Tuesday 29 December 2020

When Angels Fear (The Flammark Series Book 1) - Polly J. Mordant


She runs from a terrifying past, to a village with problems of its own

Exhausted, desperately seeking sanctuary, Emma arrives at the pretty English village of Flammark. 

But she cannot rest. A strange sleeping sickness stalks the village and a young woman has disappeared.

Why won't the police investigate?

As events unfold, Emma becomes embattled yet again, compelled to fight for her life against a deadly curse linked to an ancestry about which she had no knowledge.

She is the only one able to vanquish the evil, but doing so will entail confronting an horrific and all-too-familiar enemy.

The question is, will she be strong enough?

What did I think?

Wow!  This book is completely awesome!  I honestly couldn't put it down and would have read it all in one day if my eyes hadn't decided it was time to sleep and I wanted my full wits about me as the electrifying conclusion approached.  Described as a supernatural thriller, it really only dips its toe into the fantasy genre so it will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy thrillers and police procedurals.  It's an absolute must read for anyone who watches (or watched when it was good) the TV show Supernatural.

Emma is escaping an abusive relationship and drops a pin in the map which directs her to the quaint little village of Flammark.  Emma arrives in Flammark at a turbulent time as the villagers are devastated when one of their own goes missing.  Not only that, the church is getting emptier and the doctor's surgery is a ghost town as one by one the villagers succumb to a mystery illness.  Something dark is coming to Flammark and it wants Emma...

I really can't begin to describe how good this book is; it's just absolutely fantastic.  Intriguing and gripping from the start, creepy in the middle and sensational at the end.  It has to be one of the most addictive books I have ever read and it completely possessed me to the point where I couldn't put it down.  P. J. Mordant's writing is so very descriptive, both in the painting of scenes and exploration of feelings.  I had a very clear picture of Flammark in my head and I certainly felt the fear!

There are some outstanding characters in the novel and some are not who they first appear to be.  I really should have connected the dots on this one but it came as a complete surprise to me!  I'm not saying what, as it will spoil the story, but it was very nicely done and I loved this element of the story.  I also loved Emma's mysterious ancestry that added an extra layer to the storyline.  I just loved everything about this book and I'm absolutely thrilled that it's the first in a series; I'm really looking forward to visiting Flammark again.

An outstanding debut novel from P. J. Mordant, When Angels Fear is simply exceptional.  I really can't recommend it highly enough; it's one of my favourite books of the year and fully deserves 5 stars and more.

I can't thank P. J. Mordant enough for sending me an ARC to read and review; all opinions are my own.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Sunday 27 December 2020

The Last Resort - Susi Holliday


Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

What did I think?

Having read Susi Holliday's brilliant book Violet, I couldn't wait to get my hands on her new book: The Last Resort.  I was very intrigued by the synopsis that sounds like a cross between Lost and a reality show but unlike Lost, the characters aren't all dead...yet.

Seven strangers are invited to an island to test a new product, they have no idea what it is they are testing but all except one fall into the 'fame hungry' or 'owt for nowt' categories.  Amelia is the exception as she is an aid worker who doesn't own a company or have a million followers, so she is immediately singled out as 'different'.

The guests have a memory tracking device fitted to their heads, except Amelia whose device didn't work so she gets to wear a wrist tracker instead which causes further grumbling within the group.  Their only task is to make their way to the main house on the island for the end of day party but you know it's not going to be a simple journey.  Secrets are about to be revealed that will not just make this trip unforgettable but deadly.

Susi Holliday has created such an irritating cast of characters that you love to hate.  I really didn't like them at all, but I guess that's the point as they are clearly bad inside.  I loved the way that each secret was revealed and it felt very much like a reality show as the 'host' attempted to turn the guests against each other before they reach their destination.  The story and intrigue builds up very nicely towards the conclusion of the novel, however, it seemed to fall a little short and ended up being rather anticlimactic.

