Tuesday, 24 April 2018

#BlogTour The Picture by Roger Bray


Today it is my pleasure to host the BlogTour for The Picture by Roger Bray. Featuring a fantastic Q&A with Roger Bray and my review. The premise presents an interesting moral conflict and speaks to the need to be famous, to gain celebrity status and a greed of almost epidemic like proportions.


About the Author
Roger Bray –  "I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.
My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.

Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.

Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.

So here we are, two books published and another on track.

Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life."

About the book
A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.

But others believe that being identified as the person in the picture is their path to fame and fortune. Ben stands, unknowingly, in their way, but nothing a contract killing cannot fix.


Q&A with Roger Bray
The first part of the Q&A is optional (questions 1 - 5). It is just a fun way for readers to get to know the author. It's up to you whether you choose to answer them, whatever you feel most comfortable with. If any of the book questions are a no-no (spoilers ect) feel free to leave them out or change them slightly, I am flexible.

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)
The last book I read was a re-reading of Sebastian Faulks Birdsong.

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper?
Orwell -1984, Tom Sharpe – Any of them but the Throwback is a favourite, Leo Uris – Exodus and Armageddon.

The last book you read, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet...you name it)
The reboot / continuation call it what you will of the Stieg Larssons Millenium series – what were they thinking?

Are you more of a movie night, series-binger or curl up with a good book kind of guy?
A bit of all of them really, my wife and I like to do a Lord of the Rings Marathon once in a while, harder once we bought the extended version and then the Hobbit trilogy came out.  So more of a weekend event now.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Stieg Larsson – see above. Give me a clue, what was the fourth book going to be about (apparently a lot of the fourth manuscript exists but family dramas have caused issues.)

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let's talk about The Picture!

What was your inspiration for The Picture?
I had an idea for a book highlighting the cult of celebrity in which we live.  This has always been around but with social media it is a lot easier for people to reach a large number of people.  I never have a problem with people who have a talent in something, music, art, acting, anything where some sort of input and effort is required.  I find the current situation of these people who believe they are celebrities and believe they should be because they merely exist but offer absolutely nothing to society absurd.   I then had an idea for a picture being taken in circumstances of suffering and / or hope and how that could be manipulated by the aforementioned oxygen thieves for their own aggrandizement.  The two elements started as different ideas which melded together quite nicely.

Ben’s character and choices as a person play a pivotal part in the story. Kindness and compassion, as a lifestyle choice. Is it your way of saying a little kindness and even a small gesture can go a long way?
Of course, absolutely. A little kindness, a gesture can make all the difference to someone’s day or even their life.  Often you don’t realise that the small gesture has made a difference, but I recall an incidence when I know it did.  I was in a shop and there was a harried looking mother pushing a wheel chair.  She was behind me at the checkout.  I wasn’t taking much notice but I looked down at the pushchair.  The young boy, 3 or 4 years old, had a severe case of (I think) Treacher Collins syndrome.  He looked up at me and I smiled and gave him an Laural and Hardyesque exaggerated finger wave and said something like ‘how are you going buddy, having a good day with mum.’  He started smiling and I looked up at mum and she was beaming as well.  I went through the checkout and was heading towards my bike when they caught up with me.  The mum couldn’t thank me enough although I didn’t think I had actually done anything.  Apparently most people recoil when they see him, or ignore him.  My treating him as a normal kid meant everything to her.
Little things do go a long way and normally cost you absolutely nothing. I wrote a short piece on kindness on my blog

Do you think parental alienation (Ben and Anna) is becoming more frequent and perhaps isn’t dealt with the way it should be by the courts, thereby leaving many broken parent-child relationships in its wake?
In The Picture I directed the story of Ben and Anna in a particular direction for the narrative of the story.  I only touched on the idea of courts getting involved in family breakups and custody fights.
I am not an expert in this but I do know usually Courts and social workers try to do the right thing, sometimes parents do the right thing with out court involvement and if an amicable arrangement can be reached outside the Court system it is probably best all around.    There are many reason why relationships break down as you have suggested. The Courts are an attempt by society as the last chance to reach some accord.  Once people get to Court the situation is dire anyway and to blame the Courts is too simplistic, they are trying to deal with human emotions which are often totally illogical    Without jumping on a soap box, moral direction, personal responsibility and a little selflessness on the part of parents may go a long way to fix some of the issues.  But some just cannot be fixed, with or without the Courts.

Greed, and an obsession with fame and celebrity, seems to be the bane of our existence in this day and age. Do you think the expansion of social media and a general lack of boundaries exacerbate these traits in people?
Yes.  As described above I think the whole thing is absurd.  Of course, as individuals, we can choose to engage or disengage with this but it is difficult, it is all pervading.   Think back thirty years and consider the type of people who were role models and those who were not.  The whole thing has been reversed and those who were not considered role models now are.  No wonder the youth are confused being bombarded with the beautiful, morally bankrupt people day in day out.   And rock music was better when ugly people made it. :o)

These snapshots in time and history often take on a life of their own. What is more important, the image and the situation or moment it represents, or the image and knowing who is in the image?
That would very much depend on the image and the situation.
For example in June 1963 a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc,  sat in the centre of an intersection in Saigon.  He poured petrol over himself and set himself on fire.  The picture of the event is world renown taken by Associated Press photographer Malcolm Browne.  JFK said “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”  Look at it today, search ‘Burning Monk and there he is Quang Duc sitting serenely as he self immolated.   That picture changed world events, it changed US foreign policy.  One picture.  Even today it promotes awe at Quang Duc’s sacrifice.  Ask people ‘what was the specific reason for Quang Duc’s actions’ and I doubt many would know.  So the picture has survived while the reason for it has been lost to general knowledge.   Some images and events are linked intimately, some take on a general impression of what occurred, but the full reason, are not always apparent.  A difficult question to definitively answer beyond that.

