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Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

Hello and welcome along to The Quiet Knitter! It’s Friday, and that can only mean one thing (well for here anyway!), it’s time for another post to “Celebrate Indie Publishing”.
This week I am delighted to bring you a book from No Exit Press and I thoroughly recommend checking them out both as they have some cracking books to offer! Today’s book in the spotlight is Hunting the Hangman by Howard Linskey and he’s kindly taken some time out to face a grilling for the author feature.


Book Feature:

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TWO MEN. . . ONE MISSION. . . TO KILL THE MAN WITH THE IRON HEART

Bestselling author Howard Linskey’s fifteen year fascination with the assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the holocaust, has produced a meticulously researched, historically accurate thriller with a plot that echoes The Day of the Jackal and The Eagle has Landed.

2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on a man so evil even fellow SS officers referred to him as the ‘Blond Beast’. In Prague he was known as the Hangman. Hitler, who called him ‘The Man with the Iron Heart’, considered Heydrich to be his heir, and entrusted him with the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish question: the systematic murder of eleven million people.

In 1942 two men were trained by the British SOE to parachute back into their native Czech territory to kill the man ruling their homeland. Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik risked everything for their country. Their attempt on Reinhard Heydrich’s life was one of the single most dramatic events of the Second World War, with horrific consequences for thousands of innocent people.

Hunting the Hangman is a tale of courage, resilience and betrayal with a devastating finale. Based on true events, the story reads like a classic World War Two thriller and is the subject of two big-budget Hollywood films that coincide with the anniversary of Operation Anthropoid.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Reinhard Heydrich was a figure that loomed largely during WWII, tales of his most evil deeds and thoughts about those he deemed of a lesser standing than himself or members of the Nazi party have been well documented over the years.  His ruthless and evil ways have marked him as one of the most dangerous men in The Third Reich, his desires driven by greed and obstinance.

Howard Linskey has researched his novel well, and in doing so has ensured that he can present a novel that does not shy away from the atrocities and harrowing moments in history, instead it states them in a very matter of fact fashion.
Whilst this is a fictionalised account of Operation Anthropoid, it is still a very interesting piece of work with some of the best characterisation I’ve ever read.  The portrayal of each of the major characters feels incredibly detailed, the way that Heydrich comes across on the pages is downright terrifying.  Linskey did well writing such a in depth and rounded portrayal of Heydrich, showing the many faces that this man possessed.  The way that the reader is privy to his thoughts, hears of his love of his father’s music, sees him as a father jars somewhat with the reality that he was one of “the main architects of the Holocaust”.

The two characters who stole my heart were Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, from the moment they first appeared they had my full attention.  Watching them come alive through Linskey’s writing was wonderful to watch, but equally the more they came alive for me the more connected to them I felt, the more invested in them I became and in turn the more heartbroken I would become as I read on, aware at what fate awaited them with the mission they’d been tasked with.  It’s rare that I will begin to hope that an author has used artistic license in a book such as this, hoping that they will change the outcome so that characters I’ve become attached to won’t face the outcome that I know is reality, and here I did hope that could be the case.

Such an evocative read, and one that is so intensely powerful.  The writing is absolutely superb and so atmospheric, the sense of foreboding and poignancy that builds throughout is almost breathtaking.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!

 

You can buy a copy of Hunting the Hangman via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository


 

Author Feature:

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Howard Linskey is the author of three novels in the David Blake crime series published by No Exit Press, The Drop, The Damage and The Dead. Harry Potter producer, David Barron optioned a TV adaptation of The Drop, which was voted one of the Top Five Thrillers of the Year by The TimesThe Damage was voted one of The Times‘ Top Summer Reads. He is also the author of No Name Lane, Behind Dead Eyes and The Search, the first three books in a crime series set in the north east of England featuring journalists Tom Carney & Helen Norton, published by Penguin. His latest book, Hunting the Hangman, is a historical thriller about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during WW2.

Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter Erin.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

There are so many good things about being an author. I am my own boss to an extent and have escaped the drudge of the commute, the office politics, the need to ever wear a suit again, apart from at weddings and funerals and the insidious pressure that comes with a conventional job. I’m doing what I love and get to see a book with my name and a Penguin logo on it when I am finished, which is a lovely feeling. I get some great feedback from readers too. The very best thing though is that I am there every day when my daughter comes home from school, so I get to spend more time with her than most dads and you cannot put a price on that.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

The fretting. There is quite a lot of that. For example; is this book I am writing any good or is it the biggest pile of excrement ever dreamed up by any author? Then there is; will anyone stock this book, closely followed by will anyone buy the blooming thing if they do and then will they actually like it? Somehow it always seems to work out all right in the end but I have come to realise the fretting will never quite stop no matter how much progress I make. I’ve had seven books published now and it never seems to get any easier on the fretting front.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

I find it hard to pick my all-time top-ten books, let alone single just one out, but if I absolutely have to, I will go for ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ by John Le Carre, which is a beautifully written novel about betrayal that also works as a mystery and a whodunnit, all wrapped up in a cold war spy story. There’s some wonderful dialogue and a wholly satisfying conclusion too. At his best, Le Carre is a marvellous author.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

Procrastinating mostly. Authors are world champion procrastinators. ‘Why put off tomorrow what we can put off today, tomorrow and most of next week’ should be our motto. Every day starts with such good intentions on the writing front but by the time I have read The Times, replied to emails, gone on Facebook and twitter, read the latest horrifying news about Donald Trump’s behaviour and checked to see if Newcastle United have finally signed a player, I have often lost hours. I then panic and have an intense burst of writing, powered by guilt. Somehow it’s quite effective and it works for me. I’ve come to realise too that even when an author is out walking the dog, driving or having a shower they are never quite off-duty and those are the moments when ideas usually come and begin to germinate. That’s my excuse anyway.

Do you have a set routine for writing? Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

One of the things I like about being an author is the flexibility to do things when I am in the mood to do them and not on a nine-to-five basis, so as long as I have a few hours each day and the opportunity to write a 1,000 to 1,500 words, I don’t really mind when and where this is. Sometimes I work at home, either in my office or somewhere comfy with the lap top on my knee but, if I get stir crazy and need people around me, I like to pop out and work at the local library or in a café. I even do my edits in the pub with a pint of bitter close at hand. That’s definitely one of the perks of being a writer unfortunately the beer is not tax-deductable.

 

A huge thank you to Howard for taking part and for sharing some more about himself, it’s always nice to get to know the person behind a book.  And i have to agree about Le Carre, a genius when it comes to writing and one author who’s books I cannot live without.
If you would like to know more about Howard and his books, check out the following link:

Website: http://www.howardlinskey.co.uk/

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** My thanks to Sarah at Bombshell Books for my copy of this and for invitingme to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

Molly Thomas is a feisty, independent soul, born on the Winter Solstice. At every stage of her life, she has faced troubles.

As a young woman, her family are evicted from their home at Christmas. Molly swears vengeance on the jealous neighbour and land agent responsible, Flann Montgomery.

Then in 1896, her baby son is taken from his pram. While Molly searches the streets for little Oliver, the police are called but her baby is gone.

Why does trouble seem to follow Molly? And will she ever find out what happened to her child?

December Girl is a tale of family bonds, love, revenge and murder.

My Thoughts & Review:

When you read a book description it usually grabs your attention and makes you want to read the book, but this one gave me goosebumps and really had me desperate to dive straight in to a fantastic sounding historical tale.

As always, I don’t want to say too much about the plot, no spoilers here I’m afraid!  But I did enjoy how Nicola Cassidy took her readers back to discover the events and people that shaped Molly Thomas.  The way her life inescapably changed over the years and left her as the woman she is now gives readers a real insight into this character and I have to admit that I did feel attached to to her, invested in her and wanted to race through the book to find out if life would work out well for her.

Nicola Cassidy is a wonderful story teller and has a great way of setting the scene in her writing, the narrative conveyed a superb sense of the setting and era.  It really did feel like the story came alive in my head playing out like a period drama in my head.
The plot is well thought out and its clear there has been a lot of research gone into the making of this novel.  I loved the characters, especially Molly and during the course of her life there were events surrounding her that made for very sad reading but these were absolutely vital to the plot and really shaped the character that she became.  I just couldn’t help but feel emotionally connected to Molly whilst reading this.

A brilliant debut novel from a promising author that I would highly recommend to fans of historical fiction.

 

You can buy a copy of December Girl via:

Amazon UK

 

About the Author:

Nicola Cassidy is a writer and blogger from Co. Louth, Ireland. She started her writing career early, entering short story competitions as a child and became an avid reader. Encouraged by her English teachers, she chose to study journalism at Dublin City University and while working in political PR and marketing, studied a series of advanced creative writing courses at the Irish Writers’ Centre. Later she set up a lifestyle and literary blog www.LadyNicci.com, which was shortlisted in the Ireland Blog Awards in 2015 and 2016 and finalist in 2017. She signed with Trace Literary Agency in 2016. December Girl is Nicola’s debut historical fiction novel and is set in the mystical and ancient Boyne Valley, Co. Meath, famed for its stone age passage tombs. Elements of the story are inspired by true events. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth.

Follow her at www.ladynicci.com, on Twitter @ladynicci or www.facebook.com/ladynicciblog.

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Published 18 May 2017

 

Description:

My Thoughts & Review:

This is a very atmospheric and well detailed book that give the reader an idea of the conditions of war time Germany under Nazi rule and the aftermath of the partitioning of Germany by the Allies.  The fear of being caught for an act of treason or indeed the punishment was not enough to deter a group of men in their plot to assassinate Hitler, and because of Nazi logic, the wives of the men involved were never investigated.  Marianne was one such woman left to live her live without her husband after the part he played in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  At one point in the narrative she remarks that it’s because of her gender that she is still alive.  She is a strong character, very determined and headstrong, and a natural leader.  Her promise to her husband to look after the woman and children of the other plot members sees her become a heroine for these lost souls, a role she feels strongly about and takes very seriously.

Benita is one of the women “rescued” along with her son Martin.  She was the wife of a dear friend to Marianne, and although her personal feelings towards this woman are not the most favourable she feels duty bound by the promise she made to seek her out and look after her.  Benita was a character I could not entirely comprehend, her naivety in certain situations was a little hard to grasp, but then if placed in those conditions who could say how they would act.
The final woman tracked down by Marianne was Ania, she and her two sons ended up at a camp for displaced persons.  Ania’s story was the one that stayed with me long after I finished the book.  She really was blind to the realities of Nazi rule and what was happening around her, she believed the propaganda until it was too late but like many German’s at the time, it was safer to live with their head in the sand and believe what they were being told than to question what was happening around them.   Only years later would they question and justify their roles and actions and reckon with what took place in their name.

This is a very thought provoking read, one that feels very balanced and incredibly well thought out.  The themes of friendship, loyalty and reality are strong and weave together throughout, each of the central characters is trying to rebuild lives, relationships and learn to trust again as well as be trusted  in a country that has been ravished by war.  What the author manages to do is get under the skin of the reader with the hardships faced by the characters in this, giving them pause for thought and almost posing the question “what would you do?”

I do think this would be a fantastic book choice for a book group, it is one that would spark debate and much interesting conversation.  Equally it is a book that fans of WWII historical fiction may enjoy.

You can buy a copy of “The Women of the Castle” via:

Amazon
Wordery
Book Depository

My thanks to Bonnier Zaffre & Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

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The Cardinal's Man

Published 11 July 2017

 

Description:

A SPELLBINDING TALE SET IN CARDINAL RICHELIEU’S FRANCE

With enemies advancing on all sides and Cardinal Richelieu’s health failing, France is at breaking point. Yet salvation may arrive in the most unlikely form…

Born into poverty and with terrible deformities, Sebastian Morra is a dwarf with the wit of Tyrion Lannister and three foot, four inches of brazen pluck. Through a mixture of brains and luck, he has travelled far from his village to become a jester at the royal court. And with a talent for making enemies, he is soon drawn into the twilight world of Cardinal Richelieu, where he discovers he might just be the only man with the talents to save France from her deadliest foes.

My Thoughts & Review:

Historical fiction is a genre that I slip in and out of easily, and sometimes depending on my mood, it can be the only thing I want to read.  From the moment I read the book description my interest was piqued, however with little knowledge of Game of Thrones, the Tyrion Lannister reference was a little lost on me.

Set during the times of The Thirty Years’ War in France, the author lays out the foundations of a very well written debut with great detail.  The wonderful use of atmospheric descriptions for the locations evoke a wonderful sense of the period.  And it is clear from the depth of the writing that the author has done his research, yet he still manages to keep the writing light and entertaining in places.  Sebastian Morra is an fascinating character, he oozes wit and charm but there is a considerable wealth of knowledge hidden behind this.  Being born with dwarfism, his career choices are limited.  From playing jester in Louis XIII court he becomes a spy for Cardinal Richelieu in order to gain the notorious Cardinal’s protection after making one too enemies at Court.

Despite being set in an era I’m not overly familiar with, I still managed to pick up on the tensions that would later escalate to the troubles of the French Revolution.  But unfortunately this book just didn’t grab me as I’d hoped it might.  An interesting read and for the most part enjoyable just perhaps not my era.

 

You can buy a copy of The Cardinal’s Man via:
Amazon

Wordery

My thanks to Lina Langlee at Black & White Publishing for the opportunity to read this and to take part in the blog tour.

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Published: 1 June 2017

 

Description:

An irresistible mystery set in 1890s Edinburgh, Kaite Welsh’s THE WAGES OF SIN features a female medical student-turned-detective, and will thrill fans of Sarah Waters and Antonia Hodgson.

Sarah Gilchrist has fled from London to Edinburgh in disgrace and is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. As part of the University of Edinburgh’s first intake of female medical students, in 1892, Sarah comes up against resistance from lecturers, her male contemporaries, and – perhaps worst of all – her fellow women, who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman…

When one of Sarah’s patients turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into Edinburgh’s dangerous underworld of bribery, brothels and body snatchers – and a confrontation with her own past.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

“The Wages of Sin” is a wonderfully atmospheric fictional thriller, it is steeped in fantastically rich detail that portrays life in the late 1800s as both interesting as well as fraught with danger.

