Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction

Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot.  Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace.  Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure. 

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There is something quite exciting about plant hunters. It’s a subject that I have been interested in for some time. I have come across hunters such as Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Joseph Hooker and Ernest Wilson. I’ve admired the botanical paintings and adventurous spirit of Marianne North, her own contribution to the history of plants and their native habitat being incredibly valuable. Yet I had never heard of John Jeffrey.  Therefore this partly fictional/partly historical record is filled with fascinating insight and takes us back to the past and a time when travelling to North America would have been fraught with danger.

Jeffrey’s journals have never been recovered but meticulous research through archives such as those held in the library of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has enabled Gabriel to piece together Jeffrey’s journey from the time he left the UK until his disappearance.  Of course we may never know exactly what happened but through this combination of fact and carefully considered fiction we are able to gain an insight into the treacherous journey that John undertook.  The wonders he witnessed, the hardships he suffered and the life changing relationships he forged. It would seem that those who sent him on his journey had little appreciation for what he was to face.  He was very young and although had a good knowledge of his subject could not have been adequately prepared for the world he was thrown into.

Anyone interested in botany and the history of plant hunters will find this a fascinating read.  Gabriel brings the realities of these dangerous expeditions to life and by giving John a voice has brought him and his legacy to light in the twenty-first century.  John Jeffrey collected ‘at least 400 plant specimens and seeds of 199 species‘ during his 10.000-mile expedition route across North America.  These include trees that are now part of the British landscape.  John Jeffrey as well as many other adventurers risked their life to find new and exciting species of plants and it’s wonderful to be able have a glimpse into their worlds through books such as Green Gold.  An unusual style of writing that is refreshing, thought-provoking and made me want to discover more about John Jeffrey.  There is also rather helpfully a further reading list at the back of the book so I look forward to exploring some of the recommendations there.

I’m delighted to have discovered Gabriel and look forward to now reading his first book The New Sylva.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

About the author

Gabriel Hemery

1-5Gabriel Hemery is a tree-hunter, forest scientist and published author. As a young researcher he led a seed-collecting expedition to the walnut-fruit forests of Kyrgyzstan, and in his career as a hands-on scientist has planted tens of thousands of trees in plantations and experiments across Britain. Gabriel played a lead role alongside other prominent environmentalists in halting the sell-off of England’s public forests. After leading the Botanical Society of the British Isles as its first Director of Development, he co-founded the environmental charity Sylva Foundation, since leading it as Chief Executive. His first book The New Sylva was published to wide acclaim in 2014. He lives near Oxford in England.

You can follow Gabriel on Twitter at @GabrielHemer

Gabriel has an absolutely fascinating website: GabrielHemery.com

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Green Gold is available in eBook and Paperback and is published by Unbound.

 

 

 

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories

The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans

This evening I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for the latest novel by Harriet Evans, The Garden of Lost and Found.  From the moment I held it in my hands I knew I was in for a wonderful journey.

I adore a novel that features a house that is almost a character in itself.  They have such presence and there is something there, something that sucks me in, captures my imagination and whisks me away.  I am a homebody and I totally get the way we can become ingrained in a building.  Every memory clinging to bricks and mortar, every inch bringing new life and memories.  Of course the memories can’t always be good and even Nightingale House has had it’s share of tragedy.  This is a wonderful epic tale of love lost and saved, betrayal and trust, all wrapped up in a families history and even it’s future.  The house plays a big part but it is in the garden where memories are forged and generations come together.  The Garden of Lost and Found.

We begin in 1918 with Ned burning a painting, but not just any painting,  his most famous painting.  A painting whose story is ingrained throughout the pages of the book.  Why did he burn it? What madness possessed him.  It was all that remained of them. The children lost to them.  But how, when and where? It was incredibly enticing, I couldn’t stop reading, at times with tears, also anger but also with hope.  What a wonderful tale Harriet has created, almost as artfully as a painter bringing a canvas to life. I could see each character in my minds eye. They whispered their story through her words so I couldn’t turn away until I reached the very end.

Pure, wonderful escapism. Harriet wonderfully merges the difficulties faced by each of the women in this story.   From the 19th century right through to present day we watch the story of this family unfold.  Juliet, our modern day mum is going through a time of great change and upset.  As she tries to cope with all that it thrown at her she returns to the home of her grandmother and a house that holds many secrets; secrets that are now ready to be known. At times I read in horror at what was endured by the characters, and it was heartbreaking yet wonderfully moving.  A tale filled with love, courage, hate and bitterness but more than all of that it is a story of the importance of those who came before us and the hope that love can save the day.

This was a wonderful read that I consumed in a long weekend and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

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Synopsis

Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous
artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and
Found days before his sudden death.

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created
to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted The Garden of Lost and Found,
capturing his children on a perfect day.
One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale
House, she starts a new life with her three children, and opens the door onto a
forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers.
For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or,
in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.
Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

About the author

Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans Author PictureHarriet Evans is the author, Going Home, A Hopeless RomanticThe Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You. Before becoming a full time writer Harriet was a successful editor for a London publishing house. She lives in London with her family.

You can follow Harriet on Twitter at @HarrietEvans

and on Instagram at @harrietevansauthor

 

The Garden of Lost and Found was published in hardback by Headline Review on April 18th 2019. It is also available in eBook and Audiobook.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Historical Fiction

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the home of scientist Thomas Jerwood.  Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment.  But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the  power  and intrigue  of Laura Purcell’s ‘See What I Have Done’, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning  debut takes  the reader  on a heart-breaking  journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

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Is a person born bad?  Does evil course through the veins like blood or is it something that arises out of circumstance?  Nature or nurture?  This is a question that filled me throughout this bewitching tale.

Right from the very first page we are plunged head first into the dark, murky depths of a brutal Victorian Britain.  Cora is born in a gaol and we follow her journey at two intervals of her life.  We know she is protecting a dark secret and yet we can’t be sure what her crime is…not at first.  Cora is an intriguing character and although her difficult start in life can warrant some allowances for her tough attitude there are moments when I did wonder what kind of monster she really was.  Yet there is also an underlying question mark that hovers over her throughout the story that makes you want to understand where her actions are coming from.  Carolyn makes full use of the Victorian attitudes to science and mental health and the story is layered with sinister goings on, creating a misty moodiness that brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the timeframe of the story.  I do love a good Victorian gothic and there is a darkness to this tale that drew me in and I could not stop reading, no matter what horror lay before me.  This is strong debut from Carolyn and I’m excited to see what comes next.

The Conviction of Cora Burns is published on March 21st 2019.  The cover alone is absolutely stunning.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. It’s such a thrill to discover a new author.

About the author

Carolyn Kirby Author Pic

Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’a College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns (Previously titled Half of You) was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber academy in London.  The unpublished novel achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.

Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

 

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

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

‘This is what dying is like, she thinks. You have gone and the world doesn’t care. You die and others eat pastries.’

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester ’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire. And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterisation and clever plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.

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Now I read a LOT of books and a lot of good ones at that. That’s not a boast, it’s simply a fact. I’m not entering in to a ‘I can read the most books (smug face) competition’, it’s just part of what I do. My love of reading led me to study literature at degree level and come away with a first class distinction. I also worked in the book recommendation industry for a good few years, with an extremely knowledgeable mentor who had worked in publishing for years and years.  So in a (slightly smug) way I do consider myself to have some expertise on the subject.  I tell you this, not to show off or flex my ‘experience’ muscles but just to highlight that when I say The Courier IS A FANTASTIC BOOK… that it really is FANTASTIC.

Of course Kjell Ola Dahl’s resume speaks for itself.  He is an award winning writer whose work has been published in no less then 14 countries.  This is the first of his books that I have read and I can honestly say that he is an incredibly skilled writer.  This is even more evident thanks to the superb work of the translator, Don Bartlett. I was absolutely blown away by The Courier.

Each chapter moves back and forth between different points in the timeline. From war time Norway and Sweden to 1960’s and 2015 Oslo.  Now this technique is often used, but in this case it was used quite brilliantly. Each period guiding you through the story, building the suspense and tension, and carrying you on, always wanting to read just one more chapter, and then another and another…

This novel shows us the lingering horrors of war and oppression but it also highlights the crimes that go on in times of conflict, crimes that are equally horrific and can be used and distorted for others means, the real cause overshadowed and (almost) forgotten.

For me, as an English woman who had grandparents who lived through the horror and hardships of WWII, I find it incredibly interesting to read the view point of others. We all know the horrific persecution that many millions endured but I think at times we can be a little unaware as to just how far this actually spread out of Germany and France. It never ceases to move and horrify me.  In my naivety I never considered the idea of Jews suffering in Norway, so this novel has again imparted more about this part of history (a subject that one of my fellow bloggers, Victoria Goldman,  was moved to investigating further after also reading The Courier.  You can read her fascinating findings here.)

I grew up with World War Two as part of my history but a history that I was still removed from and experienced by others.  My grandparents chose not to talk about it and I wonder what horrors they themselves witnessed.  What stories they could have told, especially my grandfather who spent a time in a concentration camp – something he never discussed with us.

But this isn’t a story about concentration camps or soldiers fighting on the front line.  Within this story the war itself is a backstory. This is about those living with the war and the repercussions they feel in a time when Europe was filled with conflict and hate. This is the story of those fighting in a very different way and trying to survive against a force that is so evil and only intent on destroying everything in its path.

There are complexities to the plot but it is expertly built so it felt an easy read. Beneath the spies, the resistance, the gestapo and the war, there is the story of the murder of a young mother.  The crime remains, almost forgotten through time, but the truth will be revealed and I have to say that I for one didn’t see it coming.  It is shocking, compelling – A very excellent novel that I thoroughly recommend, not only as a piece of historical fiction but also as a thriller that will hold you spellbound until the end.

About the author

0One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

 

Thank you to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.  It was absolutely stunning.

 

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Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Essie Fox – Elijah’s Mermaid and The Last Days of Leda Grey

I have always loved gothic fiction so it seemed only right that I include some in my recommended reads. Essie is a historical author and as well as her captivating novels writes a fascinating blog called The Virtual Victorian. I first discovered her some years back when reviewing for Lovereading. I am an admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and so I immediately fell in love Elijah’s Mermaid.

I have chosen two of her books today. Elijah’s Mermaid, and her latest novel, The Last Days of Leda Grey. Both are excellent as are all of her published works. Do check her out. She is an incredibly interesting writer both in her novels and on her blog. I am planning to devote a piece about her in more depth next year but for now here is a little more about her books.

Saved from the Thames one foggy London night, Pearl grows up at the House of Mermaids – a brothel that becomes the closest thing to home. But despite being cosseted and spoiled by the Madame, come her 14th year, Pearl is to be sold to the highest bidder.

Orphaned twins Lily and Elijah are on a rare trip to London when they meet the ethereal Pearl. And the repercussions of this chance encounter will bind all their fates together, in a dark and dangerous way. 

Bewitching, gothic and sensual, this is a tale of love and betrayal in a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey. Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film.

As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois. ‘

Books that adults should read, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Historical Fiction

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll

Emma is one of the best authors in historical fiction for children. Her first novel, Frost Hollow Hall, was published in 2013 and she has been inspiring children (and adults) to read ever since. I absolutely adore her books and it makes me incredibly happy that she is such a prolific writer as I am never particularly patient when waiting for the next. Her most recent novel, Secrets of a Sun King, is detailed below but do check out her backlist as they are ALL marvellous.

London, 1922. 

A discovery from ancient Egypt . . .
A cursed package . . .
The untold story of a young pharaoh . . .

When Lilian Kaye finds a parcel on her grandad’s doorstep, she is shocked to see who sent it: a famous Egyptologist, found dead that very morning, according to every newspaper in England!

The mysterious package holds the key to a story . . . about a king whose tomb archaeologists are desperately hunting for.

Lil and her friends must embark on an incredible journey – to return the package to its resting place, to protect those they love, and to break the deadly pharaoh’s curse . . .

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction

The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner, a story that is especially poignant in this, the 100th anniversary since the end of the First World War.

The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner

1Margate 1920 The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends and the country?

Historical fiction can encourage us to think about the past by going beyond fact bringing alive time and place by making us care about the character, making them relatable in unforgettable.  They were, after all, ordinary people living through extreme hardship and suffering.   I do feel that Paul has written a wonderful novel here. At 601 pages long it is quite a lengthy read but the characters and subject matter draw you in and you become invested in their story even though at times it could be utterly heartbreaking.

There are some difficult subject matters addressed but Paul brings a gentleness to the story with his writing.  The story is set after the First World War and focuses on lives forever affected by the horrors experienced.  It reminds us that even after the fighting has ceased, the pain, guilt and heartache carry on.  These events can never be forgotten and his amalgamation of both fact and fiction give us a powerful read with characters that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

You can discover more about Paul Marriner and The Blue Bench at Bluescale Publishing.

But here’s a little more about Paul Marriner…

Paul Marriner Author picturePaul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary
ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding
time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).

You can follow Paul on Twitter : @marriner_p