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Blog Tour – Stranger In My Heart by Mary Monro

Published May 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Stranger In My Heart (with foreword by HRH The Princess Royal) is about the search for understanding oneself, answering the question “Who am I?” by seeking to understand the currents that sweep down the generations, eddy through one’s own persona and continue on – palpable but often unrecognised. My father fought at the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941, was taken prisoner by the Japanese and then escaped in February 1942, making his way across 1200 miles of inhospitable country to reach China’s wartime capital at Chongqing. Seventy years later I retraced his steps in an effort to understand a man who had died when I was 18, leaving a lot of unanswered questions behind. My book is the quest that I undertook to explore my father’s life, in the context of the Pacific War and our relationship with China.
A picture of a man of the greatest generation slowly unfolds, a leader, a 20th Century Great, but a distant father. As I delve into his story and research the unfamiliar territory of China in the Second World War, the mission to get to know the stranger I called ‘Dad’ resolves into a mission to understand how my own character was formed. As I travel across China, the traits I received from my father gradually emerge from their camouflage. The strands of the story are woven together in a flowing triple helix, with biography, travelogue and memoir punctuated with musings on context and meaning.

What did I think?:

When Anne Cater first got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in reading this book, I read the synopsis (as you do!) and immediately jumped at the chance. Thank you so much to her and to Unbound Books for allowing me to read an advanced review copy of this intriguing memoir in return for an honest review. If you’re new to my blog, you might not realise I’m not only a big fan of periods in our history like World War I and II, but I’m also a very curious soul regarding the culture and history of China. So imagine my delight when I saw that two of my favourite things were beautifully entwined in a biography of such a fascinating and brave man, told by one of the closest members of his family, his daughter.

Poster from artist Martha Sawyers ca. 1944 depicting a Chinese soldier with his wounded wife and daughter.

The subject of this memoir, Lieutenant Colonel John Monro was a considerably quiet, private and stoic man and the author of this book, his daughter Mary, knew surprisingly little about his struggles and the danger he faced as a soldier during the Second World War. It is only after he passes away that Mary makes a real effort to dig into his past, reading his diary entries from Hong Kong, marvelling at his escape from a Japanese prisoner of war camp and admiring his bravery as he faced a long trek through China, just to get to a place of safety. Moved by her father’s experiences, Mary takes it upon herself to attempt to carry out the exact same trip as her father, despite many place names in China having changed in the last seventy years. As she walks in her father’s footsteps, Mary feels that she connects with her father in a deeper manner and has such memorable encounters with people and places that can only be described as life-changing.

The Situation In China, 1944 – sourced from The US Army Center Of Military History.

Stranger In My Heart feels like the reader is given access to a detailed account of the struggles of a very unassuming soldier by means of his diary entries. It was an honour to be a voyeur into John Monro’s life and the incredible journey he made through China, all the while in danger of losing his life. The memoir was all the more touching and authentic for the inclusion of the diaries and for Mary’s own individual trip, many years later. I particularly enjoyed her quiet humour of the author as she described a sign posted at a hotel she stayed at briefly:

“Lecherous acts, prostitution, drugs taking and trafficking, smuggling, gambling, wrestling or any other outlawed activities are strictly forbidden.”

Like Mary, I had to have a little chortle to myself. Wrestling?? This book has everything you would want from a memoir and packs so much in addition to this. As I mentioned, the diary entries are incredibly thorough and so intriguing to read – straight from “the horse’s mouth,” so as to speak. Moreover, we also get a brief history of China (which I particularly loved as a Chinese history enthusiast!) and finally, snatches from the author’s own trip to try and recreate her father’s journey which read remarkably like a great travel book. I had great fun reading it and really appreciate the efforts Mary Munro made in researching her father’s life and recounting it for the interested outsider. By the time I got to the end, I couldn’t help but think that it’s almost as if this journey/book has given Mary peace with both her father’s life and his death and it was a pleasure to be taken along for the ride.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Mary has written numerous technical and academic articles and is an experienced lecturer and presenter, but this is her first book. She lives in Bath with her husband, Julian Caldecott, and dog, Gobi. She practises as an osteopath in the picturesque Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon. She treats people three days a week (see http://www.mmost.co.uk) and treats horses and dogs one day a week (www.hippokampos.co.uk and http://www.facebook.com/the2marys). She is a Trustee of the Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy (SCCO) and Member of the Royal Society of Medicine. She was formerly a marketing consultant, with five years experience at what is now Price Waterhouse Coopers, and three years with strategy consultancy, P.Four (now part of WPP). She began her marketing career with Cadbury’s confectionery and retains a lifelong love of chocolate.

Mary was born and raised at a farm on the edge of the south Shropshire hills, the youngest of four children. She attended Shrewsbury High School from age four to eighteen. She spent much of her childhood on horseback, which left her with permanent damage to her right eye, a broken nose, broken knee-cap and broken coccyx. She has been bitten, kicked, rolled on, dragged, and has fallen off too many times to recall, but she still rides racehorses for fun.

Find Mary on her website at: http://www.strangerinmyheart.co.uk

or on Twitter at: @monro_m276

Thank you once again to Anne Cater and Unbound Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Stranger In My Heart is due to be published in June 2018 and will be available as an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40046559-stranger-in-my-heart?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stranger-My-Heart-Mary-Monro-ebook/dp/B07CVKMBL3/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525977789&sr=8-1&keywords=stranger+in+my+heart

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Blog Tour – The Pursuit Of Ordinary – Nigel Jay Cooper

Published May 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

After witnessing a fatal car accident, a homeless man wanders the streets of Brighton, trying to ignore the new, incessant voice inside his head. But he can’t forget the crash, can’t get the face of the woman cradling her dying husband out of his mind. She stared into his eyes, his soul. He has to find her.

Is Dan ill or has he really been possessed by the spirit of Natalie’s dead husband, Joe? If he hasn’t, why does she let him into her home so easily? Does she have secrets of her own? The Pursuit of Ordinary is a twisting tale of modern life and mental health where nothing is what it seems…

Following the success of debut novel Beat the Rain, Roundfire introduces the second book from bestselling author Nigel Jay Cooper.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater and to Roundfire Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. Who could resist saying yes to a book like this when you read THAT synopsis? This is the first book I’ve read by the author, Nigel Jay Cooper but I can promise you now it won’t be the last. This book surprised and moved me in equal measure and for different reasons (which I’ll go into a little later) but let me just say briefly, the description, although fantastic, gives no clues as to what dark treasures this novel actually holds. With wonderful representation of mental illness, including highlighting a condition I knew very little about, The Pursuit Of Ordinary takes the reader on a journey into the struggles of life, particularly when you’re embroiled in events that seem beyond your individual control.

A representation of mental ilness?

Our story is set in Brighton and involves a number of main characters. First there are husband and wife, Natalie and Joe whose lives change forever when Joe is involved in a fatal car accident. Natalie is left on the road cradling her husband’s head and begging for help from passers-by when a homeless man appears in her field of vision. Little does she realise how important this man will be in her life. His name is Dan and before long, he tracks down Natalie with his head in turmoil. He strongly believes that he has become possessed by the spirit of her husband Joe who is desperate for him to get in touch with Natalie as he has promised her he will: “always find a way back to her.”

Brighton, England. Ooh, isn’t it lovely?

Natalie is obviously traumatised by the events that have occurred and continue to occur but learns to trust Dan, eventually welcoming him into her house. Her only condition is that he try to get a job and begin to piece his life back together. She doesn’t become aware for quite a while that Dan is severely mentally ill and she begins to wonder about the stories that Joe is telling her, when he “comes forward,” and speaks in quite a different accent compared to Dan’s Brighton twang. Then as the two get closer, the reader realises both Dan and Natalie have deep secrets that they may be terrified to share with the other and individual demons that they must conquer themselves.

I loved the way this was written. Not only did we get Natalie and Dan’s perspectives but we also got the deceased husband Joe’s version of events. It was really interesting how the author chose to tell a certain event from Joe’s point of view and then we hear the exact same event from Natalie’s perspective. You might think that this sounds slightly repetitive and unnecessary but I can assure you it doesn’t read like that at all. It’s fresh, enlightening and made me incredibly curious to read on and figure out what was going on with this interesting threesome. I will always, always applaud a writer that decides to focus on mental health, especially the way he represented Dan – as a normal person, which of course he is, with just a few issues that plague him from time to time.

I’ve had my own battles with mental illness, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and unfortunately, emotional/physical abuse. I really resonated with so many parts of this story and the way the characters reacted to the circumstances they were put under. Yep, that was me. Yep, I did that. Why did I do that again?! It’s crazy, but when you’re in that situation, it’s very hard to see a way out, the control the person has over you is extreme and you’re never quite the same person afterwards or, it takes you a massive amount of time to recover. I felt so much, remembered huge amounts of my own past and re-appreciated finally getting out of the situation like our characters attempt to. This book is fantastically revealing and makes you think about what people might be going through in their own personal lives, even if they put on a happy face and make out like everything is fine.

I’ve applauded this author and now I’m going to salute him for tackling a wide range of potentially difficult but very important subjects, including emotional abuse, low self-esteem, homelessness, mental illness, bulimia and the dynamics of relationships with family and friends (although for many of our characters these dynamics are sadly non-existent). It’s honest and authentic writing with the plot progressing and ending not as “fairy-tale” as you might expect. But then, you can’t wrap mental illness up nice and neat with a bow, it’s an ongoing healing process that might be with you for life, it’s all about the slow and steady recovery and I feel optimistic our characters are going to a much better place.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Author, writer, father, runner. Not always in that order. Born in London, England, Nigel lives in Brighton with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog. His first novel, Beat The Rain, was published in July 2016 and became his publishers bestselling title. It was also nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016 for Best Debut Author. His second novel, The Pursuit of Ordinary, will be published in 2018. Nigel was co-founder of global advocate marketing platform Qubist (Qube Media) and previously worked as a writer and editor for Channel 4 Television and as a newspaper sub editor. He’s a sometime marathon runner and occasional actor and singer. Sometimes his brain switches off and lets him sleep, but not that often.

Find Nigel on his Goodreads page  at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15065567.Nigel_Jay_Cooper

on his website at: http://www.nigeljaycooper.com/

on Twitter at: @nijay

Thank you once again to Anne Cater and Roundfire Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Pursuit Of Ordinary was published on the 27th April 2018 and will be available as both a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36313350-the-pursuit-of-ordinary

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pursuit-Ordinary-Nigel-Jay-Cooper/dp/1785358065/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524942071&sr=1-1&keywords=the+pursuit+of+ordinary

Blog Tour – The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Published April 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

What did I think?:

The debut novel from author Lisa Ko has already got a lot of attention and immediately pricked up my interest. As mentioned above it has already had the honour of becoming the winner for the 2016 PEN/Bellweather Prize for fiction and it was also a finalist in the prestigious National Book Award. Then when Oprah’s Book Club called it “imperative reading,” I knew I had to seek this book out as soon as it was published over here in the UK. You can imagine how delighted I was when this book ended up finding me! The lovely Grace Vincent from Little, Brown publishers invited me to take part in this blog tour celebrating the book’s release and kindly coordinated sending over a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Being completely honest, this book took me a little while to get into. However, I’m not sure if that was a personal thing (as I was on holiday at the time and had multiple distractions to tear me away). Nevertheless, as soon as I forced myself to read fifty pages without stopping or looking up, by the end of this time, I was irrevocably caught up in the fascinating story of both Peilan Guo, a Chinese-born young woman who is compelled to escape overseas to America as a young woman whilst pregnant with her first child, fearing both the strict Chinese regulations about pregnancy, desperate not to get married to the father of the baby and her constant feelings that things are missing from her life.

This story is also about Peilan’s son, Deming Guo, the relationship between the mother and son and how this changes mainly due to two major events. This includes Peilan having to send Deming back to her father so that she can make enough money to pay off a huge amount borrowed from a loan shark just to get over to America. He comes back to her when he is old enough to go and school and little by little he slowly manages to trust and respect her as his mother. Then something horrendous happens when Deming is a little older. Peilan goes to work one day and never returns. There are rumours that she has left Deming and all her friends, including her partner, Leon and has no plans to return. Deming ends up fostered to a white American couple, Peter and Kay who try to be loving parents towards him but cannot fit the huge hole Deming has in his heart where he, like his mother, also feels like he cannot fit in or succeed in life anywhere he might go.

I’m going to stop there as I don’t want to give too much away but I have to stress how much I enjoyed this novel once I really got into the meat of the narrative. Of course, Deming and Peilan were the real stars of the show but I also enjoyed the background appearances of Leon, his sister Vivian and her son Michael whom Deming lives with when his mother is still there and for a short while before she disappears. I don’t think I’ve read too many books about the immigration experience (although I am aware of some I should definitely get to), but this novel really opened my eyes about the struggles these poor people have, the choices they are forced to make, the conditions they might live under and the little prospects they face for the future if they make a bad decision.

I was furious at Peilan at the start for abandoning her son, especially when you see how much pain Deming goes through as a teenager and then a young adult. He thinks if he does certain things in his present, his mother might return to him. Then, on the other hand, he thinks he has obviously done bad things in his past to push her away to never return. However, things are not always as they seem and it was fantastic to read a novel with not only a dual narrative but that skips around time periods, just to give a sweet little taster of what might be happening until the final difficult details all come out. This was an illuminating with at some points, heart-breaking passages that has made me appreciate the suffering of immigrants a whole lot more. It made me wish we could have a whole re-think of the system, here and abroad – this is especially topical as to what is going on in the news at the moment and I have a new found respect for anyone just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5)

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

I’m the author of THE LEAVERS, a novel that won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. Set in New York and China, THE LEAVERS follows one young man’s search for his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant who disappears when he’s 11 years old, after which he is adopted by a white family. It’s the story of one mother and her son: what brings them together and takes them apart.

I’m a believer in the long game: I started writing stories when I was 5 years old and published my first book at 41.

Find Lisa on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15053129.Lisa_Ko

on her website at: http://lisa-ko.com

and on Twitter @iamlisako

Thank you once again to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Leavers was published on the 26h April 2018 by Dialogue Books and will be available as both a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to The Leavers on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30753987-the-leavers?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Leavers on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leavers-Winner-Bellweather-Prize-Fiction/dp/0349700524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524767801&sr=8-1&keywords=the+leavers

Blog Tour – Drift Stumble Fall by M. Jonathan Lee

Published April 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The author of five novels, M Jonathan Lee is a tireless mental health awareness campaigner, working closely with organisations including Mind, Time to Change and Rethink and blogs regularly for Huffington Post. Having personally experienced anxiety and depression during his life, Jonathan draws on his experiences to inform his writing.

Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richards existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other peoples lives are not always what they seem.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Charlotte Cooper and Hideaway Fall for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. This is M. Jonathan Lee’s fifth novel and I’ve only recently come across his work after loving his fourth book, Broken Branches last year. Well, I can now consider myself a fully fledged Lee fan. This novel is a fantastic read that perfectly explores the issues of depression, anxiety, feeling trapped and longing for escape. I always worry when reading a novel about mental health that it will affect me in a bad way, I’m quite sensitive to a lot of the areas explored in this story. However, I’m always proved wrong with brilliant novels like this that allowed me to fully empathise with our main character and root for better days ahead for them.

This is the story of two families – Richard, Lisa and their two children Hannah and Oscar and across the road, their neighbours, an elderly couple called Bill and Rosie. Richard is obviously struggling with mental health issues and has been for a number of years. He feels that his life has become stagnant, devoid of meaning and dreads each waking moment when he has to spend time with his wife, children or his in-laws, when he has to pretend to be a normal human being and father. Without his family’s awareness, he is planning to leave and start all over again, possibly in America where no one knows him and he can have the kind of peace he craves. He spends a lot of time staring into space, out of the window and often sees his neighbour Bill looking out too. He begins to fantasise about what it would be like to have Bill’s life, something he believes is considerably nicer than his own. However, he is in no way aware of the immense struggles that Bill and Rosie are going through in their lives themselves. The grass isn’t always greener and both men may be about to find that out for the very first time in his life as their town experiences huge snowfall and makes the feeling of entrapment feel even more intense.

I had such mixed emotions when reading this book. It was brutally honest about the daily toils of parenting and how sometimes it can all get a bit much, even for someone who has sound mental health! I’m not a parent myself so I can’t really comment on that but I have seen evidence of it in my own family and friends so am well aware of the difficulties. I really felt for Richard and for Bill and Rosie although Richard especially produced such conflicting feelings for me. I just wanted him to get help (I know, easier said than done) and when he started making serious plans for leaving and even started to put these plans into action, I just wanted to step in and stop him, shake him, give him a hug….maybe all three! This novel is truly heart-breaking in the way it makes you feel. Every time Richard becomes too anxious, the turmoil in his brain becomes too much and he has to step away from the situation I was right with him. Then there is Bill and Rosie and the suffering that they are enduring which ends in a rather distressing situation that only made the lump in my throat feel like a boulder. I won’t say any more because the beauty and agony of this book really deserves to be discovered for yourself but I can’t praise it highly enough.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

M Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born Yorkshire where he still lives today with his wife, children and dog, Alfie.

His debut novel, The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.

His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015.

His much anticipated third novel, A Tiny Feeling of Fear was released in September 2015 and tells the story of a character struggling with mental illness. All profits from this novel are donated to charity to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was accompanied by the short film, Hidden which was directed by Simon Gamble and can be seen here.

In 2016, he signed for boutique publishers, Hideaway Fall and his fourth novel Broken Branches was released in July 2017, winning book of the month in Candis magazine for September.

He is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe.

His fifth book, the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall is released in Spring 2018.

Find M. Jonathan Lee on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6953417.M_Jonathan_Lee

on his website at: https://www.mjonathanlee.com/

on Twitter at: @mjonathanlee

Thank you once again to Charlotte Cooper and Hideaway Fall for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Drift Stumble Fall will be published on the 12th April 2018 and will be available as both a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38350672-drift-stumble-fall

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Drift-Stumble-Fall-Jonathan-Lee/dp/0995492344/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523122695&sr=1-1&keywords=drift+stumble+fall

 

Baltic Books Blog Tour

Published April 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on my blog today. From the 10th-12th April, The London Book Fair will be taking place at Olympia in London. The fair focuses on all parts of the publishing industry and is the perfect marketplace for rights negotiation and sale and distribution of content across all forms of media. Exhibitors from every part of the globe are welcomed and the fair itself is packed full with exciting content including seminars, interviews and workshops. In fact, there are over 200 seminars packed into three days of the fair and with titles such as “From Promotion To Pitching,” and “An Introduction To Kindle Direct Publishing: How To Get Started,” there’s sure to be something for everyone interested/part of the industry.

In 2018, the London Book Fair is choosing to showcase Baltic literature, that is, authors from the countries Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and I jumped at the chance to feature one such author on my blog. Kārlis Vērdiņš is a Latvian poet and I would like to feature one of his poems, Come To Me on bibliobeth today.

“Writing poetry has always been at the core of Lativan literature and at the heart of our country, but when I was beginning to write in the nineties journalists would often query if the form was as popular as it was in the Soviet times. Now, I understand the different role that poetry has had to play in Latvian life across our county’s history, from oppression to freedom and now, as we celebrate 100 years of our independent state. The role of the poet has evolved. Contemporary poetry still engages with the history of Latvia, the formation of our identity and all that lies in between, but this is alongside work that explores sexuality, gender, body. There is still the political, as there ever will be, but so much more than before there is the personal. Actually one might say: poetry is the way how Latvians think, speak and see the world. Actually there is nothing but poetry in our minds.” – Karlis Verdinš 

Come to me by Kārlis Vērdiņš 

I was bringing you a little cheese sandwich. It was two in the

morning, everybody sleepy, shops closed but in the I Love You bar

they gave me a little cheese sandwich.

I was in a taxi bringing you a little cheese sandwich ’cause you

were lying there sad, perhaps even ill, and there was nothing good to

eat in the house. Was real expensive, around one lat, but that’s OK.

So I was in the taxi with my little iluvu, all squished, practically

cold. But for some reason I didn’t make it home. Somehow I ended

up where all were merry and witty, and starving. So I drank, I sang,

but I saved my little sandwich.

Must have been the third day when I could finally treat you to it,

you were so angry, you ate the sandwich hardly looking at it. Had I

had more courage, I would have said: but you know I love you, you

know I admire you. Don’t make me say it again.

Kārlis Vērdiņš

Come to me by Kārlis Vērdiņš was chosen as one of the greatest love poems from the last 50 years by the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Karlis Verdinš was born in 1979 in Riga. With an M.A. in Cultural Theory and a Ph.D. in Philology, Verdins is the author of many academic papers (including a book on prose poetry, Bastarda forma, (2010)) and essays on literature, both Latvian and foreign, as well as a prolific literary critic. He has published four volumes of poetry – Ledlauzi(Icebreakers / Riga: Nordic, 2001, 2nd ed. 2009), Biezpiens ar krejumu (Cottage Cheese with Sour Cream / Riga: Atena, 2004), Burtinu zupa (Alphabet Soup, for children, 2007), and Es (I / Riga: Neputns, 2008), all to a great critical and popular acclaim and fetching top literary awards. Verdins has also written librettos and song lyrics and has published translations of American Modernist poetry (T. S. Eliot, W. C. Williams, H.D., et al). His most recent collection is Pieaugušie (Adults, 2015). His own poetry has been translated in many languages, including collections in Russian and Polish.

The poetry anthology Come to Me by Karlis Verdinš (Bilingual English / Latvian edition) is published by Arc Publications, translated & introduced by Ieva Lesinska

The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – will be the Market Focus for the London Book Fair 2018 (10th – 12th April).

A big thank you to Hannah McMillan at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and Karlis Verdinš for allowing his poem, Come To Me to be featured here today.

Blog Tour – We Were The Salt Of The Sea by Roxanne Bouchard (translated by David Warriner)

Published March 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky.

What did I think?:

A huge thank you to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all involved with Orenda Books for sending me a review copy of We Were The Salt Of The Sea in exchange for an honest review. I’m absolutely delighted to be a supporter of the books that Orenda is publishing in the past year, the variety and strength of writing that I’ve seen in the books I’ve read and reviewed so far has been nothing short of stellar. We Were The Salt Of The Sea is another blinder, Canadian crime fiction that almost feels literary in its execution and with a quiet, gentle humour that immediately tickles the reader and makes them warm even more to both the plot and the characters.

This novel follows two main characters, the first is a woman called Catherine Day who is visiting a small village in order to get answers about her birth mother, Marie Garant, a woman who adored sailing, spent very little time on land and held the hearts of quite a few men within the village. The second character is Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès, another outsider who takes a new job within the police and is thrust immediately into an investigation involving a body who turns up one day entangled in a fisherman’s net. Joaquin must try to infiltrate the closed, secretive community to get some answers about why this person may have died and indeed, if the death is at all suspicious. For personal reasons, Catherine also becomes entrenched in the mystery and as a result, begins to discover a lot more about her mother’s history and about herself as a person.

When I first started this novel, I was expecting a novel take on the crime fiction genre and essentially, that’s exactly what I got. However, I wasn’t expecting how lyrical I found the writing to be in parts, this was almost a love song to the sea and you can really sense that the author may have a close connection of her own to the water. It might not be a novel for anyone expecting a fast pace or a thrilling plot because this story is much more methodical, slower and richer in detail than that and is almost more a character study of a community than a page-turning mystery. What kept me turning the pages? Definitely the humour, which was a very welcome surprise! Some of the characters we meet in We Were The Salt Of The Sea, for example, the enthusiasm of Renaud Boissonneau, bistro owner extraordinare was infectious and I found myself smiling uncontrollably at his interludes, particularly as he tries (a bit TOO hard) to help frustrated DS Moralès and ends up irritating him slightly!

As the novel continues, the mystery is slowly unravelled and light is shed about some of the relationships within the community giving Catherine a very clear idea of what she has to do next. There were so many characters that just bounced off the pages for me in this story, they all had their own story to tell and I adored how well rounded and authentic each one felt. This is a beautifully written tale that I think would appeal to lovers of literary fiction and I appreciated how the crime element changed a story about all the different characters of a tight-knit community to a mystery that by the end of the novel, just begs to be solved.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds. This desire for intimacy permeates all of Roxanne’s novels, as well as her play, J’t’aime encore, and her published essays, which have focused on the human aspects and impacts of the military. In 2013, the publication of her private correspondence with Corporal Patrick Kègle, entitled En terrain miné, started quite the conversation.

This thought-provoking discussion about the need for weapons was a stepping-stone for Roxanne to undertake unprecedented research at Quebec’s largest military base. Meeting and speaking with dozens of women and men who served in Afghanistan in 2009 inspired her to write a collection of hard-hitting short stories, Cinq balles dans la tête, slated for publication in autumn 2017.

We Were the Salt of the Sea is Roxanne Bouchard’s fifth novel, and the first to be translated into English. As much a love story and a nostalgic tale as it is a crime novel, it was shortlisted for a number of crime fiction and maritime literature awards in Quebec and France. It haunts people’s memories, ties seafarers’ hearts in knots and seeps its way into every nook and cranny, but most importantly, the sea in this book is a calling for us all to set our sails to the wind. Roxanne Bouchard is currently writing an essay on literary creativity and plotting Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès’s next investigation.

Find Roxanne on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4120411.Roxanne_Bouchard

on Twitter at: @RBouchard72

Thank you once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books  for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. We Were The Salt Of The Sea was published on the 28th February 2018 and is available from all good bookshops now. If you want some more fantastic reviews don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35960850-we-were-the-salt-of-the-sea?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Were-Salt-Sea-Roxanne-Bouchard/dp/191237403X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520175927&sr=1-1&keywords=we+were+the+salt+of+the+sea

Blog Tour – Come A Little Closer by Rachel Abbott

Published February 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

They will be coming soon. They come every night.

Snow is falling softly as a young woman takes her last breath.

Fifteen miles away, two women sit silently in a dark kitchen. They don’t speak, because there is nothing left to be said.

Another woman boards a plane to escape the man who is trying to steal her life. But she will have to return, sooner or later.

These strangers have one thing in common. They each made one bad choice – and now they have no choices left. Soon they won’t be strangers, they’ll be family…

When DCI Tom Douglas is called to the cold, lonely scene of a suspicious death, he is baffled. Who is she? Where did she come from? How did she get there?

