Tuesday, 28 March 2017

False Prophet (Saul Marshall Thriller Book 1) - Richard Davis

When a rogue cult turns deadly, the authorities call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. Drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult Ivan Drexler, news arrives that he has taken Marshall’s son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, Marshall must work alone, off-grid.

As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler. But people are questioning Saul’s own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his son. 

As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking...

What did I think?

I took far too long to get around to reading False Prophet but once I started to read it, I really couldn't put it down and it turned out to be a very quick, riveting read.  Saul Marshall is such a multi-faceted character; he's a con-man turned FBI agent so he knows more than most how the criminal mind works, basically because he has a criminal mind himself. 

The prologue will not fail to hook every single reader that turns the first page of False Prophet.  Imagine sitting down to breakfast with your morning newspaper and seeing your obituary in the paper.  That's what happened to Aaron Woolf, who then received a phone call from his missing son rapidly followed by masked men entering his apartment to stage his apparent suicide.  Saul Marshall has something in common with Aaron Woolf; his son, Samuel, has gone missing too.  As Saul races to save his son, he uncovers something bigger than he could ever have imagined.

False Prophet is an absolutely stonking first thriller from Richard Davis and a fast-paced rollercoaster of a read; I think I held my breath several times during the book and almost forgot to breathe at the heart-stopping finale.  It certainly gets you thinking as the story links to the 20th anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the 40th anniversary of the 1973 failed bomb plot codenamed Tribomb.  It's a brilliant idea, and one probably very true to life, to have a false prophet using religion to 'cash in' on the jihadi mentality of willing suicide bombers.  Are these islamic militants really any different to religious cult leaders?

With a character as strong and flawed as Saul Marshall, Richard Davis is definitely on to a winner here.  I was so eager to read more of Saul's story that I immediately went on to read the next book in the series, Never Forget.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 27 March 2017

Bully Boy Blue - John Nicholl

Every aspect of Kathy’s life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she’s pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

What did I think?

I don't usually read short stories but made an exception for this one and bully boy am I glad that I did.  It's a very short story, no more than an hour's worth of reading, but it packs a HUGE punch, if you will excuse the pun.

Kathy is an abused wife but nobody believes her and she can't inform the police as her husband is a police inspector.  Everyone loves Mike Connor, he has a lot to put up with as his wife, Kathy, is struggling with her mental health after her miscarriage.  Little do people know that he brought on the miscarriage.  When Kathy finds out that she is pregnant again she will do ANYTHING to protect her unborn child.  So watch out Mike, Kathy's coming to get you!

Wow!  What an amazing novella.  I defy anyone to tear their eyes away from the page whilst reading this.  Kathy's plight is one that is sadly experienced by many women (and men) and John Nicholl has really raised awareness of domestic violence by showing us that appearances can be VERY deceptive.  Of course, I was ultimately rooting for Kathy and showing her to be a strong character in the end, gives hope and a voice to so many women suffering the same fate.

Don't be put off by this being a novella, it's short but certainly not sweet, and will leave you with your eyes wide open and a compulsion to look at the signs, however subtle, being given by the people around you.  Bully Boy Blue is such a brave and impressive book - don't miss it!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday, 26 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Blood and Destiny (The Shadow of the Raven Book 1) - Chris Bishop

As many people know, I am a fan of historical fiction so I was more than a little intrigued by the clash of Saxons and Vikings in 9th Century Blood and Destiny.  Having devoured the book and been left thirsty for more, I am absolutely thrilled to kick off the blog tour for this truly magnificent book.

It is 878 and Wessex stands alone against Guthrum's Viking hordes as all England cowers beneath their raven banner.

With most of his army destroyed following a surprise attack at Chippenham, Alfred King of Wessex, retreats to the desolate marshes at Athelney. Whilst few believe he can ever restore the kingdom, he remains determined – no matter the cost.

Among the small band of weary survivors is Matthew, a novice monk who must learn to fight like a warrior if he, along with his brother and fellow Saxons, are to have any chance of defeating the Vikings. As the impending battle looms, Matthew is charged with a vital role that means he must face danger and betrayal, and undertake a hazardous journey during which his faith will face the ultimate test.

What did I think?

What an amazing start to, not only a book, but a series; I get goosebumps just thinking about it as the skeleton of Edward, the third son of Edwulf, is uncovered in a lonely grave.  It is not the discoverer talking but Edward himself and it is Edward's story that we follow in The Shadow of the Raven series.

We are introduced to Edward and his brother Edwin in 878 as the Vikings continue their invasion of Britain.  Edwin is a warrior and Edward is a novice monk, going by the name of Matthew.  The brothers are together when they discover a burning settlement and Edwin fears for their king, Lord Alfred of Wessex residing in Chippenham.  Edwin hatches a plan to make his way to Chippenham to warn King Alfred of the imminent Viking invasion and to fight alongside the few men based there.

On their travels they discover a young boy who appears to be mute and they name him Edmund after their late elder brother.  When the party of three arrive at Chippenham they find that they are too late to warn King Alfred, indeed they find themselves in the midst of battle.  Edwin rushes off to lend his sword to the battle, leaving Matthew with the boy Edmund and soon Matthew finds his calling tested when he is drawn into the battle and must kill or be killed.

With the Viking leader, Guthrum, having captured Chippenham, the Saxon troops take King Alfred into hiding.  They make the dangerous journey to Athelney, encountering a number of possible traitors on the road, where they make their plans to take back Chippenham.  What starts with a battle must surely end with a battle, and Blood and Destiny does not disappoint.

I feel like I read this book in no time at all, I positively whizzed through it.  The writing was so vivid that I could almost hear the clash of shields and smell the metallic tang of blood.  I loved Matthew's struggle with his calling; it would appear that he has warrior blood in his veins after all and having his head turned by a woman more than helped him to make his decision.  I couldn't help but remember the opening lines as I was reading Blood and Destiny: this monk turned warrior, seemingly so full of life and close to the King of Wessex, ends up in such a lonely grave.  What is his story?  I'll just have to look out for the next book in the series to find out, as Blood and Destiny ends with a tantalising 'To be continued...'

Fans of historical fiction and the TV series 'Vikings' will absolutely love Blood and Destiny.  I half expected to see Ragnar Lothbrok appear in the story, although he would fight to the death and never contemplate surrender.  Fast-paced, brutal and sword-clashingly vivid this is a stunning first novel and the most amazing start to what I am sure will be a fantastic series.  I'm certainly on tenterhooks for book 2.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author

Chris Bishop was born in London in 1951. After a successful career as a chartered surveyor, he retired to concentrate on writing, combining this with his lifelong interest in history. Blood and Destiny is his first novel and is part of a series entitled The Shadow of the Raven.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Idea of You - Amanda Prowse

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

What did I think?

You can't help but be moved by the beautiful writing of Amanda Prowse, I thought I had got away with it this time as I bragged half way through the book that there were 'no tears yet'.  I did indeed speak too soon; Amanda Prowse could write a shopping list and I'd cry reading it.

Lucy put her career above her personal life but there was a very good reason why she threw herself into her work and avoided relationships.  Relationships only end in hurt, after all, but then she met Jonah and the earth really did move.  The two are perfect together, both have successful careers and they even got married in their lunchbreak.  That's probably something I would do, if I ever had a lunchbreak of course!

Jonah has a daughter from a previous relationship, but as they broke up before the baby (Camille) was born he didn't experience everything that a baby can bring.  Lucy and Jonah are therefore overjoyed when Lucy finds out that she is pregnant and Lucy starts knitting baby clothes, however, the pregnancy was not meant to be and Lucy suffers the devastating effects of a miscarriage.  With more positive pregnancy tests, more miscarriages and a visit from an unruly step-daughter in store, can Lucy and Jonah survive the future?

The Idea of You is such a beautiful book by Amanda Prowse, giving a voice to so many women who have suffered in silence.  It's only a bunch of cells after all.  These women are mothers without a baby and they carry them within their heart if not in their womb.  I have read a few books with miscarriage or infertility as a topic, and I find one thing to be a common denominator: childless women being asked the seemingly innocent question - when are you going to have children?  Perhaps we should think twice before asking such a question as it may seem innocent to the asker but so very hurtful to the askee.  It's almost as if miscarriage is a taboo subject; it was never born so it wasn't a baby.  Wrong, so very wrong...it was a baby from the first positive pregnancy test and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

So very real, poignant and moving The Idea of You is another fabulous book from Amanda Prowse.  As a bit of a knitter, I loved the inclusion of the almost lost art of knitting and the reverence with which the garments were placed in the trunk for safekeeping.  So many women think a baby will complete them, which results in a blinkered life.  Open your eyes and see how blessed you are...Amanda Prowse reminded me of that.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday, 19 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Foxes Unearthed - Lucy Jones

As one of the largest predators left in Britain, the fox is captivating: a comfortably familiar figure in our country landscapes; an intriguing flash of bright-eyed wildness in our towns.

Yet no other animal attracts such controversy, has provoked more column inches or been so ambiguously woven into our culture over centuries, perceived variously as a beautiful animal, a cunning rogue, a vicious pest and a worthy foe. As well as being the most ubiquitous of wild animals, it is also the least understood.

In Foxes Unearthed Lucy Jones investigates the truth about foxes in a media landscape that often carries complex agendas. Delving into fact, fiction, folklore and her own family history, Lucy travels the length of Britain to find out first-hand why these animals incite such passionate emotions, revealing our rich and complex relationship with one of our most loved - and most vilified - wild animals. This compelling narrative adds much-needed depth to the debate on foxes, asking what our attitudes towards the red fox say about us and, ultimately, about our relationship with the natural world.

What did I think?

Well I know us booklovers aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but how Fantastic Mr Fox is this cover?  The hypnotic amber eyes of the beautiful fox stare out from the front cover, almost daring you to have a peek inside...and I, for one, was completely powerless to resist.

A few months ago I wouldn't have been terribly interested in reading a book about foxes, but then a rumour started to spread in my street: a fox had been seen early in the morning walking down the middle of our street.  A real live fox?  In a housing estate in Gateshead, surely not!  Possibly yes, having read Foxes Unearthed and found out some of the quite unbelievable places a fox has been spotted.  City fox, Romeo, wins the award for the most unconventional place for a fox to live.

Without writing as if it is a textbook, Lucy Jones has introduced us to many fascinating facts about foxes.  Foxes have been part of the British landscape for many years, we even use fox and foxy in our language.  Aside from somebody saying they've been foxed or describing a lady as foxy or a vixen, there's also the eye-opening root of the word 'shenanigans'. 

I loved the historical aspect of the book.  I really enjoyed reading about foxes in Tudor times where they were thought to cure all manner of ills, although I wouldn't fancy using particular bits of foxes to cure a migraine or toothache.  It certainly made for entertaining reading though.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, be it foxes are vermin and should be destroyed or foxes are part of our landscape and should be cherished, there is something for everyone in Foxes Unearthed.  Lucy Jones has done an amazing job of getting behind the scenes of both hunters and saboteurs to investigate the controversial subject of fox hunting, just don't ask Ricky Gervais what he thinks unless you have a spare few hours!

You don't have to be a nature or wildlife lover to enjoy Foxes Unearthed; it contains such a variety of information relating to foxes that some chapters will naturally resonate more than others.  In Foxes Unearthed, Lucy Jones encapsulates such a range of information from fictional foxes and hidden homage in TV shows to the controversy of fox hunts and foxes being kept as pets.  I certainly know a lot more about foxes now and it's really made me think about how foxes are rooted in our very history, both through our culture and our language.  Surely something so incredibly priceless deserves to be preserved.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Fourth Monkey - J.D. Barker

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

Friday, 17 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Mercury Travel Club - Helen Bridgett

Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer – from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even 'The Granny-Okes', a 1980s tribute act and YouTube sensation.

But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote... what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it's time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things never go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she's been looking for.

Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980s soundtrack from Angie's youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex.  Angie's journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it's never too late for a second chance.

What did I think?

Well this little gem of a book was just what I needed when I was feeling a bit low, not unlike Angie Shepherd at the start of The Mercury Travel Club.  I think I read this whole book with a smile on my face and certainly struggled to contain my laughter, indeed many laughs did escape whilst reading this book.

Angie was looking forward to her silver wedding anniversary when her husband, Alan, left her for a younger woman.  Forced to sell their family home and start a new life, Angie may feel like curling up and feeling sorry for herself but her friends and family have other ideas.  Her hilarious friend, Patty, is instrumental in keeping Angie on her feet as she takes a few tentative baby steps on the road to singledom.  Patty gives the impression that she's a bit of a man-eater but she's more words than actions and has an absolutely enormous heart of gold.  I couldn't get enough of Angie's hilarious mother; I really looked forward to her appearances and couldn't wait to see what imperfect pearl of wisdom she would come out with next.

Angie works in a travel agency and has a lovely boss, Charlie.  When Angie decides to make her dreams a reality, Charlie offers her a business partnership where they offer themed holidays and The Mercury Travel Club is born.  Like all best laid plans, things often go wrong but that is the charm of the club.  Angie keeps a cool head and is calm under pressure, making her trips much sought after, despite some attempted bad press.  As the Entrepreneur of the Year awards approach, Angie sets her sights on the award.  Will she win it?  Whatever the outcome, you'll be sure they'll have a good time!

I loved the quirky chapter names, each one giving a little hint as to what was in store next.  I almost clapped with glee (I would have if I could have put the book down) when I saw a chapter with the title 'The Kids Wanna Rock'.  As I involuntarily started singing, "Turned on the radio, sounded like a disco...", I was delighted to see my absolute favourite singer Bryan Adams getting some well deserved column inches.  Maybe not the real man but a tribute band, but still, any book that gives Bryan a mention gets a big thumbs up from me.  "I got my first real six string, bought it at the five and dime..."  (Admit it, it's in your head now 😃)

With such an impressive debut and a fabulously witty writing style, I am overjoyed to see that Helen Bridgett plans more books in The Mercury Travel Club series.  The Mercury Travel Club is hilariously funny and a perfect pick me up.  If I had a passport, I'd certainly sign up!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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About the Author

Helen Bridgett was born in North-East England and now lives in Manchester having stopped off at a few places in between. Having failed miserably with every New Year's resolution that involved giving up food or drink, one year, she set herself a completely different goal - to write a novel and give it as a Christmas present. The Mercury Travel Club was born and the characters took on a life of their own. Outside of writing, Helen loves hiking and wine - not usually at the same time.

Helen is currently developing the next novels in The Mercury Travel Club series.