Wednesday, 31 May 2017

He Said She Said by Erin Kelly

This read certainly has quite a few surprises in store for readers. I liked the concept, perhaps because it is a hot topic and a core setting people really need to take on board.

To be perfectly frank I think the author could have kept the plot as the simple he said/she said scenario and still delivered a thought provoking read. As it stands it evolved from whether a rape actually happened, to a story with the tense undertones of a psychological thriller.

With that in mind I actually enjoyed the read, but wasn't as enthralled with the ending. I liked the way Kelly drew the story out and created this shadow of doubt around every single character, but was especially interested in the way Beth was perceived.

I know other reviewers found the whole eclipse sub-plot a little tiresome, however I felt it was an intriguing way to show how predictable we are and how easy it is to find someone in this day and age. We leave behind huge digital footprints, so big that they can be followed by anyone with the most basic digital skills.

I felt as if the crux of the plot was how easily Laura was eventually swayed in her opinion of the event. Her instincts told her what was happening, and she called Jamie out for what he was, a rapist. Then suddenly it only takes a trickle of a doubt for her to question what she saw with her own eyes.

Kelly makes some very valid points about rape. The victim is almost always shamed and blamed, whilst the perpetrator is treated like an innocent person in the middle of a set-up to destroy their lives. Even when there are eye-witness statements, it seems as if the victims always have the scales of justice weighted heavily against them.

Kelly does an excellent job of sewing the seeds of doubt in this story. Before you know it a certainty becomes a maybe, and then you may start to question not just the one person who needs the support, but also everyone in her vicinity.

Oh and by the way, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is probably a duck. Just saying.

Buy He Said/She Said at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

You can't help but love Eleanor Oliphant, despite all her eccentricities and her complete lack of social skills.

As you read you may feel the need to give Eleanor a little nudge when she says something rude, completely inappropriate or politically incorrect.

Then at times you just want embrace and comfort her, especially when she is interacting with her mother. Or in my case I would happily give her a mother a mouthful of abuse worthy of an aggravated sailor.

The reader follows Eleanor on her path of self-discovery, as she embraces the novelty and finer nuances of friendship, and interacting with people who actually care about her. After years of complete emotional isolation she starts to test the tepid waters of unknown situations, new relationships and finally she steps out of her shell.

She seems to be unable to halt her self-inflicted cycle of punishment and destruction when she is by herself. That is when the loneliness kicks in, and the vodka helps her to forget all those terrible memories she keeps hidden deep inside her.

I have to admit to drawing the stares of a room full of people when I was reading this book. Laughing out loud and chortling to yourself in your doctor's waiting room is, in my humble opinion, a definitive sign you have picked a cracking read. This is actually quite a heart-rending read at times, so kudos to Honeyman for being able to infuse it with a very subtle layer of humour.

This is a story about the invisible people in our society. We live in an era of disinterest and lack of compassion. People like Eleanor are often swallowed whole by the shallow and cold attitudes they encounter on a day-to-day basis. Nobody cares what they have been through or has any desire to help them get through life with a little more ease.

This is the kind of read you pass on or recommend to others, because it's a story, a lesson and it is also a reflection of the mirror of life nearly all of us try to avoid seeing. A poignant and yet in equal measures a heart-warming reading experience.

Buy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @GailHoneyman and @HarperCollinsUK

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Dark so Deadly by Stuart MacBride

This read is messy, but in a good way. It is at the very least dysfunctional and unpredictable. Fair warning, an extremely high amount of babies, of the jelly variety, lose their little lives during this murderous tale.

MacBride has his characters throwing around banter like an unruly crowd throwing food during an ancient Greek theatre performance. A lot of tit for tat and sometimes they are as vicious to each other, as a honey badger on a rampage.

Poor Callum, he really isn't having a very good time of it. His career is nearly over, his life is crumbling like a dunked biscuit and his new friend on speed dial is a 7 year old girl, who thinks she is more gangsta than Al Capone.

It takes the gang a while to figure out that they are dealing with a particularly vicious and unbalanced serial killer. A ruthless and very intelligent one.

I have to admit, the author managed to get one over on me. There was the occasional niggle, which I won't delve into because it would give away the game. Overall I was 'colour me surprised' at the end.

I think the author actually excels at having no normal or semi-normal characters, they are all misfits in their own right, and it works. In their own way the whole bunch of them bounce off each other and they care what happens, despite loud protestations to the contrary.

MacBride is definitely an author I will be revisiting. I enjoyed his dark humour and droll wit. I'm fairly certain the whole banter and witty repertoire was a way to distract me from the fact the author was hiding the killer right in front of me. Yeh, that's my theory and I'm sticking with it. (*grin*)

Buy A Dark so Deadly at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty. It is a fascinating read, and yet also one that may make you sit back and ponder it, especially when you read the historical note and acknowledgement at the end of the book.
About the Author
For the past 30 years, Paul E Hardisty has worked all over the world as an engineer and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, and rehabilitated village water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Yemen in 1994 as the civil war broke out, and in Ethiopia as the Mengistu regime fell. In 2015, his first novel, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, was published to great acclaim - it was shortlisted for the CWA Creasy dagger award for best thriller or crime novel in 2015, and was one of the London Telegraph's 2015 crime books of the year.

Lee Child called the sequel, The Evolution of Fear: "A solid, meaty thriller. Hardisty is a fine writer and Claymore Straker is a great lead character." Paul is currently working on the third Claymore Straker novel, a prequel set in Apartheid era South Africa. One of his short stories, Blue Nile, will shortly appear in an anthology entitled "Sunshine Noir". He lives in Western Australia, and is a keen outdoorsman, triathlete, and martial artist.
To connect with Paul E. Hardisty follow @Hardisty_Paul or @Orendabooks on Twitter or on facebook.com/paul.hardisty.9
Buy Reconciliation for the Dead
About the book
Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make.

Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.
Review
When it suddenly dawns on you that the story is more than just a fictional plot or the creative imagination of the author in question. It's actually worse when you realise that even the most talented weaver of stories hasn't got a thing on the actual depths of inhumane behaviour and unimaginable cruelty real humans are capable of.

South Africa has a very turbulent and volatile history, especially events that took place in the 20th century. I think, like many countries, there is plenty of revisionism going on and selective amnesia seems to be a problem. Apartheid, genocide, land dispossession and the South African Police, who were little more than a murder squad during certain periods of time in history.

Claymore Straker is an interesting character. He doesn't try to excuse his actions, in fact he feels such immense guilt that he finds it difficult to find any peace at all. Clay is a soldier, a killer who follows orders, and yet he is also a man with a conscience. He often tries to do the right thing, despite putting himself and others in danger.

On a side note, I really enjoyed the banter and relationship between Clay and Eben. The two of them are on the same wavelength when it comes to justice. Eben just tends to be a wee bit more reckless. They have a bond, a brotherhood, which is often formed between soldiers in dangerous situations.

Hardisty has only taken a small section of that history and of the political unrest of South Africa and combined it with a fast-paced and heart-wrenching plot. It is also brutal, violent and not for the faint of heart. At the same time the author has managed to create characters, who evoke empathy, which is quite extraordinary considering the hardcore events that unfold around them.

Reconciliation for the Dead isn't just a story, it is a stark reminder of South African history. Without delving too much into the plot and revealing any spoilers it is a cracking read, and it is and was a shocking plan. What is even more disgraceful is the real lack of restitution, despite the reconciliation. Criminals who deserved a firing squad walked away scot-free.

When it comes to military thrillers authors often can't find the right balance between the cold hard facts of war, weaponry, logistics and the storytelling. Well, let me tell you Hardisty doesn't have any problem at all in that regard. He strikes exactly the right tone in both areas. This is a captivating and poignant read, and yet it is also one that made my soul weep for humanity.

Buy Reconciliation for the Dead at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

At a glance this story might seem like a long expedition into the self-absorbed meanderings of the main character. It is however much more than that.

Everyone lives in their head. In fact to be more specific, there are at least three versions of every person.

The version we show to the world, the version of us we show to our family, partners and close friends, and then there is the version that lives inside us. The one that lives in our head, the one we have internal conversations with, the version of us who voices thoughts nobody ever hears.

The Light we Lost is Lucy's internal voice and inner version of herself. It is essentially the written dialogue of hopes, fears and desires we never share with anyone else.

I think this is a story a lot of readers will be able to identify with. If you think back upon your life you might be able to recognise certain moments you could call crossroads. Days or decisions that took you in one direction when you could have chosen another one in the same moment.

It's the same sentiment as some of us meeting what one would call the great love of our life, but ending up letting them go or choosing a path different to theirs. In Lucy's case this person is Gabe. Santopolo describes it quite accurately when she writes something akin to some loves are like a hearth fire, warm and cosy, and others are like raging uncontrollable bushfires. One of them is consistent and reliable, and the other leaves you breathless and disorientated.

Lucy and Gabe have a relationship filled with What-If's and it never being the right moment in time for the two of them. A pocket full of regrets and bag full of imaginary scenarios that could have been.

I really enjoyed this book, perhaps because it is simplistic, and yet poignant. It's like entering a secret door in someone's head, and having a front row seat to their inner thoughts and a lifetime of emotions.

Santopolo makes you feel as if you're sitting on your couch drinking a glass of wine listening to a friend talk about their secret love. It's an intimate moment, and yet at the same time it is a universal one, and so is this story.

Buy The Light We Lost at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @JillSantopolo

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Blog-Tour: Sleeper by J.D. Fennell

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Sleeper by J.D. Fennell. Along with the About the Author and About the book features, I am also delighted to feature a fantastic Q&A with J.D. Fennell, and hey of course last but not least, my review of Sleeper.
About the Author
J.D. was born in Belfast at the start of the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him. A lover of reading, he devoured a diverse range of books – his early influences include Fleming, Tolkien, Shakespeare and the Brontës.

He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry. These days he divides his time between Brighton and London, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs.
Visit sleeperbook.com  or you can follow @jd_fennell or @DomePress on Twitter or on facebook.com/JDFennellAuthor/
Buy Sleeper


About the book
Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will's notebook and will do anything to get it. As Will's memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing?Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.
Q&A
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)
I love reading and always have a book to hand. Here are my recent three: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet; I Let You Go, by Claire Mackintosh and right now I am reading Spellslinger, by Sebastian De Castell. Three wonderful books, all quite different.

Books or authors which have inspired you to put pen to paper?
John Irving is amazing. Stephen King. Sarah Waters. Ken Follett. Authors that make me want to be a better writer are Thomas Harris, Ian McGuire and Hanya Yanagihara.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet...you name it) I really enjoyed Allied with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. It is set during the same time as Sleeper and gave it a resonance for me. It is also gripping with a great twist.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible)
Definitely a series-binger, because there is a greater scope to tell a story and develop characters. Game of Thrones is a good example here.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
I’d like to meet Thomas Harris for lunch or dinner and learn as much as I could from him.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Sleeper!

Sleeper is a YA adventure set in the Second World War with flair of fantasy and an essence of a dystopian setting.

What made you pick the WW2 time period for your setting?
I’m fascinated by London during the Blitz, a city collapsing under the nightly air attacks. Also, I really wanted to set an action/adventure with fantastical elements during a familiar time in our history. Second World War London just seemed the perfect setting for a thriller. I had to write it.

During the story I think readers may often find the borders between good and bad guy skewed when it comes to VIPER and The Fellowship. Do you agree with that assessment, and if so was this intentional on your part?
Yes and No. Yes, the Fellowship are good, however, they turn a blind eye to the Pastor’s methods because they understand what is at stake for the world. VIPER will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. They may employ regular people, who do not share their ambitions, or are unaware of who they are working for, to help achieve their goals.

Will has been defined, trained and lived as a member of VIPER for many years. Isn't there some part of him which is subconsciously loyal to VIPER?
I’m afraid you will have to wait until the next instalment to find that out. *smiles*

So, you have this incredible weapon with as yet not completely explored powers, doesn't even a teeny weeny piece of Will think about taking control of the weapon himself?
Ha! That would be telling. For now I will refer you to the previous answer.

Sleeper. Liberator. Executioner. Does Will secretly enjoy being each one of these identities?
Will is driven by revenge. I would say he does not enjoy being that type of person, however, it does change him and give him purpose.

Will we be seeing more of Will in the near future, and will his sidekick be returning?
Will and Anna shall return next year with velocity.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones!
Thank you Cheryl. I really enjoyed answering them.
Review
Fennell has chosen an interesting setting for his dystopian young adult series. It takes place in the early 1940s during WW2. So you not only get the general gist and flavour of life during the Blitz, you also feel the intensity of the devastation the war leaves in its wake.

I have to say that although this is pegged as young adult it is also a book I would buy for a younger reader. Readers will be able to identify with the characters, the historical context and also the why of what makes Will tick.

What makes him push forward is the strong desire to fulfil his mission, which is even the case when he suffers from a bout of amnesia. He somehow always manages to find the right way even when the deck is stacked against him.

Will is nothing if not determined, despite all the obstacles and extremely dangerous situations he stumbles in and out of. He has been a part of VIPER since his pre-teens and is well versed in the megalomaniacal manipulations of this organisation. They will do anything to control the world and more importantly to get their hands on the powerful Stones.

What can I say it's a story with a lot of potential. The author ends the book with the kind of hook that will keep the readers trailing along behind that fishing rod with the wriggly wee plot enticing them to follow along right behind him.

Fennell has created a fast-paced adventure with plenty of scope for future books. Sleeper is a captivating combination of history infused with futuristic and dystopian elements, and let's not forgot the mystery surrounding Will. Ancient artefacts and puzzles worthy of a young Indiana Jones adventure will keep readers both young and old wanting the next instalment of this series sooner rather than later.

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













To buy Sleeper (hardback)
To buy Sleeper (paperback)
Goldsboro Books are also selling limited edition hardback signed and numbered editions
Publisher website: www.thedomepress.com
Publisher Twitter: https://twitter.com/DomePress
Publisher Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedomepress/

Friday, 5 May 2017

Blog-Tour: Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson. Believe you me, you won't want to miss this one.
About the Author
Born in 1978 in Marseille, France, and a graduate of Political Sciences, Johana Gustawsson was a journalist for television and French press. She now lives in London, England.
Visit johanagustawsson.com/en/  Follow @JoGustawsson or @Orendabooks on Twitter or on
facebook.com/johana.gustawsson/
Buy Block 46
About the book
In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea's. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea's friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.
Review
It is a well thought out psychological thriller. One that will drag the readers to places they probably don't want to go to. From one of the darkest periods in 20th century history to the cries of scared little boys.

The reader is taken from the past to the present and back again as the story progresses. This in itself isn't unusual, but the where and the why is. Regardless of whether the story is taking place in the past, in the middle of the human quagmire of despair of the Buchenwald concentration camp or in the present searching for a vicious killer, both story-lines are equally captivating. In fact it was so intriguing that I was telling myself to read faster to get to each new chapter.

Gustawsson knows how to make your skin crawl, make you want to cry and make you livid with anger, sometimes all at the same time. She does exactly what one would expect a good storyteller to do, reel her audience in and keep them wanting for more.

Block 46 is abhorrent and it is also quite callous at times. I wouldn't expect anything less from a psychological thriller weaving threads from a notorious concentration camp all the way to the tortured and abused body of a little innocent child.

The author spins a wicked tale of terror, pain and deception. It is an absorbing combination of history and crime, with a flair of Nordic noir and a nefarious mind behind it all.

Buy Block 46 at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Arrowood by Mick Finlay

It's an interesting concept, viewing Sherlock as the attention seeking famemonger instead of the observant intelligent world famous detective. Arrowood is convinced that Sherlock only points out the obvious, and has just had a really long run of luck. As I said, it is sort of amusing to think of him as the annoying fly in the ointment.

Arrowood considers himself to be equal to Sherlock in every sense, well perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he considers himself to be superior to him. As far as Arrowood is concerned, Sherlock is too interested in fame and being a celebrity. Someone as vane, pompous and enamoured by his own intelligence could never be a decent detective.

Just like the fame-hogging Sherlock, Arrowood has also got a very sensible and capable sidekick. Norman Barnett seems to be more of a general dogsbody and more often than not he ends up in very dangerous situations, courtesy of Arrowood of course.

The main character is certainly the anti-type to Sherlock. In more ways than he might think. Behind all the complaining and the hard-nosed façade there lurks a huge heart, but hey don't tell anyone, none of us want to ruin his street cred, right?

Finlay has created a detective, who actually represents the dark side of London. Where Sherlock merely dabbles now and again in the murky underworld and streets filled with people trying to survive, Arrowood lives and breathes that stark reality.

It is a fresh and captivating read with a memorable set of characters. Hopefully this won't be the last we hear of Arrowood & Co.

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

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Snared by Jennifer Estep

You have to admire the way Estep manages to keep this series fresh and captivating after so many books and years.

There are still so many nooks and crannies to explore when it comes to Gin & Co. Plenty of secrets to uncover, and most importantly there is always an adversary waiting just behind the corner to try and eliminate The Spider.

In this 16th book in the Elemental Assassin series Gin has to find a criminal of the more everyday garden variety. A serial killer with a penchant for pretty blondes.

Now we all know Gin is a sucker when it comes to helping people, regardless of who they are. When one of the mob bosses approaches her for help finding her sister, she doesn't even think twice about lending a hand.
At some point during the investigation Gin figures out that someone is pulling strings behind the scenes, she just isn't sure whether they are trying to divert attention away from the killer or simply pointing her in the right direction.

Then there is the whole Hugh Tucker thing, it's interesting. It sort of makes you wonder why he keeps stacking the deck in her favour. There must be more to it than simply liking Mama Snow. It's not just my imagination right?

Estep knows exactly how to thrill and enthral both new readers and readers who have been following Gin and her Merry Band of Misfits from the very beginning. It is urban fantasy with a slice of snark and topped with a cherry full of violence, courtesy of our very own quirky assassin.

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