Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with her four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China. For comfort, they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country, seeking refuge.

Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, but he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down?

Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the search for a place to call home.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have to be honest and admit that before I read this novel I had little idea about China’s history or culture. It is a novel that left me wanting to know more, especially concerning the same period as this one does, the 1930s to modern day.

Three generations of the same family, Meilin, Henry ( Renshu) and Lily. Each one of them shows how they coped with the situation they found themselves in. All three of them faced difficulties in different ways. Meilan’s was definitely the most dangerous, showing her running from horror of the war, losing her husband and leaving her family behind with no idea of their fate. But also at this time you could see Renshu’s terror, far too young to understand, you knew that his experience would still had an impact many years later. During Meilan’s story both of them, and other minor characters in the novel, got some respite from the stories that Meilan told from a scroll. After a few years of trying to find somewhere they could settle they ended up in Taiwan, the fear never leaving them but they all managed to rebuild their lives.

When the narrative switches to Renshu, now known as Henry and later his daughter Lily the author shows how difficult it was to move on from such a traumatic childhood. How difficult it was for Henry to open up and discuss what happened and always feeling the need to look over his shoulder. He didn’t want Lily to be involved in the Chinese communities, wanting to protect his family but not being able to see that he was denying her an identity.

There were times it felt strange to read. Showing families fleeing everything they know to try and keep safe, you would hope that things change. But in modern day it is happening time and time again. Just in different parts of the world.

I loved everything about this novel. It showed a completely different world to the one I know. Chinese history, it’s culture and fables and the often shocking and baffling laws in both China and America not that long ago. 

A Matter Of Time by Claire Askew – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

At 8am the first shots are fired.

At 1pm, the police establish the gunman has a hostage.

By 5pm, a siege is underway.

At 9pm, DI Helen Birch walks, alone and unarmed, into an abandoned Borders farmhouse to negotiate with the killer.

One day. One woman. One chance to get everyone out alive.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. 

As soon as I started reading this book I was hooked. It is a novel where the first character you meet is the one who was the threat and you could see what his thoughts were before you met the lead character. In this novel that character was DI Helen Birch who had no idea that her day was going to be nothing like the one she planned.

The novel covers the whole day, from when there is little information to the moment when the various police teams descend onto the remote area and from there to the negotiation and outcome. One of the reasons I like this novel is that whilst there is an obvious sense of emergency there is no rush. The author shows the strength of feeling in the local area with regards to the suspect and what led to his prison sentence. Helen is surprised by how much sympathy there is for him but her understanding grows as she starts to gain his trust and he opens up. 

There is a lot of emotion and guilt in this novel. The impact of foot and mouth disease on the area was devastating, especially for Gerald, the gunman. A distant memory for many, including myself, but from which some would never recover. The determination to keep a young girl safe, and the way she was handled was another. And alongside this was the respect, frustration and occasional humour that was building amongst those who were there in the background. All of them trying to support Helen with little idea of how well she was managing. Unarmed and alone with a desperate armed man with nothing to lose. 

I sometimes find it difficult to read a book that is part of a series I haven’t read before, but despite this being book four I managed to get straight into it. There was mention of an earlier case that had an impact on Helen but there were no spoilers so I can read and enjoy them just as much as I did this one

Cold Clay by Juneau Black – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book


In the woodland community of Shady Hollow, you’ll discover a secret. Moose and mice, owls and bears live side by side in civilised harmony. The town has a coffee shop and a bookshop, a haberdasher and a bank. Life is peaceful, until a skeleton is found buried deep under an apple tree. Danger has returned to Shady Hollow.

Ace reporter Vera Vixen only wants a good news story as harvest time arrives with the promise of glorious feasts ahead. But the discovery of the body casts a darker shadow. Soon enough, the coffeeshop’s owner is being dragged down to the police station. Vera can’t believe gentle Joe the moose is a killer. To get to the bottom of the matter, she will have to dig into the secrets her neighbours would rather leave buried forever . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Cold Clay is the second in the series to feature Vera the Vixen, journalist/ detective in the Shady Hollow series. There are no spoilers in the novel but I do recommend reading them in order. If the only reason is because they are very light- hearted for a crime novel, are easy to read and they are pure escapism.

