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

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

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

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

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

skye

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

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

folklore-and-fantasies-on-the-isle-of-skye-L-fGPw7M

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

 

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

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

4.5 stars!

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

About the Author

Anna Mazzola

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

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

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

Find Anna:

Goodreads

Website: https://annamazzola.com/

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

 


A Summer Holiday Read! Blog Tour and Book Review : The Heat is On by Helen Bridgett #LoveBooksGroupTours

Heat is On (1)

I am delighted to be a part of another LoveBooksGroup Blog Tour!  Just right for summer.

The wonderful middle aged ladies Angie and Patty, along with their best friend Charlie are back to add some sparkle to the summer.  Angie and Charlie are running their successful travel agency, the Mercury Travel Club, their friend Patty has just returned from performing on cruise ships and all three are in new relationships.

Angie has bought her first home since her divorce; her daughter Zoe is living in New York and she has a wonderful new man in her life.  She has won a local Business Entrepreneur Award and the travel agency has been going from strength to strength.  Life is good!  But this is all to change when Lorenzo enters their world with his new brand of travel agency that he opens in a shop directly opposite The Mercury Travel Club.  Suddenly the friends find themselves desperately fighting for their business as they are undercut and thwarted at every turn by the devious Lorenzo – can they find ways to remain one step ahead with innovative and fun ideas, to maintain their loyal customer base and to woo new clients?

A unique opportunity presents itself in the shape of a beautiful island retreat, which could give the friends the USP that they need for the survival of the Mercury Travel Club.  Add maintaining their personal relationships and growing new ones into the mix – what could possibly go wrong?

Pin for later

Heat is On Pin

This is the second book in the series, and whilst I always recommend reading a series from the start, The Heat is On can definitely be read as a stand-alone – there really is enough explanation to understand the back stories.  The antics of the pals make this the perfect light, romantic comedy to pack in your suitcase and read on the beach!  The book is fun, witty and easy to read – maybe not a great literary novel, but certainly a very enjoyable one!

Angie, Patty and Charlie are funny, lovable and in possession of real human traits.  For me some of their most endearing qualities are those that are reflective of real life and not some magazine styled ideal – failed relationships, insecurities, less than perfect bodies, inability to cook, embarrassing parents, turbulent love lives and a love of life.  They show that it is possible to be middle aged and still have a sense of adventure and joie de vivre.  The friends are loyal, protective and love each other – this gives the book a real feel good factor.

The characters are funny, scatty and seem to invite disaster at every turn.  But they are also lovable, believable and it felt joyful to be a part of their story.  I love a well written classic piece of literature, but I equally love a well written, contemporary, light hearted tale and would definitely describe this book in this category.  Angie is a great character and I can easily both laugh with her and cry with her – this woman has soul!  Patty is larger than life and just makes me smile every time she enters the room.  Charlie provides the balance to his female friends – the voice of reason yet also passionate and driven.  Perhaps my favourite character is Angie’s mum – so funny and always there at just the wrong moment to make an entrance.

A joy to read, this is a light hearted, romantic comedy that doesn’t pretend to be anything else – a perfect, unpretentious read for the summer!  4 stars

With thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for including me on this blog tour.

Available from:

Amazon:

Book 1 –

Book 2 –

 

Waterstones

WHSmith

 

About the Author

Helen has always loved books and always loved writing. One year she decided her New Year’s resolution would be “Write a novel to give as a Christmas present”. She spent the year writing and The Mercury Travel Club was born.

Helen hails from the North East but now lives in Manchester. bridgett
Following a career in Marketing, Helen took an MA in TV and Radio Scriptwriting and created short films before writing her first novel. She loves nothing more than a glass of wine and witty banter with friends; her love of dialogue feeds into her work and has given her the perfect excuse to eavesdrop on conversations. Helen lives with her husband and their chocolate Labrador, Angus; all three can often be found wandering the Cumbrian hills or in country pubs.

Like many people, Helen believes that the music you grow up with as a teenager stays with you for the whole of your life. Being a child of 80’s rock, when she hears the opening riff to Sweet Child of Mine, she cannot be held responsible for her actions!

Find Helen:

Website: Helen Bridgett.com

Twitter: @Helen_Bridgett

Goodreads

Publisher: Red Door Publishing

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

warrior-pierced-heart.jpg

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!!

Pin It!

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

Amazon:

Waterstones

Goodreads

Red Door Publishing

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

 

 

18d9a-post-comment-love-badge

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

Find out more:

Amazon:

Goodreads

Facebook

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

 

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.

drugs to forget.jpg

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?

Drugs to Forget pin

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:

Book Depositary

Amazon: on Kindle & Paperback

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.

Find Martin here:

Twitter

Goodreads

Website

Facebook

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)

gl-blog-banner

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!

Pin for later

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

Follow me on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/TheWritingChimp

For the latest news you can subscribe to my newsletter [HERE]

My writing blog TheWritingChimp.com

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

Book Review: Restitution(#Crazy Amy 3) by Rose Edmunds

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.

Pin Restitution review

 

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!

download

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.

 

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!

By the way…I do now have #Crazy Amy 1 & 2!

Books available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Published 19th March 2018

About the Author – Rose Edmunds (from author website)

Rose EdmundsAfter 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.

 

Book Blog Tour – Book Review of “Evanthia’s Gift” Book 1 The Gift Saga by Effie Kammenou

I have been fortunate to be given a copy of this book by the author through Love Books Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

EG & WFA Facebook-Twitter 1

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga – Women’s fiction/ contemporary romance – Women’s fiction 2106 Reader’s Favorite Award finalist – Available in print, kindle and audible

Review

Anastacia Fotopoulos has moved to the USA after the horrors of the second world war in order to educate herself and so take a step closer to fulfilling her dreams.  She hadn’t anticipated falling in love and marrying the first handsome man to come her way, nor less to then be cruelly betrayed by those closest to her.  It is 1956 and she finds herself alone, pregnant and ashamed to return home to Greece.  She is fortunate in the support of her wonderful friends Stavros and Soula, also first generation Greek immigrants, and her Uncle who gives her employment to keep a roof over her and her new baby daughter’s heads.  The last thing that she expects is to attract the attentions of another young Greek man from her student days, and when her friends try to match make her with Alex she is determined to resist.  She will never put her future in the hands of a man again.

Ana has no idea that Alexandros Giannakos has loved her since he first knew her, and he wins her over with his perseverance and love for both her and daughter Sophia.  Their friends have had two children, Dean and Demi, and life for the close Greek American families is good.  But secrets have been kept, with the best of intentions by all involved, and these will affect life in the future.  The storyline skips forward to the teenage years of the children, and whilst the girls are closer than sisters, a deeper relationship develops between Dean and Sophia.  Their Greek heritage remains extremely important to the families, particularly the older generation, and teen Dean cannot bear to have his life mapped out by his parents – he wants to be an American boy who goes to college and finds his own way in the world.  As a result, he refuses to acknowledge his feelings openly for Sophia and as he pulls away from the family traditions, Sophia too has her young heart broken.

Life continues for the families.  Dean marries a college girl and goes to work for his father in law, Demi marries her secret childhood sweetheart and Sophia throws herself into her career as a dancer.  Along the way family secrets emerge that threaten to splinter relationships, and the rock the families to the core.

Pin for later

Evanthia pin

If you enjoy family dramas that span generations, without sugar coating life, then you will love this novel.  The historical element of life in war torn Greece was fascinating, as was the story that was so common to many immigrant New York families be they Greek, Italian, Irish….the author is herself a second generation Greek American, and she appears to have exactly the right understanding between the need for embracing their heritage and culture for the older family members, to the desire to be American youngsters and growing up in America for the youngsters.  The friction was palpable in the writing.

The characters all grow and develop throughout the course of the novel as life throws both expected and unexpected joys and sorrows at them.  Ana remains at the core of the story, and I love the way in which both she and Soula are presented as the strong women keeping the wheels of their family life oiled and turning.  The secret to this is food!  I recognised in this book one of my own close friends, who moved to London from Athens in the 1980s, and is the most amazing homemaker and cook.  My kids love to go to her house and she feeds us all in a very similar way to Ana and Soula in the story.  The descriptions of the food are enough to make the reader’s mouth water, but then the author will offer up a wonderful gem every few chapters with a complete Greek recipe.  Imagine my delight when I also found that the author has a recipe website! I am so excited to try cooking some of these mouth-watering delicacies!

Evanthia’s Gift is a love story that covers generations, continents, different loves lost and found – but it is so much more than a love story, it is a story of human life and emotions over a fifty-year period.  I wanted to shout at the characters when the miscommunication caused problems and altered the course of lives and changed choices made.  I cheered when decisions ended well, and I shouted and cried at the bad decisions and the sorrows that life dishes up.  This book depicts real life – not everything can be planned, not everything is sugar coated and joy is tempered with sadness.  If you haven’t guessed I loved this book and am really looking forward to the next one in the series….and yes, you will find out who Evanthia is and just what her gift is.

Five Stars from me!

Karithopita

Karithopita – An Easy to Make Greek Walnut Cake from Cheffie’s Kitchen

About the Author (from Goodreads)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Member of Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association & Romance Writers of America

Available from Amazon :

 

Amazon author page

https://www.amazon.com/Effie-Kammenou/e/B013NZRWLI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1488327067&sr=8-1

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/EffieKammenou/

 Twitter

https://twitter.com/EffieKammenou

Goodreads page

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14204724.Effie_Kammenou

 Food blog

https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com

 instagram

https://www.instagram.com/author_effie_cheffieskitchen/

Newsletter signup page

 http://eepurl.com/bIoJl1

evanthiasgift