Underwater Breathing by Cassandra Parkin – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

On Yorkshire’s gradually-crumbling mud cliffs sits an Edwardian seaside house. In the bathroom, Jacob and Ella hide from their parents’ passionate arguments by playing the ‘Underwater Breathing’ game – until the day Jacob wakes to find his mother and sister gone.

Years later, the sea’s creeping closer, his father is losing touch with reality and Jacob is trapped in his past. Then, Ella’s sudden reappearance forces him to confront his fractured childhood. As the truth about their parents emerges, it’s clear that Jacob’s time hiding beneath the water is coming to an end.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I was looking forward to reading this book after the The Winter’s Child, the author’s previous book was one of my top reads for 2017. I wasn’t disappointed. Jacob, Ella and Mrs Armitage were characters I enjoyed getting to know.
With narrative from 2008 and ‘now’ the reader sees the two children grow and their houses getting closer to the sea. Ella, aged seven, is petrified at the thought of this happening but her relationship with Jacob and her friendship with Mrs Armitage helped her.
I loved the sections that involved young Ella and Mrs Armitage. The author did a brilliant job of making a seven year old character a convincing one and the conversations she had with her older friend were amusing but poignant and I felt both of them enjoyed their friendship.
Ella’s role in ‘now’ wasn’t as prominent. Much of this concerns Jacob and his relationship with his father whose health is poor. It is a much darker side of the novel, a bit worrying at times and I did prefer the lighter alternative.
One of the most fascinating parts of the novel was the level of acceptance that their homes would be lost to the sea. How it seemed perfectly normal that you could suddenly lose most of your garden and eventually your home and just carry on regardless.
A unique and wonderful read.

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The Teacher’s Secret by Suzanne Leal – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Things aren’t always as they seem…

A small town can be a refuge, but while its secrets are held, it’s hard to know who to trust and what to believe.

The Teacher’s Secret is a tender and compelling story of scandal, rumour and dislocation, and the search for grace and dignity in the midst of dishonour and humiliation..

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
The Teacher’s Secret is set in a close-knit community in Australia. Terry has been teaching at the local school for years. Some of the children he teaches are the children of parents he taught when they were children. Some of them need more help than others. Pupils and colleagues adore him but when Laurie arrives to stand in as school head she doesn’t like his ways. She sees his closeness and time he spends with the children in his own time as a threat to their safety and against the rules. And Laurie is adamant that all rules need to be adhered to by everybody. She soon makes it impossible for him to carry on working at the school.
The novel focuses on Terry but also other members of the community. We meet Nina, the teacher who replaces Terry and one of the few who doesn’t really know him. We also meet parents and grandparents of pupils, close friends and a family who want refuge.
At first, when the novel focused on Terry I found if quite difficult to read. I did have sympathy for him, he did a lot of good things for the kids, especially the ones who needed extra care. But I don’t think he helped himself at all with his refusal to accept the rules that were in place. I warmed to him more after he was forced to leave his job, when you could see how much the children needed him. And how much he needed them.
My favourite character was Nina, how she had to accept the way her life had changed and how she had to make the children accept her as their new teacher. She was the only one who had any liking or sympathy for Laurie, a feeling I didn’t share. I thought she was a cold person who would manipulate a situation so she could put her rules in place. I liked Grace and her family, I felt her fears over not being granted refuge and how hard it was to fit into a new way of life. And how it was made easier for them by a misunderstanding.
I liked reading about this little community of people and Suzanne Leal is an author who I would happily read again.

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Hotel On Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully – Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

When Maya was a girl, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void.
Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to.
Desperate for answers, Maya begins to unravel secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover what happened, she must decide whether her life, and a chance at love, are worth risking for the truth.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
Even though Hotel on Shadow Lake wasn’t quite like I expected it to be, I enjoyed it a lot. Set in Germany in the late 1930s and USA across the decades it demonstrates the devastation caused by the horror of WW2 and also how greed can destroy lives.
In 1930’s Munich, Martha has differing views to her mother and twin brother about the country’s political situation. She is constantly being warned that she needs to keep her thoughts to herself.
In 2017, Maya is desperate to find out why the remains of her Grandmother (Martha) have been discovered in a remote area in New York. Despite warnings to be careful, she is determined to carry on with her investigation.
I liked both narrators and time frames but the strongest part of the novel for me was in the 1930s. I have read a bit of fiction that is based on events leading up to the start of WW2 but never from a female point of view. Much of it is intimidating, and a lot of it is upsetting. The levels of violence shown by the Gestapo and those who followed them because they believed it was the right thing to do. The fear from the Jewish communities, the belief of the students that they could make a difference had me reading with a lump in my throat.
So to go from this scenario to the one in America felt like quite a leap. There was still intimidation but it was completely different. I did work out the connection fairly early, but I wanted to see how it all came together in modern-day. And what had happened to Martha, who was my favourite character by a long way.
I don’t always read author notes at the back of a book but if you are the same, I would advice that you do. They made me want to read certain parts of it again.
Recommended.

