Monday, 26 September 2016

Free to Be Tegan - Mary Grand

Tegan, aged twenty seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and from the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and naïve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains. 

This is the uplifting story of her journey from life in a cult to find herself and flourish in a world she has been taught to fear and abhor. 

Guilt and shadows from her past haunt her in flashbacks, panic attacks and a fear of the dark. However she also finds a world full of colour, love and happiness she has never known before. The wild beauty of the hills, the people she meets and the secrets slowly revealed by the cottage all provide an intriguing backdrop to Tegan’s drama. 

The novel is set in spring, a story of hope, new growth, of the discovery of self and the joy of living. 

What did I think?

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book as I was worried that it might be too much into religion or some form of it, however, I need not have worried.  It's a delightful story about a 27 year old girl who is starting to live for the very first time.  She sees the world through such innocent eyes that she completely captured my heart.

Tegan is cast out of a cult, the only home she has known.  Shunned by her parents, but with a secret parcel from her mother, she finds herself on the streets of London.  Luckily the parcel from her mother contained some money and a contact number for her sister in Wales.  Tegan finds a payphone and speaks to her Uncle Ellis who tells her how to get to Wales via train from London.  She is met at the station by her cousin, Carys, who is of a similar age.  As with all family, whether you know them or not, there is always a mysterious bond so Tegan and Carys hit it off quite quickly.  There are some hiccups though; Tegan has been taught that a lot of the modern world is evil so she refuses to go into the pub, even for a soft drink.

The whole village welcomes Tegan, although there are some secrets that are bubbling to the surface.  The longer Tegan stays in the village, the more likely the family secret will come out, so Tegan's Aunt Hannah is keen for her to leave.  All readers know that secrets don't stay buried for long.

What a lovely story.  I was so emotionally invested in the story that I felt so protective of Tegan, especially when spoilt little bitch girl, Angharad, set her up with the village lothario, James.  Mary Grand did a fantastic job of turning James from Casanova to lager lout when he showed his true colours.  Angharad's fiancé, Sam, is the love interest.  He is so lovely that words cannot describe him - Angharad certainly does not deserve him, nor does she want him, as it turns out!

Free to be Tegan is an uplifting story about new beginnings, friendship, family and trust.  Impeccably written with a strong sense of place; I could almost smell the fresh air and visualise the mist rolling over the Welsh hills.  It made me want to visit Wales; I am ashamed to say that I have never been, despite being part Welsh.  It's a quite unique storyline that I found completely captivating.

I received this e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

The Brief - Simon Michael

In the 60s London of gangsters, prejudice and terrifying gang wars, Barrister Charles Holborne spends his life dealing with the worst examples of violent criminality. After successfully winning a number of high profile cases, he is building a reputation among Soho’s criminal classes as a man who gets the job done, a reputation that doesn’t endear him to his establishment colleagues.

Yet Charles is not all he seems, and is battling both personal demons and his own past. When his philandering wife Henrietta is found with her throat slashed, Charles finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in serious trouble of the murderous kind. Arrested for her murder, can Charles discover the truth of her brutal slaying and escape the hangman’s noose?

Based upon a real case and genuine court documents, The Brief is a compelling criminal drama, and an evocative slice of sleazy glamour from the Swinging Sixties. Simon Michael delivers an addictive read for any crime fan.

What did I think?

I picked up The Brief one Saturday afternoon, after the football results disappointed me yet again, and by Sunday morning I was into the final pages.  This is a seriously good British crime novel and really stands out from the rest by including real court documents.  

We are introduced to Plumber and Sands at the start; Sands has just got out of prison and Plumber was his getaway driver who was not caught.  Sands has come up with a plan to rob Express Dairies in London and he needs Plumber to play a more active role this time.  Armed with fake guns, the robbery takes a sinister turn when one of the guns turns out to be real.  When the pair get caught, they come up with a story that there was a third man who fired the gun.  Then one of them changes their story...

Charles Holborne is the barrister defending Plumber.  His success is envied by his peers as he doesn't come from a privileged background and he has more enemies than he realises.  Charles is unhappily married to Henrietta; Charles works long hours and even has a little flat in London for nights he works late and Henrietta becomes well known for having affairs.  As the scene is set in advance of Henrietta's murder, the suspects have all been lined up nicely but the evidence has been planted to point at Charles.  As Charles fights to clear his name he really finds out who his friends are.

Phew!  I had to stop and take a breath after finishing The Brief.  I felt like I was in the speed-reading olympics with my nose getting closer and closer to the page and my bottom perched precariously on the edge of my seat.  I completely bought into the 1960's era with the mention of The Great Train Robbery and the run in with The Krays.  The authentic police statements and court transcripts were just the icing on the cake - I felt like I was watching the drama unfold before my very eyes.  Absolutely unputdownable; if you loved watching Damages and The Good Wife you will definitely enjoy reading The Brief.  This is Britcrime at its very best.  

So stop reading my review and go and buy this book right now!  It is FANTASTIC!

I can't thank Matthew at Urbane Publications enough for sending me this brilliant book in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you, Matthew!

My rating:

BLOG TOUR: The Learn - Tony Halker

I am thrilled to be opening the blog tour for Tony Halker's The Learn.  I have a short excerpt chosen by Tony Halker followed by my review.  The excerpt reminds me of how happy we all are when the sun is shining and could imagine that our ancestors felt equally blessed when the sun shone down on our wet and windy isle.

Page 3 – Near the beginning of the book characters are emerging, we see a child and his mother, the boy develops and grows to manhood through The Learn. This excerpt describes a “place moment” on a beach when mother and son scavenge together. I like the idea that they thought of time differently dictated as much by the seas and tides as by what they saw in the sky.  

The boy is seemingly reluctantly running to keep up; a more careful look shows a near skip, light in a relaxed body. He too relishes this place moment with his mother. Dark haired despite the light in her; thin, wiry, whispish, jerky in movement; he too exudes vitality, though of a different inner spirit to that of Rigantona. He has the seed of joy in him, Rigantona struggles to water the joy seed inside of her, it grows from time to time but can be stunted when the sun is not shining.

Blending reality, history and legend, about a time when women were considered as important as men, taking power in an oral society that worships the Goddess. A whole Celtic Druid world is laid out before us, incorporating beliefs, technology and the natural environment.

A Celtic boy, a beach scavenger, is pledged to the Learn, a life of endurance, a path to become sworn Druid: scholar and warrior. Young women and men progress, becoming Priests and Druidii. Friendship, affection, passion and care develop as novices mature, confidence emerging.

Seasonal battles of winter and summer bring rich festivals when seeds of men are taken by women in pleasure to prove fertility. Small damaged, hurt peoples on the margins of Celtic society blend in and out of vision.

At frontiers with Nature, dependent for everything on what the earth gives or takes, an emotional response to the natural environment defines who people are and the values they live by.

A lyrical novel resonating with modern readers through portrayal of character, language and history; arising from a landscape of today, yet centred in the Celtic Bronze Age of North Wales.

What did I think?

Although I found it quite hard to get into, it was well worth persevering as the sights and sounds of Bronze Age Britain are brought to life in Tony Halker's The Learn.  The author has very kindly listed his characters at the start of the book which proved an invaluable reference as the story progressed and more characters were introduced.

Owayne is the main character; he is the son of Rigantona, a beach scavenger hunting for pearls known as Goddess Tears.  Rigantona wants her son to become a druid so she sends him off to the Learn to start his training.

I quite enjoyed it when the Syth were introduced, and not just because it made me think of Star Wars.  Owayne is on kind of an endurance trial where he must survive in the wilderness.  The Syth watched over him and invited him into their camp which must have enhanced Owayne's knowledge of the different people of our isle.

Although I am partial to a bit of historical fiction, I know that history is not the most riveting of subjects for a lot of readers.  I did find this slightly on the dry side and I think perhaps that Tony Halker has so completely embraced the Bronze Age period that he has written it as if he was in that period.  It certainly adds to the authenticity of the book but I wasn't drawn into the story as much as I expected to be.  I did, however, find the religion fascinating, especially the goddess Anu who they think of as Mother Nature.

The Learn is a fascinating glimpse into ancient Britain and would be well worth reading for anyone who is interested in the Bronze Age.

I received this book from Authoright in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon
Purchase from Foyles

About Tony Halker

Born in London, Tony Halker studied geology at Leeds University after which he worked as a geologist, travelling extensively overseas. Following an MBA at Cranfield School of Management, he became a manager in hi-tec business and later a businessman and entrepreneur. His writing is inspired by powerful natural landscapes and his interest in the people and technologies emerging from those hard places. His two daughters were born in North Wales. He lives with his wife there and in Hertfordshire.

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

BLOG TOUR: Only Daughter - Anna Snoekstra

In this chilling psychological thriller, one woman’s dark past becomes another’s deadly future.
In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.
She’d been enjoying her teenage summer break: working at a fast food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen—blood in the bed, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched—though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.
Eleven years later she is replaced.
A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.
Soon the imposter is living Bec’s life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends' names. Playing with her twin brothers.
But Bec’s welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the imposter dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter—and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.

What did I think?

This was a really good psychological thriller and although I never really warmed to any of the characters, I think perhaps there was a very good reason for that.  The main character, Bec, is an imposter and the Winter family are as dysfunctional as they come, perhaps not on the outside but when you scratch the surface you find out that appearances can be very deceptive.

The main character is caught shoplifting and, as she bears a striking resemblance to a missing teenager, she claims to be Bec Winter to get off with the shoplifting charge.  The detective who was investigating Bec's disappearance obviously needs to find out where she has been for the last eleven years; questions that only the real Bec Winter could answer.  The fake Bec does her best to evade questions and refuse DNA tests, and then her family turn up to collect her.  Surely a mother would recognise that this imposter is not her daughter?  As the family welcome fake-Bec with open arms the plot does indeed thicken.

My brain went into overdrive as I considered every scenario but the one that Anna Snoekstra had written whilst trying to work out the outcome of the book.  I kept thinking that someone would realise she wasn't the real Bec or perhaps she was the real Bec and didn't realise it.  I was absolutely floored as the book reached its conclusion so I think Only Daughter will go down very well with lovers of twisty psychological fiction.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Mira UK, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

I am releasing my review as part of the blog tour so make sure that you follow the rest of the tour for some great reviews and interesting content.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Honey Trap - Mary Jayne Baker

The trap is set – but which one of them is the bait?
Journalist Angel Blackthorne is looking for her next big scoop. When her sleazy editor asks her to use her charms on super successful – and married – film director Sebastian Wilchester for a juicy exposé, Angel thinks what the hell? There’s a staff job on the horizon, and, let’s be honest, no one can make a cheater cheat if they don’t want to, right?
After the scandal breaks, Angel tries to put the story – and Seb – behind her, but fate seems to have other ideas. A near miss at a premiere after-party and a shared love of vintage film brings the honey closer to the trap.
But what happens when pretence leads to passion, and a ‘kiss and tell’ becomes something real?

What did I think?

This was such good fun and pure escapism; nobody would be quite as forgiving in real life but that's why it's called fiction.  Angel and Seb is such a good story; the honey trap throws them together but perhaps fate had a little helping hand.

Angel is a journalist who accepts an assignment to entrap married film director Seb Winchester into a compromising position.  Angel happens to 'bump' into Seb at a hotel bar and they immediately feel the fizz of chemistry between them.  One thing leads to another and they end up in Angel's hotel room which is conveniently set up with hidden cameras.  After she got the 'money shot', Angel didn't plan to go all the way with Seb but she got carried away in the moment and really felt something for him.  Cue the heartbreak as the photos of their night of passion make the front page of the sleazy red top and Seb realises that he has been set up by Angel.

It's so frustrating that Angel has finally met the man of her dreams but, apart from him being married, he wants nothing to do with her for setting him up.  As the pair kept bumping into each other you could feel the crackle of sexual tension through the pages and I even forgave Angel for setting Seb up in the first place.  Just one thing to sort out though - he's married to the star of his films but are they truly happy?

I really enjoyed reading The Honey Trap, although it was sometimes a wee bit too mushy for me with all of the 'I love You's'.  It's great fun and perfect for reading in the sun or curled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate - although there are some steamy scenes so don't wrap up too warm!

I received this e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Threat - Hugh Fraser

'How far would you go to protect the innocent?'

London 1961. In the dying days of the Macmillan government, George Preston is in control of crime in West London and Rina Walker is his favoured contract killer. When Rina is hired by Soho vice king Tony Farina to investigate the disappearance of girls from his clubs she discovers that they are being supplied to a member of the English aristocracy for the gratification of his macabre sexual tastes. Rina's pursuit of the missing girls and her efforts to save the innocent from slaughter become increasingly perilous as she grapples with interwoven layers of corruption and betrayal and makes her way, via the louche nightclubs of Berlin, towards a final confrontation with depravity.

What did I think?

I would really recommend reading High Fraser's debut, Harm, first although you could read Threat as a standalone novel.  Reading Harm first really helps you to understand Rina's background and why she makes some of her decisions.

Hugh Fraser has written a no holds barred account of a dark and depraved English aristocrat at the start of the swinging sixties.  Only one woman is up to the task of revealing the macabre goings on at Ringwood Hall - our very own Rina Walker.  Rina once again takes any risks necessary to complete her mission, once she knows her sister, Georgie, is safe in boarding school.  Seeing this softer side to her really contrasts with the hardened assassin some people know her as.  It was absolute genius to have her reading such a 'girly' book as Pride and Prejudice and I smiled each time she picked the book up.

I was completely absorbed in the story and I felt like I was hiding behind the sofa watching events unfold when Rina moved in to catch the culprit armed with her Polaroid, rather than a gun.  Sometimes a photograph can be just as damaging as a gunshot.

Threat is another great British thriller by Hugh Fraser; it's so fast paced that I absolutely rocketed through it and have no doubt that we will be seeing Rina Walker again.  I certainly look forward to it!

I received this e-book from the publisher, Urbane Publications, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday, 23 September 2016

Good Me Bad Me - Ali Land



Annie's mother is a serial killer.
The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.
But out of sight is not out of mind.
As her mother's trial looms, the secrets of her past won't let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name - Milly.
A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.
But Milly's mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.
Good me, bad me.
She is, after all, her mother's daughter...

What did I think?

I had seen lots of excitement about this book on Twitter so I was eager to read it for myself and what a tremendous read it was.  I read it over the course of 24 hours and I could not have torn my eyes away from this book if my life depended on it.  It is such dark, disturbing and compulsive reading.

Annie's mother has been arrested for abducting and murdering several children and for Annie's protection she has been housed with a foster family and has a new name, Milly.  A shiny new me, as Annie/Milly calls herself.  Of course, you can change your name but you can never change the person you are inside, which is what I took away from this story.

Milly is fostered by psychologist, Mike, his wife, Saskia, and teenage daughter Phoebe.  What a dysfunctional family these guys are. Mike may be a psychologist but he can't see what's going on under his nose and he certainly doesn't know how to deal with his teenage daughter.  Phoebe is a typical 'mean-girl'; she makes no attempt to welcome Milly, in fact she goes the complete opposite way and makes it known that she is not welcome at all.  Milly does eventually make friends with a girl from a rough estate, Morgan, and she really likes her.  So much so that she wants to protect her from harm - eek!  Eyes on stalks time.

As the court case against her mother progresses, Milly has to give evidence but is screened from the court.  Milly can feel her mother's presence and you can feel how disturbed and affected she is.  It's a proper brain twister as you piece together all the evidence and realise that perhaps there's more than one killer in this book.

Good Me Bad Me is an outstanding psychological thriller; my eyes were on stalks and I couldn't read it fast enough.  

I received this e-book from the publisher, Penguin - Michael Joseph, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon