Tuesday 29 September 2015

Book Review: Serendipity by James Duncan

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!

Monday 28 September 2015

Book Review: Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas


Synopsis: When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.And then she disappears without a trace…

For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked… 

Review: There's quite a lot of reviews for this book already, so I am not sure what I can add to it. What I will say, is that this is the fourth read of Ms Thomas' and once again, the author delivers a fun, well written tale that makes us enjoy the story immensely.

The characters play out a lot of nuances of unrequited love, and this goes on for a long time, the best part of a decade in this case.

Why is this so? Well, even the best of us have played the game of love - poorly. Why should any well to do characters be any different.

This is part of a series, though at the end of the book, many story arcs are resolved. I'm reading this series having already read the prequel novella - Claiming the Duchess. If you are new to Ms Thomas' works, there could be no better introduction. In the end, I was between a 4 and 5 star rating for this book. It's a solid 4.5 if I could apply such a rating. I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Book Review: Give and Take: A Tale of Erotica, by Tom Benson


Synopsis: Nick and Kirsten are an attractive couple in their early 20’s and share an apartment. To the outside world they are perfectly matched, but behind closed doors things are not so straightforward. 
Nick’s appetite for sexual experimentation goes beyond what Kirsten will allow. Kirsten’s love for Nick is pushed to the limit, however, she confides in a friend and takes a course of action that nobody would have expected – least of all her boyfriend. 
The couple find themselves in a world where they will both see fantasy become reality, but at what cost? 

Review: This is the third book I have read by Tom Benson and once again, there is a standard to his writing, real elements of perfection that readers will appreciate.

Give and Take certainly is an adult book, never shying away from themes that many people would find eye popping. This isn't such a bad thing in itself - too often we are in our comfort zone, we really should test those elements far more often than we actually do.

For those of us who could not see us actually doing any of the things in this book, at least we can let it play out in the actions of our main characters, Nick and Kirsten.

I don't wish to generalise or demonise the male sex, but 20 something Nick is aggressive when it comes to sex, and it seems that his demands dominate those of poor Kirsten. I don't think this makes Nick a bad guy. After all, when I was in my early twenties, I was pretty much the same in the company of attractive women. I don't think the hormonal rage calms down so much as it changes somewhat as we age.

But Kirsten is not finding things easy with Nick. That is not to say she wants love without considering the idea of experimentation, it is just that she feels the reality is not so attractive to her. But Nick won't be told that.

Some women readers will like the idea of a strong male knowing what he wants in the bedroom. For my viewpoint, there didn't seem to be a valve on Nick, he wanted it all, he wanted it now, and he wanted it, again and again.

Some elements really will turn readers off. It is an explicit book that let's you into Nick's head - you may not want to be there all the time!

That said, as befitting an author of Tom Benson's standard, this tale of erotica rises above a lot of the awfully written smut out there. The genre is not my favourite, but the author, I believe, could write almost any genre and be perceived as an authority on it. I'm yet to read a Tom Benson book that hasn't worked for me, and I strongly recommend you give this book a chance.

In the end, the story is much more about relationships and understanding than unusual sexual demands. Will Nick and Kirsten stay together? Will she tire of him, yet find something has awoken in her, to the point that these desires need to be experienced for real?

The book teases us with these possible scenarios and gives us a satisfying ending.

There are other characters in the book too. My favourite alongside Kirsten, was Lauren. If you add in the structure to the book, where chapters like The Red Room and The Green Room will start to take on new meanings for you ( I mean, I have had a Red Room for years, but it's not like anything in this book - am I missing out on something?!)

This book is way above other tales of erotica (with the exception being the author's 'Coming Around') and will titillate some, make others smile, and educate some others. Overall it is an enjoyable read that doesn't take the themes too seriously in themselves, but is seriously well written. having read this, I'll be looking for another book by this talented author.

Friday 18 September 2015

Book Review: Language in the Blood by Angela Lockwood


Synopsis: Until the outbreak of the First World War, young Cameron Blair would have liked nothing better than to stay in Edinburgh and marry his childhood sweetheart. As the call to arms goes out, Cameron and his pals sign up to fight for their country. They are soon delivered into the nightmare of war, and there Cameron more than meets his maker. 

The story follows Cameron as he comes to terms with his new ‘life’, from his first days as a hapless vampire in war-torn France to the glamorous modern day setting of the Côte d’Azur. Along the way, he develops a distinctive taste for the finer things in life: jewels, yachts, small dogs and champagne-infused human... 

Review: Language in the Blood is a very impressive debut novel and is the first in a compelling vampire tale. When the story begins, our *hero* is fighting alongside many of his colleagues in a world war. Cameron's transition from soldier to vampire is cleverly done, and once I had arrived at that point in the book, I was hooked.

The title is perhaps the most cleverest thing about this book. It's very difficult for a vampire story to bring anything new, but the author absolutely delivers here. I loved how the title was weaved so intricately into this vampire's very special way of existing.

I think this is an extremely ambitious story, because it covers several decades of the vampire's existence. The driving factor for him is to find his maker, but in the meantime, he has to feed, and again, this is well executed by the author.

There is a tiny bit of middle story lag, which is perhaps understandable when a story has a reasonable length like this one, but the pace is broadly steady, picking up apace in the final third of the book.

It is full of surprises, twists and turns. The supporting cast is great, and how they interact with Cameron is again, superbly well done. You almost feel for anyone getting close to him, because a vampire only exists to feed - even on those he has some feelings for.

Cameron reminded me a lot of Lestat, from Anne Rice's superb Vampire Chronicles. That's perhaps the best recommendation I can give to this book, in that it is the best vampire story I have read in many years.

A big plus to this story, and extremely hard to pull off in a vampire story, is the humour. Cameron narrates the tale, exclaiming at one point:-

'I found cinemas just too dangerous to be in - all those warm bodies packed together....just too tempting!'

If we were in his position, wouldn't we feel the same?

Another line I liked, especially as I have Scottish friends who would agree with this following:-

"I'm Scottish. We only come in pale."

The humour should not make you think the book cannot hit you with great statements. I just have to highlight this,because I loved it:-

'That was the problem with human blood, it healed and made you feel better, but it also washed the humanity and moral sense right out of you.'

Watch out for the reference to Madame Marechal. This literally had me rolling about on the floor. And my floors are hard, but the bruises were worth it.

"She was found screaming blue murder saying that a vampire took and sucked the dog dry right in front of her."

"A Vampire?"

"She really has gone quite mad and walks around holding a large cross, saying that vampires are coming to eat our dogs."

There are many others that will have you smiling, but essentially this a vampire tale that slow burns, building to a rather fantastic ending. It's great to know book two is out there already. As for ratings, I was leaning from a strong four rating to five. In the end it gets a five because the story, just like Cameron, has a swagger and a coolness that no-one could fall to love. Is he flawed? Of course he is. he's not really that attractive, though women do seem to find him charming.

I just felt the author helped us understand the vampire more, than making him a simple one dimensional killer, or a pathetic love struck fool. Angela Lockwood's vampire has authority. He is powerful, rather scary, and seemingly, cannot be stopped. I'm intrigued to know where the next book will take us.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Book Review: Betrayal - The Consequences by Sharon Brownlie


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

Arise (Henchmen Book 2)

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.

Monday 7 September 2015

Book Review: Salby Damned by Ian D Moore


Synopsis: A small rural town in a ruthless fight between The Shale Gas Fracking Corporation and The Residents Association sees the multi billion pound energy company drilling beneath the town with catastrophic results. A freelance reporter teams up with a mysterious council leader in a fight to save humanity against one of science's most fearsome and deadly creations. They must race to find a cure whilst battling against hordes of flesh eating zombies intent on one thing and one thing only...........KILLING! 

A gripping tale of intrigue, thriller and suspense combined with bribery, corruption and money beyond imagination culminating in a twist to an end you won't see coming. For anyone loving zombie horror stories but who needs a little bit more of a story than just how many ways to kill the undead, this is for you, the plots, twists, romances and storyline will keep you reading to find out what happens next as well as giving your mind a good work out, culminating in a final chapter that will leave you wanting more. 

There are graphic scenes of violence included in this book and some mildly explicit love scenes though mostly by implication rather than description so suitable for ages 12yrs and upwards. This book should take you from your surroundings and place you behind the rifle scope or in the meeting rooms or even flying high over the country in a helicopter............I hope, as the author, that it does just that.

Review: Ah, zombies. More zombies, and then, more zombies. It's been done before, hasn't it? So many times in fact, it's hard to come up with a new and refreshing take on it. I admit to not reading too many zombie novels, but This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers and Jordan's Brains by J Cornel Michel are definitely two of the better tales in the genre.

So on picking up Salby Damned, I thought 'beat that!'

The synopsis gives us a detailed breakdown of what is to come, but where the story scores highly is the fracking subplot, which runs parallel to the zombie breakouts and a romantic storyline too. You would be forgiven for thinking there is too much going on, but the author Ian D Moore structures the tale so well, I could imagine it being an afternoon story on Radio 4.

Aside from the fracking plot line, the story runs a reasonably familiar course, and this is fine, because the author takes us on one rather graphic fun ride after another. You won't forget how certain scenes are described. I think I have a quite strong stomach, but even I was thinking 'Ugh! Gross!' on many occasions.

Of course, this is the kind of reaction the author wants, much like a comedian wants us to laugh at his jokes, or a horror movie to deliver on a scary premise.

Salby Damned is elevated above many zombie tales because it sits itself in the adult section of the genre. There's no rooms full of post-pubescent kids, wondering whether to have sex just before the deadheads get them.

It's a much more intelligent book than that - and sits well within the thriller genre too. 

Nathan, our hero, plays out his role with aplomb. His beau - Evie, is a little more complex, which is great because I don't want all the characters to be facsimiles of each other. Nate is pure Action Man, and he doesn't show any fear. I would have liked more flaws in him, but if that is how he is written, that's okay. The interaction with Evie works as a subplot, never distracting from the overall storyline.

I was torn between a four and five star rating on Amazon for this book. In the end, I think 4.5 is the rating I would give Salby Damned. It works on pretty much every level, just I wanted to care for the characters more, and in this, I felt a little disconnected. But I would believe a re-read would engage me more with them.

Why this book gets a five on Amazon is simply this - the twist is brilliant and will have you pulling your hair out. It's not so obvious that a twist is coming either, and I really like that.

Pick up Salby Damned. I rather think you'll like it too.

Book review: Discover new Authors & Great Reads by Peg Glover


Synopsis: Discover New Authors & Great Reads is a collection of thirty-five thoughtful and honest reviews intended for discerning bibliophiles, avid readers, and book club members who are seeking top-notch reading suggestions. 

Also contained within this reference is a list of over a hundred book recommendations for the voracious reader. As a bonus, this edition includes topics such as why it ís important for book lovers to leave a review for a novel they've enjoyed, along with a section on finding amazing indie authors to read.

If you're a bibliophile searching for your next great read, then this is the book for you!

Review: Wow. If this book hadn't already been written, surely someone would have had to take this rather mammoth task on? In this sense, I have to congratulate Peg Glover.

It's important to say that whilst this does indeed sing the praises and hard work of many indie authors, at no time does the author suggest that the traditionally published authors we love should be abandoned. Readers should be encouraged to broaden their horizons, it is gently suggested.

There are many authors mentioned in this book who I have never heard of. The addition of reviews of the books are fair and never flowery.

For the budget price, readers are getting a hell of a lot of information here. It's a beautifully presented book that is easy to read, scan through, read back, and absorb.

However, not being a fictional tale or precisely non-fiction work makes it hard to categorise and rate. At first, I was looking at a 4 star rating because I believe - perhaps unfairly, that the book could have been even better with an expanded edition. At the same time, I would have contradicted myself on the earlier point.

To summarise, there is so much in here, you will have more than enough to read once you've been through it.

The author shows her love for books, indie and traditional, that it's hard not to praise the book for that.

Also, it's nice how indies are recognised in the book, their part in the book world explained - and fairly too. There's no bluster here. Indie authors aim to be just as good - if not better, than their traditional counterparts. The road for them to be heard is often harder too.

So this book has to get five stars, in the end, because as a reader, it provides all I want.