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Archive for January, 2020

Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing post is joining up with damppebbles blog tours to share my review of Neil Lancaster’s thrilling second novel in the Tom Novak series.

  • Title: Going Rogue
  • Author: Neil Lancaster
  • Publisher: Burning Chair
  • Publication Date: 21st November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Tom Novak is back.

When a spate of deadly terrorist attacks hit the streets of London, Tom finds himself thrust into the middle of a fight for the survival of all he holds dear.

When the attackers hit closer to home than he could ever imagine, Tom is forced to make a choice between his duty or his conscience. In doing so, he enters a series of increasingly dangerous worlds, in the darkest corners of humanity.

Can Tom and his colleagues get to the bottom of a plot which threatens the very fabric of society?

Will they stop the terrorists before it’s too late?

When faced with the ultimate choice, which way will Tom go?

After all, as Cameron always says: “Always do right, boy…”

Going Rogue is the follow-up to the hugely successful thriller, Going Dark: the book that introduced Tom Novak as the hero who, in the words of best-selling author Tony Parsons, “makes Jason Bourne look like a vegan Pilates teacher”.

Get Going Rogue today, and start a rollercoaster ride of a thriller that you won’t ever want to put down.

My Thoughts:

If Neil Lancaster isn’t a name on your author list then get his name added there quickly! The Tom Novak series is thrilling and exciting, the sort of thing you read while holding your breath in anticipation of what will happen next.

Reading the books in order will definitely give you a more rounded appreciation for this character and his back story, and I felt that having read Going Dark first, I understood this complex character and his life a little better. When you start reading, it’s hard not to wonder if this will be another rogue detective story, someone who has little attachment to those around them and will throw themselves into the most dangerous situations for nothing else other than a thrill … all under the guise of saving someone or saving the world. But in Tom Novak, the reader is given a character that is deep, complex and so fascinating. There is so much detail written into this character, he is multidimensional and as the story unfolds you are drawn to him.

The plotting is once again brilliant, Lancaster writes with great skill and the action feels believable, authentic, something I would expect given his previous career in policing. The pace is like a whirlwind, I wanted to not blast through this book, but at the same time, the author baits the chapters perfectly to hook the reader and ensure they will keep reading, even if it is until late into the wee hours of the morning. Using current events makes the plot very realistic and gives the reader pause for thought to consider who vast and diverse society is.

I really don’t want to say anything that will give away the plot or hints about what will happen, but it’s the sort of book you can easily lose a few hours to once you’re hooked. It’s an action packed, thrilling read that is packed with subtle details that build such a crisp picture of the scenes and the tensions that bubble under the surface. The characterisation is clever, the plot is immersive and this is one series that screams out to appear on screen!

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On Holocaust Memorial Day it is fitting to feature a memoir of someone who survived the atrocities and went on to make a life for themselves, and so, today I am honoured to share a review of Remembering Ravensbrück: From Holocaust to Healing by Natalie B. Hess.

  • Title: Remembering Ravensbrück: From Holocaust to Healing
  • Author: Natalie B. Hess
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 27th January 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

In her luminous and engrossing memoir, award-winning writer and teacher, Natalie B.Hess, takes us from a sheltered childhood in a small town in Poland, into, through, after the horrors of the Holocaust.

When her parents are rounded up and perish in the Treblinka concentration camp, a Gentile family temporarily hides six-year-old Natalia. Later, protected by a family friend, she is imprisoned in her city’s ghetto, before she is sent to a forced-labor camp, finally Ravensbrück Concentration camp, from which, at nine, she is liberated.

Taken to Sweden, bu the Swedish White Cross busses, she adapts to and grows to love her new home, becoming a “proper Swedish School girl,” until, at 16, she is claimed by relatives and uprooted to Evansville, Indiana. There, she must start over yet again, mastering English, and ultimately earning a PhD in literature.

As a married young mother, she and her husband move to Jerusalem where they and their three children experience life as Israelis, including the bombing of their home during the Six Day War. Back in the States, they settle into life in Arizona until Natalie’s husband dies unexpectedly when a teenager runs a stop sign and hits his car. In her grief, Natalie moves to Philadelphia to be with her daughter and discovers that life still holds surprises for her, including love.

Hess’s compelling portrait in which terror is muted by gratitude and gentle humor, shares the story of so many immigrants dislocated by the tyranny and war. Through her experience as a child separated from her parents, a teenager, young woman, wife, mother, college professor, and later a widow, Hess shows the power of the human spirit to survive and thrive.

My Thoughts:

From the very opening pages of this memoir, I felt a great connection with Natalie, the things she saw and how she interpreted them felt somewhat natural. And the stark reminder that everyone has a story inside them is never more true when you meet someone new or even just see someone in their day to day life. Take for instance the woman getting on the bus, does she need help? Does she want help? Is she proud of her independence and fiercely going to defend it? What has happened in her life to that point? Could she perhaps have lived through a war that forced her to rely on wits, courage and strength that she wasn’t aware she had?

Keep those questions at the back of your head as you read on about Natalie B. Hess.
As a six-year-old girl growing up in a well-to-do family, Natalia has been protected by many things, but she has never been short of love and affection. And it is this love that keeps her safe and alive, her parents taking steps to hide her when the Nazis were sending Jews to concentration camps. Seeing the situation through the eyes of a six-year-old makes the events more poignant and powerful. Her fears felt so real, I was reading with a tremor of dread. What was going to happen? Would she be added to the list? Would she be ok? Moved from the ghetto to a forced-labor camp, and then onto the infamous Ravensbrück, Natalia quickly matures and I felt a great sadness for her losing the sparks of childhood naivety. She like so many her age not being children, not playing or enjoying games but fearing for their lives and existing in a world that knew only cruelty.

After the liberation of Ravensbrück, Natalia’s life takes on the theme of travel and finding a place where she fits. Life in Sweden feels comfortable, she has a safety, a family, school and she feels “Swedish”. But relatives in America have reached out, and soon she is on a ship and bound for the other side of the world, to the land of opportunity.
It is through her steely determination that she proves her education should continue at the level it was, and not have to start back at the beginning. Losing more of her original identity and her beloved Swedish language, Natalie emerges. Thinking and speaking in English, she finds her place in the world, and follows a path towards qualifications and a career. But something is lacking once she has achieved these goals … everyone around her from training seems to be getting married, Natalie’s great humour and easy-going ways soon have the reader chuckling as she recounts dates.

I found the family’s time in Jerusalem interesting and I certainly took a lot from it, the Six Day War in 1967 was not something I knew much about at all, and so after reading about it in Natalie’s memoir, I wanted to find out more.
But I have to admit that one of the most touching and saddening parts of this memoir was how Natalie coped with the loss of her husband. The details of her thought processes at that time made me stop and think, how she felt so adrift and lost when it came to looking at the mountains of paperwork or the wee things like remembering to pick up the charger for the mobile phone … the things she’d not had to do because there was always someone else that did them. The sense that we form a team with others, and how we rely on them for their presence, comfort and support is often a strong force that can keep us moving on, and to lose it, well that can rip apart the very threads that hold our world together.

There are parts of Natalie’s life that felt so unfair, so hard. But equally, there are parts when happiness and love are so abundant in her life that it felt that things had turned a corner for her. But through it all, she remained the same, strong and courageous. Despite the hardships, the terror she faced, Natalie looked at it with what seems like a level-headed approach. Looking for a way to survive, looking for the next step forward and ultimately coming out of it stronger. Her story is powerful, it’s heartbreaking in places, but above all, there is so much that can be learned from this and I would urge readers to pick this book up.
Learn something from this amazing woman, even if it is just something as simple as asking the old woman in the street if she needs help before assuming she does.

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  • Title: Die For Me
  • Author: Jesper Stein
  • Publisher: Mirror Books
  • Publication Date: 16th January 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

A brutal stalker is preying on women in Copenhagen.

DI Axel Steen begins an obsessive manhunt that sends him spiralling out of control.

The investigation is fraught with heart-stopping near-misses, dark mysteries, and a final revelation with devastating consequences.

A raw psychological thriller from a master of crime storytelling.

My Thoughts:

After reading the previous novel by this author, I was keen to see what Jesper Stein had lined up for his maverick detective in Die For Me. The previous book, Unrest, is available to buy and read before you plunge into the icy depths of this book.

Little has changed with Axel Steen, he still displays a flagrant disregard for the rules and his superiors, he walks a perilous tightrope between right and wrong, often straying too close to the depths of darkness. His personal life is a tangled web, his ex-wife is in a relationship with one of his colleagues, a particularity smarmy example of a human. His love for his daughter is one of the few calming influences on the detective, but his dogged determination and sheer bloody mindedness when it comes to his work often leads him to break promises or bring her in to situations that her mother deems inappropriate – a constant bone of contention between the two parents.

The plot is as ever is complex, dark and uncompromisingly emotive. With such a sensitive subject, Stein writes with a sensitivity and respect towards the victims in his novel, but ensures that he portrays the events and vicious perpetrator in a balanced way. The brutal realities of the plot are hard to read, but there is almost a balance in the way Stein details how the victims live with the aftereffects of the violence they endured. The attention to detail feels genuine, it reads as though he has carried out many hours of research into the impacts on mental health and well-being as well as the physical effects of sexual assault.
Technical details of the investigation, in particular the forensic side of the investigation, are fascinating. The complexity of the information is laid out to allow readers to immerse themselves in it, but take away knowledge from it too. I also found it interesting to see how cold cases are reexamined and where links can be made to current cases by a detective making a connection and not giving up on the case.

Follow the blog tour

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Celebrating Indie Publishing today has a review of a book I read at the end of 2019 and it’s stayed with me ever since. The book in question comes from a publisher I discovered late last year, but they are proving to be favourite when it comes to one of my top genres to read, WWII historical fiction.

  • Title: Hidden in the Shadows
  • Author: Imogen Matthews
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 1st December 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Escape from the hidden village is just the beginning

September 1944: The hidden village is in ruins. Stormed by the Nazis. Several are dead and dozens flee for their lives.

Instead of leading survivors to safety, Wouter panics and abandons Laura, the love of his life. He has no choice but to keep running from the enemy who want to hunt him down.

Laura must also stay hidden as she is Jewish. Moving from one safe house to another, she is concealed in attics and cellars. The threat of discovery is always close at hand.

On the run with no end in sight, the two young people despair for ever seeing each other again.

As cold sweeps in signalling the start of the Hunger Winter, time is running out.

Wouter’s search now becomes a battle for survival.

Where can Laura be? Will they ever be reunited?

Hidden in the Shadows is an unforgettable story of bravery and love, inspired by historical events.

My Thoughts:

This sounded like a unique and fascinating book when I read the description, I can’t think that I’d ever read a book quite like this one before so I was keen to find out more. I was certainly intrigued by the idea of a hidden village in the woods and the lengths that people had to go to to hide from the Nazis.

Following the tale of Wouter, readers are taken on an emotional journey as he flees from the danger of the advancing Nazis, who are systematically clearing the area of any Jewish people and anyone they deem a danger to their regime. With an army of people ready to help where they can, offering safety, food, clothing or even links to The Underground, Wouter runs to safety where he can find it.
But for me, the most poignant tale had to be that of Laura. She flees the village after the Nazis discover it and runs blindly to any form of safety she can find. Never knowing whether it’s truly safe or who she can trust, she has to rely on others to hide her and the others who fled the village.

With so much danger and unease woven throughout the narrative, this was a book that I became heavily invested in. I cared about Wouter and Laura, I cared what happened to them and hoped they would find their way back together again. Watching these characters growing, seeing events from their perspectives really made me think. The way that Imogen Matthews writes Laura as a young woman slowly finding her strength and courage was moving. This portrayal was superb and I liked this character more as I read on, seeing the challenges facing a young Jewish woman in hiding in 1944 was deeply moving, I got a great sense of the fear, anxiety and panic felt by Laura as she moved from safe house to safe house, never truly knowing if this might be the last journey she would make.
The same can be said for Wouter, his growth as a character was interesting to see, finding out his reasons for being in the village in the first place, the lengths he would go to to avoid capture … it made for poignant reading.

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  • Title: Stasi Winter
  • Author: David Young
  • Publisher: Zaffre
  • Publication Date: 9th January 2020

Copy received via publisher and Tracy Fenton for review purposes.

Description:

In East Germany, solving a murder can get you killed …

A gripping and intelligent thriller set in East Germany, during the worst winter in one-hundred years. Perfect for fans of Tom Rob Smith, Phillip Kerr and Joseph Kanon.


In 1978 East Germany, nothing is as it seems. The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.

So when a woman’s murder is officially labelled ‘accidental death’, Major Karin Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma. To solve the crime, she must disregard the official version of events. But defying the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.

As the worst winter in living memory holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between truth and lies, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.

Stunningly authentic and brimming with moral ambiguity, Stasi Winter is the thrilling new novel from the award-winning author of Stasi Child.

My Thoughts:

I have been a huge fan of David Young’s Karin Müller series for some time now, and I was ecstatic when I heard about the latest book, Stasi Winter. I’ve loved getting to know this character and following the turbulent path that her life has taken to this point, seeing the obstacles that are thrown at her and how she tackles them make for thrilling reading.

Müller’s battles with the Stasi have been a regular occurrence throughout the series and the one thing that you always take away from the books is the feeling of the underdog winning small battles here and there in the face of adversity. She may not win the war against them, but she certainly scores a few points where she can, showing the enemy that she’s not going to be bullied by their strong-arm tactics and red tape.

The case that Müller takes on is puzzling, and the more she looks at the evidence the less she believes the officially sanctioned version of events. Why are the powers that be so keen for the investigation to follow a certain route? What evidence are they covering up, or not disclosing to Müller and her team?
Running alongside this is a strand of plot centring around a young woman who has already tangled with the Stasi and is keen to avoid them at all costs. But life in East Germany is never easy, especially when your name is already on a list belonging to the Stasi. As she struggles to get a handle on the situation she’s in, Irma faces up to demons from her past and realises that escaping the regime may be harder than she’d ever imagined.

Atmospheric writing evokes a strong sense of the setting, the biting cold of wintry weather almost makes you shiver involuntarily as you read on. The creeping unease that leeches from the pages is strong and grips you, you can’t help but be drawn in to the story and try to piece together the clues that Müller and her team uncover. The case is intense, and as things unravel slowly, I found I was gripped. I needed to keep reading, I had to know what happened to the woman that was found dead, I had to know what would happen to Karin Müller and her family.
One of the things I’ve loved most about this series so far is the the way that David Young manages to give his readers a great feel for life in East Germany under the repressive and feared administration of the Stasi. His writing transports readers to the setting, even if it is to the harsh conditions of Hohenschönhausen. This quality makes each of his books an immersive reading experience and has me eagerly awaiting the next book!

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing post is slightly different, it’s a collection of short stories that have been compiled by a editor friend to raise money for charity, but it’s also a book that I had the honour to work on as a proofreader. In the spotlight today is When Stars Will Shine, a fantastic collection of short stories from some familiar names as well as some brilliant new ones.

  • Title: When Stars Will Shine
  • Author: Various
  • Publisher: Independently Published
  • Publication Date: 29th November 2019

Copy purchased via http://www.amazon.co.uk


When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life.

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, When Stars Will Shine is a multi-genre collection of Christmas-themed short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity.

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble Owl Proofreading and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s Get Booked, I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s Not So Secret Blog, who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith

You can purchase a copy of When Stars Will Shine via Amazon

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