Friday, September 22, 2017

Matching Wartime Messages

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


When the "war to end all wars" began in the summer of 1914, British soldiers were sure that they'd all be home for Christmas. Unfortunately, they didn't know that many of them wouldn't make it to see that Christmas, or the next or the next one after that. To get to the heart of this era, historical fiction writers Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb bring us this mostly epistolary work of the letters that Evelyn (aka Evie) Elliott writes and receives from those she loves, including ones she shares with her life-long friend, Thomas Harding.

There's something very intimate about letters, and telling stories through them can be fascinating and often poignant. However, one of the biggest problems with this mechanic is making the various authors of the letters sound like different people. Thankfully, Webb and Gaynor seem to have mastered this fine art, and each of the characters comes through with just enough variances, and some excellent consistency, that helps us believe that these missives were from different individuals. Gaynor and Webb also intersperse these war-era letters with regular prose introductory passages and a concluding chapter. This is because some things just can't be described using letters, since all of these take place in 1968, a full 50 years after the end of the war, at Christmastime, in Paris (hence the title of this book) after the death of one of the correspondents.

Epistolary novels lend themselves well to a story involving romance, or at the very least, some kind of close relationship, which either succeeds or fails to develop into something lasting and/or long-term. Webb and Gaynor start with Evie and Tom as being friends at the start of this book (since Evie's brother Will is Tom's oldest and best friend), and slowly develop this into something much more. At the same time, we also observe how this terrible war increasingly wears on all of these characters, both mentally and physically. The other letter writers help round out the story, and give the readers pieces of background, while at the same time, assist the various writers in expressing things they can't say to certain recipients. All this combines into an absorbing story that persuasively unfolds, and written with elegance, even during the most awkward of circumstances.

This book works on many different levels. The writing, the concept and the characters are all there for our enjoyment and empathy. However, one thing didn't sit completely right with me, and that was the climax. On the one hand, Gaynor and Webb build up the relationship between Evie and Tom to a very crucial point through these letters. To their credit, they achieve this with just the right balance of up-front information and hints for us to read between the lines of what's left unsaid. On the other hand, the place where I think they could have gotten a real emotional punch out of their readers somehow got lost. This is probably because they wanted to stick to the formula of all the war-era action confined to letters (and some telegrams), and only use conventional prose for the more modern sections. My thinking is, had they allowed themselves to stray from this, and perhaps changed to a third person narrative for just this part, it might have been more poignant for me. That little switch also might have highlighted this section of the story even further. (I'd say more, but that would mean including a spoiler, which my readers know I'll never do.)

Apart from this one drawback, I truly enjoyed this book. I fell in love with almost every one of the characters writing these letters; that is, after all, what makes a good story. I believe that Webb and Gaynor made a superb team with this novel, where both these authors were truly in their element. I would even go so far as to say that we should include Gaynor and Webb among the best historical fiction writers out there today. I warmly recommend this book and believe it deserves a solid four out of five stars. 


William Morrow will release "Last Christmas in Paris" by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb on October 3, 2017. This book is available (for pre-order) from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Kobo eBooks (USA, Canada & Australia), Kobo Audio books (USA, Canada & Australia), eBooks, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris or Better World Books as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Promotion & Excerpt: Sleep, Savannah, Sleep by Alistar Cross

BAM Literature is pleased to announce the release of:

SLEEP, SAVANNAH, SLEEP

by Alistair Cross 


RELEASE DATE SEPTEMBER 25, 2017



The Dead Don’t Always Rest in Peace

Jason Crandall, recently widowed, is left to raise his young daughter and rebellious teenage son on his own - and the old Victorian in Shadow Springs seems like the perfect place for them to start over. But the cracks in Jason’s new world begin to show when he meets Savannah Sturgess, a beautiful socialite who has half the men in town dancing on tangled strings.

When she goes missing, secrets begin to surface, and Jason becomes ensnared in a dangerous web that leads to murder. But who has the answers that will prove his innocence? The jealous husband who’s hell-bent on destroying him? The local sheriff with an incriminating secret? The blind old woman in the house next door who seems to watch him from the windows? Or perhaps the answers lie in the haunting visions and dreams that have recently begun to consume him.

Alistair’s debut novel, The Crimson Corset, was an immediate bestseller, earning praise from such authors as Jay Bonansinga, author of The Walking Dead series, and vampire-lit veteran, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Alistair also writes with international bestseller, Tamara Thorne, and together they have released several bestsellers, including Mother, The Cliffhouse Haunting, and The Ghosts of Ravencrest.

Together, Thorne & Cross also host the popular radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, which has included such guests as Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels; world-wide bestseller, V.C. Andrews (Andrew Neiderman); Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series, True Blood; Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels that inspired the hit television series; #1 New York Times bestseller, Kim Harrison; Peter Atkins, screenwriter of Hellraiser: 2, 3, and 4; Mick Garris, film director of Hocus Pocus, Psycho IV: The Beginning, and Stephen King’s The Stand; and New York Times bestsellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, Jonathan Maberry, and Christopher Moore.
Excerpt
Sleep, Savannah, Sleep

“This is it? Seriously? It’s like we’re moving into Hill House.” In the passenger seat, Brent looked uneasy.
Jason Crandall turned to his son. “It has character.” He looked up at the old Victorian. But he’s right. It’s creepy. Surrounded by mid-century houses, the decrepit Victorian seemed like a flaw on the neighborhood, a stain on something otherwise clean. The cat’s claw vine climbing the walls seemed to shroud the house, as if trying to hide it, the violently yellow blossoms creating a diversion from the faded wood siding - as did the bowers of honeysuckle that accented the yard, draped the veranda, and sweetened the air. Two second-story windows peered out from between the lush vines, looking like the eyes of a hunted beast.
Surrounded on both sides by white split-rail fences coated in spindly climbing roses, the property was spacious, with a small courtyard beyond a wisteria-choked arbor that lead to the back yard. “I don’t know. I think it’s charming.” He offered his son a grin, and shut off the silver Legacy. The annoying squeal - probably a fan belt - went silent and Jason made a mental note to hunt down a local mechanic.
“It’s creepy, Dad. Seriously creepy.” Brent leaned back and assumed his usual air of annoyed indifference.
“But creepy in a cool way, right?” asked Jason.
Brent’s eyes, the color of seawater, looked unimpressed. “Only if you like haunted houses.”
“It’s haunted?” In the back seat, Amber sat up, rubbing sleep from her eyes. Even Ruby, the blond, blue-eyed doll that never left her arms, looked alarmed.
“Of course it isn’t haunted.” Jason shot Brent a warning look. “It’s just old.”
The three of them stared at the house and it seemed to stare right back. All in all, it didn’t appear pleased to meet them.
“Let’s go have a look around.” Jason undid his seatbelt. “After that, you two can help me unload.” A large moving van was a day or two behind them; the small trailer they’d pulled contained only the essentials - and most of Jason’s massage equipment. He knew he was being optimistic about how quickly he could get his studio up and running, but he couldn’t help it. His new business was the entire reason he’d bought the house. It had a basement complete with its own entrance, so Jason could work without having strangers traipsing in and out of the family’s living space. Overall, the old Victorian was pretty ideal, even if it was a little spooky.
Then again, the whole town - or what he’d seen of it so far - was pretty spooky, too. Quaint and quiet, Shadow Springs was a startling contrast to the buzzing pace of Los Angeles. Jason told himself this would be good for him - good for all of them.
Here, just outside of Ojai in Ventura County, they’d begin their new lives, free of bad memories. That was what Jason had told himself a hundred times in the past weeks - it was what he had to believe.

Books by Alistair Cross






The Cliffhouse Haunting with Tamara Thorne

The Ghosts of Ravencrest with Tamara Thorne

The Witches of Ravencrest with Tamara Thorne

Mother with Tamara Thorne
Darling Girls with Tamara Thorne (Release Date late 2017 or early 2018)


About the Author

Alistair Cross' debut novel, The Crimson Corset, a vampiric tale of terror and seduction, was an immediate bestseller earning praise from veteran vampire-lit author, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and New York Times bestseller, Jay Bonansinga, author of The Walking Dead series. In 2012, Alistair joined forces with international bestseller, Tamara Thorne, and as Thorne & Cross, they write - among other things - the successful Gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their debut collaboration, The Cliffhouse Haunting, reached the bestseller’s list in its first week of release. They are currently at work on their next solo novels and a new collaborative project.

In 2014, Alistair and Tamara began the radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, which has featured such guests as Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of HELLRAISER 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore.


You can visit Alistair Cross’ website at www.alistaircross.com

Contact:
Berlin Malcom, Publicity Manager





Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Guestbook Spy

Not Quite Lost: Travels without a Sense of Direction by Roz Morris


It isn't often that I read non-fiction, but when I do, I often find travel books to be the most pleasurable way to remain within the realm of reality. However, sometimes these can be filled with long, drawn-out descriptions of pre-planned, extended jaunts, which can become tedious, no matter how well written they might be.
Despite this, for some reason, vicariously visiting places I've never been, or will probably never get to makes me happy, and not the least bit filled with regret. That's why when I received an offer to read this collection of random travel diary entries, I practically jumped at the opportunity. In this little collection, Morris takes us to various unknown spots, mostly within Britain. While this might sound mundane, I can assure you that it is anything but that.

First, Morris has a delightful writing style that I fully enjoyed. Morris fills her prose with warmth, light and gentle breezes, even when the weather is the complete opposite (which was often the case). With this, Morris packs each vignette with charm and wit, including passages of mild self-deprecation that only adds to our amusement (and I'm talking everything from a small giggle to full on guffawing). One thing that made some of the earlier entries most fascinating was how Morris and her husband reached outlying places of interest through public transportation alone. Now I realize that the British are famous for their excellent (if somewhat expensive) railways but many many of these spots are well off the beaten paths and far from rail or even bus lines. Morris' creativity and ingenuity of getting where they wanted to go was just as fun to read about as the destinations themselves, especially as these took place in the days before GPS and smart phones. This fun doesn't end even after they're equipped with their own set of wheels, where you'll equally enjoy some of Morris' encounters with old maps and later, an unusually temperamental Sat-Nav announcer.

Another thing that I found particularly appealing was how, once at a destination, Morris seems to suddenly turn into an undercover, secret agent, who gets the best clues about the places she's visiting from - of all thing - reading entries from previous wayfarers in the guestbooks of their varied places of accommodation (hence the title of this review). While Morris only describes a handful of these forays into the comments left behind by previous visitors, those included are very telling, some revealing mysteries themselves, with others describing similar problems and sights experienced by Morris. It helps, too, that many of the places they stayed the night were quirky in their own rights, including requiring guests to wheelbarrow their luggage to their rooms, and having their suite "decorated" with all sorts of improvised containers to catch the rain from the leaking roof, among other strange phenomena!

The only thing I found just a tiny bit lacking, only became known to me when I'd finished reading the book and read the afterward. There, Morris explains how many of these locations ended up in her fictional works. This piqued my interest so much, I requested Morris write a separate guest blog piece to talk about these locations and their insertions into her novels. If that sounds as interesting to you as it does to me, then PLEASE, watch this space! However, this tiny niggle really isn't enough to have ruined the book for me, or lessened my overall enjoyment. That's why I'm giving this wonderfully lovely book a full five stars out of five. If you're looking for a quick read to cheer you up and virtually take you away from your everyday life (who doesn't need that these days), I absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend this one!



