The Yellow Room Blog Tour

Haunted by a tragic childhood accident, Chala’s whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. After the death of her stepfather, who took his own secrets to the grave, Chala re-evaluates her life and volunteers at a Kenyan orphanage, where she gets caught up in the turmoil of the post-election violence that took over a thousand lives in 2008. But, although she can walk away from Kenya, she cannot walk away from herself… With a poignant insight into Kenya’s recent crisis, Yellow Room is a drama that explores the power of secrets to run, and ruin, our lives.

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Shelan Rodger’s Yellow Room is definitely a strikingly beautiful book. It’s one of those novels that imprints itself upon you as it’s not just a fantastic story, it’s so gorgeously  written.

I actually knew very little about the political landscape of Kenya, but Yellow Room brought it vividly to life as we witness these events alongside Chala and see the profound effects of the post-election violence at first hand.

The colour yellow permeates this novel and the colours sounds and images of Kenya saturate the pages. I teach many students who, like Shelan Rodgers would have difficulty in describing where they are ‘from’ – maybe one of the advantages of this nomadic lifestyle is the innate ability to see any place with fresh and insightful eyes and this novel certainly achieves this.

There are of course many kinds of bravery and I think that this is one of the most memorable aspects of this novel and certainly one that will stay with me for a while.

The quotation:

 Secrets are like scars that heal over a wound that never quite disappears.

is a striking and apt one and I loved the way that the undercurrents  in this novel are managed so as to keep you reading on – as there is so much that is hidden, unsaid or veiled in Chala’s world.

Its always a good sign sign if I head straight off to research the time, place or events after reading a novel and it’s certainly true to say that Chala’s fictional experiences were so deftly handled that I was determined to find out more about the real-life events that she found herself caught up in. Even though the Kenyan scenes were at times brutal and harrowing, the powerful storyline and realistically drawn characters keep you reading on, to find out what answers will be revealed by the end of this fantastic read.

If you enjoy “travelling” to far off places through your reading and characters that draw you in and keep you guessing then you’ll love Yellow Room. I also found Shelan Rodgers story fascinating and you can find more about her by following the Blog Tour and reading some of the pieces by some of the other fab bloggers on the tour. I first became interested in finding out more about Shelan after reading Anne’s piece in the summer, link below:

Anne’s review and Shelan’s piece

 

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Id like to take this opportunity to thank Dome Press for inviting me to take part in this fantastic blog tour after being so intrigued to read about Chala’s journey this summer. If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should…

My original Blogpost was ‘eaten’ and disappeared, but I actually loved the chance to revisit “Yellow Room” whilst here in Las Vegas for our Anniversary trip. It’s given me the opportunity to chat about it to three ladies who stopped by to ask what I was writing about and they’re definitely going to look it up later!

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Writer on on the shelf

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Shelan Rodgers’ life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in Nigeria, grew up among the Tiwi – an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.

Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learned in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.

http://www.shelanrodger.com

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Dangerous Crossing – Rachel Rhys Blog Tour

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England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs. 

What has she done?

This was such a treat to read. I absolutely lost myself aboard Rachel Rhys’ fantastic novel. Dangerous Crossing  is a wonderfully evocative depiction of life aboard a floating world and I lost myself in the twists and turns of the passengers I met on board.

Lily Shepherd is sailing to Australia on the Orontes as part of the Government’s assisted-passage scheme for domestic workers.  Her plan is to seek employment as a maid when she arrives and at first is entranced by the strange newness of life aboard this very different world.

Her two companions are very different to her and her homesickness threatens to overwhelm her until she is diverted by glamorous Eliza – who’s from a very different social class. Dazzling and vivacious Eliza leads Lily down a intriguing, confusing and sometimes dangerous pathway where the normal boundaries become blurred in the glamorous and heady and atmosphere she now finds herself in.

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I loved it so much, I made this collage immediately after reading it.

Lily is a fantastic narrator: because she is so entranced by the life aboard the Orontes, we see life on board through her eyes and find it as fascinating, magical  and glamorous as she does. Her growing friendship with mysterious Edward and his sister Helena provides an interesting counterpoint to her adventures with the glamorous and outré Eliza Campbell and the reader develops a dawning sense that most people aboard have some sort of secret that they are hiding as they follow Lily deeper and deeper into the ship’s  web of intrigue.

Rachel Rhys’ pedigree as a writer of thrillers is wonderfully apparent as the plot skilfully sails towards its conclusion. Rhys definitely gives Agatha Christie a run for her money in terms of keeping the reader guessing and leaves lots of red herrings as Lily gets more and more out of her depth in understanding anyone’s true motives or who she can truly trust. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what secrets and lies are being kept aboard the Orontes – but it definitely kept me turning the pages in Crete as I raced towards its conclusion.

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The period is deftly conjured and the heady atmosphere is skilfully realised by Rachel Rhys. I love this pre-war period, its glamorous clothing, the dances and drinks on board, the sense that the world is changing around them as they hang suspended in a closed world where time is almost suspended in their own claustrophobic world.  As the Orontes sails into warmer waters,  the atmosphere and tensions also ‘heat up’  around Lily whose naivety and innocence mean that we often see more than she is telling us which is a very effective means of subtly increasing the tension as we go.

 

I’ve never been on a cruise and I loved the way that Dangerous Crossing allowed me to vicariously experience the glamour, intrigue and excitement from my sun lounger in Crete. I read this in a single day, I was so fascinated by Lily’s tale and I desperately wanted to know who was being escorted off the ship at the start of the novel. The plotting is deft, the characters are larger than life and wonderfully painted and the setting is gorgeous. This is an amazing read and I absolutely adored it. If you like your thrillers dark and chilling, this might not appeal to you – but if, like me, you enjoy a great read with a twist in the tale then you’ll definitely love it too. The climax was well worth the wait – and I definitely hadn’t guessed the outcome and actually dropped the book when the secret was revealed!

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Thanks so much for Anne Cater for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour  –  It was definitely a voyage I didn’t want to end. I’d love to see this on the screen and I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I think it would be amazing. I’ve already spent time casting Eliza, Lily and Edward in my mind…

 

Doesn’t it look fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie?

I actually loved this book so much, I made the collage above and quite a few GIFs too.

It’s that good. You should definitely treat yourself. All aboard the Orontes!

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Published in Paperback August 10th 2017 by Transworld (UK) 

BUY IT HERE

Maria In The Moon: Blog Tour

Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour PosterThirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves when we can no longer hide… 

Catherine is a perfectly realised character. She’s not a character that begs you to love her; she’s a character that dares you to love her and by the end of this fabulous novel, I loved her all the more for it.  Her life hasn’t been easy and I think that this is one of the reasons that I ended up feeling so drawn into this fabulous novel: despite everything Catherine is a born survivor, even if at times it feels like things are overwhelming and she is struggling to stay afloat.

It was at times a poignant read, to be lost in this book, amidst reports of Hurricane Irma and reports of thousands of people losing their homes. It felt like quite a coincidence too, as I’d just finished Vanessa Lafaye’s wonderful At First Light and I felt like I had water all around me this month…

If you loved Louise Beech’s How To Be Brave as much as I did, then you’re really in for a treat. Maria In The Moon is just as beautifully written and equally emotionally complex which made it a hugely satisfying read for me. Catherine’s hostility and brusqueness is a protective wall to shelter her from the world and her unique sense of dark humour keeps her locked out of her own emotional responses to the world which is exactly how she likes it. She has chosen to bury the fact that her childhood memories are full of gaps and this is the thread that draws us forwards in the book as we begin to see glimpses of what Catherine, or Catherine Maria as she used to be known, is so desperate to forget.

Catherine’s tough outer shell begins to crack when she has to deal with the aftermath of a devastating flood and volunteers to help other victims as a volunteer. Catherine cannot help being drawn into their tragic stories and through this, her own hidden memories of the deaths of her father and beloved Nanny Eve at such a young age begin to rise to the surface. Catherine gradually realises that she can’t run away from her past forever and perhaps the cost of burying these memories is greater than the pain of allowing them to surface and letting her long-buried pain start to heal. Catherine connecting herself to the idea that her father’s coat was like a cape which kept her safe – and the brutal sense of loss that comes when that protective coat is thrown away when he died lends a very nuanced sense of realism to the novel. We all have possessions that connect us to our loved ones and I’m sure that many people will be moved by Catherine’s overwhelming grief here and find connections to their own moments of hopeless loss.

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Louise Beech has once again handled difficult emotions with delicacy and insight, rendering Catherine’s journey in vivid detail and exploring her complex relationships in a very credible way. By the end of this novel, I definitely found Catherine’s prickly nature one of the best things about Maria In The Moon as it allows the readers to feel that we are being held at arms’ length as much as everyone else in Catherine’s world. The juxtaposition of this Catherine with the sensitive and supportive woman who ends up dealing with the flood victims is skilfully rendered and makes the story all the more poignant.

If you’re no stranger to my blog, you’ll know that I love novels that have real events at their heart and I did go off and research the Hull floods after finishing this book and I definitely felt myself becoming part of Catherine’s world as I looked at the dreadful footage and wove some of the stories from her volunteering into the sights before me. This seriously is an affecting novel and I defy anyone to read it without feeling moved at Catherine’s situation and drawn into her world inch by inch so that when the book ends, you emerge into reality blinking – not fully believing that you’ve been wrenched out of her world and back into everyday reality.

Louise Beech is a wonderful writer: I also love the genre which is emerging at the moment in the Orenda stable. It’s described online as ‘Dark Drama’ and I’d say that this sums it up perfectly.  It’s one of those books that you don’t want to say too much about as you really need to explore Catherine’s journey for yourself to experience the emotional power that Maria In The Moon wields.

I loved it and I can see myself coming back to Maria In The Moon again, just to experience the beauty of Beech’s language, now that I know how it ends and I’m not being distracted by the compelling storyline. I love how it looks in my #OnTheShelfie and I had great fun creating GIFs this weekend to include in my review.IMG_7232.JPG

Writer On The Shelf

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Website – louisebeech.co.uk
Twitter – twitter.com/LouiseWriter

Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.  She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Thank you very much to Louise Beech, Orenda Books and especially lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour Poster

 

 

 

 

The New Mrs Clifton Blog Tour

 

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As the Second World War draws to a close, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton surprises his sisters at their London home. But an even greater shock is the woman he brings with him, Krista – the German wife whom he has married secretly in Berlin.

Krista is clearly devastated by her experiences at the hands of the British and their allies – all but broken by horrors she cannot share. But Gus’s sisters can only see the enemy their brother has brought under their roof. And their friend Nella, Gus’s beautiful, loyal fiancée, cannot understand what made Gus change his mind about their marriage. What hold does Krista have over their honourable and upright Gus? And how can the three women get her out of their home, their future, their England?

Haunted by passion, betrayal, and misunderstanding these damaged souls are propelled towards a spectacular resolution. Krista has lost her country, her people, her identity, and the ties that bind her to Gus hold more tightly than the sisters can ever understand… 

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I was hugely excited to be asked to take part in this blog tour as Elizabeth Buchan is a writer that I often press on people saying ‘I know you’re going to LOVE this book…’ and this is an opportunity to do it so so many more people as part of this tour.

As soon as I received this gorgeous book through the letterbox, I blocked off the whole of the weekend as I could not wait to immerse myself in it. I’ve read quite a few books now, set in this post-war period. I’ve loved the three Sarah Waters novels and find this period of transition, uncertainty and huge social change a really fascinating one. I never thought I’d find anything else set at this time to be so compelling, but I was definitely wrong…

 

 

 

This is the kind of novel that’s so hard to review as there are many many aspects that you want to give as a gift to the readers coming after you so that they can have the experiences you’ve had whilst reading it.

This book truly held me in its spell as its cast of characters all moved me emotionally as Buchan cleverly and skillfully leads us through their conflicting and diverse emotions at this time of great emotional turmoil for them. It was hard to choose who to pity the most as we see things so clearly from all of these characters’ points of view. Krista is an amazing character and seeing the post-war UK through a German’s eye was a brilliant stroke of creativity that allows the reader to think about things afresh and perhaps challenge some of their cosier assumptions about the ‘enemy’ for themselves.

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Gus and Nella’s ill-fated romance is another way in which Elizabeth Buchan dares us to think about things a little differently in this novel. Where exactly your sympathies lie by the end of the novel will vary enormously and could really challenge your ideas about where you think you might have empathised. I loved Nella: her determination to carve out a  life – after everything that she’s endured – really resonated with me and she was definitely one of those characters for me:  you know the ones I mean. The ones that live with you long after you’ve closed the book. No spoilers but her hidden depths certainly kept me turning the pages as I pondered the exact dynamics of their marriage

Krista, Julia and Tilly are all fascinating counterfoils to Nella and absolutely ensure that the reader never becomes complacent and their assumptions keep being challenged throughout this powerful and affecting read. I gave it a resounding ten out of ten and I’m definitely going to be off to hunt through the stacks for another Elizabeth Buchan read now that my appetite has been whetted – and doesn’t it look amazing in my  #OnTheShelfie

 #TheNewMrsCliftont’s a gripping and elegantly written novel that both moves the heart and challenges you to think about how far you would go to retain a sense of self after the horrors of war. It was such a treat, I’ll definitely be recommending it to all my bookish friends. Go on, treat yourself

 

Thanks so much to the lovely Sian Devine for inviting me on the Blog Tour

Buy it Now from Amazon

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Welcome Home Indeed…

Author On The Shelf

Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books after graduating from the University of Kent with a double degree in English and History. She moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily – reviewed in the Independent as ‘a gorgeously well written tale: funny, sad and sophisticated’. A subsequent novel, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. Later novels included The Second Wife, Separate Beds and Daughters. Her latest, I Can’t Begin to Tell You, a story of resistance in wartime Denmark, was published by Penguin in August 2014.

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Elizabeth Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She  has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes, and also been a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for 2014 Costa Novel Award. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and of The National Academy of Writing, and sits on the author committee for The Reading Agency.

 

 

Elizabeth-Buchan-seriesYou can find out more about Elizabeth’s other books on her website
 elizabethbuchan.com

 

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Or you could follow her on Twitter  twitter.com/elizabethbuchan

 

The New Mrs Clifton – Blog Tour

As the Second World War draws to a close, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton surprises his sisters at their London home. But an even greater shock is the woman he brings with him, Krista – the German wife whom he has married secretly in Berlin.

Krista is clearly devastated by her experiences at the hands of the British and their allies – all but broken by horrors she cannot share. But Gus’s sisters can only see the enemy their brother has brought under their roof. And their friend Nella, Gus’s beautiful, loyal fiancée, cannot understand what made Gus change his mind about their marriage. What hold does Krista have over their honourable and upright Gus? And how can the three women get her out of their home, their future, their England?

Haunted by passion, betrayal, and misunderstanding these damaged souls are propelled towards a spectacular resolution. Krista has lost her country, her people, her identity, and the ties that bind her to Gus hold more tightly than the sisters can ever understand… 

buchan

I was hugely excited to be asked to take part in this blog tour as Elizabeth Buchan is a writer that I often press on people saying ‘I know you’re going to LOVE this book…’ and this is an opportunity to do it so so many more people as part of this tour.

As soon as I received this gorgeous book through the letterbox, I blocked off the whole of the weekend as I could not wait to immerse myself in it. I’ve read quite a few books now, set in this post-war period. I’ve loved the three Sarah Waters novels and find this period of transition, uncertainty and huge social change a really fascinating one. I never thought I’d find anything else set at this time to be so compelling, but I was definitely wrong…

 

 

 

This is the kind of novel that’s so hard to review as there are many many aspects that you want to give as a gift to the readers coming after you so that they can have the experiences you’ve had whilst reading it.

This book truly held me in its spell as its cast of characters all moved me emotionally as Buchan cleverly and skillfully leads us through their conflicting and diverse emotions at this time of great emotional turmoil for them. It was hard to choose who to pity the most as we see things so clearly from all of these characters’ points of view. Krista is an amazing character and seeing the post-war UK through a German’s eye was a brilliant stroke of creativity that allows the reader to think about things afresh and perhaps challenge some of their cosier assumptions about the ‘enemy’ for themselves.

DIz0DkDVYAAqlkz

Gus and Nella’s ill-fated romance is another way in which Elizabeth Buchan dares us to think about things a little differently in this novel. Where exactly your sympathies lie by the end of the novel will vary enormously and could really challenge your ideas about where you think you might have empathised. I loved Nella: her determination to carve out a  life – after everything that she’s endured – really resonated with me and she was definitely one of those characters for me:  you know the ones I mean. The ones that live with you long after you’ve closed the book. No spoilers but her hidden depths certainly kept me turning the pages as I pondered the exact dynamics of their marriage

Krista, Julia and Tilly are all fascinating counterfoils to Nella and absolutely ensure that the reader never becomes complacent and their assumptions keep being challenged throughout this powerful and affecting read. I gave it a resounding ten out of ten and I’m definitely going to be off to hunt through the stacks for another Elizabeth Buchan read now that my appetite has been whetted – and doesn’t it look amazing in my  #OnTheShelfie

 #TheNewMrsCliftont’s a gripping and elegantly written novel that both moves the heart and challenges you to think about how far you would go to retain a sense of self after the horrors of war. It was such a treat, I’ll definitely be recommending it to all my bookish friends. Go on, treat yourself

 

Thanks so much to the lovely Sian Devine for inviting me on the Blog Tour

Buy it Now from Amazon

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Welcome Home Indeed…

Author On The Shelf

Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books after graduating from the University of Kent with a double degree in English and History. She moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time. Her novels include the prizewinning Consider the Lily – reviewed in the Independent as ‘a gorgeously well written tale: funny, sad and sophisticated’. A subsequent novel, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. Later novels included The Second Wife, Separate Beds and Daughters. Her latest, I Can’t Begin to Tell You, a story of resistance in wartime Denmark, was published by Penguin in August 2014.

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Elizabeth Buchan’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She  has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes, and also been a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for 2014 Costa Novel Award. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and of The National Academy of Writing, and sits on the author committee for The Reading Agency.

 

 

Elizabeth-Buchan-seriesYou can find out more about Elizabeth’s other books on her website
 elizabethbuchan.com

 

tweet

Or you could follow her on Twitter  twitter.com/elizabethbuchan

 

Last Stop Tokyo- Blog Tour

The funny thing with suffering is just when you think you’ve suffered enough, you realize it’s only the beginning.

 Alex thought running away would make everything better. Six thousand miles from the mistakes he’s made and the people he’s hurt, Tokyo seems like the perfect escape. A new life, a new Alex.

The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate him, and he finds himself transfixed by this country, which feels like a puzzle that no one can quite explain. And when Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko, the peace he sought slips ever further from his grasp.

 After all, trust is just betrayal waiting to happen and Alex is about to find out that there’s no such thing as rock bottom. There’s always the chance it’ll get worse . . .

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 There’s something about novels about fellow English teachers that I really love and Alex’s tale describing in vivid detail exactly where a yearning for escape can lead you held my attention to the very last page. The eyecatching front cover has the underground maps leading your eye in circles and this is exactly how you’ll feel as you follow Alex –  who has no idea how far he will be led in his quest for an anonymous escape from the mistakes that he’s made in his past.

I think that James Buckler has done a good job of controlling exactly how much we know as this compelling debùt novel unfolds and this is a really skilful technique, as it certainly made sure I kept turning the pages in my quest to find out what exactly was driving Alex Mallory and exactly how far he would be led in his escape to Tokyo.

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I have always wanted to visit Tokyo and Buckler uses this beautifully realised setting as almost a character in its own right. The traffic, the history, the lure of the bright lights and the seamy underbelly are all vividly depicted and we see it with Alex as somewhere that seems to promise escape but can actually seduce its visitors into losing more of themselves than they actually manage to find. 

 Alex, his friend Niro and the mysterious and compelling Naoko collide in Tokyo where Alex is drawn to her like a moth to a flame. His disorientation in the extremely rigid and impenetrable maze of Japanese customs and social morés is an added complication and we experience the sensation of being at odds with your environment and never quite knowing who to trust. Is Naoko exactly who she says she is or could it be that Alex isn’t the only person in this relationship with more to his past than he is prepared to reveal?

 I enjoyed the slow dance where we share that feeling of there being much beneath the surface and the occasional glimmers of what might be going on definitely made fore a page-turning read.  Honour, loyalty and trust are all dealt with in this engrossing novel and it was an exciting read involving yakuza, fatal accidents, prison, secrets and lies. I read this on a wet dreich Sunday afternoon and lost myself in a fast-paced world where a wrong step or misjudgement could really have serious implications.

I also loved the mysterious Naoko and was entirely convinced by her as a character, even though Buckler keeps her shadowy and enigmatic. I wanted to peer behind the mask almost as much as Alex did and definitely enjoyed the increasing tension as we are led with him into a dark, mysterious and dangerous world where he – as a foreigner or gaijin – is definitely out of his depth.

 This is the kind of story which will have you turning the pages long into the night to find out if your suspicions about the ending are correct. I always avoid spoilers, so if you want to know more you’re going to have to buy it for yourself

BUY IT HERE

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It looks fantastic in my latest #OnTheShelfie and it’s definitely attracted a lot of attention from visitors as it looks great up there on my shelf. It is the kind of book that you could take on holiday and share with your husband or wife as it would have elements that would keep many different readers engrossed. I’d like to thank my favourite book picker Anne Cater for asking me to take part in this blog tour and thank my lucky stars that she knows just how to keep my mailbox full to the brim with brilliant reads.

 

Writer On The Shelf

 James Buckler grew up in the South West of England and currently lives in London. In the past he lived in America and Japan, where he worked as an English teacher, providing inspiration for Last Stop Tokyo. He studied Film at the University of Westminster and worked in film & TV for many years, most notably as a post-production specialist for MTV and BBC Films. Last Stop Tokyo is his debut novel.

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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