Disclaimer: Thanks to Love Books Group and the author for the copy of this book and the opportunity to take part in this tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The year is 1981 and young couple Rona and Craig have spent an inheritance on a large Victorian house in Edinburgh. Ex-lawyer Rona is excited to turn Wardie House into a luxury care home so sets about exploring and planning, and in the process she uncovers some history of the house and its inhabitants. The cellar and attic give up secrets from dark corners and when the sea fog descends the new owners hear strange, disturbing sounds.
There is only one close neighbour – glamorous and sophisticated American Martha – and she immediately wants to make friends with the young couple, sharing with them that the big house has been the centre of several unhappy scandals in the past. But when asked about her own life, she is secretive and reluctant to speak, giving up conflicting details of her life before coming to Scotland.
Return to the Newhaven district of Edinburgh in the late 19th century and 14 year old Jessie has found herself the centre of gossip and accusation, following the loss of a fishing boat in a storm. Blamed for the death of the fisherman by superstitious villagers, Jessie is thrown out of her home and is sent to Wardie House, the poorhouse. The home is run by the Governor and Matron, characters who rule with an iron fist and create a harsh, severe life for the many inmates of the poorhouse. Jessie begins to suspect that all is not as it seems, particularly with one of the older women, and when Jessie’s only friend finds herself in trouble, Jessie plays detective and unpicks secrets.
These secrets directly link 1898 with 1981, but it will be down to Rona and Jessie to unravel them.
I was sent a paperback copy of this novel, and whilst I am always grateful to be sent an electronic copy, there was something special about holding a book in my hands. The artwork on the cover is immediately striking and gives a hint of the haunting tale inside. Ms Lawrence alternates the book chapters between 1981 and 1898, a concept which works well to build up and to link the two parts of the story. As someone who has a tendency to flick back and forth between times, rereading sections and checking on memories, I was very pleased to be reading a paperback rather than my Kindle!
The book is well written and very easy to read. The author uses some beautiful descriptions for the Scottish scenery and I was transported to a place where I could feel the sea on my face and the thick mists swirling around the house. My favourite descriptive writing can be found using every sense in the scenes in the coal cellar and smugglers’ tunnels….no spoilers here!
The characters are all important within the storyline and in each of the two timelines there is a strong leading female character. Personally I enjoyed Jessie’s timeline the most and was able to feel her emotions and character growth as she learnt the art of survival in the poorhouse. She was used to hard work amongst the fisherfolk, but the poorhouse presented her with a very different set of challenges and I loved seeing her develop into a steely young woman, prepared to fight and protect those she loved. This is also something that is mirrored by Rona in her storyline as she learns more about the mysterious Martha, her husband Craig, the residents of the nursing home and also herself.
This is a novel that manages to incorporate the historical with the psychological and weaves a tantalising tale around haunting secrets and painful truths. The author manages to keep the suspense running throughout, whilst slowly but surely linking the timelines, until the actions of one are revealed to have dramatic consequences for the other. A great tale which is both eerie and moving in equal measures.
I found this book gripping, became invested in the characters and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Cookery writer and novelist Sue Lawrence was born in Dundee and brought up in Edinburgh, where she now lives, having lived in many places including the French Pyrenees, Ost Friesland in Germany and northern Finland. She trained as a journalist with DCThomson after an Honours degree in French from Dundee University.
She has written 17 cookery books including Book of Baking and A Cooks Tour of Scotland. Her latest cookbook is A Cooks Tour of the Scottish Islands, due out in August 2019.
She specialises in traditional Scottish food and Baking and has written for various newspapers and magazines since winning BBC Masterchef in 1991.
She moved into writing Fiction recently: her second novel, The Night He Left, was published in April 2016. Her latest novel, Down to the Sea, will be published in 2019.
About the writer’s work
Having trained as a journalist, Sue Lawrence began writing cookbooks and newspaper and magazine columns. She now writes both Fiction and cookery books and attends many book festivals around the country, talking on both subjects, but mainly nowadays on fiction (though always happy to talk Cake too!).
For some time now I have been looking for a garment that would give my ever dislocating shoulders some support and yet that I would also be able to actually put on without dislocating said shoulders! More of this below. The Active Posture products were recommended to me and the company gave me a posture vest to trial in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Posture clothing: all you need to know
It can be difficult to keep an upright posture throughout the day, which is where posture clothing from ActivePosture® can help. Posture clothing activates muscle memory to help you achieve an improved, upright posture.
Posture clothing can be a comfortable and practical solution for problems induced by poor posture, or it can act as a supplement to training, exercise and physical therapy. Your posture has an influence on your physical health and overall well-being, so having aligned posture benefits us during work, training and in everyday life.
How does posture clothing work?
At ActivePosture.co.uk you can purchase clinically tested and medically approved posture clothing from leading manufacturer, AlignMed®. Our products are inspired by the concept of Kinesio-taping, which stimulates muscles, improves blood circulation and can aid in maintaining an aligned posture. Our posture clothing can be worn in everyday situations, whether it is during physical activities or when you are stationary.
Who is posture clothing suitable for?
Pretty much everyone can improve their posture from wearing posture clothing. It is also particularly beneficial to supplement physiotherapy and training, however, if you have a recent injury, we recommend consulting a physiotherapist or doctor before use.
ActivePosture offer products for both men and women in several different styles and colours. There is a classic v necked vest top, in petrol blue, white or black for gents or blue, nude, white, black or burgundy for ladies. A zipper fronted vest is available in both black and white for gents and ladies. There is also an AlignMe Interactive bra available in 4 colours.
The website gives clear instructions to measure for your posture vest and suggests that if between sizes you should opt for the smaller as the top must be snug. At 5 feet 8 inches and taking a 34 A/B bra, I wear a UK size 12 and ordered a Medium which fits well. I can’t comment for fit for ladies with a larger bust size, but please be aware that the vest is not fitted with cups.
My vest arrived quickly and was beautifully packaged, creating an excellent first impression for the product inside. The vest itself is made from a mixture of nylon, spandex and polyester and beautifully constructed with Neuroband support straps throughout the lower neck, shoulder and back area. These bands are all made from different levels of elasticity and exert different pressures on the body. I had requested a zipper version for ease when putting the vest on and taking it off – this is because I have recurrent dislocations, arthritis and chronic pain particularly in my right shoulder.
My Trial Period
I have had my vest since the beginning of February and was advised by the company to gradually build up the wearing time. The recommendation is to start wearing for an hour per day, but as I have a specific condition that means my connective tissue and joints work differently to the norm, it was suggested that I use it for 30 minutes per day.
The vest does feel tight initially and the shoulders need to be fitting correctly – if the vest is the correct size it is possible to feel a gentle pull across the shoulder blades and muscles, and this increases if the wearer begins to round their shoulders. There is also support around the lower back lumbar region too.
After building up wearing time over a 2 week period, I then opened a drawer and suffered a severe (even by my standards) dislocation which left my arm hanging low, immobile and in a great deal of pain. It took approx 2 weeks before the humerus would even pretend to stay in the socket…….and most days it continues to slip out as I cough, sneeze or just move! During this initial fortnight my pain was too severe to wear anything snug, but I had a long planned theatre trip and made the decision to wear the vest in order to try to support my shoulder – my main reason for wishing to trial the product.
I found the ActivePosture product to be of a high quality and very comfortable to wear. I have washed it several times, following the manufacturer’s instructions and it has maintained the shape and washed very well.
Please remember that my anatomy is slightly different and I am looking at the product for a different support – but I believe that for pure posture support and to run alongside physio programmes, this product works very well. I have worn the vest whilst sitting both at a table whilst typing and also relaxing in an easy chair and was definitely able to feel the posture support that it encourages.
I am not unrealistic and did not expect the vest to hold my shoulder in socket or to prevent my dislocations. If only it were so simple! My physio has always said that when dealing with my shoulders he must forget all that he has been taught, and instead work with me in the opposite way to how he would treat everyone else!! But I had been hoping that the vest would offer my joints and lower neck some support and I am delighted to report that it does. I have not worn the vest whilst my shoulder is completely out of joint – to be honest it is difficult to wear any top – but I have been wearing it when the shoulder/s are in the normal (for me) state of constant subluxing. My preference is without a bra underneath. I have found that the top acts rather like a compression garment and offers my stretched muscles and ligaments gentle support, whilst I hope also encouraging the muscles to do a little work themselves. (Please note that I do regular exercises when I am able to prevent too much deconditioning).
I have also noticed support across the lower neck where I have several vertebra that have a tendency to “pop” in and out. This leaves me at times with a “dowager’s hump” and I genuinely believe that the Neuroband support mechanisms in this vest have helped with better positioning and pain control. Many of you will also be aware that I have had major surgeries on my lumbar spine over the years, and a very pleasant surprise has been that this vest also gives me support and compression around this region – gentle compression (actually sometimes full on pressure!) really helps manage my nerve damage and pain.
So what of that theatre trip? Whilst still in an immense amount of pain and needing morphine for pain management, the vest helped me to sit through a loud and vibrating musical theatre experience. Since then I have also worn it to cinema film showings and out to dinner – it sits neatly and snugly beneath clothes and I have increased my wearing time. It is important to understand that the vest should be used in normal circumstances as an aid to better posture, so shouldn’t be worn all the time. You must work your own muscles too!
Have there been any negatives?
The vest is made from synthetic materials so can become quite hot and sticky in warm conditions – however it does look like a “top” so I have stripped off on the odd occasion and still felt dressed!
The ActivePosture products are expensive at a first glance – particularly as many with chronic conditions are unable to work and like myself rely upon benefits for income. The vest top retails at £99.95. However I would now say that for a product that has given me both support with my joints and my pain that it is worth the expense……I can see the research and engineering that has gone into creating a quality product and I would rather forego other clothes/meals/coffees in order to own a product that will give me support on those bad days.
In fact my final endorsement has to be the fact that I have been bought some more vests by a relative (taking advantage of the current offer!) as I love it so much!
The ActivePosture vest is a 5 star product for me!
Pin for later
The company currently has a special reduced price for the products and are offering a volume discount – visit the shop here. (Note: this is not an affiliate post and I do not benefit from any orders made)
For information about research behind the product visit the site here.
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?
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.
Pete 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)
Last month I was fortunate to be invited to attend a special day at Gatwick airport to receive information about the Accessibility plans that are in place for travellers. We – hubby and me – joined a small band of fellow EDSers (Ehlers Danlos syndromes) and other families with mobility issues, autism, Alzheimers and various “invisible” chronic health problems in order to experience “a practical overview of airport processes before actually travelling”.
Travelling can be a stressful experience at the best of times, but add a disability/special need/illness into the equation and this stress is magnified 100 fold. Accessibility issues affecting wheelchair travellers have recently hit the UK national press with the stories of BBC journalist Frank Gardiner and athlete Justin Levine. Each man arrived at his destination to find that his own wheelchair had been lost, resulting in Mr Gardiner sitting on the plane for an additional 90 minutes after landing at Heathrow and Mr Levine rejecting offers of an attendant wheelchair at Luton. Whilst Gatwick and several other UK airports have previously run Accessibility days, this particular session could not have been better timed in order for the airports to improve Accessibility profiles.
Each family was allocated a time slot and we were met at the Virgin landside airline desks where we were checked in and given the recently launched sunflower “hidden disability” lanyards. The distinctive green and yellow lanyards are to allow staff to easily identify travellers who may need additional assistance, but might not have an immediately obvious disability.
Chronic pain, autistic spectrum disorders, Alzheimers and dementia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, IBD/Crohns/Coeliacs, mental health disorders are just a few of the many conditions that might benefit under this scheme. Members from both the police dog handlers and the border patrol were present to welcome us but it was their beautiful dogs who stole the show. Eighteen month old springer spaniel pup Gracie was a personal favourite of mine!
Do you know that there is an Accessibility and Families’ check in and security? The whole process for the average traveller has changed so much in recent years and it can feel that everyone is wanting to check in at a million miles an hour……electronic check in from home, travelling with hand luggage only, business travellers wanting to get from A to B in the least time possible. How does it feel if you take a little more time than the average person, if your child doesn’t understand what is happening, if anxiety turns into a panic attack? We were assured that the Accessible and family security can be used for anyone who needs a little more time, space and understanding. I wonder how many of you have used this facility? Please share your experience!
Last weekend Virgin airlines and Easy Jet were our hosts for the day, but I believe that other travel providers have played the host role in different locations around the country. This was my first time to go through airport security since having my spinal cord stimulator implanted for pain control and in the same way that I am not able to go into an MRI scanner, the magnetic fields in the security scanners prevent me from going through the arch. Like a pacemaker, the magnets in both devices would cause damage to my battery/programmer needing surgery to remove and replace the device. I carry a medical alert card like others in my position and whilst my condition is now “visible” due to my wheelchair, for many with chronic pain and a similar implant, it would be impossible to see their chronic condition. The security staff responded well to my needs and as hubby put my bag on the scanner and took himself through security, I was taken round the other side of the scanners and whilst remaining in my chair, a female office carried out a simple body search. I passed and didn’t set off a single alarm!!
First stop – the “V” room. This is Virgin Holidays’ new lounge in the North terminal which is for the use of Virgin customers booking a Holiday/Flydrive Package – it can be pre booked or booked on the day for each passenger. We were treated to hot drinks and a tour from very attentive staff who are eager to please and answer queries. I know that this is part of their jobs, but we were impressed by the welcoming demeanour, general knowledge and the care shown to us.
If you are not on a Virgin package or do not wish to pay to book the lounge, Gatwick North terminal has a newly opened Accessible “Quiet” lounge area located within the departures lounge and shopping area. Here it is possible to sit in more comfortable seating, away from the crowds with screen information to monitor your flight and yet still be close to the amenities and eateries in the departure lounge.
I was using my own wheelchair and pushed by hubby, but there are many of you who don’t normally use a chair, yet walking through the airport prior to boarding your plane is just exhausting. If you give the airport notice – 48 hours – it is possible to be helped by staff with a wheelchair, as some of our group did for their tours, or to make use of one of the accessibility buggies that you will have seen speeding through the airport. My advice – don’t be too independent and insist on walking if this burns you out before even setting foot on the plane. I have always been the world’s worst for doing this, but accept now that pride really can come before a literal fall!
We were taken to the Sensory room next – the first area of its kind in a UK airport. It is well recognised now that special sensory lighting, music and surroundings can greatly enhance senses and communication for a wide variety of sensory abilities. My limited experience (when nursing) brought me into contact with such areas in children’s hospices and hospitals. A room of this type can be extremely helpful for both children and adults with autistic spectrum disorders, physical and mental disabilities – I include dementia and Alzheimers here. The room is airside and only for use by those passing through security – a 45 minute session can be booked at the special assistance reception in the departures lounge. On the day youngsters in the room appeared to be having a great time, but there were few adults with disabilities when we had a quick “peek”. There is a variety of soft play cushioning and this is geared towards those able to sit on cushions and beanbags. It is important to book ahead as there is an 8 person limit. I think that the premise is fantastic and it is a very welcome addition to the airport experience – suggestions to add to this are:
for a further focus on use by adults;
to create wider aisles between the soft play areas for wheelchair access – the space is limited;
to consider how different groups might relate to each other – adults, children, physically disabled, autism spectrum disorders, etc;
to ensure that the knobs and buttons on the activities are able to be accessed by those with hand problems;
to consider in the future expanding the existing room or have several sensory rooms to cope with the high demand that the facility will undoubtedly have! Disclaimer: Please note I am not an expert and do not have autism
For someone like me who struggles with walking and stairs, the thought of using steps up to a plane is akin to climbing a mountain. It is encouraging to know that if an aircraft is using steps rather than a jetty boarding system, Gatwick airport has a fleet of German Bulmor transporters that wheelchairs can be strapped into and lifted via a hydraulic arm directly to the door of the plane. This allows the passenger entry to the plane in their own wheelchair to then transfer directly into their plane seat. We enjoyed a short ride in the Bulmor and the experience of the cabin lifting and lowering, all whilst I sat in my chair. For younger members of the party there was an opportunity to board the huge airport fire engines and to have a go at operating certain controls.
The part of the day that I was most excited about and also feared was boarding the plane – my greatest anxiety over the years has been the thought of feeling trapped in an aircraft seat and my back pain becoming uncontrolled. I can move when seated on my sofa, in a restaurant or even the cinema, but sitting in a car or a plane is a different story. Unless you have experienced chronic nerve pain, it is difficult to explain what may seem to be an irrational fear of an exacerbation of this pain and being unable to do anything about it. I was able to remain in my seat up to the doorway at which point I got up from my chair and transferred into one of the first rows on the plane. The Easyjet cabin crew were keen demonstrate that they can offer assistance and a comfortable flight to any passenger with accessibility needs.
Whilst hubby chatted with the pilot in the cockpit……
I was told about booking my seat in advance – it is advisable to pay the extra to select your seat for leg room, the aisle, to be near the loo etc etc – alerting the airport and the airline of your needs 48 hours in advance, and that my wheelchair would be stored in the hold after I have transferred to my seat. Tip: take your seat cushion onto the plane as it is likely to be lost in the hold! The loss and damage of wheelchairs has been in the media recently and is a very real concern for many wheelchair users – one lady cited the issue of “which end of a flight did the damage occur to her chair?” as no one would take responsibility. No easy solutions to this one as yet. The current policy is for accessibility passengers to board the aircraft first, in order to have time to settle and as much assistance as needed without the stresses of other passengers. Once in the seat there is a small onflight wheeled chair (similar to a fire chair) for those needing assistance to move about on the flight, go to the loo etc. I did find the seat comfortable and was in the area with more leg room – I don’t believe that I or others with EDS/chronic pain/arthritis/ fibromyalgia etc would manage with less leg room and the angle of the back of the seat is very important too. The new EasyJet seat backs are fixed and I am pleased to say that they are not in a too upright position, but I would be unable to manage in a fixed seat that was very upright as my SCS would be cut off due to the position in my spine.
I asked about facilities at destination airports and the staff were very honest. Apparently there is a European standard for Accessibility arrangements but they are open to interpretation and this means that they will vary from airport to airport, country to country. This is obviously the case when flying elsewhere in the world too, so the best advice that I can pass on here is to fully investigate your holiday plans, journey and the accommodations made at your destination prior to any bookings!
EasyJet have an Accessibility and Assistance manager, Celine McGuigan who is informative and very keen to make airport travel accessible to all. She is also notably keen to understand the needs of the Accessibility community from those with very visible disabilities to invisible problems/illnesses – in fact she has made staff, including those at a senior level, spend time in a wheelchair in order to focus minds on accessibility issues! The young members of cabin crew are also to be commended for their knowledge and enthusiasm to help without ever being condescending or frightened to ask me questions.
Feedback from the visit:
just how accessible are the aircraft toilets? They are very small and is there room for the small wheelchair and a helper to assist with a transfer? (I am aware that this is an area up for discussion around the design of both aircraft and trains);
people with allergies, mast cell activation syndrome and similar can be very sensitive to scents – some have experienced problems with the scents used to refresh the cabins and I know that the staff were going to look into this matter;
for staff to be aware during a flight that with conditions such as EDS, joint pain and cramps are a common problem and the passenger will undoubtedly need to stand and stretch;
for many the standard seats do not provide sufficient room, yet the seats with more “leg room” can come at an extra cost which can be difficult to swallow for those on an already reduced income and/or families with young children
I know that they have been in the media, but to continue to highlight the accessibility lanyards and the fact that many adults and children with “invisible” conditions will be using them; work with the community who will be using them and listen to feedback regarding wearing a lanyard and the design.
I can only congratulate all the staff involved for such an informative and practical day at Gatwick airport. More of these days across the country would be a huge benefit to so many people and the comments that I have seen from other groups have been very positive. My own fears have been put to rest and whilst I am under no illusions that air travel for me personally will remain tough and very tiring, and of course I still have some concerns, I do now think that I can do it.
So come on hubby….where are you taking me?!
Please note this has been written from my personal perspective
Wessex 878AD. Matthew, christened Edward, is third born son of Edwulf the Ealdorman and brother of the Saxon warrior Lord Edwin. He is a novice monk turned warrior, who starts his tale whilst marching to celebrate King Alfred’s great victory at Edington but soon he and his men fall victim to an ambush by Viking raiders. He is wounded with an arrow to the heart and believes his injury to be fatal as he feels the life ebbing from him. But he is found and helped by a mysterious woman called Ingar who proclaims herself to be a healer, deriving her knowledge and skills from Mother Earth.
The book follows Matthew on his road to recovery and the many more battles which lie ahead, both physical and metaphorical, as he attempts to return to Saxon King Alfred. He finds himself rapidly moving from one disaster to another, whilst making both friends and enemies along the way on a journey that is full of adversity, hope and triumph….no spoilers!!
This is the second book in the Shadow of the Raven series and I have to stick my hand up and admit that I didn’t realise this when I started it. However, the book can be read as a stand-alone as there are plenty of references to the story so far – but I think that if I were to read it again I would read the first part (Blood and Destiny) to gain a better background as it did take me a little while to “get into it”.
I do enjoy historical novels, and whilst this is a period that I have watched on television dramas such as The last Kingdom, I haven’t read many books covering Anglo Saxon times. This is only the author’s second novel in a field that is dominated by the like of Bernard Cornwell. The detail felt very well researched by the author – although I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy as I just don’t know! – and I felt immersed into the Britain of the Dark Ages. The brutality of the Vikings and the severity of the battles are not sugar coated in this tale!
The book is written in the first person – that is with the main character Matthew narrating the story – and I always feel that this is a much tougher style to write in. As a result, I think that at times the fast paced tale feels slightly stilted as Matthew’s narration lurches from one disaster to another. I do admire the author for attempting this though, as a first person narrative can take on a list like quality. I personally would have liked Mr Bishop to expand on his descriptions a little more, as those that he does write paint such a vivid picture – for instance the descriptions of Ingar using herbs for healing, the ruffian gang of Viking slavers and the description of sailing up the Thames and Matthew’s first impressions of London. For me the descriptions of Leatherhead were great as it is only up the road from my home – we were at the the theatre there last month and believe me that it there is no resemblance between then and now!
There is a great deal of humour in this novel, particularly the way in which certain characters are described and little comments that Matthew makes. I liked the characters – even some of the blood thirsty Vikings – and I loved the way that Matthew plays with his infamy as the story of “the warrior with the pierced heart”, returning from the dead, spreads far and wide. The character of young Matthew, who was a monk and is now a warrior whilst still in his teens, develops and grows both emotionally and physically throughout the course of the book. This growth mirrors his personal healing and recovery after his near fatal wounds sustained at the beginning of the book. As this young man describes his physical strength growing from day to day, I believe that the reader also witnesses his mental strength and personality growing and maturing from day to day. Matthew does seem to find himself in one sticky situation after another though, and I don’t think that I would want to take a journey with him!
This is an action packed historical novel from a new author that I think will appeal to many historical fiction fans. The writing style is not quite my cup of tea, but nevertheless I did enjoy it. I believe that the author will go from strength to strength in his writing and I look forward to further novels in the future……and I should mention that I have purchased the first book which I will go back and read now! 3.5 stars
Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Group for giving me the opportunity to be on this tour!
Chris Bishop is a retired chartered surveyor who has pursued his love of writing for as long as he can remember. He is an intrepid traveller and a retired Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He is married with two children and four granddaughters and lives in London. His other interests are travel, windsurfing and fly fishing.
I’m getting into the swing of regular book reviews – here is this week’s offering!
I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.
In her own mind Cheryl West tried really hard to be a good wife and mother, but it just didn’t work out. For Cheryl there was always something missing and when her children (Elaine, Michael, Stephen and little Juliet) grew beyond the baby years, they lost their appeal and maybe her husband and then her boyfriend never had much appeal. But now she wants to be a different woman, a woman with a career and that takes her back to London leaving a family behind in Bournemouth. She becomes a worker in a drugs unit and there she experiences a side to life that is new to her as she speaks with clients and visits their homes. The reality of the decisions that they have made and the impact they have had upon others forces her to evaluate some of the decisions that she has made. This is coupled with the unwelcome visits paid to her by eldest daughter Elaine who only serves as a reminder of the life that she would like to forget.
The second family member who is key in this storyline is son Michael, who has had no contact with his mother, Cheryl, or other family members since walking out when just 16 years old. Whilst Michael is mentioned regularly in Cheryl’s story, mainly for the lack of contact and wondering what has become of him, the individual family members are mentioned rarely in Michael’s story. Ironically Michael’s life has also revolved around drugs as he has become an addict in his attempts to rid himself of memories of family life.
The mother and son “miss” each other by minutes in what could have been a chance meeting during a support worker visit from Cheryl to a client whilst in London. Their paths seem destined to cross again when Cheryl takes a new post in a rural drug rehabilitation unit in Hampshire where Michael has previously been a patient. Whilst Michael is trying to come to terms with the past in order to move on with a new chapter in his life, Cheryl finds some case notes that uncover secrets from that past life that she cannot accept.
I cannot sit here and yell from the roof tops that this book is an easy, enjoyable read because it is not. But this is not a criticism. Dysfunctional families and drug addiction should not be easy topics to write about or read about. The feelings of discomfort and at times disgust that the reader feels are testament to the powerful writing of Kate Rigby. She writes a novel that uses language and scene setting that is not only gritty and realistic, but also shows the soft under belly of the human psyche and the fragility of life.
It is difficult to like Cheryl at times. She appears self centred and completely at odds with being a mother of four, yet she has her own addiction and that is to babies. The descriptions of her feelings towards tiny babies are quite unnerving, but even more upsetting are how she views her own infants as they start to grow. How much of the family’s past issues have been a direct consequence of Cheryl’s actions? Even her response to certain actions by her husband (no spoilers!) has probably had a huge impact on certain family members. Her chosen career as a drugs rehabilitation support worker seems completely at odds with her character and some of the thoughts that she has and her actions demonstrate her to be ill suited to the job. Yet she skilfully manipulates her colleagues in both London and Hampshire to believe that she is doing a wonderful job and that she believes in what she is doing. Her selfish ways remain even when she does realise that Michael has been a client, with her first thoughts for herself and how his “stories” might affect her.
Meanwhile Michael shows himself to have backbone and courage, even when in the depths of addiction and despair. I find it interesting that it is the addict who I felt the empathy toward even as his life spiralled. There are glimpses of Michael’s loving side early on as he firstly develops a relationship with Nicky, and then with his dog Woodstock. He has no idea that whilst he physically removed himself from her, his life is still winding around his mother’s like a plant shoot binding around the main plant stem. The way in which Ms Rigby writes leads the reader to feel that much of this confused young man’s angst is as a direct result of his mother’s actions in the past. In his mind she favoured his younger brother and nothing that he did was good enough. The reality is probably more that Cheryl was only ever truly able to relate to new-borns and that she struggled with his close relationship with his father.
However, this father /son relationship is another area so well described from the tension of making contact after years apart, the difficulties of acknowledging just what the relationship was in the past and a way forward for both men now. Ms Rigby carefully and cleverly incorporates the different back stories from the individual family members into a tapestry that makes a whole. The reader learns to care about the characters and becomes invested in their stories.
The language and description of life for the various different drug addicts within the story add both colour and steel to the tapestry. The harsh truths of the impact that drugs have on both individuals and the family are not sugar coated in this novel. The author shows that drugs can be found in the midst of any family from any walk of life and that the devastation of lies, deceit and thieving is far reaching. I include in this the street families that many of the addicts in this find themselves a part of.
Abandonment, selfishness, dysfunctionality, abuse, addiction, love, relationships…..all huge topics that this book throws at the reader. I applaud the author for not tying up the storylines as it would have been very easy to do so – although she did leave me very frustrated as I want to know what happens! But this is about real life and we all know that not everyone lives happily ever after. In my humble opinion a fantastic study of human life. 5 stars
Kate Rigby has been writing for several decades. She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so decided to write about it.
However she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka! (2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones including a version of her satirical novella Lost The Plot.
Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).
Her book Little Guide to Unhip was published by Night Publishing (2010).
She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and also as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology (Pfoxmoor 2011).
She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now ‘Did You Whisper Back?’).
Titles now available on Kindle and other e-books are:
Little Guide to Unhip (also in paperback*)
Far Cry From The Turquoise Room (also in paperback*)
Suckers n Scallies
Down The Tubes (also in paperback*)
Tales By Kindlelight (available as a collection – She Looks Pale & Other Stories*)
Savage To Savvy (also available in paperback*)
Did You Whisper Back?
Fall Of The Flamingo Circus
She Looks Pale (available as a collection – She Looks Pale & Other Stories*)
The Dead Club (also available in paperback*)
Fruit Woman (coming soon in paperback)
On Your Half Century
* paperbacks available by following the Amazon link where listed
Details about Kate’s work can be found at her website:
Yes, yes..another blog tour! Most unusual for me to have 2 in one week, but this book sounded too good to miss – and today is publication day in paperback!
With many thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for the opportunity to be included in this book tour in return for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Natalie Thompson is an investigative film director, tasked with making a documentary on the threat of bioterrorism. She is quickly made aware of an Ebola outbreak in central Africa which is being kept under wraps by the authorities, and the journalist in Natalie seeks to find a way into the local healthcare system in order to search for answers. She gains the trust of medical staff by posing as a film maker for a Western aid charity who wishes to learn more about their vaccination programme. Whilst in Africa, a contact introduces her to a Zimbabwean terrorist group and she must take on yet another undercover persona, posing as a blogger and Western African rights sympathiser. Is it possible that these terrorists are really planning to give the West a dose of “African disease”?
Meanwhile in London Tom is a new rookie to the investigative film world and is set to work doing research for Natalie’s project. He uncovers suspicious activities in a laboratory in Java and soon finds himself dispatched off to investigate – and with a minder in tow! They make contact with a young chemist who is concerned about the research work that she is being asked to undertake. When Natalie and Tom touch base with each other, they find that there are various strands to their stories that are linking to each other and to the terrorist group. Certain names in pharmaceutical companies keep cropping up too, alongside studies into Alzheimer’s disease. Now the question is do they continue with the sole purpose of making a documentary or should the authorities be alerted to the very real prospect of a bioterrorist attack?
Action, suspense, intrigue, danger, fear, excitement…..just some of the words to sum up this novel. I believe that Natalie Thompson has appeared in several other novels by the author, but this can be read as a stand-alone book – I haven’t read the others. This novel is so current and the author’s background in investigative documentary films is very evident with the detailed descriptions of both fieldwork and the editorial offices. The devastation of Ebola has been on our television screens for several years now and the Western world is well aware of the havoc that it can wreak. Add to this the recent happenings in the UK with the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter, this storyline becomes completely plausible and for that reason more frightening.
I do love the fact that the lead character is a woman – but then I would say that, I suppose! Natalie is gutsy, strong, intelligent and driven. At times I was fearful for her when she appeared to be reckless in her actions, but this for me is an indication of the great suspense that Mr Granger conjures with his writing. The complexities of her character develop as she becomes more involved with the medical programmes in Africa and meets the real people who are affected. She is empathetic and finds herself conflicted between the story that she is out to uncover and the other very human stories that she is finds thrown into, including research trials into drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. Essentially, she is lying to people who believe that she is there to help and I like the fact that I can feel her grappling with her conscience when recording in an undercover capacity.
The other characters develop nicely through the story too – young Tom who finds himself in dangerous situations that he would never have dreamt of and using his sexuality to win the confidence of a source; Nick the ex-soldier sent to babysit Tom who has useful contacts within various police/ authorities; and Geoff the boss, who is spinning so many plates in his office that it feels at times that he can’t possibly keep everyone happy and produce a great programme. I learnt so much about film production from the great descriptions of the actual filming to the editing and beyond.
The author does cover moral and ethical conflicts that I imagine are a daily occurrence for any documentary maker. In this case the issues are around the findings of the investigations as it becomes apparent just what the terrorists are planning and just how the pharmaceutical companies are linked. Should the team continue filming in order to get a fantastic story? Just when is the right time to inform the authorities what they have discovered? What happens if the authorities in other countries don’t listen or are just too corrupt themselves to act? Then Mr Granger introduces us to the legal implications!
I loved this book from start to finish. The fact that at times my heart was in my mouth for me shows how well it is written – the suspense created through the investigation was great. For an action-packed, exciting, believable investigative read with a twist in the tail, I would definitely recommend “Drugs to Forget” – this gets full marks form me! Now I am off to find the other books from this author. 5 stars.
Martin has been making documentary films for thirty years. In that time he has won more than 100 international film awards. His work has ranged from directing BBC’s Horizon to producing a BAFTA nominated science series for Channel 4.His novels, although fiction, are based upon his experience in the film industry. He lives in Wimbledon with his wife Jacqueline.
Divided Serenity (book 1) and Serenity Falling (book 2)
I was fortunate to be given copies of these books through The Book Club on Facebook and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Serenity. A world that is divided. The Aterran people live inside a “virtual” wall with a land is progressive and based upon technology. Outside the wall live the Shadowlanders and the Jaru, two groups of people sharing as much hatred for each other as for the Aterrans.
Bill Bremmer and John Tanis are sworn enemies, once best friends. Bremmer is the leader of the Aterran people whilst Tanis has been banished from Aterra and is now a fully-fledged Shadowlander. When the normal pattern of war between the Shadowlanders and the Jaru seems to have changed, and Bremmer receives intelligence that there might be Aterran technology within the hands of the Shadowlanders, the already shaky status quo is threatened.
Aterran technology is maintained with the help of so called “ancient technology” stations situated beyond the wall in the heart of Shadowland. When one of these stations misfunctions and power the Aterran is lost, teams of field agents and scientists are sent to repair the technology. The youngest and brightest of these scientists is Hannah Duvall, who is in a relationship with Bill Bremmer and has never been into Shadowland before. The question is why is the Aterran leader sending his partner to near certain death? Or is there more fuelling Bremmer’s motives, such as his intense hatred for Tanis? Is his need to see John Tanis dead taking over everything?
Hannah and her party must ride on horses to the station, making their journey perilous and prone to attack. But who will attack the small group and who will accompany them to the station? Jaru or Shadowlanders? Can Aterrans be accepted in the Shadowland and how will Hannah fare when she comes face to face with John Tanis, half Aterran half Shadowlander?
I could continue with a plot synopsis, but I can’t write more without giving away spoilers!
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This is not a genre that I would normally reach for, but since joining various book clubs I am enjoying reading different styles of storyline – plus my children have introduced me to Game of Thrones type dystopian fantasy in both books and television! Initially I struggled to get into the story as it felt slow and slightly disjointed – but after a couple of chapters, once Hannah was in Shadowland, I was completely hooked. Honestly, I could not put these books down and read them back to back.
Once the story got going I found the plot to be pacey and action packed with some very complex characters. Warning: this is not for the squeamish as the battle scenes are described in great detail – there is blood and gore in copious amounts, and life has little value amongst the soldiers. The characters really develop throughout the novels and are fleshed out as their past is disclosed to the reader. Bremmer remains an unlikeable man and as the story moves into the second book, it becomes increasingly apparent that he is a deeply flawed character. Tanis should also be equally unlikeable, with his apparent lack of emotion and his bloodthirsty warrior gene, yet for me I felt that I started to understand him and actually empathise with him the more I found out about him. Hannah, as the only female main character, seemed weak and too naïve early on in the story, particularly regarding her relationship with Bremmer. However, it is her character that probably grows the most and the quickest, to show an inner strength and steely core that surprises Hannah herself.
Secondary characters include the geneticist mother of Tanis, disabled genius scientist and mentor to Hannah – Dan, Hannah’s sister Ella, Tanis’s half brothers and father, and the mysterious Theo and Nate. The fate of all the characters became important enough that I wanted to know what happened to them!
The premise of the story is good, and for me the book is well structured and well written. The fine line between a world entirely led by technology alongside one that is so primitive is explored well with a survival of the fittest theme, and I love the idea of the virtual wall. The conflict, the power struggles, and the personal emotions spilling into the professional world is fascinating and could just as easily be in our world as in this dystopian land. I am itching to get my hands on the third book.
Born in England, G.L. Cromarty grew up exploring castles and watching Star Wars. As an avid reader, she has been influenced by a wide variety of writers ranging from Tolkien to George R.R. Martin and Anne McCaffrey, and Harry Harrison to Isaac Asimov. Now living in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and two oddball cats, she spends her spare time writing. Divided Serenity is her debut novel – her latest writing blog post is here
I was given an advance copy of this book through The Book club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What would it be like to one day be walking along the road with your wife, feeling the impact as a car crashes into you and then to be watching your wife cradling your dying body? But then you realise that you aren’t watching yourself die from some faraway place, but you are actually in a body and have a voice….that belong to someone else?!
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Dan is a homeless man, wandering the streets of Brighton when he witnesses this fatal car crash and his life changes completely. His head is suddenly inhabited by someone else, claiming to be called Joe and saying that he is the dead man. How can this be happening? Add into the equation the wife of dead Joe, staring at him at the scene of the crash and asking over and over if he saw it….Dan/Joe doesn’t know what is happening! Sometime later he comes across the wife, Natalie, sitting in the park and after he speaks to her, he determines to follow her home and Joe wants to tell her that he is still here.
Natalie is stunned when the homeless man turns up on her doorstep several months after the death of her husband Joe with his story. She surprises herself and Dan when she lets him into her home, and then into her life. Does Natalie truly believe that her husband is somehow now inhabiting another man’s body, or does she have a different motive for inviting a stranger into her home? Does she even understand this herself – after all she is a grieving widow? As Dan starts to open up about his life before he found himself on the streets, is it possible that Natalie can help him to find his way home again?
This is a beautifully crafted surprise of a book. The storyline is actually very simple, dealing primarily with human relationships and emotion. The writer manages to explore bereavement, grief, love and anger, whilst also including domestic abuse, family conflict, manipulation, miscommunication and mental illness. The growing relationship between Natalie and Dan is fascinating as they learn to trust each other and themselves. They are flawed characters and yet the way that they change and grow made me alter my opinions of them along the way. Mr Cooper has written these characters with such compassion and tenderness that it is impossible not to care for them. I felt that this care was also shown toward the secondary characters – Dan’s father, Natalie’s parents and even Joe’s mother.
This book is not what it seems to be at the outset. But then the title should give us a clue, as what is the definition of “Ordinary” – it will be different for all of us. In the current climate it is wonderful to read a novel that has such a positive and empathetic insight into mental health and mental illness. There are surprises for both the reader and the characters as to who has the greater needs and the importance to have insight into one’s own situation. Whilst the story is simple and focuses on these two, or maybe it is three people, there are many twists and turns that will pull you in and certainly had me hooked.
I found this an intense and emotional read from start to finish and would describe The Pursuit of Ordinary to be absolutely extraordinary. A huge 5 stars!
Writer and author, born in London, England. He now lives in Brighton (via Nottingham) with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog.
Following on from the success of his bestselling debut novel, Beat The Rain, Nigel’s second novel The Pursuit of Ordinary will be published on 27 April 2018 and is available to pre-order now. Nigel was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Best Debut Author for Beat The Rain. Nigel previously worked as a writer and editor for Channel 4 Television and as a newspaper sub editor.
He’s a sometime marathon runner and occasional actor and singer in local musical theatre productions. Sometimes his brain switches off and lets him sleep, but not that often.
I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book by the author and through The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
After leaving her job as a top city, high earning accountant, Amy fancies herself as a private eye, a super sleuth, and she has taken a job that will immerse her in history across Europe. Hired by 84-year-old George Smithies, she finds herself tracking down art work that was confiscated by Nazi Germany and may or may not have been part of a haul found in the flat of an eccentric hoarder, Novak, in Prague. Amy and George set out for Prague to battle through the Czech restitution law and in the process meet Amy’s old “friend” Mel and “art historian” Beresford, who is keen to help track down the missing painting thought to have been owned by George’s parents in the 1930s.
During their journey, the Czech law isn’t the only maze to unravel as Amy establishes family ties between her client and the hoarder Novak, flaws in the history of the business partnership of George’s father, and an interest in her investigation from an unknown third party which puts Amy and George in real danger. No one is quite who or what they claim to be and with her own troubled background, and her dependence on alcohol, Amy is not always best placed to play super sleuth!
This is the third in the Crazy Amy series and I have to admit to not having read the first two – or even realising that there were two others! It can be read as a stand-alone, but I think that I would recommend reading from the beginning as Amy’s personal dysfunctional history and her relationships with Mel and George have already been established and there are references that I didn’t get! But I really took to Amy. She has so many imperfections, a massive chip on her shoulder, an alcohol problem and an alter ego called Little Amy (who I didn’t understand at first having not read the other books)….but she is so real. I love the humour that Rose Edmunds has infused into the writing of this character! She constantly describes the extra weight she has gained round her middle (so many women relate to this!) and Amy refuses to acknowledge her alcohol problem, deeming the staff at the infamous Priory to be “idiots” for suggesting it. She builds up a relationship with both the smelly hoarder Novak, who says “I admire a woman who can drink”, and the aristocratic Rudolf Strnad. She has a love/hate relationship with Mel. The bitchy description by Amy of eating a slap-up meal in front of the newly skinny Mel as she “turns over a couple of lettuce leaves” is hilarious. Amy’s flaws should make her the worst candidate as a private investigator, but she is a clever young lady who proves to be surprisingly good at solving problems.
The historical information in this novel has been well researched, drawing upon the real art haul found in 2010 in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of an art dealer known to have dealings with the Nazis during the second world war. I enjoyed the pace of the story which was fast, yet also mindful of having an elderly man as one of the main characters. The network of deceit and corruption took the tale through Europe and back to the UK, showing the extent of the spread of the international underworld. Ms Edmunds painted a vivid picture of historic Europe, alongside the contemporary world of sleek lines and minimalism – for instance Amy’s flat and the offices in London.
Historic Prague from TripSavvy website
City of London
I always say it, but I don’t wish to give away any spoilers….so I will conclude that this is a really enjoyable, pacy thriller with some fantastic main characters, humour, danger and cunning. Definitely worth a read – although I would personally read the first two books for a proper background! 4 stars!
After a successful career advising entrepreneurial businesses, Rose jumped off the corporate hamster wheel and began writing thrillers inspired by her experiences. Her books have a strong ethical theme, and shine a light on the moral challenges presented by capitalism. Typically her protagonists are just as flawed as the villains, if not more so…
Rose’s debut thriller, Never Say Sorry, was about a Big Pharma conspiracy to suppress a cancer cure. Since then, she has been working on the Crazy Amy thriller series—an ambitious project which will follow Amy Robinson on her journey from senior finance executive to who knows where…
The first trilogy is now available on Amazon, with further books planned for 2019 and beyond.