Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Escape - C.L. Taylor



"Look after your daughter's things. And your daughter…"

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn't.

The stranger knows Jo's name, she knows her husband Max and she's got a glove belonging to Jo's two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo's own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there's only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

What did I think?

The Escape gripped me from the start and I read the whole book in one sitting, I don't think I even stopped for a quick comfort break.  I have read a few C.L. Taylor books and this is definitely my favourite one so far - it is so enthralling, gripping and nerve-racking that my eyes felt as if they were superglued to my kindle.

My heart was pounding from the first few pages as the footsteps following Jo were described and I almost jumped out of my skin when they caught up.  Ah, it's only a harmless female stranger wanting to ask for a lift.  It's definitely unusual and not terribly British but she asks so forcefully and Jo is running late, so she has no alternative but to agree to give her a lift.  The stranger identifies herself as Paula and once she is in Jo's car, her behaviour changes and it becomes clear that this isn't a chance encounter.  Paula knows who Jo is, she knows her husband and she warns her to look after her daughter.

Jo already has a history of panic and fear of leaving the house, so this sends her head into a spin.  Naturally, she wants to call the police but her husband, Max, isn't very supportive and he claims that he doesn't know Paula.  Max works as an investigative journalist and Jo is convinced that, through one of his investigations, he has put her and their daughter, Elise, in danger.  When things start happening that Jo can't explain, Paula's threat may be about to come true as Jo's fitness as a mother is called into question.  With Max spending all his time at work, Jo does the only thing she can do to keep Elise safe - she goes into hiding.

As the search for Jo goes on, she goes to the one place that she thinks nobody will look for her.  A place that has been erased from her family history but where the family secrets remain, and we all know that secrets don't stay buried for long.  I found myself holding my breath as this fast-paced book drew to a close; the writing is so vivid and I was so immersed in the book that I'm sure I could hear the roar of the sea in my ears.

The Escape is superbly written, no wonder C.L. Taylor has such a huge following that keeps her firmly and well-deservedly on the top of the bestseller listings.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Trouble With Henry and Zoe - Andy Jones


Henry and Zoe have more in common than they realise. For a start, they both have pasts they'd rather leave behind.

After jilting his childhood sweetheart on the eve of their wedding, Henry makes a break for London. He has no friends, no job, no home, no plan.

Zoe has great friends, two jobs, a new house, and a big scary plan. After a traumatic, life-changing event, she plans to leave London and spend a year travelling. Alone.

If Henry and Zoe had met one year ago, things might have worked out differently. But that's not the way life works. They meet seven months after their worlds have been turned upside down. And four months before Zoe is due to climb on a plane...

What did I think?

After discovering Andy Jones when I read The Two Of Us, I've kept a keen eye out for further releases from him.  He's one of those authors that can make you laugh and cry; in fact one of the things I always remark on when reading his books is the humour.  Just like real life, there are ups and downs in Andy's books but one thing I can always count on is that there is sure to be a laugh right around the corner.

The book starts with stories of two separate lives, two people who haven't met each other yet: Henry and Zoe.  Henry is having second thoughts about marrying his childhood sweetheart, April.  Unable to sleep on the eve of his wedding, he makes the decision to run for the hills preferring to ruin April's day rather than her life.  Meanwhile, Zoe is waking up next to her boyfriend, Alex, and wondering if he is the one for her.  Zoe has noticed that Alex has been a bit off lately so she is surprised when he wants to treat her to breakfast in bed, he just has to pop out to the shops for a few provisions.  Zoe's world is shattered when Alex doesn't return.  As both Henry and Zoe pick up the pieces of their lives, the last thing either of them wants is to jump into another relationship...until fate brings them together.

The Trouble With Henry and Zoe is another fabulous book by Andy Jones.  He has taken two completely separate devastating events and shown how people cope with love, loss and everything in between.  The characters never failed to surprise me from Henry's love of old movies and secret hairdressing skills to Zoe's keen interest in photography and her bravery at planning a solo trip to Thailand.  I read a lot of this book with a lump in my throat, especially when certain email transcripts made an appearance, but never more so than in Zoe's final act of love as she lets Alex go and says hello to the rest of her life.

I really can't recommend Andy Jones highly enough if you love a bit of humour in your books but want to read something that deals with real life events and tugs at your heartstrings.  I may have only known them for a short time, as I couldn't help but race through this book, but the characters are so full of life that I felt so very bereft when I turned the final page and wished them well for the future as if they were old friends.  All in all, a simply wonderful book.  If you haven't read an Andy Jones book yet, what are you waiting for?  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Friday, 11 August 2017

BLOG TOUR: Unforgivable (DC Will MacReady #2) - Mike Thomas

I've heard nothing but good things about Unforgivable by Mike Thomas so I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour.  Today I have an extract for you but look out for my review over the next week or so, and don't forget to visit the other stops on the tour.




