#BlogTour #Review: People Like Us by Louise Fein @FeinLouise @HoZ_Books #fightfortheirlove

Fein_People Like Us_Blog Tour Poster 3Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for People Like Us by Louise Fein. If you’re a fan of gripping, emotional reads and have a penchant for WWII fiction that challenges your perceptions and makes you step into the shoes of complex characters, then this one might just be for you!


eiTitle: People Like Us.

Author: Louise Fein

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Publication Date: May 7, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction

Themes: WWII, Coming of Age, Family Dynamics, First Love, Religious Persecution


Synopsis

‘I nearly drowned, and Walter rescued me. That changes everything.’

Leipzig, 1930’s Germany.

Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it.

Until Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect in every way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew.

Anti-Semitism is growing by the day, and neighbours, friends and family members are turning on one another. As Hetty falls deeper in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will risk have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself.


Review

People like us is one of those books where there’s a huge benefit to reading the author’s note before diving into the text. As historical fiction, with inspiration drawn from real events, the note does wonders when it comes to clearly delineating the truth from the imagined, fact from fiction. I made the mistake of waiting before I read the note, and my initial impression of the first 10 chapters was that I had agreed to read something written by a sympathizer. Readers, let me be clear, this is not the case! Once I was aware that Fein sought to create a narrative that encapsulated the coming of age and the onset of critical thinking in a young woman who was raised indoctrinated into the Nazi ideology, this actually became a particularly enjoyable story. Watching Hetty grow up, grow aware of the lies, and grow rebellious, all of it urged along by the innocence of young love and human connection made for a deeply emotional reading experience.

It was discomforting at first to be reading from the perspective of someone with close ties to the SS and the Nazi party. The vast majority of the WWII fiction that I read is either from the perspective of survivors or resistance fighters, so stepping into Hetty’s shoes was a challenging experience as both her perspectives and experiences were so far from what I’ve come to expect. And as far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing.

Initially I found Hetty to be a rather spoiled and self-centred protagonist, at one point I even wrote in my notes ‘this girl is horrible.’ She makes some truly atrocious decisions that legitimately left me screaming WHY, though the sad reality is that her behaviour is exactly what was expected of upstanding citizens of the time. Thankfully, as her character develops it becomes clear that Hetty is, in fact, a good person who was just caught up in the rhetoric sweeping the nation. Every person she meets has a profound impact on her life – whether it’s the boy down the road that she seeks to protect, her friend Erna who challenges her assumptions and perceptions of the world, and even her father’s mistress who is both tearing their family apart and holding it together at the same time. Hetty ‘s personal journey is absolutely astounding, and I adored that at the end of it she occupied a glorious grey space that forced some serious introspection.

Walter too occupies some moral grey areas, though not nearly as shaded as his darling. He knowingly breaks the law, steals to feed his family, and becomes involved with a woman he doesn’t love as a means to exit the country before the war. But he is also the perfect person to challenge Hetty’s fervent belief in the Fuhrer. He is supposed to be the villain, according to everything Hetty has been raised to believe, but he is ultimately good. I really appreciated that he was a little bit older than her, and that he brought a lot of knowledge and lived experiences into their relationship. Without his intervention Hetty would still be living in a sheltered, idealistic world, blind to the realities of where the world was heading.

The contrast between the two sweethearts was exceptionally well done, and I was always on the edge of my seating wondering if they would get caught and what the repercussions would be. There was an ever-present sense of danger that mingled subtly with the realities of two teens falling in forbidden love. Everything about it felt so dang real!

I should note that I was thrown, though, buy the casual ways in which Hetty, a teenaged girl was talking about concentration camps as early as 1933. This prompted m to put down the book and take a short visit to some online newspaper archives, where I quickly discovered that these camps were indeed common knowledge and even the frequent subject of publications and speeches for many years before the onset of the war. And by golly, I do love it when not only does a book make me question pretty much everything, but also when I walk away from a work of fiction having learned something real.

If you’re looking for some WWII fiction from a different perspective and that will challenge you in a multitude of ways, give People Like Us a try! This character driven story will works it’s way under your skin and leave you wanting more.


About the Author

Author photo-2Louise Fein holds an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary’s University. Prior to studying for her master’s, she ran a commodity consultancy business following a career in banking and law. She lives in Surrey with her family. People Like Us is inspired by her family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early 30s and today.

Follow her:

Twitter: @FeinLouise

Facebook: @LouiseFeinAuthor


Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/39e2cLP

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/2KRRMYV

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2DcJEOA

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2OM1iy7

Follow Head of Zeus

Website: www.headofzeus.com

Twitter: @HoZ_Books

Facebook: @headofzeus

Instagram: @headofzeus


Many thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

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Fein_People Like Us_Blog Tour Poster 2

 

 

 

#BlogTour: The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir @OrendaBooks @GoldsboroBooks #TheCreakOnTheStairs

FINAL Creak on Stairs BT PosterToday I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Borg Ægisdottir. If you’re a fan of gripping, emotional reads and have discovered the dark and nuanced wonders that are Icelandic Noir, then read on my friends, because this baby is absolutely fantastic!


Creak on the Stairs CoverTitle: The Creak on the Stairs

Author: Eva Bjorg Ægisdottir

Translator: Victoria Cribb

Publisher: Goldsboro Books, Orenda Books

Publication Date: May 28, 2020

Genre: Crime Fiction, Icelandic Noir

Themes: Murder, Grief, Small Communities


Synopsis

 The first in the electrifying new Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs is an exquisitely written, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric debut thriller by one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents 

When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area. 

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day… 

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it ’s too late. 


Review

I’m going to jump right out of the gate and start off by saying that this book reads neither like a debut nor a translation. It is absolutely impeccable! The prose it gripping and lyrical, the pacing is spot on, and every page is steeped in the delectably dark style that has come to define Icelandic Noir. I have one word for you – Wowza!

I particularly enjoyed the complexity of the case – the mystery surrounding the woman in the water, the fear of approaching an influential family, and the steady deployment of timely twists. This isn’t a fast paced story by any means, but it has a slow burn intensity that will sneak up on you and consume you whole. It’s the kind of book where you start of off thinking you’ll read a chapter with breakfast on a Saturday and five hours later your dog is begging for it’s second walk and none of the laundry has gotten done.

Elma was an easy character to become invested in. She’s obviously hurting after the end of her relationship and has returned home to recover and regroup. The sadness at her loss and the discomfort of returning to a place that is no longer familiar or safe was so beautifully depicted that the empathy it evoked was almost instantaneous. Nothing is overdramatized, not even the tension between Elma and her sister, and as a result the subtle styling provides a soft entry point for some deep characterization.

I was immediately drawn in by the dual POV between Elma and the young girl from the past. The tension created between these scenes sets a chilling atmosphere steeped in mystery and deep emotion. On one had you have a child who has obviously suffered a series of traumas that will somehow affect the case being investigated, and on the other hand you have Elma who has returned to the small town she once so desperately sought to escape after the end of a serious relationship. Naturally Elma assumes that Akranes will be a quieter beat than Reykjavik, but she’s quickly thrown into a heavy case involving a murdered woman, a lying husband, and one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the area.

Without giving anything away, this review would not be complete without talking about the ending. Sure, the crime is wrapped up neat and tidy, but there are so many loose ends that it left me spitting fire. First I was fuming at the ending, and then I was cursing at the author when I realized that this was no mistake, but actually a subtle draw-you-in-to-the-series invitation for the novels to come. It’s so well done! Akranes might be a small town, but anyone who’s from one knowns, they’re not nearly as sleepy as we make them out to be. And whoa baby, I think Forbidden Iceland is going to be one of those series that I impatiently await every time a new title is released.

Would I recommend this book? Oh heck yes! It’s gritty, raw, and real in ways that hit uncomfortably close to home. I genuinely think Eva Bjorg Ægisdottir is one to watch. This is book is a fantastic start and I’m sure this series is only going to pick up steam and keep getting better and better!


About the Author

Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir Author PicBorn in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland. 

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten. 


Many thanks to Anne Cater at Orenda Books for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Promo: The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence @fictionpubteam @Mark__Lawrence #TheGirlAndTheStars

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Today I’m delighted to be hosting a Promo stop on the blog tour for Mark Lawrence’s latest fantasy novel The Girl and the Stars. Set in the same world as Red Sister this looks to be the cracking start to an incredible new series.


The Girl and the Stars Cover


Synopsis

East of the Black Rock, out on the ice, lies a hole down which broken children are thrown. 

On the vastness of the ice there is no room for individuals. No one survives alone. 

To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is different. 

Torn from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her life with, Yaz has to carve a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of danger. 

Beneath the ice, Yaz will learn that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. 

She will learn that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she will learn to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people. 

Only when it’s darkest can you see the stars. 


About the Author

Mark Lawrence Author picMark Lawrence was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. His first trilogy, The Broken Empire, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy, and both The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim have won the Gemmell Legend award for best fantasy novel. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol. 


Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Review: The Carer by Deborah Moggach @TinderPress #RandomThingsTours

The Carer BT Poster

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing a review for my stop on the blog tour for The Carer by Deborah Moggach. If you’re a fan of hilarious, moving, and delightfully critical contemporary fiction then look no further – this might just be the one for you!


The Carer CoverTitle: The Carer

Author: Deborah Maggoch

Publisher: Tinder press

Publication Date: May 14, 2020 (Paperback)

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Themes: Aging, Loss, Family


Synopsis

From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns:

James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss.

Then something extraordinary happens which throws everything into new relief, changing all the stories of their childhood – and the father – that they thought they knew so well.


Review

Beneath the humour and levity of a family drama The Carer delivers a delicate story about growing old, growing up, letting go, and letting others in. Every relationship is inextricably complex – whether this is between James and his children, Robert and Phoebe, the siblings and their partners, or the siblings and Mandy – and the result is story that takes you to completely unexpected places while keeping you on the familiar ground of deep characterization.

Each page peels back the layers of our players, revealing what makes them tick and the veritable array of baggage that they’ve collected over the years. From Robert’s failed career in the city to his struggles as a writer, and Phoebe’s failing art career to her prover herself as desirable, Maggoch masterfully highlights the similarities and dynamics that often drive us to confrontation. And I just love it when the characters in contemporary fiction feel real. Like, so real you either know them or were them at some point in your life. For me, the sibling rivalry was everything! The baggage, the characterizations, the minute details grudges being held for decades – I simply couldn’t stop laughing.

But there’s so much more than just Robert and Phoebe’s dynamic that resonated with me on a personal level – the complexities of old age, the emotional minefield that can accompany hiring live-in care to aid a relative, and subtle micro-aggressions that often go overlooked because we’ve become accustomed to them. And I can’t talk about this book without mentioning how masterfully Maggoch brings James to life, and at all stages of his life. We don’t just see him as a feeble old man, but also during his heyday as an academic and the secrets he accrued along the way. Yet at the end of it, James lets Mandy into his life in a way that Robert and Phoebe have never enjoyed themselves, lets her in on his secrets and even starts creating some of their own. Naturally this spurns some serious envy and creates for a very dynamic read.

It is a story of stereotypes and common pitfalls, as well as one of surprises and unexpected turns. Buoyed along by gentle humour and undeniable realism this touching tale of family dynamics and complex relationships will leave you introspective. It’s poignant, wry, and an absolute delight to read.

Highly recommended!


About the Author

Deborah Moggach Author Pic

Deborah Moggach, OBE is an English novelist and an award-winning screenwriter. She has written nineteen novels, including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish Thing, Heartbreak Hotel and Something to Hide. She lives in London.


Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

 

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Extract: In Two Minds by K. T. Findlay @rararesources #HistoricalFiction

In Two Minds

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for K.T. Findlay’s medieval historical fiction novel In Two Minds. If you’re a fan on time-slip novels or alternative history, check out the excerpt below!


In Two Minds CoverTitle: In Two Minds

Series: The Prince Wulfstan Series

Author: K. T. Findlay

Publication Date: November 1, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction, Alternative History

Themes: Medieval History, Time Displacement


Synopsis

Hurled twelve hundred years into the past, into someone else’s body, things could hardly be worse. And then the body’s owner wanted it back…

Museum curator Thomas and ten year old Anglo Saxon Wulfstan have to cope with a fifty year age gap, a huge culture clash and never knowing from one moment to the next who’s going to be in control.

As they’re trying to come to terms with it all, they inadvertently antagonise Wulfstan’s father, King Offa of Mercia. The King is already frustrated with his son’s “late” development and issues the boy a challenge. Wulfstan is given just a year to find and train ten slaves who can beat the King’s own champions in a fight to the death, but there’s a twist.

When his son accepts the challenge, Offa turns the screws to make him back down and limits him to females only. In the brute strength world of Anglo Saxon battle they surely haven’t a chance, but Thomas convinces Wulfstan that if they can find the right people, a few new ideas and enough practice might just give those women the tools to become the heroes Wulfstan so desperately needs.


Extract

The extract takes place in the palace market the day after Rowena and Berthilda have joined Thomas and Wulfstan’s team. They’re taking advantage of the fact the market sells the best horses in the country.

‘Now,” he said, “I believe you’re a pretty good horsewoman too. Let’s go and choose our mounts.’

Being the palace marketplace with the King in residence, some of the finest horses in the country were there. They did an initial check of all three horse merchants to see just what was on offer, before they settled down to the selection process.

‘We’ll start with one for you Hengist.’ said Wulfstan.

‘But I already have a horse Your Highness.’ said Hengist.

‘That’s true, but he’s your personal mount. I’m going to get you one specifically for our challenge. That way, if anything happens to it, you’ll still have your own. Now, go and choose one, and don’t worry about the money. You can get your own back on my father at this point!’ he laughed.

Hengist grinned, a little sheepishly, then picked out a beautiful piebald stallion that at 14 hands was one of the biggest in the country. He also seemed to have a mind of his own, but Hengist was confident he could handle him.

Rowena fell for an almost pure white gelding. The horse was beautifully muscled, yet gentle in nature. When she was astride it, with her glorious red hair and pale complexion, the effect was otherworldly.

Berthilda chose a lovely roan gelding with three white feet. He wasn’t quite as good looking as the other two horses, but handsome enough and Berthilda sensed something in him. He in turn seemed to bond almost instantly with her.

That left Wulfstan, but at this precise moment he found himself outside the body again, watching Thomas.

‘Bother! I could get really tired of this!’ he shouted. ‘Oh well, we both want the same one, so go get him Thomas.’

From the moment they’d seen him, Thomas and Wulfstan’s hearts had settled on an almost pure black gelding. Its muscles rippled under the sheen of its coat as it stood proud and aloof, held by the merchant’s servant.

The boy was bored and began to play a game, tossing the end of the lead rope into the air and catching it in the same hand. The higher he tossed it, the less accurate he became, and eventually he got it wrong. The end knot landed heavily on the horse’s nose, causing it to flick its head in alarm. The boy took the blow full in the face and was sent flying. The merchant rushed up and prepared to strike the horse with his whip, but Thomas leapt between them and held up his hand to stop him.

‘Your Highness!’ called Hengist. ‘You should stay back! He could flatten you!’

Thomas turned slowly to face the horse, who watched him warily. He held out his hands in front of him, open, showing he had nothing in them before taking a step slowly towards the animal. The horse stepped skittishly away, keeping the distance the same.

Thomas cocked his head to one side, dropped his shoulder, and snaked his head gently towards it.

The horse stood still, watching carefully.

Then Thomas turned his body so he was parallel to the horse, and again cocked and snaked his head.

The horse remained still.

Another couple of rounds of this and Thomas was next to the horse. He held up the back of his hand, limp, so the horse could smell him. It began to nuzzle him gently, and in turn allowed Thomas to softly stroke its nose.

Within a minute it was calm enough for Thomas to nestle his forehead into its neck. The horse lowered its own head over Thomas’ shoulder, and closed its eyes in pleasure as the little human scratched it behind the ears.

‘We’ll take him.’ said Thomas.

The others were watching him with astonishment. He shrugged his shoulders with an embarrassed smile. ‘I just behaved like a horse. I used my body like another horse would, and he understood I meant him no harm.’

‘But where did you learn how to do that?’ asked the merchant. ‘It’s like magic!’

Thomas shook his head. ‘No. Not like magic. I’ve been watching horses for a long time, and learned how they behave, how they move. I thought that if I tried to speak their language, it might help, and it did. Berthilda does it too if you watch her. That’s why she’s so good with them. They trust her.’

‘I do that?’ asked Berthilda.

‘Sort of, only you’re much better than I am. For you it’s a natural thing. You’re just not aware you do it. But how many others can ride with no reins? Very few. The reason you can, is that they trust you, and you’re directing them with your legs. That’s all they need from you. It’s a gift, but it isn’t magic.’


About the Author

In Two KT FIndlay above swing bridge 1 - CroppedK.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry and convincing the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a vital part of its job description.

Follow K.T. Findlay

Webpage : www.ktfindlay.com


Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.