#BlogTour Cage by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Cage, the last part of the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy, by Lilja Sigurdardóttir.

About the Author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare and Trap, the first two books in the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

Follow @lilja1972 on Twitter, on Goodreads,  Visit liljawriter.com

About the book

A masterful conclusion to the award-winning, critically acclaimed Reykjavík Noir trilogy, as drug-smuggling, financial crime, political intrigue, love, murder and betrayal come together.

The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence for financial misconduct ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her. As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed. Ruthless entrepreneur Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home. And at the same time, a deadly threat to Sonja and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive…

The lives of these characters are about to collide in a shocking crescendo, until the winner takes it all…Review

Cage can be read as a standalone novel, although I would suggest reading the previous two books in this trilogy, Trap and Snare, to get the full gist of the series. Whilst the majority of the two previous books in this trilogy focus on the character of Sonja, especially Snare, this one sees Agla and Maria take more of a centre stage.

Although the vibe of this book is perhaps slightly less ruthless, there is just as much wheeling, dealing and criminal activity. Agla is still wanted for her talents in corporate and financial crime, although I think it’s fair to say Agla’s relationship with Sonja and her stint in prison have changed her outlook on life.

It’s interesting how Sonja has morphed, during the duration of the trilogy, into the person her nemesis wanted her to be. She has become more brusque and ruthless or is it just her willingness to do anything she can to save her family and herself? To do that she has to make some uncomfortable decisions, which include her relationship with Agla.

It’s Scandinavian Noir, a corporate, financial and urban crime trilogy with feisty, but not necessarily sympathetic characters. Sigurdardóttir brings this series to a strangely comforting conclusion, perhaps not the one some readers may have expected, given how harsh some of the scenarios have been, but a conclusion nonetheless.

This author has a talent for bringing the underbelly of crime as it pertains to the small fish and those without sociopathic tendencies to the table. The result is the kind of crime read that is as unpredictable and at times as dark and unforgiving as crime itself.

Buy Cage at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orenda Books; Publication Date: 17 October 2019 | Paperback Original | £8.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Orenda.

Read my reviews of Snare and Trap by Lilja

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#BlogTour Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton.

About the Author

Sarah Broughton was born in London, lives in Cardiff and is the Creative Director of Martha Stone Productions.

She has written a novel, ‘Other Useful Numbers’, and a non-fiction book about the mysterious first wife of Marlon Brando, ‘Brando’s Bride’. Both are published by Parthian Books.

She can be found on twitter @sjbroughton124Buy Brando’s BrideAbout the book

In October 1957 Marlon Brando married a young studio actress called Anna Kashfi. He was thirty-three and at the pinnacle of his beautiful fame having recently won an Oscar for On the Waterfront. The wedding was front-page news around the world. His new bride was twenty-three, claimed to be an Indian princess and was pregnant. The day after the wedding a factory worker living in Wales, William O’Callaghan, revealed that Brando’s bride was in fact his daughter, Joan O’Callaghan and had been a butcher’s assistant from Cardiff. This book sets out to discover who was telling the truth and who was lying – and, perhaps more importantly, why?

Review

I think if this happened in the 21st century there would be a better understanding of why Anna, her parents and Marlon reacted the way they did. In general there is more information and clarification about the stigma and racism, which is why Anna’s story imploded the way it did.

Her parents were eager to hide behind their initial lies, because they didn’t want to be rejected by society. That rejection must have appeared to be a far worse fate than the disowning their daughter. The same could be said for Anna of course, who was left to her own devices after the studio helped her to build a story around her Anna Kashfi Anglo-Indian persona.

Then there is Marlon Brando – a man already convinced and consumed by his massive aura and ego. The fact his feeling of embarrassment was more important than his relationship with Anna frankly says a lot more about him than he probably would like people to know.

I think it is fair to say he was enamoured by the idea that the world knew Brando the great had an exotic woman on his arm. In a way his choices in women were more than just being attracted to a certain type of woman. It was about cementing his image as an activist in the civil rights and for the Native American movements.

Anna came from a world and a time in history when reinventing yourself by becoming bog standard white, English and Anglican was a choice made to protect, as opposed to trying to deceive.

It’s a well-researched biography, which Broughton approaches with empathy and respect. She gives Anna a voice – a voice she needed many decades ago. Not a piece written by those willing to feed the readers hungry for gossip and wanting to disparage someone. A voice speaking for the women who were used by the film industry as examples of exotic beauty, and then cast aside when they became too troublesome or threatened to bring scandals to their doors.

Buy Brando’s Bride at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Parthian Books; pub date 1 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Parthian Books.

#BlogTour Too Early For Death by Simon Farrant

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Too Early for Death by Simon Farrant.About the Author

I am an emerging author, a submission to a short story anthology kicked it all off. Black Cat is my first short story, and the hero isn’t maybe who you would assume.

Originally from Doncaster, South Yorkshire and now Corby in Northants. I’m in my forties, married with three children. We share our home with a Bengal cat and a Pink Tongued Skink.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had an interesting (well to me!) life. I have been a truck driver, university graduate and motorbike salesman amongst other things.

My two novellas, Newdon Killers series, The Crucifix and Famously Ordinary are out now! The third book, Death Dolls is coming soon estimated launch date 22 August.

Later this year a new series in a different genre Mystery / contemporary fantasy will be published.

I have a Facebook page, Simon Farrant Official, I’d be pleased to see you there. Follow me on Twitter – @asfarrant

I also have a newsletter. Sign up to receive the latest news first 🙂 https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/b2t0m0

About the book

Death can take you to the most unexpected places.

Damien Lennon finds himself on a mysterious island… and dead. He has more questions than answers. Why? Where? How? What next?

In a place where forests hide secrets and a leader rules with an iron fist, can Damien change his destiny?

‘Too Early for Death’ starts a journey through the Limbo Island trilogy, a series that unravels a story of life after death, hierarchy, tragedy, jealousy and eternal love. A heartbreaking yet heartwarming adventure awaits.

Review

They are just an ordinary family on a day trip to the museum. None of them have any idea that the trip will change their lives forever, because one of them disappears into thin air during the visit. A mysterious door leads Damien to a world beyond everything he knows to be true. As he searches desperately for the door that leads back to his wife and son, he slowly realises that there is more going on than meets the eye.

This isn’t a case of parallel worlds or a very realistic dream. Time doesn’t travel at the same speed, but he is unaware of that and also of his status. Meanwhile his family struggles with the mystery of his disappearance and the finality of his not being around to complete their family. They have to carve out a new existence for themselves, despite not having an explanation.

It’s speculative fiction, perhaps even magical realism. A premise that questions whether death is fate, choice or chance. Farrant presents Damien as a man who hasn’t followed the rules and ended up on Limbo Island due to his choices, which suggests we have some kind of control over our death and when it happens.

Having read Death Dolls by Farrant I found this one had a more simplistic writing style, perhaps to make it more accessible to a larger group of readers. It was less complex, despite the fantastical concept.

Buy Too Early for Death at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Farrant Fiction; pub date 6 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of Death Dolls by Simon Farrant

Buy Death Dolls (Newdon Killers #3) at Amazon Uk

Buy The Crucifix (Newdon Killers #1)

Buy Famously Ordinary (Newdon Killers #2)

#BlogTour The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

This is one of my favourite fantasy series, so it is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for The Winter of the Witch, the last part of The Winternight Trilogy (a damn shame) by Katherine Arden.

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent her junior year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrolment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature.

After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to serving as a personal tour guide. After a year on the island, she moved to Briançon, France, and spent nine months teaching. She then returned to Maui, stayed for nearly a year, then left again to wander. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

She is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. These novels make up the first two parts of The Winternight Trilogy.

Follow @arden_katherine @EburyPublishing on Twitter, on Amazonon Goodreads, Visit katherinearden.comBuy The Winter of the Witch

About the book

One girl can make a difference…

Moscow is in flames, leaving its people searching for answers – and someone to blame. Vasilisa, a girl with extraordinary gifts, must flee for her life, pursued by those who blame their misfortune on her magic.

Then a vengeful demon returns, stronger than ever. Determined to engulf the world in chaos, he finds allies among men and spirits. Mankind and magical creatures alike find their fates resting on Vasya’s shoulders. But she may not be able to save them all.

Review

This is the third and final part of The Winternight Trilogy. I really wish it wasn’t, perhaps there will be a spin-off one day. Then again why mess with a perfect series of books. If you are just stumbling on this author or this book then I recommend you go back and read the other two books. You won’t be disappointed.

At the end of book two a huge fire rips through Moscow. Vasya finds herself exposed and revealed, which leads to her nearly being killed by a frenzied mob, all thanks to the meddling of her old nemesis Konstantin. There are plans to burn her as a witch, but her life comes at a terrible price and sacrifice.

Everything that has gone before, every creature, demon, witch and tale comes together to bring this majestic and magical story to its conclusion. Vasya must face peril without the safety-net of Morozko and the two of them must finally come to terms with the obsessive pull of their relationship.

The entire story is like a magical spiderweb that is spun by Rumpelstiltskin like figures and spread over the Russian landscape by the magic that floats in the air and lives in the shadows.

Arden combines the artful storytelling skill of an old Russian master with fairytales, folklore and myth. The result is a fantastical vision of nightmares, daydreams and reality. It’s innovative and compelling fantasy fiction written with a passion for folklore.

Arden manages to bring consistency to the table with each of the three books. they are all equally poetic, beautiful, well-written and breathtaking.

Buy The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Ebury Publishing; pub date the 3rd October 2019 – Paperback • EBook • Audio. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of Winternight Trilogy #1 – The Bear and the Nightingale Buy here

Read my review of Winternight Trilogy #2 – The Girl in the Tower Buy here

#BlogTour Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen

Today it’s my turn and time to kick off the BlogTour for Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen. Translator – David Hackston ( Twitter: @countertenorist ). It’s Scandi crime noir, and it’s witty in the way only Tuomainen manages to be.About the Author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir ’ when Dark as My Heart was published.

With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died (2017) became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018) was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.

Follow @antti_tuomainen @OrendaBooks on Twitter, on Goodreadson Facebook,  Visit anttituomainen.comBuy Little Siberia

About the book

A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in the sky and something crashes into the car. That something turns about to be a highly valuable meteorite. With euro signs lighting up the eyes of the locals, the unexpected treasure is temporarily placed in a neighbourhood museum, under the watchful eye of a priest named Joel.

But Joel has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the riches that have apparently rained down from heaven. His wife has just revealed that she is pregnant. Unfortunately, Joel has strong reason to think the baby isn’t his.

As Joel tries to fend off repeated and bungled attempts to steal the meteorite, he must also come to terms with his own situation, and discover who the father of the baby really is.

Review

I have to hand it to Tuomainen you just never know what he is going to bring to the table. Stealing a meteorite?

If you are planning a trip to Finland watch out for meteorites falling from the sky. The Finnish tourist board should hire Tuomainen to write their adverts for them. The only downside would be the amount of people wanting to travel there for the atmosphere he creates and quirky characters this author keeps introducing to the world.

In a way the author makes something clear that is often murky because of the religious meaning attached to it, the fact that those in the role of the representative of god are but mere mortals too. Joel disperses advice in his role as a priest, whilst simultaneously becoming a criminal and a sinner if you will.

When someone is teetering on the edge of a precipice it only takes a very small shove to stumble and fall. In Joel’s case that shove comes straight from his beloved wife. His pregnant wife. The wife who is either pregnant by immaculate conception or some other man, because it sure isn’t his baby.

He becomes obsessed with keeping the meteorite safe, the one that just plops out of the sky, and at the same time trying to figure out who did the dirty with his wife. The whole scenario is weirdly compelling. Set in the middle of nowhere in Finland, but also somewhere Russian goons happen to pop up to steal space rocks, the story is genre-bending and very much in keeping with Tuomainen’s individualistic approach to storytelling.

Tuomainen has this very specific style – his snark is delivered with the charm of a roguish gentleman, accompanied by the wink of a dust-covered experienced cowboy and it’s as dark as Poe’s heart. As a reader you can’t help but smirk at the noirish charm, because he always delivers a good story.

It’s Scandi crime noir, and it’s witty in the way only Tuomainen manages to be.

Buy Little Siberia at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orenda Books; pub date: 17 October 2019 | Paperback | £8.99 | Buy at Amazon.com.

Read my reviews of The Man Who Died and Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen.

#BlogTour My Judy Garland Life by Susie Boyt

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour My Judy Garland Life by Susie Boyt. This book has been reissued and is being published in paperback by Virago Books this September.

This is certainly the year to do that, because June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death, August 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and on October 4th 2019 the motion picture JUDY starring Renee Zellwegger and Jessie Buckley is set to be released in the UKAbout the Author

Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Camden School for Girls and Oxford University.  After a nerve-racking stint in a lingerie boutique and an alarming spell working in PR for Red Stripe lager and the Brixton Academy, she settled down to writing and is the author of six acclaimed novels including The Last Hope of Girls, which was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and Only Human, which was short-listed for the Mind Award. Of her last novel, Love & Fame  The Sunday Times said ‘she writes with such precision and wisdom about the human heart under duress that the novel is hard to resist.’

Susie wrote a much-loved weekly column about life and art for the Financial Times Weekend for fourteen years and still contributes regularly to their books and fashion pages.  Last year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories for Penguin Classics.  Susie is also a director at the Hampstead theatre in London and works part time for Cruse Bereavement Care.

She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She is the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud and the great grand-daughter of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

About the book

An irresistible mixture of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, experiment and hero-worship about one person’s enduring fascination. This is for anyone who has ever nursed an obsession or held a candle to a star.

Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt’s world since she was three years old; comforting, inspiring and, at times, disturbing her.  In this unique book Boyt travels deep into the underworld of hero-worship, reviewing through the prism of Judy our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief and fame.

Layering key episodes from Garland’s life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humour, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don’t know. Need hero worship be a pursuit that’s low in status or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? And what is the proper husbandry of a twenty first century obsession, anyway?

Review

I think what shines through the most is the total dedication and hero-worship, perhaps even to the point of seeing Garland in an overly positive light. That in itself is normal from a fan-based point of view. In a way it helps to shed a light on what life must have been like for this superstar.

Imagine the pressure of having to perform every time you are in a room with someone who expects you to be the all-singing and all-dancing Garland. There is no room for Frances Gumm to exist. That must have been terribly consuming and tiresome. Not that stars don’t enjoy the adulation and attention, but everyone deserves a modicum of privacy and the space to be themselves.

There is this scene Boyt describes when Meyer more or less dumps Garland on a waitress. A bit like someone dropping their grandma off at a care home. Boyt talks about how Margaret must have felt. How lucky she was to be in the position to take care of Judy and how empty she must have felt when Judy was gone. The problem with that is the fact Boyt sees it purely from the view of an avid fan and not necessarily from Judy’s. I can imagine Garland felt like some annoyance, a second rate has-been the world no longer cares about.

The author has created an interesting conversation on fandom and adoration of the famous by mere mortals. When does adoration become obsession? When does it cross the line between just simple admiration and veer into creepy behaviour? Does living in the public arena give complete strangers the right to know every detail of your life. Does it give them the right to judge, ridicule or perhaps just drool and fawn over them? My answer to that is a firm no it doesn’t.

It’s part homage, part memoir and above all it is a conversation about celebrity and the people who appreciate and adore their talent.

Buy My Judy Garland Life at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Virago; pub date 19 Sept. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#WarTimeClassics #BlogTour Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle

It’s an honour to take part in the BlogTour for Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle. This is the third of four books being re-published by the Imperial War Museum.

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

About the Author

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.

About the book

A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’Review

The story or rather the writing style, especially the beginning, has a theatrical flair. Very much as if Quayle were setting the scene for the stage or the camera. This is evident even if you aren’t aware of who the author is.

Quayle makes a poignant point about liaison officers in conflicts, skirmishes or times of war. Their job during times of peace is one of mediation and go-between, but in times of conflict they often have a specific job. Convincing the natives to work with them and against the enemy.

Words like liaison sound great – very diplomatic. The truth is they are often advising native groups, such as the resistance, to commit acts that will have disastrous results for their lives, their village, town or country and the lives of their fellow countrymen. It can mean torture and/or death. When the allies go home and the liaison officer disappears, those native inhabitants still have to live and survive in possibly hostile environments.

A comparison in our era is using natives to translate and as guides in the Middle East and then leaving them high and dry in an environment that considers them to be traitors to the country.

The author describes the important brotherhood bond and the camaraderie which exists and is amplified during the war. You have to trust and rely on the person or persons next to you to have your back. They understand like no other person what every soldier is going through. It’s one of the strongest bonds that exist.

Unfortunately, just like many other novels written about WW2 by eyewitnesses, this book has slid into obscurity. The Imperial War Museum is doing us all a great service bringing them back into the fold of the book world to be enjoyed by new readers. They are a learning experience written by voices who should be heard and remembered.

Buy Eight Hours from England at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com. Published by Imperial War Museum on 26 September 2019 – Wartime Classics – £8.99 each.

About the Imperial War Museums – IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

‘Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.’