#Blogtour Underwater Breathing by Cassandra Parkin @cassandrajaneuk @Legend_Press

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Under

On Yorkshire’s gradually-crumbling mud cliffs sits an Edwardian seaside house. In the bathroom, Jacob and Ella hide from their parents’ passionate arguments by playing the ‘Underwater Breathing’ game – until the day Jacob wakes to find his mother
and sister gone.

Years later, the sea’s creeping closer, his father is losing touch with reality and Jacob is trapped in his past. Then, Ella’s sudden reappearance forces him to confront his fractured childhood. As the truth about their parents emerges, it’s clear that Jacob’s time hiding beneath the water is coming to an end.

My Review

How long can you hold your breath underwater? That’s what Jacob and Ella do when their parents argue. That was in the past and now in the present Jacob must come to terms with a dad crippled by alcohol induced dementia, a house that is slowly disappearing into the sea and a long lost sister who he desperately wants to find.

Narrated in multiple voices, Parkin has done what she does brilliantly and created a novel full of the most wonderful characters.

I could not help but feel the angst of poor Jacob as he struggled with the burden of a sick Father, and the yearning for a sister he adored. When she finally returned after ten years I just knew that it would perhaps not be the joyous occasion he wanted it to be, that the image he had long held  would not be the one that he so desperately wanted.

My thoughts on Ella are of a young woman abandoned by her mother hoping her brother will provide her with the answers she wants. I loved her fragility, and as a young child her fear of the sea and the images the crumbling clifftop evoked in her mind.

Mrs Armitage was a character who intrigued me. She was brusque, matter of fact. a loner who was slowly pulled into the lives of Jacob and Ella. She was a character with a hard exterior, covering herself in a protective shell, impenetrable to all, yet underneath lurked a woman with a heart, a woman who felt herself drawn to Ella, and the lightness she brought into her lonely existence. I felt that she had something to hide and I loved the air of mystery that Parkin surrounded her with, as well using her as a magnet, the one Jacob, Ella and their mother felt somehow drawn to. She was very definitely a character full of surprises.

Parkins’ skill is in using the characters to show how we only see one side, how what we see and believe to be the truth can be so very different from that of someone else. The torment and anguish of both Jacob and Ella as they struggled to rationalise and come to terms with their past was beautifully written, and showcased the rawness of their emotions.

The imagery of a crashing sea, a crumbling cliff face and the wind and rain battering the house was so wonderfully evocative, that I could almost taste the salt and feel the sea spray. I loved the synergy between the ever decreasing closeness of the house’s inevitable demise and the slow building pressure and drama of events, as the tension mounted and truths were revealed.

The prevailing themes of mental illness and dementia are dealt with in a thoughtful and sensitive manner.  My heart went out to Jacob as he tried so hard to deal with his father’s dementia, and I shared his frustration, admired his overpowering belief that it was his responsibility to look after his father.

Ella’s Mum’s mental illness was plain for us to see but not so the characters in the novel. Ella too young to young to know what was wrong, and accepting her Mum for who she was as she grew up, knowing no different, and no other mothers with which to compare. Jacob, perhaps sensed something but concentrated on protecting his little sister.

I have to say that I absolutely loved this novel, I loved the characters, the setting, the imagery, in fact everything. It is the second of Parkin’s novels that I have read and Underwater Breathing has proved what an amzing author she is.

I would like to thank Imogen Harris and Legend Press for the opportunity to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtou

About the author

Cassandra Parkin

CassandrParkin grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011) won the Scott Prize for Short Stories. Cassandra’s writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk

Discover what my other fellow blogger thought about Underwater Breathing by following the blogtour

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#Blogtour The Old You by Louise Voss @LouiseVoss1 @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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The Old You by Louise Voss  Orenda Books May 15th 2018

Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it
was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been
diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister
than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried,
begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble.
But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?

My Review

The Old You is described as ‘nail-bitingly modern domestic noir and a tense, Hitchcockian psychological thriller’ and I can honestly say it most certainly lived up to its billing.

It all started off with your average everyday happily married couple, except they are having to learn to deal with the husbands dementia diagnosis, the incoherent sentences, forgotten words and the loss of inhibitions. This couple is Ed and Lynn Naismith. Ed, is a retired GP, and significantly older than his wife, and Lynn, is deeply in love with Ed and about to embark on a new career at a music college. Everything on the surface looked ok, I thought to myself as I read and then wallop, suddenly I found myself plunged into a story of betrayal, intrigue and twist after twist after twist.

I soon discovered that the characters had secrets just simmering below the surface. There was Ed, struggling with dementia, a character I instantly disliked, something that didn’t seem right, something that I couldn’t quite figure out the reason why. There was his murdered first wife, her body never found, Ed implicated, but never charged, with no little or no evidence to back up the police’s theories. Did he kill her, did he get someone to do it for him, or was he just a grieving widower the victim of a most heinous crime.

Then we had Lynn, the second wife, stepmum to Ed’s son Ben, the person who put Ed back together, made him happy again. She is the supportive wife, committed to caring for Ed during his illness, yet I got the feeling that maybe she too had something to hide. She was a character that at the beginning I found quite frustrating, then as the story evolved I found myself admiring her tenaciousness, and dogged determination to discover the truth.

Their friends April and Mike, and figures from their pasts were a brilliant supporting cast. They enabled Voss to hoodwink the reader, to drop in a few red herrings, to set your head in a spin as every theory and thought you had was thrown out of the proverbial window and you had to start all over again.

The tension was never ending, the pace unstilting and the latter part of the novel had me wanting to turn the pages quicker than I could actually read the words so great was my need to unravel the truth.

The Old You is fantastically clever and has certainly raised the game in the world of domestic noir.

I would like to thank Orenda and Anne Cater for a copy of The Old You to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to take part in the blogtour

About the author

LOUISE VOSS

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals andcontemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Louise has an
MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crimewriting collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

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#Blogtour Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung #AlicePung @Legend_Press

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Lucy and Linh by Alice Peng  Legend Press April

Laurinda is an exclusive school for girls. At its secret core is the Cabinet, a trio of girls who wield power over their classmates – and some of their teachers. Entering this world of wealth and secrets is Lucy Lam, a scholarship girl with sharp eyes and a shaky sense of self. As she watches the Cabinet at work, and is courted by them, can Lucy stay true to herself as she finds her way in this new world of privilege and opportunity?

My Review.

Before I wrote my review I did a little background reading on the author Alice Pung, purely because I sensed from the first page that this novel was written by someone who had experienced much of what she wrote about.

I read that Pung was from an immigrant family who fled the Killing Fields of Vietnam for the safety of Australia and had to battle her way through numerous high schools attempting to fit into an alien world. Lucy her main protagonist was set a similar task, but after winning a scholarship is thrown into an entirely different world of wealth and class at Laurinda, a private girls school.

Written in the form of a letter to her best friend Linh, Pung immediately plunged me into Lucy’s world and I soon realised that Lucy had a life that would be difficult for the girls at Laurinda to even comprehend or understand. The descriptions of Lucy’s family were just wonderful, her parents naive in the ways of the country in which they now lived, convinced Laurinda would offer opportunities that they would or had never had. I could sense Lucy’s frustration at their lack of understanding of the various etiquettes of a class so alien to them, but she was also stoical, totally dedicated to her baby brother, Lamb and her sense of family first before everything else.

It is when Lucy is introduced to Amber, Brodie and Chelsea, otherwise known as ‘The Cabinet’ that the real differences between Lucy’s life and theirs became apparent. Allowed into their inner sanctum she slowly began to realise the power and influence the cabinet had over her fellow students and teachers. I could sense her inner turmoil as she felt herself falling under their spell, how her view of her family changed, her embarrassment at their traditional ways, their lack of wealth, and inability to speak english. What particularly struck me was the contempt they felt for her race and the almost racist way in which the cabinet, their families and even some of the teachers treated her. I wanted to shout at them, wanted to tell them to get off their pedestals, to treat Lucy with respect and not try to mould her into something she clearly wasn’t.

Events always seemed to conspire against Lucy but her strength and resilience shone through and I spent the latter parts of the novel willing her to rise above and fight for herself and her family.

Pung’s narrative is brilliantly compelling and her skill at writing purely from Lucy’s point of view throughout simply stunning. Lucy’s voice is distinctive, her character fantastically realised, the multiple layers slowly peeled back, to reveal her inner struggles and turmoil as she fights to rediscover herself.

Some events and parts of the novel may have been exaggerated for effect yet, there was a huge amount of realism, and a deeply personal examination of the main issues of racism, displacement and class. It was certainly an eye opener into the world of immigrants in Australia and the battles they have to face on a daily basis.

Lucy and Ling may be classed as YA, but would not be out of place on the adult fiction shelves, and I would highly recommend to all my friends and library customers.

Thank you to Imogen Harris and Legend Press for the opportunity to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Alice Pung is an awardwinning Australian author whose books include Unpolished Gem, Her Father’s Daughter and Laurinda. She has also written for the Guardian and the New York Times, among other publications.

The blogtour continues. Follow the other bloggers to discover their thoughts on Lucy and Linh.

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#Blogtour #Giveaway Star of the North by D. B John ~DBJohn @angelaontour @HarvillSecker

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Star Of The North by D.B John   Harvill Secker May 10th 2018

North Korea and the USA are on the brink of war 

A young American woman disappears without trace from a South Korean island.

The CIA recruits her twin sister to uncover the truth.

Now, she must go undercover in the world’s most deadly state. 

Only by infiltrating the dark heart of the terrifying regime will she be able to save her sister…and herself.

GIVEAWAY

Billed as the ‘most explosive thriller of the year’ Harvill Secker and Dead Good Books are thrilled to offer ten lucky readers the opportunity to read this amazingly thrilling novel and win a special edition proof copy.

For your chance to win just follow the link below and get retweeting!!!

Terms and conditions apply. Competition ends 23:59pm 14th May 2018

For full terms and conditions visit: https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/twitter-terms-conditions/

My Short Review

Before your begin this thriller, put everything on hold, and turn your phone off. Star Of The North is a novel that will hook you in, immersing you in the incredible story of three people, and it will not let you go until you have read the final page.

We meet Jenna Williams, a Korean/American and a lecturer in Foreign Affairs. A woman who has few friends, living with the trauma of her twin sister, Soo-min’s disappearance from a South Korean Beach in 1998. Against her better judgement, but hopeful that she can find the twin sister that she believes is still alive, she is recruited by the CIA and is soon drawn into a deadly game of politics with the hierarchy of the North Korean regime. She is feisty, brave, clever, and unflinching in her determination to find her sister.

Cho is a high ranking  North Korean official, soon to be promoted and bringing him one step closer to the despotic ruler that is Kim Jon-Il. He has all the trappings of a man in favour, a loving wife and son and a lifestyle many North Korean’s can only dream about. A trip to New York and an encounter with Jenna alters the course of his life forever. The consequences of his actions are truly shocking and John spares absolutely no details in his descriptions.

Finally we meet Mrs Moon and oh how I adored this character. Mrs Moon works the land until she decides to try her hand at selling her wonderful cooking at the the local train station. It brings her into contact with other traders, the local police, and a world of bribery, corruption and fear. She is the character that epitomises what it is to be a North Korean, it is a world of starvation, untold hardship and ultimately fear.

John’s narrative is just superb. The images that he conjured up in my mind were ones that seemed almost unbelievable, yet I just knew that there were strong elements of truth in what he wrote. The horror of the prison camps and the constant fear that North Koreans must live in is written about in graphic detail, yet it is never sensationalist, always relevant and in keeping with the story.

The tension is at times unbearable and the pace unrelenting with very little time to draw breath before John plunged into the next segment of the story.

Just when you think the tension is at its peak, John took it further, and the latter parts of the novel were breathtaking, leaving me quite exhausted!

Star Of The North deserves to be a huge success, it has everything you would want in a thriller and more. The characters are wonderful and John’s portrayal of a country closed to the west unflinching. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I would like to thank Angela McMahon and Harvill Secker for a proof copy to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

D B john

D. B. JOHN was born in Wales. He began training as a lawyer but switched to a career in publishing, editing popular children’s books on history and science. In 2009 he moved to Berlin, Germany, to write his first novel, Flight from Berlin. A visit to North Korea in 2012 inspired Star of the North. He lives in Angel, London.

Discover more reviews of Star of The North by following the blogtour.

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#Blogtour Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin @bonnie_pipkin @Legend_Press

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Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin  Legend Press 

Troubled. That’s seventeen-year-old Gen according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter, until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate a pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything. As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, the flimsy story of their undying love
begins to unravel. But it’s when Gen lets go of her past, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life.

My Review

Robin Wasserman, author of last years bestseller Girls on Fire describes Aftercare Instructions as  ‘A raw, riveting story of love and family and the strength to stay standing when both begin to crumble.’  This sentence brilliantly sums up the story of Genesis Johnson aged 17 and the aftermath of her abortion at Planned Parenthood. Abandoned by her boyfriend Peter, Genesis was expected to get herself home and just get on with it, but can anyone be normal after experiencing one of the most difficult days in their lives?

In Pipkin’s novel the answer is most definitely no. You see Genesis was no ordinary teenager. Her Mum suffers serious mental health issues, her father is dead, dying from a heroin overdose when she was very young and her younger sister resides with their Grandparents. Like so many teenagers today, Genesis is a carer, the parent rather than the child.

This is where Pipkin’s novel excels taking us to the very heart of Genesis. Her raw emotions as she stumbles out of the clinic leapt from the page, and I couldn’t help but feel my heartstrings being tugged at the utter desperation she felt at Peter’s abandonment.

As the reader I wanted to know how she got into this state and how or if she ever recovered.  Told in alternating chapters we had the present and in the other, a play script narrated the events that led up to the abortion. At once you could see both sides of Genesis’s character. The past, a happy Genesis discovering love for the first time, the present the harrowing struggles of a young teen. Her emotions and inner psyche are laid bare, the rawness shone through and Pipkin took me on a veritable emotional rollercoaster. The immense and uncensored detail were at times unsettling to read but totally in context, and extremely powerful and effective. Yet, it wasn’t all doom and gloom and Pipkin brilliantly balanced the utter depths of despair with glimmers of hope and renewal.

Genesis was supported by a veritable cast of characters that I both loved and disliked. Peter, the boyfriend was just hopeless and I really didn’t like him, finding him spineless and cowardly. I’m not really sure what I thought about Genesis’s Mum and her struggles with mental illness. Part of me felt huge empathy, another part felt frustrated that she was unable to support her daughter and to simply be her Mum and I am guessing this is how the author wanted me to feel.

Other characters play their part, in particular Seth who I loved for his boundless energy and positivity. I loved the way in which Pipkin used him as a means to show Genesis the possibilities that lay ahead for her, and accepted her for who she was, never expecting more than she was prepared to give.

The imagery and myriad descriptions are brilliant, both evocative and raw. The themes covered are presented in a realistic and non sensationalist manner, and would not be out of place in some teens life anywhere in the world. Classed as YA, I would certainly recommend to the older teens who visit my local library and its contemporary feel make it an excellent crossover novel.

It is is novel that will stay with me for a long time and I am so glad I took the plunge back into the YA genre.

Thank you to Imogen Harris and Legend Press for a copy to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the  blogtour.

About the author

Bonnie Pipkin Author

Originally from California, Bonnie now lives in Brooklyn. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, teaches literature courses at Kean University, officiates weddings, and looks after a very cute cat. Aftercare Instructions is Bonnie’s first novel.
Follow Bonnie at ww.bonniepipkin.com

The Aftercare Instructions blogtour continues until May 15th, make sure to visit my fellow bloggers and find out their own thoughts on this wonderful novel.

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#Blogtour Her Hidden Life by V.S Alexander @VSAlexander3 @Sabah_K @AvonBooksUK

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Her Hidden Life by V.S. Alexander  Avon May 3rd 2018

A captivating story of romance, danger and risking it all for love

A forbidden love. A deadly secret.

An absorbing, well-researched story that brings to life an extraordinary period in history’ GILL PAUL, bestselling author of The Secret Wife

It’s 1943 and Hitler’s Germany is a terrifying place to be. But Magda Ritter’s duty is the most dangerous of all…

Assigned to The Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat, she must serve the Reich by becoming the Führer’s ‘Taster’ – a woman who checks his food for poison. Magda can see no way out of this hellish existence until she meets Karl, an SS officer who has formed an underground resistance group within Hitler’s inner circle.

As their forbidden love grows, Magda and Karl see an opportunity to stop the atrocities of the madman leading their country. But in doing so, they risk their lives, their families and, above all, a love unlike either of them have ever known…

My Review

I love historical fiction and was particularly intrigued by the synopsis of Her Hidden Life, who knew that Hitler had a team of tasters who would sample his food for poison, risking their own lives to save Hitler and the Third Reich.

One of those tasters was Magda Ritter, who accepts a position at Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat, completely oblivious to her new  role . And what a wonderful character Magda was, beautiful, intelligent and to begin, just a little timid and unsure. As Magda cames to realise,  life at Berghof was never dull, filled with a certain amount of fear, all bowing and scraping to Hitler’s every need. It is her meeting with SS Officer Karl Webber that changes Magda’s life. and instills in her a will and determination to survive the war at all costs. Their relationship is captured moments away from the rest of the staff, until Hitler himself, takes an interest encouraging them to marry, and this is where, for me, the story took an altogether more interesting tone.

Through Magda’s eyes, Alexander, brought me up close and personal to Hitler and his inner sanctum in a way that I have not read before. There are vivid descriptions and details of Hitler, as he slowly becomes withered and broken, as the effects of a war he would never win take their toll.

‘His hair shone gray in the dim light, his face lined with dark ridges. He stopped, turned his head toward me and stared. The light in his eyes had vanished and his left arm shook’

Yet is is not only Hitler who suffers but also those around him and Alexander wrote brilliantly of the fear many felt, should they step out of line or make one little mistake. I  could feel Magda’s own fears as she struggled with her position, knowing  that the man she served was evil with little thought for the people of Germany. I was pleased that Alexander portrayed her as such a tenacious and brave women, who suffered greatly but had a steely determination to survive.

What really stood out was Magda’s unlikely friendship with Eva Braun.  I was quite surprised at my reaction to Alexander’s depiction, at times feeling sorry for a lonely and friendless woman. She was a woman who quite clearly adored and idolised Hitler, despite playing second fiddle to his warmongering and plans for world domination.  I did wonder how much she knew of the atrocities he masterminded or if she remained blissfully ignorant, blinded by love and Hitler’s charismatic and hypnotic personality.

Her Hidden Self did not shy away from the more unpleasant sides to war and in particular the hardships and unspoken violence the German’s themselves suffered. It is something we read so little about, instead focusing on the concentration camps and Hitler’s despotic rule. What few think about is the plight of the German people who endured countless bombing raids, lost their homes and members of their family and in some cases the violence women had to endure as the Russians advanced towards the end of the war.

What startled me most was reading the authors notes at the end, realising that Magda’s story was based on fact, making the novel all the more poignant and emotive.

The author may have used a certain amount of poetic license but that did not in anyway take away what is a startling and evocative novel of love and war.

Thank you to Sabah Kahna and Avon for a copy to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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V. S. Alexander is an ardent student of history and the arts and loves writing historical fiction with strong women protagonists. The author of several novels and short stories, Alexander’s first novel for Kensington Publishing was The Magdalen Girls, an Amazon best seller, set in 1962 Dublin. The author lives in South Florida where summer is never far away.

Follow my fellow bloggers and find out what they thought of Her Hidden Self.

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#Blogtour The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet @RebeccaLFleet @PoppyStimpson @TransworldBooks

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The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet  Transworld Books  May 4th 2018

‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

My Review

This is not your standard fast paced thriller, instead the events unravel slowly, pulling the reader first one way and then the other. It is primarily the story of a marriage, that of Caroline and Francis. Drug addiction and an affair have taken their toll and the house swap offers time away and a chance to recapture some of the intimacy and closeness they had lost. What Caroline does not factor in is the clinical, coldness of the house and when she starts to find objects that remind her of past events, their getaway becomes something altogether different.

Fleet was excellent at setting the scene, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the coldness of the house and its stark and minimalistic interior. It perhaps mirrored the coldness that Caroline felt towards Francis and Francis felt emanated from Caroline at times. It certainly made me question what actually happened for their marriage to be so fragile.

What I did like was Fleets decision to tell the story from three points of view, that of Caroline, Francis and the person who they swapped houses with. It gave great insight into their characters and added that little extra bit of intrigue.

I didn’t instantly warm to the characters and found Francis in particular, frustrating. Here was a grown man hooked on pills, letting his life and marriage fall apart around him and seemingly incapable of sorting himself out. It did make me feel sorry for Caroline and I can see why she sought comfort in another man. It didn’t stop me thinking that they were both quite selfish, especially with a young son stuck in the middle of it all.

And then we have the unnamed third character, an unsettling and very chilling narrator, who resided in Caroline and Francis’s flat. This is where I felt Fleet excelled, producing a character who seeks revenge for the past, but perhaps became uncertain as the story progressed about what they would actually achieve, and if it made up for the wrongdoings they believed was done to them.  Fleet was great at immersing me into the characters inner torment and even though I knew what they were doing was wrong I did feel a little sorry for them.

As I said at the beginning this is not your typical fast paced novel, but a novel where the author slowly built the tension and the drama. The flashbacks to the past start to build a picture and just when I thought I had worked it all out, Fleet threw in a surprise. It is a surprise that allowed Fleet to show the human emotion surrounding traumatic life events, the effect it can have on us and how we deal with the consequences.

I wasn’t prepared for the ending and it did take me by surprise, Fleet’s narrative brilliantly capturing the final scene, leaving me a little stunned. It was a perfectly fitting ending to a tense novel full of depth and emotion, and a totally unique approach to the traditional thriller.

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson at Transworld for a copy to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to take part in the blogtour.

About the author

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Rebecca Fleet lives and works in London. The House Swap is her first thriller.

There are lots of other fabulous bloggers taking part in The House Swap blogtour.

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse @katemosse @MantleBooks

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The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse  Mantle Books May 3rd 2018

Bringing sixteenth-century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties . . .

Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.

But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.

Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further.

Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power . . .

My review

Kate Mosse is hugely influential in the publishing world, largely due to to founding the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is also a hugely successful novelist.

Mosse’s novel Labyrinth was a phenomenal success followed by Sepulchre and Citadel. The Burning Chambers takes us back to Carcassonne and Toulouse and the French middle ages.

The year is 1562, the Catholic ruling King of France is waging war against the protestant Huguenots. In Carcassonne, live the Joubert family. Bernard, the Father, Minou the eldest daughter, Aimeris her brother and little sister Alis, Madame Joubert dead five years ago.

All seemed well until Bernard returned from his travels and now refuses to leave the house, forcing Minou to take charge of his small bookshop. Life  is about to get more complicated when a letter, with the word ‘SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE’ is delivered to the bookshop. Just what do the words mean, who is the she?

Elsewhere trouble is brewing, there is danger in every corner, and not all can be trusted as Piet Reydon, Huguenot rebel, is finding to his cost. A chance meeting with old friend Vidal, a high ranking Catholic clergyman and the question of the lost shroud of Antiroch leave Piet fleeing Carcassonne for Toulouse but not before a fleeting encounter with Minou. Their lives will become inextricably linked when they find themselves trapped in the city when ferocious fighting breaks out between the Catholics and the Huguenots.

In the small village of Puivert, a long hidden document threatens the status of its Mistress, Blanche de Bruyere who will stop at nothing to protect herself.

If your reading this and thinking this all sounds too much, then suspend that thought. Yes, there are several strands to the novel and yes it all sounds a bit complicated don’t be put off because this novel has everything.

Lets start with how wonderful the characters are.

We have our dashing hero Piet Reydon, desperate to liberate France from the tyranny of the Catholics, to let every man chose how and what religion they wish to follow. He is brave and courageous not afraid to face those who would see him dead.

Minou is our heroine, a young naive woman forced to grow up, to face upto her past and fight for her family. She is tenacious and driven, hugley strong in the face of great adversity.

We have two wonderful villains in Vidal and Blanche De Bruyere. Vidal intent on gaining power and authority in the French Catholic church stopping at nothing to get what he wants. He has a great partner in Blanche, obsessed with finding Minou and safeguarding her status to the point of insanity.

There are numerous other characters who play their part and enhance the whole novel, some adding a lighter touch in what can be quite a dark novel.

The historical detail is just brilliant. Mosse has obviously done her research but does not swamp the reader in too much detail. There is just enough information for you to understand the complexities of the conflict and how the characters represent each side.

The imagery is amazing and I particular loved the scenes towards the end which were so vivid and real I felt I could have been there.

The novel is long at 600 pages but at no point did it feel laboured or that I wanted it to end. It is hugely fast paced barely leaving the reader time to catch their breath before the next swathe of battle and intrigue.

It is a novel with everything, war, intrigue and love and I cannot wait for the next in the series. My Mum is a recent Kate Mosse convert and she is going to love it!

About the author

Kate Mosse, OBE, is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 38 languages. Her fiction includes the Languedoc Trilogy, Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007) and Citadel (2012), as well as The Burning Chambers (2018).

Kate is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, known as the Bailey’s Womens Prize for Fiction as of 2014, and in June 2013 was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. Kate was born in Chichester, and she now lives in Sussex.

Her Cold Eyes by Tony Black @TonyblackUK @bwpublishing @LinaLanglee

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Her Cold Eyes by Tony Black  Black and White Publishing  April 24th 2018

Abbie is missing, and her mother knows exactly who is to blame.

But nobody is listening.

When the case falls to DCI Bob Valentine he has no choice but to listen. Troubled by visions of a young girl’s desperate anguish and her mother’s heartbreak, Valentine soon finds himself immersed in the most harrowing investigation of his police career.

Its an investigation that leads him and his closest colleagues to uncover ritualistic practices inextricably linked to the highest echelons of society.  As the extent of the abuse, sacrifice and torture becomes clear, how can the police hope to protect the victims from their terrible fate? And how can they trap the guilty when to do so will bring down so many of those in power?

The bloodthirsty reality of Satanic ritual and his battles with those who would silence him take Valentine to a dark place where his world view is shattered, perhaps forever.

My Review

This is another one of those authors that I seemed to have by passed and waited until book four in the DI Valentine series before I have finally pickled one up to read.

Again,  I had to ask if I would have missed out any information regarding the characters and yes I had, but it did not in anyway spoil the novel. In fact it piqued my interest and I shall now read the previous novel to find out what happened to DI Valentine!

So who is Di Valentine? DI Valentine is now a Detective Chief Inspector, returning to work after a leave of absence. Married with two children, his wife is not best pleased at his return and their relationship is somewhat difficult. You just knew that his life was not going to get any easier both at home and at work and it was interesting to see how Black would balance the two sides of Valentine. It was almost as if as his marriage plunged into the depths of disrepair then so the murder investigation intensified and I did wonder if he would survive.

I loved Valentine’s sidekick DI McCormack, a strong woman who could easily have crumbled at what she had to deal with but maintained a professional poise throughout. She also had to deal with being promoted over a male colleague which was perhaps Black’s way of addressing the gender equality issue in the police force. If that was the intention then it was done very well.

Other characters both hinder and help with the investigation and there was something a little mysterious about DI Davis, brought in because of his prior knowledge of ritualistic abuse, that had me intrigued. I couldn’t quite work out what he was upto and his actions certainly provided the surprise and one of the high points of the novel.

The investigation into the Abbie’s murder and the uncovering of rites, rituals and abuse was pretty hard to read in some places. Black does not stint on details and it is hard to believe that a lot of what he has written does and has happened in societies around the world.

What made the story that much more chilling were the chapters narrated by Abbie and I could sense her fear and absolute horror at what was going to happen to her. It was great that Black didn’t portray her as weak and helpless, she had strength of mind, unwilling to accept that this would be her fate and to be brainwashed into the ways and rites of the others. I liked that she was the one that could ultimately, even though she was dead, bring about the downfall of the litany of abuse, and maybe prevent it happening to others through her actions.

The pace of the novel is unrelenting. From the first to the last page Black never let me, the reader, rest with revelation after revelation increasing the intensity and sheer horror of the ritualistic abuse.  The last few pages are fast and furious with the odd shock or to adding to the high drama and the ending left me wondering just what DI Valentine would get upto next

Her Cold Eyes was a great introduction to Scottish Noir and I shall definitely be revisiting very soon.

I would like to thank Black and White Publishing and Lina Langlee for a proof copy to read and review and inviting mybookishblogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Tony Black is the author of twelve novels. An award-winning journalist, he was born in Australia and grew up in Scotland and Ireland. Described by Irvine Welsh as his ‘favourite British crime writer’ Tony’s work took a turn away from the mean streets after the birth of his son. His Father’s Son is his first novel outside of the crime genre. Tony was shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize in 2014 and has been nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger six times.

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