Sunday, 4 January 2015

Scarlet Ribbons by Anita Dawes

Scarlet Ribbons by Anita Dawes is an engrossing, thought provoking story which leaves the reader with many questions. The novel follows the experiences of Maggie Haynes, a seemingly happily married woman, who after being knocked down by a car finds herself in a coma. During that time we are afforded a glimpse of what it might be like for someone, aware of their surroundings but trapped in a world somewhere between life and death. Whilst occupying this alternate state of consciousness, Maggie makes connections with other people, most notably David and Annie. Once Maggie returns to the real world, she has to try and make sense of both worlds whilst re-establishing her relationship with her husband. Dawes uses her novel to raise some important spiritual questions such as, is there a world beyond the one we know and is it possible to have connections with people that transcend our lifetime? I enjoyed this novel very much and Dawes skilfully makes an unusual story seem completely believable. Maggie is a likeable character who is easy to engage with and I found myself willing her to find the courage to embrace happiness. If you like a story that is more than just your average romance then I thoroughly recommend this one.

Party Games by E.J. Greenway

Party Games by E.J. Greenway is an absorbing tale of the treachery and chicanery of UK politics. It’s a story with a ring of such authority, I found myself drawing parallels with real life politicians. Greenway clearly has a strong knowledge of Westminster, which draws the reader into a world they may not be that familiar with – I know I certainly wasn’t.
In the beginning, Greenway introduces us to lots of characters and it’s a bit disorientating trying to keep track of names and titles but this is soon dispelled as the characters come to life and become plainly distinct from each other. The story starts with a shooting and then Greenway astutely takes us back in time, allowing us to see the build up to this defining event.
What I liked about this novel is the way Greenway gives a human face to characters who, in real life, we often despise. Through Rodney Richmond, the recently elected leader of the Conservative party, we see how power can be a poisoned chalice as his position takes its toll on his relationships with friends. Anthea Culverhouse is a strong female character, sidelined despite the fact that she has been the force behind Richmond’s success. We see the bitterness of characters that have devoted their lives to politics, at the expense of everything else, only to see success snatched away from them. Not to mention the journalists stirring the pot to ensure their own influence.
There’s no doubt that politics is a cut throat world and Party Games encapsulates this and then some. An intriguing story which will leave you wanting to read the sequel.

Dying Embers by Glenn Trust

Dying Embers by Glenn Trust is an atmospheric novel set against the backdrop of the struggle for racial equality. The action plays out in a small, rural community in Georgia during the late 1960s, as both blacks and whites deal with the realities of desegregation. Trust cleverly uses a variety of characters to show how every sector of society was affected by the changes, which were to rip asunder life as, up until then, the community had always know it.

The novel begins as a warm tale of friendship between four teenage boys but everything changes as the local school prepares to put the desegregation laws into practise. As white racists spew hatred, events spiral out of control and a black youth is murdered. From the very outset, the reader is aware of tension bubbling beneath the surface of the pages as Trust uses the overbearing summer heat to foreshadow the danger that is just around the corner.

It is a novel that carries a very important message, about both history and human nature and, it is Trust's skill in characterisation that allows the reader to actually feel the complexities of the situation. The teenage boys, whose innocence is poisoned by the behaviour of the adults around them. Carl Pell, an old black farmer, who has created a successful business against all the odds and who hasn't allowed the injustices and cruelties he's faced to define him. Louis Spannel, the white store owner, who does the right thing despite half wishing he could just look the other way. Darcy Rhodes, the sheriff, who fights tirelessly for justice for the murdered youth.

I can't recommend this novel highly enough, it has both heart and social relevance and I guarantee you won't be able to put it down.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Having already read and liked Gone Girl, I came to Dark Places with high expectations. All I can say is those expectations were exceeded and then some. Gillian Flynn hooked me in from the very first page and the story consumed me until the very end. It's a story that centres itself around the Day family, a family whose motto bemoans the fact that they never have any luck. A motto that seems to be borne out when three members of the family are slain and another one is convicted of their murders.

The murders take place in the early hours of January 3rd 1985 and the story is told from three points of view. The present day narrator is the youngest child Libby Day but her story is interspersed with an account of the day before the murders, told through the mother, Patty Day and the son Ben who was subsequently convicted of the murders.The most compelling character for me, maybe because hers is the only account told in the first person, is Libby. Traumatised by the murder of her family, she has retreated into a crab like shell but her inner life and silent observations of the people around her are hilarious.

The real strength of this book, in my opinion, is the way Flynn has created characters who we should despise but who instead we connect with and can't help but like. Even the feckless father who has abandoned his family is humanised in such a way we don't completely hate him. By the end, the novel leaves us with a small hope that maybe the Days' luck could be about to get better but nothing's certain with this story and that's what I loved about it.

