The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t think I’ve ever read one where the lead character affected me quite like Cora did. She was a character who I wasn’t sure about at the beginning, I had a combination of dislike and fear but gradually that changed and I wanted her to be accepted, find happiness and some answers and I adored her.

She was a character who despite her very hard life thought of others. Her loyalty to a few of the characters in this novel wouldn’t have been entertained by many in her situation. One of them, much older than the other was somebody whose life story I would have loved to know.

It’s not only the characters, it’s also the setting. I had no idea there was a bullring in Birmingham in the 1880s. I googled it whilst reading and was very surprised by the results. It felt different to read an English historical novel that wasn’t set in and around London and given more time I would like to know which, if any of the other locations were real. 

The more scientific sides of the novel were also interesting, how people who were mentally ill were treated and that there were some who worked in the profession who were more understanding than others. How experiments were carried out to try and find answers to human behaviour, regardless of whether their methods were immoral. The photography storyline was another that I spent time looking at. Composite photography was something that I had heard of but didn’t know much about.

Thank you Carolyn Kirby to opening my eyes to a lot of things, this book was a reminder that you can learn a lot by reading. 

Fade To Grey by John Lincoln – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Gethin Grey is the man you call when there’s nowhere else to turn. His Last Resort Legals team investigates miscarriages of justice. But Gethin is running out of options himself: his gambling is out of control, his marriage is falling apart and there’s no money left to pay the wages… 

Izma M was sent down years ago for the brutal murder of a young woman. In jail he’s written a bestseller and become a cult hero, and now the charismatic fading-film-star Amelia Laverne wants to bankroll Gethin to prove Izma’s innocence. For Gethin – low on luck and cash – the job is heaven sent. But is Izma M really as blameless as his fans believe?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Fade to Grey is potentially the start of a new series to feature the Last Resorts Agency. The people who work there are Gethin, Lee and Bex. Gethin is a character who has some major problems. His marriage is on the rocks and he is a gambler. Initially I wasn’t that keen on his character and preferred the two women, especially Lee. But when I got to know him more, and understood him I mellowed. I don’t understand anything about the attraction of gambling but I did like his playlist. I liked the descriptions of his family life, particularly his home which sounded lovely.

The story was an interesting one and different to other novels I have read lately. I have read novels before where a convict has possibly been wrongly charged but it’s the characters who made this feel fresh.  The well known actress whose appearance was something of a shock to the team, Gethin’s father, the judge, who he had a strange relationship with, his daughter, Hattie who was definitely a Daddy’s girl, Lee with her straight forward approach and Bex with her other career as a tribute act.

I hope this does become a series I would like to get to know the team more, I want to know more about the close knit team.

Among The Ruins by Ausma Zehanat Khan – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

The murder of renowned political filmmaker, Zahra Sobhani, brings Esa Khattak’s cultural holiday in Iran to a sudden halt.

Dissidents are being silenced and Khattak’s mere presence in Iran is a risk. Yet when asked to unofficially investigate the activist’s death, he cannot resist. Soon, he finds himself embroiled in Iran’s tumultuous politics and under surveillance by the government.

When the trail leads back to Zahra’s family in Canada, Khattak calls upon his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, for help. As Khattak gets caught up in the fate of Iran’s political prisoners, Rachel sees through to the heart of the matter: Zahra’s murder may not have been quite what it seemed.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Among The Ruins is the third book to feature Khattak and Rachel. It does take place in Canada but unlike the others it also takes place in Iran. 

Their working relationship is one I really admire and enjoy reading. They are both loyal to each other, they have a good friendship but also respect each others privacy. You get to know their private life, a lot less this time with Khattak but it was good to see more of Zach, Rachel’s brother.

I have to admit that Iran is a country I know little about. I wasn’t aware of the beautiful buildings, the parks and the strength of its people. Many of who had to stay  quiet about their beliefs and actions. All I knew was what is portrayed  in the media. 

There are some very short chapters in this novel that showed the more dubious side of what happens there. These chapters will be ones I will thinking about for quite a while. There was also mention of drawings, one in particular left me chilled with its description.

Whilst Khattak was investigating in Iran, Rachel was trying to help from Canada. The author demonstrates the difference in attitudes, how hard it is to visualise what happens in a country where it can be dangerous to speak when you live in a free world. I found this much easier to read. I feel this is because I know so little about Iran, I struggled to understand the situation initially. This is no reflection on the novel just my failing. I did find it easier to understand the more I read. The latter parts of the novel were extremely sad, they left me wondering what I would do if I was in the same situation. I can honestly say, I don’t know. 



The Lonely Witness by William Boyle – Blog Tour Review.

Lonely Witness Cover

About The Book

Amy was once a party girl, but now she lives a lonely life. Helping the house-bound to receive communion in the Gravesend neighbourhood of Brooklyn, she knows the community well.

When a local woman goes missing, Amy senses something isn’t right.

Tailing the woman’s suspicious son, she winds her way through Brooklyn’s streets. But before she can act, he is dead.

Captivated by the crime she’s witnessed and the murderer himself, Amy doesn’t call the cops. Instead, she collects the weapon from the sidewalk and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer.

Powerful and evocative, The Lonely Witness brings Brooklyn to life and exposes the harsh realities of crime and punishment on the city streets.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Lonely Witness is one of the more original novels that I have read this year. It is a crime novel, with focus on the witness, the murderer and the neighbourhood rather than the police investigation. It also feels like a travelogue with the amount of detail about Brooklyn, somewhere I know nothing about.
Amy used to be a party girl but now does good deeds with the local church, mainly with the elderly. When one of them, Mrs Epifanio, shows concern about the son of her usual home help she reluctantly agrees to see if he is genuine. It is this decision that ends with her becoming a witness to a murder.
Whilst I did like Amy, her landlord and a handful of other characters my favourite was Mrs Epifanio. I laughed at the interaction with Dom, flirting and encouraging a relationship with Amy without knowing what was really happening.
I could visualise Brooklyn and all of the characters really well. The many different relationships are perfectly described. Dominic and his mother especially, were just how I imagine an Italian American family to be. The mother perfectly able to give her son a well deserved slap.
The descriptions of Brooklyn, its bars, coffee bars and shops feature heavily. My impression was that it used to be predominantly Italian, but now many other nationalities lived there. It felt close-knit with everybody knowing each other, even if they had been absent for a few years. I imagine that if you do know the area you will get much more out of this book. I have read books in the past where I know an area well and found I read them slightly differently.
Short but unique, I would definitely read more by this author.

The Lonely Witness Blog Tour Poster

The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise – Review.

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About the Book

From an exciting new voice in literary fiction, a transfixing story about an expatriate in southern China and his burgeoning relationship with a seamstress intent on inspiring dramatic political change.

Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line. When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow labourers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?

Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Emperor of Shoes is a novel that I enjoyed immensely. There is the storyline itself, that of a son of a shoe manufacturer who feels uncomfortable when he realises how bad the conditions are in their factory. There are the problems across China, some of which led to the terrible events that happened in Tiananmen Square. There is the romance between Alex and Ivy where they have to learn and respect each others cultural differences and most of all there is the relationship between Alex and his father. It is this relationship that makes this book so special. Many of their conversations made me smile, especially with his father’s obsessions, but they were also touching because you could see how close they were. Even if they couldn’t.
This is not a quick book to read. There were many moments that had me sat in silence, gazing into space. The empty villages, where everybody of a certain age had left to find work. The cold hearted managers in the factory who showed no compassion to the workers and the horrific conditions in which they worked. The telling of what happened at Tiananmen Square that felt like a first hand account.
It’s a truly wonderful novel that opens your eyes to different cultures but also to the working conditions in certain parts of the world.