#BookReview ESTUARY: Out from London to the sea by RACHEL LICHTENSTEIN #nonfiction #LibaryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Thames Estuary is one of the world’s great deltas, providing passage in and out of London for millennia. It is silted up with the memories and artefacts of past voyages. It is the habitat for an astonishing range of wildlife. And for the people who live and work on the estuary, it is a way of life unlike any other – one most would not trade for anything, despites its dangers.


Rachel Lichtenstein has travelled the length and breadth of the estuary many times and in many vessels, from hardy tug boats to stately pleasure cruisers to an inflatable dinghy. And during these crossing she has gathered an extraordinary chorus of voices: mudlarkers and fishermen, radio pirates and champion racers, the men who risk their lives out on the water and the women who wait on the shore.


From the acclaimed author of Brick Lane and Rodinsky’s Room, Estuary is a thoughtful and intimate portrait of a profoundly British place. With a clear eye and a sharp ear, Rachel Lichtenstein captures the essence of a community and an environment, examining how each has shaped and continues to shape the other.


PUBLISHED BY HAMISH HAMILTON


PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon

hive.co.uk

waterstones


MY REVIEW

Having lived next to the Estuary all my life, I found this to be a fascinating, illuminating and detailed look at the evolution of the Thames Estuary and all those who live by it or work on it. The folklore, the role it has played in history, the way that outsiders see Essex and how that differs from those who live there and just how much it has changed over the years.

Being a local I found it so easy to feel connected to the stories told by the author, and the places she visited as she travelled along the Estuary. She stopped off in numerous places to meet people who have lived or worked on the Thames and it was so interesting to hear them share their stories. She travelled on boats and walked alongside the estuary and that really helped her give you a real flavour of estuary life. The use of black and white photos was also really clever as it didn’t make the estuary out to be a glossy, colourful place as most of the time it isn’t!

There are more shipwrecks on the floor of the estuary per square foot than anywhere else along the UK coastline and I loved hearing the stories of those, especially of the London and the Montgomery and those who have dived down to see them. Having recently visited an exhibition of items from the London at the local museum I found these chapters to be most enlightening.

It’s a book I’ve learned so much from about the local area and found it to be brilliantly written and so absorbing to read.

★★★★★

#BlogTour THE NAME BENEATH THE STONE by ROBERT NEWCOME #UnknownSoldier #BookReview @NewcomeRobert @UnicornPubGroup @Bookollective

An honour to be the stop today on the Blog Tour for the wonderful THE NAME BENEATH THE STONE by Robert Newcome. My thanks to the author, publisher and Bookollective for putting the tour together and letting me be part of it all.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Three generations, one family, connected by an historic secret. 1917 Private Daniel Dawkins fights at Messines Ridge and Passchendaele. He writes home to his true-love Joyce, but reveals little of his extreme bravery, his kindness, his loyalty to his comrades and the horrors they experience on the Western Front.

 1920 Captain Peter Harding is tasked with a secret mission to assist in the selection of a body dug up from the battlefields of Flanders to be buried in Westminster Abbey as the ‘Unknown Warrior’. Events take place on that expedition that come to haunt him for the rest of his life.

 2011 Sarah Harding discovers Daniel s letters and Peter s diaries. Together with historian James Marchant she pieces together the hidden truth behind the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and must decide what to do with it. Values are challenged and characters are tested in this gripping novel which asks what if the identity of the Unknown Soldier was discovered – and should that secret ever be revealed? 

published by Unicorn Publishing Group

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon £10.11

whsmith  £10.11

hive.co.uk  £9.55

MY REVIEW

I think it’s books like these that show you just how important it is to keep the stories of the bravery and sacrifice that many made in times of war, and I found myself totally absorbed by this story and all the many layers and timelines it encompasses.  