Spark Furnace Books and Amazon Digital Services will release "Not Quite Lost: Travels without a Sense of Direction" by Roz Morris on October 2, 2017. This book is available now for pre-order from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books (USA, Canada & Australia), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank Roz Morris (very much) for sending me the ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hallelujah for Vinyl


The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce


Rachel Joyce's newest novel begins with this simple line, "There once was a music shop." No, this isn't a fairy tale; instead, what follows is a complex journey of two people on the backdrop of a soundtrack that’s equally as eclectic as they are. It’s the 1980s and Frank believes that music can heal people, and he has a knack of begin able to find just the right piece for whatever that person needs. However, Frank also believes in vinyl and refuses to sell anything but them in his shop, despite the music industry's growing adoration of CDs. However, with his accident-prone helper Kit, and a slew of oddball neighbors with them on Unity Street, it looks like this fading neighborhood is the next up for developers and their dreams of gentrification. Into all this walks Ilse, who immediately faints and thereby changes Frank's life as well as that of everyone else.

If you've ever read any Joyce (and in particular the companion novels, Harold Fry and Queenie Hennessey), you'll already know that despite the fact that she uses one of the oldest and mundane basic plots on earth (boy meets girl, etc.), her creative genius lies in her ability to grab her readers with the most quirky and lovable characters we could ever imagine. Although Joyce's second novel, Perfect, strayed from this formula, this newest work does not, and I'm not complaining even one tiny bit. In fact, what Joyce achieved with both Harold and Queenie in two separate novels, she's surpassed with Frank and Ilse in this one book.

One can easily compare and contrast these two sets of relationships. Although Ilse, unlike Queenie, isn't on her deathbed, she does have a medical problem but thankfully, it isn't fatal. Unlike Harold, Frank doesn't walk the length of Britain to see Ilse. However, Frank does go on a type of journey, but it is an internal one. At the same time, Frank attempts to help others onto better paths through his deep insights into what music will take them there. Remember too that Harold and Queenie both told their stories of their relationship in retrospect. In this book, Joyce tells Frank and Ilse's story as it happens, beginning their meeting in 1988, and continuing after a 20-year gap in the narrative. Furthermore, in both Harold and Queenie, the primary focus was on those two protagonists, with all the minor characters almost exclusively in the background (practically as footnotes). Ilse and Frank have quite a number of predominant supporting characters (along with a mostly unseen real estate development company) playing significant roles in both helping and impeding their relationship. In fact, one of these characters is practically a third protagonist, but she only appears in a few chapters of her own and as small reminders elsewhere, yet her impact on Frank, and through this also on Ilse, is enormous (sorry, no spoilers).

Aside from this, what all three of these books (as well as her other novel and her short stories) have in common is how Joyce succeeds with such grace and deceptive simplicity of prose to make us fall in love with such obviously flawed, tantalizingly unusual, yet amazingly ordinary people. Yes, I know this sounds like an oxymoron dream fest, but that's Joyce - she knows how to combine all these things to make characters that (excuse the cliché) practically jump off the page at her readers. Joyce also knows how to build a plot around these characters where they can work through various obstacles, which adds to these characters' development. Here too, Joyce likes parallels, for example, Frank's insistence on only selling music on vinyl (that at the time many thought would eventually become obsolete) echoes the neighborhood "Unity Street" where he has his shop, where a property developer is trying to buy out all the residents. It was as if Joyce was trying to say that modernity may influence many, but some steadfast people will always survive with their principles intact.

As you can see, I thoroughly adored this novel, and of course, I will highly recommend it. Mind you, if you don't have a huge batch of tissues when you get to the last handful of pages, you're going to make a mess of your sleeves - BIG TIME! As I've said before "Hello, my name is Davida, and I'm a Rachel Joyce addict," and this book only increased this wonderfully delightful habit for me - so I can't give it less than a full five out of five stars!




"The Music Shop" by Rachel Joyce is available (now in the UK and for pre-order elsewhere) from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Barnes & Noble, Kobo eBooks (USA, Canada & Australia), NEW - Kobo Audio books (USA, Canada & Australia) eBooks, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris or Better World Books (where your purchase supports literacy) as well as from an IndieBound store near you. 

There are also Spotify playlists that go with this book, which you'll find at  bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist 
Father Anthony: bit.ly/FatherAnthonyPlaylist Kit: bit.ly/KitsPlaylist 
Maud: bit.ly/MaudsPlaylist Hector: bit.ly/HectorsPlaylist


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