book review · dual timeline · historical fiction · WWII

Book Review – The Chalky Sea (No Woman is an Island)

No Woman is an Island (Pandora’s Boxed Set #1) includes books by Liza PerratLinda GillardLorna FergussonClare Flynn and Helena Halme 

I’ll be reviewing each book in turn; this time it’s book #4, The Chalky Sea: An epic story of war’s impact on ordinary people (The Canadians Book 1) by Clare Flynn

Book Description

Two troubled people struggle to find their way in a turbulent world.
In July 1940, Gwen Collingwood drops her husband at the railway station, knowing she may never see him again. Two days later her humdrum world is torn apart when the sleepy English seaside town where she lives is subjected to the first of many heavy bombing attacks.

In Ontario, Canada, Jim Armstrong is debating whether to volunteer. His decision becomes clear when he uncovers the secret his fiancée has been keeping from him. A few weeks later he is on a ship bound for England.

Gwen is forced to confront the truth she has concealed about her past and her own feelings. Jim battles with a bewildering and hostile world far removed from the cosy life of his Canadian farm. War brings horror and loss to each of them – can it also bring change and salvation? 

From the author of The Pearl of Penang, this sweeping, epic story, is the first in a series of three novels which explore how war – and its aftermath – dramatically changes lives.

My Review

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and, once again, have loved reading this one.

Amazon UK Purchase link

The story starts in 1940; WWII has begun and with it national conscription. Gwen must say goodbye to her husband, Roger as he leaves for a role that will mean she’ll never know where he is or if he is safe. As someone who, from an early age, has pushed down her emotions, she comes across as quite aloof in her goodbye but later the reasons behind her buttoned-up front are made clear. She’s carrying a lot of guilt and, for that reason alone, she has spared the suffering of others. It’s just who she is. But muddling on soon gets her down, a big house to look after and little to occupy her waking hours, she joins the WVS and begins to see the impact of war through the eyes of those who have far less yet seem to value what they do have so much more, especially when it comes to their family and friends.

Across the pond, in Ontario, Jim is a farmer who loves his fiancée and since Canada has not yet been drawn into the war, he simply gets on with his life much to his father’s joy – a man who fought in The Great War and doesn’t want to see his sons embroiled in the new conflict. But when Jim learns of the relationship between his brother and fiancée, he no longer feels he can live out the war on the farm and, telling no one, he signs up and joins a Canadian battalion heading for England. Anything to put the shock of betrayal behind him, he doesn’t even care if he lives or dies.

The Canadian battalion, however, sees no action at all for many months, and Jim becomes disillusioned. Even more so when his brother turns up, now married to Jim’s former fiancée. Fortunately, Jim already has friends to rely on, and based in Aldershot, he is drawn out of the doldrums and to a local dance to support Greg, already enamoured with Ethel. Feeling like a gooseberry, Jim is left to “accompany” Ethel’s friend, Joan … and so begins a relationship fraught with misunderstandings and jerk reactions.

Meanwhile in Eastbourne, Gwen has lost her only staff, and has invited a young mother and her two children to move into the big house after their home is destroyed in a bombing blitz along the coast. It’s the beginning of an awakening for Gwen; life with Pauline and her kids opens Gwen’s eyes and heart to the joys and pain of family life during the war years. Class barriers are broken down to reveal real people with real issues and a real, gritty determination to survive.

When Jim’s battalion is posted to Eastbourne, he’s hopeful of a playing a proper role in the war only to find he is billeted at Gwen’s house and, unbeknownst to him, robbed her of a job translating radio messages, a job that has given Gwen a true sense of being useful and of contributing to the war effort. They don’t immediately hit it off as a result, but soon tensions thaw.

But the war obviously ends, and life must return to some kind of normality. Gwen expects Roger to return and Jim contemplates whether to return to Canada, but not before an old face from Aldershot requires him to return and tie up some loose ends with Joan. I’m so pleased this book has a sequel, as I want to know what happens to Jim and Gwen. Their stories are so very different, yet share a common thread. Their futures now look to be very different again, but not in any way either of them could have envisioned before the war.

Flynn’s descriptive writing beautifully brings the region alive and the sea’s mood compliments the dilemmas faced by the characters. There are certain aspects of the relationships that are quite easy to predict but I enjoyed how the author unravelled the details. A great read and a real saga to be enjoyed.

Finally, I’ll be reviewing the wonderfully titled Coffee and Vodka by Helena Halme (not sure when that will happen, but it will happen) If you’re interested in the other books in this collection, please take a look for yourself … and, enjoy!



Pandora’s Boxed Set #1

Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. 5 international women authors showcase 5 unforgettable novels.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure. Netty is right.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.


As always,

fantasy · historical fiction · time travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Amber Crane

Book information: The Amber Crane by Malve von Hassell

  • Purchase link: http://mybook.to/TheAmberCrane
  • Genre:  Historical fantasy, time travel
  • Print length: 264 pages
  • Age range: Suitable for adults and teenagers
  • Trigger warnings: No graphic violence but references to the Holocaust, fatal shootings of prisoners during a death march, a reference to a rape, and suicide references
  • Amazon Rating: 5*

About The Amber Crane

Chafing at the rules of the amber guild, Peter, an apprentice during the waning years of the Thirty Years’ War, finds and keeps a forbidden piece of amber, despite the risk of severe penalties should his secret be discovered.

Little does he know that this amber has hidden powers, transporting him into a future far beyond anything he could imagine. In dreamlike encounters, Peter witnesses the ravages of the final months of World War II in and around his home. He becomes embroiled in the troubles faced by Lioba, a girl he meets who seeks to escape from the oncoming Russian army.

Peter struggles with the consequences of his actions, endangering his family, his amber master’s reputation, and his own future. How much is Peter prepared to sacrifice to right his wrongs?

Praise for The Amber Crane

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Amber Crane seamlessly blends historical aspects with polarizing, relatable characters. The plot is twisting and unpredictable, leaving me in suspense throughout the story. With an ending that will leave any reader satisfied, The Amber Crane is a book I truly couldn’t put down. Amazon Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Amber Crane is a well paced and truly engaging coming of age story filled with adventure, mystery, intrigue, and romance. This superbly crafted novel successfully weaves together elements of historical fiction and science fiction fantasy to portray how its young heroes face challenges and overcome adversity in a sophisticated narrative spanning three centuries and two devastating wars. Highly recommended! Amazon review

About the Author

Malve von Hassell was born in Italy and spent part of her childhood in Belgium and Germany before moving to the United States. She is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. 

Working as an independent scholar, she published The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). 

She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell’s memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich – Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). 

She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. 

She has self-published a children’s picture book, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (2020) and 2020) and her translation and annotation of a German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsay, Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (Two Harbors Press, 2012). 

The Falconer’s Apprentice (namelos, 2015) was her first historical fiction novel for young adults. As well as The Amber Crane, she has published Alina: A Song for the Telling (BHC Press, 2020), set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades, and is currently working on a biographical work about a woman coming of age in Nazi Germany.

My Review

I’m rather fond of a dual timeline or the occasional time-slip novel, but this story attracted me for other reasons. A) For its diverse location, B) for its focus on an era I’m totally unfamiliar with and C) for the enchanting tale that unites those eras.

Peter, an apprentice to an Amber Guild Master, dreams of becoming a Master one day but worries he will never be put forward to take the exam that will prove him skilled enough to start the journey towards becoming a professional amber craftsman. Amber is such a precious commodity and he loves working with it but making rosary beads is not the challenge he strives for. Against all the rules imposed on society in 1644, he’s not even allowed to source amber from the beach. But temptation comes his way and he cannot resist. He even spends the night-time hours crafting something for his sister, who he truly wants to help and protect but knows not how.

When his secret amber possession transports him in his dreams to 1944, a time when the world is at war once more, he is engrossed by Lioba, a young girl who is trying to get back to her parents’ home amid the dangers of Nazi occupation and the risk to her life. As much as Peter wants to better himself in his own time, he can’t help but want to follow Lioba in hers.

Comparisons between the two time periods highlight the impact and futility of war, but Peter learns some invaluable lessons, none so important than learning The Thirty Years War will soon end. This gives him hope for the future he wants, but also leaves him worried about the responsibilities that will fall upon him.

Throughout, his crafting of an amber heart (illegally) for his sister keeps him going, and the final product does appear to bring her some joy and peace, although Peter is unaware of the extent of this until it’s almost too late. His attention has already turned to crafting a crane from the rest of his amber stash, an act that is both risky and yet sublimely entrenched into the narrative as to form an unbreakable and beautiful connection between his present era and Lioba’s future existence.

A gripping tale, fraught with danger and hope, exploring life in two eras three hundred years apart. Peter’s daily thoughts about his friends and family, about injustice and conflict perfectly translate into the future, making him both relatable and likable. The historical narratives blend together effortlessly, bound by the beauty and enigma of the amber gemstone. As historical fiction, it’s a story of two young people living through war; as historical fantasy, it’s a story of two young people only able to connect by the magic of amber. It’s such an easy read to get wrapped up in with an ending that is heartwarmingly moving. Well-paced, engaging and vividly written. Highly recommended!

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
book review · dual timeline · historical fiction

Book Review – The Chase (No Woman is an Island #3)

No Woman is an Island (Pandora’s Boxed Set #1) includes books by Liza PerratLinda GillardLorna FergussonClare Flynn and Helena Halme 

I’ll be reviewing each book in turn, this time it’s The Chase by Lorna Fergusson

Book Description

Le Sanglier: an old house buried deep in the woods of the Dordogne, a region steeped in dark history.

Gerald Feldwick buys Le Sanglier as a refuge. He tells his wife Netty that in France they can start afresh – they can escape the unbearable pain of the event that has fractured their marriage. He tells her they can put the past behind them.

Netty is not so sure.

Netty is right.

Daphne du Maurier meets Joanne Harris in this richly evocative drama with a Gothic edge.

My Review

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, this being the third book in what has been a fabulous collection so far.

For me, The Chase was not as engaging as the previous books in the collection mainly because I simply couldn’t get to grips with the gothic element of the dual timeline narrative. That said, the language was very moody and evocative which would no doubt appeal to more experienced readers of gothic tales.

The more modern story was, however, something I could get immersed in. That too came by way of a tragic event which saw Gerald and Netty Feldwick sell their Oxford home and make the move to France, to a region heaped in both history and British homeowners. On a whim, and without consulting his wife, Gerald bought an old rundown place known as Le Sanglier, having convinced himself that the only way for the couple to survive their personal family trauma was to remove themselves from everything and everyone they knew. To be honest, he came across as somewhat pompous and annoying, but with Netty’s best interests at heart (as long as they matched his own).

Le Sanglier was not to Netty’s taste, and I couldn’t blame her for that. It felt like the sort of place that would suck joy out of anyone if they stuck around long enough, clearly a place with its own character and will. After much money being spent on renovations, parts of the house became less foreboding, but there was little there to give it the homely vibe Netty sought. In so much darkness, finding any lightness proved challenging.

Before long, Gerald had to return to Oxford to help out his former business partner, and it was during this time that Netty’s new acquaintances came to the forefront. And what a diverse bunch they were: a former Cambridge academic and a party-going artist with a double-barrelled name and links to the British nobility. Not Netty’s usual circle, that’s for sure. She did find some level of friendship with a neighbour, Claudine, a French aristocrat, but even that seemed hesitant and fragile. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Netty. Gerald’s absence saw them both act somewhat foolishly, giving each of them yet more secrets to hide which, in due course, further alienated them from each other.

The overriding theme, for me, was that actions have consequences. Even when taken out of their ordinary lives, there was a clear void between Gerald and Netty, and their neighbours (new and old) were instrumental in exposing how far apart they had grown. Overall, neither one was more considerate of the other, but there were times that gave hope for them as a couple. The question was whether either of them wanted that, and whether the move to France helped or hindered.

I enjoyed aspects of this story, and felt the author handled the Feldwick’s tragic past with sensitivity. Of course, I wish I’d engaged more with the historical elements of the French house, especially since it was clearly written with knowledge and passion. Readers more in tune with gothic themes will surely get more from it than did I.

3 Stars.

Amazon UK Purchase link

Next time, I’ll be reviewing The Chalky Sea by Claire Flynn. If you’re interested in the other books in this collection, please take a look for yourself … and, enjoy!



Pandora’s Boxed Set #1

Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. 5 international women authors showcase 5 unforgettable novels.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure. Netty is right.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.


As always,

book blitz · Christmas · Contemporary Romance · Giveaways · holidays · romantic comedy

Book Blitz – Cole For Christmas (with giveaway)

ColeForChristmas copy

Meddling relatives, mistletoe, and holiday romance? It’s the whole package wrapped with a big shiny bow! Read on for more details about Cole for Christmas by Janet Raye Stevens! There’s also a $20 Amazon gift card to win!

ColeForChristmas_500x750

Cole for Christmas

Publication Date: October 26th, 2021

Genre: Holiday Romance

They cant say no to the mistletoe!

Easy going event coordinator Katy Wilkins is called in to sub for her perfectionist sister at a Christmas Eve wedding in Portland, Maine. Nice guy chef Cole St. Onge takes over from his temperamental boss for the same event.

The problem? Each thinks the other is their prickly counterpart and anticipate fireworks when they meet. But it’s the sparks that fly between them that’s unexpected—and unwelcome. Katy’s skittish after a bad breakup; left at the altar, Cole’s sworn off women for good. They both vow to do their job and stay out of each other’s way.

That plan goes awry as troubles mount. A sudden nor’easter blows in, forcing guests to stay home. Mix in a stressed-out bride, an accident-prone groom, a power outage, Katy’s deejay ex making trouble, a matchmaking grandma, and lots and lots of mistletoe, and what’s supposed to be a magical holiday affair fast becomes a Christmas disaster.

Forced to team up to put out the many fires, the blaze between Cole and Katy burns brighter as the evening wears on. Can they ignore their growing attraction and keep their relationship strictly professional? Or will they give in to the mistletoe and say I do to a Christmas kiss that promises more to come in the new year?

If you love a sweet and funny Christmas romance with a dash of mistaken identity, then this delicious holiday treat is for you!

Add to Goodreads

Available on Amazon

About the Author

janet-raye-stevens-bio-shot

Janet Raye Stevens grew up surrounded by, buried under, and tripping over books. Her mother defined the term voracious reader, and Janet eagerly followed in her footsteps, haunting every book store, bookmobile and public library within a 50 mile radius.

At the age of 10, Janet decided she wanted to do what the authors of the books she loved did –write. Her first story was for a class assignment, “The Day My Teacher Wore a Miniskirt to School.” She got a C minus. She also got a lot of laughs, and that was all the encouragement she needed to keep writing.

Janet lives with her family in New England, where she indulges in her hobbies of drinking copious amounts of tea, rearranging the kitchen cabinets so her husband can’t find anything, and creating fictional worlds populated with cool chicks and hot guys.

Janet Raye Stevens | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Click the link below for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Giveaway closes December 6th!

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book review · cosy · crime · recommended

Book Review – The Appeal

IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS
SOMEONE WAS MURDERED.
SOMEONE WENT TO PRISON.
AND EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists, and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel. 

Purchase link: Amazon UK

Add to Goodreads

About the Author

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat, a psychological thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Thandiwe Newton and Jamie Bell. The Appeal is her first novel.

My Review

Five Fabulous Stars

To say this book is unconventional in its format might make a reader walk away. If that’s you, then stop! Come back! I thought the same. A story told through emails, text messages, sticky notes and legal documents sounds like a lot of work for the reader, but it quickly becomes all-engrossing to the extent that you won’t be able to read one more message, then another and another until you’re so far in the only way out is by reading on.

It surprised me too. I’d seen so many dazzling reviews; they couldn’t all be wrong. And, trust me, they weren’t.

This witty thriller is giving Richard Osmond’s Thursday Murder Club a run for its money in the cosy crime stakes, as it continues to charm readers. Hallett’s debut, set in a sleepy town where an am-dram production of All My Sons is in the works, is funny and full of twists. Amateur sleuths and thespians alike will love it ― Evening Standard

This ingeniously conceived whodunnit encourages the reader to turn detective in a murder case set against the backdrop of an amateur dramatic club. Brain-twistingly clever ― Metro

[A] daring debut… Hallett will soon have you laughing out loud… The Appeal is clever and funny ― The Times


From the book’s description you learn that someone has been murdered and everyone is a suspect. Now, together with law students Femi and Charlotte, you get the chance to put the pieces together to find out what happened. Go!

The story runs alongside the performance of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons by an amateur dramatics group. Newcomers to the village are persuaded to attend the casting auditions as a way to get to know everyone. But before the casting is even decided, it’s revealed that the director’s granddaughter has brain cancer and treatment, although experimental, is only available in the US. Instantly, the group make plans to raise the necessary funds as they rehearse and perform the play. It’s the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child.
The family are the linchpin of the village, the people “you want to know” and by whom you want to be accepted. Being in that inner circle is, for many, a privilege, and offering to help with the fundraising a means to gain recognition with the “powers that be”.

The newcomers, however, do not have that sense of needing to be accepted and, perhaps, are the best eyes through which to watch events play out. They are encouraged to participate by Izzy, who for some reason has attached herself to them like a limpet, often volunteering to be a go-between for them. Izzy is hugely unaware of her “standing” within the community, and it seems ignorant of how she is perceived by others. Her actions are deeply amusing and sad. She seems to be super generous and thoughtful whilst also verging on annoying – you know the type, right? For me, she is a key character in bringing out the true personality of other characters. Their “tolerance” of her varies, creating some laugh-out-loud moments but not without episodes of cringeworthy desperation and frustration. What amazed me was how the author was able to bring out so many personality traits in the characters’ messages – from the straightforward, no nonsense tactlessness of some to the almost hero-worshipping of others. So refreshingly creative and effective. I couldn’t quite believe how absorbed I became in this story. Amid a tale of a family facing the ultimate challenge in saving the life of a young child to rumours of wrongdoings in Africa, it all comes together beautifully.

Without any spoilers, this is one very clever cosy mystery: witty, poignant, delightfully addictive, hugely satisfying, and (for once I’ll say this myself) unputdownable! I’ve already got the author’s next book on my Kindle and cannot wait for the right kind of rainy day to settle down and get stuck in. Easily one of my favourite books this year.

Enjoy!

As always,