Book Review

Wolf: A Story of Hate – Zeev Scheinwald & Ella Scheinwald

My review today is of the Holocaust memoir, Wolf: A Story of Hate by Zeev and Ella Scheinwald. Many thanks to Amsterdam Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

BLURB:

The true story of a young Jewish man imprisoned in corporate-owned labour camps during WWII.

His name is Wolf.

He was caught up in the most vicious and disgraceful mass slaughter of people in history.

His experiences during the Holocaust are relevant today, resonating with decent human beings who are concerned about morally corrupt leaders and their admiring masses, which, together with self-serving corporations, can orchestrate tragedies against their own populations.

Imagine Wolf’s story was your story. The story of your child, parent, friend, loved one. How would you cope knowing you are hostage to a government and manufacturing firms rallying to destroy you?

Millions fell victim to political extremism and corporate greed and indifference. Alliances between political fanaticism and financial interests can quickly plunge societies into an abyss of exploitation and genocide. These alliances, if left unchecked, can once again create well-oiled machines of human destruction, where governments, corporations, and followers choose hate over kindness, murder over empathy, torture over love.

This is where hate led humanity, and where it can take us again if we are not vigilant.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’

Pastor Martin Niemöller

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REVIEW:

This is probably one of the most challenging reviews I have ever had to write. Wolf: A Story of Hate is not a book that you can say that you enjoyed reading because to do so would belittle the experiences of those who lived and died during the Holocaust. As the title suggests, this is a book filled with hatred, and Zeev Scheinwald’s anger makes it a difficult book to read, painful at times, but overwhelmingly powerful.

Over the years, I have read numerous books about the Holocaust, visited Auschwitz and Yad Vashem, and I thought I knew what to expect with this book, but I was wrong. Before reading Wolf: A Story of Hate, I had never even heard of the corporate owned forced labour camps and the horrors within. Even knowing what I did about the other camps, the brutality of the corporate camps shocked me.

Zeev Scheinwald remained angry throughout his life, not just with his tormentors, but with everyone who stood by and, in his eyes, did little or nothing to help those being persecuted.

Wolf: A Story of Hate is a brutally honest account of an event in our recent history that no amount of reading or visits to museums and memorials will ever be truly comprehensible to someone who didn’t live through it.

Blog

Escaping Demons – Killian Wolf

You might remember that towards the end of last year, I reviewed a book by the name of The Haunting at Paradise House by Killian Wolf. Since then, the book has undergone a fairly large revamp, and I am joining Rachel’s Random Resources today to help spread the word. If you have seen my review and fancy reading the book, the title you are looking for now is Escaping Demons. All the new details are given below. Make sure you read to the end of the post for a fab giveaway!

Killian Wolf_ebook

BLURB:

One phone call landed me the perfect job. Too bad it didn’t come with life insurance.

I didn’t think this job would be anything special. Sure, the first phone call was weird, and yeah, maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea to come to someone’s house before I met them in person, but Dax seemed nice. All he wanted was a caretaker for his sick father.

Oh, and an exorcist for the spirits haunting his family’s estate. Now he’s left me alone with his father, and the ghosts know my name. Caring for an old man with dementia, I can do. Fighting evil spirits? That’s way above my pay grade.

But Dax has disappeared so I have to learn on my own or both Orlando and I might not live to see tomorrow…

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Haunting Author PhotoKillian Wolf is a Miami, FL native who enjoys pirates, rum, and skulls as much as she loves writing about dark magick and sorcerers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology and a Master of Science in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy.

Killian writes books about obtaining magickal powers, and stepping into other dimensions. She lives in England with her husband, a tornado of a cat, and the most timid snake you’d ever meet.

When she isn’t writing, you might find her at an Archaeological dig, rock climbing, or sipping on dark spiced rum while working on a painting.

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GIVEAWAY:

Win a £25/ $25 Amazon Gift Card (Open INT)

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

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Extracts

My Travels With A Dead Man – Steve Searls

Today I am joining the blog tour for My Travels With A Dead Man by Steve Searls, and have the honour of sharing an extract of the book with you all. Many thanks to Steve for allowing me to share this, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Jane Takako Wolfsheim learns she can alter time and space after meeting a charismatic stranger named Jorge Luis Borges.

Inextricably she falls for Borges. Soon, however Borges’ lies and emotional abuse, and nightmares about a demonic figure, “the man in black,” nearly drive Jane mad. After her parents are murdered, Jane flees with Borges. Both the ghost of haiku master, Basho, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue of Buddha that appears in her dreams, offer her cryptic advice. Unable to trust anyone, Jane must find the strength to save herself, her unborn child, and possibly the future of humanity.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Website

Black Rose Writing

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EXTRACT:

Context: Jane’s flees Minneapolis with Borges. She’s still the primary suspect in her parents’ deaths, even though Borges killed Marty Schneider, the lawyer who planned the murders and hired hit men to carry them out. At a motel near Buffalo, NY, Borges reveals Jane has the extraordinary ability to go “Elsewhere.” i.e., she can alter time and space to create alternate worlds to which she can travel. Jane dismisses this claim about her, but Borges insists what he said was true. To bolster his argument he shows Jane he can read her mind and predict the future. These disclosures shock Jane. Finally, he reveals when his mother told him not only the full truth regarding his father’s identity, but also why it matters so much …

* * *

            “My father was a weak man, but a genius. Her words. Yet she didn’t identify him. I learned who he was when a high school language arts teacher mentioned I shared the name of the great South American man of letters, Jorge Luis Borges, and asked if my mother was related to him. It hit me then that this man was my father. That caused quite the fight when I came home from school, as I shouted obscenities at Mother for hiding his identity, while she, in a rage, threw expensive chinaware about the kitchen, which created quite a mess. It ended when she collapsed in a heap, sobbing on the floor amid all the broken porcelain. We didn’t speak to one another for a week after that.”

            He turned his back on me, hands clasped behind him, thinking god knows what. Until now, my Borges denied any connection to the ‘Great Man,’ and yet, for the longest time, I suspected he was the son of the famous Borges. It wasn’t rational, more based on intuition. Now that I knew, I had a million questions, but I asked only one. “Why do you need someone like me?”

            “Why? Because my mother told me that the things I could do, things no one else could, would destroy me unless I found a woman who could go Elsewhere like her, though she never used that word for her gift, as she called it.  She always said when she chose my father it was the biggest mistake in her life. Only my choice of the right person could repair the damage. And you are the one, Jane, the key to my destiny.”

            He turned to face me, but his hands remained behind his back.  The muscles in his arms grew taut, and rippled, as if fighting with one another. “Her desire to bear the child of a great man was a mistake.  She acted with an incomplete understanding of the consequences for her and for me.  When she chose my father, she ignored his motives for wanting to be with her, or she assumed the usual motives, let’s say.  Only after I was born did she discover the truth, but by then it was too late.”

            Motives? Mistake? “What difference could it make what his motives were?”

“Because she chose him,” he said, as if that explained it all.

Confused, I said, “So?”

“She should have seen into his heart, for she is like me in that regard. But it’s not so simple.  This knowing, it’s not as easy as I made it seem earlier.  With you, it took months.  My mother never told me how long she was with my father, when their relationship began, when she chose him.  I suspect he disappeared from her life before she knew him for what he was.”

“And what was that?” I asked. When he hesitated, I added, “And what does any of this have to do with you needing someone who can do this crazy Elsewhere stuff? I’m sorry, but this makes no sense, even I if can do this Elsewhere thing.  Why do you need me? You have your own abilities. Aren’t they enough?”

            Borges gave me a look that bordered on deranged. “You can’t imagine how difficult my life has been,” he said through clenched teeth. “So many things you don’t understand. My entire existence depends on what you can do. Please, just have faith I’m doing what’s best for us both.”

            “You’re right. I don’t understand.”

Borges tried to respond, but emitted only a strangled guttural noise. I saw desperation in his eyes and panic written on his face. His chest thrust forward even as his lower body held him back. In that moment, he struck me as the opposite of Bashō, lacking serenity, a man on the brink of some great explosion, capable of anything. Then, just when it seemed he was about to strike me or worse, the room darkened. Fast moving rain clouds blotted out the sun. Thunder shook the walls. Sheets of rain fell from the skies, forming a waterfall that poured off the motel’s slanted roof onto the tiny balcony outside.  Both Borges and I stopped and watched the storm together, yet very much apart. 

            To me, the storm acted as an enchantment. Flashes of lightning pierced the downpour. Despite its fury, I felt calm, and something else no words can describe. I envisioned a vibrant green world, a magical place with thousands upon thousands of ferns, bushes, tall trees, vines and other plants of all kinds. A place where verdant mountains rose straight out of the ocean, and unimaginable creatures gamboled about, playful, happy, unafraid.  Somewhere else, the storm still raged, and in that place stood a man I adored and yet who frightened me. A man I no longer trusted, but who I still loved, strange as that seemed. However, the reality where he existed was a pale shadow compared to the green world I gazed upon.  It was my Borges’ voice that brought me back. I heard my name, like a whisper on the wind, but then louder, spoken with more force each time I heard it. Jane. Jane! JANE!

            My green world vanished. In our room, Borges grasped my shoulders, his hands shaking me as a baby shakes a rattle. The rain still fell and the thunder still rumbled, but only as a faraway rumor.  When I looked up, only then did he release me, stepping away, visibly distressed. “You were leaving me,” he said, not so much to me as to himself.

            “I’m back,” I replied, though from where, I didn’t know. Yet I wanted nothing but to return there, so beautiful, so peaceful, a paradise.

            “You were about to go Elsewhere,” he muttered, his voice quaking. I didn’t argue the point.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steve Searls retired from the practice of law in 2002 due to a rare chronic autoimmune disorder (Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Cell Associated Periodic Syndrome). He began writing poetry in 2001 and, using the pseudonym, Tara Birch, was the featured poet of Tryst Poetry Journal’s Premiere Issue. He’s also published numerous poems as Tara Birch in print and online, including the poetry chapbook, Carrots and Bleu Cheese Dip, in 2004.  Steve was also active as a blogger posting under the name, Steven D, at Daily Kos (2005-2017), Booman Tribune (2005-2017) and caucus99percent (2016–present). Steve’s published essays on Medium include “Clara’s Miracle,” about his wife’s cancer and resulting traumatic brain injury from chemotherapy, and “My Rape Story.” Raised in Colorado, he now lives with his adult son in Western NY.  My Travels With a Dead Man is his first novel.

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Book Review

The Last Charm – Ella Allbright

Today I get to tell you all about the beautiful Ella Allbright book, The Last Charm, as I join the blog tour. Thanks to Ella, and One More Chapter, for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour (there is a fab competition at the bottom of my post – make sure you don’t miss it!)

BLURB:

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December…

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

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The Last Charm Cover

REVIEW:

I was initially drawn to The Last Charm because of my own charm bracelet which I would be devastated to lose – knowing what it means to me, I can fully understand Leila’s attachment to hers. I actually have a charm just like Leila’s with the cross, anchor and heart – it’s one of the charms I treasure the most.

We first meet Jake and Leila as children and follow them through their interactions throughout their lives. The characterisation of Jake and Leila as they grow from children to adults is beautiful, their voices changing, yet somehow staying the same as they grow. Watching them mature and battle their demons means that they really get under your skin, making their triumphs and heartbreaks feel all the more personal. It really is an exquisite journey through their lives centred around the specific points where Leila receives a new charm.

The Last Charm is a book that made me laugh and cry in almost equal measure, although perhaps it was a little heavier on the crying. If you are fans of Emma Cooper or Amelia Henley, then you will love this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Last Charm AuthorA self-confessed reading addict, Ella Allbright writes commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset. Her first novel in this genre, The Charm Bracelet will be published in August 2020 by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins, and she’s currently hard at work on her next book. Ella is represented by agent Hattie Grünewald at The Blair Partnership, who represent J.K. Rowling.

Ella also writes as Nikki Moore, the author of the popular #LoveLondon romance series. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart, and in 2018 the collection was released in Italy. Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the best selling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply. Her debut romance Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015.

When not writing or reading, she can be found working in her HR day job, walking the family’s cute beagle puppy or watching a Netflix series!

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GIVEAWAY:

Win Dorset and Reading themed goodies to celebrate The Last Charm by Ella Allbright (UK Only)

First Prize 

The Last Charm First PrizeBooks Make Me Happy/TLC Branded Mug

Keepsake Bracelet for Readers

Lulworth Chocolate Bar 

Mermaid metal bookmark

TLC Postcards 

PLUS mystery prize

Second Prize

Lulworth Chocolate Bar The Last Charm Second Prize

I love Durdle Door chocolate lollipop

Sunshine metal bookmark

TLC Postcards 

PLUS mystery prize

Third Prize

The Last Charm Third PrizeLulworth Chocolate Bar 

I love Lulworth chocolate lollipop

Starry Sky metal bookmark

TLC Postcards 

PLUS mystery prize

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

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Make sure you have a look at the other blogs joining the tour, and also check out the hashtags #OMCReadingChallenge and #TheLastCharm on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to join in with some really fun activities.

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Book Review

Raven Storm – Emma Miles

I am joining the blog tour for the latest instalment in one of my favourite book series, the Fire-Walker series by Emma Miles. Read on for all the details on the third book in this brilliant fantasy series, Raven Storm. Many thanks to Emma for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Fear walks with those in power.

Divided, the land of Chem hangs in the balance. In the west the Ravens seek to bring safety to women, and an end to slavery. In the east the remaining covens cling to their power, refusing to give up their way of life to foreign invaders. Across both lands the priests whisper and plot, their gods a shadowy threat hanging over them all.

To protect their young family, Kesta and Jorrun have made their home in the Raven Tower of Elden. Unable to abandon their responsibility or friends, they remain embroiled in the fight to the north. Whilst peace and friendship blossom between the Fulmers, Borrows and Elden, the arrival of strangers turns the court of Taurmaline upside down. 

The history of the Fire-walkers is about to catch up with them, and the Fire-spirit’s truth will be revealed.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Raven Storm text ebook

REVIEW:

I am sure I have said this before, but each book I read by Emma Miles is better than the one before, with each new release becoming my new favourite of her books, and Raven Storm is no exception. We rejoin Kesta and Jorrun, and their friends and family, six years on from the end Raven Coven and whilst life seems calm at Northold, it remains a different story in Chem. Just when you think you know where the biggest danger is going to come from in this book, a new challenge emerges as Emma Miles adds another unknown land to her repertoire, as visitors from Galadan bring their own customs and beliefs, together with a new threat to the more familiar lands. The world building that develops with each book is incredibly rich and varied, and makes me want to run away with Temerran on the Undine to visit each different land.

I had forgotten just how much Azra, the young fire-spirit, makes me smile. His enthusiastic approach to everything he does, and his unfailing loyalty to Jorrun and his family never fail to cheer me up. It’s a tough call because I love so many characters in this series, but I really think he is my favourite across all the books.

As well as being reunited with old favourites, we are introduced to a whole new cast of characters in this book. Of these, my favourite has to be brave little Arridia and I hope we see her grow fully into her powers in future books.

As with the previous books in the series, Raven Storm moves through the points of view of a number of characters. It is a book that leads you down the slippery path of reading “just one more chapter” before bed, but then this leads to another and another as the changes of viewpoint pull you to different points of the action as the characters battle for their very survival on multiple fronts.

I am excited to see what Emma Miles can possibly produce next that could usurp Raven Storm as my favourite of her books!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Raven Storm AuthorI often get asked when I knew I was a writer; the answer is always. A writer is what I am, it’s in my soul. There have been times in my life when I couldn’t write, and times when my writing has been the only thing that kept me going. I think I always longed for something deeper from life, something more meaningful, and I found it in my imagination and in the music of words.

It was poetry which first caught my attention, and whilst my younger cousins called for ghost stories it was animals I first wrote of. I think I gravitated toward fantasy because of the freedom it gives, I could create my own worlds and decide my own rules. My Wind’s Children trilogy was born from an image that came to me whilst daydreaming, of a young man sitting alone below a bridge. I didn’t know who he was; it turns out neither did he, but we found out together.

I’m now working on my seventh book and love writing more than ever, it’s an addiction, an obsession, but one I now share with my wonderful writing family. My beta readers, my editor, and you, my readers, having you with me on my journey means the world to me.
I write as much as I can around work, but I also try to squeeze in a ridiculous amount of hobbies! I’m a wildlife photographer and do a little archery. I paint, sculpt with clay, withies and driftwood, preferring to be outdoors if I can. I still have a love for the theatre, having started out in life studying backstage crafts, and a great love for language. I speak a little French, Romanian and Italian, ma non molto bene!

Thanks for reading this. If you read any of my books and love them, please come say hello and tell me, you’d be surprised at how much that means to an author.

Take care of yourself.
Em x

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Book Review

Choices Shape, Losses Break – Nia Lucas

Today I can finally share my thoughts on the latest book by Nia Lucas, Choices Shape, Losses Break. I have been looking forward to talking to you about this. Many thanks to Nia for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Shunned and struggling at home and school, teenager Lorna Davies clatters into chaotic and charismatic Shay O’Driscoll and Leon Barrett at an illegal rave in 1995. As Lorna’s talent for dancing sees her unexpectedly employed in the strobe-lit heart of 90’s club culture, her world is turned on its head by her budding friendship with Shay and Leon. For the boys, their high-risk lives endanger all three of them in an association that blurs the lines between friendship and dependency.

As the risks escalate, Lorna’s best friend Hannah, her brother Dan, her bully-turned-protector Nico and her unexpected friend Rosa watch with concern as she is thrust ever closer to harm in an intoxicating new landscape. When life-threatening events risk separating them permanently, Lorna, Leon and Shay juggle love, loyalty, sacrifice and exploitation as their lives change beyond recognition. Will the losses they face break them all?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Nia Lucas’ first book Love Punked will be available for FREE from 18th-22nd August.

Cover

REVIEW:

Before I jump into my review for this book, I want to start with a small health warning – this book is being marketed as NA contemporary fiction, and that is exactly what it is. Don’t let the age of the main character fool you into thinking it is a YA read – there are some decidedly mature themes involved throughout.

Choices Shape, Losses Break is a heartbreaking read, featuring a cast of characters who are so fundamentally damaged that they don’t know who they are without each other. However, being so reliant on other people isn’t without its challenges, and the road they follow is far from smooth.

I was the same age as Lorna in 1995 so it wasn’t hard for me to relate to her. It was liking stepping back in time, the fashion, the music, the sneaking out to the phone box for private conversations, the overwhelming, confusing emotions. However, while I was headed off to the under-17’s disco at the local sports centre, Lorna finds herself swept up in a life of nightclubs and illegal raves. 

The switch to Leon’s point of view in the later stages of the book, discovering what he had been through and how he felt was like a knife to the heart. I loved Leon at first sight and just fell more and more in love with him as his secrets and insecurities were slowly revealed. He really is just a gentle giant who desperately needed to be loved.

Shay is a more problematic character. I wanted to love him too, and my heart bled for him at times, but then there were the other times were his controlling behaviour towards Lorna was at best more than she was equipped to deal with, and at worst borderline abusive (actually at times not even borderline).

Shay’s behaviour is just one of many challenging themes that Nia Lucas tackles in Choices Shape, Losses Break. It is by no means an easy read. That said, these are important themes that shouldn’t be ignored, and are certainly not unique to the 1990s. Lucas handles them with care, and the resulting book is something raw that reaches right into your soul. It is one of those books that it is incredibly difficult to articulate exactly how it made you feel because by the end, your emotions have been torn to shreds and left in a heap in the corner.

Aside from the three main characters, Choices Shape, Losses Break has a wonderful supporting cast, who are quite literally there to support Lorna, Lee and Shay, no matter how many bad choices they make, and I loved each of them for this.

This book left me wanting to know what came next for so many of the characters, and I was pleased to see that a follow up is on its way that will hopefully resolve some of the questions I was left with.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

myAvatarI am a UK-based author of Contemporary women’s fiction who is passionate about writing amazing, strong and relatable female characters who readers really invest in- I love to write stories about the best mate you wish you’d had! My Welsh heritage and my life as a practising Social Worker with teenagers and their families heavily influences my work as does my love of all things 90’s, especially Rave and Clubbing culture. My first novel, ‘Love Punked’ is rated 5* on Amazon and my second 5* rated Novel ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ is now available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!

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Meet the Author

Jeff Pollak

First Second Coming, the debut fantasy/supernatural/romance/suspense novel by Jeff Pollak, was released on 1st August. Prior to it’s release, I sat down for a virtual chat with Jeff, and I am delighted to be able to share this with you all today. Let’s jump straight in, and then I will share all the important information about the book with you all.

FSC - eBook Final Cover

What was the inspiration behind First Second Comings?

When 9/11 occurred, I watched the World Trade Tower collapse just as everyone else did. Of course, I was horrified by the spectacle. Perhaps more so than others, because I had connections to that building. Born and raised in New York City, I’d been in the building a few times as a child. In my adult years, my law firm would hold annual seminars in the Top of the Tower conference centre every May, to update our New York/New Jersey corporate clients about California law and important appellate decisions. As a partner in the firm I’d function as a speaker, a panelist, or just a meet-and-greet guy. I had some clients in the building and gotten to know some of the conference centre’s staff. So the collapse was very hard to watch – some people I knew in that building didn’t survive, I later learned. That day a random thought came to me, that this planet really needs a new god, someone who is a planetary turnaround specialist. Some fourteen years later, when I’d decided to spend my future retirement writing fiction, the concept of a character who is a planetary turnaround deity came back to me as the seed of a story. I developed it and First Second Coming is the result.

What are your favourite books as a reader?

My all-time favorite books? I’ll break it down by genre.  Historical fiction: James Clavell’s Shogun and Tai-Pan novels. Also Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth and Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost. Fantasy: Tolkien’s Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  Science Fiction: Frank Herbert’s Dune and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Thriller/Suspense: Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October and John LeCarre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Horror: Stephen King’s The Stand. Magical Realism: Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Non-fiction: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War Cabinet, and Simon Winchester’s Atlantic about that little pond that separates England from the U.S.A.

Which authors inspire you as a writer? Is there a particular author who it would make your day to be compared to?

At the moment the authors who inspire me the most are, in no particular order, Iain Pears, David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami and Daniel Silva. The first Pears book I read, An Instance of the Fingerpost, is told from the point of view of four different individuals. Each POV character narrates the same events entirely differently, leaving the reader amazed that the story  comes together. Pears is a master at that sort of intricate plotting and character development. As for Mitchell, the man’s off the charts as a writer. Incredible talent. I don’t read his books, I savor every sentence in them, especially The Bone Clocks. As for Murakami, I started with 1Q84 and it was a revelation. Something different in its Japanese setting, in the richness of the details of both the real world and the alternative world he creates, and in the uniqueness of the story. Finally, Silva – he writes espionage thrillers along the lines of LeCarre or Follett. Silva’s ongoing series of about twenty books now all involve Israeli Mossad spy Gabriel Allon. Silva’s books are a bit formulaic, but he often incorporates real world events into the story and he has a conciseness to his writing style that I try to emulate in my writing. At this point in my development as a writer, being compared to Silva would probably make my day as I’m not yet at the “master writer” level of a Pears, Mitchell or Murakami. I aspire to get that good, though.

What did you learn over the course of writing First Second Comings that you wish you had known before you started?

Good question. I was learning the craft while I wrote, so I suppose the short answer is “everything.” I attended writers conferences, participated in critique groups, did online courses and researched answers to the “how to” things that came up. If there’s one thing that stands out that I didn’t learn but instead experienced, it’s getting so close to your characters that they actually talk to you unbidden (in your head) while you write. The first time my female main character, Brendali Santamaria, started talking to me I pretty much freaked out. I wasn’t expecting that and didn’t know this is a fairly common occurrence in the writing world. She’d tell me what was actually going on in the story, as differentiated from what my outline said was happening. I enjoyed hearing from her before long. Her romance with Ram Forrester, for example, wasn’t something I had planned to include in the story – but it happened and is now a major piece of First Second Coming.

Do you have a regular writing routine? If you do, what does it look like?

I do now, yes, but while writing most of First Second Coming I’d write as time allowed, around my work and family obligations. Now, as a retiree and empty-nester, I have plenty of free time. I do most of my work in the morning, from about 5:30 to 11:30, taking breaks for exercise and to get showered and dressed. In the afternoons I’ll hike for an hour or so, do any errands or chores that need doing, and write or edit as time permits. I don’t write in the evening, leaving that time for reading or other leisurely pursuits.

Do you have a plan in mind for your next book?

I’ve begun writing the second book in the “New God” series, or to put it another way, the sequel to First Second Coming. I’m also doing research for it and writing a novel that will be a spin-off from the series but not part of it. All those things – the two novels and the research – are in the start-up stages. I hope to have a first draft done on at least one of the two novels by year end.

Thanks so much Jeff, for taking the time to talk to me. Now, onto the all important blurb!

BLURB:

In 2027 the deity known as NTG – short for New Testament God – retires after more than two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. The new god, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether the Earth’s dominant species should or should  not be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy, Inc.’s planetary operation standards.

Earth’s new God introduces himself to humanity by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaris, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God’s interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his planetary turnaround plan. All that those in attendance must do to assure that mankind earns a coveted spot in this God’s good graces is eliminate religious violence forever, without his heavenly help, before the conference ends. Failure means extinction.

God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must the harried couple attend the conference meetings by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a group of religious fanatics bent on killing them. When conflicts with the conference intensify, it’s up to Ram and Bren to do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and assure mankind’s survival.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photoshoot - BlueJeff Pollak, the author of First Second Coming and sequels to come, was raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx by a single mom and two grandparents who lived eight floors up. After graduating from college in Buffalo, Jeff headed west to Los Angeles for law school and spent his entire legal career in and around civil litigation. Now retired, writing fiction is Jeff’s new passion.

 

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Thanks again Jeff, for taking the time to talk to me. I think this sounds like a fascinating book and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

Guest Posts

The Punishment – Paul Clayton

As part of the blog tour for his book, The Punishment, I am joined by Paul Clayton as he proves he is a man after my own heart with a passion for reading past his bedtime. Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to talk to us, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

BLURB:

What do you do when you are an ex-soap star down on your luck and running out of money?

For Daniel Maple, a chance meeting in a nightclub presents him with an offer he finds hard to refuse…

But crime makes you pay.

And someone, somewhere, wants you punished.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Punishment Cover

GUEST POST:

Reading in bed came from the fact with as a child I hated the moment Mum turned the light out. For a long time, I had to have a little purple night light in the corner of the room, but even that allowed corners of darkness to creep into the bedroom, so I would stretch out a chapter or two for as long as I could. It’s still the place where I do most of my reading. There is always a book by my bedside and it’s most likely to be a thriller or a mystery. The well-written ones do nothing for my sleep. Each chapter ending with a question or a problem makes me want to read on and solve it.

I can never forget the night when reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, I was approaching the end of the chapter and about to place the book on my bedside table and head into slumber when I read the sentence that changes your perception everything you have read so far. I gasped aloud, and after a quick dash to the loo, it was another three chapters and a very late night. Sometimes I don’t know when to give up and my partner will find me dozing with a Kindle that has fallen to the floor at the side of the bed, but in the main. I will set myself a certain number of chapters to read and hope that I make it.

When it came to writing my first fiction, the idea of keeping somebody up late at night by the nature of the story I told was foremost in my mind. It’s been immensely gratifying to receive messages from readers castigating me for the fact that they stayed up till 3 AM last night in order to finish “The Punishment”. It’s a page turner, hopefully thrilling, clever, and funny. (but that’s for you to make up your mind) It’s the sort of book I love to take to the beach. Something that keeps me glued to the pages. One thing that is important to us as actors as we tell stories that our audience are engaged. You can feel a room of people who are listening. It’s a warm feeling. A supportive cocoon of concentration.

When I became an author, this was the relationship with my audience I thought I would miss. Readers take the books into their own world, at their own speed, and in their own way. 

And yet, to know that a story of twists and turns, of double-cross and disaster has made people gasp and laugh across the world is more exciting than I can say.

Creating the world of “The Punishment” and taking the little pinch of truth on which it’s based, sprinkling it with mixed moments of my life and whipping it up into a confection that I hope people want to finish in one go has been the greatest of fun. For to me, that’s what stories are. Fun. A ticket to a world that someone has created just for me. That reaches out and brings the audience closer.

And just as someone says in ‘The Punishment” – “If this were your problem, what would you do?”

I hope you take the time to find out.

Paul Clayton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Punishment - Paul (91) - Full ResolutionClayton is an actor best known for his appearances as Ian Chapman in five series of the awardwinning Channel 4 comedy Peep Show and as Graham in two series of the BAFTA winning comedy Him and Her. Other credits include Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Holby City as well as This is Alan Partridge, Doctor Who, The Crown, Vera, Wolf. He is a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

His previous books are So You Want To Be A Corporate Actor? and The Working Actor and he is a regular columnist in The Stage.

He is a proud patron of Grimm and Co, the children’s literacy charity, based in his home town of Rotherham.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

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GIVEAWAY:

Win 5 x E-copies of The Punishment (Open INT)

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

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Thanks again to Paul for taking the time to talk to us today. For more information on The Punishment, make sure you visit the other blogs taking part on this tour.

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Book Review

The Big Chill – Doug Johnstone

Continuing a run of returning authors that I seem to be having at the moment, I have the honour today of joining the blog tour for Doug Johnstone’s latest book, The Big Chill, book two his The Skelfs series. Many thanks to Doug, and to Orenda books, for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver ’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Fast-paced, darkly funny, yet touching and tender, the Skelf family series is a welcome reboot to the classic PI novel, whilst also asking deeper questions about family, society and grief.

The Big Chill Cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

The Big Chill sees us join the three Skelf women in the aftermath of the events of A Dark Matter, as each finds their own way to come to terms with what happened. Once again, the book moves between chapters told be each of Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah as they battle their own demons whilst dealing with an ever growing case list for their private investigation business, and an ever growing body count for the funeral business.

The book gets off to a dramatic start as one of Dorothy’s funerals is interrupted by a police car chase, resulting in both their first case to investigate and new body to bury. Although each of the cases investigated this time round tugs at the heartstrings for different reasons, I found this case to be particularly moving, and really quite emotional as the truth began to be revealed.

Proving he is a master of suspense as well as emotion, Doug Johnstone juggles the delicate new cases with thrilling drama as past events come back to haunt Jenny and her family. Johnstone’s writing moves seamlessly between these two areas, and in doing so made sure that I was entirely immersed in all the elements of the book.

In the Skelfs, Johnstone has created a wonderfully rich family of entirely believable characters, and I think everyone will be able to relate to at least one of these women at some level. The supporting cast round out the picture perfectly. Bring on book three so I can find out what happens next!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Doug Johnstone Author PicDoug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

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Don’t forget to visit all the other amazing blogs taking part in this tour.

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Book Review

Hunter’s Secret – Val Penny

As you will all know by now, I am a fan of the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries, so I am thrilled to be joining the blog tour for Val Penny’s fifth book in the series, Hunter’s Secret. Many thanks to Val, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. DCs Tim Myerscough and Bear Zewedu found a corpse, but when Hunter arrives it has disappeared, and all is not as it seems.

Hunter recalls the disappearance of a dead body thirty years earlier. The Major Incident Team is called in but sees no connection – it is too long ago. Hunter is determined to investigate the past and the present with the benefit of modern DNA testing.

Tim has other problems in his life. His father, Sir Peter Myerscough, is released from jail. He, too, remembers the earlier murder. There is no love lost between Hunter and Sir Peter. Will Hunter accept help from his nemesis to catch a killer?

Hunter’s own secret is exciting and crucial to his future. Will it change his life? And can he keep Edinburgh safe?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Purchase Here

Hunters Secret Cover

REVIEW:

Having read all of The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries so far, I have always found Hunter Wilson to be something of an enigma, much more difficult to fathom than the rest of the characters. Discovering more about Hunter’s past in this fifth book, and witnessing his first encounter with both a dead body and the police, explains both a lot about the man he became and about the animosity between him and Myerscough (old Myerscough that is, not young Myerscough who I will confess to having a bit of a crush on). It was interesting to see a more vulnerable side to Hunter, and see beneath the tough exterior that he presents to the outside world.

As ever I was delighted to see the return of Jamie and Frankie. I love their dynamic, and their efforts to remain on the straight and narrow (ish) always add some light relief to the story. The second Jamie was spotted on his “walk” you just knew that the hapless cousins were about to find themselves right in the middle of something big again.

The motivation behind the perpetrator’s crimes in this book is shocking, and whilst I had my suspicions about who was behind the mysterious missing bodies, the reasons for their actions came as a surprise to me.

The character relations on both sides of the law are as incestuous as ever in a way that always make Val’s books feel like returning to a familiar community. It is these relationships that draw me back to each new book as it is released.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hunters Val Penny 2

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Giveaway to Win a .mobi of Hunter’s Secret by Val Penny (Open INT)

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

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the tour for more information and reviews.

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