The Girl In The Letter by Emily Gunnis – Blog Tour Review.

 

The Girl In The Letter Cover

About the Book

A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.

1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late.
Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…

Read her letter. Remember her story…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Like many people I was aware of places like the Magdalene Laundries and the stories attached to them. I have a vague memory of a similar establishment in the town I grew up in. Hopefully it was nothing like St Margaret’s.
The Girl in the Letter is a heartbreaking fictionalised account of two girls who spent time there in the 1950s. One is Ivy, whose child was taken away from her and the other is Elvira, a child who was returned when an adoption went wrong. Ivy tries her best to look after Elvira. After finding letters from Ivy years later, Sam who is a journalist wants to know more.
The novel goes back and forth in time between 1956 and 2017. Part of Ivy’s tale is told by letters, it is hers that Sam has read. But there are also flashbacks to those connected to the events that happened. The priest, nuns (it’s easy to see why so many people fear them), the doctors, social workers and the girls themselves. What the girls, some as young as fifteen were put through was horrific, the cruelty shown by those who could have done better was devastating.
At times it was difficult to read, seeing the heartbreak of the young mothers had their children taken away for a ‘better life’. Sadly not many did.
Some of the accounts from those connected did show remorse but not enough. Some only thought about how they would look if they were found out. I did work out the connection between the 1950s and 2017, I don’t think it was a secret but I found it fascinating how close-knit it was. I ached for some happiness, and the relationship between Nana, Sam and Emma provided some. It showed how a family could be without interference from others. It also showed how many lives were ruined due to those who feel the need to judge.
Even though this is fiction the reader is aware that these events and worse did happen. It made me wonder if those who were responsible did show remorse and how many lives were ruined because of their actions.
A novel that is full of bitterness, fear and regret but also one that gave hope for better understanding and a willingness to talk and show love.

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Do No Harm by Lucy V Hay – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…
Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Do No Harm is the follow-up novel to the excellent The Other Twin and is one of the more malevolent novels I have read. From the opening chapters you could see the venomous thoughts and the wish that the marriage between Lily and Sebastian would fail.
The narrative comes from Lily, Sebastian, and an unknown narrator. You read about how happy Lily is to get away from her controlling ex husband Maxwell, how Sebastian wants to do the best he can for Lily and her son Denny, and how all the unknown narrator wants is for the marriage to fail. I changed my mind constantly about who this person could be. The only two I didn’t suspect were Lily, because it was so evident that it couldn’t be her, and Denny because he was only six years old. These two were also the most likeable in the novel.
At times I found it very unsettling, more so at the beginning when the unexplained events were less life threatening and more mind games. The acts that involved Denny left me feeling tense. Anybody who could manipulate a situation that could cause anxiety to a six year old child must have no remorse or compassion.
I did eventually realise who was responsible quite late on in the novel, I have to admit I was convinced it was somebody else. Obviously I can’t say who.
A brilliant, even though disturbing novel that I recommend highly.

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Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly – Blog Tour Review.

Open Your Eyes Cover

About the Book

Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?

Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.

But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.

Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Paula Daly is one of my favourite authors so I jumped at the chance to read her new book.
Jane is happily married to Leon, they have two young children and a good life. Leon is a successful author, something which Jane has always dreamed of but she has never been published. Their life changes when Leon is found badly injured on their driveway, moments after Jane left him to go back in their house.
Initially the novel focuses in Leon’s recovery and how different everybody behaves around him. His fascinating mother and sister seem to refuse to see a big change but Jane sees the more threatening side to him. Some of these scenes were intimidating, more so because it was so easy to see what could happen if she couldn’t calm him down. The only person he could interact with easily was their nephew.
Alongside the storyline of a family trying to rebuild their lives was the image of life inside the publishing industry. It shows success stories but also the envy and the pressure to write the next novel. Much of what is mentioned will be familiar to authors, publishers and keen readers who follow the book related news. One aspect of this was discussed in great detail after a book event a few years ago.
All of the novel takes place in Liverpool, a favourite city and there were a few scenes and observations on the characters that made me smile. They were welcome, much of the novel is unsettling with its loneliness, intimidation from Leon, the neighbours from Hell and at times an almost claustrophobic feeling.
It has been a few years since I read a novel by Paula and I’m looking forward to the next one. Just brilliant.

