The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

tattooistTaking into consideration that this is an eyewitness narrative, which I find preferable when it comes to Holocaust themed books, and an important historical account, I do wonder if Lale Solokov subconsciously or inadvertently romanticized the more uplifting parts of his story.

Memory is a tricky thing at the best of times, recalling memories made under extreme duress and/or trauma can sometimes interfere with the way we interpret memories.

I believe he made life seem simpler and less traumatic than it was. His relationship and encounters with Gita read like a complicated romance novel, and because of that some of the scenarios seem improbable.

When he or rather the author, relates the more brutal and heinous events there seems to be a reluctance to be cruel and honest. There is no such thing as gratuitous when it comes to laying bare the crimes of the Holocaust.

Again I am not sure whether that was Lale or the author changing the narrative just slightly to make the romance pop more or if it was just easier to focus on a more pleasant scenario. To remember the positive of meeting her instead of the negative of fearing she would die.

Like many survivors, Lale sat on his story for many decades. It wasn’t until Gita died that he decided the world needed to know his story. I can imagine he felt terrible survivor’s guilt and guilt in general for perhaps feeling like he contributed to the demise of many victims. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to see the physical proof of his personal trauma on real people. Being responsible for marking his fellow humans like cattle.To him it would have been irrelevant that he had no choice. Survival is an instinct, and I am glad a lot of survivors lived to tell the world about the heinous crimes of the Holocaust.

As I said before, the stories of survivors need to be told, without them there is more chance we will repeat the past. Morris does that in a sensitive way, and she brings a little lightness to a very dark story.

Buy The Tattooist of Auschwitz at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

girl in the towerI adore this series. Arden is an incredible writer and possesses the ability to recreate the feeling of an old Russian master with the flair of a nouveau writer.

The author combines the magic and essence of Russian folktales with the creativity of high fantasy, and lets the reader experience the darkness of old tales told in front of fires and the power of ancient myths.

At the end of the first part of the trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale, we left Vasya grieving for her father and protected by Morozko. In this second part she decides she wants to travel the world, to discover things beyond her village. Thanks to the new local priest everyone thinks she is a witch, which means she is a pariah and in danger.

So begins her venture into a world of rules, fear and cruelty. One Morozko would rather she didn’t experience at all, even if she has been gifted with a magical stallion, who will protect her. He struggles with his emotions towards Vasja and the inevitability of their separation.

In both books the author has made a point of shedding a light on the inequality between men and women, and how it impacts those who are deemed to be less equal than others. Part of Vasja’s drive to be free is connected to the limitations she experiences as a woman. The title is very apt in that sense. There is no freedom, but plenty of restrictions, and any deviation from the rules can ruin a reputation.

Once again Arden balances the mystical with exceptional storytelling and leaves the reader with the feeling of reading a Russian classic. It feels timeless and ancient.

I am really looking forward to The Winter of the Witch, the third part of this trilogy. Katherine Arden has proven herself to be a writer and storyteller of great skill, and I wager a few decades from now her Winternight trilogy will receive the recognition it truly deserves.

Follow @arden_katherine

Visit katherinearden.com

Buy The Girl in the Tower at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read The Bear and the Nightingale Winternight #1

Coming August 2018 the conclusion to the Winternight Trology The Winter of the Witch

 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

beneathThere are events in history that tend to take second or third place in importance and narrative, mainly because there are so many atrocious events that tend to take precedence. Understandably so, however it doesn’t make the pain and suffering of others less worthy of retelling. In this case the bombing of Milan and the invasion of Italy by the Germans.

The story of Pino Lella is one of many, there are a lot of forgotten heroes around us. The men and women who have made their niche in history with acts of great bravery, and yet their voices are never heard. The author was inspired to bring this true story of Pino’s courageous actions to others, and I am glad he did.

Pino’s parents insist he join the German military forces in an attempt to keep him safe. As a parent I can understand the convoluted logic, however this choice places him in the awful position of being one of the enemy. At the time there was no way his parents could have known what this association might entail in the years after the war. Any hint of collaboration often meant the difference between life and death, and being shunned by his fellow countrymen. His choice creates a chasm between himself and his best friend, but at the same time Pino has the opportunity to help bring the enemy down.

The chapters on the escape route through the mountains create vivid imagery. I am sure Pino’s description of the climbs were almost blasé, despite the danger and the incredible skill he acquired to help Jewish people flee. This nonchalance is mirrored in the writing.

In a way Sullivan pays tribute to all the unknown Pino’s of the world, and to all the stories we will never get the opportunity to hear. Reminding us of parts of history that slide into obscurity.

Buy Beneath a Scarlet Sky at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @MarkSullivanBks

Visit marksullivanbooks.com

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

the wicked comethThere is a lot of waxing lyrical, which leads to the assumption that the story is leading in a completely different direction to the one it actually takes.

The procrastination, albeit very beautiful procrastination, makes the first half of the book appear to be a lot slower and the second half of the book is faster paced, and the plot is focused in another direction.

Not that I think it was Carlin’s intention for the beginning of the book to sound like a ghoulish mystery with a Gothic vibe, which then turns into a Burke and Hare venture with an underlying romantic connection.

I think the intention was for the relationship between Hester and Rebekah to always be at the centre of the story, regardless of what happens around them. Their blossoming friendship, sisterhood and finally the twinkle of something more. The discovery of their feelings, the confusion and acknowledgement of said feelings, and the realisation that society will never accept it, would have been sufficient as a storyline. The second half of the book, which ventures more into the deep dark secrets of Rebekah’s family could have been an entirely new novel.

It felt a little like Holmes battling Moriarty, while Hetty Feather struggles to survive on the streets, with a modern twist on romance thrown in for good measure. I would really like to see Carlin follow through with the relaxed beautiful style of the first half of the book. Both styles have their merits, just not when fused together as one.

Leaving all that aside for a moment, I enjoyed the friendship and emerging romance between the two of them. Neither of them willing to admit the attraction is there and perhaps not even fully comprehending what it is they are feeling, because it goes against all the conventions they know. Carlin also describes the worlds between the classes well and the invisible wall keeping them apart. The stark reality of poverty and the rules of the streets the poor have to abide by to survive.

I certainly wouldn’t be averse to seeing Rebekah and Hester teaming up together again.

Buy The Wicked Cometh at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Hodderbooks

#BlogTour Aphrodite’s Tears by Hannah Fielding

Today @kraftireader and I are kicking off the Blog-Tour for Aphrodite’s Tears by Hannah Fielding. It is a delectable delight of mythology, history and a passionate romance. My post also features a fantastic Q&A with Hannah Fielding, and my review of course.

About the Author

Following her huge success as one of the UK’s leading romance authors with total sales of over 130k, Aphrodite’s Tears follows the award winning success of Hannah Fielding’s previous novels Burning Embers, Echoes of Love, Masquerade, Legacy and Indiscretion. Echoes of Love won Romance Novel of the Year at the IPB Awards in 2012 and Burning Embers was Amazon’s book of the month in 2011, while Hannah’s novels have been translated into 13 languages. With its spectacular setting and deep emotional drama, Aphrodite’s Tears will appeal both to fans of her backlist, as well as lovers of atmospheric travel writing including Santa Montefiore, Penny Vincenzie, Victoria Hislop and Lucinda Riley.

Egyptian by birth Hannah is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has lived all over the world, she currently lives between her writing retreat in the South of France and her rambling family home in Ireland. Hannah’s grandmother, Esther Fanous, was the revolutionary feminist writer in Egypt during the early 1900s and helped found the Women’s Wafd Central Committee in 1920.

Follow @fieldinghannah on Twitter or AuthorHannahFielding on Facebook

Visit hannahfielding.net Visit London Wall Publishing

Buy Aphrodite’s Tears

About the book

Summer 1977, Oriel Anderson finds herself on the charming Greek island of Helios hoping to fulfil a long held dream or joining an archaeological dive team. Broken hearted after her university fiancé left her for her best friend, Oriel is determined to prove she can make it in a man’s world heading up an all-male team on her first underwater dig.

Spending her days excavating a Roman shipwreck, surrounded by turquoise waters and scorching sunshine, Oriel thinks that she has found paradise, until she meets her employer and the owner of the Island, Damian Lekkas.

A widower, with a scarred face, Damian is a brooding presence on the island who instantly takes a shine to Oriel, but Oriel resolves to maintain a professional relationship between them.  But the mercurial Damian has other ideas, and Oriel’s stay soon becomes a battle between her head and her heart.

When strange things start happening Oriel doesn’t know what to think. She learns that no other women who had come to work on the dive had lasted more than a few weeks, then a young boy almost drowns on one of the dives, and one morning Oriel finds a dead songbird in her room, its throat slit, and out exploring the beaches on her own Oriel becomes trapped in a cave. Could these things just be a coincidence or is someone trying to send her a warning?

A modern retelling of some of the most popular Greek myths, Aphrodite’s Tears evokes the Legends of the Gods, their power and passion, playfulness and cunning.

Q&A

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) I have just finished reading Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece by Stephen Fry. He is such an intelligent and considered writer; I am very much enjoying his take on Greek mythology. I only wish the book were more comprehensive – no Troy and Odysseus, no Jason and the Argonauts, no Theseus and the Minotaur, no Heracles’ labours. Perhaps he will publish a second volume.

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper? I think it was the romantic writers like Victoria Holt, MM Kaye, Charlotte Bronte and Daphne du Maurier who inspired me and still inspire me the most: the romance, the detail in description, the beautiful, almost poetic prose. I am also deeply inspired by the French romantic authors of the 19th century, like Stendhal, Musset, Theophile Gautier, Leconte de Lisle and Victor Hugo, whose works formed the basis of my university degree in literature.

 
The last book you read which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? Helen Dunmore’s collection of poetry Inside the Wave moved me deeply. She died this year, very soon after the publication of the book, which is about life and death and the borderline between. It was through her poem ‘Hold Out Your Arms’, published widely in the media after her death, that I discovered the book. It really is beautiful. You can read it here:
 
Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of person?
I love series, because just as I love thick books, I enjoy long, sustained stories on screen. Films can leave you wanting more, but series allow you to really get to know the characters, and there is plenty of scope for detailed, intricate plots with twists and turns that compel you to watch the next episode – and the next! Recently, I have been in a ‘royal phase’, watching The Crown about Queen Elizabeth II and Victoria about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
 
Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Margaret Mitchell, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gone with the Wind. I would love to know how the writing process was for her (supposedly, she wrote the ending of the book first, and then went back and wrote the story leading up to that ending) and how she enjoyed the epic movie based on the work. I’m also fascinated by her refusal, despite pressure, to write a sequel – and I wonder what she would make of the two sequels by other writers that were released many years later, after her death.
 
From where did you get your inspiration for Aphrodite’s Tears, and why did you pick Greece as the setting?
Quite simply, Greece is one of my favourite parts of the globe. It’s a very special place for me, because it is so romantic. I bought my wedding dress in Greece – and I felt like a goddess wearing it; and my husband and I honeymooned there. One of the best evenings of my life was spent in the Acropolis in Athens, watching a production of the Sleeping Beauty ballet under the stars.
 
Greek mythology plays an important role in Aphrodite’s Tears, in fact I would say it is the essence of the story. Do you think it is becoming a lost and forgotten subject?
The Ancient Greeks left such a rich inheritance of legends – stories full of wisdom, and a god or goddess for everything, from love and war to wine-making. It would be such a shame for those legends to fade from memory, I think.
Creative minds find all kinds of ways to reinvent old stories, whether legends or fairy tales.  In the 1960s, for example, colour films like Jason and the Argonauts brought the Greek myths to life. Fast-forward to the early 2000s and writer Rick Riordan’s ‘Percy Jackson’ series was enchanting children all over the world.
The Greek myths have timeless appeal, so I don’t think they will ever be lost. The main issue appears to be confusion between the Greek myths and the Roman ones, because there is considerable overlap between them.
 
Leading on from the previous question, along with mythology there is also a heavy emphasis on history and the cultural identity of the Greek people. How important was it to you to try and give your readers a real sense and taste of all of those elements?
Absolutely essential. I don’t just want to tell readers a story; I want to draw them into that story. I want them to be sitting in their armchair in London or Kansas or Amsterdam and be transported to a little Greek island – to feel the sun on their face, to smell the fishermen’s catch of the day, to taste the tang of the salt air on their tongue. I so love to travel, I want to help my readers travel too. Only then can they really understand the context of the story that unfolds, and believe in the characters.
 