Set over 3 timelines, each chapter of the story is brilliantly told as a work of fiction based on fact.  In the later timeline, 2011, we have Sarah Harding who is nursing her father has he approaches the end of his life and she uncovers many letters in his possession from his time in the war and they start a chain of research and discovery off as she wishes to find out more about the past and her family link to the story of the unknown soldier.

The timelines also go back to 1917 and 1920 – in 1917 Daniel Dawkins shares his thoughts on all he has seen on the front line and the tragedies he was close to.  The banter that the soldiers shared – men and boys who came from normal backgrounds who were thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and I really loved these moments in the story.  It took you right back to try and gain a little understanding of just how they made sense of what they were witnessing and what they were being expected to do by those in charge. How the different personalities amongst them all dealt with the many horrific sights they came face to face with, and how they tried to help those struggling.

And then the 1920 storyline was that of the Unknown Soldier. How it was thought that bringing home a body from France to bury at Westminster could unite the country and those grieving their lost loved ones.  So many different emotions spring to mind when you think of those lost, and those who are at home not knowing where their loved ones are buried. And to those involved in choosing and transporting this unknown soldier back to the UK as well.

As Sarah starts to put all the pieces together of this astonishing family drama, it became a book that I found it difficult to put down.  There were so many threads to follow that each had so much intrigue that you could easily have had a book written just about each timeline!

What I loved was the human aspect of the storyline.  When we read about history we see the numbers and the cold hard facts, but this kind of book gives you a glimpse behind the scenes – the kind of people involved, how those left at home dealt with not knowing or hearing reports on the radio or in papers, the decisions that had to be made on the frontline and just how they even managed to keep going when they were faced with impossible missions and they’re constantly losing their friends and colleagues but they had to keep on fighting.

This was an enthralling and emotional book and one I’m very glad to have had the pleasure of reading. Alongside the ‘fiction’ element, there’s also a clever use throughout the book of newspaper articles of the time, telegrams from the King and all the goings on behind the scene which helped give more depth and perspective to the news that was filtering back to those in the UK.  

Highly recommended!

★★★★★

YouTube footage of the 1920 funeral of the Unknown Soldier

#BookReview THE WAY TO THE SEA by CAROLINE CRAMPTON #NonFictionNovember #TheWayToTheSea

ABOUT THE BOOK

Caroline Crampton was born on the Thames Estuary to parents who had sailed there from South Africa in the early 1980s. Having grown up with seafaring legs and a desire to explore, Caroline is both a knowledgeable guide to the most hidden-away parts of this overlooked and unfashionable part of the country, and a persuasive advocate for its significance, both historically and culturally. As one of the key entrances and exits to England, the estuary has been pivotal to London’s economic fortunes and in defining its place in the world. It has also been the entry point for immigrants for generations, yet it has an ambivalent relationship with newcomers, and UKIP’s popularity in the area is on the rise. As Caroline navigates the waters of the estuary, she also seeks out its stories: empty warehouses and arsenals; the Thames barrier, which guards the safety of Londoners more precariously than we might; ship wrecks still inhabited by the ghosts of the drowned; vast Victorian pumping stations which continue to carry away the capital’s sewage; the river banks, layered with archaeological Anglo-Saxon treasures; literature inspired by its landscape; beacons used for centuries to guide boats through the dark and murky waterways of the estuary; the eerie Maunsell army forts – 24 metre high towers of concrete and steel which were built on concealed sandbanks at the far reaches of the estuary during the Second World War and designed to spot (and shoot) at incoming enemy planes; and the estuary’s wildlife and shifting tidal moods.

PUBLISHED BY GRANTA BOOKS

PURCHASE LINKS

amazon uk  £11.89

whsmith  £11.89

hive.co.uk  £12.49

MY REVIEW

As someone who lives alongside the Thames Estuary, I found this to be a fascinating mix of memoir and history of the Thames from Caroline as she looks back to her first memories of the Thames with her parents, and how it has changed as she travels back along the Thames from the source to the open sea. And there’s huge differences in the River from one end to the other so it’s really interesting to hear her thoughts as she sees the landscape change around her on her journey.

And amongst her own personal recollections of time spent along, and in!, the Thames there are also clever uses of how the Thames has been recorded and used in history, literature, art and photography which gives you another look at how important a role that the Thames has played over the years, and continues to do so but in a rather different way now than before.

As a local to the Thames I found it fascinating to learn so much more about places and points along the river that I thought I knew so well! I understand the pull of the Thames so I really connected with the author and her ‘obsession’ with the water and the places along it. From the animal life to the diseases and disasters that have plagued this stretch of water, I found this book to be really entertaining and informative.

★★★★

#BookReview The Brothers York by Thomas Penn #TheBrothersYork #history #nonfiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

In early 1461, a seventeen-year-old boy won a battle on a freezing morning in the Welsh marches, and claimed the crown of England as Edward IV, first king of the usurping house of York. It was a time when old certainties had been shredded: by popular insurgency, economic crisis, feuding and a corrupt, bankrupt government presided over by the imbecilic, Lancastrian King Henry VI. The country was in need of a new hero. Magnetic, narcissistic, Edward found himself on the throne, and alongside him his two younger brothers: the unstable, petulant George, Duke of Clarence, and the boy who would emerge from his shadow, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

Charismatic, able and ambitious, the brothers would become the figureheads of a spectacular ruling dynasty, one that laid the foundations for a renewal of English royal power. Yet a web of grudges and resentments grew between them, generating a destructive sequence of conspiracy, rebellion, deposition, fratricide, usurpation and regicide. The house of York’s brutal end came on 22August 1485 at Bosworth Field, with the death of the youngest brother, now Richard III, at the hands of a new usurper, Henry Tudor.

Brothers York is the story of three remarkable brothers, two of whom were crowned kings of England and the other an heir presumptive, whose antagonism was fuelled by the mistrust and vendettas of the age that brought their family to power. The house of York should have been the dynasty that the Tudors became. Its tragedy was that it devoured itself. 

PUBLISHED BY  allen lane

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon  £17.66

hive.co.uk  £18.89

waterstones – signed edition £30

MY REVIEW

A comprehensive and fascinating book that looks back on The Brothers York – Edward, Clarence and Richard – and made me realise how little I really know about the history of my own country!

The fifteenth century was certainly not a dull time in history and with these complex characters at the centre of the action, it was a most absorbing read and we got to learn more of their personalities, the bond (or lack of!) between the brothers and the lengths they were driven to in the quest for power and glory!

With the Yorkists v the Lancastrians at the core of the times, things were never pretty! It was a brutal time to be alive and even made Game of Thrones look a little tame when reading of the exploits of certain characters – the betrayals, the alliances, the deals!

With a big cast of characters central to each brother, I did find it a little overwhelming at times in keeping up with who was who! But it was told in such a way that you could keep up through the years as things progressed, and with what was going on with each brother. I’m sure I must have slept through history at school as there was so much that I knew very little about and getting to see each brother individually was a great way in learning more about them and how brutal the power struggle became.

It was also fascinating to see the kind of people they surrounded themselves with, as well as how the public reacted to each brother – we think of the Brexit years as being uncertain, but they are no patch on the tumultuous times back then with wars, feuds, betrayals, beheadings and battles amongst different factions across the country. It also bought home the human cost to people – the loss of life through plague, even in the royal household, and to read of 3 year olds getting married is just unimaginable to us now, but it was all part of life back then to gain more power and standing.

Full of staggering details and a complete eye opener for me and has just made me more eager to more history books, especially if they’re all written as brilliantly as this one!

