As Red as Blood (Lumikki Andersson #1) by Salla Simukka book review



Lumikki Andersson has made it a rule to stay out of things that do not involve her. She knows all too well that trouble comes to those who stick their nose where it doesn’t belong. But Lumikki’s rule is put to the test when she uncovers thousands of washed Euro notes hung to dry in her school’s darkroom and three of her classmates with blood on their hands. Literally. A web of lies and deception now has Lumikki on the run from those determined to get the money back—no matter the cost. At the center of the chaos: Polar Bear, the mythical drug lord who has managed to remain anonymous despite his lavish parties and notorious reputation. If Lumikki hopes to make it out alive, she’ll have to uncover the entire operation. Even the cold Finnish winter can’t hide a culprit determined to stain the streets red.


I found this young adult thriller/ mystery very entertaining to read. The plot was well thought out and Salla is a marvelous writer. I loved how she used a wonderful blend of allegories to describe simplistic things in everyday life. Salla paints a beautiful picture as she describes the cold, harsh backdrop. I feel like maybe though the English translation did not do her book justice as it felt that some things were left out. Do let me point out though, that this is not a fairy-tale retelling as some think. It has elements to a fairy-tale such as Lumikki means Snow White and there are verses from the lore of Snow White. I did feel that the book has great potential for the rest of the series that Salla plans on writing, however, i would like there to be a little more detail to some of the plot and to not be as vague. Also i feel that the supporting characters could use a little more emotional depth, and could use a little bit of growing. I felt that had the book been given a little more to it as it felt very short that this book could have been a 5 star read. however i’m giving it 3. Don’t get me wrong, I did love this book very much and the plot was fun, but as mentioned before, it felt too short and rushed, and the supporting characters were one dimensional. So 3 stars from me. While I received this book for review all thoughts and opinions are my own.


The Woman Behind the Waterfall book interview with Leonora Meriel



The Woman Behind the Waterfall book interview with Leonora Meriel

First off thank you to Leonora for agreeing to this interview! It means so much to have you here on my little blog! I have become a big fan of your writing! So after reading your book and posting my review, I’m sure my followers would love to know a little more about you. I decided to—look up your web page to see what I could learn about you first and that has inspired some questions from me.


Q: Now I noticed that you grew up in London and eventually moved to New York to work for the United Nations before moving to Kyiv where you founded and managed the Ukraine’s largest internet company. First off wow what a killer resume you must have! Second, how did you go from achieving such great feats to deciding to write a book?

A: Hello Laura, and thank you so much for having me! Your blog is really special and I love the design. I’m also happy for people to look me up on-line – I try to be very open about my life and my writing.

It’s true – I’ve done some exciting jobs in my life. Actually, the only job I ever planned to do was write books, but after finishing university I moved to New York and got drawn into the thrill of the corporate world and then of being an entrepreneur. When I turned 30, I had a big life evaluation and realized that if I wanted a career as a writer, I had better start working on it seriously. It was a hard move, but I left the company I had founded to write full time.

Q: So I see you have gotten to travel a lot, from New York to London, from Ukraine to even China and Taiwan. Do you think you getting to be so culturally knowledgeable as well as speaking several languages have helped shape you into being the writer you are today?

A: You are entirely right, Laura. I think it is part of an author’s job to see the world and be on a constant search to understand what is happening – people, trends, history and possible futures. A writer should be able to identify and raise important questions about life, and those questions can be different depending on the country, location, climate, level of hardship and many other factors.

Even if a writer is entirely local, they should travel and explore beyond their home in order to understand where it fits in globally. Languages, without a doubt, help to deepen that understanding and give you sensitivity to other cultures.

Q: So in your book The Woman behind the Waterfall, there is a significant amount of input into a mother-daughter relationship and the strengths and weaknesses that go into that. What sparked you into writing this? Do you have children of your own that you get these life experiences from or did you have a significant relationship with your mother that helped write this relationship in your book?

A: This is a great question – thank you. Yes – I have 2 children (a daughter and a son) and my daughter was very much the inspiration for the seven-year-old girl in my novel. It was possibly my favourite thing about being a mother when I witnessed how children live entirely in their worlds of imagination. They have the ‘real world’ of rules and parents and dinners, but their imagination flows into that and out of it and it mixes with the stories they hear in books and the stories they constantly make up. Children believe anything and they have no limits in their minds. I truly think that adults should learn from this to mix more imagination into our ‘real’ lives – it would make everything more exciting, more wondrous, more playful.

Of course, being a mother has a great many difficult moments too, and I explore both sides in the book. From a young mother’s perspective, it can be a big shock suddenly becoming a parent when inside you are still not fully developed – as happens to the character in my novel.

Q: One fun thing I read while looking at you page was that while researching for this book you got to try samohon (Ukrainian home-brewed vodka). Tell me more about that!

A: Mmmmm it’s delicious! I lived in Ukraine for almost ten years, and one of the best gifts that people would bring, if they were visiting from the villages, was a bottle of samohon. It’s so strong and fiery – it makes the vodka you buy in the shop seem watery. In the villages, a lot of the people make it themselves using beets or other natural ingredients. In my research, a very kind man in a village gave me a lesson in making it, and then we had to taste several different kinds – with honey, with birch juice, with lemon. I loved all of them!

Q: Now I noticed your book deals heavily with depression. Is this something you have felt in your own life? I ask because as someone who has battled depression for years, I can relate to as you write it very honestly.

A: I’m so glad that the description of depression came out as genuine. It certainly was in my case. I had times in my life when months seemed incredibly dark, and those times are terrifying because you never know when – or if – they are going to end. People will tell you that everything will get better, but at that moment, all you can see is darkness. I experienced this very acutely in my life, and I made sure that I wrote a lot during these times, so that I would remember what it was like – and I used this writing when I was working on my book. It’s really hard to look back and think how bad it was. When you’re in a good place, you can’t even imagine feeling no hope at all.

I also knew that a lot of people experience depression in connection with their children, or post-partum, so I decided in my novel to make this a feature of Lyuda’s journey.

Q:  In reading your book, I fell in love with the setting of it. You were so beautifully descriptive that I felt transported all the way from my small town home across the country!  How much research went into your setting and where the story takes place?

A: Lots of research! I lived in Ukraine for ten years, and although I was in Kyiv – which is a modern, international city – the parts of the country I really loved were the west and the south, where there is this extraordinary, lush countryside and heartbreakingly beautiful villages. I felt so passionate about them that I knew I wanted to paint a picture for the world. Ukraine has so many wonderful things about it that nobody knows about, and it is one of my personal missions to write about all these things in my novels.

For the specific research, I wrote the settings originally from memory, and when I was on the final draft, I spent a week in the countryside near Lviv checking the details of everything I had written – such as really learning how to make the samohon. It was a wonderful week and I took a lot of photos, which you can find on my blog ( .

Q: What was the hardest part in this story for you to write? And the easiest?

A: The hardest part of the story was writing the chapters when Lyuda is experiencing a very simple life – she has the man she loves, she has money, she is more or less happy. They were difficult because I like to fill every page of my writing with poetry and magic, and these had to be more straightforward, to express the different life that Lyuda is living.

The easiest – anything with poetry or magic – it’s just what I write naturally when I sit down with my pen or computer!

Q: who are some of your favorite authors that you look up to?

A: I really love writers who use the imagination a great deal, and also combine it with literary skill. When I read a book, I like to read about an idea that I couldn’t possibly have come up with myself – to have a door opened by someone who is stretching their own concepts of reality and possibility. David Mitchell does this in every book; Haruki Murakami leaves me wanting to jump into his head; Ken Liu is a modern genius of social commentary and sci-fi. And so many more!

Q: What are your plans for your next book? Can you give us any spoilers?

A: My second novel is coming out very soon – on May 1 2017. It’s called “The Unity Game” and it’s a wild saga of worlds and fates and philosophy. It’s set in New York, on a space vessel and in an after-life dimension, so I’d describe the genre as literary sci-fi.

Q: If someone wants to find out more about you or reach out to you, what is the best way to do so?

A: I love connecting with readers – and I hope some of your blog readers will reach out. My author website has full information on my novels, my news and blog that I write. I’m also on Twitter as @leonora_meriel and on Facebook as Leonora Meriel Writer. I’m happy to answer e-mails and get in touch at  

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I mentioned earlier that one of my missions is to spread the word about what a wonderful country Ukraine is – the landscapes, the culture, the language. My most cherished hope from my novels is that it will inspire people to find out more – and even to visit – this beautiful country.

So – to finish with a little Ukrainian – “dyakuyu” or “thank you” so much for having my on your blog. And thank you for supporting writers!

Again thank you so, so much for agreeing to this interview. You are truly an amazing woman who is multi-talented! It has been fun to have you here and I can’t wait to read what you write next.

And you can see my review of her book The Woman behind the Waterfall here.


Book Information:

Title: The Woman Behind the Waterfall

Author: Leonora Meriel

Genre: Literary Fiction, Magic Realism

Publishing Date: October 1, 2016

Page count, hardback:  234 pages

Page count, paperback:  262 pages

Standalone/Series:  Standalone


Novel Synopsis


Heartbreak and redemption in the beauty of a Ukrainian village

For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.
All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.

Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?

Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.


Author Bio


Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh and Queen’s University, Ontario. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a law firm. In 2003 she moved to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA. During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development. In 2008, she returned to her dream of being a writer, and completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. Her second book, The Unity Game will be released in May 2017.


Press & Reviews


“Readers looking for a classic tale of love and loss will be rewarded with an intoxicating worlds” – Kirkus Reviews

“A strange and beautiful novel” – Esther Freud, author of Hideous Kinky, Peerless Flats, Mr Mac and Me

“A literary work of art” – Fiona Adams, Richmond Magazine

“Timeless and universal novel” – Goodreads & Amazon reviewer


“A beautiful, thought-provoking exploration of family ties” – MP, Amazon reviewer






Amazon US


Amazon UK


Amazon US author page


Amazon UK author page




Twitter – @leonora_meriel





Shine Like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky book review



Separated by an inconceivable tragedy, can faith and love reunite childhood friends and light the way to a bright future?
In a quiet corner of northern Edwardian England, Margaret Lounsbury diligently works in her grandmother’s millinery shop, making hats and caring for her young sister. Several years earlier, a terrible event reshaped their family, shattering an idyllic life and their future prospects. Maggie is resilient and will do what she must to protect her sister Violet. Still, the loss of her parents weighs heavily on her heart because she wonders if what happened that day on the lake…might not have been an accident.
When wealthy inventor and industrialist William Harcourt dies, his son and Maggie’s estranged childhood friend, Nathaniel returns from his time in the Royal Navy and inherits his father’s vast estate, Morningside Manor. He also assumes partial control of his father’s engineering company and the duty of repaying an old debt to the Lounsbury family. But years of separation between Nate and Maggie have taken a toll and Maggie struggles to trust her old friend.
Can Maggie let go of the resentment that keeps her from forgiving Nate–and reconciling with God? Will the search for the truth about her parents’ death draw the two friends closer or leave them both with broken hearts?


This was such a beautiful historical fiction tale. This book covers so many valuable lessons. Turansky puts these characters through so many trials. Can one really learn what it means to forgive? What it means to love someone? And what it means to come out and shine like the dawn?

The setting for this book was beautiful and you can tell the writer really did her research for this book. She poured out love, pain, romance, forgiveness, grace and learning to trust all while set in the beautiful back drop of  Northumberland, England. This is my first book by Turansky and it will not be my last. The characters are wonderfully written and develop through the book. The scenes and backdrop are blended beautifully and you can almost touch and see the beautiful countryside. You grow to love the characters in this book and swoon over a rekindled romance.

Thank you BFB’s for sending me this book in exchange for my honest review. 5 stars from me.

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A Note Yet Unsung (Belmont Mansion #3) by Tamera Alexander book review



Despite her training as a master violinist, Rebekah Carrington was denied entry into the Nashville Philharmonic by young conductor Nathaniel Whitcomb, who bowed to public opinion. Now, with a reluctant muse and a recurring pain in his head, he needs her help to finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?


Dear Tamera Alexander, I need my heart back! This book absolutely stole my breath as well as my heart! I love all of your works but this one has become my favorite out of everything I have read by you. This book flowed together to create a beautiful masterpiece. You conducted a beautiful tale so full of emotion. While this book is the third in the Belmont Mansion series it can be read as it’s own stand alone. In this book our beautifully talented Rebekah had been sent away from home at an early age by her grandmother so she could escape her abusive stepfather. It is when she is older that she returns home at the urgency of her mother due to her grandmothers untimely death. upon returning home Rebekah is thrown back into her stepfathers abusiveness. Desperate to escape she applies to join the symphony. Due to being a woman she is rejected. It is then that she meets our handsome Maestro. I could go on and on about this story but i will stop here because of spoilers. This book is so breathtaking and raw with heartfelt emotion. Tamera is an excellent writer and will steal your heart with every page.

The Woman Behind the Waterfall by Leonora Meriel book review



For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river. All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices. Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?


This book is so mesmerizing! Leonora is a talented writer as her pen paints a captivating story. She is wonderful at setting a scene so vivid and painting such a beautiful background that you often long to reach through into the book in longing for a place you have never visited. She is wonderful at putting the reader in the scene and letting it unfold around them. This story is so rich and breath taking, that I could not put it down. The mother-daughter relationship in this book leaves me so raw with emotion. You see a girl learning about life, love and what it means to grow up. You see her deal with so much for a girl of her age. She learns that sometimes you have to grow up too fast and what love is and how sometimes love can leave a mark on us all. You see her having to understand what it is to sometimes become the parent, instead being able to be the child. With a beautiful blend of the past to present and the ties that bind each generation, this book is a wonderful read. 5 stars from me! While i was sent this book in exchange for my review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


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Sins of Soldiers interview with author S. J. Hardman Lea


First of all thank you Simon for agreeing to this interview. It was such a pleasure to read your book and to be able to speak to you today.

I wanted to ask you a few questions today about your book and your experience as a writer.

Tell us a little about your book. Where did the idea to write such a fascinating novel come from.

  • The Sins of Soldiers is a story about the lives of men and women caught up in the dangers of the Western Front in France in the First World war, a time when friendship and love and hate were every bit as deadly as the risks of fighting. Although it’s a book set in wartime and much of it is in the front lines, I didn’t want to write a book about war itself, but about what it actually felt like to be there, at that exact time, living through the extremes of fear and danger, when every emotion was amplified and heightened and any relationship could become very intense.  
  • I suppose the effect I was trying for was something like listening to your favorite music – something that makes your pulse race and the shivers run up and down your spine at the same time as it brings tears to your eyes. Whether I succeeded or not, I’m probably the least able to know.
  • Where did the idea come from?  Originally from a visit to one of the greatest, most affecting of the First War memorials in France, when I formed an image in my mind of a scene at the inauguration of the memorial in the 1930s.  In the middle of all the ceremony, a man is trying to avoid a woman he hasn’t seen for years, someone who he desperately needs to see to explain what had happened during the war, whilst at the same time being terrified of how she will react to that explanation. And that’s how the story of Anson Scott, David Alexander and Beatrice Tempest starts in Sins.

Do you have any experience or special knowledge with the military in general?

  • Only that like many teenage boys, I had a keen interest in military history, although back then I was more into nineteenth century wars.

How much research and time did you spend into writing this book?

  • Many, many hours researching and reading contemporary accounts of life in France during the First War – I’ve collected quite a library of memoirs and diaries on the shelves in my writing hut. Because this is a huge issue for any author setting stories in the First World War. While the context gives a fantastic opportunity for anything to happen – because almost anything imaginable really did happen – it’s important that the facts are correct as there is a huge number of First War enthusiasts who will immediately pick up anything that is not accurate.
  • From my own point of view, I was particularly keen to get a feel the real emotions and attitudes of the time. It’s too easy for a writer to make the mistake of looking at past events through modern-day eyes, and come to modern value judgments: really good historical novelists truly make the past come to life as it was.

What sparked the idea for your main character and him being who he was as a person?

  • To tell the story, I really needed an outsider, someone who could stand apart and make comments on the situation without being biased, which took me to an American with no previous exposure to British social structures. Actually, Anson Scott is one of my characters who is firmly based on a real individual – one of my teachers at school in Connecticut, where I was lucky enough to spend a year away from the UK.

What was the hardest thing about making your story come to life on page?

  • Probably, restraining my natural tendency to long sentences and elaborate wording. While I guess that might suit some novels, it really doesn’t work well in this era. Happily, my most severe critic – my wife, who reads all of my first drafts – is very skilled at pointing out when I’m going off the rails with some long-winded description.

And the easiest?

  • Like all authors, I’m sure, there are occasions when the pictures in your mind are so clear and convincing that putting them into words seems very simple and time flies along. That makes up for the many times when you seem to be chiseling every word out of solid stone and the shortest sentence takes minutes to write badly.

Do you have plans for future installments in this type of setting or maybe a spin off following other characters?

  • Altogether, I have fairly detailed plans now for the next four novels in the sequence. The sequel to Sins is due to appear at Easter 2017, which takes Beatrice Tempest’s story further In The Sorrow of Nurses. Early next year, I’m hoping to be able to release the next novel (the Drivers and the Driven), which largely features a character that any reader of Sins has already met, but might not have taken too much note of. However, he’s my wife’s favorite of all my characters, so keep a watch out for him!


Do you hide any secrets or fun little tidbits in your book that only a few people will find?

  • One of the great joys of planning out a series is in planning how the books relate to one another. While they are all completely free-standing, and don’t require a reader to know any of the others, anyone who has read the other books will get a kick out of knowing something that they otherwise wouldn’t. I can’t say more without spoiling some of the fun, but anyone who reads Sorrow having read Sins first will know something significant which is otherwise hidden. However, reading the books the opposite way round  – although maybe not ideal – has the same effect. That probably sounds very complicated when it’s not really, but as a reader, I always enjoy a novel sequence that surprises me when I go from one book to another.


What scene was the hardest to write?

  • (Partial Spoiler Alert!!)   The  most difficult scene to write – emotionally at least – was the death of one of the main characters. I’d had that scene in my mind’s eye for years, almost before starting the book, but it didn’t make it easier to actually set it down


Has publishing your first book changed your process as a writer?

  • No- only it means that I have even less time to write, because I have to look towards the marketing and promotion side of the business: I guess that’s one of the biggest surprises to the whole novel writing game. You know the writing side of things is going to take time, but you don’t realize


How long did it take you to write this book?

  • This one? About eight years! No, seriously. This is the book I started on, so there were many false starts and previous versions before it came to this final book.  Although in the course of those years, I also put down the foundations for the next three books in the series, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.

Looking back now did you dream it possible to be able to publish such a fascinating book?

  • Realistically, no. But at the time when you are promoting a book, you can never let yourself doubt that it will be a success sooner or later.

What part was the hardest after writing your book when it came to getting it published?

  • I guess the hardest element for any aspiring author occurs once they’ve finished their first book and start to send it around to agents and publishers. Unless you’re very lucky, you have to get used to rejection very quickly. I wish I had a pound (or dollar) for every time I read the phrases “It’s very well written but somehow I just don’t really love it enough to take it on.”

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

  • How much time do we have? I think that I would have liked to be more organized and to have got on with the promotional aspects of the book business much sooner.


Do you have any advice for any aspiring writers?

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your writing.
  • I spent years being so embarrassed about trying to write that I wouldn’t talk to anyone about it – mainly because of the fear of failure, I suppose: Suppose what I’m writing is boring rubbish?
  • That fear is probably common in fiction writers –  it comes with the personality type of would-be novelists, I suppose – but once you recognize that  it’s there, you can move on more easily.


If anybody would like to find out more about you or your book Sins of Soldiers, where is the best place for them to do so?

  • The best place is  
  • All apologies if I’ve been too long winded. Sometimes, there is so much to think that my enthusiasm gets me carried away. Many thanks indeed for your interest.

Once again thank you for this interview! It has been such a pleasure to get to know you!

If you would like to see my review of Sins of Soldiers you can do so by clicking Here!

Thanks again all for stopping by and thanks again to Simon for stopping by my blog and letting us get to know you better! It has been a wonderful experience!


The Sins of Soldiers (Lost Intensities #1) by S.J. Hardman Lea book review



“All I needed to do was tick off the list of the old sins – lust, greed, anger, laziness, gluttony, and pride. At least three of those were going to cause trouble. And then, of course, there was the seventh, the most destructive of them all. Envy.
We’d come to that one before the end.”

It is 1916 and the war in France is hot and about to get hotter. Embedded undercover in a British infantry regiment on the Western Front, Anson Scott – an American newspaperman – watches, waits and writes his articles in secret, sending them out uncensored for his readers in the USA. But life in the trenches is far from what he had first expected. While the soldiers are raring to fight, the commanding officer is antiquated and the officers themselves are divided into factions. Only Scott’s friend, the elegant, dandified David Alexander is impervious to the murderous rages of the Company Captain Tollman, a monstrous man who victimizes anyone who dares oppose him. And when the battalion is on leave away from the front, there is Beatrice Tempest – the most beautiful woman Scott has ever laid eyes on, but who is engaged to Alexander. As the regiment readies itself for battle, Scott is in ever greater danger. If his real occupation is discovered, he will be shot as a spy. If he antagonizes Tollman, he risks his own life. If he allows himself to become close to Beatrice, he will lose his one great friend. But then there is also David Alexander himself, who is pursuing his own highly dangerous obsession. Soon the opposing forces of love and hate are every bit as dangerous as the enemy gunfire, and the great battle on the Somme grows ever closer. Finally, the intensities of hope and fear cannot be evaded…


This book was a fascinating read! I have only read one or two other books set during a WWI back drop but this one so far is my favorite of the three. The author pays attention to the lives of the soldiers and gives us an inside look to the romances, the thoughts and feelings of the men. Most books of this kind has more attention to the detail being on the war element. In many other books you don’t get to have a relationship with the soldier himself as it focuses more on the killing and the trenches. This book however brings a new freshness to these types of novels and is written in an elegant style. Sins of Soldiers was a great page turner and I found the characters easy to connect with. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the raw emotions and the thoughts behind the men in this book. You see boys become men and men who still are boys. This book makes you feel so much angst, hope, despair, and worry while being on the biggest adventure of your life. S.J. writes well and tells an amazing story that you can not walk away from. The writing was fantastic and descriptive without being over the top. This is my first book by S.J. and hopefully will not be my last. I urge others to read this book as it stands out to other similar backdrops and it rises up and shines out. This book gets 5 stars from me for its originality, captivating story and beautiful writing. While I received this book in exchange for review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.