Thursday, 19 April 2018

BLOG TOUR: Rebellious Spirits - Ruth Ball

I reviewed the beautiful hardback of Rebellious Spirits in 2016 and you can read my review here.  I'm absolutely over the moon to open the paperback blog tour with an extract on how to make your own bootleg gin and a fabulous giveaway (UK only) to win your own copy of this excellent book.  I'd love to have a go at distilling my own alcohol although 20 gallons (just shy of an eye-watering 91 litres!!!) is a bit too much for me so I think I'll stick to the pre-bottled version of mother's ruin.

Bootleg Gin Extract – taken from Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball

With illegal gin sold from under a stranger’s skirt, you couldn’t be sure what you were getting. Gins had fancy names like White Satin, Blue Ruin, Cuckold’s Delight, King Theodore of Corsica, Flashes of Lightning or The Cure for the Blue Devils, but they were usually more turpentine than juniper. Even the less dodgy recipes for gin – those involving real juniper – were full of toxic ingredients. They were used in all kinds of food and drink at the time because their toxic properties just weren’t known. It wouldn’t be safe to try a truly authentic recipe for bootleg gin, but I have managed to put together a cocktail that should give you some idea of the taste without any of the nasty side effects.

For twenty gallons of gin
Seventeen gallons of spirits one to five under proof. Take one penny-weight and three quarters of the oil of vitriol, one penny-weight and three quarters of the oil of almonds, half a penny-weight of the oil of turpentine, two penny-weights of the oil of juniper berries, mixed with lump sugar and spirits of wine, as before; add to it one pint of lime-water, and one pint of rose-water; use the whole. After you dissolve five pounds of lump sugar, in two gallons and a half of water that was boiled, as before directed, fine it down with the proportioned quantity of allum and salt of tartar.

P. Boyle, The Publican and Spirit Dealer’s Daily Companion (Sixth Edition, c. 1800)

1 part vodka
½ part retsina
¼ part amaretto
¼ part neat sugar syrup
part rosewater
½ part water
1–2 drops of juniper oil

Simply mix and serve. But how? With tonic? While this gin would be really lovely with tonic, that wouldn’t be authentic. Tonic wouldn’t be introduced to Britain for more than another hundred years; so while you could drink it with tonic, it would be a little like going to a re-enactment wearing a digital watch. Chilled or with ice? Although this gin would also be excellent shaken over ice with a splash of vermouth and served in a well-chilled Martini glass, historical authenticity will not allow.

Drink it the authentic way. Just add a little water and drink at room/street temperature. If possible, try to throw some mud at an MP, or anyone who looks like they might be rich or important, at the same time. That’s the eighteenth-century way!

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If you like the sound of this book (and who wouldn't?), you can click HERE to buy a copy from Amazon or enter my giveaway to be in with the chance of winning a copy - you've got to be in it to win it!


Win a paperback copy of Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball courtesy of Elliott & Thompson.  The giveaway is open to entrants in the UK only and is open for 3 days from 19th April 2018 to midnight on 21st April 2018.  One winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email on 22nd April 2018.  If the prize is not claimed within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.  GOOD LUCK!

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Riot (Saul Marshall Thrillers Book 3) - Richard Davis

Saul Marshall arrives in Atlanta in the wake of a shocking incident: a cop with a pristine record has inexplicably massacred peaceful protesters occupying the iconic CNN Center. But Saul, exhausted from months on the run from the law, fails to put up his guard. 

But when he is visited in the dead of night by a street gang, deploying extreme and seemingly unprovoked violence, Saul is forced to either get his guard up, or perish. And when he discovers that this same gang has already targeted two of his team-mates from his days serving in the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, striking back against the gang becomes not just a matter of survival, but revenge. 

But once Saul realizes that someone else is calling the shots – a deeply unhinged video-game addict, known only as Red, obsessed with inciting mass civil unrest – he quickly learns there’s a whole lot more at stake.

What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of the Saul Marshall books by Richard Davis and I'm completely honoured to have a character named after me in Riot, the third book in the series.  I've never met the author but, aside from being a robot scientist (how cool), the character he created does surprisingly bear an uncanny physical resemblance to me.  I just want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Richard Davis for bestowing such an amazing honour on me.  So enough about my immortality in print, lets see what Saul Marshall is up to in this third instalment.

Saul, Greg and Thom were all members of the elite FBI unit HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) and when Thom is killed, the two remaining members become targets.  Saul teams up with Rosa, Greg's ex-wife, who works for Homeland Security when riots sweep the USA.  The riots are all being masterminded by uber-gamer, Red, who is manoeuvring people like pawns on a chess board as he turns virtual reality into reality.  Red is after a certain prize: an antique gas mask last seen in Thom's possession, putting anyone who knew Thom in immediate danger.  The question is: can Saul and Rosa stop Red before it's game over?

It actually gives me goosebumps just thinking about events in Riot.  We hear so much on the news about shootings and knife attacks influenced by computer games so I wouldn't be surprised to find the events in Riot replicated in real life at some point.  Or perhaps they already have been...

Riot is a very clever book, but I have to say that it was sometimes a little bit complicated - it's quite technological so anyone who likes gaming and computers will positively love it.  I know my fair share of computer coding but I've never been one for computer games so I did find it hard to engage now and again.  Fortunately, Saul Marshall is such a well-developed character that he maintained my interest when the story sometimes got a bit geeky and with Saul around there are always going to be a multitude of heart in the mouth moments to raise my eyebrows and drop my jaw.

Richard Davis is a highly talented author and I am frequently recommending the Saul Marshall series to other readers.  Riot can definitely be read as a standalone but it will make you want to read the other two books in the series to find out Saul Marshall's back story, so my recommendation would be to read them in order to get the most out of them.  Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next in the colourful, crazy and unpredictable life of Saul Marshall.  Riot is so shockingly true to life that I defy anyone to read it without getting goosebumps.

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

My rating:

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Monday, 16 April 2018

BLOG TOUR: Ghost - Helen Grant

I'm delighted to co-open the blog tour for Ghost, the latest novel by Helen Grant.  I'm releasing my review for the blog tour and I think this is a book that will appeal to so many people, especially those with a penchant for gothic tales.

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.
Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between - everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives - good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.
As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?
In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning...

What did I think?

I was really looking forward to reading Ghost; the mysterious key on the cover alone gave me goosebumps so I prepared myself for some spine-tingly reading.  It's an unbelievably addictive book; at only 10% in my Goodreads status shows that I found it 'intriguing and spine-tingling' and as the mystery unravels it gets even more interesting.

Augusta is living at Langlands with her Grandmother, Rose.  As a young child, Augusta couldn't pronounce her name correctly so the name of 'Ghost' stuck.  Rose keeps Ghost hidden from outsiders for her own protection as it's 1945 and there's a war on.  When there's some damage to the roof (from German bombers, as Ghost thinks), Tom McAllister arrives with his father to do the repairs.  Ghost secretly communicates with Tom, who thinks that she's the Langlands ghost of the spooky this point I thought that she very well might be as something wasn't quite right.

When Rose goes into the village one day and doesn't return, Ghost gets completely railroaded when reality hits.  Everything her Grandmother told her is a lie and she is determined to fit all of the missing pieces of the jigsaw together to find out the truth.  Luckily, Tom returns to Langlands to give Ghost the help she needs and we get to experience the purity of first love as Ghost and Tom grow closer together.  For reasons that become clear, I thought Ghost might think about leaving Langlands and it's shady history behind, but it's the only home she has ever known and Langlands has its own hold over Ghost.

One thing that really struck me was how well Langlands had been portrayed through the vivid descriptive writing of Helen Grant.  It felt as if the house itself was a dark and brooding character with hidden secrets.  People from the village stay away from Langlands and its ghost but perhaps Langlands itself is the ghost, it's certainly a shadow of its former colourful life.

Hauntingly beautiful, spine-tingling and eye-poppingly surprising, Ghost is a completely unique and intriguing mystery that shocked and thrilled me.  I'm definitely going to look out for Helen Grant's back catalogue whilst I await her next book.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Helen Grant writes thrillers with a Gothic flavour and ghost stories. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and won an ALA Alex Award in the US. Her other books include the exciting Forbidden Spaces trilogy. 

Helen's latest novel Ghost (Fledgling Press 2018) is set in Perthshire, where she has lived since 2011. When she is not writing, Helen loves to research the lost country houses of Scotland and to visit the sites where possible. Her experiences of exploring these fascinating places inspired her to write Ghost. 

Follow Helen on Twitter: @Helengrantsays 

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Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Book of Mirrors - E.O. Chirovici

A brutal murder
It’s been thirty years since Professor Weider was found dead in his stately home. With little evidence to convict a suspect, the case has never been solved.
A buried mystery
Now, a partial manuscript has been discovered that reveals three people were at the house that night.
All three clearly remember what happened. But someone is lying…

What did I think?

I was intrigued by the premise of The Book of Mirrors and true to form it started off quite well but unfortunately it failed to hold my interest.  It's unheard of that I would ever give up on a book but I almost gave up reading The Book of Mirrors.  I persevered but didn't find it very rewarding so I can only come to the conclusion that this book just wasn't for me.

I liked the idea of an unsolved murder and an unpublished manuscript that may hold clues to what really happened that night in Professor Weider's house - a jealous rage, a work-related disagreement or a burglary gone wrong?  The story is told from three different perspectives but each story only adds a little extra snippet to the story we already heard in the first part of the book.  I actually think the third voice of the retired detective would have proven to be the most interesting, however, I had lost the will to live at this stage.

The writing is of a very high standard but it felt too caught up in the little details and it failed to draw me into the story.  I didn't empathise with any of the characters and I found the pace very slow and tedious.  The Book of Mirrors didn't make an impression on me at all and sadly I found it instantly forgettable.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Fear - C.L. Taylor

Sometimes your first love won’t let you go…
When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.
Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.
But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

What did I think?

Although many things cause excitement on social media, one thing that is guaranteed to get book bloggers in a frenzy is a new C.L. Taylor book.  There was a lot of hype around her latest book, The Fear, but did it live up to the hype?  OH YES!!!  I feel like a broken record as I proclaimed The Escape to be my favourite C.L. Talyor book but I think The Fear is the best book she has written to date - it's dark, disturbing and exceptional.

Lou was 14 years old when she fell in love with Mike.  Mike showered her with affection, making her feel loved and beautiful but Mike was her older, married karate teacher and he knew exactly what he was doing.  When Lou snuck away from home to meet Mike for a romantic weekend in France, she didn't think Mike had no intention of returning to England.  Kept locked away in hotel rooms, it's a part of Lou's life that has naturally left deep scars in her psyche, resulting in her leaving Malvern for the bright lights of London but unable to form any lasting relationships.

After her latest relationship breaks down, Lou returns to Malvern and finds that Mike is up to his old tricks.  Mike may be 18 years older but he still has a taste for grooming young teenage girls and vulnerable 13 year old Chloe Meadows has fallen under his spell.  Lou can't stand by and do nothing but Mike has quite a hold over Chloe and to some extent he still has a hold over Lou...but Lou isn't a starry-eyed teenager anymore and she wants REVENGE!

You just never know what to expect with a C.L. Taylor book.  There is just so much going on: not only is Lou trying to stop Mike but someone else isn't keen on Lou being back in Malvern and they are intent on messing with her life.  I felt like my head was inside a kaleidoscope (in a good way) with all of the colourful pieces spinning around until the completed picture was revealed and I could finally exhale the breath I didn't even realise I had been holding.  

The subject matter of a repeat offending paedophile is not easy to read about but what C.L. Taylor has done marvellously is shown how easily vulnerable youngsters can get drawn into the net of these despicable predators.  Every time I read a new C.L. Taylor book, I think it is the best one yet but then she goes and does it again!  The Fear didn't just get under my skin, it made my skin crawl; you will be sickened, you will be angry but you won't be able to stop reading The Fear.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

BLOG BLITZ: Another Mother - Amanda James

Adopted at birth, for years Lu has secretly dreamt of finding her birth mother but childhood bullying has left her with a lack of confidence. When a tragic accident changes her life forever it sets her on a mission to get in contact with her birth mother and find out the reasons behind her adoption.

When she tracks down her mother in Cornwall there is an emotional reunion and the pair begin to form a relationship.

But is everything as wonderful as it appears or has Lu walked into a nightmare?

What did I think?

I've become quite a fan of Amanda James over the years, since discovering the amazing Summer in Tintagel that was published in 2016.  So I was eager to read her latest book, Another Mother - the title alone gave me shivers as I envisaged jealousy and manipulation of a woman caught between her two mothers, however, nothing could have prepared me for the book I was about to read...

Lucinda has an awful situation to deal with when her mother, Hannah, is killed in a road accident.  Her grief brings to the fore something she has been considering for a while: the search for her birth mother.  Although I can understand Lu wanting to fill that mother shaped hole in her life, I found it hard to empathise with her as I felt her timing was way off.  It's not long before Lu leaves her grieving father in Sheffield and heads off to Cornwall to meet her birth mother, Mellyn.

What a character Amanda James has created in Mellyn!  Mellyn seems desperate for Lu to call her 'Mum', despite knowing that the woman that Lu has called 'Mum' all her life has just died.  Ok, so selfish springs to mind, but I thought 'like mother like daughter' with Lu appearing so intent on replacing her adopted Mum so quickly.  It quickly comes to light that all is not as it seems when Lu often sees flashes of anger in Mellyn's stormy eyes and I was pleased that Lu seemed to be a bit wary and decided to keep Mellyn at arms length.  It did feel like Lu had fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in the Mad Hatter's tea party as Mellyn is entirely BONKERS!

With Mellyn being such a volatile and unpredictable character, I was completely intrigued to see how this story would play out.  I loved how Amanda James created a backstory for Lu so we could see how her character developed into the woman she is today.  It resulted in me reading with my fingers crossed for a happy ending for Lu but you'll just have to read the book to find out whether she gets her happy ending or not.  

Another Mother is an intense family drama that will get into your head and under your skin.  It left me feeling quite emotionally wrung out with so many ups and downs and it is the quality of Amanda James' writing that evokes such emotion in the reader.  A compelling read from start to finish.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Amanda has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published, given that she left school with no real qualifications of note apart from an A* in how to be a nuisance in class. Nevertheless, she returned to education when her daughter was five and eventually became a history teacher. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true when her first short story was published. Amanda has written many short stories and has six novels currently published.

Amanda grew up in Sheffield but now has realised her lifelong dream of living in Cornwall and her writing is inspired every day by the dramatic coastline near her home. She has sketched out many stories in her head while walking the cliff paths. Three of her mystery/suspense novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and the Behind the Lie. Rip Current is also set in Cornwall and will be published by Bloodhound Books in April 2018.

Amanda, known to many as Mandy, spends far more time than is good for her on social media and has turned procrastination to a fine art. She can also usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

Amanda's blog -
Twitter - @akjames61
Facebook mandy.james.33

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Monday, 9 April 2018

The Red Grouse Tales - Leslie W.P. Garland

Comprising four intriguing novella length contemporary adult fantasy stories which contain mystery, a hint of the supernatural or paranormal, together with a passing nod towards philosophy and religion - though in these modern fairy or folk tales the fantastic doesn't happen in some remote fantasy world, but right here in this one, in very ordinary, almost everyday circumstances! 

What did I think?

I've deliberated for quite a while over how to both rate and review The Red Grouse Tales.  As it is an anthology of four of Leslie W.P. Garland's short stories, I will review the book as a whole and as separate stories but as with all short stories, do bear in mind that I may have liked a story that may not appeal to others and vice versa.  Such is life and it would be boring if we all liked the same things!  

I loved the idea of The Red Grouse Tales: stories that friends told each other over a pint in their local pub.  The four stories are: The Little Dog, The Crow, The Golden Tup and The White Hart.  Each story is different and surprisingly thought provoking with hints of theology, philosophy and fantasy interwoven into them.

The Little Dog kicks off the anthology with a dark supernatural mystery.  I felt chilled by the character of Stan and feared for Bill's safety when he was partnered with him at work.  As the end of their shift together drew near, I felt relieved for Bill at the thought of him parting ways with Stan and his black heart.  I found the story quite slow to start but I loved the character of the little dog sitting on the roadside and Bill's pleasure at seeing him in the same spot every day.  The Little Dog gets a 3 star rating from me.

Now on to the elephant in the room, or The Crow.  Oh dear, I really didn't get on with this story at all.  The main problem for me was Father Patrick's broad Irish words being written phonetically and it hurt my eyes and my brain to read it.  I found it so hard going that I couldn't really take in the story as I was too busy trying to decipher what this Irish, or he could even have been Jamaican, priest was saying.  I just have to give two little examples:
Dese men t'inks dat dey know what's best for udder men... 
T' be sure, dere are dem dat want t' change d' world, change d' world t' a bedder place, and t' be sure maybe dey starts out wid dat intention...
I felt that the way the speech was written and the constant repetition of 't' be sure' to be a bit condescending.  I would have felt the same had an attempt been made to write Scottish or even Geordie accents into the written word.  I just wanted Dave to put a pillow over Father Patrick's face to put me out of my misery.  Sadly, The Crow only gets 1 star from me.

Thankfully, I never give up on a book so I laboured on and I was delighted to find that the next story, The Golden Tup, really appealed to me.  It's mysterious, intriguing and very dark; there's definitely evil lurking in Burnhope farm and I loved the way that Verity told the tale - I could imagine her recounting the story with a torch held up to her face to add to the creepiness.  The Golden Tup gets a solid 4 star rating.

For me, Leslie W.P. Garland definitely saved the best to last; The White Hart left me with goosebumps and I thought the writing was excellent.  It was slightly spooky, philosophical and humorous, with Pete Montague appearing as a modern day Romeo.  I loved how the three threads of the story were plaited together with not a hair out of place and I would easily give this story a 5 star rating.

Variety is the spice of life and from the various ratings I have given each story, you can see that there are quite a variety of stories in The Red Grouse Tales.  There really is something for everyone and although I clearly enjoyed some stories more than others, I think that's normal in a collection of vastly different tales.  I would definitely recommend you pick up The Golden Tup and The White Hart, if you're a fan of novellas.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon