#BlogTour THE BEEKEEPER OF ALEPPO by CHRISTY LEFTERI @ZaffreBooks @christy_lefteri @Tr4cyF3nt0n

A huge delight to be the latest stop on the Blog Tour for THE BEEKEEPER OF ALEPPO by CHRISTY LEFTERI. My thanks to the author, publisher and Tracy Fenton  of Compulsive Readers for letting me be part of the tour.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the midst of war, he found love
In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

What will you find from his story?

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.

Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling. 

published by Bonnier Zaffre

PURCHASE LINKS – paperback release 20th February 2020

WHSmith  £7.37

hive.co.uk  £6.59

amazon  £6.99

MY REVIEW

This is a story of hope and of love, the bond between a husband and wife and the determination of the human spirit to succeed despite the horrors that the world throws their way – and I loved every single minute of it.  Yes it made me cry, but it also filled my heart with so much love and all the warm feelings you get when you find ‘good’ people trying to make the world a better place.

Nuri and Afri are a devoted husband and wife looking for a new life away from the horrors of Syria. They’ve lost a child, Afri has lost her sight, but they know that there must be a better way for them out there so they make the decision to travel to the UK where Nuri’s cousin already lives.  Their journey is anything but easy and we get to follow them along the way and the people they meet, all with their own stories of horror to tell, and all the obstacles placed in their way – how the life of a refugee is plagued with nightmares. Can you ever really escape the horror and destruction you’ve witnessed at first hand?

What struck me most about this book was the beautiful way it was written – the harshness and brutality of war was softened by the exquisite descriptions and language used.  And how quickly their quiet and simple life in Syria was changed beyond recognition due to war and the actions of others.

The story switches between their journey away from Syria, to their time when they reach the UK and the process they have to go through in trying to move on and start new lives in a foreign country. It was brilliantly portrayed without feeling too ‘preachy’ or ‘political’ and gave these characters the time you needed to share their pain and empathise with their plight.

Humbling and touching.

★★★★★

#BookReview A House of Ghosts by W.C Ryan

About the book

A gripping mystery with a classic feel: And Then There Were None meets The Silent Companions.

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.

At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . .
.
An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read this winter.

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Almost unbearably creepy and beautifully written’ Liz Nugent, bestseller author of LYING IN WAIT

‘A splendid tale of wartime skullduggery, featuring both kinds of spooks – perfect fireside reading’ Mick Herron, CWA Gold Dagger Award Winning author of DEAD LIONS

‘Hugely enjoyable, A House of Ghosts has the bones of a taut thriller wrapped up in the gorgeous romance of its ghostly island setting’ Jane Casey

‘Perfect for a dark and stormy evening: a truly creepy and ingenious ghost story and murder mystery with an irresistible setting’ Ragnar Jonasson

Published by Zaffre

Publication Date – 4th October 2018

Pre-order links

hive.co.uk  £9.95

waterstones  £12.99

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition  £12.99

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MY REVIEW

This is an eerie and engrossing story set against the backdrop of The First World War, and featuring the imposing Blackwater Abbey where Lord Highmount has lived for many years with his family, and has now invited a select few to join him for a weekend to contact the spirits so he and his wife can reconnect with those he has lost.


I knew very little of this book going in, other than it has a stunning and striking cover, and within a few pages I found myself captivated by the setting of this home sitting on an Island off the Devon Coast, and the mixture of characters who all found themselves heading there for a paranormal weekend. The story is mainly told from the points of view of Lord Highmount, Kate and Donovan who have their own very mysterious backgrounds of which you learn more about as the story unfolds.

Kate is such a fascinating character. Working in intelligence,she is selected by her boss to go on this weekend to gain some valuable knowledge from some of the other guests, alongside her ex fiancee! Not a ideal set up! She has a history with the Highmount family too so that makes it an even more difficult task for her to complete. She is being looked after by another interesting character, Donovan, who is also there to oversee the goings on but from the servants side of things. They find they soon have more to investigate when one of the party is killed!

Kate also has the ability to see ghosts so while she is at Blackwater Abbey she is continually seeing things that others don’t and this adds another intriguing element to the mix in this story! It really blends the mix of the supernatural, history and mystery so well together. It’s one of those books that you can form your own opinion on a variety of characters as you read, working out who is trustworthy and who to be wary of. I know I was proved wrong on a number of occasions as to who I trusted!