On the whole, The Last Resort is a very addictive read with an intriguing plot, a stunning setting and a cast of purposefully obnoxious characters.  Although it sounds like science fiction at first, it turns out to be a pretty scary storyline when you read Susi Holliday's inspiration for her novel.  

Thank you to TBC Reviewers Group for providing an ebook for me to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Wednesday 23 December 2020

The Plague Letters - V.L. Valentine


London, 1665. Hidden within a growing pile of corpses, one victim of the pestilence stands out: a young woman with a shorn head and pieces of twine delicately tied around each ankle.

Symon Patrick, rector of St. Paul's Covent Garden, cannot say exactly why this corpse amongst the many in his churchyard should give him pause. Longing to do good, he joins a group of medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague, each man more peculiar and splenetic than the next. But there is another, unknown to The Society for the Prevention and Cure of Plague, who is performing his own terrible experiments upon unwilling plague-ridden subjects.

It is Penelope - Symon's unwanted yet unremovable addition to his household - who may yet shed light on the matter. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy...

What did I think?

Set in 1665 during the Great Plague of London, I am amazed by how much The Plague Letters shows shocking similarities to the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.  Written well before Covid-19 was even a twinkle in a bat's eye, it's well worth reading just to prove that we will never learn, not even from history.

As doctors race to develop a cure, a murderer is roaming the streets of London experimenting on the sick and dying.  Rector Symon and his sidekick Penelope become somewhat amateur sleuths as they follow the corpses to lead them to the killer.  It's mainly Penelope really as Symon is completely smitten with a married woman and he would much rather sit at home reading her letters and dreaming of an impossible future.

Whilst I was intrigued by the murders, it was the spread of plague that completely mesmerised me and that brings me on to an element of the book that I thought was a fantastic addition but only if you read The Plague Letters as a physical book (unfortunately, I read an ebook).  I will always choose a physical book over a kindle copy mainly because I love the feel of a book in my hands, but there are also a lot of features that just don't work in kindle.  In this case, a map of London is interspersed between the chapters showing the spread of plague moving across London in red.  This would have been a very dramatic graphic if kindle could only show colours.

Other than the enigma that is Penelope, and Symon's cute little cat that said 'mweep', I didn't really connect with any of the characters.  Symon is wetter than a wet weekend in Skegness and I just wanted to give him a shake to make him stop obsessing over Elizabeth.  The other medical men seemed to all merge into one and I couldn't really separate them in my mind, although there is a very useful cast of characters at the start of the book but it's not so easy to flick back and forth on a kindle as you could so easily do with a physical book.  I call Penelope an enigma as I'm not really sure what her role is in Symon's household; she seems to annoy Symon a lot of the time but he doesn't even consider getting rid of her.  The air of mystery surrounding her certainly adds to the intrigue of her character.

The Plague Letters may be historical fiction but it's like reading about the present day.  Shocking in its similarities to 2020, it's a very well written novel with a murderous twist.

Thank you to Viper Books for approving my NetGalley request to read an ebook; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Monday 21 December 2020

I've Been Watching You - KA Richardson


Ben Cassidy is a new crime scene investigator and is finding her feet juggling work and motherhood. Keen to better herself, she enrols on a course in Digital Forensics and meets Jacob Tulley, an ex-army veteran struggling with his past.

When Detective Inspector Alistair McKay and the team are called to a suspected hit and run involving a care home worker, Ben suspects there is more to it, and uncovers a link to a series of murders that hits far too close to home.

Ben and Jacob must work together when evidence of a digital footprint emerges from the killer who knows how to cover his tracks. He’s confident they can’t find him, and when he realises ‘the one who got away’ is under his nose, sets out to finish the job he started.

Can Ben cope with overwhelming memories, can Jacob put his past aside to help Ben and DI McKay gather the evidence needed, and can they stop the cycle of victims?

What did I think?

Oh my word, this book is SO creepy.  KA Richardson has created a stalker on steroids in her recently republished novel, I've Been Watching You.  I have read a few of KA Richardson's later novels so I know how dark they can get but I've Been Watching You still had my skin crawling; it's that creepy feeling of someone watching your every move without you realising it.

The storyline has two main threads: the stalker serial killer and the blossoming relationship between two damaged characters who are hunting the murderer.  This is one heck of a sick, twisted killer but I loved how we get a glimpse of their past, not so much to explain why they're doing what they're doing but to see what broke them.  That's as close as I'm getting to talking about the plot for fear of spoiling it for others.

I loved the characters of Ben Cassidy and Jacob Tulley who both have very disturbing back stories of their own.  It's no wonder that they are drawn to each other like magnets as they must be able to see similarities to themselves in each other.  It's wonderful to see that both characters are very family oriented and they are as important to their families as their families are to them.

As I've read KA Richardson's books out of order, it was great to see characters I recognised and it felt like meeting an old friend you haven't seen for years.  I certainly wouldn't mind having some of these strong, loyal and determined characters on my team.  As I've Been Watching You is set in the North East of England, particularly Sunderland, it's also great to see locations I know; I'll never tire of reading books set in my native North East.

Prepare to have your skin crawling when you read this creepfest from KA Richardson; I've Been Watching You is dark, creepy and completely addictive.

Friday 18 December 2020

BLOG TOUR: Winterkill (Dark Iceland 6) - Ragnar Jónasson


A blizzard is approaching Siglufjörður, and that can only mean one thing…

When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill is a startling addition to the multi-million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting and acclaimed authors in crime fiction.

What did I think?

I have not read a Ragnar Jónasson book that was anything less than brilliant and Winterkill is no exception.  Winterkill, translated by David Warriner, is the stunning conclusion to the fantastic Dark Iceland series and although I'm sad to say goodbye to Ari Thór Arason, I'm mindful that it's only au revoir as I plan to read this amazing series all over again.

You could definitely read Winterkill as a standalone novel as the storyline is brilliant and the characters are so well developed, however, reading the earlier books explains the foibles of Ari Thór's character.  Ari Thór is a bit of an odd character but I really like him; he's not very proactive in life, expecting things to fall in his lap with little effort which is how he's living alone and stuck in Siglufjörður, dreaming of a future life in Reykjavík.

Ari Thór looks like he has a simple case of suicide after a teenager plunges to her death from a balcony.  As it's not her home, the only loose end is the question of what she was doing there.  The case becomes more complicated when a resident in a nursing home writes a message on his wall after overhearing his carers talking about the girl's suicide: 'She was murdered'.  What does the old man know that Ari Thór doesn't?  

With such a razor sharp plot, I hope Ragnar Jónasson didn't cut himself when writing Winterkill.  It's just brilliant from start to finish, impossible to second-guess and even more impossible to put down.  Ragnar Jónasson is one of the best crime writers I have ever read; his writing cleverly builds layer upon layer of suspense in keeping with the snow falling in Siglufjörður.  I am completely in awe of Ragnar Jónasson's writing talent and I am delighted that the Dark Iceland series has been optioned for TV; I can't wait to see Ari Thór on my screen.

Winterkill is tense, ominous and chilling so wrap up warm, put the kettle on and sit down with one of the best books you'll read this year.  Very highly recommended and once again Ragnar 'Five Star' Jónasson is awarded my highest possible rating.

I received an ebook to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:

About the author:

Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. 

Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. 

Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015 with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most  Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.

Follow the tour:

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Call Me Mummy - Tina Baker



Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim - heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop - she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy's attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a 'scummy mummy', who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media's rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle...


What did I think?

This book is absolutely outstanding; it's a highly original child abduction story and it had me completely gripped from start to finish.  I am completely gobsmacked that Call Me Mummy is Tina Baker's debut novel, it's so brilliantly written and has such a breathtaking plot that makes it very compulsive reading.  Honestly, you will not be able to put it down!

