Sunday, 24 April 2016

Heavenfield (The DCI Ryan Mysteries Book 3) - LJ Ross



FROM THE #1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF HOLY ISLAND AND SYCAMORE GAP 

The hunter becomes the hunted…

When a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, DCI Ryan is the only other person for miles around. The police have no weapon, no motive and no other suspects.

Already suspended from Northumbria CID, Ryan must fight to clear his name. But soon, more than his career is at stake when prominent members of the mysterious ‘Circle’ begin to die. Somebody wants Ryan’s name to be next on the coroner’s list and to survive he must unmask the devil who walks among them – before it is too late.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the devil looks just like everybody else…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit from LJ Ross, set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape. 


What did I think?

This was one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, so I had ripped the package open and started the first chapter before the postie had even made it back down the path.  I did have a dilemma when I was part way through - I realised I was reading so quickly that the end was fast approaching and, to quote my 3 year old self when watching Cinderella, I didn't want it to finish.  I appeased myself with a promise to read all three books again soon.

It is a strong, confident storyteller who can kill off a long-standing character at the start of a book and LJ Ross has certainly established herself as a master storyteller, so she does this brilliantly.  There are so many strong characters in the series that, love them or hate them, the show can go on without them.  Well, the show couldn't go on without DCI Ryan, of course...but The Circle may not have read that part of the script.

As always, and I may be a little biased, the setting is magnificent; from the rocky outcrop of Bamburgh to the isolated hilltop church of Heavenfield, the love that LJ Ross has for her home county shines out from every page.  Even the rusty aeroplane wings of the Angel of the North are described with love, affection and North East pride.  These books should be sold at Tourist Information shops as each landmark is not only described but brought to life by including local history and legend.  I was surprised to learn the legend behind the origins of Holy Island - I can't believe I had never heard this legend before, as I briefly paused my reading to google aerial photos of Holy Island. 

With twists and surprises galore, Heavenfield is yet another outstanding book from LJ Ross.  The whodunnit deserves a standing ovation as it had my brain working in overdrive and I would never have guessed in a million years!  There are many heart-pounding moments as The Circle tightens their net in the quest for self-preservation and, after many jaw dropping moments, I couldn't help but wonder who would be left standing at the end.

The DCI Ryan series is going from strength to strength and, I have to agree with my 3 year old self, I really don't want it to finish!

I can't thank LJ Ross enough for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




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The DCI Ryan series: simply stunning

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Drought (Sex, Love and Dating Disasters Book 1) - Steven Scaffardi


Steven Scaffardi's The Drought is the laugh-out-loud tale of one man's quest to overcome the throes of a sexual drought. After the stormy break-up with his girlfriend of three years, Dan Hilles is faced with the daunting task of throwing himself back into the life of a single man. With the help of his three best pals, Dan is desperate and determined to get his leg-over with hilarious consequences! 

What did I think?

This is an absolutely hilarious laugh out loud book.  If you love The Inbetweeners, you will absolutely love Steven Scaffardi's The Drought.  If you've ever been out with your girlfriends and wondered what that group of boys looking over were thinking, then you must read this book!

Having once been called an honorary bloke (and I didn't thump the guy who called me that), I didn't hesitate before jumping on the LadLit blog tour when Steven Scaffardi very kindly asked me to participate.  I like my pints (and have my own beer blog), love Formula 1 and enjoy watching my team attempt to play football, but I don't really know what goes on inside a man's head.  Are they really the stronger sex and do they really think about sex all the time?  Well, perhaps those questions will be answered within the hilarious pages of The Drought.

Dan has just broken up with his long term girlfriend, Stacey, but there's always more fish in the sea, isn't there?   It does sometimes feel like Dan is fishing with a hole in his net as each date ends in disaster, resulting in absolutely rib tickling laughter for the reader.  With Dan's friends helping; best mate and babe magnet Rob; Jack with a PhD in 'Ladies'; and intellectually challenged Ollie, he'll have no trouble finding his next conquest, right?  Wrong!!

As Dan gets himself into one scrape after another, I thought the jokes would run out at some stage, but Steven Scaffardi has a Mary Poppins' handbag of hilarity that goes on and on until I had to put the book down from fear of actually splitting my sides!  The group of friends is a perfect blend of lothario and idiot that made me wonder whether I should buy them a round of drinks or run for the hills!

Guys and gals alike will enjoy The Drought.  I enjoyed every single page of it and I felt like I was part of the group; cringing at Dan's disasters and willing him on at every stage.  I couldn't have contained my laughter if I had wanted to - The Drought should come with a warning: 'Do not read in public places'.  If it doesn't make you cry with laughter, you might need to check your pulse.

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

My rating:




BLOG TOUR: The Chic Boutique On Baker Street - Rachel Dove


The perfect escape to the country…

Recently single and tired of the London rat race Amanda is determined to make her dreams of setting up an idyllic countryside boutique come true, and the picturesque village of Westfield is the perfect place to make a fresh start.
Local vet Ben is the golden boy of Westfield, especially to resident gossip Agatha Mayweather, who is determined to help Ben get his life back together after his wife left.

When a chance encounter outside the ‘chic boutique’ sets sparks flying between Amanda and Ben, Agatha is itching to set them up. But are Amanda and Ben really ready for romance?

What did I think?

Ok, I admit, when I agreed to read and review this book I didn't realise it was a Mills & Boon, so I turned to the first page in trepidation. Then by page 2 I was thinking Mills & who??

This is such a brilliant story, of love lost and gained.  Amanda is a brilliant character; she evolved from high flying London lawyer to country craft shop owner as if she was born to do it.  After finding her boyfriend, and fellow lawyer, Marcus in flagrante with his secretary, Amanda runs for the hills.  She sets up shop in the sleepy Yorkshire town of Westfield and locks eyes with local vet and fellow shop owner, Ben, but as we all know, the course of true love never runs smoothly...

I loved the growing relationship between Amanda and Ben.  They have more than their fair share of misunderstandings to add to their histories of heartbreak.  Understandably, neither of them want to get hurt but will they take the chance on each other?  Leave that to the ladies of Westfield...a bunch of hilarious meddling matriarchs who each see Ben as their own son and will do anything to make him happy.  Amanda really doesn't stand a chance!

I read this book with a smile on my face.  I adored Amanda's kittens - Pinky and Perky, and was charmed by the blossoming romance between Agatha and Sebastian - proving that you're never too old for love!  I loved all of the misunderstandings, the meddling and the interfering; each character was brought to life through the warm and emotive writing of Rachel Dove.

Pure escapism, The Chic Boutique on Baker Street will warm your heart and leave you with a massive smile on your face.  It is my absolute pleasure to release my review as part of The Chic Boutique on Baker Street Blog Tour.

I received this book from the publisher, Harlequin, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:




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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

All the Skies I Will Not See: A Novella (A Touch of Cinnamon Book 2) - Petra March



It takes 7 seconds to crash.
It takes 3 seconds to fall in love.
It takes an infinite moment to let go.

David Medwin's life is fading away, and all he can think about is what it means to be alive.

An intense story about life, death and, most of all, love.


What did I think?

Being the second book in the series, I read this book straight after A Veil of Glass and Rain.  All the Skies I Will Not See tells the story of Eagan's friend, David.  It alternates between David's past and the moments leading up to his death, leaving the obligatory lump in my throat. 

I thought A Veil of Glass and Rain was emotionally charged, but that was nothing compared to All the Skies I Will Not See.  From the beginning, I knew I was going to be upset at the end but I thought, "well it's a short story, how emotionally invested can I be?"  The answer is "VERY!".

Petra March has written this novella in such a way that the reader experiences David's life flashing before his eyes in the moments leading up to his death.  We experience his loves, his losses, his hopes and his fears, so it's little wonder that I was left with a feeling of sadness at his passing.

I do think there is an underlying message in this book; about being happy in your own skin and not worrying about what other people think of you.  To quote the clich√©, All the Skies I Will Not See reminds us to "live every day as if it's your last".  All the Skies I Will Not See is a poignant and beautifully written story of love, life and death and how fragile we really are.

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

My rating:




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Monday, 18 April 2016

A Veil of Glass and Rain (A Touch of Cinnamon Book 1) - Petra March



Brina and Eagan meet for the first time when she's nine and he's fourteen. They like each other from the very beginning, though their bond isn't immediate, but it grows over the years. What links them is the fact that their parents are photographers and are extremely devoted to their work and to each other; so much so that both Brina and Eagan have to learn how to take care of themselves from a very young age. Despite their differences, age, gender, nationality - Brina is Italian and Eagan is American - they find comfort in their growing friendship.

Then Brina becomes a teenager, and her feelings for her friend start changing and deepening. New desires stir within her. As soon as Brina realizes how those feelings complicate her friendship with Eagan, she runs away from him.

A few years later, Brina is twenty and Eagan is twenty-five, they find one another once again. 

What did I think?

For some reason, I actually thought A Veil of Glass and Rain was a YA novel so I picked it up as a quick read one lazy weekend.  It does contain some scenes of a sexual nature, so it definitely doesn't fit into the YA genre, or at least not what I expect of the YA genre. Once I got past what I was expecting to read, I really got into the book and found Brina and Eagan to be very strong, deeply flawed, but likeable characters.

Never have two people been meant for each other more than Brina and Eagan.  When they first realise they have feelings for each other, unfortunately Brina is too young and she runs away to avoid being rejected by Eagan.  Would he have rejected her?  I think not, although we will never know.

Despite numerous relationships, the pair never forget each other and one day Eagan finds himself in Italy and reconnects with Brina.  I loved the way that Brina's insecurities were portrayed; almost an attempt to self-sabotage their relationship.  It takes Brina a long time to start to trust Eagan again and I wondered if she would ever fully give in and trust him with her whole being.

Eagan has suffered his own fair share of tragedy.  He lost his best friend, David, in such devastating circumstances so I could quite understand his unwillingness to be hurt again.  I had my fingers crossed for Brina and Eagan as I had come to care for them in the short time I had known them during this book.

A Veil of Glass and Rain is a true love story, a story of destiny and desire and how some things are just meant to be.

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

My rating:





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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Divided Empire - Brian Kitchen



Britain, 391 AD. 

The geographical, political and social outlines of the annexed nation are being constantly redefined, as the battling powers in Rome attempt to seize control of the Empire. 

Flavius Vitulasius and his trusted associate, Siward, are journeying to receive a highly confidential mission, across the narrow sea, from the Master of Offices in Gaul. 

On their path, they stumble upon a seeming damsel in distress, her carriage under attack from bandits. Using all their prowess and experience, Flavius and Siward rescue the damsel from certain death. Nevertheless, the beautiful young lady, Corellia Velva, is not as she seems. 

When Corellia slips away the following night, Flavius thinks nothing of it. He has orders passed down from the Emperor himself to attend to. A document, the ‘Pagan Concord’, threatens to pull apart Britain at the seams, creating the lurking fear of civil war between the Christians and Pagans. 

If Flavius and Siward can recover the ‘Pagan Concord’, they will be able to unmask the conspirators behind the unrest. With the help of an ardent Christian, Lucius Aurelius, the trio commence their enquiries in a clearly divided Britain. 

However, their expedition takes an unexpected turn when they visit the town of their first suspect. Once again, they come across Corellia. She fervently denies any knowledge of Flavius and Siward, suggesting that it is a case of mistaken identity, prompting suspicion from Flavius. 

The disquiet among Pagans soon becomes clear, as ritualistic sacrifices and mysterious disappearances soon become the norm, while Flavius attempts to track down the ‘Pagan Concord’ and save the country of his origin. It is not long before he has some unwelcome attention, as murderous villains stalk his every move. 

Can Flavius locate the document in time? 

Is there more to Corellia than meets the eye? 

Can he escape the clutches of his murderous pursuers, and uncover a conspiracy that goes right to the top?


What did I think?

Already having a keen interest in Roman history, I delved into this book with great gusto and Divided Empire certainly succeeded in bringing this period of history to life.  With the sights and sounds of busy towns described so impeccably, I escaped to Roman Britain and walked in the footsteps of my ancestors thanks to Brian Kitchen.

Through the twists and turns of Flavius' mission we encounter a Roman Britain as vivid as if the author had experienced it himself. Divided Empire was wonderfully researched and could quite easily have referred to modern town names for the readers' ease but, in keeping with the period, all towns were referred to by their Roman name.  I could remember some Roman names for our towns and cities from my Latin lessons, but I had great fun looking up those that I couldn't remember.  As his passion for Roman history shines out of every page, I could quite easily imagine Brian Kitchen thinking in Latin first; perhaps taking a trip to Eboracum rather than York.

I certainly found it very easy to get into the story as the mystery of Corellia is a brilliant hook.  Who is she and why is she leaving a trail of bodies in her wake?  Then there is the tension between the Christians and the Pagans and secret messages being passed back and forth, giving Flavius lots to contend with as he tries to uncover the truth about Corellia.  It was, however, complicated at times when a lot of characters were introduced, so I sometimes found myself flicking back over the pages to remind myself who was who.  

With such colourful characters, anybody who reads Divided Empire will never again say that history is boring!  Full of backstabbing and debauchery, Divided Empire is such a fast-paced and highly entertaining read.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Endeavour Press, in exchange for an honest review as part of the Virtual Historical Festival.

My rating:




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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Sweet Breath of Memory - Ariella Cohen



Life is in the telling.

With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It's been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn't pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she's drawn--reluctantly at first--into a circle of friends. 

There's diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers' spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place. As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit--a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John's death threaten Cate's newfound peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms' stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories. 

What did I think?

Wow!  Where do I start with this book?  So poetically written, there is not a word out of place in this wonderful book.  I laughed, I cried, I hoped and I feared; this is a book to experience not simply to read.

Cate moves to Amberley to make a new start.  Her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and she misses him so terribly that she wants to move somewhere where she is not constantly reminded of his loss.  Cate wanders into Sheila's grocery store and is offered a room to rent above the shop, where she finds pages from an old journal.  It is through finding out more about the writer of the journal, Miriam, a survivor of the Holocaust, that we see Cate starting to heal...with a little help from her new friends.

Ariella Cohen has created an unforgettable cast of characters; I could quite easily see this book turned into a TV series where we could follow the lives and loves of these diverse and colourful characters.  It would be hard to pick a favourite character but I have to say that I loved MaryLou, also known as Lulu, the 60 year old female mechanic; like a boiled egg she is hard on the outside and soft on the inside.  As tough as she may seem, she deserves to be happy and may not be looking for love, but love is looking for her!

Miriam's story was unbelievably tragic yet awe-inspiring, as it runs alongside Cate's story - both women being casualties of war in very different ways.  Miriam survives the Holocaust and, believing that she is the only surviving member of her family, makes her way from Poland to America to fulfil a promise she made to her Papa.  Her arrival in Amberley is not entirely coincidence but she is welcomed by the residents and makes her home there.  As Miriam writes her journal, that unexpectedly will prove inspirational to Cate in the future, she could never have imagined that her journal would send Cate on an emotional trip half-way round the world to Israel. 

Sweet Breath of Memory is a literary masterpiece - this is a book that I can see myself reading over and over again for many years to come.  It drew me in from the start and it wasn't long before I felt enveloped in the warm hug of the residents of Amberley.   Awe-inspiring, heart-warming and inspirational, Sweet Breath of Memory is an absolutely outstanding debut from Ariella Cohen and is a book not to be missed.

After my paperback copy had a mini tour of the World and arrived back on Ariella Cohen's doormat, I received this book via a NetGalley invitation from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

My rating:




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Luckiest Girl Alive - Jessica Knoll


Now a New York Times bestseller, and optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon and her production partner Bruna Papandrea - in conjunction with Lionsgate films.

Her perfect life is a perfect lie . . . Ani FaNelli is the woman who has it all: the glamorous job, the designer wardrobe, the handsome and rich fianc√©. But behind her sharp edges and meticulously crafted facade lies the darkest of pasts . . .

When a documentary producer invites Ani to tell her side of the chilling and violent incident that took place when she was a teenager at the prestigious Bradley school, she hopes it will be an opportunity to prove how far she's turned her life around since then. She'll even let the production company film her lavish wedding, the final step in her transformation.

But as the wedding and filming converge, Ani's past threatens to come back and haunt her. And as her immaculate veneer starts to crack, she is forced to question: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for - or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is an audacious, page-turning debut thriller that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and Jodi Picoult.

What did I think?

It took me a little while to get into this book but it was certainly worth persevering with; I think this was mainly because Ani felt like such a fake, pretentious character and I didn't like her one little bit.  I didn't expect my feelings to change, but I was wrong!  Beneath the surface of confident Ani FaNelli lies the desperate to fit in, hilariously named, TifAni FaNelli...who Ani wants to forget ever existed.

Something terrible happened in her past that she wants to forget but, now that she is successful and happily engaged, she agrees to take part in a documentary about the incident.  This is when the pace of the book increased dramatically as I raced through the pages to find out what had gone on.  As Ani's past is gradually revealed my dislike for her diminished and I actually started to feel empathetic towards her character.

I am not surprised to learn that this has been snapped up and will be made into a film.  There are many heart-stopping moments and genuine moments of terror as the incident is relived; at times I even felt like I was there myself due to the wonderfully descriptive writing of Jessica Knoll.  I don't want to reveal any spoilers but all I will say is that I had no idea what 'the incident' could be and I do love a good surprise!

A cross between Gossip Girl and The Devil Wears Prada, and way better than Gone Girl (in my opinion), Luckiest Girl Alive is a compelling page-turner that is so vividly written it was inevitable that it would move from book to big screen.  Whether you read the book or not, this is one movie that you won't want to miss!

I received this book from the publisher, Pan, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:





Buy it from Amazon

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

BLOG TOUR: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises


To celebrate the paperback release of My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, I am reposting my review of the beautiful hardback from June 2015 as part of the blog tour.

'Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny's secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can't quite put her finger on...'
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother's stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
So when Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa's greatest adventure. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman's bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.
What did I think?
This was utterly charming and quirky.  Elsa is almost eight years old and she has a very close relationship with her Grandmother. Granny is hilarious, she does whatever she pleases - from dropping water bombs off her balcony to throwing monkey poo at policemen.  I was quite sad when she died but we still get to hear of her escapades through the stories Elsa is told.  There's a really funny part when Granny goes to see Elsa's headmaster as Elsa has been caught fighting with a boy.  The headmaster tells Elsa to apologise even though the boy picked the fight with her and this is like lighting Granny's blue touch paper!  It reminded me of my own Nanna, she would have picked up the globe and thrown it at the headmaster!  She was provoked...she couldn't control herself.

I loved the way Elsa gave cars names depending on their make - Renault, Kia, Audi and even Taxi.  It's almost like she felt they were a part of her family.  Her family that is about to grow as her Mum and step-Dad are having a baby - a half sibling for Elsa who she refers to as Halfie.

After Granny dies, Elsa goes on a kind of treasure hunt (with a wurse and a monster, no less) which has her delivering letters to people in her block of flats.  Each letter contains an apology from Granny and each recipient has a story about Granny and what she did for them.  As Elsa gets to know the people in her block of flats we can match them to characters from the fairytales that Granny told her and by the end I had a real sense of community and thought the block of flats was indeed a fairytale castle. 

This book is a must read for old and young alike.  It shows us that it's ok to be different and if a boy tries to fight you, just kick him in the fuse box!

I received this book from the publisher via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.
My rating:




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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Circle: The Diary of Stella Moore - Peter Dudgeon



['Circle - The Diary of Stella Moore' is the sequel to Chance and is not intended to be read as a stand alone novel] 

“Is he sharing more than your bed?"

