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Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

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Published: 17 April 2017

 

Description:

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

My Thoughts & Review:

Every so often you read a book that speaks directly to your heart and that book becomes a very special one indeed.  “The Sewing Machine” has become a very special book to me, one that I loved reading and will no doubt be reading again before the year is out.

The uniqueness of this book comes in the form that the reader follows the tale of a Singer Sewing machine from it’s “birth” on the production line in Clydebank, Glasgow in the early 1900s.  It is at the Singer factory that we meet the first of the wonderfully rich characters, Jean.  A young woman, who believes in doing the right thing and following her heart, Jean takes part in a strike at the factory which in turn leads to a change of life for her.

The inheritance of the sewing machine by Fred brings the reader to current times and a different world from when the sewing machine first appeared.  It is through Fred that the reader finds out about the history of this particular machine, he unearths notebooks kept by his grandmother and great grandmother detailing all of the projects sewn on this machine.  The author expertly crafts together an intensely rich tale that flows over several time periods from different perspectives but all the while keeps everything linked, you could say her anchor stitching is perfect.

The exploration of each of the main characters in this book is so well thought out and detailed, it is evident that numerous hours of research has been done in planning of this story, including the small details of nursing uniforms and practices in the set time period add a real authenticity.
The lives of Connie and Alfred stuck out for me reading this, perhaps there was something about them that reminded me of my grandparents, certainly some of Fred’s younger memories of his grandparents did strike a chord with me, hours spent pottering in the garden with my grandfather, or creating things with my grandmother like little play dens etc.  theirs is a wonderful example of loving relationship, one filled with respect, care and genuine concern for others.
Fred is another character that found his way into my heart, through his blog entries the reader finds out more about him, how his life has changed following the death of his beloved grandfather and his decisions to remain in Edinburgh.
Kathleen’s story was one that I found troubling at times, not quite knowing how to take her, but I think that some of this has to be credited to Natalie Fergie.  In her writing of this character she invokes a very good representation of a woman who has faced troubling times but still remains vulnerable.  Hers was a tale that I found saddening but empowering, her notebooks proving just how strong she was.

This is a wonderfully charming read, a story that has numerous threads running through it, and like a patchwork quilt, each part is dovetailed seamlessly to form a beautiful creation.  I absolutely loved reading this book, it made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me weep but at the end I felt such a great satisfaction at how things worked out.

My heartfelt thanks to Natalie Fergie for the opportunity to read and review this book, and for inviting me to participate in her blog tour.

You can buy a copy of “The Sewing Machine” via
Amazon

Natalie has advised that paperback has sold out at the wholesalers, however Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh will do a special Free Postage deal if people ring the shop and order on the phone 0131 622 8222.  And in London, The Big Green Bookshop have copies (and Free Postage) if people ring 0208 881 6767 – please note that there may be no guarantees how long they will have copies for, this book is absolutely brilliant and flying off the shelves!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for reviews, guest posts and fantastic features with the author of The Sewing Machine.

Yesterday’s host was the lovely Joanne over at Portobello Book Blog why not pop over and read her review.  Tomorrow’s host is Abby, a smashing lass that writes amazing reviews over on Anne Bonny Book Reviews

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Published: 4 April 2017

 

Description:

It’s 1956 and Bernie Gunther is on the run. Ordered by Erich Mielke, deputy head of the East German Stasi, to murder Bernie’s former lover by thallium poisoning, he finds his conscience is stronger than his desire not to be murdered in turn. Now he must stay one step ahead of Mielke’s retribution.

The man Mielke has sent to hunt him is an ex-Kripo colleague, and as Bernie pushes towards Germany he recalls their last case together. In 1939, Bernie was summoned by Reinhard Heydrich to the Berghof: Hitler’s mountain home in Obersalzberg. A low-level German bureaucrat had been murdered, and the Reichstag deputy Martin Bormann, in charge of overseeing renovations to the Berghof, wants the case solved quickly. If the Fuhrer were ever to find out that his own house had been the scene of a recent murder – the consequences wouldn’t bear thinking about.

And so begins perhaps the strangest of Bernie Gunther’s adventures, for although several countries and seventeen years separate the murder at the Berghof from his current predicament, Bernie will find there is some unfinished business awaiting him in Germany. 

My Thoughts & Review:

“Prussian Blue” is the twelfth book in the series penned by Philip Kerr to feature ex Kripo detective Bernie Gunther and once again the events during WWII are coming back to haunt the anti hero.  For fans of the series this is a wonderful continuation of the chronicles of Bernie Gunther, picking up a storyline from 1939 when he was under instruction of Heydrich to investigate a murder of the Berghof (Hitler’s home in Obersalzberg) but also to find some information on Martin Bormann etc that could be used in the future by Heydrich.  But there is the another timeline running parallel to this with action in 1956 when Bernie Gunther is cornered by Erich Mielke, Deputy Head of the Stasi and ordered to carry out an assassination.

Taking evasive action to free himself of his guards, Bernie makes a dash for freedom, not knowing whether he will make it or not.  But in doing so, this triggers memories from 1939 when he was sent to Obersalzberg to investigate the death of a low level engineer at Hitler’s  mountain home.  The man sent to accompany Bernie on his assassination mission is the same man that assisted him with the investigation in the 30s.  What then follows is a clever narrative that twists between the two timelines perfectly.

By 1958 Bernie Gunther has lived a charmed existence, knowing when to cut and run from situations, relying on his wit and courage to get him where he needs to be.  Thankfully, there seems to be more of the character that fans have come to know and love.  His smart mouth getting him into trouble like it did in the days of pre war Germany, the argumentative maverick is back and I’m so pleased!  I did worry that after reading book 11 (“The Other Side of Silence”) that this character was becoming tired, resigned and lacking but Philip Kerr has brought that spark back for me with his latest offering.

The parallels that can be drawn from the Nazis and the Stasis are so very clear in the writing, the far reach of both organisations is astounding to read about even in a fictional setting.  As always Philip Kerr includes little details that add an authenticity to his work and writes tense scenes so wonderfully that the reader cannot help but feel drawn in.

I particularly like that Kerr gives information on the fates of the characters mentioned in his book, thus allowing the reader a closure of sorts, knowing what actually happened to the likes of Martin Bormann etc.

I have to add that if you are new to the series then you will be able to read this book without having read the previous ones, there is enough detail given to past characters and events to keep a reader in the loop without repeating plots etc.  A superb series and I keenly await book thirteen!

My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review.

You can buy a copy of “Prussian Blue” via Amazon here or via Wordery here

 

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Published: 9 February 2017
Reviewed: 2 January 2017

4 out of 5 stars

Copy provided by Bonnier Zaffre in return for an honest review

 

Description:

For me David Young has cemented his place on the bookshelf alongside my Cold War thrillers by John le Carré and Len Deighton.

You can buy a copy of Stasi Wolf here.

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Published: 12 January 2017
Reviewed: 31 January 2017

5 out of 5 stars

Copy provided by Simon & Schuster UK

 

Description:

A story of intrigue and revenge, perfect for fans of Jane Eyre and Fingersmith and The Miniaturist.

On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of the barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.

When Annaleigh, a foundling who has fled her home in London, finds herself at the remote house, in service to the Twentymans, she discovers all is not as it seems behind closed doors.

Isolated and lonely, Annaleigh is increasingly drawn to her master. And as their relationship intensifies, she soon realises that her movements are being controlled and her life is no longer her own. Slowly she is drawn into a web of intrigue and darkness, and soon she must face her fears if she is to save herself.

My Thoughts & Review:

From the very moment I head about this book I knew I had to read it, from the incredibly compelling description to the magnificent cover this book had my full attention and I was delighted to be able to review it.

Sophia Tobin writes beautifully and evocatively, drawing the reader in from the very opening pages of this book and holds the reader fast in an intensely atmospheric tale.  The way in which characters and settings are described in this book is almost intoxicating, the landscape is so vividly described that the reader can almost see Becket Bridge and envision the moorlands, feel the cool tendrils of the moorland mist, sense the danger that lies out there.
The same detail is applied to the characters in this, Annaleigh is portayed as a young woman who wants to fight against the rules of society and her place within it, but shows a willingness to work hard and obey her masters.  Marcus Twentyman is a character that gives the reader pause for thought, his outward appearance is that of charm but yet there is something venomous and dangerous about him, this sinister notion is prevalent throughout the novel.

I am loathe to say too much about the plot, but I will say that this is a gripping story, very well written and a sheer delight for readers, one that is perfect for a quiet Sunday afternoon with a steaming mug of tea (and a few biscuits, as long as you’re careful with the crumbs!).

Having never read any books by Sophia Tobin before I had no real grounding of her writing before starting this book, but if this is the standard what she writes at I will be checking out her other books immediately!

You can buy a copy of “The Vanishing” here.

About the Author:

Sophia Tobin was raised on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. Having graduated from the Open University, she moved to London to study History of Art, then worked for a Bond Street antique dealer for six years, specialising in silver and jewellery. Inspired by her research into a real eighteenth-century silversmith, Tobin began to write The Silversmith’s Wife, which was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, judged by Sophie Hannah and Professor Janet Todd. It was published by Simon & Schuster in January 2014.

Tobin’s second novel, The Widow’s Confession, will be published in January 2015. She works in a library and lives in London with her husband.

For more information see her website

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Published: 5 December 2016
Reviewed: 26 January 2017

4 out of 5 stars

Copy provided by Oldcastle Books

Description:

I don’t really want to say too much about the plot, it’s very clever constructed so to give away any of the subtle nuances would spoil it for other readers.

What I really liked about this one was the way in which Luke McCallin took details of Berlin’s history and wove them tightly with a thrilling plot where spy networks and undercover agents appeared.  Being able to transport the reader to the rundown scenes in Berlin at that time is incredibly powerful, the war damaged buildings loom on every street, the distrust towards ‘informers’ and occupying nationals is evident through the writing and offers the reader a glimpse into a world they may not have experienced.

Reinhardt is a very well constructed character, a very richly detailed character that McCallin has taken great time and care over.  The back story for Reinhardt is interesting and makes him easier to connect with, his guilt and fear are palpable.  His constant struggle with trying to do the right thing makes for engrossing reading.

I was surprised to find out this was actually the third book to feature this character and will definitely be going back to read the previous two books.  I felt there was a ‘Bernie Gunther’ sort of ethos to this, which personally was a good thing as I really like Philip Kerr’s books.  This can definitely be read as a stand alone, there is more than enough detail given about Reinhardt to form opinions of the character and his personality etc.

Overall an enjoyable read, a slow burner that has just the right amount of thriller, intrigue and menace.

My thanks to Oldcastle Books and No Exit Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

You can buy a copy of “The Ashes of Berlin” here.

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Published: 24 November 2016
Reviewed: 11 January 2017

4 out of 5 stars

Copy provided by Urbane Publications

Description:

1798. Three people, two brutal murders, and a single promise…

Golo Eck is searching for the fabled lost library of The Lynx, Europe’s first scientific society, founded in 1603.

Fergus, his friend and fellow adventurer, is on the trail of the legend in Ireland when he becomes embroiled in the uprising of the United Irish against English rule. His only hope of escape is Greta, a courageous messenger for the United Irish cause. Following the bloody battles of New Ross and Vinegar Hill, Fergus is missing, and Greta is on the run.

Golo meanwhile suspects other forces are on the trail of the Lynx, and he heads to Holland in pursuit. When Golo’s ship founders and he disappears, his ward Ruan is left to fend for himself, a stranger in a strange land.

Can Ruan pursue the trail to the lost library? Will Golo and Fergus be found? Can Greta escape Ireland with her very life? And will the truth of the Legacy of the Lynx finally be revealed?

Award winning writer Clio Gray has written a thrilling adventure story, steeped in historical fact and legend, that will keep readers gripped to the very last page.

My Thoughts & Review:

During 2016 I decided to challenge myself, read more books outwith my set comfort zone and try to see what else was out there to tempt readers and stumbled upon a publisher that was bringing new books to readers that they might never have considered.  This was one such book that I looked at and thought it was one that I might not naturally pick up but game for a giggle I settled down for a new and challenging read.

The Legacy of the Lynx is a story about the adventure of Golo Eck’s search for the lost library of The Lynx, and along with his friends Fergus and Ruan, he believes it will be the key to saving mankind from a violent and undemocratic world.
When the friends are separated they quickly discover that someone is out to stop Golo Eck’s quest.  But through each of the characters the reader is introduced to an aspect of the plot that is fascinating and entertaining, Fergus returns to Ireland where he meets Greta, who is a wonderful character.  Greta could be described as feisty, strongly opined but entirely likeable, she acts as a guide for Fergus through town.

The writing and language in this is exceptional, the author has ensured that the language corresponds well with the time of the setting, the 18th Century giving a feel of authenticity as well as giving readers a more intelligent read and a chance to expand their lexical knowledge.

Despite being a historical adventure tale, there is a crime story hidden in there too, so this becomes a book for more than just one audience.  The adventure/discovery is admittedly the main theme but it is written with enough pace that it will hold the attention of readers and remain interesting.

You can buy a copy of The Legacy of the Lynx directly from Urbane Publications here or via Amazon here.

About the Author:

Clio was born in Yorkshire, spent her later childhood in Devon before returning to Yorkshire to go to university. For the last twenty five years she has lived in the Scottish Highlands where she intends to remain. She eschewed the usual route of marriage, mortgage, children, and instead spent her working life in libraries, filling her home with books and sharing that home with dogs. She began writing for personal amusement in the late nineties, then began entering short story competitions, getting short listed and then winning, which led directly to a publication deal with Headline. Her latest book, The Anatomist’s Dream, was nominated for the Man Booker 2015 and long listed for the Bailey’s Prize in 2016.


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Published: 4 October 2016
Reviewed: 8 November 2016

4 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by She Writes Press in return for an honest review

Description:

Rachel Klein hopes she can ignore the Nazis when they roll into Amsterdam in May 1940. She’s falling in love, and her city has been the safest place in the world for Jewish people since the Spanish Inquisition. But when Rachel’s Gentile boyfriend is forced to disappear rather than face arrest, she realizes that everything is changing, and so must she—so, although she is often tired and scared, she delivers papers for the underground under the Nazis’ noses. But after eighteen months of ever increasing danger, she pushes her parents to go into hiding with her. The dank basement where they take refuge seems like the last place where Rachel would meet a new man—but she does. An Address in Amsterdam shows that, even in the most hopeless situation, an ordinary young woman can make the choice to act with courage—and even love.

My Thoughts & Review:

An Address in Amsterdam is not the typical sort of book I would opt to review, I often find that the stories surrounding WWII difficult to review without a great emotional attachment or feel so lost in the story that I lose track of taking notes and just read the story.

Without regurgitating the plot, I will say that this is a poignant and mesmerising story of an eighteen year old woman in Nazi occupied Amsterdam and the struggles faced by her and those around her.
The resilience and determination of Rachel Klein makes this such a wonderfully compelling read, joining the underground resistance was a dangerous move for this young woman but she felt that it was something necessary.  The shift from the naive young woman to the member of the resistance allows for great character development.
Initially slow to begin with, the pace soon picks up and holds the reader’s attention throughout.

Despite being historical fiction, this reads almost as a tale recounted rather than imagined.  There is an attention to detail in the writing that feels accurate to the time setting, it is evident that there has been a lot of research done to ensure this historical accuracy as well as the details of the Dutch resistance.  The Dutch resistance was not a subject that I was overly familiar with, most of the books that I have read of this nature seem to focus largely on the events in Germany or France so this was both interesting and informative.

Compelling characters and a rich plot make this an enthralling read and one I would have no hesitation to recommend.

You can buy a copy of An Address in Amsterdam here.

 

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