Published by The Dome Press (12 April 2018)

Available in ebook and paperback

256 pages



Welcome to my turn on the publisher blog tour for Half a World Away and my thanks to Emily for the tour invitation and for a copy of the book to review.  Confession time. I was intending to post a review with this guest post but I have got so far behind with reading and reviewing recently, I just ran out of time to read.  I will get to it, just as soon as everything is back on track!!

I have a guest post from Sue to share today and also a short extract but first, here’s what the book is about.

 

|   About the Book  |

 

East Berlin, 1987.

Alex is a talented saxophonist, flirting with ‘Western’ jazz as well as girls. When he meets Nicky – a beautiful English girl visiting East Berlin as an au pair – she makes him feel that his dreams could become reality.

Detlev’s love for his country has always been enough for him, until Alex makes him feel things he never thought possible. But what use is his passion when its object doesn’t even know he exists?

As Alex meets a new group of musicians, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere – and Detlev’s unrequited feelings threaten to endanger them all.

 

Guest Post by Sue Haasler

People often want to know how much of what an author writes is based on real life. The answer, in the case of Half A World Away, is that bits of real life were used as starting points for aspects of the story.

My husband was born and brought up in East Berlin. If I’d never known him, I’m fairly sure I would never have written HAWA. We met a few months after reunification, when he came to do voluntary work in London. After a year he returned to study in Berlin and I was working in London, so every few months I would go over and stay with him. This was in 1991. Berlin still felt like two distinct cities, and we spent most of the time in the East because those were the neighbourhoods he knew best.

Some things from those visits have found their way into the book. Alex’s flat is based partly on the flat my husband had, which was in an old building and was heated by a coal stove, but I’ve also mixed it with a flat I once stayed in in West Berlin – it was this second one that was dingy and had the shared toilet!

Talking to my husband and his family and friends about what life was like in the former GDR, I wanted to write something that reflected their experience, which was that to them it felt perfectly normal, and in fact had a lot to recommend it – excellent education, good childcare and so on. In one conversation my husband described it as “almost paradise,” and I nearly gave the book that title.

Just writing a book about how normal and perfectly pleasant everything was wouldn’t have been a very gripping story, so there had to be a darker element to it. I never met anyone who’d knowingly had anything to do with the Stasi (the key word being “knowingly,” as the more I read about their methods the more I realised there can’t have been many people who completely avoided attracting their attention) so all of that aspect of the story comes from my imagination.

Extract:

He tapped the metal cover of the peephole lightly with the pad of his forefinger. It swung aside, making only a whisper of sound, like silk against silk. It still sounded alarmingly loud in the deep silence, but he was sure it couldn’t be heard from outside. The time spent unscrewing it and polishing it to a mirror finish had been time well spent. He experimented a little and found that, with a steady pressure from his index finger and a swift clockwise movement, it was almost silent.

He was just about to leave and go about the day’s business when he heard footsteps in the stairwell outside his door. The peephole gave a perfect view of the stairs, so he was able to watch whoever was going up or down for several seconds, noting what they were wearing, what they were carrying, who they were with, sometimes catching snatches of conversations.

This time it was just the old woman who lived on the floor above him. She was moving painfully slowly under the weight of a bucket of coal which she’d no doubt already carried up the flight of stairs from the cellar.

He could have just stayed there and watched, but there came a time when watching wasn’t enough. His scalp tingled as he decided what he would do.

He unfastened the bolt and three locks that secured the door. As an afterthought he threw a scarf around his neck and picked up an empty bucket that stood by the door, stepping out and coming face to face with his elderly neighbour.

She looked startled.

‘I see we have the same idea,’ he said, indicating his coal bucket. His voice sounded reedy and strange and he coughed to clear his throat.

She glanced up at him, her watery grey eyes suspicious and guarded. ‘Has to be done,’ she said. ‘If we aren’t to freeze to death.’

‘Please allow me to help.’ He locked his door and placed his own bucket down next to it, and took her heavy pail from her hand. She didn’t protest.

‘Thank you, Herr…’ she said, leaving a pause for him to supply his name. He didn’t, but there was nothing wrong with her eyesight as she quickly read the name written under his doorbell. ‘Herr Ohm. You’re very kind,’ she added.

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

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.

 

Website   |   Twitter   |   Amazon UK  |   Goodreads

 

 

Published by Penguin (5 April 2018)

Available in ebook and paperback

400 pages

Source: ARC Review copy



I’m delighted to be sharing my review on the blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Sapphire Widow and my thanks to Georgia Taylor of Penguin for the ARC to review and for the tour invitation.  I have been a fan of Dinah’s writing ever since her first book The Separation in 2014 and her captivating story telling has cemented her place in my list of favourite historical fiction authors.

I can’t not mention this, very many congratulations to Dinah.  The Sapphire Widow is one of the Richard and Judy Book Club Summer 2018 selections.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

A sweeping, breath-taking story of love and betrayal from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife

Ceylon, 1935. Louisa Reeve, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, and her husband Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman, seem like the couple who have it all. Except what they long for more than anything: a child.

While Louisa struggles with miscarriages, Elliot is increasingly absent, spending much of his time at a nearby cinnamon plantation, overlooking the Indian ocean. After his sudden death, Louisa is left alone to solve the mystery he left behind. Revisiting the plantation at Cinnamon Hills, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards the owner Leo, a rugged outdoors man with a chequered past. The plantation casts a spell, but all is not as it seems. And when Elliot’s shocking betrayal is revealed, Louisa has only Leo to turn to…

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

The Sapphire Widow is another mesmerising story from Dinah Jefferies. Set in Ceylon in 1935, it’s a beautifully written and evocative story of love, betrayal and hope. For those that have read The Tea Planter’s Wife some familiar faces return. I was delighted to meet up again with Laurence and Gwen Hooper.

Louisa Reeve has a privileged life, living in a grand colonial house with servants to look after the household. Her charming and handsome businessman husband of 12 years, Elliott, is a loving husband, albeit away from home a lot. There is however something missing from Louisa’s life, a child.  She is still mourning the loss of her stillborn baby as well as recovering from previous miscarriages.

When tragedy strikes Louisa is left to pick up the pieces of her life and what she discovers makes her wonder whether she ever knew her husband at all. Whilst trying to cope with devastating events, and with the support of her father and sister in law, she tries to make a new start and puts her energies into a new venture involving the renovation of an imposing, but derelict building for the sale of jewellery, silks and high quality goods. This is not without its own problems and added to her other woes, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had buried herself under the duvet (or the 1930’s equivalent!) and stayed there. Of course Louisa is not that sort of person; despite her vulnerability, she has an inner strength which she will need to draw upon, especially in her dealings with Irene, the mother-in-law from hell.

Dinah Jefferies has a great talent for bringing locations and landscapes to life with her vivid and lavish descriptions. I could easily visualise the setting of the Cinnamon Hills plantation in Colombo, or the ramparts of Galle overlooking the sea.

As for characters, there were some that I loved and others that made me want to poke them in the eye. Louisa of course was engaging and I was on her side from the beginning, she certainly had more patience than me, especially where certain people were concerned. Margo, her supportive sister in law who had her own problems to deal with. Jonathan, Louisa’s father who really stepped up to the plate when it mattered and then there’s Leo, owner of the cinnamon plantation. An unconventional, self contained man but with a heart of gold.

I adore Dinah’s books, I can vicariously travel to exotic locations, experience different cultures and be thoroughly entertained. The amount of research that must have been undertaken and the intricate level of detail involved is incredible and adds to the authenticity.  There is a little of everything in The Sapphire Widow. Drama, secrets and betrayals, romance – all sitting against a mysterious and sinister backdrop.

I really enjoyed it. It was a book that kept me so completely engrossed and I was quite sad when I’d finished.  And finally, a big bravo to the designers, yet another stunning cover!

 

 

|   Author Bio    |

 

Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

 

Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads    

 

Previous reviews

The Separation
The Tea Planter’s Wife
The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

 

 

Published by Effie Kammenou  (7 Aug. 2015)

ebook and paperback

568 pages



Welcome to my turn on the blog tour arranged by Love Books Group for Evanthia’s Gift.  My thanks to Kelly for the tour invitation.  I have an extract to share but first here’s a little about the book.

 

|   About the Book  |

 

This Greek American family saga follows a multigenerational story of love, loyalty, and culture. An emotional novel about family bonds and the difficult pull between home and heritage. In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets – ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family. The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for. EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

 

EXTRACT

Chapter 1

November 1955

The air was unusually chilled for early November in NYC, but despite the dropping temperature, sweat trickled down the back of Anastacia’s neck. Unable to wish away the nausea that was taking hold of her and too ill to sit through her last class, she’d left the NYU campus, hopping on an uptown subway to return home for the day. She’d been lightheaded and queasy the past few days, but nothing as violent as what she was currently feeling. Waiting at the crosswalk, the aroma of garlic and cheese permeating from a nearby cafe antagonized the volcano that was about to erupt in her belly, and she prayed she would get home without incident.

