Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance

The Runes of Destiny Christina Courtenay 5* #Review @PiaCCourtenay @headlinepg @rararesources #HistoricalRomance #Vikings #timeslip #ContemporaryRomance #BlogTour #BookReview #Runes #Archaeology #TheRunesofDestiny

Separated by time. Brought together by fate.

Linnea felt a shiver travel the length of her spine.

It hadn’t been a joke – the runes really had shown her destiny.

Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and losing herself in an archaeological dig is just what Linnea Berger needs after her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously.

Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the ninth century.

Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …

Amazon UK Amazon

I received a copy of this book from Headline Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Like the first book in this series, The Runes of Destiny is an atmospheric timeslip novel full of adventure, danger and romance. This story reads well as a standalone with intricate historical detail and vibrant characters. The sense of time place and culture is wonderfully described. The attention to detail and use of sensory imagery makes this an immersive experience for the reader.

Linnea is recovering from a devastating road accident her physical injuries minor, but the mental scars deep, especially the survivor guilt, as her friends’ parents died and she was badly injured. An academic she studies ancient Nordic languages and uses the archaeological dig as a way of escaping.

The timeslip element is well executed and Linnea’s confusion and need to make sense of the world she finds herself in believable. The characters are relatable and the adventures she experiences exciting and scary. The romance is gentle and believable.

The plot has clever twists and a satisfying ending.

Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).  The Runes of Destiny (time travel published by Headline 10th December 2020) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

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Giveaway to Win

A signed copy of The Runes of Destiny and Plushy Raven (Open INT)

Click on giveaway link to enter

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

Read my review of Echoes of the Runes

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Childrens Books, Non-Fiction

Scavenger Art Lexi Rees 5*#Review @lexi_rees Illustrator Molly O’Donoghue @rararesources #LexiRees #OutsetPublishing #ScavengerArt #ChildrensBooks #KidLit #NonFiction #Workbook #Writing #6+ #BlogBlitz

Scavenger hunts are fun.

Drawing is fun.

Put them together for ★ SCAVENGER ART ★

This unique art-based activity book includes 52 scavenger hunts designed to

✓ encourage curious minds
✓ spark creativity
✓ practise mindfulness
✓ develop drawing skills

Perfect for ages 6 to 12.

Amazon UK Amazon

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

dav

My Thoughts…

This is a fun orientated creative book designed to encourage children to draw what they see around them. It’s divided into sections like ‘Home’, Clothes, Nature so that children can focus on specific topics and realise how much creative stimulation there is in the world.

I particularly liked the section about what you can see from your window, especially important in our current restricted world. The illustrations are bright and engaging, and the text is simple but effective. Great for children and parents to draw things together.

This another interesting book from this talented author.

Lexi Rees

Lexi Rees was born in Scotland but now lives down south. She writes action-packed adventures brim full of witch-doctors, fortune-tellers, warriors and smugglers, combining elemental magic with hints of dystopia. She also writes fun activity books for children. 

Her fantasy adventure, Eternal Seas, was awarded a “loved by” badge from LoveReading4Kids. The sequel, Wild Sky, is available now. 

She’s passionate about developing a love of reading and writing in children and, as well as her Creative Writing Skills workbook, she has an active programme of school visits and other events, is a Book PenPal for three primary schools, and runs a free online #kidsclub and newsletter which includes book recommendations and creative writing activities.

In her spare time, she’s a keen crafter and spends a considerable amount of time trying not to fall off horses or boats.

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Read my review of Creative Writing Skills

Read my review of Wicked Writing Skills

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Icelandic Noir, Noir

Winterkill Ragnar Jónasson 5*Review @ragnarjo @OrendaBooks Translator David Warriner @givemeawave #Winterkill #DarkIceland #CrimeFiction #IcelandicNoir @RandomTTours #BlogTour #BookReview

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access
to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of the book from Orenda Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is the sixth book in the Dark Iceland series featuring Detective Ari Thór Arason. It reads well as a standalone.

The main protagonist is a complex and likeable man, driven by a need to seek justice for the victims of crime. This story follows the investigation into the death of a young woman, in the remote Northern Icelandic town of Siglufjörður.

The story’s pace allows the investigation to unfold realistically. There is an equal balance between the detective’s personal life and the criminal investigation against the dramatic setting, which is often ruthless and unforgiving.

This story draws the reader into Icelandic life, giving the story its authenticity. It’s easy to follow the investigation with its believable and subtle twists.

Ragnar Jónasson

Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short
stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir.

Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015 with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner.

He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Mystery, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Kiss in the Snow, Little Duck Pond Café Rosie Green 5*#Review @Rosie_Green88 @rararesources #romcom #Winter #Festive #LittleDuckPondCafe

After a cruel twist of fate sends her hurtling into a black hole of despair, Carrie is absolutely dreading the festive season – especially with sister, Krystle, being even more demanding of her time and energy than usual. But then friend Maddy offers Carrie a lifeline: the chance to get away from it all in a holiday cottage in the gorgeous little village of Silverbells. Deciding that a few weeks of tranquillity – reading, baking and going for long walks in the countryside – might just restore her mood, Carrie is quick to take up the offer. But on arriving, it very soon becomes clear that this break is going to be anything but peaceful!

An unwelcome houseguest proves unsettling enough – especially one who whistles loudly first thing in the morning and is far too cheerful for his own good – but finding herself drawn into the spooky mystery of her missing neighbour means there really isn’t much time for personal reflection. And then love comes knocking, and Carrie is forced to decide exactly where her heart lies.
Will this festive season be the disaster Carrie predicted? Or will Santa be good to her and deliver her heart’s desire? One thing’s for sure – this will be a Christmas Carrie will never, ever forget…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Book 13 in, The Little Duck Pond Cafe series, is a lovely festive read. Set in Silverbells, it’s a standalone story featuring Carrie. New readers can enjoy this without reading others in the series, as its a complete story with a festive twist and even snow.

Carrie grasps the chance to stay in a friend’s cottage when she misreads a friend’s signals and ends up with a broken heart. The cottage is lovely, but next door is a little sinister surrounded in mystery, so maybe it’s a good thing she has an unexpected housemate?

The villagers in Silverbells are interesting characters with unique stories, and Carrie soon feels at home. Not everyone is likeable, but not everything is at it seems. Character-driven this story has a plot full of humour, mystery, poignancy and romance. The setting is festive, and the story is absorbing and detailed.

It’s a perfect mix of lighthearted and poignant, and the ending is suitably romantic.

Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Rosie’s Little Duck Pond Cafe series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. Each book can be read as a stand-alone story.

Rosie revisits the Little Duck Pond Café with a beautiful story of love and friendship at Christmas time, entitled A Kiss in the Snow.

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Sleepless Louise Mumford 4*#Review @louise_mumford @HQStories @rararesources #BookReview #AudiobookReview #Sleepless #psychological #suspense #dystopian #thriller #Insomnia #BlogTour #PublicationDayPush

Don’t close your eyes. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t let them in.

Thea is an insomniac; she hasn’t slept more than three hours a night for years.

So when an ad for a sleep trial that promises to change her life pops up on her phone, Thea knows this is her last chance at finding any kind of normal life.

Soon Thea’s sleeping for longer than she has in a decade, and awakes feeling transformed. So much so that at first she’s willing to overlook the oddities of the trial – the lack of any phone signal; the way she can’t leave her bedroom without permission; the fact that all her personal possessions are locked away, even her shoes.

But it soon becomes clear that the trial doesn’t just want to help Thea sleep. It wants to control her sleep…An unputdownable, gripping psychological thriller

I received a copy of this book/audiobook from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story gets full marks for originality. The theme of insomnia is a relatable one and the author’s interpretation an interesting balance of imagination and reality. I also listened to the audiobook edition of this. The excellent narration makes the story come alive, creating a claustrophobic and immersive story.

It begins with Thea’s desperation to sleep, which makes her apply for a scientific trial that uses new techniques. She ends up on a creepy island with a medley of different characters. The first part of the story is atmospheric and disturbing, the people running the programme are they trustworthy? Thea’s sense of what is real is impaired, as is her judgement. The author creates a believably, frightening world.

There’s nail-biting drama and then the story twist into something else. After dramatic events, the story becomes more like a science-fiction, dystopian drama, but with the same characters.

The characters are vivid, and the events described using sensory imagery that draws the reader into the story. There’s something for everyone in this mix of genres. This is a unique and disturbing story, with an eerie ending.

Louise Mumford

Louise was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed – much to her mother’s frustration! Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since.

She studied English Literature at university and graduated with first class honours. As a teacher she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.)

In the summer of 2019 Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind since then.

Louise lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head.

Her debut thriller, SLEEPLESS, will be published by HQ on 11th Dec 2020.

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Posted in Audiobook Review, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Friendship, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

The Housemate Nina Manning 4*#Review @ninamanning78 @BoldwoodBooks Narrator #HelenKeeley #PsychologicalThriller #Domestic #Suspense #Guilt #Obsession #boldwoodbloggers #Audiobook #Review #TheHousemate @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview #FridayReads #FridayThoughts

The perfect life? …Or the perfect lie?

When Regi moves into her new house share, she’s ready for a clean slate. A new home. A new routine. A new identity…

Desperate to escape the shadow of her past that follows her everywhere she goes, Regi finds the ideal distraction in the perfect lives of others on social media.

But as innocent scrolling turns into an unhealthy obsession, Regi will soon learn that seeking perfection comes at a price…

A gripping psychological suspense from the international bestselling author of The Daughter In Law.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this audiobook from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story demonstrates the claustrophobic and immersive qualities of psychological suspense so well. It begins with a traumatic incident in Regi’s life. The reader knows this is important but not why. Regi’s painful past and mental health issues define her and make everyday life difficult. Her housemates are younger but supportive. The story believably depicts Regis’ OCD, but its repetitive nature is emotionally draining on the reader and slows the pace.

The narrator produces an excellent interpretation of the story and its nuances.

Regi is a complex character, an unreliable protagonist with secrets. The suspense building is good, there are menacing undertones, and some clever changes in plot direction that keep the listener guessing. The focus on social media gives this story an immediacy and relevance.

Nina Manning

Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.

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Read my review of The Daughter in Law

Read my review of The Guilty Wife

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Parenting and Famlies, Romance, Travel

Tempted by the Tycoon’s Proposal Rachael Stewart 5*#Review @rach_b52 @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks @rararesources #MillsandBoonTrueLove #BookBlitz #BookReview #Romance #TemptedbytheTycoonsProposal #ThursdayThoughts #giveaway #ebook

A second chance…
With the single dad?

When hotelier Sophia Lambert finds billionaire Jack McGregor’s runaway daughter, a thank you dinner sounds harmless. Until Sophia finds herself tantalizingly attracted to Jack… The deeply desirable single dad re-awakens long-buried emotions in Sophia, but his jet-set life is beckoning. Unless Sophia can tempt him with her own proposal: to keep his feet on the ground…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a gentle, sweet romance with a delightful matchmaker who is the star of the show and beautifully described romantic settings. Jack lives for his daughter and his work, which has left him materially rich but emotionally poor. Sophia doesn’t believe she deserves a full life after a tragic incident in her past, so work is everything for her. She’s competent and successful in business but naive and unfulfilled in her emotional life. Lily is the reason for their paths to cross and she keeps them connected, then its a battle of chemistry versus their past issues but thankfully romance wins out in the end.

The characters are believably flawed and easy to like. Lily sees a chance of real family life and is the catalyst for the romance that follows between her dad and Sophia. The romance is lovely, and there are lots of romantic settings that add to the story’s ambience. The pacing is perfect, and although the conclusion is a true romance, there are conflicts both internal and external along the bumpy emotional road.

Sometimes less is more and this true with this romantic tale.

Rachael Stewart

Rachael Stewart adores conjuring up stories for the readers of Harlequin Mills & Boon and Deep Desires Press, with tales varying from the heartwarmingly romantic to the wildly erotic.

She’s been writing since she could put pen to paper as the stacks of scrawled on A4 sheets in her loft will attest to, and the lovingly bound short stories that her father would run off at work and proudly share out with his colleagues. Thinking it was a pipe dream to be published one day, she pursued a sensible career in business but she was really play-acting, achieving the appropriate degree and spending many years in the corporate world where she never truly belonged. Always happiest when she was sat at her laptop in the quiet hours tapping out a story or two. And so here she is, a published author, her full-time pleasure, a dream come true.

A Welsh lass at heart, she now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children, and if she’s not glued to her laptop, she’s wrapped up in them or enjoying the great outdoors seeking out inspiration.

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Giveaway to Win an e-copy of

Tempted by the Tycoon’s Proposal (Open INT)

Click on this giveaway link to enter

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

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Travel

The Villa of Dreams Lucy Coleman 5*#Review @LucyColemanauth @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #TheVillaofDreams #extract #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview #BookTour #Romance #Friendship #Lisbon #uplit

Seren Maddison left behind a rainy Britain to follow her dreams and live and work in Lisbon. The vibrancy, the beautiful scenery and the sunshine, made her fall in love and she knew, instantly, that it would be her forever home.

International artist Reid Henderson has homes in Lisbon and London. Following his painful divorce, his dream is to turn his luxurious home into an art school and gallery.

When Seren and Reid first meet there is an instant attraction, but they are both people who have been hurt, and each have dreams that are so far apart, they aren’t even on the same page. 

Can they enjoy one summer of happiness together, as life bestows a gift of memories to cherish for the rest of their lives? Or is their destiny to chart a path into the future, in a home where dreams can come true?

Seren and Reid may be about to discover that love is as much about what you are prepared to give up, as what you are prepared to keep hold of. Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to sun-drenched Portugal where true love really can conquer all, and home is where the heart is.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts

A little sunshine and warmth on a cold winter’s day are always welcome. This romantic tale of compromise, dreams and love, takes you on an emotional angst-ridden journey full of heartwarming romance that leaves you uplifted.

Seren decides that striving for her father’s approval is a fool’s errand and finally leaves England to follow her dreams in Lisbon, Portugal. She wants to develop her art and works towards the dream by organising and event that incorporates many aspects of the creative world. Love is not on her agenda, but fate has other ideas when she meets Reid, a recent divorcee and artist. Both are emotionally damaged and driven by their career project, yet the chemistry is undeniable, but is a Summer love strong enough to withstand the Winter of reality?

This is a story about dreams and how they can change and having the courage and insight to chase what makes you happy whatever the consequences.

Extract from the book…

Prologue

October

How many people are lucky – some might say foolhardy – enough to grab the chance of a fresh start? Well, I’ve been offered a job opportunity which is going to turn my whole life upside down. Three weeks today, I will be saying goodbye to the UK and jumping on a plane to Lisbon.

After working for my father for six years, the day that I finally decided I’d had enough and I handed him my letter of resignation, his reaction was one of disbelief.

‘You’re making a big mistake, Seren,’ he warned me. ‘Don’t expect me to bail you out if things go wrong. It’s a tough world out there and you’ve led a privileged life – you just don’t appreciate that fact.’

With his words ringing in my ears, I walked out of the office feeling… free. You can’t live life trying to please a man who uses a balance sheet as a measuring stick.

My father takes pride in the fact that he worked hard to build up his business, which allowed him to provide a good standard of living for his family. That makes him sound like a loving man, doesn’t it? But somewhere along the way it changed him, and not for the better. In a sad twist of irony, the father I remember from my childhood was different – as a family man he was kinder, more forgiving and less driven. I can’t remember when exactly he stopped appreciating the small things in life, but it’s a loss I mourn.

Working for my father for the last six years has destroyed not only the relationship I have with him but has also meant stifling my own ambitions. And my poor mother is caught in the middle, her heart torn as the chasm grows between us all. My father longed for a son and instead he got a daughter. One who wanted to please him, until he side-lined me for a total stranger. Three months after Stuart Lang arrived, I resigned. He saw me as a threat and wasted a ridiculous amount of time and effort in systematically undermining every decision I made. Obviously, he wasn’t quite as astute, or confident about his own abilities as my father perceived him to be. Mind you, my plans to leave were well in hand, even before his first day on the job.

It’s time to pack up my things and put them in storage.

There is no looking back, only forwards from now on. It’s up to me to manifest the sort of life I want to live and, yes, I’m a little scared, but it’s also empowering.

Lucy Coleman

Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Summer in Provence and Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Espionage - Spy - Thriller, Political Thriller, Suspense

A Time to Lie Simon Berthon 4* #Review @HQStories @simonberthon #political #psychological #suspense #BlogTour #BookReview

A divisive prime minister. A long-buried body. A plot to bring him down…

The bigger the secret the more dangerous it is to lie…

On the morning of the Tory Party conference, the bones of a young woman’s hand are discovered in a London building site.

Jed Fowkes, Special Adviser at the Treasury, confronts Prime Minister Robin Sandford with a terrible accusation. He claims the hand belongs to someone they once knew well: a young woman whom Sandford murdered years ago.

With his career on the brink of ruin, the Prime Minister’s only hope is to enlist the unofficial help of MI5. A decision which leads him into a new world of espionage, illegal trafficking and murder.

And the deeper he goes, the more treacherous the game becomes. Because now it’s not just his life on the line; it’s the future of the state itself 

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a political thriller set in contemporary times with relatable characters and believable events. There is a fusion of genres here, as the main protagonists are all essentially unreliable, producing elements of psychological suspense.

Flashbacks to the 1990s evoke interesting historical social and political events adding authenticity. The short chapters and fast-pace keep the reader guessing. There are many twists, people who are not what they seem to make this an absorbing read. The ending is impactful and leaves the reader with a final disturbing twist.

I

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Literary Fiction, Noir, Suspense

Return to Hiroshima Bob Van Laerhoven 4* #Review @bobvanlaerhoven @BlackthornTours #CrimeFiction #Noir #Suspense #Japan WW2 #HistoricalCrimeFiction #BookTour #BookReview #ReturntoHiroshima

1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis.
Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to Hiroshima, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister.

Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima’s war history.

A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane.

And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will “overturn Japan’s foundations”….

Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel.

Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII are unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and Japanese society.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Blackthorn Book Tours in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a complex story set in the 1990s, but with historical references to Japan in WW2. It explores the fallout of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing and how it impacted on the inhabitants in a fictional context. It also reflects on the factors contributing to the bombing, focusing on horrific and secret war experiments and other forms of inhumanity dealt out under the auspices of war.

There are many characters, all damaged either emotionally or physically. Initially, their lives are unconnected, but their stories interweave in an impactful way in this noir story. This is disturbingly depraved and violent in parts with little light relief. The author uses intricate plotting, vividly portrayed characters and skilful use of sensory imagery, allowing the reader to experience Japanese culture and life in an immersive way.

The battle between traditional and modern and the obsession with power is a recurring theme. It is a difficult novel to read both in complexity, and because of the evil it exposes, but it absorbing and fascinating too.

Bob van Laerhoven

Van Laerhoven is a 67-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literary and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.

In Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’.

In 2007, he became the winner of the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire’s Revenge’, which, in English translation, also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’.

His first collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. 

Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018 by Crime Wave Press(Hong Kong).  The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors.

Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian and Spanish. A German translation is currently in production.

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