The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

About the book

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardo is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardo wiped out in an instant. Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardo to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardo, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

Review

If you’ve read the blurb you might be expecting the standard witch trial story, but this is so much more. The author has created an insightful and beautiful collaboration of historical fact, culture and love. The purest of emotions and feelings of attraction when two people find they have more in common than they think.

The story is inspired by the real freak storm that hit the Varanger Fjord and killed the majority of the men in the small villages in the area. The storm set the stage as a so-called precursor to the witch trials that followed. Many of the indigenous Sami were at home in the area. Their ancestral and cultural practices were viewed as something akin to devil worship and witchcraft by the Christians, so it’s an easy leap from neighbour to accusing someone as a witch.

It’s easy to forget how old Ursa is, perhaps because it’s the norm in her era, however the truth is she is a mere child and her marriage is arranged. She has been ripped from her family and moved to a place that couldn’t be more isolated. Ursa isn’t prepared for the people, the weather or being a wife to a man who seeks to make himself a name by ferreting out the evil among them.

She forges an unusual and cautious friendship to a local young woman called Maren, who finds it hard to believe that the people around her are capable of pointing the finger to ingratiate themselves, even if that finger means torture and death.

What Millwood Hargrave does really well is show the slow and insidious use of gossip, folklore and good ol’ fear to malign the characters of the innocent. A healer becomes someone using magic, coincidences become summoned demons, and objects to help heal become harbingers of the devil.

It’s historical fiction, a beautifully atmospheric tale of love, support and a demon called fear. Millwood Hargrave is a wonderful writer and this is a fantastic read.

Buy The Mercies at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Picador; pub date 6 Feb. 2020. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Waterstones.

Follow @Kiran_MH on Twitter, on Goodreadson Amazon, Visit kiranmillwoodhargrave.co.uk

#BlogTour The Senator’s Assignment by Joan E. Histon

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Senator’s Assignment by Joan E. Histon. It’s an intriguing combination of historical fiction with an element of mystery and crime.

About the Author

Joan Histon has a background as a professional counsellor. She began her writing career as a ghost writer when two clients expressed an interest in telling their own dramatic stories.

After the publication of Thy Will be Done… Eventually! and Tears in the Dark, she was commissioned to write the true story of ‘The Shop on Pilgrim Street’. Having also published short stories in several national magazines, The Senator’s Assignment is Joan’s debut novel.

As well as writing, Joan is a Methodist local preacher, a gifted story-teller, spiritual director, mother and a reluctant gardener. She lives in Hexham, Northumberland with her husband, Colin.

Buy The Senator’s Assignment

About the book

Being trusted by a Caesar makes him an enemy of the Roman who crucified Jesus Christ, and puts him under threat from Rome itself Rome 30 AD. A Senator is plunged into the dark heart of the Roman Empire, sent to investigate the corrupt practices of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem by Caesar Tiberius. In this tense historical thriller can Senator Vivius Marcianus outmanoeuvre charges of treason, devastating secrets resurfaced from his own troubled past, and the political snake pit of Rome to save himself and the woman he loves?

Review

Senator Vivius Marcianus is a man who believes in the omnipotent power of the Caesares. He believes in the Roman Republic and patrician regime of the Senate, and  yet he sometimes doubts one man should hold all the power – a conflict which drives his decisions and political support.

Tiberius trusts him implicitly, which is how Vivius ends up pretending to be a Senator interested in the market potential of olives, whilst secretly investigating the fraudulent and violent actions of his fellow Romans. At the same time he is trying to keep his loved ones safe, as he plays a dangerous game of political chess.

Histon comes at the period of the beginning of the sect of the Nazarenes, the death of their charismatic leader Jesus and the years following his alleged rising from the dead, in a more factual and suitably historical fashion. A more realistic version of events, despite it being a mixture of fact and fiction.

A story relayed over many centuries via hearsay and written accounts is told from a new perspective, one more in keeping with the time and the political and historical era. Vivius is asked to look into some concerns regarding the actions of Pontius Pilate, the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, serving under Emperor Tiberius. Pilate is known as the person ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

Pilate’s strings are being pulled by someone close to Tiberius, a person with plenty of power and an ulterior motive. Both of them are willing to threaten and kill to keep their secrets, which means Vivius and his friends have to watch their backs.

I hope this is just the beginning of intrigue, betrayal and politics with Senator Vivius Marcianus. It’s not like the Roman Empire doesn’t offer up plenty of room for future plots. Hopefully Histon will give readers further opportunities to engage with Vivius. It’s an interesting combination of historical fiction with elements of politics, mystery and crime.

Buy The Senator’s Assignment at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Top Hat Books, Pub. date 26 Oct. 2018

#BlogTour The River Runs Red by Ally Rose

Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The River Runs Red by Ally Rose. It is certainly more than just a crime story, because it incorporates a complicated time in history and politics to create a captivating read.

About the Author

Ally Rose writes –

“I’ve always been interested in writing crime stories and with the Cold War era, there is such a rich tapestry to draw from; especially the notorious and quelling Stasi reign in East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, gives a contrast between the different worlds and any past crimes are held to account in a unified Germany.

Berlin is one of my favourite cities, and I’ve spent time living and discovering this diverse city and its surrounding areas. Seeing my characters in familiar places, they seem to come to life.

Hope you enjoy my Hanne Drais books.”

Follow @AllyRoseAuthor @fahrenheitpress on Twitter

Buy The River Runs Red

About the book

Berlin is in the midst of its worst winter in decades. Against the backdrop of freezing temperatures, blizzards and snowstorms, the city refuses to grind to a halt. Lurking within the shadows is a Stasi victim, out for revenge against the former East German informants known as ‘The Ears’. Their dark secrets are about to be exposed.

A mix of ice and water and a single gunshot, provides the ultimate payback.

With the Millennium approaching, Hanne Drais, the criminal psychologist working within the Berlin Mitte Police team led by the irascible Oskar Kruger and his laid-back sidekick, Stefan Glockner, are seeking the perpetrator of these violent crimes.

Who is the man they’ve nicknamed Snowflake? Who is turning the river red?

Review

Like many periods in history the Cold War era and the time before the Berlin Wall fell, has fallen into the bracket of ‘happened and forgotten.’ The true nature and manner of the atrocities committed behind the Wall has only really come to light since Germany became reunited again.

The Stasi and the DDR regime were and are guilty of many horrors, many of which still aren’t common knowledge to the public and the world in general. This includes state ordered steroid use for athletes, which caused a multitude of medical problems in said athletes and their offspring. East Germany was built on betrayal, lies and the premise of every man and woman for themselves. Many people who were reported, spied on and betrayed still travel to Berlin to look up the Stasi documents to discover the person who sold them up the river.

The story follows the investigation into a killer who leaves a very specific mark on his victims, and Rudy the Olympic rower who manages to escape the dangers of East Germany. He appears to be a shoe-in for the role of vengeful killer until the author adds another element of suspicion to the tale.

This is the third book in the Hanne Drais series, and the author purposely adds an element of right or wrong. moral or immoral to the story. Do some people deserve less sympathy or justice depending on their past actions? Would you view a killer differently if they were eliminating people guilty of torture and murder?

It’s hard to understand the rift caused not only by the Berlin Wall, but also the trauma of living under an oppressive regime, whilst the other half of the country was a democracy. Even now, so many years after the reunification the Germans still make distinctions between people from the West and East. I think the strength of the story is definitely Rose shining a light on how methodically cruel the regime was in the East and that the people were expected to just forgive and forget the crimes committed against them when the Wall came down.

This story may hold a few surprises for some readers. It is certainly more than just a crime story, because it incorporates a complicated time in history and politics to create a captivating read.

Buy The River Runs Red at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Buy at Fahrenheit Press Buy at Amazon com

Published by Fahrenheit Press on 24th July 2018.

The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

emperorIf this isn’t on the Not the Booker list then it should be.

It’s hard to say which character should really have been in the spotlight in this book. In this case it is Alex, but I would love to hear the story from Ivy’s perspective and delve deeper into her life. Perhaps even go back to Tiananmen Square, the story of her sister and the massacre.

Ivy shows Alex the reality of living as immigrants and worker bees in and under the oppressive regime of the Chinese government. She opens his eyes to the injustices happening on a daily basis all around them.

Alex struggles with fitting in the way his father expects him to, and he dislikes the hypocrisy his father displays. After experiencing oppression, genocide and hatred because of their faith it seems a paradox that their family be involved in the oppression of other human beings.

Towards the end I think it is fair to say that Alex begins to doubt whether Ivy has pure motives. Did she intentionally target and manipulate the privileged heir? Is the scent of freedom stronger than her conscience or is it her guilty conscience driving her actions and words?

The relationship between Alex and his father is the catalyst that propels the young man forward and helps him to discover his backbone. The old man is one of the dinosaurs, the old boy capitalist brigade who detest change and put money over everything else.

This story encompasses a lot of genres including history, politics, civil and human rights. It’s important to remember the modern era in which this takes place and take note of the injustices. It’s ironic, actually it is ruthless and tragic, that capitalists who profit from democracies in their native countries profit financially from having factories and using workforces in countries run by autocratic regimes and/or oppressive communist regimes.

This is a story of awakening and also about acknowledging the corruption hidden in the guise of employment and development. I look forward to reading more by Wise in the future.

Buy The Emperor of Shoes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: No Exit Press

Follow @SpencerWise10 @noexitpress on Twitter

Visit spencerwiseauthor.com

#BlogTour Time School by Nikki Young

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Time School by Nikki Young. It’s a pleasant introduction into the history of WW 1 and the concept of time travel. It’s a short read suitable for all age groups.

About the Author

Nikki Young is a writer and lover of stories and ‘The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants’ is her first book. Nikki credits her lively imagination to an amazing childhood, growing up in Yorkshire and living in a cul-de-sac in the days when children were allowed to run free and left to make their own fun! Now a mum of three, she says that in her head, she hasn’t really grown up and those memories of her childhood days remain strong and active.

Follow @nikki_cyoung @matadorbooks

Visit nikkiyoung.co.uk

Buy Time School

About the book

A power cut and a series of mini disasters means friends, Jess, Nadia, Tomma and Ash barely make it to the station to catch their train to school. What they find is a far cry from the usual packed commuter train they’re expecting…

When they arrive at Hickley School, the children are surprised to find some of the buildings missing and they don’t recognise any of the other pupils, who are all dressed in a different style of uniform. The only person who takes the time to help them is Martha, despite being preoccupied by her own worries about her family being hungry and not hearing from brother, Henry whom she says is away fighting. The children soon realise this is no normal day and it’s not until they return home that they’re able to figure out what happened. What they don’t know is whether it was a one-off day, or if they will get to see Martha and the other pupils again. Jess hopes so. She has something she needs to tell Martha. Not knowing how or why, she feels a connection and an obligation to this girl she can’t explain.

Review

Imagine getting on a train you get on every morning only to be whisked away through a gap in time to the past. To a time of great upheaval, struggle and sorrow, with the only option to return being the same train. Just you and a few of your friends thrust into one of the most traumatic periods in the 20th century. How, why and for what purpose?

I think it is a gentle and non-abrasive way of introducing young readers to the World Wars, specifically the Great War. Having bought and read similar books with a historical context for children, and for my own children, it is fair to say that young readers of our era are capable of dealing with a lot more reality and facts. The premise offered up a lot of potential and Young shouldn’t be cautious when plotting and delving into that potential. Children and younger readers are capable of embracing and enjoying more complex and realistic storylines.

This premise also allows for further ventures into the past, regardless of whether the fictional story collides with an important historical event or not. Books like these can be great teaching tools, because readers learn historical facts in a fictional setting.

What I really liked about it was the fact I could read this to a child of any age or give it to them to read, without having any concerns they might be overwhelmed by the subject matter. At the very least readers will come away with a basic understanding of how the war had impact on everyone regardless of age or status. Rationing, clothing, war orphans and refugees, and having to deal with the death of a loved one.

More advanced readers could discuss the butterfly effect of the time travel. Did the event the children were there to change or stop only occur because they were there in the first place?

Given a little more depth I can see this becoming an interesting series (hint, hint) and a scholastic possibility. I would like to see Young spread her wings a little more and allow for the creative ideas to flourish instead of curbing them. Saying that, I would buy this book for a reluctant reader or as an introduction to the topics of history, war and time travel.

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

Publisher: Troubador Publishing ( pub date: 28 Jun. 2018)

#BlogTour The Very White of Love by S.C. Worrall

It’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for The Very White of Love by Simon Worrall. It is a nostalgic ode to Nancy and Martin, and of course to their love and a relationship that took place across many miles through the medium of pen and paper.

About the Author

S.C. Worrall was born in Wellington, England and spent his childhood in Eritrea, Paris an Singapore. Since 1984, he has been a full-time, freelance journalist and book author. He has written for National Geographic, GQ, The London Times and The Guardian. He has also made frequent appearances on Radio and TV, including the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent: NPR and PBS. He speaks six languages and has lived in or visited more than 70 countries. The Very White of Love is his debut novel.

Follow @simonworrall @HQStories

Visit simonworrallauthor.com

Buy The Very White of Love

About the book

Torn apart by war, their letters mean everything…

‘My love. I am writing to you without knowing where you are but I will find you after all these long months…’

3rd September September 1938. Martin Preston is in his second year of Oxford when his world is split in two by a beautiful redhead, Nancy Whelan. A whirlwind romance blossoms in the Buckinghamshire countryside as dark clouds begin to gather in Europe.

3rd September 1939. Britain declares war on Germany. Martin is sent to the battlefields of France, but as their letters cross the channel, he tells Nancy their love will keep him safe. Then, one day, his letters stop.

3rd September 1940. It’s four months since Nancy last heard from Martin. She knows he is still alive. And she’ll do anything to find him. But what she discovers will change her life forever.

Review

This story of romance, first love and the tragedy of war is based on the correspondence between Martin Preston and Nancy Whelan. Her son found the letters and a picture of Martin after the death of his mother, and decided to tell the world about this forgotten blip in time instead of letting it fall into the deep hole of unknown stories.

Unfortunately none or not many of her letters exist, but the author has been able to give the reader a good idea what they would have looked like based on Martin’s emotional and honest letters to Nancy.

Aside from the romantic element of the story, the author also highlights the tragedy of war. In this case both World Wars, during which whole generations of young men were annihilated, and damaged both mentally and physically. Even the men lucky enough to return home were never the same again. You don’t just bury trauma like that without it leaving some kind of mark.

One of the things I think is important to note when discussing the events of both the Great War and World War 2, is the military hierarchy and how it influenced the process of decision-making and number of fatalities. In fact it is probably also the case in other war conflicts and so-called skirmishes. There is this automatic assumption that academic learning and higher socio-economic status in life equates to good leadership skills in the military hierarchy.

This meant that inexperienced, and often very young men were made officers and therefore put in charge of the lives of all men beneath them in the hierarchy. The irony of the fact these boys had lower ranking men with prior war and military experience working beneath them and giving them advice, and yet not in charge, is just tragic in every sense of the word.

Men who have no clue what the situation is on the ground are making decisions that will ultimately kill many innocent men, because they are playing games of strategy in their office. Officers not suited to their positions are leading hundreds of men into traps. Is it any wonder the majority of lower ranking soldiers speak of the same frustration when it comes to the reality of war.

Anyway I digress, although in a way it is pertinent to how Martin ended up where he was and perhaps ultimately decided his fate and that of many others. Although the information was hard to gather, put together and the exact truth will never be known, it is fair to say he was a brave man.

I believe Simon Worrall has made the best of a double-edged sword. He found a secret that determined the inner emotional stability and/or turmoil of his mother and her marriage to his father. She kept the torch burning for Martin throughout her life. Their love was romanticised in her head, especially because it was never physical, and the dreams of a wedding and children were never fulfilled.

It’s the not knowing that makes the brutally interrupted first love something she dwells on in moments of unhappiness or frustration. The trauma of not knowing the truth, and perhaps never quite believing it, stayed with her forever.

It’s a beautiful story, probably one of very many during that particular era, but this one provided the author with enough physical evidence to be able to replicate the events. Obviously he has filled in certain scenes with fictional dialogues and descriptions, but he does so with the greatest respect towards his own family and the family of Martin Preston.

It is a nostalgic ode to Nancy and Martin, and of course to their love and a relationship that took place across many miles through the medium of pen and paper.

Buy The Very White of Love at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Published by HQ 14th June 2018 Hardback  ebook  Audio

Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien

queenof the northThere 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

#BlogTour Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin

It is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin. I do enjoy a read that makes the reader think and ask questions. The readers may come away from it with very different experiences, but either way it will be a memorable one.

About the Author

Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. She’s currently working on her second novel, which will be released in Spring 2018. When not in front of the computer, she’s behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog.

Follow @lindasmolkin  on Twitter @AuthorLindaSmolkin on Facebook

Visit  lindasmolkin.com

Buy Among the Branded

About the book

What if a 70-year-old letter from World War II changed the course of your life?

While attending Valor of the ’40s, art director Stephanie Britain stumbles upon a flea market selling letters from the war. She buys a handful, hoping they’ll inspire the redesign for a client’s website at her branding and design firm. She’s at first drawn by the lost art of penmanship, but soon discovers a hidden treasure nestled inside declarations of love from homesick soldiers. Stephanie enlists a coworker to translate one and realizes it’s not a love letter after all. When a shocking discovery about a client causes Stephanie to question her principles and dedication to her firm’s business, she’s forced to make a difficult decision—one that could give her peace of mind, yet ruin her career in the process.

Contemporary fiction with a historical touch, AMONG THE BRANDED explores family life, an unexpected friendship, and moral conflicts that make us wonder what’s more important: our livelihood or our beliefs. This moving debut novel by Linda Smolkin is a great addition for readers who enjoy books by Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Liane Moriarty.

Review

Among the Branded is a story about family and making emotional connections even when there are no blood ties. When Stephanie buys a vintage love letter at a re-enactment festival called Valor of the 40’s, she finds herself drawn to discover the people mentioned in the letter. The letter is written by a Jewish woman trying to save her family, who are already embarked on their path straight to a certain death, however their then five year old son Isadore was rescued from the hands of the Nazi’s. Stephanie makes it her mission to discover their story and in doing so finds herself making the kind of human connection we all wish for in life.

Stephanie represents each and every one of us. Smolkin has made her main character the collective conscience, which is a bold move in a story some may just wave away as a tale of friendship. It isn’t, whether it is per chance or intentional, the author is asking her readers to acknowledge that the way we react in our generation can perhaps change the repetitive process of human mistakes and history.

Kudos to Smolkin for calling out France by the way. Quite a few countries like to whitewash their involvement in the Holocaust or try to change the narrative of the past. At this very moment Poland is trying to force the world and its own countrymen to accept their new and improved version of their involvement in the atrocities. Let’s wave at Switzerland too. while we’re at it.

For me the most intriguing storyline was the one about business over conscience. Every one of us has a set of morals and ethics we live by, and sometimes we are put in positions where we have to make a choice to follow them or not. In this case it is money vs working with an anti-Semite, a neo Nazi.

You might not be aware of it, but every one of us has probably bought or used the products produced or funded by companies with dark pasts or involved in dubious dealings. Ask yourself whether you would still buy the stylish fountain pen or school pencil if you knew the brand had a Nazi past (Faber-Castell), how about driving a BMW, VW, Audi, Mercedes or bought a Hugo Boss perfume or an article of clothing (those SS suits looked sharp, didn’t they?).

So we have to make a choice whether or not to fund the collaborators or firms like I.G.Farben, who used slave labour and built labour camps near Auschwitz or buy elsewhere because of their contribution to mass murder. To be completely fair one would have to acknowledge that these are historic crimes, but what if the brand was a known fascist, racist or anti-Semite now? Would you still give them your money?

I see outrage when it comes to the use of real fur, mass transports of animals and animal testing. Consumers making a choice to buy elsewhere. I wonder why other causes have more validity than the ones with links to or collaboration with historical war crimes?

We have a choice and a voice, instead of staying silent and letting hate rule our countries we need to step up to the plate and speak out. Let’s not watch the world sit by idly once again, as fascists scaremonger the ill-informed and repeat the past again.

Although Smolkin presents her story softly and with great care not to rock any boats, I believe the dialogue between the lines is one of great clarity. It speaks of kindness, compassion and understanding, whilst drawing a clear boundary in the sand when it comes to hatred.

Buy Among the Branded at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Pub. date 28th April 2018

My Dear Ones: One Family and the Final Solution by Jonathan Wittenberg

my dear onesWittenberg presents the fate of his family members and friends through a series of written correspondence throughout the Nazi regime, the war and the years after WW2.

I can imagine it must have been incredibly painful and frustrating to read such loving, but often mundane letters, knowing that they were being prevented from writing the truth. Their letters were censored and towards the end more or less dictated to them by others, to give the impression they were being cared for by their captors.

At times it seems as if the author would rather accept the frivolity and pretence of the content of the letters, despite being aware of and relating the historical facts and truth. I believe this is his attempt to maintain a scholars neutrality. Never presume, and if you can, always back your facts up with evidence, which he has done in every instance. He has narrowed down the possible scenarios to the nearest provable possibility, and does not venture into what might have happened. His conclusions are based on written testimony and eyewitness reports.

The factor of the unknown is what plagued, and still plagues, the majority of the survivors and their descendants. The Nazi regime and their collaborators were meticulous record-keepers and when the time came experts at destroying said records and evidence.

You can’t erase years of well-planned mass murder. You can however change the narrative of history, which is why Holocaust deniers are so dangerous.

Wittenberg reads between the lines, as his family members have done before him, so the narrative becomes one between stark reality and wishful thinking. It is obvious that Jonathan Wittenberg has spent a lot of time searching for some wisp of memory, a physical residue or a sense of being in the locations his ancestors once walked, lived and died in.

In trying to find understanding and peace, he has also tried to find an imprint they may have made on their journey through life. Something more than just restricted handwritten letters, and although these are a priceless family heirloom, one can feel he wanted to connect with them on a more spiritual level. I feel you, I feel your pain. We are family, my blood is your blood, and we will never forget you.

Which is of course the essence of any biographical or autobiographical story about the Holocaust. To tell the world, remind the new generations of those who live on only in the memories of their loved ones, so they will be less inclined to repeat the past.

In his own way Jonathan Wittenberg, Rabbi Wittenberg has created a written testimony to keep the memories alive. To keep the truth from being extinguished, much like every inch of their existence and their lives were eradicated in an attempt to act as if they had never even existed at all.

Buy My Dear Ones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @RabbiWittenberg

Visit jonathanwittenberg.org

#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