The Last Night by Cesca Major.

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About the Book

In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work. When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within…
Decades earlier in the 1950s, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. Over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future. But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever…

My Review

The Last Night was a novel that arrived unexpectedly but I liked the look of it straight away. I enjoy fiction that is told by several different narrators across different time zones. In this case, it was Abigail, Mary and Richard in 1952 and Irina in 2016.
Abigail has recently lost her mother and decides to leave her home town to live with her married sister in Lynmouth. She falls in love with the area, has very strong feelings for Richard but misses her best friend Mary and feels very uncomfortable with her new living arrangements.
Irina is a furniture restorer who has been sent a bureau to work on by a client she has done work for in the past. She has had her problems and has facial scarring that she feels very conscious of. She also has suffered a loss in her childhood that she refuses to discuss. She has a strong sense of unease regarding the bureau. Unexplained events happen when she is near it, and when she finds items that have been hidden the fear increases.
Sometimes when reading a novel that is told by different narrators/ time zones there is a weaker story. But there is no problem here, I liked both equally and the chapters that featured Mary and Richard added to the tale. Neither of them aware of what was troubling Abigail but wanting to help.
Both stories had levels of intimidation, the ghostly occurrences were just enough to be believable and the situation that Abigail was in was very intense and worrying. When the events of the last night were revealed and its aftermath it was devastating. That this novel is loosely based on a true event was quite upsetting, more so when I looked at old photographs after finishing it.
Definitely one of my favorite novels of 2016 I would like to thank the publisher for the copy received.

The Last Night will be published on 3rd November. to preorder click here

The Price of Inheritance by Karin Tanabe.

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About the Book

After eight years in the American Furniture department at Christie’s, twenty-nine-year-old Carolyn Everett is a rising star. But one wrong decision and a scandal leaves her unemployed and broken. Desperate to piece her life back together, Carolyn leaves New York City to work in a tiny antique store in Newport, Rhode Island.

One day at a small county auction, she discovers a piece of Middle Eastern pottery, which she purchases for twenty dollars on a hunch. Curiosity sends her on a mission to find its original owner, and she eventually winds up in the town’s United States Navy Base—and in a relationship with notorious womanizer Marine Sergeant Tyler Ford, who claims the relic came to him as a gift from his translator during the early days of the Iraq War. From two different worlds, Tyler and Carolyn become obsessed with the mysterious relic—and each other—until the origin of the art comes under intense scrutiny and reveals a darker side of Tyler’s past. Carolyn still feels like there’s more to the story, but can she risk attaching herself to another scandal—and does she truly know the man she’s fallen in love with.

My Review

The Price of Inheritance is not a novel that I would usually read but I was on a break from crime fiction and this was the novel that looked most appealing.
After losing her job and returning home in an attempt to rebuild her life Carolyn gets a job working for her old employer. It’s completely different to her job with Christie’s but she enjoys it, especially going to an auction and finding a gem. When she sees a bowl that is unusual she buys it. It isn’t her area of expertise but her interest is piqued and she is determined to find out its history and value. She tracks down the man who sold it but is uncertain if he can be trusted.
I enjoyed reading this book. This is the first book that I have read that takes place in auction houses and art history is something I know nothing about. I found myself resorting to the internet looking up the artists and museums mentioned.
I did feel that the characters were slightly stereotyped. All the military were brainless womanisers and a few of the wealthy were condescending but I liked Carolyn and William very much. I loved the sections that took place in the auctions, they felt very convincing. I could sense the tension that the people connected to a sale must experience.
An author that I would be interested in reading again, thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.

Neil White- Q and A

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Today, it is my pleasure to host a Q and A with Neil White. Neil usually writes crime fiction but last week published a novel called Lost in Nashville that is about a father and son who look into the life of Johnny Cash and attempt to rebuild their relationship. The novel is a fascinating read and my review will be published shortly.

Do you feel that things would have changed if what happened at Selma hadn’t happened?

Yes, except the spark would have been ignited somewhere else.

Things had been boiling for a while. Martin Luther King was a prominent figure and had nationwide support. You have to remember that Selma happened more than a year after the famous I Have A Dream speech, when he packed out the Mall in Washington and spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Selma accelerated the demands for civil rights, that’s all, because it provided the tipping point.

Like the bus boycott in Montgomery following Rosa Parks’s refusal to move from her seat, if it hadn’t been her and at that point, it would have happened somewhere else and over something else. Rosa Parks might have been a weary seamstress when she boarded that bus, but she was also a committed protestor who had been to weekend training sessions, where she and others learned effective ways to protest. She had the fight she’d been waiting for, and there were a lot of people like her. Change was needed, and people were ready for the fight. Selma didn’t start anything, as such, but became the point where people everywhere said enough is enough.

Before I visited the town, I was slightly apprehensive, not knowing what kind of town I would find, because the town is a symbol of racism. The famous bridge, where the march to Montgomery started and the police clubbed peaceful protestors, stood out on images as a symbol of white brutality in a very brutal Deep South. When I visited, however, it took on a different meaning, because it is presented as a symbol of hope, the marker for where the scales shifted heavily in favour of civil rights.

Selma and protest songs were big news in the 1960s, do you think that today’s media would report differently and have changes in law and the speed that information is distributed make it completely different?

Fundamentally, it would be the same.

Compare it to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is similar in tone and origin, because the events in Selma accelerated because of the killing of a black man by a white police officer. Depressing to see that fifty years on, little progress has been made. Selma may have been about voting rights, but the message was largely the same as the current movement, that black lives matter in every sense.

Black Lives Matter is very much focused on the more direct point that black people shouldn’t be suspects first and citizens second when being dealt with by the police, but the fundamentally the same point is being made as it was in Selma in 1965. Now, it is starting to branch out into a protest movement about economic inequality on racial grounds.

The main difference with the events that followed Selma is that as it was dealing with a specific issue, voting and equal rights, and it had an aim it could achieve. The Black Lives Matter movement is more to do with creating a shift in public consciousness and police attitudes, and it will be harder to assess when success has been achieved.

Change is usually generational though. The young people of today are the most tolerant there have ever been, and that is something you could probably have said throughout history at any given point. Things will change. There were things being said twenty years ago that we wouldn’t say now.

Do protest songs still have the same impact?

I don’t think so, but I think it reflects more on how music has changed. Now, music is more eclectic. Back then, there was soul, rock and roll, blues, country and folk. Everyone knew all the chart acts. Now, it is spread over more formats and platforms, and is more market-driven. Gone are the days when A&R people would trawl the smoky clubs of the provinces, looking to hear that new exciting band that is creating whispers. Music has become lazy in that regard, and too financially-driven.

Take the music I loved as a teenager, the ska revival of the end of the seventies. In early 1979, Madness were playing in pubs around London, gaining an audience and doing their own thing. By autumn 1979, they were a top chart act, doing the same songs in the same clothes. No remodeling. No reinvention. Come in, record the tracks, take a picture for the album cover and release. I don’t think it would happen like that anymore.

Could you even name the current number one? I couldn’t. Go back thirty years, most people could.

I think music is listened to differently too. Music used to be something you did as a static thing. You’d sit and listen to an album, pouring over the lyrics sheets and even reading the thank you messages at the end. Now, it feels often like music is what you listen to when doing other things.

I’m not saying either is better or worse. I’m glad music was how it was when I was a teenager and older, but now there is access to so much more than before. You lose with one hand and gain with the other, and I accept that as I’m much older I’m perhaps not looking in the right places. But I just don’t get the sense that the youth of today are driven by music in the same way that they were thirty years ago and more. Now, music is the backdrop to their lives. Then, it was the framework.

Or maybe I’m just old.

I don’t think protest songs would find the same traction because not many songs filter into the national consciousness in the same way that they did in the past. There’ll never be another Bob Dylan. Not because he was a unique songwriter, and he was just as derivative as all those who have been derivatives of him, but because a songwriter will not be able to get the broad appeal in the same way.

Johnny Cash was criticised for not supporting Selma in song, was this justified even though he did support other causes, i.e. the plight of the American Indians, that he believed in? If you protest about too much does it weaken the argument?

It is something I look at in Lost In Nashville but I don’t know whether he was actually criticised at the time or whether it is merely something that stands out with hindsight.

At the time the events in Selma happened, Johnny Cash’s album Orange Blossom Special came out, February 1965, and there is a civil rights song on there, All Of God’s Children Ain’t Free, so it isn’t right to say that he was ignoring the civil rights movement.

To put it into context, however, in the lead up to that album, he’d been getting a lot of criticism for singing about causes that weren’t popular in the country music circles; namely, those in support of Native Americans.

He’d taken a lot of flak for his single The Ballad of Ira Hayes, a song telling the true story of one of the American soldiers who raised the flag in the famous Iwo Jima photograph and monument, as well as his album Bitter Tears, all about Native Americans. He had to bring out an album that would bring him back into the country music fold, and Orange Blossom Special was that album, but he did sneak onto it a song in support of the Civil Rights movement. The fact that it came out as the same time as the events in Selma makes the album seem strangely silent on the issue, but he wasn’t to know the events would occur at that time, and they had been bubbling for a while.

The sour thought, however, is that it is unclear how much support he would have had for bringing out an album in support of the civil rights movement, as it could have killed his music career. For all the time Johnny Cash was bringing out albums in support of Native Americans, the civil rights movement was gaining ground, and it seems as if the record labels were just about content to let him protest on issues that were vaguely Wild West in tone but I’m pretty sure they would have killed an album supporting Martin Luther King.

You can buy the novel here

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland.

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About the Book

Riddle me this: I have a price, but it cannot be paid in gold or silver.
1361. Porlock Weir, Exmoor. Thirteen years after the Great Pestilence, plague strikes England for the second time. Sara, a packhorse man’s wife, remembers the horror all too well and fears for safety of her children.
Only a dark-haired stranger offers help, but at a price that no one will pay.
Fear gives way to hysteria in the village and, when the sickness spreads to her family, Sara finds herself locked away by neighbours she has trusted for years. And, as her husband – and then others – begin to die, the cost no longer seems so unthinkable.
The price that I ask, from one willing to pay… A human life.

My Review

The Plague Charmer is the first book that I have read by Karen Maitland and also the first that I have read that is set in the 14th century.
It is set in Porlock Weir, an area of Exmoor and features several people. Will, a ‘manmade dwarf’, Sara, a wife and mother and Matilda, otherwise known as the ‘Holy Hag’ are the main characters. When the village is cursed by Janiveer a woman who was rescued from the sea and the plague decimates the village population all three are affected. They all survive the plague itself but their battle doesn’t end there.
I remember learning about the plague at school and how devastating it was. The rapid spread and agony experienced by the victims was exactly how I imagined it to be. I loved Will’s character, he was very determined, loyal and a great sense of humour especially regarding Matilda who was a very nasty individual. I’m not sure whether his storyline was a true reflection but it made fascinating reading. All the women who featured had strong characters and were determined to do everything to survive. They were more than willing to attempt their husband’s work.
Even though the novel was at times traumatic there was still plenty of humour. I was still laughing two days after reading a comment regarding childbirth from Cador. The only part of the novel that I wasn’t as keen on was the storyline concerning the Prophet. I found it a bit too intimidating compared to the rest of the novel. However, it was only a small part of the novel.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall – Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

Don’t. Trust. Anyone.

It was supposed to be a fresh start.

A chance to forget the past and embrace the future.

But can you ever really start again?

Or does the past follow you wherever you go

My Review

Steph and Mark Gordon are settling into a new home in an attempt to rebuild their marriage after he had an affair. Steph has had her problems, a traumatic event in her teens, post-natal depression, the affair and her best friend now lives in America.
Mark works away a lot of the time and she becomes good friends with two neighbours Lila and Lawrence. But she is under pressure, Mark is away in the build up to Christmas, she is pregnant and being hassled by a very unlikeable woman to join the PTA. And then more worryingly, items start to appear on her doorstep, personal items disappear and she has a general feeling that somebody has been in her house.
I loved Lisa’s first novel so jumped at the chance to read an advance copy of her follow up. I found it very gripping and at times felt extremely edgy. I thought I could see what was happening but when more was revealed about Steph’s problems in the past I became more uncertain. I had a lot of sympathy for her, it must be an awful situation to be in. Events were happening that she couldn’t explain and nobody including her husband, mother and friends believed her.
The ending was totally unexpected. Everything I thought would happen didn’t and I felt bewildered and flabbergasted by how events turned out even though it was believable. I found myself tapping the kindle to turn over the page, thinking NO this can’t be happening!!
Its very intimidating, scary and made me feel quite paranoid.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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