Archive | March 2018

Last Letter Home – Rachel Hore – Blog Tour.

last letter home

Back of the Book : 

Italy 2016.

On holiday in Naples, Briony Wood is handed a bundle of letters. Could they shed light on the secrets of her Grandfathers wartime past ?

England 1939

mourning the sudden death of her father, Sarah Bailey returns from India to Norfolk and meets Paul , a young German who has found sanctuary there. But as their friendship deepens, the outbreak of war threatens to tear them apart …

What I think : 

2016 

Briony is a historian, she’s had a bit of stress in her life, (she’d been on a TV show, talking about women in the forces and had a bit of a hard time from the presenter and subsequently had been trolled on-line and at the college she works at. It only lasted a couple of weeks, but she felt quite traumatised by it – she had to see a shrink ) So when her best friend Aruna asks her to go on holiday with her and her boyfriend Luke and a couple of other friends, she jumped at the chance. Its turns out that the place they’re going to is the same village that her Grandfather was stationed at in the war.

Whilst on a evening walk, Briony notices a old villa at the top of the hill. Over the next couple of days she cant seem to get the villa out of her head, so she mentions its to the friendly barman in the local tavern. Who tells her that the cleaning lady at the villa they are staying at knows a lot about the villa at the top of the hill as it was in her family. Its not long before Mariella, the cleaner has sent her son to the villa with a old cine film projector. On this old film Briony sees a face that she knows very well, that face is her Grandfather. Then when Mariella finds out that Briony is a historian, she gives her a bundle of letters that were found at the villa at the top of the hill on the hope that Briony will be able to work out who Paul Harteman (the sender of the letters ) is and why they were left at the Villa on the top of the hill and how he is connected to her Grandfather …

1939

Sarah is on her way back to England from India, she is on a train from London to Norfolk. Her father has not long passed away and she is in mourning for him. She and her family had lived in India for many years, so coming back to England feels odd. Its at the new cottage in the Norfolk country side that she meets the new German gardener, Paul Harteman. Over time they strike up a friendship over their shared love of gardening. But then war breaks out and Paul has to leave, what will happen to their budding friendship and will Sarah ever see Paul again … ?

I loved the two time-lines in the book and how they both intertwined with past and present. I must admit at times I did find this book a little hard going and I did wonder where it was going. But, as I persevered I found myself really enjoying it.

I found the characters very well-rounded and likeable and the descriptions made me feel as if I was at the top of the hill in Italy, with the sun beating down on my face. I also thought It was really well researched – especially the war time parts.

I thought it was a very well written heart-warming tale of love and loss. Although I did find it really long !

A fab read, I give it a well earned 8/10

4stars

Published on 22/03/18 by Simon & Schuster.

A huge Thank you to Sara-Jade Virtue and Hayley Mcmullen at Simon & Schuster for the review copy of the book in return for an honest review.

And here for your reading pleasure is the first chapter of the book.

Extract :

They call it a storm and after days of it she felt storm-tossed,
clinging to the wreckage of her life, each new attack dashing
against her with a force that left her bruised and gasping. She
might have borne it if it had simply been words, painful, devastating
words though they were, words that cruelly shredded
her self-worth, her professional reputation, her trust in her own
judgment, her identity as a woman, but it was more than that;
her sense of safety was threatened.
It had been her first time in a television studio, Jolyon Gunn’s
late night chat show, and she’d been invited on at the last minute
because one of his guests had been taken ill. Probably with fear.
Narcissistic Jolyon was not known for his charm, though this
seemed only to boost the ratings.
‘And we welcome historian Briony Wood, who is writing a
book about World War Two, is that correct, love?’
‘Yes, it’s to be called Women Who Marched Away. It’s about the
ATS, the women’s infantry service during—‘
‘Sounds smashing,’ he cut in. Jolyon did not have a long
attention span. ‘Briony’s here to talk about the news that lady

soldiers will now be fighting on the front line. Briony, I know
this will be contentious but, really, war is a job for the lads, isn’t
it?’
‘Not at all. There are plenty of examples of fighting women
going right back to the Amazons. Or think of Boudicca or
Joan of Arc.’ Briony tried not to sound strident, but the sight of
so many men in the audience, some of whom had nodded in
agreement at Jolyon’s words, meant she had to speak with confidence.
Dazzled by the studio lights, she blinked at her host,
who lounged lord-like in his leather director’s chair with his
short legs spread, suave in a designer suit, his fat Rolex watch
glinting. He smirked back at her and rubbed his neat black
beard.
‘Surely they’re exceptions, though, Briony, and we remember
what those Amazon ladies had to do to use their bows, don’t
we?’ He made a slashing gesture to his chest and winked and
there were shouts of male laughter. ‘You see it’s not natural,
women fighting, they’re not shaped for anything apart from
pulling out each other’s hair.’
More bayings of amusement.
Briony drew herself up and glared at him. ‘That simply
demonstrates their determination. Anyway, just because something
is ‘natural’ doesn’t make it right. Warfare itself is natural,
after all. But, Jolyon, surely our discussion should be about psychology
and the social conditioning around gender . . .’
The word gender made Jolyon straighten and his eyes filled
with a mad light. Briony realized she’d walked right into a trap.
This was a populist show and outspoken Jolyon had a huge following
among a certain sort of male, but it was too late to retract
her words, she’d look weak and stupid. She was suddenly
acutely aware of how schoolmarmish she must appear, her light
brown hair tied in a knot at her nape, her charcoal-coloured

sheath dress smart and understated rather than fashionable,
even with the soft blue scarf coiled about her shoulders.
‘The girls aren’t tough enough, Briony. They’ll cry, and fuss
about their lipstick.’ The audience howled with laughter at this,
though there were one or two hisses of disapproval as well.
‘I’d like to see you on a battlefield,’ she snapped. ‘You’d not
hack it for a second compared to some of the brave women I
interviewed for my book.’
There were shouts from the floor and several men rose to
their feet. One shook his fist at Briony. Jolyon himself stared at
her with a pasted-on grin, for a moment lost for words. Only for
a moment, though.
‘Thank you, Briony Wood,’ he pronounced with mock surprise.
‘I think she’s just called me a coward, guys! Isn’t that
smashing?’
Escaping into the rainy night, Briony switched on her phone
to be greeted by a tattoo of alerts as the messages flew in. She
opened her Twitter app with trepidation. As she read the first
notifications, her eyes widened with horror.
You ugly cow cum the war you’ll be first against the wall.
Our Jolyon’s tuffer than any wimmin.
The third was merely a string of obscenities that brought her
hand to her mouth.
The phone then rang. A name she recognized. She swiped
at the screen.
‘Aruna?’ She glanced about the lonely South London backstreet
and began to walk briskly towards the main road.
‘Don’t look at any messages. Specially not Twitter.’ Briony
heard the panic in her friend’s voice.
Too late. ‘Oh, Aruna. Why did I say it? How can I have been
so stupid?’

It’s not your fault, he was awful, the pits. I’m sorry I ever
gave his people your name. Listen, where are you?’
‘Clapham. I’ve just left the studio.’ Briony turned onto the
high street and startled at a trio of youths in leather jackets who
swaggered laughing out of a brightly lit pub. They brushed past,
not even seeing her. ‘What did you say?’
‘Don’t faff about with public transport. Get a cab.’ Aruna
sounded urgent. ‘Go straight home, then ring to tell me you’re
safe.’
Men from Jolyon’s audience were beginning to emerge from
the studio front door. They hadn’t spotted her yet, but their
coarse gestures and rough laughter frightened her. Briony
pulled her scarf up over her hair and began to hurry.
Aruna came to her flat in Kennington that night, and Briony
was glad because the next morning the abusive messages
were still pouring in. At first, despite Aruna’s protests, she
read them, answered the more reasonable or supportive ones,
deleted others, sobbed with rage, but on they came. Finally,
Aruna made her suspend her Twitter and Facebook accounts
and told her to avoid the internet altogether. She did read a
blog piece Aruna found, from a female politician who’d suffered
similar attacks. ‘Eventually the cyber trolls will tire and
retreat to their lairs,’ the woman concluded. The advice was
to ‘stay strong’.
‘It’s all very well to say,’ Briony sighed. She wished her father
and stepmother weren’t on holiday. She could have done with
a bolthole.
The ‘staying strong’ strategy might have worked had not the
furore been stoked by Jolyon Gunn himself. When she sneaked
back online that evening it was to find some stinging comments
about her ‘prudish’ appearance being the reason she was still

It’s not your fault, he was awful, the pits. I’m sorry I ever
gave his people your name. Listen, where are you?’
‘Clapham. I’ve just left the studio.’ Briony turned onto the
high street and startled at a trio of youths in leather jackets who
swaggered laughing out of a brightly lit pub. They brushed past,
not even seeing her. ‘What did you say?’
‘Don’t faff about with public transport. Get a cab.’ Aruna
sounded urgent. ‘Go straight home, then ring to tell me you’re
safe.’
Men from Jolyon’s audience were beginning to emerge from
the studio front door. They hadn’t spotted her yet, but their
coarse gestures and rough laughter frightened her. Briony
pulled her scarf up over her hair and began to hurry.
Aruna came to her flat in Kennington that night, and Briony
was glad because the next morning the abusive messages
were still pouring in. At first, despite Aruna’s protests, she
read them, answered the more reasonable or supportive ones,
deleted others, sobbed with rage, but on they came. Finally,
Aruna made her suspend her Twitter and Facebook accounts
and told her to avoid the internet altogether. She did read a
blog piece Aruna found, from a female politician who’d suffered
similar attacks. ‘Eventually the cyber trolls will tire and
retreat to their lairs,’ the woman concluded. The advice was
to ‘stay strong’.
‘It’s all very well to say,’ Briony sighed. She wished her father
and stepmother weren’t on holiday. She could have done with
a bolthole.
The ‘staying strong’ strategy might have worked had not the
furore been stoked by Jolyon Gunn himself. When she sneaked
back online that evening it was to find some stinging comments
about her ‘prudish’ appearance being the reason she was still

single in her late thirties. His fans, thinking this hilarious, all
joined in.
‘Prudish? When have I ever been prudish?’ Briony gasped.
Never mind Aruna’s reassurances, this was unfair.
It had been a quiet Easter for news and the second morning
after the ill-starred chat show she emerged, a bag of student
essays in hand, to hear a man bellow, ‘Briony! Over here!’ She
turned and was blinded by a camera flash. ‘Give us a quote
about Jolyon, love,’ he said, with a cheerful grin. Panicking, she
fumbled her way back indoors and watched him drive off. She’d
leave going in to college till tomorrow.
Later that day Aruna rang to warn that someone had posted
her home address on Twitter. They knew where she lived now,
the trolls. On the third morning, an anonymous postcard with a
picture of a clenched fist on it arrived in the post. She was now
too frightened to go out and made Aruna, who’d popped by with
some shopping, tell a group of teenagers loitering on the pavement
to clear off. Aruna’s dark bobbed hair flew in the wind as
the youngsters stared back in innocent puzzlement at her earnest,
pointed face. Briony realized with embarrassment that she was
being paranoid. After Aruna had gone, an avuncular policeman
showed up and settled his bulk on Briony’s sofa, where he sipped
tea and recited comforting platitudes about the online threats.
She rang Gordon Platt, her department head, for advice, but
he sounded flustered, muttered about the college’s reputation
and told her not to come into work for a few days ‘for security
reasons’. She ended the call feeling let down and marooned.
‘It’ll all go away soon,’ Aruna told her again. ‘If you keep your
head down they’ll soon get bored.’
Aruna was right. The attention melted away as quickly as
it had begun. There was other news. The trolls found new victims.
It was safe for her to come out.

The trouble was that for a long while after that she didn’t feel
safe at all.
She still dragged herself into work, but felt overwhelmed.
It wasn’t simply the usual heavy workload, the administration
she had to do on top of teaching and her own research, it was
anxiety about getting any of it done. The headaches that had
been bothering her for some time became more frequent. They
would start at the base of her skull and creep up to her temples
and behind her eyes so that sometimes students or colleagues
might find her collapsed on the tiny sofa in her office, as she
waited for the painkillers to kick in.
Eventually her doctor referred her to a counsellor. A few
weeks later, she found herself in a peaceful upstairs room
scented with lavender, sitting opposite a supple, elegant woman
with a thin, wise face. Her name, appropriately, was Grace.
‘I feel I’ve struggled so hard all my life,’ Briony told Grace
when she’d finished explaining why she’d come. ‘Now I don’t
know what it’s for any more. I’ve lost all my confidence.’
Grace nodded and made a note then looked at Briony with
eyebrows raised, waiting.
‘Everything’s a huge effort.’ Her voice caught in her throat, so
that ‘effort’ came out as a whisper.
‘Tell me about the other things in your life, Briony; your
family, for instance, what you enjoy doing when you’re not
working.’
Briony briefly covered her face with her hands, then took
a breath so deep it hurt. ‘My mum died of cancer when I was
fourteen. She wasn’t ill for long, but it was an awful time and
then she simply wasn’t there any more. It was like this huge
hole.’
‘That must have been dreadful.’ Grace’s sympathy encouraged
her.

‘What was worst was there was no one I could talk to. Dad
thought we should just get on with things, be practical, and I
tried to be like Mum with my brother, which he hated. Will’s
younger than me. He’s married with two kids and living up
north because of his job. We’re fond of each other, but we’re not
close.’
‘And you don’t have a partner of your own? Children?’
Briony shook her head. ‘I . . . it simply hasn’t happened for
me, I don’t know why. Nothing’s quite clicked. It doesn’t bother
me, exactly, I have lots of friends but, well, sometimes I think it
would be nice.’
Grace stirred and smiled. ‘If you are open to it, then it might
happen,’ she said, her eyes shining.
‘What do you mean?’ It sounded mysterious and a little
patronizing, to tell the truth. She explained crossly how relationships
had fizzled out, though she’d felt perfectly ‘open’ to
them continuing.
Grace simply smiled in that slightly maddening way. ‘We
can talk more about that. I think you should slow down a bit,
Briony. Say ‘no’ more often and try to do things that you enjoy.
And perhaps the next time we meet we should start by talking
about your mother.’
Briony nodded, wondering how all this could help her, but
the doctor had said Grace was good, and she liked the sense of
peace that the room imparted, so she agreed to visit again.
Over the course of the next few months she found herself
telling Grace about how abandoned she’d felt by her mother’s
death, how it had been the sudden end of her childhood. Grace
pointed out the importance of other losses – her mother’s parents
only a few years before, how her brother Will had learned
self-sufficiency and their father had finally married again.
Perhaps, Grace suggested gently, Briony had developed her

own defensive shell that stopped her letting anyone in. And the
trolling experience had traumatized her so much because of the
stress she was already under.
After her eight weeks of seeing Grace, she sensed that something
tightly coiled, like a steel spring, inside her was beginning
to unfurl. There were still days when she would relive her
ordeal, and feel frightened and powerless again, but these
became fewer. She was beginning to come through.

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thumbnail_Rachel Hore Author Photo

Hold My Hand – M.J. Ford.

hold my hand

Back of the book : 

How long do you hunt for the missing ?

When Josie Masters sees a boy in a red football shirt being led away by a clown at a circus, she tries desperately to alert the crowds whilst his terrified parents panic. But it’s too late.

Dylan Jones has disappeared ….

Thirty years later, Josie is working as a police officer in Bath. The remains of a child’s body have been found – complete with the tatters of a red torn football shirt.

Could it be the boy she saw on the night of the circus ?

Or is it someone else altogether ?

And then another child vanishes ….

 

What I think : 

Josie is eight years old when she goes to the circus/fair with her big brother Paul. They were supposed to stay together, but Paul wanted to go off on his own and meet his Girlfriend. Josie was left on her own, she was going to meet some friends but she couldn’t find them.

It’s as she’s wandering around the fair that she sees a young boy of about her own age. He’s wearing a bright red football shirt, exactly like the one she’d asked her parents for at Christmas but never got. They play the same sideshow together. Then they go their separate ways. Sometime later, just before she goes to meet her brother, she sees Dylan again, but this time he’s with someone dressed as a clown. The clown is holding Dylan’s hand and he leading him away. Its about five minutes after that, that Josie sees Dylan’s mum looking everywhere for him.

Dylan has gone missing …

Dylan was never found …

Fast forward thirty years later and Josie is now a detective in the Bath Police.

Things haven’t been going very well for Josie, she’s just recently split with her boyfriend, who just so happens to be her superior at work, so that’s slightly awkward, her mum’s not well and she doesn’t see her brother and his family as much as she should. And her body clock is ticking very loudly, she really badly wants a child, so much so that she’s looking into IVF on her own.

Then a body is found by builders working on a derelict house, and it’s a body of a small boy and that body is wearing a red football shirt …

Have they finally found Dylan after him being missing for thirty years ?

Then another child goes missing, could it have been the same person as all those years ago ?

I really enjoyed this debut novel, I did find it slightly slow to start with and did wonder where it was going, however after about a quarter of the book, it steps up a bit and I really started to enjoy it.

It very twisty and turny and there’s loads of information thrown in, just to keep you on your toes ! I must admit I did feel quite sorry for Josie in places. She’s doing a very tough job in a man’s world, which I think means that she had to work that bit harder just to get the recognition that she deserved.

All in all a fab thriller with an excellent twist, which I must admit, when it happened, I didn’t see coming in a million years ! I did gasp out loud !

I give this brilliant first novel 9/10 and very much look forward to the next one.

5 gold stars

Published by Avon Books on 08/03/18

A huge Thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon for the review copy of the book.