#BlogTour The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson. It’s a memoir, a collection of memories, thoughts and impressions of a strong woman in a male dominated world.About the Author

Laura Thompson won the Somerset Maugham award with her first book, The Dogs, and wrote two books about horse racing while living in Newmarket. Her biographical study of Nancy Mitford, Life in a Cold Climate, appeared in 2003 (re-issued 2015) and was followed by a major biography of Agatha Christie. A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan was published in 2014, and 2015’s Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters was recently sold to television. She lives in Richmond.

Visit Laura’s websiteBuy The Last Landlady

About the book

Laura Thompson’s grandmother Violet was one of the great landladies. Born in a London pub, she became the first woman to be given a publican’s licence in her own name and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence.

Laura spent part of her childhood in Violet’s Home Counties establishment, mesmerised by her gift for cultivating the mix of cosiness and glamour that defined the pub’s atmosphere, making it a unique reflection of the national character. Her memories of this time are just as intoxicating: beer and ash on the carpets in the morning, the deepening rhythms of mirth at night, the magical brightness of glass behind the bar…

Through them Laura traces the story of the English pub, asking why it has occupied such a treasured position in our culture. But even Violet, as she grew older, recognised that places like hers were a dying breed, and Laura also considers the precarious future they face.

Part memoir, part social history, part elegy, The Last Landlady pays tribute to an extraordinary woman and the world she epitomised.

Review

This is a very personal story for the author, because it’s the memoir of her grandmother. A grande dame of the English pub. It describes the way Violet fights for her independence in the industry. Not exactly an easy task when you’re a woman trying to succeed and make your mark in a male dominated business.

The book is full of anecdotes and charming stories about Violet and her punters. It’s a little bit like everyone knows Peggy Mitchell (Eastenders) as the epitome of pub landlady. Brash, loud and absolutely in control of everyone in the pub – no matter how drunk or belligerent. It’s as British as it gets.

Thompson veers off quite often into opinions on today’s society and in the era of her grandmother and long before her time. The culture of drink and drunkenness, especially as it pertains to women. How the pub and pub culture as we know it came to be.

It’s not told in a narrative per se or in chronological order, but rather in a series memories, reflections and collection of impressions. Tales of eccentric patrons and amusing situations sometimes make light of how difficult it must have been at times for a woman in Violet’s position.

At times it felt as if the world of Violet was being infused by the thoughts and opinions of Laura, which then made it less of Violet’s memoir and more Laura’s memoir. To be fair the blurb describes it as part memoir, part social history and part elegy.

It’s a memoir, a collection of memories, thoughts and impressions of a strong woman in a male dominated world.

Buy The Last Landlady at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound pub date 5 September 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#WartimeClassics #BlogTour Trial by Battle by David Piper

It’s an honour to take part in the BlogTour for Trial by Battle by David Piper. This is the second 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

David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

Buy Trial by Battle by David Piper at Amazon Uk

About the book

A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

Review

This is one of four books being released by the Imperial War Museum to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. I believe they should be part of school curriculum – part of a learning experience for the younger generations. It’s hard for them to fathom how many people lost their lives, returned with life-changing injuries, so they can live their lives in freedom now.

When events like the Great War and the Second World War are so far back in history that the remaining few eye-witnesses will soon be a memory themselves – it’s important to remind the young of the lost generations and the trauma those involved went through.

Part and parcel of that is shining a spotlight on the literature that was written by authors who had first-hand experience of the hell that is war.

What makes this book and the fictional account of his factual experiences so exceptional is the way Piper captures a different kind of warfare in his story. Warfare in settings that the soldiers weren’t trained for – in this case the jungle. He captures the suffocating feel of the jungle. The feeling of isolation, which is countered by the danger you can’t see coming in the dense foliage. Soldiers trained for the desert had no idea how to cope with the jungle. It made them more vulnerable to the enemy.

At the same time Piper also gives an accurate account of the colonialism that was still alive and well in India at the time. The difficulties between Indian soldiers, Indian officers and the British officers sent in to control them all.

It’s a gripping piece of war fiction, written with brutal honesty and the kind of realism only an eye-witness can bring to the table.

Buy Trial by Battle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics will all be on sale Thursday 26 September 2019; cost £8.99 paperback.

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.’

#BlogTour The End of the World Survivors Club by Adrian J. Walker

Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The End of the World Survivors Club by Adrian J Walker.About the Author

Adrian J Walker was born in the bush suburbs of Sydney, Australia in the mid ’70s. After his father found a camper van in a ditch, he renovated it and moved his family back to the UK, where Adrian was raised.

Ever since he can remember, Adrian has been interested in three things: words, music and technology, and when he graduated from the University of Leeds, he found a career in software. His novel The End of the World Running Club, a post-apocalyptic running fable about hope, love and endurance, was a Simon Mayo Radio 2 book club choice.

He lives in Aberdeen with his wife and two children.

Follow @adrianwalker on Twitter, Visit adrianjwalker.comBuy The End of the World Survivors Club

About the book

In the End of the World Running Club Edgar Hill ran 550 miles after an apocalypse to ty and find his family. He had it easy. This is his wife’s story.

Beth Hill has survived the apocalypse with a baby and toddler in tow. And what’s more she’s done it alone – without her husband’s help. He’s never been any help. But when disaster strikes and someone steals her kids, she knows what she has to do.

The new world might be very different: no government, no law, no infrastructure and a whole lot more ocean than there used to be. But one thing hasn’t changed – the lengths a mother will go to save her family…

Review

Think Water World at the early stages of the apocalypse, but with redefined coasts, countries and continents left. The beginning of the end is when people show you who they really are, and you should believe them the first time they show you.

The story takes place before the deterioration and destruction has come to a halt. It’s somewhere between ‘it’s really happening’ and ‘this is our new reality’ so we have to adjust to it asap. Following on from Ed’s story, this is the story of his wife and children. Beth steps up to the mark and proves how far a mother will go to protect her children.

There is a moment in the book between Beth and Ed, which is particularly poignant and also relevant in normal circumstances and not just post-apocalyptic scenarios. Ed does what most men do and would do in that situation, he blames Beth for losing their children. She loses it and gives him a loaded barrel of truth. The non-caregiver or non-primary caregiver really has no clue what it is like to take care of babies or children 24/7 without any break. To be the person who is sucked dry of any choice other than things relating to said children and to have all the responsibility and none of the accolades. It’s always easier to judge when you’re sat on the outside looking in.

Kind of fascinating to realise that even in the middle of a crisis and the end of the world, some things never change. There will always be someone who thinks they know better and feel it’s their duty to tell you exactly that. Kudos to Walker for capturing the gist, frustration and anger of the underappreciated full-time mother absolutely perfectly.

It’s post-apocalyptic fiction with a realistic and down-to-earth plot. Walker plays on hidden fears and very real threats, which is what makes the read less speculative and more believable.

Buy The End of the World Survivors Club at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Penguin Random House UK – Ebury Publishing; pub date 5 Sept. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson. It’s historical fiction combined with fact and then topped off with an intriguing murder plot.

About the Author

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons. She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.

Follow @JoGustawsson  @Orendabooks on Twitter, on Goodreadson Facebook, Visit johanagustawsson.com/en/Buy Blood Song

About the book

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells, and they soon find themselves on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer, in an investigation that takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule…

Spain, 1938

The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Teresa witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Teresa gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016 A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.Review

One of the things I really enjoy about books by Gustawsson, is the way she melds historical fact and fiction and then brings the plot into the present. It’s almost as if the stories she creates were meant to be and to be told. They feel realistic and evoke visceral reactions, despite the more gruesome elements of the stories.

There are many atrocities that took place in the 20th century – it’s fair to say that The Holocaust overshadows everything else, perhaps because of the methodical planning and execution. The author brings the atrocity that was the Francoist dictatorship in Spain to the table in this story. The methodical war of attrition cost many hundreds of thousands their lives and many fled the regime entirely. Many thousands that fled were returned to Spain be killed and also interned in Nazi concentration camps where thousands of Spaniards also died.

In this story the reader goes from the past in Spain and the repercussions of said regime on a family – to the present where the team has to deal with an extreme tragedy that involves one of their own.

I think the details are best left to readers to experience. The one thing I do want to mention is the spectacular way the author addressed the family dynamic when dealing with a child with special needs or on the spectrum. It was brutally honest. Honest in a way nobody wants to approach the topic for fear people will judge their very real emotions and opinions.

It’s historical fiction combined with fact and then topped off with an intriguing murder plot. As per usual Gustawsson proves what an incredibly gifted writer, storyteller and meticulous plotter she is, which is brought to the table in all its original glory by the translator. Kudos to Gustawsson for the incredible read.

Buy Blood Song at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher Orenda Books, Pub date: 19 September 2019 | Paperback Original | £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my reviews of Keeper and Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson.

#BlogTour The Love Child by Rachel Hore

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Love Child by Rachel Hore. It’s a contemporary read, a story about love and the way certain bonds are there even if they aren’t visible to the naked eye.About the Author

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she teaches publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her latest novel, Last Letter Home, was a Sunday Times bestseller and a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for 2018.

Follow @Rachelhore on Twitter, on Goodreadson Amazon, Visit rachelhore.co.ukBuy The Love Child

About the book

One young mother’s ultimate sacrifice. One child’s desperate search to uncover the truth . . . – London, 1917

When seventeen-year-old Alice falls pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby. She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think of is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and how the father, a young soldier, so beloved, will never have the chance to know his daughter.

Meanwhile, Edith and Philip, a couple unable to have children of their own, secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, given up by a young unmarried mother. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children but no one will tell her the full truth. As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?Review

It’s quite normal for an adopted child to feel different, especially if they are unaware of the fact they are adopted. A lot of them feel as if something isn’t quite right. That there is something missing. Outsiders often don’t understand their need to search for their roots in an attempt to learn more about where they came from. Why rock the boat?

I think in Irene’s case the feeling of not belonging is multiplied tenfold by the rejection and lack of love she feels from her adoptive mother. There is no bond and no instinct to protect and cherish. Obviously Irene hopes deep inside that her biological mother will make up for what she lacked as a child.

What becomes clear in the story, due to the time-frame it is set in, is how we all take the information flow of the late 20th and 21st century for granted. Given enough information and access to resources you can find anyone who has left a digital footprint. Whereas the search in this book is hindered by lack of records, finding people who know the truth, and then being able to locate someone with only the bare minimum of information.

The other side of the adoption coin is the woman who was forced to give up her child, and subsequently told to keep it a secret for the rest of her life. Alice turns her heartbreak and all the pain, and uses that internal drive to succeed in a career dominated by men.

Hore shows the invisible bond between the two women, who are meant to connect, despite the circumstances that drive them apart. It’s a sensitive subject written with gentle and understanding voice. It’s a contemporary read, a story about love and the way certain bonds are there even if they aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Buy The Love Child at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK; pub date 5 Sept. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron

It’s nothing short of an honour to take part in the BlogTour for From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron.

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

Alexander Baron was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter and his London novels have a wide following. This was his first novel.

During the Second World War he served with the Pioneer Corps in Sicily, Italy and northern France, basing From the City, From the Plough on his experiences of the D-Day Landings and the allied advance into Normandy.

Buy From the City, From the Plough at Amazon Uk

About the book

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron – A vivid and moving account of preparations for – and the advance into Normandy. Published in the 75th anniversary year of the D-Day landings, this is based on the author’s first-hand experience of D-Day and has been described by Antony Beevor as‘undoubtedly one of the very greatest British novels of the Second World War.’

Review

Let me just start off by saying that although these Wartime Classics are being issued to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World, they should be read at any time, not just special anniversaries, in fact they should be part of the school curriculum. Part of a learning experience to teach the younger generations what so many brave men and women fought so hard for and how many of them gave their lives.

Another reason why this literature is so important is the authenticity, especially when it comes to this book. Baron spoke and wrote from experience and not just second-hand emotions, hear-say and experiences. He was there, he lived and breathed the pain, camaraderie and the death.

It’s both bizarre and a great shame that first-hand accounts are read less than those written with no first-hand experience.

We follow the Fifth Battalion, Wessex Regiment as they train and wait for D-Day. Then follow them through the horror of the beach landing and their descent into mayhem, death and battle. Men from every walk of life, who learn that they share one important thing in common. They are indeed a band of brothers. Brothers who support and protect each other, live together and die together.

I held it together until chapter twenty-two and twenty-three just made me cry. I can’t even fathom what it must be like to know you are nothing more than bullet fodder and a distraction ploy to ensure another battalion achieves a victory. These men still adhered to the orders, despite knowing what the outcome would be.

It’s an incredibly moving, authentic and well-written piece of historical war fiction based on factual experiences. It’s powerful and unforgettable. I will be buying all four of these books and also gifting them to others.

Buy From the City, From the Plough at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics will all be on sale Thursday 26 September 2019; cost £8.99 paperback. Buy at Amazon com.

On 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.

#BlogTour Living My Best Life by Claire Frost

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Living My Best Life by Claire Frost. It’s women’s fiction, a contemporary read for all ages.About the Author

Claire Frost grew up in Manchester, the middle of three sisters. She always wanted to do a job that involved writing, so after studying Classics at Bristol University she started working in magazines. For the last 10 years she’s been at The Sun On Sunday’s Fabulous magazine, where she is Assistant Editor and also responsible for the title’s book reviews. She can mostly be found at her desk buried under a teetering TBR pile.

Follow @fabfrosty on Twitter, on AmazonBuy Living My Best Life

About the book

Bell never thought she’d be facing her 40th birthday single. Recently dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, she’s struggling to move on with her life – and surrender the fleecy pyjamas she’s been living in since January. Sick of being bombarded by #blessed on social media and feeling like her life doesn’t live up to everyone else’s, she decides it’s time for a change; time to find out who she really is, not who she thinks she should be.

Millie is a successful online influencer posting under the handle @mi_bestlife, but as a single mum trying to make ends meet and stay ahead of the younger generation snapping at her heels, her Instagram feed is far more #BestLie than #BestLife. With internet trolls attempting to bring her down and an ex who cares more about playing football than seeing their son, Millie begins to wish her life was more like her filters.

It isn’t until Millie and Bell’s paths cross that the two women begin to realise what they’re missing. Will Bell finally learn to live life for herself? And will Millie see that she needs to start living for the moment and not for the likes?Review

The Instagram life of Millie brings up some valid points. Social media influencers spend the majority of their time trying to convince others how perfect their lives are. Perfectly set-up pictures taken with the right filters, lighting, surroundings and objects. The focus is on perfection rather than reality.

Reminds me of a post that went viral of a young woman in sports gear posting that she is on a hike on *insert famous trail* – meanwhile her sister takes a picture of her stood in the backyard taking said picture.

In essence it is promoting fake pics of fake perfection to sell products. The problem with this is that reality gets harder to deal with because life can never be replicated in such a perfect way for the majority of us. Barring the upper echelon, and the rich and famous of course.

What Bell teaches Millie is that it’s okay to just be a single mother trying to raise her child in normal surroundings. It doesn’t have to look as if she lives the perfect life 24/7. In a way these two women empower each other to look beyond the expectations and rules of our patriarchal society. They have a lot in common, despite being a decade apart in age. They create a bond and a friendship that goes beyond shallow assumptions and misconceptions.

What I really enjoyed about this read was the way Frost focused on women helping other women, which is something society often sorely lacks. Instead we see a lot of criticism of women by other women.

It’s women’s fiction, a contemporary read for all ages.

Buy Living My Best Life at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK;; pub date 5 Sept. 2019 | Paperback Original | £7.99. Buy at Amazon com.