Monday, 4 August 2014

The Coercion Key by Catriona King (a review)

This is the seventh in Catriona King's D.C.I. Craig series and there is no let up in the quality of the writing.

The series, as a whole, flows nicely, with occassional mentions of previous events, relating to both old cases and the lives of the members of Craigs' squad. With this in mind it is helpful to have read the previous books in the series ( but not vital - it also works as a stand alone novel ).

The novel starts with Easter approaching and the squad in a bit of a lull, with not much to keep them busy since the events of two months earlier ( see The Slowest Cut - book 6 ) but that soon comes to an end when Dr. Winter, the pathologist hands Craig three files. These files are for three separate suicides, all of which would go unnoticed if not for the fact that they all had plenty to live for and all wrote exactly the same worded suicide note.

I found this to be another step up in gear for the author, the idea of murder by suicide being a particularly clever twist - each book so far has had something different to work with, no formulaic same old same old here. The storytelling is confident, as I would expect, and the threat to the squad will have you heading toward the seat edge. After one particular incident ( you'll know it when you get there ) I was so stunned by what had happenned I had to put the book down and walk away as I wasn't sure I wanted to see the fallout.

And that, for me, is the true strength of this series. Yes, the crimes are intriguing, the story lines are gripping but the true heart of this series is the lives of the squad. I've found I really care about what happens in the day-to-day of the characters, be it the little things or the life changing events.

A top quality addition to a wonderful series (and surely only a matter of time before someone picks this up for filming )

5/5 stars

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Wheel-Mouse vs All The Crazy Robots by Celyn Lawrence - a review

I found this book via a post on Facebook. It is a charity book with all proceeds going to help Celyn's hospice respite care, I believe. Celyn is only 8 years old, has Cerebral Palsey and can only communicate via an interface type board.

The book is not long but the story in it is fantastic and very entertaining. The hero is, as you would guess from the title, a mouse who zumms around in a special wheelchair (zumming is much faster than zooming!) The people are under threat from All The Crazy Robots. The robots do poos, they even do poos when they are flying. The robots poo on everything and everyone - and only Wheel-Mouse can save the day.

The story has everything a young reader, or youngster being read to would want (a heroic mouse, robots and poo - what more could you ask for). The book is illustrated by the author's dad and these illustrations are a delight which just add to the loveliness of the story.

After finishing the book I found my thoughts wandering back to it and to the author and when I think back I don't think of Celyn as a poorly little girl, I think of a little lady who would have been laughing her little socks off at the antics of Wheel-Mouse, the robots (and let's not forget all the poo).

If you can see it in your heart to download this book (77p) then thank you very much indeed (and don't worry if you don't have a child to share the story with -I'm 47 and I loved it.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Treading On Dreams by Jeff Gardiner - a review

A feel good story of friendship, growing up and unrequited love.

Donny and Hazel are twins, close, as twins often are, but also different characterwise. The story centres around them moving to London to further their educations after A levels. The twins take lodgings with Jaz ( the landlord ) and Selene ( the gorgeous Selene, love of Donnys' life, woman of his dreams etc. etc ).

Jaz is everything Donny isn't. He is the life of the party, he is surrounded by friends, and he sleeps with women.....LOTS of women. Jaz takes Donny under his wing (whether he wants to be there or not) and so starts an eventually quite moving friendship.

But, at the heart of all this is Selene. Donny is in love with her from day one (or possibly before as she seems to be the embodiment of a character from a favourite book from his younger days). Unfortunately Selene is engaged  to Melvin.....

This is very much a story built on strong characterisation - even the lesser characters like Hippy and Mule, friends of Jaz, come across well. Donny starts out as a naive and at times slightly Adrian Mole-ish type but grows into more of a maturity thanks to Jaz, who, in turn becomes a more likeable soul.

As I say, this is a story of growing up, friendship etc. I won't promise you happy endings, I won't promise you'll leave without a tear in the eye but what I will promise you is a good read, a good time with characters you would want to be friends with.

I was offered a copy of this story in exchange for a frank and honest review - and I'm glad I accepted it. I read the book on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it.

5/5 stars

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Blood Guilt by Ben Cheetham - a review

Welcome to the dark side of Sheffield in the first of Ben Cheetham's Steel City Thrillers.

Four years ago Harlan Miller was a Detective Inspector with a lot of promise, but losing his son in an accident sent him into a downward spiral. As we join him at the beginning his marriage is not in a good state, he is drinking and, in a drunken fight he kills a man.

