The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

emperorIf this isn’t on the Not the Booker list then it should be.

It’s hard to say which character should really have been in the spotlight in this book. In this case it is Alex, but I would love to hear the story from Ivy’s perspective and delve deeper into her life. Perhaps even go back to Tiananmen Square, the story of her sister and the massacre.

Ivy shows Alex the reality of living as immigrants and worker bees in and under the oppressive regime of the Chinese government. She opens his eyes to the injustices happening on a daily basis all around them.

Alex struggles with fitting in the way his father expects him to, and he dislikes the hypocrisy his father displays. After experiencing oppression, genocide and hatred because of their faith it seems a paradox that their family be involved in the oppression of other human beings.

Towards the end I think it is fair to say that Alex begins to doubt whether Ivy has pure motives. Did she intentionally target and manipulate the privileged heir? Is the scent of freedom stronger than her conscience or is it her guilty conscience driving her actions and words?

The relationship between Alex and his father is the catalyst that propels the young man forward and helps him to discover his backbone. The old man is one of the dinosaurs, the old boy capitalist brigade who detest change and put money over everything else.

This story encompasses a lot of genres including history, politics, civil and human rights. It’s important to remember the modern era in which this takes place and take note of the injustices. It’s ironic, actually it is ruthless and tragic, that capitalists who profit from democracies in their native countries profit financially from having factories and using workforces in countries run by autocratic regimes and/or oppressive communist regimes.

This is a story of awakening and also about acknowledging the corruption hidden in the guise of employment and development. I look forward to reading more by Wise in the future.

Buy The Emperor of Shoes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: No Exit Press

Follow @SpencerWise10 @noexitpress on Twitter

Visit spencerwiseauthor.com

#BlogTour A Secret Worth Killing For by Simon Berthon

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for A Secret Worth Killing For by Simon Berthon. It’s a story full of political intrigue and betrayal. (A Secret Worth Killing For was previously released under the title Woman of State)

About the Author

Simon Berthon has been described by The Daily Telegraph as a ‘formidable Second World War Historian’ for his reporting of events. He became the editor of BBC Northern Ireland’s current affairs programme Spotlight, moved to ITV’s investigative series World in Action  where he won a Gold Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival, and went on to make the major historical series The Shape of the World which won a Gold Medal at the New York Film and Television Festival.

He became a founding partner of 3BM Television, seeing over a stream of high quality historical and investigative documentaries, many of which are award-winning.

His books, Allies at War: Churchill v Roosevelt v De Gaulle (Thistle, 2011) and Warlords (Thistle, 2006) offer detailed accounts of the mind games played by leaders in the war as well as examining their relationships, deals and decision making, all of which has been expertly researched and recounted intelligently.

His latest book, A Secret Worth Killing For (HQ, 2018), follows protagonist Maire Anne McCarthy, a one-time honey-trap for the IRA.

Follow @HQStories

Buy A Secret Worth Killing For

About the book

Secrets – 1991, Belfast. Maire Anne McCartney is recruited for a one-off IRA mission as a honey trap. She is told there will be no violence. But she has been lied to. To save herself, eighteen-year-old Maire must flee across the border alone, and start a new life.

State – Present day, London. Human rights lawyer Anne-Marie Gallagher is appointed Minister of State for Security and Immigration. At the same time, the police in Belfast receive an anonymous tip-off. The password is verified from the Troubles – and the co-ordinates lead DCI Jon Carne to a field. And a body.

Betrayal – The new Minister receives a message and realises that the new life she has crafted is at risk of being uncovered. And when Carne’s investigation brings Anne- Marie to his attention, she must decide where her allegiances lie…

Review

Anne-Marie is an ambitious politician with quite a few skeletons in her closet. Not exactly unusual for a politician. Her secrets are buried all the way back in Ireland in the midst of the Troubles. The story moves from past to the present and back again, as some of those secrets begin to surface and threaten to destroy the new life and identity she has built for herself.

Although Anne-Marie is portrayed as the unsuspecting and innocent victim of political machinations and spy games, I find that perspective hard to swallow. The whole set-up of the honey-trap suggests at the very least a subconscious awareness of what would happen, especially considering her family and their involvement in the IRA.

The most interesting aspect of the story is the question of guilt. Anne-Marie doesn’t seem to feel as if she is complicit in any way. One could argue that her role in the honey-trap, which leads to the death of a man, is what hardens her and makes her less empathetic or does her family loyalty and politics play a bigger role in her life than she lets on?

To me Anne-Marie reads as a woman fully aware of her actions and the consequences of said actions. In a way her ambitions and her almost instinctive play for power after the successful election is indicative of her true nature and personality.

I also think it is a fairly common assumption that women are less likely to be ruthless leaders, killers and in positions of power, when it comes to crime or terrorism. A fatal mistake I might add. There is this stereotypical misconception that we are less likely to be cruel, brutal and able to make life and death decisions.

Regardless of the truth all of the above still applies to the situation, so I suppose in the end it is a question of whether everything is fair game when we are at war. If that is the case then why do we put war criminals on trial? Are some acts of murder deemed not to be a crime, depending on the circumstances, the conflict and the person who committed them? It’s food for thought at the very least.

Berthon makes an interesting political point and one about human rights with this story, regardless of whether it is intentional or not. It also speaks to the nature of politicians, the omnipotence of secret military and police operations, and human nature in general. The author takes a snapshot of the events during that violent period in our history and manages to place the blame where it belongs, which is firmly on both sides.

It’s a gripping venture into the world of politics, political skirmishes, clandestine operations and history. Ultimately it is also one about human nature, conscience and guilt, and betrayal. I think it is fair to say we all have some skeletons in our closet, some of us have just buried them deeper than other people.

Buy A Secret Worth Killing For at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BlogTour Saving the World by Paola Diana

Today it really is a pleasure to host the BlogTour for Saving the World – Women: The Twenty-First Century’s Factor for Change by Paola Diana. It should be made in pocket size, so all women and men can read it on the go.

About the Author

A top ten bestselling author and political activist in Italy, Paola Diana is a mouthpiece for female equality in a country that has some of the worst work place equality in the world ranking 118th out of 144 countries in terms of women’s participation in economic life and 126th for wage equality for similar work according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Index, with Italy lagging behind India and Iran in wage equality.

A London based entrepreneur and campaigner for equal rights Paola has dedicated her life to championing sexual equality in business and politics in the UK and Italy. In Italy, Paola is the founder of the organisation PariMerito (Equal Merit), which she used to lobby the Italian Government to pass new equality laws in the work place, including a new bill requiring every company board to have minimum 30% female representation.

Prior to starting PariMerito Paola ran a Think Tank in support of the former Prime Minister and President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi’s political campaign, which had a particular focus on issues including welfare, female employment and structural policies in favour of the family and equal opportunities.

Paola is also an entrepreneur starting her first business as a single mother of two, her hugely successful Diana Group, comprises three separate businesses and has established itself as a market leader in recruitment and lifestyle services, recognised as one of London’s most influential service providers for high net worth individuals, families and corporations around the world.

Follow @paoladiana_ @quartetbooks @midaspr

Buy Saving the World

About the book

“I write about history to free us from the past, I write about the present to strive for alternative destinies and I write about the future because the world we live in is not the only one possible.”

Part manifesto for change part historical and sociological essay, Saving the World charts women’s condition through the centuries, analysing their treatment within political, religious, economic and societal contexts to form a bigger picture of their place in the world; and explores what needs to be done in 2018 to create a truly equal world. Having already broken the glass ceiling for women in Italy, where she introduced a new bill requiring company boards to have 30% female representation, Paola turns to the Gender Pay Gap and puts forward her vision for how we reach an equal society, one in which all women are set free from fear, violence and oppression. Paola Diana impresses on us that this world we inhabit, dominated by men and often seemingly immutable, is far from the only one possible.

Already a bestseller in Italy, this translation has been extensively revised by the author to incorporate recent UK events that impinge on women’s rights and the struggle to achieve equality. A clarion call for change, Diana’s polemic should be read by all who hold powerful positions in government, industry and the arts.

Review

There is a paragraph in the preface that gave me food for thought. The author believes she was born with certain instincts, which have made her more attuned to the injustices and discrimination against women, although she does point out that she would have reacted and felt the same if those were directed towards men.

It really made me think about my own tendencies to stand up for the oppressed, the vulnerable and those who have to deal with injustice and discrimination. Our temperament is already shaped within the womb. Are we perhaps genetically pre-wired to be more of a ‘save the universe and the downtrodden’ kind of person? Scientists have proven that there are links between genetics and violence, is it so far-fetched to believe a social justice warrior gene could be embedded in our DNA? It isn’t just a ‘I feel more empathy’ kind of emotion either.

I guess we end up back with the old nature vs nurture argument. I, for instance was privy to an upbringing, which some would now call liberal thinking. Nowadays liberal is perceived to be some kind of insult and associated with an anti-authoritarian free-thinking no rules kind of upbringing. I had rules and was taught discipline, but I was also taught acceptance and tolerance.

Admittedly I think the word tolerance is the wrong one, because I wasn’t taught to tolerate anyone, I was taught that we are all equal. No matter the skin colour, education, origins, socio-economic status, gender or religion. Sounds very flower powery – far from it, because I was also taught that an arsehole is an arsehole regardless of race, colour, gender or religion.

The patriarchal system is the main reason the systemic abuse, oppression and discrimination against women is still alive and kicking. Old habits die hard and a leopard doesn’t change its spots or rather refuses to change them at all.

‘There is no religious justification for female subjugation.’ Diana couldn’t be more right about the way religion is used to control, weaken and oppress the rights of women. To the point of women being so brainwashed by centuries-old man-written rules to keep the opposite gender quiet and submissive, that they dare not question the need for ten wives for one man. The need to support hebephilia and ephebophilia, so men can marry children or the need to obey or be punished, because God says so. Men wrote the rule books, not any entity of faith.

There are so many examples throughout history and many countries, of women standing up to the institutional oppression. Sometimes individuals have been able to bring about change. Women have been tortured and killed to allow us the same rights as men. It is often apparent that 21st century women and girls don’t really have a clue what some women have achieved in history to ensure we can cast a vote in an election for instance.

Among many controversial topics that make me stand up for women’s rights is the topic of our bodies. No man should be allowed to determine what I can or can’t do to my body. You don’t own me, you don’t own my physical appearance and you certainly don’t own my uterus or anything which may reside in it, so your opinions are unwanted and invalid.  Women shouldn’t have to return to the dark alleys of medieval times just because men, religious institutions run by men and governed by rules written by men and interpreted by men, decide they own the rental space in my uterus and yours.

Let’s be clear, the majority of the male gender of our species believes us to be inferior, albeit often a subconscious thought process,  which is why we don’t deserve equal pay or equal representation in the world of politics or business.

What becomes abundantly clear in Saving the World, is not only the need for change, but also how unaware the world really is to the daily injustices against women. We need to educate those, who have been raised to perceive a rift between man and woman. The people who expect obedience and subservience instead of acknowledging the need for equality. For me the change must start in the cradle. Mothers must teach their sons to respect women instead of teaching them to treat women as a sub-humans, they must also teach their daughters to want more than just a life dictated by a patriarchal society.

On the stage of the world we must fight for and insist upon equal representation. It’s time the old boy, and especially the old boy white club mentality, disappeared. We need more female role models for younger women to not only emulate, but also so they can see there is a change on the horizon. Locker room humour, chauvinistic and sexist attitudes should be relegated to the dusty pages of the history books.

There are a lot of negative connotations when it comes to the umbrella phrase of feminism, which is a term I tend not to use to describe myself. I believe in women. I believe in equality, and I believe in justice for the oppressed and those who are discriminated. That is just common sense, which doesn’t need a blanket term or stereotype, so others can box me in by trying to invalidate my arguments.

If there is one thing you take away from this strong encouraging voice of empowerment, then let it be that women should work together and not against each other. When we are critical of women in positions of power, we undermine ourselves and them, and automatically fall back into the trap laid out by men. Not that I am saying women shouldn’t be challenged, by all means challenge them on the topic they are speaking on or their opinions if you disagree, but never do it to undermine in an attempt to be one of the boys. You will never be one of the boys. We are woman, and it is time to hear us roar.

Kudos to Paola Diana for roaring for all of us.

Buy Saving the World at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Invisible Crowd by Ellen Wiles

invisible crowdWhat a thought-provoking book title, and a very astute way to describe this particular group of people.

The story is about a refugee fleeing a brutal civil war and the people he encounters on his journey to freedom. The process to remain and the interviews are quite frankly bordering on harassment.

There is being specific and then there is being insulting for the fun of it. Victim blaming is the least of it. I know it is their job to determine whether there is an actual threat waiting for them if they return to their home country, so a certain level of toughness is to be expected.

I’m not going to lie, the headlines from the ever so reliable and never objective newspapers are depressing. It also angers me that the masses are spoon-fed this over-hyped tripe as real news, and of course the majority believes the headlines are not only true, in their minds they also apply them to every single refugee. The masses are whipped into a frenzy and blame everything on any foreigner they can find, even if they are of the fictional variety. There are bad apples in every basket, regardless of which type or brand of apple they are.

Wiles has written an interesting all-round account of the political situation we find ourselves in. In fact she has probably barely broken the seal on the Pandora’s box of trauma refugees go through. Human trafficking, profiting from the desperation of others, modern day slavery and just exploitation in general.

It’s important that people comprehend the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. A refugee has bag full of trauma by the time they arrive in the safe haven they are heading for. They encounter discrimination, racism, neglect and pure dislike.

Hopefully this story will make a few readers reconsider their opinions on refugees and the personal individual stories behind each person.

Buy The Invisible Crowd at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ellenwiles @HarperCollinsUK

Visit ellenwiles.com

Aftermath by Richard Crowder

aftermathDon’t expect any frivolous details or leaning towards the dramatic, this is a scholars book. Politics and history with an emphasis on the great men in power at the time.

Crowder has also added tidbits of information about those men. Idiosyncrasies, odd habits, power games and even unexpected funerals.

I think even now in the 21st century many of the generations are completely unaware of the Cold War machinations. As we speak or read, the wheeling, dealing and political games of chess are happening behind many a door.

I don’t believe any of it can be compared to the post-war political agendas. The shaping and creation of post-war treaties and alliances by the political greats and leaders of the 20th century.

Crowder has included such a vast amount of details it often seems like overload, and it seems to lack direction, but that may really have to do with the sheer amount of information.

Buy Aftermath at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoayama

six fourThis is Hideo Yokoyama’s first novel to be translated into English. He is an immensely popular crime writer in Japan.

It is a long read and a slow burner. It certainly isn’t an atypical crime thriller, in fact it appears to be more of a political game of chess with the odd crime thrown in.

Bear with it though, because eventually all roads lead to a riveting conclusion.

Mikami struggles with his position and loyalties at work. Once on the straight track to highest ranking in the Criminal Division. Mikami has been side-tracked to the Media Relations department. He spends his days fending off the press and is known, much to his dismay, as the ‘guard dog for Administrative Affairs.’

The bulk of the book is spent analysing the political quagmire of the Criminal Division, Admin Affairs, Media Relations, the press, the Prefectural HQ and the bigwigs in Tokyo. Whilst this is going on Mikami is looking into a cold case, a kidnapping from fourteen years ago. Simultaneously Mikami is also waiting for some sign of life from his daughter Ayumi. She is suffering from mental health issues, which have culminated in a growing hatred towards her parents.

Ayumi’s body dysmorphia is quite fascinating. She hates her own face, despises her mother’s beauty and the fact she has inherited her father’s looks. It isn’t until she leaves that Mikami actually starts feeling self-conscious about his own facial features and becomes insecure about being able to snag such a beautiful wife.

While the majority of the book is a perpetual cat and mouse game of internal politics, the cold case remains an integral part of the story. The errors made by individuals are still causing a wave of backlash even years after the kidnapping.

Amamiya has lost his young daughter, and his wife. It seems almost like an insult to ask him to allow a high ranking police official to use his daughter’s murder as a political platform. It’s up to Mikami to convince Amamiya. Little does Mikami know that the grieving father and widower isn’t quite as docile as he seems.

Yokoyama does a really good job of a literary sleight of hand. The reader is so busy looking in one direction they don’t see what is going on in the background. Interesting read, definitely an author I will revisit.

Buy Six Four at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

American Quartet by Warren Adler

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Fiona is a highly complicated character. She spends three-quarters of her time inside her head either questioning her own motives or having internal debates with herself. I don’t think I have ever experienced a female lead with such an intense desire to understand why her relationships will probably not work out. In her case it is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will certainly be entertaining to  watch her meet her real match one day.
Adler always creates a realistic cop on cop partner relationship, especially when one of those is a female. He has a keen eye for the inequality, the daily oppression, the barrage of abuse and general lack of respect, when it comes to gender in the police force. For females in male dominated career you don’t have many choices, you either fall in  line and put up with it silently or you fall in line and become one of the men. They frown upon the third option, the ones who don’t want to put up with the sexist and outdated order of command in the male world.
Fiona bows down to the higher rank when she has to and tries to accommodate even the most difficult of partners. Indeed even Jefferson grows on her, and in the end he has her back in a way no other person does, even if it costs him everything. He becomes the epitome of a true partner.
The actual plot is quite complex and the book is strewn with conspiracy theories connected to assassinations of Presidents going all the way back to Lincoln. The murderer has lost his timid grip on his sanity, if indeed he ever had a grip on it at all. Plagued with Mommy issues and confusion about his own sexuality he thinks his salvation lies in the culmination of an extremely complex murderous plot.
As always Adler manages to mix facts with fiction to create a story with his very own flair.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley and courtesy of Stonehouse Press.