Friday 30 June 2017

Broken Branches - M. Jonathan Lee

Family curses don't exist.  Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse?  An actual curse?  I don't think so.

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son.  But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past.  And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

What did I think?

Whoa!  What have I just read?  Part ghost story, part psychological thriller - it certainly kept me on my toes right to the very end.  Welcome to the Perkins family, who appear to have a curse hanging over them which takes their first born sons.  Only by investigating the family tree will Ian Perkins get to the root of the curse and save his family from certain doom.

Ian inherited Cobweb Cottage under unfortunate circumstances.  Being back at the cottage with his wife and young son brings back memories of his youth.  A youth where he had a brother and an uncle, both since erased from the family tree.  The only constant being the sycamore tree that looms menacingly on the front lawn, seeing everything but not revealing its secrets.  The tree plays such a pivotal role in the story that it's almost a character in its own right, and is it wrong of me to say that it was my favourite character?  Even thinking of it now gives me goosebumps!

Broken Branches really plays with your mind as you see the curse being played out in front of your eyes.  Ian is frantically researching the family tree to get to the root of the problem, but can he save his own son from the destiny that awaits him?  I called Ian's sanity into question many a time, as his wife has a lock on her bedroom door and he sees strange apparitions in the night.  How much is real and how much is insanity?  That's for the reader to decide, after you release the breath you didn't realise you had been holding throughout the last few paragraphs.  Broken Branches is one mighty fine book and I heartily recommend it, as I flick through M. Jonathan Lee's back-catalogue wondering what to read next.  This is Quality writing with a capital 'Q'!

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

My rating:

Preorder from Hideaway Fall

Thursday 29 June 2017

Girl 99 - Andy Jones

Before Tom finds The One, he needs to find himself.

When Tom’s girlfriend walks out on him the day before Christmas, he feels humiliated but not necessarily heartbroken. Sadie wasn’t, after all, The One. If we’re being precise, she was number eighty-five.

Tom’s first mistake is sharing this information with his best friend El. His next mistake is listening when El suggests that he bring his eighty-five up to a nice, neat one hundred.

It was never going to be a good idea, not least because everything else in Tom’s life is in complete chaos. His best friend is dying of a slow and cruel disease, his teenage sister is at war with his well-meaning but dogmatic father, his elderly neighbour is having romantic problems (and makes a dreadful cup of tea), and he has to shoot four commercials with four children and a bad-tempered producer.

And then Tom meets Verity. Whether she’s The One remains to be seen, but she’s certainly more than just another number.

What did I think?

I absolutely loved Andy Jones' debut novel, The Two of Us, so I didn't need to think twice before reaching for a copy of Girl 99.  There's something so very refreshing and appealing about Andy Jones' style of writing; it's so honest and genuine that it feels like the book is talking to you.  Although you don't need to have read The Two of Us to enjoy Girl 99 (but seriously you NEED to read The Two of Us), I was thrilled to see the inimitable character of El make another appearance and welcomed him as if he was an old friend of mine rather than Tom's.

Tom is a very multi-faceted and hilarious character.  On one hand he is a lad's lad but on the other he is a loving part of a very close knit family, a family that is stronger than ever after suffering the devastating loss of Tom's mother when his sister was very young.  Tom has almost taken on the mother role as he acts as intermediary between his Dad and his teenage sister, Bianca.

Tom gets himself into trouble and ends up breaking up with his girlfriend, Sadie, when he admits to kissing a colleague, Holly.  When Sadie is collecting her things from the flat she finds Tom's diary (I know, a man with a diary!) but it's more of a notches on the bed post record than a diary as Sadie sees she is number 85 on Tom's list of conquests.  Furious, she then makes plans to get her revenge and it ends up in a superb custody battle over the Mini Cooper!

When Tom meets his friend, El, for a night out to drown his sorrows, El encourages Tom into a bet that he will make it to 100 ladies before a set deadline.  It's a gamble that Tom willingly accepts and sets off on his quest to hit that magic number, but he didn't gamble on falling in love along the way.

