Monthly Archives: January 2015

Written In The Blood – Stephen Lloyd Jones

written in the blood

Published by Headline

Available 29th January 2015

Source Bookbridgr

The new, enthralling supernatural thriller from Stephen Lloyd Jones, following his highly acclaimed debut THE STRING DIARIES.

High in the mountains of the Swiss Alps Leah Wilde is about to gamble her life to bring a powerful man an offer. A promise.

Leah has heard the dark stories about him and knows she is walking into the lion’s den. But her options are running out. Her rare lineage, kept secret for years, is under terrible threat. That is, unless Leah and her mother Hannah are prepared to join up with their once deadly enemies.

Should the prey ever trust the predator?

Ok, so here we have a fantasy thriller. Not a genre I would usually have much interest in, but I do like to broaden the old horizons and such, and the synopsis sounded very promising, so I gritted my teeth and jumped in…

Well, my teeth remained as expected for a fair while. I find a good read can become very disheartening when half the time is spent trying to pronounce unfamiliar (or possibly completely made-up) words; and here I had an awful lot of words with just far too many consonants for my liking!

‘Written in the Blood’ tells us the story of Leah Wilde, a young girl from the ‘thingymawhatsit’ race whose skills include being able to change their own features in order to look like absolutely anybody, as well as this whole super long lifespan thing. Unfortunately, Leah’s people are on the brink of extinction, and so she decides to embark on the extremely dangerous task of seeking out women from the ‘whatchamacallit’ people; those originally from the ‘thingymawhatsits’ but outcast due to not abiding by the laws in the ‘doobeychat-thingy’ book… Ok you see what I’m getting at here.

Anyway, all these whatsits and thingums and such meant that it took me roughly a week to get to Chapter 10. That is page 104! It was just such hard work, and I had no clue what they were talking about half the time! Now to be fair I appreciate that there are some people who would positively thrive on all this, those that care for your Eorlingas and Galadrims and Isildurs (Yes, yes I Googled those words!) But now please sympathise with me, because not only was I trying to read all of these fantasy-nonsense words; I was trying to read Hungarian fantasy-nonsense words! It was really quite painstaking.

Nevertheless, I’m a stubborn mare and so I continued. And I must confess, once I decided to start thinking of everyone as the Smiths and the Jones’, it did pave the way for some rather beautiful storytelling. I mean, this book was just a sensory overload! Smells and sounds are given particular emphasis, I think because heightened senses may have been a ‘thingymajig’ power, but the author really was an artist with the descriptives. The prose, in the main, was poetic and majestic, as well as dark, creepy, and unsettling; and the imagery was captivating. And switching attention between Leah and her mission, and corresponding people and events elsewhere in the world, as well as a very intriguing back-story that pulls you back to Budapest in the 1800’s, was very well done and kept things fresh.

It did actually all get a bit exciting as we drew towards the climax. It was really action-packed and I could finally say I was enjoying the book – albeit there were a few things that were left either unexplained or not given enough attention, such as Leah’s not-as-scandalous-as-alluded-to bloodline, oh and her apparent OCD; the Éjszakai Sikolyok being the least dramatic genocide I have ever read of; and being given no real explanation for the lélek tolvajok other than that they are essentially the bogeyman – they’re going to kill you, end of.

Unfortunately I was left with just an overwhelming feeling of relief that I had actually managed to finish the book. Relief that turned into a rage that was accompanied by a whole manner of expletives when I turned the final page of the story… and found the bloody glossary!!!

In all fairness, I liked it enough to know that fans of the genre will love this book. I, as initially suspected, am not a fan of the genre.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

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Gone – Rebecca Muddiman


Published by Mulholland Books

Source: Bookbridgr

250,000 people go missing in the UK every year. 91% of those reported to police are found within 48 hours. 99% of cases are solved within a year. And 1% stay gone. 11 years ago, troubled teenager Emma Thorley went missing. The police assumed she was a runaway. But now a body has been found in woods near Blyth. DI Michael Gardner knows he didn’t take Emma’s disappearance seriously enough back then, and is determined to make up for it now. But when he and DS Nicola Freeman start to reinvestigate, they discover that nothing is as simple as it seems.

This one gets straight in there with the discovery of a young girl’s body, believed to be that of Emma Thorley, a local girl who disappeared 11 years ago aged 16.

Initially, police suspect she was murdered by her violent thug of an ex-boyfriend, Lucas, the local drug dealer and generally all round nasty piece of work. However, more suspects do start to work their way out of the woodwork; such as Ben, a local drug therapist who was straddling the line of appropriate behaviour whilst working with Emma to get her clean; and Jenny, the local drug-addled bike who had a thing for Lucas as well as really disliking Emma.

Coincidentally, both Ben and Jenny left town about 11 years ago. Ben left to look after his sick mother, but when questioned 11 years on he denies ever knowing Emma – even though he was questioned and happy to help the police 11 years ago. And Jenny has not only left town, but taken on a whole new identity. So what are they hiding? And why is Lucas now so desperate to find these two before the police do?

This one was a great read that got straight into it without any faffing about. It switches between the present day investigation and flashbacks of when Emma first went missing. You are only drip-fed the flashbacks though, in order to keep you guessing.

An equal amount of focus is given to the investigating officers, Freeman and Gardner’s side of things – including substantial character development – as is given to Emma and all those that knew her.

Throughout you feel like there is much more to all of this than is being alluded to, and you will feel as frustrated as DS Freeman when you feel like things just don’t quite add up. But then… BAM!! I was treated to the first twist that has full on slapped me in the face in a very long time! This was one that I did not see coming one little bit! Usually, with even the best of twists, I will probably suss it at the latest by a few paragraphs before the actual reveal. But this one had a one-word reveal, and I genuinely had no clue until I read that one word!

What also made a refreshing change was the male and female officers on the case not ending up in bed together – I find this often cheapens a story, so I was pleased that they remained professional, though not cold.

Speaking of cold, the reader is often reminded of this  – specifically regarding the weather but also reflecting some of the characters and the bleakness of their stories. Set in the more deprived areas of North-East England, it was also a gritty and stark reminder of how rough life can be.

Essentially I really enjoyed this one. It seemed that I had finished it extremely quickly, but it wasn’t lacking, so I must have just been completely enthralled. And my God that twist!

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

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three amazing things5 star

Published by Headline

Source: Bookbridgr

Hallie has a secret. She’s in love. He’s perfect for her; he’s even single. But he’s out of bounds. And her friends aren’t going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie hasn’t got long to live.

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won’t be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends – let alone anything more…

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she’s afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. She’s about to get a new heart. But whose heart is it?

Well I must be getting soft in my old age – not only for doling out another 5 stars! (Steady on Storm) but for giving those 5 stars to a lovey-dovey chick lit?!! Goodness gracious!

‘Three Amazing Things About You’ tells us the individual stories of three women; Hallie Tasha, and Flo.

Hallie’s story is both heart-wrenching and inspirational. Suffering with Cystic Fibrosis, yet never bitter or self-pitying, she spends her time as an online agony aunt – preferring to help people with their problems and never judging them as trivial compared to what she is going through. Hallie’s heart is aching for her off-limits GP. Believing she will never find love before her untimely death, Hallie is just desperately sad, yet always smiling. And the reader cant help but feel frustration at the actually not-so-unrequited love…

Tasha’s story is hilarious and romantic in equal measure. Meeting the love of her life in the most embarrassing of scenarios – that renders her with the glamorous nickname ‘Bin girl’, Tasha and Rory’s whirlwind romance will really melt the iciest of hearts. And the comic relief that comes mainly from their respective best friends, Carmel and Joe, will have you laughing out loud…

Then we have the story of Flo. Who has inherited a flat from an elderly friend that she used to help. Well actually, said elderly friend’s cat has inherited the flat, and Flo has been named custodian of said cat – she will live there until the cat dies; an arrangement that the spoilt, selfish granddaughter of the deceased, Lena, is none best pleased with. The warm-hearted and quick-witted Flo has also found love, unfortunately with Lena’s brother, which does make life quite difficult – but they’re in love so who cares…

Of course, when everyone is so loved up and we’re all smiley, happy people… tragedy is inevitable going to strike. And doesn’t it just?! And damn did my falsely marketed ‘waterproof’ mascara not end up leaving me looking all Alice Cooper-esque! My heart was melting from these beautiful stories of love and romance, and you really could feel how genuinely in love these people were and it was all just gorgeous; then that same heart was thoroughly broken. I bawled and bawled like you wouldn’t believe, like I couldn’t believe! The stories of our three leading ladies all of a sudden become one story, and although some might find it all a bit quaint (in fact I probably would have, had I not already been reeled in by the fantastic characters) it had me still crying at the last page!

And talking of fantastic characters, it is not only our leads that you will warm to. Even the supporting characters are all fabulous; Bea, Carmel, Joe, Margot, Patrick, Lena – ok Lena is infuriating and vile but still brilliantly so, I feel she adds a good, realistic balance to all these ‘uber-lovely’ people.

Throughout the book you are also treated to snippets from; Hallie’s problem page where she poses as ‘Rose’. Lots of ‘Dear Rose’ dilemmas are peppered throughout the story, almost feeling like interval entertainment – and sometimes it feels good to have a quick ‘commercial break’ from all the heart-wrenching stuff.

Overall, this one was a fabulous read. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. And will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

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Afraid – Mandasue Heller


Published by Hodder & Stoughton

Source: Bookbridgr

Mandasue Heller’s thrilling novel is set on the gritty streets of Manchester.
When fifteen-year-old Skye’s mother finally does something so shocking that it can’t be hushed up, the police turn her over to the social workers – and that’s when the nightmare begins.
She doesn’t know if her father is alive or dead; the woman who is supposed to be helping her dumps her in a terrifying ‘home’ that’s more like a jail. But she still has one friend to turn to: the sympathetic girl she’s met in an internet chat room, the one who seems to have a home life as unhappy as Skye’s. And Jade offers her a safe place to stay . . .
Alone in Manchester, nearly penniless, Skye is willing to trust Jade. Even when it isn’t Jade who turns up at the rendezvous, but a grown-up man who says he’s Jade’s brother . . .

This one was certainly an uncomfortable read – in the sense that it deals with a harrowing subject that one wishes wasn’t a subject at all.

From the synopsis, it is pretty obvious what we are going to be dealing with here. The poor, downtrodden 15-year-old Skye is living a nightmare. Her mother is mentally unstable and finally flips during yet another argument with Skye’s father and stabs him. Owing to this, and the fact that she has been on Social services’ radar for some time anyway, Skye is taken into ‘care’ – care being a loosely used term… and yet her real troubles have far from begun.

Having run from her hellish care home – and with no idea where her mum has been taken or how to get in touch with her recovering father – Skye has nowhere else to turn other than to QTPye, her online friend who understands exactly what Skye is going through.

Cue QTPye, aka Jade’s, brother Tom, who turns up to save Skye from her nightmare in place of Jade who ‘got held up’. Tom takes Skye to his run down and secluded house where she will be safe from the authorities who are trying to ruin her life. It is at this point that an already hopeless and tragic story really becomes extremely harrowing…

Heller deals with the disturbing subject of online grooming and paedophilia very aptly. Without being too graphic during some of the more disturbing moments in the story, she is able to address the frightening reality of how easy it is for vulnerable children to be manipulated into the most harmful situations. The subject of grooming is not just here for its own sake either. Of course it is what the story is essentially about, but it is woven into a very well written plot. And all main characters are well developed, with impressive internal dialogue and authentic discourse.

Skye’s ordeal is mercifully interspersed with a look at how her father is coping with things his end – finding himself homeless, jobless, and vilified by the community following false accusations of violence towards his wife and sexually abusing his daughter, he is then imprisoned for allegedly murdering Skye. Ok so I said mercifully, he does have a very tough time of it himself, but it’s still nothing compared to what his daughter is going through whilst everyone else believes she is dead.

I wouldn’t advise reading this one if you’re into ‘happily-ever-afters’, whether you think things end well or not in this story is all relative. You might come away feeling thankful that everything turned out ok, but actually it didn’t, not really.

Overall, a stark yet sensitive take on a very dark and gritty subject. As difficult to put down as it was to read!

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review

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Last Kiss – Louise Phillips

last kiss 5 star

Published by Hachette Books Ireland

Source: Bookbridgr

In a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home.

In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck.

But what connects them?

When criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.

Will Kate discover the identity of the killer before it’s too late to protect the innocent? But what separates the innocent from the guilty when the sins of the past can never be forgotten?

Well I can certainly see why Louise Phillips is an award-winning crime writer! This is the third Dr Kate Pearson novel, however only the first that I have read. Three pages in and I knew I was going to love this book. I was hauled instantly into the intriguing world of a narrator who demanded my attention.

We are initially introduced to a very disturbing crime scene, a gruesome murder with a Tarot twist, which later transpires to not be the first of its kind. Dr Kate Pearson, criminal psychologist, is called in by Dublin police to help give a psychological profile of the murderer.

I liked Kate straight away. She is not your usual whining divorcee-mum, but carries a suitable amount of sadness and vulnerability. She is ever-professional and certainly knows her stuff with regards to the criminal psyche. She juggles her professional relationships with dignity and class – namely an emerging romance with DI Adam O’Connor (there is some history there that I think I will have to read the other novels to fully grasp), and a clear dislike for the ladder-climbing arrogance of DI Mark Lynch. Kate is also the character that gives us an enjoyable and accurate account of psychological theory, and some insightful details of Tarot reading and all its rules and meanings.

Elsewhere, we are introduced to Sandra and her friends. An unlikely group; the kind of old friends that are bound merely by a shared history rather than actually having anything in common anymore. Sandra suspects her husband is having an affair, and her friends are cagey when she airs her suspicions. You know that there is more to all of this than your bog-standard affair, but you cant put your finger on it.

Sandra is very unsettled about something else too – things are being moved around in her home, and she constantly feels like someone is watching her. Of course you know that these events are connected to the murders somehow, but when the first link is actually revealed, I couldn’t help but still feel excited about it.

The murder investigations and Kate’s role in the story are told in the third person, and Sandra gives us her first person account of what is going on with her,. This keeps things fresh and interesting.

But the absolute best part of the entire novel are the chapters dedicated to our murderer. These are told not only in the first person, but the murderer often directly addresses the reader. With lines such as

Would you warn her if you could? Or would you wait around to see what other games I have in store?”

These sections are what makes the story all the more chilling. I really felt this psycho in the room with me – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that had such an intense effect.

The prose within the murderer’s sections was almost hypnotic. I could see how they lull and manipulate their victims, I could feel them doing the same to me! The way you are drawn in is actually quite terrifying. The murderer is not only slowly letting you in on the secrets that the rest of the players have yet to fathom, but is also giving you a direct view to their terribly dark and damaged psyche. They are also very articulate in describing their own childhood trauma, although not to invoke sympathy as they know they are way past that, but almost as a way of further torturing the reader, by letting you know just how dark and ugly this world can be – and their references to the ‘Grimm’ type characters in their life, like the witch and the huntsman, just goes further to give you the heebie-jeebies! And yes, albeit worryingly so, the murderer was in fact my favourite in a brilliantly diverse and complex group of cracking characters.

I think one of my favourite lines came from the murderer:-

You might think you know me too. I doubt it. I haven’t told you everything, not yet.”

Ooh that one was a corker! Because they were right! You are led on a right merry dance in working out who they are. And I must confess I was slightly disappointed that I was right about their identity early on – although I don’t believe this to be a flaw in the story, and more likely due to me recently reading a very similar plot reveal in another story. Even though I had worked it out very early on, the writing was just so that I couldn’t put money on it, and it didn’t ruin it one bit for me, because the climax was still exciting enough.

Overall, this book was disturbingly and brilliantly intense, and I implore all crime and psychological thriller fans to put this on their reading list immediately! Fantastic!

My thanks to the publishers for providing this book for review.

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The Lie of You – Jane Lythell

lie of you

Published by Head of Zeus

Source: Publisher review copy

Can you hide your deepest fear?

To the outside world, Kathy is the very picture of a happy and fulfilled modern woman. She has a beautiful baby boy, a clever, handsome husband and a glamorous, high-powered job.

But not everybody is fooled. Her employee, Heja, knows the truth: the cracks in Kathy’s marriage, her self-doubt, her fear of failure at work. Heja is perfectly placed to destroy Kathy’s life. And if she succeeds, she can claim the one thing she wants most…

This one was quite a slow burner for me. Told from the perspective of our antagonist, Heja, and with alternate chapters given to the view of the protagonist, Kathy – you are drawn into Heja’s cold world of hatred towards Kathy.

Kathy tends to beat herself up for all her misgivings – for failing to juggle being a new wife and mother, whilst also embarking on a new promotion as editor of a highly rated magazine – all the while completely clueless to the fact that she is in fact being sabotaged by Heja.

And for a while, this is pretty much all the book is made up of. Heja’s sections are basically dedicated to slating Kathy, about her appearance, her ability to do her job, her lifestyle, etc. And Kathy’s sections focus on her self-deprecation and whining about her husband’s coldness towards her. It is all quite dark and makes for some uncomfortable reading.

It is very much a tale of ‘the woman scorned’, and throughout you feel something quite sinister is on its way. However I didn’t really feel much empathy for Kathy – in order for her to be portrayed as the poor, pathetic victim, I think she needed to lay off meeting up with her ex-boyfriend and also having a brief ‘holiday romance’ with a work colleague.

It was difficult to figure out the author’s intentions for Heja. She was portrayed as the ‘Ice Queen’ type and I’m not sure how much of this was supposed to be down to her personality and how much owed to cultural differences – she was a national treasure back in Finland, so are all Finns cold and unfeeling? (If Kathy’s Finnish husband Marcus is anything to go by then yes!)

Heja’s personal plight was then developed – losing the love of her life, losing other people very dear to her, her loveless relationship with her mother – and I’m not sure if this was in an attempt to justify, or at the very least explain, her actions, but it drew me no closer to her either.

As for Marcus, well he was a complete arse to be honest. And I’m still left puzzled as to the reasons behind some of his actions. This story seemed to be trying to focus on love – lack of it, losing it, desperately attempting to hold on to it – and yet I couldn’t see that any of these people even understood the concept.

I’m in a bit of a quandary about the climactic events of the book as well. I cant decide if they were done with class or just lack of emotion. Rather than the huge melodrama you would expect, it was all very reserved…in fact the most dramatic part was actually the way the author described the weather at the time! And I still cannot fathom why Marcus took the actions he did, or why Kathy’s feelings concluded the way they did.

All in all, It wasn’t an awful book, it was kind of chilling, dark, and gritty and I can see why some people would really enjoy it. But without any meaningful connection to any of the characters, it fell short for me.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

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Unscrupulous – Avery Aster


Published by Ellora’s Cave

Source: NetGalley

At thirty-three Warner Truman is one of the richest men on the planet, a spa mogul who buys and sells resorts at will. He holds powerful executive’s careers in his well-groomed hands. Nothing is beyond Warner’s reach…until he meets her.

Stunning, tantalizing, and perverse, Taddy Brill captivates Warner’s carnal desire like no woman he’s ever met. A self-made millionaire, Taddy is tougher than steel, more brilliant than diamonds and, at twenty-seven, she’s never depended on a man for anything…until she meets him.

The more Taddy plays with Warner’s affections, driving him to erotic heights, the more she is confronted by a dark past. But before she can love him, Taddy must meet her worst fears head-on or risk losing it all, including herself.

Every now and then I give in and decide to read some erotica. As the scales are not tipping in the genre’s favour for me, I will sometimes give somebody else a chance to change my mind…

Not long after delving into Unscrupulous, I had already decided that this one was not going to end up in the ‘liked’ pile.

Aside from the usual cliché that apparently only rich and successful people in the literary world enjoy good sex; the sexual references in this book were plain vulgar at times – and often not even related to a sexual scene. I admit that I may well be turning into my mother, but I really wanted to wash some mouths out with soap!

A lot of it wasn’t ‘erotic’ at all, I felt at times that I was reading an attempt at hard-porn penned by a teenage boy. Now, there is no accounting for taste and choice of language I suppose, but I will, and did, physically cringe when a women is said to have ‘creamed’. Urgh! Oh, and at one point in the book we are given graphic details of how a famous porn star ejaculates onto the crowd below from his hotel balcony! What a treat…

There were other parts of the book I struggled with, for instance, it was difficult to keep up sometimes with writing that just seemed like incessant chatter; a lot of moments that I presumed were intended to be deep and emotional lacked…well, depth and emotion; and I couldn’t decipher whether some moments were supposed to be dramatic or satiric!

Now all that aside, I did find myself warming to this book – slightly. It turned out to be quite the romance between our protagonists Taddy and Warner. Ok, so discussing Warner’s deceased wife and Taddy’s emancipation in-depth over dinner seemed a tad open on a first date; discussing their long-term relationship and Warner giving Taddy his apartment keys the following morning seemed a wee bit hasty, and “I Love You” on around day 3 completely redefined my ideas of ‘whirlwind romance’; but then maybe I was supposed to have been swept up in the passion and intensity of it all…who knows?!

I liked how my mind was changed about Taddy, whom I initially had thoroughly disliked and thought of as a snooty, slutty, Upper-East Side It girl. She became much more likeable once she let down her barriers and exposed her vulnerabilities, and you began to see how much she really loved her close circle of friends.

It was a shame that it took far too long to begin to redeem itself, because if you looked hard you could see some substantial themes coming through, such as friendship, loyalty, love, and trust. But I think it may have been too little, too late…

My thanks to Ellora’s Cave for providing this book for review.

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