Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Gorgito’s Ice Rink Elizabeth Ducie 4*#Review @ElizabethDucie #Romance #FamilyDrama #Loss @rararesources #Russia #BirthdayBookBlitz #BookReview

#GorgitosIceRink

Two small boys grieving for lost sisters — torn between family and other loves. Can keeping a new promise make up for breaking an old one?

When Gorgito Tabatadze sees his sister run off with a soldier, he is bereft. When she disappears into Stalin’s Gulag system, he is devastated. He promises their mother on her death-bed he will find the missing girl and bring her home, but it is to prove an impossible quest.

Forty years later, Gorgito, now a successful businessman in post-Soviet Russia, watches another young boy lose his sister to a love stronger than family. When a talented Russian skater gets the chance to train in America, Gorgito promises her grief-stricken brother he will build an ice-rink in Nikolevsky, their home town, to bring her home again.

With the help of a British engineer, who has fled to Russia to escape her own heartache, and hindered by the local Mayor who has his own reasons for wanting the project to fail, can Gorgito overcome bureaucracy, corruption, economic melt-down and the harsh Russian climate in his quest to build the ice-rink and bring a lost sister home? And will he finally forgive himself for breaking the promise to his mother?

A story of love, loss and broken promises. Gorgito’s story told through the eyes of the people whose lives he touched.

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#GorgitosIceRink

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

My Thoughts…

I love reading stories set in far-flung places I have never visited and this story set in Russia, mainly in the 1990s has so much intrinsic interest. The author’s knowledge of the area and period brings it to life, full of vivid descriptions, you can visualise the setting and the bureaucracy that dominates life there.

The story. as the title suggests is about Gorgito, a forty-something factory owner who wants to build a professional ice rink in his hometown of Nikolevsky. The primary motivation is to bring his goddaughter home, from where she is training in the USA. Her brother misses her, and Gorigito knows what that feels like.

The story slips back over forty years when Gorgitos sister left him to follow her heart, with tragic results, his quest to build the ice rink is as much for her. as his goddaughter. His sister’s story, full of love and loss is particularly poignant, capturing the danger and sacrifice of Stalin dictatorship.

The ice rink project’s most virulent opponent is the mayor, who has his reasons, which are another memorable strand to this story. Emma a British engineer helps Gorgito with more than his factory, and she finds unexpected solace in return.

A delightful mix of family, friendship and romance are tempered with bureaucratic frustrations and emotional angst, to make this a complex, poignant story, in an enigmatic setting,

#ElizabethDucie

When Elizabeth Ducie had been working in the international pharmaceutical industry for nearly thirty years, she decided she’d like to take a break from technical writing—textbooks, articles and training modules—and write for fun instead. She started by writing travel pieces but soon discovered she was happier, and more successful, writing fiction. In 2012, she gave up the day job and started writing full-time. She has published four novels, three collections of short stories and a series of manuals on business skills for writers.

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Posted in Book Review, Espionage - Spy - Thriller, International Thriller, New Books, Political Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Secret Service – Tom Bradby – 5* #Review @TransworldBooks @tombradby #NewBook #Espionage #SpyThriller #International #Suspense #politicalthriller 30 May 19

The world is on the brink of crisis.
The Cold War is playing out once more on the global stage.
And governments will do whatever it takes to stay at the top . . .

To those who don’t really know her, Kate Henderson’s life must seem perfectly ordinary. But she is, in fact, a senior MI6 officer, who right now is nursing the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

Kate’s most recent mission has yielded the startling intelligence that the British Prime Minister has cancer – and that one of the leading candidates to replace him may be a Russian agent of influence.

Up against the clock to uncover the Russian mole, Kate risks everything to get to the truth. But with her reputation to uphold, her family hanging by a thread and a leadership election looming, she is quickly running out of options, and out of time.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Transworld Publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review,

My Thoughts…

They say if you live long enough, everything returns, or at least reinvents itself in a contemporary format. The ‘Cold War’ returns in ‘Secret Service’, set in the present day. This is less about checkpoints and walls, and more about social media exploitation, and global corporations influencing domestic economies and the political agenda and players.

Kate is a senior MI6 officer, part of the Russian desk, but also a mother, wife and daughter, she is the new breed of secret service personnel and faces the 21st-century battle familiar to every professional woman of balancing their work and home life. The inherent danger in Kate’s profession is something she tries to minimise, but when she discovers a political time bomb, the danger to her family seems inevitable.

Believable and complex characters, particularly Kate, her partner and her immediate team, spearhead this action-packed, suspenseful story, which visits the political hot spots, as Kate tries to discover which politician is the probable Russian asset, and who in her own organisation is the double agent…

The suspects are few, but the propensity for misinformation is vast, and as the conspiracy deepens, Kate realises she is vulnerable and may lose everything she holds dear.

Authentically detailed with a contemporary political agenda and background, you can see this being a realistic scenario. The ending is menacing and will be unexpected for most.

Adrenaline-fueled, atmospheric and authentic, this is a riveting read, for anyone who enjoys political thrillers and the secret world of spies.

Posted in Book Review

Heads You Win – 4*Review – Jeffrey Archer – #political #historical #thriller @Jeffrey_Archer

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Leningrad, Russia, 1968. Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice: should they board a container ship bound for America or Great Britain? Alexander leaves that choice to the toss of a coin . . .

In a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future.

During an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow his triumphs and defeats as he struggles as an immigrant to conquer his new world. As this unique story unfolds, Alexander comes to realize where his destiny lies and accepts that he must face the past he left behind in Russia.

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Waterstones 

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy political sagas with a twist, you’re in for a treat with this book. The storytelling and characters are believable and polished. The serendipitous storyline adds an interesting twist to a well researched, historically based political thriller.

Alexander a young man in the USSR in the late 1960’s is clever but his father isn’t a party member and wishes for a less totalitarian state. His father’s ‘accident’, and the circumstances that follow mean Alexander and his mother need to leave to survive. Escaping in a crate on a merchant ship is risky, but when there is a choice of two, fate takes over and the story splits into a ‘what if ‘scenario as Alexander’s life is explored with two possible outcomes.

Both stories are engaging, with strong characters and many plot twists, once you accept how the story will progress it is an enjoyable read, the ending has its surprises, but I did guess the main one. The moral of this being, I think whatever path you take the outcome is already decided.

An enjoyable read for those who enjoy political thrillers and family sagas with a twist of fate.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Guest Post -Moonlight on the Thames – Lauren Westwood – 5* Review

Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright. Nicola is a star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has run its course, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is the last straw… Dmitri loves conducting his pop–up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist. Can two lonely hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?

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 Guest Post – Music, Moonlight and Inspiration – Lauren Westwood

As a writer, I’m often asked where I get my inspirations from. The simple answer is that inspirations come from everywhere! For me, usually, a book will start out with just a simple idea or image, or some kind of trigger event from real life. For Moonlight on the Thames, the opening scene was inspired by a real choir who were performing last year at Waterloo Station during the Christmas season, and a real delayed train. I’m happy to say that unlike my main character, Nicola, I did not create a scene (nor, unfortunately, did I meet the love of my life as a result). But thanks to that night and that choir, my book was born.

To create the two main characters, I also drew on my past. Nicola is a high-powered investment banker, and over the years I’ve dealt with a lot of those in my day-job as an in-house lawyer. I thought it would be interesting for the heroine to be the ‘alpha’ character in the book, though this was somewhat risky. She’s not instantly likeable, but I’m hoping that she’s interesting and different enough for people to stick with her, find out why she is like she is, and see her story unfold.

In contrast, Dmitri is more likeable upfront, but he too has secrets from his past that adversely affect his whole life and forced him to give up his career as a concert pianist. Many years ago, I studied music at university, and though I was not suited for a life as a performer, I did encounter some brilliant musicians who inspired me to want to write about music. There is truly an agony and ecstasy about being a musician, and it takes a very particular personality type to be able to achieve the focus and sacrifice that is required.

The piano music that Dmitri plays in the book was also an inspiration for the tone of the book and also some of the scenes. It was great fun trying to search out the perfect pieces that evoked the mood and emotion that I was going for. And while it is hard to ‘describe’ the effect of music in words, I have put together a playlist to accompany the book that hopefully allows the music to speak for itself. The link is here: http://www.laurenwestwoodwriter.com/playlist.

Finally, I also drew inspiration from a trip I took twenty years ago to Russia. There is something incredibly poetic about the country, its past, its people, its music and literature, that resonates with me. Growing up in America in the 70s and 80s, we were brainwashed into thinking of Russia as ‘the evil empire’ governed by dictators whose fingers were on the red button (hmm, who does that sound like nowadays?) So, it was interesting to travel there myself, form my own opinions, and meet some of the people. I also really like Russian literature, and I have a lovely illustrated book of Russian fairytales with lacquer box designs that inspired the retelling of the Firebird that is in the book.

So, all in all, Moonlight on the Thames was a fun book to imagine and write, and I really hope that readers will enjoy it. I am grateful to Aria for the lovely cover, and also for believing in my somewhat dubious interpretation of an ‘escapist Christmas romance’ that also covers many darker, more serious issues.

If you do read Moonlight on the Thames, please do leave a review or a rating where you purchased it. This helps so much to spread the word to people who might not otherwise find the book.

Most of all, best wishes for the rest of the year and the holiday season.

My Thoughts…

‘Moonlight on the Thames’ is not the lighthearted festive read the title suggests but it does have romance, a fairytale quality and a Christmas message.

Nicola’s successful career masks an empty life and deep, damaging secrets that seem worse at Christmas time. Dimitri’s giving nature is especially evident at Christmas, but he is finding it increasingly difficult to hide the despair and guilt he feels. The couple’s meeting is festive, and Nicola is more ‘Scrooge’than ‘Santa Claus’, but their serendipitous meeting makes them both look at their empty lives.

Poignant and romantic this festive tale focuses on those less fortunate at this time of the year. Dimitri and Nicola’s life are both blighted despite their outward success, and this story explores their inner turmoil and seemingly unlikely romance. Both protagonists are authentic and flawed and carry a damaging amount of emotional trauma but their courage and need to find more in their lives lets both characters develop in a believable and heartwarming way.

Music in all its forms underscores this story and gives it a uniqueness not usually found in festive reads. There are no sugar-coated platitudes in this story, just two people trying to make the best of shattered lives but the outcome makes all the angst worthwhile and leaves an important message in the readers’ minds.

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

 

Lauren Westwood writes romantic women’s fiction and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.  

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Posted in Book Review

Vendetta – Derek Lambert – 4* Review

For the beleaguered German and Russian armies, there is no war beyond the carnage in the city’s grim skeleton, and the terrible winter at their heels. Desperate men need heroes to boost their morale: orders come from the very top for a duel between champion snipers Antonov the Russian, and Meister the German – a contest each must win. For the two marksmen, there is now no war but the race to pin the other in their sights. And no other companion, either, than the stranger whose mind each must read. Dead heroes or living legends? Only time will tell.

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My Thoughts…

Not your usual WW2 story, it begins amid the devastation of the battle for Stalingrad, with the onset of Winter both the Russians and the Germans need a champion, and two young snipers, Antonov and Meister fit the bill.

The story follows their lives and gives a real insight into the ravages of war and the pressure on the young men and how they cope. It’s a poignant story, with an unexpected ending.

I received a copy of this book from Collins Crime Club – Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles – 4*Review

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My Review -1

I’ve had this book on my to-read pile for over a year. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read it but I wanted to savour it and until now, I never had the time. 

This story is full of historical detail and the pacing is quite slow, very much in the style of Russian literature. It is a very engaging tale full of beautiful imagery and vivid characters who come to life as you read. 

The history of Russia after the 1917 revolution is well documented. In this story, the main events are highlighted but it’s more about how the political and cultural change affected particular individuals who would probably have never known each other so well in imperialist Russia.

It is an enjoyable read, well written but you definitely need time to appreciate it.

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Cornerstone via NetGalley in return for an honest review.