Blog Tour: Second Chance at the Ranch by Maxine Morrey & Giveaway

It’s never too late to find love…

When Juliet Scott falls for ruggedly handsome Pete while away travelling, she never imagines how different her life will be to that of her sister, successful and beautiful model Hero. Based on a cattle station in the vast Australian Outback, Juliet’s life is now simple, down-to earth and honest, and the perfect antidote to the chaotic celebrity lifestyle that Hero leads in the UK.

With her striking brunette hair, perfect posture, and mesmerising green eyes, it is no wonder Hero has come so far in such a superficial industry. But when tragedy strikes, Hero finds herself in the arms of her sister, recuperating from a terrible accident on the other side of the world.

With her modelling career in tatters, and her scars more than just skin deep, Juliet worries that Hero will hide behind the mask she wears forever. But does Australia have something, or someone, to offer that London never could?

What I Thought:

Perhaps I’m mellowing as I get older, but I find myself reading more and more romance novels – purely because, although the path of the characters is not smooth, you can be assured that nice things will happen to them by the end.

This by no means is meant to say that Second Chance at the Ranch is predictable – the journey to the happy ending has its share of heartbreak and tragedy, and the characters themselves are appealing and worth rooting for.

Hero is beautiful, successful and it would be very easy to hate her, and yet she is a complex character with hidden scars and a deep-seated fear of rejection which, at some points can make you want to shake her as she can’t see what is in front of her. Luckily for her (and us!), there’s a rugged Australian farmer waiting to show her that she is loved and wanted.

This is the first one of Maxine Morrey’s novels that I’ve read and it certainly won’t be the last if they are all of this standard. It’s a compelling story, peppered with likeable characters and definitely leaves you with a warm feeling – let’s face it, we could all use that right about now!

Second Chance at the Ranch is published by HQ Digital. To find out more about Maxine Morrey and her books, you can check out her website.

Giveaway to Win Second Chance at the Ranch and other Goodies (Open Internationally)

Prize includes:

1 x paperback copy of Second Chance at the Ranch

1 x notebook

1 x mini handbag keyring

1 x V&A museum lipstick shaped pen

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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This post is part of the blog tour for Second Chance at the Ranch – why not check out some of the brilliant blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

Please note: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Red Hand of Fury by R. N. Morris

June, 1914. A young man is mauled to death by a polar bear at London Zoo. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from a notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities.

Following a third attempted suicide, DI Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process?

What I Thought:

I was lucky enough to read The Red Hand of Fury as part of a blog tour in the summer. It’s exactly my cup of tea, as I love crime novels and also the period around the First World War. What I am especially drawn to is the ability of the investigating characters to solve crimes without all the modern, CSI-style methods and equipment that are often in modern crime novels and on TV – deduction, brain power and investigation win the day!

Silas Quinn, R. N. Morris’ lead character, is unique in his dedication to solving the apparant suicides of three men, which he does not believe are just chance and unconnected. He gets himself committed to an asylum where the men were treated and we then find out that Quinn might not be such a stranger to mental health struggles.

This is my first experience of Silas Quinn but there are earlier books featuring the detective which have all now made it to my reading list as he is a compelling detective to follow, with his personal difficulties giving an interesting angle to his character. This book in particular has an interesting angle, given that the reader knows that the First World War is not long ahead for these characters.

The mystery of the book is excellent, constantly leaving you guessing and providing loads of twists that even the most avid reader of crime fiction would struggle to spot and the final act is dramatic and satisfying to read.

What I found most interesting to read – and what has fascinated me in my own family history research – is the depiction of an asylum of the time. Read any historical novel featuring mental ill-health and you will be horrified by how mental health patients were treated. Confined like criminals and often subjected to experiments that hoped to cure them, there is none of the empathy or treatment options that exist today. It really is awful to read and, although today’s mental health care is by no means perfect, we can at least be grateful that these horrible conditions no longer exist.

To find out more about R. N. Morris and the Silas Quinn books, you can check out the author’s website.

The Red Hand of Fury is published by Severn House.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Streets of Darkness by A. A. Dhand

The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body.

Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.

Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law…

What I Thought:

A. A. Dhand’s debut novel is one that refuses to out on rose-coloured glasses, even though he is writing about his hometown. In Streets of Darkness, Bradford is portrayed as a powerhouse of industry that has fallen into sharp decline, where multi-culturalism is a strained co-existence. When our (anti) hero, Harry Virdee finds the body of a well-known Asian businessmand and politician, it seems as though racial tensions are about to boil over.

It’s a real pleasure to read good crime fiction that is based in another city besides London. There’s nothing wrong with the capital, of course, but other cities have other issues and it’s great to see these explored further.

Streets of Darkness is really excellent and, as I said, there is no attempt to shy away from what is bad about Bradford, which is difficult when writing about your own home town. That’s certainly not to say that it is all bad, but there is definitely an emphasis on the city, the people and even the weather making Bradford a dark place. There are comparisons to Batman’s Gotham City in the novel, if you’re trying to get an idea of the atmosphere!

Harry Virdee is a complex character. Impulsive, and not afraid to use his own methods, when we join him he is suspended from the Police so being right at the beginning of an important case is frustrating and he can’t keep away from it. He is also rebellious in his personal life, being a Sikh who has married a Muslim, leaving Harry and his Wife as virtual outcasts from both their families.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and immediately grabbed the second book, Girl Zero, on Kindle. I need to hurry up though, as there is already a fourth book on the way in June 2019!

Streets of Darkness is published by Bantam Press. To find out more about A. A. Dhand, and his books (including the forthcoming title), you can check out his website.

Please note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Dreaming of St-Tropez by T. A. Williams

After a disagreement with a billionaire, architect Jess Milton is ‘let go’ from her job. However fortune intervenes – an elderly client asks Jess to dog-sit overweight, but loveable dog Brutus in St. Tropez.

Fed up with the mega-rich, Jess is reluctant to visit the playground of billionaires, but an all-expenses-paid trip and the promise of sunshine seals the deal.

Little does Jess know how much time she’ll be spending with the family living in St. Tropez. The sullen, but very good-looking David and his millionaire father are both welcoming but guarded, haunted by their pasts…

Can Jess bring some sunshine back into their lives – and, just maybe, find love in the process?

What I Thought:

Although it’s seasonally mild, it’s still getting chilly, so what could be better than escaping to the South of France for drama and romance?

Dreaming of St-Tropez is one of a series of ‘Dreaming of…’ books by T. A. Williams in which the main characters leave their old lives behind in favourite of exotic locations. These books have been previously only available as e-books, but some have recently been published in paperback through The Works – it’s great to have these books more widely available.

To sum this book up, I’d say it was pure escapism – two beautiful young girls travel to the South of France and enjoy all that it has to offer, while making positive changes in the lives of their hosts. The stunning scenery and locations are described with lots of detail to make you really feel as though you’re experiencing that warm sunshine with them, and the central romance plot is initially sweet, with a very dramatic ending!

Although I am happy to have read quite a few of T. A. Williams’ books, I think so far this is my favourite – Jess and David make a very star-crossed couple, but getting to their eventual resolution is an engaging journey.

Dreaming of St-Tropez is published by Canelo. To find out more about T. A. Williams and his other excellent books, why not check out his website? Otherwise, you can connect with him on Twitter.

Please note: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy by B. M. Carroll

Happy New Year one and all!

It was a very quiet December on the blog, as real life took over for a while but, I’m happy to say, that I read loads of great stuff which I can’t wait to tell you about.

The first of these is The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy by B. M Carroll which is one of a collection of interesting and gripping thrillers that seem to be currently coming out of Australia. The best part? This collection is being produced by some really talented Australian Women!

She’s the victim. But is she innocent?

Sophie McCarthy is known for her determination, ambition and brilliance at work. She’s tough, but only because she wants to get the best out of people.

Aidan Ryan is strong, honourable, and a family man. He’s tough too; the army requires it. 

When these two strangers are brought together in a devastating incident, Sophie’s life is left in ruins. Her family wants to see Aidan pay for what he did.

Aidan’s prepared to sacrifice everything – including his marriage and his child – to fix the mess he’s made. 

But some things can’t be fixed, and Sophie is not at all what she first appeared…

What I Thought:

My initial thoughts on starting this book ran along the lines of wondering how a book could be based on such an unlikeable woman. Sophie McCarthy clearly showed that, tragic as it is for anyone to be involved in a disabling accident, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are or were a nice person.

Moving past this, though and cleverly using multiple narrators to show different facets of Sophie’s character, B. M. Carroll subtly argues that a woman who was initially independent and capable had been shaped into something toxic by her early life and those around her. Sophie’s relationship with her dad is particularly interesting and, given what happens in the later stages of the book, you can see why this is unhealthy for the whole McCarthy family.

