million copies. He lives in
Oslo.

The blogtour for The Ice Swimmer continues throughout April with lots of bloggers sharing their views, extracts and interviews with the author.

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Sight by Jessie Greengrass @JessGreengrass @johmurrays @bookbridgr

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Sight By Jessie Greengrass  John Murray  February 22nd 2018

It seemed, at times, an act of profound selfishness, to have a child so that I might become a parent; but selfish, too, to have a child and stay the same, or not to have one – unless the only honest choice would have been to try to become this kinder version of myself without the need to bring another into it …Sight is about X-rays, psychoanalysis, and the origins of modern surgery. It is about being a parent, and being a child. Fiercely intelligent, brilliantly written and suffused with something close to forgiveness, it is a novel about how we see others and how we imagine ourselves.

My review

Sight is one of those novels that critics absolutely love but some readers may find difficult to like and after reading I can completely understand why.

It is definitely not an easy novel to read, requiring concentration from the reader, but don’t let that put you off for this is a novel that is complex, thought provoking and extremely well written.

We never know the name of the main character, only that she is pregnant with her second child but what we do learn is the thought process she went through before finally deciding to have children

Told in three parts Greengrass digs deep into the psyche of the narrator, analysing her relationship with her mother as she nursed her through terminal illness, as well as her relationship with her partner. You could distinctly hear the cogs in her mind turn, as she agonised over her decision and wondered if this is what would await her child, if it was right to bring a child in to a world where they might also have to bear such pain and grief. She also has to consider her own suitability to be a parent, will she be a good Mum, will her partner be the Father she would want him to be?

Her thoughts ran deeper still and Greengrass skilfully interwove the history of three medical pioneers to try and show the many layers that make up our bodies and minds.  I found their stories fascinating. I knew little of Rontgen, the discoverer of X-rays or John Hunter, eminent surgeon and scientist. Their work was truly remarkable and John Hunter’s work into pregnant women ground breaking. Sigmund Freud, eminent neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis completed the trio. I loved the way Greengrass was able to link their discoveries with the narrators own situation, as she tried to understand who she was.

I could the understand the narrator’s turmoil, but I did find her slightly annoying and selfish, particularly in her relationship with her partner. I think perhaps this was intentional, to strip back her decision making process, to fully illustrate her angst and turmoil, her childhood and early adult life playing a big part.

The writing is superb and not surprisingly, Sight has been shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction.

As you can probably tell it is a novel that I found extremely hard to review. The themes and meanings within the novel are complex and I found it difficult to put in to words my own thoughts, but I have tried my best even if they are not what the author intended them to be!

It is a novel that will not be for everyone, but I thought it was unique, thought provoking and brilliant.

Thank you to John Murray and Bookbridgr for a copy of the book to read and review

About the author

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Jessie Greengrass was born in 1982. She studied philosophy in Cambridge and London, where she now lives with her partner and child. An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award, and was shortlisted for the PFD/Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Sight is her first novel.

Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Ann Buist @GraemeSimsion @TwoRoadBooks

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Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist  Two Road Books April 5th 2018

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino (the Way) for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?

My review

Martin and Zoe flee to France, each have totally differing reasons. Martin is fleeing the aftermath of a divorce and Zoe the sudden death of her husband.

On impulse both decide to do the famous Camino trail of the pilgrims. Martin to test out his cart design that may be bought and produced by a company and Zoe, to find herself.

This is the story of two people who have lost their way in life. Its is a story of the people they meet along the way and what they discover about themselves. Its is also a love story, of two people who meet,  are mutually attracted to each other, but events and themselves conspire to pull them apart.

The story is narrated in alternating chapters, each author owning a character, Simsion, Martin and Buist, Zoe. This could be a recipe for disaster with chapters that could appear quite separate, not seeming to fit together, but not so. The technique actually enhances the novel giving each character its own distinct voice.

Martin, bumbling along, removing himself from home to spare his daughter the pain of being caught in the middle of two divorced parents, thinking she would be happier without him.

Zoe, traumatised and shocked by the sudden death of her husband, unaware of the financial predicament he has left them in,her two grown up daughters bemused at her flight to France, insisting she return to sort out her life.

When the characters do meet you can sense their fear at opening up to each other, not helped by the interference of other characters and certain misunderstandings.

The characters they meet as they walk are hugely entertaining. The young German engineer, the Brazilians and the mother and daughter walking in honour of their deceased husband/father make the novel more than just about Martin and Zoe.

The descriptions of the little towns and villages, the mountainous routes and the stunning scenery add that extra dimension. The vivid imagery is lovely giving the reader a real feel for the conditions and landscape.

Over the course of three months and 2038km Martin and Zoe slowly begin the healing process, slowly realise what they want and what they need to do. It is a heartwarming novel, that left me with a tear in my eye and a warm feeling.

The novel has already been optioned for film by Fox Searchlight and it will be interesting to see who is cast in the lead roles!

Thank you to Two Road books for the opportunity to read and reveiw.

About the authors

Graeme and Anne

Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Effect and The Best of Adam SharpAnne Buist is chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and author of the psychological thrillers, Medea’s CurseDangerous to Know and This I Would Kill For. 

graemesimsion.com / annebuist.com
@GraemeSimsion / @anneebuist

#Blogtour Tale of a Tooth by Allie Rogers @Alliewhowrites @LegendPress

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Tale of Tooth by Allie Rogers  Legend Press April 19th 2018

Four-year-old Danny lives with his mother, Natalie, in a small Sussex town. Life is a struggle and when they are threatened with a benefits sanction, salvation appears in the form of a Job Centre employee called Karen. But Karen’s impact is to reach far beyond this one generous gesture, as she and Natalie embark on an intense relationship.

Told in the voice of an intelligent, passionate and unusual child, Tale of a Tooth is an immersive and compelling look at the impact of domestic abuse on a vulnerable family unit.

My review

Life’s pretty good for four year old Danny, he’s got his Mum or Meemaw, otherwise known as Natalie and his beloved dinosaur Spiney, but life is about to get a bit tougher when Karen enters their life’s and everything he loves is in danger of being taken away.

From the outset I knew there was something different about Danny. He was not your average little boy, his obsession with dinosaurs, his high intelligence and obvious emotional issues placed him somewhere on a spectrum. What was extremely interesting and unique was Rogers use of Danny’s voice to tell the story. The dialogue is that of a four your old, sentences never complete, words jumbled up, no obvious conversation between the characters. It is a style which at first I found slightly off putting, but soon found myself engrossed in the tortured world of this wonderful character. Danny’s voice was distinctive and emotive and immersed me in Danny’s innermost thoughts and emotions. I could feel his fear at Karen’s violent outbursts, and his pent up frustration with Natalie at not getting rid of her. All I wanted to do was grab hold of this little boy, hug him and tell him it was all going to be ok when I knew that perhaps it was not going to be ok.

The relationship between Danny and Natalie was just so wonderful to read. Natalie is everything to Danny, the one constant in his life, the only person that understands his little idiosyncrasies, and how precious his dinosaurs are.

Karen is the interloper threatening to destroy that close relationship between Natalie and her son. She offers Natalie some time away from the drudgery of life as a single parent on benefits with very little money to feed herself and her child, but at what cost? I didn’t blame her in the slightest for taking some time to enjoy herself, but when she become subjected to abuse, both physical and mental I just wanted her to free herself from Karen. We all know that once in a cycle of abuse it is so difficult to break free and Natalie was no different. Rogers was brilliant at conveying her utter despair, her sense of guilt not only toward Karen but most importantly towards Danny. She was a character with a huge capacity for forgiveness but also doing what she felt was right, even if that wasn’t the right thing for Danny.

Rogers was extremely clever at building the tension, at times lulling me into believing that all would be well before another twist took the story further into the depths of Danny’s increasing anguish and turmoil. I found the latter parts of the novel upsetting to read at times, so traumatic were the effects of events on Danny. At no time did I feel that Rogers was writing of abuse just to merely shock, they were always in context, measured and sensitive.

It is to Roger’s huge credit that she has written such a distinct and unique novel and the great skill needed to write in the voice of a four year old and sustain it throughout impressed me enormously.

Having read and loved her debut Little Gold I was not disappointed with Tale of The Tooth, it is an impressive second novel.

I would like to thank Imogen Harris and Legend Press for a copy of Tale of the Tooth to read and review and for the invite to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Allie Rogers

Allie Rogers was born and raised in Brighton and enjoys story in all forms, the magic of a
surprising sentence and books that defy categorisation. She is a librarian at the University of Brighton.
Follow Allie on Twitter @alliewhowrites

Read more reviews of Tale of the Tooth by discovering what my other fellow bloggers thought.

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#Blogtour #Extract He’s Gone by Alex Clare @_AlexandraClare @natalie_rose_c @ImpressBooks1

He’s Gone by Alex Clare  Impress Books

HE’S GONE is the first in a gripping police procedural series with a transgender detective – a compelling, fast-paced, and assured crime fiction series with a contemporary and relevant heroine.

On her first day returning to work as Robyn rather than Robin, DI Bailley is thrust into the media spotlight when she must solve a missing child case whilst dealing with the reactions of her colleagues, the local community, and her.

Its always interesting to read new authors and especially those with a slightly different perspective and I’m thrilled to be a sharing an extract from Alex Clare’s He’s Gone.

Extract

Robyn scurried through the door into the dim lobby of the police station. The desk sergeant was playing with his mobile, top two shirt buttons undone, no tie. Robyn opened her mouth then decided she couldn’t face a confrontation over the dress-code at this precise moment.
‘Good morning.’ The voice was too squeaky because she hadn’t practised enough. Talking to herself at home had made her feel crazy. ‘Morning, sir.’ The usual response. Robyn kept moving. She was determined not to stop, not to let others’ reactions bother her. She knew he didn’t mean anything bad, reasoning that if it had taken her over forty years to
have the confidence to declare herself a woman, she had to allow everyone else time. She concentrated on walking because the tape between her legs was pushing them apart making her feel like a gunslinger entering a saloon. The new shoes, bought over the internet in a size nine-and-a-half, claimed to be for women but didn’t look much different to her old ones. She was grateful she hadn’t risked heels.

Along the corridor, the notices on the staff board had new ones pinned over them. The same bulb was out near the lift where a knot of people waited, a woman in a black suit standing apart, tapping into a BlackBerry. Chatter about a local girl’s chances on Superstar Seeker stopped, leaving a sudden absence of conversation. The thought
of standing and waiting in silence wasn’t appealing so she kept on moving towards the stairs. Robyn was past the group when she heard the HR Business Partner.
‘Ah, DI Bailley, welcome back. Good break?’
Robyn opened her mouth but the woman hadn’t finished. ‘Relaxing, I hope? We’re all glad to have you back.’ One civilian worker was gazing at Robyn and another, with equal intensity, at the floor. Robyn stopped, wondering what to do with her hands as the speech went on. ‘It’s always good to take holiday early in the summer I think, don’t you?’ The woman flicked her highlighted hair behind one ear. ‘You get a good break and things aren’t so crowded. I’m going away soon myself …’
The lift arrived and people shuffled forward. The tall woman answered an unspoken question by holding the doors open with her briefcase.
‘Well, good to catch up, DI Bailley. If you need anything, do let me know.’
The doors closed. There had been lots of meetings with HR in the last few months and presumably there would have to be more. Robyn made a note to keep arranging them for late in the day when she could have a stiff drink afterwards. As she trudged up the stairs to the second floor, Robyn wondered what conversations were now taking place. The tape around her groin rubbed every time she raised her foot but being back in the bland,
familiar building was soothing. She took a deep breath on the last landing, clinging to the belief that everything would be fine. The team’s morale was strong, she’d spent two years building it up, which was why she hadn’t taken up the superintendent’s offer of a transfer to a new station. But it didn’t say much for her opinion of them, when she
hadn’t even told them what she was going to do face-to-face. Now it was actually happening, there seemed to be lots of things she could have handled better. Robyn stood outside the CID office, gripping the handle, still hesitating. She’d come this far …
In the office, Detective Constable Ravi Sharma was sorting through piles of statements. Talking to his back seemed cowardly so Robyn dropped her handbag onto a desk with a thump. Ravi spun round, eyes widening with shock, narrowing with scrutiny, before finally crinkling with welcome. ‘You made me jump. Ma’am. Good break?’ Robyn paused before replying. Ravi was blinking a lot. ‘Yes thanks, Ravi. Good to be back. How are you?’ ‘Fine. Thanks. Ma’am.’ Robyn sat down, wondering which short person had been sitting in her chair and reached under the seat to adjust it. ‘Now which of these does the height – ah.’ When she sat back, Ravi was still standing, wearing the same fixed smile, making her wonder when he’d last taken a breath. ‘Janice has been keeping me up to date with texts. She said everything had been quiet, apart from the new
burglary.’ ‘Yes, ma’am, same as the last five, another pensioner but there’s a witness this time, a neighbour who was able to give a description. Lorraine’s following it up.’ Ravi’s chest swelled as he gulped air. In the pause, a buzz of conversation in the corridor rose then fell. ‘And you got the result in the hit and run – good work.’ ‘Thank you. Ma’am. The bloke pleading guilty meant they didn’t need what I’d put together but at least he went down.’ Ravi’s rigid grin had returned. Robyn smiled back, willing him to relax. ‘Your work meant he’d no choice but to change his plea. Avoiding a trial is good news.’ Ravi’s
hands unclenched. ‘A confession is best because getting someone to make a clean breast……

Ravi twitched, sending half the statements sliding to the floor. As he scrambled to retrieve them, Robyn switched on her computer, reflecting if this was the reaction from Ravi, aged twenty-seven with a sociology degree, things were going to be at the lower end of her expectations. There was a shriek of laughter as Detective Constable Lorraine
Mount barged in, holding the door for Detective Sergeant Graham Catt, both laden with bags from the canteen. After the laugh died, no one said anything for a moment. ‘Right, let’s get started on these while they’re hot. Here you go, Raver.’ Graham handed Ravi a fried-egg sandwich, the yolk already seeping through the napkin. ‘And there’s your hot chocolate – careful you don’t fall asleep.’ There was a pantomime between him and
Lorraine as they worked out which of the bacon rolls had brown sauce. ‘There’s yours, Guv.’ He reached into another bag. ‘And tea as well. One sugar, not much milk.’ Robyn reached for the cup, conscious of the tension in her shoulders. As her number two, of all the team, she’d worried most about how Graham would react and now he’d offered a neat way out of one problem. She’d always hated ‘Guv’ because it was how the previous
DI had been addressed but anything was better than ‘ma’am’. ‘Thanks, Graham. Morning, Lorraine. It’s good to be back.’ And for the first time she believed it might be. The voice was OK – not too deep or high. ‘Anyone seen Janice this morning?’ ‘Holiday today, Guv – her birthday.’ Ravi spoke through a mouthful of sandwich. She’d forgotten. Unlike Janice, who always remembered everyone else’s special occasions. ‘Oh yes. Have we got her a card?’ Three blank faces. ‘OK, Ravi, pop out and get one today and we can all sign it. And
some chocolates or something too.’ The team settled around Robyn’s desk as, for once, it was free of clutter. ‘Right, let’s get started. Lorraine, where are we with the burglaries?’

Lorraine stopped in mid-chew, nose powdered in flour, whiteagainst her dark skin. Normality was restored, until Robyn noticed Ravi staring at the lipstick mark on her cup.
The door opened. As it swung closed, the reek of Superintendent Fell’s sweat moved with the air. His presence in the incident room was unusual and there was an immediate hush, apart from furtive flicks as napkins removed grease. ‘Welcome back, Bailley.’ Fell’s gaze was fixed somewhere above Robyn’s face. ‘We have a missing child at Whitecourt Shopping Centre. Uniform are there but the local news has already picked up the story so I need a senior officer to take charge.’ He glanced down at a heavy watch. ‘Give updates to Tracey as I have meetings all morning.’ The door closed, leaving the room with a penetrating reminder of Fell’s presence. It focused the mind. Robyn’s worries over what she was wearing seemed less important now she was needed. ‘Right.’ Robyn stood up. ‘Graham and I will take this. Ravi, get the kid’s name and run background checks with Social Services. Let’s hope this is a false alarm but it never hurts to be prepared, especially if the press are already on it. Lorraine, keep working on the burglary.’ If there were stares in the corridors on the way out, she didn’t notice them. Her mind was checking off things to be done. As they walked outside, Graham tutted and pointed to where DC Janice Warrener was bending to lock a small van. Janice met them at the bottom of the steps, her blouse buttoned into the wrong holes. ‘Morning, Robyn. When I heard the news on the radio about the missing boy I thought I’d better come in. Then my car wouldn’t start and I had to take Martin’s …’ Even though she appeared flustered, Robyn could feel a gentle gaze taking in details of her new appearance. She touched her own buttons. Janice looked puzzled before she glanced down and blushed. Hoping she hadn’t upset her, Robyn smiled. ‘Thanks for thinking of us, Janice, and thanks for the updates while I was away. And Happy Birthday. Let’s hope the lad isn’t far away and you can be home before long. I’ve set Ravi getting background: can you let him know where
everything is?’ Walking between cars, Robyn had a moment of panic when she touched her thigh: her car key was not in the pocket. Then the realisation. Nothing was in the trouser pocket because the woman’s suit she was wearing didn’t have any pockets. Everything she needed, keys, wallet, phone, was all in the black handbag swinging from her shoulder. Graham pulled out his own keys. ‘I’m driving, mind. Bloody women drivers.’

If you enjoyed the He’s Gone extract follow the He’s Gone blogtour and find out what other bloggers thought about the novel.

About the author

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After nearly twenty years of being a committed corporate person, Alex Clare was made redundant. She had always enjoyed writing, studying fiction part-time through the Open University and managing to complete a novel in her commuting time, though no one had ever read it. Now, with lots more time on her hands, there was the opportunity to take writing more seriously. She began to enter competitions and joined a writing group, which encouraged her to try out new genres and styles.

After a period focusing on short stories, she wanted to try another novel. Inspiration came from watching Parliament debate the Equal Marriage Act in 2013. Astounded by the intensity of feeling generated, she created a fictional world to explore some of the issues and attitudes. Now working again she is working on her second novel, in her usual place, on a London commuter train.

Twitter: @_alexandraclare

If you enjoyed the extract you can read reviews of He’s Gone by following the blogtour.

