Monday 25 April 2016

Book Review: A Dance in Moonlight by Sherry Thomas



After losing her childhood sweetheart to another woman, Isabelle Englewood is heartsick. But then something remarkable happens: Upon arriving at Doyle's Grange, her new home, she meets Ralston Fitzwilliam, who looks almost exactly like the man she cannot have. Come late at night, she tells him, so I can make love to you pretending that you are the one I love.

Little does she realize what she is about to unleash.

This novella was previously featured in the anthology "Midnight Scandals".


A Sherry Thomas story of any length is pure literary joy, so on reading A Dance in Moonlight, just like another of her novellas, Claiming the Duchess, we are sure to be in for a fun read. The similarities between the two are great, because each focuses on a small set of characters.

This is part of the Fitzhugh series of books, so reading Beguiling the Beauty, Ravishing the Heiress and Tempting the Bride are essential reads.

"She (Sherry Thomas) is an author par excellence, and I simply love reading her tales."

This novella sits between books two and three. And don't be put off by its relative short length - there's plenty of story as our heroine Isabelle (initially) does a dumb thing, kissing a man she has only just met, under the illusion that he is, in fact, the man she was in love with from the previous story (Ravishing the Heiress). At this early point I was thinking 'come on, Isabelle, check who you're kissing!'...but she makes an honest mistake. Indeed Ralston does bear a strong similarity to her former love. Perhaps if we had lost someone in real life, only to see someone else looking very much like them, wouldn't we be forgiven for the error?

Fortunately Ralston acts the gentleman without lapsing into caricature, and Isabelle redeems her earlier forward actions as the story progresses.

To say more is to reveal a little too much. My advice is to read the books in order, and the enjoyment is all the better for it.

Books are meant to educate, regardless of the subject matter or genre. I always come away from a Sherry Thomas book thinking 'I must look that up' if I don't know the meaning of a word. She is an author par excellence, and I simply love reading her tales.

Book Review: Zeeka's Return by Brenda Mohammed



Zeeka, involved in the most heinous of crimes, is apprehended, not by the police, who for weeks were in the forested area searching for him and his nine flesh-eating zombies, but by a beautiful woman. 
Zeeka, abandons his zombies, runs from the police in the forest, gun in hand, and was trapped by a woman. 
Who is this heroic woman? Were the zombies destroyed? What is Zeeka's fate? 
Read the exciting end to this trilogy


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

Perhaps it is a testament to the author that her main characters are not necessarily the most important ones for me. Book two introduced us to cop duo Wildy and Cole, and their dynamic worked well in Zeeka's Child, it is far better and more realised here. I enjoyed these two and would read on if they were to appear in another series.

The island of Gosh, once such a pleasant idyllic place to live, is now little short of a terror zone, where the threat of a zombie attack has the residents looking like they are going about their normal business, but in truth, they are not - they are scared, and rightly so.

"Ultimately Zeeka Returns answers the considerable set up given to us in books one and two."

Away from the police manhunt (zombie hunt?) Steve, Raynor and other friends reminisce about old times with hopes that there will be new times ahead for them to enjoy.

Perhaps the best innovation for the story - and befitting one set in the not too distant future, is the very welcome introduction of robot Miranda. Oh I'm sure by 2036 we'll all have one in our homes, but I like this design far better than Paulie's Bot in Rocky IV (1985 seems a very long time ago when I revisit that film). She's introduced as a home help but this is just one layer to her character design, and it's a joy to see her develop.

Ultimately Zeeka Returns answers the considerable set up given to us in books one and two. Will the now not so mysterious Zeeka pay for his crimes? Will he come willingly, and what will happen to the rogue group of zombies now free to unless carnage on the island? That's the main question to be answered and readers won't be disappointed with the story's end.

The key characters remain strong with the secondary ones providing functional support to the narrative whilst not overloading the story with an unnecessary plot diversion. If anything, Zeeka's Return is the tightest of the the books in terms of script, so reader won't lose the thread of the story even if they put it down for a while.

However, I would still recommend reading the books in sequence. It's a pleasing, diverting tale that uncovers more subtle layers with successive re-reads.

Nicely done.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Book Review: The Gamblers by Christoph Fischer



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.


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.

Friday 15 April 2016

Book Review: No Name by Bryan Nowak



The soul of a rapist and murderer, killed by the young brother of one of his victims, is resurrected in an environmental disaster. This, part human, part dirt, part chemical, creature morphs into an unstoppable force. The, now older, boy, Dale Edwards, is somehow psychically linked to the creature and starts having nightmares as it focuses on its first victim, Allie. The girl proves to be far more difficult to kill as she demonstrates the resourcefulness taught to her by her adoptive family, and outlaw biker gang. 

Allie, Dale, and her outlaw biker uncle Red, must out think, out plan, and out run a beast that can move around regular bullets, change its shape at will, and has almost limitless strength. The three take up a life on the run while trying to find its weakness. 

Ultimately the three lure the creature to a location for a final showdown. Content with the idea that it will either be them or it, they prepare for a final battle.


4.5 stars rounded up to five.

"And Allie," J.D said, "bolt the door. No one comes in without Red or me."

- J.D, either being very optimistic or completely deluded.

Reading a new author can either be a rewarding experience or a case of 'I'll never make that mistake again.'

So any authors' first work can receive a hell of a lot of scrutiny. Although nicely presented with an engaging cover and strong synopsis, you might me thinking 'pfft! another zombie story....move along, nothing to see here...'

Except that No Name is a remarkably stylish and well written thriller, whose key strength is through the dynamic of the main characters Allie, Dale and J.D.

"I really like it when an author gives us the basic premise then allows our readers brain to process and decode it"

Then, there is the mysterious No Name of the title, though you can probably guess his role in the story. And that's part of the fun. Author Bryan Nowak gives us quite a bit of narrative, which in a lesser talent might have been a chore to work through. Fortunately, the set up is so good that when the characters use 'functional dialogue' it works because...this is thriller with a mix of sci-fi horror dropped on it in considerable quantities.

What is most pleasing about No Name for me is the way that the adult scenes are handled. The violence is well described without ever being over the top. I really like it when an author gives us the basic premise then allows our readers brain to process and decode it. When an author writes, 'so they went down the stairs and opened the door and then went outside' et cetera it is like 'why are they telling me all this worthless nonsense?'

No Name is just about the perfect length, taking the reader through a number of shocks and spills before coming to a satisfying conclusion.

I hope if the author returns to this world, that some of the other characters can be further developed.

Nicely done, Bryan Nowak!

Friday 8 April 2016

Book Review: Blu (Violet Chain, #3) by J Kahele



Pearl has lived under the hard hand of a vicious man for years and when she finally makes her escape, she is hit by a car and wakes up in the hospital. She doesn’t remember anything from the night before, except for the comforting touch, of a beautiful man named, Christopher Blu.

Blu learns that Pearls life has been a circle of degradation, hurt and pain and he wants so bad to help her through it, that it completely envelopes his life. He cares for her and there is a mutual attraction between the two. But he's not sure if what he feels for her is real, or if it is just his compassion for a woman who has been so brutally scarred by her life.

This book is intended for mature audiences only.


“What are you doing? We don’t stop here.”

Rita / Camille, on the issue of stopping a car dead in the road whilst another is coming in the opposite direction.Mulholland Drive, 2001

Each of the Violet Chain books have upped the ante in terms of drama and sexual liaisons. Blu is strikingly different from its predecessors, so much so that it can be viewed as a standalone piece. But reading the other stories first will serve to make reading Blu a more enriched experience.

My initial interest as a male reader tipped unsurprisingly towards Pearl, who in a well constructed sequence is found to be the victim of a car accident, but that is only the start. With the chapter focus on a specific character, readers can get to know both Pearl and Christopher (the eponymous Blu of the title) with ease.

"Pearl feels like a real character to me." 

That is not to say Pearl’s back story is easy to stomach, but it is certainly an interesting take in a hot romance genre, and I especially loved these scenes, even though I felt a lot of empathy for Pearl as a character.

Like all of Miss Kahele’s female protagonists, they are strong willed and courageous, but never one trick ponies, nor do they lapse into cliche. It’s easy to overlook flaws in men and women when we read such characters in books, but Pearl feels like a real character to me and so I think this is possibly the author’s best work to date.

Some readers may find the profanity and very strong sex scenes offputting. In another way, one can consider this story as packaged – for mature audiences only.

Miss Kahele knows how to reward her fanbase, and Blu is no exception, offering a sneak peak at book four in the series. What I really like about the Violet Chain series is how certain characters appear again and again – it is storytelling at its most seamless and takes an author of merit to pull it off. 

Saturday 2 April 2016

Book Review: Promises (New Beginnings, #2) by Michelle Lynn



Do you promise you’ll always be here for me? 

It was a game they played, only it wasn’t a game. Maggie Marks held on to Elijah’s childhood promises as a way of escaping a life that was far from perfect. Elijah Lugo was her neighbor, her best friend, her family. He was everything her parents refused to be, everything she needed. He was her first kiss and a witness to more of her father’s drunken rants than she could count. He was there at her wedding and then held her when it all fell apart. Elijah was in love with her, but she was afraid loving him would eventually mean losing him too. 

They were no longer kids, pretending everything would work out in the end. 

When Maggie’s father reenters her life in an unexpected way, revealing long held secrets, her world is turned upside down and she will need Elijah more than ever. 
A story of friendship and family. The promises you make and the ones you keep.


"Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way...." 

-Harry, from When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Promises is the superior follow up to Choices, and it introduces characters from the earlier book seamlessly intertwining with the new ones.

And what characters they are. We are introduced to Maggie (Mags) Marks, and her beau Elijah. He's not supposed to be - in a clever bit of storytelling, author Michelle Lynn displays her command of the story by taking us into different times of the principal characters' lives.

In an early telling scene, Mags agrees to a kiss from Elijah, but it is intended to be a one-time kiss only, because they are friends, great friends, and she doesn't want that ruined. Elijah held a candle for Mags even when they were young, and in later scenes where the couple are older, and yes....tarnished, bruised and battered by life and the general life choices they made, the friendship still holds, even though Elijah's promise not to do any more than what was expected of him (essentially a boyfriend without the perks of being her boyfriend) jarred at him a lot.

It's a difficult balance for an author to get right, and yet Michelle Lynn achieved it because I could feel Elijah's frustration with Maggie....he even stays true to her even through her marriage to Jake. Often a friendship, especially between a man and a woman is tested because she may well just want him as a friend, and for him, he will often want something more. It's just the way people are engineered. 

Another layer to the story is Mags' inability to conceive. Now this is where the story really starts to hit home with some powerful messages.

Can a couple stay together if one wants a baby but one cannot be provided?
Is their love based on two people, or three?
Can friends who were asked to keep a promise, do that forever? Is it realistic or even fair to expect them to do so?

Promises has a number of layers that are enjoyable to read. Mags letter from her father is teasingly played out (we don't get the contents of the letter in one go and the story is all the better for it).

Often a friendship, especially between a man and a woman is tested because she may well just want him as a friend, and for him, he will often want something more. It's just the way people are engineered. 

Newcomer Kimberly is a darling little girl who might just provide some happiness for Mags. She instantly takes to Jah, as she so names Elijah, in a sort of playful rebuttal to him calling her Kimmy.

Promises works on almost every level for me. The only slight let down is the character of Chris, who I really liked in book one but was not so strong in this one. Maybe that's okay, as Promises is driven by the very strong characterisation employed in Mags and Elijah. Michaela makes a welcome return from Choices, but the stand out reason for reading this book is to see how the adult Elijah can keep the promise made by his younger self to Mags.

Read it and enjoy it, it is shaping up to be a great series.