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!’ ūüôā

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

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Adult Fiction, Crime, Nordic Noir, Thriller

His Sweet by Hildur Sif Thorarensen

When small town sheriff Yolanda Demetriou comes to work that day, she has no idea what to expect from her new case – or the horrors that lie ahead.

What are the diary entries about? And who wrote them? When Sheriff Yolanda Demetrioy receives boxes of notebooks, she has no idea of the horrors that lie ahead.  Will she be able to piece together the information and locate the house where childhood dreams become nightmares? Or will she be too late to save an abducted girl?

In this dark psychological thriller, Yolanda and her team embark on a hunt for a monster, following maddeningly sparse clues in a race to solve a heartless crime.

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Hildur very Kindly sent me a copy of My Sweet to read and review.  It was a pleasure to receive such an intriguing package form Norway.  I do love Nordic Noir and so I was happy to dive in.  So did I enjoy?  Absolutely, I read it in one sitting.  Hildur is an interesting writer and I felt the technique of the using the victims diary entries along with the realtime investigation by Yolanda and her team to tell the story worked really well.

Yolanda is sheriff of Crowswood, Alabama, a small town with small crime. ¬†So when a box of disturbing diaries are handed in that hint at a young child being held captive locally they all pull together to try and find her. ¬†The content of the diaries lead them to believe that time is running out and it’s not long before the big guns from Washington arrive to give a helping hand in the hunt for the girl before its too late. ¬†For Yolanda the case has become personal and she’s so eager to find and save the girl that she may just have put both herself and the victim in even greater danger.

An exciting and interesting new voice in Nordic Noir and one that I look forward to watching grow.

Thank you so much Hildur for sending me a copy.  I really enjoyed reading My Sweet.

My Sweet is now available on Amazon in both paperback and eBook.

About the author

81VyknWQgBL._US230_Hildur Sif Thorarensen was born in Iceland but is currently living in Norway. Although, spending most of her adult years at the University, she’s been writing ever since she was a little girl and alongside Medical studies and a Master’s in Engineering, has also taken a year in Creative Writing.

At the age of eight she started a neighborhood paper with her friend which was filled with short stories about the neighborhood, written by Hildur Sif. The girls sold the paper to the people living in their street and used the profits to buy candy, much to their parents chagrin.

Hildur’s way with words later led her into working as a journalist for a newspaper in the Westman Islands. There she was known as the optimistic girl because of her exuberant, cheerful spirit which always seemed to find its way into her work.

Her first novel was published in Icelandic at the end of 2016 and in English in 2018. Her second novel, My Sweet was published in November 2018.

You can follow Hildur on Facebook at hildursifthorarensen

You can follow Hildur on Instagram at hildursifthorarensen

You can follow Hildur on Twitter at hildur84

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Today I’m so delighted to be hosting the blog tour for¬†The Space Between Time¬†by Charlie Laidlaw.

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains¬†of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effect on Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work
as a journalist in Edinburgh.¬†Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes¬†unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to¬†write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life.¬†She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather‚Äôs Theorem¬†on the universe ‚Äď which offers the metaphor that we are all¬†connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

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I’ve been so lucky to have been able to review some wonderful books of late and this has certainly continued with¬†The Space Between Time¬†by Charlie Laidlaw.¬† It is a beautifully poignant tale and one that I was swept away with from the start. Told through the eyes of Emma, we join her in childhood and embark on her journey suffering loses and heartbreaks along the way.¬† As a narrator she is an incredibly interesting character. ¬†Her world is actually quite small. ¬†The daughter of a famous actor, she is hidden away¬†with her reclusive mother, secluded from the bright lights of the Hollywood lifestyle. Her father visits, seemingly rarely, and although adored by millions, is simply Dad to her.

What’s also interesting is the way that memory is explored within the story.¬† The villains in Emma’s own story are darkened by her own beliefs and disappointments.¬† An ‘ordinary’ childhood she did not have.¬† Her mother is beautiful, swears and drinks a lot and seems to suffer from her own neurosis.¬† Her father a famous actor who is absent more often than not and who also seems to send her mother into a constant rage. ¬†The characters that surround Emma are given to us how she wants them to be presented but there is much provided between the lines by Charlie that enable us to question and come to our own conclusions.

This wonderful novel touches on so many different themes but the subject of mental health, dysfunctional families and of course the fascinating question of memory were prominent for me. How things are expressed considering whose view point we see it through and the reliability of the narrator are key to interpretation.  I often find a first person narration can be pretty unreliable, especially when our protagonist is remembering traumatic events and what led to them. Yet first person can be incredibly powerful as we get to feel through their words and, I think, one of my favourite viewpoints.  Charlie is very good at it and he brought Emma to life beautifully.

This is an engrossing read and I really liked Emma and I liked how the echoes of her family history fed into her life and personality. ¬†Families give so much history behind us and there is often so much we don’t know about what went before us, yet we can still feel the aftershock rumbling through our own lives, thoughts and feelings. ¬†This is hit on wonderfully in¬†The Space Between Time.

One of the things that drew me to this novel was the theme of the universe. ¬†How we are all connected. ¬†The talk of stars, dark matter and black holes. ¬†Of course this isn’t just a story about science and mathematics but Charlie does use it to bring a wonderful extra dimension that I found absolutely fascinating. I loved how each chapter title was an equation – compared to many I know very little about it all but their presence made me feel that a message was being conveyed throughout this tale… and it was. ¬†One of life, love, family and the universe, and what an absolute pleasure it was to read too.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Charlie for writing such an engaging enjoyable novel. ¬†I’m now very intrigued to go back and read his earlier novel,¬†The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.

The Space Between Time is published by Accent Press on the 20th June and will be available in both eBook and paperback.

About the author

Charlie Laidlaw

1-2Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

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Adult Fiction, Crime, Science Fiction, Thriller

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

I thoroughly enjoyed reading a sampler of this time travelling thriller; it kept me guessing throughout and left me on a knife edge wondering how it will end.

Psychology of time travel1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future ‚Äď a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…

2018: When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

A fascinating, thought provoking thriller about time travel, murder and a conspiracy that threatens to explode through time.

Four female scientists invent a time machine in 1967. They can only travel from this point in time, back and forward at will. When the initial trip is made by all four women the consequences are unknown and the whole project is put at risk when one of the women suffers a very public breakdown. Labelled as a liability and shunned by the group she tries to rebuild her life as best she can but always the thrill of time travel stays with her and as we revisit her fifty years later she is filled with the desire for one final trip. But the consequences of messing with the fragile fabric of time can be catastrophic and can set in motion destructive and dangerous events.

Visiting three time different periods in time, Kate Mascarenhas guides us expertly through the story and not once did I feel disorientated or unenjoyably lost. There is an element of trying to fit the pieces together but that is one of the things I love about a thriller, trying to work out the conclusion from the clues scattered throughout as the story builds up to the culmination of the (presumably) murdered women discovered by Odette in 2018.

This is a thriller unlike anything I have read before and I found it fascinating. The only frustration from reading this excellent sampler is that I will not discover what happens until August 2018. I will have to wait patiently for the answers… if only I had a time machine.

The Psychology of Time Travel is published by Head of Zeus on the 9th of August 2018.

Thank you to Head of Zeus and Netgalley for the sampler.

Discover more about author Kate Mascarenhas here.

Oh just one more thing… I love the cover image for this title.