The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes #BookReview #BlogTour (@VivienneVermes) @matadorbooks @RaRaResources #TheBarefootRoad #RachelsRandomResources

The Barefoot Road

This seems to have taken ages to come round but it is finally my turn on the blog tour for The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author and the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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‘A young woman is found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When the villagers discover that she is of the same ethnic group that was violently driven out of the region many years before, they are reminded of their part in the bloodshed, and old wounds are reopen.

An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with her, and tensions rise within the community. 

When a child disappears in mysterious circumstances, the tension mounts in to hysteria.

While the story unfolds in the microcosm of a small village in the past, its themes are as universal as they are timeless: the fear of the outside, the supernatural versus the rational, and the force of desire between man and woman.”

I really love the cover of this book. The naivete style of the drawing completely complements the story of a small, remote village deep in Transylvania with unworldly and unsophisticated people trying to address issues that they cannot name or begin to know how to deal with.

This is an adult fairy tale in the very best tradition of the originals, which were written as morality tales for children, but told in a modern style (although set in an earlier time) and dealing with very modern and relevant issues for our current society.

The book’s prologue tells of a previous violent purge by the village of an unwelcome minority group living on its outskirts. A generation later, this bloody past comes back to haunt them when a young woman of the same race comes back to the village and stirs up all their ancient fears and prejudices until history threatens to repeat itself.

This book is deeply affecting in its darkness and violence because, despite it being set in a remote place and time, the parallels with current tensions in our own society cannot be ignored and serve to stoke up the fear of the reader as they contemplate how the prejudice, ignorance and fear of the villagers, confronted by an alien in their midst, turn them ugly and their mob mentality is stoked by the rhetoric of a bigoted leader intent on ousting the people in the village with more understanding and liberal views who oppose him. Anything sounding worryingly familiar here?

This book is not a comfortable read. It is quite graphic and earthy in its portrayal of life in this small village and does not flinch from descriptions of sex and violence. However, this is not done gratuitously but is necessary in the context of the story to understand how and why these people act and react as they do. Life here is hard and poor and on the extremes of society, so the actions and behaviour and beliefs of the people are similarly extreme. There is no middle ground for them, just black and white, good and evil, known and unknown and their lives are governed in equal parts by religion and superstition. Their society is rigidly structured and the structure maintained by social standing and peer pressure and societal judgement and anything that threatens this order is regarded with suspicion and dealt with harshly. It is a gut instinct of pack survival – human beings at their basic, primeval reaction to perceived danger. The reader wonders how much more civilised we have actually become ourselves when we feel threatened.

Despite this, the book is also beautiful in the way it is constructed. The writing is poetic, even in its brutality, and the author really brings to life the people and the settings and the whole story in time and place. The prose is alive with description of landscape and flora and fauna to the point that you can feel the oppressive mountains, breathe the thick vegetative smells, hear the running river and the setting completely mirrors the people and the story being told. It is expertly done and it draws you in to the story and holds you tight, even in the throws of the most uncomfortable, uncompromising scenes. I was in the writer’s thrall from beginning to end and left unsettled and stirred and moved, saddened and enraged and altered by the experience of reading. I cannot say I loved the book, because it was too uncomfortable a reading experience for that, but it is a book I am glad I read and is one I won’t forget in a hurry.

The Barefoot Road is out now and you can order a copy here.

The details of the rest of the tour can be found below:

The Barefoot Road Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Vivienne Vermes is a writer and actress of Irish and Hungarian descent who divides her time between Paris and London. She has published four collections of poetry: Sand Woman, Metamorphoses, Passages and When the World Stops Spinning, and has performed her work in festivals throughout Europe. She is winner of the Piccadilly Poets’ award, the Mail on Sunday’s Best Opening of a Novel competition, as well as Flash 500s prize for short prose and the Paragram national competition for best poem and “petite prose”. She has taught creative writing in universities in Transylvania, and runs a writers’ workshop in Paris. 

As an actress, she has played roles in a number of French films, including Les Trois Frères, Le Retour and in Les Profs 2 in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II.  Her voice also warns passengers on the Paris metro to “Mind the gap”.

The Barefoot Road is her first novel.

Connect with Vivienne:

Twitter: @VivienneVermes

The Flowerpot Witch (A Wendy Woo Witch Lit Novel Book 3) by Wendy Steele #BlogTour #BookReview (@WendyWooauthor) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #BookBlog #BookBloggers

The Flowerpot Witch

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Flowerpot Witch by Wendy Steele and I want to say a big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Make sure you scroll down to the end of the review to enter a giveaway for one of three copies of the book.

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“Lizzie Martin has chosen pottery to be her new career…

But the teacher from hell threatens to thwart her ambitions before she starts.

She has support from her best friend Louise and Evan, another pottery tutor, but Rowan, her fifteen year old daughter is restless, Josh, her ex-husband is colluding with her aunt and though her mother is alive, access to her is forbidden. When The Morrigan appears in her sacred circle, Lizzie knows she has a battle on her hands.

There is hope though.

Stardust the chicken brings a new creature into Lizzie’s life and a long awaited meeting with her Aunt Matilda brings Lizzie’s past into perspective.

Lizzie’s magic ventures beyond The Sanctuary, into the Welsh landscape and the realms of the fae.”

As soon as I saw the cover of this book I knew I had to read it. I just love the cartoony witch legs and that cat reminds me of my own dusky ‘familiar’, Barney. Isn’t he handsome?

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However, the cover of this book is deceptive and it turned out not be be what I expected at all. It was far more deep and complicated than the light-hearted read I was expecting and dealt with a very twisted family history and mature relationship issues which took a lot more concentration than I had anticipated.

Lizzie Martin is a witch, but not in a storybook, fantasy sense but a proper, modern day pagan sense which is not really reflected in the fun cover of the book. She lives her life fully in accordance with these principles and that theme of the book was absolutely fascinating to me. I’m really intrigued by aspects of these practices, particularly the Tarot, and really enjoyed reading a novel that approached these issues as valid themes to be explored seriously, not treated with disdain or dismissal or as a comic element. I wish more books approached different beliefs with an open mind, it would make the world a much more tolerant and happy place!

Aside from the magical element, the book focuses mainly on relationship’s between Lizzie and her family and friends. Lizzie’s family is extremely complicated and, unfortunately, I found this history a little difficult to sort out because this is book three in a series and I have not read books and and two where it would appear a lot of the history has been established. I would say that reading these books in order is essential to get the most enjoyment out of them as I spent a lot of mental energy trying to work out who everyone was and what had happened in the past that influenced their behaviour. There is some attempt at including back story to explain things but it did not work effectively for me, and there were a huge number of characters referred to in the opening chapters will minimal introduction, which was confusing. I think I managed to get it all sorted out eventually, but not until the very end of the book and the time spent trying to work it all out prevented me getting engaged with the book in the way I would have liked to from the beginning and I could not fully relax into it.

That being said, the main characters in the book are appealing and likeable and I warmed to them immediately. The relationship between Lizzie and her teenage daughter, Rowan, was beautifully drawn and completely authentic to me as mother/step-mother to five daughters, the eldest two just reaching this age. I could totally relate to the  energies and issues between them. Lizzie’s struggles as a single mum trying to balance the needs of her daughter, trying to start a business, a new relationship and the needs of friends and family is so familiar to me, and her resentment at constantly having to put her own needs and desires last with no one to consider what she might want is one any mother can relate to I am sure. We all need to channel a bit of The Morrigan from time to time, I think!

I was left at the end of the book wanting to know what happens next with regard to Lizzie’s family issues and her new relationship, which I am still not sure about, and I will go back and read the first two books in the series. I found this a refreshingly original book with a magical theme explored in a way very different to anything in the mainstream. The book leapt around a bit in parts in a way that made it a little confusing at times and I would say it is essential to read books one and two to get the most out of this but the book is definitely appealing and I look forward to another one, I hope.

The Flowerpot Witch is out now and you can buy a copy here. You can buy Book One, The Naked Witch here. Book Two in the series is The Orphan Witch can be purchased here.

To enter the draw to win one of three copies of this book, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c6949492/?

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

If you would like to follow the rest of the blog tour, the details are below:

The Flowerpot Witch Full Banner

About the Author

The Flower Pot Witch - Wendy

Wendy Steele is author, wise woman, goddess. She is writer, dance teacher, mother and healer. 

Her passion is magic.

‘The Lilith Trilogy’ leads the reader along the paths of the witches Qabalah, following Angel Parson’s story of betrayal, retribution and redemption. Her magical story contains high magic as well as pagan ritual. 

‘The Standing Stone Book Series’ focuses on the lives of three women linked together across time and space by the standing stone. The countryside is the focus of their magic, embracing the gods and goddesses, tree spirits, elves and fairies. 

Her latest series, The Wendy Woo Witch Lit Series, begins with The Naked Witch. Lizzie Martin, receptionist, single mother and witch, is asked by her new boss to conform and embrace the corporate dress code. The reality of paisley to pin stripe, an unexpected stay in hospital, monitoring of her fourteen year old daughter’s latest crush, the search for the truth about her father’s death and two new men in her life, give Lizzie plenty of plates to spin. In the Orphan Witch, Lizzie is grieving while trying to find her real mother and the truth about her father and in the third book, The Flowerpot Witch, due to be published on 21st June, she embarks on a new career, thwarted at every step by those around her. 

You can hear Wendy telling her short stories in Pan’s Grotto on her Welsh riverbank, on her YouTube channel, The Phoenix and the Dragon.

Wendy’s non-fiction title ‘Wendy Woo’s Year – A Pocketful of Smiles’ offers the reader 101 ideas to bring a smile to every day.

Wendy lives in Wales with her partner, Mike, and cats. If she’s not writing or teaching dance, you’ll find her renovating her house, clearing her land or sitting on her riverbank, breathing in the beauty of nature.

Connect with Wendy:

Website: https://wendysteele.com

Facebook: Wendy Steele

Twitter: @WendyWooauthor

Goodreads: Wendy Steele

#BlogTour The Ghost of Glendale by Natalie Kleinman #BookReview (@NatKleinman) @rareresources

The Ghost of Glendale

At last! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Natalie Kleinman’s self-published Regency novel The Ghost of Glendale and I am very excited to talk to you about this book. Huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Let’s have a look at the details of the book.

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“At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is, until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before.

Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.”

I have to admit, Regency romance novels are not a genre that I read. I have heard other people raving about Georgette Heyer and others of that ilk but have never been drawn to Regency as a genre. However, something about this book piqued my curiosity when I was offered the chance to read it and, now I have, I am wondering why it has taken me so long to discover it.

This is a rip-roaring tale of family feuds, restless spirits, rugged Scotsman and feisty heroines, wrapped up in the restrained and genteel conventions of Regency England which is an interesting juxtaposition. The heroine of this book, Phoebe Marcham, is forged in the best traditions of the tempestuous renegade, baulking against the confines that society placed on women at this time, in the vein of an Elizabeth Bennett or a Jo March. Considered to be an ‘elderly spinster’, unmarried in her late twenties, she is not unduly worried by her situation until the equally unconventional Duncan Armstrong storms into her life.

At the same time, an unsettled family spirit is demanding that Phoebe explore her family history and clear his blackened name so his soul can rest and she can bring a two hundred-year-old feud to an end. Along the way there are cousins to be married off, cantankerous aunts to mollify, nefarious suitors to weed out and the social whirl of Regency England to navigate. Never a dull moment.

This book was easy to read and tremendous fun. The author has done a wonderful job of reflecting the language and mores of the time period and developing some rounded and likeable characters, as well as keeping you hooked on the mystery of the family ghost. I am sure any of you picking up this book will be as carried along by the story as I was.

Thank you, Natalie, for introducing me to a whole new genre, I look forward to reading more of your work.

The Ghost of Glendale is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the blog tour, you can find the details below.

The Ghost of Glendale Full Banner

About the Author

Natale Kleinman - Author Photo

Natalie is a published novelist and short story writer whose addiction to the books of Georgette Heyer and love of The Regency have been the inspiration for her latest book, The Ghost of Glendale. 

Working on the premise that you never stop learning, she goes to any and every writing event and workshop she can. In addition she attends The Write Place Creative Writing School in Hextable in Kent, one of the rewards for which is an abundant supply of cream cakes to celebrate the frequent successes of its students. 

Natalie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. She lives with her husband in southeast London.

Follow Natalie on:

Blog: https://nataliekleinman.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NatalieKleinmanAuthor/
Twitter: @NatKleinman

The Music of the Deep by Elizabeth Hall #BookReview @AmazonPub #TheMusicOfTheDeep #NetGalley

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The Music of the Deep


“Fleeing an abusive marriage and tormented by her past, Alexandra Turner finds solace in a small coastal town on Puget Sound and a job with a local marine biologist studying orcas.

After befriending a group of locals, Alex learns that she has moved to a place that has a reputation of being the “most haunted town in Washington.” Such superstitions would be easy to dismiss…if Alex wasn’t already on edge.

Haunted by shreds of memories of her days with her husband, Alex can’t keep from looking over her shoulder. As unexplained sounds and scents accumulate and unnerving forces seem to take hold, Alex is beginning to believe that she’s not escaping her ghosts, after all. In fact, she might finally be inviting them in.”

Today is publication day for this book, so I am happy to be sharing my review of it with you all as it launches to the wider world, and it is definitely worth picking up. I’m not sure why this title caught my eye on NetGalley as it is not by an author I know – serendipity or more supernatural forces at work? Whatever it was, am I glad it did, as I raced through it in 24 hours and enjoyed every minute.

It is a very hard book to categorise – part ghost story, part nature tale, part women’s fiction – an unusual blend that had the potential to be a jarring mashup but the writer has woven the different elements together very skilfully to make a compelling narrative that had me gripped to the last page.

It follows the stories of three different women. We meet the central character, Alex, as she arrives in the tiny town of Copper Cove on a small island in the Puget Sound on a dark day in December. She is ostensibly there to assist a local woman, Maggie, catalogue the years of research she has done into the local population of orcas, but we soon find out that her story is more about what she is running from than where she is running to. To add to Alex’s tension, Maggie is hiding her own secrets, and her neighbour, Emmie Porter (rumoured to be the local witch due to her amazing powers with animals) is somehow involved. To further add to the tension, Alex is staying alone in a large old house on a hill on the outskirts of a town rumoured to be the most haunted town in Washington State…

The author sets up the story in its location very well. The tiny town, distant from land and civilisation, in the dark days of winter, is suitably claustrophobic and menacing enough to compound Alex’s already well-honed sense of dread and the secrets she gradually unveils grow increasingly creepy. During the last fifth of the book, I was sat up in bed, my heart thumping, ripping through the pages to find out what was going to happen – it really is a page turner.

The story gradually unveils the back story of the three women in a series of flashbacks which work very effectively, gradually pulling in to a point where they start to interweave and finally explode as one at the culmination of the book; it is very skilfully done and the characters are thoroughly drawn and believable, even as parts of the plot are asking you to suspend your disbelief beyond the every day.

One of the main reasons I picked up this book in the first place, and where it did not disappoint was to do with the setting. The Pacific Northwest is an area that holds a particular fascination for me and this book has only increased my longing to visit. The setting lends itself perfectly to the storyline, and the author does an amazing job of placing us firmly in the centre of the landscape. You don’t need to flex your imagination too hard to be able to picture the island, the town, the water and the natural phenomena she describes. I have a particular fondness for members of the oceanic dolphin family and this books blends a lot of interesting information about them into the plot seamlessly.

The book isn’t perfect. I would have liked a little more description about the town itself. To a degree the ending felt a little rushed and there was a flurry of ‘coincidences’ and happenings in the denouement which stretched credibility to the very furthest point of acceptability within the confines of what I believe the book was trying to be. However, all in all this was a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would recommend it without reservation. I doubt anyone who picks it up will regret the time they invest in it.

The Music of the Deep is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Born in San Jose, California, Elizabeth Hall has spent most of her life in the mountains of Colorado. She has worked as a teacher and communications consultant, including hosting, writing, and producing the radio show Heart of the West. She has two grown children. She is the bestselling author of Miramont’s Ghost and In the Blue Hour and now resides on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where she indulges in the fiber arts and keeps an eye out for whales.