He, serves his time but the Harlan Miller who emerges from his four year incarceration is a changed man - and not in a good way.  He is haunted by his crime and tries to make amends to the wife of his victim but she will not forgive him.

Within days of his release a child is abducted, and the child just happens to be the son of the man Miller killed. The police are not getting anywhere and the mother turns to the only man who can possibly do anything to find her son, the man she hates more than any other - Harlan Miller.

This is not a book populated with nice characters. Miller is, at times, a wretched soul. He hates who he is, what he has become, but under the circumstances this makes him a more believable lead. He becomes a kind of vigilante, working outside the law but with the benefits of his time spent in the police force. He is not a nice man but he is not a bad man. He just wants to do what he feels he has to to make his life bearable. There is a lot of miserable despair, loathing and hate here but it adds to the atmosphere

As you would expect, the criminals range from the pathetic to the truly vile and evil. It is not a comfortable read, but it is a good one - I finished it in 3 days. There are red herrings a plenty, several twists (I believed I knew one of the culprits, and was feeling quite smug as Miller drove up to his house, but then he drove straight past it - I was wrong).

At the heart of this book is the Steel City itself, Sheffield (my home town, as well as the authors') in all its' dark, brooding, northern glory. It lends itself well to the story, and, as a reader, it makes a nice change to be spending time with characters in places you know well.

I wouldn't hesitate to give this story 4.1/2 out of 5 stars. There are at least 3 more Steel City Thrillers to come. The first, Angel of Death is out now (and will be reviewed here in the near future) and features a whole new set of characters at the start of a planned trilogy

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Slowest Cut by Catriona King (a review)

This, the 6th book in the Marc Craig Crime Series is, by a long way, the darkest yet.
It starts, as all good murder mysteries do, with a body. The body in this case belonging to a school headmistress, Eileen Carragher. The murder has been a long and torturous process involving lots (and I mean lots) of cuts to the body and finishing off with one final, fatal cut. More bodies follow, killed in the same way and secrets of the lives of the victims come to the fore. Who are the bad people - the victims or the killers.
This is not a book of black and white - the grey line down the middle plays a much bigger part, but, having said that, the ending, when it comes is the right one. Satisfactory and very well done.
As is often the case with these books the dark storyline is tempered with a happy side story for one of the team (but I'm not saying who obviously!!). These parts were wonderfully written, with a hint of magic that really shines through.
Another winner from Catriona King - bring on the next!!!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Grower's Gift by Vanna Smythe - Cover Reveal

Todays' Blog post is a cover reveal (with link for the uk  version and book description - I'll post US link if I can find out how.....I am a novice at this kind of thing) by one of my favourite new authors, Vanna Smythe (author of the Anniversary of the Veil series)

The book is The Grower's Gift (Progeny Of Time#1) and is certainly going straight on my kindle. Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

Product Details

In 2102 the Earth is plagued by draughts, floods, and blizzards that come in the middle of summer. The rich and powerful of North America have pulled back into the six remaining megacities, erasing all trace of a central government and leaving the millions displaced by the environmental crisis to fend for themselves in the dying world. But sixteen-year-old Maya is certain she was born with the power to heal the Earth and make it habitable again.

The only place she can learn to use her gift is a school, which is run by the ruthless head of the city of Neo York. But the school is only a front for a facility where they will extract Maya’s magic and then discard her. Only Ty, the heir to the city, can keep Maya from being destroyed at the facility. And Ty’s loyalty to his family has never wavered. Will his growing love for Maya be strong enough to save her?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Home and Hearth by Angela Slatter (a review)

Home and Hearth is the latest chap book from Spectral Press. As such it is only short, 25 pages or so, but oh what a tale you get within these pages.

The story starts as Simon, a school age boy, returns home after a trial for "a bad thing" (I'm not going to drop spoilers on you if I can help it!). His mother, Caroline, is glad to have him home but as time goes by she starts to wonder if she really wants him back.

The feel of the character of Caroline is really good - you get a sense of the shame she feels when outside, the love of a mother for her child but also the fear of what that child is or may become. Overall, I found this to be a tense, well told tale and must say, the end surprised me a little but, again, was really well done - I don't think I saw the swerve coming until it happened.

Another winner from Spectral Press and another author I will be looking out for more from in the future