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The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Five years ago, Susannah Harper’s son Joel went missing without trace. Bereft of her son and then of her husband, Susannah tries to accept that she may never know for certain what has happened to her lost loved ones. She has rebuilt her life around a simple selfless mission: to help others who, like her, must learn to live without hope.
But then, on the last night of Hull Fair, a fortune-teller makes an eerie prediction. She tells her that this Christmas Eve, Joel will finally come back to her.
As her carefully constructed life begins to unravel, Susannah is drawn into a world of psychics and charlatans, half-truths and hauntings, friendships and betrayals, forcing her to confront the buried truths of her family’s past, where nothing and no one are quite as they seem.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

It would be safe to assume that The Winter’s Child is just another missing child/ unreliable narrator/ psychological thriller. But even though the novel does cover some of those things it is completely different to what I expected it to be. It does concern a missing child but the child isn’t a young boy like I imagined him to be, he is a teenager who disappeared after a family row. There is an unreliable narrator but again it is different. Susannah is a difficult character to understand. I wanted to feel sympathy for her. She is vulnerable and suffering without Joel but she appeared to be cold to others, selfish, unapproachable and snobbish. Her attitude to John, Melanie and Jackie was appalling. Especially Jackie, who was one of the characters I really warmed to. The police are minor characters, the focus is mostly on Susannah and how she is coping, or not, without her son.
It’s beautifully written, and quite refreshing to read. It’s a crime novel but it’s approached from a parent’s view rather than an investigation into a disappearance of a messed up teenager. A remarkable novel that will stay in my thought for quite a while.

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My Publication Day – Jane Isaac.

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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog Jane Isaac talking about how she likes to spend her publication day. She is the author of two series of books, one features Helen Lavery and the other Will Jackman. I have enjoyed reading both series of books.

How will you spend the day?

I usually have a launch party with friends and family in a nearby bookshop, a lovely occasion affording the opportunity to thank those who’ve helped with research and supported the new release, eat cake, drink plenty of wine, and generally celebrate! If this isn’t scheduled for the actual release day, my husband and I have a nice dinner and raise a glass of something special to toast the new release.

Will you be following reviews from early readers or do prefer not to know?
(Excluding blog tours)

Yes, I tend to read all the early reviews. I’m a bit of a perfectionist I suppose, and try to make every book better than the last, so I don’t really rest easy until I know that the majority of my readers are happy with the new title and how it fits into the series.

Is it emotional, getting the novel you have worked on for months into the public
eye?

Yes, definitely. It takes me almost a year to write a book and there is always a chunk of me in there somewhere, which makes publication day feel quite vulnerable. I guess it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and meeting readers’ expectations, which is why it’s so special when people take the time to post a review and leave their thoughts.

If you have had books published before, does the feeling change?

I thought it would, but it doesn’t! My fifth book was released in May and that initial feeling of trepidation still trailed me like a shadow for the first few days.

I often wonder and imagine that when your novel is published and you have been working on at least one novel since, is the book that is published less important? And is it a distraction, welcome or otherwise having to focus on what is for you old material?

I tend to write series fiction and am usually writing the next book, whilst working through copy edits and proofing in readiness for publication of the previous. I did struggle with moving between the two in the early stages, but not so much now. I do think every novel is equally important though. They should all be the best work we can produce.

Do blog tours make you more nervous or do you see them as beneficial?

I admit I do feel a little nervous, but I’m also hugely grateful that bloggers feel able to give up their valuable time to take part in a tour. Anything that helps to spread the word about a new title is hugely beneficial for everybody in the industry, from the reader to the author to the publisher, so I believe they are tremendously worthwhile.

I’m also astounded by how much time and effort bloggers put into reading, reviewing and sharing news of new books. In my opinion, they are truly the unsung heroes of the book world.

What is your publication day treat? Champagne, cream cake, 10km run?

A nice glass of wine (Zinfandel Rose is my current favourite).

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Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie. I really enjoyed answering your questions!