A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys #GuestReview @JoannaLouisePar

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Today I’m thrilled to welcome Joanna Park who is going to help me out with some guest reviews. We found each over on Twitter, Jo posts her reviews to Goodreads so I asked Jo if she fancied writing some guest reviews and she very kindly agreed. Passionate about books, an avid reader and a lovely lady to boot, Jo will fit in perfectly on my blog. Please give a warm welcome to Jo and here’s her first ever guest review. 

Book description

Sparkling cocktails, poisonous secrets …

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

IMG_1712Welcome aboard The Orontes for a fun filled glamorous crossing to Australia! Or so it first seems to Lily Shepherd who is taking advantage of the assisted passage scheme to start a new life in Australia. Life on board is a huge adventure for Lily as her eyes are opened to new things and she meets lots of interesting people, including the colourful Campbell’s, mysterious Edward and opinionated George. However as the journey continues boredom and tension start to bubble to the surface, Lily realises the journey isn’t as idyllic as she first thought. Soon Lily discovers that its hard to really know people you’ve just met, especially when they don’t have to tell you everything about themselves.
A Dangerous Crossing is one of those books that is perfect to immerse yourself in. I simultaneously wanted to read more to find out what happens and to slow down so it never ended!
The descriptions of life on board are really vivid and makes you feel that you are experiencing all the glitz and glamour alongside Lilly and watching all the action unfold. This is especially true of the wonderful descriptions of the ports they visit along the way and that I now have a yearning to visit. I felt I was there experiencing all the hustle and bustle and seeing the fantastic sights.

There is always underlying tension to the story which makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens. As the reader slowly gets to know the characters, it becomes apparent that they all have secrets to hide and are running away from something. As the outside heat increases and boredom sets in these tensions slowly bubble to the surface and start affecting the relationships on board.

The characters are all vastly different from each other which makes for a very compelling read. It was fascinating to read about their interactions with each other especially as ordinarily they wouldn’t have socialised with each other. Some of Lilly’s interactions, especially with the Campbell’s and George had me holding my breath as I wondered what was going to happen.
There is a little bit of murder mystery in it but in my opinion this is a secondary storyline, albeit one that is the reason for an amazing ending which took me completely by surprise. It’s not a traditional whodunnit and the fact that there is a murder isn’t a surprise as we know that from the start. It’s the story about getting to the murder and the reasons behind it which helps make this such a good book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who lines historical fiction that takes you to another time or place.

Thank you to Allison Barrow and Transworld publishing for the proof copy and for The Book Review cafe for inviting me to do a guest post!

Amazon UK 🇬🇧
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Hi I’m Joanna Park. I’m a stay at home mum to two children from Malvern in Worcestershire. Any spare time I have, normally when the kids are asleep, is spent reading! I will read anything, apart from horror but my favorite is historical fiction or thrillers. I got into reviewing by accident after seeing a comment about Netgalley on Facebook but am really enjoying it and have met some great people!

Links: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/26160119-joanna-park

Twitter: @JoannaLouisePar

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**Guest Post** by J.M. Richardson author Of The Barataria Key @JMRichardson1

 

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On my blog today,  I have a very interesting guest post about the publishing industry from author J.M. Richardson, he has recently published his second book in his James Beauregard series of books, ‘The Barataria Key‘. 

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The Publishing Industry: A Blood Sport

So you’ve written a book. Congratulations. No, seriously, that’s an amazing feat. A friend and fellow author by the name of Charles Benoit once told me that out of a thousand people who say, “one day I’m going to write a book”, one person actually does it. He also said that out of every thousand of the people who do write that book, one might actually get published. And then about one percent of those fiction authors actually get to make a living from it.

You key that final period on the final sentence of the final page of your manuscript, and bask in the pride that follows such an achievement. Then you have to go back and rewrite it. You have to review, edit, polish, and proof. Now you have a brilliant final draft, and are ready to share it with the world. Anyone who has ever stood at that threshold to the publishing world will tell you that they were not quite prepared for the anguish that would follow.

The classic approach to seeing your work in print is to find an agent. Most of the big publishers in New York and London won’t even look at a manuscript that came directly from the author. You haven’t been properly vetted. The gate keepers of the mainstream publishing industry are literary agents. There are thousands of agencies, some large and some small. They are highly selective of the clients they take on, so you have to impress them—really impress them. You have to stand out among thousands of requests they receive per week. You have to have just the right query letter and appeal to just the right agent, based on what genres they prefer. Only then, once you have obtained an agent, will your book have the chance of crossing the desk of an editor at a publishing company. Home free? Nope.
That editor still sees hundreds of manuscripts a week, most ending up in what’s called the “slush pile”. A great agent will help you avoid this, but the great agents are even harder to impress. Unfortunately, I know authors who have had two and three agents, and still no publishing contract. So as hard as it is to even get an agent, it’s even harder to have your work sold to a big publishing house.

The process is brutal. Here you are a new author with a brilliant piece of literature that you’re so proud of. You’ve raised and nurtured it from infancy. You’ve watched it grow into something beautiful. Now you have to query and wait—for weeks and months—only to be told they’re not interested. No one else seems to see the beauty in your writing. You begin to question how good it actually is. You mother told you it was amazing. So did your best friend from school. Wait, wait, wait. Rejection, rejection, rejection. Now you’re properly demoralized. You’re ready to scrap it; to quit. So now, new authors, I’ve ripped your heart from your chest and performed the first act in Riverdance upon it. Do not despair. It’s 2017!

I have four novels under my belt, all released by a traditional publisher with real professional editors and typesetters, and I don’t have an agent. I don’t have a big contract with Simon and Schuster. Technology has changed the publishing industry, in much of the same way that it changed the way we get our music or watch TV or movies. Five or six years ago, words like “Indie Publishing” or “Self-Pub” were dirty words in the industry. A lot of industry folks looked down their noses at this new section of the market. They saw people published outside of the big houses as hacks who couldn’t cut it the way authors have. But really, this has turned out to be a renaissance of sorts.

Granted, there are some self-published authors out there who are unleashing some pretty terrible writing on the world. That lack of vetting and editing tarnished the reputations of up-and-coming authors such as myself in the beginning. But there were and still are a great number of authors offering wonderful works of literature, and they’re bypassing the industry giants. The invention of the e-reader and the e-book have inspired hundreds of small, traditional, royalties-paying publishing houses to whom you can submit your stuff, free of having to first impress an agent. You still have to impress the editors at the publishing company, but with so many to choose from, if your work is good, someone will give you a chance. No longer do small houses and independent publishing get snubbed. Many are being highly commended and critically acclaimed. In a world when even major celebrity musicians and comedians have begun releasing material directly through iTunes and other independent outlets, artists are no longer under the boot of industry titans. Your work may flourish. It’s still a lot of work getting new readers and building a brand. But if you really want to be an author, this is all worth it. Happy writing, my friends. Good luck.

img_1277It lurks in the shadowy recesses of the French Quarter, among the flickering gas lanterns and Creole courtyards. In the humid, teeming swamps of Barataria. A dark secret. An ancient force. The will to remake one’s history. James Beauregard finds himself at the center of an insidious conspiracy, two hundred years in the making. From the backstreets of New Orleans to the once pirate-infested waters of the Gulf Coast, the race begins to unravel the mystery of The Barataria Key.

Print Length: 175 pages
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing (21 Dec. 2016)

Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

img_1259J. M. Richardson was raised in the small town of Franklinton in southeastern Louisiana. His upbringing was one of close-knit family and community. He attended Bowling Green School, a small K-12 private school. In his early years, Richardson nurtured an interest in the arts, history, geography, writing poetry, writing competitively, and developing talents in vocals, guitar, and musical arrangement.

In 1998, he graduated from high school and enrolled in Louisiana State University, where he began course work toward a degree in secondary education with a concentration in social studies. He joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and took many courses in composition, history, sociology, and other forms of social sciences before graduating in 2003.

Richardson immediately began teaching history and sociology in Baton Rouge, LA high schools. In 2005, he married his college sweetheart, Melissa Ware, a literature major and native of Baton Rouge. They moved to the Fort Worth, TX area largely to be closer to Melissa’s ALS-stricken mother and for better economic conditions. Richardson began teaching in Keller, TX where they still reside today raising their two daughters Audrey and Elle. He still teaches in Keller where he writes his novels and enjoys the love and support of his wife and family.

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Links:

Website     Facebook     Twitter       Blogspot

Dead To Me by Lesley Pearce

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Book Description

Spring 1935. Two girls meet by chance on Hampstead Heath. To an outsider, they could not appear more different. Verity is well-mannered and smartly dressed, living with her parents in a beautiful house close to the heath. Ruby is dishevelled and grubby, used to a life of squalor where she is forced to steal to survive. Yet there’s an instant affinity between them, and when their fortunes are shockingly reversed, it is the strength of their friendship that keeps them resilient to the challenges and hardships they face.

As Britain prepares for war, Ruby finds herself in Devon with the world at her feet and enjoying her first taste of romance. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Verity is forced to leave behind everything she has ever known and a shadow from the past threatens her chances of a new beginning. But through it all, the girls are always there for each other. Until the day Verity does the one thing that will break Ruby’s heart.

In a country torn apart by fighting, will Verity and Ruby survive long enough to find a way back to each other? Or do some betrayals go with you to the grave . . .?

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Despite being a huge crime and thriller fan, (I would say 90% of the books I read are of this genre), I do love a Lesley Pearse book, I’ve read every and I mean every book she has ever written and she never fails to let me down. Dead To Me begins in spring 1935 and tells the story of Verity and Ruby, Its suffice to say the book description tells you all you need to. This is a story of friendship, resilience, challenges, hardship and most importantly the bond between two friends. Lesley Pearce has an extraordinarily talent, she is able to create such well developed characters you feel like you actually know them inside out, by the time I reached the end of Dead To Me I felt like I was saying “goodbye” to old friends. As Verity and Ruby suffer one traumatic event after another I felt so many emotions I laughed, I cried and felt so much empathy for these two characters, as I rooted for them to find their “happy ever after”.

Lesley Pearce always delivers on the plot, her story lines are well developed and flow seamlessly, rich in detail Dead To Me transports you first to the 1930’s and then to the blitz. I was captivated by the story of Verity and Ruby, as we follow their journey to adulthood, they face adversity that will test their friendship to the limits. Different as chalk and cheese Verity and Ruby life’s are changed dramatically by circumstances they have no control over, through tragedy and heartache, their friendship goes through many phases, which adds a sense of authenticity to both characters and their relationship. This is fairly long book at 512 pages, but it certainly never felt like it, as I found Dead To Me to be a compelling read, yes some parts of the story were predictable, but this in no way distracted from my enjoyment of this novel.

I really enjoyed this compelling story, the plot has plenty of depth to it with some suspense thrown it. Dead To Me is a heart-warming and evocative tale that is a real delight to read, if you are looking for a book to escape the demands of every day life for a few hours I would highly recommend you read Dead To Me.

Hardcover: 512 pages

Publisher: Michael Joseph (14 July 2016)

Amazon UK

Unravelled by Anna Scanlon

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Book Description

“No one heard us. They decided not to, to turn their heads away.

It was too much to bear. Too much to know. Too hard to swallow.

But now that the world knows, now that the world has heard, it all seems so simple, so easy to defray.

I screamed and no one heard.

Next time, will you be listening?”

Aliz and her twin sister, Hajna, are enjoying their playful, carefree and comfortable life with their parents in Szeged, Hungary just before the Nazis invade. Seemingly overnight, their lives change drastically as they are transported to the ghetto on the outskirts of the city and then to Auschwitz to be used in Mengele’s deadly twin experiments. After several months of brutal torture, Aliz is liberated to find that she is the only survivor in her family.

At not even 11 years old, Aliz must make the journey to San Francisco alone, an entire world away from everything she’s known, in order to live with her only known relatives whom she has never met– a depressed aunt and teenage cousin who is more than ready to escape her mother’s melancholy.

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As you can imagine any book that deals with such an emotive and harrowing subject isn’t going to be an easy read, and it would be an injustice to sugarcoat the atrocities of Auschwitz. I visited Bergen Belsen many years ago and the images I saw there will haunt me forever. Told through the eyes of both Aliz and her cousin Isabelle, Unravelled tells a powerful story of survival, hope, and family, as well as the atrocities of genocide, It is a truly moving piece of historical fiction, based heavily on historical facts.

Unravelled is split into three parts the first part follows Aliz and her family as they are transported to Auschwitz, torn from her family, Aliz and her twin sister soon become part of Mengeld’s deadly experiments. In this part of the book the author writes hauntingly descriptive scenes that made my blood run cold, as I knew what I was reading wasn’t a work of fiction. I found this part of the book to be heart-rending, Auschwitz was hell on earth there is no doubt about it, imagine constantly living in fear, surrounded by death and having those closes to you taken away never to be seen again, it certainly made for a harrowing and emotional  read.

Their suitcases,coats,dolls,canes, shoes, gloves,hats and sweaters strewn behind them like unwanted trash. Still summer winds blew life into the clothing and made them dance like ghosts.

The second part of Unravelled follows Aliz after she has been liberated, with no immediate family left she is sent to live in America with her aunt and cousin. Traumatised by the events of Auschwitz, Aliz struggles to lead a normal life. My heart broke for Aliz, knowing this actually happened to thousands of children made for a traumatic read. Such children did not get the support they so deserved, they weren’t encouraged to talk about their time in Auschwitz, and I couldn’t help but wonder how such children found the strength to cope with their harrowing memories.

It was as if America wanted to shut its ears, pretend that Hitler and Auschwitz had never happened

 

The third part offers some hope, it does not end on a happy note, but it shows Aliz taking tentative steps towards the future. I think this was a fitting end to a very traumatic story, and I feel the author showed great sensitivity to the plight of survivors and didn’t dress it up with “a happy ever after ending”, which wouldn’t have been at all credible with this type of story. The story was written in a very simple and direct style, but the author managed to portray the atrocities of Auschwitz in a such away it felt like I was reading a biography. I only had one small criticism, the last half of the book felt very rushed. I would have liked to have read more about Aliz “after Auschwitz, but that is my only negative. This book pulled at my heartstrings and left me an emotional wreck, but I’m so glad I read it.

Historical Note from Unravelled

It is estimated that 3000 twin children were experimented on in Auschwitz, or 1,500 pair of twins. Around 200 such children were found Alive in Auschwitz on liberation.

Paperback: 218 pages

Publisher: Key Imprints/Scanlon Media; 1 edition (20 Jan. 2014)

Kindle     Paperback

**Blog Tour** The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl

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Today its my turn on the blog tour for The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl, the tour is hosted by Jenny over at Neverland blog tours. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to read this book yet, but hopefully I will get to it soon, I do have an extract from The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall which you can read below.

Book description

Blurb: When Gemma discovers a pair of ancient duelling pistols encrusted with rubies in the basement of the local museum, she is immediately intrigued…

On a fateful night in 1838 two sisters were found shot in the cellars of Red Hill Hall. And when Gemma begins to delve deeper into their history she begins to realise that the secrets of that night are darker than anyone had ever imagined.

As the shocking events of the past begin to unravel, Gemma’s own life starts to fall apart. Loyalties are tested and suddenly it seems as if history is repeating itself, as Gemma learns that female friendships can be deadly…

AMAZON       GOODREADS

 

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Prologue

August 1838

The pain was unimaginable. Red-hot blades of it shot through Rebecca’s furiously throbbing shoulder, pumping blood across the cellar floor. She lay in agony, groaning, but managed a glance over to where Sarah lay, just a few feet away. The other girl was also bleeding profusely from a shot to her abdomen. The pair of pistols lay discarded on the floor where they had been dropped, their ruby-encrusted stocks glittering in the candlelight.

Rebecca felt strangely detached from the scene. She watched as blood from her shoulder flowed across the floor to meet with the pool that spread from Sarah’s skirts. Their life forces mingled and combined, indistinguishable from each other. It was fitting, she thought, that two women who’d been so close in life should be together as they died. For she was certain they would both die from their wounds. It was better that way. They couldn’t both live. Not after all that had happened between them, after all the hurt they had caused each other.

Sarah moaned in pain, and her eyes flickered open. Rebecca stared at her across the cellar and a wave of compassion flooded through her. She reached out a hand towards her one-time best friend and adopted sister, causing her pain level to escalate yet further. She watched as with a huge effort Sarah shifted her position and reached out too, until their fingers touched. One last heave and Rebecca was able to entwine her fingers with Sarah’s. She felt a weak squeeze in return, telling her the gesture was appreciated. Sarah groaned and sighed, and Rebecca watched as her adored sister’s eyes closed. Only then did she allow her own eyes to close as she slipped into blissful, pain-free darkness.

Spencer, the butler, had heard something. He’d been putting away the glassware used at dinner when he heard the explosion. It sounded like a shot, or rather two shots, coming almost simultaneously. He hurried along the servants’ corridor in search of the source of the noise, and spotted the door to the cellars standing open. It should have been locked shut – they kept a valuable store of wines down there. Spencer snatched up an oil lamp, rushed down the cellar steps and made his way through the labyrinth of rooms and tunnels that made up the cellars of Red Hill Hall. ‘Hello? Is anyone there?’ he called, his voice sounding shaky and nervous even to himself. Another door was standing open – the one that led to the coal store. From there a flight of steps led to the grounds of the hall. Someone could have come in – and then escaped – by that route.

At last, in an empty room beyond the wine cellar, Spencer found the source of the noise. He gasped as he angled the lamplight onto the two mounds on the floor and recognised them as Miss Rebecca and Miss Sarah. His adored Sarah – that wonderful, vivacious girl who could light up a room with her smile. Their fingers were linked together, as though they’d been holding hands when they were shot, perhaps trying to save each other.

‘Oh my word, girls, what has happened?’ he muttered as he approached. His foot kicked something, and looking round he saw one of the old master’s duelling pistols. The other one lay close by as well. He cursed himself for not keeping the pistols under lock and key. Someone had clearly got in, probably via the coal store, stolen them from where they were kept in a cupboard in the first cellar, and shot the two beautiful young ladies, whose whole lives had been ahead of them. But why had the girls been in the cellar? He shook his head. Now was not the time to ponder such things. He knelt down in the pool of still-warm blood and checked for signs of life. One of them had no pulse. There was nothing he could do for her. But the other was breathing and had a faint, if erratic, pulse. If he acted quickly, maybe, just maybe, she could be saved.

About the  author

Author Bio: Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, with her husband, sons and cats. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present., and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

When not writing or working at her full-time job in IT, she likes to go out running or swimming, both of which she does rather slowly. She is definitely quicker at writing.

You can find out more at her Website or follow her on Twitter @KathMcGurl

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