#BlogTour #Review: The Amber Maze by Christopher Bowden @rararesources

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I’m alive! Kind of… or rather I have unearthed myself from unpacking boxes long enough to shout my praises for Christopher Bowden’s latest noir gem in the blog tour for The Amber Maze. Subtle and nuanced, I constantly found myself caught off guard as to how much this little books packs in. This isn’t your typical hardboiled case, but it’s most certainly the kind of cozy fire-side read that will keep you on the edge of your seat ad your mind racing to make connections.

Bowden Amber Maze SelectedTitle: The Amber Maze

Author: Christopher Bowden

Publisher: Amolibros

Publication Date: September 6, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noir Fiction

Themes: Friendship, Family, Relationships

Features: Features for the author’s other books.

My Rating: 4/ 5


The Amber Maze

While staying in a Dorset cottage, Hugh Mullion finds a mysterious key down the side of an antique chair. No one can say how long the key has been there or what it opens.

Hugh’s search for answers will unlock the secrets of the troubled life of a talented artist, destined to be hailed a neglected genius fifty years too late. And no secret is darker than that of The Amber Maze, from whose malign influence he never escaped.

The trail takes Hugh from Edwardian Oxfordshire to 1960s Camden Town, where the ghosts of the past are finally laid to rest.

Delicately crafted noir fiction at its best.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0955506751

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Amber-Maze-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B07FRH481F/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532280455&sr=1-1&keywords=the+amber+maze

Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-amber-maze/christopher-bowden/9780955506758

Smash words – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/880652

My Review

At just 119 pages, The Amber Maze covers a lot of ground. Touching on everything from crime to coming of age, and from complicated family dynamics to uncovering a contemporary mystery, there’s a little of something for everyone. One word of warning though, Bowden makes regular references to characters and events from his other works, particularly The Blue Book, and if you’re unfamiliar with them there are some occasional moments of confusion. However, so long as you’re willing to accept these references as implied backstory, it makes for a most pleasant read.

And can I just mention how much I loved the fact that books were at the centre of this narrative? The constant references to the types of bindings, vintage bookstores, personal collections, and missing volumes seriously made me miss my research days. I was chomping at the bit to swap places with Hugh and the archivist and get back to hunting down missing pieces and making sense of the muddle. Needless to say, the part of me that wrote a Masters dissertation reconstructing the reading network of a single book was very happy!

I enjoyed Hugh’s tenacity and persistence in finding the answer to his little mystery. Too many people would find an old key in an old chair and pass it off as quaint and walk away. But not Hugh. Thankfully his wife is quietly supportive – even though she gets her kicks out of bugging him – and his circle of friends are always willing to assist where they can. And who couldn’t love Hester with her pantaloon’s and adventure filled life? Although, I was surprised at her forthrightness when it came to disclosing family information. Perhaps it was because of her willingness to share all other information, that I found it infuriating when she was guarded when discussing Lionel’s art and family life. But I suppose that’s what makes both of their characters intriguing.

The art connection too, was something that I really enjoyed. There was as much intrigue in tracking down the various works of art throughout the book as there was in the mystery of Lionel’s life itself. The descriptions of his work were succinct and easy to visualize and I was left wanting to track down an abstract art exhibition in my area. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the select group of collectors that was upset by the retrospective of his work, but understood Lionel’s desire for anonymity in life after his involvement with The Amber Maze, and the actions of it’s members.

Although not as intense and twisty as I have come to expect from the noir genre, this baby ticks all of the boxes in a subtle and understated way. There’s enough crime, intrigue, and philandering in the past to drive the inquest at the present; the characters are developed and believable; and multiple plots are woven together to create an utterly engaging story. The Amber Maze is well worth the read.

About The Author

CHB 009 Christopher Bowden lives in south London. The Amber Maze is the sixth of his colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay

Social Media Links : https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90

Many thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join in this tour, and to Christopher Bowden for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Amber Maze

#BlogTour #Review: Leo’s War by Patricia Murphy #WWIILit #ChildrensLit #MiddleGradeFiction @rararesources

Leos War - AlternativeToday I’m honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for Patricia Murphy’s latest middle grade masterpiece, Leo’s War. Packed full of facts and juicy tidbits, this adventure into the Rome Escape Line is sure to capture the hearts and imaginations of readers of all ages.

Leo's War - Poolbeg cover - FOR PRINTTitle: Leo’s War

Author: Patricia Murphy

Publisher: Poolbeg Press

Publication Date: August 1, 2018

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Children’s Fiction, WWII Fiction, Historical Fiction

Themes: Friendship, Family, Survival, War

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5 / 5


It’s 1943 and young Leo tries to protect his disabled sister Ruby as the Nazis invade Italy. After his mother is arrested, he turns to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty to save them. But he is no ordinary priest. Known as ‘The Pimpernel of the Vatican’, the Monsignor is the legendary organizer of the Rome Escape Line. Soon Leo is helping out with this secret network dedicated to saving the lives of escaped prisoners of war, partisans and Jews. But as the sinister Nazi leader Kappler closes in on the network, can Leo and his sister stay out of his evil clutches?

Purchase Links





My Review

What can I say about Leo’s War that hasn’t already been said during this tour? After all, it’s pretty darned amazing! Packed full of action, emotionally gripping, rooted in history, and a damned good story, this is the kind of book that will appeal to readers of all ages.

I loved how each character was crafted – distinct and with their quirks, yet entirely age appropriate. I was completely enamoured by Leo’s tenacity and spunk, and was won over for the depth of love and dedication that he had for his family. It was important to see those moments where he was human and weak, that it was okay to be frightened  and to cry, and that he was often flying by the seat of his pants. I found the balance between his grit and the natural vulnerability of his age made him a really likeable and believable character – I only wish they didn’t have to dye his beautiful red hair! Regardless, Leo’s wit and humour were the perfect boyish counter to the ever awful actions of Spitler and Muscle-Weeny!

Ruby was another character that I found to be particularly well crafted. I adored her imagination and optimism despite the horrors of war, and love how she acted as Leo’s conscience and anchor despite being absent for much of the story. I think her Cerebral Palsy brings to light a lot of salient discussion points, especially how children treat other’s with differences and the lengths to which Hitler went to cleanse his master race.

And who could leave out Monsignor Hugh? He provided the perfect (no pun intended) father figure for Leo in the absence of his downed-fighter-pilot dad, and provided a distinctly good moral compass by which to navigate a turbulent time despite the means and opportunities to be lead astray. I appreciated his persistence in the belief that good will prevail and his willingness to help those being persecuted even at great personal costs. I did, however, question his willingness to use a young boy as a messenger in his schemes despite the fact that Leo wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And how can I talk about Leo’s War without talking about the writing? It was absolutely spot on! It took me a few chapters to put on my middle grade reading hat, but once that was firmly in place everything just seemed to click. The thoughts and actions were relatable and believable, atrocities were horrible but too graphic, and trials were serious but not insurmountable – ultimately this is the kind of book that I would actively be seeking to include in a school library! I appreciated how the vocabulary was at times challenging but never obtusely difficult, and how there was a sampling from several different languages (always with translations). Ane I really, REALLY loved Leo’s phonemic nicknames for the higher-ups in the war.

My only complaint is that Leo’s War is a little on the long side. At 403 pages it might scare away some more insecure readers. However, that does’t mean it isn’t an amazing choice for advanced readers during novels and lit circles – it just means that while I would want this sucker on my shelves, I might not be recommending it to those just finding their independent reading legs… For seasoned adult readers though this one is a heck yes!

Engaging, endearing, and utterly gripping this is the kind of book I wish I’d read more of as a kid. Murphy strikes a perfect balance between fact and fiction, terror and hope, as well as character building and action as to create an immersive experience that can be enjoyed by all. Would I recommend it? oh hells to the yes! Let us all read more books like these to prevent the likes of Spitler and Muscle-Weeny from ever leading the masses again.


Giveaway to win a £30 Amazon Gift Voucher (Open to UK Only)


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

About The Author

Leos War - DSC02189Patricia Murphy is the bestselling author of The Easter Rising 1916 – Molly’s Diary and Dan’s Diary – the War of Independence 1920-22 published by Poolbeg.

She has also written the prize-winning “The Chingles” trilogy of children’s Celtic fantasy novels. Patricia is also an award winning Producer/Director of documentaries including Children of Helen House, the BBC series on a children’s hospice and Born to Be Different Channel 4’s flagship series following children born with disabilities. Many of her groundbreaking programmes are about children’s rights and topics such as growing up in care, crime and the criminal justice system. She has also made a number of history programmes including Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4 and has produced and directed films for the Open University.

Patricia grew up in Dublin and is a graduate in English and History from Trinity College Dublin and of Journalism at Dublin City University. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and young daughter.

Social Media Links

Website: https://www.patriciamurphyonline.com

Twitter: @_PatriciaMurphy

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Leos-War-Irelands-Secret-World-War-2-Hero-714055598929732

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Mollys-Diary-The-1916-Rising-277254289106782/

Many thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join in this tour, and to Patricia Murphy for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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