It's 2021. A sadistic criminal web has spread across powerful institutions, filling a void created by society's apathy towards sexual violence.

Cassie Janus has grown up away from London, shielded from this malevolent force until Detective Sergeant Frank Simmons visits her in desperate need of her help.

What starts out as a missing persons case quickly morphs into a battle against evil in which Cassie will need to employ more than just her precognitive powers. It will demand all her courage and wisdom if she's to survive a war waged against the Circle. 

‘Circle' is the sequel to ‘Chance’, picking up the story of Cassie Janus, seven years later. 

What did I think?

It is testament to an author's writing when I pick up a sequel to a book that I read 6 months ago and find that the characters are as familiar today as if I'd read about them yesterday.   Anyone who has read it, would not forget Chance in a hurry.  We were introduced to Cassie Janus who has astonishingly accurate premonitions and finds herself becoming a target as she helps the police with a string of murders.

Without refreshing my memory of Chance, I launched straight into Circle: The Diary of Stella Moore and agree that it should not be read as a stand alone novel.  It is the absolutely perfect sequel to Chance with twists and turns that keep the pages turning as fast as your eyes can read each riveting page.

When we meet up with Cassie several years after Chance, we are also introduced to excerpts from the diary of Stella Moore.  I kept wondering to myself, 'who is Stella Moore?' and just what does she have to do with the story?  Stella has a huge part to play in the story and I found myself looking forward to more excerpts from her diary as I tried to find more clues as to who she was and what would happen to her.  I found myself holding my breath in anticipation as Cassie's old friend, DS Frank Simmons, draws closer to unearthing the sadistic circle that Stella has unwittingly become involved in.

As events unfolded, I wondered whether Cassie's gift is a blessing or a curse.  She experiences every thought, feeling and emotion of the person she is tuned into.  It's quite a burden to bear and little wonder that she has few close friends.  I would imagine (and hope) that we will be reading more about Cassie Janus in the future.  I also think this pair of books would make a fantastic TV series as there are lots of cliffhangers and shocks in store to keep viewers as riveted to their TV as I was to the books.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Chance, the addition of Circle has made this quite an exceptional series.  It is pacey, gritty and thrilling; it is such a riveting story that I'm sure many readers will find it incredibly difficult to put down, I know I certainly couldn't.  Peter Dudgeon has created such unusual, memorable characters ensuring that Chance and Circle are completely unforgettable novels.  Read them both, you won't regret it!

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

My rating:





Buy Circle from Amazon
Buy Chance from Amazon

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Secret Lore of London - John Matthews



London is an ancient city, whose foundation dates back literally thousands of years into the legendary prehistory of these islands. Not surprisingly it has accumulated a large number of stories, both historic and mythical, during this period, many of which, though faithfully recorded at the time, have lain almost forgotten in dusty libraries throughout the city.
The Secret Lore of London is a guide to the legends, including a discussion of their importance as part of the oral tradition of Britain, combining Prehistoric, Celtic, Arthurian, Roman, Saxon and Norman levels - each of which has contributed to the many-layered life of the city.
The first part contains a unique selection of essays (some printed here for the first time) by experts in their fields, each of whom possesses a unique interest in the legends of these islands, and who have written widely on associated themes.
The second part of the book will consist of a Gazetteer of the sites mentioned which are still in existence, together with various other sites of associated interest, compiled by the Editor, the contributors, and members of the London Earth Mysteries Group. This part will be fully updated and extended to include many more sites.
The result is a wide ranging and wholly fascinating book, with wide sales application possible. A series of appendixes will include William Stukley's extraordinary document The Brill, which relates to the ancient prehistoric sites around the area of present day St. Pancras, and excerpts from some of the best known 19th and early 20th century works on Legendary London by Lewis Spence and Harold Bayley.
What did I think?

This book has the most amazing cover; I see something new in it every time I look at it and it's a miracle that I managed to tear my eyes away to actually read the book.  It's an absolutely fascinating account of London's history, teaching me things I didn't know and reminding me of things I had forgotten.

The Secret Lore of London is told in three parts; The Legendary City; A Guide to the Sites; and Stories from London's past.  As with all non-fiction books there are some chapters that are more interesting than others, mainly due to the reader's personal preferences.  I enjoy reading Egyptian and Roman history so I was fascinated by the chapters detailing London's Roman past and I'm absolutely kicking myself that I'd never noticed the statue of Sekhmet standing guard over the entrance to Sotheby's on Bond Street.

Even more fascinating is that it is one of a pair of statues that came to London in the 1830's to be sold at auction.  The one above the doorway of Sotheby's was sold but not collected, the other is part of London legend and apparently resides at the bottom of the Thames after falling (or being pushed) from Waterloo Bridge.

There really is something for everyone interested in history and legends in The Secret Lore of London.  The guide to the sites is invaluable for London residents and visitors alike, in fact anyone with a keen interest in London and British history. The chapters are written by various authors allowing access to the knowledge base of each author's specialism.  Some chapters were of course more interesting than others to me, but each chapter managed to hold my interest and I finished the book a lot more knowledgeable about British history than when I started.

Filled with fascinating facts and captivating legends, there is something for everyone in The Secret Lore of London.  Whether you're interested in Roman, Saxon, or even Arthurian history you are sure to find something of value within the pages of this glorious book.

I received this book from the publisher, Coronet, via Bookbridgr, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:





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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

BLOG TOUR: Tall Oaks

It's my stop on the Tall Oaks blog tour today and I have a guest post from Chris Whitaker about the places that inspired the fictional town of Tall Oaks.


My Tall Oaks; The places that inspired the fictional town


Though there are lots of towns, schools, camps, restaurants (you get the idea) named Tall Oaks, the town in my novel is entirely fictional.

I loved creating the town, designing every inch of it and working out who lives where and how they’d interact with each other. I drew a rough map, sketching out Tall Oaks and the surrounding towns and where they sat in relation to some of the landmarks in the book, like the Black Lake National Forest, and the East Ridge Road. I felt a bit like that creepy guy in The Truman Show, sitting behind my keyboard as the town came to life before me.

Most of my ideas were born from places I’ve come across in real life, though some were drawn purely from my incredible imagination - it’s why Bonnier pay me the big bucks (roughly three pence per hour pro-rata).

Like many small towns in America, Tall Oaks is tied together by Main Street. There’s a town in Napa County called St. Helena, it’s particularly pretty and I based some of Main Street on it. Lots of the stucco fronted mansions in the novel are described in detail, and from the picket fences and flowering gardens, to the tree-lined streets and old clapboard houses, there’s very much a mix of Stepford and Twin Peaks going on. I wanted the town to be glossy yet traditional, the kind of place where you imagine the people living there lead idyllic lives. It makes the contrast all the more stark when you find out what goes on behind closed doors.

Though Tall Oaks is the star of the show, the supporting cast of Echo Bay and Despair are just as important to the story. Echo Bay was based on a half built development I encountered whilst driving through Spain. I moved to Spain with my wife and our two-year-old son shortly after quitting my job in the city. We flew to Alicante then drove through Murcia and Granada (passing the stunning Sierra Nevada) before ending up in the Costa del Sol. Though it sounds like fun, my son gets car sick so I spent much of the journey taking projectile vomit shots to the back of the head.

It was as we cut inland from Santa Pola and had been driving for a few hours that we passed a development called ‘Bahia del Paraiso’ – Paradise Bay. We were a good hundred miles from the coast, the land was barren in all directions. I applauded the irony at work and applied it to Echo Bay (also nowhere near the coast).

As for the town of Despair, I’m happy to say that I’ve never come across anywhere remotely as depressing in real life. Though I’m glad to report that by then end of the novel the town (kind of) gets its own happy ending.


About the author:

Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. When not writing he enjoys football, boxing, and anything else that distracts him from his wife and two young sons. "Tall Oaks" is his first novel.


This is sure to be a great tour, head over to the blogs below for some author interviews and guest posts from Chris Whitaker.  You can also read my review here.