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#Blogtour The Black Earth @pipkazan @AllisonandBusby @annecater #RandonThingsTours

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The Black Earth by Philip Kazan  Allison and Busby  April 19th 2018 

1922. When the Turkish Army occupies Smyrna, Zoe Haggitiris escapes with her family only to lose everything. Alone in a sea of desperate strangers, her life is touched, for a moment, by a young English boy, Tom Collyer, also lost, before the compassion of a stranger leads her into a new life. Years later when war breaks out, Tom finds himself in Greece and in the chaos of the British retreat, fate will lead him back to Zoe. But he will discover that the war will not end so easily for either of them.

My review

So many novels base themselves in the horrors of World War II. We read of the French occupation, the concentration camps and the blitz, but very little is written of what happened to the people of Greece and the hardship they had to endure.

The Black Earth changes all that, and I was absolutely fascinated.  Much of the story is told though the eyes of Zoe and Tom, two characters who epitomise their generation, brave, strong, with an inbuilt instinct for survival.

Kazan took us back to 1922 where he introduced us to Zoe as she flees Turkey with her parents aboard their family yacht. A collision with a battleship finds Zoe clinging to the wreckage of the boat as her father and mother disappear. Alone in the port of Piraeus she fleetingly meets Tom not quite realising the significance of their encounter and so began their story.

Told in alternating perspective, Kazan drew me into their stories. Both faced hardships and trauma but Zoe’s story in particular was one I found poignant and evocative. Kazan brilliantly wrote of the hardships that she faced, first as a refugee and then as a young woman in a country occupied by the Germans. As her life became harder so Kazan peeled back another layer of her character, revealing a woman with a huge capacity for love, forgiveness and tolerance. Yet she was also a woman who had a wonderful talent as a singer adding brightness and happiness to a novel that could have become mired in the sadness and horrors that war brings.

Tom’s story is so far removed from Zoe’s, a boy from a wealthy family background, a loving mother but a difficult relationship with his father. His father a product of the Great War, his behaviour his way of coping, yet underneath you just knew that he was immensely proud of Tom’s role in the war, just incapable of showing it. Tom is no hero, waving a gun around shooting numerous enemy soldiers, Tom’s war is much deeper than that and that is what I liked so much about his character. Tom is a thinker, a man with a conscience, a man who won’t let others down and that is what drives him to find Zoe, no matter how hard that journey might be. What interested me most was Tom’s role as a war artist and his amazing ability to capture what he saw. I felt that this was his way to cope with the war, to take the horrific sights out of his head and put them onto paper, somehow leaving them behind before moving on to his next location.

The real triumph of The Black Earth is its historical detail. What Kazan so skillfully achieves is the use of Tom and Zoe as conduits of history, Tom the British involvement, Zoe the traumas of the Greek people. I felt Kazan achieved the perfect balance, with detail that never drowned out Zoe and Tom’s story, but enhanced it and brought it to life.

The imagery Kazan conjured I found at times brutal and shocking, yet there were also moments of great tenderness and happiness. I could sense the emotion of the characters and at some points their desperation, and the last few pages will live in my mind for a long time to come.

It is a novel that showcases the capacity for human compassion, hope and above all love, love that can transcend and sustain whatever life may throw at us.

I know from reading a little of Philip Kazan’s background that the events he so eloquently describes have a deeply personal connection to him and that is why this novel is such a triumph. You just know that is heart and soul is in the pages of the novel and his Grandfather would have been so proud of what he has achieved.

I would like to thank Allen and Busby, and Emma Finnegan for a proof copy to read and review and as always my thanks to Anne Cater for inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

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PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children.

Follow him on Twitter: @pipkazan

Author’s Website: philipkazan.wordpress.com

There are some fantastic bloggers participating in The Black Earth blogtour. Why not visit them and discover what they thought of The Black earth

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#Review The Hunger by Alma Katsu @almakatsu @PoppyStimpson @TransworldBooks

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The Hunger by Alma Katsu  Transworld  April 5th 2018

After traveling west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

My review

When you hear that Ridley Scott has optioned The Hunger for a film, you know you must be in a for a damn good book. The fact it is based on a true story made  the novel even more interesting and appealing. I had not previously heard of the Donner Party and did a quick Google search to find out what it was all about. To read that eighty seven pioneers set off for California and only forty eight survived and of the horrors that they endured I did wonder if the true story was just that, a story so unbelievable some of the information.

What intrigued me most of all was how Alma Katsu would use the story of the Donner Party, how she portrayed the characters and the imagery she might conjure up.

The characters were wide and varied, from various social backgrounds, and all seemed to have some secret or past they wished to remain hidden. George Donner had money and to start with power and emerged as the natural leader, fellow pioneer James Reed his self appointed deputy. Donner’s wife Tamsen is treated with suspicion such is her love of herbal potions, that many blame her witchery for the disasters that dog them on their journey.

There is Stanton, the only single man amongst the party, running away from a past hoping to make a new life in California, Elitha Donner who hears voices , Mary Greaves who forms an attachment to Stanton, Reiner Keseberg, nasty and out for himself. And those are just  a few that make up the wagon train.

Such a huge cast of characters could be unwieldy, in danger of becoming bogged down and complicated yet Katsu handles them all with great skill, weaving their back stories into the present. Their motives for the journey are laid bare, their weaknesses exploited adding drama and palpable tension throughout.

The most prominent characters in the novel were the landscape and the weather. When Donner makes the final decision on their route choice you just knew it would be the wrong one. The landscape is challenging, from thick forest to the wide expanse of the Sierra Nevada. The weather sees the pioneers experience suffocating heat and the brutality of a bitter Sierra Nevada winter. This is where Katsu excelled, as the hardships of the weather and terrain took their toll on the pioneers, her narrative ramped up a notch. She brilliantly described the infighting, the suspicion, and ultimately the will of the pioneers to protect their own and survive. The horrors that ensued are not glossed over, and I did find some of the descriptions hard to read, yet it is an essential part of the story. The only thing that I was uncertain of and felt was not needed was the supernatural element of the story. I shall not go into detail but let you make up your own mind!

There is is a surprise towards the end of the novel that I found terrifying and filled me with horror, the narrative conjuring images that are definitely not nice.

The Hunger is a nightmare none of us would ever wish to experience. It is chilling and all the more horrifying when you know much of what Katsu writes is based on true facts.

It is well written and utterly compelling, and a novel I will not forget in a hurry.

My thanks to Poppy Stimpson and Transworld for a proof to read and review.

About the author

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A graduate of the Masters writing program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Alma Katsu worked briefly in advertising and PR before moving into the intelligence world, working as a senior analyst for several US agencies, including the CIA and the American equivalent of GCHQ. She was also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Alma Katsu lives in the Washington, DC area.

To find out more, visit her website almakatsubooks.com

#Blogtour The Body In The Boat by AJ MacKenzie @AJMacKnovels @imosebba @BonnierZaffre

The Body In The Boat by A J MacKenzie   Bonnier Zaffre  EBook April 5th 2018

Welcome to mybookishblogspot and my turn on the blogtour for A J Mackenzie’s The Body In The Boat.

A J Mackenzie have very kindly written a guest post, but before I share it, here is a little bit about The Body In The Boat.

Across the still, dark English Channel come the smugglers. But tonight they carry an unusual cargo: a coffin. Several miles inland, a respected banker holds a birthday party for his wife. Within days, one of the guests is found shot dead.

What links this apparently senseless killing to the smugglers lurking in the mists? Why has the local bank been buying and hoarding gold? And who was in the mysterious coffin?

Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor find themselves drawn into the worlds of high finance and organised crime in this  dramatic and dark Georgian mystery. With its unique cast of characters and captivating amateur sleuths, The Body in the Boat is a twisting tale that vividly brings to life eighteenth-century Kent and draws readers into its pages.

When the Gentlemen Go By

English folklore has a strange fascination for criminals. From Robin Hood and his outlaws the East End gangsters and the Great Train Robbery, they have been the unlikely heroes of books and films for decades, even centuries.

Smugglers are no exception. Perhaps the most famous evocation of smugglers can be found Kipling’s poem A Smuggler’s Song:

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,

Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,

Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie.

Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.

In just a few words, Kipling captures the essence of the smuggling myth: the combination of romance and menace, the notion that everyone knows what happens in the community but no one talks about, the culture of the smugglers epitomised by their mocking nickname for themselves, the Gentlemen. Kipling’s home in the Weald of East Sussex was near the smugglers’ haunts and he would have doubtless heard the local tales. Yes, smuggling was criminal activity; but in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was also part of the fabric of English coastal society.

Smuggling came about because of high taxes on imports and exports of certain goods: wool originally, and then later luxury goods such as brandy, gin, tobacco and even things such as hair powder and playing cards. If there was a profit to be made, the smugglers would move it. During times of war, smugglers helped escaped French prisoners get from England back to France; they also helped refugees fleeing persecution get from France to England. And, of course, some of them also dabbled in espionage.

Who were the smugglers? The answer is that they were everyone. There were some organised gangs who, as well as smuggling, turned to all sorts of crime including robbery, blackmail and murder; the infamous Hawkhurst Gang from the mid-eighteenth century is an example. In The Body in the Boat we see another example of a gang branching out from simple smuggling into something much more sinister.

But most of the gangs stuck to straightforward smuggling. They were part-timers, doing one or two runs across the Channel to France each month; in their ordinary lives, they were fishermen, farmers, shepherds, publicans, and yes, even clergymen. Women helped land cargoes and sometimes smuggled tubs of gin under their skirts past the watchful eyes of customs officers. Children acted as lookouts, warning the gangs if the forces of law and order were getting too close.

Smuggling (as with most criminal activities) could often be violent. There are numerous accounts of pitched battles on Romney Marsh and elsewhere between smuggling gangs and the Customs and Excise services. There were also sea battles between revenue cutters and smuggling ships; the latter were often well armed. People were killed on both sides. Smuggling was also a capital offence, punishable by hanging or transportation to Australia. None of this dimmed the appetite for smuggling, however. Why would it, when a man or woman could earn in a night on a smuggling more than they would earn in a month in their day job?

About the authors

A J Mackenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, an Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians.

They write non-fiction history and management books under their own names, but ‘become’ A J MacKenzie when writing fiction.

You can discover more about Marilyn and Morgan if you visit their website:

http://www.ajmackenzienovels.com/about-a-j-mackenzie.html

Thank you to Imogen Sebba and Bonnier Zaffre for inviting mybookishblogspot to take part in the blogtour.

If you enjoyed the guest post, visit the other bloggers on the blogtour to discover what they thought of The Body In The Boat.

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#Blogtour The Generation Game by Sophie Duffy @sophiestenduffy @LegendPress

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The Generation Game by Sophie Duffy  Legend Press  April 5th 2018

Philippa Smith is in her forties and has a beautiful newborn baby girl. She also has no husband, and nowhere to turn. So she turns to the only place she knows: the beginning.
Retracing her life, she confronts the daily obstacles that shaped her very existence. From the tragic events of her childhood abandonment, to the astonishing accomplishments of those close to her, Phillipa learns of the sacrifices others chose to make, and the outcome of buried secrets. Philippa discovers a celebration of life, love, and the golden era of television. A reflection of everyday people, in not so everyday situations.

My review

The Generation Game brought back lots of memories of long forgotten television programmes. Who remembers Family Fortunes, New Faces, This Is Your Life, Come Dancing and of course The Generation Game? It is a veritable trip down memory lane and indeed that what this novel is all about. It is about looking back, it is about Philippa, aged forty who sits in a hospital with her newborn baby and how she got to where she is today. It is also a novel about family and discovering who your family is and what they mean to you.

Philippa herself is a person defined by her upbringing, abandoned by her mother, Helena, she is brought up by Bob owner of a local Torquay newsagent. Never married and no children of his own they somehow muddle through. He may not be the perfect role model or indeed her Father but he somehow steers Philippa in the right directions, even if at times she resented and was less appreciative of him. There were times when Philippa frustrated me but I think that’s because she herself didn’t know what she wanted or knew how to deal with situations. She was a person always looking for something, her place in the world, who to love, and ultimately a family. I felt the birth of her daughter was her second chance, the epithany where everything finally slotted into place and finally she could be who she wanted to be.

Philippa’s life is full of wonderful characters. None are more poignant than Lucas , who tragically dies young but forever remains in Philippa’s heart. His lasting legacy, a time capsule buried in Bob’s garden, will hold the answers to the many unanswered questions that Philippa carries with her throughout her forty years.

My favourite character had to be Wink, a formidable elderly lady with a parrot for a pet and an obsession with Bruce Forsyth and the Generation Game. She provided much of the humour and was the one of the constants in Philippa’s life. She never doubted Philippa, always believed that she would achieve whatever she wanted to.

What I loved most about Duffy’s novel was her ability to balance the light and the dark. It would have been so easy for Philippa’s story to be bogged down in all the serious issues that she had to face, yet Duffy managed to intersperse the dark times with great humour. One particular highlight had to be the royal wedding of Charles and Diana which I remember so well myself.

I felt a real connection with Philippa and I think it was because I shared so many of the events and TV programmes she remembers. I may not have had the same life issues but it was a connection that I rarely find in the many books that I read.

The Generation Game is a poignant novel, hugely emotive and filled with humour and most importantly full of hope. It is a novel about family and discovering who your family is even if they are not your blood relatives. It is a novel that I enjoyed immensely and I shall be seeking out and reading the Duffy’s other novels.

Thank you to Imogen Harris and Legend Press for inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Sophie currently lives in Teignmouth, Devon with her husband and three children. The Generation Game was inspired by her childhood growing up in a sweet shop in Torquay.
Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiestenduffy

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#Blogtour Black Water by Cormac O’Keeffe @CormacJOKeeffe @bwpublishing @LinaLanglee

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Black Water by Cormac O’Keeffe  Black and White Publishing  April 19th 2018

Tara Crowe is a young detective in a hurry. She is on a mission to clean up the gangs that rule the gritty streets alongside Dublin’s Grand Canal. To do so, she must tackle local crime boss ‘Ghost’ and his notorious crew head on. Ten-year-old Jig is the newest, and proudest, member of that crew. He’s lost his granda, his home life is chaos – all that’s left is his football and his dog, Bowie. When Jig is sent to deliver a threat for his boss, an old woman dies and all hell breaks loose. For Tara, it’s the chance she’s been waiting for, a way to finally get at Ghost. But every time she thinks she’s getting close, something gets in her way and she begins to suspect a mole in the station. Football coach Shay tries to shield boys like Jig from the Canal Gang, but before long his underworld connections
put his own family in the firing line. Shay has nothing to lose, but little to live for if he can’t hold the black waters of the canal at bay. As the violence continues to escalate with the murder of a child and a policewoman, the struggle for survival comes to a head. There will be many losers, but there can only be one winner.

Fast-paced, compelling and expertly plotted, Black Water introduces a powerful new voice in contemporary crime fiction

My review

Black Water packs a punch right from the opening pages. It takes us  away from the tourist strewn streets of Dublin to its back streets and canals. The playground of many, the streets and canals are host to numerous gangs all vying for control. The Canal Gang rule the roost, and provide the gritty characters that dominate the novel.  Head of the gang is the Lock Man, rich on his profits, hiding in his mansion, leaving the dirty work to others. His henchman is the charismatic Ghost, who lets nothing stand in his way, using young lads to carry out his errands, do his running, taking advantage of their poor backgrounds. It is his hold over ten year Jig that stirred so many emotions, that made me loathe him from the outset, that hoped he would meet a suitably nasty ending at some point in the novel!

O’Keeffe’s characterisation of Jig is brilliant. He is so wonderfully multi dimensional, tugging at my heartstrings, frustrating me the next. His is a world with no love or nurturing, no positive role models for him to look up to. I wanted to shake his parents, to make them show him some love, to look after him and protect him, but they themselves are a victim of circumstance, of their own up bringing and their environment. The only thing that shows Jig any love is his dog, Bowie and his absent Grandad. It is no wonder that Jig falls under Ghost’s spell and into the clutches of the Canal Gang.

On the other side is Shay, struggling to keep his family together, to protect his children from the violence on their doorstep. From the outset I knew that Shay didn’t belong on the back streets of Dublin, that he might be not who I thought he would be. He is a character that I instantly rooted for, wanted things to work out for, but knew that his journey would be a tough one. Shay’s role as the community football coach is his opportunity to try and give his young team a way out of the violence and the gangs, one that he tries so hard to show Jig. O’Keefe’s portrayal of Shay and Jig’s relationship is well done. I could feel Shay’s frustration and at times desperation with Jig as he tried so hard to steer him away from the Canal Gang. His sense of responsibility and need to save Jig from harm when others see Jig as mere collateral, was perhaps a way to save himself to prove that he is a good person, a way to atone for a past he wishes never happened.

Black Water is a heavily male dominated novel and I was pleased that the main female protagonist, Garda officer, Tara Crowe was more than a match for her male counterparts. Tara is portrayed as tough, hardworking and ambitious and not afraid to put herself in danger, yet never lost her femininity, or her ability to feel emotion.

Black Water may be a character driven novel but it is also a novel of our times. Every day we read of gangland killings, of younger and younger kids being pulled into drugs and knife crime, and this novel does not shy away from these matters. O’Keeffe’s background as a security correspondent adds a realism to the novel, his understanding of how gangs work, of the way of life for many families in the deprived areas of Dublin, emanated from his narrative. The imagery was bleak and dark, the tension palpable as I read and the depths to which gang members will go to protect their turf and themselves brutal to read.

There was not much opportunity to pause for breath, the pace unrelenting, the tension building to a truly explosive ending. I held my breath at one point wondering who would emerge alive, wandering what the future might hold for Jig, Shay and Crowe.

Black Water is dark, gritty and at times grim reading but it is definitely not just another crime  thriller in a vastly saturated market.  It is a novel that stands out from the rest, with real depth and intensity, and a narrative heavy with brilliant imagery. It cleverly balances social comment with a deftly realised plot that is intense and fast paced.

O’Keeffe has a bright future and I look forward to his novel.

I would like to thank Lina Langlee  and Black and White Publishing for inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Cormac O'Keeffe

Cormac O’Keeffe is the award-winning security correspondent for the Irish Examiner– work that has given him unique access to contacts in the police and the community. He has lived near Dublin’s Grand Canal for many years; his professional and personal lives inform and fuel this novel, giving it the intensity, authenticity and originality of personal experience. Cormac blogs about his writing, is a respected book reviewer and appears frequently on national radio and television.

Why not check out what other bloggers have to say as on the Black Water blogtour.

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