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Archive for June, 2019

  • Title: Death of an Angel
  • Author: Derek Farrell
  • Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
  • Publication Date: 27th February 2019

Copy received from publisher and tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

A woman is found dead in a London street – the evidence suggests she plummeted to her death from a nearby tower block – but did she fall or was she pushed? And why does she have Danny Bird’s name written on the back of her hand?

So begins this 4th magnificent outing for Danny and the gang from The Marq.

In the frame for a murder he didn’t commit, London’s self-proclaimed Sherlock Homo has no choice but to don his metaphorical deerstalker one more time to prove his innocence and uncover the truth about the tragic death of Cathy Byrne. 

With the indomitably louche Lady Caz by his side, Danny plunges headlong into a complex investigation while at the same time trying to be a dutiful son to his increasingly secretive parents, and still find the time to juggle his frustratingly moribund love-life.

My Thoughts:

I was only too happy to catch up with my favourite bar manager/amateur sleuth, Danny Bird in Death of an Angel. Having followed this series since the beginning, Death of a Diva, the Danny Bird books have gone from strength to strength. The characters have developed in ways that I would not have imagined and I’m thrilled to see how their stories have unfolded.

Death of an Angel is different from the previous books, there’s something about the plot that sets it apart from the others in the series, and it’s a fascinating and enjoyable read.
With a strong focus on families and relationships, Derek Farrell gives readers more than a story about crime. The link between family members is a driving force behind many events throughout the plot, the dynamic between characters shows the varied connections that exist and the lengths that people will go to to try and protect those they care about.

So, Danny and Caz are back, doing what they do best … getting caught up in situations that would have most “normal” people panicking, but somehow they always manage to keep things together and get out of awkward moments. Caz, a somewhat delightful yet dipsomaniacal member of the aristocracy, always has a bottle of something in that capacious bag of hers to help her in those situations. I say somewhat delightful because this character is one who causes much hilarity with her sarcasm and cynicism, and smock. But I have a feeling that behind her bluster is a genuinely soft heart, especially when it comes to certain people.
The case that the pair become involved with has some incredibly murky connections, and ones they have to be wary of. But nonetheless, they tackle each obstacle as it appears, uncovering dangerous corruption and ruthless killers. Clever plotting makes this quite a thrilling read, often I found myself trying to guess ahead at how things would all link together, or who was the killer and what their motive was but I was led astray by red herrings.

Characterisation is one of the key things in the books of this series, each of the main characters feels so real and easy to connect with. Readers cannot help but feel some pull towards the lives of these fictitious creations, such is the ability of Farrell to create a realistic cast. Danny’s family have become so real that I think of them with fondness.

A thrilling and clever read that gives the reader much to think about, whilst supplying many laughter inducing moments and plenty to keep them guessing!

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  • Title: Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay
  • Author: Ali McNamara
  • Publisher: Sphere
  • Publication Date: 27th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…

My Thoughts:

Ali McNamara is one of those authors I turn to when I need a glimpse of sunshine on a gloomy day. Her books are like a tonic for the soul and I always relish reading them, so when I found out about Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Amelia is a character that I think many readers will connect with, her tale is one that is heartbreakingly real and one that many will be able to synpathise with.
Changes in circumstances has meant that life has been tough for Amelia and her son Charlie, she tries her utmost to protect him from the realities of it all. Her constant struggles to make ends meet are wearing her down, worrying if she has money to pay bills, put food on the table, she always has tries her hardest to do what’s best. So when she hears of an inheritance that could change her and Charlie’s lives, she can’t believe it!

What then follows is a wonderful and heartwarming tale of Amelia getting to grips with life in a castle, learning how it’s not all glamour and glitz as Disney might have us believe. The castle staff are an eccentric and fun bunch, their personalities feel so authentic and genuine, and it’s hard not to feel a liking for them, although some more than others. As Amelia’s adventure in Northumberland unfolds, readers are rewarded with seeing a different side to her, her confidence grows and she becomes more self assured. But she also opens up about her past, we find out about what happened to cause her and Charlie to live in such tough circumstances. It all adds to the likeableness of this character and secures her place in your heart. She’s the sort of character that you root for, you wish there’s a happy ending for and you’re almost racing through the pages to find out if things work out ok for her.

I’m purposely avoiding saying anything much about the plot of this book, it’s one you will have to discover for yourself, and I hope you fall in love with it as much as I did. But I will say that there is something magical in these pages … Ali’s writing to be precise. She is a wonderful writer, and always manages to transport me to the settings of her books. I could feel the claustrophobia of the tower staircase, the awe of the portraits in the galleries, the ethereal feeling that comes with a castle setting … it was all so vivid.
A highly recommended summer read, and the perfect escape!

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  • Title: Distant Signs
  • Author: Anne Richter
  • Translator: Douglas Irving
  • Publisher: Neem Tree Press
  • Publication Date: 19th February 2019

Copy received from publisher & tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Historic fiction from East Germany post WWII to after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall.
In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in the Thuringian forest.
The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war.
As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed.

An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall.

My Thoughts:

Distant Signs is a hugely thought provoking read, one which I think will linger on in my head long after I’ve finished reading it. It’s hard to put into words precisely what it was about the writing that captured my attention the most, perhaps the gentle tone or maybe the seriousness of the topic being discussed, but it all culminates in the exploration of themes and characters that draws the reader in an holds them fast.

The far reaching after effects of WWII leech into the lives of Margret and Hans, the war was a fixture of their childhoods and shaped the way that Germany moved forwards, especially in terms of political, social and economic factors. The bonds between family members are an important aspect of Distant Signs and the portrayal of each is done perceptively, giving readers a glimpse into a very personal story.
By telling the story through the thoughts of her characters, Richter brings them alive, makes them so real for readers to connect with their emotions and situations.
This book gives you a feel for what life was like in the GDR and how it affected its citizens.

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  • Title: In Alexa’s Shoes
  • Authors: Rochelle Alexandra
  • Publisher: Author Academy Elite
  • Publication Date: 25th June 2019

Copy received from blog tour organiser and publisher for review purposes.

Description:

In Alexa’s Shoes – a dramatic, uplifting true story of a teenage girl overcoming great odds to survive. A historical novel that beckons the reader to follow in the footsteps of a real-life individual one step at a time. Based on the true story of the author’s grandmother.

In the autumn of 1940, thirteen-year-old Alexa’s happy life is ripped from her as she, her mother, and many of the locals are rounded up by the Nazis in Poland. Loaded into trucks, they are transported to an unknown destination. Terror and uncertainty become the new normal. Life is a continuous nightmare as she is selected by the Gestapo officer’s wife, destined to become little more than their slave.

Separated from everyone she loves Alexa relies on her Christian faith, inner strength and courage, to endure through her long nightmare. Her story takes her on a treacherous journey across war-ravaged Europe in search of her family and the life she once knew. Despite living through unimaginable hardships and life-threatening danger, Alexa feels that someone or something seems to be looking out for her. Years later, she finds out that not all was as it seemed, as hidden secrets from this dark period in history are revealed to her.

My Thoughts:

I read this book over the course of a weekend, once I picked it up I was unable to put it down for long. The story of Alexa’s life is a heartbreaking one that begins as the young teenage girl is taken from her beloved Poland at the hands of the Nazis and is separated from her mother.
Her childhood innocence and naivety are soon comforts of the past when she has to adjust to a massively different life as a slave for a Gestapo officer and his family. The events that take place around Alexa and the things she sees in those early days after her forceful removal from Poland are heartbreaking, but we all know that worse events would occur after 1940.

Life living under the roof of a Gestapo officer is far from easy for Alexa, long hours and backbreaking work are hard for an adult, but for a teenager this must have been so much to contend with. But her Christian faith helps her through the tough times, reciting Psalm 91 to herself whenever she feels it will help. Her family and homeland are never far from her thoughts, something she clings to throughout her days in Occupied lands, hoping that she may once again see Poland and be reunited with her mother and sister.

Alexa shows courage and strength throughout her time in captivity, she continues to put one foot in front of the other, moving closer to a life that she hopes will lead her to freedom. But she never turns to hatred towards those who force these limitations and conditions on her. As her story moves on, Alexa’s freedom comes and life takes on a safety that she has longed for.
Life after WWII is hard but Alexa makes it work, she makes many journeys both physical and emotional that lead to the uncovering of secrets that change her views forever.

The style of writing makes this quite an addictive read, readers feel drawn to Alexa and her story. As you read through the pages, you become more and more invested in the story, holding your breath in places as the tension increases and worrying about the fate of Alexa. A truly thrilling and captivating read. My thanks to the author for sharing her grandmother’s tale with us.

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Hard to believe that we’re half way through the year already, and as we’ve hit this milestone, I figured that it might be a good time to round up some of the great indie books that I’ve featured so far and some of the great authors who have given their time to take part in author interviews or written guest posts for us to read.

Links to each of the Friday features are below, or alternatively if you want to use the search function at the top of the page, just type in the name of the book or author to bring up the relevant page.

Feature Links:
Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech (book feature)
The Twitches Meet a Puppy by Hayley Scott (book feature)
Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie (book feature)
Inborn by Thomas Enger (book feature)
Roz White (author feature)
Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz (book feature)
The Courier by Kjell Old Dahl (book feature)
The Red Light Zone by Jeff Zycinski (book feature)
A Letter From Sarah by Dan Proops (book and author feature)
The Silver Moon Storybook by Elaine Gunn (book feature)
Runaway by Claire MacLeary (book feature)
Sunwise by Helen Steadman (book feature)
The Lives Before Us by Juliet Conlin (book feature)
The Red Gene by Barbara Lamplugh (book and author feature)
Death at The Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly (book feature)
Heleen Kist (author feature)
White Gold by David Barker (book feature)
Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers (book and author feature)
Claire MacLeary (author feature)
A History of Magic and Witchcraft: Sabbats, Satan and Superstitions in the West by Frances Timbers (book feature)
The Killer Across The Table by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker (book feature)
Maggie Christensen (author feature)

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Today I am thrilled to welcome Maggie Christensen to join me to share a piece that she’s written about her life, her writing and the connections in her stories.


After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA, her native Scotland or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast.

Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them – heartwarming tales of second chances.

From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of over thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound. Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.

When I emigrated from Scotland to Australia in my mid-twenties, lured by ads to Come and Teach in the Sun, featuring a man wearing swimming trunks and a gown and mortarboard, I had no idea that, fifty years later, I would be writing novels set in my native land.

When, as I neared retirement, I did begin writing fiction, I set my first novels in Australia where I lived and in Florence, Oregon where my mother-in-law lived and where we often visited. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to set my books in Scotland.

However, I was often asked at book launches and book signings why I didn’t set any books in Scotland, and there was a story an aunt often told me of her ill-fated romance which I knew would make a good novel, if only I could find the right way to tell it.

So, when I was writing Broken Threads, which is set in Sydney, I introduced Bel, a secondary character who had an aging aunt in Scotland with the idea that – maybe – I would find a way to write my aunt’s story.

After several false starts, two years later, Bel’s story became my first Scottish novel, The Good Sister, with my aunt’s story fictionalised into that of Bel’s old Aunt Isobel. The story takes place in Glasgow, set mostly in the same street and in a house similar to one in which I lived as a student. But while I lived in a tiny bedsitter, Isobel MacDonald owns the entire house.

The Good Sister is the only historical novel I’ve written so far. It is set across two timeframes – contemporary and WW2 – which entailed a lot of research. I really enjoyed delving into the past for this story, searching the Internet, talking to older members of my family, and rummaging through old photographs of my parents and their generation.

As I wrote The Good Sister, I found many places of my childhood and teenage years came alive for me again. Much of my research took me back to the Scotland of my youth. Even words and phrases I hadn’t heard for years came back into my mind as I wrote.

I loved writing this book as I became totally involved in the lives of Bel and Matt who feature in the contemporary part of the book. I’d never intended this to be anything but a standalone book. But Bel and Matt took hold of me, and I began to wonder what the future held for them once Bel returned home to Sydney. This led to the sequel Isobel’ Promise which is set in both Scotland – on Loch Lomond where Matt lives – and in Australia – in Sydney where Bel lives.

Isobel’s Promise took me back to Scotland again, to the beautiful Loch Lomond where Matt lives, to the Glasgow of my student days – Byres Road, the pubs, now much gentrified, and into the heart of the city whose renaissance I had first researched while writing The Good Sister.

Bel and Matt became part of me – they were like good friends – so I continued to write their story. A Single Woman picks up the story of Alasdair, Matt’s son-in-law and takes place two years after Isobel’s Promise.

In A Single Woman, Bel and Matt are relegated to secondary characters along with Alasdair’s children Robbie and Fiona. Twelve-year-old Fiona is in a wheelchair and has proven to be popular with my readers.

The main characters in A Single Woman are Alasdair MacLeod and Isla Cameron –one reviewer described it as the thoughtful and touching story of the developing relationship between two rather damaged people (Put it in Writing)

The name Isla Cameron had been in my mind for some time – I had a picture of this tall, slim, dark woman who led a very insular life with a touch of mystery about her– but I didn’t know what her story would be. When I decided to write Alasdair’s story, I realised She was the perfect foil for him, and A Single Woman became her book.

I really enjoyed the trip down memory lane while writing this one. Isla lives in the same part of Glasgow I did as a student and in my early years as a teacher, so it was fun to revisit my old haunts – and to discover how much they’d changed since I lived there.

During my research I discovered some delightful nuggets of information. I was thrilled to discover The Willow Tearooms. They are based on the original Mrs Craddock tearooms from the early 1900’s in which the waitresses were called Mrs Craddock’s young ladies. The tearooms were inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and one of their offerings is Hendrick’s Ginn n Tea which, of course, Isla and her friend had to indulge in.

I also discovered a number of speciality ice cream shops and thanks to my cousin’s daughter – who has teenagers – led my teenage characters to enjoy ice cream churros from what is labelled as the UK’s first ice cream and churro bar.

While I’ll never go back to Scotland to live, I may set more books there. It’s too tempting a prospect to once again steep myself in the countryside I still love and to bring back memories that I’d all but forgotten. While Scotland may be a world away from where I live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I can open my computer and be there in a flash – enjoy the scenery, hear the dialect, and visit all my favourite places with my characters.

A huge thank you to Maggie for joining me today, it’s a huge privilege to welcome indie authors to The Quiet Knitter blog to speak about their books, their writing habits and find out what their next project might be about.

To find out more about Maggie and her books, check out her social media links!

Website  http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor

Twitter   https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen

Amazon Author Page  https://amzn.to/2Lt8fkL

Buy link for A Single Woman  books2read.com/ASingleWoman

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  • Title: Code Name: Lise
  • Author: Larry Loftis
  • Publisher: Mirror Books
  • Publication Date: 9th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing.

Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission.

It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them.

They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and on to concentration camps in Germany, where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.

This is portrait of true courage, patriotism and love amidst unimaginable horrors and degradation.

My Thoughts:

When I first heard about this book I was instantly intrigued, Odette Sansom was a name I had heard of in passing but wasn’t the most familiar with her tale, something I was only too pleased to clear up by reading this book.

In Code Name: Lise, the reader meets a young Odette in France and learns about her early life. We also learn about the sort of person she was, determined, tenacious and above all one that never gave up in the face of a challenge. As she gets older, she meets a man and falls in love, moves to England and life is going well for her, until the outbreak of World War II. Feeling guilt at being in the relative safety of rural Somerset, she immediately jumps at the chance to do her bit by supplying photographs of various locations in France to aid in the war effort, which leads to her becoming an SOE agent.

Odette’s first mission is in occupied France, but her journey to France gets off to an incredibly shaky start. The missions that Odette and the team complete are fraught with tension and make for utterly thrilling reading. The danger of agents being captured and killed was something Odette was very aware of, as was the threat of agents around them having being turned into double agents by the enemy. Fearing cover has been blown, Odette and her commanding officer, Peter Churchill flee for safety. But soon they are caught up by the cunning skills of German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher. Interspersed with the tale of Odette and Peter, is information about Hugo Bleicher, his life to this point and what he faced to get to where he was.

Life as a prisoner of the Nazis and SS wasn’t easy for Odette, but through it all, she never lost her spirit or determination to survive. The treatment she received was horrendous, the physical torture methods used were brutal but the psychological torture was something else, often leaving the prisoners questioning reality and their grasp on sanity. But reading through these awful details, my admiration for this character grew. Seeing what Odette endured and how she survived, I felt levels of emotion bubbling up and realised that I was holding in tears, screams of frustration and anguish and the feeling of utter helplessness.

Code Name: Lise is a truly remarkable tale, poignant and yet empowering, and combined with the writing of Larry Loftis, this reads as a thriller. It’s explosive, it’s gripping and the sort of read that gets under your skin.

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Celebrating Indie Publishing has a review of a book that I found impossible to put down. This was a read that I found equal parts fascinating and harrowing, but I needed to keep reading, I needed to find out how the cases being discussed unfolded, in the words of the author.

  • Title: The Killer Across The Table
  • Authors: John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker
  • Publisher: William Collins
  • Publication Date: 16th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

In The Killer Across the Table, legendary FBI criminal profiler and number one bestselling author John Douglas delves deep into the lives and crimes of four of the most disturbing and complex predatory killers he’s encountered, offering never-before-revealed details about his profiling process and divulging the strategies used to crack some of his most challenging cases.

Former Special Agent John Douglas has sat across the table from many of the world’s most notorious killers – including Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, ‘Coed Killer’ Edmund Kemper, ‘Son of Sam Killer’ David Berkowitz and ‘BTK Strangler’ Dennis Rader, and has also been instrumental in the exoneration of Amanda Knox and the West Memphis Three. He has gone on to become a legend in the world of criminal investigative analysis, and his work has inspired TV shows and films such as Mindhunter, Criminal Minds and The Silence of the Lambs.

In this riveting work of true crime, Douglas spotlights four very different criminals he’s confronted over the course of his career, and explains how they helped him to put together the puzzle of how psychopaths and predators think. Taking us inside the interrogation room and demonstrating the unique techniques he uses to understand the workings of the most terrifying and incomprehensible minds, The Killer Across the Table is an unputdownable journey into the darkest reaches of criminal profiling and behavioural science from a man who knows serial killers better than anyone else. As Douglas says:

‘If you want to understand the artist, look at his art.’
If you want to understand what makes a murderer, start here.

My Thoughts:

For fans of Mindhunter and behavioural science programmes, this is a book that you will want to add to your reading list.
This book takes an in-depth look at four serial killers and their paths towards becoming some of the most notorious killers in America. The way that Douglas gets people to open up to him is something incredibly fascinating to witness, indeed the snippets of previous cases he has worked on with the likes of Ted Bundy and Charles Manson provide another layer of insight that demonstrates the psychology of interrogation techniques and the human brain in those being interrogated. These conversations becoming the basis for some training material that the FBI would use to identify certain individuals in the future. His ability to keep his own emotions hidden at the revelations he heard took nerves and I was amazed that he could hold them back in light of the severity of the murders.

Breaking the book down into four sections, each serial killer is presented with detail and a professional detachment by Douglas. The cases are harrowing and not the easiest to read in some instances, but the exploration of the killer in each instance is exceptionally well detailed, giving readers a glimpse into their journey to the point of the interview with Douglas. Being able to follow the narrative through the thoughts of whether each individual is a case of nature versus nurture, whether there was key factor that triggered their killing sprees, if the killer knew their victims or picked strangers, makes this quite a disturbing but engrossing read.

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