Monthly Archives: October 2018

Blog Tour – The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul *Review and Giveaway*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul today. Along with my review of Gill’s latest book I have a giveaway! Read about the book and my thoughts on it and then find out how to enter to win a paperback copy of The Lost Daughter and a The Lost Daughter postcard signed by Gill!

The Blurb

A Russian princess. An extraordinary sacrifice. A captivating secret…
From the author of The Secret Wife, a gripping journey through decades and across continents, of love, devastating loss and courage against all odds.
1918
With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of Russia’s imperial family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria Romanova captivates two of the guards, it will lead to a fateful choice between right and wrong.
Fifty-five years later . . .
Val rushes to her father’s side when she hears of his troubling end-of-life confession: ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’ As she unravels the secrets behind her mother’s disappearance when she was twelve years old, she finds herself caught up in one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

My Thoughts

After loving The Secret Wife I was extremely excited to discover that Gill Paul was once again revisiting the Romanov dynasty in her next book, The Lost Daughter. I have been fascinated by Russian history since I did an A level in Modern British and European History many (many!) years ago and so to read a fiction novel that incorporates Russian history is always going to be a book I want to read, especially when it is written by Gill Paul.

The Lost Daughter is told over two timelines. One follows Maria Romanov in Russia from April 1918 onwards and the other follows Val in Sydney, Australia, from October 1973. Both women are going through difficulties but for very different reasons and both stories are incredibly emotional. Paul once again demonstrates her skill as a writer as she manages to seamlessly weave between eras and countries without ever leaving the reader feeling more invested in one storyline over the other. Her writing and characterisation is such that you are equally interested in each.

Val’s story centres on her quest for the truth following the death of her Russian father. On his death bed her father says ‘I didn’t mean to kill her’ and Val is, obviously, keen to discover what he meant given her mother mysteriously left the family when Val was a teenager. A cold man, Val wonders if he actually killed her mother. What she goes on to learn about her father and his history turns out to be beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

Paul has created a depth around Val’s storyline and it never feels like a secondary part to The Lost Daughter. Val escapes from an abusive husband during a time in which domestic abuse was not taken seriously, and the reader can’t help but be drawn in to Val’s struggle and to be moved by the challenges she faces.

My favourite thread has to be the one that follows Maria Romanov, though. Imagine if one of the Grand Duchesses survived the execution that was meted out to the family? What would life have been like for her and how would she survive and go undiscovered? Paul answers these questions in The Lost Daughter and makes it realistic. This realism, however, brings with it heartbreak so be prepared to shed tears.

I really like the way that Paul delicately portrays both sides of the Russian people at that time. While she clearly portrays Maria as innocent – a victim of who she was born to – which she was, she also portrays how the Russian people were suffering under the Romanov’s rule. While the Tsar and his family lived in luxury the Russian people were starving. Maria seems to have been oblivious to this fact and this may well have been the case.

It is clear that The Lost Daughter has been carefully researched as Paul takes us through Russia following the revolution, through Lenin and Stalin’s rule to Brezhnev. She completely captures the fear and paranoia that the Russian people felt during Stalin’s rule to the point that they could not speak openly in front of their own children. The Lost Daughter is utterly heartbreaking at times as Paul brings to life the atrocities faced by the Russian people during this era.

Another wonderful book by Gill Paul, I can’t recommend The Lost Daughter highly enough. It is beautifully written, full of emotion, historically accurate and fascinating. She has managed, once again, to bring to life one of the most interesting albeit brutal periods of history and make it accessible and readable. The Lost Daughter is a must for your bookshelf.

The Lost Daughter is published on 18 October 2018 by Headline Review. You can buy your copy HERE.

About the Author

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, Another Woman’s Husband, is about links you might not have been aware of between Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Gill’s other novels include The Secret Wife, published in 2016, about the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914. Women and Children First is about a young steward who works on the Titanic. The Affair was set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while making Cleopatra. And No Place for a Lady is about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects, and a series of Love Stories, each containing fourteen tales of real-life couples: how they met, why they fell for each other, and what happened in the end. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.

Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition and relationships.

Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and is a devotee of Pilates. She also particularly enjoys travelling on what she calls “research trips” and attempting to match-make for friends.
WEBSITE : www.gillpaul.com

TWITTER : @GillPaulAUTHOR

Giveaway

I am delighted to be able to giveaway a paperback copy of The Lost Daughter and a signed The Lost Daughter  postcard to one lucky reader. Unfortunately, the giveaway is only open to UK residents – sorry! Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 23 October 2018. Good luck!

Huge thanks to Gill Paul and Headline Review for the advance copy of The Lost Daughter and to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Blog Tour – Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the debut by Ronnie Turner, Lies Between Us, today.

The Blurb

Will they ever learn the truth?
Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Shari Lapena and Lisa Jewell.

My Thoughts

I was extremely excited to finally read Ronnie Turner’s debut novel, Lies Between Us, and also a little bit apprehensive as she is a fellow book blogger. I am delighted to finally be sharing my thoughts on this epic blog tour.

Lies Between Us follows three characters over three different timelines. We see Miller, a child in the 1980s, Maisie an ICU nurse in 2016 and John, whose daughter has been kidnapped, in 2015. Throughout we are left wondering how the three threads will eventually come together. Lies Between Us is an ambitious debut novel and hats off to Turner for trying her hand at such a complex plot.

Turner is an incredibly talented writer and Lies Between Us is beautifully written. The chapters in which we follow Miller really demonstrate what Turner is capable of and had me in mind of a kind of reverse We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her portrayal of a child who is clearly a psychopath is incredibly chilling and unnerving. Miller’s sections are written in second person narrative, often a difficult feat to pull off, but Turner does it brilliantly and this adds to the creepiness of Lies Between Us.

The rest of the characterisation in the book is also really well done. John’s parts in particular are incredibly emotional. Turner’s portrayal of a parent whose child has been kidnapped is really moving and she has a real sensitivity when it comes to describing emotions and conveying them to the reader.

I did have a few difficulties with the plot. I guessed quite early on who the perpetrator was and the ending left me feeling confused and almost as though the plot and the layout of the book were at odds with each other. I feel that it could have been set out better and that the headings of some of the chapters may have been better left anonymous as this was what caused me the most confusion.

Lies Between Us is a slow burner and while the pace fit perfectly with the storyline, I felt that Maisie’s thread slowed it down a little too much at times. By the end of the book I did struggle to understand the significance of her storyline.

Turner has clearly demonstrated her skill as a writer and while I did have some issues with the execution of Lies Between Us, I adored Turner’s use of language, her ability to show emotional acuity and her skill at developing solid, believable characters. An ambitious debut, Ronnie Turner has shown herself to be an author to watch out for and I look forward to reading her future novels.

Published on E-book and audiobook on 1 October 2018 and paperback on 13 December 2018, you can get your copy HERE.

About the author

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter:@Ronnie_ _Turner

Facebook: @RonnieTurnerAuthor

Instagram: @ronnieturner8702

Website: www.ronnieturner.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RonnieTurner

My thanks to Ronnie Turner, HQ Digital and NetGalley for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Blog Tour – In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards *Review*

 

I am beyond delighted to be on the blog tour for In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards today. Before I tell you what I thought, here is the all-important blurb.

The Blurb

Isabel’s life seemed perfect. Successful business, beautiful house, adoring husband. And then she was dead.
For four years Jessica has never doubted that her sister Isabel’s death was an accident. But when Jessica’s young daughter seems to know long-forgotten details about her aunt’s past, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that there’s a more sinister truth behind the tragedy.
As Jessica unearths disturbing revelations about her sister, and about the people she loved and trusted most, it becomes clear Isabel’s life was less than perfect and that Jessica’s might also be at risk.
Did someone murder Isabel? Are they now after Jessica and her family? The key seems to lie in the hands of a child. Can Isabel reveal the truth from beyond the grave, or is the answer closer to home?

My Thoughts

Mark Edwards has really turned up the chill factor for In Her Shadow as this book is part ghost story, part crime novel, part thriller. A difficult feat to pull off but Edwards has done it with style.

Four years ago Jessica’s sister Isabel died and the family had believed it was an accidental death. When Jessica’s daughter Olivia starts to talk about things she couldn’t possibly know about her aunt, Jessica begins to doubt that her sister’s death was an accident.

In Her Shadow is a twisty book about family secrets, obsession and manipulation. If you thought The Retreat was spooky, you haven’t read anything yet! In Her Shadow has all the creepiness of his last novel and more. Much more. Edwards has used techniques used in classic horror films and books to give In Her Shadow that spine-chilling edge and it certainly makes the hairs on your arms stand on end.

Edwards confirms his place as the king of red herrings as he once again threw me completely off course in this book. In Her Shadow is an incredibly compulsive thriller and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what had happened to Isabel. Split into two parts, the end of part one had me saying ‘Oh my God’ out loud and desperate to discuss it with another reader. In Her Shadow is another real page-turner.

Edwards cleverly builds up the story by switching between present day and past. These sneaky peaks at what went before ensure that you are kept guessing and second-guessing all the way through the book.

It is clear as the story progresses that Edwards has been influenced by the recent ‘Me Too’ campaign. The incorporation of this theme gives In Her Shadow a contemporary and relevant edge. He deals with this issue in a manner that shows he has researched the issue of sexual harassment and the impact it has on its victims along with the methods used by the perpetrators.

There are a few books out at the moment that combine crime thriller with a supernatural element and In Her Shadow holds its own in originality and storyline. Gripping, goosebump-inducing and just overall great, In Her Shadow is another fantastic book by Mark Edwards and fans and new readers alike will not be disappointed.

In Her Shadow was published on 4 October 2018 by Thomas & Mercer. You can get a copy HERE.

Blog Tour – Cold Breath by Quentin Bates *Review*

Unusually for me, I am on two blog tours today. The second one I am taking part in is for Cold Breath by Quentin Bates and I am delighted to share my thoughts on his latest book. But first, the all-important blurb…

The Blurb

Gunnhildur reluctantly allows herself to be taken off police duties to act as bodyguard to a man with a price on his head . . .
Hidden away in a secure house outside Reykjavík, Gunna and the high-profile stranger, a guest of the interiors minister, are thrown together – too close for comfort. They soon find they are neither as safe nor as carefully hidden as Gunna and her boss had thought. Conflicting glimpses of the man’s past start to emerge as the press begin to sniff him out, as does another group with their own reasons for locating him. Gunna struggles to come to terms with protecting the life of a man who may have the lives of many on his conscience – or indeed may be the philanthropist he claims to be.
Isolated together, the friction grows between Gunna and the foreign visitor, and she realises they are out of their depth as the trails lead from the house outside Reykjavík to Brussels, Russia and the Middle East.

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be approached to take part in the blog tour for Cold Breath by Quentin Bates. I was familiar with Bates due to his work translating for Orenda Books and I had been meaning to check out his own books. This gave me the perfect excuse.

Cold Breath is the seventh in the Gunnhildur Mystery Books but this was my first and it works really well as a standalone. I had no problems following the story, getting to know the characters and I didn’t feel as though as I was missing anything in backstory.

Police officer Gunnhildur is taken off normal police duty and appointed to protect a politician’s guest during his stay in Iceland. It soon becomes clear that the guest may not be all that he seems and conceals a shadowy side.

The pace from the outset is relentless and Cold Breath hurtles along, keeping the reader completely on their toes. Bates has ensured that every chapter is packed with either action or intrigue. Each chapter flips from one character storyline to another and while I would normally struggle to keep up, there is something about Bates’ execution of the book that makes it easy to follow. You are never too far away from any of the characters due to punchy paragraphs which make it easy and enjoyable to follow.

The characterisation is great and despite being unfamiliar with Gunnhildur, it didn’t take me long to get the feel of her and like her. Gunnhildur really goes through the mill in Cold Breath and I am eager to read the next book to ascertain how she moves on from it. I adored her and reporter Skúli.

Cold Breath is tightly plotted and combines crime, murder and political intrigue. I liked the way it explored how your job can have you questioning your morals and values, as Gunnhildur wonders if the man she is being paid to protect is worth protecting given as the truth about him and his actions are brought to life.

A great action-packed novel set against the fantastic backdrop of Iceland, I thoroughly enjoyed Cold Breath. Bates’ writing is superb and I am so glad I got to check out his work. A great addition to the book shelf of any crime fiction lover.

Published on 11 October 2018 by Constable, you can get your copy HERE.

My thanks to Quentin Bates and Constable for the advance copy and to Emily at Brand Hive for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Blog Tour – Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott *Review*

 

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott today. This book is completely different to anything else I have read. Here is what it is about followed by my thoughts.

The Blurb

For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs.
But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…
Dear Mr Pop Star contains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.

My Thoughts

Every now and again we need a total change from the types of books we normally read. Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott certainly offered that change. A series of letters by Derek Philpott to various bands and pop stars querying certain aspects of their lyrics is an interesting concept and even more so when those he writes to writes back.

This book is like nothing I have read before and I suspect it is highly unlikely that I will again. Dear Mr Pop Star is set out as the letters Philpott has written to the various stars. The majority are followed by responses from the stars and others are like postcards that have not been responded to. The letters are hilarious and Derek Philpott’s observations are dry, witty and have you shaking your head in agreement while laughing out loud. Being a proofreader, I really appreciated his observations on the grammar of some band names and lyrics. The letter he wrote to Doctor and the Medics is brilliant. I’m not going to go into detail, you will have to read it yourself, and it is worth getting the book for that one alone. Other gems include his observations on Nik Kershaw’s ‘The Riddle’, Bananarama’s ‘Really Saying Something’ and Cutting Crew’s ‘I Just Died in your Arms Tonight’. They are undoubtedly funny but they also demonstrate a real intelligence and quick wit.

What really surprised me was the amount of responses he had received back. They are not brief responses either. The various stars have really taken their time over their responses and I was delighted to see how they took Philpott’s observations in good humour.

Being of a certain age *cough, cough* I really appreciated the letters to the above and other stars of the 80s and 90s such as T’Pau, EMF, Carter USM and others. I have to confess that there were a few bands that I didn’t know and I tended to skip over these letters as I didn’t really get what was being referred to. This did not, however, impact on my enjoyment of Dear Mr Pop Star.

Incredibly quirky, Dear Mr Pop Star is a work of real ingenuity and the letters are very well written. This is a book I will dip into time and time again when I need a good laugh. A completely unique concept that I hope the Philpott’s will continue and bring out more volumes of. Highly recommended.

Published on 20 September 2018 by Unbound, you can get a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Derek and Dave Philpott for my advance copy of Dear Mr Pop Star and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

Review – The Cult On Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein

The Blurb

The deadliest trap is the one you don’t see…
Sofia has just finished university and ended a troubled relationship when she attends a lecture about a New Age movement, Via Terra. Its leader is Franz Oswald, young, good-looking, urbane and mesmerizing.
When Sofia meets Franz Oswald, the handsome, charming leader of a mysterious New Age movement, she’s dazzled and intrigued. Visiting his headquarters on Fog Island, Sofia’s struck by the beautiful mansion overlooking the sea, the gardens, the sense of peace and the purposefulness of the people who live there. And she can’t ignore the attraction she feels for Franz.
So she agrees to stay, just for a while. But as summer gives way to winter, and the dense fog from which the island draws its name sets in, it becomes clear that Franz rules the island with an iron fist. No phones or computers are allowed. Contact with the mainland is severed. Electric fences surround the grounds. And Sofia begins to realize how very alone she is and that no one ever leaves Fog Island…

My Thoughts

I am fascinated by cults and therefore could not resist requesting The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein when I saw it on NetGalley. I was even more excited to read it when I discovered that the author had been a Scientologist. I expected that this would give the book an authenticity and I was ready for a book that despite being a work of fiction would give me a real insight to life inside a cult. This book is not out until January 2019 and I wouldn’t normally review a book this early but I couldn’t resist it.

The Cult on Fog Island follows Sofia, a young woman who has just finished university, ended a relationship and is looking to start the next phase of her life. When she attends a lecture held by Franz Oswald about his movement Via Terra and is invited to visit the headquarters on Fog Island Sofia goes along out of curiosity and because she is attracted to Oswald. At the lecture there is nothing to suggest that she will be entering a cult as Via Terra is pitched as a ‘new age movement’ and does not prescribe to any religion. It was easy to see how Sofia was drawn in as a result.

Told in third person with Sofia as the main character, we get her perspective of the events that unfold. What I liked is that Sofia comes across as your average young woman. I have to admit to going into the book expecting the main character to a particularly vulnerable young woman, but she is not. Sofia comes from a stable family and her life has followed the course of many women. This makes The Cult on Fog Island even more creepy as it demonstrates how easily someone can be drawn into a cult.

The book is also punctuated by an anonymous voice of whom we do not discover the identity of until later in the book. These parts are creepy and give you an insight in to how a person develops into a domineering force.

The Cult on Fog Island is a slow burner, so don’t go into this book expecting thrills straight away. This may not appeal to some people but I am quite happy to read a slower-paced thriller if the pace fits with the story and in this case it does. The pace enables us to see how Via Terra goes from innocent enough new age centre to effectively a prison camp. The character of Franz Oswald is central to this and while I didn’t get a sense of him being the charismatic man Sofia and other members of Via Terra talk about, Lindstein has portrayed him well as a man the slow descent of madness. We watch as his façade steadily slips over time and his megalomaniacal and paranoid tendencies come out. As Oswald’s paranoia steadily increases, life for those working at Via Terra becomes deadly. The methods he uses to control those around them gradually become more and more extreme and alongside methods such as sleep deprivation and malnourishment I got a real sense of why they wouldn’t – or couldn’t – fight back.

I really enjoyed The Cult on Fog Island and found myself eagerly returning to it after each break from reading. For me it highlighted the insidious nature of control and dangers of paranoia. I liked the fact that it was subtle in its portrayal of life inside a cult rather than trying to be more of a fast-paced thriller as this gave it an authenticity. However, I expect The Cult on Fog Island to have a mixed reaction because of its pace and it may not go down well with those who want a ‘faster’ read. If you like slower-paced books and are interested in cults Lindstein’s The Cult on Fog Island is one to check out.

The Cult On Fog Island is published on 24 January 2019 by HQ. You can pre-order a copy HERE.

Thanks to Mariette Lindstein, HQ and NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.