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.

books, reviews

Book Review: Falling Creatures & The Magpie Tree – Katherine Stanfield*

Cornwall is a county of myths and magic, the wildness seeps into every stone.

Inspired by a real murder case Falling Creatures introduces us to Shilly, a farm maid who senses the strangeness around her, and the mysterious Mr Williams who seeks the truth of Charlotte Dymond’s death on the remote moor land around the farm she and Shilly worked on.

Shilly is convinced the wrong man is behind bars and Mr Williams is the only one who believes her, but he is not all he appears to be…

The second book in the series continues with that Gothic feel, as Shilly and ‘Mr Williams’ find themselves investigating a missing child and the rumour that witches, two sisters living in the woods, are in fact to blame. There is a reward to claim which would allow the establishing of a detectives’ agency. However it is Shilly’s feel for the uncanny that once again comes to their aid, and the secrets of the women of Trethevy hold the key.

Shilly is an innocent and perhaps that is why she can see things others, including her closest allies, cannot. The myths and legends of Cornwall, like St Nectan, seep through the books, and add to the atmosphere of supernatural mystery.

I love Gothic romance novels and these do not disappoint, there’s a sense of Daphne DuMaurier’s Cornish set Gothic romances, like Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, that claustrophobia under open sky, to these. Not least because they are set in the same places, amidst the wildness of Bodmin and the close knit villages of the Cornish interior.

The third book in the series, The Mermaid’s Call is out in paperback next Spring and in hardback now.

*I was kindly gifted these books by the publisher but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: J SS Bach – Martin Goodman*

J SS Bach is the story of three generations of women from either side of Germany’s 20th Century horror story – one side, a Jewish family from Vienna, the other linked to a ranking Nazi official at Dachau concentration camp – who suffer the consequences of what men do. Fast forward to 1990s California, and two survivors from the families meet. Rosa is a young Australian musicologist; Otto is a world-famous composer and cellist. Music and history link them. A novel of music, the Holocaust, love, and a dog. The author’s writing is a wonderland, captivating and drawing the reader in to the presented world. Time becomes no object as a literary universe unfolds and carries the reader through eighty years, where emotions are real and raw and beautifully given.

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Martin Goodman was born in Leicester, and has lived and worked in China, Qatar, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and France. Travel forms a large part of his writing: both for strictly travel-related books and also for novels and biographies. His first novel ON BENDED KNEES was shortlisted for the Whitbread prize, and his most recent biography SUFFER AND SURVIVE won 1st Prize, Basis of Medicine in the BMA Book Awards 2008. He is the Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull. He lives in Hull, London and the French Pyrenees. ‘Such narrow, narrow confines we live in. Every so often, one of us primates escapes these dimensions, as Martin Goodman did. All we can do is rattle the bars and look after him as he runs into the hills. We wait for his letters home.’ ~ The Los Angeles Times

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My thoughts:

I struggled to get into this book, which opens with the character of Katja in Australia after the war. She’s unrepentant about her role, her husband was the adjutant of Dachau concentration camp. I really didn’t find her likeable.

Once Otto enters the narrative I found it easier to read. He’s clearly the more sympathetic figure – a Jewish teenager, a talented cellist. The plot follows him to Dachau, to meeting Katja and then to Canada as a refugee.

Years later Rosa tracks him down in his California isolation, a famous composer, and interviews him with the intention of writing a biography. Or perhaps to learn about her own family past.

This is incredibly well written and very moving at times. Highlighting a single story of one person’s survival of the horrors of the Holocaust and the deep emotional damage done to him.

*this book was gifted to me in exchange in taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Horizontal Collaboration – Navie & Carole Maurel*

“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair. In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution. This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.

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Carole Maurel cut her teeth on animated films before devoting herself to illustration, in particular, graphic novels. Her 2017 book The Apocalypse According to Magda was awarded the Artémisia Avenir award, which celebrates women in comics.

Navie is a screenwriter for press, cinema and television. She has a degree in history from The Sorbonne in Paris, where she specialized in the history of fascism – making Horizontal Collaboration an excellent fit for her first graphic novel

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This is a beautifully drawn story, translated into English by Margaret Morrison from the original French. The beating heart of the book is the love affair between Rose and Nazi officer Mark. But there are other stories in every apartment, of hiding Jews, and resistance, of love and loss, art and pain.

I loved this, told through the lives of women; a period where so often much of the focus is on men at war and not those left behind or under siege.

Part of my family originally came from France and I was raised by Francophile parents so I have a deep affection for the country and its people, as well as a fascination with its history, so linked are Britain and France. This year I want to read more French writers (especially women) and so this book slots beautifully into that aim.

*I was kindly gifted this book to take part on the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Serpent’s Mark – S. W. Perry*

A smart and gripping tale of conspiracy, murder and espionage in Elizabethan London, ideal for fans of CJ Sansom, Rory Clements and SG MacLean.

Treason sleeps for no man…

London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London’s lawless Bankside. But, when the queen’s spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient, but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself.

With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern, Bianca Merton, again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a dangerous world of zealots, charlatans and fanatics. As their own lives become increasingly at risk, they find themselves confronting the greatest treason of all: the spectre of a bloody war between the faiths…


S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife.

My thoughts: I do love a historical crime novel, it combines a lot of my favourite, deeply nerdy things. And Kit Marlowe pops up in this one.

Do read the first book, The Angel’s Mark, first. It helps situate the characters and the backstory so The Serpent’s Mark can just get on with the cracking plot rather than explain who everyone is, especially if English history isn’t one of the things you know a bit about.

Set towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign there are spies, conspiracies, medical malfeasance, mischief, gore, bodies, taverns and players galore.

I really enjoyed this (if you’re not sure how I feel). It was fun, gripping, clever and felt just as though S.W. Perry had been skulking around the back of the Jackdaw making notes on the sort of real life schemes that happened in the period.

Check out the rest of the tour.

*I was gifted a copy of this book (and its predecessor) for review but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: The Lost Shrine – Nicola Ford*

Some of you may remember I reviewed the first in this series of archaeology thrillers last year, The Hidden Bones.

Those of you who don’t, not to worry. You can read it now or just order both books.

One of the things Britain has a lot of is history – reams of it stretching far back beyond written records.

It’s fascinating to see how by gently peeling back layers of earth and building works you can discover amazing things hidden underground.

Written by a real archeologist, Dr Nick Snashall, this second murder mystery amidst the dig on a housing development is filled with drama both past and present.

Clare Hills and her team are asked to take over a dig following the shocking death of previous site supervisor Beth Kinsella. With a ruthless developer keen to get on with the building work, strange locals, and the possibility that the site is more significant than it appears, can Clare solve the mysteries therein before the foundations are poured and the past rests again?

This was another well written, cleverly plotted book, with lively characters and a twisty turny storyline that had me racing through the pages.

If Dr Snashall ever decides to give up her day job as the National Trust’s Archaeologist for Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site and write thrillers full time, I reckon we’d all be ok with that!

And all this week if you’re a fan of ebooks The Lost Shrine is only 99p.

*I was gifted this book in exchange for a review, all words and opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Outremer III – DN Carter*

In preparation for this book review I also received books 1 and 2 of the series, there will also be a fourth volume.

My husband often complains about all the books I receive from generous publishers and PR teams to review, so this one is for him.

Set during the Crusades in the Holy Land, which spanned more than a few years and saw kings, queens and even children (both Alianor of Aquitaine and her son Richard the Lionheart would spend time in Jerusalem) travel to the front in order to fight the Muslim forces led at one point by the legendary Saladin.

These books are part fantastical story and part discussion of religious texts and beliefs.

My husband reviewed them thus; “Really interesting, but I got attached to one set of characters and wanted more of them and less religion. This book is trying to do something different and I got a bit frustrated when it left one plot for another. ”

A lot has been written about the Crusades, about the ‘right’ of European monarchs to control and repress the local population (remember Jerusalem is holy in all three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam) but not like this.

This is an unusual series and will appeal to people interested in history, religion, and also fantasy as it follows two young people caught up in the chaos of the time.