Blog Tour and 5 Star Book Review for “Time Will Tell” by Eva Jordan #LoveBooksGroupTours

Blog tour for the highly anticipated third novel in the trilogy by Eva Jordan – the follow up to “183 Times a Year” and “All The Colours In Between”.  Many thanks to Love Books Group tours, Eva Jordan and Urbane Publications for the opportunity to take part.

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The Blurb – from the publisher

Writer, Lizzie Lemalf, and her loving but somewhat dysfunctional family are still grieving over the loss of a much-loved family member. Lizzie is doing her best to keep her family together but why does the recent death of a well-known celebrity have them all in a spin? The police suspect foul play; Lizzie and other family members suspect one another.

Lizzie begins searching for answers only to find herself being dragged back to the past, to 1960’s London to be exact, and to the former life of her father, that up until now she has never been privy to. Every family has its secrets but how can the past hold the key to a present day celebrity death? They say the past comes back to haunt you. Surely the truth will out? Maybe, but only time will tell…  

When I saw the final part of this trilogy was going to do the rounds on a blog tour, I just had to be a part of it.  Those of you who have followed my book reviews will know that I absolutely loved Eva Jordan’s first two books in the series, reading them back to back (you can find my review here – All The Colours In Between).  You simply must read the first books before embarking on Time Will Tell as the novel continues directly from the second and there is a large back story to be aware of.  Normally I write my own book summary, but in this case I am so wary of giving away spoilers, that I have just given you the publishers’ “blurb” above to wet your appetite!!

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Ms Jordan continues to tell the Lemalf family saga through the eyes of the family members, with different segments penned by different individuals.  This book gives a voice to more people though, alongside Lizzie, Cassie, Connor and Maisy, as Lizzie takes a trip back in time to her early childhood and before in her quest to unravel family history.

I loved hearing from her father, Salocin (Nicolas spelt backwards!) as he found his way into employment in 1960s London, found love and the value of friendship and loyalty.  Lizzie’s mother, Ellie, her Aunt Marie and Uncle Teddy also provide a narrative that both intrigues and fascinates Lizzie and the reader.  Their stories take us back to Clerkenwell, the City and the EastEnd as they fall in love and marry, then struggle to set up home and make ends meet.  Expect drama as the 60s tale unfolds across the narrative of the current day story – from early marriage and post natal depression to glamour, new homes and the murky world of organised crime and old style gangsters.  Warning – there are some descriptions of violence.

The characters continue to grow, both in age and personality – I still love the strong, yet poignant Lizzie and the now more mature Cassie (although her tendency toward saying the wrong expression is still there!).  The family dynamics remain dysfunctional yet loving, at times broken yet always fiercely loyal, both in the past and the current day.  This instalment of the Lemalf family saga involves an investigation, death and bereavement, some surprises from past and more recent relationships, all presided over by the wonderful head of the family Salocin.  I know that this is supposed to be the end….but I am sure there are some more stories left for Cassie, Maisy, Connor and the younger family members.  Please, Eva Jordan!

I cried and I laughed – I couldn’t put the book down and sat up late into the night to finish it.  The emotions that the characters put me through felt like a fairground ride – a true rollercoaster showing the myriad of family dynamics in technicolour! The last line has to go to Salocin though…..always remember “it’s not a life, it’s an adventure”.

Once again 5 stars!

Available from

Amazon

Waterstones

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Eva Jordan Profile PicEva Jordan is a published writer of several short stories and Time Will Tell is her third novel. Eva lives in a small town in Cambridgeshire with partner Steve and three of our four children, who are a constant source of inspiration – they are all teenagers, need I say more! Eva’s career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. However, storytelling through the art of writing is her true passion.

 

Find Eva:

Twitter : @EvaJordan

@urbanebooks

Website

Facebook

Instagram 

 

 

A Rare Chronic Illness, A Book Review and a Love Letter – “Leo and the Lightning Dragons” #LoveBooksGroupTours

This is a special post today and it feels fitting that it falls on Valentine’s Day.  It combines a very rare chronic illness alongside a review for a book that I hope you will agree is a labour of love.

Have you heard of Ohtahara Syndrome? No, me neither.  It is a very rare form of epilepsy and seizures  usually start before the age of 3 months, often in the first days after birth.  In fact after birth and the first signs of seizures, some mothers realise that their baby has been having seizures whilst still in the uterus.  This form of epilepsy does not respond well to traditionally used seizure medications and treatment is very difficult.  Many babies will be floppy, have difficulty feeding and suffer repeated daily seizures.  The prognosis is poor. (Epilepsy.org.uk)

Leo White is a little boy who has Ohtahara syndrome and suffers many seizures daily that are as yet uncontrolled. When I was asked to review this book that his mother has written for him, I was delighted to be able to.

Many thanks to Leo and his family, the publishers and Love Books Group Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review such a special book.

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Leo and the Lightning Dragons

Leo is a knight, probably the bravest knight, and he fights dragons.  But the dragons that Leo fights are not normal everyday dragons, they are huge, lightning dragons inside his head.  Everyone around Leo tries to help, but they can’t tell when the dragons might strike or for how long.  The people of the kingdom and Leo’s parents all think this is so unfair and they try all sorts of special actions to help destroy the dragons, but Leo doesn’t seem to be strong enough to shake them off.  But one day Leo becomes very angry and decides to fight as hard as he can, making him the bravest knight in the land.

This is a wonderful children’s book written with love and personal experience, and is beautifully illustrated by Gilli B.  I am an adult who is able to understand the analogies cleverly used by Leo’s mother to describe the seizures that her little boy fights on a daily basis.  The lightning dragons inside his head depict so well epileptic seizures, and I can feel the frustration that the potions from witches, the music from minstrels and the special food from the wizard can do nothing to help – so often medics are unable to find suitable treatments for chronic illnesses whether this be medication, complimentary therapies or special diets.

leo

But what of the child reading this book?  It is perfect to become a favourite bedtime story for the early years, with its pictures of knights, dragons, witches, wizards, kings and queens.

But it is also perfect for an adult to introduce to a healthy child the idea that some people have different battles and these are against things inside their own bodies.  This need not be done in a scary way and indeed it isn’t in the book, as Leo the knight shows just how someone can battle with their own demons….or dragons in this case.

Leo’s mum also suggests ways at the end of the book to make this a “sensory” story and really bring to life the battles – wonderful and inclusive for all young children, including those with additional needs.  What child wouldn’t love using foil to make crackling, lightning sounds, slime to be witches potion or blowing bubbles from the cauldron? And we are told not to forget the cuddles!  Find more ideas on the website.

adorable blur bubble child

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

The royalties for the book are being donated to the Childrens Hospices Across Scotland, who continue to support Leo and his family and many others like them.

Leo’s mum says “Every day, my husband and I are amazed by Leo’s sheer determination and refusal to give up and we could not be more proud of our boy, the bravest knight we’ve ever seen.”

This is a lovely book that brought tears to my eyes, but will bring hours of fun to so many children.  On Valentine’s Day what could be better than this beautiful love letter from parents to their brave little boy – a true knight!

5 Stars for both the story and the illustrations

red heart drawed white printer paper on pink surface

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Buy here:

Amazon:

Waterstones

Find on Twitter:

@FledglingPress

@leolightdragons 

Website: http://www.leoandthelightningdragons.com/

About the Book and Author

Leo and Mum

“Gill wrote the story before Leo’s first birthday. It was a difficult time and Leo was having huge numbers of seizures every day. Feeling that Leo deserved a happier story, one in which his strength and bravery was rewarded, Gill wrote one for him.

She approached Gilli B, a Fife based artist, after seeing her artwork online and loving her whimsical and quirky style. Although she was only originally commissioned to do a few illustrations, she actually loved the story so much she asked to illustrate the whole thing and Leo got his own ’book’ for his birthday!

The following year, Gill had packed his book for a visit to the CHAS Hospice Rachel House and came back one day to find that the nursing staff had read it and written the most amazing comments inside.

Bolstered by their enthusiasm, Gill approached Edinburgh author Peter Burnett for some advice on how to get the book published. He took the book to Clare Cain at Fledgling Press, who fortunately loved the book. Fledgling Press do not normally publish children’s books but made an exception in this case, to help raise awareness of Ohtahara Syndrome and CHAS – Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.”

Taken from the website

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My spot on the Blog Tour and my Book Review for Seven Deadly Swords by Peter Sutton #LoveBooksGroupTours

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The year is 1097 and 16 year old Reymond is the son of a French farmer, but he yearns to join the Christian Crusades to free Jerusalem from the Saracen enemy.  He runs away from home to join the troop of Charles as a young recruit and is soon embroiled in fighting, sieges and killing.  The troop gradually moves across Europe and Reymond bands together with a group who become his brothers-in-arms.

The Holy War takes some unexpected twists as the Tafurs – peasants dressed in sack cloth yet know to be barbarians – join their ranks and Reymond and his friends become entwined with one particular young man, Sebastien.  He appears to hold powers of sorcery and the men find themselves swearing an oath and taking part in Sebastien’s strange rituals during which he knights them (and himself) as the seven virtues – Patience, Kindness, Diligence, Chastity, Humility, Temperance and Charity – and bestows a specially made sword upon each of them.  Sebastien claims to have visions that show how the men will take the Holy land and defeat the Saracen, but Reymond begins to suspect that there is sorcery at play.

The men find their fortunes changed forever when they partake in one particular ritual that involves a curse to lead them down a dark and deadly path from which there may be no return.  Can the curse of their new personalities and their ever present swords be broken?

Seven Swords Pin

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by Love Books Group and the author to read this fantasy thriller and to be a part of this blog tour.

When I started this tale, I must admit to not knowing what to expect after reading the “blurb”.  This feeling only increased when the first few chapters jumped from the present day back to 1097 and then to 1982, yet the lead character seemed to be the same young man Reymond albeit with a series of other names (Patience and Wrath).  Time travel? Doctor Who? However as the tale moved on I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and came up with my own conclusion, and will leave you to do the same – although all is revealed.

I most enjoyed the elements of the book set in the time of the Crusades and felt that I was learning some history.  The author has researched well the Crusaders, the battles and sieges and their practices in order to make the book historically accurate – I found this when my interest was piqued by Mr Sutton and I did a little extra reading myself!  I wasn’t sure if the Tafurs existed, but found that there was indeed a large element of peasants and poor lay people who joined with the crusaders to fight the Saracen and are known by academics as Tafurs.  There may have been embellishment over the years about their appearance – wearing only sack cloth and being bare footed – and their cannibalism, but there are also ancient texts that describe the Tafurs as being considered barbarians by both the Crusaders and the Arabs (Saracens).  This might have been used as a military tactic by the Crusaders and the author makes use of this as cities are raided and there is talk of burning the enemy at the stake and eating human flesh.  I also established that there was indeed one considered to be the King of the Tafurs…..but as to sorcery, rituals and fantasy this may be something for the reader to decide!

Young Reymond grows from a boy to a man throughout the course of the book and within each century that we find him in.  I liked him as a character and even when he found himself having to carry out hideous acts, I was still routing for him.  The other “six” brothers-in-arms all have a back story, some more fleshed out than others (I loved Andros!) and I enjoyed reading the subtle transformation in their characters as they slowly took on their new personalities : Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Pride and Envy.  There are also two important secondary characters in the more recent incarnations of Reymond’s life – Fisher and Mari, the only female character – who play a vital role in the search for the elusive “book” that will provide the answer to remove the “curse”.  These characters have a more detailed back story and it is through their presence that the reader learns more of Reymond’s story and why a young man carries a sword in the modern day.

The story is fast and the action is definitely furious.  It jumps from century to century, from continent to continent and will keep you on your toes – but if you don’t do blood and gore then it may not be for you.  I think that reading on a Kindle makes it harder to flick back and forth to check what happened in a different part of the book, which I personally needed to do in order to recall an event that related to a new one!  No spoilers, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by some elements of the ritual that changed the personalities…..but then I remind myself that this is fantasy!!

Overall a really enjoyable fantasy thriller with some fantastic historical components.  Well worth a read if you enjoy something a little bit different.  I am definitely going to look out some of Pete Sutton’s other novels.

3.5 stars

Available from:

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Waterstones

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Peter SuttonPete Sutton is the author of three books: A Tiding of Magpies, a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales,’ Sick City Syndrome, an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives and Seven Deadly Swords – a historical fantasy thriller partly set in the crusades, partly set in the modern day.

 

Pete  has a not so secret lair in the wilds of Fishponds, Bristol and dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies. He’s had stuff published, online and in book form, including a short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies (Shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award 2017) and the novel Sick City Syndrome. He wrote all about Fishponds for the Naked Guide to Bristol and has made more money from non-fiction than he has from fiction and wonders if that means the gods of publishing are trying to tell him something. Pete is a member of the North Bristol Writers. (from website)

 

Find him:

On Twitter

Website  http://petewsutton.com/ .

Kensington Gore Publishing

Book Review: The Trial by John Mayer

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

I have always been drawn towards law dramas from books to TV to radio plays. This book which focuses on Scottish law sounded exactly my cup of tea, although I do not pretend to have any inside knowledge of the UK legal system! I did sit in the viewing gallery of the Old Bailey as a student, but I don’t think it counts!!

When an eminent Scottish judge is found dead in suspicious circumstances, the inner circles of the law lords actively look for a suspect ahead of any police investigation. A likely candidate is found in the shape of Brogan McLane, a working-class boy from Glasgow who has succeeded in entering the elite world of the law and been called to the Bar. He will never truly fit in with the Edinburgh elite law families, nor would he want to, but this sets him apart and singles him out. He is set up for the murder and calls upon all his strength and resources from his Glaswegian upbringing as his old friends help him to uncover enemies and evidence…..no spoilers!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the fast pace of this novel and was able to hear the different voices and accents of the characters – surely an indication of just how well the book is written. It is action packed and follows many twists and turns, uncovering a seedy world that infiltrates so many walks of life. The main character Brogan is tough yet believable, and the author gives us some glimpses of his tender side in scenes with his wife and a back story about their family. Yet he is never intimidated by the powers who consider themselves to be above the law and I think that his sense of justice is what sends him some unlikely sources of help as he tries to uncover the true identity of the murderer.

The information about the law courts are supplemented part way through the book with photographs of these Scottish buildings which I found to be a nice touch, along with a glossary of legal terms to help the reader out. This is my first book by John Mayer and I will definitely be looking out for his other titles. A great intriguing crime thriller that I give 5 stars. 

Thanks to The Book Club on Facebook.

Publisher: John Mayer

Available on Amazon here:

Author Biography

John Mayer (b. 1952) was born in Glasgow, Scotland at a time of post-WW2 austerity. But in 1963 when he heard The Beatles on Radio Caroline, his life path was set. Aged 14 he walked out of school because, in his opinion, he wasn’t being well taught. Every day for the next year, in all weathers, he cycled 9 miles to and 9 miles from the Mitchell Library in central Glasgow where he devoured books of all kinds. John Mayer
While still an apprentice engineer he was soon teaching men two and three times his age.
But in the 1970s he ‘dived off a cliff’ and set out to become a Record Producer. He built his own record company trading in 14 countries. After a court battle with global giants, he went to the University of Edinburgh and became an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. He acted for the downtrodden and desperate as well as Greenpeace International. His specialism was in fighting international child abduction.
As an author, John has written non-fiction, legal texts and articles; broadcasting to tens of millions of people on US and UK radio, TV and print media.
The Trial is the first novel in his Parliament House Books series. Set in Edinburgh, it’s an homage to Franz Kafka’s book of the same title. The Trial sees crusading Scottish Advocate, Brogan McLane, fight injustice casually delivered by Low Life in High Places in the Old Town.

Find John Mayer:

Goodreads

http://www.parliamenthousebooks.weebly.com/

Twitter

Blog tour and 4 Star Book Review “The Story after Us” by Fiona Perrin #LoveBooksGroupTours

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Sometimes the end is really the beginning….

Living in flats in the same building, Amelia and Lars are a couple starting out on life together with big dreams for their careers, marriage, a home and family.  They are in love and excited by all that life has in store for them.  Lars is improving his English, Ami is making headway in her career and they spend evenings in cheap eateries with friends Liv and Thor drinking house wine and laughing away the time.

Real life can have a habit of getting in the way of life dreams.  The children, Tess and Finn are born, business opportunities and commitments take Lars away more and more often, Ami is given the backing to set up her own advertising company.  But at home the laughter is being replaced with raised angry voices, the love is being replaced by resentment and mistrust and the perfect family is actually a normal family with all the stresses and joys that come with it.

Young Tess has become preoccupied with death and Ami finds herself called in to school to discuss her daughter’s playtime funeral processions.  The realisation that their lives have reached crisis point hits Ami when she returns home to find her son “buried” under a pile of cushions as her daughter conducts a funeral with the au pair nowhere in sight.  On pulling out her young son from near suffocation, Ami knows that something must change but she is still blindsided by her husband’s actions.

Thanks to Kelly at Love Book Group Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour!

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Story after us pin

This is a contemporary novel that tackles the difficulties of modern-day life – with particular focus on the breakdown of a marriage.  The chapters alternate between the current day (2017) and the start of Ami and Lars relationship in 2007, painting a picture of the development of a relationship running alongside its future breakdown.  Eventually the historical chapters have caught up with present day, and as such the author forces her characters to accept what is happening to them.

Ami is a strong central character, even when she is at her lowest ebb.  Her emotions are always just beneath her surface veneer and at times are so palpable.  I think that the author writes with sensitivity and clarity when showing us Ami’s hurt – hurt caused by those closest to her which can feel like betrayal – her husband, her parents, her boss.  Yet her own self-belief and love for her children keeps her swimming against the currents threatening to overwhelm her.

The cast of characters is colourful and very human.  I love Ami’s best friend Liv and the humour that she brings to every situation.  She is responsible for a potential big new client for Ami’s struggling agency, although her intent during a drunken conversation was to actually set her pal up on a blind date!  This introduces Ben – another interesting character with his own baggage, a broken marriage and children in a foreign country.  Young Tess and Finn are delightful, and the author puts words into these little mouths that any parent will smile at.  The grandparents also pay such an important role – I love Lars’ mother Ulrika and her “cold” house – and demonstrate that extended family, whether fully present or not, influence family life.  As a mum I couldn’t help byt laugh at the descriptions of the school gate, the relationships between the mothers and I love the descriptions of the Smugums!!  I definitely came into contact with them and saw the looks of disbelief and pity when I failed to wake up from a night shift to collect my kids from school!

There is a lot of sadness in witnessing this relationship breakdown and whilst I was routing for Ami and Lars, it became hard to see a way back from their difficulties.  The author asks how often a marriage continues after the love has gone – not that initial heady, lustful love but the deep love that grows and develops over time for a partner.  How may relationships are based on loving a partner for being the parent of your child, but no longer loving them for being themselves?  I found myself feeling a whole range of emotions as I followed Ami on her journey – but will give no spoilers as to how things work out for her and Lars.

A very modern tale reflecting current life so well – the good times alongside the difficult and never shying away from the emotive, aspects of modern relationships. Funny, engaging and poignant, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, found it easy to read and definitely recommend it.

4 stars!

Available from

Amazon:

Barnes and Noble

WHSmith

About the Author

Fiona was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and
marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis
Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us.FionaPerrin author pic 2meg
As a mother and stepmother to four teenagers while holding down a fairly full-on job,
she wanted to write grown-up commercial fiction about messy, modern love and
families – with all their heartbreak, humour and hope.
She grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire,
and now she writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the
end of the Lizard Peninsula, back in Cornwall. She’s currently there, writing her
second novel for Aria.

Find Fiona here:

Website – www.fionaperrin.com

Twitter

Facebook

Book Review and Blog Tour for “The Water and The Wine” by Tamar Hodes #LoveBooksGroupTours

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Many thanks to LoveBooksGroup and Kelly for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour.

It is the 1960s and a group of young writers and artists gather on the Greek island of Hydra. Leonard Cohen is at the start of his career and in love with Marianne, who is also muse to her ex-husband, Axel. Australian authors George Johnston and Charmian Clift write, drink and fight. It is a hedonistic time of love, sex and new ideas.

As the island hums with excitement, Jack and Frieda Silver and their young family join the community, hoping to mend their broken marriage. However, Greece is overtaken by a military junta and the artistic idyll is threatened.

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There will be few keen readers who have not heard of Leonard Cohen and his infamous muses, but I confess that I knew very little of the artistic community on Hydra in 1960s beyond this.  I have always been fascinated by the likes of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury set, so the premise and promise of this novel immediately had appeal for me.  Whilst reading the novel, I have also done some background reading of the many articles available describing the actual artistic community and the island of Hydra through the 1950s, 60s and into the Greek Military Junta (the Regime of the Colonels) of 1967-74.

It is clear that the author draws on her own memories and experiences as a child living on this idyllic island and she has also researched the period and characters in great detail.  However the reader must remember that this is a fictional work depicting the lives of real people and Ms Hodes does not pretend that the thoughts and actions of the characters are those of the real people.  This is a difficult balance to strike in such cases to be both engaging and interesting, without rewriting history.

Tamar on Hydra

Tamar on Hydra as a child

I loved this novel and probably read it too quickly in order to write this review!  The beauty of the island, the scenery and the way of life are captured in this well crafted piece.  To be able to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and to taste the lemons used in the food and drink, for me indicates that the writing is descriptive and realistic.  The pace is slow and charming, encapsulating the life being lead by both the Greek locals and the expat community of artists.  Ordinary elements of life are catapulted into something extraordinary.

Human relationships are central to this plot – those of lovers, spouses, the artist and muse, families, friends.  The female characters are strong throughout from the “real” Charmiane and Marianne to the “fictional” Frieda to the Greek women such as Evgeniya, Maria and Kyria Sophia.  These wonderful Greek ladies are recognised and praised for their devotion and hard work whilst in the employ of the expats – as maids, nannies and eventually becoming extended loved and trusted family.  They might have shaken their heads and not understood the way of life that these brightly coloured artists pursued, but they cared for them with wonderful home cooking, maintaining their homes and loving their children.

The complex myriad of human emotions are explored, particularly intense in the lover/muse/triangle relationship of Leonard Cohen, Marianne and her ex husband Axel.  Both men are writers are in this tale they share many traits – I am not sure whether they are typical of a writer or not, but have witnessed something of their emotion and devotion to their art in my own teenage daughter when she is drawing and painting.  Forgetting to eat, to being unable to concentrate on normal life and to pouring everything into the creative process.  I found the dedication to their work both fascinating and bewildering in equal measures – yet I can understand the passion for work that one loves, as I was like this about head and neck cancer nursing and palliative care!

I have read an article by one lady who knew these real people in the 1970s and I do understand that some who were there might find it presumptuous to imagine the feelings and thoughts of real people, some still living.  But Ms Tamar is clear from the outset that this is a work of fiction, and in my opinion it deserves to be read slowly to immerse oneself in what is clearly a rather lovely work of literature.

Five stars!

The book is currently available on Kindle at Amazon for just £1.79! Click on image….

About the Author

Tamar HodesGrowing up, Tamar Hodes’ neighbours were Leonard Cohen, his girlfriend Marianne, and other writers and artists on the Greek island of Hydra. Her parents took her to the island to pursue their own art and writing. However the bohemian nature of Hydra destroyed their marriage. The Water and the Wine is a fictional account of those days.;Tamar Hodes’ first novel Raffy’s Shapes was published in 2006. She has had stories on Radio 4 and others in anthologies including Salt’s The Best British Short Stories 2015, The Pigeonhole, Your One Phone Call, the Ofi Press, MIR online and Fictive Dream. Tamar was born in Israel and lived in Greece and South Africa before settling in the UK. She read English and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge. For the past thirty-three years she has taught English in schools, universities and prisons.

Find Tamar on:

Twitter

Goodreads

and at:

HookLine Books: Website &  Twitter

 

Further reading:

Leonard Cohen Forum

Australian Bohemians on Hydra

A Pilgrimage to Leonard Cohen’s Greek Island Retreat

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour and Book Review – “Arcam” Debut Novel from Jason Minick #LoveBooksGroupTour

So the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that my book review earlier today should have been on the blog tour yesterday – so sorry Effie Kammenou!

But I am also delighted to be on the Blog Tour for Debut Thriller ARCAM by Jason Minick – thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for the opportunity.

Arcam

The Book Blurb

A FAST-PACED CRIME/CONSPIRACY THRILLER THAT IS FULL OF SUSPENSE:

DCI Jack Robson believes he is hunting a kidnapper…

Away from his posting in London, Robson is asked to lead an investigation in the south west of England. But what begins as a baffling local kidnapping mystery, quickly escalates into something far more sinister.

In pursuit of the perpetrators, DCI Robson joins forces with Inspector Emma Wilson and the rest of the regional CID team. Together, they attempt to make sense of the lack of evidence or motive, eventually getting drawn to the tiny island of Steep
Holm, in the Bristol Channel.

As the investigation progresses, Robson, Wilson and their colleagues find themselves facing something far beyond normal detective work. Unthinkable connections lead them to a conspiracy, so great it could change the course of humanity. The question is, can they intervene before it’s too late to prevent the appalling future that potentially lies ahead …

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What a read!  Initially the book appears to be a fast detective thriller following the spate of kidnappings, but quickly there are darker undercurrents emerging.  I like the fact that Robson is a fully rounded character from the off as a background story about his family is quickly shared with the reader.  This history shapes him and his decisions within his detective work, but also his emotional decisions and his working relationships.

This is explored throughout the book as the relationship and bond between Robson and his Inspector Emma Wilson develops.  The happenings that they stumble upon and situations that they find themselves in require honesty and trust – although Wilson at times does struggle with some of Robson’s decisions that aren’t quite by the books.  I admire both characters – they are strong, determined, bloody minded and physically capable even if they do encounter several visits to the hospital!!

The descriptions of the region are picturesque with landscapes that include the coastline, a nature reserve and the sea.  But the real adrenaline rush comes from the suspense and the sudden realisation of what is going on – the use of suspense and critical language is superb.  I applaud Mr Minick for such a fantastic quality of writing and catching such a successful feel of anticipation, fear, excitement and dread in his debut novel.  I believe that the relationship between the two detectives has a long, long way to run yet – I can’t wait for the next in the series!

I love it! 5 Stars

Available from:

Amazon

About the Author

Jason Minick is an engineer living in the south-west of England. He has a passion for the written word and reading.JM photo.jpg
Jason is a fan of many genres. His debut novel, Arcam, is a crime/conspiracy thriller set in his favourite part of the UK.
He lives with his wife, Emma, and his three children, Lucy, William and Sophie. The family share their home with two very small dogs, Digby and Tizzie.
The author is currently working on the second book in the DCI Robson series, the sequel to Arcam.

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Blog Tour and Book Review – Chasing Petalouthes, The Gift Saga by Effie Kammenou #LoveBooksGroupTours

I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the final book in The Gift Saga trilogy Chasing Petalouthes.

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Chasing Petalouthes – butterflies – is the final book in this wonderful family saga following the generations of Greek families as they settle in New York.  In this chapter, the younger generation – third generation – are followed through teens, adolescence and young adulthood.

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Evvie, daughter of Sophia,  has experienced more tragedy than a young girl should ever endure, having lost both her father and a most beloved grandmother at a young age. Her rebellious ways are her only defense to mask the ever-present pain in her heart. Closing herself off emotionally, Evvie enters college life with a determination to follow her chosen path alone.  She might be a talented young dancer, like her mother, but her love for the family vineyard is strong and she discovers just how much she wants this life on a visit to France.  Her determination to work and grow her family business is tested over these tender years as relationships develop and difficult choices must be made.  She also begins to understand her Greek routes, the legacy of the soil and vines that is within her blood, during a visit to her great grandmother, Yiayia Sophia in Athens.

During this time Evvie remains resolute that she will not allow her emotions to sway her – she will not allow her heart to open up to love.  Even when a trip to the Greek island Cephalonia, with Yiayia Sophia, seems to show her where her true happiness and future could lie, she denies herself and a certain young man who she has known since college.

Stella, Demi’s daughter, is two years Evvie’s junior and struggling at high school to “fit in”.  She has a crush on a fellow student, and whilst he is happy to take her to Prom and will stand up for her honour, he makes it clear that Stella is not the girl for him whilst they are growing up.  She is the sort of girl who needs a steady relationship – a happy ever after – he tells her, and he is not ready for this.  Whilst Stella appreciates his honesty, at 16 this is a harsh truth to hear and she experiences betrayal from a friend during this time.  Meanwhile it feels to Stella that her siblings and cousins are all talented and achieving their dreams, whilst she enters college and drifts from one course to another with no real puprose.

She is insecure, a little naive and has no idea just how attractive she is.  Stella is smitten when an older, handsome, worldly young man shows interest in her and she believes that she has found love. But as his behaviour becomes more and more controlling, Stella’s family and friends become concerned that Stella has fallen into an abusive relationship.  Will she accept the situation and the help on offer before something terrible happens? 

“Chasing Petalouthes (Chasing Butterflies) is the coming of age story of two flawed, young women who push their way out from the confines of the cocoons they’d built around themselves and discover how to soar.”

I am going to start by saying what I always do…..please read the first two books in the series and set on a journey with these characters.  You might have read my reviews for Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina and will already know how much I have enjoyed this series.  In fact I will go so far as to say that I feel emotionally invested in the characters.

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My greatest enjoyment from the trilogy has been the continuing story of the generations of women from two families and friends that become one : Anastacia, her daughter Sophia and granddaughter Evvie;  Soula, her daughter Demi and grandaughter Stella; close friends, the Honeyhill girls, and their children.  The roles of these strong leading women has been quite inspirational and I see the driving force of the family in the strong Greek woman, who loves to feed her family in my own great friend Evi.

This chapter of the story examines the adolescent years of the younger generation and the author shares the highs and the lows with brutal honesty.  Emotions run high as a teen/early twenty something and we have all experienced the intense joy and sadness that come with the smallest of experiences.  The young ladies in this tale are no different to any others and they feel intensely.  As a palliative care nurse in my previous life, I was particularly interested in Evvie and how the author dealt with her grief.  Something I learnt early in my nurse training (whilst losing many young men in our London taching hospital to Aids in the late 80s) is that there is no “right” way for grief, no timeline, no “one fit for all”.  Yes, there is the Kubler Ross stages of grief, but everyone is so different and Ms Kammenou depicts this beautifully with Evvie.

By the time she is a teen, this young lady has experienced major loss and in order to deal with this she has built an emotional wall around herself.  To the outside world her moods and strange wardrobe choices might seem like those of a “difficult, hormonal” teen, but they are so much more than this.  I applaud the author for her handling and eventual breakdown of Evvie’s grief,  the way in which she slowly realises that she cannot protect herself from the possibility of pain and loss – and in fact in the process may be denying herself love and joy.

Difficult topics are once again tackled in this family saga – suicide, depression and mental health, domestic abuse, death, bereavement.  Perhaps this list should also include falling in love, sexuality & sexual relationships, and the complexities of family life.  Both Stella and Evvie are great role models as they experience the highs and some extreme lows of growing up (no spoilers!), and both come out the other side as mature, more confident and happy young women.  I am not going to say that they have grown up – I’m not sure that we ever finish growing up and I believe that Yiayia Sophia shows us this in her observations of her life.

I could write so much more here, but I think the important thing is to say that I loved it just as much as the first tow books, and I really didn’t want it to end…..surely there must be another chapter waiting in the wings about young Cia, Ms Kammenou?  There are delicious recipes peppered throughout the book, including some French treats when Evvie is dancing in Paris – there is even a recipe for the delicious lemon chicken and potatoes that my own dear Evi makes.  But my kids say that I could never compete!

Five stars for this engrossing, beautifully written contemporary family saga.

Available from:

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About the Author

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.cover photo 2

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

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The latest in The Lambeth Group series – Book Review “Tears of Fire” by Gordon Bickerstaff

When given the opportunity to read the next book in The Lambeth Group series, I couldn’t refuse as I had loved the others. The opening scenes start with the female lead Zoe Tampsin apparently about to lose her life have finally been brought to “justice” by an elite group of British statesmen. A death sentence hangs over her…
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However it would not be a Lambeth Group thriller if Ms Tampsin and her partner, scientist Gavin Shawlins were not at the centre of the plot. They are soon embroiled separately in the same case – involving the health clinic of one Dr Traherne and his “employees” nurses Seng and Jung. It becomes apparent that these ladies are not the average caring nurses one would expect to find in a hospital!

This fast moving drama draws in the CIA, the British government and North Korea – just for starters. Zoe and Gavin suddenly find that it is not only their lives that could be in danger as they delve into a web of mass murders, revenge killings and international political relations – their own loved ones have become targets and they must make some difficult decisions to bring down the antagonists, but also to keep their families safe. No spoilers!!

If you have read my previous reviews, you will know that I have become a huge Gordon Bickerstaff fan – and this book does not disappoint! It really is action packed from the start, and whilst it could be read as a stand alone, I can’t recommend enough that you read the previous books to understand the back story for the characters. I might have mentioned once or twice before that I really admire the choice of such a gutsy, strong female character to lead the cast and she is joined again by Joss, the equally ballsy female CIA agent who has featured before.

The antagonists are also extremely strong women from a very different culture. I like the way that the author generates a very different feeling in the reader for these women though – they are repugnant in their ruthless actions, their motivation and their complete lack of compassion for anyone who gets in their way. Yet they are prepared to “hide” in plain sight as carers, people to be trusted, and even in this role they will exploit the vulnerable for monetary gain under the guise of euthanasia.

In each book of this series, Gavin Shawlins has grown in character for me. He is becoming more sure of himself, having faith in his convictions and pushing himself beyond his fears. I enjoyed seeing a new strength of character when he feared for the safety of his niece, but also watching his relationship with Zoe continue to grow in trust and mutual respect. The drama and pace are present from the opening chapter of this book right up until the thrilling finale, and Gavin proves h
is value to Zoe once more – although she might not admit to this!

Think of action packed political and spy investigative thrillers (Bond, Mission Impossible, Jack Ryan, Spooks), put a woman in the driving action hero role and follow the twists and turns – this is the speed and intrigue of the latest Lambeth Group thriller. I was hooked from start to finish and was genuinely taken by surprise as some of the plot twists revealed themselves. Really great read that I thoroughly recommend!

Thanks to The Book Club on Facebook and the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Available from

 “Readers’ Favorite” GOLD medal winner in Fiction-Thriller-Conspiracy Thriller

About the Author

GFB picI was born and raised in Glasgow but spent my student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, I learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and I cut the grass in the Meadows. If I ran the lawnmower over your toes – sorry.

I learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before I retired to write fiction. I like DIY and I do some aspects of DIY moderately well and other aspects not so well. I live with my wife in Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.

I write the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.

I enjoy walking in the hills, 60s & 70s music, reading and travel.

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Book Review of Anna Mazzola’s atmospheric thriller “The Story Keeper”

The year is 1857 and a young woman has escaped her father’s home in London to travel alone to the Isle of Skye. With fond memories of holidays spent on the Scottish island with her late mother, Audrey Hart has applied for the position of assistant to an elderly woman who collects and documents the folk tales of the local people. Very quickly Audrey starts to encounter strange happenings on Skye as several young women disappear in extraordinary circumstances, which local people link to folklore tales and beliefs. The fear and suspicions of the people prevent them from speaking honestly with Audrey, but she is drawn to uncovering what has happened to these girls and also to explore her own mother’s death nearly 20 years ago. Unwittingly Audrey is about to wade into an intricate web of secrets, lies and human stories.
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The Story Keeper Book Review

Anna Mazzola is a new name to me, but the description of this historic novel and the beautiful cover picture drew me to it. I should know better right – judging a book by its cover?! But from the outset this novel did not disappoint.

The style of writing is descriptive and atmospheric giving a real feeling of the extremities of an isolated, windswept Scottish isle in the nineteenth century. The landscapes are bleak, the weather tough and at times I could both feel and taste the surroundings. For a Londoner like Audrey the Isle of Skye is both a shock and yet invitingly different in its isolation – she wanted to embrace the huge changes in her surroundings and learn to understand how to live so far from mainland civilization.

Bubbling beneath the surface of the novel is an undercurrent of dark, Gothic suspense. In true Victorian style there are sinister brooding characters and an old, ghostly mansion where the elderly folklore collector resides. The story would not be complete without some paranormal incidents and inexplicable events which seem to be deeply entwined with the old folklore. But alongside this the author writes with historical knowledge and integrity as she describes the consequences of the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries – absentee landlords, the poverty of the crofting communities, the disease and a failing economy.

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Ms Mazzola gave the lead roles to strong women, despite the era being patriarchal, and the main character Audrey grows in strength and stature throughout the novel. She knows her own mind – she is not deterred by the initial reluctance of the locals to accept her nor by the difficulties she encounters in trying to solve some mysteries surrounding the death of her own mother on Skye years before. Audrey fights against the constraints of Victorian society from the time she escapes London and the reasons for running, to the inaccurate assumptions made about her by the men on Skye.

Initially I wasn’t sure that I could get into the book, but within several chapters and the brewing of mystery, I was hooked. There are twists and turns throughout, some directly linked to local folklore and others to the characters and location, and enough suspense to drive the novel forward to some surprising conclusions.

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Picture from WrittenbyMorgan on Paperblog.com (see article below)

 

It may even tempt you to visit Skye yourself – I particularly enjoyed reading about one blogger’s trip with a Scottish backpacking company to the Isle of Skye here!

If you enjoy a historical, atmospheric thriller then this is the book for you. I will be looking for the author’s other novels and this novel comes highly recommended.

4.5 stars!

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through TBC on Facebook and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Anna Mazzola

Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, won an Edgar Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown in the UK. The Times called it ‘sizzling’. The Mirror described it as ‘a brilliant debut.’

Her second novel, a dark fairy tale about a collector of folklore and missing girls on the Isle of Skye, will be published by Headline in July.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before accidentally becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.

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Website: https://annamazzola.com/

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