The seances seem to change the sceptics minds amongst them but it also sets off a chain of darker events and this keeps you with that very unsettled feeling as you read. It’s one of those books that you read that really draws you into that world, as if you’re a fly on the wall overseeing all that happens around you and I loved the escapism that this story helps create. A really enjoyable read!

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My thanks to the publisher and Readers First for the advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland #BookReview #PublicationDay

THE BLURB

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .

Publisher – Zaffre

Publication Date – 19th April 2018

 BUYING LINKS

Amazon UK  £7.03

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support a local bookstore  £6.09

Book Depository  £7.15

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MY REVIEW

This was a touching read and introduces the lovely character of Ailsa Rae, who is determined to live life to the fullest after being given a second chance when she receives a heart transplant, after suffering with poor health throughout her childhood….. but only if the blog poll results help guide her decisions!

Ailsa has had to deal with ill health from the word go, and she has got used to the restrictions that this places on her lifestyle, and also blogs about life from her perspective and finds this a great way of helping her cope, and also helping her make big life decisions! While she was in hospital waiting for the heart transplant she loses someone very close to her, and this also really affects the way she sees life now that she’s been given another shot at things.

She has a close relationship with her mother who has always been there for her, but as she tries to act like an adult after being cared for like a child for so long, this does put a strain on the bond between them.

The timeline in this book does chop and change quite a bit which did get a little confusing at times, as it switches from life before, during and after the transplant, but doesn’t over complicate the enjoyment of reading. I didn’t feel a strong emotional connection with Ailsa as she is one of those characters who doesn’t want your sympathy, she just wants to be given a fair go and not be held back by circumstances, but I did feel for her with some of the things she went through which were out of her control and wondered how I would deal with them in her situation.

Her life is made a little more complicated by the friendship she makes with Sebastian who she seemed to connect with instantly due to his sense of humour and honesty about his transplant, and I loved reading their messages to each other and how they supported one another.

The blog posts were also another fascinating element as Ailsa could really open up on her blog about all her hopes and fears, how the illness had affected her and it was really insightful to see that side of her and how she struggled with the issue of what she does with her life now, as she’s always had a get out clause with her health issues.

I really enjoyed how this book didn’t sugar coat things and didn’t get over emotional with the issues that faced the character and just dealt with things with warmth and humour. It’s a book about being braver and following your heart – even if that heart isn’t yours!!

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland #coverreveal

If, like me, you adored Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland, you will be extremely delighted to hear her next book is on its’ way this year!!

And it is my pleasure today to be part of the cover reveal for THE CURIOUS HEART OF AILSA RAE.  Due for release on 19th April 2018 – ooh just in time for my birthday! – it is sure to be another wonderful read.  So here is your first look at the stunner of a cover that will hopefully be on your bookshelves soon!!

 

ailsa

PRAISE FOR BY STEPHANIE BUTLAND 

‘Quirky, clever and unputdownable’ Katie Fforde 

‘A beautiful book’ – Prima magazine 

‘I cried like a motherf***er’ Shelley Harris 
Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. 
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But… 

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point. 

She knows she needs to find her father. 

She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind. 

She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own. 

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him. 

But her new heart is a bold heart.  

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . . 

@under_blue_sky#AilsaRae #TheCuriousHeart 

http://stephaniebutland.com/ 

Stephanie Butland is a novelist who fell in love with performance poetry when researching her novel LOST FOR WORDS. Her first two books were about her dance with cancer. She then turned to fiction. Her novels are Letters To My Husband, The Other Half Of My Heart, and Lost For Words. Stephanie lives in Northumberland. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she’s not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris #bookreview

THE BLURB

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable

PUBLISHER;  http://www.zaffrebooks.co.uk/

Amazon UK  –  £10.59 H/B

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support a local bookstore  –  £9.59 H/B

Waterstones  –  £12.99 H/B

MY REVIEW

This is a powerful novel based on the true love story of Lale and Gita, who met when he was put in charge of tattooing those who were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942. Lale himself was a prisoner, but everyone there found themselves doing all they could to survive and get through the horrors they were witness to everyday. In his role as Tattooist it allowed him a little more freedom, a little extra food (which he then shared with others) and the ability to meet more people, and that is how Gita caught his eye when he had to tattoo the number on her arm.

Their relationship and their time in such a horrific place is sensitively portrayed throughout this book. With many books of this type some authors feel the need to shock with graphic descriptions of what was happening, but this author didn’t feel the need to do that and to go into too much detail of the horror that was part of these peoples’ lives. As a reader you still sensed the darkness and it was seeing how those living in the camps dealt with it which was a fascinating aspect. They had to focus on the small things – a small piece of chocolate, a message from the outside, the kindness of strangers – to see out each day and were living with hope that their suffering would soon be over.

It is a story full of horror but of hope and the strength of human spirit in the face of adversity and Lale and Gita were such an admirable, brave couple and I’m glad I got to read their story, as many stories were unable to be told.

Thank you to the publishers and Readers First for my advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.

THE BLURB

It’s happening again.

A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

Charlie Priest, ex-detective inspector turned London lawyer, is hired by influential entrepreneur Kenneth Ellinder to investigate the murder of his son. But Priest is no ordinary lawyer. Brilliant, yet flawed, this case will push him, and those closest to him, to the edge.

Priest traces the evidence back to the desperate last days of the Second World War. Buried in the ashes of the Holocaust is a secret so deadly its poison threatens to destroy the very heart of the establishment.
With more victims going missing, Priest realises that not everyone should be trusted. As he races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?

Amazon UK

Amazon US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Before turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.

He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.

He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.
James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.

Author Website

MY REVIEW

What a chilling read this was!! It cleverly mixed the now and then and seamlessly jumped between the two and made the horrific incidents seem even more grizzly, the more that you learnt!

From the gruesome first chapter this story had me gripped and the author does a wonderful job of increasing the tension with each chapter.

Charlie Priest is unwittingly lured from his life now as a lawyer, into his old life as a policeman and investigates the murder of a man found impaled with many links to himself and others around him. He’s no stranger to serial killers as his brother is already in jail after committing many murders and the more he investigates the more he uncovers, and more people end up suffering which makes you wonder who will be next!

The story in the past is set around World War II and the horrific use of poisons and torture on the Nazi concentration Camp inmates and really adds another chilling element to the story.

The characters surrounding Charlie Priest all have their own interesting qualities, especially his assistant Georgie who is straight talking and eager to learn, no matter what danger she could end up putting herself in.

The mysteries of the deaths were puzzling and absorbing to read about and how it all linked to the humble Mayfly was another fascinating aspect of this confident and enthralling thriller!

thank you to Readers First for my copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland

THE BLURB

You can trust a book to keep your secret . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she’ll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can’t hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

Praise for Lost for Words:

‘Loveday is a compelling character, you love her in the way you love a cat who always scratches but you love it anyway . . . this book is quirky, clever and unputdownable. I really enjoyed it.’
– Katie Fforde

‘Loveday is a marvellous character and she captured my heart from the very first page . . . and her bookshop is the bookshop of readers’ dreams.’
– Julie Cohen, bestselling author of Dear Thing

‘Loveday is so spiky and likeable. I so loved Archie, Nathan and the book shop and the unfolding mystery’
– Carys Bray, author of A Song For Issy Bradley and The Museum of You

‘Burns fiercely with love and hurt. A quirky, rare and beautiful novel, one you’d be delighted to unearth in any bookshop. And Loveday Cardew is a character who leaps from the pages into our hearts.’
– Linda Green, bestselling author of While My Eyes Were Closed

‘It is such a beautiful read and Loveday’s voice is so compelling . . . an exquisite story that I couldn’t put down.’
– Liz Fenwick

‘Beautifully written and atmospheric. Loveday is an endearing heroine, full of attitude and fragility. The haunting story of her past is brilliantly revealed.’
– Tracy Rees, Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of Amy Snow

‘What an absolute stunner of a book. I LOVED it and cried like a motherf***er. If you care about books (or humans) read it!’
– Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

‘This book will warm and break your heart in equal measure! Loveday Cardew is funny and sassy, angry and loving, and she is running scared; she wears her scars deep within her and on the outside too. In Butland’s consummate hands, the story of Loveday’s past and her present is bravely told and is transformative. This is a must-read novel.’
– Claire Dyer, award-winning poet and author of The Perfect Affair

‘A beautiful, touching, moving, sweet treat of a book. Sad, intriguing, cleverly plotted, sometimes shocking, compelling read. I was with Loveday all the way. I absolutely loved it’
– Jane Wenham-Jones, author of Prime Time

‘Loveday is an incredible character.
Oh, the writing . . .
Vibrant, vivid, sometimes visceral;
Engaging, funny, searing.
Dares to mix prose and poetry seamlessly.
Archie had me head-over-heels in love.
You can’t help but hurt when it’s over’
– Helena Sheffield, author of The Art of Wearing Hats

‘I just finished. I can totally see why you fell in love with it. What a unique, beautiful novel that cleverly builds to a heart-stopping climax. Any book lovers out there would be mad not to adore the quirkily drawn character of Loveday who pulls you in right from the get go with her distinctive voice!’
– Tracy Buchanan, number one bestselling author of My Sister’ s Secret, The Atlas Of Us and No Turning Back

‘Wonderful. So many beautiful one-liners too!’
– Ayisha Malik, author of Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

‘OH poor, brilliant Loveday. Gorgeous, gorgeous bookshop book . . . So, so lovely!’
– Sarah Franklin, author and Costa Book Awards judge

‘I loved it! Spent all day today engrossed in Loveday . . . a superbly drawn character.’
– Alex Gray, bestselling author of The Darkest Goodbye (less)

Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 20th 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre
MY REVIEW
 
 
What a treat of a story this was!  And much more than I was expecting too!  I am always drawn to books set around a bookshop and this is set in  a beautifully old fashioned bookshop full of old books and owned by Archie who is a larger than life character, but a very perceptive and caring man.  Loveday has worked at the bookshop for many years and within the shop she feels at home.  She is very wary of people and the more you read her story, the more you understand why.  So she prefers the company of books – let’s  be honest, don’t we all! 😉
The story is set over 3 separate timelines all cleverly woven together throughout, as we look into Lovedays’ childhood and see the heartbreaking things that have shaped her character and made her shut off from the world in many ways.  It also looks back to a previous relationship and how that has impacted her life while also focusing on her as she tries to move forward with the support of Archie and the safety net of the bookshop.  And mixed in with this is a little mystery of just where the box of books that turn up at the shop have come from as they transport her back to her childhood.
There was so much more to this story than I was expecting and I loved how it took me as a reader on a roller-coaster of emotions – I may have shed a few tears!  The supporting cast of characters are also beautifully created and add so much to the story of Loveday and it captured my heart as I followed her story.

The Women of the Castle by Jessica Shattuck – book review

A resistance widow. A silent co-conspirator. The only one who survived.

Bavaria, Germany. June, 1945.

The Third Reich has crumbled. The Russians are coming.
Can Marianne von Lingenfels and the women in her care survive and build their ravaged world anew?

Marianne – widow of a resistor to the Nazi regime – returns to the grand, crumbling castle where she once played host to all of German high society. She assembles a makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s movement, rescuing her dearest friend’s widow, Benita, from sexual slavery to the Russian army, and Ania from a work camp for political prisoners. She is certain their shared past will bind them together.

But as Benita begins a clandestine relationship and Ania struggles to conceal her role in the Nazi regime, Marianne learns that her clear-cut, highly principled world view has no place in these new, frightening and emotionally-charged days.

All three women must grapple with the realities they now face, and the consequences of decisions each made in the darkest of times . . .

Deeply moving and compelling, THE WOMEN OF THE CASTLE is a heart-wrenching and hopeful novel of secrets and survival, a reckoning, and the astonishing power of forgiveness. Perfect for fans of THE READER, THE DARK ROOM and THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS

Publication Date 18th May 2017

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

This is an astonishingly powerful story that follows 3 women – Benita, Marianne and Ania – and how their lives are affected before, during and after the 2nd World War in Germany. All of the women face their own personal battles and the author captures brilliantly the position that they are put in, as those around them disappear and new ways of life are forced upon them.

This book captures the strength of these women through the most troubling times as they fight to maintain a certain sense of normality for the children. Some of the most powerful times come after the war as they start to learn more of what their families were involved in and how their actions were justified – it is always amazing to see how people adapt to their surroundings and for these women their lives changed so much.

Before the war we hear of how life was in Germany and how many saw the actions of Hitler as only doing the best for his country, until they started to hear the rumours of how he was treating the Jewish people of the community.

During the war, the book tells of how the women were forced to live, what was expected of them and how they helped others who had travelled many miles to escape the worst.

And then after the war, this book looks at how the women and the communities came together to rebuild, but the ghosts from the past and choices that they made during the war are still there to haunt them.

For me this book lacked the emotional impact that a book like The Nightingale (by Kristin Hannah) had on me as a reader, but it was still so well written and an important and absorbing story set around one of the most horrific times in history. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Readers First for my advanced copy in return for a fair and honest review.