The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer book review and Japanese Tea Ceremony post

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The Shogun’s Queen written by Lesley Downer, publisher Corgi, is available now in ebook and hardcover and FROM 27th July 2017 the novel will be available in paperback format.

To buy link:  http://amzn.to/2thjxQ2

Product Details (as per amazon page)

The year is 1853, and a young Japanese girl’s world is about to be turned upside down.

When black ships carrying barbarians arrive on the shores of Japan, the Satsuma clan’s way of life is threatened. But it’s not just the samurai who must come together to fight: the beautiful, headstrong Okatsu is also given a new destiny by her feudal lord – to save the realm.

Armed only with a new name, Princess Atsu, as she is now known, journeys to the women’s palace of Edo Castle, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. Behind the palace’s immaculate façade, amid rumours of murder and whispers of ghosts, Atsu must uncover the secret of the man whose fate, it seems, is irrevocably linked to hers – the shogun himself – if she is to rescue her people . . .

Lesley Downer The Shogun's Queen blog tour 1

I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour promoting and celebrating the launch of the paperback of The Shogun’s Queen.  I reviewed a copy of this novel back in October last year and I’m happy to reblog my review today.

My Review

This was such an epic story that sent my emotions soaring high and dramatically cascading low.  I was enchanted by the author Lesley Downer’s beautiful words describing a colourful world.  I felt instantly transported to a land far, far away to a time where legends and rituals were significant and paramount.  To a time when the unknown were feared.  A time when sacrifices had to be made for the sake of the countries survival.

The Shogun’s Queen is a fictional novel based on events in Japanese history.  Young Okatsu with her beauty, knowledge and courage has been given a task like no other.  At the tender age of 17 Okatsu has been given a mission, a mission that seems almost impossible but none the less she has no option but to try.  Okatsu must leave her family, her village and the love of her life.  A tumultuous journey lies ahead for Atsu, as she is now formerly known and her destiny is shrouded with secrets, political upheaval and death.

The torment that Okatsu faces saying goodbye to her love is so heartbreaking but more heartbreak is to come.  I could hardly read the words with the tears falling.  The Shogun’s Queen story gripped me and left me intrigued all the way through and has left me feeling quite emotional and bereft at the end.  I completely adored this novel and would highly recommend it.  A stunning historical romance of sacrifices and love.  5/5*

japanese word tea

I was fascinated to learn of the culture of Japan in this novel, especially the tea ceremonies.  The author, Lesley Downer, has kindly written a short post for my blog on the art of Japanese tea ceremony.

 

You can connect with Lesley Downer at the following pages:

Website:  http://www.lesleydowner.com/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/LesleyDowner

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLesleyDowner/

The Butlin Girls by Elaine Everest blogtour/book review

butlin girls

The Butlin Girls written by Elaine Everest, publisher Pan, is available NOW in ebook and paperback format.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

‘Molly Missons gazed around in awe. So this was Butlin’s. Whitewashed buildings, bordered by rhododendrons, gave a cheerful feeling to a world still recovering from six years of war. The Skegness holiday camp covered a vast area, much larger than Molly expected to see.

Molly Missons hasn’t had the best of times recently. Having lost her parents, now some dubious long-lost family have darkened her door – attempting to steal her home and livelihood…

After a horrendous ordeal, Molly applies for a job as a Butlin’s Aunty. When she receives news that she has got the job, she immediately leaves her small home town – in search of a new life in Skegness.

Molly finds true friendship in Freda, Bunty and Plum. But the biggest shock is discovering that star of the silver screen, Johnny Johnson, is working at Butlin’s as head of the entertainment team. Johnny takes an instant liking to Molly and she begins to shed the shackles of her recent traumas. Will Johnny be just the distraction Molly needs – or is he too good be to be true?

butlin girls tour poster

I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour celebrating and promoting the launch of Elaine Everest’s latest novel, The Butlin Girls.

This was a wonderful trip back in time to post war Erith, SE London and to Skegness in Lincolnshire.  A cosy romance novel filled with nostalgic charm, childhood idealisms, family saga, a time of new beginnings and hope for all after a country wreaked with war.  A time of renewed optimism and prosperity, a time when Billy Butlin opened his doors again at his flagship camp in Skegness bringing families and holiday makers together giving them a week of respite and good old fashioned fun and comfort.  This all sounds so cosy and lovely but our leading ladies in this novel escaped to work at Butlins to hide a traumatic time in their past.  However, the past anxieties weren’t too far away and Butlins wasn’t the protected haven for all.

Following the untimely death of her parents Molly was struggling with her grief and now she was facing a possibility of becoming homeless as a distant relative turns up laying claims to the inheritance.  The relatives also bring fear and danger of a different kind to Molly’s life and Butlins was the much needed escape for Molly.

Upon arriving at her new workplace and home Molly makes friends with her new roommates and fellow red coaters Bunty and Plum.  Unbeknown to each of the girls they are all hiding a secret heartache.  As their friendships blossom the girls gain strength within each other and “a problem shared is a problem halved” springs to mind.  Will the girls; Molly, Bunty and Plum cope with their new careers or will the past threaten their futures?

I particularly loved Elaine Everest’s style of writing for this novel it literally felt like I was stepping back in time, the style was very different to modern romcoms and chicklits of today but that particular style of writing wouldn’t work at all for this period saga.  This was a wonderful heart warming in abundance family and friendship saga.  It was my first introduction to Elaine Everest’s work and after enjoying this novel I decided to invest in her debut novel, The Woolworths Girls.

To find out more about Elaine Everest and her books please visit the following pages:

Website:  http://www.thewriteplace.org.uk/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/ElaineEverest

Bamboo Road Trilogy by Ann Bennett blogtour

bamboo road trilogy blogtour poster

I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour celebrating and promoting the launch of Bamboo Road, which is volume three in a Southeast Asian WWII Trilogy.  The trilogy includes Bamboo Heart, Bamboo Island and Bamboo Road and can be read in any order.

Product Details (as per amazon page)

Bamboo Heart – is available in ebook, paperback and audio download format.

Set in the Far East before and during the Second World War, Bamboo Heart captures the suffering and courage of prisoners of war of the Japanese. It tells the story of Tom Ellis, a prisoner enslaved on the infamous Death Railway in Thailand, and charts the journey of his daughter, Laura, who turns her back on her yuppie existence in eighties London to investigate her father’s wartime experience.

To buy link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bamboo-Heart-Trilogy-1/dp/9814423734/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=N92RM8EE04KMXMZWCG93

Bamboo Island – is available in ebook and paperback format.

A stranger appears on Juliet s plantation in Malaya, inspiring a journey to Singapore and Indonesia to uncover family secrets hidden since World War Two Juliet Crosby has lived a reclusive life on her Malayan rubber plantation since the Second World War robbed her of everyone she loved. However, the sudden appearance of a young woman from Indonesia disrupts her lonely existence and stirs up unsettling memories. Juliet is forced to recollect her prewar marriage, her wartime ordeals in Japanese-occupied Singapore and the loss of those she once held dear.

To buy link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Bamboo-Island-Trilogy-Ann-Bennett/9814625175/ref=pd_bxgy_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=XYPK5PWQTXVKC1YVBY99

Bamboo Road – is available in ebook and paperback format.

Thailand 1942: Sirinya and her family are members of the Thai underground, who risk their lives to resist the World War Two Japanese occupation and to and help British prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma railway. The events of those years have repercussions for decades to come. The book tells Sirinya s wartime story and how in the 1970s she returns to Kanchanaburi after a long absence abroad, to settle old scores from the war years.

To buy link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Bamboo-Road-Trilogy-3-Ann-Bennett/9814625256/ref=pd_bxgy_14_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=GSJ331533N34V58KH76C

MY REVIEW OF BAMBOO HEART

Bamboo Heart is one of the books in the Bamboo Trilogy written by Ann Bennett, publisher Monsoon Books.  The books can be read in any order however, I chose to read Bamboo Heart first and I was soon captivated by this time slip historical fiction novel with the idea of the story coming to Ann Bennett whilst she was researching her father’s history who had been a POW on the Thailand-Burma Railway.

A fascinating, insightful story travelling back to 1938 to a young man starting out in the working world.  His career started out in the legal field and returned back to law many years later but what happened in between these years will stay with this young man forever.  A time during a pivotal moment in history.  A time that was kept hidden to the rest of the world as thousands of men were tortured and even killed in POW camps in Burma.  This was a truly terrifying time that was equally shocking, distressing and so traumatising.

Bamboo Heart’s time slip story journeys from London 1986 with Laura Ellis, a young career girl in the law industry taking time out to trace her father’s history.  We then travel back to 1943 to when Thomas Ellis was captured by the Japanese and held captive in a POW camp and forced to work on The Death Railway.

The author, Ann Bennett, wrote with such passion and honesty.  She left no scene without telling the shocking truth of a young man’s struggle to survive in the most terrifying of ordeals.  The story sounds quite oppressive but it wasn’t as you were dealing with real people’s emotions and even during times of war love always found a way to bring sunshine and hope to your days. 

A truly compelling historical time slip work of fiction that will stay with me for a long time 5/5*

About the Author Ann Bennett

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Ann Bennett was born and raised in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK. She read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practised as a solicitor. During a career break, to have children, she started to write. Her father had been a prisoner of war on the Thailand– Burma Railway and the idea for a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her back to Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer.

To find out more about Ann Bennett and her books please visit the following links:

Website: http://www.bambooheart.co.uk

Blog: http://www.annbennettbambooheart.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/annbennett71

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Ann-Bennett

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick book review and giveaway

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The Phantom Tree written by Nicola Cornick, publisher HQ is available NOW in ebook, paperback and audio download format.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

“My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

the-phantom-tree-blog-tour-final

I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour celebrating and promoting the launch of Nicola Cornick’s latest novel, The Phantom Tree.  Nicola’s stories take you on a journey through time, she opens your eyes to an era long forgotten but with her words history becomes alive in your head entrancing you in another world.

The Phantom Tree is a captivating historical time slip mystery romance that was utterly spellbinding, mystifying, tragic but equally beautiful.  I didn’t want the story to end, I was feeling quite bereft and emotional once I had finished reading … signs of a good story!

The story starts in the present day with Alison walking through the crowded pre-Christmas streets of Marlborough.  By chance Alison sees a portrait of a young woman in an art gallery, the painting takes her by surprise, she is drawn to the image and can’t quite believe what she sees before her eyes.  The painting is listed as Anne Boleyn but Alison knows otherwise.  The image stirs memories of a past that Alison thought she’d never see again, the image is Mary Seymour, daughter of Katherine Parr, who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557.  Alison knows this fact as she too lived at Wolf Hall in 1557.  Somehow Alison has managed to escape the life she had in the past and has transported over 400 years in the future.  For the last 10 years she has tried desperately to return or to find information about something very dear to her that was cruelly taken from her, her son Arthur.  This portrait has been the breakthrough Alison has been looking for her.

The book continues with the story about two quite different women that were flung together in unusual circumstances.  We follow Mary Seymour’s story back in 1557 with her quest to fit in and escape the visions and words in her head.  We then follow the story of Alison Bannister who had fled time and is desperate to get back as a mother’s love is a bond that is not easily broken.  Clues from the past start catching up with Alison and she starts to question herself whether the risk is too great to go back to the 16th century.

This story was so enthralling I loved the images of the past evoked from the words on the pages.  The rawness of the times with greed and betrayal.  It was so heart breaking for a blossoming love to be cut so cruelly short but time felt like it stood still for this couple till they could be reunited again.

Once again a brilliant historical romance brought to life by Nicola Cornick.  5/5*

The publishers have kindly offered a paperback copy of this brilliant book for one of my readers.  Please click on the rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway.

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To find out more about Nicola Cornick and her books please visit the following pages:

Website:  http://www.nicolacornick.co.uk/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/NicolaCornick

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/nicola.cornick/

Charlatan by Kate Braithwaite book review

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Charlatan written by Kate Braithwaite, publisher Fireship Press is available in ebook and paperback format from THURSDAY 15th September 2016.

To pre-order/buy link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charlatan-Kate-Braithwaite-ebook/dp/B01L11HOX2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1473670283&sr=8-1

Product Details (as per amazon page)

HOW DO YOU KEEP THE LOVE OF THE KING OF FRANCE?

1676. In a hovel in the centre of Paris, the fortune-teller La Voisin holds a black mass, summoning the devil to help an unnamed client keep the love of the King of France, Louis XIV.

Three years later, Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, the King’s glamorous mistress, is nearly forty. She has borne Louis seven children but now seethes with rage as he falls for eighteen-year-old, Angélique de Fontanges. Athénaïs must do something to keep the King’s love and secure her children’s future, but how? And at what length is she willing to go?

At the same time, police chief La Reynie and his young assistant Bezons have uncovered a network of fortune-tellers and poisoners operating in the city. Athénaïs does not know it, but she is about to be named as a favoured client of the infamous La Voisin.

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I’d like to thank the author, Kate Braithwaite, for an arc in return for a review.

Charlatan is a fictional historical read based on the real life revelations of the Affair of the Poisons.  I have to admit this is the first historical novel I’ve read set in the 17th century.  The story begins in Paris, 1676, with a dark, terrible mass ceremony is undertaken with words of witchcraft and sorcery and unimaginable scenes all in the name of snaring a lover.  The story continues 3 years later with the King’s Officers of the Law conducting extensive interviews, interrogations, torture and executions to try and find out the truth around the rumours of all the witchcraft conducted in the most stately of places, the court of King Louis XIV of France.

It did take me a little while to get into the novel with all the different characters but I’m so pleased I read on as I became quite fascinated by the deceit, the guilt, the greed, the lies, the witchcraft.  I was shocked by how far someone would go to greedily get what they want.  The story is quite raw and honest with some graphic historical scenes but this makes the words from the book come alive.  At the end of the book I appreciated the author’s take on the story, one that I hadn’t known about, and I enjoyed this shocking tale of events in history that you can’t quite believe happened.   A dark historical read full of secrets, greed, deceit, guilt, tragedy, witchcraft … 4/5*

I love how fiction can bring history alive …

About the Author

Kate Braithwaite grew up in Edinburgh but has lived in various parts of the UK, in Canada and the US. Winner of the University of Toronto Marina Nemat Award and Random House Student Writing Prize, she writes atmospheric historical fiction exploring dark secrets and unusual episodes from the past: the stories no one told you about in history class at school.

Her novel, CHARLATAN, was long-listed for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Novel Award in 2015.

Kate and her family live in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

To find out more about Kate Braithwaite and her work please visit the following pages:

Website:  http://www.kate-braithwaite.com

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/KMBraithwaite