Tempted by….Linda’s Book Bag: Finding Myself in Puglia by Laine B Brown @Lainebbrown @Lindahill50Hill #bookbloggers #readingrecommendations #Blogtober18

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“An Italian memoir.
Laine gave up her job as a nurse, sold her home and gave away most of her belongings. She has three desires bubbling at the heart of her choice: to write a book, paint a picture and climb a mountain before she died.

A man with a van took most of her remaining belongings, along with her basset hound Basil, down to the heel of Italy over 1,500 miles away, where she would spend the next four years.

If it all seemed like a folly, then she was willing to take the risk. She moved to a house that she had only spent a week in the year before. She knew no one and yet she had surety in her resolve. She wanted to feel fully present in feeling unsafe and comfortable with the not knowing.

And so the journey began, a new language, a new life laced with humour and laughter under the warm southern Italian sun.

Come and join her…”

There was a certain contentious Twitter thread last week which questioned the efficacy of book bloggers in promoting books and generating sales for authors. As a result, I decided that now was a good time to launch my new occasional series, highlighting books that I have been enticed to buy by reading reviews by my fellow bloggers.

I know that book bloggers are effective at generating sales for authors because, since I started blogging and reading more reviews by my fabulous fellow bloggers, I have been tempted to buy more and more books, to the extent that I have had to buy two new bookcases in the last year and my Kindle is over-flowing.

First up we have Finding Myself in Puglia by Laine B Brown which I was enticed to buy by this fabulous post on Linda’s Book Bag. Linda Hill is one of the best book bloggers out there, so make sure you check out her wonderful blog if you haven’t visited it already.

The book is a non-fiction memoir of living in Italy which is just up my street as I am a travel junkie. I also thought that Laine might be someone I would enjoy reading when she nominated some of my favourite writers as people she would like to bring along on her night in with Linda.

If you like the sound of the book, you can buy a copy here. Make sure you visit Linda’s original post to read more from Laine about the book. I am looking forward to reading it soon.

Wave of Light @BLA_Campaign @GBSSupport @Tommys_baby @SandsUK #WaveOfLight #BLAW2018 #breakingthesilence #babyloss

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Grief is a funny thing, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. You might think it is the big days – the anniversaries, Christmas, birthdays – that are the worst. That is not the case for me. I am expecting those, I can prepare myself, brace myself, the sadness comes, but I’m prepared and its manageable.

It’s the other days that are worse. The ones where it takes me by surprise and, because I’m unprepared, my defences are down and it takes me over completely. It can be an innocuous thing that starts it; something on the TV, a throwaway comment, a magazine article. A song on the radio. Sometimes there is no discernible reason. On those days, the grief can engulf me and render me completely immobile.

Today is one of those days. I feel completely bereft today. Worse than last Wednesday, when it was his birthday. Today I am just in a corner, feeling lost. This is not the blog post I had planned today, but it is the one I am sharing because, it is on days like these that we need someone to reach out to, we need to know we are not alone.

I’m sharing again here my post from last week. Please read it and, on this last day of Baby Loss Awareness Week, please get involved. People like me need your help to live with our grief. Please visit the Baby Loss Awareness Week website to see how you can get involved. And tonight, during the Wave of Light at 7 pm, perhaps you can light a candle, along with people across the world, and remember those of us who have lost a child.

A Little Book Problem: Breaking The Silence

Oh! What A Pavlova by Isabella May #BlogBlitz #GuestPost (@IsabellaMayBks) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #Giveaway

The observant among you will notice the date above was yesterday. Yes, I’m that friend that is a day late to the party! Massive apologies to Isabella for missing her big book birthday, yesterday. Isabella, I hope you had a fabulous book birthday and that you enjoy this post, even if it is a day late. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part ( a decision she is now regretting. Menopause brain is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) and to Isabella for answering the questions for me.

“Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?”

I read this book when it came out last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I would advise against reading it on an empty stomach! I’m always thrilled to learn more about the author’s behind the fabulous books I’ve read so, without more ado, let’s here about Isabella:

1: You evidently have a love of puddings. But have you ever actually made a Pavlova?
I am guilty as charged there! I think living in Spain has also renewed my appreciation for the vast array of Great British desserts that I have to either hunt down here in a decent expat pub (sadly those are few and far between), or recreate myself.
But yes, last year I made my very first Pavlova (I’ve made a chocolate one since as well!). This was for the Twitter Bakealong hashtag and although I didn’t win the competition, my peaks rose and my Peach and Blueberry Pavlova was eaten by most of my family.

2: What’s a typical day for you as an author?
I’ve long forgotten because it varies so much… so I will take the weekday mean, the average! First off, I try – and frequently fail because my seven-year-old has an innate ability to rise just as I do – to meditate. Just for fifteen minutes, that’s all. But inevitably, those golden moments of seeking that much sought after third eye chakra morph into me unloading the dishwasher.
But if there is one thing I never fail to accomplish, it’s drinking my morning Pink Himalayan sole (water and a little mineral salt), followed half an hour later by a bowl of coconut porridge. Don’t worry, I definitely make up for this orthorexic ritual-like behaviour later…
If it’s a school day (right now as I type we are almost midway through the 11 week Spanish summer holidays… yes, you did read that correctly: Eleven. Entire. Weeks.) then after drop off at 9am, I am usually straight back to my desk, fat cafe sombra in hand, to hit my target of 1000 words  – that’s if I am working on a new novel. I could also quite easily be editing, keeping up-to-date with my social media, eating cake or brainstorming new ideas.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I do have a tendency to go off at tangents, and I am a Cake Monster!

But normally, on a good day, I will hit that 1000 target before I have to pack up and go pick the children up for 2pm. One of the few downsides to living in Spain is the ridiculously short school days (and those super elongated holidays).
We’ll drive back from school, I’ll fix the kids lunch, sort through the bags for hidden homework (Spanish schools set a ridiculous amount from a young age, frequently making me want to flee to Denmark). Occasionally I will also come across a pilfered toy from a fellow classmate.
If I’m ‘lucky’ *read: if the children can entertain themselves and resist the temptation to argue*, I might get a nice thirty or forty minute stretch at the laptop to edit, add to a chapter, or answer my emails. Often though, I become Dance Mum – also known as Taxi Mum – a tri-weekly task that involves dropping off and picking up my daughter at the local studio… and all too frequently involves more coffee and cake! My younger son and I will take his reading books or colouring, and I will try my best not to look at my phone.
Dinner is served late here compared to the UK and once my husband is through the door just before 7pm, to take over, I will either have a session on my trampoline, jogging to high vibe music with a fabulous view of the Mediterranean sea, or I’ll carry out some Pranic Healing on my ‘guinea pigs’. I took the Levels 1, 2 and 3 last year on courses in neighbouring Gibraltar. That’s been quite life-changing!
We eat our own ‘grown up’ dinner slightly later than the children, mainly because we all have such diverse food tastes in our household and we’re all far too proud to compromise – plus us adults love our spice (in the food that is…). And then it’s a book and bed. One of the great things about Spain is we hardly ever watch English TV – and we really don’t miss it. We talk so much more in the evenings (well, book-worming aside), and I don’t think we could ever go back to the nightly lure of the box, even if we did move home.
Obviously, at the weekend we let our hair down, go out for tapas and cocktails, or treat ourselves to a fat gin and tonic on the balcony overlooking the sea!

3: Have you done much public talking about your books yet?
Shamefully, I’ve done none at all! I make up for this with Facebook Live videos for bookclubs though – as well as at my online launch parties. But yes, some events in the flesh are a must. I’m working up to it but expat writers really do need to get creative about planning these things in this part of the world as there aren’t so many opportunities as back in the UK with all of the amazing range of Lit Fests!

4: What message do you hope readers will take from Oh! What a Pavlova?
My mission with my debut novel was to ring a few alarm bells; to dispel the misconception that domestic violence always happens regularly, and to a specific demographic. It doesn’t! Sometimes a victim is walking on eggshells for weeks or months in fear of the next attack. There’s not always an ETA.
I’m not saying it’s a book that will save lives. Women and men in these situations will only ever leave when they feel ready to take that leap of faith, and no amount of family or friends (or books) trying to intervene can change that. Sadly…
But I am definitely saying it’s the book I wish I had read when I was in a toxic relationship. In that respect, it’s a book that could save lives. We need more books of Pavlova’s ilk to challenge the status quo; to help friends and family of victims to look out for the telltale signs which are all so often hidden.

5: Why do you write with a pen name?
I think many people assume it’s to protect my identity (due to the subject of my debut novel), but I promise it’s not. Isabella and May are the names of my two amazing grandmothers who passed away several years ago. I wanted to honour their feisty, independent characters. I hope I’m doing them justice!

Thanks for joining me on the blog today, Isabella, it was lovely to hear from you.

Oh! What A Pavlova is available to buy here. Now, check out the giveaway below to see how you can win a signed copy of Isabella’s second book, The Cocktail Bar.

Giveaway

To win a signed copy of The Cocktail Bar, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box 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.

About the Author

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.

Connect with Isabella:

Website: http://www.isabellamayauthor.com/

Facebook: Isabella May Author

Twitter: @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram: @Isabella_May_Author

The Boardwalk by the Sea: Autumn Antics by Georgina Troy #BookReview #BlogTour (@GeorginaTroy) @RaRaResources #BoardwalkByTheSea #Giveaway

Autumn Antics

Thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for Autumn Antics, book two in The Boardwalk By The Sea series by Georgina Troy. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the fabulous giveaway after the review.

The Boardwalk by the Sea - Autumn Antics by Georgina Troy

“Being a part-time hand model can be tricky, especially when you have to deal with prima donnas like Megan Knight, a reality star whose meteoric rise has surprised everyone. Bella is happiest running her tiny antique business from the front room of her cottage on the boardwalk. To ensure she has enough income coming in, she also rents out two of her bedrooms and is hiding a secret crush on one of her lodgers. His name is Jack and he also happens to be her best friend Sacha’s brother.

If life wasn’t complicated enough, her world-travelling mother appears on her doorstep on the same evening that Jack’s ex-fiancée arrives on the boardwalk determined to win him back. Bella has a lot of thinking to do and soon discovers that not all gems sparkle.”

I have to admit that I haven’t read the first book in the Boardwalk by the Sea series but, having just finished this book, it has made me want to rectify this oversight and I have immediately downloaded it to my Kindle.

This is a really lovely little read, perfect for the season as we travel back to Jersey with part-time hand model Beth, just as the seasons are changing and the cooler autumn weather closes in. There are lots of references to snuggling down in front of log fires with a hot chocolate after a bracing coastal walk, which is just what you will feel like doing with this book. Take a brisk morning walk and then cuddle up on a Sunday afternoon and spend a contented couple of hours enjoying this heart-warming read.

The book is peopled with really lovely characters. I warmed to Beth immediately and wanted to follow her trials and tribulations as she juggles trying to make ends meet, unrequited feelings for one of her lodgers, an unexpected visit from her work travelling mother and a stroppy reality TV star. The writing is witty, the plot undemanding but interesting and the setting appealing and well brought to life. It is a really attractive package for a novel.

The writing includes a lot of description and I can see that in places some readers might find it too much, with every little action documented, but actually for me it really worked for the book. It is a book set in a small world where every tiny thing matters to the story, so it seemed fitting. This is not a book of huge happenings, it is about the intimate stories of people’s lives and I just found it very sweet and appealing.

This book worked its way into my heart and I couldn’t put it down. I liked it a lot more than I expected and I am going to immediately catch up on part one. I really hope this isn’t the end of the story for Beth and the folk on the Boardwalk by the Sea.

The Boardwalk By The Sea: Autumn Antics is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

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To be in with a chance of winning an Autumn Antics tote bag and locket, click the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box 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.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the dates on the poster below:

Autumn Antics Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Deborah Med

Georgina Troy is a pseudonym of author Deborah Carr. She recently signed with HarperCollins’ romance imprint HarperImpulse to write an historical romance to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War. The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr will be published in e-book format on 12 October 2018 and in paperback on 27 December 2018.

Georgina was a finalist in the Contemporary Romance Category of the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2016 (RoNAs) with A Jersey Kiss and a finalist in the Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2015. Her first four-book series, The Jersey Scene and books 1 and 2 of her second series, The Boardwalk by the Sea are available.

She also writes thrillers as Ella Drummond and lives on the island of Jersey with her husband and three rescue dogs and is 1/3 of The Blonde Plotters.

Sign up to Georgina’s Newsletter at: deborahcarr.org/contact 

Connect with Georgina:

Website: https://deborahcarr.org

Facebook: Georgina Troy

Twitter: @GeorginaTroy

The Warning by Kathryn Croft #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@KatCroft) @Bookouture #NetGalley #TheWarning

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“My little boy’s room was empty, his bed neatly made. Alarm bells should have rung immediately. Then the knock on the door came. All I remember is a thick fog wrapping itself tightly around me. This couldn’t be happening to us.

Three years ago, nurse Zoe’s son Ethan was found drowned in a muddy river by their home, along with his best friend Josh. With no witnesses, their deaths were ruled a tragic accident.

Heartbroken, Zoe and her family, move away from her home. They’re just beginning to get back to some kind of normality, when, out of the blue, Zoe receives an anonymous email: 

You need to find out the truth about what happened to your son. Don’t let this rest. Don’t believe the lie.

Shaken, Zoe starts an obsessive hunt for the truth. But why is her husband so reluctant to help? And why is Josh’s mother so determined not to believe her?”

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog blitz today for The Warning by Kathryn Croft. My thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture for my place on the tour and my copy of the book via NetGalley which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I absolutely loved this book. There has been the odd occasion recently where I have wondered whether the psychological thriller/domestic noir trend is on the way out and whether there is anything new to be done in this vein. Then a book like this comes my way and I realise there is life in the old genre dog yet. This book really had me hooked from beginning to end.

We begin three years after the tragic accidental drowning of Zoe and Jake’s son, Ethan and his best friend, Josh. The family are trying and appearing to be getting their life back on some sort of track, having moved house and cities. However, appearances can be deceptive and when Zoe gets an email suggesting that the drowning may not have been an accident at all, it quickly becomes obvious that none of them have put the tragedy behind them and they have all been covering their grief in different ways.

Zoe is unable to let the suggestion go, and we are quickly drawn in to her quest for the truth. The author very cleverly writes the plot in short, sharp chapters from multiple viewpoints – Zoe, Jake, their other son and, Roberta, Josh’s mother – so we get an insight into the story from lots of different perspectives, but Zoe’s is the only one written in the first person, so we get very up close and personal with her reactions and emotions towards the events.

As the book unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that each character is hiding something, and the tension builds as we are forced to wonder, in the same way Zoe does, who we can trust and who is being dishonest. The plot is clever and labyrinthine and, just when you think you might have figured things out, you realised you haven’t at all and you are forced to start your investigations all over again. The ending came as a total shock, although the clues were there all along and I was left very satisfied by the whole reading experience.

The characters are all beautifully drawn and very realistic. Some really empathetic, some eminently dislikable, but all compelling, and this is the great strength of the book. I really cared about what happened to these people, I was desperate to know what happened. I was emotionally invested in the characters and the story, and they took me with them from beginning to end.

Accomplished writing.

The Warning is out now and you can purchase your copy here.

There are lots of other fabulous bloggers reviewing this book, so make sure you check out their reviews too:

The Warning - Blog Blitz

About the Author

Kathryn-Croft-author

Kathryn Croft is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers, and to date has sold over one million copies of her books. The Girl With No Past spent over four weeks at number one in the Amazon UK chart and her other novels, Behind Closed Doors, The Stranger Within and The Girl You Lost all reached number one in the psychological thriller charts.

Her seventh psychological thriller is due to be released in October 2018. 

After six years teaching secondary school English, Kathryn now writes full time and lives in Guildford, Surrey with her husband and young family.  

Having always been an avid reader, Kathryn believes in the power of words to entertain, teach and transform lives. She is also a firm believer in following your dreams and says anything is possible if you work hard enough and never give up!

Connect with Kathryn:

Website: https://www.kathryncroft.com

Facebook: Author Kathryn Croft

Twitter: @KatCroft

Instagram: @authorkatcroft

Without Rules by Andrew Field #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@AFwithoutrules) @damppebbles #WithoutRules #damppebblesblogtours

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“When a professional hitman turns up at Candy’s World to hide, China Mackie discovers her plan to flee from her abusive father has tragically backfired. A gruesome bloodbath has left four people dead on the streets of a northern city centre on a cold wet Sunday morning. China knows she’s next to die. Unless she is more ruthless than everyone else. She must improvise fast. Seduce her father’s assassin. Plead her case so he helps her escape in a fight to the death where rules don’t matter but the consequences do.”

I’m thrilled to be one of the blogs kicking off the blog blitz today for Without Rules by Andrew Field. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly.

Okay. Right. I’ve had to take a little pause and a breather and a step back to think about what I am going to say about this book before I write my review because it has me, in the words of the great AC/DC, a little thunderstruck.

(By the way, if I may digress slightly for a second, I saw this version of Thunderstruck on YouTube a couple of weeks ago which is just genius, I’ve put the video at the end of the post, if you are interested.)

Anyway, now that I have had time to digest the book, I can say that it is one of the most original, interesting, disturbing, gripping, challenging and memorable books I have read this year.

I’ll be honest, when I started it I wasn’t’t sure if I was going to enjoy it and if I’d picked it up before I started blogging, I might have put it to one side to come back to later, but reading to a deadline forces you to persevere and I am really glad I did because once I got in to it I was totally hooked right through to the end.

Looking back, I can pinpoint the issue I had at the start. I started reading this book late at night when I was quite tired, and it was a mistake because this book requires a certain degree of concentration, especially at the beginning when we are introduced to a barrage of new characters in quick succession without a huge amount of introduction as to who they are and we learn a host of startling facts about them extremely quickly. It’s an information overload, verbal machine-gunning if you will, that requires a wide awake brain to process.

Once I came back to the book in the bright light of day, I was quickly sucked in to the story. The plot is extremely fragmented, it jumps around like a demented firecracker and you have to be quick to follow it, but I don’t mind a bit of an intellectual challenge in a novel. Beats sudoku for keeping the old grey matter from atrophying.

None of the characters in this book are going to win any popularity contests. They are all fairly damaged, and many of them are downright nasty, but they are written with personality and intelligence so, likeable or not, you want to keep reading about them and hope for either their redemption or their downfall.

This book is fairly blunt and brutal. There is violence from the very beginning, very bald sexual imagery, rape, graphic murder, sexual abuse and a lot of other stuff that might trigger the more sensitive reader. The author seems unapologetic about it, which makes more sense as you read through and learn more about the characters and their past and what influences their behaviour but be warned. If this were an album it would be labelled ‘Parental Advisory.’

I would normally tell you whether or not I enjoyed this book but I’m not sure ‘enjoy’ is the word I would use here. This book smacks you in the teeth and forces you to pay attention. I was carried on the journey, through all the twists, turns, inversions and barrel rolls, right to the end. It is one I will remember and I am glad I read it. I would recommend it to people with open minds and strong constitutions.

Without Rules is out on 15 October and you can order your copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the blitz and see what my fellow bloggers think f the book:

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About the Author

andrew field

Andrew Field has spent most of his working life as a PR and marketing consultant helping raise the profiles of others. Now the roles are reversed as he steps into the spotlight as the author of Without Rules, a crime thriller about vulnerable people forced to do bad things to escape evil people. “Authors, by the nature of what they do, are relatively introverted. They work in isolation. Inhabit imaginary worlds of their own creation. They can spend ages staring at a computer screen bringing their characters to life. Then they have to become a different person to promote their work and market themselves. Writing is the easy part compared to the marketing, especially when crime fiction has become a very crowded marketplace.”

“From my point of view, professional PR people operate best from behind the scenes. They should never become the story otherwise you’re deflecting attention away from the messages you’re trying to communicate,” says Andrew. “The New Labour experiment, for example, was doomed the minute Tony Blair’s media guru Alistair Campbell generated his own headlines. Bragged about ‘spin’.  Believed his own hype. Ditto Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure as the shortest-serving White House communications director in history – and his “off the record” expletive-ridden rant about his colleagues in Donald Trump’s White House.”

As a PR, Andrew memorably handled Boddingtons Bitter during its “Cream of Manchester” heyday, developing innovative sports and cultural media partnerships with newspapers and TV stations for the beer brand – but also PR’d a fashion entrepreneur who was a convicted armed bank robber and a property developer who did eighteen months prison time for blackmail. “Having a diverse range of clients keeps it interesting. They are all different but the core requirement is to be seen as a believable and trusted information source ready to take advantage of PR opportunities as and when they arise. As a novelist, you look to do exactly the same with your work and yourself.”

“The catalyst for Without Rules was a friend testifying against her father in an abuse case. Although the prosecution was successful, she can never really escape the consequences of what happened to her. She has to find a way of coping for the rest of her life while he was sentenced to two and half years.” 

Andrew says crime fiction has a duty to try and educate and as well as entertain. “The memorable books are the ones you’re still thinking about 48-hours after you finished reading.”

Andrew lives, works and plays in Manchester, England, Europe, with his partner, Catherine. He has been a trade journalist in Southampton in his youth. He owned a PR agency in the nineties and early noughties and is now an independent PR, marketing and publishing consultant looking forward to the challenge of becoming the story with the publication of Without Rules.

Connect with Andrew:

Website: http://andrewfield.info

Facebook: Andrew Field

Twitter: @AFwithoutrules

Instagram: @afnoir_

damppebbles blog tours

The River Runs Red by Ally Rose #BookReview #BlogTour (@AllyRoseAuthor) @fahrenheitpress @damppebbles #TheRiverRunsRed #Blogtober18 #damppebblestours

The River Runs Red cover

“Berlin is in the midst of its worst winter in decades.

Against the backdrop of freezing temperatures, blizzards and snowstorms, the city refuses to grind to a halt. Lurking within the shadows is a Stasi victim, out for revenge against the former East German informants known as ‘The Ears’. Their dark secrets are about to be exposed.

A mix of ice and water and a single gunshot, provides the ultimate payback.

With the Millennium approaching, Hanne Drais, the criminal psychologist working within the Berlin Mitte Police team led by the irascible Oskar Kruger and his laid-back sidekick, Stefan Glockner, are seeking the perpetrator of these violent crimes.

Who is the man they’ve nicknamed Snowflake?

Who is turning the river red?”

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The River Runs Red by Ally Rose, which is the third Hanne Drais novel by this author. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Although this is the third novel featuring Hanne Drais, I had not read the first two books and it did not affect my enjoyment of this book at all, it can easily be read as a standalone novel. So now we’ve confirmed that, on to the review!

This book is a dual timeline set just over a decade apart in Berlin. One timeline is set at the turn of the Millennium, where a series of violent murders of former Stasi informants is baffling the police, as there appears to be a link between them and they believe there may be a serial killer at work. Criminal psychologist, Hanne Drais, gives the police a unique perspective on the murders to help solve the crimes. The other timeline follows East German Olympic rower, Rudy Meixner as he is subjected to Stasi interrogation following the defection of his father to West Berlin, and what comes afterwards.

The two timelines are deftly woven throughout the book as the past events in East Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall feed into the later investigation of the serial murders of Stasi ‘ears’ after the unification of Germany. The clues to the identity of the ‘Snowflake’ are scattered throughout the book very cleverly. I thought I knew who it was, then I wasn’t sure, then I thought I’d got it again, then something else made me doubt myself. The plotting is very deft in this regard; I wasn’t 100% sure until the end, and even then there were unanswered questions.

The characters were really fascinating, particularly Rudy who had definite light and shade to his character that made me warm to him but also doubt him at the same time. Hanne is also an interesting character, and we are given insights into her personal life as well as her work. I really liked the fact that she is a woman who is far from traditional, but very strong and secure in her own skin, and her abilities.

Undoubtedly, the best part of the novel for me was the historical setting and the vivid descriptions of what life was like in East Germany during partition. The author really does an amazing job in this novel of bringing to life the horror of the torture that was perpetrated by the Stasi against people who were considered enemies of the state and traitors, whilst at the same time being horribly corrupt themselves. The stifling atmosphere of fear that must have pervaded every day life, as neighbour informed on neighbour and no one ever felt safe, permeates the book and really sets an amazing atmosphere for a tense thriller. I thought it was a fantastic back drop for the story and really propelled the plot and kept me gripped throughout.

The book’s grip is subtle, done with slow and insidious horror rather than lots of bangs and explosions so, if you like your thrillers full of car chases and noise, this is not for you. However, if you prefer something more intelligent and challenging, this will suit you down to the ground. This book is food for thought. There is a huge degree of moral ambiguity in the plot as the murder victims are shown to be evil and you wonder whether the killer really deserves to be punished, or pitied. This is a book requiring some brain power and a questioning of one’s own integrity.

If I had any quibbles with this book, one would be that having dates at the top of the chapters would be useful to keep the two timelines straight; at times I found myself at the beginning of the chapter trying to work out where in time we were. The other niggle I had was an editing one; there were a couple of places where I felt there was a little too much telling, rather than showing, and also that the author was spoon feeding us facts rather than leaving some inferences for the reader to work out themselves. These are small concerns, however, and easily fixable and would not stop me highly recommending this book.

This was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read and i would not hesitate to pick up more by this author.

The River Runs Red is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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About the Author

I’ve always been interested in writing crime stories and with the Cold War era, there is such a rich tapestry to draw from; especially the notorious and quelling Stasi reign in East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, gives a contrast between the different worlds and any past crimes are held to account in a unified Germany.

Berlin is one of my favourite cities, and I’ve spent time living and discovering this diverse city and its surrounding areas. Seeing my characters in familiar places, they seem to come to life.

Hope you enjoy my Hanne Drais books.

Connect with Ally:

Twitter: @AllyRoseAuthor

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