Before the Dawn (The Grayson Trilogy Book 2) by Georgia Rose

I loved A Single Step and so was delighted when the sequel, Before the Dawn was released. All I can say is Georgia Rose doesn’t disappoint. She finds the perfect balance between giving us quick reminders about the characters without re-hashing too much, which means the story flows seamlessly and could easily be enjoyed as a standalone.
Emma Grayson’s life has moved on and she’s no longer the troubled individual she once was so, while we still get to enjoy her and Trent as a couple, this story is more action based than its prequel. The mystery of Melton Estate unfolds as it comes under threat from a group of Russian criminals. We get to know more about the other characters on the estate and when Cavendish, the estate owner, and his family are in danger, Emma comes to the rescue. I love the fact that Emma is able to credibly hold her own with the tough guys as she is in the peak of fitness from horse riding and an accomplished kick boxer.
For me though, Georgia Rose’s real skill as a writer is most evident in the way she gets her readers to actually feel the emotions of her characters. I found it incredibly moving when Emma accidentally meets her ex-husband and they lay the past to rest. Also when Turner, a young estate employee, is traumatised by his experiences, Rose allows us to share in his humiliation and pain.
Before the Dawn has a very happy and satisfying ending but Rose gives us just enough clues that the turbulent times aren’t over yet to ensure we’re anxiously awaiting the release of the final story in The Grayson Trilogy.

Colin Preston Rocked And Rolled by Bert Murray

Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled is the story of a nineteen year old boy’s fall semester at college. Employing first person narrative, Bert Murray has created a voice that is both credible and engaging. On the surface, it would seem that, as a middle aged woman, I’d have little in common with a self-obsessed, whiney teenage boy. The truth is though we’ve all been mired in teenage melodrama at one time or another so it’s not difficult to identify with Colin. The strength of the novel, for me, is how Murray manages to create the almost claustrophobic atmosphere of a college campus; a sort of world within a world, where every event takes on a heightened sense of importance and urgency. When Colin’s romance with his dream girl, Jasmine, collapses, his whole world implodes and, the same obsessive compulsion that fuels his love of the Beatles and in particular John Lennon, latches onto Jasmine and what might have been. There is a lot of humour in the novel especially where Colin’s self indulgence is concerned and his relationship with jock friend, Karl. However, there are also moments of real poignancy such as Murray’s portrayal of Chester, a sensitive boy whose fragile hold on the world slips into mental illness and Mrs Vesquez, a teacher who views Colin as a surrogate son whilst grieving for the loss of her own boy. Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled is a fast flowing read which you won’t want to put down and there are some real laugh out loud moments as we are reminded of the folly of youth.

Blood-Tied (Esme Quentin Mystery Book 1) by Wendy Percival

Blood-tied is a gentle mystery that intrigued me from the very first page. The novel opens with a prologue in which a murder is committed, ensuring that the reader’s interest is hooked. The story then slows down as we are introduced to Esme Quentin, a researcher with a troubled past, whose sister is in hospital after being found unconscious. It soon becomes clear to the reader that the mystery surrounding what happened to Esme’s sister is somehow connected to the opening murder. The painstaking resolution that comes about through Esme’s research reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece of new information represents a small clue. I really like the fact that Esme and her friend Lucy, who works in the records’ office and assists Esme with her research, are very ordinary women with no particular skills when it comes to crime fighting. Rather they use their tenacious love of research to get to the bottom of the situation, which felt like a bit of a victory for those of us who are library geeks. I loved the relationship between the two women as it felt like a real friendship. Wendy Percival gives us a well written, engaging story with a very satisfying conclusion.

The Humans by Matt Haig

The Humans is a warm hearted, life affirming account of what it is to be human. The premise of the story is an alien arrives on earth charged with the task of taking the place of mathematician, Andrew Martin, and eliminating his wife and son. It's a simple story but, one that is told with such feeling, it latches onto the reader's heart and won't let go. It is through the alien Andrew Martin's eyes that we come to see how terrifying, crazy but ultimately full of promise life is. As this so called imposter insinuates himself into the family, he becomes more and more connected to them. I particularly loved his relationship with the son Gulliver and, when he writes a list of advice for the boy, I was moved to tears. Haig's style of writing is deceptively straight forward, giving the impression of an easy read whilst challenging us to contemplate our very reason for existence. I recommend this book highly and if it doesn't fill you with hope for the human race then nothing will.

Stone Quarry (Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novels) by S. J. Rozan

I love S.J. Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series and I particularly like the way Rozan alternates perspective with each story. Stone Quarry is the turn of Bill, who is something of an enigma. There are hints of a troubled past and his relationship with Lydia is complex and each of his stories see, both us and his partner, removing another layer of mystery in order to get to the essence of who he is.

Bill is a fabulously engaging character. He's a tough lone wolf and, with his chain smoking and heavy drinking, most definitley old school. His contrast with Lydia couldn't be more stark and yet somehow their partnership works.

This novel is particularly satisfying because it takes us to Bill's cabin in rural upstate New York, a place where he likes to retreat when city life becomes too much. An artist who lives in the area hires him to locate some stolen property and mayhem ensues. There is no denying that the plot is fast paced and exciting but, for me, that was secondary to the pleasure of being introduced to Bill's friends, people who he has known for eighteen years. It is through his relationships with these people that we get a glimpse of the real Bill, the one beneath the tough, wise cracking exterior.

I loved this novel and found myself going to bed earlier and earlier just so that I could read it. If you like a good old fashioned crime story, where the line between the good guys and the criminals is not always well defined, then give this one a go.

The President's Henchman (Jim McGill series Book 1) by Joseph Flynn

The President’s Henchman by Joseph Flynn is the first novel in the Jim McGill series and, it’s a page turner that had me hooked from the beginning. The concept behind the series is pretty unique in that Jim McGill is the husband of the President of the United States, an ex-cop and now private investigator.

The plot has three strands to it, the first concerning a religious anti-abortion faction, who are threatening not only the President but Jim’s family. It is clear from the outset that they mean business because they’ve already murdered the President’s first husband, and this is a storyline that looks set to run throughout the series. At the same time a young Air Force Lieutenant is employed by the President to investigate a case of sexual prejudice within the Air Force. Then there is Jim’s first case as a PI looking into the strange behaviour of a White House reporter.

The characters in the novel are all likeable and it seems pretty certain that most of them, such as Jim’s children and protection detail, not to mention his impressive colleague Sweetie, will feature as regulars in the series.

The only weakness I detected was one which comes with lots of first books in a series, where the writer has to introduce lots of characters with back stories and also provide them with a context in which to exist. This means that the story can feel overly busy and disjointed. That said, Joseph Flynn has set the foundations for a really good series and I’m very much looking forward to reading more. I have a feeling that this is a series that will only go from strength to strength.

A Single Step (The Grayson Trilogy Book 1) by Georgia Rose

A Single Step is a slow burner, in the very best sense of the word, as we follow Emma Grayson’s reluctant return to life after the devastating loss of her beloved daughter and the ensuing break up of her marriage. The first step back to the land of the living comes for Emma when she takes a job as stable manager on a large mysterious country estate. It’s through the friendships she makes here that she is able to reconnect with the world.

For me, A Single Step operates on two levels. Primarily it is the emotional journey of a woman, completely destroyed by the events life has thrown at her, to recovery. However, alongside this there’s an underlying tension that is simmering just beneath the surface, keeping the reader on edge until the climax of the novel, which sees Emma facing serious danger.

I think Georgia Rose’s real skill as a writer lies in her painstaking attention to detail. She creates in Melton Estate a world that is totally believable. Rose’s passion for horses is apparent in the loving descriptions she offers as Emma tends to the horses in her care. Despite knowing absolutely nothing about horses, I found myself totally caught up in Emma’s devotion to them. The way that Rose describes the emotional turmoil that Emma endures, particularly the death of her daughter, is so involving and heartrending, I found myself moved to tears.

I like Emma as a character, complete with massive chip on her shoulder and prickly defensiveness. Her true personality only comes out initially through her interactions with her dog and the horses. Emma’s love interest, Trent, is no less troubled than she is but the pair make a good match. Georgia Rose also gives us a likeable cast of supporting characters, all of whom I’m looking forward to following in the sequel.

Boot Camp Bride by Lizzie Lamb

Boot Camp Bride is the perfect weekend read, it’s a light hearted, feel good page turner and once I’d started it I couldn’t put it down. The story sees Charlee Montague, an ambitious, feisty young reporter paired with award winning photographer Rafael Ffinch in order to pose as an engaged couple at a boot camp for brides to be. As far as Charlee is concerned the mission is about gaining an expose on a supermodel and her Russian oligarch boyfriend but it soon becomes clear that there is more to the assignment than she knows.

In Boot Camp Bride, Lizzie Lamb has created a wonderful protagonist in Charlee. She is every bit the gutsy, contemporary heroine and I loved her immediately. Charlee is a fiercely ambitious over achiever and we are given an insight into why when Lamb introduces her difficult, hard to please mother. Charlee’s enthusiasm is the perfect foil for the jaded, been around the block Rafael. More used to working in gritty environments and, having just survived a kidnap attempt in Columbia, Rafael is not impressed by Charlee’s perky approach. And this conflict is where the true delight of the novel lies as the two of them engage in deliciously witty repartee. Lizzie Lamb’s skill as a writer shines through in her clever and often hilarious use of dialogue.

The novel succeeds on many levels; it is a light hearted romp, interlaced with mystery and danger to keep the reader guessing. At the same time both the central characters and background characters are believable and likeable. If you’re looking for a bit of escapism from real life then this book delivers in spades.

Cotton Grass Lodge by DeNise Woodbury

Cotton Grass Lodge is the perfect summer read, light, airy and feel good. The story is set in a remote part of Alaska and, despite me knowing nothing about Alaska, DeNise Woodbury manages to inject such vibrancy in her description of Cotton Grass Lake, I felt as though I were part of the community.

What I liked best about the book is the fact that it is a warm hearted tale about decent, likeable people. City boy, Duncan Mahoney arrives at Cotton Wood Lake as the new owner of the lodge and, throughout the story, we see him find himself as he falls in love with both his surroundings and local pilot, Hanna Reed.

I particular liked the character of Hanna because she is so capable, expertly flying the plane as well as chopping wood and all of the other physical tasks required in such a rugged, remote land. She is an independent woman in the true sense of the word but we also learn that she is emotionally damaged from a past relationship. As Hanna and Duncan slowly fall in love I found myself willing them to get their happy ever after.

There are other likeable characters in the background and it was a refreshing change to read a story with no villains or wrongdoing – just a close knit, caring community. If you’re looking for a light summer read then you can’t go wrong with this one.

Lily's Reprieve (The Blackstone Trilogy Book 1) by Niki Savage

I have to confess I’ve never read a paranormal romance before and, it’s not a genre I would normally be drawn to, but I’m so glad I gave this one a go. Lily’s Reprieve is a page turner and I found myself unable to put it down. The first half of the book establishes the main characters and their relationship – world weary Aiden, who is immortal and been around since the eleventh century and his total opposite, Lily, a young woman who is almost unnaturally innocent and childlike due to spending most of her formative years battling serious illness. Aiden’s story is far-fetched and fantastical but it is a credit to Savage’s writing skills that it is completely believable within the context of the story. During the second half of the novel, a threat is introduced via a shadowy religious council, which lends much tension to the story and I found myself desperate to know what was going to happen to Aiden. If you enjoy romance and fantasy then you can’t go wrong with this book and I highly recommend it.

Your Words, Your Story: New! E-Publishing Update by Cynthia Harrison

Your Words, Your Story is a great book that works on so many levels. If you are toying with the idea of writing but, need a bit of encouragement, then it’s the perfect ‘how to’ guide to get you started. Cynthia Harrison’s own writing style is warm, welcoming and straight forward, with a ring of expertise that will inspire even the most reluctant writer. The book is very user friendly, set out in sections with all the different types of writing someone might be looking to try; poetry, children’s stories, memoirs, novels etc. It is a very comprehensive guide which can be read in its entirety or dipped into.

This book is not only for the newbie, however. Harrison has included lots of tips that could be employed by any writer who may be struggling for inspiration or wanting to exercise their writing muscles. It also includes lots of anecdotal references to Harrison’s own life and journey as a writer which is what, for me, set it apart from other guides and gave it the human touch.

It’s a testament to Cynthia Harrison’s own writing that, with the intention of having a little browse; I ended up reading the book from cover to cover. I will definitely be using it for reference in the future and, all I can say is, I wish I was one of Cynthia Harrison’s students. She is clearly a generous, talented writer who inspires others to want to be the same.

Moody not Broody: to breed or not to breed? THAT is the question by Kathryn Player

Moody not Broody is a light hearted romp with serious undertones. The main character, Emma, is very likeable and flawed and, as she approaches thirty, finds herself facing the kind of life decisions that most people will relate to. Newly married, everyone assumes that a baby will be the next step but she’s not so sure. At the same time, she is struggling to find her place in her career as a teacher, unsure whether she wants promotion and more responsibility or less.

The heart of this story is the humour and Kathryn Player’s skill as a writer is evident in the way she presents everyday situations that we can all relate to and find funny. Player’s style of writing is effectively simple and engaging, almost conversational, which draws the reader in from the outset.

I was engrossed not only in Emma’s story but also those of her friends and family, who make up a strong supporting cast. Beneath the humour are hints at poignancy, such as Emma’s mother-in-law’s obvious loneliness and I would have liked to have seen that explored a bit more. There is a sequel on the way though so maybe I’m jumping the gun.

I really enjoyed this novel and I think it would be the perfect holiday read; funny, light-hearted with a terrific cast of characters. Be warned though, once you pick it up you won’t want to put it down again.

Looking for La La by Ellie Campbell

I was initially drawn to Looking for La La by the front cover, which is spectacular. The book begins, however, with a sort of dedication to mothers and I have to confess that, as a non-mother, my heart sank. I needn’t have worried though as this hilarious romp is not likely to feature on the Mumsnet reading list. From the opening page, I loved the dysfunctional heroine Cathy and her merry band of pals.

This is a story essentially about women and the intense relationships, both the friendship and the rivalry that we enjoy with each other. As I was reading and nodding along with Cathy I realised that, for most of us, our skills at managing relationships don’t really move on from our school days. We carry the same needs and insecurities and it’s this that makes us human and likeable. The main strength of this book is that the characters are believable and real, even the villains are pretty lovable. It’s a warm, engaging tale with barrel loads of humour. There are lots of laugh out loud moments following Cathy as she crashes through her life.

There is a mystery, serving as the backdrop for Cathy’s adventures, which is both intriguing and farcical as it draws in every character, causing Cathy to re-evaluate everything she thinks she knows about herself and the world around her. I don’t think it matters whether you are a mother, wife or even a woman, there is something in this book for everyone and the humour is the glue that holds it all together. I’m not sure what chick-lit is but, if this is it, then I love it!

Crossfire (The Crossfire Trilogy Book 1) by Niki Savage

Niki Savage’s novel Crossfire starts off quite literally in a hail of bullets and the action grabs the reader’s attention from the very beginning. Savage’s writing is assured, and the pace doesn’t really let up, as she takes us on an exciting journey with her two main characters, Marcelle and Stefan.

In Marcelle, Savage has created an awe-inspiring but believable character. Having lived independently from a young age, she is resourceful, tough and well able to take care of herself. A talented cyclist, Marcelle has worked hard to become a world champion and is at the height of her physical prowess. She is also not averse to throwing punches when the occasion calls for it.

The novel is set in Paris but has an international feel as Marcelle is originally from South Africa and Stefan is German. Stefan is seriously injured in a gun battle and Marcelle takes him in and nurses him back to health. As their feelings for each other develop, Marcelle had to deal with her grief and guilt, as she lost her beloved husband just a couple of years earlier.

I really liked the way Savage depicts the emotional turmoil that Marcelle endures. I liked Marcelle and felt as if I were on the journey with her. The novel is pure escapism and once you pick it up, it’s hard to put it down. My only issue with it is that the ending is very shocking and, for me personally, I don’t see how there is any way back for Stefan. There are two more stories in the series, however, so maybe I will be proved wrong.

Doppelganger (Jack Lockwood mysteries Book 2) by Geoffey West

Doppelganger by Geoffrey West is the second novel in the Jack Lockwood series but it can also be enjoyed as a standalone read. From the very first page, West grabs the reader and takes us on a compelling journey of mysterious twists and turns before giving us a rather satisfying albeit not predictable ending.

The novel sees Jack Lockwood, Behavioural Investigative Advisor and successful true crime author, mired in a world of serial killers and vicious gangsters. The story, whilst being a fun, exciting yarn, also raises important, philosophical questions such, as are people capable of change and are some crimes so heinous they should never be forgiven? The plot is both clever and intriguing and the reader is never sure which direction events might take next.

For me though, the heart of the story is Jack Lockwood in whom West has created a believable, flawed and thoroughly engaging character. He is a lovable mix of unyielding toughness and naive gentleness. Jack wants nothing more than to settle down with the girl of his dreams and sees every woman as his potential life partner. There is lots of ironic humour when we see the other characters far more realistically than Jack does and we have to wait for him to catch up.

Despite his fatal flaw of an overly optimistic belief in people, especially women, Jack has a shrewd awareness of human behaviour. My favourite thing about Jack is when he acknowledges the failings of the human race but likes us anyway. This I think is down to West's own observational humour and his skill as a writer which allows him to create a world which is exciting, believable and best of all utterly entertaining.

Nine Lives by Terry Tyler

I have to confess that the last time I read short stories were the ones that regularly featured in 70s teen magazines like Jackie and Nine Lives are like the older, more cynical sisters of those stories. Where the teen stories were all aspirational, full of romantic hopes and dreams, Tyler’s are edgy, knowing and lived in. The stories concern themselves with topics such as controlling partners, infidelity and alcoholism. They feel very real which is wholly down to Tyler’s writing style, which is both conversational and instantly accessible. You almost feel as if she is telling you the stories over a glass of wine in the pub. Whether you are a fan of short stories or, like me a bit of a newcomer to them, I recommend that you give Nine Lives a try.

Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow

There are so many things to like about Pattern of Shadows; I really don't know where to start. It's a testament to Judith Barrow's skill as a writer that she sets up the tension on the very first page and manages to maintain it until the very last. The backdrop to the story is WW2 but ironically the tension and danger within the story come from much closer to home. Mary is a nurse living and working in a working class community in the north of England and it seems that she is being oppressed from every angle. Barrow's writing evokes a claustrophobic impression of the terraced housing where neighbours are almost living on top of each other. The imagery throughout is so vivid, I couldn't stop thinking what a terrific TV series this story would make. Mary is a sympathetic and likeable character but she is a woman of her time, trapped by family, duty and the notion of respectability. All of Barrow's characters are in different ways defined by their historical context. For example we have Mary's father whose health has been destroyed by WW1 and her brother who has been forced to go down the mines and feels emasculated by not being allowed to fight in the war. Not all of the characters behave well but we feel some sympathy for them none the less. All that is except for Frank who, from the onset, is so sinister the animosity and malice he exudes is almost palpable. Nothing in this story is cleanly cut, however. Even Peter whom Mary loves is shrouded in mystery and may not be the character he seems to be. I was enthralled by this story from beginning to end and am delighted to find that there is a sequel.

A Stranger in the Family, a western romance (Bardville, Wyoming Trilogy, Book 1) by Patricia McLinn

I downloaded A Stranger in the Family on a whim and I'm really glad I did. It's a feel good read, the literary equivalent of a glass of wine and a big box of chocolates. The story starts when Bodie Smith discovers that he fathered a child which was subsequently adopted. He traces the family and, without telling them who he is, tries to connect with the son he has never known. Gradually he becomes a part of the family, growing particularly close to his son's adopted sister. However, their relationship is threatened when the truth inevitably comes out. If you like a bit of escapism that you can read in one sitting then you can't go wrong with this one.

My Way: How I took my book to the top of the charts...and how you can too! by David P. Perlmutter

It was with some trepidation that I approached My Way by David P Perlmutter as, often times this type of `how to' book can leave you feeling more confused and inept than ever. Not so, however, with this one. Perlmutter metaphorically takes you by the hand and leads you through the various sections (twitter, blogging, facebook etc) designed to help you market your book. The premise of the book is that Perlmutter himself is the author of a bestselling book and he is sharing the marketing tools that he used in order to achieve this. The strength of the book lies in the fact that it seems to have been written from the heart. Perlmutter genuinely seems to want to help other writers to achieve the same success and his tone throughout is warm, encouraging and sincere. I came at the book as a technically challenged, marketing disaster and found it incredibly useful. I'm not sure how much success adopting Perlmutter's advice will bring but prior to reading My Way I had done only a fraction of the strategies he has recommended. I like the way the book is set out in sections so someone like me, with not much know how, can easily refer back to specific advice. If you struggle to get your head around social media and all things technical then I don't think you can go wrong with this book.

Leiyatel's Embrace (Dica Series Book 1) by Clive S. Johnson

In Leiyatel's Embrace, Clive S. Johnson has created the wonderful world of Dica. Having never read a fantasy novel before, I came to this story not knowing what to expect but was instantly captivated. This is in no small part down to Johnson's use of language, which is so beautiful it's almost poetic. I often found myself reading phrases or trying out words again and again because they were so thrilling. The descriptions of the different settings within the novel are so painstakingly detailed; the reader is almost able to see them. The story centres around the need for a small cast of characters to bond together and form a community in the face of an external threat. It is a story that clearly resonates as we navigate our own tricky times. Whether fantasy is your preferred genre or not, I think there is a lot to love about this novel and you may find yourself completely immersed in the world of Dica.

Rock'n'Roll Suicide (Jack Lockwood mysteries Book 1) by Geoffrey West

In Jack Lockwood, Geoffrey West has created a character who is engaging, warm and normal. He is almost the antithesis of the expected hero, who is tough, macho and in control but he is a hero none the less. With a background as a psychologist working with the police, Jack has been through something of a rough patch which has seen him losing his job and spending a spell in a mental hospital. The novel opens, however, with things seemingly picking up for him as he is given a contract to write a book about rock stars who met early deaths. His research brings him into contact with the world of Maggie O'Kane and this is where his problems start. The beauty of the novel is that nobody is who they seem to be and Jack's naivety and lack of confidence in his own sanity mean that he's no help as a reference point for the reader. Instead, we are taken on a rollercoaster of a journey where anything can and does happen. We fear and despair for Jack in equal measures as he gets himself into scrape after scrape. If you like a fun, action packed mystery then you'll love this one.

My Prison Without Bars: The Journey of a Damaged Woman to Someplace Normal by Taylor Evan Fulks

It was with some trepidation that I approached My Prison Without Bars, purely because of the subject matter. It is an unflinching account of one woman's experience of sexual abuse; an abuse which began when she was little more than a baby. Fulks pulls no punches with this story, it is unrelenting and it is ugly and this is as it should be. Like all good novels, however, it is so much more than it seems. The real power of the story lies with the skill of Fulk's writing. She grabs the reader from the very first page and takes us on her journey of empowerment and self-discovery. Fulks could be forgiven if her novel resonated with self-pity but she is having none of it. Instead, her words ring with warmth and humour which engaged me so much I literally could not put this book down. Despite at times feeling as though I was reeling from what I was reading, I read My Prison Without Bars in one sitting. It's clear that for Fulks this novel is about taking ownership of and, ultimately refusing to be defined by, events over which she had no control. Reading this novel was, for me, a totally life-affirming experience. Yes, you can expect to feel anger, pain and despair but, there is equal parts hope, determination and admiration for Fulks as the story unfolds. This is a novel about the triumph of the human spirit but it is also a triumph for Taylor Fulks as an accomplished story teller.

Power Play by Joseph Finder

The back drop to Joseph Finder's novel Power Play is the aerospace industry but it is populated by the kind of bullish, pompous characters that can be found in any corporate industry. Finder cleverly moves the action to a remote area where the tension between the characters mounts as they jockey for position. An elaborate hostage plan is then introduced which serves to expose the characters for who they really are. The hero in all of this is Jake Landry, more accidental hero than stereotypical action man and all the more interesting and engaging for it; Finder provides flashbacks to Jake's troubled past in order to make his resilience and skills more convincing but from the start of the novel he is a kind, likeable character. The action of the novel is offset by the fact that Jake finds himself forced into close proximity with an ex-girlfriend for whom he still has deep feelings. I found Power Play to be a very exciting and unpredictable read. Finder grabbed my interest from the very first page and I remained transfixed as he navigated me through the various twists and turns of the plot. This is the first Joseph Finder novel that I have read but it certainly won't be the last

Red is an Attitude (Red Mojo Mama Book 2) by Kathy Lynn Hall

Red is an Attitude is the sequel to Red Mojo Mama and more or less picks up where the first novel ends. All of the same beloved characters are present and when Red and Joe take a cruise it's an opportunity for Kathy Lynn Hall to introduce more characters. Most notably Agatha, a neglected wife whom Red takes under her wing. This novel seems lighter and slightly more mad-cap than the first and this is no bad thing. The fun of Red Mojo Mama was offset by Red's grief and her struggle to reclaim her life. With Red is an Attitude, Hall is able to bring out more playful fun as Red is consolidating her relationship with Joe and enjoying her friendships with the residents of Nuggetville. There is an element of mystery as Red's life is under threat but the heart of this book is its characters. The tone is one of kindness, friendship and a belief in the resilience of the human spirit which is what makes it such a pleasure to read. If your heart needs a lift and you are looking to lose yourself in a wonderfully idyllic community then this book is a must read. I defy anybody to read it and not find themselves smiling whilst secretly wishing they live in The Springs Mobile Home Park.

CHINA TRADE (Lydia Chin and Bill Smith Book 1) by S.J Rozan

This is the first book I have read in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series and I loved it. The pair of them are private investigators who partner up on some of their cases. This particular case is Lydia's and the story is told from her point of view. Lydia is a young Chinese woman living in New York and I found her to be a fascinating character. I enjoyed all the cultural background story as well as the primary story which sees Lydia and Bill investigating the theft of some rare porcelain. The best part of the novel for me though is the partnership of Lydia and Bill. They are both very different but complement each other perfectly. I will definitely be reading more of this series.

Red Mojo Mama by Cathy Lynn Hall

I found Red Mojo Mama to be about as addictive as my favourite chocolate and it was a wrench every time I had to put it down. With her novel, Kathy Lynn Hall has created the perfect world with the perfective cast of characters. I found myself actually longing to be a member of the community at The Springs Mobile Home Park and, by the end, I felt bereft, as though being parted from old friends. The main character is Red a feisty redhead, who is just glorious as she shakes up the small town of Nuggetville, where she has recently relocated. Her love interest is Joe and he is almost as fabulous as Red. Somehow in Joe, Hall has taken the ordinary and made it extraordinary. Joe is no action hero, he is a kind man, caring for his elderly father and working in an old folk's home and yet by the end of the book he was the man of both Red's and my dreams. Red Mojo Mama is great fun and there were times it made me laugh out loud but, it also has its fair share of tension, as Red falls foul of a group of corrupt councilmen. What did surprise me, was how in the midst of all the fun and laughter, I found myself moved as Red struggles to deal with the loss of her beloved husband, Mac. I think Hall deals with bereavement honestly and realistically. Most stories, for the sake of the plot, gloss over grief but in Red Mojo Mama, Hall acknowledges that it's a lifelong process. After three years, even as she finds herself falling in love with Joe, Red is still dealing with the aftermath of losing Mac. I really loved this book and read it in three stittings. Had I not had to work, I would have probably done it in one!

Frozen Past (A Jaxon Jennings' Detective Mystery Thriller Series, Book 1) by Richard C Hale

When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure how I was going to engage with the main protagonists, who are children. However, I needn't have worried, from the opening lines the plot grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. I read the book in two sittings because I couldn't put it down. Hale demonstates an authority over his writing as he takes his readers on a dark and often disturbing journey before the story is resolved. The need to know what is going to happen next is compelling and the ending doesn't disappoint. The characters are believable and the main adult character, a jaded cop who has been through the mill, seemed to be crying out for a series. This is the first Richard C Hale novel that I have read but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for his work in future. If you like an exciting, crime thriller then you can't go far wrong with this one.

Footnote to Murder by L.A. Taylor

Footnote to Murder is a thriller centred around a single mother who takes a job researching unsolved crimes for a writer. The crime that she finds herself enmeshed in is cleverly developed and there is surprising twist before the whole mystery is solved. As intriguing as the plot it, it is the characters that are the heart of the novel. Taylor has created characters who are completely ordinary. The main protagonist is a single mother in her mid forties who is struggling to make ends meet and her male counterpart is overweight and balding. It is their very ordinariness, however, that allows the reader to empathise with them and I found myself willing them to overcome their obstacles and make a go of it together. I really enjoyed this novel as both an exciting thriller and a heart warming family drama.

Thread of Hope (The Joe Tyler Series Book 1) by Jeff Shelby

A very engaging thriller which had me hooked from the very first page. The main protagonist, Joe Tyler has seen his life wrecked by the disappearance of his daughter. As a former cop he spends his time searching for missing children but is called back to his home town when his friend is accused of a crime and consequently attacked. The novel operates on two levels because, as well as Joe attempting to prove his friend's innocence, he also has to cope with facing the past. I found Joe's torment extremely believable and it makes him a very engaging and sympathetic character. I also enjoyed the conventional thriller aspect of the story which was well plotted and exciting.It is a fast paced story which has been developed into a series and I will definitely be reading the sequel.

Collapse (New America Book 1)

Although this novel is set in the future I found it very relevant and plausible. The world that Richard Stephenson has created in Collapse must surely make readers pause and wonder if this is where the world is heading. It is a fast paced novel which centres around three very different characters, who find their lives intertwined as events unfold. I found each of the characters believable and engaging. The plot is complex but Stephenson cleverly manages to make it work and I found myself desperate to know how things were going to turn out. If you like a thrilling, entertaining read then you should definitely give this one a try and the good news is there is going to be a sequel.

You Wish by Terry Tyler

You Wish is a deceptively simple novel. The writing style is very readable and straightforward but this masks the fact that it contains some very thought provoking and relevant issues. It is an engaging and quick read because I am willing to bet that once you start reading it you won't be able to put it down. I really loved the twists and turns of the story and the way that ultimately everything is connected. The real joy of the story, however, is the way that Terry Tyler has created such realistic and human characters. I am sure that throughout the novel, you will recognise all of the characters as people that you have met and know. I would recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys character driven stories. It is a novel that I would imagine most of us can relate to on one level or another because it is about real people and real life.

Ties That Bind ( A Madison Knight novel book 1)

Carolyn Arnold had me hooked from the very first page of The Ties That Bind and the reason for that was Madison Knight. Madison is an unconventional and feisty heroine and from her first appearance, grumpily eating a chocolate bar for breakfast, I adored her. In addition to a cast of believable characters, Arnold has created a plot that is both exciting and gritty. The twists and turns of the novel are often unexpected and I had no idea how the novel was going to turn out. All I knew was that I couldn't wait to find out and consequently found myself unable to put the book down. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes an unpredictable and consuming crime novel. I am so pleased that Madison Knight is part of a series because I can't wait to read the next one.

Last Regress by Rachael J. Thorne

It was with some trepidation that I started reading Last Regress as I am usually far too scared to read horror. However, from the very start, with the very effective prologue, I was hooked. The craftmanship of the writer is evident from the way she draws you in as each layer of the mystery unfolds. It was the mystery of the story that had me totally enthralled making me not want to stop reading until I had got to the end. In fact, the horror elment is only a small part of the novel, it is so much more than that. The descriptions of the paranormal were so convincing and it was clear that the writer really knew her stuff. The novel is both thoughful and thought provoking and I found myself questioning my own beliefs throughout. The main character in the novel, Alyssa Matthews is wonderfully crafted, all at once funny, vulnerable and unconventional. I loved her. I would recommend this novel as having something for everybody. It is compelling and original. I am now awaiting Rachael J. Thorne's next novel.

American Goddesses by Gary Henry

A fast paced unstoppable novel which had me hooked from the very opening lines. If you enjoy lots of action and exciting twists and turns then this is the novel for you. The female protagonists are fearless and fun, leaving you wistfully wishing they were real. It is well written and convincing but be warned once you pick it up you won't be able to put it back down again.