The Unquiet Dead – Blog Tour

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One man is dead.

But thousands were his victims.

Can a single murder avenge that of many?

Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto: the body of Christopher Drayton is found at the foot of the cliffs. Muslim Detective Esa Khattak, head of the Community Policing Unit, and his partner Rachel Getty are called in to investigate. As the secrets of Drayton’s role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims surface, the harrowing significance of his death makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when the victim is a man with so many deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?

This morning, writing this blog post in the wake of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia over the last few days, I really found myself wishing that there were more men like Esa Khattak. A man with clear eyes and a cool head; a man who, no matter how harrowing the events he has had to face, can look forward with calmness, authority and a sense of optimism.

Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans, and it shows – though she wears her learning lightly. This gripping, fascinating and harrowing read never feels like a lecture or a series of facts in search of a story – it educates whilst keeping you absolutely wrapped in its narrative and it is definitely one of  Ausma’s strengths as a writer that we never feel as if her research has merely found its way into a novel.

The fab CrimebookJunkie hosted a guest slot from @ClaireKreads and I definitely agreed with her views about the way that it resonated so strongly with another fabulous novel from 2017 -Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson: Both of these reads really challenge the reader with their harrowing depiction of human suffering – yet at the same time have such a strong narrative tow that you can’t put them down and learn a lot along the way.

I think that I personally preferred The Unquiet Dead: its quiet dignity in revealing the most profound human suffering sometimes left me speechless with horror and I felt the need to press it onto my friend Lorna immediately as I desperately wanted someone to talk about it with. We are off soon on a long drive so that we can unpick it to our hearts’ content and mull over some of the things that we’ve learned as a result.

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I have read many books with a background of war and conflict at their heart, but few have packed such an emotional punch as this one. Khan never once lets overwritten, cluttered prose or gratuitous lingering on horror to impede the elegant beauty of her writing, and it is all the more powerfully moving as a result. The clean and simple style juxtaposes strikingly with the unfeasible brutality that she is describing and actually made me ‘step away’ from the text several times as a result to get an emotional ‘breather’.

Like Feargal Keane’s essays about his time in Rwanda, what this novel never allows you to forget is that that this actually happened. Although this is a novel, the events that you are reading about definitely happened to someone and I think that Khan balances this fine tissue of truth and fiction perfectly. No one reading this book could possibly come away unscathed by it and it’s been a hard book to follow as I find myself continuously thinking back to it and thinking about the fates of some of its characters.

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of The Unquiet Dead – suffice to say that the skilful way that Khan weaves the present day murder mystery and detective team of Khattak & Getty with the harrowing events of the Balkan conflict is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. I know at times it can feel like we are drowning in male/ female detective teams with complicated back stories but this is a pleasing alliance with two very different points of view which collide pleasingly and create plenty of room for their relationship to develop (hopefully) in subsequent adventures.

The Unquiet Dead is a stunning debut and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful emotional punch; educates just as much as it engages the reader and contains a cast of characters that you not only believe in but actively want to believe are real people with real lives that you wish you could meet. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Getty and Essa Khattak do next. I’m hooked.

 

 

 

Author On The Shelf

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Ausma Zehanat Khan

 

Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her widely acclaimed second novel, The Language of Secrets, was published in 2016. Among the Ruins, her third mystery was published in February 2017. She is also at work on a fantasy series, to be published by Harper Voyager, beginning October 2017. The Bloodprint is Book One of the Khorasan Archives.

A frequent lecturer and commentator, Ms. Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Ms. Khan completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto.

Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera “Everywoman”.

Ms. Khan practised immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer, and currently lives in Colorado with her husband. (bio from the author’s site)

 

Thank you so much to No Exit Press and the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me on this Blog Tour in return for my unbiased and honest review.

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Buy The Unquiet Dead here – and you’re in luck as No Exit Press are currently offering a fab 50% off 

 

The Other Twin – Blog Tour

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?

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So excited to be joining this blog tour today from gorgeous Press Castle in Coldingham. I absolutely love reading on holiday and The Other Twin was the perfect holiday read. I raced through it this week in the sunshine of the walled garden, with a large gin and a real feeling like I’d escaped from the world. Domestic Noir is my favourite holiday reading genre and once again, Anne Cater has sent me exactly the right book to lose myself in during my holiday.

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The Other Twin is a really hard book to review without posting any spoilers – and I’d ABSOLUTELY  hate anyone to have their reading experience diminished by knowing too much before embarking on this gripping and twisty debut novel.  Hay’s writing is very accomplished for a debut novelist and definitely keeps you on your toes, dropping information in very gradually and leading you this way and that as you try and discern the tangled reasons behind India’s death and explore the mysteries of her sister’s online life looking for something which will unlock the mystery of her untimely demise.

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I liked the way that Lucy Hay wove the LGBT and Social Media strands of the story in very lightly, making them seamlessly integrate into the way that Poppy’s tale unfolds for the reader, rather than a tokenistic ‘nod’ to something current and ‘edgy’ – I also enjoyed the way that we see things through Poppy’s eyes and are presented with each of the characters feeling the same sense of confusion, mistrust and curiosity that Poppy does. I love parallels and symmetry in novels and I also enjoyed the way that the two sets of siblings were presented. Matthew and Ana’s relationship provided a fascinating counterpoint to that of Poppy and her sister and I think this was one of the main factors in my wholehearted immersion in this novel.  This was such an easy novel to immerse yourself in as all of the characters felt very ‘real’ – I particularly liked the way the twins were presented – but no spoilers – so if you want to know more about these intriguing relationships and interconnections then you’re just going to have to get a copy of The Other Twin for yourself.

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This is a complex read that looks fab in my #OnTheShelfie and that I’ll definitely return to as I enjoyed it so much. This is a novel that refuses to spell things out for you and makes you focus hard on following all of the threads that Lucy Hay has cleverly woven in order to benefit fully from its satisfying conclusion. It’s one of the most compelling reads I’ve enjoyed this summer and would be a perfect holiday read whether you’re heading abroad or like me having a staycation in the UK. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of L V Hay’s writing as I feel that her balance of subtle characterisation, a compelling narrative and great writing doesn’t come along too often. It’s another fantastic @OrendaBooks read and further evidence that Karen Sullivan can do no wrong in my bookshelf’s eyes.

A summer winner – grab a copy for yourself as soon as you can. The kindle version is currently available and the paperback will be available from Orenda Books on All Saints Day –  November 1st, 2017

Writer On The Shelf

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.
Website|Twitter

The Things We Thought We Knew #Blogtour

IMG_4966Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs, and looked up at the stars and imagined their own constellations. And then, one day, Marianne disappeared.

Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed in her mother’s council flat, plagued by chronic pain syndrome, writing down the things we remember. As her words fill page after page, she begins to understand that the only way to conquer her pain is to confront the horrors of her past.

Heartbreaking, seductive and utterly unforgettable, The Things We Thought We Knew is a rich and powerful novel about the things we remember and the things we wish we could forget.

Mahuda Snaith’s debut novel just GOT me. I read it from cover to cover on a hot sunny Sunday in June and promptly zoomed it into my top reads of 2017. Sometimes you just connect with a book as the character and the writing just intersect with your way of looking at the world and this captivating debut novel really stole my heart this summer.

 

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I Loved this book…

I was initially tempted by the gorgeous colours of the front cover and the fact that it was marketed as a British ‘Coming of age’  read made me desperate to read it. Last weekend saw me reclining on the decking in the garden totally immersed in Ravine’s story and engrossed in her world.

 

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Ravine has spent her last 10 years of her life in bed suffering chronic pain syndrome, since the day her friend Marianne disappeared… Her council flat in Leicester is described in so much detail by Mahsuda Snaith that we can literally smell the stale air and despair that lingers in Ravine’s ‘My Little Pony’ bedroom as she suffers daily both emotionally and physically. The writing is superb, capturing tiny details that make you sympathise with both Ravine and her eternally hopeful mother, Amma and will things to change for them and alleviate the stagnation and resignation they find themselves locked in.

The Things We Thought We Knew‘s use of the ‘pain diary’ is a clever device to allow us access into Ravine’s past and find out fragments of information about Marianne’s disappearance and this is a tantalising way to ensure that we keep on reading to find out exactly what Ravine is hiding and what she’s not prepared to remember even for herself. It’s so hard to believe that the original novel began when Mahuda Snaith was only sixteen – but it goes a long way to explaining how accurately she conveys the teenage intensity of Ravine’s feelings and her portrait of a unique friendship is wonderfully done.

The books it most reminded me of was Joanna Cannon’s fabulous  The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Isabel Ashdown’s Summer of ’76 and if you’ve enjoyed either of these two fantastic, evocative  British reads you’ll absolutely love this debut novel.

Amma was my favourite character and I loved the way she determinedly supported Ravine despite all of the elements of her illness that she just couldn’t understand.  I also loved the way that Mahuda Snaith keeps lots of the elements of Marianne’s disappearance hidden from us to draw us into the story and keep turning the pages, immersed within Ravine’s claustrophobic world.

This is a powerful, affecting and evocative read that I wholeheartedly recommend. I hate spoilers so all I can say is you just HAVE to read it for yourself. Thanks so much to @ThomasHill at @TransworldBooks for the advance (gorgeous) copy. My sister has now nicked it and I can’t see me wrestling it off her any time soon…

I can’t believe it’s her debut novel and can’t wait to read more of her finely drawn portraits of British working class life. She’s a talented writer and definitely one to watch.

IMG_4964.JPGThe Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith is published by Doubleday and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Buy it here

 

Writer On The Shelf

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Mahsuda Snaith was born in Luton and brought up on a Leicester council estate.  She is a writer of novels, short stories and plays, and is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2014, Bristol Short Story Prize 2014 as well as a finalist for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2013.  Mahsuda leads creative writing workshops at De Montfort University, has performed her work at literary festivals and has been anthologised by The Asian Writer, Words with Jam and Closure: Contemporary Black British Stories.

 

 

 

Being Simon Haines: Blog tour

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Meet Simon Haines.

For a decade he’s been chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. The gruelling hours and manic intensity of his job have come close to breaking him, but he has made it through the years and is now within a whisker of his millions: in less than two weeks, he will know the outcome of the partnership vote. He decides to spend the wait in Cuba in an attempt to rediscover his youthful enthusiasm and curiosity, and to clear his mind before the arrival of the news that might change his life forever. But alone in Havana, he becomes lost in nostalgia and begins to relive his past…

Set against the backdrop of an uncertain world, and charged with emotion, Being Simon Haines is a searching story about contemporary London and aspiration, values and love. Painting a picture of a generation of young professionals, it asks the most universal of questions: are we strong enough to know who we are?

Simon Haines is a driven man. He’s so driven in fact, that he’s lost all sense of who he really is and what he really wants out of life.  As soon as this gorgeous book arrived with its strokable minimalist jacket I wanted to open it up and find out who Simon Haines was and why he’d lost all sense of himself along the way as he climbed the corporate ladder.  I loved this relatable premise and I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really wanted to get to the heart of the ‘real’ Simon and discover what had brought him to this point.

I also enjoyed the way that McAulay’s novel flips back and forward in time – from Simon’s journey of self-discovery in Cuba back to his formative years where we begin to see that Simon hasn’t always been a slave to the rat-race of competitive partnership battles; he was once a pretty normal guy with time for relationships, friends and dare I say it – fun?

The flashbacks into his past where we explore his relationships with girlfriend Sophie and best mate Dan from University begin to flesh Simon out for us as a character – transforming him into a much more nuanced and human character than the grey ‘suit’ that we meet at the beginning. We see that he once had time for people, hobbies and a zest for life that he’s lost touch with in his determination to make it in the legal world.

The fact that writer MacAuley is a solicitor himself means that the work stresses that Simon is feeling have an incredibly realistic feel and the way they build up and threaten to overwhelm Simon Haines mean that you really develop your sense of compassion for him as the novel progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of his ‘escape’ to Cuba as well and felt that the balance between the present time and Simon’s past at the University of Nottingham was just right –  allowing the reader to keep being pulled forward to the next development in Simon’s character until we begin – as he does –  to get a truer sense of who he really is.

 

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Simon’s law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett is incredibly well drawn with realistic characters and lots of legal jargon thrown in so that we really appreciate how immersive and overwhelming it can be for a young man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of professional success. I loved Giles and his catastrophic disregard for protocol and felt he was a great foil for the serious moments of self-reflection and navel gazing that Simon developed in his ‘escape from it all’ in gorgeous Cuba.

Being Simon Haines is a refreshing read as it dares to be more than just another thriller and takes a genuine look at what we sometimes sacrifice in the pursuit of happiness in a way that never feels ‘worthy’ or sermonising. It allows us a glance into a dog-eat-dog world where success is deemed much more valuable than personal fulfilment and dares us to ask ourselves what we might have jettisoned along the way in our own lives.

I always enjoy a book much more if I’m not hyping myself up before I read it and Simon Haines was exactly that. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about Simon’s life choices and their repercussions whilst driving to work and marking my essays at school. I will definitely seek out more books by Tom Vaughan McAulay and am curious about which direction he’ll go in his next novel. At times I really forgot that this was fiction – in the best possible way – and it’s a real testament to McAulay’s writing that we really believe in Simon’s plight and can empathise with his feelings of having lost himself somewhere along the way in his relentless pursuit of success before self.

 

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I’d like to thank the lovely Anna @RedDoorBooks for sending me a copy of Being Simon Haines and allowing me to step outside my book comfort zone and enjoy a fascinating exploration of modern manhood and think deep about what drives us and makes us happy in the modern world.

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Tom Vaughan MacAulay was born in Chester in 1980. Tom is a solicitor and has worked both in London and Milan during his career. He currently lives in North London and is in the process of completing his second novel.

Follow him on Twitter here

See if you fancy any of the other new releases at Red Door Publishing: or follow them on Twitter to keep up to date with their fantastic releases this Summer

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Exquisite Blogtour: Dark & Divine

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Exquisite – Sarah Stovell. Blog Tour Review.

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of best-selling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

When Anne Cater messaged me to ask me about the Exquisite Blog Tour, I was literally up early every morning waiting for the postman until it arrived. Having seen the cover reveal during the winter and taken part in a Twitter moment where we were guessing the genre and plotline from the cover itself, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch.

Let me tell you that Exquisite did not disappoint.

The cover reveal hinted at a dark and mysterious tale where everything is not quite as it seems and I’d have to say that #TeamOrenda have done it again in choosing Sarah Stovell as one of their 2017 debut writers. Karen, you really have the magic touch!

The thriller’s enduring popularity at the moment during the ‘Grip Lit’ wave really means that writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely shocked at the end of their read and I am happy to report that Sarah Stovell manages this with skill and originality. I am also determined to ensure that there are no spoilers as this ending really is worth the wait.

I absolutely love an unreliable narrator and in Exquisite, you’re not just getting one voice that hints at there being more to their unfolding narrative than meets the eye, but two wonderfully contrasting voices that play with your mind and weave in and out of your sense of direction until you really are left wondering who on earth to trust.

Bo is mired in domestic drudgery and willing to be distracted by a younger rawer talent whose voice captivates her.

Alice’s single-minded determination to ‘set the darkness echoing’ by writing it out of herself is unleashed with unstoppable force after colliding with Bo’s world at a writing retreat where something hard to extinguish is kindled…

I loved the contrasting voices of Bo and Alice at the beginning of the novel and appreciated the skill with which Sarah Stovell manages to create both credible dialogue and lyrical descriptions of the natural environment in a finely tuned balance that really made her prose sing. Added to this, her slow-burning sense of rising sexual tension really made this a page turner as you race to see if your ‘narrative compass’ is as reliable as you thought it was.

I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the claustrophobic and intriguing world that Sarah draws you into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was ‘Exquisite-ly‘ so. This book is the narrative equivalent of a ‘Magic Eye’ painting – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards…

Anyone who has ever been separated either by time or circumstances from the object of their affections will find much to relate to in the epistolary exchanges between Bo and Alice and I was very impressed by how credible their evolving friendship altered before our very eyes into something altogether more compulsive and glitteringly dangerous. Bo’s maturity, fame and experience seem to give her the upper hand in the relationship at the beginning of Exquisite and the way that this situation unravels is another exquisite aspect of Stovell’s writing.

I think it’s difficult to make a thriller genuinely sexy without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but Exquisite manages the perfect balance of a perfectly created fictional world and a realistic portrayal of an unsettling relationship.

 

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I loved this novel and I’ll be recommending it to everyone who likes their novels unpredictable, sexy and with a hidden sting in the tail. Sarah Stovell is definitely a talent to watch and yet more confirmation that Karen Sullivan’s eye for a fabulous read is firing on all cylinders. I look forward to Stovell’s next novel with just as much excitement as I awaited the postman arriving with Exquisite.

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.

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She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. 

Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Follow Sarah on Twitter here: @Sarahlovescrime

Treat yourself to a copy and find out how fabulous it is for yourself:

Treat yourself to Exquisite

It was an absolute honour to take part in the Blogtour and hopefully create a huge bizz around this fantastic read with all my amazing fellow bloggers. Liz and Anne’s blogs from yesterday really got me in the mood and are definitely worth a read

Anne Cater: Exquisite Blogtour

Liz Loves Books Exquisite blogtour

I am delighted to be sharing today’s spot with the lovely @frizbot and here’s a link to her review too to whet your appetite still further

Writes of Woman on ‘Exquisite’

 

Thanks again to #TeamOrenda for letting me take part and looking forward to seeing more fab books from Karen’s magical bookshelf in the very near future.

Exquisite looks fab in my #OnTheShelfie alongside my other Orenda title this month, the excellent #Block46 which, if you haven’t already read, I also heartily recommend.

Have a great weekend & happy reading everyone

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Block 46 Blogtour #FrenchNoir

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Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

Karen, you’ve done it again!

Just when I think that the last Orenda book I read was the best one yet, she finds another book that blows me away! When I received Block 46 through the post, I couldn’t keep my hands off it – even though my TBR pile was even higher than usual.

Lots of reviewers have commented on the way that Block 46 defies categorisation and that is exactly right. It’s got touches of so many of my favourite genres: it’s set in Sweden so it’s got many Nordic elements, Johana Gustawsson is French so it’s got plenty of elements of #FrenchNoir too and it’s got profilers and a serial killer too. Add all of that together and add in the fact that it’s got a historical backstory and you’ve got one of my top reads of 2017.

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The combination of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells was a winning combination for me. Emily had the single-minded straight talking qualities of an expert profiler which combined perfectly with Alexis’ more serene and empathic nature. I loved the way that they complemented each other as they worked to uncover the truth behind this fascinating story. Emily’s background of the Canadian mounted police and Alexis’ True Crime expertise made this an unusual and very satisfying twist on the serial killer genre that I just could not put down.

I love novels that alternate in time and place and was gripped by the contrast between the murdered boys on Hampstead Heath and the disappearance of Linnea Blix in Sweden. The insight into the present-day investigation was hugely enjoyable and the sudden flashes of the killer’s thoughts added a disturbing, dark and addictive element to this novel that was satisfyingly chilling and definitely not for the faint-hearted. If you find yourself getting upset at reading about children suffering and the atrocities perpetrated ny the Nazis during WWII then you might find this a traumatic read – but I genuinely feel that Johana’s writing is so good that the violence is never gratuitous or distasteful.

Many novels in this genre are all plot and display a real disregard for the writing itself. Not so Gustawsson, her writing is precise and elegant showing a real talent for spinning beauty out of bleakness and even depravity. The section of the novel which takes us back to Buchenwald concentration camp stood out for me as some of the most chillingly beautiful that I’ve encountered in this genre and made me turn the pages long into the night to find the thread linking these events to the modern day murders.

The gallic touch that Gustawsson adds to the Nordic crime genre makes for a satisfying, gripping and harrowing read that drew me in completely. I can’t wait for Mr OnTheShelf to finish reading it so we can go over elements of it together as I found its historical elements so fascinating. The fact that he’s also engrossed speaks volumes as he’s not generally a fiction reader and Block 46 had him as gripped as I was.

I have absolutely no doubt that in #RoyAndCastells I’ve found a new detective pairing that I’ll be telling absolutely everyone about and I’ll definitely be looking out for the sequel. Block 46 looks at evil in a unique and memorable way and the quality of writing makes it hard to believe that this is Johana Gustawsson’s debut novel.

#TeamOrenda have produced a series of amazing blog posts about this novel and if you haven’t read them already then you’re in for a treat. Check out the #BlogTour poster to see who else is creating the #FrenchNoir buzz around Block 46

My partner on the #BlogTour today is the lovely @damppebbles and here is the link to her fantastic review that she also published today

Damppebbles’ Review of Block 46

How cute does it look alongside the fascinating #Exquisite in my latest #OnTheShelfie?

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Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

I really enjoyed this Q and A on her website so I’m sharing the link below for you

Johana Blog Q and A

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Author LinksWebsite  Twitter

I chose to read and review the ARC of Block 46 that I was sent by the lovely Anne Cater. The above review is, as always,  my own unbiased opinion. I bloody loved it.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th May 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio.

The Stars Are Fire – Anita Shreve

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Good morning on this sunny bank holiday weekend! I’m delighted to be participating in this blog tour, for  Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire. The first one of Anita’s novels I read was in Canada in 2002 and All He Ever Wanted is still a great read – if you haven’t read it,  I strongly suggest you look it up.  If you haven’t read anything by Anita Shreve yet, I think you’ll love #StarsAreFire and I’d like to thank Amelia from Little Brown for allowing me to take part in this blog tour and putting up with me sending her pics from sunny Crete when she was stuck in the office 🙂

Hot breath on Grace’s face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where’s Gene? Didn’t he come home?

1947. Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear.

Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future.

As Grace awaits news of her husband’s fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing; she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms – joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain – and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

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If you haven’t read any of Anita Shreve’s page turning novels yet, this is a fantastic place to start. The fact that this novel was based on a true story was another factor which really drew me in as I love investigating around the books I’m reading. The long, hot summer of 1947 in Maine was a fascinating period that I knew nothing about prior to reading #StarsAreFire and Anita Shreve does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this traumatic event with Grace and her friend Rosie as they draw on every ounce of internal strength they have to rebuild their lives after the fires destroy everything they own,

The pairing of these two characters was very clever as we keep comparing them long before it occurs to Grace herself to draw comparisons about the state of her marriage with the much more passionate and fulfilled marriage that Rosie enjoys. Grace has been married to Gene from a very young age and his belittling of her and his cold, secretive and brusque nature is what she has come to accept as normal. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel is the way we see Grace developing and flourishing despite the difficulties she has to endure.

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The metaphor of her rising, quite literally, from the ashes of her former life is a powerful one and this is a moving and engrossing read. Shreve keeps Grace faithfully within her 1940s context, providing much food for thought about marriage, independence and friendship for a 21st century readership.

I’m not generally a romance reader and I think that Anita Shreve is a writer who contains romance within her novels rather than make Grace’s whole journey about love, marriage and romance. The dramatic description of the fire and its immediate aftermath are the most striking part of this novel at first, but what remains after reading this novel is the grit and courage shown by Grace which enables her to make difficult decisions in her family’s best interests by the end of the novel.

I think that Shreve is just as skilful in writing about female relationships as she is about love and I thought Grace’s relationship with Rosie and her evolving relationship with Marjorie was another real strength of this novel. The journey for warring women to move towards accepting one another as human beings is a difficult one to paint without resorting to cliche and I feel that #StarsAreFire has managed it superbly. There’s no denying that Grace and Marjorie have a difficult relationship at the beginning of the novel, but the skilful and credible way that Shreve manages to describe their evolving appreciation of one another was another stand-out aspect of this novel for me.

Fans of Anita Shreve will love this and I hope that it also brings her new readers who love period fiction and strongly written female narratives. At the very end of her novel, Shreve suggests that we look up Wildfire Loose by Joyce Butler – which tells the true story of these fires – and this is the very next thing that I’m off to look up. Happy reading & enjoy the bank holiday!

Writer On the Shelf:

Anita-Shreve
Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favourites) and everything Eugene O’Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. “I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never.”
Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 17 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot’s Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, and Body Surfing.
Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.

Buy The Stars Are Fire online

Anita Shreve on Twitter

 

Thank you so much to Amelia at Little Brown Books for inviting me onto the Blogtour and sending me this gorgeous book. I’ll definitely be recommending it as a fantastic summer read that a lot of people should pack for their holidays this year.

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