The Parisians by Marius Gabriel

The Parisians by Marius Gabriel

EXCERPT: . . . the eve of war had come as a shock. It was here suddenly, the thing they had all dreaded but not wished to look at, like the monster that lurked under the beds of children. Now, with terrifying purpose, it had clambered out and proved itself real after all.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Paris, 1940. The Nazis have occupied the city¬—and the Ritz. The opulent old hotel, so loved by Parisians, is now full of swaggering officers, their minions and their mistresses.

For American Olivia Olsen, working as a chambermaid at the hotel means denying her nationality and living a lie, every day bringing the danger of discovery closer. When Hitler’s right-hand man moves in and makes her his pet, she sees an opportunity to help the Resistance—and draw closer to Jack, her contact, whose brusque instructions may be a shield for something more…

Within the hotel, famed designer Coco Chanel quickly learns that the new regime could work to her benefit, while Arletty, one of France’s best-loved actresses, shocks those around her—and herself—with a forbidden love.

But as the war reaches its terrible end, all three women learn the true price of their proximity to the enemy. For in the shadow of war, is anyone truly safe?

MY THOUGHTS: What began as a fairly average read about a young American woman in Paris to make her name as an artist, slowly morphed into a gritty novel of surviving the war, and the German occupation of Paris, by whatever means possible.

I particularly liked how the author contrasted the lives of these three women, whose lives intersect at times, to give different perspectives. I also liked how he contrasted the grim reality, the melancholy of everyday life under the occupation, with rare moments of unadulterated joy, the spark that lit the desire to survive, no matter what.

The book is peppered with real people. I learned a lot about Coco Chanel. I had never known her background, nor that she was a Nazi sympathizer. I had, in the past, simply admired her style. And I had never heard of Arletty, the French film star.

At the end of the book, the Author’s Note provides a lot of information about the people in the book who were real and what happened to them after the war, as well as further information about the history of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. It, like the book itself, is well worth reading.

Although one of the categories I have assigned The Parisians is romance, don’t let that put you off. There is no schmaltzy romance, more of an awakening, and nothing that is inappropriate to the story. If anything, the love story enhances the overall realism.

This is not a book to be rushed through. It is a book to be lingered over, one that may challenge your previous perceptions about the people on both sides of the war.

I would like to read more by this author.


THE AUTHOR: Marius Gabriel is an international thriller and mystery writer.

Under the pseudonym Madeleine Ker, he wrote over 30 romance novels in the 1980s.

As Marius Gabriel he has written several mystery best-sellers, some of them historical novels.

He has three grown-up children and currently lives in Cairo and London.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Parisians by Marius Gabriel for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Friday Favorite – Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Looking for something to read over the weekend ?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming ‘read me’?

Take a look at my Friday Favorite. It may be new. It may be old. It may be written by a famous author, or by someone you have never heard of. But wherever in the spectrum it falls, it will be a book that is special to me, one that has captured both my imagination and my heart. This one definitely did both. 😍

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

EXCERPT: ‘Are you . . . intact, Miss Armstrong?’

‘Intact?’ She had to think for a moment what he meant by that. (She thought of the Latin. Untouched.) ‘Oh,’ she said eventually. ‘Yes, sir.’ She blushed all over again, dreadfully hot suddenly, despite the weather. It wasn’t a question you asked if you weren’t intending to do something about it, was it? Although in her imagination this act had involved dim lighting, satin sheets, perhaps flutes of champagne and a discreet veil drawn over the crude mechanics of the act, mainly because she still had little idea of what they were.

Also, on a practical level she had imagined a bed, not a hillocky field beneath a thundery sky that was the color of putty. An uncomfortable tussock was sticking into her left buttock. She could see dark clouds moving in from the west and thought, ‘we’re going to get rained on.’ Out of the corner of her eye she saw her hat blow away. ‘Oh,’ Juliet said again.

He leant closer. Very close. He did not look as attractive from this distance, in fact he looked not a little unlike an otter. She closed her eyes.

Nothing happened, so she opened them again and found him gazing steadily at her. She remembered that he had learnt mesmerisim when he was younger and she thought, Good Lord – was he hypnotizing her? She felt quite woozy all of a sudden, although she supposed she was now officially starving so it was no wonder. And then he was on his feet, pointing at the sky and saying, ‘Look, a sparrowhawk!’

Was that it then?

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever.

Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

MY THOUGHTS: If I could be any writer in the world, I would wish to be Kate Atkinson. I love her inconsequential thoughts, her irreverence, her wit. Her characters are so very real to me that I hesitate to close the book for fear of losing my new found friends (a hangover from my childhood). They have a depth and richness that is seldom seen, another trademark of Atkinson’s writing, and yet they are very ordinary people, stumbling through their lives much like most of us do.

Transcription is very much a character driven novel. If you are waiting for something to ‘happen’, you may well be very disappointed – after all, Juliet can’t even lose her virginity – although, of course, things do happen; mundane, everyday things that a naive eighteen year old imbues with perhaps more (or less) significance than they merit.

And underneath all the mind-numbing boredom of typing endless reports, in triplicate, of coping with carbon stained fingertips, of drinking endless cups of tea and the odd cocktail, there is slowly revealed a tale of espionage, counter-espionage, double agents, and a lot of people of whom we are never quite sure whose side they are on.

Classic Atkinson.

And please do read the author’s note. Transcription’s origin is rooted in reality, and Atkinson talks about the documents that started her on this wonderful journey, and the people behind them. She has also provided me with a whole raft of new reading material that I would never otherwise have heard of. Thank you Kate.


Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Transcription by Kate Atkinson, published by Doubleday. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page


The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams

If, like me, you are a fan of Fiona Davis, then I think that you will enjoy The Glass Ocean.

EXCERPT: When I wasn’t in a hurry, when I was just strolling or even sitting on a bench, eating a hot dog with ketchup and mustard but no onion, I liked to study them, my fellow New Yorkers. I liked to pick someone out from the crowd, some man in a suit, loosening his tie, checking his watch. I tried to divine his life, his history, the peculiar secrets hidden in his past. Mom used to tell this story about the dinner parties they once had, before Dad left, and how I used to peek through the bannister when I was supposed to be sleeping and watch the guests, and how, in the morning, I would bombard her with questions about them, who was married to whom, who did what for a living, who came from where and had how many siblings. And I used to think this story of hers was true. I used to think I was born for my career.

Now I wasn’t so sure.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: From the New York Times bestselling authors of The Forgotten Room comes a captivating historical mystery, infused with romance, that links the lives of three women across a century—two deep in the past, one in the present—to the doomed passenger liner, RMS Lusitania.

May 2013
Her finances are in dire straits and bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling to find a big idea for her next book. Desperate, she breaks the one promise she made to her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and opens an old chest that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. What she discovers there could change history. Sarah embarks on an ambitious journey to England to enlist the help of John Langford, a recently disgraced Member of Parliament whose family archives might contain the only key to the long-ago catastrophe. . . .

April 1915
Southern belle Caroline Telfair Hochstetter’s marriage is in crisis. Her formerly attentive industrialist husband, Gilbert, has become remote, pre-occupied with business . . . and something else that she can’t quite put a finger on. She’s hoping a trip to London in Lusitania’s lavish first-class accommodations will help them reconnect—but she can’t ignore the spark she feels for her old friend, Robert Langford, who turns out to be on the same voyage. Feeling restless and longing for a different existence, Caroline is determined to stop being a bystander, and take charge of her own life. . . .

Tessa Fairweather is traveling second-class on the Lusitania, returning home to Devon. Or at least, that’s her story. Tessa has never left the United States and her English accent is a hasty fake. She’s really Tennessee Schaff, the daughter of a roving con man, and she can steal and forge just about anything. But she’s had enough. Her partner has promised that if they can pull off this one last heist aboard the Lusitania, they’ll finally leave the game behind. Tess desperately wants to believe that, but Tess has the uneasy feeling there’s something about this job that isn’t as it seems. . . .

As the Lusitania steams toward its fate, three women work against time to unravel a plot that will change the course of their own lives . . . and history itself.

MY THOUGHTS: It always intrigues me when people work together to produce a novel. I always wonder who wrote what, or if they all sit around a table and thrash it out. . . Mostly it seems to work, occasionally it doesn’t, but The Glass Ocean is definitely a success story.

Reminiscent of the writing of Fiona Davis, The Glass Ocean flows seamlessly from one character’s story to the next, from one time period to the next, and back again. The writing is rich in detail. The three women at the centre of this story have hidden depths, their strengths brought to the fore in adversity.

Throw into this mix seduction, subterfuge, Spies, false identities, forgery, romance and infidelity, and you have all the ingredients of a block-buster of a novel.

The three narrators did a wonderful job.


THE AUTHOR: Beatriz Williams is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of The Summer Wives, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, A Hundred Summers, A Certain Age, and several other works of historical fiction. A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA in Finance from Columbia University, Beatriz worked as a communications and corporate strategy consultant in New York and London before she turned her attention to writing novels that combine her passion for history with an obsessive devotion to voice and characterization. Beatriz’s books have won numerous awards, have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and appear regularly in bestseller lists around the world.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Beatriz now lives near the Connecticut shore with her husband and four children, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. (Taken from the author’s website)

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, narrated by Vanessa Johansson, Saskia Maarleveld and Brittany Pressly, published by Harper Audio, via OverDrive.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions. Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine

The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine

EXCERPT: Ruth swung the car out of the lane and drove down into Cramond village, turning into the car park. Her panic had returned and was growing stronger. She couldn’t get rid of the feeling that someone or something was with her inside the car, clinging to her jacket, tangled in her hair.

Flinging open the door, she scrambled out and ran through the hedge towards the beach to stand staring out across the stormy Forth. The wind had risen. It tore at her hair, and her jacket, thrashing the water into waves that crashed onto the shore and over the causeway that led to Cramond Island. She was tempted to try to walk across to the island before it was completely covered. Surely Farquhar, if it was Farquhar, couldn’t follow her there? The force of the sea would purify her, purge him out of her system. This was Thomas’s battle, not hers. She groped at her throat for the little cross and held onto it tightly, part of her even now unable to believe she was doing such a thing.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Before you follow the path into your family’s history, beware of the secrets you may find…

Ruth has returned to Edinburgh after many years of exile, left rootless by the end of her marriage, career and now the death of her father, from whom she had long been estranged. She is faced with the daunting task of clearing his house, believing he had removed all traces of her mother. Yet hidden away in a barely used top-floor room, she finds he had secretly kept a cupboard full of her possessions. Sifting through the ancient papers, Ruth discovers the diary and letters written by her ancestor from the eighteenth century, Thomas Erskine.

As the youngest son of a noble family now living in genteel poverty, Thomas always knew he would have to make his own way in the world. Unable to follow his brothers to university, instead he joins first the navy and then the army, rising through the ranks, travelling the world. When he is finally able to study law, his extraordinary experiences and abilities propel him to the very top and he becomes Lord Chancellor. Yet he has made a powerful enemy on his voyages, who will hound him and his family to the death – and beyond.

Ruth becomes ever more aware of Thomas as she is gripped by his story, and slowly senses that not only is his presence with her, but so is his enemy’s. Ruth will have to draw upon new friends and old in what becomes a battle for her very survival – and discover an inner power beyond anything she has imagined.

MY THOUGHTS: Although this story is fiction, it is written around the life of the author’s 5xgreat grandfather, Thomas Erskine. Erskine has long dreamed of writing a novel based on her famous ancestor, and the Ghost Tree is the result.

It is divided between two timelines, the current time with Ruth Dunbar, and the 1700’s with Thomas Erskine.

I really enjoyed the development of Ruth’s character, her slow awakening to the realization that there are things we can’t explain, that sometimes we can feel the echoes of those who have passed on.

An extremely well written tale that spans the centuries, effortlessly melding fact with fiction.


THE AUTHOR: An historian by training, Barbara Erskine is the author of six bestselling novels that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural, plus two collections of short stories. Her books have appeared in at least twenty different languages. She lives with her family in an ancient manor house near Colchester, and in a cottage near Hay-on-Wye.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine, published by HarperCollins, from Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

My Real Name Is Hanna


EXCERPT: My family told stories. We swallowed them in place of food and water. Stories kept us alive in our underground sanctuary. The world continued to carry out its crimes above us, while we fought to just remain whole below.

Yesterday, daughter, you found my copy of Joan of Arc, hidden under dark rafters for many years. Musty, foxed with brown spots from months of cave humidity and attic dampness, you brought it to me with huge worried questions in your clear brown eyes. You presented it to me silently, opened to the many penciled lines that counted off our days in hiding. The lines, every fifth day crossed off like the gate to a picket fence, but those gates were locked to freedom. The smudged gray lines spread over endpapers, margins, chapter openers. Each line representing one more day of survival. Each line a triumph. Each line a part of me I managed to lock away.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.

Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.

MY THOUGHTS: I was excited by the prospect of reading My Real Name is Hanna. I was excited by the opening chapter. But I was unmoved by the remainder of the book.

It is a story that needs telling, lest we forget, and I applaud the author’s motivation for doing so. (Will I be crucified for admitting that I enjoyed the author’s notes at the end of the book far more than I did the book itself?) But I found it all rather banal. I didn’t feel the fear. Or the horror. I felt nothing. It all seemed rather sanitized. I was disappointed.


THE AUTHOR: Tara Lynn Masih is editor of the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year), The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (winner of a Skipping Stones Honor Award; a New England Book Festival award; a Benjamin Franklin silver medal award; and a ForeWord Book of the Year Award), and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows, a National Best Books Award finalist. She is the founding series editor of The Best Small Fictions, and My Real Name Is Hanna, her debut novel for young readers and adults set in WW II Ukraine, is due out Sept. 2018 and received a 2018 SKIPPING STONES HONOR AWARD and appears on Goodreads’ 2018 Ultimate Fall YA Reading List and their Best of the Month Sept. YA list.

Tara received an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College, and has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines, and her essays have been read on NPR and translated to dance. Several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction, along with poet’s farthing cards, have been published by The Feral Press.

Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest, a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Lou P. Bunce Creative Writing Award, multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, and Best New American Voices and Best of the Web nominations.

Tara was the assistant editor for STORIES literary magazine, and a regular contributor to The Indian-American and Masala magazines. She divides her time between Andover, MA, and St. Augustine, FL.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Mander Vilar Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This will be my last blog until sometime next week, as I am well behind on my packing and cleaning as we prepare to move house this weekend.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

EXCERPT: Charlie – May 1947 – Southampton

The first person I met in England was a hallucination. I brought her with me, on board the serene ocean liner that had carried my numb, grief haunted self from New York to Southampton.

I was sitting opposite my mother at a wicker table among the potted palms in the Dolphin Hotel, trying to ignore what my eyes were telling me. The blonde girl by the front desk wasn’t who I thought she was. I knew that she wasn’t who I thought she was. She was just an English girl waiting beside her family’s luggage, someone I’d never seen before – but that didn’t stop my mind from telling me she was someone else.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

MY THOUGHTS: The Alice Network is a book that drew me in and captivated me from start to finish. Parts of it are true, parts are based on truth, and parts are pure fiction. Purists would argue that it has been sanitized, diluted. And they are probably right. But this book lays no claim to being a historical record, it is marketed as a work of fiction, and it’s a damned good one.

The parallel story lines work well, with Eve Gardiner the link between the two, Charlie St Clair the catalyst for what unfolds.

Although this is a somewhat long book at a little over 500 pages, it didn’t feel long. I have read books with far fewer pages that felt much longer. The audio version lacks the authors afterward which defines what who and what events were actual people or happenings, and so at some stage I will pick up a copy of the actual book for a reread and this information. Saskia Maarleveld does a wonderful job of narrating.

I must admit to having more than a touch of car envy, with the wonderful description of Finn’s beautiful motors!

💕💕💕💕.5 All up, a wonderful experience.

THE AUTHOR: Kate Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written seven historical novels, including the bestselling “The Alice Network,” the Empress of Rome Saga, and the Borgia Chronicle. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld and published by Harper Audio via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

EXCERPT: Another drop of sweat slid from Ellis’s fedora, down his neck, and into his starched collar. Even without his suit jacket, his whole shirt clung from the damn humidity. He moved closer to the house and raised his camera. Natural scenic shots were his usual hobby, but he adjusted the lens to bring the kids into focus. With them came a sign. A raw, wooden slat with jagged edges, it bowed slightly against the porch, as if reclining under the weight of the afternoon heat. The offer it bore, scrawled in charcoal, didn’t fully register until Ellis snapped the photo.

2 children for sale

ABOUT THIS BOOK: From New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes another unforgettable novel inspired by a stunning piece of history.


The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs, and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.

At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a quietly powerful novel. It is not written in a dramatic fashion, yet it tore my emotions to pieces. It gave me everything I expected, and more, yet it was nothing like I expected.

‘Photography is the art of observation. It has little to do with things you see and everything to do with the way you see them’-Elliott Erwitt

None of us know what is in the hearts and minds of others. We are quick to judge by appearances, seldom taking the time to dig beneath the surface to determine the truth. And we do things ourselves, sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes to further our own interests, mostly without thinking through the consequences. This is just what Ellis and Lily do. They individually set in motion a chain of events that neither one of them could have imagined and, united in the aftermath, what they find is not what they expected.

After the initial photograph of the children and it’s accompanying furor, the book focuses largely on Ellis’s career. I kept thinking, ‘The children. . . what is happening to the children?’ I was beginning to think that the book wasn’t about them at all, that it was just an attention grabbing stunt. But I was wrong. The author was making a point, and a very good one, about how easy it is to lose sight of what is important, to be blinded by other things, superficial things that, easily gained, are also easy to lose.

This book is largely about values, about being true to ourselves and our beliefs, about truth and compassion, choices and consequences. But don’t go thinking it is at all preachy or moralistic, because it’s not. It is a beautifully written, compelling and captivating slice of history that will tug at your heartstrings. But it did leave me with one burning question. . . what happened to the two little boys in the first photo that Ellis took? That haunts me still.


I feel sure that this book is destined to become a classic.

THE AUTHOR: KRISTINA MCMORRIS is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her novels have garnered more than two dozen literary awards and nominations, including the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, RWA’s RITA® Award, and a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her works of fiction have been published by Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Kensington Books. Her forthcoming novel, Sold on a Monday (Sourcebooks Landmark, 8-28-18), follows her widely praised The Edge of Lost, The Pieces We Keep, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and Letters from Home. Additionally, her novellas are featured in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. Prior to her writing career, Kristina hosted weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, and has been named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is working on her next novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark for providing a digital ARC of Sold On A Monday by Kristina McMorris for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page

Sandy’s Sunday Summary

It is a bitterly cold and dismal Sunday here in the central North Island of New Zealand, with heavy rain forecast for this afternoon. A perfect day for reading in front of the fire!

Currently I am reading

Blood on the Tracks: Railway Mysteries

A collection of Golden Age detective fiction short stories, which I am really enjoying. I have discovered a few new authors to follow up.

I am listening to

Money in the Morgue: The New Inspector Alleyn Mystery

So you can see that, this weekend, I am firmly ensconced in the past.

For the coming week, I am planning on reading

The Fifth To Die (4MK Thriller, #2)

In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

Walk a Crooked Line (Jo Larsen, #2)

A young girl has taken her own life. But what—or who—drove her to it?

When a teenager’s body is found at the base of the old water tower, Detective Jo Larsen is one of the first on the scene. Tragically, it appears to be a clear case of suicide.

But the more Jo learns about Kelly Amster, the more she finds herself needing to understand why the high school sophomore would take that fatal plunge. As they interview family and friends, Jo and her partner, Hank Phelps, begin to fit together the pieces of a dark puzzle. Something happened to Kelly in their small town of Plainfield, Texas—and it sent the young girl straight over the edge.

Haunted by the memories of her own childhood, Jo digs deep into the shadowy corners of a seemingly tight-knit community—to uncover a devastating secret…

And, oh dear! Six ARCs from NetGalley this week, plus one directly from the author. From NetGalley

The Killing Type: A short story from the bestselling author of My Husband’s Wife

The Silent Sister

The Secret

For Better and Worse

My Real Name Is Hanna

And, finally . . .

Pieces of Her

The publishers have sent me this in epub, which I can’t read on my Kindle. There seems to be a number of different programs out there for converting epub to mobi. Any recommendations?

And Lynda Renham has sent me a copy of

Watching You

Which I am looking forward to.

Now it’s time to make a big pot of tea and get comfy in front of the fire with my book and a do not disturb sign. Happy reading my friends!



Letterbox by P.A.Davies

Letterbox - P.A. Davies - Book Blog Tour Poster

I am so very excited to be the first stop on the blog tour for Letterbox by P.A.Davies.

Letterbox - P.A. Davies - Book Cover

EXCERPT: For the first time since being in the room, the dark figure leant into the light revealing a large, bulldog looking face sat upon a thick neck. His nose looked like it had been broken several times, no doubt the result from years of street fighting and a three inch scar ran up his left cheek, the legacy of an inaccurate gunman. His dark piercing eyes shone in the bright glow and remained unblinking as he stared at the man across the table. When he spoke this time, the tone of his voice was like a low growl, demanding an answer to his question. ‘Have y’bin turned?’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: At approximately 09.00hrs on the 15th June 1996, an unassuming white lorry was parked on Corporation Street in the city centre of Manchester, England; it contained over 3000 pounds of high explosive.
At 11.15hrs the same day, Manchester witnessed the detonation of the largest device on the British mainland since the second World War … The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

Based around actual events, LETTERBOX tells the story of Liam Connor, an ordinary boy brought up in Manchester by a seemingly ordinary family. He goes to the local school, loves football and has a best friend called Sean … an ordinary life!
Unbeknown to Liam, his father, Michael Connor, harbors a dark historic secret, following a life a lot less ordinary … as a furtive, yet high ranking soldier within the IRA.

As a result of extraordinary circumstances, Liam’s innocent and carefree world is shattered when he is exposed to the truth about his family’s heritage and then learns about the tragic death of his father at the hands of the SAS.

Consumed with both hate and the need to seek retribution, Liam is taken to Ireland where he is intensively trained to become a highly skilled and efficient soldier within the Irish Republican Army … He is 16 years old!
Some years later, following the drug-induced death of his beloved sister, Liam is given the opportunity to exact his revenge on those he believed should truly be blamed for the tragedies in his life … The British Government!
Thus, on the 15th June 1996, it was Liam’s responsibility to drive the bomb laden lorry into the unsuspecting city of Manchester and let the voice of the IRA be clearly heard … And listened to!!

MY THOUGHTS: If you had told me that I was going to love a book about the 1996 Manchester bombing, I would have laughed at you. ‘Not my thing,’ I would have stated confidently. It was something I would have passed to my husband, probably rolling my eyes while doing so.

When Caroline Vincent (Bits About Books) asked me to read Letterbox by P.A.Davies she very cleverly didn’t tell me what it was about, just that she thought that I might enjoy it. She was right.

I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t have preconceived ideas about the IRA. I can’t imagine having to live through that era on either side. I can remember being horrified at the violence and the waste of life by both sides. Wonderered why they couldn’t just sit around the table and sort it. Which, eventually, they did. While I don’t condone the actions of either side, I now have a deeper understanding.

Author P. A. Davies does a great job of providing a balanced view of the bombing in this powerfully written, enthralling piece of ‘historical faction’. I, quite unexpectedly, found myself drawn into the Connor family, enjoying watching Liam grow up, experiencing his anger when he finds out the truth about his father, his devastation at his father’s death, and his subsequent indoctrination into the IRA. I loved his sense of loyalty, his need to protect his best friend. I wept for Margaret, for the treatment she received both from her family and the SAS, and then her senseless death at the hands of an enemy far more lethal and widespread than the IRA and the British Army combined
Letterbox was an unexpected pleasure. One I won’t hesitate to recommend.



This is P.A. Davies at his favourite writing space: Costa Coffee Café

P.A. Davies grew up in Manchester, UK, a place he has lived in and around all his life – he loves Manchester and is proud to be part of the multi-cultural, modern city that houses two Premiership football teams and is the birthplace of many a famous band, such as Oasis, the Stone Roses, Take That and Simply Red.

For most of his life, he dabbled with writing various pieces, from poems to short fictional stories just for fun. However, following advice from a good friend he decided to have a go at writing a novel. Thus, his first novel ‘Letterbox’ was conceived, a fictional take on the infamous IRA bombing of Manchester in 1996. It took him over a year to complete but while doing so, he found it to be one of the most satisfying and interesting paths he had ever followed. It comes as no surprise that the writing bug now became firmly embedded within him.

P.A. Davies’ second book was published in May 2013, ‘George: A Gentleman of the Road’, a true story about one of Manchester’s homeless. His third novel, ‘The Good in Mister Philips’, is an erotic novel (arguably set to rival Fifty Shades…!) and his fourth, ‘Nobody Heard Me Cry’ (Dec. 2015) is again a fact-based tale, this time of Manchester’s darker side. The thriller ‘Absolution’ (Oct. 2017) is his fifth novel. Currently, P.A. Davies is writing his sixth novel, titled ‘I, Muslim.’

To label P.A. Davies’ writings would be difficult because his works diverse from thrillers to touching novels to true-to-life tales embedded in a captivating story for the author is an imaginative and versatile storyteller.

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Books by P.A. Davies

Absolution (2017)
Nobody Heard Me Cry (2016)
The Good in Mister Philips (2014)
George: A Gentleman of the Road (2013)
Letterbox (2011)

Thank you to author P. A. Davies and Bits About Books Caroline Vincent for providing a digital copy of Letterbox for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.






























































































The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather   Morris
The Tattooist of Auschwitz 
by Heather Morris (Goodreads Author)


EXCERPT: Thirsty and exhausted, he is surprised when the piece of paper is yanked from his hand. An SS officer pulls off Lale’s jacket, rips his shirtsleeve and pushes his left forearm flat on the table. He stares in disbelief as the numbers 32407 are stabbed into his skin, one after the other by the prisoner. The length of wood with a needle embedded in it moves quickly and painfully. Then the man takes a rag dipped in green ink and rubs it roughly over Lale’s wound.

The tattooing has taken only seconds, but Lale’s shock makes time stand still. He grasps his arm, staring at the number. How can someone do this to another human being? He wonders if for the rest of his life, be it short or long, he will be defined by this moment, this irregular number: 32407.

THE BLURB: The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. (Publisher’s Summary)

MY THOUGHTS: Oh! The inhumanity of human beings towards other human beings knows no bounds. And, worst of all, I don’t believe we have learned a damned thing because we just keep making the same mistakes over and over again, and always with a sense of righteous justification.

Lale and Gita’s story is indescribable. But it is important that it be told. We can read these stories, and be horrified, appalled, but we can never really know, in our hearts or our heads, how it felt to endure what they endured. We cannot even begin to understand what they went through, and for that we shall be grateful. Grateful that we shall never have to experience standing outside with the ashes of our friends raining down upon us from Crematorium chimneys. Grateful that we are not ripped from our families, herded like cattle, starved, beaten, and experimented upon like laboratory rats. And let us show our gratitude by ensuring that anything like this can never happen again, be it on the massive scale seen in WWII, or on a personal level. Please be kind to one another, help one another, respect one another. Because if we don’t, are we any better than the SS?

Thank you to author Heather Morris for her perseverance. A lot of what she was told by Lale cannot have been easy to listen to or transcribe. I would imagine she had more than a few nightmares.

Thank you to Bonnier Publishing, Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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