Out of the Mountain’s Shadow by Rose Alexander #NewRelease #BookReview

A secret from the war with the power to change one woman’s future…

1939: War has broken out, and in Albania Bekim’s family take in a Jewish family fleeing from Nazi Austria. The years of war will shape his life in unimaginable ways as Bekim grows to love Hannelore, doing everything in his power to protect her. But will he be enough to keep her safe?

2019: Following a shock redundancy, Ruth is taking an extended holiday in southern Italy where she befriends local Zak. When Zak’s dying father asks them to solve a mystery from his past, Ruth leaps at the chance. Journeying through his homeland of Albania, Ruth and Zak race to find the sacred artefacts hidden in the mountains during the war.

My Review

Ruth’s successful job as a news presenter on British television has suddenly been terminated. She is sure this is because as a woman of 45 she no longer fits the media image. A generous redundancy package has given her the opportunity to spend several weeks by the sea in Italy. Her friendly hosts help her to relax and introduce her to Zak, a pleasant local businessman who originates from Albania. Soon she is learning the story of his family, particularly during World War Two. Despite poverty, Albanians feel it is their duty to care for guests in their country and so when Jewish families fled from the Nazis the local people hid them from the advancing German army.

We move from 2019 to 1939 through the journal of Zak’s father Bekim. Reading of friendship and romance between Bekim and Hannah, one of the Jewish refugees, Ruth learns a great deal about Albania and she welcomes Zak’s invitation to visit the country. She loves the countryside and meets Zak’s family, but she is not sure if this will be anything more than a casual holiday flirtation since both she and Zak have had failed relationships in the pasts. When Zak and his sister rush off to see Bekim, who is dying, Ruth is happy to stay on her own looking after the chickens but there are criminals in the area and soon she fears for her safety.

The story of Bekim and Hannah is distressing and emotional and I was fascinated to read about the history of Albania both during the war and afterwards. The relationship between Zak and Ruth grows slowly into trust and affection and the reader wants them to find the happiness which Bekim and Hannah lost.

Out of the Mountain’s Shadow on Amazon UK

My Review of Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander

Harbour Street (Vera Stanhope 6) by Ann Cleeves #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

A silent community. A murderer among them . . .

As the snow falls in Newcastle, Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie travel home on the busy Metro. When the train stops unexpectedly due to bad weather, Jessie notices that one woman doesn’t leave and when trying to wake her they find that the passenger has been fatally stabbed.

With no witnesses DI Vera Stanhope looks into the victim’s past and discovers she lived for years on Harbour Street, in a rundown Northumberland fishing town. As she questions the local residents Vera begins to suspect they know more than they are letting on, and the killer is hiding in their midst.

My Review

This is the third Vera Stanhope investigation I have read, although it is the 6th in the series. After Detective Joe Ashworth’s daughter discovers a body, he and Vera must follow up the story of Margaret, the attractive older woman who has been murdered, going to Mardle, the fishing town where she had lived for many years. They find that she stayed in the attic room of a b and b run by a once successful singing star, Kate Dewar. Kate allowed Margaret to stay, rent free, in return for help running the business. Kate’s life has recently improved as a result of a new relationship with a Music teacher at the school her teenage children attend.

Margaret spent time helping out at a women’s refuge outside the town and when a former resident of the home is also murdered, Vera looks deeper into Margaret’s past. Vera is making an effort to encourage Holly, her new detective while Joe feels personally involved since his daughter Jess found the body on the Metro. Looking at the suspects through the eyes of each detective in turn makes the story particularly complex. There are several suspects, each hiding secrets and there is a depressing, haunted feel about the town. I was surprised by the final chapter but enjoyed this book even more than previous volumes. Another great read from Ann Cleeves.

Harbour Street on Amazon UK

My review of The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

V for Victory by Lissa Evans #BookReview

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…

My Review

V for Victory continues the wartime story of teenager Noel and his unofficial foster mother, Vee, whom I first met in the book The Crooked Heart, now living in a large house by Hampstead Heath. Trying to keep below the radar, in case Noel might be taken into care, they look after a bizarre group of lodgers who partly pay by tutoring the brilliant Noel in their specialist subjects. It is obvious from their accents and Vee’s lack of education that they come from different backgrounds, but they are united by their experiences in an unfriendly world and their ability to avoid being tied down by bureaucracy.

Now in 1944, London has become increasingly dangerous, and we learn of the horrific consequences of the V2 bombs through the experiences of Winnie, a determined, likeable Air Raid Warden. At 15, Noel is growing away from Vee and they both begin to keep secrets. Vee’s social life improves when she meets an American serviceman while Noel discovers more about his early life.

This is a story of humour, pathos and tragedy but it is the rich characters who bring it to life.  We care about Winnie, Noel and Vee and the concluding chapter rounds off the story perfectly.  I would recommend reading The Crooked Heart first, but V for Victory is the book I like best.

V for Victory on Amazon UK

A brief review of The Crooked Heart

The Crooked Heart is an unusual story of civilian life in World War Two. First we meet Mattie, a former Suffragette now losing her memory as she sinks into dementia. She lives with her godson, 10-year-old Noel, but he is looking after her. Noel is a very intelligent oddball who has learnt how not to be noticed, but when Mattie dies, he is evacuated to St Albans where, by mischance, he ends up with Vee, a poor, downtrodden woman with a dependent, mute mother and a spoilt adult son.


Vee uses Noel, with his agreement, to help her unscrupulous methods of obtaining money to survive. As Vee’s mother writes amusing letters daily to important people in government, Vee and Noel are two misfits who become comrades in an unfriendly world.

Lissa Evans

Lissa Evans grew up in the West Midlands. She comes from a family of voracious readers and spent most of her adolescence in the local library, thus becoming well read if not wildly popular.

After studying medicine at Newcastle University, she worked as a junior doctor for four years, before deciding to change to a career in which she wasn’t terrified the entire time; a job in BBC Radio light entertainment followed, and then a switch to television, where she produced and directed series including ‘Room 101’ and also ‘Father Ted’, for which she won a BAFTA.

Her first book, ‘Spencer’s List’ was published in 2002, and since then she has written five more novels for adults (one of which, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’, was filmed in 2017) and three novels for children. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She still reads voraciously. lissaevans.com

#FlashbackFriday Books I reviewed in June over six years #BookReviews

It’s the first Friday of June and I’m looking back at the books I was reading in June in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2015. Click on the red titles to read my reviews.

There are two connections across the years; three books on the theme of Art and three 20th century historical fiction books based in the Far East.

2020

Art & Soul by Claire Huston

2019

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews

2018

The Long Journey Home by Wendy Robertson

2017

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S Alderson

2016

The Planter’s Wife by Ann Bennett

2015

The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw

See this months #FlashbackFriday from ChatAboutBooks

Le Drake Noir

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