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Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Blog Tour - The Oceans Between Us Gill Thompson - Review


The Oceans Between Us Blog Tour and my Review



Today it's my absolute privilege to be part of the Blog Tour for the lovely new historical fiction title The Oceans Between us by Gill Thompson. My thanks go to Random things Tours and the publisher Headline books for inviting me along.

My Review

As soon as I received my copy to review I dived in and couldn't put it down. This book has that absorbing quality which lets you immerse yourself into the story quickly and deeply.

The Oceans Between us is a heartbreaking drama based on the true and shocking events of the children sent to Australia in the aftermath of world war 2.

This book begins at the height of the London Blitz as bombs fall all around, families head for air raid shelters and lives are ripped apart. It tells the story of young Jack who is separated from his beloved mother during the blitz in London and finds himself in an orphanage waiting and hoping for his Ma to come and claim him.

But he is offered the “opportunity” of all opportunities, a chance to migrate to Australia, where he is told life will be sweet with plenty of what youngsters have been missing in the war years, wholesome food, fresh air and fun. Although he worries that his Mother won't be able to find him he isn't in a position to say no and anyway he looks forward to escaping the rigidity of the orphanage and the strict Nuns who run it.

On the ship with his fellow orphanage lads he makes a new friend and together that pals plan their new lives in the sun.

He and his new pal end up at Bindoon, ostensibly a boys home run by religious brothers, but which is in reality little removed from a labour camp where the boys are half starved, abused and forced to work doing hard manual labour. He still dreams that his Mother is still alive and longs for her to come and get him.

It’s hard to comprehend that this was a real place and these events were shamefully all too true.

Meanwhile a woman who was found wandering alone and suffering from shock and complete memory loss, tries to piece together her life and over the years, as fragments of her memory return, we learn she is Jacks Mother and she also wants nothing more than to hold her lost boy in her arms once more.

This is above all a story of racial prejudices, and a cruel programme aimed at providing Australia with "good clean white breeding stock" – the British orphans and unwanted children sent there, many to conditions worse than those experienced during the war.

There are two love stories within these pages, both of which have similarities, people of different backgrounds coming together to overcome prejudice and find love, despite mixed race marriages being sadly very much frowned upon in, so called polite society, and threads of friendship, betrayal, bullying and abuse which make this a dark and harrowing read. I galloped through it wanting to know what eventually happens to Jack and his Mother and found an engrossing and captivating read that kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Blurb 


Inspired by heartrending real events, a mother fights to find her son and a child battles for survival in this riveting debut novel.

For readers of Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, The Letter by Kathryn Hughes, and Remember Me by Lesley Pearse.

'A warm-hearted tale of love, loss and indefatigable human spirit' Kathryn Hughes
A woman is found wandering injured in London after an air raid. She remembers nothing of who she is. Only that she has lost something very precious.

As the little boy waits in the orphanage, he hopes his mother will return. But then he finds himself on board a ship bound for Australia, the promise of a golden life ahead, and wonders: how will she find him in a land across the oceans?

In Perth, a lonely wife takes in the orphaned child. But then she discovers the secret of his past. Should she keep quiet? Or tell the truth and risk losing the boy who has become her life?

This magnificent, moving novel, set in London and Australia, is testament to the strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gill Thompson is an English lecturer who recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University. The first three chapters of THE OCEANS BETWEEN US were longlisted for the Mslexia novel award. She lives with her family in West Sussex and teaches English to college students.

Twitter: @wordkindling

Find the book on Amazon or your favourite bookshop.



Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Blog Tour - Remember Tomorrow by Amanda Saint

Today I am part of the #BlogTour for Remember Tomorrow by Amanda Saint.



This is a new dystopian novel from Retreat West Books.




The Blurb

England, 2073. The UK has been cut off from the rest of the world and ravaged by environmental disasters. Small pockets of survivors live in isolated communities with no electricity, communications or transportation, eating only what they can hunt and grow.

Evie is a herbalist, living in a future that’s more like the past, and she’s fighting for her life. The young people of this post-apocalyptic world have cobbled together a new religion, based on medieval superstitions, and they are convinced she’s a witch. Their leader? Evie’s own grandson.

Weaving between Evie’s futurist world and her activist past, her tumultuous relationships and the terrifying events that led to the demise of civilised life, Remember Tomorrow is a beautifully written, disturbing and deeply moving portrait of an all-too-possible dystopian world, with a chilling warning at its heart.

Now here to whet your appetite is an extract from the book:

Zealot
Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent


My grandson means to kill me. His name is Jonah and he has the glint of the zealot in his eyes. The people here follow him like sheep. Not that there are any sheep anymore, but they used to be known for following where anybody led. I should have known that the new way of life we’d created and the happy, peaceful times wouldn’t last. All you need to do is look at the history books to know they never do. Even here in our tiny, isolated community hanging on a cliff side facing the sea, the evil that men do is coming back to haunt us again. We’ve ended up living in a future that’s more like the past. A world filled with darkness, superstition and dread when I’d thought we were creating one filled with love and light.

He’s just seventeen, Jonah, but he seems to have completely taken charge of things. All of the youngsters hang on his every word, carry out his every demand, and so does his mother, Dawn. She’s my firstborn. I had her when I was seventeen, and she had Jonah when she was that age too. The witch hunts in England were in the seventeenth century. Is there some kind of sign in this, some connection? Whether there is or not, Dawn has hated me since long before Jonah was born. Maybe if I’d told her the truth from the start things could have been different between us. Maybe she’s the one behind all this. She’s always been angry, bitter, about things even before she found out we’d lied. 

But when Jonah first started preaching his sermons he was filled with love and peace, saying how thankful we should be that the old ways were wiped out and we had this chance to start again in a world that was fair for all. But, as times became harder and food more scarce, his preaching became judgmental, controlling, the old-style fire and brimstone, rules and sins, including pointed remarks about potions, spells and witchcraft being the Devil’s work. I stopped going then but he was clever, is clever, and he did it so gradually that I don’t think people noticed it was happening. But now they’re all afraid that if they don’t live how he tells them to they’re all going to hell. At first even I believed that it was all harmless and that he’d get bored of it. Be my grandson again.

But I was wrong.



The Author



Amanda Saint’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, reached number 3 in the WHSmith Travel charts; was selected as a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month; and chosen as a Top 20 Book of 2016 by the Book Magnet Blog. 

Her short stories have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, twice appearing on the Fish Flash Fiction longlist and the Ink Tears Short Story shortlist. 

She runs her own creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs writing courses and competitions; and an independent publishing house, Retreat West Books.

Amanda also works as a freelance journalist writing about climate change and environmental sustainability.






Monday, 25 March 2019

The Conviction of Cora Burns - Carolyn Kirby - Blog Tour and Review

The Conviction of Cora Burns - Carolyn Kirby - Blog Tour and my Review.


Hello readers, have I a treat in store for historical fiction and mystery enthusiasts. I'm chuffed to be part of the Blog Tour for the brand new novel by Carolyn Kirby, The Conviction of Cora Burns, which I hope you'll enjoy as much as I have.



Review:

No Exit Press has dished up an absolute corker of a book with the Conviction of Cora Burns. It drew me in right from the beginning and was as unputdownable as any reader could hope to find. A mix of history, mystery, psychological twists, and emotion there is something in Cora's story for everyone.

Cora herself is an extremely complex and unpredictable character, yet I grew to like her and be rooting for her despite the knowledge almost from the start, that she was involved in a heinous and inexplicable crime one could not possibly condone.

She has already led a pretty grim life, abandoned at birth by her convict mother, brought up in a series of institutions, from workhouse, to prison, to asylum she has never known any affection or love, apart from a childhood friend whom she regarded as a sister, with whom she has lost touch and longs to be re-united with. In fact, this mission becomes her obsession and her search for the missing girl is what drives cora.

Poor Cora, she has a lot of anger and bewilderment in her, but as her story begins to unfold within these pages, she is setting out alone, in Birmingham, with few belongings just a half medallion engraved with a few enigmatic letters tucked inside her bodice which she is sure holds the key to her own past. Hoping to build a new future for herself, she suddenly finds herself alone, needing work and a roof over her head and everything in the outside world into which she is released is unfamiliar and confusing.

It is 1885 and a woman has few rights and very little chance of earning a decent living even if she is of good character. But Cora, eventually manages to secure a domestic service position in the rather strange household of a strange and troubled scientist. Thomas Jerwood is conducting a series of experiments on whether criminal traits and insanity are inherited or can be learnt. In his household where Cora gets a somewhat dubious job as a tweeny, a maid of all work, she struggles to fit in with the other servants. She discovers he has a mad wife locked away in an upstairs room and meets his ward Violet a young girl who seems to grow attached to Cora, whilst also being the subject of his experimental research. Cora begins to wonder if she is also being studied.

Reminiscent of the wonderful book “The Observations” by Jane Harris, and with an undercurrent of wonderful recent books by Laura Purcell, Anna Mazzola and Ruth Wade this is a gripping and scary search by one woman for her own past. As Cora’s history is somewhat fractured so are her reactions to everything she discovers. 

Nobody has ever shown her how to do things and from being asked to wash dishes, never having done anything like this before, tries to wash them in cold water to sharing a room with a fellow servant, she seems to get everything she tries, wrong and you can feel her utter frustration at trying to get things right and again and again misjudging people and events.

This is a wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking book, with a narrator whose reliability is questionable and whose behaviour can be both shocking and at times amusing.

Her story has left a lingering impression me and a couple of weeks after having read the book little snippets keep returning to me. It has the literary depth to bear multiple readings as different layers are unpeeled throughout, revealing Cora's personality and longings. With unexpected little Oh's and Ahh's around each corner.


Is Cora an inbred criminal? A lunatic? Or a misunderstood young woman desperately seeking only someone or something to love? Her story had me in tears at several points.  I really loved this book, which if you like similar books to those I read and the authors mentioned above, will completely enthral you. 

Published by No Exit Press
Available here on Amazon or Waterstones and your favourite bookshops.

The Blurb

Set in 1880s Birmingham, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut The Conviction of Cora Burns tells the story of Cora, a young woman born in a prison to a convicted criminal she never knew but from whom she fears she has inherited a violent nature. Perfect for fans of Sarah Schmidt, Anna Mazzola and Hannah Kent.

Cora was born in a prison. But is this where she belongs?

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood.

Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?


With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

The Author:



Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College,
Oxford before working for social housing and then as a teacher of English as a
foreign language.

Her novel The Conviction of Cora Burns was begun in 2013 on a writing course
at Faber Academy in London. The novel has achieved success in several
competitions including as finalist in the 2017 Mslexia Novel Competition and as
winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award. Carolyn has two grown-up

daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.


Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Forgotten Secret - Katherine McGurl - Review and Blog Tour


Please join me today on the Blog Tour for an enchanting Dual-Timeline story set in Ireland which I have been fortunate to receive an advance copy of and am thrilled to share my thoughts here in my review.

The Forgotten Secret - Katherine McGurl - My Review


The Forgotten Secret is a captivating dual time-line story which follows the fascinating lives of two women living a century apart, each battling for independence, which mesmerised and thrilled me throughout.

In the present we have middle aged Clare, a somewhat downtrodden wife and mother, who seizes the chance of escape from her humdrum life which has suddenly been provided by a surprize inheritance, a rather dilapidated farmhouse in Meath Ireland. She is married to an utter stinker of a husband and personally, I find it virtually impossible to believe anyone would have stayed with him the length of time she has! Having brought up 2 delightful sons, now both adults has been one of her greatest achievements and one result of the marriage she doesn’t regret.

This made me view her as a total doormat to begin with but she actually grew on me a lot and as she grows the strength to stand up for herself, I began to understand why she didn’t want to rock the boat until she was handed a lifeline. It also made me think how many women today must remain stuck in a pretty dire marriage, just because they really haven’t had the chance to break free and fear their own inability to cope alone.

Anyway, Clare moves to Ireland and into the run-down old building she has inherited, alone, with the plans to begin to renovate it, little by little. As she gradually begins to blossom and make new friends she also makes a discovery of some old hidden documents which make her wonder about past occupants of the farm and she begins to do a little research.

Meantime we have a charming parallel story running. 100 years earlier, also in County Meath, lives Ellen. She too gets a chance to break free from her humdrum existence with her grumpy and unappreciative Dad, as she takes a job in service in the Big House. But this is 1919 in Ireland and the country is divided, trouble is brewing and Ellen, young and in love, falls foul of the conflict and finds her life changed beyond recognition.


The two stories are both superb in their own right. The young woman and the somewhat older one both wormed their way into my heart as I read late into the night finding the book so captivating I couldn’t bear to put it down. It flows effortlessly in an appealing style to intrigue readers of all ages. 

A completely engrossing drama that had me in its clutch throughout with a heartbreaking core and a little twist about how the two women's stories are linked which surprised and delighted me. 



The Forgotten Secret



The Blurb:


A country at war
It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.
And a long-buried secret
A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.


For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence. 
Buy your copy here or from your favourite bookstore:

About the Author and where to find her

The Author - Katherine McGurl

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels. @

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @KathMcGurl  https://twitter.com/KathMcGurl

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

#BlogTour #AnAbidingFire by M.J.Logue @SAPEREBOOKS @HOLLIE_BABBITT

Blog Tour An Abiding Fire by M.J.Logue

Today I welcome author M.J.Logue to BeadyjansBooks with news of her exciting new historical novel An Abiding Fire.


The Cover is absolutely stunning with the Flames hovering over London and sets the scene beautifully for this murder mystery set in 17th century London.

About the book:


Murder and mystery in Restoration England! Perfect for fans of C. S. Quinn, S. G. MacLean and Alison Weir. 

How do you solve a murder when you are one of the suspects… 


1664, London 

Life should be good for Major Thankful Russell and his new bride, Thomazine. Russell, middle-aged and battle-scarred, isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect husband for an eligible young woman but the moment Thomazine set eyes on her childhood hero, she knew they were destined for one another. 

But Russell, a former Roundhead, now working for the King’s intelligence service, was never going to have a simple life in Restoration London. 

Unable to shake suspicions of his Parliamentarian past, someone seems hell-bent on ruining his reputation — and his life. 

Whispers about his sister’s violent murder follow him and accusations of treason abound. 

When more deaths occur Russell finds himself under suspicion. 

He is ready to escape from the capital, but Thomazine is determined to find the truth and clear the name of the man she loves. 

But who is the real killer and why are they so keen to frame Russell? More importantly, will they succeed? 

And has Thomazine’s quest put them all in mortal danger? 

An Abiding Fire is the first book in the Thomazine and Major Russell Thriller series, compelling historical mysteries with a dash of romance, set in seventeenth century England.

Now, here is a lovely guest article written by the author especially for my blog when I invited her along to share some insight about her own writing processes and in which she talks about the soundtrack to her writing.



On being an author by M.J.Logue

People say what’s the hardest thing about being an author and, you know, I think it might be writing blog posts.

The books are no trouble at all, bless them. I woke up at 6.15 this morning pondering parallels between the current political climate and the Interregnum – which are neither original nor enlightening, so only me and the cats will ever know about them – but you may infer from this that I slip in and out of the 17th century pretty much as naturally as breathing.

It’s the present I struggle with, or at least that aspect of the present that relates to writing about writing. I’ve never struggled with writers’ block – which is not to say that I don’t have every empathy with them as do: in our old house, I used to get up every night when everyone was asleep and go into the spare room and tuck myself up in bed there and write for hours on the laptop. Well, we moved house, and we don’t have a spare bed any more. After that, when we had a Rayburn, I used to sit on the laundry chest in the bathroom with my back against the radiator – fuelled by the Rayburn, you see, it was always hot – and write for hours on a Kindle. Don’t have a Rayburn in our new house either, so it’s downstairs in the dark for me now. But I can go for weeks – months, even – and not write a word on paper, and then sit down and put a novel down beginning to end in about a week having constructed it all in my head already.

And so what is there that I can share, about my writing? And the only thing I guess really is – music.

It’s not a theme that comes through in the books, much. Thankful Russell occasionally plays the fiddle but, as he’s the first to admit, has a voice like a cracked vase and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, and although Thomazine is a soldier’s daughter and knows most of the sweary songs that a respectable young lady of Restoration society really ought not to, she isn’t much prone to giving voice.

But I write to music. Not even necessarily music that seems very appropriate, at first glance. Sometimes it’s music that makes no sense at all either to the plot or to what I think the character is like, but that just fits, it makes them come alive on the page when the noise is going on in the background. You might imagine that the boy Russell – being a 17th-century boy – only really flows as a character when I’ve got some kind of Baroque opera thing going on. Actually he hates opera, but he does early 1990s goth like nobody’s business. There’s nothing loose or sentimental about it – or him – but it’s hard-edged, fierce and driven, no trills or frills about it. And then sometimes for variety’s sake he won’t be obligingly gothic, but silly and bouncy, because under all that dark techno there’s an embarrassingly strong vein of S Club 7. 

Mrs Russell, on the other hand, fires up for 90s alternative – Jane’s Addiction and Nirvana and Green Day – but although she’s fiery and noisy and joyful, there’s a lot of protest and counterculture going on under there. She is the daughter of one old Leveller, and the wife of another.

It takes me a while to put a soundtrack together. It usually starts with one song then as the writing progresses I add the ‘right’ songs, and then I put them in the right order, and then eventually I listen to the playlist on repeat while I’m editing and then I’m very thoroughly bored of all of it for a while, because the irritating thing about having characters who are pretty much real people is that the blighters have a habit of liking the things they like and not, necessarily, the things I like. Jingly-jangly mainstream chart pop and rap set my teeth on edge but every now and again sweary sarcastic rap and cheesy 70s heavy metal are the things that my characters need and the unfortunate author has to just suck it up.
I have tried writing to the music I like and it’s like pulling teeth. It’s a bit like trying to feed a sulky baby but in reverse, sitting there at your keyboard – well, come on, Russell, the words? – with that wilful gentleman folding his arms and looking all arch about it in my head. Uh-uh. No words, mistress. Not one word more, till I get S Club. And he means it, too. Mrs Russell can normally be bribed into compliance; once you have a paragraph out of Thomazine, she’s normally in the mood for just let me tell you this, and well, and then I said but not him, the gorgeous glacial creature. He needs to be sweethearted a little bit – searches for things that sound a bit like, or half-heard snippets of something that was on the radio a lot in 1997, part of a film soundtrack –

It’s like a jigsaw, putting together those three minutes of perfect music for your characters’ moods and the scenes they’re in – I have in my head, for instance, a rainy day and the silver light falling through the window and there’s a young man with fair hair standing at the window with his hand on the glass watching the rain on the bent black trees, and the music is Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”. I don’t think it’s Russell, though, whoever he is, he’s a sad young man and whoever it is he’s sad about it isn’t going to come good. And so I know what the story is, but I don’t know who the story is. I need more pieces.

Finished jigsaws are available on Spotify, if you’re curious. 


M.J.Logue Author


Author Bio

M. J. Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.
Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.
After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.
Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.
Get in touch with MJ
She can be found on Twitter @Hollie_Babbitt, lurking on the web at asweetdisorder.com, and posting photos of cake, cats and extreme embroidery on Instagram as asweetdisorder.

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