The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I  enjoy reading historical fiction and always feel I’m in for a treat when the book I’m reading sends me to look for further information on the internet. In this novel that occurred after reading the prologue. I’d had no idea that Bristol was flooded in the 17th century.

Apart from the witch trials I don’t know that much about the reign of James I but I was aware of Robert Cecil. The author has brilliantly described both and neither come across as very nice people. But they both only appear briefly and most of this novel concerns the people of Bristol. A city that is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the floods, the superstitions and the horrifying religious attitudes at the time. This was one of the more convincing accounts that I have read and I fully believe that events such as the ones described occurred.

There were so many characters I was fascinated by. Daniel, Rachael, Myles and Mistress Crugge were just a few of the them. All different, all passionate and all determined to survive. And at times it seemed that Bristol also had its own character. It isn’t somewhere I know, but time and time again I was looking for buildings, streets and local history on the internet.

It was also a book that made me slightly nauseous. The accounts of what the flood left behind, the food the survivors were forced to eat, the relish in which the many executions were described all made this novel very life like. 

I can’t wait to read more, this book had me glued to the sofa.

One August Night by Victoria Hislop – Review.

About The Book

25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. About 15 years ago I read the prequel to this book which was called The Island. From memory it was a holiday read and I loved it. But because it was so long ago and I’ve read a lot of books since I can remember little of it. Apart from the island that became a leper colony and the way it tore apart lives when loved ones had to go and live there. But I was thrilled to be sent this follow up which I decided to read as a stand-alone novel.

It starts with a tragedy at what should have been a happy occasion. The release of all the inhabitants of Spinalonga after a cure had been found for leprosy. One of those released was affected personally by what happened and she is one whose story you read. How she coped with her release and the way she chose to deal with the tragedy that occurred. Anna was one of the central characters in The Island, and really the only one I remembered anything about.

The other thread of the story involves Manolis, who flees Crete after what occurred. He builds a new life for himself but can never settle into a relationship and be truly happy. Despite not remembering him from The Island it was his story I preferred. His life with friends, especially his landlady was one that I really enjoyed.

The culture, the people, the developing tourism all felt realistic and I would happily reread The Island and then read this again. I’m sure reading the two together will reveal so much more about the history from the time.

Hermit by S. R. White – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read a lot of crime fiction, most of it fast paced some of it slow. Hermit is probably one of the more slower paced novels that I have read, but it is the only way it could be. It works perfectly. 

It concerns one murder investigation and apart from a few memories that the chief suspect, Nathan, is encouraged to reveal takes place across one day. For the chief investigator Dana it is a very long day. It is the day which she started contemplating suicide until she got the call about the murder at the local store. It is a day that she never usually works, you only find out some of the reasons why very late in the novel. 

As you would expect with a police procedural novel much of the book shows the attempts to find out why the store owner was murdered but it differs because of Dana’s method of gaining Nathan’s trust. She wants to know why he has spent living the last 15 years as a hermit and how he survived without any human contact. I felt at times she envied him for his way of life. Over a series of interviews between just the two of them everything is revealed. I felt sadness and horror over what happened to him, as well as awe over how he coped until the moment it all went wrong. 

There were times when they seemed similar. Both struggling with events from the last, both struggling to explain why, both coping in different ways. It could have been depressing but for Dana’s colleagues, in particular Lucy who made me smile quite a lot. I wouldn’t like to be a lawyer who had to deal with her! 

The ending left me near howling with frustration, this is one book I am absolutely desperate for a follow up. 

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop – Audio Blog Tour Review.

Audio Clip

If you click on the link below you will be able to hear an excerpt from the novel that is narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

Link to Audio Clip

About The Book

The gripping new novel by Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars. 

Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade. 
Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.

In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.

Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.

As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.

This powerful new novel from Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop sheds light on the complexity and trauma of Greece’s past and weaves it into the epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I had enjoyed reading one of the author’s earlier books, The Island, a few years ago so was looking forward to reading this new one. 

It takes place in Athens and starts in the 1940s. Themis lives with her grandmother and siblings and almost straightaway you see how politics divided them. I had a lot of sympathy for their grandmother, having to cope with their disagreements on a daily basis. 

I felt at times like I was reading two different novels. One concerning Themis and her life throughout WW2 and the civil war that followed. Her experience as a prisoner and the friendships made at that time. And another about her family life, her childhood, her marriage and the fear that her previous life would catch up with her. It was the latter that I found easier to read, not because I enjoyed it more, but because the politics, brutality and fear was so convincing I felt like I was there.

Themis was an astonishing character. Loyal, brave and caring. All three strengths that weren’t evident with her siblings at first. It was only in the latter stages of the novel that they could be seen in her older brother.

I’m ashamed to say that I know nothing at all about Greek history and by reading this book I learned a lot. 

Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? 

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have been interested in reading this book for a few months so was thrilled to be asked to support its publication. I am aware of the play, Hamlet, but don’t know what it is about or that it was named after his son who died when he was a child. I have however, visited Stratford Upon Avon a few times and know the streets and the houses that are connected to Shakespeare.

Although the book concerns William Shakespeare and his family he isn’t named. He is known throughout as his son, her husband or their father. All of the other characters are named, even though his wife is known as Agnes not Anne. I liked the way this was done, showing that whilst he was living in London writing, there was another equally important life back in Stratford. And it was because of this life that he was able to do it instead of teaching Latin and selling gloves. And more importantly keeping him away from his father.

I adored Agnes. Her spirit, her strangely modern approach to life and her way of reading people. It is implied that she could see the future but she could also accurately see a person’s true character. Especially concerning her father in law and her stepmother, and I liked how she used that knowledge to help her family. And most of all I liked the way she ignored all who tried to ridicule or insult her. I also liked her brother Bartholomew, large and protective and wise.

I have never read anything like this before. It made me want to find out more about the plays and when I go back to Stratford I will be looking with new eyes.