★★★★

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced ecopy in return for a fair and honest review

#BlogTour A PARIS FAIRY TALE by MARIE LAVAL #BookReview #Giveaway @rararesources @ChocLituk

A huge delight today to be the latest stop on the wonderful Bog Tour for A PARIS FAIRY TALE by MARIE LAVAL. My thanks to the author, publisher and Rachel of  Rachel’s Random Resources for letting me be part of it all.  And there’s a gorgeous giveaway to take part in too so scroll down for further details!!

ABOUT THE BOOK

A Paris Fairy Tale Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?

Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.

As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.

But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters

Purchase Links:

 Amazon UK

Amazon US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire with her family. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time she loves writing romance and dreaming about romantic heroes. She writes both historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance The Lion’s Embrace won the Gold Medal at the Global Ebook Awards 2015 (category Historical Romance), and best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her native France, as well as her passion for history and research,

Social Media Links

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway to Win a ‘I love Paris’ Keyring, and a medieval necklace (handmade from a copy of an illuminated manuscript) – UK Only

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

CLICK TO ENTER

MY REVIEW

Swoon! A book that has every base covered – gorgeous setting, go-getting characters, history, mystery, romance and thriller vibes! What more could you want from a book?! I loved every page!!

Aurora is committed to her work and she is a much respected art historian, which means she travels all over delving into the past. She finds herself in Paris at the request of a top auction house and she wants to prove that she is worthy of the work they are trusting her with. Romance is the last thing on her mind!

She soon comes across the path of Cedric who is a journalist used to getting his own way and never taking no as an answer. When he sniffs out a story it is just coincidence that Aurora may be getting in his way! He wants to do a story on the work she does – she disagree but soon finds that having Cedric around might help her out when things start to take a sinister turn as she finds out more about the manuscript at the centre of her work.

I really love Aurora as a character – so devoted to her work and  not easily distracted but you do notice chinks in her armour when things begin to turn a little darker and the truth about her past comes to light and you totally understand what is pushing her to do well in her work.

And she is reluctant to take a chance on people considering she has been lied to and had her trust in others shattered so when Cedric shows up, you understand her reluctance to let him into her life – even if he does seem to appear when she needs him the most.

Aurora and Cedric are such wonderful main characters to follow – devoted to their jobs but also quite playful with their banter and I loved being in their company! There are twists and turns galore and the pace really builds up nicely towards the end as things came to a head!  A wonderfully modern fairy tale!!

★★★★★

#BlogTour #BookReview THE OLD DRAGON’S HEAD by JUSTIN NEWLAND #LoveBooksTours #JustinNewland

Delighted to bring you my thoughts today on THE OLD DRAGON’S HEAD by JUSTIN NEWLAND as part of the fabulous Blog Tour. My thanks to the author, publisher and Kelly of  LoveBooksTours for putting it all together and letting me be part of it!

Blurb

Constructed of stone and packed earth, the Great Wall of 10,000 li protects China’s northern borders from the threat of Mongol incursion. The wall is also home to a supernatural beast: the Old Dragon. The Old Dragon’s Head is the most easterly point of the wall, where it finally meets the sea.


In every era, a Dragon Master is born. Endowed with the powers of Heaven, only he can summon the Old Dragon so long as he possess the dragon pearl.It’s the year 1400, and neither the Old Dragon, the dragon pearl, nor the Dragon Master, has been seen for twenty years. Bolin, a young man working on the Old Dragon’s Head, suffers visions of ghosts. Folk believe he has yin-yang eyes and other paranormal gifts.

When Bolin’s fief lord, the Prince of Yan, rebels against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor, a bitter war of succession ensues in which the Mongols hold the balance of power. While the victor might win the battle on earth, China’s Dragon Throne can only be earned with a Mandate from Heaven – and the support of the Old Dragon.Bolin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, mirroring Old China’s endeavour to come of age. When Bolin accepts his destiny as the Dragon Master, Heaven sends a third coming of age – for humanity itself. But are any of them ready for what is rising in the east?

Purchase on Amazon UK

Author Website

MY REVIEW

Show me a book with a dragon in it and I want to know about it! And this fabulous adventure didn’t let me down as it had a little bit of everything in there for me to enjoy – mystery, humour, fantasy, power struggles and good old fashioned treachery!

At the heart of the story is Bolin who is coming to terms with having strange visions and headaches and wondering what to make of it all. He lives a simple life as a fishermans’ son so to have visions is something unheard of. There has always been a dragon master around but none has been seen for 20 years – with it comes great power.

AT the same time there’s an awful lot of power struggles going on with various other characters. And woe betide you if you get in the way! As Bolin goes looking for answers, we also find the character Feng looking to find answers to the goings on in his life and there are plenty of people who don’t want them to find out the truth.

With the threat of the Mongol Army attacking the town never far away, he tension is always rising and I loved all the little subplots coming together and keeping you on your toes as to where the story was going, and what secrets from the past were next to be revealed – and what consequences they would lead to!

This book was an enjoyable mix of history with the supernatural and was really well paced. Destiny plays a big part in this story too and I’m hoping there will be further adventures featuring these characters so we can watch them on their journey!

🐲🐲🐲🐲

#BlogTour THE GIRL AT THE WINDOW by ROWAN COLEMAN #BookReview #RandomThingsTours

A great pleasure to be the latest stop on the wonderful Blog Tour for THE GIRL AT THE WINDOW by ROWAN COLEMAN. My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for the copy of the book and letting me be part of the Blog Tour.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A beautiful new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book and The Summer of Impossible Things

 The Girl at the Window is a beautiful and captivating novel set at Ponden Hall, a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors and famously used as a setting for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. 

Known as the place where Cathy’s ghost taps on the window, Emily Bronte used to visit often with her sisters and use the extensive library there. It’s a magical place full of stories. In The Girl at the Window, Ponden Hall is where Trudy Heaton grew up, but also where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, Trudy returns home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead. While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

 The Girl at the Window is hauntingly beautiful, and centred on an epic love story with a twist that draws you in fast. The strong themes of grief, absent fathers and maternal instincts are consistent emotional pulls throughout. Trudy and Abe are the ultimate love story, but there is also a wonderfully atmospheric ghostly mystery to be solved as well.

published by Ebury Press

Publication Date – 8th August 2019

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £7.99

hive.co.uk  £7.15

whsmith   £5.75

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family. Rowan’s last novel, The Summer of Impossible Things, was selected for Zoe Ball’s ITV Book Club. Rowan has an everlasting love for the Brontes, and is a regular visitor of Ponden Hall.

http://www.rowancoleman.co.uk | @rowancoleman

MY REVIEW

Wow!! This is how I love books I read to be! Full of heart and mystery, sprinkled with lashings of history and ghostly goings on!! It was just a wonderful read and has me now itching to read more of the Bronte Sisters and especially to revisit Wuthering Heights!

Ponden Hall is where the story is based – Trudy Heaton grew up there but was quick to escape, but finds herself returning there along with her son, Will, as they try and deal with the grief of losing her husband who is presumed dead after a plane crash.  This also means repairing a long rift with her mother – a woman not backward in coming forward and her comments over the years have never gone down too well with her daughter.

The story also goes back to the past – 1654 onwards – and what happened at Ponden Hall when a mystery girl was taken in by Robert Heaton and I found the storyline of Agnes just as captivating as that of Trudy in the present.  The friendship she formed with Robert was truly touching and the treatment he received from his stepfather was abhorrent.

In the present Trudy does her best to try and move on, but the ghosts of her life and those of Ponden Hall are never far away and it was always intriguing to find out what she’d discover next about the house and her family history.  In looking into restoring Ponden Hall she calls in an expert and he seems even more obsessed with her home and the literary links it has than she can imagine.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time at Ponden Hall with these characters and found it to be such a captivating story  that I just lost track of time whilst I was reading!

★★★★★