Ben doesn’t make a big deal out of his act of compassion or the fact he has helped during an extreme time of despair. There are plenty of nameless and faceless heroes, why do the majority choose to stay nameless, faceless and unknown? Instead of using their acts to become famous or infamous?
Because it is their job.  They do what needs to be done and move on to the next one. Police officers, fire fighters, doctors nurses, paramedics, rescue volunteers,  social workers the list is endless.  They do it because they believe they are doing good in their communities.  Unfortunately we don’t often hear anything about them unless something goes wrong in which case the press is there to pillory them.   You don’t hear stories of police officers who have had to deal with a SIDS death, then go home to their own young families, or a doctor crying because they have lost a patient or firefighters carrying victims from a house blaze.  It is their job, they get up each morning and do it.  Most emergency service workers would be deeply suspicious of someone trying to use a tragic event to their own advantage.

Thank you for answering all my questions, even the odder ones!
Thanks very much Cheryl for having me.  I really enjoyed the questions, especially the odder ones. Sorry if I ranted a bit, I’ll slip the soap box back under the desk now. :o)


Review
The story is split into two sections, although that is probably unintentional and both story-lines do link up. The first half of the book is all about how Ben reconnects with his past, in particular with the daughter he has never met before. Like many other families who are torn apart by separation, the children often hear one-sided accounts of their own history, and of their parents relationship.

In this case Ben's daughter believes he made a conscious choice to abandon his child. With those kind of negative emotions it is hard to try and build a new relationship, which is exactly what Ben's ex-police partner asks her to do when Ben is seriously injured in an armed robbery. She finds it difficult to just bury her anger and become the doting daughter. There are some things that are unforgivable.

Paul spends a lot of time filling Anna in on the past. Explaining what he thinks happened between her parents and trying to give her an idea of what kind of man Ben really is. To demonstrate how selfless Ben is, Paul tells her the story of how Ben helped a young woman in her most vulnerable moment by acknowledging what she needed most at that moment in time. That moment of humanity was captured on photograph, and has since become a viral and global sensation. It's now synonymous for the pain, loss and destruction during the Japanese tsunami. A young woman and her baby in the aftermath of chaos and death. This leads the reader to the focus of the second half of the book.

Another man takes credit for the kind actions in the photo, and gains both money and celebrity through this fraudulent association. This is the core point of The Picture. The lengths people will go to to become famous, to make money and gain celebrity in our society. There is no sense of guilt, just a brazen attitude of privilege and self- preservation. The fraudster doesn't care about the girl in the picture or how the picture came to be, he is only interested in maximum profit and not being discovered for the criminal he is.

Bray brings two quite different topics to the table, the emotional upheaval and one-sided narrative of parental alienation and the endless need for attention and validation by the masses, in our 21st century society, especially in the era of social media and instant gratification.The premise presents an interesting moral conflict and speaks to the need to be famous, to gain celebrity status and a greed of almost epidemic like proportions.

Buy The Picture at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Read Psychosis by Roger Bray


Monday, 23 April 2018

#BlogTour Binary Witness and Code Runner by Rosie Claverton


Today is a double whammy, the BlogTour features Binary Witness and Code Runner, book 1 and 2 in the Amy Lane Mystery series, by Rosie Claverton. Read all about the two books, the author and my reviews for both books below.

Binary Witness and Code Runner were initially published by Carina as ebooks only. When Rosie and Carina parted company, Crime Scene Books fell on Rosie with glad cries, published the next two books in the series (Captcha Thief and Terror 404), all the while negotiating with Carina for the rights to the first two - which CSB now have. Both Binary Witness and Code Runner appear now in new editions, and for the first time in paperback and, in the case of Binary Witness, in audiobook.

About the Author
Rosie Claverton grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home. She then moved to London to specialise in psychiatry. Her Cardiff-based crime series The Amy Lane Mysteries debuted in 2014. Her first short film Dragon Chasers aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012. She co-created the ground-breaking series of short films The Underwater Realm. Between writing and medicine, she blogs about psychiatry and psychology for writers in her Freudian Script series, advocating for accurate and sensitive portrayals of people with mental health problems in fiction. She is the co-founder of Crime Cymru, a collective of Welsh crime writers. Returned to her beloved Cardiff, she lives with her journalist husband and brand new daughter.
Follow @rosieclaverton @CrimeSceneBooks on Twitter
Visit rosieclaverton.com


About Binary Witness (Amy Lake Mystery #1)
A young woman trapped by her fear.
A serial killer on the prowl.
A woman locked in a darkened flat.
An ex-con hiding from a vengeful gang.

As clubbers in Cardiff are targeted by a brutal murderer, the police turn to unconventional means to catch the killer. Amy Lane, a desperately agoraphobic grey-hat hacker, only at peace with her fingers on a keyboard and her eyes on a screen, can peek into virtual corners in ways DI Bryn Hesketh would rather not know about. But he needs her skills, and turns to her for help. Jason, an ex-con looking to go straight, starts as Amy’s cleaner, but soon becomes much more.

An entirely new edition of the first thrilling story in Rosie Claverton’s stunning Amy Lane mystery series, available in paperback and audiobook for the first time.


Review of Binary Witness
The relationship between Amy and Jason develops gradually, a mutual feeling of disinterest is taken over by a genuine emotional bond. Two people who don't fit into the stereotypical boxes determined by society. Jason, the ex-con trying to stay out of prison, but finding it difficult to move on from his past and the pre-conceived notions people have about him. Then there is Amy, the agoraphobic grey-hat hacker, who is ruled by her fears and anxiety.

What starts out as a simple two hour a day cleaning job for Jason, soon becomes a a need to nurture Amy and keep her safe. One step at a time, day by day, and one small job at a time. Amy neglects herself and her home, so it comes as a huge surprise to Jason to find the police using her hacking skills on really complex cases.

When Amy is asked to help discover the identity of a potential serial killer, the new relationship between the two of them changes from client and cleaner to a crime busting duo. Amy takes care of all the online data gathering and snooping, and Jason becomes the feet on the ground external operative.

I think the premise has so much potential, and I enjoyed the way Claverton approaches mental health issues in such an open way. The majority of people will just tick Amy off as an outsider, the crazy person. There is a lack of understanding of mental health issues in general, and a lot of misconceptions about agoraphobia, anxiety and depression.

Depression is just someone feeling a little sad sometimes, anxiety is merely someone being a wee bit hysterical and how can anyone be afraid to leave their home? Sounds insensitive doesn't it, and yet this is the way people who don't comprehend these illnesses often speak about them. He or she is putting it on, they just want attention. Statements that couldn't be further from the truth.

Claverton has a created a crime fighting tag-team, who are in a sense dependent on each other. Amy needs the support and Jason needs to support. The Amy Lane Mysteries are a great combination of crime with a subtle portion of mental health awareness to go along with it. Both aspects of this series run comfortably beside each other without any attempt to be preachy or inform. It's has a natural flow and ease to it, which is what makes the read and premise work so well. Claverton is definitely an author worth watching out for.


About Code Runner (Amy Lake Mystery #2)
Agoraphobic grey-hat hacker Amy Lane and her sidekick ex-con Jason Carr make a formidable crimefighting team, but when Jason can’t resist investigating a body washed up on a beach, the duo find themselves are in over their heads in a world of drug-smuggling, conspiracy and cyber crime.
When Jason is framed for murder, Amy feels her life crumbling around her. She’s the only one who can prove his innocence and when his time in prison threatens to claim his life, she knows she has to solve the case fast. Can Amy rescue Jason? At what cost?
This entirely new edition of the second thrilling adventure in Rosie Claverton’s stunning Amy Lane mystery series comes with the BONUS AMY LANE STORY Car Hacker.


Review of Code Runner
The agoraphobic grey-hat hacker Amy and her ex-con assistant Jason are faced with a crime, which threatens to break up their team, and to shatter the new found confidence Amy has. She also finds herself separated from the lifeline she has built from her own personal prison and the outside world.

In the second book in the Amy Lane Mystery series Amy and Jason have become a well oiled crime fighting team. Perhaps one with too much success, because Jason finds himself back in prison.This time the charge is murder, the brother of his ex-best friend has been murdered, and Jason is the alleged killer.

Damage may have had it in for Jason, on behalf of his brother stewing away in prison, and he may have been responsible for the majority of  the physical injuries Jason has been dealt throughout the last few months, but that doesn't mean he wanted to or did kill him.

Someone has decided to set him up and feed him to the wolves. In prison there is no escaping the revenge of old friends. Meanwhile Amy is willing to do anything, well let's be realistic anything doable within the confines of her safe space, to save Jason.

In Code Runner there are scenes that show the lack of training, sensitivity and understanding the police force have when it comes to dealing with people suffering from mental health issues. Trying to remove an agoraphobic from the confines of their safety net can cause unfathomable trauma and anxiety. It all comes back to not comprehending what it means both physically and psychologically to have to leave their self-imposed or rather anxiety imposed space.

Claverton combines her knowledge of mental health, the medical system and solid, believable characters to create a fast-paced enjoyable read. Amy's well-being and mental health is linked to the fate of the one person, who has managed to help her cope better. At the same time the author doesn't portray Amy as weak, because she isn't. She is a strong, intelligent young woman, who is crippled and held back by her anxiety disorder.

I think this tag-team is incredibly interesting, and the storyline gives the reader a lot of insight into the restrictions of mental health disorders and the discrimination sufferers have to deal with on a daily basis. Definitely a series and an author worth checking out.

Buy Binary Witness (Amy Lane Mystery #1) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer
Buy Code Runner (Amy Lane Mystery #2) at Amazon Uk or g to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Both Published April 19th 2018 by Crime Scene Books.

Buy Captcha Thief (Amy Lane Mystery #3)
Buy Terror 404 (Amy Lane Mystery #4)

Sunday, 22 April 2018

#BlogTour Body and Soul by John Harvey

Today it is my pleasure to host the BlogTour for Body and Soul by John Harvey. Body and Soul is the shocking conclusion to the Elder series. It can be read as a standalone novel, although I would recommend the rest of the series to readers.
About the Author
John Harvey was born in London, where he now lives, while considering Nottingham his spiritual home. Initially a teacher of English & Drama, he has been a full-time writer for more than forty years. The first of his 12 volume Charlie Resnick series, Lonely Hearts was selected by The Times as one of the '100 Best Crime Novels of the Century' and the first Frank Elder novel, Flesh and Blood, won the CWA Silver Dagger in 2004. He was awarded the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in the crime genre in 2007, and his story, 'Fedora' won the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2014.

In addition to writing fiction, he has written and published poetry, running Slow Dancer Press for over twenty years; his Out of Silence: New & Selected Poems was published in 2014. He has adapted the work of Arnold Bennett, A. S. Byatt, Graham Greene and others for radio and television, and in 2017, his dramatisation of the final Resnick novel, Darkness, was produced at Nottingham Playhouse. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Hertfordshire and Nottingham.

Follow @John_BHarvey @WHeinemann
Visit mellotone.co.uk
Buy Body and Soul


About the book
When his estranged daughter Katherine suddenly appears on his doorstep, Elder knows that something is badly wrong. The breakdown of her relationship with a controversial artist has sent her into a self-destructive tailspin which culminates in murder.

As Elder struggles to protect Katherine and prove her innocence, the terrors of the past threaten them both once more.

Review
For me, the controversial topic of shock art, which is woven into this disturbing crime story, was one of the most interesting elements of the read, especially in combination with Katherine's trauma.

Shock art is described as being a way to disturb "smug, complacent and hypocritical" people. Of course that is just a pathetic way of justifying and rationalising shock art and performance art. The bourgeoisie being shocked and appalled by so-called artists in their attempt to force awakening or confront them with their own self-inflated image and shatter any sense of security they might have.

The artist abuses and uses the pain, fear and trauma Katherine has been through. I can understand Frank's reaction to the exploitation of his daughter. Her kidnapping and rape, as a young teenager, is something she will never fully recover from. Her fragile emotional state is teetering on the brink of self-harm, and her suicidal tendencies are the biggest concern for her friends and family.

Has she been driven to murder, was this final betrayal the last nail in the coffin? Is the trauma of the rape too much of a burden to live with.

The sub-plot that comes into play a little later on offers a different view and a possible solution, but personally I think the story would have been fine without it. The art, the artist, the daughter, the enraged father and ultimately the kidnapping were sufficient and captivating enough.

Harvey combines trauma with emotional conflict, unresolved anger and crime. He delivers an unexpected ending, one I had to re-read, because I thought I had misread the last few pages. What a way to end a series.

Buy Body and Soul at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

#BlogTour The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

Today it is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl. He is certainly a master of his craft, which is evident in this moving and yet equally captivating crime read.


About the Author
One of the godfathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In
2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries and sold over two million copies. He lives in Oslo.

Follow @ko_dahl @OrendaBooks #TheIceSwimmer
Visit  kjelloladahl.no
Buy The Ice Swimmer


About the book
When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.
With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.
Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmer is the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir


Review
The focus is on Detective Lena Stigersand in this book, and I have to say her reactions and inner dialogues are quite interesting. Watching Lena struggle with the separation of private and professional problems, whilst the intricate plot unfolds around her is a fascinating juxtaposition. Illness vs danger, worry vs brainstorming; Lena spends her entire time walking the lines between her inner fears and her professional instincts.

The author approaches the issue of cancer with sensitivity, although the same can't be said for Lena. She fights against the idea, ignores the reality and keeps shoving it into the recesses of her mind. Her body becomes the hidden enemy. What is riveting and heartbreaking is the way she tries to tell the people around her, and yet doesn't because she feels it may be perceived as weakness.

The Ice Swimmer combines various elements of crime. The political scenario with the secret intelligence service poking fingers in the murky pot, and the simple wrong place at the wrong time extra victim. To top it off Lena finds herself being drawn into a romantic relationship with someone she has started to have doubts about.

Overall it is a fast-paced, well-plotted story with Gunnarstranda and Frølich taking more of a supportive back seat role, as the strong impulsive Oslo detective, Lena Stigersand, takes more of a one-man team approach to solving the crimes.

Kjell Ola Dahl likes to create the crime with a focus on the intricacies of his characters and their personal lives. This atmosphere allows for the reader to feel empathy with the characters without losing sight of the unfolding crime scenario. It is a balancing act, but one that serves up a great read.

The author moves his characters across the chess board with a tactical efficiency. It gives the Ice Swimmer the feel of a modern crime with a flair of Nordic Noir, and the overall sense of ultimate command over everything. Each move is planned, no loose ends are left to ponder over, and the intimacy between the characters and the reader makes you want to come back for more.

Buy The Ice Swimmer at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle Pub date 28 Feb 2018, Paperback Pub date 30th April 2018
Published by orendabooks.co.uk


Queen of the North by Anne O'Brien

There are few ways of approaching a story that ventures into historical fiction, stories with the odd bit of history thrown in for good luck or to validate a time period, fiction that imagines a different narrative of history and stories with inaccurate historical facts.

Then you have the authors, who like Anne O'Brien, incorporate their story within the confines of accurate historical narratives, obviously with a wee bit of artistic licence here and there, thereby making it more than just a read. It is an experience of culture, learning and history.

In Queen of the North O'Brien takes the reader to the events in 1399, and although they aren't given as much attention as the events that unfold a few decades later, they are pivotal to said events. They are the seeds that are sown, which bring about the later catalyst and murderous power struggles between the York and Lancaster cousins of the Plantagenet house.

From the very beginning one thing is clear about Elizabeth, she will never forget the fact she is a Mortimer or the legitimacy of their claim to the throne. Her loyalty to the name comes before any loyalty towards her husband, the Percy family and even her own children.

In fact I would go so far as to claim hypocrisy, because the political power plays and machinations of the men she is surrounded by are no different to her own secret plans and ploys. Fluttering eyelashes, sweet voices and wiles of a woman, all in the name of her own agenda. Elizabeth has to take a step back and consider her own portion of guilt in regards to her husband, his untimely death and the desecration of his corpse.

Along with her propensity for elaborate prose and descriptive writing, O'Brien's powerful characters are what I enjoy the most about her books. She is in a class of her own, and in my personal opinion belongs up there with the best.

Buy Queen of the North at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @anne_obrien @HQStories @HarperCollinsUk
Visit anneobrien.co.uk

Friday, 20 April 2018

#BlogTour Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

You don't want to miss this humdinger of a book or the BlogTour for Keeper by Johana Gustawsson for that matter (Translation by Maxim Jakubowski). I can honestly say the author managed to pull the wool over my eyes and surprise me.


About the Author
Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. Her debut, Block 46, was an award-winning, international bestseller, with Keeper following suit. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

Follow @JoGustawsson  @Orendabooks on Twitter or on facebook.com/johana.gustawsson/
Visit johanagustawsson.com/en/
Buy Keeper


About the book
Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before. Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down…

Review
Once again this Roy and Castells story takes place in multiple countries and over different periods in time, and because the author does it with such ease it actually strengthens the plot. This case sees Emily and Alexis at opposite sides with a very upsetting difference of opinions, when they disagree about a old case that took the life of someone very important to Castells.

However that leaves more room for a new character to introduce herself into the fold. Aliénor is on the autism spectrum, which leads to some amusing situations, but she also shows herself to be an important part of the team. Her meticulous eye for detail and information helps the team advance faster than they might have without her help. Hopefully she will return again for further Roy and Castells stories, although knowing the author the girl probably has a dark murderous past and has a mass of skeletons buried in her garden. Just saying.

In Keeper there are parallels drawn between the Ripper killings and another spate of killings over a hundred years later. There is a supposition of a possible connection between the two situations. Could there be a more base connection than the hunger for some specific bloodthirsty element of the crimes.

I guessed half of the solution, but I was neither prepared for or expecting the last few pages. I can honestly say the author managed to pull the wool over my eyes and surprise me. Excellent plotting. I can just imagine the author sat there with a content and smug smile on her face thinking about the reactions of her readers. Gustawsson is honing her craft, and speeding towards the top at one hell of a speed.

I was already impressed with Block 46 (Roy & Castells #1), but Keeper is an outstanding piece of crime fiction. A crime and psychological thriller par excellence. Keeper will shock, captivate and perhaps even perplex her readers. The uncomfortable ease with which the perpetrators fall prey to the brutality and deviant desires of such a complex psychological disorder, and the way said disorder is connected to a strange and yet strong emotional bond between them, is disturbing. Gustawsson has outdone herself. I dread to think what she will come up with next, and at the same time I can't wait to read it.

Buy Keeper at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Thursday, 19 April 2018

BOSH: Simple Recipes. Amazing Food. All Plants!

A little over a month ago I had the opportunity to meet the men behind the world of BOSH, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. You may have already heard of their YouTube channel BOSH.TV, where they introduce their audience to the culinary delights of plant-based food and cooking.

Ian and Henry are both articulate, approachable and intelligent young men, they engage their audience with sincerity and a great passion for plant-based food. They both have a quick witted sense of humour and are incredibly charming.


About Henry Firth and Ian Theasby of BOSH
If you’d told us three years ago we were going to spend our lives cooking and eating amazing plant-based food, we wouldn’t have believed you. We were a couple of mates from Sheffield who ate meat every single week.

Now we run BOSH!, the biggest plant-based online channel in the world. Our food creations were viewed by half a billion people in our first year and our most popular recipe videos have been viewed over 50 million times. We never expected to have that kind of success, and it has been humbling.

‘I was the one to first cut out animal products.’
Ian

‘I mocked Ian when he went vegan, and asked him where he’d get his protein from. But eventually he won me over. That and the whole saving the world by not eating mass-produced animal products thing.’
Henry

After cutting out animal products entirely, both of us felt fantastic. But we had to re-learn how to cook and find food when we were out and about. We also found that the vegan food available in restaurants or in cookbooks was often, frankly, not very good.

Since then, it’s been our life’s mission to show people how to make delicious plant-based meals. However often they choose to do that. We cook, drink and film delicious recipes for the world, all from our home studio in East London.

Henry and Ian

Follow BOSHTV on YouTube
Follow BOSHTV   @IanTheasby @henrydavidfirth or @HQStories on Twitter
Buy BOSH CookBook



About the BOSH book
Over 100 super easy and outrageously delicious all-plant meals from the world’s biggest and fastest-growing plant-based platform, BOSH!

Henry Firth and Ian Theasby are the new faces of exciting plant-based food.

Their channel, BOSH!, constantly inspires people to cook ultra-tasty and amazingly simple meals at home – from roasting tray dinners, to one-pot wonders, and posh showstoppers to crazy cocktails – using only plant-based supermarket-friendly ingredients.

In BOSH! The Cookbook they share over 100 of their favourite go-to breakfasts, moreish light bites and snacks, filling and hearty dinners and mouthwatering puddings and treats.

Whether you are vegan or simply want to incorporate a few meat, dairy and egg-free meals into your week, BOSH! The Cookbook is your ultimate plant-based bible packed with fun, unpretentious and mega satisfying recipes easy enough to be rustled up any night of the week.


Review of BOSH: Simple Recipes. Amazing Food. All Plants!
The way people are approaching food, cooking, eating and nutrition in general is changing. A lot of them are looking for alternatives, be it because of ethical, medical, religious or just plain old I want something else for myself reasons. Plant-based meals have become a real alternative.

You can almost see the old barriers between vegan and meat activists crumbling, as plant-based cooking changes from a fad and an en vogue rebellion, to a lifestyle choice. Innovative cooks like Firth and Theasby want you to discover the pleasure, the flavour, the choices and ultimately to realise that this isn't the so-called rabbit food it has been falsely labelled as.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ian and Henry. They are articulate, approachable and intelligent young men, they engage their audience with sincerity and a great passion for plant-based food. They both have a quick witted sense of humour and are incredibly charming.

Now, it is important to note that I am a meat eater and one of the staunch steak-lovers they talk of. I have never been a fan of vegetables, however the two of them managed to lure me over to the dark side. You know, where the scary plants live.

They managed to do that because they want you to want to eat something you will enjoy, as opposed to eating it because it is the healthier option. They offer recipes for snacks, party drinks (omg the watermelon punch), desserts (I just don't agree with the sharing aspect of the tear and share chocolate croissant, just saying), starters and main meals.

Some of the recipes are so out of my vegetable comfort zone, that I wonder if the two of them just sit there and brainstorm with perfectly innocent plants just looking on in silent terror. 'Come here little cauliflower let me batter you in paprika, garlic and toss you in breadcrumbs.'

If you are looking for simple recipes, and yes they are super-easy to read and follow, amazing food, and for a plant-based food and taste-bud extravaganza, then BOSH Cookbook is the book for you.

Buy BOSH at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BlogTour This Dark Place by Claire Kittridge

It's my pleasure to host the Blogtour for This Dark Place by Claire Kittridge. She has created the kind of main character the reader can respect, expect the unexpected from, and yet also in equal measures feel empathy with.


About the Author
Claire Kittridge grew up in Brooklyn, NY watching The X-files, Law and Order, and a worn-out VHS tape of Sweeney Todd that she found in the basement. Long a lover of atmospheric landscape, rolling hills, and rainy days, Claire fell in love with England and its great fictional detectives while traveling around Britain as a teenager.

An avid reader, triathlete, and boxing fan, Claire lives in New York City with her cat, Chairman Meow. She is currently at work on the second Kelly Moore novel.

Follow Claire Kittridge on:
Twitter: @cpkittridge
Instagram: @clairekittridge
Facebook: ClaireKittridgeAuthor/
Amazon author page:  amazon.com/author/clairekittridge
Follow @DelicatePreyPub
Buy This Dark Place


About the book
Priscilla Ames is the daughter of a Wall Street hedge fund manager that has made millions in the stock market. She's reckless, impulsive, always wanting to be the center of attention, but one thing has been constant - her friendship with Avery Moss. They are like sisters that share adventures and look out for each other in times of need.

Avery Moss comes from a working-class family in Brooklyn. She met Priscilla as an 8 year-old at an elite NYC private school where Avery was on a one-year scholarship. They became friends on the first day of school when Avery beat up a boy that was teasing Priscilla. When Avery’s scholarship was discontinued, Priscilla’s father, Peter Ames, stepped in and has supported her schooling ever since, including sending the girls to a prestigious acting college in London

NYPD Detective Kelly Moore is a member of the elite Queens Violent Felony Squad. She is smart and strong and direct. Years ago, her older sister disappeared while traveling in England and the case was never solved, haunting all of her investigations. Moore’s greatest strength and her greatest weakness are two sides of the same coin: when she’s on her game, she works from the inside out, acting on hunches and then backing them up with evidence – but under duress, she acts rashly, leaping before she looks.

When Priscilla’s body is found by Avery in a posh London flat and her death is splashed across headlines worldwide, Kelly Moore flies across the Atlantic to join a crack team of British investigators working on the case.

Together with the London Metropolitan Police, Kelly must track down a twisted serial killer who seems to know her every move and her darkest secrets. As the body count rises, and panic spreads, the killer threatens to make Kelly the next victim.

In a heart-racing game of cat and mouse, Kelly must outwit this elusive master of surveillance – who might be the last person she suspects.


Review
I think it's fair to say that Detective Kelly Moore is often distracted by her past, to the point of endangering herself and others. The disappearance of her sister Cass, and her obsession with the unsolved crime, is detrimental to her decision making process. No matter what, the mystery of Cass comes first.

In this book Moore makes her way to Britain to help solve the strange death of a young woman. The daughter of Peter Ames. She wanders into a quagmire of sexual deviance, manipulation and lies. What appears to be a homicide turns out to be so much more.

Simultaneously someone is taunting Moore with insinuations about her sister. Tempting her with revelations and a possible solution to her inner torture. Unfortunately she lets this person get between the case she is trying to solve, and also puts her in mortal danger.

Moore tends to act without thinking, jump into situations without the appropriate back-up or inform anyone when she is lured into traps by the occasional psycho or two. Her streetwise New York attitude and training is a complete contradiction to the London Met Police working atmosphere she is thrown into.

Kittridge writes a compelling crime story and incorporates 21st century technology with strong memorable characters. The strength of her story is the seamless flow and the sense of ease with which it is written. The focus on intrigue and procedure, as opposed to a constant stream of action, violence and gore, absolutely works in her favour.

She has created the kind of main character the reader can respect, expect the unexpected from, and yet also in equal measures feel empathy with.  I am sure this isn't the last we will hear and read of both Detective Kelly Moore and Claire Kittridge.

Buy This Dark Place on Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

#BlogTour Game Show by Allie Cresswell

It's my pleasure to host the BlogTour for Game Show by Allie Cresswell today. This story is a sign of the times and it takes a frank look at human nature. It is brutal and unforgiving.
About the Author
I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and by the time I was in Junior School I was writing copiously and sometimes almost legibly.

I did, however, manage a BA in English and Drama from Birmingham University and an MA in English from Queen Mary College, London. Marriage and motherhood put my writing career on hold for some years until 1992 when I began work on Game Show.

In the meantime I worked as a production manager for an educational publishing company, an educational resources copywriter, a bookkeeper for a small printing firm, and was the landlady of a country pub in Yorkshire, a small guest house in Cheshire and the proprietor of a group of boutique holiday cottages in Cumbria. Most recently I taught English Literature to Lifelong learners.

Nowadays I write as full time as three grandchildren, a husband, two Cockapoos and a large garden will permit.

Connect with Allie Cresswell on Facebook: alliescribbler/
Visit allie-cresswell.com
Buy Game Show


About the book
It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming - an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?
Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.
In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns .
Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.

Review
I adore the kind of premise that explores human nature. The contestants for this game show are a mixed bunch of individuals, so the choices they make and the reactions they have are bound to differ. A privileged wealthy housewife seeks the thrill, as opposed to the love deprived exhausted multiple mother on a tight budget, who may be willing to be more cut-throat to win the show.

At the beginning of the book the show is set to the topic of Native Americans. The scenes are bloodthirsty, wild and barbaric, so aside from the obvious cultural appropriation going on, there is also the aspect of depicting the stereotype and misconceptions of their culture. Very much a privileged white man's idea of amusement, and another indicator of the 'do anything for high ratings' mentality of our era.

The West has already experienced the Holocaust, so the answer to the question in the blurb is yes it can happen in the West. In Western European countries the far right is sitting in governments once more, swastikas and hate crimes are in abundance. In the US the alt-right marches with Tiki torches.Today, at this moment in time, Western society is being forced into a similar scenario, a division between Muslims and non-Muslims, caused by the terrorism of fundamentalists and radicals.

Cresswell mentions the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, as one of her inspirations to explore the psychology of human nature, and indeed confirm what the majority of us already know through history or perhaps even personal experience.

Given the right set of circumstances and motivation the majority of people will show the base animal instinct of human nature. Survival of the fittest, and above all power and control over others. A certain number of us will lose all inhibition and show ourselves capable of extreme violence and of inflicting pain upon those we perceive to be weaker and deserving of it.

The background of the story is set in the 1990's to the background of the Bosnian conflict. At this point I have to say that despite constant reminders that we all never forget the atrocities of the Nazi regime, we are probably all guilty of ignoring the genocides that have taken place since then, the Bosnian War being a perfect example of that.

There is an interesting rant by Piers (producer) given in the first half of the book, when he more or less denies responsibility for any actions or events that place during the show, because in his eyes any person unable to recognise right from wrong has no moral fibre anyway. Thereby placing the blame solely in the hands of the single perpetrators. Now, don't get me wrong they are to blame, but the person inciting them is just as culpable, actually more so.

Our television screens are awash with game shows and reality tv shows nowadays. Japanese game shows are a prime example of the balancing act between fun and bizarrely extreme heaviour. Participants are asked to act this way, they are primed and rewarded for it, and viewers lap it up. There is a market for it, and the boundaries are becoming less visible as the years go on.

There are two storylines in Game Show, both of which could survive as a standalone plot. Combined the juxtaposition of these two storylines makes the reader aware of the parallels in human behaviour in either situation. Simultaneously it also highlights the ludicrous and frankly abhorrent fact that while the rest of the world is engaged in mundane daily chores, somewhere else men, women and children are being slaughtered.

Cresswell doesn't intend for this to be an easy read. Unfortunately it reminds us of the chaos and violence of human nature. How easily the masses are led, and how fragile our masks of civility are. Given the right set of circumstances the most docile human being can turn into a sadistic killer, and the most brash could possibly crumble at the first sign of adversity.

Game Show is about life within the confines of societal boundaries, and also when it is void of any boundaries at all. Is there really any difference between the two?

Buy Game Show at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

#BlogTour Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon

Let's kick off the BlogTour for Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon. It's a riveting combination of literary fiction meets noir, which brutally kicks the characters aside on occasion to allow for some brash contemporary reality. It is the kind of read that ends up on the tip of wagging tongues and achieving cult status.


About  the Author
Jonathan Lyon was born in 1991 in London. He studied at Oxford University, graduating in 2013 with the Gibbs Prize. He moved to Berlin in the same year. He has had a chronic illness for over a decade. He is a self-made demon. His debut novel, Carnivore, was published by HQ (HarperCollins) in August 2017.

Follow @jonathan_lyon @HQStories on Twitter & jonathan_lyon on Instagram
Buy Carnivore


About the book
Meet Leander: lover, fighter, liar.

He learnt a long time ago that nothing is as intoxicating as blood. But whether it’s his or someone else’s doesn't matter any more. There’s a mysterious pain in every muscle of his body – and it’s got so bad that he’ll do anything to escape it.

Up to now, it’s been his secret. But it’s hard to remain invisible when you leave a trail of destruction everywhere you go. So, when he comes to the attention of one of London’s most infamous criminals, Leander decides to put his appetite for violence to the ultimate test.

Let the villain win.
Extract
‘What’s your fantasy?’
All sex and storytelling starts with this, of course. Sometimes the question’s self-directed, sometimes it’s only implied. But here, obviously, I was supposed to reply ‘being dominated,’ so that’s what I said.
I was actually fantasising about eating a satsuma, slowly, slice by slice, on the edge of a rooftop, or perhaps on a hilltop, watching a building below me burn in a fire I’d started. But this would be too long to say aloud, and probably wouldn’t arouse a man in the prime of his mid-life crisis as easily as a boy begging for a beating.
So now that my victim thought that I was his victim, he could breathe more heavily, and began struggling to unbutton his shirt.‘No, no you should be doing this,’ he said, fluttering his fingers. ‘I mean, undress me, boy!’
Unsuited to the dominant role, he recoiled at his own orders. Clearly, he was a submissive – if I’d had the energy, I could’ve had him on all fours in a few minutes. But energy is not one of my vices. ‘Of course, sir,’ I said instead, my mouth twitching into a smile I had to hide by lowering my head.
Beneath his shirt was a paunch of greying hairs. As I removed the rest of his clothes, he hovered awkwardly between sitting and standing, his hands just above my back, not yet confident enough to touch me.
‘Now, now… you!’ I took off my tracksuit – the uniform he’d requested – delivered my finest doe eyed simper, and knelt down. But he rejected this arrangement and instead dragged me upwards onto the bed. ‘No time for that… boy. Let’s get to the point.’ He forced my face into the pillow and I began to moan in a way that would make him hard. Perhaps he hoped I’d feel a kind of shame in this, but ‘this’ meant nothing.
‘This’ was merely boring.
Review
Leander is like a ticking time bomb with a propensity for violence and a tendency to bury any emotional response, which may appear to the mere human eye to be a humane reaction or at least one deemed suitable by society. He hides behind the games. Fighting pain with more pain, regardless of whether it is inflicted upon others or done unto him.

To be completely frank I think Lyon has carved out a large piece of his soul and woven it straight into this story.

Leander may describe himself as a psychopath, but perhaps his coping mechanisms are just a little more extreme than those of other people. His physical pain has become the demon wailing inside him and battling to take over. To combat the demon he must distract it by any means necessary. Which means hurting those who purport to love him, destroy and play mind games with the shallow ones merely craving his physical appearance.

It's a riveting combination of literary fiction meets noir, which brutally kicks the characters aside on occasion to allow for some brash contemporary reality. It is marmite toast served with a chilled glass of champagne. It is the kind of read that ends up on the tips of wagging tongues and achieving cult status.

Jonathan Lyon devours himself, his desires, his fears and his pain whole, in this ode to the black hole and Shakespearean play of millennialism. Carnivore is perfused with the wealth of an intellectual mind in constant battle with itself, and refusing to be taken prisoner by the borders and boundaries of society or literature.

Are you a carnivore, am I? Are we all destined to be devoured by the hidden insanity and self-destructive tendencies of others or ourselves, whilst sailing along in the interim in our self-inflicted
state of stasis, coping and yet barely living.

Yes, it is that kind of read.

Buy Carnivore at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Out in Paperback 5th April 2018


Monday, 16 April 2018

#BlogTour Half a World Away by Sue Haasler

Today I am thrilled to host the BlogTour for Half A World Away by Sue Haasler featuring a fantastic guest post by Sue Haasler, Titles for Books, and my review.


About the Author
Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University. After graduating she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults. Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.

Sue has written four books, True Colours, Time after Time, Two’s Company (all Orion paperbacks) and Better Than the Real Thing. Two’s Company was optioned for film by Warner Bros. She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to Holby City.

She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.
Follow @pauseliveaction @DomePress
Visit pauseliveaction.wordpress.com
Buy Half A World Away


About the Book
Charming and talented Alex dreams of becoming a professional saxophonist while working long hours in the family bakery. Detlef, lonely, repressed, and a small-time Stasi informer, develops an obsessive love for him. But Alex only has eyes for Nicky, an English woman visiting East Berlin as an au pair.

With no natural outlet for his feelings, Detlef’s passion becomes destructive, his need for approval enmeshed with the latent homophobia of the regime. As Alex’s band becomes more successful, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere, and Detlef’s passions threaten to endanger all of them.


Guest Post by Sue Haasler

Titles for books

I never find it easy to come up with titles for my books, so I’ve almost always used song titles that resonate with what the story is about. Previously I’ve used two Cyndi Lauper songs (‘Time After Time’ and ‘True Colours’), and my next book will be ‘Another Girl’ - a song by The Beatles, as it’s set in the swinging sixties.

‘Half A World Away’ is a song by REM from their album Out Of Time, which came out a few years after the events of the book. It’s a song I strongly associate with the period when I would often visit my boyfriend (now my husband) in Berlin, where he was a student. He was born and brought up in East Berlin, so even though it was after German reunification it was mainly the eastern part of the city that I got to know. Whenever I hear that REM song it reminds me of Berlin.

East Germany in 1987, the time that the book is mainly set, was half a world away from life in Britain or even West Germany - the same, but distinctly different. Young people were interested in the same things as young people anywhere - music, clothes, sex - but their choices and attitudes were shaped by a state that tried to impose order on its citizens through censorship, regulation and by encouraging them to report any transgressions. There are definitely shades of Orwell’s ‘1984’ in the way that the characters in the book find themselves in trouble with the authorities for behaviour that would be completely innocent anywhere else. The main character, Alex, goes on a journey in his attitude to the country he’s known all his life:

“From the airport over there [in West Berlin], you were allowed to go anywhere in the world: New York, New Orleans, Paris, London. No one got sent to prison for saying their government was corrupt or wrong; you could say what you wanted, even write books full of controversial ideas without anyone saying you were a traitor to the state. You could listen to music without being arrested. You could love anyone you wanted to.”



Review
Haasler couldn't be more right about the now ex-East Germany being half a world away. If you weren't there to experience it, it is extremely hard to fathom how an entire country, and of course Berlin for example, could be split in half as if there were a river of molten lava flowing between the two sides.

Half a World Away takes place in 1987, a mere two years or so before the fall of The Wall. The years after World War II are actually much more fascinating and troubling, as the plan to divide Germany between the Allies slowly took on an appearance, and the country was split into two separate ones. Even after many decades of becoming one country again there will be an occasional reference made to the division and the difference between the people from the East or the West. One of the favourite terms for the GDR (DDR as it was known in Germany) used by West Germans was, and often still is, Dunkel Deutschland (Dark Germany). Even after so many years the rift still emerges now and again, more so because the GDR was ruled by such an oppressive and strict regime.

The love story between Alex and Nicky is one that would have been frowned upon, and although Haasler describes the minutiae reporting of Detlef very well, in the confines of this story it sometimes appears to be part of his own obsession. However the people in the GDR were encouraged to spy and report on their fellow countrymen and women in this way. A Big Brother society where no deviation from the state rules or plans were allowed. Letters from and to the West were considered inflammatory. Family, lovers, friends and colleagues spied on each other to keep themselves free of suspicion.

The Stasi files can be accessed in Berlin, and quite a few people have requested permission to see who reported whom or why their loved ones or they themselves ended up in prisons or being punished. The State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD) had many things in common with the previous German regime, a mixture of Gestapo meets KGB.

The author describes the isolation and the lack of development or opportunities for the younger generations really well. Dreams and expectations are weighed up against loyalty and a sense of duty, as opposed to the free thinking minds and paths in life on the other side of Germany. Detlef has trouble adjusting his natural desires to the expectations of the dictatorship he lives in. His choices are rationalised by the rules he is governed by.

Haasler does a fantastic job of balancing the two sides of the coin, and why that broken coin needed to be glued back together. The separation is a distant memory, and yet the consequences are still felt within the country and its people to this day. The author draws an interesting parallel between the political and romantic fallout of this historical separation of mind, matter and state. Simultaneously she keeps the story light-hearted, authentic and free of any political opinions. A riveting read, and a bold combination of love and history.

Buy Half a World Away at Amazon Uk  (Kindle) or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Pre-order Buy Half A World Away (Paperback) Pub. Date 12th April 2018 by Dome Press.