‘October Mini Reading Wrap-Up’

October was a good reading month, 16 books read and here’s my brief thoughts on them:

The Six‘ by Luca Veste – an enjoyable thriller that has a central puzzle to solve, and a murder mystery plot that breaks up a group of friends who are endeavouring to find out the dangerous truth. 4 stars.

Soon‘ by Lois Murphy – I enjoyed this creepy, ghostly tale built around an isolated town threatened by a deadly mist each night. 4 stars.

The Mercies‘ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – I really enjoyed this Norwegian crucible story, set in a bleak Norwegian island in 1617. 4 stars.

The Royal Wedding‘ by Melanie Summers – easy, funny light-hearted romance read. 3.5 stars.

All the Rage‘ by Cara Hunter – Tips into 5 stars, and the best of the series so far; it’s the fourth book in the D.I. Adam Fawley series, and this time the team face quite a puzzle to solve!

Perfect Kill‘ by Helen Fields – I really enjoy this DI Callanach series set in Edinburgh. I think these books are best read in series order, as there’s a lot of relationship developments to follow. This plot centres around human trafficking, a particularly brutal sex trade and kidnapping. Violent and brutal throughout. 5 stars.

The Body in the Garden‘ by Katharine Schellman – a light-hearted period murder mystery with a female ‘Sherlock’, it was okay. 3 stars.

Vengeance of Hope‘ by PJ Berman – a privately published epic fantasy novel and the first of a series. Heavy and detailed – great for fantasy lovers. 4 stars.

Sherlock Holmes and The Christmas Demon‘ by James Lovegrove – a beautifully bound book and a great read. This would make a great Christmas gift for a bibliophile. 4.5 stars.

Serpent & Dove‘ by Shelby Mahurin – a YA fantasy read, well executed and generally a fun read. 4 YA stars. First in a series.

Zemindar‘ by Valerie Fitzgerald – an epic novel set in India before, during and after the Indian Mutiny of 1857. I really enjoyed this. 5 stars for the sheer scale of the story-telling.

The Crown Agent‘ by Stephen O’Rourke – a debut novel and the first in a series about a new unconventional spy; a pacey historical adventure. 4 stars.

Unnatural Causes‘ by Richard Shepherd – 5 stars. A fascinating and absorbing read about the life of a forensic pathologist – from the Hungerford Massacre, to Princess Diana to 9/11. Hard reading at times but compelling.

Safe House‘ by Jo Jakeman – a psychological thriller puzzle read, enjoyable. 4 stars.

Dark Matter‘ by Michelle Paver – what a great read; not much happens (in a good way) but it’s absorbing and creepy. Always a fan of Paver’s writing style. 4.5 stars.

I Will Miss You Tomorrow‘ by Heine Bakkeid – I’m on a blog for this later in the month. It’s the first in a new Norwegian crime series about a damaged and tormented police detective, as he begins to search for a missing man. I enjoyed it.

‘Safe House’ by Jo Jakeman.

I’m really pleased to be on the blog tour for ‘Safe House’ – this is a twisty new psychological thriller by Jo Jakeman, her second book following her debut novel ‘Sticks and Stones’. Huge thanks to Mia for asking me to join the tour.

Blurb

The morning after a terrible storm, a woman turns up in a remote Cornish village. She calls herself Charlie, but it’s a name she’s only had for a few days. She keeps herself to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. Because Charlie has a secret.

Charlie was in prison for providing a false alibi for a murderer. But Lee Fisher wasn’t a murderer to her; he was the man she loved. Convinced of his innocence, Charlie said she was with him the night a young woman was killed. This sacrifice cost her everything.

And now she has a chance to start again. But someone is watching her, waiting for her, wondering if she’s really paid the price for what she did.

My thoughts

‘Safe House’ is a thriller read that explores the idea of guilt and revenge; it centres on a young woman who, through flaws in her character and a controlling situation, has made a bad decision by providing a false alibi to a murderer, enabling him to kill again. The novel explores the reasons for this decision, the personal cost to her and if she can ever leave the past behind and start again.

I really enjoyed the narrative puzzle to the writing, from an unnerving prologue, to the past and voices of the present, which eventually pull together. I quickly became obsessed with turning the pages to see where the story was taking me. After a relocation to the tiny seaside community of Penderrion in a rather dilapidated house, Charlie tries to rebuild her life. But with all thriller plots, it soon becomes apparent that this is not going to be easy; threat, fear and echoes of the past soon invade her privacy and threaten her life.

I enjoyed the mix of characters in the village and trying to work out who Charlie could trust, there’s a few red herrings along the way, but I think you are drawn to a particular person quite early in the novel. I enjoyed the creepy isolated setting of the house but there’re also some lovely heart-warming relationships developing which add nice depth. This is a mix of pacey and sedate reading; the ending all happened rather quickly, for me, but all the loose ends are nicely tied up.

‘Safe House’ is a well-crafted thriller that twists and turns rapidly as we slowly uncover the danger and the reasons for it. Tension and turmoil in abundance with enough layers to keep you guessing! An enjoyable atmospheric thriller read.

Look out for more fab blogs about ‘Safe House’ on the below tour poster.

Click on the below link to purchase – there’s a fabulous 99p Kindle offer throughout November 2019:

Mini review of ‘The Mercies’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave with huge thanks to Pan Macmillan.

Book Blurb

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

My thoughts

I enjoyed this ‘Norwegian Crucible’ of a story. Based on historical events where the search for witches becomes a bloodthirsty passion; it’s such an horrific part of our world history that shouldn’t be forgotten ~ this book serves to remind us of the awful way power, superstition, control, jealousy and mass hysteria can cause humans to do truly terrible things.


The story follows two young women, who meet in differing circumstances but find an instant connection with one another. One woman who has endured great loss and hardship; another married to a stranger and taken to a new isolating and intimidating land. Both are likeable protagonists and I loved how their relationship developed admid the chaos of accusations and suspicion. How their feelings for each other grew so naturally against the darkness of the unnatural regime choking their community.


The writing is rich and immersive, the landscape dark and cold. I really enjoyed this book and the inevitable bittersweet ending.
Recommended read.

Mini review of ‘Sherlock Holmes and The Christmas Demon’ by James Lovegrove with thanks to Titan Books

Blurb

It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

My Thoughts…

First of all, this is a beautiful book. There’s careful attention to detail; the naked cover and spine have a lovely period vibe. This would make a super Christmas gift for a book lover. It’s also a great read too – James Lovegrove creates a marvellous homage to the much-loved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series, featuring the practically perfect crime-solving duo of Holmes and Watson.

I had such fun reading this, and you soon know you’re in safe hands as Lovegrove recreates Doyle’s world and the snappy intellect of Holmes from the opening lines “Father Christmas! Halt right there!”. The opening scene is driven and humorous, I really enjoyed the immediacy of being hurtled into the last moments of their current mystery, when being re-united with Holmes and Watson.

At 221B Baker Street, we are introduced to the focus for this book after a plea from a young heiress to save her from a demonic Christmas spirit; our detectives are soon heading up North to solve the mystery of the mysterious Black Thurrick.

It’s a tale set in and around a strange Gothic lakeside castle in the wilds of Yorkshire, where an eclectic selection of characters provides Holmes and Watson with an unusual mystery and many conundrums to solve. Soon, a shocking murder occurs, and the investigation intensifies amid a gloomy and ominous snow-clad setting, where the lure of creatures from folklore increase both pace and atmosphere.

This was an entertaining book and Lovegrove emulates the world created by Doyle with wit, atmospheric archaic detail and intelligence. A pacey, witty, mystery adventure honouring Doyle’s creative genius in a way only good writers can. It certainly felt like Christmas had come early when I read this book – with huge thanks to Sarah & Titan Books for being my early Santa!

Book lovers request this for Christmas! What a fabulous book to open Christmas morning…

Mini review: ‘The Crown Agent’ by Stephen O’Rourke with thanks to Sandstone Press

Doctor Mungo Lyon…is the wrong man. That’s exactly why the Crown chose him.

Blurb

A ship adrift, all hands dead. A lighthouse keeper murdered in the night. The Crown needs man to find the truth. Doctor Mungo Lyon, his reputation tarnished by the Burke & Hare scandal, and forbidden to practise as a surgeon, is the wrong man.
That’s exactly why the Crown chose him.

My thoughts…

This is a journey into the past, from the dramatic events of the opening prologue, we are immersed into a fast-paced adventure, set in 1829; a tale of secrets, spies, codes, threat and murder.

Our protagonist, Doctor Mungo Lyon is adrift after his growing career has taken a fall by association with the Burke and Hare scandal in Scotland. A mysterious meeting with a Lord Advocate leads to a new ‘career’ in espionage, and several pages of fast-paced action for the reader as Lyon is suddenly the focus of some nefarious characters and with an absorbing puzzle to solve.

Once the story is established and develops in earnest, it’s a great historical adventure with all the elements you’d expect. It’s enjoyable, really well-paced and full of contrasting characters. I enjoyed trying to work out who Lyon could trust and who were dangerous. I loved the historical detail, O’Rourke makes it so easy for you to picture the past, from canal travel, to Scottish ports and alienating taverns.

For me, the story concluded in a bit of a rush and the connection between Lyon and Fiona didn’t work for me personally, but you do have to remember this is the first book in a series, so there’s a way to go, it isn’t an issue as I assume the set up between characters and Lyon’s new role will be explored and developed further in their next adventure.

This is a great premise for a new historical espionage series and I’d recommend this book to readers who enjoy intrigue, drama and lots of historical detail.

An energetic historical spy adventure that’s quite a ride, full of peril, menace and pursuit! Recommended.

Out 7th November, 2019

Mini Review of ‘All the Rage’ by Cara Hunter with huge thanks to Penguin Books.

D.I. Adam Fawley series

Blurb

A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.

DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?

And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past.

Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back . . .

My thoughts…

This is the fourth book in the DI Adam Fawley series, so to make the most of the character development it’s best to read in order. Although, the investigation is new and therefore, of course, it can be read as standalone.
The pieces and puzzles mount up in this pacy crime read as Fawley and his team try to solve an attack on a young girl and the following brutal murder of another. There’s also a stark connection to a previous conviction which casts significant doubts within the team, and for Fawley personally.

I really enjoy the mixed media and investigators/court document inserts in Hunter’s novels – the early books were rather Twitter heavy, for me, however the balance in this book is really good ~ the documents and social media chats are short and snappy enough to be an asset to the storytelling rather than a distraction. The perfect balance.
This is an intelligent, twisty, impeccably plotted and driven crime thriller read. Highly recommended.

Books in order

  1. Close to Home
  2. In the Dark
  3. No Way Out
  4. All the Rage

Paperback out January 2020, Kindle edition Dec 2019

‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy, with huge thanks to Titan Books for the review copy.

BLURB

On winter solstice, the birds disappeared, and the mist arrived.

The inhabitants of Nebulah quickly learn not to venture out after dark. But it is hard to stay indoors: cabin fever sets in, and the mist can be beguiling, too.

Eventually only six remain. Like the rest of the townspeople, Pete has nowhere else to go. After he rescues a stranded psychic from a terrible fate, he’s given a warning: he will be dead by solstice unless he leaves town – soon.

My thoughts…

Okay, I’m not a horror genre reader. In the past, I’ve read one Stephen King and a James Herbert, but I’ve such an over-active imagination that I crept around for weeks afterwards and jumped at every shadow at night. So, when I received ‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy I decided to be brave, although rather foolishly read it late at night! Don’t ask me why!

Nebulah, once a prosperous mining town, is now isolated due to a strange phenomenon of a ghostly mist arriving, no one can understand why and the town becomes more of a tourist attraction and a freak show; one by one the inhabitants leave. I spent a lot of time saying ‘WHY?’ as I read this book… these last inhabitants of the town are certainly stubborn and loyal, or completely crazy! I, quite frankly, would have been on the first bus out of there! If you live in Nebulah then you have to board yourself in at night, otherwise a maelstrom of horrors is upon you! Seriously creepy. The story follows the last six people who, for different reasons, decide to stay and live in this literal ghost town.

The story is steadily told through the eyes of Pete, a former policeman and a good man but he’s very isolated. The day time is slowly paced, and this increases our anticipation for what horrors will come at night. Once I started reading I wanted answers. When events turned intense, I wanted to throw the book with frustration at these last inhabitants. As usual, in these horror situations there are people who think they are impervious to harm – and Pete is suddenly faced with the task of risking himself to save those foolhardy ones that come to experience the famous ‘ghost town’.

Now as an animal lover, I hate it when animals are in books like this, as I just spend most of my time worrying about them, so that’s exactly what I did here – it was like watching Will Smith and his dog again in ‘I am Legend’. So, without giving away plot, animals lovers beware, it’s not a happy wagging tale ending for our furry friends – but not on the level of ‘Marley and Me’ so it’s manageable.

Overall, if you like odd creepy horror genre reads this is worth it; it’s a well written, nicely paced read with lots of thriller elements. It’s also inspired loosely from the actual Australian blue asbestos town of Wittenoom. The toxic town has only a handful of remaining residents and has become a fascination for tourists and thrill-seekers; people are strange! Look it up, it’s crazy! This also suggests there’s a real social commentary at the heart of this story from Lois Murphy.

This is definitely a recommended read from me – a weird, creepy and startling horror read; gripping and disturbing.

Mini review of ‘Vengeance of Hope’ by P.J Berman

Can freedom ever be for all?

Blurb

Can freedom ever be for all? How do you save a nation from tyranny?

When the King of Bennvika dies in suspicious circumstances and a foreign usurper named Jostan Kazabus seizes the throne, ruthlessly imposing his will on the population, a disunited triumvirate of leaders and their followers must attempt to resist him.

The first is Silrith, the ousted philanthropic princess who had been expected to succeed her father. The second is Ezrina, a vengeful rebel who is desperate to overturn the years of ethnic oppression of her people, the Hentani. The third is Zethun, a minor noble who believes the only way to fight for the common people is to abolish the monarchy altogether.

As the various factions fight the threat of tyranny and religious persecution, each must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their cause.

My thoughts

This first novel in the ‘Silrith’ series ‘Vengeance of Hope’ is a epic medieval inspired fantasy novel and if you visit the author’s website there’s a host of environment background and character detail that build depth to this fictional world. The book has a series of maps, always much appreciated by the reader, a glossary and an extensive character list. I knew then, that this book would require some concentration! I enjoy fantasy books, but apart from the first book in ‘A Game of Thrones’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ my fantasy reading is more of a YA level.

This book was also an unusual read, as I read half and listened to the other half on audio book; I much preferred listening to the story – all the pronunciations were worked out for me for a start, and I could close my eyes and really imagine this extensive world. I did find it generally difficult to track the amount of characters, and some snappy location changes, but this is not dissimilar to other epic style fantasy series. More seasoned fantasy readers would probably glide through it.

The book begins with drama, and the web of truth and lies. Straight away we’re in the complex court life of politics, intrigue and betrayal. Silrith a princess whose life suddenly and dramatically changes after the death of her father has to overcome many challenges, both politically and as a battle commander and we are immediately taken into her world. There are several other players in this quest for power, who face oppression, who want revenge, politicians, dictators and rebels drive the tension and narrative forward; this is a well-constructed world where people are fighting for their causes. I really enjoyed and appreciated the strong female characters Berman writes.

The journey is vicious at times, Bergman writes really good battle scenes and I raced through these pages. Greed, power and back-stabbing drive the edgier moments in the plot and the narrative is better for it.

Overall, this ticks all the epic fantasy world boxes and if you enjoy fantasy novels then have a read of this. The second book in this series, ‘King of the Republic’ is out any time now, so you won’t have to wait to continue the adventure.

Click the link below to visit P.J. Berman’s website to find out more.

https://www.pjbermanbooks.com/

To purchase, or find out more click the link above.

Blog Tour for ‘The Birthday House’ by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTour

A friendship. A Murder. A life that will never be the same.

I’m really happy to be a part of this blog tour for Jill Treseder’s book with thanks to Anne Cater at #RandomThingsTours and @SilverWoodBooks – do check out the chat about this book from other book bloggers on this tour.

BLURB

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.

In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.

Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

MY THOUGHTS

‘The Birthday House’ is a novella, and it’s a well put together multi-perspective narrative leading up to tragic events of one day in 1955. Whilst some narratives are stronger than others it does make compelling reading. Our retrospective narrator Susan looks back from 2018 to these traumatic events from her childhood. What follows is a series of first-person voices leading up to terrible events surrounding the loss of her childhood friend and family; this is an attempt to explore how life and relationships can lead to awful circumstances that need to be explored, to be able to grieve and comprehend the shocking events.

I enjoyed the piecing together of events of 1954/5 from the voices of those involved; this is at its heart a very sad story, but it also serves as an attempt to put to rest the deep loss during this time for Susan, whose loss of her friend at such a young age has deeply affected her and the rest of her life.

You know the events right from the start, the brutal murder of a family by the father, and his suicide; they are made more thought-provoking when you find out the author is exploring these events from her own personal experience and loss of her childhood friend.

This is a decent novella that has many points for discussion, it also highlights the need for honesty and communication to minimise years of grief clouding your life. It explores a tragic event in an open way; the deaths are awful and hard to read, so be aware of this when reading. This also highlights mental illness and the importance of recognition and seeking help.

A novella of a shocking family murder-suicide, written with a sensitive touch, exploring why such terrible events occur and the effects on those left behind. A poignant and tragic tale.

Check out the bloggers above to find out more…

https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781328798/the-birthday-house – to purchase from the publishers and support independents X

Mini review of ‘Broken Souls’ by Patricia Gibney published by Bookouture

Patricia Gibney’s Lottie Parker series never lets you down ~ this is another great read, well executed, plotted and paced.
Lottie, as usual, never has it easy, both in her private and working environment ~ but she’s a tough character, and despite falling by the wayside at times, she bounces back with strength and drive, making a great protagonist.
This case centres around initially suspected suicides, but soon it becomes clear that something more sinister is occurring. There’s also a missing child aspect to the case making life hard for Lottie Parker and her team.
This is a series read, and although it can be read as a stand-alone, I’d recommend following the series from the beginning to understand the characters and their relationships. This book is rather emotive for a particular character and relationship thread.
So, as always a top recommendation from me. The Lottie Parker books are intelligent, driven police investigation reads with the added bonus of strongly written and engaging characters.

Published 18th Oct 2019 – huge thanks to Bookouture for the advanced review copy.

Mystery Thriller read.