If you have read book one you will have met Joe the moose who owns the coffee shop. You would know that his wife, Julia, left him years earlier. But this novel shows a different explanation for her disappearance and Vera is determined to prove that he wasn’t involved. Even if it causes an argument with Orville who she has become very close to.

I did see who was responsible for Julia’s disappearance but I don’t think it was meant to be a surprise. What I couldn’t see was who and how, and I enjoyed reading how Vera discovered the answers. She couldn’t see though, that others were also suspicious.

I don’t really think of these characters as creatures, probably because you wouldn’t expect foxes, bears, ravens etc to eat cake and drink coffee. Many feature from the earlier book, some of them I saw in a different way. Esme, in particular, was much nicer and I feel that Vera’s friendship with her could grow. I love her relationship with Orville, the detective and the descriptions of both her frustration and love for her job.

Another very entertaining read and I’m looking forward to book three. 

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville – Review – First Monday Crime .

About The Book

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance. A new country. A new house. A new beginning with her husband Damien.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home. She remembers the fire, and the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her, whom she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. Sara soon becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago – the tragic, bloody night her husband never intended for her to discover. And Mary – silent for six decades – is finally ready to tell her story . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The House of Ashes is probably the book that I have been gripped by most this year. I felt dread, sadness and admiration throughout most of it. It is a dual time frame novel with a handful of narrators whose only real obvious connection was that they were all female and who were all facing abuse from people they lived with. By a long way, it was Mary’s narrative I found easiest to read. Only a child, she was the only one who could see innocence in what she experienced. I loved reading about her dreams of being able to see across the sea to other countries. But when she started to understand what danger her and her mummies faced I could also see how loyal and determined she was despite her age.

The author does an incredible job of making all his narrators convincing. Switching from a young girl who has never experienced freedom in one chapter to a terrified but determined to escape new arrival and then decades later to a controlled and damaged young woman. 

It is one of those books that could cover more than one genre. Obviously crime but also historical with the brief description the conflicts in the ‘North of Ireland’ as it is described in the book and also gothic with the children who were in the shadows and who a handful of the characters could see. 

I read this novel very quickly, finding it impossible to put down.

Stuart Neville will be appearing at First Monday Crime alongside Janice Hallett, Catherine Ryan Howard and Robert Gold. You can watch via the Facebook page on Monday 7th March at 7.30pm.

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Ingrid will never forget what John did.
The people he hurt. The way he lied about it so easily. The way she defended him.

Now he’s back.
He says a murderer is after her. He says only he can protect her.

Would you trust him?
The clock is ticking for Ingrid to decide. Because the killer is ready to strike…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I always enjoy a novel which is full of danger and guilt and where the lead character doesn’t know who she can turn to. Ingrid was a character who had to face all of these things and none of them seemed to diminish as the novel progressed. Instead they increased and I had no idea who was behind the threat to her life.

Ingrid came across as a loner. Dedicated to her job but that dedication had an impact on her personal life. She lost her partner, and her freedom due to a stalker who she successfully defended in a trial a few years earlier. That stalker, John Webster, was a character who featured heavily in this book. He was one of the most intimidating I have come across and he made me feel increasingly unsettled with every appearance.

But his wasn’t the only old case that caused Ingrid problems and what the author does brilliantly is show how barristers and the law have to defend the accused despite their doubts. That everyone is entitled to a defence despite the trauma it could cause to witnesses, victims and also the accused. And despite their personal feelings that the accused should be convicted for their misdeeds and their guilt at putting potential witnesses under pressure. 

Whilst Ingrid was forced to rely on Webster for advice and support she was also conducting her own investigation. I had a lot of admiration for her bravery, her loyalty and her stubbornness in refusing to back down. It is difficult to say more for fear of spoilers but I really enjoyed this novel and I’m determined to catch up with her previous books.