Friday, 27 May 2016

Book Review: Food for the Gallows by Suzanne Downes (Underwood Mysteries, #2)



An historical murder mystery set in the 1820's. 
The second Underwood mystery finds the self-appointed detective back in the Pennines, now a married man. 
His brother Gil has been made vicar of a Spa town called Hanbury and it is here where Underwood and his wife Verity arrive for a visit. 
Within days they are embroiled in another murder mystery when Josephine Dunstable dies in the Spa Pump-rooms, apparently poisoned by a cup of the supposedly healing waters. Since she is seventy and her new husband just barely twenty-seven, immediate suspicion falls upon the groom, and only Underwood believes the young man’s protestations of innocence. 
Hanbury is full of interesting characters and during the course of his investigations, Underwood finds himself befriending Toby Hambleton, a black ex-puglilist, Major Jeremy James Thornycroft, a Waterloo veteran without legs, Lady Hartley-Wells, a redoubtable widow and her foppish nephew Vivian Pepper. 
Will Underwood find the true killer of Josephine Dunstable or will her young husband Oliver become ‘food for the gallows’?


Having set a high standard in A Noble Pair of Brothers, book two in the Underwood series was going to have a tough time topping it. Fortunately, Food for the Gallows doesn't try to outdo its predecessor, however it does bring back our favourite characters from book one. Underwood is less stiff in this one, and I like the charm of the scenes between him and wife Verity.

Verity's a more realistic woman compared to waif-like Charlotte (who I also like but Verity just seems like a better fit for Underwood).

The plot this time centres on the death of Mrs Dunstable, a woman in her 70s. Now for the time period, living into your 70s would be like living into your 100s today, so at first her death is not treated with suspicion. But she has a young husband...and she left a considerable estate. More than enough reason to do her in.

 " of the most enjoyable murder mysteries I have read in a while."

So the book's set piece is off and running. Underwood does do some running around the truth, before the eventual culprit (in a very intense and surprising scene) is revealed. Being taken to the gallows back then would be the most horrendous method of execution in my view, but the setting, just as with book one is beautifully created.

This is one of the most enjoyable murder mysteries I have read in a while. I like the Latin introductions to each chapter, and the interplay between Underwood and his brother, still the Reverend Gil, are entertaining and believable.

Without graphic violence or gratuitous sex scenes, the author has created another solid mystery for readers to enjoy. 4.5 stars from me.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Book Review: I am Cancer Free by Brenda Mohammed



This is a most touching and emotional true story. of the author's battle with cancer. It is a detailed and personal account of how a very strong believer and family-oriented woman beat ovarian cancer. Although that type of cancer historically develops rapidly and has devastating effects, this true story shows how faith, family and love are a powerful force to reckon with


I am Cancer Free is an extremely positive title for something that is so terrifying to pretty much all of us, were we to be diagnosed with it.

No illness is pleasant, but surely cancer is one of the very worst, and although survival rates are increasing all the time depending on the type of cancer concerned, it is good to know that the author, who thankfully defeated this terrible disease, overcome it in order to pen this extremely good read.

From a carefree life, visiting friends and relatives, through to the initial concerns and then onto the diagnosis, the author takes us on a journey in this book. But potential readers shouldn't be put off by the subject matter. The author has bravely chose to share her experience with the reader. It is never negative, although some of it is very harrowing to read.

The description of the subsequent and very necessary operation which resulted in the author regaining her full health is a case of just enough information. There's no need for gory details and we don't get them. In essence, the author has the balance right between info-dumping and info-giving.

"From a carefree life, visiting friends and relatives, through to the initial concerns and then onto the diagnosis, the author takes us on a journey in this book."

Again, it's a book that educates and informs.

Thank goodness for medical insurance. In the UK, we are fortunate that the NHS provides many life saving treatments. I do hope the government (s) wake up and spend money on research to defeat this terrible disease in all its forms.

Well done to the author on the beating of this disease and in the creation of this book.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Book Review: The Reluctant Duchess by Sharon Cullen



Perfect for fans of Mary Balogh and Eloisa James, Sharon Cullen’s seductive new historical romance ignites as a shy country girl and a hotheaded duke surrender to dangerous temptations.

Lady Sara Emerson was jolted out of her dull provincial life by her cousin’s murder. Now that the killer seems to be targeting her, Sara seeks help from the man who was once her cousin’s fiancĂ©, Gabriel Ferguson, Duke of Rossmoyne. With his towering frame and fiery personality, Ross cuts an intimidating figure. Living under his protection, however, has its own hazards—like the sudden urge Sara feels to take their relationship in new, exquisitely inappropriate directions.

Dazzled by the social graces of his betrothed, Ross never noticed her shy, blushing cousin. Looking at Sara now, though, he’s drawn to her lovely eyes and calm disposition. Funny how a year away from the hustle and bustle of the ton changes a man. But Ross has no intention of allowing a woman to interfere with his plan to return overseas. He will simply capture the murderer and set sail once again. The problem is, with her beguiling lips and heavenly touch, Sara makes him never want to leave home—or his bed—again.


This was a tricky book to review as I think it had already set up a high standard by saying it was for fans of Mary Balogh. I'm not one for being swayed by such things, no more than I would read a horror if it was for fans of Stephen King.

The Reluctant Duchess is a reasonably good yarn, though it never quite becomes the story it could have been. The heroine is a rather naive girl who almost turns in a demanding sexual temptress overnight. The has to be said is rather loosely defined. He never seems to take control of the situation he finds himself in.

"A lot of reviews gave this five stars. In many ways this book deserves it."

If you can put these aside, there's a greater story to be had here. The suspense is well done, the killer on the loose is very interesting and works as a great hook to reel you in. The characters are just a little one dimensional for me, but this is a small gripe in an otherwise very readable historical romance.

I was leaning towards 4 stars for this one, but I've gone for 3. No doubt some of you will agree with this review, others will totally love it. I really appreciate what this author has tried to do with the story, but her peers set almost too high a standard. Still, if you write HR, there is nothing wrong with being compared to Mary Balogh. And a lot of reviews gave this five stars. In many ways this book deserves it. The final thought is that it was ambitious in its aim, just falling slightly short for me.

Book Review: Murder At The Lighthouse by Frances Evesham



Love cosy crime, murder mysteries, clever animals and cake? Don't miss Murder at the Lighthouse, a cosy animal mystery set in Exham on Sea, a seaside town in Somerset. 
Everyone knows the dead woman under the lighthouse, but no one knows why she died. What brought the folk-rock star back to Exham on Sea after so many years? Who wanted her dead? Does the key to her murder lie in the town, or far away across the Atlantic? 
Amateur female sleuth Libby Forest arrives in the small town after years in a disastrous marriage, to build a new life making cakes and chocolates in Exham on Sea. She finds a body under the lighthouse and discovers her own talent for solving mysteries, helped by Bear, an enormous Carpathian Sheepdog, and Fuzzy, an aloof marmalade cat.
Libby joins forces with secretive Max Ramshore and risks the wrath of the townspeople as she puts together the pieces of the jigsaw to solve the mystery of Susie Bennett's death.
Buy Murder at the Lighthouse now, pit your wits against Exham's female sleuth and solve the mystery.
The first short read in the series, set in the coastal resort of Exham on Sea, Murder at the Lighthouse introduces a cast of local characters, including Mandy the teenage Goth, Frank the baker and Detective Sergeant Joe Ramshore, Max's estranged son. The green fields, rolling hills and sandy beaches of the West Country provide the perfect setting for crime, intrigue and mystery.
For lovers of Agatha Christie novels, Midsomer Murders, lovable pets and cake, the series offers a continuing supply of quick crime stories to read in one sitting, as Libby solves a mixture of intriguing mysteries and uncovers the secrets of the small town's past. Download the first in the series now. The second story, Murder on the Levels, is also available now.


I really do love a good little mystery, and I am reading more and more of this 'cosy' genre of late. Murder at the Lighthouse is immediately intriguing, I love the title and was going to read this anyway, as it is not my first read of this author's work.

Whilst other books I have read of hers had fewer characters, this book is choc-full of them. But the clever writing, fast narrative and sharp dialogue mean you know who is who. You never get lost. In fact, I think the considerable cast is there to deflect our attention, as to who killed who.

I loved the whole seaside town setting. You really feel you are there, and yet, in many English tales...a beautiful seaside town doesn't exactly prevent a murder from happening. In fact, there's more than one in this book. Readers who fancy themselves as amateur Sherlocks will delight in unpicking its secrets.

"Murder at the Lighthouse is immediately intriguing."

There's an obligatory pet thrown in, which seems to be a characteristic of these cosy thrillers. That's okay. I liked Fuzzy!

This really is a great book for any time of the year, but I liked reading it outside in the garden on a Sunday afternoon. There's also more in the series to come, so if you enjoy this kind of genre,you'll love this. Just avoid the seaside.....

Book Review: Travel Memoirs With Pictures by Brenda Mohammed



A chronicle of the author's travels around the world. The author relates the family adventures and describes places visited and the wonderful times she and her family had in their travels.


Travel Memoirs With Pictures is the second travelogue I have read this year, and just like the other book, readers will find themselves treated to a pictorial story as they go along. Some books like these tend to be 'photo-heavy' and rather redundant with the actual test.

In other words, pretty pictures alone do not make for a great book. So it's with pleasure that this book gives us insight into many countries.

I paid particular regard to places I had been to before in this book, for example, places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Italy, France (because I have been to these places before) and others.

Of the places I haven't yet been to, I would dearly love to go to Cartegena (in fact, thank you Author for putting this idea in my head!), but readers will have their own choices as they read the book.

"Pretty pictures alone do not make for a great book. So it's with pleasure that this book gives us insight into many countries."

Of course, the author has been to England and to my country's capital, London. As a national I must say that whilst London is definitely worth visiting, there are many gems in England that people don't know about. Aside from writing I do love to get out there and see what England....10 minutes drive in any direction from where I live, has to offer.

Travel Memoirs With Pictures offers readers a personal glance into one tourists view of many different places, and the different ways one can travel to them.

Recommended for anyone who has the travel bug!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Book Review: Betrayal - The Complete Story by Sharon Brownlie


A psychological thriller and an enthralling tale of revenge and police investigation. An upbringing marred by rejection and hurt turns Helen King into a serial killer. Detective Inspector Belinda Brennan and her team are on the hunt for her. How many must die before the team can find a connection? Book 2 The Consequences concludes the story of Betrayal but will Helen go quietly?


Since writing my initial review for Betrayal, we’ve seen the subsequent evolution of the story with the release of Betrayal: The Consequences. Now, for the first time, we can read the complete story in one volume.

From the very first line of the book, I was captivated by the story, though I admit to going over it a second time in more detail. However, what a first line:-

"The man slapped Helen hard across the face and grabbed her by the hair, and threw her onto the bed."

To some, that will mean something. To me, as a reader, it meant ‘read on, this is going to be good.’

Here, I will offer a capsule review of each book, and a summary of the series.


‘Betrayal is a hard book to review because it's generally opposite to what I read - it is very hard hitting account of a woman who has been abused by all and everyone around her. Oh, I know the passer by wouldn't necessarily know of her problems, and Helen - our anti-heroine, of sorts, is not someone I immediately warmed to.

That's fine, because your main character should have flaws. If he or she is perfect, how can you root for them.

"Once the story gets going and the nasty acts pass and the character motivations become clearer, the story changed from a dark tale of abuse to a taut, gritty thriller that I could not put down."

But Helen was largely unlikeable in the early chapters, and yet, underneath the story I could see that the premise would be amazing if executed correctly.

Here's where author Sharon Brownlie scores very high indeed, and perhaps it is typical of many books. Some start out like a rat out of a trap, and fizzle out after 30 or so pages. Others take their time to grab you.

Once the story gets going and the nasty acts pass and the character motivations become clearer, the story changed from a dark tale of abuse to a taut, gritty thriller that I could not put down.

This is a story you have to take a chance on. It's hard, brutal, unflinching in its descriptive detail. The dialogue changes from stilted in parts to fully understanding what is going on. I blamed part of how Helen talked, on the drugs themselves. But I think she was an extremely frightened young woman who basically life had trampled on from the start.

I rooted for her but not in the way I expected.

The ending is satisfying and yet, still has me thinking some days on!

I know 'must-read' is a well worn phrase, but do give this book a try. It is an examination of the human condition, and a damning report on what humans are actually capable of doing to each other.

A brilliant book that will make you think.

Summary: More than a year on and this powerful story still resonates. Get it on your read list today.

Betrayal: The Consequences

Actually when I heard this was coming out, I was genuinely thrilled. Everything had been left for us to pour over. Now, with this mini-novel completing Helen’s story, there were all sorts of directions in which the author could take us.

‘After the events in Betrayal, it wasn't really in doubt what was going to happen to our anti-heroine Helen King. What would have been less obvious, and perhaps remains so, is what would happen to us, as the readers of the stories.

Betrayal - The Consequences is a very interesting addition to the series. As I stated at the top of the review, it is obvious Helen is in for more hardship, but it is not what one expects. In fact, there seems to be a sense of resignation about Helen in this story, she not only accepts her fate, but seems to have taken a morbid delight in planning it.

She's more in control of her life - this part of her life, than the lawmakers think.

That said, this story focusses more on DI Brennan. Readers will have their own view about that, perhaps wanting Helen to feature more in the story. But here is my take on this - even when Helen is not in the story, she kind of still is. Her presence throughout is undeniable.’

Summary: I enjoyed this second story even more. It rounds off a lot of threads from Betrayal. If anything, the story would work best when read together, and with this new compilation, you can!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Book Review: Revenge of Zeeka (Zeeka Trilogy) by Brenda Mohammed



Revenge of Zeeka is the complete trilogy of a multi-layered zombie tale, set in the year 2036 in a small exotic island called Gosh. 
The story is told in three parts, which are available as kindle short reads. 
Zeeka and the Zombies is an intriguing introduction to this zombie story, which leaves you wondering what will happen next. 
In Zeeka’s Child, the plot gets more complicated, and after many twists and turns, much is revealed. 
In the final episode, Zeeka Returns, this very exciting three part series concludes in a most surprising way. 
This book is for readers who want to follow this dramatic horror story to the very end in one reading.


This is a solid collection of zombie stories from author Brenda Mohammed. I have read each of the three stories in turn, so for potential readers looking at this, I offer a capsule review of each tale, followed by a summary of the series as a whole.

I: Revenge of Zeeka

Who is Zeeka? Why is he revenge-ing? What would your government’s response be to zombies waddling around, mixing with the locals? It’s all here in the first book. I love the author’s descriptions. The dialogue can be a little weighty at times, but it’s all part of the set-up. It’s an intriguing horror that slowly pulls you in.

‘These different plot lines keep you reading, and keep you guessing. Despite its length I did not read this book in one sitting. I wanted to absorb the cleverly interlinked plotlines. In fact, there's not a lot of the mysterious Zeeka of the title in this first story, and I think that's a clever decision by the author.’

Summary: Here’s an author stepping out onto a new genre and scoring high. It’s not the best in the series, but it sets up an intriguing premise. When read back along with parts II and III, I think it is a story that gets better with successive re-reads.

"Zeeka is a series that could have run on and on…and into self-absorbed oblivion. A good author knows when to wrap a story up."

II: Zeeka's Child

Oh. It had to happen, didn’t it? It’s not enough to have adult size flesh eating zombies running amok on a small island…we have to have kiddie sized versions too? Or do we?

‘When book one ended, there was what I would call a 'soft' cliffhanger in that readers would not be annoyed that there was a cliffhanger in itself, because it was a complete tale in itself. Now with Zeeka's Child, the plot revolves around Raynor and Janet, and the serious nature of having to raise a child that is not his own.

This is an interesting concept to feature in a zombie story, which would at first appear to be nothing more than a skin bursting sideshow, and I was a little (just a little) put off by the initial chapter because it seemed more like a romantic interlude than anything else. This is actually a very clever piece of writing by the author, because it is like she is saying 'hey, you know this is a zombie tale, I know it's a zombie tale, but let's confuse the hell out of the readers by focussing on contemporary romance for a while.' This could be the first ever zom-contemp-rom, unless you know of another story like it.’

Summary: The best thing about Zeeka’s Child for me was the beefed-up story re the two cops, Wildy and Cole (hey, give these two their own spin-off series!). The author doesn’t drop the threads of book one. They are skillfully integrated into this story, and it works. It’s a much more deeper and complex story than book one, some achievement in such a short story.

III: Zeeka's Return

Oops. Zeeka is returning, and the island of Gosh is not happy about it. He is also revealed to be, as everyone knew, as Brian Cameron (of course he isn’t, I made the name up because you don’t want the reveal spoiled, do you?)

I expected mayhem in this final third and we do get it. The highlight is Miranda (oh, Miranda!) whose presence gives a lot of weight and realism to the futuristic theme and setting of 2036. The ending is unexpected but enjoyable.

'Zeeka Returns is the pleasing third installment in the Zeeka and the Zombies series. What I have observed through reading each tale in sequence is a significant level up in terns of writing style and character development. That is no easy task in a short story format, and given Zeeka Returns is the longest of the three, it should be noted that it is still a short story. One wonders how our anatagonist from book one is going to prevail - or not, as the case may be.'

Summary: Zeeka is a series that could have run on and on…and into self-absorbed oblivion. A good author knows when to wrap a story up. Zeeka is a trilogy that is done and dusted and edited well. There are few multi-layered zombie stories out there, so this is a gem readers will enjoy.