Wednesday, 31 August 2016

What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin

I think the premise skirts precariously close to the reality of the really dark underbelly of Hollywood's sexual deviants.

People in positions of great power who abuse children, teens and vulnerable people. Young people who are enamoured by the idea of fame and fortune.

Kelly has spent more than half of her life behind bars for murder. Shooting a high profile Hollywood director hasn't exactly endeared her to the public. On top of that she is married to the son of her victim's best friend.

The relationships in this plot are quite complex and intertwined with each other. Betrayal, mistrust, lies and revenge are a daily occurrence. No one is trustworthy in this game of deception.

All the events in Kelly's life lead back to her sister. The sister who decided her life wasn't worth living any more. The young girl with a hunger for fame and ambitions that prove to be the beginning of her end.

Gaylin lays some interesting red herrings in the plot. Is Kelly an innocent bystander, a victim of circumstance or is she really just a cold-hearted killer?

What Remains of Me may make you question whether her actions are those of a person without a moral compass or perhaps those of the absolutely justified vigilante. Indeed one wonders what exactly does remain of her at the end of it all.

Buy What Remains of Me at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

It is certainly planned out meticulously. Right to the very end, and aside from a few blips it is a good read.

The beginning is a wee bit confusing and the random mention of the secret society was superfluous.

Fran lives a seemingly happy rural life with her two children and her somewhat distant husband. Everything appears to be perfectly normal until one evening she awakes to find her husband dead. The police find some bizarre inconsistencies in her statement, which places her firmly on their radar.

Kent has managed to weave quite a few hot topics in here, in particular one that has been in the media for the last few years. Without giving away part of the plot, all I will say is that the police and other investigative services charged with solving crime and protecting the public, often overstep the boundaries of what is deemed necessary. Leaving innocent victims and unknown emotional casualties in their wake.

Another element of the story is the blatant misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment in the police force. Regardless of whether it happens to fellow police officers or to suspects and/or victims. Ali is the Family Liaison Officer and finds herself harassed, insulted and black-balled by the men she works with. It isn't anything personal, because they do it to every skirt on the force. If you say anything you find yourself marked as an informant, and if you keep quiet the abuse gets worse.

This misogyny is also in play in the investigation into Nathan's death. It's as if the police refuse to see any other person as a suspect other than Fran. Left with no other option she decides she wants to know the whole truth. No matter how dirty or terrifying.

It is a slow-burner with quite a few twists and turns, and Kent manages to keep it interesting until the end.

Buy The Loving Husband at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

It is an exceptional read, perhaps because Stuart doesn't try to romanticize the subject of autism or the relationships between father and son or wife and husband.

The story is about a father finding a way to connect to his autistic son. In the midst of the breakdown of his marriage and the mind-blowing mediocrity of his job, Alex seems to blame everything on how difficult Sam is.

This is an aspect of the book that I really enjoyed, the authenticity and frank open discussion about having a child on the autism spectrum. The author doesn't pull any punches either. He describes the frustration, the anger, the guilt and the feelings of inadequacy parents are consumed by. He also gives a clear picture of the inner walls in the education system that often do not have a compass, guidelines or enough trained staff to deal with the intricate difficulties of autism.

A lot of things the author wrote resonated with me, especially on the topic of video games and certainly when it comes to Minecraft. Video games get an awfully bad rap and it seems to be the easy solution to point in their direction when it comes to looking for reasons for bad and excessive behaviour. Yes the majority contain gore, blood, violence, death, bad language and inappropriate behaviour, however there are quite a lot of games that don't. Minecraft is the video game equivalent of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. 'Come with me and you'll be, In a world of pure imagination'

When my son first started playing it I just couldn't understand the appeal. From a graphics point of view it looks very much like the first video games that came out. Dodgy unclear graphics, figures moving like small robots and everything, and I mean everything, is a square or square-shaped.

My son isn't autistic, but he does hate to read and write. Emerging himself into the creative world of Minecraft has also meant buying books on the subject. His reading and writing improved tenfold, because he was immersed in a subject that interested him. Solving complex puzzles and looking for solutions makes this game a huge brain gym for pint sized humans.

The planning, the creating, having to make logical connections to grow and harvest, and learning while doing it all. All of this makes Minecraft one of the most popular and yet educationally underrated games of the last few decades.

Anyway I digress, my point was I really understood how Alex and Sam connected through the common interest of the game, and that it can be a teaching tool. In fact I think Stuart has been able to describe the relationship between father and son in a very realistic and compassionate way. Obviously his own personal experience with his son have played a huge role in this. Saying that, you have to be really self-aware to be able to analyse a relationship on this level.

It is an emotional read and a very good one.

