V For Victory by Lissa Evans – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Having enjoyed the previous books in this series, Crooked Heart and Old Baggage, I was looking forward to catching up with Noel, Vee, Winnie and also meeting up with some new characters. Many fascinating people feature in this novel and all try their hardest to cope with living in a war battered London.

It takes place during the last year of the war. Noel is fifteen, is doing well in his studies and is starting to develop feelings for a friend, Genevieve. Winnie is a warden,  brave, funny, patient with her twin sister despite feeling hurt and frustration and uncertain how to feel about the husband she barely knew who was a POW. Vee is battling on, trying to feed a house full of people, maintain a sense of humour and look after Noel. Her friendship with Mario was good for her, and seeing how the house benefited from that friendship was lovely to read. I loved seeing the enjoyment that peanut butter and Florida orange juice brought.

The hardships, the rations, the bombings are all described perfectly and show how Londoners suffered. But this isn’t a depressing novel. Yes, there is sadness, especially towards the end, but there is also plenty of humour. Especially from Noel and Winnie, my two favourite characters in the book.

Whilst I feel this will probably be the last book in the series I would love to see it continue. With the strength of the characters, even the minor ones, there is definitely potential for this series to carry on into the 50s and 60s.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. 
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. After loving meeting Harold Fry I had a feeling that I would enjoy Miss Benson’s Beetle. I wasn’t prepared for how much. These characters made me laugh, cry and feel warm inside. This feeling started from the very beginning when Margery was listening to her father talk about the beetle when her life changed forever.

Margery and Enid have nothing in common initially. They don’t really argue, just don’t understand each other. But as their very long voyage across the oceans continue they start to get a little closer and become a little more tolerant of each other. Margery even starts to accept being called Marge. Whilst Margery is an open book, lonely, pragmatic and determined to find her beetle Enid is the opposite. A good time girl, but one who has a secret. Most of this secret is revealed in newspaper reports that appear at times throughout the novel. I admit, I did fear for her throughout the novel, hoping that she could stay safe. The way that Margery and Enid became close friends was lovely to read. When you could see how much they relied on each other and accepted that whilst they had little in common they had a true friendship. 

Another more sinister character was always hovering in the background. Mundic, ex POW, aggrieved over being denied the job as Margery’s assistant has followed them to New Caledonia, determined to make her see her error. Damaged by his war experience, needy and increasingly erratic and you could almost see him fall apart. Because it is only five years after the war you get a real sense of his vulnerability and anger. It was difficult to dislike somebody who was so raw.

This book would be wonderful if made into a film or TV drama. Just thinking about who the actors could be added to my enjoyment of this novel.

The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

‘He said he didn’t remember killing them…’

As a series of rolling blackouts plunge the city into darkness, Detective Aidan Waits sits on an abandoned hospital ward, watching a mass murderer slowly die. Transferred from his usual night shift duties and onto protective custody, he has just one job…

To extract the location of Martin Wick’s final victim before the notorious mass murderer passes away.

Wick has spent over a decade in prison, in near-total silence, having confessed to an unspeakable crime that shocked the nation and earned him the nickname of The Sleepwalker.

But when a daring premeditated attack leaves one police officer dead and another one fighting for his life, Wick’s whispered last words will send Waits on a journey into the heart of darkness…

Manipulated by a reticent psychopath from his past, and under investigation from his new partner, Detective Constable Naomi Black, Waits realises too late that a remorseless contract killer is at work.

Can Aidan Waits solve his last case before fleeing justice?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. A few years ago I read and enjoyed Sirens, the first book in the Aidan Watts series. I was intrigued with the Manchester setting but wasn’t prepared for how dark the storyline was, how corrupt the police were and mainly how flawed Aidan was.

By book three much is the same, the darkness and corruption is still evident but I started to see a different side to Aidan. He seemed to accept, without resentment, the way his life had gone and I started to see a more compassionate side to him. I first noticed it when he met Adam in Strangeways prison. I felt that he was genuinely concerned for him and that he wanted to make his life more bearable. This feeling continued throughout the novel and on finishing it, I think it was because he was aware of what lay in his own future. A few days after reading it I feel that this was the first book I liked him in.

It was a nice change to have a police officer who wasn’t corrupt. Naomi, who became Aidan’s new partner early in the novel when Sutty was injured whilst on duty. I could sense her loyalty, despite the frustration she felt towards Aidan at times. Even when he hurt her feelings she didn’t abandon him. She was the only member of the force who I didn’t feel had a different agenda. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of her.

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox – Review.

About The Book

Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift: an endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. 

Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to the Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. 

And he is smiling.

The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth have been filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life…

But even as Waits pieces together this stranger’s identity, someone is sifting through the shards of his own. 

When mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats start to escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move. 

And to discover who the smiling man really is, he must first confront himself.

My Review

The Smiling Man is the second book in the Aidan Watts series. It is a series that I enjoy for its darkness, honesty and local setting. Manchester is a city I know reasonably well and I always enjoy reading a novel ‘knowing my way around’.

It is safe to say that neither Aidan, Sutty or Superintendent Parrs, who has the power to destroy Aidan would be the police officers who be my first choice for assistance. I think, after reading this book and learning more about Aidan’s life he would be the better option.

I was aware from reading Sirens of the problems that Aidan has had in his life. I knew he faced dismissal from the police for his actions. More of the hatred he faces from fellow officers and the control from the extremely sinister Parrs is revealed. You see the battle he faces with drug and alcohol abuse and living with what has happened in his past. I felt that most of the hatred felt was self hatred.

As well as the murder investigation, there was another story that ran through out the novel that concerned a young boy who had to assist a criminal. This side of the novel had more impact on me than any other part of the story. The guilt and fear for his sister’s safety if he’d didn’t do as he was told was chilling and often uncomfortable to read. More so, because it was so convincing.

I am currently reading book 3 in the series and I am loving reading the books together. It is highly recommended.

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans – Review.

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About the Book

What do you do next, after you’ve changed the world?

It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade.

Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement.

Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.

My Review

Crooked Heart was a book that I enjoyed very much so I was thrilled to see that Old Baggage had been published. You could say that it is a prequel, focusing on Mattie who was Noel’s godmother. She was only in the first chapter of Crooked Heart but it was evident that she was a character who had much to say.
Most of this novel takes place in 1928. Mattie lives with the brilliantly named ‘The Flea’. She isn’t hesitant at making her feelings known,not always with tact, and it’s something that gets her into trouble more than once. I did have some sympathy for The Flea, and in a lot of ways she was the character I preferred. I liked her reading about helping those who were worse off and her quiet devotion to Mattie.
I spent much of the novel trying to work out the connection with Noel and thankfully it was revealed who his mother was. She was the person I expected it to be, and at first I thought her reasoning for her actions a little cold but on reflection I don’t think they were. Just honest. I enjoyed reading Mattie’s memories of her life as a suffragette, it would be brilliant to read another ‘prequel’ and learn more.
Funny, poignant, honest, and revealing. Not just personally but also with attitudes at the time. Old Baggage is one that will be just as successful as Crooked Heart.