#Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees.

About the Author

Paula has lived in various places, including Singapore, where she was based for three years. It was while living in Singapore that the first seeds of her debut novel, Journey to Paradise, developed. The crumbling buildings and the modern high-rises popping up almost overnight seemed to be a metaphor for the social diversity and change in Singapore at that time. However, as a young mother living there, she wondered what it must have been like as a post-war colonial wife living miles away from the familiarity of home. Despite the gloss and glamour of colonial living, women were frequently stuck in unhappy marriages, often unable to follow careers or have the independence to divorce if things went wrong – which they inevitably did. 

Her writing, although set against exotic backgrounds, is set on the cusp of change – the shift from colonial dominance to independence. She likes to dig into a variety of issues and her main protagonist is, in many ways, a metaphor for the political and social events surrounding her at that time. It isn’t always an easy journey, but in the end, success comes her way. 

The Forgotten Promise tells the story of Ella, a young Eurasian woman, whose life is turned upside down by the Japanese occupation of Malaya, and it is through her lens and that of Noor, her cook, that the narrative is revealed.

As for Paula – she has always wanted to be a writer. As a little girl she used to spend hours writing stories and turning them into books, even using flour and water as paste to stick the pages together.  She spent hours writing poetry and plays as a teenager and has always written short stories in her spare time. It is this need to write and a love of reading that led her to take a degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and later a Masters Degree in Creative Writing.

Apart from her writing, Paula hosts a regular author interview on her website. You can find out more about new and existing historical fiction authors, such as Liz Trenow, Frances Quinn and Louise Fein, by hitting the ‘author interview tab.’ 

As a writer, she feels it is important to have a wide range of interests – not only does it adds flavour and layering to prose, but allows it allows time for ideas to mull and to percolate. People watching in cafés is one, long walks is another. And food! Good food is essential to her and she loves to cook using the best ingredients she can find.  As well as a love of travel, she is a keen amateur photographer and her next trip takes her to Cambodia where she is hoping to discover an exciting hook for a new book – you can find out more about her progress there by following her on Instagram.

Paula has a grown up daughter and lives in Warwickshire with her husband and an extremely friendly Labrador. Follow @PGreenlees on Twitter, Visit paulagreenlees.com

About the book

Malaya, 1920: Two girls make a promise in the shadows of the jungle. A promise that life won’t let them easily keep.

Malaya, 1941: Ella is running her late father’s tin mine in the Kledang hills, while Noor works as her cook. When the war that felt so far away suddenly arrives on their doorstep, Ella is torn apart from her family. Her daughter Grace is left in Noor’s care as Japanese soldiers seize the mine.

Ella is forced to make an impossible choice that takes her to England, thousands of miles from home. She is desperate to be reunited with her loved ones. But will the life she returns to be anything like the life she left behind?

Review

We meet Ella as a child, when the first invisible boundaries between herself and her friend become visible to herself and others. Then later as she lives the life of a tin mine owner, her friend now the family cook. The two of them separated by social and class structures. As the story progresses we return to the two, who have had to make extremely difficult choices to ensure their survival as their home and country is invaded during WW2.

Although the title references the bond between two young girls and a promise they make in all innocence, it is also about the way we deal with curveballs in life. Adapt and survive. Making hard decisions, sometimes at the expense of others and often made in the moment.

Despite the fact Ella is Eurasian, she is very much a product of white colonisation and privilege. I think it is frequently evident in her reactions when she returns to Malaya – the lack of understanding of a place and people who have had to adjust to extreme conditions of an oppressed country.

The destruction, pain, torture and war crimes committed by the Japanese during WW2 often take a second place to the atrocities and warfare in Europe during the same period. This opens a small window to some of it, whilst maintaining the essence of the family saga and dynamics. It was a pleasure to read.

Buy The Forgotten Promise at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Penguin pub date 1 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Review Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish

 A great story based on real events during WW2 – Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish. ‘Wartime France. A newly trained agent. A deadly mission.’

About the Author

Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition – chosen from over 4000 entries – in partnership with the Daily Mail. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family. Follow @LouiseMorrish1 on Twitter, Find out more about Louise at linktr.ee/louisemorrish

About the book

1944: newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is faced with an impossible mission: to parachute behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France and monitor the new long-range missiles the Germans are working on. Her only advice? Trust absolutely no one. With danger lurking at every turn, one wrong move for Elisabeth could spell instant death.

2018: Betty is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. With her carer Tali at her side, she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.

Remembering a life shrouded in secrecy and danger, Betty remains tight-lipped. But when Tali finds a box filled with maps, letters and a gun hidden in Betty’s cellar, it becomes clear that Betty’s secrets are about to be uncovered . . .

Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, Operation Moonlight is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.

The inspiration for Operation Moonlight – The real-life SOE heroines of WW2

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a clandestine government organisation, authorized by Winston Churchill in 1940 to ‘set Europe ablaze’, which recruited and trained over 400 secret agents, 39 of them women. Only a handful of these female secret agents have been remembered for their brave achievements.

In 1942, in an unprecedented move, women were recruited into the organisation. The decision shocked and angered some people, not least because if women were given the right to bear arms they would no longer be protected by the Geneva Convention. This meant that if they were caught by the enemy, they could not expect to be treated as prisoners of war.

Nevertheless, 39 French speaking women, some of them wives and mothers, their ages ranging from 19 to 51, from a variety of backgrounds, were recruited. Once recruited, the women embarked on a 4-stage course, training alongside their male counterparts.

If the agents passed the stringent criteria, they were then sent to paramilitary training in Arisaig, Scotland. Here, they learned to survive in the beautiful, yet wild and unforgiving Scottish landscape. On the remote beaches and secluded moors, they were taught the rudiments of demolition and sabotage.

The second stage of the agents’ course was parachute training, which took place at Ringway Aerodrome in Manchester. Up until now, the women had endured everything the male agents experienced. But when it came to jumping from a plane, the women were only expected to make three practise jumps, their fourth being into France. The men, however, performed an additional night jump, and thus were awarded their ‘wings’.

The final stage of training was known as Finishing School, and took place at various Stately Homes such as Beaulieu in Hampshire. Here, the agents honed their skills in espionage, and undertook pseudo-schemes, evading capture by the Southampton police force, in readiness for their real missions in France.

Of the 39 women who risked their lives as agents, 12 were executed following their capture by the Germans, while one died of meningitis during her mission. The remainder survived the war.

Writing Operation Moonlight, Louise Morrish took inspiration from all the female agents of the SOE, but three women – in addition to Louise’s grandmother Betty – in particular: Noor Inayat Khan, Violette Szabo, and Odette Sansom Hallowes, whom Morrish researched in detail at The National Archives, at Kew.

Review

This is a dual timeline read – the reader is taken back and forth from 2018 and to the 1940s, as the secrets of an old lady who is about to celebrate a milestone birthday start to emerge. Betty still finds it hard to change old habits, which is to let sleeping dogs lie because you’ve been taught to never say a word, ergo periods of her life have been hidden from everyone around her. It also means there has never been any recognition for the her bravery.

You already low-key know you’re going to enjoy a book when you start casting the characters for the screen version shortly after starting the book. It has the emotional bonding of Home Fire with Bletchley House suspense, and I would very much like to throw in a pop culture reference  – it absolutely gave me Fall From Grace vibes.

It’s both tragically sad and disappointing that although we remember the casualties of war every year, we seem to forget the service and sacrifice of the living, during the same periods of time in history. It’s a strange phenomenon that those who returned were revered less than those who didn’t, to live forever in the shadow of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and yet is or was theirs not equally as great.

It’s a riveting historical fiction read, which is even more fascinating given the true events it is based on, and the author absolutely does her personal connection to the story justice. These women were incredibly brave, especially considering the lack of support they knew to expect if they were caught. It’s an incredible part of history that has taken a secondary place in comparison to the actions and deaths of others.

Buy Operation Moonlight at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Century, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Penguin Uk.

#BlogTour Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes – the 25th Anniversary Edition

‘Twenty-five years ago Rachel Walsh arrived on the literary scene. Funny, sad, headstrong and achingly vulnerable, fun-loving Rachel connected with readers the world over. Ahead of her return in Again, Rachel (17th February 2022), a brand new 25th anniversary edition of Rachel’s Holiday will be released on 9th December 2021.’

Pre-order the sequel – Again, Rachel at Amazon Ukat Waterstones

The 25th celebratory edition will include a new foreword with celebrations from some of Marian’s many fans, including Dawn French, Graham Norton an David Nicholls who reflect on the significance of Rachel’s Holiday since its first publication an what it continues to mean to them today. Buy the 25th anniversary edition of Rachel’s Holiday here

About the Author

Marian Keyes is a phenomenon. As a multi-million copy, internationally bestselling author, she has amassed an army of millions of fans around the world, who have been empowered by her honest portrayal of difficult topics and her relatable characters told with insight, warmth and humour.

As a beloved author herself, Marian is a passionate champion of storytellers everywhere, playing an active role in encouraging new voices. She has been the chair of judges for the Comedy Women in Print prize, a sponsor of the Curtis Brown Creative Marian Keyes scholarship, and most recently ran her own hugely popular Instagram Live series bringing free creative writing courses to thousands of viewers. Marian also uses her position to raise some of the most challenging issues of our time, including addiction, immigration, depression, domestic violence and the Repeal the Eighth campaign.

Both critically acclaimed ad commercially unstoppable, Marian’s fourteenth novel Grown Ups went straight to No.1 in hardback and paperback in four global territories: UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Audiobook of the Year. In addition to her novels, Marian has written two collections of journalism, as well as been the star of the second series of her hit show Between Ourselves aired on BBC Radio 4 at the start of 2021.

Again, Rachel, the sequel to her ground-breaking novel Rachel’s Holiday, will be Marian’s fifteenth novel. Marian is based in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin.

Follow @MarianKeyes on Twitter or @marian_keyes on Instagram, Visit mariankeyes.com

About the book

She’s been living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her adoring boyfriend, Luke.

But her sensible older sister showing up and sending her off to actual rehab wasn’t quite part of her plan. She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall Jacuzzis, spa treatments and celebrities going cold turkey – plus it’s about time she had a holiday.

Saying goodbye to fun and freedom will be hard – and losing the man who might just be the love of her life will be even harder. But will the road to recovery help Rachel learn to love herself, at last?

Review

I bet I’m not the only one who finds it hard to believe it has been a quarter of a decade since this book was first published, and Keyes has certainly published a lot more fantastic books and reads since. What a wonderful way to celebrate her success and the impending release of the sequel to Rachel’s story, than by releasing an anniversary edition.

Rachel is a party girl enjoying life and love to the fullest, right? Her family doesn’t think so, and they are willing to make her confront her issues and her serious addictions in an attempt to save her.

Even though it’s not my first read of this book, I am a great believer in re-reading books at different times in our lives, because our frame of references and lessons in life define the way we experience a read. The person reading this book twenty-five years ago is not the same person who has just read the same book. This can be particularly evident when it’s a poignant book that left an impact in some way. 

A younger person will probably find Rachel’s problems and life very relatable, whereas someone who has been around the block for a few decades will see the possible outcomes and flaws. The charming carefree party girl suddenly becomes the young person struggling to cope.

I am really looking forward to reading the sequel and finding out where Rachel went from here, and indeed where the author decided to take her story. The frank, often hilarious and equally tragic approach combined with Keyes gift of gab and storytelling – is what makes this a story that resonates with many readers regardless of whether of when and how many times they read it.

Buy Rachel’s Holiday at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Penguin – Michael Joseph Books, pub date 9 Dec 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

I think the majority of people will have a certain image of Achilles in their heads thanks to the portrayal of his persona as a great warrior and handsome hero in major blockbuster movies. According to Greek mythology, Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the immortal Nereid Thetis. She is a sea nymph, a goddess of water and also purported to be one of fifty Nereids, the daughters of the ancient sea god Nereus.

The latter is especially important during this story, because Achilles’ obsession with his mother has a direct influence on the way he interacts with women, in this case Briseis. The initial attraction is caused by memories evoked by the smell of the sea on Briseis, which reminds him of the mother who abandoned him. He returns to the sea over and over again to connect with the feeling of love and protection he misses so much. Achilles becomes the young boy who yearns for the arms of his mother. Of course in relation to Briseis and memories of his mother we are talking Oedipal complex.

The Greeks are fighting to get Helen back, the infamous Helen of Troy. This story is focused on the lives of the women in the camp of the Greeks during this conflict. Women and girls who are bounty from other conflicts and sieges. Any male above a certain age is considered a future threat and therefore annihilated.

It doesn’t matter which status the women had before, they are all in the same boat when they are taken prisoner. Saying that, there is still a hierarchy with the worst position being the women no man of importance has any interest in. They are given to the soldiers as camp whores. The others are just whores by a different name. Although sometimes a woman might rise to the position of wife, it tends to be a rarity. The reality is that these women are treated like voiceless scum.

Barker combines mythology, history and women’s fiction, the result is a beautiful bold and heart-wrenching piece of literature. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It speaks of the unheard voices and the imposed silence girls have always had to live with. Even the alleged hero, winner of hearts and ruler of warriors is but a man at the end of the day. A man who treats women with disdain.

Buy The Silence of the Girls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.Publisher: Penguin; Paperback pub date 2 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

marriage pactOkay I admit I thought the premise was fascinating. Not just because it is messed up in a culty oppressive kind of way, perhaps more so because it is a feasible premise. It is exactly the kind of big brother organisation people like to be a part of, especially if it makes them feel elitist.

Cults like Scientology spring to mind when I read books like this. Their self anointed title of omnipotent makes them believe they can do and say anything they want to. Abuse, torture, maligning reputations are right up their alley, and all whilst making their sheople pay for the privilege of being played for a fool.

It has both a masochistic and sadistic streak all the way through it. Alice almost seems to enjoy or thinks she deserves the punishment she receives. She also appears to want Jake to feel the same way. Take your punishment, enjoy it and learn from it. Talk about messed up brainwashing and playing on the vulnerabilities of people.

The goal of The Pact is to keep marriages sustainable, intact and supposedly happy. The Pact comes with a whole manual full of rules and punishments. You break a rule and you get treated to the equivalent of justice via cult dictatorship.

Richmond doesn’t just question what makes a marriage work long-term she also shines a great big spotlight on groups, religious or otherwise, masking as havens for those who need to feel as if they are more important than others and those who just want to belong.

It’s a compelling thought-provoking read.

Buy The Marriage Pact at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @michellerichmon @MichaelJbooks

Visit michellerichmond.com

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

crow girl

Fair warning, this is fair bit of a slog at over 780 pages, however it helps to know that originally this was published as a trilogy. So The Crow Girl (2010), Hunger Fire (2011) and Pythia’s Instructions (2012) have now been republished as one volume called The Crow Girl.

Interesting tidbit of info, Erik Axl Sund is a nom de plume used by writer duo Hakan Sundquist and Jerker Eriksson.

I think banging it together as one volume, as opposed to the trilogy it was before, was perhaps detrimental to the plot and original intention of the writers. It is quite simply so long that it often appears disjointed and without focus. I can however see how it worked as a trilogy. There is so much going on, during which the reader is pulled in a multitude of directions. So many in fact that there are just too many cooks in the kitchen trying to create the perfect dish. The end result is a lack of structure and a lack of a definitive voice.

It is dark. Actually don’t expect any lightness whatsoever. Erik Axl Sund pulls the reader into a bottomless pit of depravity, which includes some of the truly inhumane moments of the 20th century and quite a few equally deplorable 21st century crimes.

We are talking child and sex trafficking, paedophilia, child abuse, bestiality, child pornography, corruption and torture. There is no fluffy unicorn to balance this out, instead the rest of the time the authors venture into the world of mental health problems and psychological disorders. I admit there are a few tender moments, however they are overpowered by the fact the reader knows what is really going on with the characters.

The real question throughout is who Sofia really is, and what is she guilty of.or rather what does she think she is guilty of? In a story full of death and pain how much of the narrative, in regards to Sofia, is a reaction to the trauma and just her imagination, and how much of it is based in reality?

The Crow Girl is, despite its bleakness and the harsh reality of the crimes within, an attempt to show the devastation and implications of deep-set trauma, especially when experienced in childhood. It is also an attempt to shine a light on the exploitation of children, the corruption and general apathy towards crimes against children, which in turn has led to neglect and a burying of heads in sand on a major scale.

Buy The Crow Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Visit erikaxlsund.comerikaxlsund.com or @erikaxlsund on Facebook

Follow @vintagebooks