book review · drama · family · historical · historical fiction · political · social history

Book Review – The Girl Behind The Wall

My favourite Historical Fiction book this year!

A city divided.
When the Berlin Wall goes up, Karin is on the wrong side of the city. Overnight, she’s trapped under Soviet rule in unforgiving East Berlin and separated from her twin sister, Jutta.
Two sisters torn apart.
Karin and Jutta lead parallel lives for years, cut off by the Wall. But Karin finds one reason to keep going: Otto, the man who gives her hope, even amidst the brutal East German regime.
One impossible choice…
When Jutta finds a hidden way through the wall, the twins are reunited. But the Stasi have eyes everywhere, and soon Karin is faced with a terrible decision: to flee to the West and be with her sister, or sacrifice it all to follow her heart?

Purchase link (publication date July 8th 2021)

My Review

Historical Fiction is one of my most favourite genres to read, and I’m a sucker for a WWII story. The Girl Behind The Wall, whilst set in Berlin, is not a war story since it takes place in the 1960s. However, the events of that day in 1961 when the Berlin Wall went up overnight has its roots very firmly set in the aftermath of WWII and the division of Berlin.

Identical twin sisters, Jutta and Karin, share an enviable thread that is about to be tested to its limits when Karin insists on travelling to the Eastern part of Berlin, despite not feeling so great. Normally, Jutta would have gone with her, but this time Karin can’t wait for her sister.

That night, their cousin, Hugo, an upcoming news reporter for the radio, hears rumblings of a story. He drags Jutta out with him to see what is going on, riding on his motorbike past all the checkpoints that mark the dividing line between East and West Berlin. Except the checkpoints are all closed and frenetic activity sees the making of a more permanent division, concrete and barbed wire split the city in two as the Berlin Wall goes up with Karin still in the East, after a ruptured appendix sees her hospitalised.

Jutta and the family in the West aren’t able to visit her but they can see no reason why she wouldn’t be allowed to return home once she recovers. Well, no reason other than the German Democratic Republic not granting her permission to leave – but they wouldn’t be so inflexible, would they? Hell, yeah.

When Karin recovers, her path to the West has been blocked and she has to accept the offer of her kind doctor to move in with him and his wife for the time being. Every step is considered temporary at first … until it not longer is.

Jutta is refused access to visit and Karin is refused permission to leave. The two young women who have never been apart are suddenly plunged into a new reality, never really understanding why their applications consistently fail. (The reason does become known eventually, but all too late for them)

Karin gets a job as a cleaner in the hospital, thanks again to the doctor, and has to come to terms with the fact that her life is now in East Berlin. Initially, she wants to leave, to go home to her family until she meets and falls in love with Otto, whose ambition is to rebuild East Germany from within as an architect. He has no real attachment to the West and only sees a future for him and his family – and Karin – in the East.

Jutta, from the other side of the Wall, is desperate to get her sister home, especially when letters aren’t getting through and telephone lines are down permanently. Her One day, when she is walking the length of the Wall, she hears the mewing of a cat and follows the sound to find a mother cat and her kittens in a deserted building that flanks the Wall. She gives the cat her lunch and explores a labyrinth of doors and rooms and ultimately a window that looks out into East Berlin.

She risks going over the window, checking carefully for any onlookers and lands with dusty knees in East Berlin, whereupon she heads for the hospital in the hope they know where Karin might now be. From here, the pace picks up as there is danger around every corner and Jutta’s paranoia reaches new heights. Even so, she continues, her desire to find her sister worth the risk.

A connection is made … but the reunion is a far cry from what Jutta expects. Karin is more alert to the dangers, but she also aware that her escape from the East could put those who looked out for her in danger too. And, of course, she has grown fond of Otto, too fond to consider a life without him.

Jutta, forlorn and disappointed, begs Karin to convince Otto to leave the East too and the two women meet up more often from then on. Jutta’s determination to bring Karin home knows no bounds, and she cannot understand why her sister might choose to stay with Otto than to return to her family.

It is not until Jutta finds love herself that she begins to understand, and while the two of them continue their very different lives, each time they meet up Jutta still hopes that Karin can persuade Otto to leave too.

The danger intensifies as Jutta is mistaken for Karin, and a familiar face keeps popping up which sets them both on edge. Have they been found out? Are they under surveillance? The mood is tense, and grows more unnerving with each visit. What began as two sisters divided by the Wall has now evolved into them having others in their lives that mean as much – if not more – to them than they do to each other. And for twins who have only really ever relied upon each other, it’s hard to accept, and even harder to admit to the other that other people are important to them too.

The Girl Behind The Wall is a story of decisions and sacrifices that threaten to tear a family apart. It’s emotional, tense, and highly addictive. So many families were broken up at this time, so many lives were lost as people attempted to flee, and so much mistrust and division was sown among communities as neighbours spied on neighbours. Thankfully, the Wall did come down eventually, but for so many it was too late. For Jutta and Karin, however, there was always hope and a thread between them that nothing could destroy.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Avon books and HarperCollins for my advanced copy of this book which I have reviewed voluntarily.

book review · psychological suspense · suspense · Uncategorized · women's fiction

Book Review – The Street Party

The party was supposed to be the highlight of the summer. If only I’d known that night would destroy our lives…

All the neighbours were laughing, drinking out of plastic glasses and getting along. I almost felt happy. Almost forgot about the terrible argument earlier and the sinister messages I’d been receiving from a strange address all week, threatening to expose the lies behind my perfect life.

As we finished with the red and gold fireworks and welcomed everyone back to our house, I believed that everything would be okay.

But I didn’t know who I was inviting in.

I never could have imagined what would happen here, in our home, after I’d gone up to bed.

Everyone saw something different.

It’s my daughter’s word against the story the boy from down the road is telling. But how can I find out what really happened that night without everyone finding out the truth about me?

Purchase Link

My Review

Honestly, this is a real slow-starter; I was halfway through the book before the street party events kicked in … and even further on before the real drama began. That said, there are a number of characters at play here, all wildly different and with their own baggage to bring to the party. Could those early chapters have been condensed? Probably. But having reached the end, I can say it was worth the wait.

The story focuses on a group of neighbours who live in the richest part of London – though not all can truly afford to be there. There are three women at the centre of the story

  • Nella (future politician’s wife with lofty aspirations and more money than sense, and a desire to be seen to be doing good)
  • Melissa (yoga queen and a very lovely stepmother but with an abusive husband)
  • Ruby (florist, widowed, lives with her son and is very much on the edge of Nella’s group of helpers)

Nella plans on holding a fundraiser – not only will it make her look benevolent, but it won’t harm her husband’s political campaign either. So, she rallies her “friends” around. Melissa is Nella’s yoga teacher, and also best friend to Ruby who for the life of her cannot she why she has been invited to the inner sanctum.

Nella’s rather handsome husband – Marcus – is keen to get Ruby involved too, and offers to help out with getting her son an internship. Why he would do that is a mystery to Ruby (Could it be because her son is mixed race? Would a politician really be that shallow? ) However, Ruby is quite taken with Marcus’s attention … only to find out she is not the only woman he’s playing.

So, when the party finally begins, it looks like a great success. Until the police call around at Ruby’s house the next morning to speak to her son. Allegations have been made that will rock their world, its implications extending into the wider community too. No one is safe from the after effects of what is purported to have happened that night.

The story is told from the three women’s alternating viewpoints as they come to terms with the aftermath. It calls upon them to reflect upon their own situation, their behaviour, and the kind of world they want their kids to inherit. But, of course, neither woman will air their dirty laundry in public, and so the conundrum continues as to what really happened that night. Who is telling the truth? Who is covering for whom?

The final third of the book lived up to its “unputdownable” billing, though I still wouldn’t class it as a psychological thriller, more along the lines of women’s fiction with a suspense vibe.

What I didn’t like – apart from the slow start – was the constant dribble of “something’s going to happen soon” references, but I loved how the author grounded the characters (Ruby, in particular) in modern British cultural references. Of the three women, Ruby certainly came across as the most relateable.

Who I didn’t like – Melissa’s husband and Nella’s daughter top the list for me, but I loved Fin, Melissa’s stepdaughter, and Ruby and her son. The “good” characters were far from perfect, but the “baddies” were awfully good at being bad.

If you can tolerate a slow start, then you’ll be rewarding with a speedy ending that will leave your head spinning.

As always

Amazon Reviewer Name

 

blog tour · book review · dual timeline · family · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Waiting to Begin

Waiting to Begin

From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a story that asks: what would you risk for a shot at happiness?

1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.

2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.

Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?

Purchase Linkhttp://bit.ly/WaitingToBegin_UK

Author Bio

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty seven novels and seven novellas have been published in dozens of languages around the world. Published by Lake Union, Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres. Her books, including the chart topping No.1 titles ‘What Have I Done?’, ‘Perfect Daughter’, ‘My Husband’s Wife’, ‘The Girl in the Corner’, ‘The Things I Know’ and ‘The Day She Came Back’ have sold millions of copies across the globe.

A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She also makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations including LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour. Described by the Daily Mail as ‘The queen of family drama’ Amanda’s novel, ‘A Mother’s Story’ won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award while ‘Perfect Daughter’ was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016.

Amanda’s ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can’t possibly read another book until the memory fades…

Praise for Amanda Prowse:


‘A powerful and emotional work of fiction’ – Piers Morgan
‘Deeply moving and emotional, Amanda Prowse handles her explosive subjects with delicate skill’ – Daily Mail
‘Uplifting and positive, but you will still need a box of tissues’ – Hello!
‘A gut-wrenching and absolutely brilliant read’ – The Irish Sun
‘You’ll fall in love with this…’ – Cosmopolitan
‘Deeply moving and eye opening. Powerful and emotional drama that packs a real punch.’ – Heat
‘Magical’ – Now magazine

Social Media Links –

Say hello on Twitter:  @MrsAmandaProwse

Friend me on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/AmandaProwseAuthor

Tag me on Instagram:  www.instagram.com/MrsAmandaProwse

Visit my Amazon Author Page:  Amanda Prowse Author  

Check out my website: www.amandaprowse.com

My Review

As a 16-year-old, Bessie has high hopes of a future travelling the world as an air stewardess. On the day she goes to collect her exam results, her world falls apart. It’s made even worse when she discovers she’s pregnant too. That’s it – her future is over. Or is it?

Some 37 years later, Bess is a mother of two with a secret. And that secret is threatening to blow her world apart for a second time … unless she can come to terms with what she did.

Waiting to Begin focuses on family relationships and, if I’m honest, I didn’t really gel with Bess. She struck me as someone with a chip on her shoulder and a little bit snobbish, which given that everything that happened to her was of her own making, meant she came across as not hugely likeable.

Her family, however, are just the nicest people. Her dad, in particular, brought tears to my eyes with just how lovely and normal and down-to-earth … and embarrassing 🙂 … he was. I guess this is the author’s great skill to portray a warts and all view of family life from many viewpoints.

The story moves between 1984 and the present day, with an excited Bessie looking forward to life. Then in the present day, Bess is less enthusiastic about her lot, she is no longer close to her brother (who kept her secret) and nor is she in touch with her one-time best friend, Michelle. Fortunately, the ending is wonderfully positive, tying up those loose ends and restoring calm in those erst-troubled waters.

I did feel for young Bessie but I also felt, at times, that she accepted no responsibility for her actions. Unaware of what had happened to their daughter, her parents continued to be the goofy, loving people they’d always been. Yes, they were flawed, but those flaws came with warmth and unconditional love.

The story tugs at the heartstrings many a times, but is equally funny and heartwarming. It shows how everything we go through makes us who we are, and that from failure and rejection comes strength and growth.

A story that evokes the whole range of emotions. You’ll laugh, cry, cheer and despair … but you’ll close the book feeling satisfied that all is well with the world. Sort of 😉

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blog tour · book review · crime · police procedural · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Preacher Boy

First in the Dr Harrison Lane series

Preacher Boy

IT’S TIME FOR A NEW CRIME MYSTERY HERO

Dr Harrison Lane is everything you wouldn’t expect from a man with a psychology doctorate. For victims, he’s everything they need.

They look, but they don’t see…

As Head of the Metropolitan Police’s Ritualistic Behavioural Crimes Unit, Dr Harrison Lane knows his Voodoo from his Aum Shinrikyo and a Satanist from a Shaman.

Harrison had an unusual childhood, raised by a bohemian mother and one of the native American Shadow Wolves – the elite tracking squad that works with US Drug enforcers. After his mother’s murder, he dedicated his life to tracking down those who hide behind spiritualism and religion to do evil.

Following the discovery of a missing boy’s body in what looks like a Satanic killing, Harrison is called in to help detectives. When a second boy is snatched, it becomes a race against time to save him, and sees Harrison come face-to-face with some dark secrets from his own childhood.

Preacher Boy is the first book in a gripping new crime mystery series from Amazon Top 20 bestselling author, Gwyn GB. Perfect for fans of LJ Ross, JD Kirk, J.R. Ellis, J M Dalgliesh, Rachel Abbott, Joy Ellis and David Blake.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Preacher-Boy-Harrison-mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08YYS3Q7L

US – https://www.amazon.com/Preacher-Boy-Harrison-mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08YYS3Q7L

Author Bio

Gwyn is an Amazon Top 20 bestselling author. She’s a former UK national TV newscaster and presenter, and journalist for national newspapers and magazines. Gwyn became a journalist because all she wanted to do was write and has finally realised her dream of being a full-time fiction author. Born in the UK, Gwyn now lives in the Channel Islands with her family, including a rescue dog and 17-year-old goldfish.

Gwyn launched her debut novel, Islands as Gwyn Garfield-Bennett in 2016, the romantic suspense book rose quickly into the Amazon top 20. Her first crime mystery series, featuring DI Falle, launched with Lonely Hearts in 2017.

You can find out more about Gwyn at www.gwyngb.com

Or on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GwynGBwriter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GwynGB

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gwyngb/

My Review

Dr Harrison Lane is about to become one of my new favourite crime-solving heroes. As an avid viewer of Criminal Minds and the Behavior Analysis Unit of the FBI, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to read this book. And while the BAU team includes many a fabulous character, there’s no-one quite like Dr Lane. He is an enigma to his colleagues with his unusual skills (as learnt whilst growing up among the Shadow Wolves, a group of Native American trackers who work to prevent smuggling along the Mexico-USA border in Arizona.) Not to mention, he has a mystery of his own to solve (that of his mother’s killer). Combined, he stands out as different. But if your loved one has been the victim of a murder, then he’s the one you’d want to hunt down the murderer.

The story features a number of great characters, many with their own personal issues that affect how they handle their job. The plot is clever and interesting as it evolves from a single murder to a serial killer case, requiring the police team to trust Lane’s judgement regardless of whether they understand or even agree with it.

I found the writing to be unusual, varying from most books I read these days in that it was more omniscient in style than viewpoint-driven, often in more than one character’s head in a scene. When even a nameless woman “with pulled back hair” got to have “thoughts” about the situation unravelling at the police station, it threw me out a little. But despite being that little bit different in storytelling style, the strength of the story and the cast of characters more than kept me engaged. I’ll be checking out the next book in the series for sure.

Preacher Boy is an intriguing mystery, not least for its leading man, but also as a result of the dynamics between the characters which drive the story forward at a good pace, while still thrilling the reader with its originality.

Highly recommended.

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Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviews on Amazon UK as MeandtheMutts
book review · family · psychological suspense · thriller

Book Review – Baby Dear

Caro and Jeff Horne seem to have it all until they learn that Jeff is infertile. Caro married Jeff because her biggest wish was to be a mother, and he had the means to give their children a better life than she’d had. Jeff, who is besotted with Caro, is terrified he will lose her now they can’t have a baby.

Across town, Sharon is eight months pregnant and unsure if she really wants to be a mother. Soon her world will collide with Jeff’s. He wants to keep Caro happy and decides that getting a baby is the only way.   

Then Caro is accidently drawn into an underworld of drugs…

Meanwhile, Jeff is increasingly desperate to find a baby – but what lengths is he prepared to go to?

Is Sharon in danger, and will Caro ever have the family she’s always dreamed of?

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My Review

Baby Dear is a story that takes a few chapters to grab your attention, by virtue of getting to know all the characters, but then it draws you into a fast-paced roller-coaster of emotions and uncertainty.

The story starts with Caro and Jeff attending an appointment at the hospital in the hope of understanding what it’ll take for them to conceive a child. The news isn’t good: Jeff is infertile. Of course, there are options, IVF for one, but the consultant doubts that will be successful. Caro rules out adoption as she wants to be pregnant and give birth to her own child; Jeff rules out a sperm donor. The two of them are at odds, and this even brings into question the state of their marriage.

Caro questions her future with Jeff now he can’t fulfil her dream of being a mother. Jeff questions his future with Caro if he can’t give her a baby.

The lines are drawn, and since neither of them actually seem capable of conversation, they both retreat into their own worlds, assessing how they can resolve the gaping hole in their lives.

Unlike Caro and Jeff, Sharon and Craig Morrison are nowhere near ready for the new baby that is about to change their lives forever. It’s not that they never discussed having kids, just not now. As the due date falls ever closer, Sharon tries to consider a life with a baby and manages to convince herself that maybe she can still have it all. Craig, however, is not even willing to talk about it and buries his head in the sand.

Single mother of two, Julie Mayhew adores her kids, they’re the light of her life and she can’t imagine being without them. After work at the library, she finds Sharon out of breath outside, and sits with her awhile to check the mother-to-be is OK. The two women strike up a friendship. Sharon’s friends aren’t parents, so she latches on to Julie, encouraged that this other woman manages two children and a job on her own.

These three families find themselves connected when Jeff takes matters into his own hands. That he is able to take things as far as he does is frightening and tragic. His wife is unaware of his behaviour until it’s too late. (To be honest, Caro dismissed him easily once she learnt he’d not be able to father a child, and her own obsession is what triggers Jeff into doing the unthinkable).

The story develops in those three viewpoints.

Sharon warms to the idea of being a mother and, once the child is born all her concerns fade away … until a creepy man brings her flowers.

Julie helps Sharon out when Craig is nowhere to be found, and their friendship blossoms. Julie’s own life seems to be taking a turn for the better with the promise of romance in the air, and her little boy, Sam, is just a delight.

And Caro, well she just seems to think of herself until a young teen is found dead in Julie’s library, overdosed on ecstasy and then she worries if she might have been responsible somehow. It might seem like an odd divergence from the main plot, but it allows her to reunite with her nephew, who has a pivotal part in the story as things escalate.

Their lives change forever as the reality of what Jeff does hits home. His dramatic breakdown stems from the moment he learnt of his infertility, and his wife’s indifference to him sends him into an abyss of dark thoughts and ultimately even darker actions as he tries to “fix” everything.

Emotions run high here, as tragedy strikes. But who will get their happy ending?

Enjoy!

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name

book review · family · suspense · thriller & crime

Book Review – The Vacation

The Vacation

by M.M. Chouinard

One of them is missing… One of them did it…

The Thanksgiving retreat was meant to be a time for them to get away from it all, miles from the secrets that threaten to tear their family apart. But they’re each hiding something:

Rose hopes the pretty house overlooking the sea is just the break her family needs. But as she gazes at the water and remembers her own childhood, she is utterly terrified.

Brandon knows his wife Rose has barely forgiven him for his affair. He’s started drinking again, a road that led him to disaster once before.

Brianna, Rose’s sister-in-law, is recovering from her fifth miscarriage, and when she looks at her adorable niece, she can’t help but see the daughter she deserves.

Then three-year-old Lily disappears from her bed in the villa. Isolated in what should have been paradise, it quickly becomes clear that one of them took her.

As one by one their secrets are uncovered, who will be destroyed next?

A completely addictive thriller about every parent’s worst nightmare that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. Perfect for fans of The Guest List, One by One and The Sister-in-Law.

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My Review

I’d seen so many great reviews about this book on Goodreads and Twitter starting with “WOW!” or “OMG!”, I had to check it out for myself. Billed as “utterly gripping”, The Vacation had a lot of hype to live up to … and, boy did it meet all those expectations and more.

From the first chapter, I was hooked and the pace didn’t let up. What was meant to be a fun and relaxing way to spend thanksgiving with family and close friends quickly unravelled to expose a plethora of secrets and resentments.

Rose had been worried about going to Jamaica with her two children, but her husband Brandon assured her it would be just the break they needed. And it seemed as though he was right, until midway through the holiday, after an evening of rum cocktails under a balmy breeze, Rose went to check on her sleeping kids. Jackson was snoring softly, his arm over his head when she checked on Lily, only to find the curtain billowing across the little girl’s bed.

It shouldn’t have been billowing though; the window had been shut last time she checked … but now it was open and Lily’s bed was empty. The nightmare scenario that had usurped her thoughts prior to them arriving in Jamaica had suddenly become a reality. Her three-year-old daughter was gone, just like those other little girls she’d spent hours reading about. Lily was missing. (It would be impossible not to draw comparisons here with the true story of Madeleine McCann, which made what happened all the more heartbreakingly believable)

After raising the alarm, Rose, Brandon and the others scoured the villa but there was no sign of her. When the police finally arrived, they assumed a ransom call would soon follow. It didn’t.

Accusations of lazy policing followed as there was no news of Lily’s whereabouts. Scrawlings on the wall outside Lily’s room suggested she’d been kidnapped, so why weren’t the police pulling out all of the stops to find her? Of course, Rose’s thoughts were blinded by fear for Lily’s wellbeing, so maybe blaming the police for inaction was understandable. Yet, the others in her party seemed to be doing the same. It made me wonder if that would prove to be a convenient smokescreen for someone)

When the police did find clues to what might have happened that night, they gathered all the adults together before sharing their information, watching each of them keenly for a reaction. It was voyeuristically addictive and had me biting my nails.

The story is told across multiple viewpoints – each of the adults had their own chapters – and from both the run-up to Lily’s disappearance and the investigation thereafter. This constant swapping kept the pace up; just as I thought I might read just one more chapter, the next viewpoint character’s chapter became more compelling. Inevitably, as each character’s backstory became known, so did they seem to have a motive. But surely none of them could have harmed Lily? Or could they?

As my suspicions bounced from one character to another, so did doubts form in their minds as they started to suspect each other. Though, mainly thanks to some clever manipulation, they soon began to question one of their group more than any other.

Jeez, writing this review without giving any spoilers is super hard 😉

Just when I thought I couldn’t be more on the side of the family, in came a curveball that had me praying for the police to turn up with all the answers. Was it too late? Would the truth be covered up forever? Oh my, the ending was frantic and sublime in equal measures. The clues were all there, but the way in which the author delivered those crumbs meant it was easy to miss them.

The Vacation was a book in which everyone came under suspicion. Full of page-turning suspense and very cleverly executed, this has to be one of my favourite book of the year so far.

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
book review · literary fiction

Book Review – The Bodies That Move

by Bunye Ngene

Finalist 2021 Next Generation Indie Book awards

“But what other options are available to you when you’re stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in a tiny dinghy other than to reflect on your life and how the decisions you made brought you there?”

The Bodies That Move tells the riveting story of a man who embarks on a journey in search of greener pastures.

Abandoned by his father as a child, Nosa is forced to bear the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. Seeing no future in Nigeria, he is persuaded by an old schoolmate to migrate to Europe. In order to achieve this, he employs the services of smugglers.

His journey takes him through many transit cities, safe houses and detention camps in Nigeria, Niger and war-torn Libya, and sees him cross the Sahara Desert. On his journey, he meets other travellers, each with unique stories. They are all united, however, by the desire for a better life in Europe.

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My Review

The story begins with Nosa stranded in a dinghy on the Mediterranean sea, heading for Italy in search of a better life for himself (and his family back in Nigeria). Alongside him are equally desperate passengers, none more so than a young woman willing life into the body of her dead baby. Instantly, the reader is aware of the risks these people are taking and how fortunate we are to have not faced such a struggle.

Then, the story heads back in time to explain and illustrate why and how Nosa ended up in that boat.

Nosa is an excellent student, top of his class, destined for great things. But coming from a single-parent family with little in the way of money, he’s immediately at a disadvantage even when it comes to simply progressing through the interview stages for a job at the bank – where, incredulously, a fee is required to permit him through despite his outstanding resumé.

Nosa is obliged to contact the father who left him and his mother many years, and who is now a wealthy man, albeit one who has played no part in his son’s life since. Contact made, and money for the fee acquired, Nosa learns from a ‘friend’ he met at the bank that he wouldn’t get the job anyway since it would be awarded to some rich man’s son, regardless of merit.

And so the journey to Europe becomes a reality. Of course, it’s not as simple as boarding a flight. Nosa will pass through many places, including detention centres, as well as being “sold” to work as a gardener before he can even get close to the ocean. He’ll travel through his home country, onto war-torn Libya, and across the Sahara desert beforehand. He’ll meet people from across the continent, some who are rejected partway through the journey as their agent (smuggler) has not paid for the full trip. He’ll go hungry, get beaten, and robbed. He’ll see women led away to be raped, men kicked to death, people abandoned in the desert, left to die. And many a time he’ll wonder if it will be worth it. But there’s no turning back.

The Bodies That Move is a most moving story, encapsulating the perils and exploitation that refugees must encounter to find that so-called better life. I found it to be a compelling read, filled with every emotional circumstance possible: friendships are formed and lost, hopes are raised then dashed, but despite everything there is a determination that keeps Nosa and those like him going.

An important story given the headlines we’re used to seeing, and one that paints the true picture of the human cost of these journeys, and the extent of the exploitation of those who feel they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone they know for a chance at a better life.

Highly recommended!

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts
book excerpt · dystopian · Giveaways · R&R Book Tour stop · series · survival · YA

Book Tour – The Demon of Yodok (plus a giveaway)

Tour Banner

To celebrate the release of the latest novel in the Juche series, The Storm of Storms, we’re going back to the book that started it all! The Demon of Yodok! Read on for more details and a chance to win a signed hardcover edition of the novel!

Juche part one - eBook - Copy

The Demon of Yodok (Juche 1)

Genre: YA Dystopian

A highly addictive Young Adult Dystopian Survival series that will keep you glued to the pages.

JUCHE [dʒuːtʃe]

Just when Areum, daughter of a privileged family in the totalitarian state of Choson, thought she was free from her personal prison, her world collapses around her as her family are taken away in the middle of the night to a hell-like camp in the mountains where people who have strayed from the righteous path are brutally re-educated through blood, sweat, tears and starvation.

There she has to fight for survival together with the family she hates and is forced to re-evaluate every aspect of her life until then – her deep resentment toward her twin sister; her view of her father in face of the mounting evidence he is a traitor with the blood of millions of fellow countrymen on his hands; and even her love and affection for the Great General – the eternal savior and protector of Choson, whom she had always considered her true father.

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Excerpt

Cranes sang songs of joy from the mountain tops.

Double rainbows appeared in the sky.

The aggressors from the west were defeated. The invaders from the east were expunged. The traitors from the south were put at bay.

The people of Choson were finally free to create their own destiny, and so a hermit kingdom of people’s rule rose from the ashes, and the doors to the enemies of the outside world were closed, never to be opened again.

The world around them moved on. Years passed. Decades passed. Peace and prosperity spread throughout the world, and nothing was heard from the secluded hermit paradise.

Then one day, people started emerging from its closed borders. The stories they brought with them were, however, not of a paradise on earth. Instead, what they depicted were horrors so vile and cruel that they almost exceeded human comprehension.

Little had the people of the kingdom known when they closed its doors to the outside world, that the vilest beast of all was still lurking among their midst, and as soon as the curtains had been drawn, the beast unleashed its reign of terror upon the people, not stopping until it had crushed and enslaved every soul within its reach.

The beast now rules the kingdom from a throne of human misery and agony.

No one alive has ever encountered this beast, but everybody knows its name.

JUCHE

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About the Author

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Adria Carmichael is a writer of Young Adult Dystopian fiction with a twist. When she is not devouring dystopian and post-apocalyptic content in any format – books, movies, TV-series and PlayStation games – she is crafting the epic and highly-addictive Juche saga, her 2020 debut novel series that takes place in the brutal, totalitarian nation of Choson. When the limit of doom and gloom is reached, a 10K run on a sunny day or binging a silly sitcom on a rainy day is her go-to way to unwind.

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Amazon Reviewer Name
book review · emotions · thriller

Book Review – The Nurse

When you hear her story, will you believe her?

Rose Marlowe is a hard-working nurse, a loving wife, and a merciless killer. Or so she says. Despite her confession, it is hard to believe that this beautiful, kind woman could have killed her vulnerable patient in cold blood.

Down-on-his luck author and ex-journalist, Theo Hazel, is convinced that there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling, and so decides to visit her behind bars to write her story. His first surprise comes when Rose reveals that the victim was not a stranger to her.

As time goes on, it seems that Rose is letting Theo see behind her perfect mask. With each new visit, he learns terrible new things about her heart-breaking past. With each new visit, he becomes more and more convinced that she can’t be a killer. But is he trying to free an innocent victim, or falling prey to a calculating murderer?

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My Review

I love the opening line to the blurb: When you hear her story will you believe her? From the outset, I was on my guard, not knowing who to trust. Should I be rooting for a woman – a nurse, no less – who has purposely killed someone in her care? But then, as Rose tells her story to Theo, those dramatic headlines fade into the background as she tells her story in her own words. Suddenly, it becomes very easy to see her as a victim too. But of whom? And, throughout I still felt I was being led down one blind alley after another … until the ending pulled the rug out from underneath me. Wow!

So, what’s it all about?

Rose is in prison, convicted of murder, a charge she neither denies nor defends.

Theo is a writer who desperately needs a good hook to convince his publisher he has another book in him. Rose’s story, he hopes, will be enough to secure him a new deal.

Told from dual viewpoints and timelines, it pays to take note of the date as you start a new chapter.

To be honest, it did seem a bit far-fetched that Rose would tell him her story, especially when she had so little to say in court. It made me think whether she’d be telling him the truth or just a version thereof. Even Theo had to admit she was holding something back, but nonetheless her story was fascinating. How she went from having a real desire to do well in med school and become a paediatrician, to pulling out of her course to instead have a child with Daniel, with whom she had fallen in love. Well, OK, life happens and plans change … but things changed again – significantly, drastically, unimaginably – when she went into labour.

Rose’s story was a rollercoaster of highs and lows as twists and turns came from every angle; my impressions of her and other key characters spun on a sixpence many a time (apart from Ed, I never liked him at all!) leaving me unsure as to whom I could believe. My one reliable source was Theo; as he got to know Rose better he grew ever more certain that she hadn’t killed anyone. Although, he was clearly smitten with her too which begged the question whether Rose was playing him too.

Rose’s character was complex yet endearing. All along it felt as though she had a true vocation for the medical profession, and that even from a prison cell she was protective of others. She allowed Theo permission to speak to her mother and closest friends rather than have it appear that she was hiding anything. And to maintain a sense of balance he spoke to the victim’s family too. Eventually, pieces of the puzzle came together to allow the reader to better understand why Rose did what she did … or to at least think you understand her 😉

Whilst I felt the final twist was well delivered, my overall impression was that this was more a slow-burning thriller with many layers. Some layers you add, others you remove. A most intriguing read and, at times, heart-breakingly sad.

Thanks to the author, Canelo & Netgalley for my copy which I’ve reviewed of my own free will.

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
book blitz · contemporary fiction · humour · literary fiction

Book Blitz – Everyday Magic

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Great news! If you pre-order a copy of Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw, you will receive a signed edition! But you have to order before May 26th!

Everyday Magic Front cover FINALEveryday Magic

Expected Publication Date: May 26th, 2021

Genre: Literary fiction/ Contemporary Fiction/ Humour

Publisher: Ringwood Publishing

Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.

Pre-Order HERE!

About the Author

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Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.

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