How many more must die? Who is controlling them, and how can they be stopped?

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Maura Wilding and all at Black Dot Publishers for getting in touch and asking me if I’d like to read a copy of the latest Rachel Abbott thriller in exchange for an honest review. Now I have to be honest, I hesitated a little bit initially. I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order and (confession time), I haven’t read a single one of Rachel Abbott’s novels before. However, I have read many, many good things from my fellow bloggers about the other books in the series so I threw my normal caution to the wind and thought I’d give it a go. I’m so glad I did as Come A Little Closer is a gripping, thought-provoking read that can easily be read as a stand-alone and at no time at all did I feel I had missed out too many crucial parts of the back stories of our returning characters.

I mean, who could resist wanting to try this book after reading that thrilling synopsis? It begins, as the synopsis suggest with two women sitting in a kitchen in complete silence and another woman who has made a very bad decision on a night out just before she is due to get married. Who are these women and how do they connect to the narrative? All will become clear, but the suspense was already needle sharp and I loved the whole mystery behind these intriguing women. Then we meet our main character, Callie who is attempting to escape a miserable relationship by going on a cruise. She meets an elderly lady whilst on holiday (and a rather intense young man) the former of whom provides an emotional crutch on which she can lean on and spout all her worries about the relationship she has with her horribly leech-like, very persistent and stubborn boyfriend.

Sooner or later however, Callie is forced to return to reality and face her demons, including her boyfriend. What she isn’t expecting is for her life to take such an unexpected and dangerous turn that has her questioning everything, including her own sanity. Combined with all of this, as if this wasn’t enough drama, we have DCI Tom Douglas who is investigating a strange murder of a woman found in the snow and they are unsure whether she took her own life or there are suspicious circumstances involved. When tenuous connections are found to another historical death, Tom must discover what on earth is happening to these women and all these other links in the narrative start to make a horrific kind of sense.

I didn’t mean to make my explanation of the novel so long but honestly, there is so much that could be said about it! From the very first page, you start to understand that you are dealing with a very convoluted story, involving multiple characters with potentially, numerous twists and turns to be had. Essentially, this is exactly what I got from Come A Little Closer. It’s thrilling, occasionally shocking and definitely difficult to stop reading once you get started. I became quite invested in the characters, particularly Callie who I found myself hugely frustrated with at points and terribly sorry for at other times. Sometimes she can be very naive and there were times when I just wanted to shake her and open her eyes as to what was going on or push that little bit of courage into her so that she could finally break away from her situation. As the reader, you kind of know what’s going on pretty early in the novel, but that’s no bad thing – what we really want to know as we absorb the tale is WHY? Of course, Rachel Abbott writes a fascinating enough plot to keep you guessing and surprise you in equal terms by the time you get to the grand finale.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Rachel Abbott, born and raised in Manchester, founded her own interactive media company in the 1980s, before selling it and retiring in 2005. She then moved to Italy where she worked on the renovation of a 15th century Italian monastery, and it was here that, one day, she found herself snowed in and decided to begin writing for pleasure.

This became her debut novel Only The Innocent, which she went on to publish via Kindle Direct Publishing, topping their chart for 4 weeks.

A true self-publishing pioneer, Come a Little Closer is Abbott’s seventh novel. All of her previous thrillers have hit no.1 in the Kindle charts. She splits her time between Alderney in the Channel Islands and Italy.

Find Rachel on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5349971.Rachel_Abbott

on Twitter at: @RachelAbbott

on her website at: http://www.rachel-abbott.com

Thank you once again to Maura Wilding and Black Dot Publishers  for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Come A Little Closer was published on the 15th February 2018 and is available from all good bookshops now. If you want some more fantastic reviews don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37969850-come-a-little-closer?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Come-Little-Closer-Rachel-Abbott-ebook/dp/B079GYCX7R/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1518971261&sr=8-1&keywords=come+a+little+closer+rachel+abbott