Thursday, 12 December 2019

#BlogTour A Portrait of Death by Rhen Garland


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour A Portrait of Death by Rhen Garland.
About the Author
Rhen Garland lives in Somerset, England with her folk-singing, book-illustrating husband, approximately 4000 books, an equal number of ancient movies, and a large flock of stuffed sheep.
She enjoys the countryside, peace, and Prosecco and the works of Ngaio Marsh, Glady Mitchell, John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, Agatha Christie, and Terry Pratchett.

"I watch far too many old school murder mystery films, TV series, and 1980s action movies for it to be considered healthy."

"A Portrait of Death" is a murder mystery thriller with paranormal touches set in late Victorian England and is the first book in the Versipellis Mysteries Series.
Follow @RhenWitch on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Bookbub, on Goodreads,
Buy A Portrait of Death


About the book
In the quiet English village of Marmis Parva, a weekend house party is organised by a society hostess and all the top names are invited. But this is no ordinary party.

Two men are savagely murdered during the course of the first evening and a young man, presumed dead, returns home after two years imprisonment in South Africa bringing with him proof of treason.
Detective Chief Inspector Elliott Caine’s long-awaited holiday in the Lake District is cancelled as he is brought in to investigate the peculiar nature of the murders. More bodies are discovered and Elliott has to manoeuvre between high society, Government protocols, and the heinous nature of the crimes if he and his old friend Detective Sergeant Abernathy Thorne, are to catch the sadistic killer, and the traitor lurking amongst them.

When Caine’s past comes back to haunt him, will his judgement be too clouded to focus on solving the crime? Will the Boer spy’s identity be uncovered before they can flee? How are these murders connected to another in New York?

Review
Think Downton Abbey with the mystery vibe of a Christie and the murderous intent of a paranormal story with a hint of horror.

A weekend house party turns into a nightmare and the place of intrigue, death, threats, treachery and betrayal. Detective Chief Inspector Elliott Caine has to follow all the leads and disentangle the motives to find the real culprit. It's fair to say he discovers more than he expected to.

The upstairs, downstairs culture plays an important role in the storytelling, especially when it comes to the hierarchy in both of the structures and class elements. The intricate structures that determine the life they lead. How the vulnerable become victims of those who use their power status to oppress and abuse.

It's a Victorian crime mystery with elements of the paranormal and the mysterious brutality of a modern killer. Murder committed in the form of a shadow. A faceless unknown entity that comes and goes without leaving proof of existence.

At times it seemed as if less would be more, because it is fast-paced with lots of characters and different threads and the beginning takes the reader to different time sequences.

Garland brings multiple genres together in this crime mystery, which is set in the late 19th century, but often has the feel of a more vicious and modern crime read. The scenes with the murderer and the crimes give off this feel of something very dark and intense. It's quite interesting how the author sets the imagery of gruesome and bloody scenes without relying on gratuitous details and yet manages to instill this feeling of unseen and very much imagined horror.

Buy A Portrait of Death (Versipellis Mysteries) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy Amazon com.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

#BlogTour Too Many Heroes by Jan Turk Petrie


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Too Many Heroes by Jan Turk Petrie.
About the Author
Jan Turk Petrie lives in the Cotswolds, S.W. England. She is the author of the fast paced Nordic thriller series: the Eldísvík novels. All three of these novels are set in 2068 in a fictional city state just below the arctic circle.

'Until the Ice Cracks' - the first of the trilogy was published in July 2018. Volume Two - 'No God for a Warrior' was published in November 2018. The third and final volume - 'Within Each Other's Shadow' was published in April 2019

The ebook boxset - The Eldísvík Trilogy was published in August 2019. Jan's fourth novel - 'Too Many Heroes' - a gripping new post-war thriller set in the East End of London was published in August 2019. She is currently working on her fifth book - 'Towards the Vanishing Point.'

A former English teacher with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Gloucestershire, Jan has also written numerous, prize-winning short stories.

Follow @TurkPetrie on Twitter, on Amazon, on Goodreads, Visit janturkpetrie.comBuy Too Many Heroes


About the book
Where can a wanted man hide in a country full of returned war heroes?
It’s 1952 and Frank Danby has been looking over his shoulder for the last ten years, forced to lead an itinerant life, getting work wherever he can while trying to keep one step ahead of the police.

Returning to London, he finds a job in an East End pub, where he becomes entangled with Grace, the young and beautiful wife of the landlord. Then the law comes knocking. Facing a justice system prejudiced against him, Frank must find a way to escape the gallows.

Too Many Heroes is a gripping period thriller, exploring love, belonging and betrayal in a country still recovering from WW2. A must for fans of the post-war novels of Philip Kerr, Kate Atkinson and Sara Sheridan.

Review
Frank wants to be able to make a living without attracting a lot of attention. He wants to stay under the radar - way under the radar. Living a normal life isn't possible when you're technically a criminal. What's worse, in the eyes of many people being a deserter is the ultimate betrayal to all of those who fought and lost their lives in the war. Hiding away instead of supporting his fellow soldiers - there is no excuse for that and it is simply cowardice.

There is no consideration for the fear someone like Frank might have felt or guilt he may have burdened himself with. The why doesn't matter to the country. So Frank lives like a nomad.

He doesn't expect to meet someone like Grace and feel an instant connection. Unfortunately she has a husband and isn't in a position to embrace the attraction she feels for the wanderer. The clandestine relationship ends in tragedy for the two of them.

It's historical crime fiction set after WW2. The author lets the story and the tension between the characters develop slowly and gives the reader glimpses, via flashbacks, of why Frank is in such a precarious position. They tell a tale of torment which he carries within him on a daily basis. A side of him he is reluctant to share with the world for fear of judgement and disdain.

I would have liked the author to explore the topic of desertion and perhaps even conscientious objectors a little more, aside from the information in the appendix. In another story perhaps? The trauma and permanent psychological scarring of people who are or were involved in war or combat is underestimated, and even in our day and age the support for veterans is severely lacking.

Buy Too Many Heroes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Pintail Press; pub date 23 July 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

#BlogTour Storm of Ash by Michelle Kenney


Today it's a pleasure to kick off the BlogTour Storm of Ash by Michelle Kenney.

About the Author
Michelle is a firm believer in magic, and that ancient doorways to other worlds can still be found if we look hard enough. She is also a hopeless scribbleaholic and, when left to her own devices, likes nothing better than to dream up new fantasy worlds in the back of a dog-eared notebook. Doctors say they're unlikely to find a cure any time soon.

In between scribbling, Michelle love reading, running, attempting to play bluegrass and beach treasure-hunting with her two daughters (dreamers-in-training).

Michelle holds a LLB (hons) degree, an APD in Public Relations and is an Accredited Practitioner with the CIPR (with whom she's won awards for Magazine & PR work). But she's definitely happiest curled up against a rainy window, with her nose in a book.

Book of Fire is the first in a brand new YAFantasy Trilogy published by HarperCollins HQ. City of Dust, Book 2, was published October 2018 (digital) and December 2018 (paperback), and Storm of Ash, the final instalment is out on 11 December (Digital) and February 2020 (Paperback)

Follow @mkenneypr on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon, on Facebook, Visit michellekenney.co.uk, Buy Storm of Ash


About the book
The brand new novel from Michelle Kenney, author of the Book of Fire and City of Dust!
As Talia treks back through the treacherous North Mountains, she knows only three things: Pantheon has stolen nearly everyone she loves; Her blood is the only control over the Voynich's oldest secret; And Cassius won't stop hunting Arafel until every last outsider is destroyed. Will Talia finally face her legacy and defeat Cassius before it is too late?

Review
This is the third book in the Book of Fire series. It absolutely can be read as a standalone novel, however I would highly recommend reading Book of Fire and City of Dust to get a better overall view and to be able to enjoy the vision and complexity of the storytelling.

This book starts with the conundrum Talia faces when it comes to Lake. The draco-chimera has become a potential threat to everyone, as Talia always thought she possibly would. Can the power be tamed and controlled or is Lake destined to be an object of destruction?

It's difficult to talk about this third part without giving too much of the plot away, so I am going to keep the details to a minimum. Needless to say both Lake and Talia bring fire to the table in their own specific way. The bond between them since the day Talia discovered the chimera will be drawn and chipped at, but perhaps not quite in the way certain adversaries expect it to be. Belief, friendship and ultimately trust is what speaks from their connection to each other.

Kenney writes fantasy the way it should be written. She wants her readers to sink into the folds of the intricate world-building and become immersed in the worlds she weaves. Much like a spider, she spins a web that one cannot help but fall into.

I was impressed by how many different elements the author wove into the structure of the story. History, mythology, evolution and of course the power of magic, which is defined and controlled only by the boundaries of her imagination. It is however also without boundaries, exceptionally expressive and simultaneously filled with rivers of emotion that flow throughout the story as it evolves.

It's high fantasy with elements of evolution, history and magic. The powerful world-building is combined with strong descriptive writing and an excellent plot. It's a cracking read, especially if you enjoy your fantasy intense, complex and relentless.

Buy Storm of Ash (Book of Fire #3) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.  Publisher: HQ Digital, ebook pub date 11 Dec. 2019 - Paperback pub date 6 Feb. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Monday, 9 December 2019

#BlogTour Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery by Sharon Ibbotson


It's the start of the BlogTour Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery by Sharon Ibbotson.

About the Author
Sharon was born in Sydney, Australia but now lives in London with her husband, two small children and two black cats named for desserts. She started writing ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fanfiction aged 15, which eventually transformed into the historical romance novels she writes today. She has two novels published by Choc Lit, and when not writing, can be found baking cakes badly or drinking wine well.

Follow @seibbotson on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Amazon, on Goodreads, Visit sharonibbotson.comBuy Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery


About the book
Cohen Ford is a man who could do with a little bit of sweetening up. It’s no surprise that when he walks into The Great Greenwich Ice Creamery on a typically gloomy London day before Christmas, he insists on a black coffee rather than his childhood favourite – strawberry ice cream.

But then he meets River de Luca, the woman behind the flavours. After their first encounter, Cohen begins visiting the ice creamery every Tuesday, gradually learning more about the intriguing River. Could her influence encourage cynical Cohen to become the man who embraces Christmas, Hanukkah and even strawberry ice cream?Hanukkah days, Christmas nights and strawberry ice cream …

Review
Cohen is on an errand. The kind of annoying errand only a parent can send you on, so he certainly isn't expecting to walk into an Ice Creamery and make the kind of visceral connection that is very rare. An instant attraction - the knowledge that somehow you are meant to connect with a specific person that just happens to walk into your life.

The way Cohen talks about River to Rushi, and vice versa, in the first few chapters and in general - I found it uncomfortable. It's as if everyone in her vicinity infantilises River, because of her deafness. Talking about her over her head, making decisions about her and for her as if she were a child. It wasn't concern for her well-being, but rather an attempt to control in the name of concern.

Romanticising the behaviour felt wrong, and in a way I think the author calls attention to the attitude and behaviour of the hearing in regards to the deaf by doing this. The ignorance and arrogance that accompanies the treatment of the deaf when those who can hear find themselves in a position to have to move beyond their usual methods of communication.

The author also makes a point about how men are taught to curb and discount certain talents and things they enjoy merely because they could be seen as effeminate. Cohen is taught to feel shame and embarrassment for hobbies that bring him pleasure.

It's romance that crosses the boundaries of the senses and communication to allow love to blossom. Ibbotson combines the early blush of attraction with the physical feelings of desire, which culminate in two people acknowledging a deep connection between the two of them.

On a side note: I think sign language, obviously which kind depends on the country, should be a made a compulsory part of curriculum to create an even playing field for all individuals both hearing and non-hearing.

Buy Hannukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Choc Lit; pub date 4 Dec. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

#BlogTour Dark Hollows by Steve Frech


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Dark Hollows by Steve Frech.

About the Author
Steve Frech lives in Los Angeles. In addition to writing, he produces and hosts the Random Awesomeness Podcast, an improv-comedy quiz show that has been performed at Upright Citizens Brigade, The Improv, iO West, and Nerdist.

Follow @stevefrech on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Facebook,
Buy Dark Hollows


About the book
Jacob Reese enjoys the quiet life, running a coffee shop and renting out his cottage in The Hollows, Vermont.

But the calm is shattered when a woman who looks eerily similar to his ex-girlfriend Laura turns up to stay in the cottage, and leaves a mysterious note in the guest book.

Now Jacob’s seeing Laura everywhere—a glimpse of her face across the street, her music box left outside his house, a gift he gave her years before hanging from the trees.

But it can’t be Laura. Because Laura’s dead.

Someone knows Jacob’s secret—what really happened the night Laura died—and they’re out for revenge…

Review
To an outside observer Jacob appears to have it all. A man who is liked by all with a successful business and with both feet firmly placed in the community - what could possibly be wrong with his life? As if that wasn't enough to cement the impression of a person in control of his life and happiness there is also his delightfully droll dog Murphy.

The truth is Jacob does have a secret - the kind of secret he can't afford to let surface. It would destroy the life he has built for himself. But it seems as if someone else knows about his secret and are intent on destroying his life bit by bit.

Laura is back, which is a bit of a conundrum because Jacob is pretty sure she is dead. Very sure actually, which begs the question - who is trying to convince him that she is very much alive and well?

It's interesting how Frech doesn't really take the most obvious path of Jacob being the guilty party and deserving of some kind of punishment. Instead the mystery and tension is built around the Jacob of now, as opposed to the Jacob of then.

It's a psychological thriller that plays with the question of guilt. Does the punishment fit the crime? Is the destruction of his life and those he cares for really the right way to punish him? It's a cat and mouse game and I'm not sure there is a clear victor at the end, which is probably the most satisfying way to end the story.

Buy Dark Hollows at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Digital ebook pub date 6 Dec. 2019. Paperback release date 20 Feb. 2020. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at HQ.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

#BlogTour Black Summer by M.W. Craven


Today it's an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Black Summer by M.W. Craven. This is the second book in the Washington Poe series -it's a cracking read.

About the Author
A brand new voice in British crime fiction, M.W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full-time author. the first in the Washington Poe series, the Puppet Show, won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger, has sold numerous foreign territories and has been optioned for TV by Studio Lambert.

M.W. Craven has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, an Amazon Reader Award and a Cumbria Life Award. He is also the author of the Avison Fluke novels, Born in a Burial Ground (shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger) and Body Breaker. Black Summer is the second novel in the Washington Poe series.

Follow @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK on Twitter, on Facebookon Instagram, on Goodreads,
Visit mwcraven.comBuy Black Summer


About the book
After the Puppet Show, a new storm is coming...
Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath... He's currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?
And then Elizabeth goes missing again - and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.

Review
The first chapter will remain with me for a long time. It takes an excellent author to write something that is simultaneously innocent and the most menacing thing I have read in a long time. I just can't get the birds out of my head - the description of the scene and the sound I think it must have made.

I'm sending curses to Craven, because I just can't lose the imagery.

Washington Poe is called in to confirm the details of a gruesome past case. A celebrity chef killed his own daughter, and despite there being no body, he was convicted of her murder. But Elizabeth is back and she is very much alive and kicking, which means Poe made the kind of mistake that ends careers. It also means a a psychopath will soon be walking the streets again.

Poe goes over every single step, especially the blood evidence, to find some kind of loophole that will explain how this was able to happen. He, and others, question his investigation and whether he neglected the truth in favour of a fast solution. Then Elizabeth goes missing once again and the shadow of suspicion falls on Poe.

It's a psychological thriller, a police procedural with the vibe of the macabre, which is drawn from a deep well of darkness. The Puppet Show was good, but this second book in the Washington Poe series is even better. Craven is cementing his mark in the world of crime writers.

I really enjoyed the read and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Craven has this knack for creating memorable characters that readers connect with - Tilly for instance - and writing his crime with a hint of horror, a dollop of suspense and a spoonful of noir. It's a dark, riveting read - what can I say it's Cravenesque.

Buy Black Summer (Washington Poe #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Constable - Little Brown Books UK pub date Paperback 12 Dec. 2019 - £7.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven

Friday, 6 December 2019

#BlogTour A Song for Bill Robinson by C. E. Atkins


Today it's my turn on the Blog Blitz for A Song for Bill Robinson by C. E. Atkins.
About the Author
Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to reading, writing and music and writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love.

Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life and has now been developed into a 6 book series. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere and award-winning dystopian, The Tree Of Rebels, plus a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. The award-winning Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was released through Pict Publishing in October 2018. Her next YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson will be released in December 2019. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author's Publish magazine.


About the book
Tensions are building on the notorious Holds End estate.
The local community centre is fighting for survival and the murder of 15-year-old Lewis Matthews remains unsolved…

Wannabe teenage singer, Bill Robinson, just got out of hospital after surviving a vicious attack. He thinks he knows who attacked him…and why. When a violent feud escalates between him and local thug Charlie McDonnal, Bill vows to find the killer and help save the community centre by taking part in the local singing contest.

How can music bring a shattered community together? And can Bill keep his own demons at bay long enough to win the singing contest and find out who killed Lewis Matthews? 

Review
There are lot of things going on in this young adult story, whether it be homophobia, knife violence, working through trauma after a vicious attack or living in an economically poor area. When you combine all of these aspects they become a recipe for disruption, division and disaster.

It starts with Bill being released from hospital after a particularly violent attack by persons unknown. Bill has his suspicions though. He believes a local thug called Charlie is behind the attack, which is confirmed as far as he is concerned when he watches a video of the attack. Perhaps he is also responsible for the death of a local lad, an as yet unsolved crime.

His suspicions lead to an ever growing conflict between the two of them, which culminates in a nasty tit for tat between the young men. Other people get dragged into the mind games and there are lasting consequences for both families.

The author describes quite well how the need to block out and dull the pain begins with a can of alcohol here and there. As the anxiety and need to forget grows the use of alcohol becomes more frequent, thereby demonstrating how the descent into alcoholism begins for so many people.

It's a YA urban crime story and it's also a story about coming-of-age. Atkins doesn't let her main character be dictated by labels and demonstrates what sexual fluidity looks like when it isn't defined by society for a young person. The story is very on point in regards to sexuality, knife violence and abuse issues in younger generations in our day and age.

Buy A Song for Bill Robinson (Holds End #1) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Pict Publishing; pub date December 6, 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Murders of Old China by Paul French


Today it's a pleasure to review the Audiobook Murders of Old China by Paul French. It is narrated by Paul French.

About the Author
Paul French was born in Enfield, London and moved to Shanghai after studying Chinese at the City Literary Institute. Paul spent nearly twenty years living and working in China, splitting time between Shanghai and Beijing. During this time, he worked as a journalist and book reviewer for a number of publications, researching the early twentieth century history of both cities, particularly the foreign communities that lived there.

French is known for his true crime literary non-fiction set in twentieth century China. His book Midnight in Peking was a New York Times bestseller, and won a number of prestigious awards including the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction and the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. Paul’s second literary non-fiction book City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir was a Kirkus Book of the Year.

Follow Paul French @chinarhyming on Twitter, on Facebookon Goodreads, Visit chinarhyming.com, Buy Murders of Old China


About the book
Paul French (Midnight in Peking, City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir) dives into fifty years of murder and true crime across China and Hong Kong from the start of the twentieth century in Audible original narrative non-fiction Murders of Old China. Drawing on two and a half decades of research, French explores a dozen gripping murder cases, taking listeners from warlord-wracked Beijing, through the mighty international city of Shanghai and on to the remote and bandit-infested hinterlands of the Tibetan border and Inner Mongolia.

Using new documentation, cross-referencing and what French calls ‘sleuthing by hindsight’, Murders of Old China takes a fresh look at these twelve cases, whisking listeners on a journey through the dangerous underbelly of old China and uncovering more of the country’s unique history.

Each true crime case offers new insights into foreign society in China in the last days of the dying Qing Dynasty and the first decades of the Chinese Republic, shining a light on racial tensions and the criminal underworld, and querying the extent to which foreigners exploited the turmoil of the time. With a backdrop of war, imperialism and revolution, these stories provide an incredible insight into how modern China was formed, and the dark realities behind much of its recent past.

Narrated by French, and written in the style of the “American Noir” exemplified by Capote’s In Cold Blood, Murders of Old China is a must for fans of true crime, and those keen to learn more about China’s fascinating history.

Review
What I really enjoyed about this Audiobook is the way the author narrates the story as if he were sat beside you having a dram whilst lounging in a comfortable leather chair in front of a log fire. He adds the smallest details, so in a sense it becomes almost like a vigorous discussion on various murderous scandals. Twelve true stories of violence, betrayal and murder that took place in the 20th century.

A Very Awkward Death in Tibet (1907)
The first big murder case tried by the American court for China in Shanghai. It was an attempt by the POTUS (Roosevelt) to extend American justice and punishments to its US citizens in China. A white foreigner killed a Chinese national. It was unheard of in times of white supremacy and patriarchy that a white man would stand trial with the possibility of death.

The Death of a Rickshaw Man (1908)
In this case a white man is tried by a jury. Once again a white foreigner kills a Chinese national. This time a British national, which meant it even made the news in Britain. The accused denied the charge and claimed self-defense. No wonder the Chinese thought the deck was stacked against them when having to abide by foreign rules in their own country.

Trafficked to her Death - Eliza Shapera (1907)
In a time when rumours of White Slavery were abundant. When gossips spoke of white women being tricked into prostitution in foreign countries. The real outrage caused by the thought that non-whites were having sex with white women. The body of a European woman was found - a prostitute.

A Deadly Rampage in Tai-O (1918)
It's safe to say that not all the evidence or factors leading up to this tragedy were reviewed at the time. Colonialists being reluctant or unable to take issues such as inequality, racism into account and the corruption in this remote location. There is no doubt about victim or perpetrator, but perhaps the reasons for the rampage would have shed a different light on the matter.

The Irritating Betram Lennox Simpson (1930)
French wonders how Simpson managed to attract so many enemies in so many different fractions. Perhaps his part in the looting, which the in China born Simpson always denied. His machinations and loud protestations both written and vocal made him a contentious person to everyone.

A Deadly Dinner in Shanghai's Gangster Mansion (1932)
Shanghai represented the power position of France that equally their rival Britain. Shanghai was often known as the Paris of the East or the Whore of the Orient. The Green Gang was a well-known criminal operation both in China and overseas. The leader or crime boss of this gang at the time, Big-Eared Du invited the most senior and important French officials to a dinner at his fortress like mansion. It became the most vicious of lessons in authority and power plays.

Slain by His Best Friend - Two Tragic Deaths in Shanghai (1932)
Did a personal dispute really cause one man to kill the other over something as trivial as a job promotion? Why did the two friends end up in such a contentious relationship? Or was the disagreement that ended in the death of one of them born in a more base emotion like greed?

Gareth Jones - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1935)
The death of the investigative journalist looked like another kidnapping gone wrong by bandits out for quick profit. However his investigations appeared to have hit a goldmine when it came to the political pulse of that era. He was an intelligent young reporter with an interest in current affairs, an interest that probably led to his death.

The Shanghai Long Drop: The Case of The Sikh They Couldn't Hang (1935)
A straightforward crime and conviction - a death sentence. The story really starts after the death sentence is pronounced. The guilty man was transported to a hellhole, six thousand prisoners in a space equipped for two thousand prisoners. One could argue that physics play a big role in this story and perhaps not 'luck' per se.

The Good Doctor Colbert - Wife Poisoner? (1936)
Interesting how poisoning was considered an alternative to ridding oneself of a wife or husband. Divorce, especially for women, was synonymous with scandal. This is also the only story where the victim is actually able to watch the trial herself. It was a case that caught the attention of not only China, but also the US.

Who Killed The Baron of Frenchtown (1941)
A murder, an assassination that remains unsolved to this day. A murder with motives that draw from long before a pre-war time and culminate in wartime. The Baron opposed the new regime and wrote favourably about the prior one. He was highly critical of the way the powers that be let crime run rampant. His opinions may have made him a potential target.

The Death of a Shanghai Gold Dealer (1947)
As an East meets West city, Shanghai became a melting pot of refugees, peasants looking for a better life and ex-soldiers. Eight long years of war and occupation had left their mark on the city that once was its own jewel in the crown of China. Greed and coming to the attention of people who were interested in making a profit to restart their lives back home was the downfall of the Gold Dealer.

I think what shines through in the majority of these old cases is just how oppressive and unjust colonialism was. It's really no surprise that there is a general sense and feeling of mistrust towards predominantly white regimes that believed themselves to be superior above all others, especially to non-whites. Was there really any justice for victims of crime when the victim was a native, and indeed if the roles were reversed the punishments were harsher for non-whites.

This is a must-listen for readers or listeners who enjoy true crime and like their crime to be factual rather than fictional. French does an excellent job of melding history, politics, social structures and culture together with well-researched crimes that have been buried and forgotten with the passing of time.

French narrates with passion and power, and opens the door to the world and captivating history of China, albeit just a small part His voice draws readers in as he tells the tragic stories of debt, theft, abuse, violence and murder. He brings in all of  the documented evidence that is available and gives life to the men, women and children who have become mere blips in history.

Buy Murders of Old China at Amazon Uk. Publisher Audible Original: pub date: 4 Dec 2019. Buy at Audible Uk.

Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Narrated by: Paul French
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Audible Original
Audible.co.uk Release Date: 4 Dec. 2019
Language: English, English
ASIN: B08288B56D

Thursday, 5 December 2019

#BlogTour Rage by Suzanne Lowe


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Rage (Seventeen #2) by Suzanne Lowe. It's the second part of the dystopian YA series Seventeen.
About the Author
Suzanne was born in Perth Western Australia and as a young adult grew up in the small country town of Tom Price situated in the outback of Western Australia. Her current home is in Perth with her husband, two daughters and cat Abby.

Suzanne has a Bachelor of Science Degree, majoring in Sports Science. Her interests include watching movies, particularly sci- fi, travelling, photography and reading. She also enjoys going to the occasional comic book convention!

Like the young women in her stories, Suzanne has had the opportunity to experience many exciting adventures in her life so far including being part of the Australian Army Reserves, climbing to Mt Everest base camp, descending into one of the pyramids at Giza in Egypt, flying in a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings, parachuting from a plane at 12000 feet in York and sitting on the edge of an active volcano on Tanna island in Vanuatu.

Suzanne has won the award for best Sci fi/Horror in an e-book in the New Apple literary awards for her YA novel Seventeen and received a bronze medal from Reader' Favorite International writers’ literary competition for her children’s novel The Pirate Princess and the Golden Locket. 

Suzanne is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Australian Society of Authors.

Her published works include;
Seventeen, book one in the Seventeen Series. A YA dystopian adventure story set in Australia.
Rage, book two in the Seventeen Series.
The Pirate Princess and the Golden Locket, a pirate adventure story for middle grade children

Follow @Suzanne_Lowe_ on Twitter, on Facebookon Amazon, on Goodreads, on Instagram, Visit Suzanneloweauthor.comBuy Rage
About the book
“Revenge. It was all he could think about.
His body ached for it, burned for it like a relentless fire waiting to be quenched. It was all he wanted.”

With the KV17 virus now in its mutated form and the older children infected, Jasper’s Bay faces an uncertain future as they attempt to find a cure.

When old enemies return, causing tension and turmoil throughout the town, Lexi must face her fears and suppress the rage building inside her. Will the virus take hold or can she maintain control? How can you defeat an enemy when it is part of who you are?

The exciting and compelling YA series set in the harsh Australian outback.

Review
This series reminded me of The Tribe, a television sci-fi series from the late 90s, and Gone by Michael Grant. The face of humanity has been changed by a virus called KV17, which has wiped out all the adults. Now the virus has mutated and is infecting the older children or those nearing adulthood.

Although this is the second in the series it can be read as a standalone novel, because Lowe gives readers sufficient information without rehashing the entirety of the last book. In the first book of the series, Seventeen, the small group has no choice but to send three of their group into exile, because they are starting to show signs of the infection. This causes disruption and perhaps a wedge between some of the children.

What it does do without a doubt is enrage the exiled, who are out for revenge, but to do so they need to ensure their ranks grow. They approach another small community of children struggling to survive and persuade them to help get revenge on Lexi's group.

It's a YA dystopian story suitable for both older and younger readers, an apocalyptic adventure series. The author plays into the anxiety of many adults by presenting the vulnerability of children if they are put into a position of having to feed, clothe and keep themselves safe. That's the bit that tugs on the heartstrings.

The flipside of the coin is the correlation between adulthood, a lack of empathy and more aggressive behaviour. It begs the question whether those elements are driven by coming-of-age or by the virus itself.

Buy Rage (Seventeen #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published in paperback and ebook formats by Silvergum Publishing on 2nd September 2019. Buy at Amazon com. At Amazon AuAt BlackwellsBuy at BookDepository. At Waterstones.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

#BlogTour Fighting Back by Rachel Churcher


Today it is my turn on the BlogTour Fighting Back, the fourth part in the Battle Ground series, by Rachel Churcher.
About the Author
Rachel Churcher was born between the last manned moon landing, and the first orbital Space Shuttle mission. She remembers watching the launch of STS-1, and falling in love with space flight, at the age of five. She fell in love with science fiction shortly after that, and in her teens she discovered dystopian fiction. In an effort to find out what she wanted to do with her life, she collected degrees and other qualifications in Geography, Science Fiction Studies, Architectural Technology, Childminding, and Writing for Radio.

She has worked as an editor on national and in-house magazines; as an IT trainer; and as a freelance writer and artist. She has renovated several properties, and has plenty of horror stories to tell about dangerous electrics and nightmare plumbers. She enjoys reading, travelling, stargazing, and eating good food with good friends – but nothing makes her as happy as writing fiction.

Her first published short story appeared in an anthology in 2014, and the Battle Ground series is her first long-form work. Rachel lives in East Anglia, in a house with a large library and a conservatory full of house plants. She would love to live on Mars, but only if she’s allowed to bring her books.

Buy Fighting Back


About the book
Bex Ellman and her friends are in hiding, sheltered by the resistance. With her family threatened and her friendships challenged, she's looking for a way to fight back. Ketty Smith is in London, supporting a government she no longer trusts. With her support network crumbling, Ketty must decide who she is fighting for – and what she is willing risk to uncover the truth.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

Review
I recommend reading the rest of the series to get the full gist of the characters and this series.The books can be read as standalone books, but I think readers will get more from the entirety of the series.

Set in the future post-Brexit and post Scottish Independence, the series Battle Ground is an alarming dystopian scenario, perhaps more so because it isn't a far-fetched premise. A civil war rages in the country, a war driven by propaganda and false facts.

In this fourth part of the series Churcher shows the reader how both sides are unable to present themselves as free of guilt and blame. When the resistance takes their fight to the next level and in doing so target innocent bystanders, well they no longer have a leg to stand on when it comes to presenting themselves to the world as the better solution.

Does the end justify the means? Do two wrongs make a right? I think this is the bitter lesson that certain characters learn within this story. Will some of these choices or retaliations make some of them rethink their position in this vicious war?

It's a dystopian series set in the near future and set around a premise that isn't that far-fetched at all. At present the UK is divided by starkly different political opinions, and the question of refugees for instance, which brings us back to the question of race and racism. The division is being defined and driven by the agendas of foreign countries, media bias and the upper echelon of the wealthy. Is it any wonder that there are plenty of voices of dissension. Churcher uses the fire that burns to fuel her stories.

Buy Fighting Back  (Battle Ground #4) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.  Publisher: Taller Books; pub date 20 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy the Battle Ground books at Taller Books.

Read my reviews of Battle Ground and Darkest Hour by Rachel Churcher

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

#BlogTour Unprotected by Sophie Jonas-Hill


Today it is a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Unprotected by Sophie Jonas-Hill.
About the Author
Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artists and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages, and thank goodness has never seen the light of day.

She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hand's down to the publishing industry's gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path.

She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.

Follow @SophieJonasHill and @RetreatWest on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Facebook,Visit sophiejonashill.com , Buy Unprotected


About the book
She's fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save herself?

Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia's life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she's hiding from her hurt and loss in rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.

As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.

Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself for who you really are.

Review
It's raw, unfiltered and brutally frank at times. The author lays her main character bare and autopsies her mind, body and soul right in front of the reader. There is no unicorn fluff to bolster the hardness or any candy floss moments to make you melt inside. It's just life as it happens to be for many people - sometimes it's bleak and full of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Lydia is probably her own worst enemy when it comes to enjoying what she has achieved, as opposed to dwelling on what she considers to be her failures. She feels isolated, misunderstood and quite frankly often patronised by those who are supposed to be her friends and family.

When her boyfriend demands a break, because he he is unable to cope with her obsession and need to have a child, which is exacerbated tenfold by her history of miscarriages, she feels abandoned. Lydia spirals and ends up picking up a romp buddy who turns out to be just on the right side of legal and dealing with his own baggage.

Simultaneously her instincts, as the mother she would like to be, start to scream when she notices something odd going on with a young girl in her neighbourhood. Everything starts to escalate and culminates in a conclusion Lydia could never have anticipated.

It's women's fiction and urban crime, it shines a light on the children who fall through the cracks of the system, which makes them vulnerable and targets for predators. At the same time the author presents the hypocrisy of society when it comes to motherhood, ageism and women embracing their sexuality and desires.

I enjoyed the honesty and the lack of need for approval. This is Lydia and she isn't even going to try to be sorry for embracing herself. Why should she? Why would anyone want her to? Kudos to the author for this captivating and daring piece of work.

Buy Unprotected at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Retreat West Books; pub date 24 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Retreat West.

Monday, 2 December 2019

#BlogTour Notes from the Lost by Cathie Hartigan


Today it is my turn on the BlogTour Notes from the Lost by Cathie Hartigan.
About the Author
Cathie Hartigan lives in the beautiful, historic city of Exeter.

Although her professional training was in music, a decade ago she swapped one keyboard for another in order to take her life-long love of writing more seriously. Since then, she has won several prizes for her short stories and was a finalist in the annual Woman and Home short story competition three times.

Cathie lectured in creative writing for nine years at Exeter College before leaving to found CreativeWritingMatters.co.uk, which offers a range of writing services and administers four international literary competitions a year, including The Exeter Novel Prize and The Trisha Ashley Award.

When not writing, Cathie sings in a small vocal ensemble. The beautiful Devon coastline also provides plenty of distraction but on a rainy day if there's an opera or theatre screening at the cinema, she'll be there.

Follow @cathiehartigan on Twitter,  on Amazon, on Goodreads, on FacebookBuy Notes from the Lost


About the book
In October 1943, when prisoners of war Alfie and Frank escape from a train taking them to Germany, their lives depend on the family of shepherds who shelter them. In constant jeopardy, the young men wait out the winter in the Italian mountains. In 2000, Ros Goudy inherits her music teacher’s home in Exeter and there she finds letters that reveal the soldiers’ fate. Only one made it back, but it wasn’t to a warm welcome and happy ever after. What had happened that turned heads and hearts against him? The trail she follows begins with an charming comic song composed before the war. What she discovers is that everyone, including herself, has something to hide.

Review
This is a story with two timelines, it goes from past to present and eventually the two stories meld into one. In the present a young musician inherits the house of her old music teacher. Inside the house Ros finds letters that shed light on events during the escape of some Allied soldiers during World War 2.

In a way the two stories often feel as if they are a world apart, despite the reader knowing that somewhere along the line both will connect in some way.

What shines through about the story in the past is the way mere mortals caught in the midst of the brutality and unfairness of war are often capable of the most courageous acts. It's those actions that define us during times of great turmoil. Not the majority who remained silent, but the minority who chose to do the right thing, despite the real danger to themselves.

In the present the story isn't just about secrets it is also about finding your own truth and strength to follow your dreams. Perhaps in a way it is also about doing what is right in certain situations, as opposed to what is right in the eyes of society.

It's historical fiction with a strong emphasis on camaraderie and support in the direst of times. A love for music shines through and a reverence for history. Hartigan draws readers in with bare emotions and keeps them captivated as they wander through two timelines.

Buy Notes from the Lost at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

#BlogTour Sorcery Reborn by Steve McHugh


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Sorcery Reborn by Steve McHugh.
About the Author
Steve's been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up 'One boy and his frog' was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn't for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which is Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.

About the book
He doesn’t need a weapon. He is the weapon.
After losing his powers in an epic battle between good and evil, former sorcerer Nate Garrett finds himself living as a humble human in Clockwork, Oregon. While the world thinks Nate is dead, his friends continue to fight against Avalon and the evil it’s intent on spreading.

Avalon’s forces turn up in Clockwork, and Nate’s frustration grows with every passing day his magic doesn’t return. He finds himself trying to stop Avalon’s plans while hiding from enemies who would destroy everything in their path to see him dead.

Avalon’s darkness begins to threaten the people Nate cares about, and an old nemesis returns; magic or no magic, he has no choice but to fight. But will Nate see his magical powers reborn before the entire town—and everyone he loves—is destroyed?

Review
I think it's fair to say that the Rebellion Chronicles are part of a larger picture, world-building on a much bigger scale. To understand the complexity and finer nuances of said world and the characters it might be a good idea to go back and read more by McHugh.

The Avalon and Hellequin Chronicles help readers to get the gist of things. Saying that, Sorcery Reborn can absolutely be read as a standalone novel and by a McHugh noob.

For those that have been waiting for a continuation of the Nate and Layla saga, they may be slightly disappointed that the two of them actually dance at two different parties in this book. Each one wanders off on their own storyline, which was quite refreshing in a sense that both of their stories were interesting, but also confirmed that neither one needs the other to draw readers in.

Nate awakens from a long state of unconsciousness to find he has no magic and it will take quite a long time to regain his powers. So technically he is a mere mortal. A mortal who is supposed to keep his head down, but can't resist socking it to the occasional bad guy.

It's urban fantasy with the intricate world-building of a high fantasy. McHugh brings together magic, mythology, paranormal, shifter worlds and every element of fantastical worlds and genres he could combine to create a captivating read.

Here and there McHugh leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to hint at what's to come. Building the tension and leading readers to what I can only presume is going to be the culmination of all the world-building that has gone before.

Buy Sorcery Reborn (The Rebellion Chronicles #1) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: 47North; pub date 21 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

#BlogTour Wishes Under a Starlit Sky by Lucy Knott


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Wishes Under a Starlit Sky by Lucy Knott.

About the Author
Lucy Knott is a former professional wrestler with a passion for storytelling. Now, instead of telling her stories in the ring, she's putting pen to paper, fulfilling another lifelong dream in becoming an Author.

Inspired by her Italian Grandparents, when she is not writing you will most likely find her cooking, baking and devouring Italian food, in addition to learning Italian and daydreaming of trips to Italy.

Along with her twin sister, Kelly, Lucy runs TheBlossomTwins.com, where she enthusiastically shares her love for books, baking and Italy, with daily posts, reviews and recipes.

Follow Lucy Knott @TheBlossomTwins on Twitter, @LucyCKnott on Instagram, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit www.theblossomtwins.comBuy Wishes Under a Starlit Sky


About the book
From the outside, Harper Hayes looks like she is winning at life.

She has an amazing job as a script writer, a wonderful house, an awesome best friend and an incredible husband. Yes, life seems to be pretty, dare she say it? Perfect?

But life is about to throw more than one spanner in the works of Harper’s picture perfect existence and at the busiest time of the year too.

As Christmas approaches, Harper will have some soul searching to do to decide if there really is such thing as the happily-ever-after she writes about.

Review
Part of the problem where Harper is concerned is that real life doesn't meld with her fiction. Even the sweetest or most amorous of relationships are embedded in the harsh reality of living in the real world. In a way that explains why she is completely unable to come to terms with a husband who is living his best life by having both a wife and mistress.

He isn't even sincere enough to fall in love with another woman and cut off all ties with his wife. No, he is quite happy to bed both, to whisper sweet nothings in their ears and use them both for his self-gratification.

That's enough about him - the rat. What's more important is the way Harper finds her emotional stability, the confidence and indeed life the way she knows and loves it, imploding out of the blue. To make it ten times worse it all happens around her favourite time of the year, which in turn wobbles her inner happiness and joy of Christmas.

I thought it was interesting how the story had this subtle layer of weight to it. The author wanted to give readers a pleasant read, but also write a plot with emotional depth to it.

It's a romance, one that deals the real with dreams. It's also about friendship, support and different kinds of love. The world is so much bigger than romantic love. Love between friends, between family and also the kind of love that creeps up on you when you are least expecting it.

Buy Wishes Under a Starlit Sky at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Digital; pub date 6 Nov. 2019. - Paperback pub date 23 Jan. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.