Tuesday 31 July 2018

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater @Carol4OliveFarm @PenguinUKBooks #TheLostGirl #Review

Since her teenage daughter went missing four years ago, Kurtiz Ross has blamed and isolated herself. Until, out of the blue, Lizzie is sighted in Paris.
But within hours of her arrival, Kurtiz sees the City of Light plunged into terror.
Amid the fear and chaos, a hand reaches out. A sympathetic stranger offers to help a terrified mother find her daughter.
The other woman's kindness - and her stories of her own love and loss in post-war Provence - shine unexpected light into the shadows.
The night may hold the answers to a mystery - but dare Kurtiz believe it could also bring a miracle?

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater was published by Penguin Books in paperback on 8 March 2018. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. I read this whilst on holiday in Corfu.

This is a book that totally consumed me from the very first paragraph, right through until the final page. I really do enjoy a dual-time narrative and this author has excelled in weaving together a very recent modern-day plot with a story from the second world war.

The tragic and terrible events in Paris in November 2015 will still be fresh in most reader's minds. The awful pictures on social media, the constant news reports detailing more and more horror were devastating and it's a brave author who tackles such recent events in a work of fiction.

However, Carol Drinkwater's writing is superb and she deals with the events with a delicate and elegant touch, but does not shy away from the reality of that terrible night when so many people were murdered in the beautiful city of Paris.

The plot revolves around Kurtiz Ross whose teenage daughter Lizzie has been missing for four years. She disappeared when Kurtiz was in the Lebanon working on an assignment and ever since that day, Kurtiz has drifted. Searching and yearning for her daughter. When Lizzie is spotted in Paris, Kurtiz and her estranged husband Oliver do not hesitate to join forces and travel to look for her. Oliver is convinced that Lizzie will be attending a rock concert at the Bataclan that evening; both he and Lizzie are great fans of the group playing the gig and it is decided that he will go and look whilst Kurtiz stays at a nearby bistro to wait for news.

The bistro is the setting for Kurtiz's meeting with Marguerite, an elderly actress who soon begins to tell Kurtiz her life story, and it is Marguerite who transports the reader back to the war years, when she met Charlie Gilliard and their life together.

This really is a beautifully written book, with a sense of place that is almost palpable. The author's description of both Paris and the the war torn field are exquisite. She's able to instil a sense of horror and terror as the modern day tragedy unfold alongside the brutal depiction of world war battles.

Highly recommended by me, this is a haunting and unforgettable story.

Anglo-Irish actress Carol Drinkwater is perhaps still most familiar to audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. A popular and acclaimed author and film-maker as well, Carol has published nineteen books for both the adult and young adult markets. She is currently at work on her twentieth title.
When she purchased a rundown property overlooking the Bay of Cannes in France, she discovered on the grounds sixty-eight, 400-year-old olive trees. Once the land was reclaimed and the olives pressed, Carol along with her French husband, Michel, became the producers of top-quality olive oil. Her series of memoirs, love stories, recounting her experiences on her farm (The Olive Farm, The Olive Season, The Olive Harvest and Return to the Olive Farm) have become international bestsellers. Carol's fascination with the olive tree extended to a seventeenth-month, solo Mediterranean journey in search of the tree's mythical secrets. The resulting travel books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, have inspired a five-part documentary films series entitled The Olive Route.

Carol has also been invited to work with UNESCO to help fund an Olive Heritage Trail around the Mediterranean with the dual goals of creating peace in the region and honouring the ancient heritage of the olive tree.

For more information visit www.caroldrinkwater.com
Follow her on Twitter @Carol4OliveFarm
Find her Author page on Facebook

Monday 30 July 2018

Disbelief by MJT Meijer @MjtMeijer #BlogTour #MyLifeInBooks #Disbelief

Multiple mass-poisonings at pilgrimage sites throughout Europe.
Sophie Pearson, a successful artist, created paintings of the horrific events before they occurred. There are more sketches, implying other attacks are yet to take place. What does Sophie know? Who does she know?
A serial killer, leaving dead bodies in five-star hotel rooms in the city of Amsterdam.
James Edwards, multi-billionaire and founder of the ALA - the Atheist Liaison Association - has an alibi for the time of the poison attacks. But is it a coincidence he's in Amsterdam at the time the serial killer hit?
It is up to Chief of Europol Dave Johnson and police consultant and psychic medium Ben Smit to figure out if both cases are connected. They must unravel the ties between past and present, or more lives will be lost.
One thing is for certain - they won't all make it to the finish line!

Disbelief by MJT Meijer was published in June 2018 and is book one in the Ben Smit series.
As part of the Blog Tour I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - MJT Meijer

‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’ by Mitch Albom
Inspiring, interesting, heartwarming, enlightening, it’s everything. Although I find myself forever buying this book, it never sits on my bookshelves for long. I keep giving it away.

Anything by Jefferey Deaver.
I particularly like the Lincoln Rhyme series; he and Sachs make a formidable team, but honestly, I’d read anything he writes.

‘Haunted Britain and Ireland’ by Richard Jones
I bought this during a ‘ghost-hunting’ trip to the UK; visiting Glastonbury, Stonehenge, and other interesting places, I experienced more than a few ‘encounters’ and this book will forever remind me of ‘that’ time in England. In fact, the trip inspired the third thriller in the Ben Smit series, Disorder, which is set for release in 2019.

‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts
This book had me hooked from start to finish, I needed to know what would happen next! Looking back, I think what I most enjoyed was that he took me there. I believed it.

‘The Holographic Universe’ by Michael Talbot
An incredibly interesting view of the world as a hologram. He explains the theory behind a hologram, and how it provides a model for aspects of brain function and for areas of quantum physics. Massively interesting. Talbott uses the holographic model to explain phenomena such as telepathy, out of body experiences, miraculous healings, etc.

‘The Killing Floor’ by Lee Child
My first encounter with Jack Reacher, and I’ve loved him since.

‘Liefde is Vreemd’ by Herman Finkers
Finkers is a Dutch comedian and when I last visited my home country, my son bought this book for me for my birthday. I love reading Dutch books, there’s something very comforting about it, but Finkers makes me laugh and no matter how often I read this book and the same jokes, I laugh every time.

‘Voices of the Winds’ by Margot Edmonds and Ella E. Clark
It’s an anthology of Native American Legends, told to the authors by elder story tellers and tribal historians. It features mythical beings as well as human like characters. Reading these stories is quite special to me; I draw a different meaning or message from each myth every time I read it. It’s as if they (the stories) talk to me, as if the indigenous tribes of America have opened their hearts to share their wisdom and if I listen closely, I can hear them.

‘Atlantis and other Lost Worlds’ by Frank Joseph
I’ve had a fascination with Atlantis for years now, and it has only increased by reading about the scientific genius of the ancients and the spiritual power of their mysterious religions. In this book, Joseph addresses i.e. the cultural heritage of Atlantis in civilizations of our history and indigenous tribes, as well as parallels between Atlantis and our time.

‘This Precious Earth’ by Chief Seattle, 1854
It is Chief Seattle’s reply to ‘The Great Chief in Washington’s” proposal to possess a large area of Indian land, promising a ‘reservation’ for the Indian people. It is widely
considered the most moving and profound statements on the environment ever made. It’s thought provoking, to say the least. (“Man did not weave the web of life—he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, 1854)

MJT Meijer - July 2018 

M.J.T. Meijer was born in 1970 in rural Holland. Although her parents named her Maria, they’ve always called her ‘Tam’ or ‘Tammie’.
Having lived in different countries she speaks several languages and currently resides in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband and son. While living in Dubai and practicing as a hypnotherapist and guest writer for a local wellbeing magazine, Tam formed the inspiration to write Misguided, the first in the Sam Jansen series.
Writing the sequel, Misjudged, seemed a logical next step. Tammie believes she has successfully managed to further develop the characters whilst creating a new story line with as much suspense as Misguided, ensuring both novels make for a riveting read on their own. The third in the series featuring psychic Samantha Jansen is next in line and currently boasts the working title Misconstrued.
Once she finished Disbelief, introducing medium Ben Smit and Dave Johnson, head of the Europol homicide team, Tam decided it should be the first in a series and keenly started work on Disregard. Once that manuscript was polished and finetuned, she took six months to sidestep the genre for a moment and focus on something a little more light-hearted, which resulted in A Spade and a Bottle of Port, a humorous crime with a touch of romance. Tam is currently finishing Disorder, her fifth suspense novel and third in the Ben Smit series.
Tam’s work is themed on the balance of light and dark, of twisted minds and loving souls, of murder and chaos and karmic consequences creeping into people’s lives, forcing them to change and adapt.
Initially, it was Tam’s ambition to write the novel she herself would love to read, and that continues to be her main driving force.
In November 2016, she submitted her short story Perception, to an online literary magazine’s annual competition open to writers from all Commonwealth countries. After the judges reviewed the thousands of entries, her work was shortlisted for inclusion in the anthology.
A passionate writer, she plans on writing for many more years to come.

Twitter: @MjtMeijer

Friday 27 July 2018

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena @sharilapena @TransworldBooks #BlogTour @ThomasssHill

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena was published by Bantam Press / Transworld in hardback on 26 July 2018 and will be available in paperback early next year.

I'm delighted to share my review as part of the Blog Tour today. Do check out the other bloggers on this great tour, and look at that amazing GIF!

I read a lot of crime fiction, usually bang up-to-date, fast moving, psychological stuff with kick-ass detectives and the latest technology. An Unwanted Guest is not in that category!

This is a novel that strongly reminded me of the stories I read years ago; with echoes of Agatha Christie resounding throughout the plot.

Mitchell's Inn is a beautiful building, set remotely in the forest and the dark, eerie and perfectly created setting for this tale. As the snow falls, the guests arrive and Shari Lapena introduces each of her characters to the reader. I must admit that at the beginning of the story, I did wonder why we had so much description, but as the novel progressed I understood completely why this clever author made sure that we had so much information about the guests, and the hotel. It's all about the clues; the nudges and the winks; the seemingly unimportant details that become ultra important as the characters start to fall.

This is a cleudo-ish murder mystery that had me gripped. Whilst it could be argued that the first death within the group could be an accident, it soon becomes clear that there is a murderer at Mitchell's Inn.
The group of guests, and the two staff members become more and more agitated, and frightened and paranoid. Shari Lapena excels in getting into the deepest crevices of the human psyche as previously apparently reasonable people being to accuse and defend. The observation of this group of people, previously unknown to each other and flung together by circumstances beyond their control is perfectly done. The gradual panic and paranoia, leading to almost mass hysteria creates a tense atmosphere that consumes the reader.

A cast of interesting, well created characters in an evocative and brilliantly described setting, with mystery, murder and so much more. An excellent story, I enjoyed this immensely.

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. 
Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. 
Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. 
Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out now.

Follow her on Twitter @sharilapena
Find her Author page on Facebook

Tuesday 24 July 2018

The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna @MichelleMcKenna #BlogTour #TheYellowBills @matadorbooks

Mya loves planes and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. As luck would have it she comes across a flying school run by lieutenant Drake who awards his pupils splendid pilot hats when they graduate. 
Mya wants to join the class but there's just one problem. She's not a duck! 
Could Goose the little duckling with big flying ambitions be the key to Mya getting her pilot's hat? 
Or will Mr Sour the teacher who never quite made the grade have other ideas...Inspired by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Michelle weaves a story with the humour and invention of Nick Ward's 'Charlie Small' series meets Dick King Smith's wonder of the animal world.

The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna is published by Matador Books. As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books

My Life In Books - Michelle McKenna

Thank you to Anne for giving me the opportunity to collate my life in books.  Now that I've put it together I've only just realised how much I enjoy magic, secret doorways and portals to other worlds. All these books come highly recommended by yours truly and I have many special memories attached to each.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses (The Brothers Grimm) - This story is one of my earliest memories. I just loved it, it wasn't that I wanted to be a princess but that there was a secret door that lead out of their room and they would sneak out on boats in the middle of the night to go dancing.  When you read about going out for dances in the middle of the night as a young child there is something extra wondrous about it as you are usually in bed fast asleep so reading about adventure under moonlight just captured my imagination.  I always thought I'd try to find my own secret place at night but two things stood in my way, firstly I didn't have a canal behind where I lived to catch a boat and secondly I could never stay awake past 9pm.  

My only down point on this story is that that their secret got found out.  I wanted their magical evenings to continue forever.

The little vampire (Angela Sommer-Bodenberg) - I think I was about nine when I started reading this series so I didn't quite get what a vampire was but that was fine because this little fella could fly and flying has always been the one super hero power I would pick every time (that also comes from my love of Superman, the Christopher Reeves era). I also was hooked on this story because he was such a tender character and even though he had these powers he had a vulnerability and needed his human friend Anton as much as Anton needed him. Every story should capture special friendships like this in my humble opinion.

​Alice in Wonderland ​(Lewis Carroll) - I read this in primary school and once again it involves secret doors and other worlds where the rules are different and anything could happen. My favourite character is Alice, I love her feistiness no matter what is thrown at her even if it does mean she becomes as big as a giant or as small as a mouse. And who couldn't fall in love with characters like the time conscious white rabbit and the mad hatter. I tried to recreate my own tea party (as i quite often did) inviting different toys to join me but they were never quite as chatty or as mad as the Mad Hatter, I presume he declined my invitation to join as I never heard from him. 

The Hate U Give (THUG by Angie Thomas) - Well I've finally chosen a book that doesn't involve magical other worlds but I loved that I could put myself in this other world through the words that Angie Thomas created. I read this last year and I couldn't put the book down it is so well written and intertwines several characters from different backgrounds and the author has a wonderful knack of making so many different characters flow effortlessly through each other.  It was a book that really made me think about looking past the headlines of a story and seeing the human. Everyone really should read this book.

​Going Solo (Roald Dahl) - Like many others, I've read and loved Roald Dahl books over the years but it was only recently that I read one of his autobiographies ​Going Solo. It was recommended by a lovely poet, Neal Zetter that I met at a library talk. I'm not usually into autobiographies as I can find them a bit dry but this book is far from that. Even though he is talking about World War II and the dangers of being a war pilot the story telling is upbeat and there is constant humour which makes you want to read more. Infact when I got to the last page I just didn't want it to end.  I may even be controversial and say that this might in fact be one of my favourite Roald Dahl books (yes even better than Charlie and that chocolate factory). 

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) - I've taken a little gear change and gone for a period classic.  I read this book at secondary school and it's a story that has stayed with me all this time.  Jane's character is so strong in a time that is quite unforgiving of anything or anyone that steps out of the norm and I always admire any character that can stand up to challenge societies norms.  The love story was also different in my mind, Jane came across as an equal in her approach to relationships and she wasn't going to settle for second best (yes I know she nearly ended up with her cousin but the point is she didn't) 'Reader I married him'. 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy  and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Douglas Adams) - For years I'd heard about these books, but I never actually sat down and read them until I was in my early 30's and I still can't believe I hadn't read them sooner.  If I could have half of Douglas Adams wit and foresight in my writing then I'd be very happy. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect consistently made me laugh in these two books and there is so much going on in the story that I've read them both several times, as there is always something new to catch and that's what makes the writing even better because there are so many subtle as well as obvious points. Also if you ever have a blue day, I'd recommend googling Douglas Adam quotes as they will soon put things in perspective and put a smile on your face.

During the day Michelle works part time in an office in London and then gets home to her full time job looking after two little fab ones. Michelle has been writing stories on and off for years but The Yellow Bills is the first time she’s had the confidence to put her children’s story into print.She finds her inspiration for writing is on the train journey to and from work.When she was younger one of her favourite stories to read was (still is) Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In fact she loved it so much she used to try and think of ways to see how she could change her name to Alice. She was about seven so had to listen to her Mum, who said she couldn’t change her name until she left home. By the time that day came she decided she didn’t mind being called Michelle after all.Michelle’s other favourite’s are Roald Dahl’s, The BFG and The Little Vampire by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.
You can also follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemckenna