Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Book Review: Flings With Rings by Katerina Sestakova Novotna

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Synopsis:

Evelina is a Hawaiian beauty with a strange hobby: she collects engagement rings from successful men without intending to marry them. She is showing her collection to a pious friend while revealing her secret tricks and opinions on men. Evelina's motivation to share her life story seems as mysterious as the reason why her friend keeps listening and asking questions despite their strong disagreement. Will Evelina's behaviour ever catch up on her? 

Review:

Flings With Rings introduces us to Evelina, a woman on a quest to collect rings from men but not necessarily with a view to capture them as husbands, but to use and discard them as needed.

Told through a first person perspective, the friend of Evelina sees her acts through her eyes and hears them through her ears. She appears to be a more refined and decent woman, and is practically horrified at what she hears coming out of Evelina’s mouth.

However, it is hard to dismiss Evelina entirely. The half-Japanese half-Hawaiian beauty knows what she’s got and she is not shy to flaunt it.

She accurately depicts the well held view that men do want flings but not the commitment that a wedding ring would involve. As our first person point of view identifies, a ring should indeed symbolise love, but Evelina’s point is hard to dismiss entirely – she mentions how if a wedding ring was so special, it would be worn on more intimate parts of the body. That’s true, if not rather impractical.

"You have to decide if Evelina is evil or if the poor sap of a man actually deserves the treatment he gets."

Men would find it easy to dismiss Evelina as easily as she appears to dismiss them. Whether she is a likeable character or not is up to the reader to decide. For my own viewpoint, I found Evelina not the kind of woman I would want to know, but at the same time, she is not the kind of girl one would find easy to ignore. Moths to a flame, perhaps.

The twists in the story are many, but one that readers may enjoy and is not a spoiler to say so is that Evelina gets more joy out of collecting engagement rings than actually wedding rings.

Evelina does not ply her trade on every man though, she takes a perverse enjoyment in taunting one particular man. You have to decide if Evelina is evil or if the poor sap of a man actually deserves the treatment he gets.

As usual for the author, one can feel more enlightened and educated from reading her books. Flings With Rings is a short story, but not so short that you feel short changed. The story is packed with a really interesting character dynamic – we almost want Evelina to fail against somebody, but at the same time it is hard to deny that she has a logic to her actions that in her place, we would almost agree with.

The story is a clever and insightful study of marriage, it just utilises an interesting counterpoint about what men and women really want.

What I really like about this story is that it is brave enough to suggest that the best times are after an engagement but before a marriage. Not a lot of people say this kind of thing. Many would say that sex, at least in those initial months of marriage is the best, but this is not always the case, nor should it be, if we are honest with ourselves.

The story works not necessarily because we could relate to Evelina’s outrageous hobby, but perhaps because we cannot relate to it. She is a woman on a mission all of her own. Readers can condemn her, be fascinated by her, but one thing is for certain – she cannot be ignored.

Her looks are one thing – but maybe she has a dynamism about her that men cannot help being attracted to, and women might just appreciate her stance on men, sex and marriage to a larger extent than they may openly agree with.

Arguably Katerina Sestakova Novotna’s best written book to date, but in her growing library of works, there is some tough competition.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Book Review: How Missionaries Destroyed a Paradise by Katerina Sestakova Novotna


Synopsis

Laa, a girl from Bikini Atoll, is very naïve. She does not always understand men, philosophy of religion and the world in general since she has spent most of her life on an isolated island with limited access to information.
She has studied closely only three books: “The Marshallese Bible,” “Princes and Princesses” and “The Christmas Book.” Yet she does her best to interpret these sources, and confronts them with her own daily observations. 
It seems obvious to Laa that American missionaries were mistaken about many things. How could an all-good, all-wise and all-powerful God forget about Laa’s ancestors? Why did He not let them see the Star of Bethlehem thousands of years ago, if it is so important to know and accept Jesus? Were they all damned merely for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Many questions puzzle the young woman while she is falling in love with an American man. He seems to take advantage of her gullible nature, and she soon goes through many other hardships, which make her wiser and stronger.
One day, Laa finally sees a colorful light in the sky that looks even more magical than the Star of Bethlehem in her Christmas Book. It is the star of Bikini. It seems to Laa that God has decided to address her doubts and answer all her questions. It does not really matter that the star turns out to be just a blast caused by one of sixty-six atomic bombs detonated on the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958.

Review

How Missionaries Destroyed a Paradise is an intriguing work from Katerina Sestakova Novotna. Set against the idyllic background of the Marshall Island, the story is about a sexual awakening of Laa, a local girl on the tiny locale named Bikini Atoll.

With a population of a mere 167, there are not many men to choose from on the island as potential sexual partners, certainly not a pool large enough to consider marrying one of them. As the story begins it is set in the 1940s, the book’s cover giving an ominous warning about the story’s backdrop – the horrors that unfolded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the Americans dropped the bomb on Japan. Yes, it ended the Japanese participation in WWII, but this has been well documented in history and recycled on the silver and small screen alike.

The author chooses to inform us about the little known Bikini Atoll and its Marshellese speaking people. As is quite rightly pointed out in the narrative, to most people, a bikini is a woman’s two-piece swimsuit, but if you have read the author’s other works, you’ll definitely be more informed and educated than you were prior to picking up the book.

Laa may be young and naïve, but she is aware of her sexuality and observes how other women close to her, for example her Grandma or her married sister Rostianna behave as adult women and also how they deal with the subjects of sex, love, marriage and of course, growing up.

"Throughout the story, one gets a sense that something terrible and yet undeniable is building."

It’s hard not to like Laa almost immediately. She has an innocent, old world charm about her that only covers her smouldering sexuality on the surface. To some readers the book may appear to be too overt in its approach to sex, but for this reader, I observed a woman who wanted the simple things in life – someone to love, someone to love her, someone to make her feel fulfilled sexually and also to share a life and grow together. Laa could see conflict with her married with children sister and her carefree and sage-like grandmother. It seemed she wanted parts of both women’s personality reflected in her own, whilst carving out a way for herself.

Laa certainly held strong views on many things, opinions that brought her into frequent conflict with the local pastor. It was not that Laa was necessarily anti-religion, it was more a case that she saw hypocrisy where the ones preaching it did not. It’s easy to be brainwashed if there is little between your ears in the first place.

As the story picks up apace, other men, namely American soldiers appear on the island. Laa had never seen such men, with their different coloured eyes, hair and skin. Not to mention that these men were not backward in coming forward in their affections towards Marshallese women. Indeed, it is one soldier, Benjamin, that Laa takes a particular interest in, having been let down by the local appple of her eye, Neljin. He seems scared of Laa’s interest in him but in some ways, he awakened her curiosity about the opposite sex.

This story has an array of well defined characters, none more so than Laa herself. He actions and behaviours may seem at conflict with her emotions at times, but I think this is what makes her more real as a character.

Throughout the story, one gets a sense that something terrible and yet undeniable is building. The cover gives an indication but the author’s wordcraft is far more clever than that, never dumbing down or insulting the reader’s intelligence. That said, this is a book strictly for adults only.

The author is not shy in including characters we may not necessarily like, but neither are they included as a mere contrived plot device. By the story’s latter third, I defy anyone not to be feeling for Laa and her people as the ‘tests’ now being carried out in ‘safety’ by the soldiers begins to take hold.

I especially liked the factual epilogue that rounded off this exceptional story. It’s long, but it never feels that way. If you want to read something different, if you want to read and be informed about a lesser known event in history, if you want to read a work of fiction that is beautiful and terrifying in equal measure, then grab this book today.




Friday, 17 June 2016

Book Review: The Sirens of Falkeld by Julie Tuovi

The Sirens of Falkeld



Synopsis

Kade Finley, of the Scottish Isles, was raised on legends of the sea. His Gaffer, Toran Finley said, that beneath Muireall’s wind-swept cliffs, deep under the waves, there lived a legend as old as the Highlands themselves. Of Manannán Mac Lir, the sea god, and his beautiful sea maidens, the maighdean mhara, who swam the tides, luring sailors to their deaths.

But they’re not just legend. 

Kade saw one on his ninth birthday. On that day, a fierce storm swallowed half the island, and his da, Aidan Finley, was never seen again. 

It’s been nine years since Da disappeared, and Gaffer is dying. 

Desperate to save him, Kade decides to capture a maighdean mhara, of whom the stories say will grant one wish if caught. But Admiral Gilbert Owen, commander of the island’s WWII naval base, complicates things. In his quest for power, the Admiral has enraged the maidens, making it dangerous to be human in maighdean mhara infested waters.

Review

When an author creates something out of pure fiction, it has to be written with authority. The characters have to be believable. Most of all, any preconceptions one might have had about the story have to be discarded right from the outset.

The Sirens of Falkeld is the debut novel of Julie Tuovi, but you wouldn't know it from the writing. Here is a story that has rather incredible world building. The author really has a talent for describing literally everything in the book. The titular Sirens, of course, are nothing like the Disney mermaids. It's a risk to describe them as Miss Tuovi has done in her story, but the payoff is wonderful because the main Siren, Cora, is no airhead waif. She's actually something to be respected, and yes - something to be feared.

The style of the book is interesting given its shifting perspective, chapter to chapter. Our hero, Kade, is threatened with death more times than seems fair by the shifty, arrogant and pompous Admiral near the start of the story. Kade's perspective is quite formulaic so we can relate to him easily. Initially, he is not an overly complex character. But as the story advanced and he interacts with Cora, we get a glimpse of the man in this youngish-boy. 

Cora seems too advanced, too wily, too clever and yes - too dangerous for Kade to interact with her.
But inbetween these wonderful character developments, we really are swept along by the author's engrossing story. Not once did I think 'this is a fluffy story about mermaids.' 

"It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end."

However, I did find the book a challenging read at times. The first third of the book takes a little while to find its 'sea legs', but once it does, it rewards readers with action, danger, romance and thrills. 

This could be said of many a debut author's story, so it is no slight on the author, who has created an incredibly detailed and believable world. I like the authentic use of the Scottish language, it's well done and never grates. 

One thing I really loved and rounded off the book just perfectly was the author's notes. I know, some of you will skip that part but I urge you to read it. The author is honest in her influences for her story, which I could see early on in the book. Thankfully The Sirens of Falkeld grows into its own very deep rewarding story.

It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Book Review: Betrayal - The Complete Story by Sharon Brownlie

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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?

Review

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

‘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!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Book Review: The Gamblers by Christoph Fischer

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Synopsis

Ben is an insecure accountant obsessed with statistics, gambling and beating the odds. When he wins sixty-four million in the lottery he finds himself challenged by the possibilities that his new wealth brings.
He soon falls under the influence of charismatic Russian gambler Mirco, whom he meets on a holiday in New York. He also falls in love with a stewardess, Wendy, but now that Ben’s rich he finds it hard to trust anyone. As both relationships become more dubious, Ben needs to make some difficult decisions and figure out who’s really his friend and who’s just in it for the money.

Review

First up, a complete disclaimer - I did not read the blurb before starting to read this book. The author is a quality one, and everything he does is to a very high standard. What I was not prepared for was just how engrossing this tale of cross, cross and double-cross was going to be.

Nerdy, geekish accountant Ben is a numbers man. So much so, that he even has a system for winning the lottery (don't we all!) but in his case, he actually wins. Overnight, he is a multi-millionaire.

Even with all his millions, it's now a case of 'what shall I do with it all'? and whilst we may look at real-life multi-millionaires and think oh yes, poor you, what a burden (!) author Christoph Fischer drags us kicking (and probably screaming) into a tale where not everything is as it seems, and trusting others comes at a premium - certainly one too high for this reader.

 "it hits the mark on practically every level"

When Ben locks eyes on the beautiful Wendy, he wonders, as he touches down in New York, if he will ever see her again. She's a stewardess when she first meets him, and they promise to email each other and meet again. But Ben is not your typical handsome guy - he's never been lucky in love (try gaming that with a system) and so he is not sure if he will meet her again. Also, he hasn't told her about his new wealthy status, though, as she really is the one for him in his head, he may have to confront that one day.

On landing in the Big Apple, he meets the mysterious Mirco, a Russian for a talent for winning at poker. He explains his system to Ben, who in turn gives him one of his own, before being amazed at Mirco's luck. To his new Russian friend, it's not luck at all. He has a system and he works to it, always knowing when to walk away.

Ben lets slip his thoughts on Wendy, and Mirco promptly says 'I have contacts, we'll find her.' Now this is where the book took a rather sinister turn for me. I was instantly fearing for Wendy's safety as Mirco seemed to be the kind of guy who you could not refuse an offer from.

Ben has questions too, but he is soon whisked into the heady lifestyle of Mirco, who at this point doesn't know of Ben's millions but is aware he is not exactly short of a bob or too.

Money, poker, drink and a heady nightlife soon thrust Ben into the arms of other women. But he still cannot get Wendy out of his head. My jaw literally dropped when Ben arranges to meet Wendy in Nairobi, only to find Mirco there instead. But not to worry, he has contacts and he will find her.

And find her, he does, to Ben's amazement.

Suddenly, I really start to believe Ben's luck in money will now transfer to love. He and Wendy really hit it off this time, it is no romantic holiday moment. He decides that she is the one for him, and wastes little time in telling Mirco.

Ben is tiring of his Russian friend at this point, but I think it was more to do with the excitement of having Wendy back in his life. Plus....she does not like the Russian too much, and this thought works its way into Ben's mind. 

He then plans to marry Wendy and tell her about his money.

You would think 'happily ever after' because Wendy appears thoroughly disinterested in his millions and want Ben for who Ben is, not what he has.

To say more would spoil more. Let me just say that The Gamblers is simply an essential read. The ending threw me for a loop and if I am honest, it is not the ending I wanted, but nonetheless it is a terrific ending.

Recommended for everyone because it hits the mark on practically every level.



Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Book Review: The Crimson Amulet (Templar Trilogy, #2) by Adriana Girolami

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"I value you far too much to allow the woodlands to entrap you in their deadly embrace." - Lord Zanar offering a typical cryptic line to Polyxena.

The Crimson Amulet is the long awaited second book in the trilogy by Adriana Girolami. I was a huge fan of the original Revenge of the Knights Templar and its re-release as Mysterious Templar. Such a fan, in fact, that I approached this second story with some trepidation.. What if the book did not live up to my lofty expectations?

In addition, it is a well known saying to not judge a book by its cover. But when you know the author created the cover herself through her incredible artistry, perhaps it is not a surprise to learn this talent spills over into her writing.

The first book introduced us to the Duchess of Lorengard-Lorraine, a principality in 1400s Europe. The Lady Polyxena was never a wimpish waif, neither could she be termed as a kick-ass heroine of her time. She is ladylike, regal, but never standoffish. You feel like she is someone you could approach. Beneath this royal veneer and approachability is a character with a heart of steel and courage to match.

By the latter third of the first book, I was fully in support of Polyxena and she became the stand out character for me. Surprising, given my own love of medieval England and the Knights of the Round Table - I really thought I would root more for the male characters such as Arsenio and Duccio. Then of course there is the Duke of Nemours, Polyxena's father. All the men live by the strict code of the Knights Templar, so woe be tide anyone who would cross them and especially the Duchess. Such actions tend to be the perpetrator's last....

The writing in The Crimson Amulet is as fluid and poetic as its predecessor, but it is never flowery, fluffy language that makes you think 'get on with it, author!' - you can tell each word has been carefully thought over. That's why I resisted a strong temptation to rush through the book. Its too enjoyable to skim over it like that (unless you were going to go back and give this a second reading, which this book certainly deserves.)

When the mysterious (well, all men are who would visit your place of residence) Zanar is able to bypass the Duke's men and gain easy access to the palace, we know something is amiss. He is not a local, and so he carries a great question mark over him. Soon, his intentions become obvious, kidnapping Polyxena (she's supposed to go with him willingly, but his actions of threatening to kill the Duke force her hand) and riding off to some remote part of Europe on a goose chase to be linked up with the Duke - dead or alive.

Zanar may have used some magical property to overcome the guards, but charming Polyxena won't be so easy. She is loyal to her love (if you have not read book one I won't spoil that here) and for all Zanar's lordly behaviour, she finds him a rather repulsive man who will stop at nothing to achieve his aims.

The writing in The Crimson Amulet is as fluid and poetic as its predecessor, but it is never flowery, fluffy language that makes you think 'get on with it, author!' - you can tell each word has been carefully thought over. That's why I resisted a strong temptation to rush through the book. It's too enjoyable to skim over it like that (unless you were going to go back and give this a second reading, which this book certainly deserves.)

Will Polyxena escape the clutches of the evil Lord Zanar? Will she get back to the palace with her father? Will there even be a palace to go back to?

and....what is the Crimson Amulet of the title?

This story is just as multi-layered as its predecessor, with a gripping, riveting tale that makes you think you know where it is going, but you won't. The amulet itself is more than a MacGuffin. In fact, an author in command of their story and characters needs no such plot device to drive it.

Look out for real thrills with the characters Kusen, Salimah and especially, reluctant knight Berthold. But the real star is the plot. The characters just firm up the wonderful narrative.

The series hearkens back to the classics of yesteryear, but beats with a modern, pulsating heart. The passionate scenes are described in such a way that is never over the top, and should encourage as many male readers as female. This is not a woman's book, exclusively - it's great yarn, epically told without an epic length (though at 300+ pages is satisfyingly long).

This is simply a must-read series. An overused term perhaps, but entirely appropriate here. There's even a bonus chapter of book three in this Kindle version, but I implore you to wait, and read the whole book in full. I know there is a trend for authors to release snippets of their books, free chapter previews and so on, but wait - and your patience will be rewarded.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Book Review: A Noble Pair of Brothers (The Underwood Mysteries #1)

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I read for many reasons, but one of the strongest reasons is that I want to be transported into a world that I think I would really enjoy. There's something so appealing by a story set in the Regency period. A time where men were true gentlemen and ladies were refined and demure. That doesn't mean I view the period through rose tinted glasses, far from it.

But the period instantly appealed to me, and even the blurb doesn't give everything away. Is this a mystery, a historical romance, a crime thriller? in many ways, it is all of these things.

I actually enjoyed the measured pace and descriptive writing style of the author. Miss Downes leaves nothing to chance; you understand where you are and when you are - and her characters are extremely well drawn and entertaining (Chuffy needs his own book!).

For some, the pace may be too slow. I say don't expect each book to run at lightning speed. A Noble Pair of Brothers works on practically every level I could have wished for.

A professor takes leave to visit his brother, who is a vicar in a quaint English village. Of course, it is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else, is the very definition of 'let sleeping dogs lie' and yet, the wily professor is fascinating by the unknown / unmarked grave of the person who died in mysterious circumstances. The beauty of living in England is that there are lots of villages like this, and I grin each time I visit such a place, knowing that the people there all know each other, but don't know me.

The brothers should be like peas in a pod but the author has given them great distinctiveness and even though there is an underlying sub-plot about marrying the women of the story off to well-to-do men, a given of the period, it is a necessary device and welcome diversion from the mystery that slowly unravels.

For some, the pace may be too slow. I say don't expect each book to run at lightning speed. A Noble Pair of Brothers works on practically every level I could have wished for. It took me a while to read it, some of you may devour it more quickly. But I promise you that you will enjoy this first in the series, and I am going to read the second book in due course.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Book Review: Danger at Thatcham Hall by Frances Evesham


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Synopsis: Ambitious lawyer Nelson Roberts, embittered by war, jilted by his fiancée, and trusting no one, aims to make his name solving the mysterious thefts and violence at Thatcham Hall, a country house in Victorian England. 

Olivia Martin, headstrong and talented, will stop at nothing to overcome the conventions of the day, avoid a miserable fate as a governess and fulfill dreams of a musical future. 


The pair stumble on a body. Is the farmhand’s death a simple accident, or something more sinister? Who attacked the livestock at the Hall and why are the villagers so reluctant to talk? Can Nelson and Olivia overcome their differences and join forces to unravel the web of evil that imperils the Hall? 


Review: If An Independent Woman was an enjoyable debut, Danger at Thatcham Hall is the former's much improved sibling, with great character development and real sense of mystery and danger that elevated the book into something that Agatha Christie might have been proud of.


High praise, perhaps. But the setting of Victorian England can be mismanaged in some tales I have read. The author clearly knows the setting well and every little detail has been poured over, thought about, and included in the story for us to enjoy.


As a mystery (and I have a few of these coming up to read now), it works exceedingly well. The drama and suspense holds up throughout. It's the slow build up that I liked, and was the hallmark of An Independent Woman.



 "a real sense of mystery and danger that elevated the book into something that Agatha Christie might have been proud of."

Readers should probably read both in order, but if you catch this one first, it is well worth your time in reading.


If only we could go back to Victorian England. In this book, we can almost sense what that place and time was really like.


Enjoyed.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Book Review: Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen

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Twelve keys, one secret. 
Synopsis: Odin and his twelve sons guard the secret to prolonging human life. The secret, kept deep in a vault in Ragnorok, can only be revealed when humans stop intentionally killing one another. 
Twelve humans hold the keys to open the vault, but during centuries of complacency, Odin has lost track of the keyholders. Two keyholders now remain, and Odin awakens to their existence. 
Can Odin and his sons protect the last two keyholders, or will Floki, Odin's greatest rival, destroy everything Odin holds dear and seize control of Ragnorok?

Review: In short: Ceri Bladen hits the bullseye again.

Whilst the cover and blurb are intriguing, the fact is that the author is one who grows in stature with each book she pens. I have not read all of hers (but most of them) and each has brought something new that I enjoyed. Twe12ve is no exception, but it may be Miss Bladen's best work to date.

I try to pin down what it is I love about her writing. I suppose it is the fact that one never really knows what will jump out on the pages. This story, though complex as an idea, actually reads extremely well as a story. I am not sure how many writers could have accomplished this as well as the author has, and for that, I give her much credit.

Sci-fi isn't a must read genre for me. I much prefer to see it on the big screen, but the sci-fi elements of this story were some of the best parts of the whole book. 

The thriller featuring many detectives (and yes, admittedly a lot of characters are thrown at you for a relatively short book) have witty banter that made the dialogue and the switch to narrative an easy to read story. I'm a huge fan of coffee too, so if you want to know the in-jokes in this story, you will simply have to read it.

As a tale, it is rather exceptional.

Having read the story, it is extremely packed for its length. I just wonder what a special edition volume would look like. I felt it could have been longer. But in essence, the 'keeper' of the keys to a long term existence, master Odin, and his bid to reunite with some of the other keyholders faces a seemingly simple task, until it is complicated by uber-baddie Floki, and it's here where most of the fun and action in the book takes place.

In some ways, two stories run parallel here...the detectives who are keeping busy but largely ignorant of the bigger picture, and the drama elements with Odin and Floki. Usually novels pick up a pace towards the end, and Twe12ve is no exception.

As a tale, it is rather exceptional. Maybe I am just a fan of this author's works. I believe anyone who can work so many elements into one story and have it come out as well as it does here, can only go from strength to strength.

A special mention must be given to this Kindle version as viewed on my iPad. It looks terrific, is well presented and easy to navigate.

For fans of sci-fi, fantasy, criminal investigation and...coffee.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Review: Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn


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Synopsis: Dawn of Rebellion is the first in a trilogy about two sisters, Dawn and Gabby, trying to find their way and their family in a desperate future. In this first book, they encounter the forces of British occupation and the seeds of rebellion...in a land formerly known as America.

With the final installment of a rather famous YA dystopian series about to hit our screens, you would forgive this reviewer for feeling a bit jaded with the genre. It's been about six months since I read one. I thought I could not take another. Then Dawn of Rebellion pops up and I try it. The cover looks intriguing - I'm British, and its a YA dystopian? Already, this story says 'hey, I'm different'.

And it certainly is. Sisters Gabby and Dawn are the focus of the book, and when one the siblings steals a bracelet as a super birthday present for her sister, she is promptly arrested and dispatched to an unknown location to face an uncertain fate. But it's going to be rough justice, whatever it is.

At this point in the story, I was thinking 'this is rather harsh, even by totalitarian government standards', but in the author's world, even the smallest infraction carries the heaviest price. Think about the simple themes of love in the greatest dystopian novel of them all, and yet Winston and Julia pay the ultimate price.

So whilst Dawn of Rebellion is not as dark as that particular tale, it is dark, brooding and yet at the same time, manages to work in an unforced love story between Dawn and the third biggest character in this story - Drew.

As Drew says, in one of my favourite lines from the story:-

"I have never met anyone like Dawn or Gabby. They are both strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable. Both of them will go to the ends of the earth for each other. I never knew bonds like that existed. They are the stuff of stories.In today's world, people don't just risk everything for each other."

Now here is another point of note - the POV changes per chapter. I know some readers dislike this, but I actually adore this writing style. Anyone who says 'I can't read a story shaped like this' will miss out. POV is important, but we shouldn't always expect a third person narrative. Let's change things up. And this book does.

The author gets many of the British slang right on the head of the nail,not an easy thing to achieve, so again, my respect for that.

The main thing that drove me to read this book in only three days, was the clear and strong bond between the sisters. Gabby is taken away, so Dawn hatches a plan for her rescue. Improbable chance of success? Yes. High chance of being killed? Tick. Hard to put this story down? Oh yes.

Let me just say that I loved THG - you know which series I am on about. After reading book one, I bought 2 and 3 straight away. I already purchased book two in this series. I simply have to know what happens. In my view, the story is stronger than many other YA / Dysts with its original setting, shifting POVs (that are per chapter, not per scene, so you won't get lost, I promise you) and thrilling story, and believable characters who make believable decisions, given the pressure they are under.

It's looking like a great series. Jump in.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Review: Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (Donovan Sisters, #2) by Jennifer Haymore


Synopsis: With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess... 

It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn't resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he'd fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a Madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.


Review: The follow up to Confessions of an Improper Bride, Jennifer Haymore once again unites us with the Donovan sisters from book one. Olivia is unknowingly caught up in a vicious wager between the wild, young, and rather reckless soon-to-be duke, Max Wakefield.

It's a rather ungentlemanly wager that both he and the odious Lord Fenwicke become involved in. And this is only the start of the book! Fenwicke is a bad seed, that much is certain. It's not a spoiler to say just how bad he can get before the end of the story.

This is why the author creates such a good story. Her characters are fully realised, and we feel like we know each one as they take their part in the book.

What slightly stops this from being a five star read is the length of the story. It could have been trimmed by 50 pages or so and been utterly amazing. But as it stands, it is a worthy successor to the first (and arguably better book).

As with most HR's, there's love, there's confusion, there's debts to be paid and waived, and somewhere along the line, something more deeper, and more meaningful. This is why the author is one of the best HR writers out there, in my view. Both books in the series so far have been solid and entertaining, but also have the capacity to surprise - this book certainly does that.

As with the first book, the descriptive narrative is excellent. Main Bad Guy truly is a horrendous creation by Miss Haymore. Does it matter that he seems to have no redeeming qualities? No. We want him to be bad, because he brings colour to the story that would otherwise be a will they or won't they get together romance. He brings a dangerous angle to the story, and it is not for certain that Olivia will live to see her sister from book one again, or to survive this actual tale.

Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, I will now be looking up the next in the series.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Book Review: Misery by Stephen King


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Synopsis: Paul Sheldon. He's a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader - she is Paul's nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

Wow. Only two years since I last read this? I thought it was ten!

Scratch the five stars above. This book deserves SIX. Below is a photo of my actual paperback copy from 1990.


My 2015 Review:-

If you are one of those people who has never read a Stephen King book, whilst it might be tempting to read a short story collection of his, like Graveyard Shift or Everything's Eventual, I would strongly direct you towards Misery.

The book is simply a masterpiece and one of my all time favourite books. Reading it again, and again - reveals something new. This is why some reviewers of books who think they understand a book after one read through....let's give some authors, especially the really great ones like Mr King their due.

You may have to read it more than once. I know - you might say 'oh life is too short and there are so many books to read' - and I will agree with you there.

But to read this book only once does it a disservice.

The brilliance of Misery is in its simplicity. King strips down the book to just two main characters, and the tension never lets up, not for a second. 

Paul Sheldon is a writer who has a car accident. He survives the crash, only to be dragged into a nightmare, because rescuer / retired nurse Annie Wilkes is Grade One on the crazy list.

How many she killed, we never really find out....it's just clever of King to drop these little things in the book to think about.

Why hasn't she taken him to hospital? Why doesn't she phone an ambulance? Why does she fly off the handle one moment, only to tell Paul that she *loves* him, the next?

Because she is his Number One fan. She's not too happy, to put it mildly, that her favourite character from Mr Sheldon's books - Misery Chastain, is killed off in the latest (and presumably final) Misery book.

She's even less impressed with his manuscript for his first non-Misery novel in a while. She hates the title, the story, the characters, and the swearing.

Paul, meanwhile, is getting addicted to the painkiller she prescribed him - Novril.

And he learns early on that Annie has no intention of letting him go.

But before all that happens, he would have to bring Misery back from the dead. And he had better do that right, too!

If Stephen King wrote a book to show how appreciative he is of his fans, I think Misery would be that book. 

Through Paul Sheldon, he tries to explain things to Annie, things only a writer would know and understand.

She rebels of course, because that's how she's written. She thinks she knows it all. She's been in a position of power and authority before, and wants to exercise on Paul in this story.

The book becomes a battle of wills. Paul has his little victories, like managing to get out of the room that has become his prison.

There's comedy, that from my point as a writer, I understand. Yes - the letter E is essential, and I would be lost without it. In Misery, we get these scenes. They are wonderfully created and executed.

Nearly 370 pages and yet it reads like a dream, even when Paul is writing Misery's Return, just for Annie - we get an insight into what that story is actually like.

Some may find that, along with it's typeface (in the print edition) off putting, and distracting from the real story.

It doesn't add, nor take away from it for me. But its inclusion is an interesting one. Say what you like about Stephen King, but he takes risks and it pays off.

Boy, does it.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book Review: Serendipity by James Duncan


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Synopsis: 'If you have your health, but you don't have your wealth - then you have less nothing.' asserted Edward Noble. 
First, utterly bankrupt in spiritual terms, the amoral Edward Noble is then utterly bankrupted financially. 
For a man who dismissed most people as losers, he is now humiliated in every sense as he becomes 'a big league player for the Loserville Losers'. His misadventures soon lead to Skid Row, as he is cuckolded, ripped off and rejected in a perverse about-turn of Fate. 
But if Edward can only learn humility, Serendipity, sweet Serendipity is calling to him. She offers him opportunities that he had never dreamt were possible. 

Review: Serendipity is quite a roller coaster ride of a book. Our main character, Edward Noble, appears to be the polar opposite of his name, at least at the start of the book.

He seems to be driven by money, making money, and lots of it. Not exactly a likeable trait in today's 'me me me' world.

When an investment goes wrong, it is not the investment owners that take the hit (in a scene that is almost Biblical in its execution), but Edward himself.

He finds himself suddenly unable to live the life he is now thrust into, and the future doesn't look rosy for him all of a sudden.

The narrative is good - it explains Edward's actions whilst at the same time giving us a background into the financial world he was part of. At the first time of reading I wanted to understand exactly why Malcolm and Matt were tucking him up. I then accepted it that banking is very much a dog eat dog world - moreso perhaps than other industries.

In essence, the author tries to get us on side with Edward, even though at the outset, I certainly didn't want to root for him.

Serendipity is a serious book that has occasional light overtones. It takes you on a journey with a man who had suddenly lost everything he considered valuable in his life.

When it is Edward asking a beggar for money, you know that this man's journey is one you have to take alongside him.

Serendipity is one of those novels that taste like a trifle you are not sure about. As you delve more into it, it reveals itself to be a clever tale, and in part, how one can redeem themselves from such a terrible situation.

There's lots of very English slang words to the book, and those of us who are from different parts of England will have fun decoding some of the references.

A line that stood out for me:-

The problem with ladies with real class is that they are fully equipped with a powerful b***-s*** detector, which would eliminate a man with a story to tell like Edward's at 200 yards.

This is a strong debut from author James Duncan. He has also co-authored another work with the multi-talented J Kahele. So if you want to get an understanding of how this author's mind words, start with Serendipity. You cannot go wrong with this!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Book Review: Betrayal - The Consequences by Sharon Brownlie

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Synopsis: A year has passed since the arrest of serial killer, Helen King. She has languished in jail awaiting her fate. Her wait is over and her day of reckoning has arrived. It is time for her to face the consequences of her crimes.

Will Helen go quietly? Has she laid her ghosts to rest?

Review: 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.

I admitted to many people that Betrayal was a hard read. I don't mind books with graphic violence and so on, but sometimes I want books to take me away from everyday life. On reading Betrayal, I felt very much part of the surroundings of Helen's back story. It was an uncompromising tale that never flinched for a moment. That is its power.

If anything, Betrayal - The Consequences proves how important it is to give authors of all kinds a try. The first book was my introduction to Miss Brownlie's works, and I believe she is becoming something of an auto-buy author for me - I simply enjoy what she writes.

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.

This story works quite well on its own, but it would be amiss of me not to say that you really should read the original Betrayal first.There's also a feminist undertone to the book in parts, that never tries to be preachy. 

Lines like this:-

"I don't want to hear any of your feminist remarks here in the station. You would be mistaken anyway. After all, fifty percent of the people who work in this building are women."

Then comes this reply:-
Yes, but most of them are in the canteen or the typing pool."

A funny line amongst the serious subject matter, but it works in the context of the story.<br /><br />(I also had a chuckle at the mention of Betty as a name for a Ford car. My number plate is part BT, so my mum calls it Bet, or Betty. I tell her the car is named Annika, after Seven of Nine. She knows I like Star Trek! Anyway....)

I think the author, through the persona of Brennan, wants us to feel something other than distaste for Helen. I believe it works. The author never sugar coats what Helen did. She did awful things and she is going to pay for them. She is a product, perhaps, of the awful things that happened to her as a young child.

I believe there is a message within the book about finding your inner strength amongst adversity, and regaining control of your life even when it is going from one disaster to another.

Overall, I liked this book a lot. It reads better than its longer counterpart, but packs no less of a punch.Also, there is more to come from certain characters in the series, so I really like where it's going now!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Book Review: Arise (Henchmen, #2) by Eric Lahti

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Synopsis: Steven was having a pretty good time for a guy who helped release a captured god. He had a nice place in Colorado, a pretty girl sent him a picture of herself in a bikini, and he had neighbors that left him alone. Everything was looking pretty good until he woke up to find two people in his house that were planning on killing him; one was old coworker and the other was an old boss. 

It seems that releasing the God of Dreams was caused some ripples in places best left alone and Eve's atonement was to kill Steven for his part in the transgression. Wilford wanted to kill Steven because that's just how Wilford is. They all soon find themselves trapped between a runaway God of Dreams bent on expanding his domain and the personification of Fear. If one doesn't get them, the other will. 

The only solution is to get the gang back together again and find something that can stop at least one, but preferably both, gods before the world comes crashing down around them. They've got more help this time, though; Wilford is tentatively on their side and a mysterious Native American gentleman has offered some assistance, but just how trustworthy the new allies are remains to be seen. 

There's also one more wrinkle for Steven to sort out: The God of Dreams wants his girl. 

From a shootout in Tijuana to a strange base in Dulce, New Mexico, Steven has his hands full just trying to stay ahead of the god that wants him dead, the girl he's finding himself more and more smitten with, and new allies that may or may not be up to any good. 

Some days it's hard to be one of the henchmen. 

Review: Henchmen was an utter delight to read, so it's perhaps no surprise that I would like the second in the series, called Arise. I'll admit that Eric Lahti's writing style took me a little while to get into. But for anyone who thinks this will be a hard read, I offer you Steve Buschemi's take on this:-


The MC, Steven, narrates both tales, and the first person narrative totally works. It's interesting to see in book one how he becomes of the Henchmen, and yet if you're expecting more of the same in Arise, yes you do get that, but so much more too.

There's greater character development in this second story, with the delectable Jessica taking more of a central role. She was introduced to readers in a rather unique way in book one, and her role is so much more satisfying here. Every time Jessica is on the page, expect fireworks. You'll get 'em.

One of the most beautiful things about Eric Lahti's series is how he places you in New Mexico, or over the border in Tijuana. The places are described so well, you can feel the sand dust crunch under your tyres. Just make sure you're driving a Lamborghini, otherwise you might not fit into this story.


Arise does not end the series, but answers a lot of questions that remained with me after completing book one. You'll want to know who and what Eve is, and it's a satisfying answer, believe me. 

I love the idea of a Valkyrie hanging out with these guys, but she doesn't talk like Helmsworth in Thor (no criticism of him, he plays the role well) - Eve talks like the other Henchmen, and it works.

Honestly, even when the Dreamer sequence kicks in, which admittedly takes the story on a different and unexpected route, it is not that distracting. In fact, I think it was a courageous choice by the author.

Both books are fun filled capers, with realistic martial arts action (YESSSS!!!) and snappy dialogue. I make no pretences here - this is a story that Quentin Tarantino needs to get his mitts on. He would do this justice on the big screen.

Honestly, Henchmen and Arise are two of the most enjoyable books I have read in a while. Often I like thrillers with dark twists, crazy characters and so on. That's not to say this series is light on that - it's got it. But it told with a great style and swagger that simply makes you love the story.

Great lines I liked:-

"Normally, I'm petrified of spiders, but I'm more scared of dying alone and forgotten."

"In fact, ju jitsu was developed by samurai who realised punching a guy in armour would just hurt your head, but throwing a guy in armour would knock the wind right out of him."

Yep. I'm 5'9" and weigh 160 pounds. If a 220 pound guy wants to hurt me, I smash his shins, destroy his leg ligaments, puncture his windpipe with my fingers, and stab his eyes out too. That'll teach him to jump the queue when I'm next in line....

I should also mention the presentation of the book. It's beautifully formatted, with the chapter headings supported by cool imagery. It links back to the author's blog too, which uses similar imagery.

Plot wise, the story is the star, and if Henchmen was an introduction to Steven, Arise could  be called Jessica Rising...because of all of them, I enjoyed her character arc the most.

Get this, and the first in the series today.




Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review: Henchmen (Henchmen, #1) by Eric Lahti

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Synopsis: Join a small organization of loveable bad guys: a supervillain and her henchmen. Eve, the seven foot tall, bulletproof blonde is their leader. Frank and Jean are a couple that can get into any computer or building unseen. Jacob is a rough around the edges biker type that has a deep and abiding love of guns and explosives. And Steven? Well, he’s really good at manipulating people and pretty handy to have around in a fight. As supervillainy goes, they’re just starting out. They don’t have much of a secret base. They don’t have matching uniforms. Not a one of them owns a single pair of tights. What they do have is an interest in tearing down the country and watching it burn. 

There’s just one little problem, though. No matter how tough and smart a small group may be, tearing down a country is almost impossible for five people to pull off, so they while away their time pulling small jobs and putting together as much advanced technology as they can. 

A chance encounter at a sushi bar has led them to a young woman with a terrifying secret she doesn’t even know she possesses. The Yakuza wants to use her to put pressure on a missing father. No one’s entirely certain exactly what the secret is, but it smells like a weapon and it might be just the sort of thing to help topple a nation. 

They’re done pulling small jobs. Now they’re aiming for the top – because why bother robbing jewelry stores when you can topple governments? 
Yakuza gang fights. 
Incursions into high-security, top-secret government buildings. 
Picking fake fights with losers in bars. 
A psycho ex-coworker who has some strange friends. 
And a well-dressed older gentleman who haunts dreams. 
It’s all in a day’s work for Steven…one of the world’s most dedicated and dangerous… 
HENCHMEN

Review: Well, if you have read the synopsis, you will stay around for the review. First things first, who says that synopses have to be short? The above is long but tells you all you need to know, but like most crime thrillers, you have to read the book to discover the rest.

Henchmen by Eric Lahti centres its attention around Steven, a gun for hire, though how he actually gets hired is a stroke of genius fiction. As I was reading the story it reminded me all that was best about America, but also the worst.

It does not, at any time, seek to glorify the violence in the story, which is frequent, occasionally strong, but always in context. Add in the fact that the first person narrative is so well written, that you are placed directly amongst the action. I swear I could feel bullets whizzing by my head and punches to my mid section.

Here's another reason why this book worked for me - the author has a great command of martial arts knowledge, and tells these particular scenes as a true exponent of the art of Kenpo. Styles aside, the author clearly demonstrates his knowledge of fighting and how those skills translate against the antagonists of the story.

The narrative is fast paced, but whilst the plot itself is grand in scope and detail, it's the dialogue that is the winner for me. Lines like:-

"....no one starts a gunfight over breasts."
"They do in Texas."

First person narrative like this:

We're not into graves in my family, just incinerate and toss to the breeze.

He pulls out some kind of tool that I swear is a leftover prop from Ghostbusters.

If that's not got you reaching for the 'buy' button (see below) how about this for a chapter title?

A Hot Chick, A Tough Guy and a Valkyrie Walk Into a Bar.

Beats 'Chapter 23', doesn't it?

The story never strays far from its core plot, the Henchmen are a group that individually, are as different as can be. When you read the character of Eve, you won't ever mix her up with another person. The characterisation is simply excellent here. Yes, there are quite a lot of characters, that perhaps extra readings of this book would flesh them out a bit more, but for me, Steven, Eve and the delectable Jessica are the stand out characters in this first in the series.

There's a little social commentary and the occasional political statement here and there, but it is never preachy and flows pretty flawlessly with the narrative.

The setting is Albuquerque for the most part, and although I haven't been to New Mexico (sorry, the nearest I got to was LA) I have imagined it with dust filled desert roads, a vast remote landscape, interspersed with the kind of modern buildings the government would have us call a city.

Ultimately, Henchmen is much more than a revenge story, though there is little doubt Steven's targets deserve to be iced. It is much more than a heist story, though there's great fun to be had when the group go on their hits. 

Here is the debut novel of an author that understands his audience. I wanted to be thrilled, entertained and have a chuckle along the way. Now click the link below to understand what I'm on about.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Book Review: The Experiencers (The Valiant Chronicles, #1) by Val Tobin

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Synopsis: Black ops assassin, Michael Valiant, questions the motives of the government agency that hired and trained him when they order him to neutralize members of a UFO group. After his wife dies in what appears to be a traffic accident, Michael, with the help and support of his partner, pushes aside his doubts and immerses himself in the jobs he needs to complete.


When Michael learns the truth about his wife's death, and uncovers the Agency's true motives, he turns rogue, and helps Carolyn Fairchild, one of their targets and a psychic medium, escape capture.


Their journey takes them from a town in Southern Ontario to the Algonquin wilderness, where they must elude not only the agency that wants to silence them, but also the aliens who want to retrieve Carolyn at any cost. When the aliens come for Carolyn, she is forced to choose between saving herself and saving her daughter, and Michael faces the prospect of losing Carolyn forever.


The Experiencers is the first book in the Valiant Chronicles series of novels. Book two will be released in winter 2015.

Review: The Experiencers is a uniquely engaging read that has an extremely interesting protagonist in Michael Valiant, the aforementioned Black Ops operative in the synopsis. If you look at the story from his point of view, you will read the story in one particular way.

We are introduced to Michael early on, so readers can tell his role will be a pivotal one. An educated guess says that he is the one on the pretty excellent cover.

Later chapters introduce us to Shelly, who is having an affair with a man, whilst considering breaking it off out of some well placed loyalty to her husband.

The early part of the book reads like bottle episodes where the link with the later episodes seemed initially unclear, but that was just my perception. Actually, if you look at the book as a whole, a rather intricate storyline emerges. This is what I think makes The Experiencers a true gem. It's like one of those Russian Dolls. You believe you understand it, you believe you know the characters and their motivations. 

But this is book one in the series, and if you read between the lines, you'll begin to be amazed at the attention Val Tobin has given to her characters.

Each are well drawn and developed. Carolyn was on a par with Michael for me, as I have a spiritual side and the way she explores her talent is pretty amazing. 

Then...there's the aliens. Quite honestly, there is so much going on with this story it demands at least a second reading, which is what I chose to do.

If anything, the second reading is much more enriching. I felt empathy for characters that really didn't touch me on reading one; I imagine as the author constructed her edits for the book, she may have felt the same.

For a debut, this is an extremely well written tale that I imagine will be perfected in book two. I would definitely recommend this book and would give it a very strong 4.5 stars. (So 5 on Amazon, 4 on GoodReads).




Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book Review: Ten For The Devil by Deborah R Mitton

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Synopsis (from the author): Ten For The Devil is a labyrinthine murder/revenge ride from an idyllic English Village to the industrious shipbuilding port of Saint John, NB (then St. John), in the newly formed country of Canada, over a span of fifty years.

Chief Inspector Michael McLaughlin has believed that his nemesis was dead, but discovers that Seth 
Shaw is alive and in the very city that Michael and his family are visiting. His loves ones at risk, Michael closes in on a collision course with a serial murderer while the city is in flames.
Book 1 - Michael was an eleven year old boy when he witnessed a murder and the lives of the families - friends, of both our murderer and witness are intertwined throughout generations from 1850 to modern day. 

A dark tale of obsession, revenge, murder, seduction, a love curse, reparation and survival. Our young boy grows up to join Scotland Yard and is obsessed with bringing Seth Shaw to justice. There is a sense of paranormal forces at work protecting our villain. 
The story’s climax will occur during the fire of June 20, 1877: a fire - second - only in size and damages to the famous Boston fire.

Review: Reading many books over the years, I cannot quite recall coming across a stronger representation of evil than the primary antagonist in Ten For The Devil. The story itself is a truly remarkable work in depth and in scope. This is the first book in the series and yet manages to cover a huge amount of time within this one volume.

Reading it back, and actually feeling sorry for Seth, I wondered why he had become so evil? We hear in modern media that the reason killers do what they do can be explained away through some medical imbalance in the brain. Others may state there was an emotional disconnect at home, where the father constantly beat the child for every minor infraction, or the mother never offered a simple hug.

In Ten For The Devil, I think the answer is far more simple. The main antagonist is evil, but not pure and certainly not simple.

I found it remarkable how the author drafted other characters into the story, some  who were an unknown witness to several brutal and unnerving kills, and as the reader I felt like I was over their shoulder too - that if the antagonist saw me reading this stuff, he would come after me too.

No-one is safe from his brutal ways, yet he displays many signs of  the psychopath - he is self assured, full of himself, has a total lack of respect for all kinds of life, and is vain in the extreme.

This is, however, just one facet of the story, and it would be inaccurate to list Ten For The Devil as a one man show. I will admit, however, that as rotten as he was, I missed him when he was not part of the narrative.

The story ends satisfyingly, though there is a lot more to come from the author, the extremely talented Deborah R Mitton.

Ten For The Devil features bizarre and sometimes distasteful elements of romance,  but in no way does the author try to colour her main baddie with shades of grey. Yes, he is handsome, charming, disarming. But he is also a killer, and we must never forget that. 

He is not someone you can root for, but you cannot ignore him either.

The story does not lack humour though, and one of the lines I liked:-

Referring to Pastor Brown: 'His voice carried the whole breadth and width of the church and a parishioner had once speculated that the pigeons in the bell tower flew to safer perches when he preached.'

But it is full of beautiful lines like this, too:-

The candle on the side table gave the sleeping pair a halo of golden light before it flickered and died, enveloping the room in darkness.

The book is choc-full of lines like this. Eerily beautiful, I have to say.

Beautiful, eerie, strange, dark, deliciously compelling. Buy Ten For The Devil today!






Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book Review: Going Under by Silas Payton

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Synopsis: (from the author) While investigating three unexplained deaths, Inspector Bill Roberts finds himself in the middle of a retaliation, after a biker gang moves in on mafia territory. With few leads and increased scrutiny by the Chief of Police and the Mayor of Toronto, he tries to track down whoever is responsible, making himself a target in the process. 

Bill Roberts, an Inspector with the Toronto police, has decided today was the day to drag himself back to the gym, for the first time since a recent arrest attempt left him with a broken leg. A mishap on his first day back sets the tone for the next twenty hours. When he gets called to the scene of a murder, he finds a wife has shot her loving husband, for no apparent reason. He and his team of detectives investigate, finding bizarre connections to a local biker gang, the mafia, and the Mayor's office, throwing themselves in the middle of a much larger scandal. 

With few leads, Inspector Bill Roberts must connect three strange deaths and find the person responsible. When he suspects the connection is a psychiatrist, Dr. Barry Nelson, the Inspector's priority becomes finding him before he leaves the city, onto his next job. What he doesn't realize is the doctor has one more job to finish... to eliminate Bill Roberts. 

This is a thriller laced with humour. It will keep you intrigued and on the edge of your seat to the last sentence, while giving you a few laughs along the way. If you like the books of J.A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, Jude Hardin, or Tracy Sharp, this book is for you.

Review: This book just screams COOL, doesn't it? From the stylistic artwork, top title, and super cool author name I was intrigued by this intelligent looking thriller. Chapter One opens with a fantastic Law & Order: Criminal Intent type scene that utterly grips the reader.

The writing is superb, as is the characterisation. Bill Roberts is an interesting protagonist, as his detective is a smart cookie, and far from the worn out representations I have seen in some other books, even by authors I absolutely adore.

Going Under follows a murder trail that seems an open and shut case, but as the story unfolds, and is unveiled through different characters (there are many in this story apart from Bill), and I liked the author's engaging and irreverent style. 

This is only a minor gripe, but I felt the main character Bill was the one I wanted throughout the story - when other characters fronted the chapter, I felt less engaged. Perhaps that is because Bill towers over everyone else in my view as the most interesting character.

Going Under is well paced, brilliantly plotted and virtually unputdownable. For a debut novel, it packs a hell of a punch, with wit and style that will make you grin. 

How does it all end? Through the many jumps, hoops, swings and roundabouts this tale puts you through, you will want to know.

Some detective thrillers take themselves way too seriously, or are high on the ick factor. Fortunately this is a story that is taut, smartly told, and should be high on your read list.

Go for it, you won't be disappointed.