What Was Lost by Jean Levy

About the Author

Jean Levy has worked in genetics research, the pharmaceutical industry and in academic publishing. She is currently completing a doctorate in Linguistics. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Sussex and lives with her husband in the South Downs. This is her first novel.

Follow @JeanELevy @DomePress

About the book

Something terrible has happened to successful children’s writer Sarah, but she doesn’t know what it is. All she knows is that it was enough to wipe her mind of memories.

Without her past she is lost, drifting, friendless, her life reduced to the protected one of a child. Specialists tell her that she must retrieve her memory of what brought her to be found, unconscious, bloodied and frozen, on a beach miles from her London home. And the police are interested too. But perhaps some things are best left forgotten…

Review

Sarah was found on a beach, miles away from her home, with no memory of how she ended up there. Since then she has been under a stringent set of rules to aid her recovery. She is more or less under constant surveillance by her doctors and needs daily help to remember the smallest things.

When she remembers fractured memories she isn’t sure whether or not it’s real or imagined scenarios. Even the simplest action has become a series of questions and fills her with doubt. From picking cereal in a supermarket to making a hot drink, every action seems to be a complex process and a mystery Sarah doesn’t have the answers to.

Every person she meets is a stranger, every street she has walked before has become a path into the unknown. Her world is a bubble with little or no content on the inside and everything else, including her memories, is on the outside looking in.

The methods the specialists use are debatable. Keeping Sarah completely isolated and treating her like a child with no power seems counter-productive to the healing process. It is also incredibly intrusive to forbid contact with prior friends, remove any physical object which could evoke a memory and have adult babysitters checking up on you nearly every day.

Levy creates a tense steady paced thriller from a blank slate. Her main character can’t fill in any of the details, the secondary characters either refuse to or aren’t allowed to, which means the reader assumes the majority as the tale unfolds. It’s a bit like sailing into the sunset without a paddle, sail or motor, and it’s also what gives this story the edge.

Buy What Was Lost at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Dome Press

#BlogTour Sleeper: The Red Storm by J.D. Fennell

Today it is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Sleeper: The Red Storm by JD Fennell. The sequel to the successful dystopian action thriller Sleeper.

The Red Storm manages to crank up the action even higher, which I didn’t think was possible after Sleeper, but Fennell brings even more to the table this time.

About the Author

J.D. was born in Belfast at the start if the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him.

A lover of reading, he devoured a diverse range of books – his early influences include Fleming, Tolkien, Shakespeare and the Brontës. He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry.

These days he divides his time between Brighton and London, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs.

J.D.’s debut, Sleeper, was published by The Dome Press in April 2017.

Follow @jd_fennell or @DomePress on Twitter or on facebook.com/JDFennellAuthor/

Visit sleeperbook.com

About the book

Will starling has been drafted into the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance, but his  memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past. When his mission is compromised, Will suspects that he’s been betrayed. Back in London he hears that VIPER are developing a deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies.

While Will fights to prevent genocide, his sister, Rose, has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.

Q&A with JD Fennell

After the resounding success of Sleeper you are back with sequel, Sleeper – The Red Storm..

What was or is the inspiration for Sleeper? I wanted to write the kind of books I love to read. The Sleeper series are fast-paced spy thrillers with mysticism, the supernatural and sophisticated period technology on the fringes of reality. I wanted to be in that world, so I created one.

I would put this series in a multitude of genres, which is probably what makes it a read both younger and older readers find intriguing. It has elements of historical, war dystopian, sci-fi, spy thriller and industrial revolution steampunk meets futuristic weaponry genres. It is suitable for younger, young adult and older adults. An any age read, so to speak.

Was is it your intention to meld all of these different elements together or was it more of a this is where the plot is leading me kind of thing? Yes, it was. I wanted the characters to age as the story progresses. I did not want to remain in the same small timeframe. The first in the series, Sleeper, is a YA, which can be read by younger and older readers. In the sequel, The Red Storm, the characters are adults and well-established spies. Red Storm has an older voice and darker themes and as such has been marketed as an adult thriller.

Leading on from that was it also your intention to write a series that a person of any age can pick up and read, and parents would be happy to buy their book-hungry children? Yes I suppose it was. The third in the series will take place some years after the close of Red Storm. It will also be a darker book. That said I do intend to return to Rose’s story and write a short ebook about her. All that said, I would caution parents about choosing Red Storm for their children because of the dark themes and adult content, which will increase in the third book. They may want to read it first before passing it on. I know some parents have done this already.

As a parent of both book hungry and reluctant readers I know I have found it difficult at times to find a way to encourage my youngest son to read. He needed to build his reading, writing and comprehension skills, and yet the majority of books didn’t stir his interest. I had to search for the more unusual books to get him to read. I think Sleeper and The Red Storm fit into the bracket of letting younger readers experience the action packed creativity of a writer who doesn’t just want to tell them how the ugly duckling became a beautiful swan.

Do you think the book industry invests enough in books for younger readers that cross boundaries of imagination, creativity and outlandish theories? I don’t think I could comment on that because I don’t know enough about the children’s book market. However, I do know that middle-grade is a huge business and YA – in the UK – not so much. In the US, however, YA is massive.

I don’t want to give any of the many surprises, deaths and plot twists away, so I am going to try to keep the questions about the book as neutral as possible.

What made you pick this particular period in history? I loved the idea of a spy story set during the war without the war being the main focus. Also, I love the clothes, the cars and the lack of internet, social media and celebrity culture. What’s not to love about that?

Will seems to accept and forget the deaths of his comrades and friends very quickly. Is this part of his training or because of the trauma he has been through? Will spends his time on the run dodging bullets and fighting psychopaths and cold-blooded killers. His training has taught him resolve and his trauma has hardened it.

The concept for the actual Red Storm is akin to the biological weapons the world is threatened by in our era. Did you take inspiration for this from reality? Very much so. The threat of these type of weapons exist today and was close to my mind when I wrote it. I suppose this gives the books a modern twist.

What is the difference between the Will of Sleeper #1 and the Will of Sleeper #2: The Red Storm? The Will in book 1 is an amnesiac whose memory loss makes him question who he is. He believes himself to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old, however, deep inside him is a burning rage that he cannot explain. When he is in a life-threatening situation his first thought is to run. As the story progresses he learns more about his past and by the end of the book his rage has a focus.

The Will in Red Storm is the ‘Liberator’ and ‘Executioner’. (Readers of Sleeper will understand what this means). So, when it comes to VIPER he kills without remorse.

What’s next for Will and his band of merry people? (I have read the shocking ending of The Red Storm – there is no way you can just leave it there…). I’d say expect the unexpected. That’s all I’m saying.

Thank you for answering all of my questions. Thank you for hosting me.

Review

The Red Storm is the sequel to the successful dystopian action thriller Sleeper. There is definitely a notable change in Will in this book. He appears to be more ruthless and less inclined to dither in the pool of emotions. People fall to the side, die and disappear, and yet Will glosses over each event, because his eye is on his goals.

There is a new dangerous threat in this book. At first Will thinks his enemies are talking in some kind of strange code when they reference a storm coming, until he encounters the Red Storm in person, then he realises just how big the threat is.

Meanwhile as Will is set on his own course and targets, the reader finds out what is happening to his sister. The story of Rose is disturbing, especially when it comes to the procedures she has to go through. She is so important to the enemy camp that they are willing to go to any length to get what they want, regardless of her young age.

I am not going to go into any more details, so you can discover this highly explosive and fast-paced read for yourselves. It is a read I would recommend to readers who are looking for an author who is able to combine a multitude of genres and create a new exciting read.

The action is cranked up even higher in this book, which I didn’t think was possible after Sleeper, but Fennell brings even more to the table this time. He also ends the book on one heck of a cliffhanger, which means we will probably…hopefully be reading more about Will in the future.

It’s a complex dystopian action thriller with the vibe of a war and spy novel. It ‘s non-stop action from start to finish – it’s one hell of a ride.

Buy Sleeper: The Red Storm at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: The Dome Press, pub. date 25 Oct. 2018

Read my review of Sleeper book #1 Buy Sleeper

#BlogTour Half a World Away by Sue Haasler

Today I am thrilled to host the BlogTour for Half A World Away by Sue Haasler featuring a fantastic guest post by Sue Haasler, Titles for Books, and my review.

About the Author

Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University. After graduating she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults. Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.

Sue has written four books, True Colours, Time after Time, Two’s Company (all Orion paperbacks) and Better Than the Real Thing. Two’s Company was optioned for film by Warner Bros. She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to Holby City.

She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.

Follow @pauseliveaction @DomePress

Visit pauseliveaction.wordpress.com

Buy Half A World Away


About the Book

Charming and talented Alex dreams of becoming a professional saxophonist while working long hours in the family bakery. Detlef, lonely, repressed, and a small-time Stasi informer, develops an obsessive love for him. But Alex only has eyes for Nicky, an English woman visiting East Berlin as an au pair.

With no natural outlet for his feelings, Detlef’s passion becomes destructive, his need for approval enmeshed with the latent homophobia of the regime. As Alex’s band becomes more successful, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere, and Detlef’s passions threaten to endanger all of them.

Guest Post by Sue Haasler

Titles for books

I never find it easy to come up with titles for my books, so I’ve almost always used song titles that resonate with what the story is about. Previously I’ve used two Cyndi Lauper songs (‘Time After Time’ and ‘True Colours’), and my next book will be ‘Another Girl’ – a song by The Beatles, as it’s set in the swinging sixties.

‘Half A World Away’ is a song by REM from their album Out Of Time, which came out a few years after the events of the book. It’s a song I strongly associate with the period when I would often visit my boyfriend (now my husband) in Berlin, where he was a student. He was born and brought up in East Berlin, so even though it was after German reunification it was mainly the eastern part of the city that I got to know. Whenever I hear that REM song it reminds me of Berlin.

East Germany in 1987, the time that the book is mainly set, was half a world away from life in Britain or even West Germany – the same, but distinctly different. Young people were interested in the same things as young people anywhere – music, clothes, sex – but their choices and attitudes were shaped by a state that tried to impose order on its citizens through censorship, regulation and by encouraging them to report any transgressions. There are definitely shades of Orwell’s ‘1984’ in the way that the characters in the book find themselves in trouble with the authorities for behaviour that would be completely innocent anywhere else. The main character, Alex, goes on a journey in his attitude to the country he’s known all his life:

“From the airport over there [in West Berlin], you were allowed to go anywhere in the world: New York, New Orleans, Paris, London. No one got sent to prison for saying their government was corrupt or wrong; you could say what you wanted, even write books full of controversial ideas without anyone saying you were a traitor to the state. You could listen to music without being arrested. You could love anyone you wanted to.”

Review

Haasler couldn’t be more right about the now ex-East Germany being half a world away. If you weren’t there to experience it, it is extremely hard to fathom how an entire country, and of course Berlin for example, could be split in half as if there were a river of molten lava flowing between the two sides.

Half a World Away takes place in 1987, a mere two years or so before the fall of The Wall. The years after World War II are actually much more fascinating and troubling, as the plan to divide Germany between the Allies slowly took on an appearance, and the country was split into two separate ones. Even after many decades of becoming one country again there will be an occasional reference made to the division and the difference between the people from the East or the West. One of the favourite terms for the GDR (DDR as it was known in Germany) used by West Germans was, and often still is, Dunkel Deutschland (Dark Germany). Even after so many years the rift still emerges now and again, more so because the GDR was ruled by such an oppressive and strict regime.

The love story between Alex and Nicky is one that would have been frowned upon, and although Haasler describes the minutiae reporting of Detlef very well, in the confines of this story it sometimes appears to be part of his own obsession. However the people in the GDR were encouraged to spy and report on their fellow countrymen and women in this way. A Big Brother society where no deviation from the state rules or plans were allowed. Letters from and to the West were considered inflammatory. Family, lovers, friends and colleagues spied on each other to keep themselves free of suspicion.

The Stasi files can be accessed in Berlin, and quite a few people have requested permission to see who reported whom or why their loved ones or they themselves ended up in prisons or being punished. The State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD) had many things in common with the previous German regime, a mixture of Gestapo meets KGB.

The author describes the isolation and the lack of development or opportunities for the younger generations really well. Dreams and expectations are weighed up against loyalty and a sense of duty, as opposed to the free thinking minds and paths in life on the other side of Germany. Detlef has trouble adjusting his natural desires to the expectations of the dictatorship he lives in. His choices are rationalised by the rules he is governed by.

Haasler does a fantastic job of balancing the two sides of the coin, and why that broken coin needed to be glued back together. The separation is a distant memory, and yet the consequences are still felt within the country and its people to this day. The author draws an interesting parallel between the political and romantic fallout of this historical separation of mind, matter and state. Simultaneously she keeps the story light-hearted, authentic and free of any political opinions. A riveting read, and a bold combination of love and history.

Buy Half a World Away at Amazon Uk  (Kindle) or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Pre-order Buy Half A World Away (Paperback) Pub. Date 12th April 2018 by Dome Press.