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Dead of Night by Michael Stanley – Blog Tour Review.

DEAD OF NIGHT Cover VIS_preview

About the Book

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, but within a week she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that she doesn’t want, but can’t get rid of…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late, both for the rhinos and for her. She has a powerful story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller from Michael Stanley, author of the award-winning Detective Kubu series, introducing an intriguing new protagonist, while exposing one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the Detective Kubu series by Michael Stanley I knew I would enjoy this new novel, even though it is not part of that series.
The character on this series is Crys, a Vietnamese freelance journalist and biathlete who has spent most of her life in America. She is passionate about wildlife, there is a very touching part in the novel where she gives the reasons, and when a close friend goes missing whilst investigating poaching she takes his place. She hopes to find him, alive, and highlight the rhino horn poaching problem.
And it is in Africa that the magic starts. We can all go to zoos and wildlife parks in the countries that we live in, but reading this novel shows that you will never experience anything unless you see it in its natural environment. Reading about Crys’s joy at seeing the wildlife and the attempts by the farmers to keep them safe was touching and I felt like I was experiencing it myself. But there is more than just the wildlife, there is also the danger that comes with those who want to use the wildlife, in this case rhino, to make a lot of money. There are the poachers, corrupt police and many others to be wary of. There are also those who make their decisions for reasons that are more personal than greed.
This is one of those novels that make you open your eyes to a big problem. That if certain practices are not stopped it will be catastrophic for the future. There are many creatures who are at threat due to greed, power and unproven medical uses.
I don’t know if this is a standalone novel or the first in a series. It works well either way.

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

Disco Sour by Giuseppe Porcaro – Guest Post.

 

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Today it is my pleasure to feature a guest post from Giuseppe Porcaro. I will share what the book is about first.

About the Book

A politician addicted to dating apps embarks on an existential odyssey to save democracy from being swiped away. In the aftermath of a continental civil-war, nation-states have collapsed, the European Union (TM) holds on, preventing anarchy. Bastian Balthazar Bux is a leading member of The Federation (R), the European network of civil society and local governments. Bastian has just been unexpectedly dumped through an app, the BreakupShop (TM) service. Heavy hearted, he just wants to drink, get on with work and forget his romantic woes. However, he discovers that Nathan Ziggy Zukowsky is planning to sell Plebiscitum (R), a dating-style app that is meant to replace elections with a simple swipe, at the same conference he is invited to attend in Chile. Haunted by the ghosts of his recent relationship, he finds himself without his all-important Morph (R) phone, just a few hours before embarking on his trip to try to save democracy. Will he make it to his conference on the other side of the world? Will he stop Zukowsky from selling his app? And will he ever find a way to deal with his breakup? “Disco Sour is a hallucinatory trip through a future which feels just a phone-swipe away. There are notes of Pynchon, Stross, Heller and Stephenson here, but this is very much Porcaro’s book. It’s wildly inventive, scarily plausible, and it’s also very, very funny.” Dave Hutchinson

SCRATCH NOTES FOR ALTERNATIVE HISTORY BUILDING IN DISCO SOUR

DISCO SOUR is an alt-history novel set in the near past (even if many people think it’s the near future). Set in a parallel timeline where Europe is hit by a civil war, it revolves around the story of Bastian, a dating app addicted politician, who embarks on an existential odyssey to save democracy.

For alt-history geeks, the events covered in the book span between 2008 and late 2013 in this parallel universe, but they are told from the point of view of the narrator-protagonist, who writes his memories from the future, in the late 2040s.

I had a great fun to rewrite a page of recent history and in this post I collect a summary of the scratch notes I’ve made to build the geopolitics of this universe. Not everything made it finally in the book, but it was a lot of fun writing it. No spoilers are presented.

So, the war. It all starts with the burst of the housing bubble in Greece in the late 2000s. The economy is pumped by money laundering and driven by massive urbanisation. The city of Thessaloniki explodes the first. People lose their jobs, anger is set towards real estate companies, or whomever is perceived guilty.

Before the war, national governments were emptied of their actual meaning, weakened by lack of funds, lack of political instruments, and outsourcing state functions to private actors. For example, there were there were no national armies, but private contractors were hired by the government for ad hoc operations.

The sparkle.

The death of a teenage boy, suspected to be raped and then drowned by the owner of the largest Greek real estate company sets the city on fire, circa 2008. People come on the street and set fires and barricades to building sites in the hood of Kalochori in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Kalochori is a symbolic place. It’s an economic free zone, operating under authorities independent from the domestic laws of its host country, these zones typically provide premium utilities and a set of incentives – tax exemptions, foreign ownership of property, cheap labour, and deregulation of labour, etc. – to entice business. Exempt from the law, labour abuse can proceed unchecked by political process. Free zones contribute to the hollowing out of the nation state.

The attitude of the Greek state after the accident is ambiguous. First, they don’t want to get involved in the riots. Police is deployed but they have the strict order not to fire against anyone. They act as a sort of interposition buffer within city boundaries and they just limit themselves to contain violence.

Pressured by the largest companies and the mafia, in virtue of the right to defend property, the government drafts a legislation allowing armed self-defence of building sites and free economic zones by hired troops. Most of translational real estate companies fearing a domino effect, they pressure Greece to make a case for a European legislation on the matter.

After an extraordinary European summit of Heads of State, a legislation is jointly passed throughout the continent: the Constructions & Free Zones Acts. The only thing that softens the legislation is the absolute prohibition to use armed air-forces and air-drones as they would easily go beyond the perimeters of the constructions and free zones.

At that point, the European Commission and the European Parliament issue a declaration against the Acts, but it’s a symbolic protest. As retaliation, Denmark, Sweden, the UK exit from the European Union and form a new “United Kingdom”.

Escalation.

All over Europe people see these laws as provocations, and they respond with provocation, spreading way beyond free zones and the largest urbanisation projects. They start smashing anything that vaguely resembles a construction site, including work in progress in the streets.

Cities become battlefields. The death toll in this first wave is considerable. There is only the will to destroy everything, rather than fight against someone specific. Also, provocation plays a big role. Students, local activists, normal citizens, can’t believe, at the beginning, that the militarisation is for real.

The first weeks are real butchery and confused. Often troops are hired by local contractors, that are either in charge of scaffolding, or the security of the site, other times they are hired by landowners. In the Free Zones, troops from various contractors operate, making it difficult to have coordination in the military actions.

The conflict peaks.

The organisation of different factions happens not along party lines or among fighting for a cause. But vendetta. For those within their family, their associations, their neighbours, that have been killed or injured by the troops during the first wave.

This is a simplified scheme of the parties in conflict all over the continent.

Private troops: they take the liberty to react to any attacks to their ranks, even outside free zones and building sites. These troops are directly or indirectly hired by Russians, Chinese and Arab companies, but it’s difficult to map the exact ownership of each troop deployed as there are many subcontractors.

Local armies: they formally fight against private troops and attached to city and other local governments.

“Rebel” troops: they are comprised by students, anarchists, citizens’ associations turned into various militias, etc. they also fight private armies, but eventually they also happen to attack building sites owned by local governments.

Negotiations and armistice.

Eventually, the war evolves in its third phase. More tactic, less bloody.

The various factions start to position themselves to gain only small victories on the ground. Everyone is looking at their own interests to leverage their stakes sooner or later, when the military phase will be over. It’s de facto anarchy, but it starts to be an organised anarchy.

Negotiations finally lead to the armistice and to the end of the war. Thanks to the peace talks everyone (except the already dying nation states) get something.

Local governments are granted large autonomy on the field, under compliance with the privatisation acts and the European fundamental law (they are the ones controlling the territory, run local police etc.).

Private companies get the privatisations concordat. Every service or good needs to be registered, copyrighted, privatised. This goes along with the empowerment of the European Patent Office, which becomes a very powerful entity, almost independent to the European Union.

The European Union receives the mandate to preserve the rule of law, draft the fundamental law and ensure a governance at continental scale.

Associations, trade unions, students, etc. get a share of the new decision making system, but they need to share part of this power with local authorities.

Nation states are blamed as the scapegoats of the whole mess – but anyway, they didn’t exist anymore in the form we use to know already since before the war – the armistice just recognises that the primary political entity in the continent is the European Union, with its administrative regions, city states, associate entities, etc.

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