Monthly Archives: May 2017
By Blood Divided by James Heneage
On the cover of James Heneage’s latest blockbuster By Blood Divided it says “Rivals in love will become rivals rivals for an empire” So there we have it. This is a sweeping historical epic of love and war and if you enjoy a gripping historical drama that crosses from East to West then you are going to enjoy this.
Set during the fifteenth century as this is a dramatic story of war, a family torn apart and a financial crisis as a banking empire moves ever closer to collapse then add a love rivalry and you have a compelling and dramatic standalone novel that will keep turning pages for days. This is nearly 500 pages as length so prepare for some epic reading.
As the world is undergoing dramatic change the time is for heroes, and here is a novel that has heroism and also great tragedy. The scene is set as the story moves from one part of the East and heads to the West for one of the most dramatic sieges in history that of Constantinople. From the old Roman Empire to the now burgeoning Ottoman Empire destiny and fortune await. Siward Margoris is commander of the Varangian Guard sworn to defend the Roman Empire to the last. Now entering the stage is Makkim, the Ottoman general seeks to destroy everything the Romans stands for. This is East v West and one last stand and with a fortune at stake there is everything to win and lose.
Add in a heart-breaking love story and you have a fantastic adventure that moves along at a steady pace and a story that has everything an historical epic requires. The real beauty here is that Heneage has well researched his facts which makes this such an intelligent read all round.
Thank you to Olivia Mead at Quercus Books for the advanced review copy.
By Blood Divided by James Heneage is published by Quercus and is released on 1st June and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Official By Blood Divided Blog Tour
Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson
A psychological thriller that covers not only the current but also the past and the past being 1944 and Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is at times harrowing and dark and one thriller not for the faint hearted. This is a serial killer novel with more than just a twist. At the end my review you have a chance of winning a copy in a free prize draw.
The storyline is split between two timelines from 2014 in Sweden the body of a young talented fashion designer is found brutally mutilated, then a young boy is found dead in London and also mutilated. A serial killer is on the loose. It is 1944 and we move back in time to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and these parts of the story are just as harrowing as we see the pure hellish horrors unfolding, here is one man Erich Ebner trying to survive from one day to the next.
How Gustawsson describes the terror that went on in the camp is harrowing and is written with incredible power and honesty that brings home to the reader just how barbaric those that ran the camps. As psychological thrillers go this even beat me as at times I had to stop reading for moments to catch my breath. Block 46 takes many twists and turns as move from the historical to the current as both Emily Roy and Alexis Castells try to understand the parallels between the cases and find the serial killer before it is too late and the killer strikes again. There is a certain evil that pervades this book and it stalks you like the killer itself. You have been warned. Gustawsson’s writing is just chilling and will bring you out in a cold sweat as the story heats up. Just when you think you may have figured out who is behind it the killings then Gustawsson strikes. We flit from Sweden to London then back to the darkest times in our history those of Nazi Germany. This is no easy read it is dark and some of the detail is very descriptive. This is one thriller that will haunt you for some time after you have finished reading. But it is a five star read. The first in a series and if the next instalment is anything like this then prepare yourself. A very talented writer that I think we are going to hear a lot more from.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy of Block 46.
Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
How do you fancy winning a copy of Block 46 by Johan Gustawsson. This is a free prize draw and the rules are simple. Head over to my Twitter page at @thelastword1962 and then follow and retweet the pinned tweet that carries this review. The draw will be open until 7pm on Wednesday 24th May. Good luck.
You can keep up with the Block 46 Blog Tour
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I am going to say this now the debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Collins) is a leading contender for book of the year 2017. That is quite a statement. But read on and you will have a taste of why this is THE book of the year.
Be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions through this novel but there is a message of hope written through the pages and this will resonate to every reader. Meet Eleanor Oliphant she is a real character; she lives each day at a time, never straying too far and avoiding straying from a carefully straight line that each day brings. She will wear the same clothes to work, even eats the same lunch every day. Then there are the crosswords every lunchtime. Eleanor believes she has everything in her life she needs, but actually when you get to know Eleanor everything seems to be missing.
Every weekend it is the same two bottles of vodka, no-one comes to call at her home and her phone never rings. At first you may not like Eleanor that much, but I promise you one thing that by the time you come towards the end, you are going to care a lot about her. Some may think that Eleanor Oliphant is a lost soul, but there is much more to this story and the journey you are going to take with her. Prepare to live in her world and the rollercoaster will take you to places that at times is very funny to just utter heartbreak. Eleanor Oliphant lives a life of isolation.
The story of Eleanor evolves throughout the story, and it just takes a moment an act of pure simple kindness to change Eleanor’s perfect world. There is so much in the story it would be wrong of me to give it away but there is a crush on a singer that does not go well, which leads to a whole series of events that in turn lead us to getting to know Eleanor’s life and how she got to where she is at the present. There is so much emotion throughout the story, yet it is a real joy to read. There are so many twists that at times you just never knew what or where it was leading you to. But that is one of the beauties of this story. There are some moments in the story that will make you laugh out loud so if you are going to read this on a journey be prepared.
If I could buy one novel this year for everyone I know it would be Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is it just staggeringly brilliant in every aspect from the storyline to the writing which flows easily and captures the reader from page one to the ending. One book that will stay with me for a long time to come. This is one book that I am delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Thank you to Jaime Frost for the advanced review copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is published today 18th May by Harper Collins and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Spanish Crossings by John Simmons
Spain 1937 and Lorna a young woman falls in love with Harry who is a member of the International Brigade and who returns to fight in the Spanish Civil War after seeing at first hand the horrific bombing of Guernica. Lorna later finds out that Harry is then killed. Has Lorna’s chancing of lasting happiness now gone. Spanish Crossings by John Simmons is a deeply moving and exceptional novel of love and hope when all seems lost. In historical writing this is up there with the best. A novel based on true stories.
Lorna’s world has collapsed on hearing of Harry’s death during the fighting in Spain is there a meaning to go on in a world that is going through such upheaval and turmoil. Lorna is asked by her law firm if she would assist in helping children of Spain caught up in the fighting escape the horrors.
For Lorna who has lost her loved one strikes up a friendship with one of the children and Pepe who is now in England grows up with memories of his homeland and of his people who have suffered. Their bond is a special one but as Pepe grows his yearning to return to Spain also grows separated from family and relations. For Lorna and Pepe’s stories are linked together and its story is emotive and deserves to be read.
John Simmons has done a remarkable job in his research and his telling of this story is so descriptive and at times incredibly poignant. John’s writing is so intricate with details of how people’s lives were affected by the Civil War in Spain and life in London. Spanish Crossings is a book that deserves its place in historical writings elite. A story not to be taken lightly but one that you want to savour and remember every word. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.
Spanish Crossings by John Simmons is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The President’s Gardens by Mushin Al-Ramli
Make no mistake this is a very powerful novel. The President’s Gardens written by Mushin Al-Ramli and translated by Luke Leafgren is a book not to be taken lightly and is an incredibly beautiful novel that has passion running through its heart. An outstanding achievement in Iraqi literature.
A story of incredible tragedy in unimaginable proportions. A story of three friends Abdullah, Tariq and Ibrahim that have been friends all their life and growing up in war torn Iraq. The sheer hell that was the war between Iraq and their neighbours Iran and then through the invasion of Kuwait through to the American led invasion of 2003.
Haunting is the word I would use here, the opening gives the reader a lot to absorb and through the remaining pages the is more detail and along with more detailed descriptions of life in Iraq. The one aspect of this novel that pours out of the pages is ‘war’ it is ever present through the lives of the people of this country. Some of the descriptions of the ravages of war on villages and people are detailed at upsetting and the author does not shy away from writing this into the storyline. It is the horror of war that you cannot escape from. Some may find this disturbing but there are some very moving and beautiful moments in the story that bring joy and emotion to a deeply powerful novel. The three friends despite knowing each other for nearly all their life are uniquely different shaped by the events that have engulfed their country this is their story and there is tragedy waiting for one of them while the other has seen enough and longs for peace while the remaining friend has escaped the worst but things he does will have significant ramifications.
To quote from the book “The skies rained down hell, the earth vomited it back up . . . the simple Iraqi soldiers who resisted fought in despair and died.” The writing is just incredible how the author tells a story of love, death war and more war. There is no escape. Although first published in Arabic in 2012 this is a book that needs to be read and should be read widely. It is an incredible read if upsetting at times. The story ends with “To be continued” Does this mean that we can expect a follow story. I for one earnestly hope that this is the case. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Paul Engles and MacLehose Press for the advanced review copy of The President’s Gardens.
The President’s Gardens by Mushin Al-Ramli is published by MacLehouse Press and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Today sees the release of two of this year’s biggest must read books. Paula Hawkins follows up from The Girl on the Train with Into the Water (Doubleday)and a debut novel by Sarah Schmidt called See What I Have Done. (Tinder Press) Two books that are going to be on everyone’s TBR lists this Spring and Summer.
For the first time I am running today on my blog a double book review. Starting with Paula Hawkins Into the Water.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Imagine for a moment trying to sit down and write your next novel. Ok you say but what if you were the author of the massive international hit that was The Girl on the Train Then not for a moment can I begin to imagine what Paula Hawkins must be thinking as today see’s the release of her new thriller Into the Water. (Doubleday) Although some readers found that The Girl on the Train with its narrator that we know as unreliable to say the least. Paula Hawkins has gone a different route this time around as this new psychological thriller is very different and if this is at all possible it actually is better that her monster hit that captured the imagination of readers across the globe and was also a massive success on the big screen that starred Emily Blunt.
What you will find with Into the Water is that here is a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat as this is a stunning thriller with more than just the usual twists than your average read. This is an ambitious attempt to move away from the formula that gave Hawkins so much success, here there are more characters and the plot is so layered that is gives more to the reader. There is even something Hitchcock about this book and one that many readers will flock to. The story is set in a small riverside town, and the opening sequences are nothing short of horrific as a woman is tied up and then drowned by a group of men. At this point I had to re-read this first part as I was not sure if this was a current event or was this a past event from history and if so was history to play a major part in the novel. A chilling start that set the tone for what was to be a gripping thriller. It is now August 2015 and this little riverside town now becomes centre stage and a small of that river that has a notorious history that involves the drowning of witches. But there has been a much more recent drowning a middle aged woman called Nel Abbott is found dead in this stretch of water but how was this possible? Now let your imagination play with you here. Some including her daughter think Nel planned to end her life but Nel’s sister Jules is not sure. Now the history of this part of the comes to the fore as other deaths by drowning come to light. It also appears that Nel was taking a keen interest into the drownings has she taken some if its secrets and the towns secrets with her.
There are many character here that have a story to tell and they do this in bite size chapters that play a part in telling the real story of what has been going on in this small town. Some of these characters are hiding the truth and it also appears that Nel was not liked by many in the town. Question is why? Add into the story a psychic and you have the recipe for a thriller that is just building page by page with suspense until the very last moment. If you are going to read Into the Water on a train journey, be warned you may miss your stop but at least it stop you looking at people’s homes through the window of your carriage.
My thanks to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of Into the Water.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is published by Doubleday and is released today 2nd May and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
It is the morning of 4th August 1892 and the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered in their home. They have been brutally murdered with an axe. It was Lizzie Borden who discovered the mutilated body of her father. Here in See What I Have Done (Tinder Press) the debut novel by Sarah Schmidt she tells the story with fact and fiction in a gripping and riveting debut.
I have to admit to not knowing the story of the brutal murders that took place in the Borden home so before I started to read the book I did a little research to prepare myself for the book. Once I started I became hooked on Sarah Scmidt’s telling of the story using both facts and then using fiction to re-tell the infamous story.
When the Police arrived at the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts it becomes clear there was only one suspect and that was Lizzie Borden. Could she really have taken an axe to her stepmother and to her father? Despite the fact that there was other people in the house the police believe that she was responsible for the murders. Lizzie Borden was then tried and acquitted. To this day the murders remain unsolved in what remains one of the most heinous crimes the axe that was used in the murders was never found.
There are a numbers of characters that Scmidt focuses on in the novel with Lizzie and her sister Emma who at the time of the murders was not present in the family home, then there is the girls Uncle John and then the maid, Bridget. With the facts of the case already known Schmidt then weaves a dark and claustrophobic story. Behind the front door of the family home clearly all was not well. To say this was a troubled family even dysfunctional, there was many things quietly bubbling away under the surface in that steaming hot summer. The entire story just jumps out at you and leaves your pulse racing. This is an incredible first novel that is visceral and truly compelling. Schmidt’s writing is dark and chilling and the palms of your hands become sweaty or was that blood oozing from the pages of this disturbing read. This was clearly a family with many problems hidden behind the shutters of the windows as if they were keeping the secrets from the outside world. The parts of the story as told through Lizzie Borden leave you cold and wondering about her sanity and left me in cold sweats. See What I have Done is a Superb first novel and one I highly recommend.
Thank you to Georgina Moore for the advanced review copy of See What I Have Done.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is published by Tinder Press and is released today 2nd May and available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.