It’s a major feat to make a character like Sophie even the least sympathetic but it’s not hard to feel a lot of sympathy for Chloe and Jasmin, the family that Aiden Ryan has rejected in his efforts to pay penance to Sophie for the accident. The way he goes about proving how sorry he is, is warped at best and it’s a unique take on a strong man following his convictions down the wrong path.

In the age of instant gratification, this book is a good, old-fashioned, slow burn – you need to gather all the facts from each narrator before the fast-paced and dramatic final twist so I do recommend that you stick with it.

The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy is published by Michael Joseph. To find out more about B. M. Carroll and her work, you can check out her website.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy – why not keep an eye on the Michael Joseph Twitter feed for more great reviews of this book?

Please Note: I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Lights of Time by Paul Ian Cross – plus a giveaway!

Engella Rhys is alone, adrift and on the run. Pursued by a secret agency, known only as the Hunters, she must stay ahead to stay alive. 

As she travels through space-time using dangerously experimental technology, she only has one wish: to be reunited with her lost parents. After a close shave with a Hunter on the streets of New Shanghai, Engella escapes to find herself on a deserted beach. When she meets a kind stranger, who offers her food and shelter, Engella feels safe and protected for the first time in years. 

But who is this woman? And why did their paths cross at the most convenient of times? 

Engella soon discovers their lives are intertwined in more ways than she could ever imagine.

What I Thought:
It’s a real delight to discover great books quite by accident, and this is exactly what happened with The Lights of Time. I love science fiction and the concept of time travel even more so, so this book was a pefect read for me.

As this is, perhaps, a book aimed at younger readers, it’s not really aimed at me but, nevertheless, Engella and her travels through the ancient past and near future were highly engaging and entertaining. I can’t even imagine being able to keep all your ideas straight as a writer when you’re, in effect, writing historical fiction as the same time as contemporary fiction and science fiction but Engella’s timehopping is perfectly explained and it’s not hard to follow her tracks – even when she’s doing a Marty McFly and observing herself while trying not to interfere!

To me, what makes Engella so likeable is that she is not super-powered in any way. Yes, she’s very intelligent, but she is just an ordinary girl who has been flung into exceptional circumstances, leaving her to deal with that as any ordinary girl would – with all the emotional fallout that that entails.

The villians in this story – The Hunters – are suitably evil, but there does some to be some history there and, given that this is a time travel story, I can only assume that more information is going to be revealed in a further book. I’m quite happy with that, as I would definitely read more about Engella and her companions.

Exciting and appealing are two words I would use to describe this book and I’d happily pass it on to my kids, and my reluctant readers at school!

The Lights of Time is published by Farrow Children’s Books. To find out more about the book and about Paul Ian Cross, you can check out his website.

As an extra treat, as part of this blog tour, you can enter a giveaway to win a Kindle Fire and a signed copy of the book – why not enter below, and then take a look at some of the other fab blogs participating on the tour?

Giveaway – Win a Kindle HD Fire 7” and a signed copy of The Lights of Time (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Please note: I was sent a copy of the book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Hope to Die by David Jackson

There was a hate in this killer. A thirst for obliteration rather than a mere desire to end a life…

A brutal murder takes place in the grounds of a Liverpool cathedral. A killer is on the loose, driven by a chilling rage. The victim: the last person you’d expect to be subjected to such terrible violence. Can DS Nathan Cody crack the case before another innocent is chosen?

What I Thought:
I read quite a lot of crime novels and, in the main, they tend to be London-based. I could probably name a dozen quite easily with the capital as a backdrop, so it’s great to see an upward trend in crime novels based in the regions. Hope to Die (and its predecessor, A Tapping at My Door) is set in Liverpool, which definitely gives it a different edge.

Crime is crime, wherever it is set, but there is some exploration of the history of the city here, which I think is always a nice touch – the book is then not just about the crime, but other points of interest come out as our detectives move around the city and, if you’re even a little familiar with Liverpool, there are things you can recognise.

I was a wary of reading this book straight off, as it’s number 2 in a series featuring DS Nathan Cody. I worried that I would have missed out on some of the back story and, although that was true, David Jackson did a good job of recapping the important points – so much so that I went and bought A Tapping at My Door immediately on finishing this book.

With the way the book is structured, it’s clear who the murderer is from early on, in that we see a lot of their history, and we know why they’ve started killing, but that doesn’t ruin the climax, as we don’t actually know the identity until much later on. The intercut scenes of a child and their abuse at the hands of their mother are harrowing at times, but necessary to the plot and not gratuitous.

The one thing that made me wish I had read book 1 first, was that Cody suffers from PTSD, due to events in the first book and I found it difficult to appreciate what was a huge part of this book withoout having read it first – it is a minor thing, however and easy to fix! In general, Cody is a good detective, and good at hiding his inner turmoil as he tries to solve what becomes a case of three murders. His team are a good mix too, and they bounce off each other well.

This book is left on somewhat of a cliffhanger as regards Cody’s state of mind and, when I read it, there was no book 3 to carry on the story – luckily for you (and me!), book 3, Don’t Make a Sound, has been published, so there’s not so long to wait to find out about Cody’s worsening mental state.

Hope to Die is published by Zaffre. To find out more about David Jackson and his other series of books, featuring Callum Doyle, you can check out his website.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Guest Post: Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan – A Week in the Life

I don’t know about you, but as a somewhat frustrated NaNoWriMo participant, I am fascinated by those writers who can manage to produce beautiful stories, while still managing to keep on with all the everyday bits of life. I personally find it so hard to bring my creative muscles to bear when, with one hand I’m doing an online shop and with the other I’m picking up kids’ clothes off the floor!

That’s why, when I was asked to host a guest post by Deirdre Sullivan, I was interested to see how she balances her creative processes with her everyday ones – she’s been kind enough to put together a ‘Week in the Life’, and I’m definitely looking for tips!

Balancing writing and everyday life- a week in the life

Get up at 6 am, do fifteen minutes of yoga and make a cup of tea. I sit down at the table in my kitchen and the cat instantly begins approaching my tea, because he knows there’s milk in it. I re-read the notes my editor has given me for the new draft of Perfectly Preventable Deaths, and get to work. An hour later, I change out of my pajamas, eat breakfast, read a little bit of Ariel’s Gift by Erica Wagner, and get ready for a day of teaching Junior Infants at the special school I work in.

The day passes busily and happily, and I get home around half five (I do my planning and preparation at school if possible because I like home to be a writing and napping space), and my husband suggests we go for a walk. I cackle at the idea and answer my emails for an hour while eating cheese. I find the evenings are great if I’m writing a new thing because you’re completely in it, but the mornings are better for the clear head and distance that I need for editing.

I have a separate notebook for each project I’m working on as well, which is helpful and makes me feel better about all the notebooks I buy.

I press the snooze button so only do six minutes of yoga. The cat tries to hunt the ribbons on my pajamas, because he wants more breakfast. Most of Arthur’s actions are as a result of wanting more breakfast. We are very alike in that way. I read a brilliant book about witches and twins over the weekend so I spend a small amount of time staring into the dark abyss of the future, wondering what the point of it all is. Then I make a cup of tea and get stuck in.

I get to change a Raven’s name today. Not many people can say that. At school, we decide to all dress up as Minions on Friday. I realise that I already own a lot of stuff a minion would wear. And also that I know very little about Minions. Do they have a catch-phrase?

I decide that they do. It’s “LET’S GO MINIONS!”

In the evening I go see the new Halloween movie and then buy things so I can make a pumpkin vomit blue stuff to delight the Junior Infants.


I do eleven minutes of yoga today, and crack in. I’m on a really good bit, where the world is being coloured in around them, so it feels a little like lucid dreaming and I’m sorry when it reaches twenty past seven and I have to do real-world things. The cat gets a little bit of my coffee today and it does not seem to do him any harm.

After school, I have a phone call with my lovely agent, Claire about some SECRET GOOD NEWS. I laminate alphabet cards and cut velcro strips throughout the conversation, and when it’s over I finish up, organise my classroom (which smells a little bit like a chipper from the vomiting pumpkin), and get the bus home. On the bus, I read Drown by Esther Dalseno, which was recommended to me by @Jo_Scribbles on twitter. I love me a Little Mermaid retelling. Little Island is running a competition to give away a signed paperback of the new Tangleweed and Brine, so I keep tabs on that as well. I’m very interested in how other people’s brains would reshape old stories, and also what different people are drawn to. For me, it’s always The Little Mermaid because I feel like an outsider a lot of the time. Many years ago, before I qualified as a teacher, a little girl told me that she was scared of having friends. I knew exactly what she meant. There’s so much you can get wrong with human beings.

When I get home, I send an invoice for a writing gig I did, make dinner and watch many episodes of The Haunting of Hill House. Also, a book of poetry my pal Mark Ward wrote, Circumference has arrived and it looks BEAUTIFUL. Before I go to sleep, I plan my outfit for tomorrow and put some make-up in my work bag because reasons.

Morning routine is the same as ever, except I’m coming towards a tricky bit and it’s going to take a bit of thinking. The cat has learned to jump of top of the highest wardrobe and stare at us, like a golden batman. It’s very disconcerting but also I am proud of him.

I put on my fancy dungarees, and red lipstick, because a short story I wrote about a world where women can give birth to adorable animals instead of babies has been shortlisted for an IBA and it’s going to be announced in the GPO this evening. The school day passes, and by the end I am covered in paint and yoghurt. It is not an ideal look, so I ask my husband to bring in a dress for me when we meet up this evening. I bus into town for around five o’ clock, eat pancakes and change into a black dress with some flowers on it. I own a lot of dresses that are black with flowers on. It’s kind of a uniform.

My toe is broken, so I’m wearing a very glamorous support sandal while all this is going on. I buy a yellow t-shirt so I can be the best minion I can be tomorrow, and meet some pals for a drink before the event. The YA shortlist is basically a roll call of sound people, and it’s very cool to be at a lock-in in a big fancy post-office. An Post have also started this whole campaign where people can post books to each other for free using special boxes and envelopes. I get very excited about this altogether, as I love getting books and giving books. I need to leave the GPO early because of school in the morning, but I buy The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen on the way home as a mid-term treat.

I do not get up at six am, because I am very tired and also at a tricky part of the book that requires more time and energy than I have today. The cat is OUTRAGED his breakfast (and sneaky morning tea-dregs) is late, and miaows outside the door like he is reading us a letter of complaint. I dress like a minion, get the bus to school, teach all day, and then go vote for president Michael D. Higgins, who was very sound to me while I was a teenager, and had to interview politicians for civics class. At home, I change out of my minion costume, and fiddle with a few writing admin things. I put off edits because I am scared that I will do a bad job at them. Instead I eat pizza because cheese is the way forward, and order Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill, because it looks gorgeous and she is very sound on the internet.


I plan an outline for a short story idea I have, edit for about two hours and watch many episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, about which I have mixed feelings. I finish knitting one hat and begin knitting another. Arthur wees on a spot where his favourite mat used to be because he misses it and we despair of him. I read the other shortlisted stories and realise there is no way in hell I can vote for myself. The sound guy wins the presidency and the blasphemy being a crime part of our constitution is good to go. Take that, Odin! In the evening, I do a tarot reading about something that’s bothering me, and it comes up murky but probably accurate.

I wake up at nine, do yoga, make coffee and intend to start edits. Instead I complain about a television series I mostly enjoyed on the internet and look at clothes I can’t afford. I need to buy a new keep cup because mine split in half from all the use it got. (I drink a LOT of tea, and some coffee). I find a really cool one, but shipping is too expensive, so I hiss at the computer screen like a feral cat. Then I make a list of blog posts I need to write and so we come full circle. It is half past ten, and I have edited 11,000 words this week, and want to do 5,000 more today. My little cat is napping on a mermaid cushion like a small croissant. I have an inch of coffee left to drink and it is safe.

Huge thanks to Deirdre for that – I am definitely going to build the cheese-eating and tea-drinking into my schedule for the week! There are also some really good reading recommendations there, which I have linked for you all.

If you’ve not yeat read it, Tangleweed and Brine (which I will review leater) is a beautifully written and illustrated collection of fairytales, retold with a feminist slant. I have got the hardback edition but, if you buy the new, paperback edition, there is an additional story in it just for you!

Keep an eye our for my review, and huge thanks again to Deirdre for a short peek into her writing/working/cheese eating week…

Tangleweed and Brine is published by Little Island. To find out more about Deirdre Sullivan, you can check out her website.

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Book Review: The Crate: A Story of War, a Murder, and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust – in ghettos, on death marches, and in concentration camps – a young couple seeks refuge in Canada. They settle into a new life, certain that the terrors of their past are behind them. They build themselves a cozy little cottage on a lake in Muskoka, a cottage that becomes emblematic of their victory over the Nazis. The charming retreat is a safe haven, a refuge from haunted memories. That is, until a single act of unspeakable violence defiles their sanctuary.

Poking around the dark crawl space beneath their cottage, they discover a wooden crate, nailed tightly shut and almost hidden from view. Nothing could have prepared them for the horror of the crate’s contents – or how the peace and tranquility of their lives would be shattered. Now, their daughter, Deborah Vadas Levison, an award-winning journalist, tells the extraordinary account of her parents’ ordeals, both in one of the darkest times in world history and their present-day lives.

What I Thought:
Generally, my practice in undertaking reviews is to see what other people are saying about a book. In reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I wondered really if they had read the same book as I had, as some of the criticism of the book seemed to somewhat miss the point of it.

Although the inspiration behind the writing of this book may have been the real-life murder of Samantha Collins, what The Crate is, is a clever interweaving of true crime, memoir and historical record of some of the darkest days of world history.

By taking the discovery of a body at the family cottage, Deborah Vadas Levison is able to reminisce about her own, sheltered upbringing, which is in direct contrast to that of her parents who, being Jewish and Hungarian, were directly persecuted during the Holocaust, losing close and extended family to forced labour and the death camps. It is so important that stories like theirs are recorded – especially these days when ‘Lest We Forget’ seems more of a platitude than a genuine promise to not let these things happen again.

Joined with these horrific experiences is the story of Samantha Collins, whose life only came into contact with the Vadas family in the most tragic and violent way. Featuring information that the author has gathered directly from Ms Collins’ family, the account of her life is itself a cautionary tale of how easy it can be to fall onto a certain path, and how domestic violence affects so many families.

The book deals well with a catalogue of difficult subjects, and treats them all with the utmost sympathy and respect. It’s interesting to see the family’s focus switch from ‘why did this happen to us?’ to ‘actually, there was a young woman who was the victim here’ and we certainly could all do with having such empathy at times.

I have read a good deal about the atrocities of the Holocaust, both in fiction and non-fiction, but still it just seems unreal that such hatred was heaped upon one group of people. Ultimately, as Debbie Levison points out, the best way to honour the dead is to live, to make a life and leave a legacy for your descendants – something that the Vadas family has certainly done.

As I’ve said, the book is written so sympathetically to the horrors it tries to protray, and with such affection and some of the language is so evocative – in particular, Debbie Levison recalls a visit with her father to Budapest and the Dohány Street Synagogue, and feeling as though they were among ‘ghosts, whispering Kaddish for eternity’. Phrases like that pepper the book, and create such a sense of atmosphere and tragedy.

Books like this are crucial in these days when anti-semitism seems to be growing, the far-right are being listened to by many more people and nationalism is seen as something to be admired. Any one of the ever-dwindling number of Holocaust survivors can tell you where those roads lead, and it’s something we should all be concerned about.

The Crate is published by WildBlue Press. To find out more about the author and additional notes about her work, you can check out her website.

As a side note, I had no idea about Steven Spielberg’s project to record the testimonies of Holocaust survivors (Vera and Pista Vadas took part in this project), and I have further explored the Foundation that came out of the project. It’s a fascinating and ever-expanding project, which now encompasses the Rwandan Genocide, the Nanjing Massacre and the Cambodian Genocide, among other awful acts of mass violence. It’s well worth taking a look at the work of this Foundation.

Please note: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: A Little Christmas Charm by Kathryn Freeman

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey?

Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes.

 But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone.

Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

What I Thought:
After being extremely snobby about women’s fiction for a good long while, I find myself reading more and more of it. I guess it’s in part due to a comforting familiarity in women’s fiction – we live in such uncertainty these days, it’s reassuring to read about love and happy things and, by the way, I have also succumbed to the lure of the Christmas book!

A Little Christmas Charm is a warm and welcoming story of a strong and independent woman who has been hurt in her early past by a poor relationship with her family, but begins to trust again when she meets a charming and irresistible colleague.

Despite twists and turns in both their lives, a little of the Christmas spirit leads them together and – hopefully – into a bright and loving future. You see? Happy things!

That’s certainly not to say that things are all plain sailing along the way for Gabby and Owen, but following the twists and turns of their new relationship is both sweet and incredibly annoying! As with most fictional couples, the urge to bang their heads together at certain moments is very strong, but they are both sweet characters, deserving of a happy ending.

This book is really heartwarming, perfect for the time of year and, at the time of writing this review, only 99p on Kindle, so an absolute steal.

A Little Christmas Charm is published by Choc-Lit. To find out more about this book and about Kathryn Freeman, you can check out her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

For more exclusive content and reviews, please check ut some of the other stops on this blog tour below.

As part of this blog tour, you can win a paperback copy of A Little Christmas Charm using this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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