A Painter in Penang by Clare Flynn

What a treat it is to be included in the tour for Clare Flynn’s @clarefly novel A Painter in Penang. The tour is arranged by the fab team at Love Books Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours – do follow the tour across social media.

The Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Jasmine Barrington hates everything about living in Kenya and longs to return to the island of Penang in British colonial Malaya where she was born. Expulsion from her Nairobi convent school offers a welcome escape – the chance to stay with her parents’ friends, Mary and Reggie Hyde-Underwood on their Penang rubber estate.

But this is 1948 and communist insurgents are embarking on a reign of terror in what becomes the Malayan Emergency. Jasmine unearths a shocking secret as her own life is put in danger. Throughout the turmoil, her one constant is her passion for painting.

From the international best-selling and award-winning author of The Pearl of Penang, this is a dramatic coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a tropical paradise torn apart by civil war.

The Excerpt

JANUARY 1948, NAIROBI

Evie took another sip of mango juice and gazed towards the distant Ngong hills. Arthur had been right when he’d said all those years ago that she would love Africa. He had promised the majestic continent would seep into her bones and possess her, so that afterwards everywhere else would be a poor substitute – smaller, less significant. He’d also been right that she would sense its age, its primeval history, a land where if you were to see a dinosaur lumbering towards you it wouldn’t surprise. After only nine months living here, Evie didn’t want to be anywhere else.

She leaned back in her chair, letting the sun touch her face, bathing her skin with its dry sensuous heat. Still only ten in the morning and it was already hot. Instead of making her lethargic, the heat revitalised her, endowing her with strength and energy. Evie loved quiet moments of reflection like these when she would count her blessings and recognise that, after the years of sorrow, loss and war, she had so much to be thankful for. She’d lost her first husband after forgiving his infidelity, been forced to flee her home as the Japanese invaded Penang, endured years of loneliness, refusing to accept that Arthur, the love of her life had not survived the war. But he had and here they were.

At the edge of the paved terrace a lizard stretched out on the stone wall, basking in the morning sunshine. Evie watched its heavy-lidded eye open lazily as its tongue darted out and snagged a passing insect. Turning her head, she could see Gichinga, the houseboy, was hanging sheets out to dry, their whiteness blinding under the power of the sun. He flipped the sheets with a snapping action to get the creases out as he pegged them on the line. The name Gichinga meant firebrand, but the boy was gentle and shy, like a young deer.

The sheets flapped gently as the breeze caught them. Laundry dried in moments here, unlike in the sultry humidity when she lived in Penang, Malaya. There the heat had been oppressive, like a steam bath, and she’d had to change her clothes several times a day.

Thoughts of Penang made her think of her stepdaughter. Jasmine had loved her island birthplace in a way that Evie was only now beginning to comprehend. Here in Africa, Jasmine was like a young plant, pulled up and replanted in ground too shallow for her roots to gain purchase. She appeared to be wilting, listless and etiolated, despite the constant sunshine.

Evie’s own love affair with Kenya made it hard for her to understand what her daughter was going through. While Evie had loved Penang, her connection to East Africa was deeper, almost visceral. Living anywhere else would never come close.

Jasmine had been born in Penang, spent four years in Australia and several months in England and appeared unmoved by the majesty and vastness of Kenya.

The Author

Historical novelist Clare Flynn is a former global marketing director and business owner. She now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England and most of her time these days is spent writing her novels – when she’s not gazing out of her windows at the sea.

Clare is the author of eleven novels and a short story collection. Her books deal with displacement – her characters are wrenched away from their comfortable existences and forced to face new challenges – often in outposts of an empire which largely disappeared after WW2.

Her latest novel, Prisoner From Penang, was published on 17th April 2020. It is set in South East Asia during the Japanese occupation in World War Two.

Clare’s novels often feature places she knows well and she does extensive research to build the period and geographic flavour of her books. A Greater World – 1920s Australia; Kurinji Flowers – pre-Independence India; Letters from a Patchwork Quilt – nineteenth century industrial England and the USA; The Green Ribbons – the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century in rural England, The Chalky Sea – World War II England (and Canada) and its sequels The Alien Corn and The Frozen River – post WW2 Canada. She has also published a collection of short stories – both historical and contemporary, A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories.

Fluent in Italian, she loves spending time in Italy. In her spare time she likes to quilt, paint and travel as often and as widely as possible. She is an active member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors, NINC and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Get a free copy of Clare’s exclusive short story collection, A Fine Pair of Shoes, at www.clareflynn.co.uk.

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/3iyTFYD

Inside Voices by Sarah Davis

Some first novels feel like debut works and when Inside Voices by Sarah Davis was recommended to me, I approached it on that basis. I did the author and the book a disservice. Throughout Inside Voices Davis makes her own voice as an author crystal clear. It is a triumph of a novel, not just a debut novel.

The Blurb

The mind is a strange beast…extraordinary, unpredictable, protective.

Penny Osborn’s mind is no exception. In High School, Penny witnessed a massacre and lost her father to the same killers. She had seen it unfold before it happened, in a premonition, but could not prevent it.

A college research project at the edge of the Arctic is her chance for a new beginning. Struggling with PTSD, Penny’s therapy includes running, dogs, and guitars. Yet her fresh start is plagued by new premonitions, dark and foreboding, that coincide with a rising number of murders in the community. Her visions are vague, offering little to identify the killer.

When confronted with an orphaned polar bear cub, Penny risks everything to save its life. The deepening mystery of the murdered women, coupled with the exhaustive duties of caring for the small cub, draw her closer to her friend, Noah, and further from her sister.

Fearful for the serial killer’s next target, Penny discovers where her physical abilities can help her.

Will letting go of the past lead to healing? And can she stop the murders?

The Review

Inside Voices is a tightly drawn novel that lends much of its tension to what the reader must deduce, long before it is revealed. The descriptions of the landscapes of Alaska and its wildlife are infallible and Davis draws the reader into her protagonists world with a precision that defies the title of a debut author.

Penny, the main protagonist and her twin sister Lucy have such a tight bond that they can communicate through thought, even when they are apart. Penny also has premonitions that allow her glimpses of the future, but without the power to change it,

When murders occur in her community in Alaska, Penny attempts to stop future attacks by delving deeper into her psyche. She draws away from her sister, but that bond id too strong to break.

This is an excellent novel that would make a good book group read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

The Author

Sarah Davis is many things…wife, mother, veterinarian, writer. An avid reader, she enjoys stories that transport her into new and exciting lands. Having read more books than she could ever count, she has considered writing a novel for ages. It wasn’t until the idea for “Inside Voices” popped into her mind that she finally started pursuing that dream, with much encouragement from her family. She and her incredible husband share their remote home on the prairie with their three extraordinary children and one mostly human weimaraner. She is working on her second novel as you read this.

Val Penny

The Last Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

It is a pleasure to be involved in the blog tour for The Last Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson @scotscriever published by @PenmorePress1 and run by Love Books Group @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours.

The Blurb

Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland

He wants to reform Scotland, but his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent him.

Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequences that neither of them can imagine.

In this final instalment of the trilogy of the fiery reformer John Knox, Macpherson tells the story of a man and a queen at one of the most critical phases of Scottish history.

The Excerpt

The Author

Scottish writer Marie Macpherson grew up in Musselburgh on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle where tales and legends haunted her imagination. She left the Honest Toun to study Russian at Strathclyde University and spent a year in the former Soviet Union to research her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer. Though travelled widely, teaching languages and literature from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.

Writing historical fiction combines her academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drives her curiosity.

The Knox Trilogy is a fictional biography of the fiery reformer, John Knox, set during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. Prizes and awards include the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and Writer of the Year 2011 awarded by Tyne & Esk Writers. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA), the Historical Novel Society (HNS) and the Society of Authors (SoA).

Twitter: Dr Marie Macpherson @Scotscriever

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/TheKnoxTrilogy

Instagram: @scotscriever

Website: https://mariemacpherson.wordpress.com/

Publisher page: Penmore Press: https://www.penmorepress.com/project/marie-macpherson/

 Review Quotes 

‘Macpherson has done for Knox what Hilary Mantel did for Cromwell.’ Scottish Field

‘This richly realized portrait of a complex man in extraordinary times is historical fiction at its finest.’  Linda Porter, author of Crown of Thistles; Katherine the Queen, Royal Renegades; Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II

‘Marie Macpherson has once again given us a cavalcade of flesh and blood characters living the early days of the Scottish Reformation in a complex tale told with economy and wit.’ S.G. MacLean, author of The Seeker Series and Alexander Seaton mysteries

Buy Link 

Adventure to Dark Island by Bev Mietz

I am pleased to be involved in the blog tour run by Love Books Tour @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours for the new book by Bev Mietz, @MietzBev Adventure to Dark Island #AdventuretoDarkIsland.

The Blurb

On the remote, sub-tropical Coco Island, Mac, Merrow, Patience, Will and Dan live simply, self-sufficiently and usually peacefully together. But sometimes trouble can happen between even the best of friends. And trouble is what happened when an argument between Patience and Dan got out of hand.

Will and Dan, tired of Patience bossing them around, decide it’s time to find a place of their own. Under cover of darkness, they take one of the boats and leave the island. But don’t realise the danger of sailing into the open ocean with no idea where they are going, and without telling the others.

Alone in the middle of the ocean, a tropical storm gathers speed and rushes at them with full force. Whilst trying to turn the sail to steer away from the storm, their mast snaps and goes overboard along with the now shredded sail, leaving Will and Dan at the mercy of the rough sea. Surviving the storm, their food and drinking water lost, they drift along helplessly ‒ but finally, there is land in sight. A small island, surrounded by a dark mist. On the island, Will and Dan survive dangerous black swamps and hear frightening screams and cries as they explore. Meeting an old man, they are taken to a clearing in the forest. He points to a drinking well and explains the island is cursed and the cries Will and Dan had heard came from the Well of Lost Souls. Can they escape? What they don’t know is that back on Coco Island Mac, Merrow and Patience are preparing to set out to look for them. Soon all of them will be in this adventure together… can they break the curse, release everyone from Dark Island and help free those poor lost souls?

The Author

I’m a Yorkshire girl, born and raised in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England.  I have lived and worked in England, South Africa and the island of Mauritius. I enjoy reading, gardening and sewing.

In 2018 the company I worked for closed their office and at the age of 69 years found myself out of a job!  But, thanks to my wonderful Sons I am now retired and have lots of time to spend with them and to have a little time for myself too!

The idea for Adventure to Dark Island came to me whilst living on Mauritius. At every opportunity, Mauritian families head to the beaches and often sail to the many small islands close to the main island. I used to enjoy watching the young children having fun sailing their small boats in the safe lagoons and the idea for the story was hatched!

I’m surprised how much I enjoyed writing Adventure to Dark Island… my first book!

Buy Link 

Disquiet by Ella May

I am thrilled to be included in the tour run by Love Books Tour @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours for the new novel, Disquiet by Ella May @EllaMay. #DisquietTour but before you read the book, please be aware of its vivid content. Disquiet contains mentions of suicide, psychotic episodes, self-harm, child-loss, sexual motive, abuse, drugs and crime.

The Blurb

A Mentally Unwell Sister

A Devoted Wife.

A Husband and Brother With A Secret.

A Psychopath Seeking Revenge.

Elowen has been attacked in her brother’s home. The aggressor’s body lies cold next to her. 

In a secure psychiatric facility, on suspicion of murder, Elowen struggles to recall the attack. The police are quick to assume that she is guilty. 

However, Elowen protests her innocence and begins revealing a series of dark, twisted secrets.

What really happened? 

The Excerpt

The Author

Ella May is a self-published author that lives with her Mum, Dad, Brother and her dog Mia in Cambridgeshire.

When she isn’t writing or spending time with her dog, she enjoys reading and going to the cinema. Her favourite genre to read is thriller, but she also loves literary fiction. Her film genre is a lot more diverse, and she will watch anything as long as it’s not horror! After suffering for years with her mental health, Ella is passionate about creating awareness and she says that writing has become a bit like therapy for her. She hopes that Disquiet will also create a wider understanding of more serious mental health issues and her biggest wish is that Disquiet might help someone feel less alone with their mental health. 

Buy Link 

Trace Evidence by Vanessa Robertson

I had not read any books by Vanessa Robertson before, but her work had been recommended to me as novels I would enjoy. This is the second book in a series, but it works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

The Blurb

Art crime investigator Kate Carpenter is back in this fast-paced and twisty follow-up to Don’t Blink. This time it’s not a priceless painting that’s disappeared but her childhood best friend.

Beatrice Copley and Kate were best friends all through school and but recently they’ve drifted apart. When Beatrice disappears without trace, her mother hopes Kate might know something.

Kate hasn’t heard from Beatrice for months, but she can’t shrug off the pull of that old friendship and returns to her home town to track her old friend down.

Where is Beatrice and what has she done? What secrets was she so desperate to keep? And will Kate find her in time?

Trace Evidence is the second full-length Kate Carpenter novel.

The Review

Trace Evidence starts at a tangent from the main story and guides the reader to where the author wants them to be. It is a cleverly woven plot that moves seamlessly from South Africa to England and back again. The main characters are tightly written and credible. There is no doubt this book would make for interesting discussions in a book group.

The story starts when Kate, the main protagonist, goes to meet with someone in South Africa who holds a valuable painting that was mis-appropriated by his Nazi grandfather during World War II. When she gets there, with her guards, both the man and the painting have disappeared. Indeed, it seems he has destroyed the painting and left the ruins for Kate to find.

When Kate returns home to the UK she finds her best friend is missing and sets about using the skills she normally uses to find pieces of art to track down her friend.

Trace Evidence is a clever novel that keeps the reader gripped from start to finish. it employs mystery, humour and fear to keep the pages turning. This may be the first book by Vanessa Robertson that I have read, but it will not be the last.

The Author

Vanessa Robertson has lived in Scotland for over twenty years. A former publisher and bookseller, she won the Pitch Perfect event for unpublished writers at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in Stirling in 2015.

Death Will Find Me, a crime novel set in 1920s Edinburgh featuring former spy, Tessa Kilpatrick, was her first novel, and Don’t Blink, the first in a series set in the world of art crime investigator Kate Carpenter will be out in May 2020.

Vanessa lives in a cottage in the middle of a Scottish wood where she’s editing the third Kate Carpenter thriller and researching the next Tessa Kilpatrick 1920s novel.

Val Penny

Journey with Grace by Sarah Grace

What a joy it is to start off the blog tour for Journey with Grace by Sarah Grace. @PublishingSarah @malcolmdown run by Love Book Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours.

The Blurb 

Do you want to feel confident and comfortable in your own skin? When we decide to improve ourselves the ripple effect on others is contagious. When we feel comfortable in our own skin the benefit can be redemptive for those we love. What does your ripple look like? Unpacking your personal journey and seeing what is really going on emotionally at a deeper level, is a challenge, yet also a privilege that each of us can go through. Reading this book can turn confusion into clarity, fear into peace, anxiety into creativity, doubt into trust. You will discover confidence in your path ahead and find new freedom in your everyday life. Find out what limits you so you can choose to make the changes. So often we are afraid of appearing self-centred but who else is going to do it? Sarah had to go there and hopes you can go there too. Read Journey with Grace so you don’t have to go there alone.

The Author

Sarah is a qualified counsellor and psychotherapist, so is uniquely placed to guide authors through the often-demanding writing process, bringing out the very best in their manuscripts and helping them shape their content.

She also has an amazing creative eye, so oversees the cover designs of all our books. She loves helping and mentoring young people, developing their creative talents and giving them a platform to move into their future careers. Sarah loves swimming, walking her two adorable rough collie dogs and travelling.

Buy Link 

https://www.malcolmdown.co.uk/journey-with-grace

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

I am pleased to be part of the tour for the original new novel by Jaime Jo Wright, @jaimejowright The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus published by @bethany_house and run by @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours. Do follow the tour.

The Blurb

1928

The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day

The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

The Author

is the author of five novels, including Christy Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo, her husband Cap’n Hook, and their littles, Peter Pan, and CoCo. To learn more, visit www.jaimewrightbooks.com

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/3bzX8UU

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

The Salt Path was part of my birthday present from one of my daughters. I had seen an interview with Raynor Winn on television, so I was especially keen to read the book. Raynor and her husband, Moth, had lost everything, including their home when an investment went sour.

The Blurb

Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

The Review

The Salt Path reminded me of a book I read many years ago about a rail trip across Canada. It is descriptive, measured and intensely moving. Ray and Moth cope with Moth’s terminal diagnosis, poverty, homelessness and prejudice when people they learn they are homeless. Nevertheless, they manage to survive, largely on a diet of noodles, pasties and cups of tea.

Left with nothing but time, Ray and Moth become time millionaires and begin to walk the south-west path. Their walk took them along the walking path from Minehead to Land’s End and then on to Plymouth. They struggled through pain, exhaustion and depression as they recalibrated their outlook on life as they journeyed.

They did have friends who helped them including Moth’s brother, their friend Polly who allowed them to trade labour for a roof over their heads for some months Through Polly, Ray also found seasonal work with sheep which allowed Ray and Moth to save some money, so when they met Anna towards the end of their walk, life took a more positive outlook.

The Salt Path is not a journey for the faint-hearted and the book is not a story for those of a feeble disposition. However, Raynor and Moth are anything but that and the book is well worth reading. I highly recommend it.

The Author

Since travelling the South West Coastal Path, Raynor Winn has become a regular long-distance walker and writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. She lives in Cornwall. The Salt Path was her first book and became a Sunday Times bestseller in hardback and paperback. It was shortlisted for numerous prizes including the Costa, the Wainwright and the Stanfords Travel Writing awards.

Val Penny

Killing the Story by Joan Livingston

I have enjoyed each of the novels by Joan Livingston that I have read and Killing the Story, the fourth in her Isabel Long series of crime mysteries is no exception.

The Blurb

An accidental death that was no accident…

For the record, Estelle Crane, the gutsy editor of The Observer newspaper, died after a hard fall on ice. But years later, her son discovers a cryptic note hinting her death might not have been an accident after all.

Was Estelle pursuing a big story that put her life in danger?

That’s what Isabel Long — along with her 93-year-old mother, Maria, her ‘Watson’ — agrees to investigate in Dillard, a town whose best days are in the past.

A former journalist, Isabel follows leads and interviews sources, new and familiar. She quickly finds a formidable threat in Police Chief James Hawthorne, who makes it clear Isabel is not welcome in his town — and who warns her against poking her nose into Estelle’s death.

Of course, that’s after Isabel has discovered the chief’s questionable policing and a troubled history with Estelle that goes way back.

Killing the Story means dropping it because there aren’t enough facts to back it up. But Isabel won’t make that mistake. She’ll see this one through to the very end.

Can she uncover the plot that led to Estelle’s murder?

Killing the Story is the fourth in the popular Isabel Long Mystery Series.

The Review

Although Killing the Story is the fourth book in Livingston’s series, each of the novels works perfectly well as a stand alone story.

This book starts with when Isabel encounters law enforcement officers from a neighbouring town. Her interest in them increases when the owner of the town’s newspaper, Emerson Crane, asks her to investigate his mother’s death. The death was classed as an accident, but the man doubts that.

Isabel takes on the case and the reader is soon engrossed in her life with her mother, Maria, her love, Jack and the ‘old farts’ she bounces ideas off in the back room of the local store.

I especially enjoyed this book because the reader is allowed to learn more about the depth of Isabel and Jack’s feelings for one another. The readers is also privy to more information about the ‘old farts’ and Maria’s love of diner food results in some amusing interludes.

Killing the Story is an excellent novels that drops subtle clues to the conclusion of Isabel’s investigations. Her assistance comes from an unexpected source and that results in a particularly satisfying ending to the story. As I have said, I enjoy all the novels by Joan Livingston the I have read, but Killing the Story is a particularly engrossing story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

The Author

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Chasing the Case, Redneck’s Revenge, Checking the Traps, and Killing the Story, published by Darkstroke Books, are the first four books in her Isabel Long Mystery Series, featuring a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. solving cold cases in rural New England.

She draws upon her own experience as a longtime journalist in Massachusetts and New Mexico to create Isabel Long, a sassy, savvy widow who uses the skills she acquired in the business to solve what appears to be impossible cases. She also relies on her deep knowledge of rural Western Massachusetts, where she lives, to create realistic characters and settings — from country bars (where Isabel works part-time) to a general store’s backroom where gossipy old men meet.

She credits her mother, Algerina — the inspiration for Maria, Isabel Long’s ‘Watson’ — for instilling in her a love of reading and the power of the written word.

For more, visit her website: http://www.joanlivingston.net. Follow her on Twitter @joanlivingston and Instagram @JoanLivingston_Author. Her author page on Facebook is: http://www.facebook.com/JoanLiving