UNFORGIVABLE EXTRACT

This chapter takes place late at night, after the bombs have gone off in the market and mosque. MacReady has gone off duty, so we switch to another person’s point of view: the bomber, who is drunk and alone and mulling over what he has done…


He sits amongst the detritus, the remnants of fast food and discarded bottles of alcohol and the thick stench of his own flesh, the television remote control resting on his naked white stomach, the matted hair around his filthy navel curling up along the handset, his eyes unblinking and on the images flickering across the television screen.
Smoke and misery and the pulse of blue lights. A breathless reporter, face smudged, his puny hands twisting at a microphone as he struggles to put into words what he has witnessed. What his eyes have seen that can never be unseen. His fey, bland voice battling to explain the unexplainable as inoffensively as possible. Must not affront anyone. Must not fan the outrage. Be inclusive. Be diverse. Be bland with your tamed tongue.
He laughs as he watches because it is written all over the man’s twisted face: he wishes he was home with his loved ones. Wishes he was holding them tight. Wishes he could piss and moan and gnash his teeth live on the idiot box, railing against the horrors of this world, a world which he probably doesn’t understand anymore.
He’s with the newsman on that count. The world is fucking insane. People are so inured, so numb, so disgracefully self-absorbed with their pouting selfies and endless cat pictures and stupid status updates, you have to do something spectacular to make them sit up and take notice.
And it is spectacular. He’s been watching the fallout all day, clicking through the rolling twenty-four-hour news coverage, occasionally flicking back to the PlayStation to shoot up a few pedestrians or rip off a bank, turning back to the news again, revelling in a solid wall of unending chaos interrupted just the once when it all became too much for him and he had to masturbate into a half-empty beer bottle.
‘That’ll learn you,’ he says to the television. ‘That’ll learn you, you fucks.’
The alcohol has finally hit him hard and he finds the words wrestling with his tongue, finds himself unable to stop the drool which leaks from his bottom lip onto his left nipple and he thinks about wiping it away, studies the spittle and his pinched pink areola for a minute or so while he decides if it’s worth the effort, if he still has the energy after all that has taken place, and as the saliva soaks into his slippery skin he decides to leave it be. It is late, and he is exhausted now, the successes of the day finally catching up with him, the adrenaline finally – finally, more than fifteen hours later – spent, the TV screen suddenly shifting in his vision. He blinks the blurriness away, shakes his head a little. Glances around, at the mess he has created, the destruction he has wrought upon this room, a smaller version of the destruction meted out this morning.
‘One more go,’ he dribbles, and lifts up the remote control, carefully switches over to the game he’s loaded, drops the remote back to his distended abdomen and reaches for the controller. The shooter ready to go. His ammo maxed. The target building chock full of stuffed shirts and office drones and PowerfuckingPoint pointlessness. 


About the author:

Mike Thomas was born in Wales in 1971. For more than two decades he served in the police, working some of Cardiff’s busiest neighbourhoods in uniform, public order units, drugs teams and CID. He left the force in 2015 to write full time.

His debut novel, Pocket Notebook, was published by William Heinemann (Penguin Random House) and longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The author was also named as one of Waterstones' 'New Voices' for 2010. His second novel, Ugly Bus, is currently in development for a six part television series with the BBC.

The first in the MacReady series, Ash and Bones, was published in August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre. The sequel, Unforgivable, is published in July 2017.

He lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife, two children and an unstable, futon-eating dog.

More details can be found on the website
www.mikethomasauthor.co.uk


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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Sweet Little Lies - Caz Frear



WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad's pub. 
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle's disappearance and Alice Lapaine's murder - FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it's gone? 

What did I think?

You can say many things about Richard & Judy, but one thing is true: they know a damn good book when they read one.  Sweet Little Lies was the well deserved winner of the search for a bestseller competition 2017, so I knew it was going to be good but I didn't know just how good.  Caz Frear hasn't just written a perfect crime thriller, she's added her amazing dry wit throughout to make it stand out from the crowd.

Cat Kinsella remembers the day that Maryanne Doyle went missing as it was the same day that Geri left The Spice Girls.  Cat and her family were visiting her Gran in Ireland and naturally questions are asked about Maryanne's last known movements.  Cat knows for a fact that her Dad lied about not knowing Maryanne as Cat was with him when he gave Maryanne a lift in their car.  For an impressionable 8 year old, and one with such an investigative mind as Cat, the trust that was lost that day changed the course of her relationship with her Dad; a relationship smashed into smithereens and left irreparable.

Fast forward to London of the present and Cat is a detective in the Met's murder squad.  So when she is called out to investigate a murdered woman found within spitting distance of her estranged Dad's pub, she thinks her Dad could have killed again.  When she finds more similarities between Maryanne Doyle and the recently murdered woman, Alice Lapaine, she heads round to her Dad's to question him.  With her coat zipped up to the neck screaming 'I'm not staying', I could feel her inner struggle between daughter and detective.  One thing is for sure, if anyone can find out what happened to Alice Lapaine, it's Cat.

It did take me a little while to get into this book, possibly because Cat is a bit like a conker - she's so spiky on the outside and she's a tough nut to crack.  Once I got used to her strange ways, I thought she was brilliant.  It's so sad that something changed the way she felt about her Dad, something for which she had no proof, just a suspicion.  One thing we can never get back is time and if Cat's Dad didn't kill Maryanne Doyle back in 1998 she's fractured her family for no reason.

Sweet Little Lies is an outstanding debut novel and I'd love to see Cat Kinsella make an appearance in more novels.  With her fresh and witty writing, Caz Frear gives an overdue wake up call to tired crime fiction, encouraging readers back to crime fiction after having their heads turned by the overloaded psychological thriller genre.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Don't Wake Up - Liz Lawler



Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table. The man who stands over her isn't a doctor.

The choice he forces her to make is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she's unharmed - and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can't stop reading.

So chilling you won't stop talking about it.

Don't Wake Up is a dark, gripping psychological thriller with a horrifying premise and a stinging twist . . .

What did I think?

There is an abundance of psychological thrillers out there with the emphasis on police procedures, so Don't Wake Up was something so completely different as it was set in a hospital.  I was not surprised to learn that Liz Lawler had a long-standing career as a nurse as this was so procedurally accurate that I felt as if I was in the hospital at times.

Alex is a popular doctor in a busy A&E department, but one evening as she leaves work to meet her boyfriend she finds herself on an operating table.  With her legs in stirrups she feels violated but then next thing she knows she is found fully dressed in the car park so nobody believes her story.  When another apparent victim appears in casualty, Alex knows she didn't imagine what happened to her but more and more evidence seems to point at Alex being unhinged and dangerous.  Something happened in Alex's past that she doesn't like to talk about but it might just hold the key as to the identity of the person who has set out to destroy Alex.

Don't Wake Up is a really enjoyable, fast-paced medical thriller.  Alex is a character that you can see falling apart in front of your eyes and, as a reader, you are helpless to stop it.  I wanted to shout: 'I believe you, Alex!' as she felt so very alone.  I could have given her boyfriend, Patrick, a good slap as he doesn't even hide the fact that he doesn't believe her.  What a detestable man - as a vet, I do hope he was kinder to animals than he was to someone he was supposed to love.  It just shows what great characters Liz Lawler has created to make me display such feelings.

If you're looking for a different thriller, I'd definitely recommend Don't Wake Up, although I definitely wouldn't give it to somebody to read whilst in hospital.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Birthday That Changed Everything - Debbie Johnson



She wanted a birthday surprise, just not the one she got…

The last thing Sally Summers expected from her husband on her special day was that he’d leave her for a Latvian lap dancer half her age. So with her world in tatters, Sally jets off to Turkey for some sun, sea and sanctuary.

The Blue Bay resort brings new friends and the perfect balm for Sally’s broken heart in gorgeous Dubliner James. He’s just the birthday present she needs. And when the chemistry between them continues to spark as the holiday ends, Sally wonders if this is more than just a summer fling.

But James has scars of his own and Sally isn’t quite ready to turn her back on her marriage. This birthday might have changed everything, but what will the next one bring?

What did I think?

I've had this book on my TBR for quite some time and if I'd known how HILARIOUS it was going to be, I would have read it a lot sooner.  I am guilty of judging a book by it's cover in this case as I took from all the pink that it was going to be a bit of no-brainer chick-lit.  Don't get me wrong, I love the cover and it actually fits the story very well but I have to be in the mood for chick-lit, hence the delay in reading it.  So before I dig myself into a very big hole, and Debbie Johnson pours sand on my head, here's what I thought about the book.

The Birthday That Changed Everything is hilarious from the start whilst dealing with a heartbreaking storyline for Sally.  She has received an email from her husband, Simon, telling her that he is leaving her but asking her to pack his bag and iron his shirts for him before he goes.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr what a total @&$£%0!£.  As if that wasn't a big enough kick in the virtual nuts, Sally is about to turn 40 and Simon has run off with a 19 year old Latvian lapdancer.  So she packs her bags and heads off to Turkey with her two teenage kids - scary Lucy and loveable big-kid Ollie.

After a mix up with the cases, Sally's holiday doesn't get off to the best start but being dressed as Naughty Nurse Nancy is quite an icebreaker.  She immediately fits in with a crowd of people who visit Blue Bay every year.  One of the crowd, James, is a mouthwatering piece of eye candy and he certainly got my heart racing every time he made an appearance.  He definitely wakes up Sally's snoozing libido but she's still reeling about Simon and doesn't want a holiday romance.  It's not long before James wears down her resistance but as time goes on both ex-partners reappear to put a spanner in the works.  With men literally cock-fighting over her, who will win Sally's heart?

Honestly, this must be the MOST HILARIOUS book I have ever read, although I did shed a few tears as the sun set on one of these wonderfully colourful characters that I had got to know so well.  There are so many fabulous characters but I always think it's funny that wherever you go there always seems to be a Geordie, so it was great to see Andrew the hunky Geordie firefighter make an appearance although I'm not sure which side he was batting for...  

I guffawed, chortled, snorted and howled through the whole story, mainly due to Lucy and her incendiary outbursts, known as 'proper radgies' here in the North East.  She scared the bejeezus out of me but I think she was my favourite character in the end.  I really would not have taken so long to read this if I'd known how funny it was going to be, and I should have known as it's not my first Debbie Johnson book.  All good things come to those who wait but fellow book lovers, don't make the same mistake as me - read this book now!  Make sure that you wear two pairs of knickers whilst reading The Birthday That Changed Everything as you are guaranteed to pee your pants.  

A perfect feel-good book for rain, hail or shine - escape to Turkey with Debbie Johnson and be prepared for some proper belly laughs.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 7 August 2017

Watch the Lady (The Tudor Trilogy #3) - Elizabeth Fremantle


THE QUEEN'S GODDAUGHTER.
HER MOST TRUSTED MAID.
ADULTERESS.
ENEMY OF THE STATE.
WHO IS THE REAL PENELOPE DEVEREUX?
Penelope Devereux is a legendary beauty in the court of Elizabeth I, with a smile that would light up the shadows of hell. But it's not just her looks which have won her favour with the Queen wing; her canny instinct for being in the right place at the right time, and her skilled political manoeuvrings under the guise of diplomacy, have rendered her a formidable adversary to anyone who stands in her path.

Including Elizabeth.

For Penelope must secure the future of the Devereux dynasty at whatever cost. Even treason. And the Queen, a woman she holds responsible for the death of her father, the exile of her mother and her failure to marry the one man she ever truly loved, is just one more pawn in a deadly game. Walking the knife-edge of court, whilst ensuring that her reckless brother Essex remains the only star in the Queen's firmament - and out of the Tower - Penelope must plan for the inevitable succession of an ailing monarch.

But her secret letters of friendship to a foreign King - one who has a strong claim to the English throne - could see her illustrious family in the gutter and her own head on the block. It would only take a single mistake, a slip of the tongue, an intercepted message for Penelope to become the architect of her downfall.

In a world where sister is turned against brother, husband against wife, courtier against queen, the rules of the game are forever changing.

What did I think?

I think it's safe to say that Elizabeth I would not have liked this book as she is not the star of the show, instead it is someone I had never heard of: Penelope Devereaux.  I had, however, heard of her famous brother: the queen's favourite, Essex.  I do love to read both fiction and non-fiction set in the Tudor period and it does seem to be a popular topic with lots of authors, but what makes this stand out from the crowd is the main character, Penelope.

Penelope is the queen's goddaughter and also one of her favourite maids; she is such a strong character and is never afraid to stand up to Elizabeth, no doubt because Henry VIII's blood also flows through Penelope's veins.  For Penelope's grandmother, Catherine Carey, was reputed to be the child of Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII.  Scandal continues to follow Penelope's ancestors as her mother is Lettice Knollys who was cast out of Elizabeth's court after she secretly married one of the queen's favourites, Robert Dudley.

Like all maids in the Tudor court, Penelope is subject to an arranged marriage.  At one point she was promised to Philip Sidney, and although the marriage never came to fruition she never stopped loving him and was infact the muse for some of his poetry.  Instead, Penelope marries Lord Rich but it is a loveless marriage and they strike an unconventional deal that will leave Penelope free to follow her heart, wherever it may take her.

With well known names from the Tudor Court, including Elizabeth I, Lettice Knollys, Charles Blount, Essex, Sir Walter Ralegh and Francis Bacon, this is a story of scandal and intrigue with deceit and backstabbing a-plenty as people jostle for position.  Like a Shakespearean play, with the bard himself making a brief appearance, there are a lot of characters so I think it could have benefited from a character list at the beginning or end.  It was nothing that google couldn't fix as I wracked my brain for the history behind certain well-known names.

There's treachery afoot in the Tudor Court and with so many people under suspicion you can't keep your eye on them all, so make sure you Watch the Lady.  Definitely recommended for historical fiction lovers as Elizabeth Fremantle certainly gives Philippa Gregory a run for her money.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon