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.

Amazon

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

Twitter


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.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog tour: Goose Road – Rowena House

In 1916, in France, Angelique is making Hay on her family’s farm when the postman delivers news – her father is dead. Angelique is not sorry – he was a cruel, drunkard of a man – but she is deeply relieved her brother, Pascal, is still alive. She makes a promise – then and there – that the farm will remain exactly the same until he beloved brother returns home. She hopes, desperately, that if nothing changes at home, he won’t either.

Of course, nothing goes to plan. The harvest is ruined by a storm, her mother falls ill and the bailiffs arrive, ready to repossess the farm after her father has gambled it away. Angelique sets off with her treasured flock of Toulouse geese to sell them to make enough money to save her family home and await her brother’s return…….

About the author;

Rowena studied journalism at LSE and spent several years on Fleet Street, reporting for various news agencies. She has lived and worked in France, Africa and Belgium as a Reuter’s foreign correspondent and covered the fall of Addis Ababa at the end of Ethiopia’s 30-year civil war. She now lives in Devon and works as a freelance journalist. In 2013, Rowena won a competition run by Andersen Press, which published her winning entry, “The Marshalling of Angélique’s Geese” in War Girls, a collection of short stories about WWI as seen through the eyes of young women. The Goose Road is her novelization of that story.

Here Rowena shares her thoughts on historical fiction:

Why I love (some) historical fiction

As a reader, when I say that I love historical fiction what I mostly mean is that of all the novels I’ve ever read, my favourites tend to be set in the past.

That doesn’t mean I only read historical fiction. I like detective stories as well. Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Chandler, especially, which just happen to be set in the past.

I like some Sci-Fi and fantasy writers, too: Larry Niven, Tolkien, Terry Pratchett.

So I find it odd when someone assures me they don’t like historical fiction as if it’s all one and the same. How do they know beforehand what book will capture their imagination or speak to something in their souls?

Personally, I won’t ever say ‘I like this’ if it carries the implication ‘I don’t like that’.

As a writer, however, I can say with a hand on my heart that I absolutely love historical fiction. I love the research, and the honest attempt at resurrecting the past by uniting insight and imagination with that research.

Historians when faced with gaps in their knowledge must rely on evidence that meets defined standards of academic rigour, ‘facts’ which they then sift and prioritize, and speculate upon, and rearrange to suit their own logic and reason – and prejudices. In that way, all histories are constructed. Fiction is just further along that line.

In particular, storytellers aren’t restricted by written records from their chosen period, with all the limitations that typically implies about the wealth, power and gender of those who did the writing.

For The Goose Road I read many books about rich, powerful men in the First World War, but I was free to write about a poor, semi-literate girl from a peasant underclass, even though I never once found a first-hand account from such a person despite months of research.

Instead I made up her life from snatches and scraps I found here and there, fleshed out with practical, personal experiments with scything hay and watching the behaviour of geese, combined with memories from my time as a journalist when I meet African girl farmers, working the hard soil by main strength with crude, manual tools.

So one thing I loved most about writing the book was giving my protagonist her strong, independent voice.

Another thing I love about historical research is the way it primes the mind for time travel. The heat and dirt, strange towns, exotic scents, hungry crowds, the fear and excitement. The ‘other’. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

When I went with my family to the labyrinthine medinas of the ancient Moroccan city of Fez, donkey trains shoved us aside in narrow streets crowded with shoppers and hawkers with their baskets of wares.

Cages of ducks, chickens and pigeons spilt out from the butcher’s shops. There were spices on stalls, fabrics, and leather goods from the stinking tanneries, their dye-pits gaudy with reds, yellows, orange and green.

The noise was constant, the faces fascinating.

Squint, and the occasional wrist watch or smart phone would disappear. Stop for sweet mint tea or mud-thick coffee, and it took no effort at all to imagine a slight alteration in clothing, a sword or a dagger worn at the belt…

Stories of the crusades sprang to mind and the tales of Scheherazade. The place felt familiar, but also more confident than I’d ever imagined: busier, buzzing, and entirely caught up with itself. The place belonged to the people. But their time was also ours, and what felt old and distant was suddenly here and now.

I experienced a similar sensation of time collapsing when exploring the muddy back-streets of the French Channel port of Étaples for The Goose Road.

A 1913 map I found in the local library showed that the old town’s layout – even the names of its twisting lanes – hadn’t changed from the days when British Empire troops and nurses walked there, and veiled widows slipped by in the shadows, and the great military trains of the First World War rattled past, carrying infantrymen to the Western Front, and the wounded to hospital.

Only ghosts from that war walk there now, but I felt them brush past me all the same.

I found the book really interesting, I’m fascinated by stories about ordinary people during extraordinary times, like this. Angelique is a farmer’s daughter who defies the odds to do something unusual and quite unprecedented.

This book has a lot of sad moments, some really tragic points, but Angelique is a strong heroine and one filled with determination, like my childhood literary hero Anne of Green Gables, stubborn and headstrong. Wartime France is not a safe place for a teenage girl and a flock of geese, including her pet gosling Armandine, travelling at times alone on trains with dodgy men or through encampments of striking munitions workers.

The writing is good, it keeps you interested and the characters are well defined. I know this isn’t written for young adult readers but I think it would appeal to any teens interested in history, especially if you enjoyed Michelle Magorian’s war books like Goodnight Mister Tom and A Little Love Song.

books, reviews

Book Review: Woman Enters Left – Jessica Brockman

With her acting career on the wane Louise Wilde heads off to Las Vegas to make a film that will keep the wolf from the door.

She gets diverted by memories of her past and the notebooks she inherited from her mother’s old friend Florrie Daniels.

Instead of Vegas she takes off on a road trip from the past.

Alternating from Louise’s drive to the one her mother Ethel took years before this book offers a glimpse into the past and the people who live there.

I found this really interesting, with Ethel and Florrie’s story being told in the form of notebooks and a rough film script, which gives you the thoughts of two women driving from New Jersey to California via Nevada, the camp grounds, the meals and the friendship laid out in pen and ink.

I actually found their journey far more interesting than the one being made by Louise I struggled with her as a character, mostly because I felt she was acting all the time. Being someone else and I couldn’t connect with her.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Traitor – David Hingley*

Today I’m hosting a stop on the blog tour for the excellent historical romp Traitor.

This is the third book in the Mercia Blakewood series – I recommend reading Birthright and Puritan first as the book references characters and events from the previous ones.

Following her adventures in the American colonies, Mercia Blakewood returns to England determined to make the King stand by their agreement and reclaim her family’s home.

However the royal court has other plans for Marcia in this third outing by David Hingley. It’s 1665, war with the Dutch looms and Charles II believes there is a spy in his Court. He needs Mercia’s skills and intelligence to rout the mysterious Virgo and prevent the Dutch from getting information about the fleet and their plans.

I love historical fiction, and Hingley’s blend of real and imagined people and events brings the Restoration vividly to life. Mercia is a fantastic heroine, smart, resourceful and determined.

Hingley has clearly researched the period well, having lived in both the UK and the US (near where the action of his books takes place) which is good as the Restoration isn’t covered in school, so although the plot is an invention, the books really gives you a feel for the late 1600s.

I really enjoyed the first two books but this is definitely the strongest so far (fingers crossed Hingley decides to continue the series).

Book one (Birthright) is currently £5.99 direct from the publisher if you want to get into the series.

Check out the rest of the tour

Today a really interesting and relevant article was published- talk about kismet. Mercia’s adventures start with an attempt to find Charles I’s lost art and now it is finally being reunited in part. Worth a read, just like these books!

*I received this product in exchange for an honest review, all opinions and words are my own.