Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Plenty Under The Counter by Kathleen Hewitt

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

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Synopsis

London, 1942, Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on a convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house.  With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder.  Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive.  Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt’s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author.

My thoughts

I do love a murder mystery and so was delighted when I discovered one of the four titles released in this project was one.  Often war on the frontline is covered in stories but this looks at the war from the Homefront.  Whilst men were away fighting life carried on whilst we hear plenty about the wartime spirit there were also plenty that took advantage of this difficult time.  Whilst many sheltered from the bombings others used the blackouts and misfortune of others to their own end.  This story shows that darker side, the side of a society pushed to their limits with the fear of the nightly raids, rationing and separation from their loved ones, and the criminals who take advantage of them.

Right from the get go the story drags you in with the discovery of a body.  David Heron is our protagonist and he becomes determined to help solve the crime.  The thing I liked most about this novel is that it perfectly sets the scene for battle worn London.  This wonderful series written by those who lived and breathed it captures the feeling and atmosphere of the time.  Kathleen Hewitt is a talented writer and I’m so delighted to have been able to read her work thanks to the IWM.  I read with interest the introduction written by Alan Jeffreys and I find her a fascinating woman.  I would definitely love to know more about her, not just her work but life in London.  We do get a glimpse of this in her writing.  Her plot is intriguing and her characters engaging.  Humour is splattered throughout and yet there is the undertone of the hardship that the war brought so many of the people simply trying to survive it.  We now know that the war eventually ended but at this time they had no idea how it would turn out.  This is a gripping murder mystery that perfectly captures a slice of British history and brings the realities of war on the Homefront to life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the IWM for my review copy.  I have already brought a copy all four of these titles for our school library and I look forward to sharing them with students and staff.

About the author

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Kathleen Hewitt (1893-1980) was a British author who wrote more than twenty novels in her lifetime, mainly in the mystery and thriller genre.  During the Second World War she lived in Marylebone, and belonged to the The Olde Ham Bone, a bohemian club in Soho, as well as frequenting the Ivy, the Cafe Royal and the Pen Club.  Hewitt enjoyed friendships with many literary and artistic figures of the day including Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

 

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Here is a little more about the project:

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM have launched a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories.

These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

War Time Classics

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Thriller

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone.  This is an absolute must read for lovers of psychological thrillers.

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Synopsis

In this powerful new thriller, Michael J Malone returns to A Suitable Lie territory, movingly and perceptively addressing a shocking social issue. Chilling, perceptive
and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home. Following a massive stroke, she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again. With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

In a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence…

My thoughts

‘Superb’ springs to mind when I think of how to describe this novel.  It’s an absolutely chilling read and right from the moment John discovered that single, mysterious shoe I was absolutely enthralled with the story.  Any parent will admit that a child disappearing is their worst fear.  never knowing what happened to them?  How can anyone deal with such a thing?  And yet there is so much more to this story then that.  The mystery surrounding the family is intriguing and throughout the novel a darkness is hinted at with whispers of memories hidden, memories that are bound to erupt above the surface leaving catastrophe in their wake.

John is an interesting character and you know that there is so much going on there, he is struggling with something but he doesn’t know what.  All he knows is that drink and avoidance keep him sane. He craves normality.  A good job and a woman to love but something is holding him back.  The self destruct button is never far away.   Life begins to spiral out of control as he begins to investigate a brother he has no memory of.  So what happens when the memories can no longer be avoided, what happens when they begin to return?

This was a fantastic page turner and one that I really didn’t want to put down.  Another fantastic novel from the team at Orenda Books and another author that I can add to my ‘must read!’ list.

Thank you so much to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.  Another absolute cracker you guys!

About the author

1-1Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction, Literary

Trial By Battle by David Piper

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Trial by Battle by David Piper. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

Here is a little more about the project:

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories.

These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

War Time Classics

Trial By Battle Cover Image
All four titles will be the subject of blog tours throughout the month (check out #wartimeclassics) but today I am going to be chatting about Trial By Battle by David Piper.

About the author

David Piper

David Piper (1918-1990) was best known as an art historian and museum director. He served with the Indian Army during the Second World War, and was a Japanese prisoner of war for three years from 1942-1945. Piper based Trial by Battle on his wartime experiences, publishing it under the pseudonym Peter Towry in 1959. In later life he achieved widespread acclaim as the director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Ashmolean Museum.

Normally I would place the author information at the end of my piece but today I feel it is incredibly relevant to have a little snapshot into the author – this is the blurb on the back of the book early on. This is an incredible novel. One that not only captures time and place perfectly but one that deserves to be read by a whole new generation of readers. Lest we forget.

Synopsis

October 1941. Twenty-one-year-old Alan Mart is posted to India and taken under the wing of the dogmatic, overbearing Acting-Captain Sam Holl. Following the Japanese advance on Singapore, the men are deployed to Malaya. What follows is a quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare and the indiscriminate nature of conflict.

My thoughts…

Some books can be written entirely from imagination. This is after all quite often how we all experience a great deal of what goes on in the world. A skilled writer will not necessarily have to experienced what they are writing about for it to be good – in my humble opinion. But, I have to say that with Trial By Battle, Piper has captured a moment in history so brilliantly that he, at times, moved me to tears. The situation, the location, the raw hideousness that is war all shine through in his writing. There is no fluffy filling, no unnecessary scenes. Each moment takes you straight on this journey with young Alan Mart. To know that the novel is born from experience makes it all the more compelling and heart-breaking. Piper was an excellent writer and his skill is evident within the pages of this short novel. Only 160 pages long but what he has created is a story one can never forget. I wonder if the writing was therapeutic for him. Was it difficult to write or a relief to put the words to paper? However he felt we can only be grateful that he put pen to paper so we can gain a better understanding of the horror of conflict and just what people went through.

The introduction by Alan Jeffreys is succinct, interesting and a super accompaniment to the novel. It highlights the quality of Piper’s writing and experience, giving you additional pause for thought.

I am so excited about this project and have been delighted to have my small part in sharing it. This is the first novel I have read in the Wartime Classics collection but I’m looking forward to continuing my part in the blog tours with Eight Hours From England and Plenty Under The Counter later this month. All four novels in the collection are published by the Imperial War Museum.

Trial by Battle IWM BT Poster

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut

Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton

Today is a glorious day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton.

Synopsis

Depression can be hell.

Heartbroken and lonely, the narrator has made an attempt on his own life. Whether he meant to or not he can’t say. But now he’s stuck in his own head, and time is running out.

To save himself, he embarks on a journey across an imagined America, one haunted by his doomed relationship and the memory of a road trip that ended in tragedy.

Help arrives in the guise of Jon Bon Jovi, rock star and childhood hero. An unlikely spirit guide, perhaps, but he’s going to give it a shot…

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My thoughts…

Now to be honest there is a lot of strong language and sexual references in this book. The language is crude and raw at times but can I just say that it is oh so beautiful. Dan’s writing is eloquent and emotive. I was absorbed into the storytelling by the strange surreal, nightmarish quality. It is absolutely compelling, poetic and powerful. Dan shows such sensitivity that he moved me to tears on more than one occasion. Johnny Ruin is an absolutely stunning read that will grab you hard by the heart and soul.

One line that particularly stands out for me ‘I thought you’d be taller‘. Read the book and find it yourself. Perhaps you’ll see what I mean but to me this one sentence encapsulates depression perfectly. It looms over life filling it with shadow and sadness before attaching itself, heavy and suffocating. Dan has written depression in it’s very darkest moments, he gives it a form and in that is turning it into something that can be defeated. It can try to hide from the light but it will be found. Despair can feel overwhelming and Johnny Ruin shows this but it also shows that there is still life out there even in times when we feel there is no future. This is a story of broken hearts and broken dreams but most of all it’s a story about finding your way, even through the dark.

Johnny Ruin has been published by Unbound and is available in hardback, paperback, eBook and audiobook.

Many thanks to the wonderful Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Many thanks also to Dan and the lovely people at Unbound for sending me a review copy.

About the author

Dan Dalton

1-3Dan Dalton is a writer and freelance journalist covering books and pop culture. He is a former Staff Writer at BuzzFeed.

A graduate of the University of Leeds, he was born in West Yorkshire, and lives in North London.

You can follow Dan on Twitter at @wordsbydan

 

 

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Love, Review, Summer Reads

Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls and even better than that it publishes TODAY!

Synopsis

Owen Nicholls’ Love, Unscripted is an uplifting love story, following film projectionist
Nick as he tries to understand the difference between love on the silver screen and love
in real life. Perfect for fans of David Nicholls, Nick Hornby and Laura Barnett.

For Nick, love should look like it does on the big screen. And when he meets Ellie on the
eve of the 2008 presidential election, it finally does. For four blissful years, Nick loved Ellie as much as he loved his job as a film projectionist in his local cinema. Life seemed picture-
perfect. But now it’s 2012, Ellie has moved out and Nick’s trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

With Ellie gone and his life falling part, Nick wonders if their romance could ever be as perfect as the night they met.

Can love really be as it is in the movies?

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My thoughts…

Oh but this novel is a complete joy to read. A delicious love story that has sufficient angst and ‘will they won’t they’ moments that swept me away. As a film lover I adored the references scattered throughout and I loved the sections featuring Nick’s job as a film projectionist, especially at a time that covered the inevitable move from 35mm to digital. This novel is not only about Nick’s love for Ellie and his journey of discovery as to where it all went wrong but also a nod to historical changes happening in the world at this time (beginning with Obama becoming President of the United States). Can such changes mean an inevitable death or simply a chance for new beginnings?

Ellie and Nick are quite obviously made for each other but as we join there story she has moved out. The beginning if the end. We have Nick’s viewpoint on things and so often events aren’t quite as they seem but gradually he comes to realise what actually went wrong and where the fault lies. Relationships are never straightforward and Nick does at times seem hellbent on self destruction and had me shouting at the book ‘You Idiot!’ on more than one occasion. I have to say that it was only because I am a total believer in true love and I so wanted these too characters work it out and fall back into each other’s lives. Owen’s writing is a joy to read. His plot was faultless, funny and moving. My favourite moment is a toss up between the visit to the Cannes Film Festival or the bathroom window incident – both made me laugh out loud. I can so see this being adapted into a screenplay or film. Love, Unscripted is deserving of a permanent place on my bookshelf for a reread on many occasions and I wholeheartedly recommend inviting this wonderfully uplifting read into your lives.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to the lovely people at Headline Review for sending me a copy. It was an absolute joy.

 

About the author

Owen Nicholls

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Owen Nicholls is a screenwriter with a Masters in Scriptwriting from the UEA. His work has appeared in Empire and NME, and earlier this year Love, Unscripted was selected for the Escalator Scheme run by Writers’ Centre in Norwich.

You can follow One on Twitter at @OwenNicholls

 

 

Love, Unscripted is published in hardback on August the 22nd by Headline Review.

It is also available on eBook and Audiobook.  the paperback is scheduled for publication in February 2020 but believe me you don’t want to have to wait until then to read this.

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Adult Fiction, Family Drama, Fiction, Netgalley, Review

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshenda Muckhopadhyay

Synopsis

At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.

When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law’s body – and her sharp-tongued ghost.

First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family’s prying hands, Pishima’s ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it’s up to her to fix it.

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.

My thoughts…

This was an interesting and engaging read. I was greatly intrigued by the title and the synopsis. This novel brings this Bengali family to life with colour and wit. The aunt of the title is cantankerous and difficult and leaves as much of a shadow on the family in death as in life. Young Somlata who has recently married into the Mitra family and after discovering her aunt-in-law’s body (and her lingering spirit) has more to deal with than an average young Bengali family. Her aunt-in-law seems hellbent on making life difficult and full of hatred and spite for her surviving family. Yet in many ways her choosing to reveal herself to young Somlata seems the obvious choice as the young girl proves that she can more than hold her own in this chaotic family.

A short but fascinating story that was highly enjoyable and a wonderful snapshot into a culture very different my own.

Thank you to the Netgalley and the publisher, John Murray for my review copy.

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is available in hardback, eBook and on Audiobook, with a paperback edition coming in 2020.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories, Romance, Summer Reads

The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander

Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander.

Synopsis

Sardinia, 1968.

Eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man. After a gruelling journey through the countryside, the two are eventually released – but the experience leaves Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life.

Accompanying her mother to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of an eccentric Signora and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate. During secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, Alba is at last able to express emotions too powerful for words alone. Ignoring her parents’ wishes, she accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire. There she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.

But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and her family…

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My thoughts…

This is an incredibly beautifully written novel. The story is engrossing and Sara’s use of language, imagery and her characterisation create a deeply moving and engrossing story. Alba’s life on Sardinia is far from easy. Restricted by family traditions and expectations, along with the trauma and guilt that weighs her down after the abduction of her father and brother, her home life is far from happy. Those closest to her see her only as a difficult, silent child who brings grief and trouble to the family. Yet Signora Elias, a local woman who her mother cleans for, spots a talent burning bright within Alba. This kind, generous old woman takes her under her wing and teaches her the piano. Alba finally finds a way to express the torrent of emotions within and releases a unique talent from within. So many times I felt the injustice of the treatment towards Alba that watching her flourish through her music was a complete joy.

I met author, Sara Alexander at Destination HQ earlier this summer. Listening to her briefly talk about this book I was immediately intrigued to know more. She seemed such a charismatic and vibrant person and spoke of both the novel and her love of music and food (touching briefly on her produce grown on her own allotment). I could tell that she was incredibly proud of her Sardinian ancestry and I felt that such a colourful person would produce an interesting and animated story. During the evening we bonded briefly over our shared love of allotment life and I was excited to receive a copy of both this and her previous novel The Secret Legacy. I’m so glad that I did because she writes beautifully and all that charisma, colour, vibrancy and knowledge seeps into the story to create an absolutely stunning novel. She reminded me a little of Victoria Hislop, although I try to avoid author comparisons, Sara’s ability to bring Sardinia alive did bring Victoria to mind. I love the way she uses music so wonderfully and her articulation and sentence structure is superb. So many of my senses were engaged whilst reading. She conjures a piece of music to your mind with words alone, the atmosphere and emotion are all there. The same goes when she talks about food, such an important part of family life and skilfully used to bring moments with the story to life.

As for Alba’s journey well of course it isn’t easy but she is a wonderful character to follow and her story is one with joy as well as sadness. Be swept away to Italy with this gorgeous novel, it is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at HQ Stories for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for the review copy. It is wonderful and I now look forward to reading Sara’s previous novels, Under A Sardinian Sky and The Secret legacy.

As well as being a incredibly talented novelist, Sara is also and actress and I have to say my son was VERY IMPRESSED that I chatted with an actress who had appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Every time we watch it (and we do quite a lot) I remind him ‘I met her!’ 🙂

About the author

Sara Alexander

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Sara Alexander attended Hamstead School, went on to graduate from the University of Bristol, with a BA hons in Theatre, Film & TV. She followed on to complete her postgraduate diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much-loved productions such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow. She is based in London.

Find out more about Sara by visiting her website at http://www.saraalexander.net

You can follow Sara on Twitter at @AuthorSaraAlex

You can find Sara on Instagram at @sarajalexander