At last, Anastacia ducked into her apartment building, closing her eyes, and offering a silent thank you to the heavens for the safety and comfort of her home. Once inside her foyer, she removed her coat, hung it in the closet and glimpsed herself in the mirror hanging over the Bombay Chest. Pale skin and sunken eyes replaced her usual olive complexion and healthy glow.

I just need to sleep off whatever this is. Her husband, Jimmy, was not expected home from work for several hours, and she hoped to be feeling better by then.

Suddenly, the sound of voices startled her. She walked through the living room, following the noise. She almost forgot the motion sickness that had forced her home earlier than usual as the guttural sound of rhythmic moans grew louder, interrupted only by a woman’s shrill laughter. Anastacia forced her legs to follow the cacophony and found herself at the doorway of her bedroom. She stood there frozen. Seeing, but not believing. Tears sprang to her eyes and dripped down her cheeks, and she began to shake uncontrollably. Anastacia attempted to speak, but bile rose to her throat, rendering her incapable of uttering a word. Then, a cry that seemed to escape from her very soul, revealed her presence.

In that second, they knew she’d witnessed their betrayal. Anastacia was taken aback by the look of pure satisfaction that flashed across the naked woman’s face. A face that held not even a hint of guilt or  remorse.

Her husband’s face told a different story. Shock, fear, maybe regret.

For getting caught. It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, but so many thoughts bombarded her mind that it was as though she were moving in slow motion. But then, the impact of it all slammed into her, and she ran.

Jimmy jumped up, wrapping himself in a bed sheet.

Ana! Wait!” He pushed the woman off him. “Get off me! Move! Get out of here.”

Barely making it to the bathroom, Anastacia leaned over the toilet, expelling the contents of her stomach.

“Ana,” Jimmy pleaded, coming up beside her.

Get away from me.” She wiped her mouth with a towel, straightened up and gathered all her strength to push past him.

Jimmy blocked the doorway.

Ana mou, I’m sorry. Please. Let me explain. Sagapo. I love—”

Don’t touch me or ever say that to me. You’re disgusting. You both are.” She ducked under his arm, but he grabbed her wrist.

His touch seared her to the bone and she pulled away. She was shamed, shaken—broken, but there was no way she was going to let him see it.

 

|   Author Bio   |

 

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

For updates on promotions and the release of Book Three in The Gift Saga follow Effie on Twitter @EffieKammenou

 Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

 

Published by Doubleday

ebook and Hardback : 22 March 2018

395 pages



My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for including me on the publisher blog tour for Hall of Mirrors. I only wish I had time to read this for the tour as I’ve read one of this series before and thoroughly enjoyed it. However for my turn, I have a guest post to share.

 

Guest Post by Christopher Fowler

 

When I was looking for an era in which to set ‘Hall of Mirrors’, I decided it had to be 1969. They say if you can remember the sixties you weren’t there. I wasn’t. By which I mean I was at school, and being a tiresomely studious child I knew absolutely nothing about what was going on in certain select (ie wealthy) parts of Britain’s capital city. The heady smell of patchouli and dope, the sounds of the Kinks and Scott Walker were not for me, I was buried in mildewed history books, some of which had last been taken out in 1873.

I didn’t get taken out until 1973. By which time the swinging sixties had ceased to swing and were left dangling, as Mr Edward Heath, the bachelor yachtsman, took the helm of the country and ran the SS Britannia aground. By the time I joined the human race the wildly idealistic dreams of the sixties were already being abandoned.

Writers absorb the years just prior to their flowering and become fascinated by the years they missed – and I became obsessed with the sixties I didn’t experience. I loved the clean lines of sixties design. Fashion designers, photographers and even hairdressers became known by their names; Hardy Ames, Peter Blake, David Hockney, Ossie Clark, Laura Ashley and Jean Shrimpton existed beside rock stars in the roll call of fame. Art, literature, film, fashion and design gained the confidence to be daring and influential in a way that hasn‘t happened since on such a grand scale.

Away from the cities, though, little changed. As the pre-war world order was dying off, the grand country houses of England became insolvent and their owners were desperate to offload them. They vanished from the landscape at a phenomenal rate; some 1,200 grand houses were torn down. That’s the background to Hall of Mirrors.

Into this world I’ve placed the young and energetic detectives Bryant & May, on an undercover mission to a country house in which everyone has a dubious interest. The trick with a Christie-inspired tale is to avoid the boredom that leaves us stranded on say, a snowbound train while a detective interviews every suspect in clockwork rotation before announcing the killer. The answer, I came to realise, is not to trick out the tale with chases but to make the characters enjoyable to be with and very much of the era, as one would be! This is the 16th outing for my detectives, and the most fun I’ve had yet.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house weekend at Tavistock Hall. But one amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder. . .

The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one-armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf.

The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…

So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!

 

 

|   Author Bio  |

 

Christopher Fowler is the author of more than forty novels (fifteen of which feature the detectives Bryant and May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit) and short story collections. The recipient of many awards, including the coveted CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’, Chris has also written screenplays, video games, graphic novels, audio plays and two critically acclimated memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak. His most recent book is The Book of Forgotten Authors, drawn from his ‘Invisible Ink’ columns in the Independent on Sunday. Chris divides his time between London’s King Cross and Barcelona.

 

  Website   |   Twitter  |   Facebook   |  Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

Related Posts:

The Burning Man (Bryant & May #12)
Christopher Fowler Q&A

Published by Head of Zeus

Available in Ebook, Hardback and now Paperback (5 April 2018)

320 pages



Welcome to today’s blog tour to celebrate the paperback publication of The Room by the Lake.  For my turn, I have an extract; other extracts can be found on some of blogs below.

 

EXTRACT

 

And it’s then that he appears.

Good-looking in a completely American way, bronzed and blondish and broad, miles from the willowy-sallow boys whose affections I’d half-heartedly craved at Oxford. I stare at him over the rim of my glass for several beats longer than I should, and he looks back and smiles and okay, this is a moment that is happening.

‘So, how long have you lived here?’ I ask, turning towards Jennifer, and as I half-listen to the response I’m thinking only about my own face, how it looks at this angle, what is he seeing when he looks at me?

Maybe he’s seeing right through me. Maybe he sees somebody who’s been called ‘so mature for your age’ her entire life and has never felt younger or more afraid. There’s a thickness in my throat, and I swallow down the rest of my wine, hard.

‘I’m just gonna investigate the drinks table,’ I smile, tilting myself past Jennifer, entirely conscious that I’m crossing his path. And I wait.

‘May I not recommend the pre-mixed Mojito?’ comes his voice, and I know it’s his voice somehow without turning around.

‘Oh, but I’d just decided I could really go for a Bacardi Silver!’ I say, turning with a playful smile.

‘I mean, don’t let me stop you, but… let me stop you. It’s not good.’

‘You’ve tried it?’

‘I brought it,’ he grimaces. ‘Sorry about that. It seemed summery, but I think it’s mostly corn syrup.’

‘You know what would be really slick is if you whipped out a cocktail shaker and the ingredients for a fresh Mojito right now. Just, like, you had them with you the whole time.’

‘Right. Saving them for the good people.’

He smiles at me.

‘I don’t really drink much,’ he says then, ‘hence the horrible beverage choice. But I hear you can’t go wrong with a gin and tonic.’

‘Actually, since we’re making confessions,’ I start, riding a brief wave of bravado, ‘I don’t really want another drink. I just came over here because I was hoping you’d talk to me.’

Bold. Brazen, even. I can be this girl for a while.

‘Wow. Well, I’m glad you did.’

My eyes feel wheel-wide in my head as I gaze at him, grinning, and he holds out a hand saying, ‘I’m Jake.’ When I take it he doesn’t shake but squeezes, and doesn’t let go.

And neither do I.

 

|   About the Book   |

Caitlin never meant to stay so long. But it’s strange how this place warps time. Out here, in the middle of nowhere, it’s easy to forget about the world outside.

It all happened so fast. She was lonely, broke, about to give up. Then she met Jake and he took her to his ‘family’: a close-knit community living by the lake. Each day she says she’ll leave but each night she’s back around their campfire. Staring into the flames. Reciting in chorus that she is nothing without them.

But something inside her won’t let go. A whisper that knows this isn’t right. Knows there is danger lurking in that quiet room down by the lake…

 

 

|   Author Bio  |

 

Emma Dibdin grew up in Oxford, and now lives in New York. She is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Esquire, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Total Film. This is her first novel.

 

Website   |   Twitter   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads