Chris Parish

Book Review: Codename Firefly by C. J. Daugherty

Gray Langtry is on the run. As the only child of the British Prime Minister, Gray’s life has been in turmoil ever since her mother was chosen to lead the country.

Both she and her mother are targets of a Russian assassination plot. And what’s worse, members of her mother’s own cabinet are involved. A team of bodyguards never leaves her side. The press attention is relentless. And then there are the death threats.

Now, after an attempt on Gray’s life, she has been moved to an elite boarding school in the British countryside. Shielded by high walls and locked gates, Gray finally feels safe, but the plotters are still hunting, and soon they will find her.

Gray’s personal bodyguard, Julia, and the school’s young headmistress are determined to protect her. They both know how dangerous things are. The assassins searching for Gray are highly trained. And when they arrive they will aim to kill. Dylan, a mysterious American student, seems to know more than he should – but he’s always there when Gray needs him. Can she trust him? Can she trust anyone?

As winter closes in and darkness falls, Gray will have to think fast.

The hunters are coming.

 

*****

After an attempt on her life, the UK Prime Minister’s daughter, Gray has been sent to a special boarding school with elevated security. It’s somewhere she should be safe. However, her attackers are not finished with her and are back to finish what they started.

As a guy in his (cough) forties, I am not the target audience for this novel. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t find it enjoyable. This is the sequel to Number 10 (which I hadn’t read prior to starting Codename Firefly) but it’s not a problem, this can be read first or as a standalone. Enough is explained so that you can keep up with what has happened to Gray.

Gray herself was a little bit of a mystery to me but I can see her being relatable in many ways. Gray is a normal kid, trying to be as normal as she can despite her circumstances.

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Book Review: 28 Days by Sue Parritt

Melbourne, February 2100. Emma Cartwright has 28 days left to find work, otherwise she must report to the Productive Citizens Bureau and accept any vacancy, regardless of location, pay or conditions.

Her situation becomes even more grave when the Employment Positions Portal is disabled and the government refuses to extend her unemployment period. At 70, Emma could opt for voluntary euthanasia, but she has her student son Jack to support.

After a chance meeting with the eccentric Cal Ritchie, founder of the clandestine group Citizens’ Voice and supporter of those fleeing repressive laws to live in bush camps, Emma is determined to escape her life of compliance.

When her son Jack is suddenly arrested, Emma finds herself running out of time and options, and has to take drastic measures. But can she save her son?

*****

28 Days focuses on Emma and the looming end of her government approved unemployment period. Set in the opening days of the 22nd century, she lives in an Australia which has been ravaged by climate change and rising sea levels. This has put huge pressure on population and resources.

As such, everyone needs to be a productive citizen and maintain productive employment. If you’re unable to find employment after a year, you’re allocated a job and for 70 year old Emma, that period ends in 28 days. With an 19 year old son to think about, Emma is getting desperate.

Emma is a well rounded character who is very relatable. She reminded me of my own mother in the fact that she is stoic, resourceful and underestimated. It’s nice to read a novel centred around an active older person rather than a teenager which is something I find you often get in this genre. Emma has life experience that brings something very interesting to her character and predicament.

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Book Review: Cyprus Kiss by Murray Bailey

Cyprus Kiss is part of the Ash Carter Near East Crime Thriller series.

Those were the words on the back of a woman’s photograph. And she vanished six months ago.

It’s 1948 and military investigator Ash Carter has arrived in Cyprus.

A gang has been operating for two years, leaving a mark known to police as the kiss of death. Is this something to do with them? And why ask him for help?

After a murder, Carter begins to realise this is personal. In a race against time, Carter must work out the connection between the gang, the missing woman and the murder before it’s too late.

It’s 1948.

Ash Carter has been redeployed to Cyprus from Mandatory Palestine. He’s there as a member of Military Intelligence.

Days after his arrival, he receives a photograph with ‘help me’ written on the back.

Can Ash work out what’s going on before it’s too late?

This is definitely my kind of book and the way it’s written, I felt immersed in it very quickly, like I was there watching it unfold.

Ash is a strong main character who is, in part, motivated by his past. He’s a very believable character and he wants to respect and learn from the local people around him. He’s a lot more progressive than most of his colleagues and superiors and I liked this about him.

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Book Review: The Corfe Castle Murders by Rachel McLean

Meet DCI Lesley Clarke. She’s a straight-talking city copper who doesn’t suffer fools gladly… and she’s been transferred to rural Dorset.

After being injured in a bomb attack, Lesley is presented with a choice – early retirement, or a period of respite in a calmer location.

But things don’t stay calm for long.

Before she’s even started her new job, Lesley is dragged into investigating a murder at one of England’s most iconic landmarks, the imposing Corfe Castle.

Lesley must hit the ground running. Can she get along with her new partner DS Dennis Frampton, a traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate her style? How will she navigate the politics of a smaller force where she’s a bigger, and less welcome, fish? And most importantly, can she solve the murder before the killer strikes again?

The Corfe Castle Murders is a compelling, character-driven mystery perfect for fans of Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter, Faith Martin and Joy Ellis.

Detective Lesley Clarke has just moved from Birmingham to Dorset for six months. She needs time away after two big cases and an injury deeply impacted her life.

As the new DCI, she has a new team. They, for the most part are welcoming. Dennis however, prefers traditional methods and isn’t fully on board at the beginning with how Lesley works.

The day before she is due to begin, there is a murder and Lesley finds herself thrown straight into a case and the mystery of the man who came before her.

The Corfe Castle Murders is the first in the Dorset Crime Book series by author, Rachel McLean.

Lesley is a complex character who has a lot going on in her life. I feel that there is more to her than meets the eye and I hope this is further explored as the book series progresses.

The supporting characters were great although I found Dennis to be a little frustrating. In my opinion, his view of the world didn’t particularly aline with modern thinking. I did find it interesting how his attitudes evolved over the course of the book.

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Book Review: Insider by Owen Mullen

Someone’s playing both sides and now they have a score to settle…

When the family business is crime, you can never be sure who to trust. And when three of their businesses are hit in one night, the notorious Glass family close ranks. Either someone is sending them a message or a war is coming… 

With trouble coming from all sides, the heads of the Glass family have more than enough to deal with, but all bets are off when a stranger from the past enters the game, causing division and mistrust.

Crooked cops, rival gangs and old enemies are bad enough, but when the trouble comes from the inside, loyalties are tested, with deadly consequences.

Page-turning, gripping, gritty, Insider is perfect for fans of Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers and Mandasue Heller.

The Glass family is a crime family based in South London. They have been the undisputed kings of their patch for a long time but now someone is after them.

This book pulled me in quickly. From the start, the action begins and this made it hard to put it down.
Written both in third and first person, it really gave me an idea of how these characters were feeling and their motivations behind their decisions.

Without giving too much away, two of the main characters, Luke and Nina, find out they have a long lost relative and they are looking for their share of the empire.
This aspect only adds to the turbulent relationships already existing within this family and it does a good job of depicting how family loyalties can be tested.

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Book Review: Let in the Light by Gerard Nugent

Songwriter, Richie Carlisle never wanted to be famous.

After stumbling into the limelight five years ago, he soon found himself crashing back out of it. Now, he spends his days working in a small music shop in Edinburgh, attempting to live a quiet life as a part-time dad.

But his 15 minutes of fame have taken its toll. His inspiration for songwriting, music and life in general seems to have all but disappeared.

When Richie is given a flyer advertising the first meeting of the Hope Street Songwriters’ Circle, it’s a chance to step back into the world. But after years of hiding away, letting in the light won’t be easy.

 

Richie finds himself recruited into a band with success that many only dream about. Then, as quickly as fame comes, it goes again, leaving him living in Edinburgh and working in a music shop.

Based on the synopsis alone, you would think that this novel is purely about a musician and his experience with the music industry. However, once I began to read, I discovered it was as much about mental health and how life can imitate art.

Told from the point of view of Richie, it follows his current situation with flashbacks into his past which gives the reader an understanding of him and why he finds himself on the verge of losing everything. As a character, he is not complicated. He is a man who will do anything for the person he loves most and for that, I empathised with him. He was an easy person to invest in.

With its themes of love, loss and regret, there is not much else I can say about the plot without revealing major spoilers but this was a book that very quickly had me engrossed.

One of the things I liked most about this novel is how it shines a light on the important subject of men’s mental health and how ‘not every day can be an anthem. Some days will be in a minor key, and that’s OK.’ I feel that this is such a key message to put across – that it’s OK to not feel OK all the time. Right now, I think this is something everyone needs to hear.

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Book Review: Space Taxies by A & H Frosh

He’s abducted by aliens to the planet Vost.

He’s saving up for his fare home.

But he’s got the small matter of a planetary apocalypse to deal with first…

In 1977 a New York Cab driver Mike Redolfo is abducted by aliens after being mistaken for a renegade scientist. Meanwhile, back in 1944 a mysterious man and his Jewish fiancée are fleeing across Nazi-occupied Europe.

Redolfo tries to keep a low profile on his new world whilst earning his fare home, but unwittingly gets involved with a shady gang of alien criminals, inadvertently bringing the planet to the brink of catastrophe.

As the link between the timelines becomes clear, Redolfo must discover secrets from the past that may hold the key to saving the planet.

If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and Frank Herbert’s Dune, you’ll love this gripping and entertaining sci-fi mystery thriller.

“A perfect blend of science fiction and alternate history”

At first glance, I was intrigued by this novel and so was delighted to be part of the blog tour for Space Taxies.

The plot follows two threads in separate eras. The first setting is Czechoslovakia during the Second World War under Nazi occupation, with the second setting a short time later and hundreds of lightyears away on the planet Vost.

At first, it wasn’t obvious how these two stories connect, which only served to pull me into the book as I wanted to discover how everything fit together.

I was particularly impressed in how the authors interwove actual historical events into the earth bound storyline, at times providing an alternative explanation to things which remain unclear even to this day. The SciFi element is light enough to keep you reading, but involved enough that everything doesn’t just appear to be magic; a hard line to tread. It is easy for a SciFi story to get lost in the details of the technology and loose the readability but I am glad to report that this doesn’t happen here.

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Book Review: Smoke by Joe Ide

Happy publication day to Joe Ide. His latest novel, Smoke, has been published by W&N. 

Isaiah is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach. A man on the road and on the run, he is hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.

Isaiah’s former sidekick Dodson has also had to change life, in an attempt to keep his wife and child. His devil’s bargain is an internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual. The ageing company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic and Dodson – ‘the hustler’s hustler’ – just may be the right man for the job.

Both Isaiah and Dodson are at a crossroads, but can they leave their former lives behind for good?

Having not read anything by this author, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Smoke. I was a bit concerned, with it being book five in the IQ series, that I would struggle to keep up with the evolved backstory and established characters.

Previous events are touched upon lightly in this book but it can stand on its own. I felt it didn’t hold me back too much in terms of enjoyment.

The plot overall was classic crime thriller but what made this stand out was how it dealt with themes of racial tension, equality and stereotypes. I felt it opened my eyes to situations that I’ve not been exposed to and its handling of these subjects was done well.

It was well written and the story, pace and tension good. I didn’t at any point feel that it dragged its feet. It would be a perfect holiday read (if we were allowed to do that of course.)

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Book Review: Chroma by Oscar Wenman-Hyde

When Riley watched Chroma, the latest movie by Armani Manora, he had no idea how much his life was about to change.

Riley’s parents, Jean and Paul, are currently getting divorced, and they have managed to keep the situation hidden from Riley, until now. 

They were unaware of the effects this was having on Riley’s emotional and mental well-being, and as tensions rose at school and at home, he was visited by a voice in his bedroom. Before too long, he began a journey that was not only dangerous, but eye opening. 

Chroma explores the rapidly changing family dynamic throughout divorce, and how a child’s imagination can take them to unknown places. It is emotional, insightful and a moving story which not only teaches us how to be an adult, but how to be a child.

 

This book focuses on a family where the parents are separating. In the middle of that is their young son, Riley. Whilst his parents do their best to keep the worst of the divorce away from him, Riley escapes into the world of movies, regardless of whether they are suitable.

One night he starts to hear a voice in his bedroom and when he discovers things he doesn’t want to face, he runs away and ends up alone in the woods.

For me, it took a little while to settle into this book but once I did, I found that I wanted to keep reading to find out how it ended for Riley.

It is clear that Riley is a very lonely, vulnerable character. He’s a child who only has one best friend and so I felt that his escape into the movies he watches gives him the friendships he doesn’t have in reality. He doesn’t have much beyond his family life which is falling apart around him.

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Book Review: Under A Starry Sky by Laura Kemp

One summer to change her life…

Wanda Williams has always dreamed of leaving her wellies behind her and travelling the world! Yet every time she comes close to following her heart, life always seems to get in the way.

So, when her mother ends up in hospital and her sister finds out she’s pregnant with twins, Wanda knows that only she can save the crumbling campsite at the family farm.

Together with her friends in the village, she sets about sprucing up the site, mowing the fields, replanting the allotment and baking homemade goodies for the campers.

But when a long-lost face from her past turns up, Wanda’s world is turned upside-down. And under a starry sky, anything can happen…

 

I have to be honest, this is not the kind of book I usually read. I am normally more of a crime/mystery/scfi kind of person.

All that said, I loved this book and read it from start to finish in one 7 hour stint!

The story follows Wanda Williams, a girl who has always dreamed of travelling but has never managed to leave due to family constraints.

I found the characters exceedingly well developed and I formed very clear images of them in my mind.

On several occasions, I found myself getting choked up or laughing out loud.

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Book Review: Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead.

But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

 

(Trigger warning – Monstrous Souls dives into the troubling world of child abuse and coverups.)

Monstrous Souls is the debut novel from Rebecca Kelly and is a throughly good read. It follows the aftermath of a traumatic event which left its one known survivor with a fractured life and fractured memory.

Fifteen years after the event, fragments of memory start to align and the lid is slowly lifted on a system of organised abuse of children, covered up and hidden at the highest levels.

At times the book can be hard to read, as the subject matter is disturbing, but the author does a wonderful job of drawing you though the story.

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Book Review: Feed Thy Enemy by Sue Parritt

Hello and welcome to Sue Parritt and the blog tour for her novel, Feed Thy Enemy.

In this heart-warming narrative based on a true story, a British airman embarks on a plan that risks it all to feed a starving, war-stricken family. 

Thirty years after serving in World War II, middle-aged Rob’s holiday plans see an unforeseen change that leads him on a coach tour of Italy. Struggling with post-war PTSD and depression, he reluctantly agrees to the journey – and sparks a dream that plunges him into long-stifled memories.

Set in Europe, Sue Parritt’s Feed Thy Enemy is an account of courage and compassion in the face of trauma. When Rob’s flashback delves into his attempts to save a famished family with a series of increasingly daring raids on his army’s supply stores, will he trigger suppressed remembrances of past war, love, and sacrifice – and find the strength to confront them in the present?

Feed Thy Enemy follows the life of Rob, a tail gunner in the RAF during the second world war.

Now an old man, he is haunted by the actions and memories of his past, suffering from frequent bouts of depression and insomnia.

When a holiday with his wife and friends is changed at the last minute he winds up going to Italy and is forced to face the memories of the time he spent there in Naples during the war and the Italian family he befriended.

Rob is a haunted man. I have some experience of depression and PTSD and I couldn’t help but empathise with him, the author doing a superb job of expressing the isolation and depth of his condition.

The story is not all doom and gloom though by any means, as it details how he went to great lengths (and considerable risk) to help an Italian family who only a short while ago would have perceived him as the enemy.
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Book Review: Black Matter by GD Parker

The future is now… it’s terrifying!!!

Humanity locks jaws with the ever-increasing human desires towards highly advanced technological innovations making the world a dangerous place.

Unanticipated horrific consequences unfold for Tommy McGregor when he partakes in a new high-tech innovation to enhance his health and wellbeing.

He thought it would make him healthier, better looking and live forever…DI Valentina is out of her comfort zone when she’s tasked to track down a killer, unknown to her, hidden behind a digital mask.

The future has already fallen upon humanity as she soon discovers, nothing is as it seems anymore as society embarks in technology that’s already here.

A terrifying mystery, it feeds your imaginative mind’s eye – a fast-paced “whoisit” thrilling crime, novel that will leave you guessing until the end, (or will it?) As it leaves the hairs on your arms stand on end as you uncontrollably turn each page in this 3 part series.

Black Matter is the debut novel from British born author Gareth Parker.

It is a glimpse into a very near future where technology is deeply ingrained, in some cases physically, into our lives.

The story follows Tommy, a young man in his early thirties who makes the decision to have a medical implant placed in his brain which will allow him to monitor his health more accurately.

Little does he know that this is slightly more sinister than advertised.

A pretty good read. It takes a few pages to find its feet. For me, it did feel like a debut novel to begin with.

However, as it progresses and it gets into the rhythm it starts to flow nicely.

The characters are, on the whole, pretty believable and I felt that I had a good feel for the main ones by the time I was about a quarter of the way through.

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Blog Tour: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid – Review

Outofbounds blog tourI’m pleased to be welcoming Val McDermid to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new novel, Out of Bounds. This is the latest novel in the Inspector Karen Pirie series and has been released today by Little, Brown.

There were a lot of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them . . .’

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kind of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

Out Of Bounds is the latest instalment of McDermid’s successful Karan Pirie series of crime thriller novels. The story follows Inspector Karen Pirie of Police Scotland’s Historical Case Unit. When a teenage joy rider in a stolen car ends up in hospital his DNA casts new light upon a twenty two year old cold case, but finding the answers are never as simple as they should be and getting to the bottom of this problem is a complex and twisty task.

In the meantime Karen is drawn to another case, stepping on toes and winding people up in the progress as it is not her case, when an apparent suicide has her digging into a decades old bombing from the IRA era.

This is the first book from this series which I have read and I am pleased to say that it stands on its own very well, as relevant and concise backstory is provided as required in a subtle way unlikely to frustrate those already familiar with it.

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Book Review: Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Smoke

W&N, 7th July 2016

Smoke opens in a private boarding school near Oxford, but history has not followed the path known to us. In this other past, sin appears as smoke on the body and soot on the clothes. Children are born carrying the seeds of evil within them. The ruling elite have learned to control their desires and contain their sin. They are spotless. It is within the closeted world of this school that the sons of the wealthy and well-connected are trained as future leaders.

Among their number are two boys, Thomas and Charlie. On a trip to London, a forbidden city shrouded in smoke and darkness, the boys will witness an event that will make them question everything they have been told about the past. For there is more to the world of smoke, soot and ash than meets the eye and there are those who will stop at nothing to protect it . . .

Imagine a world where sin were rendered visible by smoke; where evidence of your deeds and intents was visible for all to see. Large cities like London are hives of sin and corruption, wrapped in smoke and stained with soot, where the common people are forced to live in the thick of it while the very wealthy move out into the countryside away from the corruption and into the fresh air where their own smoke can dissipate.

The children of the wealthy are schooled in how to be mindful of their thoughts and actions so as not to smoke and it is in once such school that  the story starts.

Thomas is a young boy who until very recently was home schooled, until a powerful sponsor secured his place at a well-respected school outside of Oxford. On a school trip into London to observe the sinful city Thomas sees something which causes him to question the true nature of smoke.

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Book Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

TheWakingFireFor decades the lands of the Ironship Syndicate have been defended by the Blood-blessed – men and women able to channel the powers contained in the potent blood of wild drakes. Elite spies and assassins, their loyalty has established the Syndicate’s position as the greatest power in the known world.

Yet now a crisis looms. The drake bloodlines are weakening, and war with the Corvantine Empire seems inevitable. The Syndicate’s only hope of survival lies with the myth of a legendary drake, whose powerful blood might just turn the tide of the war – if it even exists.

The task of hunting down this fabled creature falls to Claydon Torcreek, a petty thief and unregistered Blood-blessed. He’s handled many valuable things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation’s future.

The Waking Fire is a fantasy book set in a world split between the Empire and the Ironship Syndicate. Among the people a precious few are able to draw power from the blood of Drakes (a creature with striking similarities to Dragons, indeed the series is titled the Draconis Memoria or Dragon’s Memory)

This gives them abilities beyond the norm, such as telepathic communication, superhuman strength and speed, the ability to create fire and telekinesis. These people are called the Blood-blessed and they are the top spies, assasins and operators for the largest company group, the Ironship Syndicate.

However, they face a problem – the potency of the drake blood is reducing and drake bloodlines are getting weaker, and with war with the empire becoming inevitable they set out to find a mythical breed of drake which could well turn the tide. The story follows several arcs, the primary being the story of Claydon Torcreek, an unregistered Blood-blessed who is forced to work with the company tasked with tracking down this fabled creature.

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Blog Tour: The Hiding Place by John Burley – Review

90636-4We are happy to be welcoming back John Burley to Novel Kicks today and his blog tour for his novel, The Hiding Place. The e-book was released by Avon on 30th July 2015 with the paperback following on 27th August 2015. Here’s a little about the book:

Dr Lise Shields works alongside some of the most dangerous criminals in America. As a psychiatrist she goes further than many, trying to work out what motivates these depraved and deadly individuals. When she gets close to one patient, Jason, she realises that his story isn’t black and white, and perhaps they’ve got the wrong man. But in letting Jason in, and believing his story, Lise soon realises she has put herself in terrible danger as she uncovers secrets, lies and unanswered questions. Is Lise living on borrowed time? And when she reaches the point of no return – where will she hide?

The Hiding Place is set in a psychiatric hospital in the US which houses some of the most deadly prisoners in the country. It’s a dead-end where none of the patients ever leave as they are all guilty and incurable.

Dr Lise Shields works with some of the most difficult. One day a transfer patient arrives with no paperwork and no patient history. This patient, Jason Edwards, causes Lise to ask questions and seek answers to perceived injustices leading her further and further down the rabbit hole, into a web of concealed truths and covert observation.

Laura had read No Mercy, the previous novel by John Burley and had really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading The Hiding Place.

This book is a well written and throughly enjoyable psychological thriller. All the clues are there from the start but I didn’t see the end coming until a few pages from the end. It kept me turning the pages and drew me through the book, always tempting me on a page further. The mystery of the novel drew me in.

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Blog Tour: Obsession in Death by JD Robb

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A crisp winter morning in New York, in a luxury apartment, the body of a woman lies stretched out on a huge bed. On the wall above, the killer has left a message in bold black ink: FOR LIEUTENANT EVE DALLAS, WITH GREAT ADMIRATION AND UNDERSTANDING.

Eve Dallas is used to unwanted attention. Famous for her high-profile cases and her marriage to billionaire businessman Roarke, she has learned to deal with intense public scrutiny and media gossip. But now Eve has become the object of a singular and deadly obsession. She has an ‘admirer’, who just can’t stop thinking about her. Who is convinced they have a special bond. Who is planning to kill for her – again and again.

With time against her, Eve is forced to play a delicate – and dangerous – psychological dance. Because the killer is desperate for something Eve can never provide – approval. And once that becomes clear, Eve knows her own life will be at risk – along with those she cares about the most.

 

This is the first of J.D Robb’s books I’ve read and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. On opening the book I saw that it is the latest in a very long line of books all named along the same theme, {something} in death, so I was not sure how easy it would be to get into without knowing any of the characters. It turns out that my concerns were ill-founded. The book stands well on its own and although it references what I assume to be events from other books, prior knowledge it not required.

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Review: Dead Man Walking by Paul Finch

His worst nightmare is back… Dead Man WalkingAs a brutal winter takes hold of the Lake District, a prolific serial killer stalks the fells. ‘The Stranger’ has returned and for DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg, the signs are all too familiar. Last seen on Dartmoor ten years earlier, The Stranger murdered his victims in vicious, cold-blooded attacks – and when two young women go missing, Heck fears the worst. As The Stranger lays siege to a remote community, Heck watches helplessly as the killer plays his cruel game, picking off his victims one by one. And with no way to get word out of the valley, Heck must play ball…

When the review copy of this landed on my doormat and I read the blurb on the back I instantly decided that this would be the next book I would read. Although I have not read any of the other DS Heckenburg thrillers, I was not left in the dark as the book stands well on its own and the writer fills you in on any critical information from the other books in a very slick way that feels natural.

The story centres around a small village in the lake district and their two person police team including ex-big city police officer DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg who is looking for the quite life but ultimately fails to find it, as a serial killer starts picking off the villagers one by one. Continue reading

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Review: Age of Iron by Angus Watson

age-of-iron-final-cover.jpgage-of-iron-final-cover.jpgage-of-iron-final-coverAge of Iron by Angus Watson.

Released on 2nd September 2014 by Orbit Books.

Dug Sealskinner is a work-shy mercenary traveling south to join up with King Zadar’s army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

Now Dug’s on the wrong side of the thousands-strong army he hoped to join – and worse, Zadar has blood­thirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one small child, and one unpredictable, highly trained warrioress with a lust for revenge that might get them all killed . . .

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book. I have read quite a lot of historical fiction by writers such as Bernard Cornwell, but almost without exception these have been based on post-Roman times so this was my first excursion into the heart of pre-Roman, Iron Age Britain.

I have to admit that I was a little put off by the cover. For some reason the stern looking, unwashed man on the front lead me to think that the novel would not be as good as I discovered it to be.

My first thought upon reading the opening chapters was that the characters seem very modern; they speak and act just like we do today, just with the odd Pagan god thrown in for a curse word every now and then. I found this a little unsettling at first, Continue reading

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Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Long EarthThe Long Mars was released by Doubleday, June 2014. 

2040-2045: In the years after the cataclysmic Yellowstone eruption there is massive economic dislocation as populations flee Datum Earth to myriad Long Earth worlds. Sally, Joshua, and Lobsang are all involved in this perilous work when, out of the blue, Sally is contacted by her long-vanished father and inventor of the original Stepper device, Willis Linsay. He tells her he is planning a fantastic voyage across the Long Mars and wants her to accompany him. But Sally soon learns that Willis has ulterior motives …

Meanwhile U. S. Navy Commander Maggie Kauffman has embarked on an incredible journey of her own, leading an expedition to the outer limits of the far Long Earth.

For Joshua, the crisis he faces is much closer to home. He becomes embroiled in the plight of the Next: the super-bright post-humans who are beginning to emerge from their ‘long childhood’ in the community called Happy Landings, located deep in the Long Earth. Ignorance and fear are causing ‘normal’ human society to turn against the Next – and a dramatic showdown seems inevitable . . .

 

The Long Mars is the third instalment of the Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

It’s set several years after the second book. A general summary of the story is that, following a massive natural disaster on Datum earth, there is a mass relocation of people out into the stepwise worlds. It follows three main story arcs, the first is a long distance trek into the far reaches of the long earth, another across Mars and a third one to find an emerging breed of humans who exhibit intelligence far superior to our own.

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The Illusionists Blog Tour – Review

The IllusionistsThe Illusionists by Rosie Thomas.

London 1870.
A terrifying place for a young, beautiful woman of limited means. But Eliza is modern before her time. Not for her the stifling if respectable conventionality of marriage, children, domestic drudgery. She longs for more. Through her work as an artist’s model, she meets the magnetic and irascible Devil – a born showman whose dream is to run his own theatre company.

Devil’s right-hand man is the improbably named Carlo Bonomi, an ill-tempered dwarf with an enormous talent for all things magic and illusion. Carlo and Devil clash at every opportunity and it constantly falls upon Eliza to broker an uneasy peace between them. And then there is Jasper Button. Mild-mannered, and a family man at heart, it is his gift as an artist which makes him the unlikely final member of the motley crew.

Thrown together by a twist of fate, their lives are inextricably linked: the fortune of one depends on the fortune of the other. And as Eliza gets sucked into the seductive and dangerous world her strange companions inhabit, she risks not only her heart, but also her life…

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Quick Spotlight – Uglies

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (29 Mar 2012)

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (29 Mar 2012)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Set in the future, in a time when people live in small independent cities and everyone is pretty. Well not at first, but on your sixteenth birthday you are given an operation to turn you from an ugly into a pretty. For 15-year-old Tally Youngblood, this day cannot come quick enough. That is, until she meets another young girl named Shay, who is not so eager to get the operation. Tally quickly learns that all is not as it seems and that being ‘Pretty’ may come with a price.

I quite enjoy reading young adult books, as they are often fantastic and supernatural; easy reading with lots of action and this book did not disappoint. I read it in a night as I just had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen next. The characters are well-formed but not overly complex and the storyline is predictable yet very well delivered; all the things to look for in an easy, fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. So much so that I went out and bought the sequels.

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The Manhattan Puzzle by Laurence O’ Bryan

manhattan puzzleChris reviews The Manhattan Puzzle by Laurence O’ Bryan (published by Avon, October 2013.) 

The story follows Isabel Ryan in her attempt to find and free her husband, Sean Ryan, who has been framed for murder by the top American Bank he works for so as to cover up some very mysterious goings on. Isabel’s journey to solve the puzzle Ryan was working on will take her from her home in London to caverns under Manhattan Island.

I enjoyed the book. Although there are two books which precede this one, The Istanbul Puzzle and The Jerusalem Puzzle, it isn’t necessary for the reader to have read them to understand this book. There are references to things from the other books but they are explained within their required context, allowing the book to sit on its own. Similar in style to Dan Brown, Laurence O’Brian writes a well paced story which keeps drawing you on with its short chapters and regular cliffhangers, maintaining the readers interest while not bogging them down with unnecessary subplots.

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Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Rising Steam by Terry PratchettRising Steam by Terry Pratchett published by Doubleday, November 2013.

I have long been a great fan of the writings of Terry Pratchett, not just his Discworld works but everything he has done. 

His latest offering, Rising Steam rose to the occasion and is a thumping good read. Steam is coming to Ankh-Morpork, much to the dismay of the Patrician, and this wonderful new invention will change the lives of everyone it touches.

The book follows the opening days of the steam engine, from one man’s shed in a small village, to a race against politics across the plains and into Uberwald.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in just over a day. It was un-putdownable. It is wonderful to see the evolution of Discworld continuing and I really like the ‘cameo’ appearances from many of the characters whom I have come to love from other books in the series. Continue reading

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Ghostly Happenings

fiction friday logoFriday 25th October 2013:

As Halloween is nearly upon us, today’s prompt has a ghostly theme. Write a ghost story. For example, a relative who has recently passed on is now sitting on your sofa, talking to you.

Write for five minutes then keep going. Don’t edit, just post.

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25th October 2013

220px-Geoffrey_Chaucer_(17th_century)Geoffrey Chaucer died on this day in 1400. He is widely considered to be the father of English Literature. Some of his works were adapted by the BBC. The series was called The Canterbury Tales.

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The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The long War

Harper, 2013

War has come to the Long Earth….

Humankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by stepping, which Joshua and Lobsang explored a mere decade ago. Now “civilization” flourishes, and fleets of airships link the multiple Earths through exploration, trade, and culture.

Humankind is shaping the Long Earth, but in turn the Long Earth is shaping humankind. A new America that has christened itself “Valhalla” has emerged more than a million steps from the original Datum Earth. And like the American revolutionaries of old, the Valhallans resent being controlled from afar by the Datum government.

In the intervening years, the song of the trolls—graceful, hive-mind humanoids—has suffused the Long Earth. But in the face of humankind’s inexorable advance, they are beginning to fall silent . . . and gradually disappear.

Joshua, now married and a father, is summoned by Lobsang. It seems that he alone can confront the perfect storm of crises that threatens to plunge all of the Long Earth into war.

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Jacqui Rose

Jacqui Rose is the author of of the novel, Trapped which has just been released by Avon (Harper Collins.) Jacqui chats to us about writing and her new book.

Can you describe your writing style in fifteen words or less.Jacqui Rose

Lyrical, passionate, intuitive and at times poetic.

What’s your typical writing day like?

I’m contracted to write two books a year which I love but instead of spacing it out sensibly, I leave actually sitting down to write the book until almost the last minute because I thrive under pressure and I think it makes my writing better.  So then I’m left with long writing days. I could start early in the morning and not finish writing till midnight. This will go on for about six weeks, writing between 2-3000 words a day and on crazy days up to 7,000 words, but those days are few and far between. And as much as it becomes very intense I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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