Keeper by Johana Gustawsson (tr. Maxim Jakubowski) #BookReview #BlogTour

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before. Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman's body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down.

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Keeper by Johana Gustawsson today. Many thanks to Johana, Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my copy of the book.
I've been looking forward to reading Johana Gustawsson's second book ever since I reached the end of her superlative debut, Block 46 last year. The first Emily Roy and Alexis Castells Investiga…

Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin #BookReview #BlogTour

While attending Valor of the ’40s, art director Stephanie Britain stumbles upon a flea market selling letters from the war. She buys a handful, hoping they’ll inspire the redesign for a client’s website at her branding and design firm. She’s at first drawn by the lost art of penmanship, but soon discovers a hidden treasure nestled inside declarations of love from homesick soldiers. Stephanie enlists a coworker to translate one and realizes it’s not a love letter after all. When a shocking discovery about a client causes Stephanie to question her principles and dedication to her firm’s business, she’s forced to make a difficult decision—one that could give her peace of mind, yet ruin her career in the process.

Contemporary fiction with a historical touch, AMONG THE BRANDED explores family life, an unexpected friendship, and moral conflicts that make us wonder what’s more important: our livelihood or our beliefs. This moving debut novel by Linda Smolkin is a great addition for readers who enjoy books by Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Liane Moriarty.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Among the Branded today. My grateful thanks to the author, Linda Smolkin and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my copy of the ebook.
The events in Among the Branded are prompted by a letter written in 1941 but this is not a historical novel, it's a contemporary family drama and is so evocatively written that I willingly lost a few hours to this lovely book.
The letter in question was penned by a Holocaust victim, Hanna. Stephanie Britain finds it among a collection of love letters at a reeanactment event and is inspired to search for Hanna's young son, Isadore who was only four years old in 1941.
What follows is a touching story of family life. Stephanie, her husband Greg and two sons, Jeremy and Jack are a close and loving family who welcome Isadore (Izzy) into their lives. As they learn about his past, the time he spent with his parents in a concentration camp in France and how he was eventually rescued as a Hidden Child, the Britains come together to encourage him to tell his story while also coming to terms with their own losses.
The Holocaust is written about in the past tense but the terror and loss of that horrific period is still palpable. It's very difficult to read of Hanna's anguish as she has to decide whether to hand her young son over to strangers. I couldn't help but think of the real-life parents who were forced to make similar decisions knowing they were unlikely to ever see their children again. It's heartbreaking to consider their pain and to know there are still scores of unaccompanied child refugees around the world. Stephanie is forced to make a difficult decision of her own when she learns a shocking truth about a client. Her principles will be sorely tested as she must choose between the business she works so hard for and what she believes to be right. There were a few times where I was moved to consider what I would do as I read this thought-provoking book.
Among the Branded is Linda Smolkin's debut novel and marks a superb start to what I hope will be her long and successful writing career. The harrowing poignancy of Izzy's childhood is sensitively juxtaposed with the warmth and humour of a modern family. The setting might be American but there's a lovely familiarity about Among the Branded that means readers everywhere will be able to relate to this heartwarming story. This is one of those books that was just a sheer pleasure to read from start to finish, the characters are vividly brought to life and the writing throughout is beautifully descriptive. Highly recommended.

Among the Branded can be purchased here. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour, see the poster below for details.

About the Author

Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. She's currently working on her second novel, which will be released in Spring 2018. When not in front of the computer, she's behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog. For more information, visit her website at and follow her on Twitter @lindasmolkin and Facebook @AuthorLindaSmolkin.