Helios sometimes appears to be an island lost in time, especially when it comes to the gender inequality. Women are still not treated the same as men when it comes to inheritance and marriage. Is this an imbalance so ingrained in their society that they refuse to let go of it, because the Greek feel that it would be like letting go of their historical past and traditions?
I think all cultures find change difficult, particularly when a way of being has existed for a very long time. As you suggest, granting women full equality would mean letting go of past traditions – and these are important for a people’s identity. The island of Helios is traditional, and that can have a downside for women; but it also has an upside in terms of men providing for and protecting their families. Just as ancient Greeks revered goddesses, so do men of this island appreciate women.
 
There are occasional glimpses of the third eye, the divine instruments of fate and the connection between folklore and mythology.  The beliefs of the Greek are linked with all of those things. Do you believe in fate?
Yes, I do, which is why the concept appears in my most of my fiction in some way or another. I don’t believe that our futures are already written and we have no power over our destiny. But I do believe that something things are meant to be, and that if we are open to there being a guiding force, it can lead us to places where we can be our very best selves.
 
Will we be hearing from the inhabitants of Helios again?
I think not. It is never easy to part from characters; to leave them at a point in time in a story, even with the suggestion of a bright future ahead. But being an author is about writing the next story: a fresh story that will capture your heart and transport you to another world; a new set of characters about whom you will care deeply. I think my passion for travelling helps here: each new story is set in a new country, and I am always excited to let go of the last book and travel to the new place, where I can learn all about its people and culture.

Review

Aside from the fact the writing is beautiful, melodic even, Fielding manages to transport her readers straight onto the island of Helios. An island I would love to travel to and explore, despite it being a fictional one.

Oriel is hired in her capacity as an archaeologist trained in underwater excavation, to investigate a shipwreck on the island of Helios and catalogue any possible treasure or remnants of an ancient culture the team discovers. She is shocked to find that her employer isn’t a stranger to her, well technically he is. let’s just say they have yet to be formally introduced.

The spark between them is electric, despite the fact they are both fighting their attraction in different ways. Damian is a man with many female admirers, and Oriel is determined to only be with someone who wants her and her alone. Archaic views are quite normal in Helios, as are the traditions they follow, regardless of whether those traditions endanger the lives of the islanders.

The historical element made me want to take up scuba diving and treasure hunting. It is what makes this read more than just a romance with an intense relationship between two people in the throes of passion. The descriptive scenery, the islanders who seem to live by the rules of the middle ages, and the historical and cultural context, are what make this a beautiful read.

Helios sometimes appears to be an island lost in time. Lost in the history, the folklore and mythology of Greece. They adhere to the power of the divinities, the traditions set by the gods and of course the more mundane laws decided by man.

It is a delectable delight of mythology, history and a passionate romance. I admire authors who can transport their love of a culture and country onto the pages of a book, and in doing so inspire readers to experience new things. Not every scribe is capable of transporting their readers into the vivid imagery they create with words. Hannah Fielding is one of those authors.

Buy/Pre-order Aphrodite’s Tears at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Aphrodite’s Tears is out in paperback on 25th January for £7.99

Watch the booktrailer for Aphrodite’s Tears

#BlogTour A Pearl for my Mistress by Annabel Fielding

a pearl mistress

Today it is my pleasure to be part of the Blog-Tour for A Pearl for my Mistress by Annabel Fielding. It is step into a world where women have started to blossom and walk new paths. They are discovering their sexuality, breaching the walls of social boundaries and creating possibilities for future generations.

About the Author

Annabel Fielding is a novelist, a history geek and an international woman of mystery. She has long since pledged her allegiance to travel, tea and books. When he isn’t busy writing historical fiction she can be found on her blog historygeekintown.com. There, you will find travel posts, lesser-known facts, some photography and (mostly) historical fiction-related book reviews.

Follow @DearestAnnabel @HQDigitalUK

Visit historygeekintown.com

Buy A Pearl for my Mistress

About the book

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

Review

In a way Lucy and Hester are separated by worlds, and yet the common denominator between the two is their gender, which makes them equal in the basest of ways. Regardless of the difference in status, and believe you me the divide between upstairs and downstairs is a huge one, the two of them start to connect on a personal level.

At first there is the common love of books, reading and expanding their knowledge. Lucy crosses boundaries that have to be kept between the two of them, because the rest of society wouldn’t understand their relationship. When the two of them connect on an emotional and physical level it becomes a destructive secret.

Fielding incorporates quite a few hot topics in this story, and for me this wasn’t a love story per se, perhaps because it doesn’t evolve beyond the physical element. In fact I would go as far as to say that it is more about shedding a light on how women who love women were treated in that particular era. Locked away, disowned, treated like the mentally ill and put in asylums for the insane.

At the same time there is a focus on the gender inequality, which was an issue for women on every rung of the social ladder. Women and girls of a higher status were treated like birds in gilded cages with no voice or power. Any move towards independence was ridiculed and dismissed. Girls over 21 didn’t receive the vote until 1928, so the 1930s was still an era of advancement and discovery.

Although Lucy is part of this new-found age for women she still has to maintain the facade of the quiet well-behaved daughter of the household, whilst making her own choices in private. Of course while society is busy infantilizing their daughters and wives, they are also guilty of creating vulnerable women who crave new input, which in turn makes them the perfect target. In this case Lucy is more susceptible to the theories and voices of the far-right. She is drawn in by the shiny glow of the pseudo intellectual arguments and the belief that she is doing what is right for herself and her country.

Her involvement with Hester is a direct contradiction to her interest in Mosley. Hester’s possible heritage and exotic appearance would make her a non-entity in the eyes of the Blackshirts. It’s as if Lucy chooses to be oblivious to certain opinions the Mosley brigade shout out to the world. In the midst of her anger at her family and her lack of trust, she starts to become what she hates the most.

Fielding combines historical fiction with important social issues of the 20th century. It isn’t a love story, it is a story about identity and  about discovering the power we yield.

Buy A Pearl for my Mistress at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BookTrailer Aphrodite’s Tears by Hannah Fielding

Aphrodite’s Tears will be published on the 25th of January 2018 by London Wall Publishing. The Blog-Tour takes place from the 15th Jan to 26th Jan 2018. On the 15th of January I will be featuring a fantastic Q&A with the author Hannah Fielding, and of course my review. It is an emotional and colourful extravaganza of mythology, history, culture and romance. Here is a wee taste of what it is all about:

About the Author

Following her huge success as one of the UK’s leading romance authors with total sales of over 130k, Aphrodite’s Tears follows the award winning success of Hannah Fielding’s previous novels Burning Embers, Echoes of Love, Masquerade, Legacy and Indiscretion. Echoes of Love won Romance Novel of the Year at the IPB Awards in 2012 and Burning Embers was Amazon’s book of the month in 2011, while Hannah’s novels have been translated into 13 languages. With its spectacular setting and deep emotional drama, Aphrodite’s Tears will appeal both to fans of her backlist, as well as lovers of atmospheric travel writing including Santa Montefiore, Penny Vincenzie, Victoria Hislop and Lucinda Riley.

Egyptian by birth Hannah is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has lived all over the world, she currently lives between her writing retreat in the South of France and her rambling family home in Ireland. Hannah’s grandmother, Esther Fanous, was the revolutionary feminist writer in Egypt during the early 1900s.

About the book

Summer 1977, Oriel Anderson finds herself on the charming Greek island of Helios hoping to fulfil a long held dream or joining an archaeological dive team. Brokenhearted after her university fiancé left her for her best friend, Oriel is determined to prove she can make it in a man’s world heading up an all-male team on her first underwater dig.

Spending her days excavating a Roman shipwreck, surrounded by turquoise waters and scorching sunshine, Oriel thinks that she has found paradise, until she meets her employer and the owner of the Island, Damian Lekkas.

A widower, with a scarred face, Damian is a brooding presence on the island who instantly takes a shine to Oriel, but Oriel resolves to maintain a professional relationship between them.  But the mercurial Damian has other ideas, and Oriel’s stay soon becomes a battle between her head and her heart.

When strange things start happening Oriel doesn’t know what to think. She learns that no other women who had come to work on the dive had lasted more than a few weeks, then a young boy almost drowns on one of the dives, and one morning Oriel finds a dead songbird in her room, its throat slit, and out exploring the beaches on her own Oriel becomes trapped in a cave. Could these things just be a coincidence or is someone trying to send her a warning?

A modern retelling of some of the most popular Greek myths, Aphrodite’s Tears evokes the Legends of the Gods, their power and passion, playfulness and cunning.

Follow @fieldinghannah @midaspr

Visit hannahfielding.net

Visit London Wall Publishing

Buy/Pre-order Aphrodite’s Tears at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Don’t forget to come back on the 15th of January 2018 for my review and the Q&A with Hannah Fielding, as part of this fantastic Blog-Tour!