Buy A Boy Made of Blocks at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Holding by Graham Norton

I think I was expecting  a little more of Norton's quirky and witty personality to shine through in the story. It does have its moments where you can almost hear the sarcasm dripping off of the pages, however it isn't enough to give this cosy mystery the jump start it really needs.

It isn't really all that mysterious either. It is fairly easy to figure out the whodunnit and the why. I think the real emphasis is on the small town mentality, lifestyle and general essence of a small community. Everyone knows everyone else's business and more importantly they also often know their secrets.

The whole story evolves around the bumbling chubby garda (police officer) in rural south east Ireland. When construction workers find human remains buried in a plot of land, the rumour mill starts grinding very quickly. The general assumption is that the body must belong to young Tommy Burke. Tommy is supposedly living it up somewhere in England.

The truth is not one person has seen or heard from him in the last few decades. All everyone knows is that he high-tailed it out of there after his paramours find out about each other. Did he skedaddle or is it all just a bunch of granny fuelled hyped up gossip? He probably just got bored of small town life and is living it up on the Costa del Sol with a two bit hooker and a cocktail with an umbrella in it.

The reader follows PJ the garda, as he stumbles through the investigation. Part of him hopes the body will be a career maker and the other part of him doesn't want anyone he knows to be involved. The poor man just can't seem to catch a break.

I don't think Norton has quite found his fictional story voice yet. It's early days, so I do hope he will be able to develop it in the future and combine that with his own particular brand of tale.

Buy Holding at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Crown by Keira Cass

This is part #5 of The Selection series and again I have to say I can totally understand why the series is popular with younger readers.

I'm not sure how it gets away with the YA sub-genre title though, because for me it is written in a middle-grade way. The whole style, vibe and even the names of the characters. Making them up as she goes along and just adding random letters together.

It's infantile and something I would expect from a newbie. Oh hey Mr Blobby its Mr Coddly. It's detrimental to the story.  I have said this before though about this particular author and her writing in this series.

In this book Eadlyn has to step up to the plate and become the ruler she will eventually become anyway. She does try to connect to the people, bless her little heart. Of course being a dab hand at politics and communication is in direct contradiction to the selection going on for her future spouse.

The few that are left are dropping like flies, so the final choice is just around the corner. Watch out for the underdog sneaking through the royal bushes is all I'm going to say.

The premise is more or less the Bachelorette or Bachelor with younger contestants, better clothes and cheesier dialogue. The Crown isn't on par with the beginning of the series, so perhaps it's time to lay it to bed. It may just have run its course.

Buy The Crown at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Lost Codex by Alan Jacobson

The idea of the Codex and the explosive contents of the ancient scroll is quite good. Definitive proof of Israel's claim, which would cause utter chaos if exposed to the world.

Saying that the Codex seems to play more of a secondary role in the book, as opposed to the whole military operation, which tends to be at the forefront all of the time.

I would have enjoyed more emphasis on the Codex and the possible repercussions. Instead there are long winded explanations of the motivations and reasoning of suicide bombers.

This book features a recurring character in Jacobsen's books. Karen Vail is drawn into the investigation about terrorism, which in turn links to the missing scroll.

The one thing I can say is that it is continuous action from the beginning until the end. So definitely something for readers who enjoy a fast-paced action type thriller with strong police and military procedures.

Buy The Lost Codex at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Unraveled by Jennifer Estep

This is book 15 of the Elemental Assassin series by Estep. If you haven't read any of the series yet then I can only recommend it. The great thing is that all of the books can be read as stand-alone novels.

In this book we get to see fun Gin and not just the assassin. In fact the whole gang has a right good giggle.

Nothing says friends quite like a vampire using social media to make sure your most embarrassing moment is captured online for eternity. I the way Gin and Co, can be in the middle of a really dangerous and life-threatening moment, and yet still find time to make jokes at each others expense,

This story takes place not long after the disastrous family reunion between Finn and his loving mother. Yes, loving mother is absolutely said with a tongue in cheek.

Finn finds himself on the receiving end of gifts from both parents. One has left an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and the other has left him his very own theme park. A western park, equipped with gun-toting cowboys, hip-swinging salon girls and a sharp-shooting sheriff.

Of course nothing is ever as it seems and a simple holiday quickly turns into a race against time to save someone from death...again.

I like the way Estep has been developing the back-story about Gin's mother. A bit here and a little bit there has grown into a whole new dimension of opposition. Gin has a new enemy to sink her teeth into, and at the same time the reader gets to experience her reminiscing. Gin as the child before tragedy changes her life forever, but hey it also makes her the assassin we all enjoy reading about.

As always it was an excellent read and an amusing one at that.

Buy Unraveled (Elemental Assassin #15) at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

For more by Jennifer Estep read: Unwanted, Spider's Trap, Deadly StingPoison Promise, Bitter BiteThe SpiderThe Black Widow and Heart of Venom of the Elemental Assassin series or The Cold Burn of MagicThe Bright Blaze of Magic and Dark Heart of Magic of  the Black Blade series.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Today Blog-Tour: The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent

Today it is my absolute pleasure to host the tour for The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent. She just happens to one of my favourite urban fantasy authors, which means it is double the pleasure.



Author bio:

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent loves good chocolate, comfortable jeans, and serial commas. Rachel is the author of the SOUL SCREAMERS series and can be found online at www.rachelvincent.com.
You can connect with @RachelKVincent and @HQYoungAdult on Twitter. Keep an eye open for #TheFlameNeverDies

About the book

Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.

In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth. Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.


Review

Rachel Vincent doesn't really get the recognition she deserves when it comes to her writing. Her Shifter series is one of the best urban fantasy series I have read. The Flame Never Dies is the sequel to The Stars Never Rise, a riveting YA fantasy. It is an interesting combination of a post-apocalyptic scenario and urban fantasy.

Nina Kane and her merry band of exorcists are fighting for survival in the badland wilderness of a world destroyed by a hoard of demons. All humans have become a potential body source to the creatures from hell.

They have tricked humans into thinking they are trying to save them from the imminent threat of the soul devouring entities. Only a small minority of humans can see through the charade. Nina and her fellow crusaders are blessed with the gift of exorcism, and being able to see the demons for what they are.

One of the best bits, as far as I am concerned was the whole demon vs Nina and her sister scenario towards the end. Pure comedy gold, in a post-apocalyptic supernatural surreal kind of way of course.

All that seems and sounds pretty simple, on a purely demonic level of course, but Vincent manages to incorporate a few intricate sub-plots. Including the dilemma of an empty well of souls. She tends to be able to pull her readers in quite quickly with her strong characters and innovative world-building.
I think the only negative is the fact this is supposedly only a two book enterprise. What a shame, it has such potential to be a longer series.

It's a fast-paced YA read with memorable and well-developed characters, and it's a jolly good read.

Buy The Flame Never Dies at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Last of Us by Rob Ewing

What a horror scenario, a small number of children left to fend for themselves on one of the remote Scottish islands.

The pandemic has wiped out every adult and nearly everyone else on the island. There is no way of knowing how far the contagion has travelled or whether there is anyone left alive at all.

Poor little lambs. what a sad story.

Rona and Alex look to Elizabeth for guidance. She is slightly older than the two of them. They make up one group of survivors and the second group consists of the two brothers Duncan and Calum.

Just a few really young children all alone on an island fending for themselves. When I say fend I mean scavenge for food and fresh water. At least Elizabeth knows how to get clean drinking water.

It truly is a horror scenario. It is one thing to contemplate being the last of a few survivors, but when you imagine young children in the same situation, it is even worse.

Faced with the absolute carnage of a fast-acting lethal contagion these children show strength, resilience and a lot of courage. Perhaps even more than an adult because they are free from certain fears that they will eventually grow into.

I really like the way Ewing has kept the story basic and simple. In fact the simplicity of the children's thought processes, decisions and actions is what makes it such an authentic read. They still have their normal childish rivalry and squabbles, whilst having to simultaneously survive as the new adults in town.

Buy The Last of Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks

The fear of fear itself is what plagues Elliot. He has always been riddled and overcome with anxiety and fear. He can't remember when he wasn't, and believe you me he has vivid memories from his very beginning. Or perhaps he just imagines it to be so in an attempt to understand his fear.

I think it is worth debating whether fear can actually be nature as opposed to nurture.The temperament of a child is already defined in the womb and by the first weeks after it has been born. The disposition can be affected by extreme stress and/or trauma during the mother's pregnancy. The premature birth and loss of Ellamay may account for exactly that kind of stress.

On a side note I don't believe a mother would name one and not the other. I just had to throw that in there.

His conversations with Ellamay are interesting. She seems to be his moral compass and support system. She is his only friend. It's perhaps natural given the circumstances of his birth.

Brooks had me up until the switch to a wee bit psycho. The authentic feel of someone literally crippled by anxiety went straight out of the window. A shame really, because it could have been so much more than just another book about a potential crime.

Buy Born Scared at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

It's the kind of book I think young people should read. Older teens and young adults in the middle of the scholastic academic rat race. The competition for highest grade and places at the best universities.

The build-up towards the decline of Aled is really well done. I think a lot of parents and students underestimate how lonely and vulnerable it can be at university or college.

Up until that point most young people are kept cocooned in the bubble of home and school. Gifted academics are fooled into thinking that because they are the smartest in their school that they are the smartest overall. Of course this particular bubble bursts when they find themselves in lecture rooms full of smarter and equally intelligent students. They go from being rock stars to one of many in the galaxy.

Not everyone is an academic though, and both schools and parents need to be mindful of students with other skills and talents.

In an effort to appear independent and strong Aled doesn't reach out for help when everything takes a downward spiral. His only cry for help is Radio Silence.

Another important theme in the book is discovering sexuality and preferences or lack of them. Oseman does this without trying to strong-arm the plot or the reader.

Aside from the friendship between Frances and Aled I think the relationship between Carol and her children is one of the most interesting. In a world of Tiger moms, pushy parents and an ever rising number of children being abused, she was a small character, but a pivotal one.

Carol is the type of parent that flies under the radar when it comes to her behaviour. Outside her four walls she is the epitome of the perfect parent. A helpful respected member of society, who has an entirely different persona for those who know her privately.

I really enjoyed the read, perhaps because a lot of the scenarios rang very true for me.

Buy Radio Silence at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

A Dream of Ashes by Orlando A. Sanchez

Ava James is a fire mystic and part of the Mystic Investigative Division. In one fell swoop her world is turned upside down when she becomes the hunted instead of the hunter.

Someone is committing crimes and leaving her mystic brand as a calling card.

The Enclave is full of prejudiced mystic hating individuals who take great pleasure in bringing down any mystic, especially one that is supposed to be part of their association.

Ava finds herself thrust into the complex secrets of her family dynamics and more importantly her latent talents. Keeping everything hidden from her might not have been the right decision in hindsight.

Sanchez has created a complex structure of elemental powers, family clans and the magical vs the non-magical members of society.

It is a fast-paced urban fantasy with a lot of potential. I do think Sanchez could do with adding a bit of wit or sarcasm to spice things up and give his characters a little more depth. Don't get me wrong though, A Dream of Ashes is a good read, but it is a safe one, despite the wealth of creative ideas.

Buy A Dream of Ashes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Start of the Blog-Tour: The Flame Never Dies

Today the Blog-Tour for The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent kicks off and I promise it is going to be a doozy of a tour.

Here are the links, so you can follow the tour and read what my fellow bloggers have to say about The Flame Never Dies.

16th August at wordsfromareader.weebly.com
17th August at muchlovedbooks.blogspot.com
18th August at prettylittlememoirs.blogspot.co.uk
19th August at fictionfascination.co.uk and ziliinthesky.com
20th August at terror-tree.co.uk and brizzlelassbooks.wordpress.com
21st August at emmasbookery.blogspot.co.uk and bookreferees.org
22nd August at whisperingwords747.blogspot.co.uk and flutteringbutterflies.com
23rd August at mmcheryl.wordpress.com

Hope to see you here on the 23rd of August for my turn on the tour!

Her Survivor by Vonnie Davis

Essentially this is a romance with a sideline of ex-SEALS. Saying that I have to give due diligence to Davis for the underlying issues she incorporated into the story.

Although it is a fast read with an emphasis on love and the hot and heavy, it also throws a light on the negative physical and psychological repercussions of being a soldier.

Men and women, who battle with PTSD, nightmares, anxiety disorders and physical impairments. The psychological and physical scars are ingrained in their psyche for evermore.

Kelcee and Dustin have an instant connection and attraction. Their relationship goes from complete strangers to bed-partners within the blink of an eye. Being able to help Kelcee and protect her gives Dustin a new sense of purpose in life. He no longer feels like damaged goods or just part of a man.

Unfortunately Kelcee is hiding her own turbulent and volatile past. A past that is chasing her all over the country. The kind of past that puts her new lover and his friends in mortal danger.

As I said before it is an easy quick read with a healthy portion of bedroom antics interwoven with some serious topics.

Buy Her Survivor at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

Wood captures the essence of the curiosity cabinet or freak show very well. Outsiders are drawn to everything that is different and unusual. The stranger the better. However this also means the cabinet is open to ridicule from those who feel the freaks are beneath them.

They, the cabinet, are a tight knit community.They are always looking out for each other and for any other misfits or strays who might need help.

A British heiress stumbles into the protective arms of the small community of confidence tricksters, sideshow amusement spectacles and oddballs. She is involved in her own private mystery. A little lost lamb in the midst of a pack of wolves.

It takes a while to get to the actual core of the plot. It isn't actually that outlandish. There were quite a few leprosy colonies or islands. The healthy deemed it the perfect way to treat anyone with a contagious disease.

Wood has combined certain historical scenarios or similar ones with the oddity of the then popular freak shows. I think the cabinet and the characters are worth developing for a further book. There is definitely a lot more curiosity to discover within the walls of the cabinet.

Buy Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Whistler by John Grisham

This review is based on the preview/sampler of The Whistler.
Lacy and her colleague Hugo are playing a game of cat and mouse with a potential whistle-blower or rather the person mediating the information between the four of them.

It is their job to investigate judicial misconduct and make sure those people at the top of the judicial system are squeaky clean or at least nothing more than dusty.

Greg is famously elusive when it comes to his privacy and safety. It seems a little odd that he would jeopardise his safety for a third party. Unless of course the pay-off is bigger than the risk.

Apparently Greg has a direct line of information all the way deep into the den of snakes. Someone close to the crooked judge is squawking like a parrot. Begs the question whether they're doing it because they want to rid the world of corruption or just to fill up their own pockets with the treasures from Ali Baba's cave.

Grisham is quite clever at baiting the hook, catching a reader and then reeling the fishing line in. Of course a sampler is infuriating in a sense that you get reeled in by the first few chapters and then have to wait in suspense to read the rest.

Buy/Pre-order The Whistler at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#JudgeForYourself

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Is Kristoff a talented writer and does he know how to write a wicked fantasy? Yes, absolutely. However Nevernight wasn't a perfect read, despite being a good one.

The chapters in between Mia meeting Tric and the two of them reaching the church are superfluous, if not boring, and the only saving grace is the fact Mia meets Naev in those chapters.

A better edit and it would have been a compelling read from start to finish.Then there are the footnotes. Sometimes they fit into the narrative, but more often than not they interrupt the flow of the story. Less is more in this case.

Aside from that minor hiccup Nevernight is a really good read. It is filled with violence and quite a few scenes of a sexual nature, so I wouldn't peg this as a book for younger readers.

Mia wants to avenge her family, in fact that is her only drive in life. To achieve a specific type of status and training, which will allow her to kill the people who destroyed her family and tried to kill her.

She seeks entry to the Hogwarts School of murder and assassination, and to be completely fair she brings her own special brand of wizardry to the table. She travels with her own personal shadow. The type that protects, eats emotions and talks to her.

Is Mr Kindly a friend or a gateway into a world of even darker magic? The type of magic Mia doesn't really comprehend and I hope Kristoff will explore a little more in the next part of the Nevernight Chronicles.

The assassin curriculum is ruthless and volatile. A hardcore school for murderous misfits. You can get killed doing the tasks, taking part in the competitions and hey just randomly because you've given a fellow assassin the side-eye.

The ending was a spectacular bonanza of death, betrayal and pain . Loyalties are questioned and Mia learns some hard lessons.

I am looking forward to seeing how this series progresses.

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

Friday, 12 August 2016

Street Soldier by Andy McNab

Sean has chosen the path of least resistance by joining and being part of the criminal gang on his housing estate. He takes the rap and a prison sentence to ensure his brothers in arms go free.

It is quite easy to forget that Sean and his fellow prisoners are in a detention centre or prison for juveniles. They are all hardened by their upbringing and tend to put on a dog-eat-dog facade to maintain some semblance of authority amongst their peers.

They are not quite adults and yet have ended up in an environment that isn't suitable for the meek, the depressed or the faint of heart. When Sean is presented with an opportunity to change his luck and his future he doesn't hesitate to grab the chance

On a more positive note this scenario is a way of rehabilitating teens with no other alternative than gang-life or a life of crime. A chance to teach them skills and responsibility instead of them spending a lifetime in and out of prison.

The question is whether you can teach an old dog new tricks or will Sean automatically slide back into a life of crime and end up back on the easy path.

It is a YA read, and aside from a few swearwords it is also suitable for older teens. The whole premise is supposed to be the subliminal message that even if you make a serious mistake there is always a way forward. You just have to choose to make a more positive impact in life. Sometimes you have to pick the road with the bigger obstacles instead of walking down the easy road.

Buy Street Soldier at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrik Groen

Although the story is witty and infused with a strong layer of sarcasm, it also made me quite sad to think that in the end our lives are reduced to such banality. One is treated with a lack of dignity and compassion, which quite frankly is simply appalling.

The identity behind the pseudonym Hendrik Groen has been a bit of a mystery for the last few years. I can imagine quite a few old age pensioners being eyed suspiciously by inhabitants and management teams in care homes. The Volkskrant seems to be think it is a particular gentleman nearly a few decades shy of being an octogenarian.

The truth is it doesn't really matter because Hendrik Groen is nearly all of us when it comes to being an elderly person in western society. In quite a few European countries the birthrate is now so low that in a few decades there will be more elderly citizens than younger ones. There couldn't be a better reason to re-evaluate the way the older generations are taken care of.

In that sense I believe Groen's diary is making some very valid points, albeit ones mixed with a good portion of irony, humour and current events.

There is a special emphasis on euthanasia and having the choice to die. Dying with Dignity has become a hot topic in the UK, with many people campaigning to allow the terminally ill, the incurable and those who don't wish to live in constant pain, to be able to choose to die. Giving them a voice and a choice before they become too ill to be able to make a decision.

With the story being set in Amsterdam (original language Dutch) it is laden with references to Dutch traditions, holidays, food and places, which I personally enjoyed because I used to live in the German/Dutch border region.

I hope, if I am ever unfortunate enough to end up in care home that treats me like a number and a potential profit margin, I will have the good fortune of making a band of friends like Hendrik's gang of rebels.

I wonder what he will write about in his second diary?

Buy The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells

I can't fault Howell on her writing. She has a natural flow and a lovely way with words. I have to say after the convoluted build-up the plot evolved and rose to a climax, only to fall a little flat towards the end though.

Maybe it's me, but it felt as if the first half of the book was going in a completely different direction to the second half.

Noah has let his whole life be directed by his teenage obsession with April. The girl and woman he defines as a goddess. The truth is April is just a normal girl with a little more extra baggage than her peers.

Throughout the book it becomes apparent that Noah lives in his own personal bubble. He only sees and hears what he wants to. Everything uncomfortable or that doesn't fit inside his bubble counts as non-existent.

In the end I think he is as much to blame as April. If he had only looked beyond his own needs and sense of comfort then perhaps her story could have been a different one.

April is a victim of her incredibly difficult childhood. As is often the case, she is a girl and then woman who has always been viewed as nothing more than an object of sexual gratification. She has been used and abused by the men in her life. A lifetime cycle she finds hard to exit. A cycle her friends seem to be a part of. Her life becomes a pandora's box of secrets.

I like the way Howell writes, I just think in this case less would have perhaps been more.

Buy The Beauty of the End at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Secret language of Stones by M.J. Rose

This is the second part of The Daughters of La Lune series by M.J. Rose. In this book World War 1 and the Russian revolution are interwoven with the talents of the latest La Lune daughter.

On a side note, the author has a fascinating personal history and lets some of the elements of her background and family history seep into her stories.

I love the thought of Opaline being able to create an item that gives loved ones the feeling they can connect with the sons, husbands and lovers they have lost at war. The First World War was so brutal it managed to wipe out entire generations of the male population in more than one country.

Until I read it in this book I never really thought about how some people would have seen all those grieving loved ones as the perfect business opportunity. Mediums, psychics and countless frauds abusing such deep grief just to make a quick buck.

Opaline finds herself on both sides of the fence. She has lost someone, and she can connect to those that have past with her special gift.

My favourite part is the chapter about the eggs and the secrets they contain, perhaps because I find the story of the Faberge creations so fascinating.

Although the fate of the tsar and his family is a huge part of the story I am glad Rose didn't find it necessary to add any of the conspiracy theories about Anastasia. They are all dead and accounted for, despite how many frauds appeared and the misinformation that was spread by the Bolsheviks.

I like the way the author mixes historical fact with her supernatural elements.

Buy The Secret Language of Stones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1).

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Dali Deception by Adam Maxwell

It was nice to experience a woman in a role typically reserved for a male character.Violet is strong, ruthless and was born into the crime trade.

It is sort of an Ocean's Eleven, on a smaller scale, and with a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels feel to it. It also includes big memorable characters like Big Terry. A little man with a huge Napoleon complex.

As a reader you champion the con and the thieves, because out of the groups they are the lesser evil. In a way you want them to pull off the perfect heist.

I enjoyed the tongue in cheek irony of the blank canvas scenario. It is perhaps Maxwell's way of pointing out the hypocrisy and comicality of what 'experts' perceive to be art or decide is art. Modern art can be a square coloured canvas with a toothbrush holder and toothbrush stuck out of the canvas. (Witnessed this myself in the Museum of Modern Art in New York). Things are only worth what people are willing to pay for them.

Maxwell lets his witty humour seep into this classic heist scenario. It's a fast-paced crime caper with a strong woman as the main character. I'm sure we will be hearing about Violet and her band of merry misfits again.

Buy The Dali Deception at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

Frankie doesn't really want to return to the town of her childhood. The place of some of her greatest heartbreaks and the scene of her friend's disappearance. Sophie and Frankie used to be best friends and share secrets, including a fatal one.

Now after all these years it seems as if Frankie might be able to answer some of the open questions about what happened to Sophie.

Did she stumble and fall, was she pushed or was she was taken and killed elsewhere?

At first it seems as if everyone wants the same thing as Frankie until someone starts sending her threatening messages and she starts seeing and hearing strange things.

Is Sophie's killer trying to get rid of her too? Does someone want to keep the truth quiet? Is Frankie hiding secrets of her own?

Douglas shows the internal and external divide between the working class estate kids and their environment, and the more well-situated Frankie. Actually it seems to be more of a Frankie problem, either that or a Douglas one. Her disdain is almost palpable when she describes her former friends and houses. Condemning them for letting themselves go and not wanting to achieve more in life.

From a thriller perspective it could have been a little more tense and developed. The premise is ok, but some of the dialogue is a little tv B movie. I think Douglas has the capability of producing a tighter more suspenseful piece of work and look forward to reading it when she does.

Buy Local Girl Missing at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Fountain of Forever by K.D. Berry

The Fountain of Forever promises the gift of eternal youth. To turn back the years and make you young again, if you pay enough money.

People come from all over the country in a desperate attempt to regain some time and to live a little longer.Unfortunately it's all just a very elaborate scam, at least it is until Persephone turns up.

Speaking of turning back time, Vilnius is fleeing from his obligations. The payment for his wishes is still outstanding and the bailiff is hot on his heels. If that wasn't enough going on, Persephone is being hunted and temporal agents are afoot.

The time-traveller Merrivel also makes an appearance in this story. Readers may remember him from previous Berry novels.

Fate and time are changed and played with like pawns on a chess board in this story that mixes wit with fantasy and the fantastical. Berry likes to keep it funny and playful, whilst incorporating elements of mythology, fantasy and sci-fi.

Buy Fountain of Forever at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Be warned you might have to dig into your sci-fi chest of knowledge for this one or a wee bit of Dr Who may do the trick. In essence we are talking a causal loop paradox with an endless stream of different parallel worlds or realities.

It's interesting to note however that these realities are determined and influenced by the conscious, and perhaps even the subconscious thoughts and choices of the subjects.

The state of choice is arrived at via drug that creates a loophole or perhaps even a type of black-hole, both from a psychological and physical point of view.

I have to hand it to Crouch he makes quantum physics seem semi-understandable. He explains it in a way that anyone can understand. I especially enjoyed his explanation of Schrödinger's cat. Quantum superposition 101.

The main character finds himself in the middle of a complex conundrum. Everything he loves has been taken from him, The world he knows has literally disappeared.

Crouch makes a valid point about crossroads in life and the paths we choose to take. Many people are guilty of living off of what ifs or if only I hads, especially when life becomes a little mediocre and repetitive. The grass is always greener on the other side, eh? Well the truth is it isn't, because the grass is just grass and it's the same shade of green on either side.

Jason has that kind of important crossroad in his life. One road leads to fame and a brilliant career, and the other to a family life with a white picket fence.

What would you do if you could go back to your own personal crossroads and change your entire future with just one small choice? Keeping in mind that it would completely erase anything you loved or valued up to that point.

Dark Matter is the kind of innovative read that makes you wonder whether or not you are the only one of you and if our world is the only one that exists.

Buy Dark Matter at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sarah by J.T. LeRoy

It is an unusual but strangely compelling read. It's as if the world of truck stop prostitution exists as a solitary planet in the universe called earth. To the so-called lizards it is the only life they know and nothing seems to be able to penetrate the bubble of pay as you go sexual relations.

Sarah, Cherry Vanilla or Sam are all one and the same person, who he or she is depends on the situation and environment they find themselves in. Sometimes she is the pretty little girl mirage, sometimes she is the raunchy cherry on the top of the sexual sundae and towards the end he is just himself.

For Sarah/Sam everything he does leads back to Sarah the mother and Sarah the hooker. There is a constant need for acceptance, love and acknowledgement. The neglected child resurfaces over and over again, despite the fact the mother doesn't acknowledge their biological relationship.

A sleazy tale of abuse via Sarah's johns emerges, which eventually leads to him working in the same industry as her. As a reader I felt pity for the behaviour he has to endure. He is so desperate for any kind of attention from her that he even misses the insults when she is gone. A sad little boy who only knows the affection of truckers in need of sexual gratification.

It is a bit of an oddball read, but I really enjoyed  it. LeRoy is a breath of fresh air, albeit one that is tainted by the sordid world of prostitution.

Unlike many other reviewers my review is based solely on the book I have read and not on the bizarre story of the pseudo writer and the actual writer behind the pseudonym.

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

Monday, 1 August 2016

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty has a very specific style of storytelling. Her stories tend to be intricately woven slow-burners. This story is a perfect example of her particular style.

Nearly the entire length of the book is spent arriving at 'the event' and nearly all the interactions and characters are linked to said event. The before, the after and the duration of the traumatic event.

The truth is accidents happen. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. This could happen to anyone. It only takes one small moment, a few seconds or the blink of an eye and everything can change forever.

There is no such thing as a perfect person with the perfect life. Glass houses, as they say. The only difference is the severity of our mishaps and bad decisions.

Clementine needs to tell her mother to get a grip and get stuffed. Nothing is ever good enough and after the event Clementine needs support and not admonishments. From Erika's point of view Pam is the surrogate mother who has kept her going. However Clementine just sees Pam as the woman who always treated her as second best. Being usurped by the pseudo daughter. Someone she never wanted to befriend in the first place.

The author really examines the friendship between the two women. It seems to be based on falsehoods and forced situations. The two of them keep up the pretence for themselves and Pam, almost as if it's a routine and cycle they can't get out of. Or is it really that straightforward?

I liked the way Moriarty approached this story like a jigsaw puzzle. Each person owns an important piece of the solution, and yet no one admits to it, which means in the end the truth still remains a secret to the majority of the participants.

Buy Truly Madly Guilty at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Machinations by Hayley Stone

Artificial Intelligence has started a war against humans. Initially the machines are infected with a virus that in essence turns them against all things two-legged and breathing.

Humans become the targets of extermination and slavery. The machines are trying to annihilate the pockets of rebellion, which exist all over the globe, but are isolated due to the nature of the threat.

The machines can pick up any signal or message sent via any type of equipment. All humans have become sitting ducks and face the threat of extinction.

Rhona or rather the new and improved version of Rhona finds herself torn between her friend Samuel and her old lover Camus. Not all of her memories, and the emotions attached to them, have been restored after her rebirth.

On top of that she isn't considered trustworthy by the upper echelon. and yet the underlings still consider her to be in charge. Talk about mixed messages. Nobody quite knows where she fits in, including Rhona.

Machinations is a fast-paced story with plenty of room for development. It is certainly the type of read I tend to enjoy.

What Stone really needs to do is pick a genre and stick with it. Not that you can't mix, but this has a great post-apocalyptic premise, which is weakened slightly by the strong romantic vein flowing through it.

If you're writing sci-fi, dystopian, fantasy or post-apocalyptic stories you have to be bold and ruthless enough to do without the en vogue popular formula you think will draw in readers from other genres. It is absolutely doable. Not that you can't have a love interest or romance, you just shouldn't let it overpower the premise or main genre you're going for.

Saying all that, I did enjoy the premise and the read. I also look forward to seeing where Stone takes the story in the sequel, Counterpart.

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

All these Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford

I would really like to start this review with a 'the moral of this story is; never....., but then I would give the ending away in one fell swoop.

Pen is an interesting and diverse character. The reader experiences her as the victim, as the manipulative young woman with dangerous secrets, and also as the normal girl trying to fit in.

It then becomes hard to decide whether Pen is the character we shouldn't trust or just someone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Pen lives under a cloud of suspicion in her own town. To this day she denies any involvement in a local killing that put her best friend behind bars. On top of all that she has to deal with the string of useless and nasty boyfriends her needy mother brings into their home on a regular basis.

I really enjoyed the way Clifford played with the question of guilt, and whether or not Pen is simply a killer.Will her need for her own sense of justice and retribution always lead to the inevitable? Does self preservation always equal violence, death or revenge in her mind?

Even towards the end I still felt myself feeling empathy towards her, feeling anger on her behalf at the betrayal. Is she a so-called criminal due to the circumstances she finds herself in? Is she just one of those people who seem to live under a dark cloud of bad luck?

It is a compelling thought-provoking read by an author who knows how to create memorable characters. Clifford also knows how play with the questions of innocence and guilt in a way that may leave the reader with a conundrum

Buy All These Perfect Strangers at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

It starts off quite well, but it gets a wee bit overzealous after that. The ending is especially 'out there' and in complete contradiction to how a character would behave after such an awful ordeal, then again Anne isn't really the super-mommy she pretends to be.

Marco and Anne are faced with one of the worst nightmares a parent can face. What's worse is the fact their careless attitude and behaviour allowed it to happen. The two of them are ridden with guilt.

From the very beginning the police take a close look at every angle. including the parents. Did Anne make a drunken mistake? Did Marco lie about checking the baby? Was their home targeted specifically?

Turns out everyone has some kind of secret to hide. Anne has a dark past. Marco isn't as innocent as he seems, and the next door neighbours are more than just a modern happy couple.

Suspicion and paranoia seep into the relationships and the investigation. Is it a crime of opportunity or a well-planned and thought out intrigue?

The first scenes and the beginning of the premise are well thought out, in fact it's fine until Marco drives off with the ransom demand. After that it isn't structured enough and everything seems a little rushed, far-fetched and overambitious.

Buy The Couple Next Door at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.