So warm, witty and all-round good fun, Girl 99 is as charming as it is hilarious.  Seeing so many sides of Tom, I thought I would despise him for treating women like a number but that's not who he is underneath.  The way he acts with his family and his elderly neighbour, Doug, shows the strength of character he really has.  Add to this Andy Jones' ability to make me laugh on almost every page and you have a winner of a book; I should have known not to read it whilst eating as I almost choked on my rice salad when reading at lunchtime about Tom's first 'dorty book'.  With hilarious quips about Brighton and Paul Daniels, I could not contain my laughter and I was gutted that I had to stop reading to wipe the tears of laughter from eyes.

Another fabulous book from Andy Jones, who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.  A recommended read for anyone who loves a good romcom with an emphasis more on the realism of lad-lit than the mushiness of chick-lit.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday 28 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Mayfly - James Hazel

I'm thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Mayfly, which is sure to be one of the most exciting books of the year.  Before we get on to my review, I have a fabulous guest piece from James Hazel about the films that inspired The Mayfly.

The films that inspired The Mayfly

Whilst I love crime fiction, I’m relatively late to the party. For most of my early life I was a passionate reader and watcher of psychological horror. It wasn’t particularly the gory slasher films that intrigued me; it was the supernatural, the unknown.

Unsurprising then that subtle elements of horror have crept into The Mayfly, although not without belittling its status as, fundamentally, a crime novel. Here’s a few of the films and TV shows that directly or indirectly influenced the shape of The Mayfly.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a film I watched at far too young an age, the everyday is suddenly turned into a nightmare. A seemingly benign part of our everyday background, the birds, suddenly take on an apparent collective consciousness and start working together to wage a war on mankind.

It struck me that this was real horror, a concept that utterly destroyed our intellectual trust with life. Hence the members of the House of Mayfly are the everyday. Towards the end, Priest reveals that the members comprised, “politicians, bankers, lawyers, coppers. Even a fucking geography teacher.”

The character of Priest was inspired by a whole mish-mash of heroes, from Sherlock Holmes to James Bond and Luther (the Volvo!). You could pick any decent film featuring the former two protagonists and find a little bit of Priest in there.

The final scenes are partially inspired by the strange happenings in Eyes Wide Shut, in which the main character, Dr Bill Harford, stumbles on a secret society practising a sexual ritual at a secluded mansion. 

There’s an obvious connection with Silence of the Lambs, as Priest’s brother, William, is a convicted serial killer incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital, although Dr William Priest has never admitted to eating any of his victims. The similarity with Hannibal Lecter is more to do with the interplay between William and Charlie, with the former acting as counsel to the latter in all matters gruesome and murderous, a bond that will develop in future Priest’s thrillers.

The Mayfly also features a German SS doctor, Kurt Schneider, who was responsible for experimenting on inmates at Buchwald concentration camp during the Holocaust. The novel raises questions about Nazi ideology and the nature of evil and I have to thank a host of films for inspiration, from the iconic Schindler’s List to the glorious technicolour romp in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Readers will also note that Priest suffers from a form of dissociative disorder and this affects his perception of reality. At its most extreme, Priest has full-on out of body experiences and strange hallucinations and, in so doing, I am always reminded of the unreality brought to life in The Matrix. For more insight, some sufferers of depersonalisation disorder, a particular type of dissociative disorder, describe a feeling of being trapped powerless in their own bodies, much like the artificial intelligence trapped in the robotic cells in the science-fiction television series Humans.

Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without reference to Charlie Priest’s favourite film Freaks. A 1932 American film in which the ‘freaks’ of the travelling circus are the real heroes, while the ‘non-freaks’ are the villains. What better way is there to celebrate being different?

So what did I think about The Mayfly?  Here's my review:

A mutilated body discovered in the woods. 
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

When lawyer Charlie Priest is attacked in his own home by a man searching for information he claims Priest has, he is drawn into a web of corruption that has its roots in the last desperate days of World War Two. 

When his attacker is found murdered the next day, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly - a secret society that people will kill for. 

As Priest races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?

What did I think?

Like a pesky bluebottle, the buzz about The Mayfly on Twitter was hard to ignore - not that I could ever ignore such excitement surrounding a new book!  So like a moth to the flame I was powerless to resist The Mayfly and picked it up almost as soon as it dropped on my mat.  What an intriguing book this is, I am certain that we have not heard the last of Charlie Priest and I, for one, can't wait to read about what he gets up to next.

I could probably write a whole review about Charlie Priest, yet I get the feeling that we have only just scratched the surface of his fascinating life.  Charlie is an ex-policeman who retrained as a lawyer, he suffers from dissociative disorder and has a brother who is a serial killer.  See - intriguing or what?  Add to this a dual timeline with a post-war experimentation slant and I was lucky to finish the book without getting papercuts from turning the pages so fast.

Charlie aside, I absolutely loved his associate, Simon 'Solly' Solomon.  Solly is an accountant - he likes numbers not people, which is pretty much how I describe myself - but oh my word, he is such an amusing character.  He's completely OCD and I almost choked with laughter as he revealed his inner Sheldon Cooper (of Big Bang Theory fame).  Like a typical accountant, he's forgotten about as you never see him arrive or leave and he's left to beaver away in a dark and dusty room, but he's always there to be relied upon.  

I think it's always a worry with dual timelines that the reader sometimes feels as if they are reading two separate books.  I felt a bit like that when I started The Mayfly as I couldn't see how these two stories were related or how they would ever come together at the end, which is why The Mayfly is so brilliant as it all slots together perfectly.  James Hazel is a refreshing and exciting new voice in crime fiction and I'm already looking forward to more Charlie Priest adventures.  Believe the buzz on this one, and make sure you catch a copy of The Mayfly.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Follow the tour:

Tuesday 27 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: Enter the Dark - Chris Thomas

An anonymous website, a few clicks, and Joe Henderson’s life is changed forever.

‘The Red Room’ is the only place where the failings of a weak justice system are righted and where the line between good and evil becomes blurred. When the lights go up, viewers bid, criminals are punished, and the Brotherhood of the Righteous broadcasts a show like no other.

The room has remained hidden until now, when a video arrives in the inbox of the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit. But outclassed, outplayed, and torn apart by corruption, is there anything Detective Pete Harris andhis team can do except watch?

Their only lead may be the room’s latest bidder, Joe Henderson. Because when Joe found the Red Room, it found him too, and now the Brotherhood are watching through the wires, willing to do wrong for a righteous cause.

As they pull Joe deeper into the dark web, will he find any mercy or a way out? And could he be the Red Room’s next volunteer?

What did I think?

I'm seeing references to the dark web creeping into novels these days but there's no such creeping in Enter the Dark as we hurtle full speed into the eye-opening world of the deep/dark web.  I'm so pleased that I was resting my kindle on my lap as I could have easily dropped it during some episodes of 'The Red Room' as I instinctively threw my hands up in horror.  So what's Enter the Dark all about? Read on...if you dare.

Joe is just a normal guy, spending time with his friends, running his family business and looking forward to marrying his girlfriend, Ellie. On a night out with the guys, Billy, one of Joe's friends introduces him to the dark web.  It was only meant to be a bit of fun but once Joe has tasted the forbidden fruit he wants more.  Intrigued by an anonymous site that costs well over £600, being 1 Bitcoin, just to enter it, Joe convinces Billy to show him how Bitcoins work.  Once the guys are in, they find a holding page from The Brotherhood inviting them to an event which costs 2 Bitcoins to view.  Billy walks away but Joe is caught in the web of temptation and is soon drawn deeper into The Red Room until he can't help himself playing a more active role in proceedings.  Joe thinks he's safe behind his screen and he has no idea what has he got himself tangled up in.

The Brotherhood of the Righteous is an online group of vigilantes who dole out punishment to criminals who, in their eyes, have not been punished enough.  They search out convicted criminals with new identities, living their life when their victims are unable to do so and the viewers of the show compete to be the highest bidder who can select their punishment.  The police get involved when one such criminal, living under a new identity complete with an electronic tag, goes missing leaving her tag behind.  As the police race to discover the location of The Red Room, Joe's virtual world and real world collide as the Brotherhood come to collect his debt.

Stomach clenchingly gruesome, Enter the Dark is a modern chiller thriller that will turn even the most cast-iron of stomachs.  I gritted my teeth and clenched my stomach on each episode of The Red Room as the various methods of punishment were described in bone crunching detail.  The punishments reminded me a bit of the film, Saw, in the way that you don't want to watch but you can't help it. Like Joe, I thought what harm can it do, it's not real, right?

It's an absolutely superb debut from Chris Thomas and I was powerless to tear my eyes away from the page, even though sometimes I wanted to hide behind the sofa.  Dark by name and dark by nature, Enter the Dark is a recommended read for all thriller fans who like something a little bit darker.

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

My rating:

Follow the tour:

About the author

Chris Thomas was born near London in 1978 before moving to Buckinghamshire a few months later. He attended the University of Bristol, graduating with a degree in psychology in 1999. It was here that he developed his interest in criminal psychology and serial killers.

After a brief stint working at an investment bank in London, he left the City to work for his wife’s family business, a position he still holds.

Chris is an avid film fan, especially horror, thrillers and dark comedy- something that he tries to blend in his writing. After attending a creative writing course, he gained the confidence to pursue his dream of writing a novel. He self-published his debut novel The Red Room in February 2017 before joining the Bloodhound Books stable and re-releasing the book as Enter The Dark.

Further works are already in the planning, including a sequel to Enter The Dark, which is intended to be even more dark and disturbing!

In his spare time, Chris enjoys karate (holding a black belt) and spending time with his wife and two young daughters.

Sunday 25 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Fourth Monkey - JD Barker

I am delighted to be today's stop on The Fourth Monkey blog tour.  The Fourth Monkey is set to be one of the top books of 2017 and I fully expect to see it on the big screen in the not too distant future.

For my stop on the tour, I am re-releasing my review and I have a fabulous giveaway that's open to both UK and US entrants so do make sure to enter at the end of the post.

Usually I would give buy links at the end of my review but you really need to read this book so BUY IT NOW!!!  Click one of the links below, depending on wherever you are in the world.

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil…Do No Evil

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorised the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realise he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

What did I think?

This is seriously going to be the most talked about books of the year!  We've all heard of the 3 wise monkeys: see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil, but how many people know about The Fourth Monkey: do no evil?  I think my love of the TV show Dexter set me up nicely for The Fourth Monkey.  If you have watched Dexter, imagine reading his diaries in glorious technicolor and you will be close to my experience of The Fourth Monkey.  Even one of the detectives, Clair, reminds me of Dexter's foul-mouthed sister, Deb.

The Fourth Monkey is one of those books that is hard to review without giving anything away, so the least said, the better.  Suffice to say it positively glues your eyes to the page as you clamour for every detail.  Nothing is quite what it seems, so welcome to the Brain-bender Olympics!  I loved the flashbacks to the past which flowed effortlessly within the story, again I go back to the Dexter element as seeing the killer as a young boy, you can't help but feel empathetic towards him.  

It's probably the police's best dream and worst nightmare when the body of such a high profile serial killer is found but he takes with him the secret of the whereabouts of his last victim who is possibly still alive.  Cue the ticking timer as the police race against time to find out who the killer was and where he could have kept his latest victim before she runs out of food and water.  This sets the fast pace of the book and I was torn between wanting to find the latest 4MK victim and finding out the 4MK killer's story.  Where there is a past and present element to a book I always tend to favour one above the other but in this case I couldn't get back to each one fast enough.

Superbly written, The Fourth Monkey is one hell of a ride.  I read it so fast I think I need to read it again to fully appreciate the brilliance of the story.  If this isn't made into a film, Hollywood needs its head examined.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon UK
Buy it from Amazon USA

Giveaway time!  Do you want to win this amazing The Fourth Monkey #4MK Killer Swag Bag that includes a hardback copy of The Fourth Monkey along with other surprise goodies?  Enter on the Rafflecopter below - GOOD LUCK!

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Thursday 22 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: Wolves in the Dark - Gunnar Staalesen

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum's life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he's accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material ... and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest - and most personal - case yet. Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world's foremost thriller writers.

What did I think?

It felt a little bit daunting when I picked up Wolves in the Dark, as I hadn't realised how many earlier Varg Veum books there were - this is number 21, in case you are wondering.  I was worried that joining a series so late would lessen the enjoyment of reading the book, but I am delighted to report that it works so well as a standalone that it left me wanting to find out more about Varg's back story.

The drama begins on the very first page when Varg is awoken by the police as they turn up at the crack of dawn to arrest him for having shocking images of children on his computer.  Varg has never seen the images before but with such compelling evidence stacked against him, he struggles to prove his innocence.  Whilst being investigated he tries to remember anybody who might bear him a grudge.  It took me a little while to get used to the writing style at this point, as it wasn't clear to me that we were reading about Varg's past so I was wondering how he got out of custody.  Once the penny dropped, I got used to it and although I didn't need a 'then' and 'now' chapter heading, something like a '3 years ago' hint would have alleviated my confusion.

The storyline is quite serious and shocking at times, but I loved the little bits of Gunnar Staalesen's dry humour sprinkled throughout - Varg's rapid-fire quips and humorous anecdotes did make me laugh on more than one occasion.  The thing that intrigued me the most about Varg is that he's a private investigator who's not very good at following people.  He doesn't really care about his work either, since he lost his lover Karin, all he cares about is picking up his next bottle of Aquavit (a Scandinavian spirit).  He reminded me of Dr House and his addiction to Vicodin - both struggling to block out the pain by any means necessary.

Wolves in the Dark is one of those fast-paced sweaty palm sort of books; you could feel the net closing in and the clock ticking down whilst the hunted man is still struggling to prove his innocence.  It's a book that makes me simultaneously want to reach for the back-catalogue as well as seeing when the next instalment is coming out - now that I've been introduced to Varg mid-series I definitely want to know more.  A brilliant introduction to the Varg Veum series; giving us a glimpse of such a well established character certainly left me thirsty for more.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.  I am releasing my review as part of the blog tour.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Follow the tour:

Tuesday 20 June 2017

The Detriment (DI Jake Flannagan Book 2) - David Videcette

“The truth costs nothing, but a lie can cost you everything…”

June 2007: a barbaric nail bomb is planted outside a London nightclub, a spy is found dead in his garden, and a blazing Jeep is driven into Glasgow airport. Three events bound by an earth-shattering connection that should have remained buried forever.

From the author of ‘The Theseus Paradox’, the smash-hit 7/7 thriller based on true events, comes the sequel about a real-life mystery that threatens to destroy a nation. Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan must uncover how a series of astonishing events are inextricably linked, before the past closes in on him.

We all have secrets we say we’ll never tell…

What did I think?

With each passing day, and so many shocking news bulletins, there appear to be more and more incidents that David Videcette could write about.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about reading a book about terrorism in the current climate, but wild horses couldn't have kept me away from the next thrilling instalment of the DI Jake Flannagan series.  Perhaps one of the most anticipated follow-up novels EVER, David Videcette certainly had a lot to live up to after his debut, The Theseus Paradox, lit kindles on fire and caused so much excitement in the reading community.  I had absolutely no doubt that David Videcette would deliver a cracking follow up and boy, did he deliver!

The Detriment is set to be one of THE most talked about novels of the year; as it is based on true events it actually took me quite a while for the effect of the book to sink in.  It's amazing how certain decisions can have massive repercussions many years later and there's a detailed chronological series of real events in the back of the book to really get the point across that this, or something very like it, really happened.  Putting the actual events to one side, I really enjoyed delving deeper into Jake's psyche and finding out a little more about why he acts the way that he does as his emotional scars are laid bare.  We also find out some answers to questions left hanging in the last book; questions that were left hanging in The Theseus Paradox as much as my mouth was left hanging open in shock in The Detriment.  David Videcette managed to make my jaw drop yet again - he also managed to make me jump and I was reading my kindle, not listening to an audiobook!  

It is so fast-paced and gripping that many people will easily read The Detriment in one sitting - I was gutted that I had work the next day so had to put the book down!  After setting our kindles alight with The Theseus Paradox, David Videcette is keeping our kindles burning with another amazing unputdownable instalment in the DI Jake Flannagan series.  The Americans lose their monopoly of the term 'shock and awe' as the Brits show what it really means - I can't think of a better way to describe The Detriment.  Do not miss this!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 19 June 2017

At First Light - Vanessa Lafaye

1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.

1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what's right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town...

Inspired by real events, At First Light weaves together a decades-old grievance and the consequences of a promise made as the sun rose on a dark day in American history.

What did I think?

I have fond memories of Vanessa Lafaye's debut, Summertime, that I reviewed quite some time ago, so I positively jumped at the chance to read an early copy of her new novel, At First Light.  As with Summertime, this is another novel based on real events that has you screaming in anger, clapping in delight and sobbing with devastation.  Vanessa Lafaye is such a wonderfully talented author who creates such depth in her writing that ensures the characters bore into your very soul and remain there until the end of your days.

Alicia arrives in Key West on the boat from Cuba, somewhat under a cloud, although we need to invest a bit of time in the story before we learn the reason for her exile.  She has come to live with her cousin, Beatriz, and work in her tea rooms but Alicia is shocked to find that her cousin answers to the name of Pearl and isn't known for serving tea in her establishment.

Also arriving in Key West is John Morales, returning from war in Europe.  He finds much has changed in Key West as he returns to his rightful place behind the bar of The Last Resort, the establishment he owns right next door to Pearl's Tea Rooms.  With such a close proximity to Alicia it isn't long before the pair fall in love and their story is as tragic as it is poignant because Alicia is brown and John is white.  In an era when the Ku Klux Klan were sweeping America there are many who will strive to tear John and Alicia apart, using any means necessary, but theirs is a love that is destined never to die.

At First Light is another masterpiece from the pen of Vanessa Lafaye.  It is shocking and heartbreaking to learn that this is based on a true story which makes it all the more poignant.  I had goosebumps reading certain passages and applaud Vanessa Lafaye for bringing this period of history to light.  In the current day and age of so much uncertainty and innumerable prejudices, it's a story that will resonate with so many people.  An absolutely breathtaking masterpiece that will be going on my read again pile.  Very highly recommended - I want to give it more than 5 stars!

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

My rating:

Sunday 18 June 2017

The Art of Hiding - Amanda Prowse

Nina McCarrick has it all: a loving husband, two beautiful boys, a well-appointed home and more time than she knows what to do with. Life is perfect. Until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

What did I think?

Amanda Prowse is fast becoming my go-to author when I'm wondering what to read next as her books are always situated at the top of my reading pile; they really are the crème de la crème and never fail to deliver a real life story that tugs on your heartstrings.

The Art of Hiding was a bit different from Amanda's other books as the sadness hits right at the beginning when Nina's husband dies.  I didn't even have a chance to get to know the characters so, although it was heartbreaking when Nina has to break the news to her sons, I was left dry eyed.  I felt triumphant - I had beaten Amanda Prowse; finally, a book that wouldn't make me cry!  I relaxed and drew myself into Nina's story: the turmoil of losing her house and moving to a pokey flat in Southampton, her boys having to leave their prestigious school, all the while having to cope with their recent bereavement.

Both Nina and the boys struggle to adapt to their new meagre surroundings, none more so than Nina's eldest son, Connor.  Connor was set to be a shining star on his school rugby team and now he must start from scratch at a new school.  It was Connor's love of rugby that ultimately made me cry at the after match party; my earlier triumph at not crying was deflated like a burst balloon, but I didn't care - my heart was bursting at the amazing scene painted by Amanda Prowse's beautiful words.   

The Art of Hiding really makes you think about what makes you happy.  It's not necessarily the treasured possessions that we surround ourselves with, it's the people with whom we share our life and experiences.  Nina was just another of her husband's treasured possessions and she was so busy being a wife and mother that she ended up being a ghost of herself.  It took the tragedy of losing her husband and going back to basics for her to really start living.

Yet again, Amanda Prowse made me cry but most definitely in a good way!  Only Amanda Prowse could turn such a tragic situation into a heartwarming story of survival and reawakening.  It's no surprise that I have awarded 5 stars and I'm sure that there will be many more 5 star ratings to come from other readers.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Saturday 17 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Lighterman - Simon Michael

I was completely honoured and thrilled to be asked to organise a blog tour for the brilliant third book in the Charles Holborne series, The Lighterman.  I couldn't have done it without such amazing bloggers on board and my heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one of you.  You're all amazing, and work tirelessly behind the scenes to help get the word out about books that should not be missed. The Lighterman and the entire Charles Holborne series certainly fits that bill; I really can't stress how absolutely brilliant this series is - my review (that you can read here) urges you to 'read it or regret it'.

Special thanks go to Matthew of Urbane Publications for supporting the tour and for providing prizes for the giveaways and of course many thanks to Simon Michael for not only writing the books in the first place but for providing such riveting content and answering all of our questions.  Simon, it's been a pleasure and I'm already feeling bereft at the thought of missing our almost daily emails!

So without further ado, I'm delighted to share my question and answer session with Simon Michael for this final stop on the blog tour.

Welcome to my blog, Simon, as we celebrate the release of The Lighterman, the third book in the Charles Holborne series. As you know I've become quite a fan of your books but for any readers who haven't yet discovered the series, can you tell us a little bit about it?

They are crime and legal thrillers with a different point of departure to any others being written at the present. They’re set in London in the 1960s and instead of being told from the perspective of a policeman or a detective, they’re told from the point of view of a hardened criminal barrister. Those of us who’ve worked in the justice system as I have for the last 39 years know that the formula so often trotted out by crime writers – grizzled maverick copper with a drink problem, a poor relationship with his boss and a broken marriage, piecing together the clues and catching the “baddie” before he or she does the bad thing again - isn’t how it really is. “You’re under arrest” is not the end of the search for the truth; it’s often the beginning. Working out who’s telling the truth, who’s lying, who’s trying to tell the truth but is mistaken – in other words the way in which our jury system operates – involves more than putting together a jigsaw of clues. It involves peeling back the layers of human nature, people’s motivations and personalities. So I write about real people, real cases, real violence and corruption and how ordinary people react in those circumstances. I show the events and people in the lead up to a crime, the crime itself, the investigation and part at least of the trial. 

The Kray twins, particularly Ronnie, feature throughout the Charles Holborne series. What made you include Ronnie Kray in your books rather than a fictional gangster?

My plots ideas are based on real cases where I was instructed for the Defence or the Crown. I often include real court documents (with identities and circumstances changed) which the public generally doesn’t see. I want these books to be as true to the gritty violence and corruption of the period in which they are set as possible. 1960s London wasn’t all Carnaby Street and flower power – for most people and for most of the decade it was grey, poor and post-War. So it follows that I use real people too. Of course, the anti-hero barrister, Charles Holborne, is fictional – although loosely based on me – and other characters have been made up too. But there is a strong thread of true historical fact in all of the books. So, for example, Book 4 in the series, which is now over half-written, takes us back to the dealings between the Krays and Lord Bob Boothby and the establishment cover-up of the truth. And they all feature in the plot.

Why did you choose the 60s era as your period setting?

The 1960s is such an interesting period. The pre-War deference to authority was breaking down. We discovered sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. There was a huge wave of immigration from the West Indies. Organised crime had London by the throat. There was no DNA, no police computer, no mobile phones. Detectives had to detect – to use their wits and understanding of human nature. The decade is a gift to a writer exploring themes of alienation, exclusion and corruption like myself.

Like Charles Holborne, you are also a barrister. How much of yourself is in Charles Holborne's character?

Probably a bit too much (according to my OH, especially the sex scenes). But, to be a bit more considered in my response, when I went to the Bar I was an outsider. I was from a Jewish family; we were poor (to get through University I had to work as a council labourer every vacation, and I worked behind bars, washed cars, cut hedges – anything to pay for the next term’s expenses); I was the first state-educated pupil in my Chambers; I hadn’t been to Oxford or Cambridge; I even had to buy a second-hand wig. I was something they hadn’t seen before, and I felt excluded. I have taken that feeling of alienation and prejudice and inserted it into Charles Holborne, but I’ve made it worse for him: I’ve made him a real East End lad, with a bit of a criminal past, a man with a penchant for violence and a strong connection to the very criminals he now prosecutes. I make him an outsider trying to be honourable and honest, surround him with corruption and greed, and test him.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the British legal system - what do you think are the best and the worst things about the law?

The best: the system relies on twelve men and women, good and true. Each brings his or her life experience into the jury room and, usually, they somehow reach the right result. The worst: decades of cuts in criminal legal aid have decimated what was, in many people’s opinion, the best legal system in the world. It’s almost impossible to make a living now as a junior criminal barrister, and the best minds are turning to other areas of law or doing something different altogether. Result: we shall have a third-world criminal justice system, with criminals being acquitted and the innocent wrongly convicted. You’ve been warned!

When you aren't writing, what do you enjoy doing?

In no particular order, skiing, theatre, films, reading and eating chocolate. And being with my adult children, who are the most interesting, funny, infuriating and expensive bunch of young people you could hope to meet. 

Not that I ever want to it finish, but do you have a set number of books planned in the Charles Holborne series and when can we expect to read our next instalment?

Book 4, provisionally entitled The Death of Teddy Behr, will be finished before the end of this summer, and I hope will be published next spring/early summer. Book 5 is also mostly completed, but needs work. Books 6 and 7 are in the planning stages. Not sure if there will be more than that, but we shall see. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether Charles is essentially the honest man he would like to think he is, or he is at heart corrupt. I always think of Michael Corleone – the one son of Vito who starts pure – a war hero, deliberately kept at arm’s length from the Mafia by his family, being drawn inevitably, ineluctably into crime and becoming completely evil.

Thank you for answering my questions and for visiting my blog. You'll not be surprised to hear that I am already looking forward to your next book – no pressure of course!

So fancy winning a copy for yourself?  Check out my giveaway below.  UK entries only and winners will be notified by email within 24 hours.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There have been some AMAZING stops along the way during this blog tour; my favourite guest post, possibly of all time, has to be the tour of London on The Booktrail.  I urge you to check out all of the stops on the tour, especially this one.  

Tour stops can be visited by clicking on the blog name below:

By The Letter Book Reviews

Reflections of a Reader

The Book Review Cafe

Jo's Book Blog

Never Imitate

A Lover of Books

The Booktrail  <----- SERIOUSLY, DON'T MISS THIS!

The Last Word Review

Book Literati