Tuesday 28 December 2021

The Wrecking Storm (Thomas Tallant Mysteries Book 2) - Michael Ward



The poisonous dispute pushing King Charles and Parliament towards Civil War is reaching the point of no return.

Law and order in the city are collapsing as Puritan radicals demand more concessions from the King. Bishops and lords are attacked in the streets as the Apprentice Boys run amok. Criminal gangs use the disorder to mask their activities while the people of London lock their doors and pray for deliverance.

No one is immune from the contagion. Two Jesuit priests are discovered in hiding and brutally executed - and soon the family of spice merchant Thomas Tallant is drawn into the spiral of violence. Tallant's home is ransacked, his warehouse raided and his sister seized by kidnappers.

Thomas struggles to discover who is responsible, aided by the enigmatic Elizabeth Seymour, a devotee of science, maths and tobacco in equal measure. Together they enter a murky world of court politics, street violence, secret codes and poisoned letters, and confront a vicious gang leader who will stop at nothing to satisfy his greed.

Can Elizabeth use her skills to unpick the mass of contradictory evidence before the Tallants are ruined – both as a business and a family?

And as the fight for London between King and Parliament hurtles to its dramatic conclusion, can the Tallants survive the personal and political maelstrom?

What did I think?

The Wrecking Storm is the sequel to the outstanding historical fiction novel, Rags of Time, that I thoroughly enjoyed (you can read my review here).  Whilst you could read the The Wrecking Storm as a standalone, I'd recommend reading the Thomas Tallant Mysteries in order to fully understand the characters (and also because Rags of Time is a mighty fine read).

Michael Ward effortlessly weaves real history into his fictional story so you get a little history lesson as well as a fast-paced mystery and adventure.  If you read historical fiction, you'll know that it's rarely considered fast-paced but somehow The Wrecking Storm is just that and I read it over a period of 48 hours; it's so difficult to put it down once you pick it up.

The scene is painted so vividly that I felt fully immersed in the dangerous and dirty 17th century streets of London.  England is on the brink of Civil War and my kindle was virtually vibrating with the underlying tension of the population that came across beautifully in the wonderfully descriptive writing.  

I'm purposefully avoiding mentioning the fantastic storyline so I don't inadvertently reveal any spoilers, suffice to say it's a good 'un!  There's actually quite a lot going on in the book which kept me entertained and enthralled from beginning to end.

Filled with danger, tension, suspicion and adventure, The Wrecking Storm is a fast-paced mystery and historical fiction of the highest quality.  So very highly recommended and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Many thanks to Michael Ward for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday 22 December 2021

The Stars Will Shine Again: Helping Our Heroes One Page at A Time - Various Authors, edited by Emma Mitchell

The Stars Will Shine Again is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty crimes that will shake you to your core, magic and mystery, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Malcolm Hollingdrake, Tony Forder, Val Portelli, and Andrew Barrett, and several debut authors, including Sarah Hardy and Yvonne Bastian, you are in for one heck of a ride.

The Stars Will Shine Again is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life.

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, The Stars Will Shine Again is a multi-genre collection of short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity Help for Heroes. Covid has made fundraising a difficult job for everyone, so it’s an honour to able to do something like this and I’m thankful to everyone involved. With huge thanks going once again to Amanda Horan for her support and fabulous cover design. You can find her at Let’s Get Booked.

I’ve picked the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and bloggers who have been so generous with their time to help advertise and spread the word.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

What did I think?

What a cracking little anthology!  There are lots of charity anthologies around at the moment and there's no easier or better way to support charities than by buying a book.  Help for Heroes is already a charity I support so it was my absolute pleasure to read and review this wonderful collection.

This book is filled with superb short stories, written by authors you may know and some names you may recognise from the book blogging community.  Each and every story is of amazingly high quality and I couldn't pick a favourite out from among them, although I have picked out a few authors to add to my watch list.

It's quite a quick read at only 261 pages, and you can dip in and out of it as the mood takes you or read it cover to cover in one sitting.  However you choose to read it, I can guarantee that you will enjoy every minute of it.  

I really must applaud Emma Mitchell for giving up some of her valuable time to organise and edit this fabulous collection.  With every penny made from the sale of each book being donated to such a worthy cause as Help for Heroes, I really can't recommend this book highly enough.

Many thanks to Emma Mitchell for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Saturday 18 December 2021

The Turn of The Tide (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy Book 3) - Alan Jones

The Turn of the Tide is the third book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

As Hitler's greed turns eastwards to the fertile and oil rich Soviet heartlands, life for the Kästner and the Nussbaum families disintegrates and fragments as the Nazis tighten the noose on German and Polish Jews. Implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann plan to have Germany, and Europe, Judenrein, ‘cleansed of Jews’.

General Erich Kästner, increasingly alone, fights a losing battle to protect his friends, and their fellow Jews, putting himself and his family in jeopardy.

As the tide of war turns, he looks anxiously to the Soviets in the east, and to the Western Allies, desperately hoping, despite his patriotism, that Germany is defeated before there are no Jews left in the countries occupied by the Third Reich.

When an assassination attempt on Hitler and his henchmen fails, Erich Kästner himself comes under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and his own survival, and that of his family, becomes uncertain.

As the war draws to an end, with Germany in ruins, time is running out for the Kästners and the Nussbaums…

What did I think?

The Turn of the Tide is the stunning conclusion to the magnificent Sturmtaucher Trilogy that I have lived and breathed for the past few months.  Even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and now that I’ve finished it, I’ll never forget it.  It's an epic novel that took me around 20 hours to read and I simultaneously wanted to devour it quickly and savour it slowly. I opted for savouring as this is a story that’s not to be rushed. 

Although you could read The Turn of the Tide as a standalone, you really do need to read the books in order to fully appreciate the rich depth of character and the history behind the families in the book.  I can't even begin to describe this breathtaking novel but it's a story that completely consumed me as I experienced all the trials and tribulations along with each character.  I'm not ashamed to say that I cried several times, especially as the novel drew to a close, but whilst the story is terribly harrowing it's also hopeful and uplifting as the characters show strength, tenacity and resilience against pure evil.

The research that must have gone into this novel is mindblowing and Alan Jones must have dedicated a significant number of years gathering information and sifting through details.  Although the characters are fictional, it's still shocking to think that this is real history and it only happened 80 years ago.  It is a period of history that should never be forgotten and Alan Jones has played a massive part in ensuring that 'the final solution' is never wiped from our memories. 

Each book in this trilogy is an absolute masterpiece and for an author to write three books of such consistently high quality is incredible.   Alan Jones deserves every accolade that is coming his way and I can't see anybody honestly rating this book less than five stars - I would give it more if I could.  I don’t do top 10 books of the year anymore but if I did, I can guarantee that all three books of this superb trilogy would be fighting for the top spot.

Historical fiction at its absolute finest, The Turn of the Tide and the complete trilogy are simply not to be missed.  A masterpiece and an absolute triumph!

I really can't thank Alan Jones enough for sending me a digital ARC to read and review as no review I write could ever do it justice.  This is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Monday 6 December 2021

BLOG TOUR: Silenced - Jennie Ensor

A teenage girl is murdered on her way home from school, stabbed through the heart. Her North London community is shocked, but no-one has the courage to help the police, not even her mother. DI Callum Waverley, in his first job as senior investigating officer, tries to break through the code of silence that shrouds the case.

This is a world where the notorious Skull Crew rules through fear. Everyone knows you keep your mouth shut or you’ll be silenced – permanently.

This is Luke’s world. Reeling from the loss of his mother to cancer, his step-father distant at best, violent at worst, he slides into the Skull Crew’s grip.

This is Jez’s world too. Her alcoholic mother neither knows nor cares that her 16-year-old daughter is being exploited by V, all-powerful leader of the gang.

Luke and Jez form a bond. Can Callum win their trust, or will his own demons sabotage his investigation? And can anyone stop the Skull Crew ensuring all witnesses are silenced?

Silenced is the compelling and gritty new thriller by British author Jennie Ensor. A gripping story of love, fear and betrayal, it’s Romeo and Juliet for our troubled times. 

What did I think?

Wow!  This book is fantastic!  I love Jennie Ensor's books so I already knew that Silenced was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to completely blow my socks off.  The writing is sublime, the plot is breathtaking and it's a book I will never forget.

The opening pages are shocking and disturbing when a teenage girl is murdered in broad daylight.  Everyone knows who did it, but nobody is willing to speak up for fear of ending up in a body bag.  The police investigation stalls as everywhere they turn they hit a brick wall of silence.  The gang's reach is far and wide and they continue to trap vulnerable youngsters in their web but DI Callum Waverley refuses to give up, even when he finds himself in the gang's crosshairs.  

Told from various viewpoints, the reader is immersed in London's gangland and it's a very dark but poignant read.  Seeing vulnerable children being groomed and drawn into crime is heartbreaking.  The gang know precisely what they're doing: preying on children who are craving the love and attention they aren't getting at home.  It's frightening when you realise that this amazing novel is so very true to life and it's clear that it has been meticulously researched.

Dark, disturbing and frighteningly realistic, Silenced is an absolute tour de force.  I raced through this haunting and devastating novel that gripped me from the very first page.  I wholeheartedly recommend it; it's a stunning novel that is not to be missed.

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

My rating:

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Friday 3 December 2021

The Replacement - Melanie Golding

When a small child is found wandering alone, the local shopkeepers call the authorities immediately. Twenty minutes later, the girl’s mother turns up, panicked and distraught. It doesn't take long to clear things up, and mother and daughter are soon reunited and sent on their way.

Miles away, the body of a man is discovered, floating in a bathtub, but the most surprising discovery of all is that he isn't dead. Despite his injuries, he is very much alive.

Two seemingly unrelated events. But as DS Harper begins to investigate, disturbing truths start to come to light that connect the man to the mother and child, and suddenly it’s not clear where the danger truly lies. Harper must find out, and quickly. Because someone, or something, is closing in and she needs to uncover the truth before it’s too late…

Weaving together the trademark folklore inspiration that readers loved in Little Darlings, with the procedural narrative force of a brilliant mystery, this is the excellent and unnerving new novel from Melanie Golding.

What did I think?

I absolutely loved Melanie Golding's debut, Little Darlings, so I was thrilled to bits to be chosen to take part in the Tandem Collective readalong for her new book, The Replacement.  With a mix of folklore, thriller and police procedural, this is a fast-paced read that will shock and surprise the reader and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The start of the novel is fantastic and it hooked me immediately as you know that something is not quite right and there's something darker hidden beneath the surface.  As if I wasn't hooked enough, a man is found barely clinging on to life and it's clear that it has something to do with the reunited mother and daughter.  The police investigation becomes even more intriguing when the lead investigator tries to hide her conflict of interest.  What a tangled web we must unravel...

I couldn't read fast enough to discover how events played out and Melanie Golding very cleverly misdirects the reader on several occasions so you think you have it all worked out but you really don't.  Some things didn't surprise me, as I'd read Little Darlings, but it didn't prevent me from enjoying the story.  The writing is beautiful, creating layer upon layer of intrigue that must be peeled away gradually to reveal every secret hidden within the pages.

A wonderfully dark and haunting story, The Replacement is intriguing, compelling and hugely enjoyable.  If you're looking for a crime thriller with a difference, then look no further. 

I received a gifted ARC to read and review for the readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday 1 December 2021

The Midnight Child - J.A. Baker

A long-ago trauma and a family mystery may shed light on her troubled sleep—or pull her into the darkness once and for all . . .

As a child, Grace Cooper suffered from bouts of sleepwalking. Now, after the unexpected death of her husband, she’s moved back to Woodburn cottage, her childhood home—and the sleepwalking returns. It’s all stirring up dark memories—memories that involve the disappearance of her brother Simon, who vanished one night when he was a child, and the death of her father, who fell from an upstairs window.

With her mother in a care home with dementia and her sister living in a nearby village, Grace tries to settle in—but with the passage of time, the sleepwalking only becomes more regular and the blurred memories of the past only become more disturbing. Spurred on by these hazy dreamlike recollections, Grace becomes determined to find out what happened to Simon that fateful night. But digging up the past isn’t always a good idea, because you never know what skeletons you might unearth . . .

What did I think?

I love J.A. Baker's writing; all her novels are outstanding but The Midnight Child is so magnificent that it completely blew me away.  It's a dark and disturbing storyline as sleepwalking and repressed memories are explored and you have to wonder how much you can really rely on your own memory.

The depth of character is stunning, with Grace Cooper being not only the main character but one of the few characters in the book.  Concentrating on one character in this way really allows the reader to get inside her head and follow her every move.  Grace was a sleepwalker as a child and her sleepwalking returns when she moves back into the family home, the home from which Grace's brother Simon mysteriously disappeared.  You can almost feel the secrets buried deep in the walls, just bursting to get out!  I certainly couldn't read fast enough to discover everything about Simon's disappearance.

I also have to mention Grace's mother who is suffering from dementia.  Although heartbreaking to read about this devastating condition, J. A. Baker writes so sensitively and honestly that I really must applaud her skill.  I can't even begin to imagine the effect that dementia has on the sufferer and their loved ones but I got a glimpse of it in this stunning book.

Ominous and tense, The Midnight Child is like a simmering pot, constantly threatening to boil over the minute you take your eyes off it.  I couldn't tear my eyes away from the page as I raced towards the absolutely breathtaking conclusion.  I can always rely on J.A. Baker to shock and surprise me and The Midnight Child did just that.  An outstanding and highly recommended novel.

I received a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon