Tuesday 27 June 2017

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

It doesn't matter how experienced, famous or acclaimed an author is, it is always difficult to change genres or start a new series. Not difficult in a writing sense, but rather living up to the expectations of their readers or fans.

When you have a long running successful series, that's without counting the legions of fans who watch the tv show based on the Temperance Brennan character, readers are eager to see or read about their favourite character on a regular basis. They are perhaps a little less eager to embrace an entirely new venture or main character.

I really enjoyed this new venture and can't wait to read more about Sunday and Gus.

Kudos to Reichs for creating a main character with an airport carousel full of baggage. Sunday isn't your standard candy floss and fluffy unicorn type of character. She has a past full of abuse, aggression and manipulation. On top of that she is a veteran suffering from PTSD.

Her whole life revolves around safety measures and paranoia. She is abrupt, short-tempered and doesn't give two hoots about being politically correct or adhering to any kind of rules.

When she is hired by a grande dame of society she cares less about the money and more about the young girl in the midst of a dangerous group. This is actually where the story gets an added twist. The reader gets short glimpses of a young girl being held captive and abused. It is fair to say that everything is not exactly as it seems.

Two Nights, nice play on the names by the way, is an invigorating new series with a bolshy leading lady. I hope this isn't the last we see of Sunday or her elusive brother. It has plenty of potential and it deals with some hard-hitting issues. I think Reichs should take a few more walks on the wild side and spread her literary tentacles into a few other ventures.

Buy Two Nights at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @KathyReichs

Read The Swamp BonesBones Never Lie or Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs.

Read Exposure by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs.

Friday 23 June 2017

Holiday in the Hamptons by Sarah Morgan

This is the fifth book in the From Manhattan with Love series. If you've been following the books, this one features Harriet and Fliss, the twins who run a successful dog-walking business in New York. The focus is on Fliss and her ex-hubby Seth.

This story is dialogue heavy in a sense that the main characters spend a lot of time really digging into their problems. It is less light fluffy candy floss and more of a toffee you have to chew. Morgan can write the perfect literary equivalent of a chocolate chip cookie or a create a tear inducing read, and yet she is also a dab hand at the more intricate relationship plots.

Holiday in the Hamptons is witty and amusing, but it is also about a couple who disassemble their relationship in an attempt to at least salvage a friendship. Sometimes you have to step outside and look in through your own living room window to try and get some objectivity.

Fliss and Seth have spent quite a long time apart since the disastrous and rather abrupt end of their marriage. Fliss spends a large amount of time trying to avoid any contact with Seth. Not because she hates him, but because she is scared of her real feelings. There are so many unresolved issues she has never laid to bed or not really come to terms with yet. Seth just reminds her of her own failings.

Seth is giving Fliss the space she needs, although he would rather be one half of a happy couple again. Which is probably the reason he goes along with her crazy and outlandish scheme to keep Seth at arms length. It is quite hilarious though.
Morgan is an expert at entertaining her readers, whilst delving into the complexities of love, romance and relationships. There is no such thing as a dull moment in any of her stories.

Buy Holiday in the Hamptons at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

You can connect with Sarah online at her website: www.sarahmorgan.com on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahMorgan or on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

Read: The Christmas Sisters, Moonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6), New York Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4)Miracle on 5th Avenue (From Manhattan with Love #3)Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2)Sleepless in Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #1)Christmas Ever AfterFirst Time in ForeverMaybe This ChristmasSuddenly Last Summer or The Notting Hill Diaries, all by Sarah Morgan.

Follow @SarahMorgan_@HQStories and @HarperCollinsUK

A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood

Are some people born evil? A few of these kids may make you wonder about that question. Starling House is full of the worst type of offenders. Children who choose to torture, harm and even kill.

Unfortunately they all tend to end up in the same place, especially if they are still minors. It's certainly debatable whether certain individuals should be allowed to associate with each other, and in doing so are perhaps more likely to encourage more criminal behaviour.

What makes this such a dark read is the fact these killers do exist. Children who commit the most heinous of crimes. The character profiles sail fairly closely to reality and real crimes. Killers with the faces of cherubs, but the minds of deviants.

DCI Matilda Darke is distracted by one of these young boys, to the point of endangering members of her team. She is almost obsessed by the thought one of the delinquents could actually be innocent.

The cynic in me wanted to shake her a little and remind her how manipulative some of these young boys can be. Has she been blinded by the cute face and the young age or perhaps been misguided by her own gut instinct? Killers can be highly intelligent and persuasive.

Wood has created a solid enjoyable main character in Matilda Darke. Much like the plot, she is unpredictable, but driven by her strong sense of justice and her instincts. It is sometimes an uncomfortable read, and yet also a compelling one.

Buy A Room Full of Killers at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @MichaelHWood

Thursday 15 June 2017

The Other Us by Fiona Harper

In The Other Us Harper moves away her usual repertoire we have come to love and enjoy. She takes a big step away from her witty romantic comedies and leads her readers into this emotionally complex story. She still manages to infuse her special brand of humour into the characters and the story though.

I really enjoyed it. Leaving the elaborate plot aside, and I do so enjoy reads that make you ponder and sometimes screw with your brain, I do think this story is one readers will be able to relate to. Why? Because the majority of people will always believe that the grass is greener on the other side. They may not believe it all the time, especially during long-term relationships, but there will be occasions when they think about greener pastures.

Maggie wakes up one morning to find herself right back on the day she made a choice, the kind of choice that determines which path you take in life. So, the question is whether she should take this bizarre opportunity to choose a different life for herself.

Imagine being able to revisit some of the most important decisions in your life, but armed with the knowledge of your future. Sounds like an intriguing proposition to me, having the ability to change the outcome of your future. Except for the minor issue of the butterfly effect. You change one detail and inadvertently you may set a whole different sequence of events in motion.

Maggie has a grown daughter and is married to a dependable, and yet a wee bit boring Dan. She is thrilled to wake up a few decades earlier and have the opportunity to pick the love of her life Jude. Life with Jude means not having her daughter or her best friend Becca though. Is being with Jude worth it? And as if that wasn't complicated enough, Maggie jumps back and forth into more than one alternative life.

She has no control over when, where or who she will end up with from one day to the next and is thrown into a state of constant emotional confusion. Does she give up one person to live with another, will she ever see her child again or in fact ever become a mother? In fact I think that was one of the most prolific questions the story raised. I'm sure plenty of people have mentioned flippantly that if given the chance they would have done things differently and made other choices. If you have children now that also means those children would probably not even exist in the new reality. So a choice against the father of your children is also a choice against the children you love. Maggie has to deal with the same dilemma.

Harper delivers an intriguing premise and an invigorating read. The time-hopping element and parallel realities give this story undertones of a science fiction plot, however the whole scenario could also just be one very long vivid dream. A dream full of Freudian slips with far-reaching consequences, all with the ultimate goal of comprehending that your own lawn is the same shade of green.Your subconscious often sends you very vivid messages, maybe this is just a very graphic wake-up call for Maggie. Kudos to Harper for the great read and the 'nudge nudge wink wink' Ewing reference, it was the first thing I thought of.

Buy The Other Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @FiHarper_Author@HQStories or @HarperCollinsUK

Read The Summer we Danced, The Doris Day Vintage Film Club or The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper

Sunday 11 June 2017

Blog-Tour: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

It's kind of interesting how the cover suggests a certain kind of story and yet the content tells a different one. Not sure if that was intentional, but it is certainly a smart marketing ploy. Why? Well because what you see isn't what you get, and Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is all about a complex chicanery of personality hidden within a friendly invitation to connect.
About the Author
Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Follow @Sarahlovescrime  and @Orendabooks
Buy Exquisite
About the book
Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Insidious would be a better way to describe this story, as opposed to exquisite. It creeps up on you like a sea roke appearing along the coast.

The author balances the crazy in a way that keeps the readers guessing. Is Alice an insecure little girl with mental health issues or is Bo a sandwich short of a picnic? To be fair at times it seems as if they are both in need of some therapy.

Bo is an established and popular author, who holds retreats for aspiring scribes. Being a minor literary celebrity means you have to put up with the occasional persistent fan or stalker, so Bo isn't a stranger to unhealthy relationships based on misplaced obsession. Alice is vulnerable, impressionable and open to the uplifting encouragement of the older woman.

I really enjoyed the fact Stovell didn't go for the obvious male/female scenario. It made the whole 'who do you believe' aspect of the plot more intriguing and fresh.

Stovell has a Machiavellian mind-set, which is evident both in the plot and her characters. What you see isn't what you get, and Exquisite is all about a complex chicanery of personality hidden within a friendly invitation to connect. The tendrils of her sick mind try to pull the woman towards her whilst simultaneously pushing her away in an attempt to eradicate her. No, I am not telling you who She is.

Be prepared to doubt your initial response to either of the main characters. There is no black or white, and quite a few grey areas. The author intentionally keeps the readers in the dark about the real villain, it truly is a 50/50 bet until the end. You just never know what is hidden beneath a perfect exterior.

I really enjoyed the viciousness of the plot. It is ruthless and perhaps a tad too realistic, if you know what I mean. Brilliant read, Stovell is definitely one to watch.

Buy Exquisite at Orenda Books eBookstoreAmazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

Somehow I missed the fact this is classed as Young Adult, and to be perfectly frank it doesn't really belong in that sub-genre.

It is gritty, hardcore and it forces reality right down the readers throat. It was one of those books you finish and think 'wow.' At the same time you can't really identify why. It is just a whirlwind of brash hard-hitting realism.

Faustino is looking for a way out of his slum existence. He is tired of being surrounded by uncertainty, violence and death. Each day is a struggle and the only opportunities for any kind of advancement in life are being part of a gang or a possible escape across the border. However the Coyotaje isn't always the solution desperate people think they will be. They are ruthless groups or gangs with only one concern, to make money. They feed on the desperation of the innocent.

The descriptive scenes of the gambling are right on the button. People with the itch always think they can find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Just one more hand of cards, just one more attempt to outwit lady luck. Ultimately Faustino holds the weapon of his own self-destruction.

Sedgwick doesn't pull any punches, he just whacks the reader right around the head with a literary crowbar. It's hard to pinpoint why it is such an unusual read, perhaps it's the gritty realism and the lack of compromise. Sedgwick is relentless in the portrayal of his authentic characters and the setting. Kudos to him for the merciless ending.

Buy Saint Death at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday 5 June 2017

Exposure by Brendan Reichs and Kathy Reichs

Although the name Kathy Reichs might conjure up images of bones, dead bodies and crime. This YA series by this mother and son writing team has nothing to do with any of those things. Virals is an entertaining young adult sci-fi infused fantasy.

Tory is a complex character in the sense that she appears to be a strong and independent, and yet when it comes to Whitney she is usually a bit of a sheep. Says one thing and does another. There is a small light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to her blossoming relationship with Ben though.

One of the positive aspects to this fourth book in the Virals series, is that Reichs doesn't just concentrate on Tory this time. The reader gets to know the other characters a lot better.

We see them experience their powers in an entirely different way this time. Instead of the possibly life-enhancing mysterious often stagnant abilities, the powers take on a more menacing aspect. It's one thing knowing they are there, but it is quite another to know they might not be able to control them.

I like the way Reichs filters all the information, which means there is always something new to bring to the table. Regardless of whether it is about their powers, their status in society or the secrets each character keeps hidden.

Kudos to the authors for the big plot reveal at the end. It puts an entirely different slant on everything.

Buy Exposure at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read The Bone CollectionThe Swamp BonesBones Never Lie or Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs.

Read Two Nights by Kathy Reichs.

Sunday 4 June 2017

Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell

Relationships between mothers and daughters can be anything from beautiful loving friendships to dysfunctional codependency. The element I enjoyed the most about this read was the imperfect and yet realistic relationship between Elsie and Rachel.

Unless you have ever experienced narcissism first-hand, especially at the hands of a parent, then you might not be able to comprehend how accurate this portrayal is. A narcissist will always put there own self first. In fact they put the self in the word selfish. Everything is a competition and they will step over or on you and your feelings to come out on top. Every single time.

So, bearing all that in mind, it isn't unusual for Elspeth to have cut out the toxic relationship in order to maintain a healthy life for herself. It also explains why she has no real concept of how her mother lived, how she paid for her meals or what secrets she kept hidden from her daughter.

Elsie finds herself experiencing guilt and regret, despite the times her mother has ignored, betrayed and even despised her. Who was this woman really? What kind of secrets did she have that would make someone break in and search her belongings? Too many questions and not enough answers.

I thought the ending was a wee bit like a massive info input in the last few pages, so that could have been planned differently. In fact when you consider the pace and development of the rest of the story, I think the bulk revelation at the end was a little detrimental to the tone and essence of the book.

I also believe Sorell could have built the plot purely on the whole mother and daughter relationship, without the cult and even without the dramatic ending.

Nevertheless Sorell has the heart of a storyteller, so this is just the beginning.

Buy Mothers and Other Strangers at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads or any other retailer.

Saturday 3 June 2017

The Second Sister by Claire Kendal

In a way a missing person is often a sentence worse than death. It has no finality and it promises a lifetime of uncertainty. It's one thing knowing the fate of a loved one, even if the details are inhumane and almost impossible to bear. It's quite another to spend minutes, days or years imagining the worst, whilst simultaneously hoping for the best.

This is the situation the reader finds Ella in. She is quite simply obsessed with the disappearance of her older sister Miranda. Vanished without a trace and leaving behind a young child. Was she overwhelmed with life or did someone take her?

Ella is absolutely obsessed with finding out what happened to her sister. She knows in her gut that Miranda would never just abandon her son. It has an impact on her health, her life, her relationships and everyone around her.

The scenes between Ella and Thorne are especially tense and nightmarish. The serial killer is only too happy to help Ella with her investigation. Of course, there is always a price to pay when a manipulative psycho is involved.

Kendal writes a gripping story, although it does occasionally wander into some unbelievable sub-plots and perhaps superfluous red herrings. It was still a good read, because the disappearance and the truth were delivered in a captivating way.

Buy The Second Sister by Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.