Helping add a little UK hygge with lovely fragranced simmering grains
I am not a professional book reviewer, just an avid reader. I have a lot of ‘down’ time, due to my various treatments for Metatastic Malignant Melanoma (Stage 4). So I read.
Books are my escape and relaxation and my reviews are my honest opinion. If it’s tripe, I’ll say so and alternately if it’s excellent I may gush a bit. Many books are a good read, but are a bit forgettable, others, however, touch your soul a little and stay with you bringing a little magic to life.
I am 56 and I have stage 4 Malignant Melanoma and have been having various treatments and surgery over the past four years to help prolong my stay on this planet. Currently on Pembrolizumab..every three weeks....Good days and bad days and at times a lot of Scanxiety....
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.
Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is mainly set in a psychiatric hospital for long stay patients. Matilda has been here for decades, sent here as a young woman but now a young idealist social worker has arrived and she’s working to get people back to ‘normal’ lives outside.
This is a beautifully written tale of a world many of us have no idea exists, of a community within the community. I fell in love with Matty and her friends, the odd and peculiar who really just want to get on with life.
It’s also horrifying how people could be hospitalised for so many years just because people are scared of those with mental health problems. Out of sight out of mind seems to be the answer for many.
It is clear, from her writing, the author has strong feelings on this issue and this makes for an emotional and thought provoking read.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Matilda Windsor is Coming Home
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anne Goodwin grew up in the non-touristy part of Cumbria, where this novel is set. When she went to university ninety miles away, no-one could understand her accent. After nine years of studying, her first post on qualifying as a clinical psychologist was in a long-stay psychiatric hospital in the process of closing.
Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.
In May 2021, IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim, bringing the total number of novels in the series to ten. Each has been brought back into print to enable a new generation of readers to hear stories of those who experienced conflict first hand.
First published in 1942, Sword of Bone is a lightly fictionalised memoir based on Anthony Rhodes’ own experiences during the Second World War – firstly during the so-called ‘Phoney War’ from 1939 – 40, followed by the terror of the evacuation of Dunkirk. Shortly after war was declared, he was sent to France serving with the British Army where his days were filled with billeting, friendships and administration – the minutiae of Army life. Apart from a visit to the Maginot Line, the conflict seems a distant prospect. It is only in the Spring of 1940 that the true situation becomes clear – the Belgian, British armies and some French divisions are ‘now crowded into a small pocket in the North of France’. The men are ordered to retreat to the coast and the beaches of Dunkirk where they face a desperate and frightening wait for evacuation.
The ‘miracle’ of Dunkirk was a brilliantly improvised naval operation that extracted more than 338,000 men from the Dunkirk beaches and brought them safely back to England. Some 850 vessels, including channel steamers and fishing boats, took part in this, Operation ‘Dynamo’. The final pages of the novel outline Rhodes’ experiences of the chaos of the evacuation where the scenes are depicted in vivid and terrifying detail.
IWM Senior Curator, Alan Jeffreys, has written an introduction to each book that provides context and the wider historical background. He 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’.
Sword of Bone is the story of the uneasy calm before the storm of WW2 and Dunkirk. The soldiers in France are living the high life at first believing this war would be like WW1, a battle fought in the trenches.
However, things changed rapidly and they were trapped near the sea, with nowhere to go. The largest rescue mission is then put underway with just about anything that floated being sent to pick these despairing men up.
This is a slow burn of a read with all events building up to the historic rescue at Dunkirk. There is some dark humour and will appeal to anyone with a love of war fiction.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Sword of Bone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony Rhodes (1916 – 2004) served with the British Army in France during the so-called ‘Phoney War’ and was evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940. In the latter part of the war he was sent to Canada as a camouflage officer and was invalided out of the Army in 1947 having served for 12 years. After the conflict he enjoyed a long academic and literary career and wrote on various subjects, including the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for the Daily Telegraph and well-regarded histories of the Vatican.
It’s truffle season and in the hills around Bologna the hunt is on for the legendary Boscuri White, the golden nugget of Italian gastronomy. But when an American truffle ‘supertaster’ goes missing, English detective Daniel Leicester discovers not all truffles are created equal. Did the missing supertaster bite off more than he could chew?
As he goes on the hunt for Ryan Lee, Daniel discovers the secrets behind ‘Food City’, from the immigrant kitchen staff to the full scale of a multi-million Euro business. After a key witness is found dead at the foot of one of Bologna’s famous towers, the stakes could not be higher. Daniel teams up with a glamorous TV reporter, but the deeper he goes into the disappearance of the supertaster the darker things become. Murder is once again on the menu, but this time Daniel himself stands accused. And the only way he can clear his name is by finding Ryan Lee…
Discover Bologna through the eyes of English detective Daniel Leicester as he walks the shadowy porticoes in search of the truth and, perhaps, even gets a little nearer to solving the mystery of Italy itself.
The Hunting Season is a mystery tale set in Bologna.
Private Investigator,Daniel Leicester, is trying to find a missing man, Ryan Lee
His parents reported him missing when he didn’t pick them up at the airport as they’d arranged,
This tale has a lot of beautifully written and descriptive detail about Italy, it’s customs and food and at times the missing man mystery seems forgotten.
With lots of characters the story gradually unfolds and the mystery is solved. A slow burn, well written mystery tale that clearly shows the author’s love of Bologna.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of The Hunting Season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Benjamin grew up in London and began his working life as a reporter before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He went on to work in international aid and public health, developing Britain’s first national programme against alcohol abuse and heading up drugs awareness campaign FRANK. He now lives in Bologna, Italy.
Find Tom on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at tombenjaminsays or at tombenjamin.com
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS TO PUBLISH ANOTHER NOVEL IN THEIR WARTIME CLASSICS SERIES FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE FAMOUS MEMOIR SAGITTARIUS RISING
In May 2021, IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim, bringing the total novels in the series to ten. Each has been brought back into print to enable a new generation of readers to hear stories of those who experienced conflict firsthand.
First published in 1944 and set over the course of one night in 1942, the story follows the fate of six crew members of a Wellington bomber ‘P for Pathfinder’ thrown together by chance from different corners of the world. They each reflect on the paths of their own lives, as they embark on a fateful mission deep into the heart of Nazi Germany. Cecil Lewis’ novel examines the life of every man in turn, rendering a moving account of each as not merely a nameless crew member, but as an individual with a life lived, ‘a life precious to some, or one… these men with dreams and hopes and plans of things to come.”
Cecil Lewis was a flying instructor for the RAF during the Second World War where he taught hundreds of pilots to fly, including his own son. It was while doing this training that he wrote Pathfinders. Pupils were graded by the time it took them to fly solo – the best became fighters and then bombers. The RAF’s Bomber Command was the only branch of the armed forces that could take direct action against Germany and in 1942 the strategic air offensive changed from precision to area bombing where whole cities were targeted in order to destroy factories as well as the morale of those who worked in them.
The ‘pathfinders’ of the story were needed because often the bombers could not find the towns and cities they were destined to attack at night, let alone the industrial centres within. The crew used coloured marker flares to guide the bombers to their targets and the crews selected (often from the USA, Canada and NZ as well as Britain) were the best night flying crews who were able to find the target unaided. As a pilot who took part in both World Wars, Cecil Lewis brings his unique experience to bear, shining a light on this vital and sometimes contested aspect of Britain’s Second World War focusing on the sacrifice made by the Allied airmen it depicts.
IWM Senior Curator, Alan Jeffreys, has written an introduction to each book that provides context and the wider historical background. He 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’.
Pathfinders is the tale of the crew of a Wellington bomber, they are preparing for a mission (little do they know it is their last).
This is not an action packed war story, but one about the men who fought in one. It tells of their backgrounds, their different nationalities and lives before the war.
It is also about camaraderie and trust. For me, it’s a reminder that these men are not just part of the huge number of casualties and deaths at war, everyone of them was a man with lives and families waiting for them to come home……and many never did.
A heart breaking and thought provoking read.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and a copy of Pathfinders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cecil Lewis (1898 – 1997) was a British fighter ace in the First World War and his memoir Sagittarius Rising became a classic of the literature from that war, considered by many to be the definitive account of aerial combat. He was a flying instructor for the RAF during the Second World War
where he taught hundreds of pilots to fly, including his own son. After the war he was one of the founding executives of the BBC and enjoyed friendships with many of the creative figures of the day, including George Bernard Shaw, winning an Academy Award for co-writing the 1938 film adaptation of Shaw’s Pygmalion. He had a long and varied career but retained a passion for flying all his life. In 1969 he sailed a boat to Corfu where he spent the remainder of his life, dying two months short of his 99th birthday. He was the last surviving British fighter ace of the First World War.
Joel Baxter is infamous for solving weird and bizarre cases that others avoid. So, when he receives an email from a teenage boy Tim saying his town is cursed, he cannot turn it down.
“…I will more than likely be dead when you read this. There is nothing I can do about it. It’s the curse, and we’ve hit The Crazy Season.” Every 20 years, there are a handful of unexplained teenage deaths and it’s started again.
With the help of his straight-talking friend Melody, they set out to get to the bottom of the alleged curse. Everybody in Black Rock has secrets and nobody wants to speak.
The closer they get to truth the more Joel and Melody realise that their involvement is far from coincidental.
The Crazy Season is a paranormal mystery that has you hooked from the very start.
Joel and Melody begin to investigate a series of teen suicides, while they are years apart it appears they may be linked. A small coastal town, full of secrets and a sense of the claustrophobia of living in a place where everyone knows everything about each resident adding a feeling of tension.
Joel is a great character, a little awkward and quiet and the bright, fierce Melody is the perfect fresh breeze of a character, just what Joel needs. A great partnership in the making.
The Crazy Season is a mystery tale with a paranormal edge and great characters and a thoroughly entertaining read.
Thank you to Zooloo’s Book Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Crazy Season.
What a pleasure to be back on The Bookwormery, this time with a cover reveal for my fourth book, a standalone timetravel story, Mirror in Time. Credit to my wife, Natasha, for this and all my covers. My only contribution to her work is the name at the bottom and coming up with the title.
As night falls, a lone atmospheric vehicle has come under attack on its final approach to a highaltituderesearch facility known as the “Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory”. Stars that should fill the sky have been obscured by a random patchwork of contrails that have come to be known as “ribbons in the sky”.
Ribbons in the Sky | Natasha Evelyn Overttun
However, Prefect Godvina, AV Sundog’s lone passenger, is now recovering in the Observatory’s medical facilities, a result of stress caused by the evasive maneuvers of the episode. Director Jo’el, head of the Observatory, has been keeping vigil at her bedside. His concern for her is personal. Was this the reason for her visit?
We learn the attack was the anticipated result of a plan to draw out dissident elements. Prefect Tarsus, architect of the plan, is pleased on two fronts. About the mission was to be expected. However, as toGodvina’s condition has come as somewhat of a surprise to Agent Thalia, Sundog’s pilot, and Agents Mica’el and Gabri’el, two of her escorts. It spoke to rumors of a prior relationship between the head of Security and the head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. These rumors are seemingly confirmed when an angry Godvina bursts into a secure room to confront Tarsus, and Thalia is later tasked with covert surveillance of the fiery Prefect to determine the exact nature of her visit to the Observatory.
Jo’el’s tenure as Director of the Observatory had been a direct result of the ribbons in the sky and their seeming adverse causal affect on seismic activity and climate of the planet. His research had led him to conclude the ribbons were an extinction event. He has found a solution, a portal to another universe. However, there was no way to access it. If only there was more time…
His plan: Go back in time before access to the portal becomes compromised.
He will not be going alone. His two lifelong friends, Chief Psychology Officer Auberon and Chief Physician Kyros, will accompany him on this oneway journey. However, temporal mechanics was not his main area of study. That is why he has asked Godvina to come to Jomo. He needed a sounding board, someone to check his logic and his calculations. There was no one better than the prefect of CD3C.
He had originally intended a purely academic discussion.
However, Thalia’s scrutiny has thrown a spanner in the works. She had been unable to eavesdrop on their meeting, a result of one of Auberon’s very unique abilities. It would only be a matter of time until it would draw unwanted attention to Jo’el’s plan. Now, he had no choice but to flee Jomo with his two friends and a recently recruited CD3C Prefect. Their objective: Exit a facility under military jurisdiction, make their way through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet and head to the very people who attacked AV Sundog.
Do they get off the mountain and travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find, and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?
Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.
* * * * *
Now, about the cover…
My wife, Natasha (@neoverttun), does all my covers and visuals for my guest posts. I am so lucky to have her support. At this point, I would also like to clarify she sources all the artwork she uses from Pixabay and similar sites. She then combines and manipulates them in Photoscape, GIMP and word. Is the result original? I think so because it’s all about proportion and balance. Take sulfur, carbon and potassium nitrate. They are distinctive and unique in and of themselves. But mix them in the proper proportions, and you get gunpowder. So, to quote one of my favorite chef’s, “BAM!” Let’s take it to the next level.
The gif below highlights the main characteristic of a mirror —it reflects. As you can see, Natasha has done so much with this concept. The fadein from black reveals a canvas full of partial images like visual echoes on shards of glass. As the gif progresses, they disappear until only one remains. Like possibilities in the quantum world, all are available until one is chosen. It gives a hint of what will happen in the story.Time travel involves destinations. Which one should be chosen? Where will it lead?
Shades of gray dominate the cover. That palette combined with a hooded woman gives it a gloomy, gothic feel. It could imply our MCs are going back to a period in time like that. On the other hand, it might be a reference to time itself. The past is shrouded in mystery. Tomorrow is dark. Tomorrow unknown.
The woman stares back at us, a cryptic Mona Lisa smile on her lips. I have seen that look before. She knows something, something we don’t know. What could it be? One interpretation is the story itself. She knows what’s in the pages that follow, and the reader doesn’t. So, this is an invitation to journey past the cover and delve into the story.
Her smile could also be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary color scheme. Again, it is a hint of what is to follow. Our MCs will be faced with impossible odds, but there is always hope.
On another level, it could be like looking in a mirror, and this is our own reflection. This asks the reader a question: What are you thinking?
The bottom half of the cover is also a reflection. Natasha blurred it slightly to make a distinction to the top half. For me, the fact it’s upside down makes it clear enough, but I think it’s a nice touch. We have two more. One is the inverted “r” in the title and the title itself. Natasha wanted to do something similar to my name, but I said, “Enough with the reflections already. I think they get the point.” We had a little “discussion” after that. To summarize, she “said”, “This is an artist’s prerogative.” I “said”, “Less is more.” She finally agreed. I include the episode here, not to gloat but as a record I am right on occasion.
The accent color is green. It appears in the globe of light and around the lettering. No interpretation is required to know the tendrils represent plasma. Because it’s there, it has to have something to do with the story. It does. Although, in the story, it’s a mist. Natasha could have feathered and blurred it to make it consistent, but she felt it would lose it’s immediate and unmistakable connection to power. (This is an artist’s prerogative.) It’s in front of the woman, implying you have to go through it to get to the end of the story, which you do.
The award-winning Godfather of Nordic Noir returns with a fascinating and richly authentic portrait of Oslo’s interwar years, featuring Nazis operating secretly on Norwegian soil and militant socialists readying workers for war…
Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; civil war rages in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.
When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler, Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.
But all is not what it seems. Soon, Jack is accused of murder, sending them on a trail which leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.
A stunning, sophisticated, tension-packed thriller – the darkest of hardboiled Nordic Noir – from one of Norway’s most acclaimed crime writers.
The Assistant is set in the 1920 and 1930’s in the time of prohibition in Norway.
Jack Rivers is a smuggler and Ludvig Paaske is trying to catch him, it is illegal after all.
Even after their differences of opinions in the past, they eventually become colleagues as private investigators and with the threat of war looming, there is an errant husband case to solve. But then Jack is accused of murder!
The Assistant is a thriller, but it’s also a tale of friendship, love and betrayal all set in pre-war Norway. Beautifully written with a real sense of time and place, this is a sharp, tension packed thriller. Nordic Noir at its best.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Assistant.
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eighteen novels, the most prominent of which form a series of police procedurals- cum-psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix, and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015 (published in English by Orenda books in 2019). His work has been published in fourteen countries. He lives in Oslo. Follow him on Twitter @ko_dahl
Number One bestselling author Kathy Reichs returns with her twentieth edge-of-your seat thriller featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.
En route to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognises many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManch to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.
Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by capnocytophaga, a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.
Shockingly, Tempe eventually deduces not only that the victims in both grisly murder cases are related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause . . .
The Bone Code is #20 in the Temperance Brennan series, it can also be read as a stand-alone.
This starts with a hurricane, as it begins Tempe meets an old woman who asks her to find out what happened to her aunt who went missing many, many years ago. The only clue is a death mask which is the exact image of this old lady, her sister and even her grandmother,
After the storm, Tempe visits her friend Anne, but then receives a call from the local coroner, a shipping container has washed up on the beach, with two bodies inside. Tempe’s heart drops as it reminds her of a similar case from years ago…
And so the story begins…
This is Tempe at her very best, a cold case, new bodies and a missing aunt, along with her relationship with Ryan and her cat Birdie, all the while dealing with the dead and their secrets. Plenty of medical details told in Tempe’s unique, matter of fact way, this is a marvellous read, lots of tension, a clever and twisty plot. So utterly compelling from start to finish. I loved every minute.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of The Bone Code.
Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead was a number one bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temper- ance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.
Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.
With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is a thrilling work of psychological suspense about twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.
Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.
But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…
A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.
Mirrorland is a unique thriller with a twist.
Cat and her twin sister, El had an imaginary world when they were growing up, Mirrorland. Here there was fear, clowns, witches and more….
As they got older they become estranged, Cat lives in the US but El still lives in Edinburgh in their childhood home with her husband. But then El disappears.
Cat returns to Edinburgh and the hunt for El begins. The police are involved but Cat begins to get strange messages……a treasure hunt, but will she like what she finds?
This dark, imaginative thriller is told from two timelines, the past, with the children’s make believe world and the present. It’s dark and full it a subtle tension that keeps you wondering just what is going on…….but then it all comes together in the incredible final chapters. Well written with great characters, even if they weren’t particularly likeable and thoroughly engrossing.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Mirrorland.
Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Hilary Hauck’s new book, From Ashes To Song.
First though is a little about the book.
Italy, 1911. Pietro’s life on the family vineyard is idyllic. He has at last captured the melody of the grape harvest on his clarinet and can’t wait to share his composition with his grandfather, but before he can play, news arrives of a deadly disease sweeping the countryside. They have no choice but to burn the vineyard to stop its spread. The loss is too much for Pietro’s grandfather, and by morning Pietro has lost two of the most precious things in his life-his grandfather and the vineyard. All he has left is his music, but a disastrous performance at his grandfather’s funeral suggests that music, too, is now beyond his reach.
And now the excerpt…..
From Ashes to Song
Assunta had reconciled her heart to the fact that Nandy had married another woman in America. Mary, her name was. She’d even borne his child—may they both rest in peace. She would not remain bitter about it. He’d been far from home, alone, and he’d already paid the worst price by losing them both
What she was having a harder time accepting was how he’d let Beatrice dig her seductive claws into him when he had returned to Italy.
“I would have come straight to you,” he’d said. “But I was too embarrassed. I didn’t know how to tell you about Mary.”
They could put this all behind them soon. By the end of the day, she and Nandy would be married as they’d intended eight years earlier, and they would travel a world away from the clutches of Beatrice.
Assunta’s wedding dress was an elegant yellow, not bright like a sunflower, more like a rose that grew on a balcony overlooking the piazza in Verona.
Mamma had surprised her with the fabric the same day Nandy had shown up to propose. “Pretty, isn’t it?” she’d asked. “I came across it at the market one time when your father was still alive. It’s been tucked hidden away all this time.”
Mamma had spent the ensuing weeks industriously planning and incessantly cleaning, appearing wholly confident that Assunta’s life had always meant to take this direction, despite Papà’s decree. Mamma even had the style of Assunta’s dress decided, and being so sure of her plan, she had very nearly forgotten to take Assunta to the dressmakers with her.
“You always look out for me,” Assunta had told her. “I don’t know what I’ll do without you.”
“You’ll do just fine, that’s how you’ll do” Mamma had taken the fabric from the dressmaker’s hands and adjusted the folds. “Wider pleats, this wide, all the way down the front to the hem.”
Assunta would be eternally grateful to her mother, but for all the love in the world—and she’d never break her mother’s heart by telling her this—it was high time she started to make decisions for herself.
She planned to start small. She might decide to have morning coffee before making the beds and sweeping the floor. It’d be up to her whether they had pasta or rice or minestra on what day of the week. And to think, no more mornings spent kneading the dough to make gnocchi for her brother, Vito, to sell in his shop. Perhaps she’d make them to sell elsewhere, and if she did, it would not be when and how her brother decided. She’d make sure her gnocchi looked as good as they tasted, and she wouldn’t use the plain tubs her brother used. She’d choose wooden or copper bowls, oval like the gnocchi themselves, and worthy in their own right of being on show.
She’d sell her homemade tagliatelle, and once a week, she’d make pasta al forno and serve it hot mid-morning, none of which Vito had agreed to do. Then again, she barely made a lira on the work she did for him, so it was probably just as well.
Yes, this marriage and the journey ahead of them was the launch of a new and everlasting chapter, one where she would run the home, care for her husband, for their children. The final piece of the puzzle that was this life.
“Here, they’re real silk,” Mamma held up a garland of white flowers. “To pin to your veil. They can’t blemish. That’s my wish for you, a marriage with no blemish.”
Mamma’s intention might have been to ward off troubles. Still, the only blemish—the enormous blemish that everyone had so far avoided talking about these past weeks would be the wife and the girlfriend Nandy had had since he’d first proposed to Assunta.
“I couldn’t be happier.” Even to Assunta, her words sounded forced. “With the flowers, I mean, not—” Not what? His women? She wouldn’t say that out loud.
“Crying shame, your father, not being here.” Mamma had either taken Assunta’s hesitation as a moment of sorrow or was deliberately redirecting the subject.
Assunta resisted the urge to set her straight and point out that if Papà had been here, she wouldn’t be marrying Nandy at all, but there was little point opening that old wound today.
Despite her intention, Assunta spent the entire walk to church thinking about how, if Papà had let them marry eight years ago, Nandy would never have ended up with another wife and girlfriend in the first place. And following on from that thought, she reminded herself that she had forgiven him, and therefore those two women had no business being on her mind today. And yet they were.
Vito was waiting for them outside the church door, looking dashing though a little uncomfortable in a silk topper.
“Papà would have been proud to walk you down the aisle,” Mamma said.
“He wouldn’t be walking me to Nandy, though, would he?” Assunta said without thinking. There, she’d blown it. “Sorry,” she murmured.
If Mamma reacted to the paltry apology, Assunta didn’t see because her brother pulled her in for a swift kiss on both cheeks.
“You look beautiful.” Vito let go of Assunta just in time for her to glimpse Mamma pressing her handkerchief to her nose with uncharacteristic drama and disappear into the church.
“She’s taking this hard,” Vito said, tilting his chin after Mamma.
Assunta lifted her veil, careful not to dislodge the silk flowers.
“Is Nandy here?” Assunta asked.
“I can’t see around corners, but as he’s the groom, I would presume so.
Another thing I can’t see around the corner is your future. It bothers me.”
“I can tell you the future—we’re getting married, and we’re going to live happily ever after.” Vito had chosen a fine time to cast his doubts. Well, if everyone intended to focus on what would hinder rather than nurture this marriage, she might as well not hold back. “Did Beatrice show up? Is she in there?”
“She wouldn’t dare, and you shouldn’t think of her. Not today, not ever again. As for your future, I have no doubt you’ll make a perfect home and a happy husband. It’s where you’re going that worries us all.”
America had always been the worry. Papà hadn’t doubted Nandy’s character so much as his destination. “We’re not the first to go. Besides, Nandy can provide well for us in America.”
“I’m sure he can. Thing’s will work out for you, I know it.”
Far from helping, her brother’s sudden change in tone and certainty unsettled her. Now she felt uncertain again. She should send Vito inside the church, have him explain that she needed a bit more time to think about this marriage, not pulling out necessarily, just needing a bit of time alone. But knowing her brother, he would do it his way. He’d call out their other siblings, Mamma too, and make everyone else wait in the pews while they decided her fate as a family.
No, she’d got herself into this. Nandy couldn’t be blamed for straying; he’d been a free man. Now Assunta needed to focus on how this was her time, and Nandy had always been the right man for her.
The organist switched to play the Wedding March. Assunta did not move. “Our home will be joyous with the sound of children,” she told Vito.
“We are supposed to walk, not talk when the music starts,” Vito said. Assunta felt the tug of his arm on hers but held still. This was meant to be.
It was time to take her place at Nandy’s side, the conclusion of a long path to a fulfilled adulthood.
“You want to leave?” Vito asked.
“I’m okay,” she said, wishing she meant it.
She didn’t look up to see if Nandy was there, nor to either side and into the faces of the congregation.
At the top of the aisle, she kept her eyes firmly on the stone floor. If Mamma was crying, Assunta would cry, too. If Mamma were stoic, Assunta would cry anyway because Mamma would be putting a brave face on the fact that this marriage meant a ticket to a life a world away.
She saw Nandy’s feet first. They were big. She should have checked them.
She was grateful for the veil that hid her smile at the memory of just a few months ago after Nandy had turned back up, but before he drummed up the courage to speak to her, Assunta had asked Mamma to find her another man to marry. One who hadn’t returned from his world travels, a widower to boot, and proceeded to walk out with another—Beatrice of all people—with not so much as a courtesy call to Assunta. She’d specified that the new version of husband Mamma was to find should not have smelly feet, nor a brood of ready-made children like the man her aunt had married.
Assunta kept her eyes down as Vito kissed her cheek. She clung tighter to his arm, but he pulled her fingers away from his sleeve. There was a moment of shuffling and silence, then Assunta let her brother go.
She knelt next to Nandy, and without greeting or welcome, the priest began his ritual. Someone in the congregation coughed, Assunta stiffened. Was this someone clearing their throat to speak, to call out that she couldn’t, after all, have him? Nobody spoke. The priest carried on.
Someone sneezed. A sneeze didn’t mean the start of an objection, but still, it made Assunta want to turn and look. She wouldn’t put it past Beatrice to show up. Or for someone else to say it was all a big mistake, that he was still married, that his other wife had not died after all. Assunta clasped her hands tight through the liturgies and rites, her white gloves bunching around the fingers. Then the priest asked if anyone knew any reason why the two people standing before him should not be joined in holy matrimony—Assunta was surely going to choke—but the priest was talking again. Did that mean nobody had spoken? He was talking about man and wife—they were truly married.
She turned to look at Nandy for the first time today. Kneeling, they were equal height, the extra few inches he had on her must be in the length of his legs. His profile was important, his brown-black mustache freshly oiled, chin jutting forward slightly, clearly focused on the solemnity of the service. If she thought hard enough, perhaps she could make him turn and look at her, but he kept his gaze firmly on the altar. He was taking this so seriously, reverent in the face of their future—a comforting sign.
They stood up and were permitted to kiss. At last, Nandy turned, his eyes like something that would melt solid bronze. He took her in his arms, turned her, and bent her backward so she’d have toppled to the ground if he hadn’t held her so tightly, and he kissed her like there was nobody watching.
From the groundbreaking author of 55 comes an extraordinary new thriller…
The Kane family, Lorcan, Naiyana and their young son, are desperate to move their young family far away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life in Perth.
The abandoned town of Kallayee, an abandoned mining town in the Great Victoria Desert, seems like the perfect getaway: no one has lived there for decades. It will be peaceful. Quiet. Secure.
But life in Kallayee isn’t quite as straightforward as they hope. Lights flicker at night. There are noises in the earth, mysterious shadows and tracks in the dust as if their presence is breathing new life back into the long-dead town.
Lorcan and Naiyana refuse to leave. No one can talk sense into them. And now, no one can talk to them at all.
They’ve simply vanished.
Vanished is set in the Australian outback and it’s here the Kane family now live after leaving Perth, making a new, safe life in this inhospitable part of the world. But, why did they leave?
They now live in a remote area, but so does a group of men who also have secrets and there is an uneasy, tense agreement to live and let live between them. But things get dark with strange noises, and some creepy moments too.
The story is told gradually, with little asides showing how past events have led to this point. All the while there is a police investigation trying to find this missing family….
Well, what can I say? This is well written and full of tension with an oppressive atmosphere that’s almost claustrophobic. A slow burn of a psychological thriller that is utterly compelling from start to finish.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Vanished.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi- rural England where he now lives. He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. His first novel, 55, was published in 2019 and has been sold to 21 territories to date. Vanished is his second novel. Find him on Twitter: @jdelargyauthor/
Zoe Tampsin is resourceful, smart and Special Forces-trained, but she has been given an impossible mission.
She has to protect scientist, Gavin Shawlens, from assassination by the CIA, and discover the secret trapped in Gavin’s mind that the CIA want destroyed.
As the pressure to find Shawlens escalates – the CIA send Zoe’s former mentor to track her down and her fate seems sealed when he surrounds Zoe and Gavin with a ring of steel. With each hour that passes, the ring is tightened, and the window for discovering Gavin’s secret will shut.
Zoe is faced with a decision that goes against all of her survival instincts. If she is wrong – they both die. If she is right – she will discover the secret and become the next target for assassination.
Run for your life…
THE BLACK FOX is #3 in the Lambeth Group series by Gordon Bickerstaff and it is a belter.
Here, Zoe (Black Fox) has been tasked with taking Dr Gavin Shawlens into hiding to keep him safe from the CIA. What does Dr Shawlens know that is worth causing an international incident over?
What can I say? This is an action packed, tense thriller that has you utterly gripped from start to suspense filled end. Full of sharp twists and complex characters that makes this a true page turner. (It would make a perfect movie). A truly memorable thriller. I love this series and it’s perfect for anyone who loves a clever thriller.
Thank you to Damppebbles Blog Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Black Fox.
About Gordon Bickerstaff:
I was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. I studied biochemistry, and I’ve worked in several Scottish universities where I did research on enzymes, and taught biochemistry. After thirty years of teaching and research I retired my academic pen, and took of a mightier fiction pen.
I live in central Scotland with my wife and we enjoy reading, writing, and walking in the hills.
The Lambeth Group books follow the secret government investigations of agent Zoe Tampsin. A strong female protagonist with courage, determination, and guile. She is assisted by specialist consultant, Gavin Shawlens.
A dark and sophisticated thriller set in the heart of Botswana, introducing Michael Stanley’s beloved Detective Kubu.
Recruited straight from university to Botswana’s CID, David ‘Kubu’ Bengu has raised his colleagues’ suspicions with his meteoric rise within the department, and he has a lot to prove.
When the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats worth of gems, and the thieves are found, executed, Kubu leaps at the chance to prove himself. First he must find the diamonds – and it seems that a witch doctor and his son have a part to play.
Does this young detective have the skill and integrity to engineer an international trap? Or could it cost him everything?
This is a prequel to the series featuring Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu , it is an introduction to his beginnings in the police force Criminal Investigation Department in Botswana.
Assistant Superintendent Makabu assigns Kubu to a complex case on his first day. A plane disaster which is at first believed to be an accident….but there’s more to it than that…diamonds are at the heart of it. When the diamond deliveries are moved to armoured trucks there’s a robbery.
But the robbers start turning up dead and some believe a witchdoctor has cursed them.
Kubu really is thrown in at the deep end with his first big case and it highlights what a patient and thorough detective he is.
This is a crime thriller at its very best, so well written with beautiful descriptions of Botswana and the surrounding area, a fascinating and immensely likeable main character and a dark, dark and twisty plot. Incredible writing that has me totally engrossed from start to finish. Simply brilliant .
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Facets of Death.
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and
learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialised in image processing and remote sensing and taught at the University of the Witwatersrand.
On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective David ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger.
The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award for Best Paperback Original mystery and was shortlisted for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.
They have also written a thriller, Dead of Night, following the investigative journalist, Crystal Nguyen, who gets caught up in the war against rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling.
She knows she’s alone on an abandoned island with a killer on her trail.
She knows that to get home to her children, she must survive long enough to understand why this is happening.
She knows someone tried to kill her for a secret.
What she doesn’t know is what that secret is . . .
Detective Frank Travis doesn’t know enough . . .
He doesn’t know where to find Louise Mason. He doesn’t know how and why she vanished into thin air three months ago. He doesn’t know the identity of the man last seen talking to her. Not yet.
But what he does know it that he’s a week away from retirement — and if he doesn’t find out where Louise went, no one will.
What neither Rebekah nor Detective Travis realise is that each holds a missing piece from the same puzzle — and it will cost them everything they love to finally solve it . . .
Rebekah Murphy is stranded on Crow Island, she’s in a n area ravaged by a hurricane with few facilities left.
Why is she stranded? Who is it that wants her dead?
All will become clear……eventually
The story is told from various perspectives and timelines, from Rebekah past and present which gradually reveals how she has ended up on Crow Island, and from Detective Travis and his search for a missing artist.
Are these cases linked?
This is a thriller, absolutely packed with tension and the descriptions of the island and its weather feels almost claustrophobic adding a nail biting edge to the story. With lots of twists, a feeling of impending danger throughout this is gripping from start to finish. I need a lay down now.! Brilliant storytelling from Mr Weaver.
Thank you to Chrissie at Michal Joseph for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour and for an ARC of Missing Pieces.
Two people can keep a secret . . . if one of them is dead.
Sisters Jo and Caroline are used to hiding things from each other. They’ve never been close – taking it in turns to feel on the outside of their family unit, playing an endless game of favourites.
Jo envies Caroline’s life – things have always come so easy to her. Then a family inheritance falls entirely to Jo, and suddenly now Caroline wants what Jo has. Needs it, even.
But just how far will she go to get it?
Look What You Made Me Do is the tale of two sisters , Jo and Caroline. They weren’t particularly close and when their father dies the secrets they have long kept hidden start to be revealed.
Beautifully written this family drama has a simmering tension as every member of this fractured family tries to keep their secrets. A tale of keeping up appearances in a toxic environment with a dark mystery just waiting to be revealed. A compelling read from start to finish. Brilliant.
Thank you to Alex at Orion Books for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour and for an ARC of Look What You Made Me Do.
Warm, funny, life-affirming and true, The Best Things is the joyous debut novel from much-loved comedian, writer, actor and presenter Mel Giedroyc.
It’s the story of a family who lose everything, only to find themselves, and each other, along the way.
Sally and Frank Parker have it all.
Then one day, because of Frank, they don’t.
As the bailiffs move in and the money runs out, Sally realises that she and her children don’t have a clue about how to survive.
Or do they?
The Parkers are about to discover that the best things in life aren’t things at all.
Sally Parker is married to Frank, hedge fund manager and their three children, Stephen a bit of a glutton, Cleo a tv addict and Mike a budding entrepreneur. They are wealthy and have staff to look after their day to day lives and a housekeeper, Paloma.
But then disaster strikes, a market crash wipes out their money completely and life changes drastically, but they gradually find there is more to life than money.
This is a well written, warm hug of a read. Full of great characters and a gentle humour, pure escapism, something much needed in these days of doom and gloom.