The storyline has three distinct voices and they all come across so clearly, it's almost like the reader can hear the characters' thoughts.  Mummy wants a child so badly that she snatches one while the mother is distracted, Kim is the distraught mother who shoulders the blame for losing her daughter and Tonya is the little girl taken from her family and thrust into the middle of this nightmare.

The three main characters are so vivid and multi-dimensional, they really struggled to stay on the page and I felt like I could have reached in and touched them (and I can just hear Tonya saying: “Get off me, you!”).  I adored Tonya, a five year old who is larger than life and such a feisty character.  I felt so sorry for Kim, who seemed to always find herself on the wrong side of public opinion and I got so mad at how people are quick to judge others, especially when they can hide behind their screen.  As for Mummy, she's like a simmering pot that is about to boil over.  As we get to know these characters, we see their worries, dreams and motivations and I love how Tina Baker gives us this 360 degree view.

Equal parts horrifying and mesmerising, Tina Baker's impressive debut is nothing short of exceptional; the writing is stunning, honest, provocative and often surprisingly witty.  Call Me Mummy is without doubt a five star read and I really can't recommend it highly enough - just buy it, you won't regret it.  To emulate a famous retailer renowned for quality: "This is not just a child abduction novel, this is a Tina Baker child abduction novel."  When other adjectives just won't do, I have to say it's fan-flipping-tastic!

I was gifted an ebook from the publisher, Viper Books, via NetGalley and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Monday 14 December 2020

The Last House on Needless Street - Catriona Ward


This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what's inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you've read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it's not what you think...

What did I think?

When Stephen King started raving about Catriona Ward's new novel, The Last House on Needless Street, Book Twitter went absolutely crazy as everybody wanted to get their hands on a copy.  So I just have to give a huge thank you to Viper Books for approving my NetGalley request so that I could read this amazing book.

This is perhaps the most difficult book to review EVER.  Less really is more when it comes to talking about The Last House on Needless Street so I'm going to completely avoid mentioning the plot other than to say it's mind-blowing.  I can't even talk about the characters for fear of accidentally releasing a spoiler.

Just take my word for it, this book is absolutely brilliant.  I did think it was a little weird at first, but that's not a surprise as Stephen King loved it and he's the King of Weirdness, however, once I got used to the strange characters the story flowed beautifully and I couldn't read it fast enough.  

Beautifully written, quirky and haunting, I can't stop thinking about The Last House on Needless Street and without doubt this book is going to be huge when it's released on 18 March 2021.  I can totally see this being book of the year and we're not even in 2021 yet - it really is THAT good.  An absolute must-read, make sure you buy a copy and prepare to be amazed.

All opinions in this review are my own.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Friday 11 December 2020

Mirrorland - Carole Johnstone

The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves…

No. 36 Westeryk Road, an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A house of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat receives the shocking news that her sister has disappeared. Forced to return to Edinburgh, Cat finds herself irresistibly drawn back into Mirrorland. Because El has a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets…

What did I think?

I was so very intrigued by the synopsis of Mirrorland that I just had to read it.  What wonderful ingredients Carole Johnstone has chosen: twin girls, a creepy house in Edinburgh, a fantasy land hidden under the house and now a missing twin.  Buckle yourself in for the rollercoaster ride that is Mirrorland.  

It's impossible to work out what is real and what is fantasy in Mirrorland, so you just have to go with the flow.  El and Cat are rare mirror twins who live with their mother and grandfather in a grand old house in Edinburgh.  Almost like going through the wardrobe to Narnia, they have a fantasy world beneath their house where they can sail the high seas or spend time in the wild west.  It sounds like great fun but El and Cat are so firmly ensconced in Mirrorland that even many years later, they no longer know what or who is real.

Cat and El have been estranged for many years (and the story behind this is brilliant) but Cat returns to the creepy old house when El disappears.  The police and El's husband are convinced that she is dead but Cat firmly believes that El is alive and sending her messages.  Messages that force Cat to confront the dark and dirty truth about Mirrorland and the secrets that have been buried deep inside her.

