The Passing Tribute Blog Tour

unnamedIn the tumultuous aftermath of the First World War the Wilson brothers head in opposite directions: Richard, interned in Austria throughout the conflict, returns to England; Edward, a junior officer, is dispatched from Italy to Vienna as part of the British Army s relief mission.

For Edward, it will be a return to the city and to love. But it will not be the same city: Vienna is no longer the administrative heart of an Empire, merely a provincial capital ravaged by starvation, and paralysed by the winter snows. Will it be the same love? 

In London, Richard is employed in the ministerial heart of government and soon dazzled by the Under Secretary s vision for a new, federal Europe. But for the new to exist the old must be replaced; and the Habsburg Emperor, on his estate near the Czech border, revolution all around, refuses to go. One man is sent to make sure that he does. 

With the brothers estranged by distance and time, their lives become unknowingly entwined in a shadowy plot and it seems the end of the war is only the beginning of their struggle.

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I read this fantastic read during a lovely break in Northumberland in a cottage in the grounds of a ‘big house’ where I could enjoy myself drifting back into history and reliving the past through this gripping and immersive read. It was really well written and I absolutely fell for its charms;  this book provided me with much food for thought about this turbulent time in history and my husband has nabbed it now as he was intrigued by my lunchtime updates about how much I was enjoying it.

The Passing Tribute is a fascinating read, describing life between the wars when Britain had a great deal of thinking to do about what kind of country we were and how the social changes both within the country and internationally were changing life almost unrecognisably from the certainties that existed in pre-war Edwardian England.

This is a time period that I didn’t really know that much about – I love this kind of novel, where I finish it and end up on Google for hours, researching the book’s time period and poring over maps and photos of the real events that have been portrayed in its pages. I love the three Sarah Waters books set in this period and was intrigued to enter this era from a more male and political point of view.

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This gripping novel takes us back in time to the aftermath of the Great War, where the Wilson brothers lives are moving in diverse directions  – Richard returning to Britain and Edward off again to Europe as part of our relief force. The situations that they each encounter have enormous ramifications and you cannot fail to be pulled into their stories as you read on and uncover what befalls them.

The novel is written in four individual sections, which I really enjoyed –  The first section is written from Edward’s point of view after the First World War when he’s stationed in Vienna; which had been the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as it attempts to rebuild itself after the devastation of war. Edward is sent there to help establish our British Army’s relief effort and finds himself having to re-engage with a past he thought he’d left firmly behind as a consequence.

The next section depicts the story of Edward’s brother Richard, who was captured and imprisoned during the war but is now safely back in England. He was at one time a journalist, but after seeing the effects of war on truth and justice he’d prefer to be in charge of whatever truth is to be printed, rather than being told what to write instead and pursues this through a new post as Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of X in London.

Both brothers find themselves irrevocably altered by war and the present day does not allow either of them to fully escape from their complicated past. In the final two sections of this novel, we follow history knowing the outcome and understanding fully that the world they knew before the war is gone forever. This allows us to watch history take shape before our eyes – seeing the storm clouds gathering on the horizon as WWII begins to be a real possibility.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I really love a novel where you explore events from more than one perspective.  I think that Marshall is equally skilled at portraying the characters of  Edward and  Richard and their characters both come to life for the reader as you get tangled up in the real-life events of the novel.  He paints a vivid portrait of their struggles to survive in a turbulent time in history. I hate including spoilers so all I’ll say is that their characters definitely put them in situations in this historical period that will draw you in and keep you turning the pages to see what role history had in store for both of them.

The way that this epic novel brings the war and its effects on human lives so vividly to life on the page made me totally lose myself in this tale over Easter. I just couldn’t tear myself away from the intriguing plot and emerging sense of momentum as the plot they are involved in begins to become more clear.  The fact that my school is a military one where we have just celebrated our centenary lent The Passing Tribute an added poignancy for me and made me realise that even though this is a novel, the stories it tells were very much a reality for thousands of people between the wars – who found themselves in a world where everything certain had altered forever leaving them in an unfamiliar world where their sense of navigation was no longer quite as useful as it had been.

If you love a historical read that brings this fascinating and often overlooked period vividly to life and enjoy being totally immersed in a powerful and vivid narrative then you’ll love The Passing Tribute. It’s a powerful story and I found myself quite bereft as it drew to a close, knowing as I did that even though Edward and Richard were fictional characters, they’d really lived for me whilst I was lost in the book.  I will definitely look out for more from Simon Marshall as the balance of historical detail and wonderful characterisation was a winning combination for me.

Buy yourself a copy here

I would like to thank Anne Cater and Unbound Digital for inviting me to participate in the blog tour – I think that The Passing Tribute looks fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie and  I’ll definitely be looking out for the other blog posts to see what my fellow bloggers thought of this immersive and memorable tale.

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Writer On The Shelf

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This is Simon’s second novel. In 2015 he self-published The Long Drawn Aisle, then immediately started work researching and writing The Passing Tribute.
A political historian at heart, Simon read modern history at UCL before gaining an MA distinction in Imperial and Commonwealth History at King’s College London.

It was during these studies that his profound and ongoing fascination with the pre and post-WW1 European settlement was stirred, and it has inspired both of his novels to date.
Simon was born and raised in London but has lived and worked for most of the past decade in France.

With youthful pretensions to screenwriting and poetry, prose has taken over and he has worked variously as a private tutor, English language teacher, assistant bar manager, gig economy dromedary, and Real Tennis professional.

As The Long Drawn Aisle took him over ten years to write (and rewrite, and rewrite), he has therefore had plenty of time to immerse himself in all of these glorious postings. And long – says the man in short trousers – may it continue!
Twitter @LongDrawnAisle
Website: http://www.thelongdrawnaisle.com/.

 

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Stanley & Elsie Blog tour

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The First World War is over, and in a quiet Hampshire village, artist Stanley Spencer is working on the commission of a lifetime, painting an entire chapel in memory of a life lost in the war to end all wars. Combining his own traumatic experiences with moments of everyday redemption, the chapel will become his masterpiece.

When Elsie Munday arrives to take up a position as a housemaid to the Spencer family, her life quickly becomes entwined with the charming and irascible Stanley, his artist wife Hilda and their tiny daughter Shirin.

As the years pass, Elsie does her best to keep the family together even when love, obsession and temptation seem set to tear them apart…

Good morning on this sunny Sunday morning! I’m delighted to be participating in this blog tour, for Stanley & Elsie. The first one of Nicola Upson’s novels I read was the first novel in her series about Josephine Tey – and if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this fabulous set of mystery novels then I suggest that you head out straight away and buy them all. I have re-read all of them at least once and think they are exceptional – so as you can imagine, I was really excited to be part of this tour.

 

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I’d like to thank Fanny from DuckBooks for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and introducing me to a new standalone Upson novel to enjoy during my sunny Easter break.

The fact that this novel – just like her others – is rooted in fact really adds to the reading experience and introduced me to another historical period and set of characters that I didn’t know that much about and left me feeling intrigued and desperate to go and visit the murals at beautiful Sandham Memorial Chapel.  for myself

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I love investigating the real history and characters found in the books I’m reading and Nicola Upson remains true to form and does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this period in the Spencer household, told from the perspective of Elsie whose voice gives us a fascinating insight into his household and allows us a uniquely voyeuristic appreciation of the relationship between Stanley and Hilda as we are able to penetrate their domestic world, rather than seeing the ‘famous’ Stanley alone.

 

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This is a moving and engrossing read. Upson keeps these characters faithfully within their period context, providing much food for thought about marriage, dependence and morality during this period for a 21st-century readership. Like her Josephine Tey novels, you start to forget that you’re reading a novel based on real events and start to feel like you have been transported back to this time and are living through this period alongside them.banner

I think that Upson is just as skilful in writing about marital relationships as she is about the history or the art: the dynamics between the characters and the way that they were so realistically depicted was a real strength of this novel. The trials of living alongside an artist and accepting their lifestyle and priorities is a difficult one to paint without resorting to cliche and I feel that Stanley & Elsie has managed it superbly. There’s no denying that Stanley and Hilda have a tempestuous relationship and the skilful and credible way that Upson manages to describe their evolving inter-relationships with the other characters in the novel – such as Patricia Preece and Dorothy Hepworth was another stand-out aspect of this novel for me.

As usual, I spent lots of time online afterwards, looking for Stanley’s portrait of Elsie and reading more about their entirely unconventional household.

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Fans of Nicola Upson will love this beautifully written period portrait and I hope that it also brings her new readers who love period fiction and strongly written literary narratives. I really enjoyed the insights in the Joys of Binge Reading blog where Nicola Upson is interviewed, saying:

 It’s a straight historical novel and I see it as very much connected to the Tey series in the sense that it is a re-imagining of a real figure in a particular time and place in the 1920s and 30s again.  No, it’s not a mystery in a generic sort of way but I’ve been thinking about how I approach the characters in that book and how I approach the ones in my mystery series and basically it is about fathoming and trying to understand and trying to get under the skin of why people do what they do.  And you said unconventional family life – I think most people would agree with you in that respect. 

Joys of Binge Reading

And here is a portrait of Stanley himself

 

Buy yourself a copy here

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Writer On The Shelf

Nicola Upson is best known for her seven Josephine Tey crime novels. She has also published nonfiction, including a book on the sculpture of Helaine Blumenfeld. This is her first stand-alone novel.

‘An exquisite, lyrical novel.’ Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet

‘Seriously and sensitively imagined, Stanley and Elsie is a work of painterly beauty and deep integrity. Told by housemaid Elsie Munday, the subject of Spencer s painting Country Girl, the story brings to life Spencer s creative and emotional life, illuminating the consolations of art and its costs.’ Wendy Wallace, author of The Painted Bridge

‘An intriguing story of artistic temperament, domestic turmoil, and remembrance. Nicola Upson weaves a web of creative and private passions.’ Katie Ward, author of Girl Reading

‘A sympathetic and balanced biographical novel… affords a sensitive and valuable insight into the dynamics of the artist s life.’ — Carolyn Leder, Adviser to the Stanley Spencer Gallery and former Trustee

 

 

Spring Reads – 17 Degrees Magazine

SPRING EDITION 2019

 

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Hi there! The last three months have gone by so quickly, as they’ve been full of really great reads. It’s been so hard to choose these twelve books as there have been some amazing new releases these last few months. 

This Spring you’re going to be totally spoiled for choice whatever your reading preference and I hope I’ve found something that you’ll enjoy. It’s fantastic to see my column in print again and I absolutely loved talking about these fabulous reads!

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DARLING

DARLING – RACHEL EDWARDS

HarperCollins Publishers £8.99

Lola is not a fan of having a new stepmother. Three weeks seems far too short for this relationship to have bloomed. And she had no idea that her dad was into someone like Darling. This fantastic new read takes domestic noir in a whole new direction – it is perhaps the first Brexit thriller and the two female characters step right off the page.  Darling is fabulous and you will love her interactions with the spiteful and spoilt Lola as you wait to see who will end up victorious. If you like your stories with an edge of malice, you’ll absolutely love this book. I read it straight through without stopping on my birthday trip to Budapest and I’ve been recommending it to everyone ever since. This is definitely a book that everyone will be talking about this Spring as it’s such a gripping and provocative read.

 

WYCH ELM

 

The Wych Elm  – Tana French

( Penguin Books Ltd  £14.99)

Toby has always led a charmed life – until a sudden and violent attack changes his life forever. He moves into the Ivy House to recuperate and take comfort in memories of debauched summer parties and endless summers with his cousins there. .Just after Toby’s arrival, his family uncovers a skull lodged inside the old wych elm in the garden which sets a whole chain of unthinkable events into motion – with devastating consequences. As the situation spirals out of control, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his relationships his past, and himself. If you loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt, you will absolutely adore this standalone novel from one of my favourite crime writers. I’m still thinking about it weeks after I finished it and I think it’d make an absolutely fantastic TV adaptation. Watch this space…

 

FALLEN ANGEL

 

Fallen Angel- Christopher Brookmyre

(Harper Collins £18.99)

I was so excited to receive a copy of the new Brookmyre to review, and I’m happy to report that it was every bit as impressive as I’d hoped. To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful children. But like so many ‘perfect’ families, far darker emotions lurk just below the surface. Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday abroad. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a holiday reunion at their villa, she begins to suspect that one of them might know more than they appear to about this mysterious death. This book has everything -, fabulous characters, tension, deception and vengeance and you will not be able to put it down once you’ve started. This is Brookmyre at his compelling and creative best – a perfect weekend read this Easter weekend.

 

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THE LOST MAN – JANE HARPER

Little, Brown Book Group £12.99

I was absolutely obsessed with Jane Harper’s  The Dry and wanted everyone to read it. Its combination of fabulous characterisation and a killer plot meant that I couldn’t put it down. The Lost Man tells the tale of two brothers, Nathan and Bub who meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties to remember their brother Cameron, who walked off into the Outback and never returned. The setting of this novel is stunningly realised and I was shocked at times to look up and see that I was in wintry Dunblane, rather than scorching Queensland. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…This is a stunning read and will definitely keep you guessing –  I cannot wait to see what Jane Harper does next, she’s a star.

 

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The Familiars – Stacey Halls

(Zaffre Publishing  £12.99)

I absolutely loved this stunning and unforgettable novel. Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no heir. Fleetwood serendipitously meets Alice Gray, a young midwife who promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby – but these are dangerous times. Alice is inevitably drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the country and Fleetwood risks everything trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? As Fleetwood’s pregnancy continues, it becomes clear that time is running out, and both their lives hang in the balance. The truth is both the most dangerous thing there is for these two women – and the only thing that can save them. This is my book of the year so far, and I’m so jealous of everyone who hasn’t read it yet. Read it as soon as you can!

 

THINGS IN JARS

 

Things In Jars – Jess Kidd

Canongate Books Ltd £14.99

In Victorian London, detective Bridie Devine is faced with her toughest case yet. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is not your average missing person – for you see, she is not supposed to exist. Bridie’s struggles to recover the stolen child leads her through a fantastical world of depraved anatomists, amoral surgeons and twisted showmen. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen. This is a book for people who love their history dark, twisted and immersive. Jess Kidd is fabulous at creating whole worlds that allow you to feel that anything could happen at any time – and in this book, you should definitely bear that in mind. This is a fabulous read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You definitely won’t forget Bridie Devine in a hurry – she’s a funny feisty and fearless heroine who will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.

 

FRANNIE LANGTON

The Confessions of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins

(Penguin Books Ltd £12.99)

I love both Jane Eyre and Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and this stunning novel gives you the best of both worlds. All of London is ablaze with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, famous scientist George Benham and his mysterious French wife, Marguerite.  The evidence against her seems damning – but the truth is even stranger than it appears.  This novel gives Frannie her voice for the first time. From a lonely child learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, to a grand house in London, in thrall to a beautiful woman, Frannie’s life has made her a hostage to fortune and I turned the pages faster and faster to try and get to the bottom of what happened that fateful night and why. This is a fascinating and gripping debut l that asks questions about race, love and humanity and is almost impossible to put down. An absolute dazzler.

 

 

LITTLE

 

Little – Edward Carey

Gallic Books £10.99

We’ve all heard of Madame Tussauds, but I’m sure that many of you will be just like me and know very little about her humble origins before she became the famous waxworker. Born in Alsace in 1761, tiny Marie Grosholtz is nicknamed “Little.” After her parents’ death when she is only six, she finds work with the reclusive anatomist, Dr Curtius. This eccentric doctor soon takes an interest in his tiny and intriguing new companion, and begins to teach her the fine art of wax modelling which she excels at –  and the rest, as they say, is history. This novel takes us deep into Les Miserables era France: from the decadence of the Palace of Versailles to the blood running in the gutters during ‘The Terror’ Little takes the reader on an amazing journey with a tiny heroine who had an enormous impact on the world. For those that love something wholly different, you’ll love this unforgettable tale full of pain, eccentricity and survival.

 

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BLOOD ORANGE

 

BLOOD ORANGE – HARRIET TYCE

Headline Publishing Group £10.99

Alison looks like she has the perfect life – from the outside, that is.  A loving husband, an adorable daughter, and a successful law career that’s on the rise  But if you scratch beneath the surface, the cracks begin to appear. Alison likes a drink, maybe a little too much, and she’s having an affair with a colleague which might be getting out of hand, in more ways than one. Someone has been sending Alison threatening texts, and the woman she’s defending has a confession that doesn’t ring true. This debut novel takes domestic noir and twists it hard – you’re never quite sure who is deceiving who here. If you loved Apple Tree Yard then you’ll adore this twisted and provocative look at morality and relationships. Blood Orange grabs you and doesn’t let you go as you get deeper and deeper into a tangled story of deception, lust and murder. A five-star read.

 

THE LAST

 

HANNAH JAMESON – THE LAST

Penguin Books Ltd  £12.99

This was something really different for me – and I’ve been talking about it ever since.  The Last is a page-turning read that will have you up late, desperate to see how it will end.  A Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington whilst Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland, leaving him stranded, not knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message. In John’s remote hotel, there are only twenty survivors who wait there, isolated, to see what will happen next.  Until the body of a young girl is found – murdered. As the situation escalates and accusations hang in the air, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice is even possible, when society as we know it has been wiped out forever.

 

INBORN

Inborn – Thomas Enger

(Orenda Books  £8.99)

What turns a boy into a killer? When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. Social media is soon ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock for murder. This is another simmering Orenda Books read that makes me want to read a lot more fiction in translation. The past and its events start to cast shadows on the present as detective Yngwe Mort has to try and separate his own tragedy in order to find the truth about the killer. I loved the chilling atmosphere of this book and the question of what makes someone a murderer is a really fascinating one. If you like your crime smart, dark and morally compelling then you’ll absolutely love this book.

 

PAST LIFE

 

Past Life – Dominic Nolan

( Headline Publishing Group  £18.99)

Detective Abigail Boone escapes from a violent crime, almost losing her life in the process.  Suffering from traumatic amnesia, she seems like a stranger to her husband and bewildered son when she returns to them. With no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still. Operating outwith the law, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty, encountering human traffickers and the murkiest edges of society in the process. Past Life is not a tale for the faint-hearted and your heart will be in your mouth as you race with Abigail to the thrilling conclusion. Dominic Nolan is going to be big – and with this read, it’s easy to see why. Read it as soon as you can.

 

SPRING EDITION 2019

I’m closing with a new feature – A local book that lots of you will love. It’s called Believe and it’s written by Elaine Henderson. It tells of her turbulent journey through the care system and her struggle to discover who she truly is, amidst secrecy and deception. This true story is all the more poignant because of it happening in our community; it will definitely make you think hard about the way society treats the vulnerable – especially our children. Elaine has written from the heart and this book will make anyone who reads it feel that she can achieve anything after what she’s been through. A very inspiring read.

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The Inside City Blogtour

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As India hurtles towards Partition, in Lahore’s ancient inside city, Amrau Dar is not thinking about politics. She is waiting for a prediction about her son, Awais, to come true. Awais discovers not a secret garden but a secret city and his beloved sister, Maryam, discovers the world of maths. Fearing that the prediction has gone wrong, Amrau takes a series of decisions that will change all their lives.

The Inside City is a bold and vivid evocation of times and places on the fringes of our memories; a multi-patterned screen that reveals, through the secrets, mysteries, loves and tragedies of a multitude of characters, the inner life of a nation. A compelling and hugely entertaining debut.’ – Aamer Hussein, author of Another Gulmohar Tree

‘Brimming with compassion’ – Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Anita Mir’s novel just GOT me. I read it from cover to cover on a hot sunny Sunday and it promptly zoomed it into my top reads of 2019. 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 Easter break.

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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 set in the distant and exotic setting of Lahore made me desperate to read it. Last weekend saw me reclining on the decking in the garden totally immersed in this immersive and gripping story and engrossed in this beautifully realised world.

 

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The writing is superb, capturing tiny details that immerse you in the gorgeous setting and wonderful world of Lahore and explore it alongside Awais and see if the prophecies given to his mother, Amrau come true – wondering how things will change for them after he discovers the lost 13th gateway of the city and what lies behind it.

The Inside City’s delicate use of language allows us into Awais’ world, finding out fragments of information about the prophecy – which this is a tantalising way to ensure that we keep on reading to find out exactly what will transpire in the turbulent and often dangerous world of partition-era Lahore. It was interesting to discover that Anita Mir has also written drama– but this definitely goes a long way to explaining how accurately she conveys the dialogue in this novel and her portrait of a unique city is wonderfully done as a fascinating and compelling backdrop to their story.

Maryam his sister was my favourite character and I loved the way this novel has a colourful cavalcade of characters which spreads the world of Lahore at your feet and makes you feel like you are experiencing this beautiful but turbulent city yourself vicariously. I also loved the way that Anita Mir keeps lots of the ramifications of the prophecy and the decisions that have been made only gradually revealed to us to draw us into the story and keep turning the pages, immersed within Amrau, Maryam and Awais’ 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 Anne Cater & Unbound for the copy. I have just the friend to gift it to now that I’ve finished and I know that she’ll love it just as much as I did. 

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

Look out for the other stops on the blog tour and treat yourself to a copy in order to experience this beautifully realised world for yourself

Buy yourself a copy here

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Writer On The Shelf

Anita Mir Author pic

Anita was born in Lahore, Pakistan and came to England when she was four. She grew up in County Durham and Wales, and it was only when she moved to Lahore with her family in her late teens that it hit her that mornings weren’t supposed to be pitch black. Pakistan was a shock. And she stayed in shock. Is perhaps still in shock. But it was also love at first sight. Lahore Lahore hai/ Lahore is Lahore. Yep. Another thing that doesn’t quite translate.

Straight out of university, she applied for a job at a newspaper and for some strange reason, got it. Most of her work there was on human rights issues, particularly those pertaining to religious minorities and women. Her lighter pieces she wrote under a pseudonym, which, seven years later, her boss told her she d spelt wrong.

From journalism, she ambled into development work. The best of her development work was when she was privileged to head two emergency programmes.

Anita kept on coming back to England then to Pakistan then…and one day (still plan-less), just stuck it out in London.

She writes fiction and plays, has had two shorts on (The Space and Soho), been longlisted for several prizes (The Bruntwood, the Soho/Verity Bargate, the Old Vic 12), and had a short story published this year in New Welsh Review . She likes hearing her director friends tell her, Any minute, you re going to break through . In her more reflective moments, of which there are now few, she wonders what she s supposed to break through to. And if, when she does, she ll like it.

Anita lives in the un-trendy part of East London and when not teaching, can be found playing basketball with her boy, or else, pouring over Lego instructions with the zeal of someone who s going to grow up to be a YouTube star.

Call Me Star Girl Blog tour

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Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

 

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I was so excited to receive Star Girl for two reasons: the first being that I absolutely adored The Lion Tamer Who Lost and  Maria in the Moon. Louise Beech is the Queen of writing novels that genuinely make me unable to leave my chair or answer my phone so I could not wait to get started. Once I began reading it, I had to avoid Twitter as I did not want to read anyone else’s blog posts until I’d finished the novel for myself as I wanted it to be an experience just for myself, not affected by anyone else’s ideas or reactions.

Call Me Star Girl was absolutely every bit as good as Louise’s other novels and I couldn’t wait for my spot on the blog tour to tell everyone that this is a book that you should definitely be moving to the top of your TBR if you haven’t devoured it already. Thank you so much to Anne Cater for providing me with another stunning read that I cannot stop telling people about as this is definitely a Five Star Read!

The other reason that I was so excited to receive Call Me Star Girl as that for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved late night radio shows. When I was a student, I listened to them as I wrote essays and revised for exams and when I was in a long-distance romance I listened to them on long car trips as I drove across the miles. I feel like when you are up late at night and the world is silent all around you, you often feel like the radio presenter is talking just to you and you’re the only person awake in the world.

When I heard that Louise’s new book had a late night broadcast at its heart, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and I can tell you that I devoured this book during my Easter break without stopping. Even though I was relaxing in gorgeous Comrie, Call Me Star Girl transported me to a darker place and held me there as I was so lost in its twisty depths…

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Louise Beech has a unique talent for immersing us completely within the human psyche of the characters she creates. She doesn’t shy away from shocking and disturbing the reader and her books are definitely not for people who want a cosy story with lovable characters and straightforward motivations.

Where other writers might create characters with charming backstories and happy endings, Louise paints electrifyingly vivid pictures of characters who present you with your innermost fears, and challenge you to imagine how you might react in similar circumstances – if you dare…

Once more, in her trademark style, we hear about this complex and intriguing story from more than just one angle which makes for an intriguing read that really keeps the pace up and makes sure that the reader is permanently on their toes, turning the pages as we are transported across the airwaves into the late night office of Stella to become one of her late night listeners as you read…

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Stella’s voice captures you and pulls you right into the story when a listener dials in and reveals that a young girl has been murdered in the vicinity of her radio station. The theme is ‘Secrets’ and Stella wants her listeners to dial in with some secret confessions of her own – hoping that the murderer themselves will be tempted to call in with a live online confession explaining exactly why Victoria had to die…

I absolutely loved Call Me Star Girl. I am committed to no spoilers, so this was a really difficult task as I really want you to have the same immersive experience as I did whilst lost in this fabulous and gripping read. Gripping is a word that gets thrown about far too lightly these days, but I guarantee that you’ll agree with my verdict once you’ve read Call Me Star Girl for yourself! This genre is Louise’s first foray into the thriller genre and I’m delighted to say that she’s in her element. It just shows how stunningly talented she is that it seems that no matter what genre, she absolutely nails it!

The impeccable taste of Karen Sullivan means that Orenda novels are so many bloggers’ absolute go-to novels when they want a ‘can’t put you down’ read  This is not a novel for the faint of heart: it doesn’t let up on the tension and you’re holding your breath in the same way as I’m sure so many of Stella’s listeners would have been doing as she broadcast this gripping episode on air.  Louise Beech is amazingly skilled at making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and literally catch your breath as you re-read – speechless at what you’ve just been exposed to – and I can’t get enough of her writing.

Call Me Star Girl is a bit like one of my favourite small-batch gins: full of depth, so many elements skilfully blended together and difficult to put down once you’ve started. I’m a huge fan and I am really looking forward to seeing where this fabulously versatile writer goes in her next novel. If for some reason, you’ve not read Call Me Star Girl yet- what are you waiting for? If you like dark fiction, fabulous characterisation and a unique take on the way that the past and the present can collide in ways you never expected then you’ll be an absolute convert

Buy yourself a copy here

 

I wish that I lived closer to Sheffield for this event – if you are in the vicinity, get your ticket booked. It’s sure to be an absolutely amazing night.

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Writer On The Shelf

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her next book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Maria in the Moon was compared to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, and widely reviewed. All three books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. Her last book, The Lion Tamer Who Lost, was shortlisted for the Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction award at the 2019 Romantic Novel Awards.

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.

Follow Louise on Twitter: she also has an excellent website. \

Details of Louise’s books can be found on her Amazon author  page or via the Orenda Books website.

 

Amazing Reviews Below:

With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

‘A complex and layered tale that charmed me as a much as it traumatised me. An atmospheric, haunting and beautifully written page turner!’ C L Taylor

‘It’s a slow burn at first until it twists and turns at a head-staggering rate to a devastating climax. Original, moody and totally gripping’ Claire Allan

‘Louise Beech blasts into the world of thriller writing with this moody and tense tale. With secrets, lies and plenty of twisty turns, it’s story is dark and it’s setting eerie and evocative. Definitely one where you might look over your shoulder more than once while reading!’ Fionnuala Kearney

‘An original story and beautifully written, so atmospheric … Dark, mesmerising and utterly devastating’ SJI Holliday

‘Beech has used her unique flair and constructed a crime fiction story that will have you frantically turning the pages until you get to the end’ Michael Wood

‘It’s EXTRAORDINARY – tense, twisted and utterly compelling, written with such raw beauty and unflinching honesty’ Miranda Dickinson

‘A change in direction of genre but one that pays off – it effortlessly retains Louise’s inimitable voice. A thriller with heart, passion and twists that will surprise even the most astute readers’ John Marrs

‘That bloomin’ Louise Beech again has left me feeling the hugest lump in my throat, put me through the emotional wringer & tested me mentally – utterly LOVED this book! So chilling, so clever, so … perfect!! The Quiet Knitter

Call Me Star Girl is tense and gripping, powerful and shocking – a tale of love and loss. It’s dark and twisty, yet also packed with passion and raw emotion’ Off-the-Shelf Books

‘Louise has managed to create a story that leaves a powerful and lasting impression, I finished the book several hours ago and can’t stop thinking about my favourite scenes!’ Made Up Book Reviews

’This story is full of twists and turns which definitely took me by surprise, right up to the end. Louise Beech brilliantly ramps up the tension and maintains an unsettling atmosphere throughout the book … A dark story about secrets and the things people will do for love, this would make an excellent film I feel’ Portobello Book Blog

The Red Gene – Blog Tour

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When Rose, a young English nurse with humanitarian ideals, decides to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, she is little prepared for the experiences that await her.

Working on one front after another, witness to all the horrors of war, she falls in love with a Republican fighter, Miguel. In 1939 as defeat becomes inevitable, Rose is faced with a decision that will change her life and leave her with lasting scars.

Interspersed with Rose’s story is that of Consuelo, a girl growing up in a staunchly Catholic family on the other side of the ideological divide. Never quite belonging, treated unkindly, she discovers at a young age that she was adopted but her attempts to learn more about her origins are largely thwarted.

It falls to the third generation, to Consuelo’s daughter Marisol, born in the year of Franco’s death and growing up in a rapidly changing Spain, to investigate the dark secrets of her family and find the answers that have until now eluded her mother.

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I read this fantastic read during my Easter Break where I had plenty of time to immerse myself in its fascinating story. It was really gripping and I absolutely fell for its charms;  this book provided me with much food for thought about this turbulent time in Spanish history.

The Red Gene is a fascinating and immersive read, describing the lives of English nurse,  Rose and Consuelo who exists on the other side of this turbulent period in history and their tales criss-cross as war tears the country apart. It is a time period that I don’t really know that much about and I love this kind of novel, where I finish it and end up on Google for hours, researching all of the events in the book and looking at maps and photos of the real settings and events that have been portrayed in its pages.

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‘Quite simply, this is an enthralling novel with real historical heft.’ – Judith Keene

‘This is a touching tale of motherhood under pressure: of love, loss and reparation… a fascinating read’ – Jane Sullivan

‘An evocative story of Spain set against the background of civil war and its aftermath.’ – John Simmons, author of Spanish Crossings

This gripping novel takes us back in time to 1939, where Rose falls for the charms of freedom fighter, Miguel far from the safety and certainties of home. Love blooms amidst the turbulence of war but little does Rose know what fate will have in store for them as the war rages on around them. I loved the character of Rose and I found it easy to connect with her as she battles to overcome the many obstacles that she has to endure in the traumatic situation they find themselves in. The decisions that she makes have enormous ramifications for herself and for others and you cannot fail to be moved as you read on and imagine yourself in her situation.

 

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I really love a novel where you explore events from more than one perspective.  I think that Lamplugh is equally skilled at portraying the characters of  Rose and Consuelo and their characters both spring to life for the reader as you get so involved in their stories. Lamplugh paints a vivid portrait of their struggles to survive in a dangerous and unpredictable time in history. I hate including spoilers so all I’ll say is that Rose’s idealism definitely puts her in situations in this historical period where going with your heart rather than your head can put you in situations that we can’t even imagine and there are several tense moments when your heart will definitely be in your mouth.

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The way that this epic novel brings the horror and anguish of war and its effects on human lives so vividly to life on the page made me totally lose myself as I luxuriated in this read over Easter. I just couldn’t tear myself away from the suffering that was endured by so many people at this time in Spain and even though Lamplugh pulls no punches, her descriptions are moving rather than disturbing as she opens your eyes to a war that you might not know very much about. The fact that my friend has a family connection with these events lent The Red Gene an added poignancy for me and made me realise that even though this is a novel, the stories it tells were very much a reality for thousands of Spanish people and their sympathisers – who found themselves trapped in a conflict that they were powerless to do anything about.

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If you love a historical read that brings moral dilemmas vividly to life and enjoy being totally immersed in a powerful and vivid narrative then you’ll love The Red Gene It’s a powerful story and I found myself quite emotional as it drew to a close, knowing as I did that even though Rose and Consuelo were fictional characters, they’d really lived for me whilst I was lost in the book.  I will definitely look out for more from Barbara Lamplugh as the balance of historical detail, wonderful characterisation and emotional punch was a winning combination for me.

I would like to thank Kelly Lacey for inviting me to participate in the blog tour – I think that The Red Gene looks fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie and  I’ll definitely be looking out for the other blog posts to see what my fellow bloggers thought of this emotional and memorable tale.

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Writer On The Shelf 

Barbara Lamplugh

Barbara Lamplugh was born and grew up in London. An experienced traveller, she described her journeys in ‘Kathmandu by Truck’ and ‘Trans-Siberia by Rail’ published by Roger Lascelles.

In 1999, spurred by the challenge of living in a different culture, she headed for Granada in Spain, where she still lives, inspired by views of hills and the Alhambra from her sunny terrace.

A regular features writer for the magazine ‘Living Spain’, she has also written for ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Times’ and published her first novel Secrets of the Pomegranate in 2015.

Buy yourself a copy here

#Barbara Lamplugh

#LoveBooksGroupTours

The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails: A Spirited Journey Through Suburbia’s Hidden Tiki Temples

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A Spirited Journey Through Suburbia’s Hidden Tiki Temples

Come and explore suburbia’s hidden tiki temples with Kelly and Tom, and sample more than 150 of their original tropical cocktails.

These fabulous recipes are the result of the couple’s time spent bartending at home tiki bars during the craft cocktail revolution.

Discover their unique riffs on tropical classics as well as original concoctions, plus recipes for home-made syrups, including ancho chilli, lemongrass, sesame, hibiscus and more.

Every cocktail recipe has been crowd-tested at home bars across the USA and is accompanied by full-page photos, artwork by Tiki Tony, and glamour shots of some of the coolest home tiki bars around.

The most exciting and glamorous cocktail book in years is The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails: A Spirited Journey Through Suburbia’s Hidden Tiki Temples which is the culmination of decades of work by Southern California mixologist Kelly “Hiphipahula” Reilly who co-wrote the gorgeous and luxurious cocktail ‘bible’  with longtime home bartending partner in crime Tom Morgan.

The Home Bar Guide to Tropical Cocktails is an amazing insight into this world from a real insider –  Over the years, she’s probably met the creme de la creme of the California Tiki community at major events including Tiki Caliente,

If you like a gorgeous tropical treat then this is the book for you. If you follow me on social media then you know that I love a cocktail almost more than anything. When I hit a bar, I spend ages on the cocktail list, carefully selecting the most interesting and eclectic one I can find. Here is my favourite bar in Glasgow- The Tiki Bar and Kitsch Inn

You can see why I think it’s so cool as there’s nowhere else quite like it for sipping an amazing drink in the coolest surroundings in town…

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Laid out inside for your delectation are 150 original recipes that were served in legendary home bars, such as Kirby’s Rumpus Room in Los Angeles, plus stunning and decadent photos of these secret tiki palaces

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These cocktails were always just something that I’d be able to enjoy on an expensive night out before – but no longer! This fabulous book provides you with the confidence, inspiration and expertise to have your own Tiki-Tastic night at home and enjoy some fabulously exotic beverages without that expensive bar bill to pick up at the end of the night!

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Whatever your chosen tipple, you’ll find something deliciously decadent in these pages – I’m a rum cocktail lover myself so I was spoiled for choice with all the delicious drinks on offer. The last few days have been so scorching that there’s been no excuse not to look out that Hawaiian shirt and bring a touch of Hula magic to your own front room.

Included among the 150 cocktail recipes are several created specifically for the book, plus the secrets to making decadent syrups such as ancho chili, lemongrass, sesame, and hibiscus.

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The instructions are fun, quirky and easy to follow and left me feeling much more confident about mixing myself something fancy to sip out on the decking. I’m no great shakes ( !) normally at cocktail making, but I feel like I’ve been able to seriously update my game through using this book and am definitely able to hold my own when shaking up something tropical wen the sun goes down

Venture down to your basement Bali Hai, Rumpus Room, or backyard Bora-Bora and let us help you mix a tropical vacation!

Buy yourself a copy here