Fiction in Anglo Saxon Britain – Blog Tour and Review of “The Warrior with the Pierced Heart” by Chris Bishop #LoveBooksGroup

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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!!

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Review Warrior with Pierced Heart

 

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!

More Information Available from

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About the Author

Chris BisshopChris 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.

Website: theshadowoftheraven.com

Twitter: @CBishop_author

Down the Tubes by Kate Rigby – Book Review : Gritty novel based in the world of addiction

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.

Down the tubes

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.

Review Down the Tubes

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

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About the Author (from the author’s Amazon page)

Kate RigbyKate 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*)
Thalidomide Kid
Seaview Terrace
Far Cry From The Turquoise Room (also in paperback*)
Break Point
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)

Short Stories:

Family Tradition
Coats
On Your Half Century
Sharing Sarah
Cutting Edge
Hard Workers

* paperbacks available by following the Amazon link where listed

Details about Kate’s work can be found at her website:

http://kjrbooks.yolasite.com/

Or her occasional blogs can be found at:

http://bubbitybooks.blogspot.com/Facebook

 

Blog Tour & Book Review of “Danube Street” by Linda Tweedie & Kate McGregor #LoveBooksGroupTours

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I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to be part of this blog tour by Kelly at LoveBooksGroup. This is a fair and honest review, and all opinions are my own.

Agnes McLeod is the bright, only daughter of a farmer living in the harsh wilds of Ayrshire.  When her pregnant cousin Mary comes to stay, she is fascinated by this young woman’s view of the world and her survival instinct.  Mary takes Agnes with her to Edinburgh and introduces her to a lifestyle far removed from the farm, rubbing shoulders with gangsters, prostitutes and police alike.  Agnes becomes Stella and the young women learn how to join the elite of “the oldest profession” amongst the hotels of the city. When an “accident” befalls Mary involving the infamous Williams brothers, Stella finds an unlikely ally in the city’s top barrister.

At this point Stella Gold, with the backing of the barrister, set out to turn a property in the Georgian terrace of Danube Street into Edinburgh’s most exclusive brothel.  Stella quickly becomes the city’s most respected Madame, entertaining clients ranging from sailors to councillors to clergy to police.  Surrounded by loyal friends, like young Jack and former prostitute Kitty who both work for her, and enemies, like the Williams brothers and working girls with grudges, Stella must remain astute and streetwise.

Into the picture comes fourteen-year-old runaway Rosie, picked up at the bus station by an infatuated Jack.  Rosie, the youngest of 3 daughters, is pregnant by an American GI and disowned by her father but the youngster has a survival instinct not unlike Stella’s and looks to match.  The older woman allows the youngster to stay at Danube Street until her baby is born, but Rosie soon finds herself at the receiving end of jealousy from some of the other working girls.  This is to have life changing outcomes for her.

Meanwhile Stella is finding herself the object of a vendetta by not only the criminal factions of the city, but also a corrupt Chief of Police, with several secrets of his own.  Stella is the ultimate survivor, but is time running out for her?  Who can she look to in order to ensure the future of Danube Street?

I have had to be so careful not to give away any spoilers as I get carried away in my description!  This novel had me interested from the moment that I realised that the premise is taken from the true story of 17 Danube Street – once an infamous exclusive brothel run by Madame Dora Noyce from soon after the end of World War 2 until her death aged 77 in the 10970s.  Links to articles of interest can be found at the end of my review.  The characters and storylines in this novel are fiction.

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Danube Street (PlanetEdinburgh Blog)

This was for me an easy read as I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the characters and the style of writing.  The plots are hard hitting, and the use of strong language, descriptive violence, drugs and abuse will mean that this is not for everyone.  But if you enjoy a fast moving, gritty drama that has a cast of characters that are human, flawed and believable, then this is a novel for you!

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Danube Street

The depiction of the young women and their back stories that led them into a life of prostitution is enlightening, and I think probably still rings true for today.   Whilst one could be led to believe that the life of a working girl in a smart hotel or in an “exclusive brothel” is glamorous, the writers also show the other side of the coin.  Jack’s mother Jeanie works the streets and is at the receiving end of vicious abuse, both physical and verbal, with “punters” rarely seeing her as a human being.  Yet when the writers take us back to her early years and the loss of her husband in the war, it becomes apparent that this story that could and should have been so different.  It is just one of many of a young woman doing anything and everything to support her family.  The girls who work for Stella definitely have a better life than the street girls – they are fed well and work in beautiful surroundings, but they are still very much at the mercy of the clients.  The writers also weave in the issue of sexual abuse from a young age and the fact that for some young people because this has been a “normal” for them, it continues to be the norm into adult life (no spoilers, but on reading the book I think you will understand).

I love the strong female lead characters in this book – Stella, obviously, for making her way and then holding her own as a respected business woman in a male dominated society; young Rosie who undoubtedly grows the most in this story, from spirited teen to a street wise young woman with a great head for business; Kitty, the older ex prostitute, whose wisdom, life experiences and loyalty are priceless for both Stella and Rosie.  Jack is the youngest of the male characters and understanding his back story, his mother’s decline into alcoholism and street prostitution, the obvious course for the writers to take him down (gangsters, drugs, alcohol) is not quite the route he follows. Certainly, his life is still set amidst this background, but he makes his life choices with a mature head following his own moral compass.

There are many truly unlikeable characters in this novel – psychopathic, vicious and violent Freddie Williams, Mags the aggrieved working girl – but for me the vilest is probably DCI Ross.  Whilst I detested the man, the writers were very clever to give us his childhood story – harsh conditions with equally harsh parenting – allowing the reader to have an understanding of why the man behaves as he does and almost feeling empathy for him.

The story is fast, packed with action and wonderfully rich characters – I might unpick them all, but you really can enjoy this without doing so! I applaud the wonderful descriptions of both Edinburgh and the isolated areas of Scotland.  This was a novel that I found difficult to put down as I became invested in the characters and genuinely wanted to know what happens to them.  Strange as it may seem, there are some very tender relationships and genuine feelings – the joys and despairs of parenthood, loss, grief and love. Many ends are tied up, but there are also many loose ends and new lives…. a sequel please, Ms Tweedie & Ms McGregor!! Meanwhile I plan to look out your other works.

I can’t help feeling that the original Madame, Dora Noyce, would approve of this version of Danube Street.  She always objected to the word brothel and wanted her house to be known as one of “leisure and pleasure”, where she gave glasses of wine to gentleman arriving and then tea and sandwiches for “afters”.  The opulent house of the book and the rich characters within its walls would get a nod of approval from the real Madame of Danube Street.

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17 Danube Street (from Planet Edinburgh blog)

I loved it too! 4 stars

Articles of interest:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/lost-edinburgh-17-danube-street-1-3334496

https://planetedinburgh.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/17-danube-street-what-your-parents-never-told-you/

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Currently available on Kindle at Amazon here:

Publisher: Fledgling Press

Publication Date: 01/08/2018

ISBN-13: 9781912280131 

Details:

Type: Paperback

Format: Books

About the Authors

LINDA TWEEDIE lives in a small coastal town on the east coast of Scotland and has been a market trader, encyclopaedia salesperson and a drug rep (rep, not dealer) but for over 20 years, until her retirement, (early of course!) she spent most of her time behind a bar barring toilet breaks as landlady of numerous watering holes. Her first three novels came about through customers and friends telling her on almost a daily basis that she should write a book. Well, she did not just one but three The Life series, in collaboration with her best friend and cohort Kate McGregor. The Silence is their début crime novel set mainly in the dark and mean streets of Glasgow at the time of the infamous Ice Cream Wars. A fast-paced, gritty story which will keep you enthralled. 10458773_978010128897355_2150746344268007796_nKATE McGREGOR co-author was born in Paisley, once labelled the most dangerous town in the UK. But, it quietened down considerably once she left and went to work in London. Kate has been a beautician, logistics manager, advertising guru and sexy party planner who, after being made redundant twice in one year, decided it was time to be mistress of her own destiny and with the hindrance and interference of her best friend Linda, embarked on a seven year career in booze! Together they wrote The Life series, the first of which, Life Behind Bars, was a finalist in The People s Book Prize. The Silence is their début crime novel and if you like Martina Cole or Jessie Keane, you’ll love this.

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Drugs to Forget – Blog Tour and Review

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.

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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?

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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.

Available from:

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Publisher: RedDoor Publishing Ltd (31 May 2018)

About the Author

Martin Granger

Martin Granger HeadshotMartin 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.

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Blog Tour & Book Review – “Just Sam” by Kristy Brown

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.

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Sammy is growing up within a loving family and just showing herself to be a real tennis talent.  Her future,as she enters her teens, seems set when her world is blown wide apart in the cruellest way and her mother is diagnosed with and dies from cancer.  Life will never be the same again as each member of the family – Sammy, her father and her older sister – deal with their own grief and the difficulties of living on.  A house move, a new school and new peers all present Sammy with additional challenges, alongside an increasingly distant sister and a father working long hours.  Her love and enthusiasm for tennis, which was encouraged by and shared with her mum, suddenly feels meaningless so she stops pushing herself and misses out on a big chance for sponsorship.

Her life feels like it is spiralling as she tries to navigate the uncertainties of the secondary school playground, new friends, romantic friends, the school prom and her tennis.  Added into the mix is an eight-year-old girl who comes to Sammy for tennis coaching and an unlikely relationship develops.  But without her mother how can she possibly cope?  She needs to become a different person and to do this Sammy becomes “Just Sam”.

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This is a poignant young adult/teen novel which tells a story of love, loss, grief, relationships and moving on during the tough years of adolescence.  The author explores tough subject matter and there is no sugar coating.  Sam’s grief is raw and tangible, but it is also very private and not something that she wishes to share.  Without her mother to be her cheerleader through life, she feels unable to move forward, so it is a nice touch from the author that it is a young girl, lavished with all that money can buy yet starved of parental attention, who helps Sam reconnect with the important things in her life.  The family dynamic is well examined as Sam, her sister and their dad all grieve individually, in the mistaken belief that by not talking about their feelings will protect the others.  No spoilers but there are several nice twists toward the end of the story.

The teenage relationships are depicted well with rival friendship groups, petty jealousies, miscommunication, envy, sexuality, feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.  Ms Brown has built a rich cast of real teens, not from a glitzy teen soap opera, but rather young people with flaws and problems, hopes and dreams growing up in ordinary, often dysfunctional, families.  They feel deeply, as only teens can, and struggle to balance their relationships, school, home life and hormones.  The romances are full of teenage joy and angst in equal measure – the feeling of first love for Sam as her heart beats loudly when she glimpses the neck of a particular young man or how one youngster feels after trying to discuss sexuality and coming out with parents.

As mum to three adolescents (and having been one myself although they can’t believe this!) I do relate to this story and I really enjoyed it.  I can empathise with the situations that all the parents face – they are all very different, yet all very relevant. I enjoyed watching the young characters grow, particularly Sam as she learns for herself the importance of moving forward from her mother’s death.  With time her increasing maturity shines through as she accepts that her tennis isn’t something to hate because of the connections to mum, but rather her success in her burgeoning tennis career is a wonderful way to honour her mother’s memory.  The characters all move on in life – as we all do – and the younger cast are learning to go forward no matter what is thrown at them.  If I were to be very picky, I would say that for an adult novel I would have liked the end to have been fleshed out more – but I would describe this as adolescent/YA fiction and as such the tying up of loose ends is entirely appropriate.  This is just the type of book that I would have loved as as a teen – great antidote to the literature syllabus!

I definitely recommend this novel and applaud the author for tackling some difficult life situations – bereavement, loss, love, sexuality, eating disorder, mental health, relationships – but giving young readers a very positive message for the aspects of life that cannot be controlled.  A well written, sensitive, heart-warming and insightful look at the informative years! 4 Stars

Available at Amazon

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About the Author

Hi I’m Kristy and I live in the U.K. I have always written short stories and poetry. I went to university to study acting which I loved, but my real passion has always been writing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo now I write the kind of stories I would have wanted to read when I was a teen. “Kiera’s Quest-Awakenings” is my first ebook. There will be four in the series. I have written the chapters like scenes in a film, with the action cutting to different characters. It’s fast paced! Book two-“Sacrifices” came out August 2012(Muse It Up Publishing) Book three, “Perceptions,” was released in May. Book four, the last, was out Feb 2014. My YA contemporary romance book, “Just Sam,” Is available on Amazon in print & on Kindle. “Summer’s End,” a YA Paranormal series will be out shortly with ‘Muse It Up Publishing.’ My dream is to have them in print someday! I love reading YA angels,vamps etc. I love my kids and hopefully one day they will enjoy my crazy tales!

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Review of Books in Divided World Series by G. L. Cromarty – Divided Serenity & Serenity Falling

Divided World Series by G.L. Cromarty

Divided Serenity (book 1) and Serenity Falling (book 2)

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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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Review_Divided World Series (1)

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.

A fast, exciting, bloody read – 5 stars

Available on Amazon:

 

Barnes and Noble

 

About the Author

(from the author’s website – GLCromarty.com)

g l cromartyBorn 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

 

Follow me on Twitter @TheLittleBod

Join me on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16170181.G_L_Cromarty

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Member of the Authors Guild https://www.authorsguild.net/services/members/1959

Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You!

Happy Monday, Pain Pals, and a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all in the USA.  I have just had a really busy weekend – that I plan to write about this week -and am struggling to sit upright today, so I’m not writing my normal preamble about life in the PainPals household. I’m not sure how much sense you would get out of me….

Monday Magic Inspiring Blogs for You! 14 may

 

So I will launch straight into the blogs that I have found for you….there is a wonderful life lessons post from 100 year olds, a letter to the person feeling suicidal, a letter from a mother to the child she carried but never met for Mother’s day and a practical post about moving your blog to wordpress.com.  I really need to sort this out myself!!  Finally I could not let the opportunity go by to slip another a zebra post for May – this book review is fantastic and I could not do better myself for the book that has become our family bible (no offence intended to anyone).

So sit back (I have a cuppa and slice of my Dad’s gluten free coffee birthday cake – made by mum!), relax and enjoy some fantastic bloggers’ writing.

https://www.mymeenalife.com/signs-need-new-rheumatologist/

https://writedownthemidddle.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/pointing-to-myself.html

https://illness-to-wellness.com/2018/05/10/whylive/

https://thepurplealmond.com/2017/03/02/life-lessons-from-100-plus-year-olds/

https://weeklydoseofsue.com/2018/05/13/gob-stopping-comebacks-for-nitwits/

https://awriteradolescentmuse.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/monday-memoir-unforgettable/

https://en.blog.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/transfer-your-existing-domain-to-wordpress-com/

https://thisgirlsgotcurves.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/pathology/

https://wordsthroughthedarkness.wordpress.com/2018/05/13/mothers-day-2018/

https://scienceoveracuppa.com/2018/02/11/book-review-understanding-hypermobile-ehlers-danlos-syndrome-and-hypermobility-spectrum-disorder/

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Please share these posts and leave some comments or likes – make a blogger very happy!

I look forward to writing you some more when the brain and body start to function…in sync!

Have a great week, Claire

 

 

Book review: The Pursuit of Ordinary by Nigel Jay Cooper

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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Pursuit of O Pin

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?

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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.

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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!

Publisher: Roundfire (27 april 2018)

Goodreads Author: Nigel Jay Cooper

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nigeljaycooper/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nijay

 

Available from

AmazonUK:

AmazonUS

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

Foyles

WHSmith

About the Author – Nigel Jay Cooper

Writer and author, born in London, England. He now lives in Brighton (via Nottingham) with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog.

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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.

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Cherry Radford

Light House Keepers Blog Tour

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through Love Books and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review

Living in her aunt’s lighthouse at Beachy Head, recently separated Imogen is doing her best to carve out a new life as a writer.  Her teenage son is living with his father and displays indifference to her at every turn, her ex has a younger model and her aunt is in Jersey recuperating at her cousin’s home.  But how will a middle-aged woman, used to life in suburbia, cope living on a rural headland and perhaps most poignantly a mere stone’s throw from the lighthouse where her own father died in a tragic accident.  Aunt Dorothy has started to send Imogen pages, well excerpts really from her father’s diary, but she is being very mysterious as to why she won’t just send her the whole thing.

Imogen is struggling to find a plot for her novel and definitely does not want to go with her ex-husband Ewan’s idea to write about her own father.  It is whilst she is driving in Ewan’s old car that she inserts a CD and falls helplessly in love with a piece of flamenco guitar music.  She feels the “beautiful but unbearable melody” and as she stops the car to listen, wonders how she had not before “understood the anger in sadness”. So begins the second thread of the storyline as Imogen takes the bold step to contact the guitarist on Twitter, setting the wheels in motion for new friendships and relationships.

Imogen finds herself making a new best friend in Jules, who helps her to put some of the demons surrounding her parents’ marriage and then her father’s death to rest.  In return Imogen introduces Jules to the builder, Dylan, employed by her aunt to undertake an endless list of works at the lighthouse.  Meanwhile the tweets to and from Spain are growing as the guitarist Santiago explains that he needs an English teacher and perhaps Imogen can help him.  His music career is fading and his manager has encouraged him into acting.  Imogen finds herself drawn toward Santi and his close family more and more, as her novel starts to unfold and her imagination mixes fact and fiction.

Her Twitter friendship is unfolding alongside her reading and learning more of her father in his diary, even finding that he also had a penpal – of the more traditional variety!  The diary reveals secrets that make Imogen question everything about her past and throw caution to the wind with a visit to Madrid and a man who she only knows through “140 character” messages.

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PinLighthouse Keeper's Daughter

I would class this as a contemporary romance novel, but with a difference.  There are romance novels and films where it is too easy to unravel the whole plot in the first five minutes – too predictable and one dimensional.  This book is not like that and Cherry Radford has written enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.  The lighthouse storyline about her father lends some intrigue, whilst the Spanish storyline adds another whole dimension.  The characters are believable, and I think the fact that some are more likeable than others shows that they are well portrayed.  Imogen’s relationship with son Ollie had me laughing as it rang lots of bells, particularly as I have a teen Olly too and I really enjoyed the scenes of the blossoming relationship with new friend Jules.  I would definitely enjoy a night at the pub with these ladies (this was their first proper meeting place!) – they are chalk and cheese, but this just adds to the humour.

Using social media to set up a “friendship” is genius, resembling so much of life today, and the communication barriers down to language mistakes are at times hilarious.  There is a whole storyline describing Santi’s life and family in Madrid, which you must discover for yourself alongside Imogen…I don’t want to give anything away….but his early referrals to her as “the English woman” and how he views her as stereotypical English with her pale red hair and shy freckled body are very funny.  The characters in the book all grow, not necessarily in the ways that the reader expects or wants, but relationships develop and become clearer as the storyline unfolds.

There are some very atmospheric descriptions of both the south coast of England, particularly of the rain and mist sweeping in, and also of historic Madrid where Imogen gains inspiration for her own novel.

I really enjoyed Cherry Radford’s style of writing and will be returning for more of her novels.  I found this an easy going read – I actually read it within a couple of days – with a bit of history (the lighthouses), some intrigue, friendships, tears and love.  Plus lots of laughter – from me at least!

Five stars.

Available at Amazon here :

 

About the Author

81tEosh+iPL._UX250_Cherry Radford was a piano teacher at the Royal Ballet Junior School, a keyboard player in a band, and then a research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London before suddenly writing her first novel in the middle of a scientific conference in 2009.  She now lives in Eastbourne and Almeria (Spain).

Her first 2 novels are available from Amazon and she is now thrilled to have signed with the wonderful Urbane Publications, who will publish The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter in Spring 2018.

Blog: Bla Bla Land

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