Mirrorland is a highly imaginative, twisty debut from Carole Johnstone.  It takes so many unexpected twists and turns that you really don't know what direction it is heading in.  Even if you work some of it out, there is so much going on that it's impossible to guess every single little thing.  It's a lot darker than I imagined it would be but it's a very compelling read so once it draws you in, it's impossible to put down.  

Creepy, dark and disturbing; Mirrorland is a most unusual and highly inventive debut.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday 9 December 2020

COVER REVEAL: The Red Admiral's Secret - Matthew Ross

I loved Death of a Painter by Matthew Ross so I'm delighted to be taking part in the cover reveal today for The Red Admiral's Secret, the second book in the Mark Poynter seriesThe Red Admiral's Secret will be published on 3 February 2021 by Red Dog Press so you've got loads of time to read Death of a Painter beforehand.  So let's have a look at the cover...

Isn't that a funky cover?  It's so eye-catching and I can't wait to read it.  You can read the synopsis of the book below, where you can also find out more about the author and most importantly, click on that preorder link.

Here's a little bit about the book:

A Premier League bad-boy murdered at his newly refurbished home; a teenage runaway’s corpse uncovered on a construction site; a gunman shoots up the premises of the local gangland boss – all of them projects run by beleaguered builder Mark Poynter. Can he fix it?

Things seem to be on the up for builder, Mark Poynter. Mark’s got himself a nice little earner taking care of the sizeable property portfolio built up from the career earnings of former Premier League bad-boy and local celebrity, Danny Kidd. But when Danny Kidd puts an interested party’s nose out of joint by using his star status to gazump them on a development site – the derelict Admiral Guthrie pub - things turn ugly and incendiary, leaving Mark to deal with the consequences.

Meanwhile local villain, Hamlet, uses his subtle persuasion to dupe Mark into unwittingly help him launder vast sums of dirty cash but when it drags the area to the brink of gang warfare, Mark’s help is needed to try and broker a truce.

At the Admiral Guthrie secrets from the past meet conflicts of the present - will the rising flames reduce Mark’s future to ashes?

“The Red Admiral’s Secret” is the second in the series of darkly comic crime fiction novels featuring the beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, aided and hindered in equal measure by his trusted crew of slackers, idlers and gossips, and the lengths they go to just to earn a living.

About the author:

Matthew Ross was born and raised in the Medway Towns, England. He still lives in Kent with his Kiwi wife, his children and a very old cat.

He was immersed in the building industry from a very early age helping out on his father's sites during school holidays before launching into his own career at 17. He's worked on projects ranging from the smallest domestic repair to £billion+ infrastructure, and probably everything in between.

A lifelong comedy nerd, he ticked off a bucket-list ambition and tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Whilst being an experience probably best forgotten (for both him and audiences alike) it ignited a love for writing, leading to various commissions including for material broadcast on BBC Radio 4 comedy shows.

Matthew moved into the longer format of novel writing after graduating from the Faber Academy in London in 2017.

'Death Of A Painter' was his first novel and the first in a planned series of stories featuring Mark Poynter and his associates.

Matthew enjoys reading all manner of books - especially crime and mystery; 80s music; and travelling and can't wait for the next trip to New Zealand to spend time with family and friends.

Preorder links:

Queen of the Warrior Bees (Natural Forces 1) - Jean Gill

Epic eco-fantasy from the award-winning author of The Troubadours Quartet

One misfit girl and 50,000 bees. Together they must change the world. As the Mages of the Citadel fight amongst themselves and prepare for war against the Forest, Mielitta, a despised servant, has her own battle to face. Bastien and Jannlou, the boys who terrorised her as a child, have grown into their status as Mages and she cannot escape them forever.

In desperation, she flees to the forbidden Forest and its dangerous attractions. Her scent angers thousands of bees and, although she survives their attack, she has changed. A strange bee symbol glows on her thigh and her senses are altered. She learns that her connection with bees enables her to summon their aid and gives her the power to shift shape.

This new-found bond works both ways and the bees need Mielitta's help as the rift widens between Forest and Citadel. Can one girl and a colony of bees reunite Man and Nature, or is the split irreversible?

Block Nature out and she'll force a way in.

What did I think?

Jean Gill is one of my favourite historical fiction authors so when I heard that she had turned her hand to fantasy, I just had to read Queen of the Warrior Bees.  It goes without saying that the quality of the writing is exceptional but the story is amazing too and I found myself fully immersed in the magical world that Jean Gill has created.

Mielitta is a wonderfully strong female character; as a child, her orphan status set her apart from her peers and the boys in particular used every opportunity to bully her.  This may have caused irreversible damage to a weaker character but Mielitta is destined for great things and rises above their taunts.  The Citadel is definitely a man's world but Mielitta knows her own mind and doesn't want to fill her brain with dresses and flowers.  When a bee sting changes Mielitta forever, we see just what she is made of.

I don't read a lot of fantasy but I do think that you really have to allow your imagination to run wild in order to enjoy books in the genre.  Jean Gill certainly has the amazing ability to use her beautiful words to paint a picture of a fantasy world that is as vivid as the world outside my window.  I have been a fan of Jean's for quite some time so I know that she is a beekeeper herself and the prose is peppered with her knowledge of bees that I found very informative.

In a world where it means more to be male than female, Queen of the Warrior Bees is as much a feminist novel as a fantasy novel.  It has as strong a feminist message as The Handmaid's Tale but it has the added entertainment of magic and of course bees.  It may feel like Margaret Atwood mixed with JK Rowling but it's unmistakeably the extraordinary talent of Jean Gill.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 7 December 2020

Just a Small Town - Paul Linggood


A small town that could be anywhere: industry in decline, streets in decay, many have left, while those left behind take short-term joy in drugs. Four young people are among the left behind. Alex consumes heroin to escape his abusive father. Jim hides from guilt after the death of the friend he didn't save. Chelsi's brother killed a local boy, and ostracism pushes her towards a rival gang, prostitution and loneliness. Danny is a hustler but needs protection from the drug gang that supplies him. Can any of them survive the addiction, gang life, isolation and manipulation? Their small town could be anywhere.

What did I think?

Now and again you find a book that stays with you so long after reading that you can't get it out of your head, that book for me is Just a Small Town.  It's quite a short book at only 180 pages but every single word has been chosen carefully resulting in a gripping, gritty and brilliant read.

Just a Small Town is a clever title in itself as it could be set absolutely anywhere, you just need to read your local newspaper to see similarities to this book in your own area.  The story follows four young people who live in a deprived area and it's heartbreaking to see them transform from innocent children to doing whatever they need to do to survive.  Only the strong survive in this town.

I love how each chapter is dedicated to a particular character and their various guises as they change over time.  It made me so angry to see how these youngsters were groomed and manipulated and it's even more shocking when you realise that this sort of thing does actually happen in real life.  It's so thought-provoking and I think we really need to help deprived areas to give children a chance at life; no child should have to grow up so quickly and in such difficult circumstances.  I'll get off my soapbox now!

Just a Small Town is an exceptional book and a brilliant debut; Paul Linggood brings this eye-opening story to life through his outstanding writing that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.  The writing is so vibrant and the characters are so well developed and multi-dimensional that I could almost see them leaping from the page.  I don't want to give anything away but I have to say that the ending is just brilliant.  Have a virtual round of applause Mr Linggood. 

One of the best debuts I have read this year, Just a Small Town is a tour de force from Paul Linggood and highly recommended reading.  This is a perfect book to discuss at book club or with friends; I'll certainly be talking about it for a long time!

Many thanks to Paul Linggood for sending me a copy of his book to read and review; all opinions are my own.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Saturday 5 December 2020

BLOG TOUR: How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) - Gary Raymond


"Love Actually dulls the critical senses, making those susceptible to its hallucinogenic powers think they've seen a funny, warm-hearted, romantic film about the many complex manifestations of love. Colourful Narcotics. A perfect description of a bafflingly popular film." 

By any reasonable measurement, Love Actually is a bad movie. There are plenty of bad movies out there, but what gets under Gary Raymond's skin here is that it seems to have tricked so many people into thinking it's a good movie. In this hilarious, scene-by-scene analysis of the Christmas monolith that is Love Actually, Gary Raymond takes us through a suffocating quagmire of badly drawn characters, nonsensical plotlines, and open bigotry, to a climax of ill-conceived schmaltz. 

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is the definitive case against a terrible movie. With a foreword by Lisa Smithstead.

What did I think?

Having watched Love Actually many years ago and being completely underwhelmed, I was very intrigued by Gary Raymond's book: How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics).  The only thing I could remember about the film was Hugh Grant doing his crazy dad dancing so I decided to watch the movie before reading the book.  After watching the movie and scratching my head in confusion, Gary Raymond writing this book makes so much sense, a lot more than Richard Curtis' dreadful movie that's for sure.

Love Actually is not the first movie that springs to mind when I think of Christmas films, that's because it's the least Christmassy Christmas movie EVER.  You could ruin your Christmas just by watching it so read this book instead.  It's much funnier than the movie and points out a lot of the things that don't make sense in the film and there are a LOT of nonsensical things to point out!  As well as the things mentioned in the book, I was astounded that there would be a school play on Christmas Eve, days after schools have broken up for the holidays.  It also seems to be tradition in Love Actually to open your Christmas presents BEFORE Christmas Eve, whereby Karen discovers that Harry hasn't bought her the necklace that Mia is now wearing.  It's all very confusing when you try to make sense of it.

Gary Raymond's scene by scene analysis of Love Actually is absolutely hilarious.  You really don't realise how bad the film is until you strip it down to each painful (and sometimes pointless) scene.  I found myself laughing out loud, snorting and chortling my way through the book and I think it was made even funnier by the film being so fresh in my mind.  So very well written, the writing is fresh, insightful and witty making the whole book incredibly entertaining.

An anti-companion to the film, it's an eye-opening read and wouldn't look out of place on a film studies course.  It's a great book to discuss with others (of suitable age) who have read it and I'm still talking about it many days after reading the book.  If you love Love Actually then maybe this book isn't for you, but then again it might make you see the film in a different light.  For those of us bemused by the popularity of Love Actually, this is the book you've been looking for.

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) is the perfect gift for a film lover or someone with a good sense of humour.  If you're going to ask Santa for one book, make it this one; you could even copy the weird tradition from the film and open it on 23rd December.  I absolutely loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it; it's an honest and hilarious analysis of a very strange and perplexing film.  An absolutely cracking five star read; I'll definitely be adding Gary Raymond's back catalogue to my wishlist.

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

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon UK

About the author:

Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor, and broadcaster. He is presenter of The Review Show for BBC Radio Wales and editor of Wales Arts Review. He is a regular writer on film, music, literature, and theatre, and can often be heard on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as an arts commentator and reviewer. His novels include For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015), The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018), and the upcoming Angels of Cairo (Parthian, 2021). 

Follow the tour:

Thursday 3 December 2020

BLOG TOUR: Foul Play - After Dark Murder Mystery Events

Welcome to Edwardian England. The Lord of the Manor is dead! The servants are our lead suspects and it's up to you to unearth the evidence, seek out the suspects and catch the culprit in order to scupper the other sleuths, and win this game of murder!

There's more than one way to catch a killer though. So what's it gonna be? Good Cop or Bad Cop? These two game versions come with their own set of rules and tactics to crack the case and finger your suspect, but will you use fair play or FOUL PLAY?

The Game is Afoot! Playing as detective, you’ll need to find the three evidence cards that point to a specific suspect in order to catch a killer in this crazy criminal caper. Will you uncover them in the crime scene? Could the other detectives be willing to collaborate and share their findings? Or will you resort to more tricky tactics, and plunder the proof you need to solve this crime?

What did I think?

Well this is a bit different, instead of a review of a crime book it's a review of a crime game and what a brilliant game it is.  The game is presented as a pack of 52 cards but this is no ordinary pack of cards as there's a murderer among them.  The players (between 2 and 5 of them) must act as detectives and race to collect the evidence in order to be first to identify the murderer.  There are even two variations of the game (Good Cop and Bad Cop) so there is great fun to be had with this small package.
The suspects

When you first open the pack you will find four double sided instruction cards.  The instructions are clear and easy to understand so don't worry if you don't usually play games.  The cards give an overview of the game and the rules of play, details of each card's actions, how to play and win Good Cop and how to play and win Bad Cop.

We played both versions of the game with two players and had very different experiences but I'll talk a bit about Good Cop first.  In the Good Cop variant, you are searching for three evidence cards that will identify the murderer.  We had great fun stealing cards from each other, swapping our cards over with cards in the crime scene and discarding cards we didn't want.  It took around half an hour for one of us (not me) to find the three evidence cards and identify the murderer.  There were plenty of laughs to be had along the way (especially when playing the Foul Play cards to steal cards from your opponent) and we thoroughly enjoyed playing.

Playing Bad Cop with two players only took about five minutes to play.  As all the evidence cards are in play, it's a lot easier to find three evidence cards and identify a suspect.  I think if there had been more players, it would have taken longer for one of the players (not me) to identify the murderer.  This isn't necessarily a negative point as it would be good to play Bad Cop if you didn't have much time and just wanted a quick game.

Game in progress
Taking up as much room as a pack of cards, Foul Play is the perfect game to take with you when visiting family and friends or jetting off on holiday.  It's not suitable for a travel game as it does require a small playing area to create a nine card grid of the 'crime scene', an 'evidence locker' of cards in play and a discard pile.

We played five or six games and although I lost every single one of them, I absolutely loved it.  I'm not usually one for playing games but Foul Play is so easy to play and so much fun that it's definitely something all of the family could enjoy.  Priced at £8.95 it's excellent value as it's basically two games in one and there are hours of fun to be had.

Foul Play is the perfect stocking filler for murder mystery fans, book lovers, gamers and anyone who needs a bit of fun in their life, so that's everyone!  Start leaving massive hints that you want this game for Christmas and I hope you find one in your stocking this year.

I received a gifted game to review and all opinions are my own.

My rating:

Buy it HERE

How Foul Play was born:

What’s a Murder Mystery Events Company to do?

With a pandemic sweeping the nation and no sign of being able to perform their confounding criminal cabarets or incredible interactive investigations any time soon, they needed to come up with a plan, another way to provide mystery to the masses (and provide income to keep themselves afloat)!

Well, lockdown does strange things to people, especially actors who can't go out and perform. So one fateful evening, Ben & Lee Cooper-Muir decided to come up with a whole new way to murder people. Keeping their cards close to their chests they plotted and schemed until Foul Play : The Murder Mystery Card Game was born. So, what to do next?

This is where After Dark enters the picture. After all, Ben and Lee were two of the operators of the infamous murder mystery company. Maybe they could collaborate to bring the game to the masses. When Lockdown restrictions were eased a top-secret meeting was held with the other criminal masterminds behind After Dark, Helen Burrows, Sophie Webster & Tom Fisher and a pact was made. The game would be launched and licensed under the After Dark banner. In true After Dark style, the team burst into action and then began the beta testing, design updates, promotional planning, character changes, proofing, proofing and more proofing until finally all the kinks were ironed out, mysteries solved, and FOUL PLAY came to life!

We hope you enjoy playing it, and although we all hope to be back performing soon, WATCH THIS SPACE! Now we know we can create and produce games we've got a lot more fun things planned for the future!

Follow the tour and see what other players thought: