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Ullapool Book Festival @UllapoolBookFes

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We arrived on the Thursday after a pleasant drive up the A9, stopping off for an excellent lunch at the rather splendid Muchrack hotel in Dulnain.

Arriving in Ullapool mid afternoon, just in time to check into the hotel and prepare ourselves for the opening reception at the Ceilidh Place. This is such a great festival and one organised by a terrific committee who never fail to put on a marvellous, eclectic and enticing range of authors. They also provide an exceptional home baking tent.

After mingling with the authors and committee it was off for one of Ullapool’s famous scallop suppers and a relatively early night.

Friday morning was quite a blustery one as we headed in to the village hall to hear Angus Roxburgh talking about his memoir, Moscow Calling – Memoirs of A Foreign Correspondent, chaired by Ruth Wishart.

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Hugely knowledgeable, of course and also entertaining, Angus talked us through his time in Russia from working as a translator for roubles and thus living like an ordinary Russian through his time as a Foreign Correspondent for the BBC reporting on Gorbachev, Yeltsin and into actually working as a media consultant for Putin’s Government from 2006 – 2009.

Roxburgh gained a fascinating insight into Putin during his time with him. Putin was not a fan of Hillary Clinton, believing that she had interfered in Russia’s election in 2011.

In December 2011, Vladimir Putin came close to losing his hold on power. His decision that year to run for a third term as Russia’s President had inspired a massive protest movement against him. Demonstrations calling for him to resign were attracting hundreds of thousands of people across the country. The Russian state media had begun to warn of a revolution in the making.

Putin chose to lay the blame on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“She set the tone for certain actors inside the country; she gave the signal,” Putin said. This is of course was led to suggestions that Russia may have intervened in the last U.S. Presidential election – tit for tat perhaps?

It is also believed that a high powered team of Americans were brought over to Russia during Yeltsin’s election to help swing the vote to him. Their existence was not widely known – they reported to Yeltsin’s daughter and were forbidden ever to leave their hotel in case they were discovered.

Roxburgh describes Putin as ‘complicated’. He believes the West is undermining Russia. On the one hand he is urbane, courteous, very clued up and knowledgeable.
On the other he is also boorish, openly making jokes about rape and homosexuality.

In his first year of office, Putin tried hard to be friendly and offered assistance after 9/11 in 2011. But he expected something in return and didn’t get it from us. Putin created the conditions within the FSB that allowed for enemies of state anywhere in the world to be dealt with. Hence the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Skripals, amongst others.

But, says Roxburgh, Putin makes Russia feel better about itself. After Yeltsin, people’s faith was undermined undermined and they sought a new identity for Russia. Putin gives them that.

Roxburgh asked Putins top PR man why he had not declared a renunciation of communism. The answer: it is not yet the time! You can’t tell people they have wasted their whole lives on a system that does not work.

Angus talked about Russia’s new rearmament phase. Putin wants the world to recognise Russia as a force and also that it has legitimate security interests now being isolated as a result of Nato expansion. But his crackdown on human rights does not warm Europe to Russia.

Asked about Syria, he said that Putin’s main motivating factor is to prevent a street level uprising, the thing he is most afraid of. It’s noT so much support for Assadas the fact that he Hates  governments being overthrown by crowds in street.

He also pointed out that it hasn’t done any harm to Russia’s arms sales, displaying their hardware so openly. Russia is a major player in Middle East and their arms sales are booming.

More from Ullapool later. Time for some spicy fish soup and langoustines from the Crab Shack.

 

 

 

 

 

Kill The Angel (Torre and Caselli #2) by Sandrone Daziero trs Anthony Shugaar @sandronedazieri @emmafinnigan @annecater @simonschusterUK #blogtour #randomthings

 

Source: Review Copy

Publication: 3 May 2018 from Simon & Schuster UK

Pp 480

The second novel from the acclaimed author of Kill the Father, a Richard and Judy 2017 Bookclub pick and Sunday Times bestseller, this thriller is multi-layered, complex, full of twists and turns and satisfyingly dark –  one of those novels you just have to read late into the night.

A high-speed train from Milan draws into the station in Rome, and an horrific discovery in one carriage rocks the city. Preliminary investigations are put in the hands of Deputy Police Commissioner Colomba Caselli.  

The police receive a message claiming responsibility for the act and announcing more murders to come, and they duly turn their attention to a small terrorist group of Islamic extremists. But investigator Dante Torre does not believe this angle. For him, this feels like a smokescreen concealing the actions of a killer who has a far more terrible motivation to continue.

The trail leads to Berlin and Venice, where the waters of the Venetian Lagoon will turn blood red …

Do you ever get butterflies in your stomach when you hold a book you have waited months for? I do. I was so excited by this because loved Kill The Father, the first book.  Although you can read this book as a stand-alone, you will get more from it if you read Kill the Father first. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the new adventures of Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre.

Dazieri has created the most compelling detective duo since Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. These two fractured, lonely personalities work well together, one inside the law, one outside. That is, until Caselli, who has only recently re-joined her team, steps on the wrong toes and is put on suspension.

A deadly poison attack on a first class train carriage. ISIS claims responsibility, but Dante Torre has his doubts. Following the obvious leads, the Police arms up and en masse heads for a local mosque where a combination of police hard headedness and local unrest turns the whole affair into an unholy mess.

Torre’s special skill, honed after years kept locked in the silo, is his ability to read people and situations. And he knows that the signs being left for them are planted; deliberate misdirections to keep them away from the real purpose of these killings.

Who then is responsible and why? This complex, twisted, multi-layered novel takes the reader on quite a journey, both in time and geography, as we unpeel the layers to understand that the genesis of these murders, and the murders that will follow, lies deep in the past during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Though by no means a short book, it is terrifically easy to read because Daziere’s writing is so sharp and terse. I can visualise these scenes so well; his style is cinematographic and that really builds the tension and suspense.

Daziere ekes out his character development in teaspoons. We learn a little more about Caselli and again not much more about Torre, but the small details all help us to understand what may be going on in their heads.

As the duo follow the small trail of breadcrumbs through Germany and back to Italy, they face both danger and duplicity. It is hard to know who, if anyone, can be trusted, which suits Dante, who trusts no-one except Caselli.

Dazieri excels in his creation of evil characters and in this novel, he has outdone himself. The devil here is in understanding who is more evil than the rest, for this is a dark psychological thriller with more than one serial killer.

My heart was pounding, my tummy butterflies were fluttering and my eyes could not move from the pages until I had finished this gripping and fantastic book. It is intense and propulsive.

And once I had finished – well, what an ending. This is a writer who knows how to keep a reader on the hook, and I am but mere bait – eager, willing, nay even excited bait – for the next novel in the sequence.

As for those butterflies in my tummy – Daziere has the last word. “We call it a butterfly. For a caterpillar, it is the end of the world”.

Kill The Angel goes straight onto my must read list.

A shout out too, to Anthony Shugaar, whose translation was so idiomatically perfect that I completely forgot I was reading a book in translation, which is all you can ask for but nowhere near as easy as it sounds.

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About Sandrone Dazieri

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Sandrone Dazieri was born in Cremona (Italy) in 1964. He graduated at San Pellegrino Terme hotel-management school and worked as a cook for years, all around Italy. After having moved to Milan he started working in a number of jobs, from seller to porter, and played a very active role in the italian anti nuclear movement.
In 1992 he got closer to publishing working as freelance journalist ad expert of underground culture and cyberpunk fiction.
In 1999 he achieved his first popular success with the thriller “Attenti al gorilla” (Watch Out For The Gorilla), the first in a best-seller series, where the main character is a sort of doppelgènger of Dazieri himself, living the nightlife in Milan with all the ensuing troubles. Dazieri’s books are renowned for the rocambolesque adventures in which Sandrone (the main character has the author’s name too) is continuously involved, in an irrefrenable but never fatalistic destiny. It is in fact Sandrone’s personality that always drives him to assist the weak and derelict, those who have lost all hope for help but for the Gorilla’s saving hand. Among a thousand contradictions, he’ll confront all sorts of dangers, in the best tradition of hardboiled thrillers, and aided by his alter ego called Socio (the rational side of Sandrone, in a split-personality condition), our hero will happily finalise and conclude many chilling and hair-raising situations.

Dazieri wrote many other noir novels, kids novels, comics and short stories.
He is also a scriptwriter for cinema and tv. His most successful serie is “Squadra Antimafia” (Antimafia Squad) now optioned by ABC.

With Italian film director Gabriele Salvatores and producer Maurizio Totti, Dazieri founded in 2004 the publishing house Colorado Noir.
From 2000 to 2004 he was also the chief editor of the crime series Gialli Mondadori (Mondadori Thrillers) and the catalogue for young readers Libri per Ragazzi Mondadori (Mondadori Books for Youth). He is currently a literary consultant to the Mondadori Publishing House.

He is vegetarian and testimonial for many nonprofit organization.

Follow Sandrone on Twitter @sandronedazieri

 

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A Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie @AlisonBailliex @WillandWhiting #blogtour

Source: Review copy

Publication: 09 April 2018 from Williams and Whiting

Pp 366

A missing girl.

Threatening notes.

Sinister strangers.

Olivia’s idyllic family life in a Swiss mountain village is falling apart. She thought she’d managed to escape the past, but it’s coming back to haunt her. Has somebody discovered her secret – why she had to leave Scotland more than ten years ago? What is her connection to Marie, a lonely schoolgirl in a Yorkshire seaside town, and Lucy, a student at a Scottish university?

A story of the shadows of the past, the uncertainties of the present and how you can never really know anybody.

 

Smooth as silk, dark as the night and with a velvety touch that has echoes of a bitter aftertaste. Is this the latest Swiss chocolate? No, it’s an Alpine Noir from Alison Baillie.

Predominantly set in a Swiss mountain village, where the descriptions are so evocative that you can smell the pine trees and feel the cold, sharp air and the gleaming white snow as it crunches underfoot, this is a book that ranges from Switzerland, to Edinburgh and then Scarborough as the past informs the present in the lives of Olivia and her family.

On the face of it Olivia has an idyllic life. She and ger family live in a beautiful area of Switzerland and Olivia’s husband, Christian, teaches at the school where Olivia’s son, Christian’s step-son, Julian attends.

Their two young children Marc and Lara complete their family and Olivia enjoys spending time cooking Swiss delicacies for her family and feeling secure and content with her life.

Things change though when Olivia finds a note in her mailbox which sends a chill right through her bones. We now know Olivia has a secret. But what will she be prepared to sacrifice to make sure that secret is never divulged?

Then a child, a friend of Lara’s, goes missing on the children’s walk back from school. Despite an extensive search, she is nowhere to be found.

As the first cracks in the façade of the pristine snow begin to reveal themselves, is Olivia prepared for the ominous avalanche that will follow?

Fabulously atmospheric, this is a well written book that delights in twisting and turning the reader’s expectations every which way, until you begin to see the path that Baillie has cleared for you, but it’s by no means an easy walk through the haunting woods to get to the right conclusion.

I liked these central characters for the most perverse of reasons; not one of them was obviously or inherently likeable. I really engaged with Olivia, but that was because I have never before wanted so much to slap a character. Until you begin to understand Olivia’s backstory, it is quite difficult to comprehend why she gets such comfort out of being a Stepford wife clone, or indeed why she would have married Christian, a man with an iron rod through his back.

As events pick up pace and Olivia slowly starts to unravel, her judgement completely goes to pot, and her voyage of self-discovery is fraught with missteps and danger. Baillie paints her characters with brilliant colours and a thick oil paint, so you have to look closely between the layers to get a sense of where the book is heading, and be very careful not to go down the wrong path.

Olivia’s secret is one she wants to hang onto like grim death, yet perhaps it is giving it up that will finally free her.

This psychological thriller is creepy, suspenseful and filled with brilliantly drawn characters with foibles and machinations that you enjoy watching as a bystander.

There’s a great deal to enjoy in this book and I really look forward to more from this author.

Amazon

 

About Alison Baillie

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Alison was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales by Scottish parents. She studied English at the University of St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools and EFL in Finland and Switzerland, where she now lives. She spends her time reading, writing, travelling, playing with her grandchildren and attending crime writing festivals.

You can find out more on her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter

Follow the blogtour here:

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The Retreat by Mark Edwards @MrEdwards @AmazonPub @MidasPR #TheRetreat #blogtour

 

Source: Review copy

Publication: 10 May 2018 from Thomas & Mercer

Pp 364

 A missing child.

A desperate mother.

And a house full of secrets.

Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.

Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.

When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…

What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?

Take one idyllic setting, a writer’s retreat in Wales. Inject a young and attractive widow as our hostess. Scatter a crumb of unorthodox writers and layer onto it an author struggling to overcome a personal loss whilst trying and failing to finish his latest work. Frost with creepy, supernatural overtones and finish with a strong hint of urban legend, and you have the recipe for Mark Edward’s latest book.

Part supernatural, part horror, part urban legend, this is a book that has everything you look for in a creepy crime novel. Lucas Radcliffe is a horror writer. After years of struggling, he has finally written a bestseller and now he needs to deliver his follow up. But it isn’t long since he lost his lovely girlfriend, Priya and he is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block and so he books himself into a quiet writer’s retreat in Beddmawr, rural Wales, close to where he grew up.

Julia has turned her home into a writer’s retreat because she needs an income after losing her husband Michael in a tragic drowning accident that also claimed the life of her young daughter, Lily; though Lily’s body was never found.

Julia wants to believe that Lily is still alive despite all evidence to the contrary. Lucas is drawn to Julia; something about their shared tragedies makes him want to make Julia whole again. But when strange nightly occurrences begin to spook the writers, they begin to wonder whether the cottage is haunted.

Surrounded by dark woodlands and miles from their nearest neighbours, this is a fetid atmosphere in which imagination flourishes and old stories take on new meanings. In Beddmawr, the local legend is that of a woman, the Red Widow, who comes to claim a child every 35 years and as long as she is able to do so, the other children in the village will be safe.

Lucas is pretty sure that this is all nonsense and he wants to help Julia move on with her life, so without saying anything, he takes steps to try and find out what actually happened the day Mark drowned and Lily disappeared.

This will be the catalyst for a series of unfortunate occurrences that will put the lives of Lucas and others in danger, and as he slowly begins to piece together the stories from the villagers, the urban legend and the spooky events, every step he takes will lead him down a dark and dangerous path offers no return.

The setting is beautifully fetid and atmospheric and Edwards makes the most of it as he whips his concoction into a flurry of rumour and legend that has everyone at sixes and sevens. With a fast bake and a dose of alcohol laden wit, this is a tasty number that should be on everyone’s menu.

Beautifully eerie, very compulsive and quite heart pounding this is a book that smoothly blends legends and facts until separating fact from fiction becomes an all-consuming task.

I gulped it down and would happily eat it all again.

 

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About Mark Edwards

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Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. Mark’s first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on the Amazon UK Kindle bestseller list, as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014), and Follow Me Home (2015). His previous novels, The Devil’s Work (2016) and The Lucky Ones (2017) were also published to great critical acclaim and commercial success. He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). His titles with Amazon Publishing have reached over a million readers.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and started writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year, and is a great admirer of Japanese writers and horror films. Mark lives near Wolverhamtpon, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat. The Retreat was strongly inspired by local folklore and urban myths from Mark’s childhood and by his daughter Poppy. When walking their dog in the woods, Poppy told Mark a story about her friends arguing about whether a local legend was true or not. Poppy and Mark would brainstorm ideas for the book on their daily walks, and Mark now credits her as his co-writer and a budding author herself.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MrEdwards

www.markedwardsauthor.com

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Salt Lane (DS Alexandra Cupidi #1) by William Shaw @william1shaw @AnneCater @Hannah_robbo @riverrunbooks #SaltLane #blogtour #NoTurningBack

 

Source: Review Copy

Publication: 3 May 2015 from riverrun

Pp 464

 

SHE ALWAYS WENT TOO FAR

DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Murder is different here, among the fens and stark beaches.

SHE WAS THE ONE WHO FOUND THE KILLERS

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.

AND NOW IT WAS KILLING HER

It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

 

Salt Lane is a book to savour. A meaty, action and character packed read that engages both your heart and your brain. D.S. Alex Cupidi has left the Met in the aftermath of an affair with a colleague and has moved to the Serious Crime Unit in Kent and the bleakness of Romney Marshes. Her teenage daughter Zoe is with her, but the two are not communicating too well and Alex is worried about Zoe.

In her new role she is conscious that the police gossip may well have followed her and she’s a bit prickly with her new colleagues as a result. Jill Ferriter is her junior colleague and so far she’s not too impressed with this glossy haired, short skirted young woman, whose lip gloss always seems just a bit too shiny.

The setting of Romney Marshes is beautifully evocative and perfect for this atmospheric police procedural where you never know what is going to come out of the hedgerows and with the Dungeness Power station looming large over everything, casting its dark shadow on their lives.

The body of a woman is found in the waters close to Salt Lane. She is identified as Hilary Keen and her body has been lying in the ditch for some days. Who then, was the woman who visited Julian Keen the night before the body was discovered, claiming to be his long lost mother?

Pursuing this lead inadvertently draws Alex’s boss, D.I. McAdam into an IPCC investigation and Jill Ferriter is injured. So far, for Alex Cupidi, things are not going exactly to plan.

When a North African man is discovered by a farmer in his slurry tank, it is clear he has been brutally murdered and Cupidi and Ferriter must try and find the connections that link the woman in the ditch and the murdered man.

To do that, they must find a way to win the confidence of the migrant workers, many of them in the country illegally; all of them afraid of the police and living in fear of arrest.

This is where Shaw excels; his characterisation is excellent and his description of the lives, conditions and travails of this terrified community engaged both my mind and my heart.  His plotting is immaculate, his descriptions terrifying and his characterisation has depth and empathy.

As Cupidi delves into the past to bring the present to life, the cruelty and plight of migrant workers is thrown into sharp relief with the lifestyle of those who profit from the exploitation of this vulnerable community.

This is a tense and sometimes brutal read, evocatively bringing the setting to life and in the process showing that Ferriter is a much more tenacious copper than Cupidi had given her credit for and the two form a solid working relationship.

Intelligent, beautifully written and with an emotional resonance that stays long after the book is finished, this is a tight and compelling read that rewards the reader in spades.

I loved this and will eagerly await the second in this brilliant series.

Amazon                                                         Waterstones

About William Shaw

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William Shaw was born in Newton Abbot, Devon, grew up in Nigeria and lived for sixteen years in Hackney. He has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and nominated for a Barry Award. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east.

He is the author of the Breen & Tozer crime series set in sixties London: A Song from Dead Lips, A House of Knives and A Book of Scars; and the standalone The Birdwatcher. For over twenty years he has written on popular culture and sub-culture for various publications including the Observer and the New York Times. He lives in Brighton.

Follow William Shaw on Twitter: @william1shaw

Don’t just take my word for it – see what others are saying about Salt Lane.

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I Am; an anthology of creative writing from the Ceartas Advocacy Group @CeartasAdvocacy @SBairden @womenslibrary #GiveMeAVoice #Ceartas #IAm #Advocacy

 

Source: Launch copy

Publication: 15th February 2018

 

Ceartas have published  “I Am…” an anthology of the work created by some of the individuals who use their services.

Ceartas provide independent advocacy to people over the age of 16 living in East Dunbartonshire. Thanks to generous funding from Big Lottery Scotland, Investing in Ideas, they were able to employ a Writer in Residence to facilitate an 8 week programme for people who have used the services of Ceartas.

Many individuals who seek advocacy only do so when all other routes have been exhausted. Many feel disempowered, voiceless and personally deconstructed. Using your voice and telling your story is the antithesis to being recognised only by a label.

Independent advocacy is about ensuring individuals have a voice and what better way to assist that process than using creative writing as a means of providing an outlet for that voice. There are so many labels attached and assumptions made about people living with long term conditions;  many face stigma and discrimination as part of their daily lives; they are often denied a voice or lack the confidence to use their voice and speak up for themselves.

Writer in Residence, Donna Moore from Glasgow Women’s Library, worked with the group over a period of eight weeks to create a portfolio of participant’s work to include in the anthology.

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Donna Moore from Glasgow Women’s LibraryW

“Creative Writing fits perfectly into the work that Ceartas does: it’s about assisting individuals to express themselves in a manner that does not focus solely on their literacy skills; it is about demonstrating to others the impact that having advocacy support can have on individual circumstances; it is about coming together to learn new skills, reduce isolation and to evidence their effective skills in communication no matter what level of literacy skills they have.”

Sharon Bairden, Services Manager

 

As a bookblogger, I try and get to book launches and book festivals whenever I can. These are always fun and enjoyable occasions, where you get to meet and chat with authors as well as getting that precious book signed.

Few book launches though have touched me as much as the one that Ceartas held in Glasgow Women’s Library (my favourite library, ever).

Why? Because these were readings given from the heart. Readings by their creators, tentatively expressed at times, but which gave a voice which, in many cases, has never been expressed in a public forum before.

And each was perfect. Creative, real, and a testimony to the individuals involved. As you read through this volume, you hear the voices, loud and proud, expressing their sense of self; their hopes, dreams and fears.

What these pieces of writing do is amazing; they allow you to see and hear from the people behind the physical presence. Take this example from Gilly. Recovering from a brain tumour, visually impaired and in a wheelchair this is who Gilly really is:

I am pink like the summer sunset

I am Gabriel’s oboe solo from The Mission film,

beautiful music.

I am dolphins jumping out of the waves in Spey Bay

on a sunny day.

I am spring flowering of all the bulbs in the garden – bluebells, snowdrops, baby daffodils- a carpet of colour

I am..Me.

 

Or this from Susie;

She looked at the now withered flower

Like the now withered love in his eyes

The ‘you’re mine’ bracelet

He’d given

As a token of all his lies

The door handle she’d barred from his parting

As she pleaded for him not to go

The ticket she’d found

That had told her

He’d left a long time ago.

The half bottle of gin

That she’d open

Drown her sorrows once more

Then let go.

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There are so many terrific stories in here that it repays your time a hundredfold to stop and pick one to read every day.

The book itself is beautiful, colourful, creative and very well produced. It is a credit to the writers and designers who collaborated and chose the format.

This is not a book you can buy, but I would urge you to seek out a copy by going to the Ceartas site here and offering a donation. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. My copy has signatures from some of those who read on the launch day. It is a treasured possession.

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More information about this project and those involved in making it happen  from:

http://www.ceartas.org.uk/

 

https://womenslibrary.org.uk/

 

https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/

Don’t just take my word for it though, look back and see what others have said:

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Absolution (Claymore Striker #4) by Paul E Hardisty @Paul_Hardisty @OrendaBooks @AnneCater

Source: Review Copy

Publication: 30th May 2018 from Orenda Books

It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.

So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible.

Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible.

Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy. At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolution is a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.

 

As a sweeping generalisation, I have tended to avoid books that are set in war torn countries, mainly because the politics of war, and especially wars fought in the name of religion, are so difficult to understand, and whatever the rights and wrongs, it is ordinary people who suffer.

Yet in Paul E Hardisty’s Claymore Striker series the awful human suffering that terrorist atrocities bring about is at the forefront of his writing as is the role of multi-national business in strife torn countries.

Spanning South Africa, Egypt and the Yemen, Hardisty  offers up a thriller that whilst never lacking in pace or action, nevertheless highlights the corruption that governments allow whilst the rich benefit and the poor are exploited in ever more terrible ways.

Hardisty is clearly concerned with ethical issues and he has constructed a very strong narrative and warm, human characters that make this book and its subjects spring into vivid and colourful life.

In Absolution, hardworking practitioners of Muslim religion are shown as warm, loving and compassionate, in contrast to the power and money hungry perpetrators of governmental and corporate greed

One of the reasons I really liked this book is the portraits of strong and independently minded women which permeate its pages.

From Rania, a journalist to the women she meets in her travels, there is a strong sense of seeing the world through women’s eyes that struck a real chord with me and made this a stand out read.

Hardisty’s prose is taut and thrilling, his plot is compelling and the complex strands of the book are all pulled together in a way I did not see coming.

You can feel the warmth that he has for the majority of people trying to live their lives in the extreme and difficult circumstances of civil war and the murkiness of the machinations of those in control are contrasted by the struggle that our protagonist, Clay Striker has to undergo to maintain a sense of morality in an immoral world.

On one level this is a tense and nail-biting thriller with larger than life protagonists who have a chilling tale to tell. On another, this is a book that expresses the horrors and realities of a war torn region in the grip of unscrupulous mad men with no compassion for their own people whose lives they are harming. Yet overall, this is a book about love and compassion in a mad, mad world.

A first class read.

Amazon                                           Waterstones

About Paul E.  Hardisty

 

Paul-Hardisty-feat

Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the AustralianInstitute of Marine Science (AIMS). He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman,conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.

Follow Paul on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul

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