Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? 

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have been interested in reading this book for a few months so was thrilled to be asked to support its publication. I am aware of the play, Hamlet, but don’t know what it is about or that it was named after his son who died when he was a child. I have however, visited Stratford Upon Avon a few times and know the streets and the houses that are connected to Shakespeare.

Although the book concerns William Shakespeare and his family he isn’t named. He is known throughout as his son, her husband or their father. All of the other characters are named, even though his wife is known as Agnes not Anne. I liked the way this was done, showing that whilst he was living in London writing, there was another equally important life back in Stratford. And it was because of this life that he was able to do it instead of teaching Latin and selling gloves. And more importantly keeping him away from his father.

I adored Agnes. Her spirit, her strangely modern approach to life and her way of reading people. It is implied that she could see the future but she could also accurately see a person’s true character. Especially concerning her father in law and her stepmother, and I liked how she used that knowledge to help her family. And most of all I liked the way she ignored all who tried to ridicule or insult her. I also liked her brother Bartholomew, large and protective and wise.

I have never read anything like this before. It made me want to find out more about the plays and when I go back to Stratford I will be looking with new eyes.

Black River by Will Dean – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Black River is an electrifying return for relentless reporter Tuva Moodyson, from the author of DarkPinesand RedSnow.

FEAR 

Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim is missing.

SECRETS

Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?

LIES

Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Black River is book three in the series, if you are a reader who appreciates getting to know recurring characters I do recommend you read these books in order. Many are a little bizarre! 

Tuva has returned to Gavrik to try and help find her closest friend Tammy. She doesn’t want to be there, has settled into her new life in Malmo and anybody who has read these novels would admit that Gavrik is a little strange. But Tammy is all she has and she is determined to help. However,  she doesn’t have the support of everybody  and is upset that there is more interest in the disappearance of another local woman, one who is Swedish.

Gavrik with it’s inhabitants isn’t somewhere I would like to visit, Tuva does mention a few times that the best thing to do is avoid it. Especially during Midsommer where alcohol and the customs associated with the festival takeover the community. I had to look on YouTube at this festival because the description intrigued me so much. Think May Day with a slightly spooky feel to it. And combined with some extremely creepy locals it isn’t something I would like to attend.

This isn’t a novel where I could work out what had happened to Tammy or who was responsible. It is a novel where I was I intrigued by the intensity, the suspicion and the unfriendliness of the town, and forest. And of course, the mosquitoes and the snakes.

A great addition to the series,I’m interested to see what will happen next. 

Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei – Extract – Blog Tour.

About The Book

From the author of the acclaimed novel The Borrowed, a very timely and propulsively plotted tale of cyberbullying and revenge, about a woman on the hunt for the truth about her sister’s death. 

Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed was one of the most acclaimed international crime novels of recent years, a vivid and compelling tale of power, corruption, and the law spanning five decades of the history of Hong Kong. Now he delivers Second Sister, an up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top. 

A schoolgirl – Siu-Man – has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play – nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N. – a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behavior. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes? 

What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighborhood of Sai Wan. In the end it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.

Extract

When Nga-Yee left her flat at eight that morning, she had no idea her whole life would change that day.

After the nightmare of the last year, she was sure better times were ahead if they just gritted their teeth and clung on. She firmly believed that destiny was fair, and if something bad happened, something good must naturally follow. Unfortunately, the powers that be love playing cruel jokes on us.

A little after six that evening, Nga-Yee dragged her exhausted body homeward. As she walked from the shuttle bus stop, her mind busily calculated whether there was enough food in the fridge to make dinner for two. In just seven or eight years,prices had risen alarmingly while wages stayed the same. Nga-Yee could remember a pound of pork costing twenty-odd dollars, but now that barely got you half a pound.

There was probably a few ounces of pork and some spinach in the fridge, enough for a stir-fry with ginger. A dish of steamed eggs on the side would complete a simple, nutritious dinner. Her sister Siu-Man, who was eight years younger, loved steamed eggs, and Nga-Yee often served this soft, silky dish when the cupboard was almost bare—a fine meal with chopped scallions and a dash of soy sauce. Most important, it was cheap. Back when their finances were even tighter, eggs got them through many a difficult moment.

Although there was enough for that night, Nga-Yee wondered if she should try her luck at the market anyway. She didn’t like leaving the fridge completely bare, her upbringing had left her wanting a backup plan at all times. Besides, quite a few vendors dropped their prices just before closing, and she might pick up some bargains for the next day.

Ooo-eee-ooo-eee.

A police car sped past, the siren piercing Nga-Yee’s thoughts of discounted groceries. Only now did she notice the crowd at the foot of her building, Wun Wah House.

What on earth could have happened? Nga-Yee continued walking at the same pace. She wasn’t the sort of person who liked joining in the excitement, which was why many of her secondary school classmates had labeled her a loner, an introvert, a nerd. Not that this bothered her. Everyone has the right to choose how to live their lives. Trying to fit in with other people’s ideas  is pure foolishness.

“Nga-Yee! Nga-Yee!” A plump, curly-haired, fiftyish woman waved frantically from among the dozen or so onlookers: Auntie Chan, their neighbor on the twenty-second floor. They knew each other to say hello, but that was about it.

Auntie Chan sprinted the short distance toward Nga-Yee, grabbed her by the arm, and dragged her toward the building. Nga-Yee couldn’t make out a word she was saying, apart from her own name, sheer terror made her voice sound like a foreign language. Nga-Yee finally began to understand when she picked out the word “sister.”

In the light of the setting sun, Nga-Yee walked through the crowd and was finally able to make out the horrifying sight.

People were huddled around a patch of concrete about a dozen yards from the main entrance. A teenage girl in a white school uniform lay there, tangled hair obscuring her face, dark red liquid puddling around her head.

Nga-Yee’s first thought was, Isn’t that someone from Siu- Man’s school?

Two seconds later she realized the still figure on the ground was Siu-Man.

Her little sister was sprawled on the cold concrete. All the family she had in the world. Instantly, everything around her turned upside down. Was this a nightmare? If only she were dreaming. Nga-Yee looked at the faces around her. She recognized them as her neighbors, but they felt like strangers.

“Nga-Yee! Nga-Yee!” Auntie Chan clutched at her arm, shaking her violently.

“ Siu-Man?” Even saying her name out loud, Nga-Yee couldn’t connect the object on the ground with her little sister.

Siu-Man ought to be at home right now, waiting for me to cook dinner.

“Move back, please.” A police officer in a neatly pressed uniform pushed through while two paramedics knelt by Siu-Man with a stretcher.

The older paramedic held his hand beneath her nose, pressed a couple of fingers to her left wrist, then lifted an eyelid and shone  a penlight at her pupil. This took just a few seconds, but Nga-Yee experienced every one of these actions as a series of freeze frames.

She could no longer feel the passing of time.

Her subconscious was trying to save her from what would happen next.

The paramedic straightened and shook his head.

“Please step back, clear the way please,” said the policeman. The paramedics walked away from Siu-Man, looking somber. “Siu-Man? Siu-Man! Siu-Man!” Nga-Yee pushed Auntie Chan aside and dashed over.

“Miss!” A tall police officer moved quickly to grab her by the waist.

“Siu-Man!” Nga-Yee struggled futilely, then turned to beseech the officer, “That’s my sister. You have to save her!”

“Miss, please calm down,” said the policeman in a tone that suggested he knew his words would have no effect.

“Please save her! Medics!” Nga-Yee, all color  drained  from her face, turned to implore the departing ambulance crew. “Why isn’t she on your stretcher? Quick! You have to save her!”

“Miss, are you her sister? Please calm down,” said the police- man, his arm around her waist, trying to sound as sympathetic as possible.

“Siu-Man—” Nga-Yee turned back to look at the broken  figure on the ground, but now two other officers were covering her with a dark green tarp. “What are you doing? Stop  that! Stop that now!”

“Miss! Miss!”

“Don’t cover her, she needs to breathe! Her heart is still beat- ing!” Nga-Yee leaned forward, her energy suddenly gone. The policeman was no longer holding her back, but propping her up. “Save her! You have to save her! I’m begging you . . . She’s my sister, my only sister . . .”

And so, on this ordinary Tuesday evening, on the empty ground in front of Wun Wah House, Lok Wah Estate, Kwun Tong District, the normally voluble neighbors fell silent. The only sound among these cold apartment buildings was the heartbro- ken weeping of an older sister, her sobs rushing like the wind into each person’s ears, filling them with a sorrow that could never be wiped away.

Code Name Lise by Larry Loftis – Extract – Blog Tour.

About The Book

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing.

Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission.

It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them.

They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and on to concentration camps in Germany, where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.

This is portrait of true courage, patriotism and love amidst unimaginable horrors and degradation.

Extract

Shortly after ten the mist began to dissipate, leaving them partially exposed.

If it didn’t come soon, someone might notice the four mounds that had not been there two hours ago. It was bitterly cold—in the low teens—but Odette remained still, shivering in her wool skirt.

Finally, they heard it. Everyone hustled into position and watched as Peter flashed the code.

Nothing back. Peter flashed again. Still nothing. The plane passed directly overhead at eight hundred feet and then vanished.

Peter scooted across the field and crept up beside her.

“I simply don’t understand it,” he said behind clouded breath. “He must have seen the signal.”

Something wasn’t right, Odette knew. It was mission feel, to be sure—the fox catching a scent it remembered as danger: men loitering around the buildings that afternoon . . . no airport activity . . . the plane ignoring their signal. The eerie mist didn’t help, either.

Peter told her to stay low and crept to the end of the L formation. “Keep an eye on those buildings,” he told Jacques. “I have a feeling we’re in for an unwelcome interruption from that quarter.”

Moving up the line, he ducked down beside Paul. “There’s someone coming!” he whispered. “Lie flat on theground.”

Across the field, Odette could see the danger: two figures—guards?—emerging from the direction of the control tower. They were headed directly toward Peter and Paul.

Ten yards.

Approaching the two mounds. Five yards.

Odette gaped, pupils wide. Were the guards going to step on them?

The two figures kept walking, apparently just in front of Peter and Paul. When they were out of sight, Peter cameback.

“I thought they were going to walk slap into you,” Odette said. “I can’t think how they missed you.”

Peter cast his gaze across the field and hangars. “The plane ought to be back at any moment. If there’s any danger from those buildings I shall wave my torch sideways and Jacques will come over to you and you’re both to beat it over the bridge. Paul and I will make a separate retreat; better to be in two groups.”

“Listen!” Odette uttered. The plane was returning. If it recognized Peter’s code with the countersign, they’d turn on their lights to illuminate the landing field. If it didn’t, it was German.

Peter moved back to position and Odette kept her eyes peeled. All was silent around the buildings as the drone of the aircraft grew louder.

A flash swept suddenly over the horizon and Odette froze. It was not Peter’s.

It was a trap!

Some three hundred yards away—directly in line with the aircraft’s flight—an Aldis lamp was flashing Morse to the tower. Barrack lights snapped on and someone shouted: “Put out those lights, you imbeciles! Wait for the plane to land and we’ll grab them all.”

Odette saw Peter’s flashlight wave and then watched as he and Paul began racing across the field. The aircraft followed them, diving down on their heads at just six feet and then rising and disappearing. Odette turned to take off, but she could hear the plane returning. Would it let loose its guns,

dropping Peter and Paul like pins?

Just then, Jacques ran up.

“You make for the right,” Odette called out, “and I’ll meet you on the back road to Périgueux.”

The Germans would expect the saboteurs to head for the only cover, but separating the posse

might add confusion. Jacques tore off and Odette started to run when she heard a terrifying sound.

Turning back she saw him: an unleashed German Shepherd sniffing the area she had just left. The dog caught her scent, barked again, and was off.

Odette sprinted for the trees, adrenaline raging, but the ground was uneven and she fell. He was closing the gap, she knew. She scrambled up and dashed on.

Behind her she could hear him, the barking closer. He would be on her in seconds.

She broke through the tree line and pushed ahead, stumbling in the darkness. It couldn’t be much farther.

There was a crash as the dog lunged into the thicket where she had crossed.

Faster! Faster! She had to keep moving.

The Shepherd closed, growling and thrashing through the underbrush. It was the only way.

She plunged in.

The Waxwork Corpse by Simon Michael – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A deadly crime has been dragged to the surface…

London, 1965

Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.

But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press.

By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake. It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.

The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.

The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…

THE WAXWORK CORPSE, based on a real Old Bailey case, is the fifth crime novel in an exciting historical series, the Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers — gritty, hard-boiled mysteries set in 1960s London.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is book five in the Charles Holbourne series but the first that I have read. I had no issues with following the storyline, it works perfectly as a stand-alone. And it left me wanting to know more about the lead character and his family. 

According to the synopsis there are two situations in this novel that Charles has to deal with. The trial concerning the death of the woman found in Wastwater and a personal threat to him concerning events in his past. These events form the opening chapter for the book and showed how much life had changed for Charles since then.

But for me there was a third thread and that concerned his family life and how his reluctance to accept their faith caused a rift. Strangely for a legal drama it was this part of the novel that was my favourite, even though I did enjoy the other storylines. His relationship with his parents, especially his mother, was one that had me rolling my eyes but also smiling. And I always enjoy reading about different cultures and religions. The way his faith also affected his relationship with his colleagues was also one I found fascinating, and unfortunately believable.

The court proceedings were interesting, they made me think how a case such as this would be handled if somebody so powerful was stood in the dock. A favourite part was when the suspect was giving his explanation of events, I wasn’t sure whether to feel sympathetic or revulsion. Surprisingly I did guess correctly about what the end result would be, it’s cleverly done. 

I will definitely be following this series, I want to know more about the gangland association, his family life and what cases he faces in the future.