Society deemed that women in this era should know their place, that being in the home raising families, tending to the needs of their husbands or generally being gentile and “ladylike”, and most definitely not wielding scalpels and training to become surgeons at Edinburgh University.  Society clearly never encountered Sarah Gilchrist and her 12 like minded classmates it would seem.
Having disgraced her family in  London, Sarah is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Edinburgh, and it is agreed that she can attend her studies at the university so long as she is ferried back and forth by a driver and kept from any temptations or situations that might besmirch the good family name any further.

The adversity and oppression faced by women in this era is demonstrated well by the author, attitudes of those around Sarah blatantly showing horror at her chosen career path, her fellow students keen to ridicule each other and the rivalry between both male and female students rife.  Indeed, there seems to be more rivalry between the female students who seem more eager to bring each other down than to support and hold one another up.

Through her work at the local Infirmary, Sarah comes into contact with those less fortunate, the poor and destitute pouring in through the doors in search of medical help as well as the women from the surrounding brothels.  Unfortunately for Sarah, one of these women seeks assistance that cannot be given, abortions being illegal at the time.  From here Sarah embarks on a journey of self destruction, believing that something is amiss and nefarious practises surround her.  Her detective skills might be somewhat lacking but her heart is in the right place, she is determined to find out the truth behind the death of a patient, even if it means casting accusations wildly.

This is a very well thought out and well researched book, the topic of female emancipation making for interesting reading.  The descriptiveness of characters and settings in this mean that readers can conjure vivid images in their heads of the squalor of the slums, the opulence of Society and the bitter chill of a Scottish winter.
Sarah is a character that is well crafted, initially a broken and seemingly fragile creature, her studies give her hope and something to work towards, she develops well but still retains some vulnerabilities and naivety.

Kaite Welsh has crafted a clever tale of corruption, wickedness and discrimination that seeps into all tiers of Victorian society.

You can buy a copy of “The Wages of Sin” via:

Amazon
The Book Depository
Wordery

My thanks to Headline and Tinder Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

 

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Paperback published 1 June 2017

 

Description:

The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . .

My Thoughts & Review:

“The Constant Soldier” is an incredibly wonderful novel set in 1944 following Paul Brandt a German soldier.  After being severely wounded in the line of duty on the Eastern Front he is sent home to convalesce and it is from here that the tale really begins.  Paul’s return home brings him face to face with the devastation left in the wake of the ongoing war, life has changed immeasurably for German citizens, the villagers that he remembers are different people – whether aiding in the war effort, victims of the Nazis or simply gone.  As Paul and his father make their way towards the family farm, Paul’s eyes are drawn to an SS rest hut and the female prisoners working there, and he is startled to realise he recognises one of them.

Through atmospheric flashbacks the reader is immersed in Paul’s life before the army, giving a wonderful insight to the man he was before the Nazi war machine spat him out and more importantly hinting towards the link between Paul and the female prisoner.
The sights that Paul saw during the war have undoubtedly left their mark on him, he is haunted by what has been done in the name of Germany and for victory and wants to atone for these sins.

William Ryan has written an exceptionally emotive novel, the writing itself is a thing of sheer beauty.  The fragility of the characters juxtaposes expertly with the danger and harshness of their situations.  The female prisoners surviving from one day to the next, fearfully alert for any punishment that might be meted out is just one example.  Another is the wonderful imagery of the advancing Soviet forces with young Polya the tank driver.  A young female who has worked on her tank from the moment it came into creation, she cares for her tank and cares about it even though it is an instrument of war.  This contrasts well with the menacing edge that builds with the advancement of the Soviets.
The physical descriptions of characters and settings are almost overpowering in places, the omnipotence of the German officers is evident through the writing, their actions inspiring abhorrence from the reader.  The brutality of the treatment faced by prisoners is not sugar coated, the atrocious acts carried out by the German army are detailed in places to add depth and authenticity and in doing so, William Ryan does his readers a service.  The portrayal of life during WWII depicts the harsh realities and the determination of partisans to do what they could to obstruct the ruling forces.

Paul Brandt is an extraordinary character, whilst not proud of what he has done, he wants to redeem himself.  Drawing a metaphorical line in the sand, he intends to live a life of atonement from that point onwards.

“The Constant Soldier” is a very special book, one that I will be marking out to read again very soon.  The emotion that it evoked from me was powerful and I absolutely loved every frantic moment of this book, my heart broke for the characters, I felt elation for those fleeting moments of victory for some characters but best of all I felt utterly immersed in this book.

Now I’m off to treat myself to other books by this author…..

My thanks to Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin for the recommendation and to William Ryan for sending me a copy of this truly exquisite book, I am forever in your debts.

You can buy a copy of “The Constant Soldier” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

 

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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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