Thursday, 31 December 2015

House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick

When Holly gets a desperate phone call her from her niece it is the beginning of a long search for her missing brother Ben and the unravelling of a love story that stretches over many centuries.

Holly doesn't want to see the other side to Ben. He is beyond reproach and everyone else must be to blame for his disappearance.

None of that changes the fact he has not only vanished without a trace, but he has also left his very young daughter to fend for herself in the middle of the night.

Holly discovers that Ben was researching the history of specific items owned by the Winter Queen. They are rumoured to be very valuable and possess magical powers. Destructive magical powers.

The story wanders in and out of three timelines, the past with the Winter Queen, the past with the close descendants and the present with Holly. The link between all of them being the dangerous heirlooms and the mysterious Ashdown House.

Inevitably it comes down to a choice between power or peace, war or sanity and money or being able to just say no. You know what they say, power corrupts, especially when you have a never ending source.

Kornick mixes historical fiction and a wee bit of the unexplained supernatural.

Buy House of Shadows at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Memoirs of a Dead White Chick by Lennox Randon

A middle-aged white woman from our era inside the body of teenage black boy in the late 1850's. An interesting premise, and one I presumed would be written with the agenda of shedding light on the plight of slaves in America.

I expected Randon to make his point with a sledgehammer and leave no stones unturned and certainly take no prisoners.

Instead Randon is subtle in his approach, and it actually does seem as if the story is written by a middle-aged white woman.

Randon depicts the struggle between North and South before the outbreak of the civil war. How different the opinions are about slavery or the plight of slaves from one state to the other. Treated like little more than property, with no voice, no rights and no possible end to their situation in sight. Families ripped apart and subject to the whims, moods and brutality of sadists.

Eleanor experiences the injustice, the decrepit conditions and the inhumanity towards her, all because the colour of her skin has now made her a second class human being. She accepts her new surroundings and circumstances without so much as a second thought. I think I would be filled with rage at the injustice of being treated like property or worse than an animal.

I often wonder what I would be able to remember if I ever ended up in the past. Would I be able to remember anything useful? How Penicillin was discovered, the lotto numbers in a certain year, what invention to invest in or how create electricity. Would I be able to resist changing the course of history?

The one element of the story that didn't gel completely right for me was Eleanor transforming into a surgeon or medical expert at one point. Time-travel or soul travel does not equate to the acquisition of brand new skills, such as medical knowledge.

I enjoyed the idea and admit to being surprised by the way Randon decided to let the idea speak for itself instead of using the idea as a tool or a voice.

Thank you to Smith Publicity for my copy of Memoirs of a Dead White Chick.
Buy Memoirs of a Dead White Chick at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Every Time a bell Rings by Carmel Harrington

I felt as if Tess was the backbone of the story, perhaps even more so than Belle. She is the person who forms and loves the adult Belle grows up to be. Through all the disappointment, neglect and heartbreak Belle always has Tess holding her up and pushing her forward.

It must be incredibly hard for both foster parents and foster children to say goodbye when the children return to their parents, especially when they have managed to form a bond. Not all foster parents do it for the right reasons, but those who really care can change the lives of children in dire need of support and love.

Harrington draws upon the plot of It's a Wonderful Life quite a bit. In a way it makes the story seem more nostalgic. In essence the moral of the story is to acknowledge how lucky we are and to be happy for what we have instead of wanting what we might never be able to have.

I think we are all guilty from time to time of not being able to understand that we may be luckier than we think. Belle is stuck in her obsession of Lauren. The bond has grown into something that could be viewed as detrimental for a foster child, who eventually has to return to their biological parents.

Someone needs to remind Belle or make her aware of what is really important. What her life would be like without certain people in her life, and if she hadn't been part of their lives either. Harrington has created a Christmas story that leaves the reader with plenty to think about.

Buy Every Time a Bell Rings at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Bomber Boy: The Rise of the Underwear Bomber by Ike Pius

This is a novella length story

In light of recent terrorist attacks in the last few months and indeed in the last few decades the premise may seem a little forward thinking. However the reality is even the terrorist has a voice, and this story is looking at it from a perspective other than that of the victims.

Farouk is planning to kill a plane load of innocent people. Why? Because they are infidels of course. Does it matter whether he has his reasons for doing so?

Pius starts out strong, but tapers off towards the end. I would have liked to have seen him explore the thoughts, mindset and interactions of the terrorist. How one minute Farouk is the friendly compassionate conversationalist to the people around him and then in his head Farouk the murderer-to-be is having an entirely different conversation.

Bomber Boy starts off as an ambitious idea, but it seems a little rushed. The difficulty with a novella is that it needs to draw you in and keep you there without having the advantage of the full length novel to do so.
Buy Bomber Boy at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

If you didn't happen to catch the TV première of Grantchester then you are definitely missing out on a treat. The series is based on James Runcie's The Grantchester Mysteries featuring the sleuth Sidney Chambers, the canon detective with a flair for secrets and mysteries.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death features quite a few of the Grantchester tales or mysteries.

Think Father Brown, but with more charm and a lot more good-looking. In fact I think Sidney isn't really as steadfast in his religion, as Brown is. Sidney loves his jazz, pretty women, a nice scotch and great literature. He also likes to move within the ranks of the upper echelon. Doesn't really leave much room for faith and God now, does it?

Somehow between all those things the charming detective manages to get pulled into the occasional murder, theft,  possible suicide and any other crime you can think of. Sometimes Sidney finds himself being coerced into helping and other times he just stumbles into the odd scenario.

I really enjoy the relationship between Sidney and Geordie Keating. Keating is a blue collar working man and Chambers is the typical white collar well-situated man. The two of them share a passion for drink, crime, backgammon and gossip. Well perhaps Geordie loves his gossip a wee bit more, especially when it is about Sidney and his lady loves.

The two of them form an unusual bond, which grows into a strong friendship. Geordie favours the route of logical reasoning and Sidney is prone to more adventurous and out-of-box theories.

I have to say the television series has captured the essence of Sidney Chambers perfectly, and indeed the stories written by James Runcie.

Buy Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

All Dressed in White by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

Laurie finds it hard to resist the emotional plea of Sandra. The parallels between losing Greg and searching for his killer for so long are echoed in the disappearance of Amanda.

The Pierce family have been driven apart by the disappearance of their daughter, sister and almost wife.

Gone without a single trace of evidence. Is she dead or has she just started a new life somewhere else? It is the not knowing that is slowly destroying Sandra.

The relationship between Alex and Laurie has come to wobbly halt, because she is still finding it hard  to let go of the truth and deal with the fact Greg is gone.

Bringing everyone back together to enact the 'crime' for the television show Under Suspicion leads to all the suspects getting their cage rattled.

Higgins Clarke and Burke have created  a combination of psychological thriller, murder mystery and cosy crime. The characters are memorable and the type a reader wants to come back to. The crime element is sufficiently creepy and there are plenty of suspects to go around.

Thank you to Edelweiss for my copy of All Dressed in White.
Buy All Dressed in White at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Pop Sonnets by Erik Didriksen

I am a lover of Shakespeare. I watched the Voldemort meets Gerard Butler version of Coriolanus and read the original play at the same time, that's being a wee bit of a Shakespeare geek.

There is nothing quite like watching his work being performed by thespians, who understand the essence of his words and voice.

Didriksen makes a really good point in the foreword. Shakespeare is meant to seen and heard, and not just read.
He was not an author but a playwright: his work is intended not to be read but heard.
Pop Sonnets is the combination of Shakespeareanism vs the world of modern music. Erik Didriksen has written popular and contemporary songs in the form of Shakespearean sonnets.

It is what I would call a niche kind of book. It might not appeal to everyone. It is certainly a unique book. I am going to be buying myself a print copy, because I don't think the Kindle version does it real justice.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Buy Pop Sonnets at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Nowhere Child by Rachel Abbott

Nowhere Child is an add-on novella, and is part of the DCI Tom Douglas series by Rachel Abbott. More specifically it is part of Stranger Child, and a follow up to Natasha's story.

In Stranger Child Natasha returns to her home many years after her mysterious disappearance. Taken as small child and turned into the modern equivalent of a Fagin's Oliver Twist type criminal.

Her stepmother Emma is wary of the intruder, whereas her husband seems eager to just gloss over the missing years. Natasha ends up putting her baby brother in danger, so it would only be natural for Emma to want to see the back end of this troubled teen.

Instead Emma finds herself drawn to the girl, and wants to help rather than remove the strange girl from her perfect life and picture book family scenario. Unfortunately Natasha has valid reasons not to trust anyone and also fears repercussions from her old gang, so she makes a run for it.

Nowhere Child takes up the story from that point onwards. With Natasha sleeping rough under bridges and in tunnels, and Emma spending all her waking hours searching for her. The relationship between the two of them is unusual and yet at the same time quite refreshing. You don't have to give birth to a child to be a mother to one. It's a shame the powers that be don't always view non-biological relationships the same way.

This story holds the answers to all the unanswered questions from Stranger Child. The most important one being: What happened to Natasha?

Thank you to the author for my copy of Nowhere Child.

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