Monthly Archives: April 2016

Rain: Four Walks in English Weather – Melissa Harrison

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Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison

 

The Last Word Review

 

Melissa Harrison uses the quote from fell-walker Alfred Wainwright in the introduction “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” which sets the tone for her latest book Rain: Four Walks in English Weather as she sets about in a refreshing and in a very British was describing our obsession with our favourite topic, the weather and especially Rain and the its vital role in our lives.

We live on an island and therefore we are dominated by the weather and everything it throws at us and through the opening pages of the book Harrison looks at devastation and deaths caused by the floods in the recent winter. We all know the power of rain fall even the author who lives in South London suffers when the rain falls thanks to a blocked guttering that dampens the walls of her home. The power of rain must never be underestimated. But there is more to rain and Harrison leaves her home and seeks out rain through four seasons in Wicken Fen (Winter), Shropshire (Spring), Darent Valley (Summer) and Dartmoor (Autumn).

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Each chapter is a walk that is written so eloquently that it reads like a wonderful novel that is over all too quickly and at around 128 pages it really does end too soon as you read you it feels as though you are walking with Harrison so you may need to pack some wet weather clothing as there is rain. The historical notes that she brings into her writing are a joy to read as are the folklore that the seasons and time has forgot.

If the Oak’s before the ash

Then you’ll get only a splash.

If the ash is before the oak

Then you may expect a soak

There is a sense of poetry in the authors writing and that is a sign of a nature writer in tune of her surroundings and the way she talks about the birds the wild flowers and even Ants. There are childhood memories that intersperse within the writing that play with anyone who has childhood memories our family days walking in the English countryside and getting wet something we tend to expect with the vagaries of the English weather.

The whole ethos of this book is to help the reader look at rain more than just a talking point and helps us explore its life giving and the role is having on our countryside and farming practices.

As you reach the end of the book Harrison has added a 100 words as an appendix describing rain that many readers will enjoy as an example Dimpsey: Low cloud producing very fine rain (Devon). Plash: A downpour; plashy: wet, watery. As for Pissing down I think I will leave that one for the reader.

As a reviewer writing a book review about rain, what could be better as I write and look out of my study window, there has been thunder lightening, snow and now a thick blanket of hail has covered the ground. And this is the last few days of April. Springtime in England.

Rain: Four Walks in English Weather written by Melissa Harrison and published by Faber & Faber and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

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Meet the Author Interview and review of The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

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The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

 

 MEET THE AUTHOR

HALLIE RUBENHOLD

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In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I talk Hallie Rubenhold about her latest historical novel The French Lesson which is has just been released through Doubleday and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

I began by asking Hallie about her latest novel.

Congratulations on your latest book The French Lesson published by       Doubleday. Being a lover of history and historical novels, I have to admit at enjoying it very much. As it is just published can you give a brief synopsis of The French Lesson?

 I’m so pleased you enjoyed The French Lesson! I always have a very hard time giving a synopsis of this book because I feel I’m too close to it to be able to discern the woods from the trees.

 It’s about a lot of things, but I think it’s quite well summarised in the phrase, ‘it’s Dangerous Liaisons meets A Tale of Two Cities’, with a little bit of Thackeray thrown in for good measure. The French Lesson is the second book in a trilogy about my heroine, Henrietta Lightfoot and how she evolves from being an innocent girl to a scheming woman (which hints at what’s to come in the third novel). It’s told in first person, as a memoir when Henrietta is much older and involved in an on-going battle over reputation with her very dysfunctional family.  I won’t reveal anything more than that as there are many twists and turns in this story and I don’t want to give anything away. Although it’s part of a trilogy, it’s also very much a stand-alone read.

 What made you want to be an historian and historical writer and become involved in broadcasting and historical consultancy work for television drama’s such as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell?

 I’ve always loved history, writing and filmmaking since I was a child. In fact they really are just extensions of the same thing – story telling. I find the past fascinating and I think that growing up somewhere where a sense of the past was so noticeably absent – Los Angeles – made me more desirous of connecting with it on some level. I also blame the place of my birth for my interest in film. 

 Do you think history is important today?

History is absolutely important today, however if we define history as simply a memorised roll call of names and dates, then it loses all meaning. I feel very sad when I hear that this definition of history is what so many people associate with the subject.

 Personally, I feel that social history has the most relevance in our lives – it’s fundamental that we understand how we lived and how we have evolved as a society. History is and should be the study of what it means to be human. 

 Is there a favourite period in history that you like to write about?

 The period called the Long Eighteenth Century (c. 1680 – 1837) really is the era that I most love, though I find the nineteenth century and the seventeenth century pretty fascinating too.

 If you were about to make a long journey and could take only one historical book with you what would that book be? Apologies for putting you on the spot with this one?

 I’m assuming you mean historical novel.  I’d take Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which is one of my all-time favourites. This novel is so layered that I’d never tire of re-reading it and contemplating the complexities of its characters.

 I like talking to authors about their writing routines, some can be creative in the early hours and others like to write in busy coffee shops with the hustle and bustle of everyday life around them, can you tell me about your writing routines and what motivates you.

 I’m useless in the morning and have always been so. I’m not a great sleeper so my brain usually doesn’t kick into gear until after 10 am. If I’m working from home I try to do my chores in the morning – answer emails, go to the gym, the supermarket, etc and then settle into work around lunch time. I try to work from the London Library at least a couple of days a week when they have late opening. This means I can interact with other people, which keeps me sane. The London Library is a great resource for writers – there’s a nice community of us there and we’re all quite supportive of each other’s work. 

I tend to work fairly late into the evening, unless I’m going out. Often I’m writing until midnight, with breaks for dinner and coffee. I seem to really hit my stride after 4pm, which annoyingly is when many people are just starting to wind down their working day.

I love the silence of a deserted library in the evenings. I love it when my mobile stops ringing and the emails taper off. That’s pure writing bliss.

 With your busy schedule do you get time to read? Are you currently reading a book at present?

 I’m a very peculiar and fussy reader. When I’m writing fiction I can’t read fiction as I find that the voices of other authors start to intrude on my own. I read nonfiction when I’m writing my novels, and I read novels when I’m writing my nonfiction.  At the moment I’ve been reading a lot of late nineteenth century journalism and commentary about the lives of the poor which will factor into my next book.  I’ve just finished Jack London’s People of the Abyss, which was completely absorbing.

 Are currently working on another project?

My next book is going to be a nonfiction book about the five women who were killed by Jack the Ripper. It’s absolutely shocking that in nearly 130 year’s no one has ever thought to write a collective history of these women’s lives. The amazing thing is that everything we think we know about them is wrong. Only one among the five was what might be considered ‘a career prostitute’.  None of them came from the East End – they were from all over. One of them came from Sweden, another had lived on a country estate as the wife of a coachman. With the exception of one, all of the women were in their 40s, and most had been married and had children.

I’m really excited about writing The Five, which hopefully should be completed within two years. Watch this space!

I am extremely grateful to Hallie Rubenhold for taking the time out of her busy schedule to take part in ‘Meet the Author’. If you would like more information on Hallie’s work or further details of The French Lesson  please visit Hallie’s website:  HallieRubenhold.com

 

My thoughts on The French Lesson

The new historical novel by Hallie Rubenhold called The French Lesson is the second book in a trilogy about Henrietta Lightfoot and is written looking back at her time in Paris during the bloody French Revolution.

We find Henrietta caught up in the bloodletting that has set neighbour against neighbour and friend against friend and even Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are not immune from the Revolution and are imprisoned. Henrietta’s lover has let her go and despite the fact she could have escaped the fighting and gone back to London our heroine chooses to stay and sets off in pursuit of her one great love George William Allenham and soon there is trouble for Henrietta as well as grave danger and she needs help and support to survive.

Along comes Grace Dalrymple Elliott no ordinary woman is our Grace, she has a reputation and soon Henrietta soon falls under the protection of Grace but with this comes one very heavy price to our heroine and she comes face to face with some of the most powerful women in France and she put her own life on the line as she tries to find her lover.

The French Lesson is a fabulous gripping account at a time of war and tyranny and the smell of blood is in the air and heads are rolling literally. This is so wonderfully written with a blend of factual and real life people put together in a tale of love and lust and nothing is as it seems as the old order is put to the sword or the guillotine. This is not to be missed.

The French Lesson follows on from the first book Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot- Mistress of Fate and the third book will follow in time but The French Lesson can be easily read as a stand-alone book.

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My thanks to Patsy Irwin at Transworld Publishers for a review copy.

The French Lesson written by Hallie Rubenhold and published by Doubleday and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.  

FREE PRIZE DRAW

Now here is your chance to win a copy of the excellent The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold. Just head over to my Twitter feed @Thelastword1962 and follow and Retweet the pinned review tweet. You will be entered into the draw.  Terms and Conditions: Open to UK residents only.  The free draw closes on Monday evening at 20.00hrs 25t April 2016 and entries after this time will be excluded.  The winner will be selected at random and a copy will be sent out by the publishers.

 

My book week – 23 April 2016

On-My-Book-ShelfMy book week

To 23 April 2016

 

Well here we are another week is over and another exciting book filled week it has been. It started earlier in the week when the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced.

Pulitzer winners

  • Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Custer’s Trials by T.J. Stiles
  • Barbarian Days – A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
  • Black Flags by Joby Warrick

 

 

One book that I have had my eye on for a while seemed to have crept under everyone’s radar since it was released that is the incredible The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Ngyen which looks like being another outstanding book for 2016 based on the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War it is dark, fascinating and at times witty and ironic look at politics.

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Having heard so much already about this book I am looking forward to getting into it and a review will follow in due course. I think it deserves to be read by a wider audience here in the UK.

Moving on to the book reviews for the week it started with the collection of short stories by Helen Oyeyemi called What is Not Yours is Not Yours nine amazing stories that have a connection with keys, lost libraries and locked gardens. My review Here

What is Not Yours is Not Yours

Then later in the week I reviewed Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, a memoir from a single minded and determined woman driven to become the best at what she does a botanical scientist. This for me was a memorable memoir from Jahren who now runs one of the best laboratories in the world studying plants and trees. When you read this you will look at trees and the natural world very differently. You can read my review  Here

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It has been a fabulous week for books received for review. This is the collection that has arrived this week.

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  • The Birdwatcher by William Shaw. Published by Quercus Books
  • The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes. published by Urbane Publications.
  • The Rwandan Hostage by Christopher Lowery. Published by Urbane Publications.
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Published by The Borough Press
  • The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis. Published by The Borough Press
  • The Evolution of Fear by Paul E. Hardisty. Published by Orenda Press
  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Different Class by Joanne Harris. Published by Doubleday
  • Macbeth (abbreviated) by John Crace & John Sutherland. Published by Doubleday
  • Romeo and Juliet (abbreviated) by John Crace & John Sutherland. Published by Doubleday.
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

On my Kindle I have a review copy of The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney which is being published by The Borough Press on 19 May.

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Also received this week is a collection of poems by Ana Maria Caballero called Mid-Life.

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Coming up this coming week more book reviews including Rain by Melissa Harrison and there will also be an interview with Hallie Rubenhold and a review of her new historical novel which is out now called The French Lesson.

That’s it for this for this week, look out for more reviews and you can also keep up to date via my Twitter feed @thelastword1962

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

 

 The Last Word Review

 

Incredibly open and frank memoir. The natural world through the eyes of a botanical scientist. Witty and an emotional read.

 

When I left school I had dreams of studying botany and to a degree it worked out for me and I would spend my days and nights studying plant life forms and I would study seeds of all shapes and sizes like an accountant studies figures. Today it still excites me as much as it did in my younger days.

I was delighted when Lab Girl by Hope Jahren landed on my desk as I just knew what would be between the covers.

Lab Girl is a beautiful memoir of a life destined to become a leading botanical scientist. Jahren spent her younger days at her father’s college laboratory in Minnesota the seeds for her future were sown during these days spent under the work benches playing as a child. Now Jahren has her own lab were she spends her days. A place she feels secure and is her place of worship.

Life growing up in Minnesota was never easy the Winters are long and hard and the home life was not happy and Jahren wanted more and her studies took her to UC Berkeley Ph.D. Jahren’s climb to where she is today being born out of determination to succeed, today she is an acclaimed geobiologist with a laboratory that is not only her own but one that is seen as one of the best in the world.

Bill is her loyal partner in her work and the stories of their adventures is something to behold and the scrapes they end up getting themselves into all in the name of science from the United States to Europe. Life was never like this in the early days as they struggled to obtain funding for the work she was so desperate to pursue. Jahren’s dedication to her work comes through every page and she admits to being completely single minded in her approach. She talks openly of her bipolar disorder but this is a memorable memoir full of humour and some of the most anecdotes that are found throughout the book, there was so many to select that it was difficult to choose just one for this review. One line that did stand out for me is ‘Science for war will always pay better that the science for knowledge.’ Apt in these days.

Lab Girl is a beautifully written and is witty and warm, every page was a pure joy and delight to read, it is informative and fascinating and every turn of the page as Jahren recounts the early days struggling to fund even the very basics of living to the workaholic lifestyle desperate to learn and understand.

Anyone who has an interest in the natural world will enjoy reading a fabulous memoir and will look at plants and the natural world through new eyes.

Hope Jahren’s Wikipedia page is worth reading. Here

My thanks to Fleet for a review copy of Lab Girl.

Lab Girl written by Hope Jahren and published by Fleet. Publication is 21 April 2016 and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshop.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

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What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

 

The Last Word Review

 Ambitious mix of short stories that are captivating and will catch your literary imagination. A gifted young writer.

 

Keys play an integral part in Helen Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories, in fact they are pivotal to all nine stories. Oyeyemi was named as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists of 2013 now returns with What is Not Yours is Not Yours a fascinating and wondrous collection of stories that just plays with the reader’s imagination with stories akin to fairy stories and a strange and beautiful playful mix of stories and characters.

Starting with the first and my favourite story is ‘Books and Roses’ and starts as many fairy story might ‘Once upon a time in Catalonia a baby was found in a chapel.’ The story about two women both seeking those that should be closest to them but abandoned at birth. Central to this story is a key to a locked garden and to a library. This story is work of a genius, superbly written and conceived from start to finish.

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With each story involving secrets and locked doors and keys What is Not Yours is Not Yours is unique and fresh like nothing I have read before and I am a lover of short stories and many will treasure like me each one. Many will have a personal favourite and I will not spoil it for you about the remaining eight but they are just a short story aficionados dream a collection of masterful writing of searching, supernatural puppeteers and of sexuality all appear and there are tentative links with some characters appearing from one story to another, but the reader must pay attention to each story.

The beauty of Oyeyemi’s writing is that it shifts so eloquently from one story to the next seamlessly spellbound at every new story. Like a rather good bottle of wine you just savour every moment of each story to the last.

I have read What is Not Yours is Not Yours twice since receiving it a few months ago and I was truly absorbed in each story and left emotional both times at its end. My recommendation is go and but a copy on its release and I promise you will be captivated by each story and the characters you will encounter.

Credit must also go to Picador for the stunning finished copies that will be appearing in bookshops on its official release day, one of the most beautiful books I have come across, when you hold a copy in your hands you will not want to leave the bookshop with a copy.

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My thanks to Sophie Jonathan (Picador) for an advanced review copy.

What is Not yours is Not Yours written by Helen Oyeyemi and published by Picador on 21 April 2016. Available through Waterstones and all good bookshops

My book week to 16 April 2016.

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One of my busiest weeks so far this year when it comes to my book related matters, it has been non-stop since I posted my first My book week over a week ago. I recall saying that 2016 could be one of the best years for book releases and debut authors and so far this really has been the case with some exceptional fiction and non-fiction releases with many more to come. I have a feeling that come December we will be recalling a vintage year in literary terms.

Some will know that I am researching for a book I am planning to write well the exciting news is that it is not one book but two. I just need to find that thing called time as many writers know only too well. Many a long night lies ahead.

Looking back over the last week I posted reviews for some incredible books each one outstanding in their own right. The Week started on Monday with my review of My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout but sadly my prediction that it would make the shortlist for the 2016 Bailey’s Prize proved not to be the case. My review Here

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On Tuesday I reviewed The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley, one of the great classic crime novels that has inspired many a crime writer, now re-released. You can read my review Here

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Wednesday saw my review of the final book in the Enemy series by Rob Sinclair Hunt for  and you can read the review Here

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With Friday being the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic it was an appropriate day to review the brilliantly written The Midnight Watch by David Dyer which looked the role of the SS Californian the ship that stood by as the Titanic was lost along with over 1500 children, men and women. My review Here

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Many of you will know that I am a big fan of short stories as well as the full blown novel so on Saturday I reviewed a short story by Tanya Bullock called Homecoming a beautifully written novella that is heart-warming and you can read my review Here

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So onto to books arriving this week, only two this week, but two exceptional books. The first an historical novel set around the Great Fire of London in 1666 by the best-selling author Andrew Taylor The Ashes of London and published by Harper Collins.

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And finally arriving on Saturday was Nevernight by Jay Kristoff and published by Harper Voyager but you will have a long wait for this exciting book as it is not released until August of this year. Sorry!

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Over the next week look out for reviews for the following books a collection of short stories by Helen Oyeyemi called What is Not Yours is Not yours published by Picador, The French Lesson by Helen Rubenhold published by Doubleday and I am working on an interview with Helen to go with the review and finally the fabulous Lab Girl by Hope Jahren published by Fleet.

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That’s it for this week, thanks for reading and happy reading.

 

 

 

Homecoming by Tanya Bullock

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Homecoming by Tanya Bullock

 

The Last Word Review

 

heart-warming and poignant love story so beautifully written. One short story not to be missed.

 

Homecoming by Tanya Bullock billed as ‘Quite possibly the strangest romance ever told.’ What you end up reading is quite possibly one of the most heart-warming love stories in a novella format you may ever read. It is poignant and beautifully written.

In under 90 pages this short story will be read in one afternoon and quite possibly read again it is that good. Without giving too much of the storyline away and that is difficult with novella’s.

This is the story of Rosie and Tom and set both in the present day and looking back to when they first met just before the outbreak of WWII. Now both in the nineties but what so they believe. Despite living in a nursing home Tom is totally devoted to Rosie and will do anything for her. At times the story is totally heart-breaking as the story address those suffering from dementia and not recognising family members will upset anyone who has gone through a similar experience.

I loved both Rosie who has a real sparkle in her eye and Tom the war veteran whose passion is nature and the outdoors. Homecoming

a story that is so delicately handled as they share their memories or what they believe their memories tell them that is true.

It has been both a pleasure and a privilege getting to know them a very special couple.

Tanya Bullock is a writer of immense quality and one I am so looking forward to reading more in the future and if Homecoming is anything to go by then future accolades will be well deserved.

My thanks to Rosalie Love at Blackbird Digital Books for a review copy.

Homecoming by Tanya Bullock and published by Blackbird Digital books is available both as Kindle download and also in paperback via Amazon UK.

 

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

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The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

 The Last Word Review

 

The role of the SS Californian during the loss of the Titanic. Outstanding fictional account

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At 11.40pm on Sunday 14 April 1912 the largest passenger liner RMS Titanic was four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York when the Titanic struck an iceberg. Two hours and forty minutes later the Titanic was lost on board there was an estimated 2,224 people. Over 1,500 men, women and children perished, one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history.

History records that nearby a ship looked on that ship was the SS Californian and its Captain, Stanley Lord slept on and did not go to the bridge. The RMS Titanic fired eight distress rockets and all eight were ignored. Still Captain Lord stayed in his cabin.

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The SS Californian

In The Midnight Watch by David Dyer the role of the Californian has been fictionalised to tell of what may have been going on at the time on board the Californian. On board Second Officer Herbert Stone on Midnight Watch sees the first of the rockets light up the night sky and realises the significance of the flares and alerts his captain only to be told to carry on and only alert him when it is certain the rockets are a distress signal. Further rockets light up the night sky and still no response from Captain Lord. By morning the Titanic is at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

The enormity of the disaster reaches the states and John Steadman a reporter with the Boston America realises there is a massive story to be told and he wanted that story no matter what.  Dyer manages to tell the story brilliantly switching from the crew on board the Californian who experienced the disaster at first hand and then from the point of view of John Steadman determined to tell a story of the loss of the Titanic.

What the story tries to tell is what was going on board the Californian and why did Captain Lord not react to the distress rockets, to this day and I guess forever more we will never know why the captain reacted in a way despite him a very good and enigmatic captain. On land Steadman is gathering his story and determined to get to the truth and be the voice of those who perished either in the freezing Atlantic or those who went down with the Titanic.

What does come out of the story in The Midnight Watch is that Captain Lord was an extremely difficult man to get to and went through his entire life in total denial of his role in the loss of the Titanic and his action can only be described as totally reprehensible.

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Credit must go to Dyer for the amount of research that went into writing this book and the way he weaves the story so beautifully and sensitively from historical fact to fiction to create an incredible story.

One part of the book brought more than a few tears to my eyes as the story moves to that of the perspective of the passengers and of an entire family of eleven who perished. For someone like me who has followed the story of the Titanic since a boy this part of the story hit me pretty hard and one I will not forget.

If you have an interest in historical fiction or just want to read a fictional account of what took place on the Californian during those hours as the Titanic slipped beneath the waves taking with her over 1,500 souls, then I can highly recommend this fabulous fictional account.

Thank you to Atlantic Books for a review copy.

The Midnight Watch by James Dyer and published by Atlantic Books is now available through Waterstones and all good book shops

 

Hunt for the Enemy by Rob Sinclair

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Hunt for the Enemy by Rob Sinclair

 

 The Last Word Review

 

Carl Logan returns in a gripping trilogy finale that is a 5* rollercoaster thriller.

 

A word of warning if you have not yet read Rob Sinclair’s finale of the ‘Enemy’ series in Hunt for the Enemy. When you start you will not stop reading this thumping rollercoaster of an epic thriller until you have reached the last page. The best in the series. Just a shame it has ended here.

The story starts with a step back in time and to a job he has been asked to do and now branded a traitor Logan is on the run in a grim and freezing Russian winter and he is fighting for his life as he has been framed for a murder and now the Joint Intelligence Agency (JIA) call him a ‘rogue operative’. Why? What has Logan done after such a long and loyal service. Is this what happens to operatives when they have served their useful purpose the JIA.

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Logan is a man on the run a fugitive that the agency wants to see eliminated, but it is not just the JIA that are after Logan and he must use all his skills to stay one step ahead and stay alive. In Hunt for the Enemy the past and present collide in a story that is a gripping action packed thriller that packs a punch were other espionage thriller lack.

The story takes the reader on a globe-trotting high stakes and murky world of international espionage. You cannot help but want to see Logan survive and stop the killing of agents from all sides. Along the way he is re-united with a former lover who once turned against him and she too is on the run and together, this time round will Logan trust her again or will he turn against her.

Sinclair has done an outstanding job with all three books in the series and has brought the story finale alive by bringing the best of the previous two book and turned Hunt for the Enemy into a thrilling conclusion and one I can highly recommend if you have not read any of the books then all three are a must if you love high speed action drama at its very best.

What now for Rob Sinclair? I cannot wait to find out.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.

Hunt for the Enemy by Rob Sinclair and published by Clink Street is available now as is the previous two books Dance with the Enemy and Rise of the Enemy

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

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The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

 

The Last Word Review

 

The crime classic that packs a drunken punch on every page. An all-time classic.

 When a crime novel starts with the following opening line: “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” You know that this is a no holds barred cult crime classic and since it was first published in 1978 this opening gambit still stands the test of time as far crime classics go.

C.W. Sughrue is a Montana based private investigator in who seems to spend most of his time as drunk as he could get to it, in fact drunk nearly all the time is a more accurate perception.

The story is that Sughrue is hired by a woman to find her ex-husband, the wandering alcoholic Abraham Trahearne who is a writer and she believes is hell bent on killing himself with booze. Sughrue then spends weeks tracking Trahearne in every bar most of which seem to fall into the category of dives and hell holes. Sooner or later he was bound to catch up with his quarry and sure enough he does and what follows is pure classic crime writing fiction, a hell of bar fight takes place involving a number of the clientele and including the drunken Bulldog. Trahearne is hurt in the bar-room brawl and is hospitalised.

Following the fight, the owner of the bar then requests the help of Sughrue to help locate her daughter who is missing San Francisco and has been for many years. How they disappeared really is interesting. It then transpires that Sughrue and Trahearne both end up looking for the girl.

The way that Crumley has written the story very much in the first person but also at times he will lure you into his head to read his mind and you become part of the story as you try and solve the mystery surrounding the missing girl. This is pure classic crime noir.

There is plenty sex in the story line as well as alcohol infused profanity. The old premise that you can run but you can’t hide really starts to come out as part of the story looks at identity and looking at and dealing with your past.

The Last Good Kiss has been really influential since its first release and helped launch some of the great crime writers of the last thirty years. Even though it was first released in 1978 it will have a new readers flocking to Crumley’s writing. If you have not read this before and you enjoy a raw crime novel this is a must read.

Thank you to Naomi Mantin for an advanced review copy.

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley released through Black Swan and available through Waterstones and all good book shops.

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