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Jen Med's Book Reviews by Jen Lucas - 10h ago
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking for a while about how I go about celebrating surviving three years of blogging. Because sometimes, just sometimes, it does feel like I’m ‘surviving’.

It’s been a strange old year so far, 2019. There have been many times i have considered stopping blogging altogether. I have found myself to be tired. Tired of reading every night, because it does quickly become an every night thing. Tired of being asked to review books in genres that I openly state I don’t read. Tired of being asked to read books in genres I do openly state that I read because I already have a list of 900 books waiting for my attention, and each book I agree to read pushes ones I just want to read further from the top of the pile. And if it’s not the thought of scaling Mount TBR weighing me down then it’s the drama. Oh, my god … the drama.

It’s just books people. I love them, I love reading, but by god. IT. IS. JUST. BOOKS!!!

And I think all bloggers get to this point at times. I’ve seen a few fall by the wayside as a result, which makes Me sad. Very sad.

But … I did’t start my blog for the freebies. Or the requests. Or the tours, or the book events and definitely not the drama. I started because I loved reading, I loved reviewing the books to say thank you to the authors who entertained me, and I loved being able to share that love of books in cyberspace. Even if no-one was listening/reading.

Unlike a lot of bloggers, I’m not writing reviews for the other readers. No offence guys – I love the few of you that slog through my posts, I really do – but I started this to collate my reviews. A kind of on line journal of all the times I have loved a book. A not so secret message from me to the author. But, despite this never having intended to be noticed or achieve anything, blogging has had some strange benefits.

Because of blogging I’ve got to meet some fabulous people both virtually and in-real-lifey. Because of blogging, I’ve been to more wonderful book festivals than I ever thought I would and even visited a couple of cat cafes (as you do). Because of blogging I have been introduced to some absolutely awesome books and authors that I would otherwise have overlooked, sticking to the old faithfuls. Because of blogging I’ve even been in three (technically six I suppose) books as a named character. None of the characters were short fat and grumpy though so no-one meeting me IRL would recognise me from that.

Because of blogging my face has been on You Tube. I don’t do You Tube. The things you do for some people (Angela Marsons!!!).

Because of blogging I have it on record, in writing, in the front of a book, that I am ‘not a stalker really’

And so I’m not going anywhere just yet. Three years in and though I may be slowing (I’m reading at a considerably slower pace than ever before right now and I won’t even apologise for it) I am still going. I’ll be slower still over the summer so if you don’t see me, don’t panic. I’m still here. Just (hopefully) enjoying the sun and maybe even putting fingers to keyboard in an entirely different way. Who knows.

But to those of you who have stuck with me, encouraged me, said thank you, praised my (far, far too long) reviews and random cat pictures, thank you. Your support, and often friendship, means a lot. To the publishers and authors (especially the super, super supportive ones – you know who you are) who have kept me furnished with books (both those which were free and those that I have purchased) thank you too. I love your work. Keep at it.

To Mandie who keeps bowing to my demands for extra content because I don’t like having gaps … She’s a good egg really. Which, when you consider she made omelettes for our breakfast at work yesterday, may actually make her a cannibal …

To those who think I’m a pain in the arse and wish I would just sod off .. Tough tits. I’m staying. Ya don’t always get what you want in life Suck it up Buttercup as my dear sister would say. Well, Mandie would, but that’s close enough.

Probably a somewhat random ‘I am three’ post this one. But at least it has more words than last years ‘I am two’ post. If I get the time or inclination I may post something more profound at some stage. In the meantime, here’s my birthday/blogiversary party penguin.

Some stats for those who would like me to take being three far more seriously than I can be arsed to. (Three – that’s 21 in dog/blog years. That makes me an adult now, right?).

Total Posts – 1294

Most viewed day – December 18th 2018.

Top viewed post – Review – The Woman In The Woods by John Connolly

Most ignored post – Review Policy – Viewed 1942 times and yet still people offer me Sci-Fi and Erotica books …

Total followers – 1137 + 7215 on Twitter/Facebook

Anticipated followers after this post – 4 + 7215 on Twitter/Facebook. No-one reads my posts there anyway

Have a fabulous day all. Enjoy the books. Enjoy the sunshine. See you next year.

Hopefully

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Today I hand back to Mandie who has a review of A Necessary Evil, book two in the Captain Sam Wyndham series by Abir Mukherjee. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Amazon
About the Book

India, 1920. Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of Calcutta Police must investigate the dramatic assassination of a Maharaja’s son…

Sam Wyndham is visiting the kingdom of Sambalpore, home to diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun.

But when the Maharaja’s eldest son is assassinated, Wyndham realises that the realm is riven with conflict. Prince Adhir was unpopular with religious groups, while his brother – now in line to the throne – appears to be a feckless playboy.

As Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee endeavour to unravel the mystery, they become entangled in a dangerous world. They must find the murderer, before the murderer finds them.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Google Play | Apple Books
Mandie’s Thoughts

A Necessary Evil once again sees Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surender-not” Banerjee investigating a murder in 1920’s India. When the heir to the crown of Sambalpore is assassinated whilst travelling in the same car as Sam and Surender-not the investigations into the killer become very personal to them. As they dig deeper and learn of threats and cults you do have to wonder if they will find the killer.

OK confession time now…. I actually read this book over Christmas and am only now getting round to writing the review for it. That being said the story has stuck with me so a big thumbs up to the author for creating something that is still easy to review several months on. Sam Wyndham is really growing on me. Quite often you get characters that might have a secret in their past that influences the perspective but Sam has some really big flaws that can at times affect his decisions and the situations he finds himself in. He is battling them in his own way and trying to better himself but this doesn’t always work the way he would like. With the backdrop of the prejudices of the time the relationship between the Sam and Surender-not is one that goes against what was considered acceptable but for me it makes them more real.

The book certainly keeps your interest the entire time as you are drawn into the customs and culture, with the descriptions of the sights and locations really fuelling the imagination, taking you along for the ride. What really stands out is the author’s love of that period of time, not sugar coating what British rule in India was really like but giving it an honest feel showing the errors on both sides. This book for me was an absolute joy to read as it gave me two of the things I love…police investigations and an insight to the past. I am also going to admit to going online at times to delve further into some of the events mentioned in the book just so I could learn more about them. This is the second book in the series and if I am honest think it is better than the first one. It may be because I have got to learn more about the main characters or it may just be that he author has become more comfortable with his writing….

Either way it’s a win for the reader. Whilst I would recommend you read the books in order just to get a little understanding into a couple of the reoccurring characters (and you will miss out on another great read if you don’t) it isn’t absolutely necessary.. no pun intended… as the books stand very well on their own. 

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Oh I do love me a good crime story and Exit Wounds, a wonderful collection of short stories from some of the top names in Crime Fiction, is absolutely full of them. A big thank you to Paul Kane who letting me have an early read and to Sarah Mather and publisher Titan Books for providing a copy for review. And happy publication day too!

Here’s what you can expect:

Source: Advance Review Copy
About the Book

A brand-new anthology of crime stories written by masters of the genre, including Jeffery Deaver, Val McDermid and Lee Child.

A brand-new anthology of crime stories written by masters of the genre. Featuring both original in-universe stories and rarely-seen reprints, this collection of masterful short stories brings together some of the genre’s greatest living authors.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Google Play | Apple Books
My Thoughts

If there is one thing in the book world that is misunderstood and completely underrated, for me it has to be the short story, or, in this case the short story anthology. I know that some people feel that short stories don’t allow them to get to know the characters, that they aren’t meaty enough, but for me they are the perfect, bitesize way to get your fix of your favourite author or to find an author who may be completely new to you without having to commit to a long term relationship aka ‘the novel’. They are perfect for a quick shot in your lunch break, on your daily commute or that ten-twenty minute wait you have while you are waiting for your tatties to boil for dinner.

If you are a fan of crime fiction, then Exit Wounds is a perfect way to while away those odd moments of time where you aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself. Featuring some absolutely cracking stories from some of the top writers in the business, you are bound to find something there which is right up your street. This book worked perfectly for me and I actually read it over a couple of weeks, a couple of stories a day over lunch breaks and when I got in from work. A nice way to unwind. With added murder and crime. All good.

Now it is hard to talk about short stories as to say too much would pretty well give away the whole plot and negate the need to buy the book, but I will say that there are some real gems in amongst this collection and enough to keep you hooked, shocked, thrilled and blasting through those pages.

For fans of Val McDermid’s Hill and Jordan series you have a nice catch up with the pair in Happy Holidays, a real misnomer for some of the characters and no mistake. And its a very welcome howdy to everyone’s favourite Bounty Hunter, Lori Anderson, in Steph Broadribb’s Fool You Twice. And I might be biased (I am) but I really enjoyed John Connolly’s On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man, and also James Oswald’s Dressed to Kill, the latter of which featured none other than dear old Inspector Tony McLean and Grumpy Bob Laird. (I love Grumpy Bob). I learned it’s probably not a good idea to go to Louise Jensen’s for dinner, and not to pick a fight with AK Benedict. She has a very devious mind … As for Paul Finch’s The New Lad – loved it.

A full line up of stories below:
The Bully – Jeffery Deaver
Dead Weight – Fiona Cummins
Like A Glass Jaw – Mark Billingham
On The Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier – John Connolly
The Pitcher – Sarah Hilary
Disciplined – Martyn Waites
The Consumers – Dennis Lehane
Voices Through the Wall – Alex Gray
Wet With Rain – Lee Child
Happy Holidays – Val McDermid
Fool You Twice – Steph Broadribb
Lebensraum – Christopher Fowler
Dancing Towards the Blade – Mark Billingham
Kittens – Dean Koontz
Take My Hand – A.K. Benedict
Dressed to Kill – James Oswald
Booty and the Beast – Joe R. Lansdale
The New Lad – Paul Finch
The Recipe – Louise Jensen

So? What do you think? Look at that list. You want to give this a try now don’t you?
Go on. You won’t regret it.

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Today it is my absolute pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest release from Jeffery Deaver, The Never Game, the first in a brand new series featuring Colter Shaw. A big thank you to Rebecca Bryant at Harper Collins for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for supplying an advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
About the Book

A student kidnapped from the park.
Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise she will die.

An investigator running out of time.
Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.

A killer playing a dangerous game.
Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…

Available From: Amazon | Waterstones | Kobo | Playstore | iBooks
My Thoughts

Confession time … **whispers** This is the first book I’ve read by Jeffery Deaver.

I realise that as confessions go, there are worse things I could cop to, but as a so called fan of crime fiction, you have to admit that’s pretty shocking. I mean, I’m not totally oblivious. I’ve read some short stories and I’ve seen the movie The Bone Collector – mmm Denzel … – but I’ve not read the books which is, let’s face it, the only way to go. But I have the chance to redeem myself now at the start of a brand new series featuring Colter Shaw – a man who solves crimes and collects rewards for a living – and I can honestly say that if The Never Game is a sign of things to come, I’m not missing a book again.

Now I’m sure that over the course of his career, Mr Deaver has probably had every superlative thrown in his direction, but this is my first review so if you’ll bear with me, I’m going to throw in a few of my own. What a book. From the very beginning I was pulled right in and under, tossed around and given an emotional and thrill infused battering, much like poor Colter Shaw and the woman he is trying to save from a sinking ship. Not a metaphorical one – a literal sinking ship. That prologue, the sense of tension – that quite literal ticking clock scenario – and the almost impossible odds as Colter battles not only mother nature but rapidly onsetting hypothermia, really gets your heart thumping and sets the tone for what is still to come. Loved it. Absolutely brilliant.

What this leads us into is a delightfully twisted and case which sees our hero, Shaw, alerted to a reward being offered by a father for help in locating his missing daughter. It’s not an insubstantial reward, the case by no means straightforward, but intriguing enough to capture Shaw’s attention and it is just the start of a few days of tension filled, emotionally charged, tech laden adventure. Because, strange as it is to think about it now, the whole investigation really does take place over a matter of days. The killer is calculating, unemotional and above all, determined, as once you are in their sights, you are in real trouble.

I have to be honest, I was drawn to Colter Shaw straight away. I can’t necessarily say why, but I was. Despite the fact that he manages to rub some of the local PD up the wrong way, he is quite enigmatic, and perhaps it was his level headed approach, his unflappable nature in a crisis, that worked for me but there was something about him that meant you knew you wanted him on your side. Jeffery Deaver has done a brilliant job of creating this character, leaving me as a reader with a feeling I knew him and yet without necessarily giving me anything concrete, such as a description of him, to hold onto. I know roughly how old he is by the foray we take into his past as certain events which have shaped the man he has become are recounted. I know who he works with, the supporting cast being slowly built up around him, and I know that he is far more than just a reward hunter and far from perfect – although perhaps not that far. That much is at least clear from this book alone. I also know that this is character I cannot wait to hear from again. I can see him becoming one of my favourites.

As for the story, without saying too much about the plot, it is clear that a lot of research has gone into this and the author creates a world which is complex, rich in colour and life, and develops a setting which is believable and dramatic. He takes the reader through the heart of Silicon Valley, from the obscenely affluent to those who just get by, creating a vision so clear that you feel as though you are there yourself. And as for the tension – there are times you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. There are no end of suspects to keep you guessing, and Shaw himself is led up the wrong garden path on more than one occasion, but it all adds to the sense of something much bigger, something intrinsically bad, that drives the narrative onward. With each new victim the clock is reset, every one of them being offered the opportunity for escape, only adding to the drama.And as it builds to that final showdown, the crescendo as it were … I found myself turning the pages faster and faster, desperate to know who was behind it all.

An absolutely outstanding read, gripping, full of misdirection, intrigue, tension and brilliant characters. I cannot wait to read more about Colter Shaw and his friends. This is no ordinary hero and no ordinary book. This is everything a thriller should be and I am off now to go and kick myself for not reading anything from the author sooner …

About the Author

A former journalist, folksinger and attorney, Jeffery Deaver is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the New York Times, the Times of London, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Los Angeles Times. His books are sold in 150 countries and have been translated into over twenty-five languages. He has sold 50 million books worldwide.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

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Day tripping: Cardingmill Valley, Shropshire

So this week was all about the walkies … Well, that and sorting out my bookshelves. Turns out that I have two six foot shelving units worth of signed books. Go me. And 170 unread books. And 708 unread ebooks, but we’ll just gloss over that quickly …

Pretty nice day for a day of work, huh? Mandie and I tool a gentle(?) stroll around Cardinmill Valley, a local National Trust site which boasts some really beautiful view and free roaming sheep and horses, as well as birds and bugs. From the top you get a great view of places like The Wrekin and The Stiperstones in the distance, and coming back down you get the extra added adrenaline caused by rocky and craggy paths and overwhelming fear of heights … Or is that just me?

No book events this week – time off for good behaviour and all that – but I did receive a couple of nice bits of book post. Mark Billingham’s Their Little Secret, courtesy of Little Brown and Laura Sherlock, and Forget Me Not by Claire Allan. I also received an advance e-copy of Margaret Kirk’s brand new DI Mahler novel, What Lies Buried. I’ve just started reading Shadow Man and it’s totally got me hooked, so I’m looking forward to this one. And the lovely Steph from Steph’s Book Blog, forwarded me a copy of Adrian McKinty’s The Chain. I’m not sure if I shouldn’t worry a little about being a part of ‘the chain’ now …

Download Tight Rope by Marnie Riches from Netgalley. Heard a bit about this at Newcastle Noir so I’m excited to read it. I also threw in a pre-order for the book, just because it’s the right thing to do. Share the love … Aside from that it was a Craig McIntyre short story from Gordon Brown, Take Care Of Your Own Business and that was my orders done and dusted.

Books I have Read

The Never Game – Jeffery Deaver

A student kidnapped from the park.
Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise she will die.

An investigator running out of time.
Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.

A killer playing a dangerous game.
Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…

My first ever Jeffery Deaver novel – I know, I know. A brand new series featuring Colter Shaw sees our hero tracking a cold hearted killer in the heart of Silicon Valley. Loved this book, absolutely gripped from the high stakes, , high tension opener. And Colter Shaw – he’s going to be a massive hit and no mistake. Want to know why? Well go and grab yourself a copy here.

Exit Wounds – Crime Story Anthology

A brand-new anthology of crime stories written by masters of the genre, including Jeffery Deaver, Val McDermid and Lee Child.

A brand-new anthology of crime stories written by masters of the genre. Featuring both original in-universe stories and rarely seen reprints, this collection of nineteen masterful short stories brings together some of the genre’s greatest living authors. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan take on a delightfully twisted killer in Val McDermid’s ‘Happy Holidays’. In Fiona Cummin’s ‘Dead Weight’, an overbearing mother resorts to desperate measures to keep control of her teenage daughter. And in Dean Koontz’s ‘Kittens’, a young girl learns the truth about how her pets have been dying, and devises a horrible revenge.

Tense, twisted and disturbing, Exit Wounds is a visceral and thrilling collection showcasing the very best modern crime fiction has to offer.

Love crime stories? Love reading some of the best crime authors in the industry? Then you definitely need Exit Wounds in your life. Featuring not only some very recognisable authors, you’ll recognise one or two of the characters as well. Plus this is a great taster for all of those authors you’ve always wondered about but not yet read. Out tomorrow, you can grab a copy here.

The Women – S.E.Lynes

The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…

Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls. 

Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication.

But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her.

And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger?

You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.

Sam thinks she’s found the perfect man in Peter. Wouldn’t be much of a psychological thriller of that was the case now would it. From a very intriguing opening in the middle of their honeymoon, we travel back to the early days of their whirlwind romance in a story about control, secrets and what happens when love turns bad. You can pre-order a copy right here. Fans of SE Lynes are going to love it.

Pretty average week for me in terms of number of books read but a much busier week on the blog. Recap below:

Turbulent Wake – Paul E. Hardisty

Breakers – Doug Johnstone

This Stolen Life – Jeevani Charika

Worst Case Scenario – Helen Fitzgerald

The Closer I Get – Paul Burston

Your Deepest Fear

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Today it is my great pleasure to join the blog tour for Tick Tock, the latest Grace Allendale thriller from Mel Sherratt. A big thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for inviting me to join the tour and to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
About the Book

A gripping new series from million-copy bestseller Mel Sherratt.
TICK…

In the city of Stoke, a teenage girl is murdered in the middle of the day, her lifeless body abandoned in a field behind her school.

TOCK…

Two days later, a young mother is abducted. She’s discovered strangled and dumped in a local park.

TIME’S UP…

DS Grace Allendale and her team are brought in to investigate, but with a bold killer, no leads and nothing to connect the victims, the case seems hopeless. It’s only when a third woman is targeted that a sinister pattern emerges. A dangerous mind is behind these attacks, and Grace realises that the clock is ticking…

Can they catch the killer before another young woman dies?

The number one bestselling author returns with a breath-taking police procedural thriller series that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Available from : Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | iBooks
My Thoughts

It is only book two in the series, but I have to say that they just keep getting better. Now settled into her new role as Sergeant back in her home town (city) of Stoke, Grace Allendale finds herself faced with a tragic and somewhat devastating case when the body of a teenage schoolgirl is found by her friends, right in the middle of the school day, and only metres from where they had left her just moments earlier. How can a killer be so brazen? And while it’s complicated enough dealing with a case involving children, with the investigation moving close to home once again, Grace finds the pressure not only on her and her team at work, but also complicating her love life too.

Now Grace is a very likeable character with a complicated family life. She never lets it affect her work, if anything it drives her to be even more successful and to prove she is nothing like her father, but it does add to her character, and provides plenty of conflict. It is less obvious this time around than in book one, but slowly and surely Grace is being drawn into the family, whether she likes it or not. There is a curious and intriguing dynamic between her and her half brother, Eddie, one that makes me smile probably every bit as much as it annoys Grace. I’m desperate to see how this keep developing moving forward, and how the strain between Grace and her other brother, Leon, grows too.

Now this case really ups the pressure on Grace and the first murder is sadly not the last. There are no end of suspects, but all the leads the police think they have go nowhere, leaving the team perplexed. It really adds to the tension and pressure that builds as you read onward. There are some moments which seem inevitable, where you can’t help but marvel at the naivety of some of the characters, no matter how true to life it might seem. But there are moments that will surprise you too, and perhaps catch you unawares as the real killer remains well hidden in amongst a large cast of characters.

Mel Sherratt has done a great job of recreating that kind of teenage vibe – the sense that, no matter what, no matter that one of their friends has been murdered, they are still untouchable. Invincible. It adds authenticity and an edge of jeopardy to the story. She has also done a brilliant job of bringing Stoke to life and although employing some artistic licence, has captured the spirit of the city completely.

All in all Tick Tock was a thoroughly enjoyable, often tense, cleverly plotted book where the killer remains hidden in plain sight right until the last. Full of edge of the seat moments, it’ll keep fans turning the pages late into the night.

About the Author

Mel Sherratt is the author of thirteen crime novels, all of which have become bestsellers. For the past four years, she has been named as one of her home town of Stoke-on-Trent’s top 100 influential people.

She also works alongside the National Literary Trust as an ambassador on The Literary Project, to support their ongoing work in the city, aiming to raise literacy levels. 

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

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Today it is my pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary, the sixth book in her long running and ever popular Marnie Rome series. I’ve been desperate to read this book, and was delighted to be asked by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours to take part in this blog tour. My thanks go to publisher Headline who provided an advance copy for review. Here is what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
About the Book

Children are dying on London’s streets. Frankie Reece, stabbed through the heart, outside a corner shop. Others recruited from care homes, picked up and exploited; passed like gifts between gangs. They are London’s lost. 

Then Raphaela Belsham is killed. She’s thirteen years old, her father is a man of influence, from a smart part of town. And she’s white. Suddenly, the establishment is taking notice.

DS Noah Jake is determined to handle Raphaela’s case and Frankie’s too. But he’s facing his own turmoil, and it’s becoming an obsession. DI Marnie Rome is worried, and she needs Noah on side. Because more children are disappearing, more are being killed by the day and the swelling tide of violence needs to be stemmed before it’s too late.

NEVER BE BROKEN is a stunning, intelligent and gripping novel which explores how the act of witness alters us, and reveals what lies beneath the veneer of a glittering city.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | iBooks
My Thoughts

I find it somewhat ironic that Sarah Hilary should choose to name this latest book in the Marnie Rome series Never Be Broken. Broken is exactly how her books leave me … Every. Single. Time. As ironic as it is for me as a reader however, it is absolutely fitting when taken in the context of not only the story but when thinking about the resilience of her two lead characters, Marnie Rome and Noah Jake.

What I love about Sarah Hilary’s work is how she always manages to capture a very relevant and topical story of modern life and weave it into a tale which will captivate, shock, entertain but also educate the reader. It is not done in a way which comes across as preaching or overtly political, but she always manages to capture society at its most vulnerable, to capture the heart and soul of society and make it accessible to readers, engaging them in a series of what if’s and there but for the grace of god kind of revelatory moments.

In this book she is exploring the current alarming trends of ‘county lines’ – the exploitation of young and vulnerable children to move drugs and other objectionable merchandise around the country without fear of detection for those in charge of the enterprise – and of the all too regular murder of London’s teenagers, through gun deaths and knife crimes. These are situations that hit the headlines with frightening regularity, no longer confined to London, but certainly most prevalent there. It is no longer just members of gangs who are targeted and fall victim to such brutality, and it is after the inexplicable murder of a young girl from an affluent part of the city that we join Marnie and her team who are tasked with getting to the root cause of all of the murders and putting a stop to them.

This is an emotionally charged novel, and not just because of the nature of the crimes that the team are investigating, which are horrific and senseless enough. You are faced with grief from all angles, and the differing ways in which parents cope with loss. The gamut of emotions from anger, to resignation to a sense of determination and hope, are all represented in a sensitive and authentic way, the author tapping into all of the readers senses in creating that dramatic tension.

It makes for compelling, if occasionally difficult reading, especially when you factor in that at the heart of it all is poor Noah, a man who is still coming to terms with his own recent loss in a surprising and yet understandable way. Noah is a well loved character and it breaks your heart to see the impact that loss is having on him, particularly when you consider the cause of his grief and how it links to the case he is now investigating. It leads to him taking chances, ones which put him in danger, sometimes in very unexpected ways.

This novel also taps into the post Brexit vote divisions which have sadly arisen across the country. Nothing new in the presentation of racism and intolerance perhaps – that has always existed – but certainly in the way in which certain factions feel that the vote validates their beliefs and gives them the right to express them more overtly than they ever dared before. And that sense of the disenfranchised people of the run down council estates who are being looked over and turfed out of heir homes, all in the name of gentrification, is so beautifully expressed that you feel real anger on their behalf as you read.

The book is full of tension and it drives the narrative beautifully. It is not always an easy read, if only because of the overwhelming sense of grief and sometimes despair that emanates from the pages. But look beyond that and you see the superb partnership of Marnie and Noah, tested to its limits as Marnie struggles to know how to help her Sergeant, but still a joy to read. Such compassion and determination from both of them, that real heart which drives this whole series compelling you to read onward.

And the ending – going from nerve-wracking action to a calm, heart warming moment in which one of the victims mothers calls for peace and an end to the violence which claimed her child’s life – is perfect. It sums up how senseless all of it is, and yet provides hope that there is still a chance for things to change. It brought a lump to my throat, no mean feat believe me.

Tense, emotional and heart-felt, and extremely topical, this is another stunning offering from Sarah Hilary, one you would be a fool to miss. If you love Marnie and Noah, this book will captivate you and then break you, before slowly putting you back together again. Brilliant stuff.

About The Author

Sarah Hilary’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (‘superbly disturbing’) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. No Other Darkness, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continued with Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing and Come And Find Me.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

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Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for Stolen, the latest Lucy Clayburn thriller from Paul Finch. Not only will I be sharing my thoughts on the book, I’ve an exclusive extract for you to take a look at too. My thanks to Sabah Khan of Avon for inviting me to join the tour and providing an advance copy of the book for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Review Copy
About the Book

How do you find the missing when there’s no trail to follow?

DC Lucy Clayburn is having a tough time of it. Not only is her estranged father one of the North West’s toughest gangsters, but she is in the midst of one of the biggest police operations of her life.


Members of the public have started to disappear, taken from the streets as they’re going about their every day lives. But no bodies are appearing – it’s almost as if the victims never existed.

Lucy must chase a trail of dead ends and false starts as the disappearances mount up. But when her father gets caught in the crossfire, the investigation suddenly becomes a whole lot more bloody…

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his latest nail-shredding thriller – a must for all fans of Happy Valley and M.J. Arlidge.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | iBooks
From the Book

The men began arriving shortly after ten o’clock that night. At least, Lucy assumed they would all be men. The intelli­gence suggested that, and while she wasn’t so naïve as to believe that casual cruelty was solely a male preserve, this particular business, as well as being totally disgusting, just seemed so childishly laddish that she couldn’t picture any of the female offenders she’d arrested over the years partici­pating willingly.

‘All units, we’re on,’ she said into her radio. ‘But sit tight . . . wait for the order.’

From where she was concealed in the woodland hide, just beyond the cover of the trees, Lucy had a clear view of the rutted track leading to the farm cottage. Over at the point where it joined Wellspring Lane, the gateman was busy admitting a succession of vans and cars, which now passed within seventy yards of her position, travelling slowly in cavalcade. Already she could hear the yipping and yelping of the dogs caged in their boots.

Geraldson, the RSPCA inspector, dabbed with a handker­chief at the sweat glinting on his brow. He was young and nervous.

‘Is there a black van out there?’ His voice was querulous.

‘Even if there is, it won’t necessarily be the one that’s been abducting pets,’ Lucy replied. ‘These are all paying partici­pants. They’ll have their own animals.’

‘So . . . when do we move?’

‘Not until it gets going.’ Lucy – Detective Constable Lucy Clayburn – continued to watch through her night-vision scope but reached out a hand and squeezed his shoulder with a firm, hopefully reassuring grip. ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got this.’

My Thoughts

Super sad face. This book does not get off to a particularly good start if you are a dog lover, let’s put it that way. The case that Lucy finds herself at the heart of is a very distressing one for animal lovers everywhere but rest assured, although you will be saddened by the opening, a tragically all too believable tale in itself, this is only really the beginning. A dark van has been seen trawling the streets of Crowley just before beloved family pets have gone missing. But is it part of the bust that Lucy is arranging or is it the start of something far more sinister?

Well if you read the book (or the blurb) you’ll know that something far more complex and disturbing is happening in Crowley. (Well that is relative and depends on your feelings on dogs v people I suppose). Residents are going missing, some noticed, many not, but to what end and who is responsible? It’s going to fall to Lucy and the team at Robbers Row to find out and the facts are going to be very surprising and very dark, believe me.

I really enjoy the Lucy Clayburn series as it’s nice to see a strong female character taking charge, even if she doesn’t have any real level of responsibility as a DC. Lucy has always been someone who can hold her own, intelligent and determined, and truly gutsy in her approach. She has a very complicated personal life, made more so since the reappearance of her father. She is passionate about her job, protective of her mother, and has a great intuition, making her a joy to read about. I like the dynamic between her and her father, gangster Frank McCracken, even with his friend and chief enforcer, Mick Shallicker, seeing them all torn between their sense of duty to their respective careers, and sense of protection for each other, even if that feeling sends chills through Lucy. Complex but compelling, it’s a story I love to follow.

A real revelation in this book though is former Nun, Sister Cassie (no religious pun intended). She has led a very interesting life and certainly adds colour to the story. I don’t want to say too much about her, but it is fair to say that she plays a chief role in Lucy uncovering the truth behind all the disappearances, and a surprising part in seeing justice done. Call it divine intervention if you will, but Sister Cassie does seem to have a knack for being in the right place, even if it does occasionally land her in danger. She is a fun, sometimes mixed up, often misunderstood character who brings a smile to my face when reading. The author has done a brilliant job of developing her character, the perfect blend between the righteous and the woman fallen from Grace. Religious affectation a plenty, but also very down to earth.

This is a fast paced, fun, sometimes gruesome, often heart pumping, definitely sad pout inducing read which I really enjoyed. Well mostly – we won’t talk about the dogs A great addition to the series and one fans are going to eat up.

About the Author

Paul Finch is a former cop and journalist now turned best-selling crime and thriller writer, and is the author of the very popular DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg and DC Lucy Clayburn novels.
 
Paul first cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, The Bill, and has written extensively in horror, fantasy and science-fiction, including for Dr Who. 

However, he is probably best known for his crime/thriller novels, specifically the Heckenburg police-actioners, of which there are seven to date, and the Clayburn procedurals, of which there are two. The first three books in the Heck line achieved official best-seller status, the second being the fastest pre-ordered title in HarperCollins history, while the first Lucy Clayburn novel made the Sunday Times Top 10 list. The Heck series alone has accrued over 2,000 5-star reviews on Amazon. 

Paul is a native of Wigan, Lancashire (UK), where he still lives with his wife and business partner, Cathy.

Author Links: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter

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Today it is my great pleasure to be able to share an extract from Phillipa Ashley’s latest summer romance, A Perfect Cornish Summer. Thank you to Sabah Khan of Avon Books for inviting me to join the tour. Here is what the book is all about:

About the Book

The first in a gorgeous new series from the author of Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are…

For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).

When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life for ever.

Curl up with this gorgeous novel and savour the world of Porthmellow Harbour.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones |Playstore | Apple Books

From the Book

‘Ah yes. I’ve been on holiday here in some bad weather and seen the photos of the huge storm from a few years ago, but never experienced anything like it myself, fortunately.’ Chloe paused. ‘Dear God, we wouldn’t get conditions like that during the festival, would we?’

Chloe peered at the white crests beyond the breakwater that protected the harbour from the sea. Sam had seen waves a hundred feet high crashing against it a few times, and yes, sending spray higher than the clock tower. During the worst storms, the village frequently featured on the TV news, but its occupants were well prepared. It was generally only fool­hardy emmets who fell foul of the rough weather, hence the sign at the end of the harbour warning visitors of ‘danger of death’ if they ventured out onto the quayside in a storm. Which they often did, despite the cautions.

‘This is Porthmellow and you never know what the ocean might throw at us,’ she said, amused at Chloe’s horrified expression. ‘But I doubt it in June, so don’t worry about it. Even if it rains, people will still turn up. We’re hardy types down here.’

Chloe let out a sigh of relief but before she could reply, her mobile buzzed. She fished it out and a smile spread across her face.

‘It’s a message from Kris Zachary’s PA asking me to phone her asap. She said she’d call to finalise the arrangements. Probably wants to make sure the kitchen theatre is up to scratch. Booking Kris was such a coup though, even if he was pricey. He’s already attracted a lot of press interest, especially with his um . . . private life being all over the telly lately. Those twinkly blue eyes . . . and the way he handles that dough. It’ll be worth it.’

‘Hmm. He’s certainly high profile at the moment, even if it is for the wrong reasons,’ said Sam, thinking of the headlines about the chef’s break-ups with his wife, and his new girl­friend. Kris was an on-screen charmer with a reputation as a tough business character.

‘Him accepting at all is a sign that Porthmellow’s on the foodie map on a national scale. Though I know you want to keep it community focused, we have to make money and bring people and sponsors in,’ said Chloe.

About the Author

Phillipa Ashley writes warm, funny romantic fiction for a variety of international publishers. The first two books in her best-selling Cornish Café series made the Amazon Top 20 and Top 10 chart in 2016.

Phillipa lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

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Today I’m delighted to join the blog tour for the latest thriller from David Jackson, Your Deepest Fear. Thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to join the tour, and publishers Zaffre, for providing an advance copy for review. Here is what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Review Copy
About the Book

A dark, shocking and relentlessly gripping thriller that will keep you up all night, for fans of M.J. Arlidge and Peter James. 

‘Sara! Remember! Victoria and Albert. All I can say. They’re here. They’re-‘ 

These are the last words Sara Prior will ever hear from her husband. 

As DS Nathan Cody struggles to make sense of the enigmatic message and solve the brutal murder, it soon becomes clear that Sara is no ordinary bereaved wife. Taking the investigation into her own hands, Sara is drawn into a world of violence that will lead her in a direction she would never have suspected. 

For Cody, meanwhile, things are about to get personal in the darkest and most twisted ways imaginable . . .

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | iBooks
My Thoughts

Do you like clowns? DS Nathan Cody doesn’t, and having read Your Deepest Fear, the latest book in the series, I can fully understand why.

This is the first time I have read a book by David Jackson, and if I was being honest, I’d say I might have benefitted a little from reading the other two books first. Not so much that it stopped me from understanding or enjoying this book, but just because, when we meet Cody this time around he is damaged and being side lined in the investigation due events from a previous case, events which aren’t fully obvious to the uninitiated. They become clearer as you read on, but I think you’d appreciate the back story more with advance knowledge.

That said, this is a book you can definitely read first if you so choose and it may well spur you on to go back and fill in the gaps in your understanding. Win-win in that case. Unlike the situation Cody finds himself in in this latest offering. Forced to work on the periphery of a case involving a particularly gruesome murder, Cody is on edge and irritable, not helped by being forced to see a Psychologist as part of his return to work arrangements. The case, the brutal execution of a man who seemingly had no enemies, is perplexing enough but when it comes too close to home for Cody, his sleepless nights are set to get a whole lot worse.

Now the tone of this book is quite dark. There are some pretty nasty events which take place, or are recounted, not in any barbaric detail, but enough to make a reader grimace, so prepare to go ewww. The author walks the line perfectly between too much and too little detail, but it is more in the reactions of the characters around the violence, rather than the violence itself, that the true depth of feeling comes. There is a real sense of menace underpinning the whole book, as well as intrigue as you try to work out how all the pieces of the story fit together.

I liked the character of Cody, as damaged as he is, and was hooked by his story, wanting to know more of what made him tick and what had happened in his past. (Cue the knock on the noggin’ reminding me that I’d know that if I’d read the other books first). In this book he finds himself torn between what he knows is right, his sense of duty as a police officer, and the deep desire within him to get revenge upon someone from his past. The way in which the two stories – Cody’s past and the present murder – tie together is surprising, but does work, even if on occasion the whole situation seems a little over the top and perhaps fantastical. There were a couple of moments of raised eyebrows as the situations seemed a little too convenient, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of all was Sara, the victim’s wife, who has a kind of detachment and inner strength which defies the circumstances. When you learn the reason why, it does make sense, but her response to her husband’s death is a mixture of remorse, grief and determination. If the police are not able to get justice for her husband, Matthew, then Sara will. She is fierce, intelligent and cunning, and I did like her, even if her almost clinical response to her husband’s death does seem a little odd at first. I’d love to see her back in a future book. Who knows? Maybe we will.

If you are a fan of this series, I think you will love this, the blend of mystery, tension and darkness which carries on Cody’s story and adds a new layer of uncertainty to it all. For me, as my first foray into Cody’s world, I found it very entertaining, just the right blend of mystery and intensity, and I look forward to, firstly, catching up and secondly, reading more.

About the Author

David Jackson is the bestselling author of Cry Baby and Don’t Make A Sound. His debut novel, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Daggers Awards. He lives on the Wirral peninsula with his wife and two daughters.

Author Links: Twitter

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