#BlogTour #Review: Trickster by Sam Michaels #HistoricalFiction #CrimeFiction @SamMichaelsGG

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Today I am over the moon to be taking part in the blog tour for Trickster by Sam Michaels. Gritty, raw, and rooted in London’s seedy underbelly this tale of trauma and survival will have you turning the pages at a breakneck pace!

Book cover.jpgTitle: Trickster

Author: Sam Michaels

Publisher: Aria Press

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Crime

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


To be ruthless is to be powerful, at least it is on the Battersea streets…

Georgina Garrett was born to be ruthless and she’s about to earn herreputation.

As World War One is announced a baby girl is born. Little do people know that she’s going to grow up to rule the streets of Battersea. From a family steeped in poverty the only way to survive is with street smarts.

With a father who steals for a living, a grandmother who’s a woman ofthe night and a mother long dead, Georgina was never in for an easy life. But after a tragic event left her father shaken he makes a decision that will change the course of all their lives – to raise Georgina as George, ensuring her safety but marking the start of her life of crime…

My Review

Okay, if you’re looking for a happy, hopeful read you should walk away right now. I mean really, what do you expect from a book that opens with an impoverished mother dying during child birth? But, if you’re looking for strong characters, a touch of adventure, and a bit of grafting it out, this is the book for you!

Full of honourable villains, true friends, and even the embodiment of pure evil there’s rarely a dull moment. I adored the cast of central characters with the strong wiled Dulcie, wily Jack, despicable Percy, fragile yet loving Ruby, and the spunky and tenacious George/ Georgina.

It was fun watching George grow up, although some of the events she had to endure were less than comfortable to read. Yet despite it all her spunk was infectious. I loved how Jack went out of his way to not only protect his daughter but also to make sure that she could protect herself despite the gender norms of the day. I found it endearing how George took it upon herself to protect and empower those who didn’t know how to defend themselves, and how she chose her friends based character not their social standing.

And then there’s Billy Wilcox. I suppose he must have exceptionally well written as I spent the entirety of the novel waning to wring his neck! And his scenario was entirely believable – a prized son raised in a hard crime household, with a father often absent on business, constantly pressured to be tough and compassionless to keep up the family name, and left to run the streets with no supervision – yikes! Now add in the blindness of a mother’s  love, a hard neighbourhood, and an early exposure to regularized violence ad voila, you have a budding serial killer and sociopath.

At least Norman Wilcox was an arse with morals. After all, it’s one thing to do away with someone who crosses you in business (especially when you head a crime syndicate) or tries to kill you themselves, but it’s something else entirely to torture and kill for pleasure. Some of his actions made me grossly uncomfortable – but when the situations and characters get so deeply under your skin you know it’s a job well done.

My heart really went out to Fanny and Molly Mipple, and was surprised that it took so long for Mike Mipple to meet his fate. But, in a time when a marriage to an undesirable man was more preferable to being an unmarried mother, or worse divorced, it really drove home how hard it was for women (especially those without means) between the wars.

Brutal or no, none of the scenarios felt contrived. Perhaps the only thing that really ruffled my feathers was some of the typecasting such as Ezzy the Jew who dealt in stolen jewellery, or Lash the traveller who made his living in bare-knuckles boxing. And yet, I couldn’t decide if I was offended by the typecasting, or if it was a genuine representation of the positions available to these people, at this time, and in this place. It probably doesn’t help Lash’s case that I was annoyed by the fact that after George made it so far as strong and independent woman, that he so easily swept her off her feet. I was surprised by George’s acknowledged need for a man’s protection and the security that their relationship offered, and I was left on the fence as to whether or not this was George taking the easy route or if she was making a calculated decision that garnered her more power on the street. But, I suppose even the strongest people need to be loved, and I can’t begrudge George’s affections!

Would I recommend this book? Oh hells yes! It’s quick paced, action packed, and full of strong and interesting characters. And, it’s a quick read – perfect for when you’re curled up beside the fire with a drink in hand. Read it my friends. For lovers of period pieces this is an absolute beauty!

About The Author

Sam Michaels

About the author:

Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and plethora of animals.
Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.

Follow Sam:

Facebook: @SamMichaelsAuthor

Twitter: @SamMichaelsGG

Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Upnb7S

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2UsPiTE

iBooks: https://apple.co/2HmWLA7

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2H8HrI3

Follow Aria

Website: http://www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

Many thanks to Victoria Joss at Aria Fiction for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.


#BlogTour #Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz by #HistoricalFiction #WWIIFiction


Today I am beyond thrilled to be taking part in the Blog Tour for The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio ItrubeThis exceptional work of historical fiction brings to life the sheer will of a young Jewish girl, her love for books, and an infectious desire to transform fear into survival. It is one of the best WWII fiction novels I’ve read in a goof long while, and I have no doubt that this baby is going to stay on my keep shelf for many, many years to come.

LibrarianTitle: The Librarian of Auschwitz

Author: Antonio Iturbe

Translator: Lilit Zekulin Thwaites

Publisher: Ebury Digital

Publication Date: April 4, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction

Themes: Friendship, Family, Relationships, WWII, Survival, the Holocaust

Features: Author’s Notes

My Rating: 5/ 5


From goodreads…

For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice: this is the story of the smallest library in the world – and the most dangerous.

‘It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ – prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp.

But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…

My Review

I loved this book.

I mean, I may have bawled my face off more times than I care to admit while I was reading it, but I loved this book.

I appreciated how right from the get-go that Itrube established that this book is a work of fiction, and as such cannot be read as fact. But also, how he made it clear that this particular work of fiction is inspired by real people, real events, and real suffering. It’s heartbreaking, uncomfortable, profound, and above all it’s undeniably inspiring. As a result I found the horrors depicted on the pages easier to pallet than pure fact, whist maintaining a feeling that every moment was grounded in reality.

Now, being a librarian I like me some research. And the depth of the research that went into The Librarian of Auschwitz was evident from the outset. With the scenes so painstakingly crafted as to engender dread, the hunger to set my tummy rumbling, and the tenderness to remind us that humanity can still exist in inhuman conditions I was completely swept away. And through it all, Block 31 remains a relief from the horrors of Auschwitz, a balm against the war, and a place where children get to be children if even just for a little while longer. That is not to say that the family camp and the school were naive to their situations or had any delusions about their situation, but just that it provided few beautiful hours of respite every day.

And as a fellow book lover, I felt an immediate connection to Dita and the passion that she held for her little library. I felt her love for the book as an object of escape, as person who could bring a story to life, as a path to enlightenment, and as vehicle for resistance in it’s simplest form. And through it all the power of words, of stories, remains a constant theme reminding us of why so many tyrants have sought to burn books and ban knowledge in their quests for power. In return for the hope, joy, and distraction that these books provide Dita lavishes them with the love and care that any being would need to survive in an extermination camp.

But the part that I loved above all else was how books were the balms to every evil that befell the family camp in BIIb. Mass liquidation? Tell a story. Can’t celebrate passover? Tell many stories. Caught in a living hell where surviving just one more day is a victory? Tell many stories, day after day, after day. Do not let them die. Seek more stories, more books, more living libraries, and spread ALL of the words.

It broke my heart, however, to follow all of the disparate characters through their painfully real experiences and to their ends. From the stoic yet tragic optimism and dedication of Freddy Hirsch to the desperation and disillusionment of Rudi Rosenberg, The Librarian of Auschwitz is equal parts horror and hope. The characters provide a balance to one another with Leisl’s silence countering Dita’s quick wit, Morgenstern’s lightheartedness to Hirsch’s determination, and the innocent joy of the children to the oppressive weight carried by their parents.

Carefully crafted, expertly written and beautifully translated I would recommend The Librarian of Auschwitz to just about anyone. It is real and it is horrible, and yet it remains human and passionate and pure of heart. I love that love found a way to flourish in a living hell, that families found a way to stay loyal and strong, and that for once a few books get to stand alongside the heroes of the story.

Read it book lovers. This baby earns every bit of it’s 5 stars.


Antonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist. In researching The Librarian of Auschwitz, he interviewed Dita Kraus, the real-life librarian of Auschwitz. Lilit Zekulin Thwaites is an award-winning literary translator. After thirty years as an academic at La Trobe University in Australia, she retired from teaching and now focuses primarily on her ongoing translation and research projects. Dita Kraus was born in Prague. In 1942, when Dita was thirteen years old , she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz,. Neither of Dita’s parents survived. After the war Dita married the author Otto B. Kraus. They emigrated to Israel in 1949, where they both worked as teachers They had three children. Since Otto’s death in 2000 , Dita lives alone in Netanya. She has four grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Despite the horrors of the concentration camps, Dita has kept her positive approach to life.

Many thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me to join in this tour.


#BlogTour #Review: Born Bad by Heather Burnside @heatherbwriter @aria_fiction

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Today I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Born Bad by Heather Burnside. The first book in the gritty Manchester Trilogy, this baby will transport you into 80s gangland, tug at your heartstrings, and stoke the fires of rage all in a matter of pages. If you like complex family dramas with a healthy does of crime, this is an absolute must read.

Book cover-2Title: Born Bad

Author: Heather Burnside

Publisher: Aria Press

Publication Date: July 1, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Gangland Lit

Themes: Friendship, Family, Relationships, Crime

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4/ 5


Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…

My Review

I don’t normally enjoy family dramas, but Born Bad managed to break through my crusty outer shell and niggle it’s way into my heart. Within the first few pages I was willing to hand over all of my sympathy to Adele and her mother, my screw-you spirit to Peter, and my unfettered disdain towards Tommy. And the best part was that I never once felt as though their stories were tiresome.

I appreciated Adele’s grit and determination when it came to rising above her circumstances, and yet she embodied everything that can be read into the nature versus nurture argument. My heart broke a little every time she got into a fight at school or had a row with a boyfriend, and even more so whenever she lost patience with her mother. Regardless, Adele’s experiences really caused me to think critically about how often we take the time to be with our extended families, how close we are with our siblings, and the ways in which we talk to our parents.

I was a little repulsed by Peter at the start but by the end of the book my opinions of him were completely changed. And the best part was that I never once felt pity for him. Despite the horrid things that Peter endured at the hands of both his father and a particularly judgemental community, he remained strong (okay. maybe spiteful is the right word) and always managed to make the best of his situation. It seemed natural that he not only fell into the world of crime but also that he excelled at it.

As crappy as many of the situations and circumstances were, every page oozed realism and believability as the Robinson family was painstakingly relatable. From Tommy’s drinking to Peter’s living rough in a slum, it hurts to know that these are every day occurrences for a great many people. Now, that’s not to say that growing up in a dysfunctional and violent family is any excuse for resorting to a life of crime, but it certainly makes all of their decisions understandable.

I will say though, that given the extensive focus on the Robinson family, with only a few forays in Peter’s life crime, that Born Bad is the foundational novel for the crime series that follows. It’s deep, gritty, and uncomfortable in all of the best ways. It pulls you in, makes you think, and spits you out the other side raw and emotional.

If you like a solid series with painfully real characters, I highly recommend Born Bad and the Manchester Trilogy. Read it crime lovers, and get a closer look at those mitigating circumstances!

About The Author

Heather Burnside

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

 Follow Heather:

Twitter: @heatherbwriter

Facebook: @HeatherBurnsideAuthor

Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2TzpmbX

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2tFvKih

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2J06zCB

iBooks: https://apple.co/2IX25wo

Follow Aria

Website: http://www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

Many thanks to Victoria Joss at Aria Fiction for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.


#ARC #Review: The Leaden Heart by Chris Nickson @ChrisNickson2 @severnhouse #HistoricalFiction

Today I am delighted to be sharing a review for Chris Nickson’s latest instalment in the Tom Harper Mystery series, The Leaden Heart. There is simply not enough space to cover all the good that I have to say about this baby. It’s the perfect blend of a period police procedural, subtle feminist undertones, and intricate character dynamics. It’s punchy, quick paced, and the perfect read for when that quintessentially Canadian spring snow storm leaves you trapped inside for the evening.

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Title: The Leaden Heart

Author: Chris Nickson

Publisher: Severn House

Expected Publication Date: July 1, 2019 (USA)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Murder, Crime, White Collar Crime, Family, Women’s Suffrage

Features: N/A

My Rating: 5/5


Leeds, England. July, 1899. The hot summer has been fairly quiet for Detective Superintendent Tom Harper and his squad, until a daring burglary occurs at an expensive Leeds address. Then his friend and former colleague, Inspector Billy Reed, asks for his help. Billy’s brother, Charlie, a shopkeeper, has committed suicide. Going through Charlie’s papers, Billy discovers crippling rent rises demanded by his new landlord. Could these have driven him to his death? As Harper investigates, he uncovers a web of intimidation and corruption that leads back to the mysterious North Leeds Company. Who is pulling the strings behind the scenes and bringing a new kind of misery and violence to the people of Leeds? Harper is determined to unmask the culprits, but how much blood will be shed as he tries?


Okay. I’ve been in love with Chris Nickson’s writing ever since I had the pleasure of participating in the blog tour for The Tin God, so I will give you the head’s up now that I am very, very biased in writing this review! I mean, you (or maybe just I) gotta love when strong, feminist fiction features the kind of swoon-worthy and supportive male leads seen in Tom Harper and Billy Reed. There’s nothing steamier than a strong man who dotes on their child, is active in their upbringing, and says to their wife not only are you a successful business owner but I’mma gonna support you in all your endeavours even when society wants nothing more than to hold you down. It seriously makes my ovaries hurt.

Give me more.

Now that I’ve got the mushy-gushy swooning aside, let’s talk about the action. The crimes in Harper’s latest mystery are a departure from what we’ve seen before, with an introduction to white collar crime and political corruption. I loved the mental challenge of following the paper trail, and the frustration of knowing the criminal without having the evidence to pursue them. The addition of the wealthy elite and the legal loopholes throwing up roadblocks at every opportunity had me cursing in frustration, my hackles up every time the councillors tried to pressure Tom at work, and drove me over the edge when those political manipulations bled over into Annabelle’s work with the Guardians.

But this baby isn’t all paper trails and clandestine meetings in smoky pubs, there’s a juicy sub-plot filled with murders, robberies, and good old-fashioned police work. Deeply immersed in gangland brutality and aided by a quirky coroner, these gritty crimes added a health dose of action to an otherwise heady case. Although it broke my heart that these murders revolved around Billy Reed’s family, taking the lives of both his brother and sister-in-law, further straining the tenuous start to a repaired relationship between Harper and Reed.

I loved the dynamic in Millgarth as well. With everyone working together as a team, officers having each other’s backs regardless of their ranks, and a willingness to acknowledge and play to each man’s individual strengths and aptitudes. I appreciated Ash’s quick mind, Sission’s geeky love of Latin, and Crossley’s running interference to protect everyone from the town councillors. I felt Tom’s pain as a Superintendent as the Boer War approached, and the reality of having to replace his men with volunteers while the city’s at it’s most vulnerable.

And Annabelle’s arc can’t go unmentioned either. It was fun to follow her word as a Poor Law Guardian after her landmark election, and simultaneously disheartening to witness her struggle as a woman making waves in man’s world. It’s always heartbreaking to see someone wanting to make a difference, but not knowing how, and even more so when those that are meant to be engaged in fixing the problem aren’t even willing to have the conversation. And it was timely too, as even though Annabelle’s story highlights the still persistent disparity between policy and practice when it comes to aiding those in need.

Beautifully written and packed with period details, Nickson will draw you in and leave you wanting more. Full of twists, turns, and bumps in the road The Leaden Heart is a carefully crafted balance between thrilling crime and interpersonal drama. I’m excited to see what comes next for the Harper, the team at Millgarth, and especially for Annabelle and her fight to change world.

Read it book lovers, this baby is fantastic!

Author Information 

cn021Chris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, starting with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. That brought the revelation that he enjoyed telling stories, and then more stories, teenage poetry, and music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

Chris spent 30 years living in the US, playing in bands and writing. He’s made a living as a writer since 1994. Much of his work has been music journalism, combining the twin passions of music and writing, specialising in world and roots music. His reviews and features are published in print and online, notably with fRoots, Sing Out!, emusic.com, and allmusic.com. He’s also the author of The NPR Casual Listener’s Guide to World Music.

Chris has also published 28 other non-fiction books, most of them quickie biographies, and has had a pair of one act plays staged in Seattle. His short fiction has appeared in several small magazines, and in the anthology Criminal Tendencies. A collection of his short Leeds fiction appeared under the title, Leeds, The Biography.

He moved back to the UK in 2005. The Broken Token was published by Creme de la Crime in 2010. The second of the Leeds novels featuring Richard Nottingham appeared in hardback in May 2011 with the third and fourth (The Constant Lovers and Come the Fear) appearing in 2012. The fifth and six in the series (At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies) arrived in 2013. The seventh novel, Free From All Danger, will appear in October 2017, Cold Cruel Winter was named one of the Best Mysteries of the Year in 2011 by Library Journal, and the audio book of The Broken Token was one of the Independent on Sunday’s Audiobooks of 2012.

Emerald City and West City Blues, two books featuring Seattle music journalist Laura Benton, are available on ebook and audiobook.

The Crooked Spire is set in Chesterfield in 1361 and can be found in paperback and ebook, as can the sequel, The Saltergate Psalter. The final volume in the trilogy, The Holywell Dead, will appear in 2017.

A series set in Leeds in the 1890s features Detective Inspector Tom Harper. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies, Skin Like Silver, The Iron Water, and On Copper Street. The Tin God is scheduled for publication in May 2017.

Dark Briggate Blues is a 1950s noir, with enquiry agent Dan Markham and also taking place in Leeds, as does The New Eastgate Swing, the second volume to feature Markham.

Lottie Armstrong, one of the first policewomen in Leeds, was the heroine of Modern Crimes, set in 1924. She reappears 20 years later in The Year of the Gun.

Chris is also the author of Solid Air – The Life of John Martyn. This appeared as an ebook and print on demand in June 2011, along with John’s posthumous album and a tribute CD that features many major names.

Authors Links:

Web site: https://chrisnickson.co.uk/

Twitter: @ChrisNickson2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12044.Chris_Nickson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrisnicksonwriter/