blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Museum of Lost Love – Gary Barker*

In Zagreb is an unusual museum: it displays mementos of broken relationships. Each exhibit describes a unique story of a broken heart, of love gone awry.

When Katia and Goran visit the museum, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. A reminder of two days spent together while he and his mother and brother waited anxiously for visas to America to escape the war.

Encouraged by Katia, a therapist, to reconnect with his lost past, Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars. Similarly Katia, adopted by Americans at one week old after her birth mother was murdered in a gangland killing in Brazil, heads back to Brazil to uncover her own family history.

Meanwhile Tyler, a military veteran and one of Katia’s patients, attempts to put the Afghan war behind him, and finds love in unexpected circumstances.

Drawing upon his own experiences working in conflict zones, Gary Barker’s powerful novels dive deep into human love and longing. Crossing continents, and set against backdrops of war, deprivation, and violence, The Museum of Lost Love is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.

GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC.

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My thoughts:

I remember reading a piece in the newspaper about the museum at the heart of this book, a place where people send in things that remind them of lost loves. Weaving in between the narratives of Katia, Goran and Tyler, are those of the displays in the museum.

Katia and Goran both look into their own pasts to find answers to questions they didn’t admit to having; while Tyler is trying to look forward, putting his new life and son first, moving on from his wartime experiences.

Each goes on a journey, literally and figuratively into themselves in order to find a way forward, to put lost loves to right and find out who they truly are.

Goran returns to Bosnia and seeks out first his father and then his first love, filling in the past, both of his country and the people he left behind.

Katia goes in search of her birth mother’s family, and finds not only that she is part of a family but also a tragic history.

Finally Tyler unexpectedly finds himself in love and raising the son he never knew he had, when tragedy strikes and he discovers the man he really is.

This book is slight but powerful, love is an incredibly potent emotion and Barker looks at all its forms; from familial, to sexual and innocent romance. He is interested in how people interact and the importance of someone’s capacity to sustain themselves.

The characters are well written and believable, the plots intersect nicely and flow well, swapping comfortably between the three protagonists without any jarring.

I found it an interesting way to look at violent parts of history (the war in Sarajevo, the gang violence in Brazil’s favelas, the recent conflict in Afghanistan) and show that love can blossom even under the shadow of such tragedy and suffering.

*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: North – Lucas Ehrenhaus*

After one of the most decisive warring campaigns in European history between Barbarians and Romance, the sheer possibility of a full-scale Roman invasion into Barbarian lands launches a lifelong recruitment process, which drives to the re-discovery of old mighty forces in the long forgotten North.

The most apolocalyptic pan-tribal conflict amongst central and northern European natives will ensue.

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My thoughts:

This was a really interesting book, complete with historical dates and illustrations, featuring some of the most well known (and some of the lesser known) Norse gods and myths. We think of the Romans as the civilising force of history, bringing culture and hygiene to swathes of the then known world. But those that they forcibly civilised had other opinions, and this tells of one.

The Norsemen were not interested in the Roman way of things, of their religious beliefs and gods, they wanted to be left alone.

Ehrenhaus attempts to simplify Snorri Sturlusson’s work, The Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda (I have read chunks of both and they are not easy), and I think he mostly succeeds, by focusing on the gods and dwarves at the heart of Norse mythology, the great stories that were passed down from campfire to hearth fire.

I found the book a little simplistic at times and they layout of the pages annoying to try and follow, as a lot is imparted in a small space. However I was pleased with this overall. While Greco-Roman mythology is taught in most schools, Norse mythology often seems a bit forgotten, which is a shame as many of us have Anglo-Saxon roots and not knowing the stories of our ancestors seems a shame. Most people think Marvel invented Thor, god of thunder when he really pre-dates comic books by several centuries!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Angel Mage – Garth Nix*

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, a genius at making icons to summon angels, and supremely adept in forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath already knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighbouring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendents. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will become ashes, or they will turn into beastlings. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who fix her interest, for they are the key to her quest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic.

The four feel a strange, immediate kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. Only Liliath knows their secret, and she draws them in to her complex plot, just as she manipulates Queen Louisa and her musketeers; King Ferdinand and his guards; Cardinal Duplessis and her pursuivants; and the Refuser Night King Biscaray and his criminal gangs.
All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.

 

My thoughts:

I remember when the first Old Kingdom books came out (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorson) and I’ve read some of Nix’s other books over the years, then he went quiet.

And for good reason if this brilliant new book is why, featuring an incredible magic system where people call upon angels to aid them, and a cast of characters whose bravery and friendship help them save the day.

I romped through it in one sitting, completely hooked from page one, the setup and plotting sucked me in completely, immersing me in the world Nix has so carefully crafted.

This book is superbly well written, clever, funny, smart and what you’d expect from a master storyteller, moving from writing for young adults to adult fantasy fiction. While he has said this a standalone text there is scope for another book in the same world, and I think he would be wise to return to it, as I can see a lot of other stories that could be built within this incredibly well created world.

 

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*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Foxfire, Wolfskin & Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women – Sharon Blackie*

Charged with drama and beauty, this memorable collection by a master storyteller weaves a magical world of possibility and power from female myths of physical renewal, creation and change. It is an extraordinary immersion into the bodies and voices, mindscapes and landscapes, of the shape-shifting women of our native folklore. We meet the Water Horse of the Isle of Lewis, the huldra, the Scandinavian supernatural forest-dweller, and Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore (but will she help you or kill you?) Here too is the Snow Queen; the wild bird-woman of the Sliabh Mis Mountains; Blodeuedd, the Welsh ‘flower-faced’ woman.

Drawing on myth and fairy tales found across Europe – from Croatia to Sweden, Ireland to Russia – Sharon Blackie brings to life women’s remarkable ability to transform themselves in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. These stories are about coming to terms with our animal natures, exploring the ways in which we might renegotiate our fractured relationship with the natural world, and uncovering the wildness – and wilderness – within.


Dr Sharon Blackie is a writer, mythologist and psychologist, and an internationally recognised teacher of the mythic imagination. Her bestselling book, If Women Rose Rooted, won a 2016 Nautilus award, and laid out a haunting heroine’s journey for every woman who finds power, inspiration and solace in the natural world. She has an international following through her online communities, and the courses and workshops she offers through ‘The Hedge School’. Her first novel, The Long Delirious Blue, was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘hugely potent’. She lives in Connemara, Ireland.

Website

Illustration from Foxfire…

My thoughts:

As someone who has studied folklore and fairy tales I was thrilled to be asked to review this fascinating volume.

Containing retellings of myths of selkies, huldafolk and faerie, drawn from folk tales hailing from Scandanavia, Western Europe Ireland and the British Isles, Blackie weaves a magical spell, empowering the often silent female characters of these tales; giving them voices and a chance to right the wrongs done to them.

I was familiar with a large number of these tales previous forms but a few were less so, which I think makes the book much more interesting. The blend of strange and familiar, old and new.

Blackie is an accomplished writer and it shows, even in such slight tales as these, the writing is rich and the characters empathetic and powerful.

She draws on the rich tradition of shape shifters in literature, which stretches across oceans, often women whose power is stolen from them along with their true form. By giving them voices she is giving them back their power and they take back their true shapes.

Women are shape shifters in real life too; flowing between forms all day long, between mother and daughter, professional to friend, changing our shape to fit into the world. These are definitely feminist retellings, many of the characters had no agency in their original tales, and all the better for it.

In an age where women’s strength is often dismissed we need more reminders of the power inherent in women.

*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Grateful Boys – Francoise DuMaurier*

When seventeen-year-old Hailey’s multi-racial, single parent family migrate to the tiny rural town of Corpus, Georgia (population 700), she would rather have moved anywhere but there.

That is, until she spots him. Mysterious definitely, perhaps even supernatural. Where Hailey is awe-struck by the young man of her dreams, her little brother, Mason, sees a soulless creature of the night, a half-man who may be responsible for a series of grisly murders across the southern gothic town.

Antwan Zeddman, the town’s first African-American Sheriff, must enforce a curfew in Corpus to ensure the safety of the townsfolk. He must contend with sightings of hellish winged beasts and investigate the slaying of an innocent young couple traveling through town. There is a growing sense of racial unrest. Hailey will find herself caught between her family, the residents of Corpus, and the vampire she’s falling in love with.

The Grateful Boys is an otherworldly Young Adult novel which explores the challenges of growing up mixed raced in the southern states of America, and the troubles of a young woman coming of age in a town full of danger and temptation.

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Amazon


Françoise DuMaurier is a Special Education Case Worker who works out of a small town in rural Georgia which inspired the Southern Gothic setting of The Grateful Boys. To get to work, DuMaurier passes through miles and miles of farms, as far as the eye can see. Before entering education, DuMaurier attended the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design where he studied visual art and creative writing. Having worked with an array of students along with his own experiences, DuMaurier is uniquely suited to provide a wry voice that encapsulates #ownvoices fiction.

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My thoughts:

This was an interesting take on vampire mythology, the vampires have a range of magical powers and select a chosen blood donor, who in return receives the vampire’s affection and blood, which has its own beneficial powers. The supernatural creatures appear as teenage boys and live by strict rules which protect their kind.

The humans are confused by some of the goings on, and the sheriff most of all. Trying to investigate strange and violent crimes that have erupted in the previously quiet neighbourhood.

This is a clever, fresh take on well trodden ground, DuMaurier is an interesting new voice in YA.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Reluctant Spy – Miller Caldwell*

Hilda Campbell was born in the north of Scotland in 1889. She married German national Dr Willy Bűttner Richter in 1912. They honeymooned in Scotland and returned to settle in Hamburg. Dr Richter died in 1938. After visiting her ailing parents, Hilda returned to Germany just before the Second World War began. She became a double agent, controlled by Gerhardt Eicke in Germany and Lawrence Thornton in Britain. How could she cope under such strain, and with her son Otto in the German Army? Nor did she expect her evidence to be so cruelly challenged at the Nuremberg Trials. Learn of her post-war life, which took her abroad as a British Ambassador’s wife.

This is an extraordinary story based on the life of the author’s great aunt, Hilda. The book includes several authentic accounts.

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I retired at the age of 53 as I found I had mild cognitive impairment MCI. This is a condition which gives me a poor memory but a sharp mind. It was difficult to find work that would take me and so I decided to write books. Sixteen years later, I have written twenty three books with another two yet to be published. I have learned the book writing skills though writing clubs and writers magazines. Over the years I find my writing is much better received. I am seen as a novelist but I have three illustrated children’s books, several biographies and three self help books as well. My website sags with the volume. But I cannot be pigeon holed. It depends what theme obsesses my thinking, as that will be my next book.

I have been on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland and have been their Events Manager. I am due to speak at next year’s Wigtown Book Festival as A Reluctant Spy will be a documentary by then. That reminds me I have an agent. A Literary as well as a Film agent in Mathilde Vuillermoz. With her on board I will release some of my self published books through her. Without an agent it is becoming more difficult to attract traditional publishers. So I remain optimistic and find like a graph, my trajectory is currently on an upswing.

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My thoughts:

This was really interesting, based on the real life of the author’s great aunt; which makes it even more compelling. An ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances, relying on her wits and determination to not get caught.

It was really fascinating – a story that hadn’t been told from this angle before. A resourceful, intelligent and capable woman, resilient and brave; Hilda Campbell was an incredible person and I’m glad I got to read about her.

The book is well written and flows nicely, travelling across Europe with Hilda, not afraid to show the peril she faced at times, and the genuine fears and tragedies of wartime life.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Little Hatred – Joe Abercrombie*

Introducing a cast of unforgettable new characters, A LITTLE HATRED is the start of a brand new trilogy set in the world of the First Law which will have you gripped from the very start . . .

War. Politics. Revolution.
The Age of Madness has arrived . . .

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specialises in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another . . .

 

My thoughts:

It’s been a while since I last read a Joe Abercrombie book and the First Law series was something of a favourite, so this, the first in a new series (The Age of Madness) set in the same world was something of a treat. The world has moved on a bit since Logen Ninefingers and the few characters from his time are old and fading, but their children and grandchildren are beginning to stake their place in the world.

The writing is as good as ever, gripping hold of you and racing along across Adua and the cold north of Angland, from battlefields to ballrooms, from soldiers to socialites, Abercrombie spares no one, all will suffer if they try to rise too far too fast.

Not many authors would revisit a world they’d previously written about, drag it forward in time and yet preserve the things that made it so interesting in the first place, but Abercrombie does just that, and it’s very enjoyable.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour, but all opinions remain my own.