blog tour, books, reviews

12 Days of Clink Street: The Watcher – Monika Jephcott Thomas*

The Watcher by [Jephcott Thomas, Monika]

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

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My thoughts:

This started slowly but once things began to happen and you learnt about the characters it picked up. It was really interesting to see the German side of the post-conflict history I learnt about at school. As well as the trauma of his experience, there is also a national period of reconciliation going on around Max after he returns from the Siberian POW camp, and attempts to readjust to his life, family and role.

Max was a non-combatant, being a doctor, but was still treated incredibly poorly by the Russian soldiers who haunt his nightmares. His family, including his wife and the daughter who has never met him before, also have to adjust to their new family dynamic, and Max’s PTSD, which leaves him with horrific night terrors and cut off from his loved ones.

I know a little about Allied soldiers returning from WWII but very little is said about life in occupied West Germany, and what support, or lack thereof, there was for the men returning to their lives.

Tragedy strikes the family, first with the murder and then in more intimate ways, even closer to home. The police detective is not a pleasant man and makes the family afraid.

It was also interesting to have Netta’s perspective as the children are often forgotten in stories like these, how strange it is to have someone you’re told is your father, but who is actually a total stranger, come to live with you and disrupt your life.

This book is well written and moving, capturing a picture of the period and the characters with a compassion and understanding that is often lacking in historical recollections of post-war Germany.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for helping Clink Street publishers to celebrate their authors and books.

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Book Review: Sea of Lost Love – Santa Montefiore

1958. Celestria, the charismatic daughter of an aristocratic family, lives in Pendrift Hall, a pale stone mansion with gardens that tumble down to the Cornish sea. It is summer and the weeks ahead hold the promise of self-discovery and the thrilling possibility of elicit love affairs.
Yet tragedy erupts in paradise when one of the family vanishes. A mysterious note is left behind with the words: ‘Forgive Me’.  Soon Celestria is pulled along a trail of deception, masquerades and mirrors. It will lead her from her idyllic life on the English coast to the orange groves of Southern Italy. It will also lead her to love…

My thoughts:

I won this book on Twitter, and it would make a wonderful holiday read, but I read it under a blanket on my sofa, transported instead to the beautiful Cornish coast and then a sundrenched Southern Italy, which made me long for summer.

Celestria’s journey, both physical and emotional, is one of self-discovery and a lot of growing up, there is humour among the tragedy and heartache though, and then there is love.

The author is well known for her romantic fiction, with glamorous locations and beautiful protagonists and this is a classic of the genre, dripping with fading grandeur and simple Italian food, the sun pours out of every page and you find characters that are more than they appear.

If you’re looking for a good read, you could do a lot worse than this one.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Blood’s Campaign – Angus Donald*

TWO KINGS, TWO FAITHS, TWO ARMIES – AND THE BATTLE FOR IRELAND

THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE VICTOR . . .

August 25, 1689

The English Army is besieging Carrickfergus in Ireland. Brilliant but unusual gunner Holcroft Blood of the Royal Train of Artillery (son of Col. Thomas Blood), is ready to unleash his cannons on the rebellious forces of deposed Catholic monarch James II. But this is more than war for Captain Blood, a lust for private vengeance burns within him.

French intelligence agent Henri d’Erloncourt has come across the seas to foment rebellion against William of Orange, the newly installed Dutch ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland. But Henri’s true mission is not to aid the suffering of the Irish but to serve the interests of his master, Louis le Grand.

Michael ‘Galloping’ Hogan, brigand, boozer and despoiler of Protestant farms, strives to defend his native land – and make a little profit on the side. But when he takes the Frenchman’s gold, he suspects deep in his freedom-loving heart, that he has merely swapped one foreign overlord for another.

July 1, 1690

On the banks of the River Boyne, on a fateful, scorching hot day, two armies clash in bloody battle – Protestant against Catholic – in an epic struggle for mastery of Ireland. And, when the slaughter is over and the smoke finally clears, for these three men, nothing will ever be the same again . . .

Holcroft must decide whether to join the conspirators, including his old friend Jack Churchill, now Lord Marlborough, and support Dutch William’s invasion – or remain loyal to his unpopular king.

Kent-based author Angus Donald was born in 1965 and educated at Marlborough College and Edinburgh University. He has worked as a fruit-picker in Greece, a waiter in New York and as an anthropologist studying magic and witchcraft in Indonesia. For 20 years he worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, India, Afghanistan and London. He is now married with children and writes full time from a medieval farmhouse in Tonbridge, Kent.

Angus is a distant relative of Col. Thomas Blood who is best known for his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671.

Angus is also the author of the bestselling Outlaw Chronicles.

Website

My thoughts:

This isn’t the sort of book I’d normally pick up even though I enjoy historical fiction as I tend to avoid military history. But this is so well written and draws you in so well I actually quite enjoyed it.

The history of England and Ireland is shameful and blood stained and the period this book covers is the same. After James II was deposed from the throne he seized after Charles II’s death he fled to Ireland where he waged war with borrowed soldiers against William and Mary’s troops.

Using real names and places Angus Donald builds a realistic picture of life in the English army during the Irish campaign.

Holcroft Blood is a Captain in the Ordnance (what we call Artillery now) but he also has his own agenda.

The author is distantly related to the read Blood, which adds another interesting layer to the book.

All in all I found it interesting and thoroughly well written with a real sense of the time and place it’s set.

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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: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank*

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

My thoughts:

Something suitably spooky for All Hallows’ Eve today, this gorgeous ghost story is set in fine Gothic tradition, in an old house with a dark past. Pretty much every resident has secrets and one in particular will do anything to keep them.

I loved this book, Gothic style novels set in big houses is so very up my street. I grew up in a hundred year old house with absolutely nothing creepy about it, which was very disappointing and I think that might be why I love books about sinister houses so much.

What I liked about this story though was that the tragedy in its past wasn’t in the distant past, the people living there were part of it, it happened only about 20 or 30 years before.

So many creepy houses have an ancient mystery so to have one that’s fairly recent and the people who know the truth still living and not just an old diary is interesting.

The period it’s set is interesting itself, 1917, a year before the end of a war the likes no one had ever seen before, the age of a fascination with the supernatural that began in the Victorian era, but that intersects with new leaps in science and knowledge. It’s a very interesting time to set this story in.

I am interested in the people who believed in ghosts and the existence of spirits (I don’t believe in ghosts fyi) like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, and the attempts to use things like cameras and recording devices (all new scientific inventions) to capture these mystery beings.

The protagonist, Stella, is a sceptic, but even she starts to be affected by the strange goings on in her sister’s new home, and bravely decides to try to resolve things and lay angry spirits to rest.

This is an excellent addition to the spooky house canon, and another piece of evidence that we’re living through an excellent revival of Gothic fiction.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book but all opinions remain my own.

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.

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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.