Blog Tour: Red Corona by Tim Glister

It’s 1961 and the white heat of the Space Race is making the Cold War even colder.

Richard Knox is a secret agent in big trouble. He’s been hung out to dry by a traitor in MI5, and the only way to clear his name could destroy him.

Meanwhile in a secret Russian city, brilliant scientist Irina Valera makes a discovery that will change the world, and hand the KGB unimaginable power.

Desperate for a way back into MI5, Knox finds an unlikely ally in Abey Bennett, a CIA recruit who’s determined to prove herself whatever the cost…

As the age of global surveillance dawns, three powers will battle for dominance, and three people will fight to survive…

What I Thought:

Never fear! Red Corona is NOT about the pandemic. I for one don’t think I could stomach a novel about coronavirus quite this soon, but rest assured that if you pick up this book, you’ll be whisked away from “all this’ and into cold war-era London.

There’s something rotten at the heart of MI5 and Richard Knox is the man appointed to find out the truth, just as an important International conference – with lots of potential for snooping – is set to take place in London. But is Knox being double-crossed? Only a determined CIA recruit can help him find the answers to professional and personal questions…

Don’t you just love an honest-to-goodness spy novel? There are so many books written these days about modern threats to our country, but the cold war is still a rich seam to mine from. To continue my terrible analogy, Tim Glister has certainly mined deeply to create a vivid and detailed novel that will stand up against any of the best in the spy genre.

The 1960s period is often these days portrayed only for its positive points, so it’s great here to see the realities of a London that is still marked with bomb craters and MI5 still mired in the class system – Knox is looked down on for being an East-End orphan and not an old Etonian. Nostalgia is great, but taking the rose-tinted glasses off once in a while is a good thing!

What stuck out for me most in the book is that, while many novels of this genre are firmly set up as ‘the old boys club’, two of the most prominent characters of Red Corona are women – and intelligent, resourceful women at that! That’s great to see, and I felt that Adey Bennett would be good character to follow in a future novel. Her personal battles are being fought on several fronts – on gender lines and racial lines – but she is like a dog with a bone and I really took to her.

The most important part of Red Corona – the mystery – was excellent. There are several layers to it, involving poisoning, murder, unsanctioned operations and a potential conspiracy to the highest levels of MI5 but Knox first has to work out if his suspicions are true, or whether the chip on his shoulder is leading him towards the wrong conclusions. Finding out the answers leads to that most overused of phrases – a book I really couldn’t put down!

Red Corona is published by Point Blank Books.

For more information about Tim Glister, you can check out his website, or why not connect with him on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Red Corona. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not check out the blogs listed here?

Please note: I was sent this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour – There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F. Ross

Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned.

And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.

What I Thought:

In my experience Orenda Books is really strong on Scandinavian crime fiction, but we find ourselves much closer to home here with There’s Only One Danny Garvey. Set in a mid-1990s Scotland, this book seems to defy categorisation with elements ranging from sports memoir to domestic drama with some clever twists thrown in.

On the surface, this is a story of a talented footballer who, after injury, is stuck coaching a junior team and is offered the chance to return to coach the team with which his glory days started but pretty quickly we realise that this is not a traditional homecoming and redemption story. There are huge complications here as Danny faces up to a brother in prison and the mother that he is certain never loved him near death from cancer, but these are not the only issues that Danny will need to resolve. Something happened thirteen years ago and coming home might have been the worst thing Danny could have done.

I was really impressed by how this book ended, especially so when I went back and realised that David F. Ross had been laying down a trail of clues all throughout the book – there were little tickles on the edges of my brain but their significance only dawned on me as the ending unfolded. It was beautifully done and beautifully tragic all in one.

As this book is set in Scotland – the author himself is Scottish – it was nice to read the dialogue in dialect – more books like this are welcome as it adds so much depth to the story to hear those voices telling their own stories.

I suppose because this book is set around the time I remember well and with affection, it was easy to get into and there were plenty of references that I was able to get hold of – although obviously David and I are on different sides of Euro 96 – but the hook into the book was only the start and it was easy to remain gripped by it and to be touched by the unique main character. Definitely recommended.

There’s Only One Danny Garvey is published by Orenda Books.

To find out more about David F. Ross you can check out his website, or you can connect with him on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of There’s Only One Danny Garvey. why not check out some of the other blogs taking part (below) more additional content and reviews.

Please note: I received this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

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.

What I Thought:

I had thought that, given all that’s going on, I would step carefully and quietly into 2021 but my reading year started with a bang, with this gripping historical novel.

The Art of Dying is the second in a series of historical crime novels set in 1840s Edinburgh, centred around the medical profession of the time and featuring some real-life leading figures of the profession.

Although I have not read book one in this series, I was able to immediately jump into the second book – any references to the first book were explained well, so I never felt like I had missed anything, but I will definitely be picking up book one as I feel like future books in this series will be a staple of my TBR.

I love crime fiction and I also love historical fiction and this book, written by the husband and wife team of Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman is an exemplary title in both genres. Setting your novel in the 1840s necessarily requires a lot of research, but the factual information in this book is seamlessly woven into the narrative without being shoe-horned in, or seeming to be research for research’s sake – it really is a bugbear of mine when authors include any and all research that they have done, regardless of whether it advances the plot. No such worries here – presumably because the series format allows factual elements to be more widely spread…

I think Sarah Banks (nee Fisher) stands out the most for me, and I am excited to see how her character develops, as this young woman who has already advanced from housemaid to a doctor’s assistant begins to widen her world and consider her future in medicine – dare she hope that she could one day call herself a doctor too? However frustrating the response of other characters to her may be, to see the first instances of women taking charge of their professional lives in the mid-19th century is something I would definitely like to read more about.

And finally, did I forget to mention that this is all set against a fiendishly clever murder plot?? Will Raven and Sarah Banks seek to clear the name of their patron, Dr Simpson, and discover the unthinkable – a female serial killer working almost unnoticed in Edinburgh. Hearing certain chapters from the killer’s point of view only adds to the big reveal!

The Art of Dying is published by Canongate Books.

To find out more about Ambrose Parry – the writing team of Chris Brookmyre and Dr Marisa Haetzman – you can connect with them on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the paperback publication of The Art of Dying. For more reviews and exclusive content, check out the blogs taking part below.

Please note: I received a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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My Reading Intentions for 2021

I don’t normally do a post like this at the end of the year, but as this is not a normal year by any means, I thought I would join in with a bit of goal setting for 2021.

Goodreads Challenge

I normally set a Goodreads Challenge of between 95 and 100 books per year as this is a manageable number for me. In 2020 I read 117 (at time of publication – I have one more I hope to finish tonight!), which was helped in no small part by the first lockdown. The number settled down a bit towards the end of the year as I got a new job, so had less time to read in general.

For 2021, I think I will set an even 100 books, as I feel like there will be similar restrictions on our free time as in 2020, so I should be able to manage this with no stress.

#42ForMich

Since the year we turned 40, my friends and I have developed a challenge where we choose ten categories of books each (40 total) to expand the types of books we read. I mainly post my books for this challenge on Instagram, so do follow over there for updates on that. I’ve added a picture of the categories below, if you would like to join in – or make some suggestions!

This year, we’ve included an additional 2 categories in tribute to our dear friend Michelle, who died in August (I mean, really, fuck 2020 in the ear). She very often joined in our challenges and was with us on our last trip to YALC in 2019, so 41 and 42 are for her.

Netgalley

What an absolute state my Netgalley is! Back when I first joined, I went buckwild downloading books and, I’m sorry to say, not managing to fit them in to read and review.

Mid-2020 I decided I was going to clear up this shameful state of affairs and in the end I was able to read 25 books from my Netgalley shelf. I still, however, have 72 titles to read going back to 2015.

My aim with this is to read 20 books from this shelf in 2021. I will add a caveat that it has to be 20 of the books that are currently on the shelf as some of the blog tours I participate in deliver their books via Netgalley – these new 2021 titles don’t count!

Blog Tours

Because I’m invited to participate in blog tours for such a range of amazing titles, I very often take too many and then feel overwhelmed with not having time to read them. In 2021, I’ve decided to confine myself to 4 tours per month, unless a short-notice gem that I just can’t resist comes up (there were quite a few of those in 2020!).

On that basis, I’m already quite busy with blog tours and have some booked in as far as April but some of these are for books I would’ve bought anyway, or from authors that are consistently good, so I don’t expect any disappointments on that front.

Keepers and Books to Move on

In keeping with recent years, I am being much more harsh in deciding which books are keepers, and which can be safely moved on. I still have far, FAR, too many books, so am trying to approach each paperback copy (and review copies) as books to move on which then have to be something totally outstanding to be kept.

I have had some surprises in 2020 on this score, so I’m excited to see which books make the ‘Keeper’ list next year.

In Addition…

During a discussion with my friend, I recounted the funny relationship I have with Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Funny in that I have bought second hand copies, and given them away multiple times in a will I/won’t I read it situation several times over the years.

Shortly after this, I saw two copies in a charity shop (two copies – no need to rub it in Book Gods!) and resolved to buy it and to read it in 2021.

If I get to this time next year and have not read it, you have my permission to remind me in the strongest of terms!

So that’s it. What are your reading intentions for 2021? Do you undertake challenges, or are you happier to just read as the mood takes you?

It just remains for me to wish you all a happy new year – I personally am tiptoeing into 2021 in a quiet manner – I don’t want to scare it after all!

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Book Review: Last Christmas by Greg Wise & Emma Thompson

When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change?

This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.

Away from the John Lewis advert, the high street decorations and the candied orange in Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding, this gem of a book introduced and curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise celebrates the importance of kindness and generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows us that these values are not just for Christmas.

What I Thought:

It’s a very strange feeling these days to open a book and not even have an inkling of what you’re getting. Such was my feeling upon opening Last Christmas, a collection of personal essays on Christmas curated by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson.

I had thought that, since the book tied in somewhat to the excellent Christmas film which I watched and liked, it would be more about the film. It does not at all tie in with the film, but it is definitely worth sticking with.

The personal essays in this book tell of Christmasses past and have been written by some famous names, but there are also several pieces which have been submitted by people who have been homeless and have benefitted from the work of Crisis, from refugees who have found a home in this country and I would argue that these are the pieces that resonate most.

All of the pieces though are personal and will strike a chord with many people, whether your experience of Christmas is happy, stressful or that it’s best to be ignored. Not all of these stories are happy, cherished childhood memories – and the book is the better for it.

Whatever your personal experience of Christmas, you’ll find something in this book to identify with and the care with which it has been out together is clear.

Although it’s not the movie companion piece that I expected (which I would still like to read by the way…) I’m pleased I read it – I saved it especially for this time of year!

Last Christmas is published by Quercus.

Dame Emma Thompson DBE and Greg Wise need no introduction, and I don’t really need to link you to their work, but please do consider buying this book, as all proceeds go towards Crisis and The Refugee Council. Their work is important all year round, but especially so at this time of year…

Please note: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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