When The World Was Ours by Liz Kessler – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Three friends. Two sides. One memory.

Vienna. 1936.

Three young friends – Leo, Elsa and Max – spend a perfect day together, unaware that around them Europe is descending into a growing darkness, and that events soon mean that they will be cruelly ripped apart from each other. With their lives taking them across Europe – to Germany, England, Prague and Poland – will they ever find their way back to each other? Will they want to?  

Inspired by a true story, WHEN THE WORLD WAS OURS is an extraordinary novel that is as powerful as it is heartbreaking, and shows how the bonds of love, family and friendship allow glimmers of hope to flourish, even in the most hopeless of times. 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I don’t read it a lot of YA or children’s fiction but I was intrigued by the synopsis of this novel. A tale about the Holocaust but told through the eyes of three different children.

The novel starts in 1936 on Leo’s birthday. You see the friendship between him and his two friends Elsa and Max, the love and respect they have for Leo’s father and the incident which led to lives being saved. From there each of the often very short chapters is narrated by each of the children and covers the period from then up until the end of the war. 

I have read books about the Holocaust before, but never through a child’s perspective. How a young boy is so desperate to get his father’s attention he follows his nazism views thus betraying his memories of his childhood friends. Max’s story was desperately sad but whilst I detested his actions and apparent beliefs I still had sympathy for him. I wanted him to remember what he had lost but he was too scared of giving up his new way of life and his wish for respect from his parents.

But it was Leo and Elsa I wanted to read about. Leo who gets a lucky escape and Elsa who believes that those around her will care for her and make sure that her and family and friends are safe. Their stories are mesmerising, heartbreaking and believable. Probably more so, because whilst they do show the horrors of the Holocaust it is from children who don’t really understand what is happening. They are not tall enough to see how many are crammed into transport or how many are discarded on the way. They are not old enough to understand what is happening when some are sent to the left and some to the right. 

It is pure coincidence that I read this book around Holocaust Day and saw the number of interviews that the author was doing on all types of media. If you get chance find those, they are just as fascinating as this novel.

For the week of the Blog Tour, readers will be able to get dedicated and signed copies of When The World Was Ours from Bags of Books here https://bags-of-books.co.uk/

Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka – Review.

About The Book

After the death of her cop father, PI Roxane Weary did everything she could to lose herself in her work – but she’s getting tired of the hangovers, of fighting with her ex-girlfriend, and of avoiding her mother. When she’s asked to investigate a suspicious death, she delves into the case with her usual stubborn determination.

Pulling her far from home, and into an insular and controlling evangelical community, the case might just be bigger than Roxane can handle alone. But is it too late, or too dangerous, to call on the people she needs?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. It seems to be a habit now that I arrive at a series late. But I’m starting to find it quite refreshing, picking up a book in an established series that many say is excellent. And I’m happy to say that on the strength of this book I will endeavour to read the earlier ones.

When Roxane nearly loses her car door to a dog walker, Rebecca, she is shocked to hear that very soon after their meeting her she is found dead after apparently falling on her walk. She is then hired by the Rebecca’s daughter to investigate. But she is unprepared for what she discovers in her past, the close knit religious community and the difficulty she has in getting answers from the family who have hired her. And she is definitely not expecting her own life and those close to her to be at danger from her digging. 

Well what a brilliant introduction this book is to another series I need to catch up on. Very little is revealed about the previous books, just a little of Roxane’s  personal life and that of her friends. She reminds me of Kinsey Milhone and Stephanie Plum, other P. I. books I have read in the past. She is brave, stubborn and doesn’t always make life easy for herself. She was a character I liked a lot and I have a feeling that when I’ve read the earlier books and got to know more about her friends and family I will like many more. Despite what they face they manage to keep their sense of humour whilst acknowledging that they do struggle, don’t always react the best way and consequently regret their actions. On the whole everybody felt real.

I found the case itself is a chilling one, there is something about a cult that I find very intimidating. Probably the controlling atmosphere but also the brainwashing that convinces so many that there is nothing wrong with what they do. There were times I felt on very on edge, thinking about the mayhem that could be caused by their actions.

I’m looking forward to reading the earlier books and for what may come next.

The Dressmaker Of Paris by Georgia Kaufmann – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

I need to tell you a story, ma chère. My story.

Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual certainty eludes her.

What brought her to this moment? As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de Janeiro; success and self-discovery in New York.

A life spent running, she sees now. But she will run no longer.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. My aim this year is to broaden my reading and this book is one of the first that I chose to read that is out of my comfort zone. And I am happy that I did. 

Rosa is am ambitious and  extremely successful businesswoman  but she also has a problematic personal life which started with devastating events that occurred when she was in her teens. She manages to escape with help  but a series of decisions affect her for many years. Regrets, guilt and loneliness are never far away, despite the very successful business, her first to marriage to Charles and her friendship with Graca giving her something else to live for. But what she really wants is unavailable and she finds it difficult to accept that somethings are beyond repair. 

It did take me a while to settle into this novel, I don’t follow fashion trends and designers, even though I did know the names mentioned. But Rosa’s character was one that captivated me and I really enjoyed the way the chapters started with the descriptions of everyday beauty regimes. 

Rosa has had a tough life despite her business success but her personal life changed in ways she didn’t expect when she moved to New York. As you would expect, with the type of life she had it wasn’t all easy but she somehow managed to analyse, accept and make the best out of a difficult situation. 

It is a wonderful account of a life that starts in a Italian village in WW2 and ends up in a penthouse in New York, many mistakes made but also dreams accomplished. My favourite part of it was the last quarter when Rosa was able to come to terms with the decisions she had made. 

As well as a great storyline with some fascinating characters I also felt it was a travelogue. I was able to see so many places through Rosa’s life story.

The Art Of Dying by Ambrose Parry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a whispering campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

My Review

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a signed copy of this book when it was released and jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour. I had no doubts that it would be just as good as the first book, The Way Of All Flesh. You could read this book without reading that but I would recommend that you do read them in order.

It starts in Berlin, but only for a short chapter, where Raven shows that he doesn’t make life easy for himself. He returns to Edinburgh to work with Dr Simpson again and is wary of how Sarah would be with him, but he is unprepared for what happened with her during his time away. Things aren’t quite as they first seem though, and he is soon aware that she is going to need friends. And they both need to be a support to Dr Simpson even though he doesn’t want them to be involved.

The book consists of three narrators, Raven, Sarah and the unnamed killer. All were brilliant, some of the chapters were very short and made this a very quick read for me. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen with all of them. Whilst enjoying reading about all of them it is Sarah who was my favourite. I loved her determination to be more than ‘just a housemaid’, her loyalty and her spirit. 

The historical aspect was perfect and even though I didn’t understand some of the medical terminology it made this book more fascinating. And I feel very relieved that methods have changed. As for the setting, Edinburgh is somewhere I have visited but I don’t know it well. I need to return and visit the areas mentioned, to try and visualise them as Raven and Sarah.

I’ve always enjoyed historical crime and this series of books is now one of my favourites, despite only being two so far. Book three is definitely one that I am looking forward to reading and hopefully adding to my signed collection.

The Darkness Within by Graeme Hampton – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

You can run… but death will always find you

A man is discovered on a leafy North London street, fighting for life after a brutal beating. DI Matthew Denning and his team are quickly called in to to track down the monster responsible. 

Except the victim is hiding secrets of his own. His name shows that he was reported missing two decades ago – but it’s clear that the missing person is not the same man lying broken in a hospital bed.

A visit to a squalid East London flat unearths a victim with his throat slit, his body left to decompose. A sad end to any life – but when it is identified as former DCI Frank Buckfield, star of the Met police, the case takes on a new significance.

Two seemingly unrelated cases – but as Denning, along with DS Molly Fisher, investigates further, they uncover links between the two victims that lead back to a ring of silence cloaking the blackest of crimes.

But as Denning and Fisher try to track down a killer with revenge on their mind, they find themselves pitted against a psychopath who will kill to keep their secrets hidden. Can they uncover the truth, before they end up the latest victims?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Darkness Within is the third book in the Denning and Fisher series but the first that I’ve read. I had no problem getting to know the characters or follow the storyline. Although I do intend to read the earlier books as soon as possible, I enjoyed this novel a lot.

There appears to be two separate investigations but there is a connection. And it isn’t just the one that has the two main characters getting into trouble simply for trying to do their jobs. But despite both being told to back off they aren’t willing to, and they carry on with their questioning. Thus upsetting  victims, criminals and superior officers.

The investigation is sadly believable, everybody will have heard about investigations that were dropped for reasons unexplained but where you’d suspect that money or power and control were involved. The author shows the damage that caused to the individuals concerned and the way that it destroyed their life. But he also shows how a willingness to listen could make a difference.

An unusual side to this novel was that lead characters personal lives were shown and that their partners also had a voice. All too often they feature but the reader never gets to know much about them. I appreciated this a lot and I hope to see it a lot more.

I’m looking forward to reading the earlier books and from reading the author notes at the end book four definitely sounds like one to look forward to.