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Books we've read through our Indie Author Review System. If you're looking to give an independent author a chance, look no further.
Colony by Benjamin Cross is an action packed Arctic thriller that kicks off with a bang as we witness the death of a Neolithic hunter at the hands/claws of a mysterious creature. When Professor Callum Ross discovers the mummified remains he knows he must find out more, but there are other people out to stop him and something else seems to be watching. I loved the descriptions of the setting and the work put into creating the backstory. Colony reminded me of a Indiana Jones / Nathan Drake plotline, as our archeologist protagonist puts work before his family, and sets out against competition to uncover the truth. I liked the way that the author built tension throughout as well as the brief moments of humour to lighten the atmosphere as I read. There were lots of twists and turns and I was eager to find out what would happen in the end. I would say that Colony is a great book for those who like thrilling adventures with elements of horror, as well as tension filled reads set in the Arctic. An entertaining book.
The prologue starts unassumingly enough, but blink and you’ll miss it as a dramatic turn of events plunges you into this thrilling Science Fiction story. The Last Children of Montauk has an interesting plot line full of mystery and tension, as perilous situations arise for the characters, I was hooked and eager to read on until the final page. I liked the world building involved in the start of the book, the detail in describing the setting of the Montauk facility really drew me into the story and I was intrigued to find out who was there and what was happening. In this underground top-secret facility we are introduced to Arvee who, like other children, has been taken away from his family in order to have his gifts exploited. Arvee’s visions are used to find other gifted children, but also allow him to see the world outside the facility, but will the arrival of a more rebellious inmate, Mia, help them escape? I personally think it would be beneficial to include some indication of which character we’re focusing on at the start of each chapter, however it didn’t prevent me enjoying the book and I enjoyed the switching storylines that follow action in the facility and in the outside world. There are articles about The Montauk Project conspiracy theories online and these theories apparently inspired 'Stranger Things', fans of the TV show may find an enjoyable storyline here. I found The Last Children of Montauk to be an entertaining and thrilling science-fiction story with strong characters and was filled with tension. I was intrigued from the first chapter and, as this is Book One, I would be interested in seeing what happens in the rest of the series.
You've Got Some Nerve is Derryen’s autobiographical account of a traumatic brian injury and her recovery. Dealing openly and honestly about the traumatic events as well as the impact that they have had on her life and outlook, this book is frank without being too intimidating. Shedding much needed light on the impact of brain injuries as well as allowing the reader in to her struggle with PTSD and depression, You’ve Got Some Nerve is an interesting book that offers first hand insight into how to support someone suffering from the long-term effects of an invisible injury. The writing is detailed, evocative and gripped me from the introduction. The intention of this book is to offer some insight into the effects of trauma, and as an account to help those experiencing something similar or know someone who is, feel less alone. There’s sections in the book that include ways that you can offer help and support to someone suffering from the effects of a brain injury, PTSD or depression as well as a ‘wish list for medical providers’ of behaviours that the Derryen found most helpful. I think that this is an interesting read not only for the intended audience of those who have experienced similar trauma to Derryen, but anyone who feels that their life has been taken of course. This book is an honest insight into how drastic life changes can impact you, but also how you can begin to work through them to forge a new path.
The disguise is a high octane action adventure centring on Daniel Sawyer, a well trained and capable US spy working covertly on secret weapons and missions that have helped the US stay as a powerful world leader. That is until he is wanted for the murder of his own boss, then he needs to use all of his skills to evade and uncover what is happening to him as well as stop the enormous threat that approaches the country he has spent all of his career trying to protect, even though his enemies may have the upper hand. This is currently a standalone book but I’m sure there’s a lot of scope to create a series of stories. The mysteries build from the first page as we learn more about Dan’s work before everything begins to unravel. I was perhaps a little surprised that such a well-trained service man was relatively easy to shock and frame, but I read on with interest to see how the situation would be resolved. I think I would have liked to know more about Dan’s work with the army before the main action begins, as I think it could have made me more invested in the characters. This is a fast paced, reasonably short read that is full of action, twists and turns.
Learning to Love is the second in the Make me a Match series. This book follows a different character to the first book in the series, Steeped in Love, so it can be enjoyed as a standalone or out of release date order. This is a lovely relationship story that introduces us to Rebecca Ledgerwood and William Whitney, both teachers but from entirely different backgrounds. Will they manage to overcome their differences and personal challenges in order to be together? You’ll have to read to find that one out for yourself. I enjoy reading relationship stories like this and I was immediately drawn into both Rebecca and William’s lives. I loved the quirky supporting characters, the setting and the fact that the Make me a Match series seems to be introducing us to each of them, I plan on going back to read the first book in the series and I look forward to reading more books in the series. Although this is a lovely relationship story, similar to Carole Matthews and other authors, there are real and difficult issues addressed throughout the plot including poverty, bereavement and eating disorders. The sensitive handling of these subjects made me even more invested in the characters and I hoped throughout that they would get their happy ending. This is a great story and I think the perfect weekend or holiday read.
Calum O’Domhnaill has had a very eventful life, explored in Taking The Bad With the Good we find out about his upbringing in a Catholic school, how he then gravitates towards a life of crime, a tragic accident that leads to the loss of a child and how he and his wife, Lydia, rebuild from the trauma. I think that this is a great read for those interested in autobiographies. This book covers a range of topics with openness and honesty which makes this story both endearing and heart wrenching. The author doesn’t pull his punches as he covers the darker events in his and his family’s life, but there is some humour to be found amongst the pages too. Taking the Bad With the Good is the story of one man’s upbringing in a dysfunctional family, an Irish Catholic upbringing and convent school system, the tragedies that befell his wife before they met, and those that happen to their family and how they are overcome. This is a twisting rollercoaster of a life that is incredibly moving however it is also a story of resilience and I think that a lesson of hope can be found too.
Merchants of Hate is Jack Jardel's first novel and what an entrance onto the literary scene! Set in the near future at the time of writing, the author has imaginatively and, in some cases prophetically, described events, which could or are about to happen in real life. An unprecedented natural disaster disables all the manmade satellites orbiting the Earth and with them all digital forms of communication. Through the experiences of several people in different countries around the world, we learn of the unfolding chaos that this catastrophic event causes. Written in short sections, the book keeps readers on their toes, with this constant change of voice and location and the emerging pattern of the relationships between the characters. The writer examines some of the most pressing issues of modern times in this chillingly detailed dystopian scenario, especially the impact of fake news and social media on democracy. This is a bold and powerful story, convincingly exposing the vulnerability of the society we have sleepwalked into. The players are frighteningly realistic and their actions, in the light of recent news, not so improbable or farfetched as we might once have thought. A gripping read for anyone who cares about the future of this uncertain world. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
An interesting, perhaps surprising look into the world of counselling. When Therapy Goes Wrong uses the author’s own experience of therapy, the good and the bad, as a foundation to educate and warn others “ to be aware of the potential consequences of therapeutic negligence and the dangers of abusing a position of power, especially when you work with vulnerable people.” It is acknowledged that this warning is not needed for the majority of those who work within therapy as a profession, but the author goes on to illustrate the lack of regulation within this sector and the potential for vulnerability when looking for a counsellor or therapist and trying to validate their reputation, accreditations or qualifications. This is a very interesting insight into the world on counselling. Written from the perspective of a client and a training counsellor, the author is frank about the problems she’s seen with the system and the regulation bodies that do exist, as well as taking a look at the response to women within healthcare. Throughout the book there are black and white illustrations from the author, created as an additional form of expression which I liked, and there are references at the end for articles mentioned in the book.
In The Aviculturist a horrific event from Alice’s childhood, secrets, lies and romance all take place in Penwyth House, Cornwall. When Alice’s mother dies, Alice returns to Cornwall and uncovers a web of family secrets that she must unravel in order to find peace with her past and discover the reason for the nightmares she’s had since she was a child. This book is really enjoyable. It is a quick easy read, and well paced. It has everything you need in a good book, a big old gothic house, and a beautiful remote and rugged location. I enjoyed the writing style and felt that the author really knew and loved her characters, as they felt very real, and I just wanted to love them too, and although there were some parts that did seem a bit implausible, all was forgiven as you just want everything to work out well for everyone.
Cassidy is running away from his past on Alabama Chrome, but his ghosts never leave. With little other than his campervan, he doesn’t seem to settle anywhere. But a snowstorm changes all that, bringing Cassidy into contact with Lark, and a community he might be able to feel at home in. With more complications on the way, from an inscrutable new waitress and the arrival of a reality TV host with a full crew in tow to shoot a new TV show, will Cassidy be able to share his truth, or will he return to the road? A story that will bring your emotions to the front but in an enjoyable way. Alabama Chrome is written from the first person perspective of Cassidy; he shares the life of a small, close-knit community, featuring family bonds, the looming presence of domestic violence as well as a critique on reality TV. I was intrigued by the story throughout and I found the characters to be very well-rounded, with each past event revealed adding nuance and believability to the story. The author definitely has a detailed knowledge of people, their quirks, traits and behaviours and is good at crafting believable characters that evoke sympathy and empathy.
Crossed-Dressed to Kill is an incredibly interesting book filled with instances from the 17th century onwards of women who dressed as men in order to go to war. Some of the names of these women were known to me, Anne Bonny the 18th century Pirate for one, however this book gave me more insight into their history, and there were many other women who I was introduced to for the first time. This is a fascinating side of history with the author’s detailed research shining a spotlight on the women who defied their gender roles in order to participate in military action. The account of each woman is detailed, although brief, this means you could happily flick through the pages, reading about a couple of brave women at a time, or read cover to cover. At the end of each account there is a concluding summary, which not only rounds our each story but highlights some of the patriarchal views of the time. Some of these stories are more sad than others, but all are incredibly interesting with plenty of references included at the end of the book to allow for personal research and further reading. I never enjoyed History at school, but as an adult I love learning about the past and I think that stories like these should be shared in schools, at the very least to demonstrate that the old-fashioned notion of the “traditional” role of women, didn’t work even at the height of it’s popularity.
Euphoric Recall is inspired and based on the author’s life. This is an honest portrayal of a number of traumatic events including sexual abuse and addiction as well as his recovery. You are drawn into Aiden’s world in the first pages, his writing style is familiar and open, helping to form an immediate connection to the reader. This makes the book enticing, and I was keen to keep reading right to the very end. I think that this is a brilliantly written debut. The details of the trauma that Aiden experienced are dark and heart wrenching, however there is an element of hope - this book has been written and Aiden is in a position to reflect and tell his story. I admire the strength it’s taken to reflect and share dark moments. I also think that Euphoric Recall includes many moments that any reader would find relatable. As I was reading the title did confuse me slightly, but upon reflection I think that the ‘euphoria’ comes from the ability to look back, to have come back from trauma and share the whole story. I really enjoyed this book and I think that it would be a good memoir for those who are interested in more gritty life stories.
No Place to Hide has an excellent plot that kept me hooked and unsure of who did what right to the very end. The start of a trilogy featuring the surgeon, Daniel Kendrick. In this first book Daniel’s life is far from perfect, trying to come to terms with his daughter’s murder, with his marriage and his career both on the verge of collapse. Then his wife disappears, and Daniel is a suspect. As the tension builds he needs to start his own investigation to find her before time runs out. I found this book to be exceptionally well written and researched with very believable characters and storyline. It gave me goose bumps and I couldn’t put it down. I would describe No Place to Hide as a proper page-turner. I think it’s one of the best books I have read in a long time. I can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy.
Crooked Creek: A Comedy about Writer's Block and a Neurotic Home Owners Association is a short, fun novella by Fredrick Robertson. The humour is very dry, with witty and often sarcastic dialogue taking place between the larger than life characters and the entertaining plot is hilarious. Billy Olin's first novel catapults him to fame, which immediately goes to his head in the high life of New York. His agent soon demands a follow up book to cash in on the first's success but the distractions of the Big Apple prove to be an insurmountable stumbling block. To try to remove this block, Billy moves back to his home town in South Carolina and buys a condo in Crooked Creek. His life then becomes a constant battle against the nit-picking management and maintenance team, who are always on the lookout for transgressions against their manipulative rules and regulations. With his agent still on his back but having secured an advance on his first novel's sales in France, he pays a life-changing visit to a second-hand car dealer. He finally realises that he is living his next novel and rapidly gets it down on paper. His agent loves it but how will those depicted in the book react when he holds a reading at a local hotel? This story is laugh out loud funny, just what we all need after the year we've all experienced. Definitely worth a read! Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Iatrogenesis is a thrilling science fiction centered around a pandemic, when faulty upgrades of microscopic medical robots, nanodocs, leads to mass mayhem and many lives on the line. I really enjoyed this book and I think it’s a great afternoon read. I would guess that the idea for this book was in part inspired by the events of 2020, and there’s some familiar measures mentioned as ways to stop the spread both before and after the cause of death and illness has been explained. The book starts with an intriguing prologue, and the “what could go wrong” stance immediately lets the reader in on what is exactly about to go wrong. We are then introduced to Dr. “TJ” Short, a doctor in a time where microscopic robots implanted in the blood cure most ailments, who is present as the devastating effects of the upgrades become apparent and becomes central in the fight to stop the spread. I found both the science-fiction and the medical language throughout this book believable and I think the author has done a lot of research to create a believable and well-rounded world that I was eager to learn more about and didn’t want to put down until I found out how it ended. There’s also a bit of a relationship story towards the end too. This is a short Sci-fi thriller that I think is well worth the read.
Shout it From the Rooftops: A Terminal Cancer Healing is a hopeful autobiography of one woman’s experience of being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. After being prescribed palliative care only, Lizzie Emery describes her journey almost as a spiritual awakening, referring to it as a pilgrimage. Eight years following her diagnosis, Lizzie has regained her full health and strength and in this book she describes the lifestyle changes she has made since her initial diagnosis. I would describe this book as a holistic perspective on healthcare taken from Lizzie’s experience and information she has gathered (which are helpfully referenced in the ‘Notes’ section at the end of the book) with a heavy focus on faith and spiritual well being as well as releasing repressed emotion, increasing positive thinking and improving diet and exercise. While I agree that it is important to remain hopeful in the face of a life changing or difficult diagnosis and that making life changes that improve your stress levels, physical and mental health are always encouraged, I am not in any way qualified to assess the efficacy of the steps taken in this book and I would be hesitant to recommend this book in those terms. When Lizzie was first diagnosed, she struggled to find biographical or autobiographical accounts following a cancer diagnosis, and wanted to share her story with others who are in that position, or friends and relatives of those who are. I think that Shout it From the Rooftops does what it sets out to, it details a person’s cancer story from their initial diagnosis in a way that shares hope and spreads awareness of radical remission cases.
This is a very well written, composed and thoroughly enjoyable love story. A chance encounter at an airport between Jake and Amy sends their worlds spinning in a new direction. Each has their own partners and commitments, but as their instant connection develops into an affair, the fear of discovery, jealousy and threats from outside could put everything in jeopardy. This relationship tale has a dark and thrilling edge that builds suspense and keeps you reading until the very end. There are so many different ways that the author could have taken us with Dominoes, and the twists and turns along the way kept me gripped right to the last page. Only criticism is that I felt it stopped rather abruptly and unexpectedly. There are darker elements to this love story and in true Domino style, everything that unfolds is the result of the briefest, simplest of encounters. I thought that this book was very well crafted and I really enjoyed reading it.
Yael becomes an amateur detective when the Vatican receives a ransom demand. The problem is this item apparently taken isn’t in any records, and no one has any answers. Mary Magdalene had a prophecy that when the world was filled with confusion and chaos, a man and a woman would use the Magdalene Treasure to guide humanity and ensure its survival and set the stage for the return of Christ. But now the treasure has been taken and it’s vital that it is recovered. Will the leather-fixer/amateur sleuth be able to find the thief responsible in order to safely recover the treasure. There’s more to be revealed about the prophecy as tensions and threats mount. An interesting book that connects spirituality with crime fiction and thrillers. This is the first book in ‘The Magdalene Prophecy’ series and it’s full of action, twists and turns that will keep you reading to the very end. The combination of Christianity and crime fiction makes this a potential future read for fans of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ series and of Peter James’ Absolute Proof. I like books that take a well-known story and ask “what if?” to create something brand new. The author develops the characters well, taking time to flash back to Yael’s past, allowing us to understand her and her motivations as she tracks clues across Europe. Adding female strength to the stories from The Bible, this is a brilliant read full of twists and turns and will leave you guessing until the end.
South Korea: The Price of Efficiency and Success is written by Dr John Gonzalez and Young Lee. It is a fascinating insight into how Korean society operates. But what makes it more interesting is it is from a Westerner point of view in Korea. Therefore you get a detailed take from Dr John Gonzalez, who is American but has become a local, living in Korea for 5 years. Dr John Gonzalez can make comparisons between Western & Eastern ideology as well as give his perspective as a foreigner. I can tell from the first couple of pages that he is intrigued by the Korean fast technology and their culture. In Dr John Gonzalez own words, ”As a resident, I was about to delve into the fabric of their society and learn the nuances of Korean human behavior, both subtle and otherwise. I was about to have the privilege of looking at the underbelly of the country from within it.” I learnt a lot of fascinating things about the Korea culture that in some parts are similar to China who believe in the collective, individuals who sacrifice their time; parents constantly working to provide a better future for their children, employees working long hours for the benefit of the company and Korea has military conscription for young men. Also with all this knowledge I can now understand why some of the characters in some Korean Drama behave the way they do and the storylines. Maisie Hoang, A LoveReading Ambassador
'46% Better Than Dave' is Alastair Puddick's third novel. Although it has been shortlisted for a prize for comic fiction in this far from comedic year, it contains a very serious message about mental health. It may be human nature to compare ourselves to others at times but this book emphasises the importance of keeping things in perspective and not losing sight of what really matters. It will make readers laugh in it's absurdity but also cringe when it reminds us of similar comparisons we may have made. Dave Brookman has no complaints about his life...happily married to a wonderful wife, two great kids, a nice house and a job he's good at. That is, until a new neighbour moves in next door. The newcomer, also called Dave Brookman, is the same age, from the same town and in the same line of work but there the similarities end and his advantages, both real and assumed, begin to prey on Original Dave's mind until what starts as friendly rivalry becomes something infinitely more sinister...obsessive jealousy. The lengths he goes to in his fear and insecurity about New Dave being 46% better than him are destructive, both to him and his family and also his career. Will he come to his senses in time to salvage his life and learn to appreciate the richness of his own existence? Though the main character comes across as immature and his own worst enemy, he is redeemed by the humour and the wit of the writing. I shall certainly be looking out for the author's two previous novels. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Matthew William Frend's Life Before Death is a book of two halves for me, one half of which I enjoyed, the other not so much. I thought the author's remit was too ambitious but then, had he chosen to write two separate books, would I have wanted to read the second one and would I have missed out? The majority of the book follows a group of four young Australians in the 1990s who, frustrated by government policies restricting their chosen lifestyle, decide to plant a cannabis farm in the outback. Their road trip to the chosen site, the narrow escapes from both the weather and the authorities and what they do while waiting at a 'safe' distance for harvest-time all make exciting, informative and dramatic reading. The suspense the author builds is incredible and the detailed descriptions of the Red Centre and the wilds of the Northern Territory are amazing, as they're based on the personal experiences of the author when he lived in Oz himself. However, I suppose a story about a group living, sometimes only just surviving, on the edge of 'normal' society, a counterculture, has to go into their reasoning and motivation, their search for the meaning of life. There are surreal descriptions of the mind expansion that takes place when using drugs and experiences that border on the paranormal. The lessons the reader should surely take from this book are to try to live in the moment, be mindful of your surroundings, to truly live before you die, though I doubt that you need drugs to do all that.
I wouldn’t describe Consciousness and Perception as a conventional novel but it’s certainly a book that makes you think. Described as a part-fictionalised look at how human’s struggle to understand “true reality”, it is a book that includes spiritual and religious inspiration to focus on what is “truly real” or what is of true value in your life. This book is split into different parts and follows two brothers, Ninian and Paul from when they were children. Throughout the brothers’ story there are allegorical messages that challenge the reader to stop and think about what is important in their own lives. I feel this is a novel that offers something more, a level of perspective that encourages you to evaluate whether you’re happy with your life, and if not consider what can be done to change it for the better. The book starts with an incredibly interesting encounter, with a poverty stricken family doing what they can to survive. I was intrigued by this story instantly and wanted to know how it would develop and what would happen to Ninian and Paul as they grew older. I would describe Consciousness and Perception as a well considered and researched spiritual and philosophical narrative that makes use of a unique structure, original poetry and a literary style to explore and critique the human condition.
The author has done incredibly well to create scenes and atmosphere of the 18th century and to get the warnings out of the way, this attention to detail is also used to portray a number of sexual assaults, the writing is richly detailed but I would say it isn’t one for the faint hearted. A vague essence of the plot reminds me of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, with Finnbar characterised as hard-working and innocent hearted but in a position that leaves him vulnerable to those more powerful than he, which is ultimately his downfall. Martin is generally a selfish and unlikeable character, but in this the author has crafted him well. As I was reading, and arguably applying a modern thought process, I wondered at his ability to bring a young boy to a strange city and, while expressing his position as his master and guardian often, essentially leaving Finnbar to his own devices, allowing him to seek his own work and lodgings. I did also think that there was something of Lolita in this book. Although it states that Finnbar is 17/18 I have to admit his simple nature made me picture him as younger and made Martin, Maddox and others come across as even more predatory. I also praise the amount of research that has gone into this book, in order to include some historical figures who existed but also in the little details, the mention of padding in Forbes clothes to correct his frame as a small example I spotted. The world and writing throughout One Night in Finnbar is incredibly well-crafted. This isn’t a happy story by any means but for those who would be interested in dark, gritty, historical fiction, then they may find this an interesting read.
Firstly I’d like to say I love the play on words with this title. This Soul’d World is presented as a new interpretation on old practices, in terms of looking both outwards and inwards to answer philosophical/ spiritual questions about life with a sci-fi twist. A science fiction adventure that crosses dimensions and themes. I liked that this book uses science fiction tropes to explore philosophical questions. The chapters are short and easy to read, and you find yourself reading “just one more” to progress further in the story. Interestingly, the main character of this story is Callison Trebla, a man about to retire, not a character at the start of a career embarking on an adventure. I liked this characterisation, I think it adds a sense of honest reflection to the more spiritual themes in this book. I was drawn in to this story early on and Callison early on and I was interested to see how the story progressed and in which ways the science fiction elements would be incorporated. I think that this book has a bit of something for everyone, there’s science fiction, spirituality and exploration into people and behaviour with a family that has endured a tragedy. As well as an entertaining story with endearing characters, this is a thought-provoking read that I would recommend for anyone looking for a multi-dimensional book.
Poetry Inspired By Oliver Fantasy & Friendship is a collection of poems I’m sure a lot of us have felt we could have written at one point in our lives or another. Following the thread of an unrequited or, as it says in the synopsis, “perhaps unrecognised” love. This collection of poems cover meeting, getting to know and desiring a person, her muse, as well as including brief italicised comments about the feelings or events that inspired the poem above. These are written quite poetically themselves. This is an indulgent collection of poetry that explores both friendship and sensual/erotic desires for a person. I think that most people will be able to find something to relate to although there is certainly bravery and honesty here in publishing these poems for all to read. There is a part of me that wonders whether Oliver is a real person and how he feels about these poems and that fact that they have been published. The tone of the collection reminds me of Andrew Lincoln’s character in Love Actually. I think there’s an argument to be had for whether these poems are a romantic gesture or perhaps should remain as private thoughts, and I think it depends on whether these poems are inspired by one person, and what their reaction is. I’m undecided about where I fall on that spectrum of debate, but taking the poetry collection on its own, I admire the vulnerability required to share these private thoughts with us and I like how it creatively explores the themes of unrequited love. This is a poetry collection that is quick and easy to get through to form your own reaction.
Rich in romance and peril, this explores the intersection of art, gender and politics in the turbulent 1930s, from Germany, Austria and Italy, to the United States. Second in a trilogy, Roma Calatayud-Stocks’s A Symphony of Rivals is suffused in the author’s passion for music, and her belief in the powerful persistence of art. The novel traverses 1930’s Germany, Austria, Italy and the United States as it tells the tale of Alejandra Morrison, a woman who aspires to become a symphony conductor in a man’s world, at a time when culture is increasingly coming under the crippling, censoring grip of Nazism. With a keen eye for detail and spritely dialogue, the author is clearly immersed in her subject as we follow Alejandra’s determined journey, first training with celebrated conductors in Berlin, later attracting the unwelcome attention of a high-ranking German officer. At times, this has the page-turning pace and drama of a literary thriller, replete with terrifying peril as Alejandra must make agonising, life-changing decisions, and domestic strife playing out alongside tangled political troubles. Musicophiles will no doubt appreciate the appendix that details works to accompany each chapter, among them Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, Hubfeld’s As Time Goes By, and Verdi’s Nabucco. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Not in my Name by Michael Coolwood is an interesting mix of political fantasy and murder mystery. It is earnest and passionate but quite straightforwardly written, which makes it also suitable for younger adult readers. The plot revolves around a group of activists living in a commune in an imaginary version of 2003. Each of the group has their own reasons for being there and their own personal problems that they have brought with them. The trust and camaraderie that the group feel towards each other is suddenly put in jeopardy, however, when they discover that they have been infiltrated and then...the murders begin. The writer has cleverly used authentic but edited contemporary quotes from public figures, applying them to a different situation, thus underlining his premise that politicians will say, do, promise almost anything in order to gain or remain in power, a very high profile scenario happening right now in the U.S. The book is also timely in the descriptions of the way the activists are treated at the hands of the police, very reminiscent of the BLM protests. The ending is slightly unexpected but perfectly reasoned and inevitable, going a long way to restore the reader's faith in human nature and family ties. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Briarmen is a fantasy story that has quite a traditional feel about it. First we meet Hamish’s daughter as she travels to meet enny in order to scatter her father’s ashes. During this meeting we are taken back in time to the evacuation of children to the countryside during WWII, when Hamish is first sent to live in Brombury with the Platts and he and Penny first discover the Briarmen. This story did remind me in it’s essence of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, where evacuated children discover something magical in their new home. I loved the imagination used to construct the Woods Beyond The Railway and how the Briarmen are interwoven with reality as the plotline develops. I enjoyed discovering more about Hamish and Penny and watching as their friendship developed. I think that this is a classic story filled with magic and escapism which will remind readers of the books they read when they were little. I also thought the black and white illustrations at the top of each chapter was a nice extra touch.
A tensely twisty, read-in-one-sitting family mystery in which a son races against time to find the truth behind his mother’s disappearance. Fans of family-focussed mysteries will be enthralled by this haunting tale of a son’s search for the truth behind his mother’s disappearance. It’s a gripping story, made all the more edgy by the outwardly composed first-person, present tense narration of the son, Sam, whose inner state is anything but calm. Sam has been a lost soul since the day his mother vanished without trace, leaving her wedding ring and a note to his dad on the kitchen table: “I’ve left you. Look after the boys.” Now, some twenty-five years later, Sam’s aggressive father calls to let him know that his grandmother doesn’t have long left, so Sam visits her realising that “when Gramma dies, her knowledge will be lost…And with that, it is likely that any chance of a resolution will be lost forever”. As Gramma edges closer to her end, fractured threads connecting the characters come to light - spindly strands between Gramma and grandchildren; between Sam and his estranged wife; between father and son; between brothers - and then comes a finale worthy of Eastenders’ style drum booms that leave one wondering how (or if) the family will recover. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
In 'New Beginnings' Victoria Day-Joel chronicles some of the more important recent events in her life in verse. From finally meeting her 'man of the earth, mind of the universe' to looking for her 'home in the sun.....my new beginning' the poems describe the development of her relationship and the processes in her decision to move abroad in intimate and relatable detail. Each individual poem is followed by an eloquent explanation of the circumstances that gave rise to it. I really enjoyed the honesty and beauty of these verses and their imagery and I think readers will be left hoping that she successfully makes the move to Spain in the search for her spiritual home. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Really enjoyed this book. I felt I was part of Bel's life in Sant Marti getting to know all the locals and solving crimes. A young florist suddenly and unexpectedly goes missing and a spate of unexplained pet thefts sees Bel, a former detective inspector, brought back in to help the local police force track down the culprits. Attention to detail is amazing, I couldn't read fast enough at times to see what happened - I can highly recommend this book and hope to read more of Anna Nicholas' work. Jayne Burton, A LoveReading Ambassador
I Am The Sand is an intense and graphic psychological thriller with a unique perspective. The plotline pivots around the abduction of Chloe Thomas, while she was on her way home from school. From the reader’s distanced viewpoint we are not only given access to the investigation and Chloe’s fight to survive her capture and endure abusive treatment, we are also able to follow the captor and learn more about his public perception. From this outside perspective, we are also able to enjoy the author’s skill at characterisation, with vital side characters coming to the forefront of story to add an extra twist. This book is incredibly tense and there were times where my heart was racing for Chloe and I couldn’t get through the pages fast enough, at certain points shouting in frustration as hope ebbs away. I also think that the author handles the topic of mental illness well in this book. I am usually hesitant when mental health is incorporated almost as an explanation of a villain’s behaviour, however I appreciated the work carried out by the author to present these themes in a different light, through Sarah’s perspective as well as providing more detail of an aftermath towards the end of the book. I thought I Am the Sand was a highly gripping read and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a page-turning psychological thriller.
Soul-searching conflicts and tattered loyalties abound in this evocative 12th-century page-turner. Sequel to The Sugar Merchant, James Hutson-Wiley’s The Travels of Ibn Thomas picks up in the early 12th-century, some ten years after the events of the series opener. Following the tense and twisting tale of Thoma, son of the Thomas who featured in The Sugar Merchant, the scene is set by Thoma’s involving first-person account of the discrimination endured during his Christian education in England (Thomas had vowed to raise his son in the Islamic faith): “Not only was my appearance strange, with my darker skin and black hair, I was ignorant of scripture and did not know the words of the chants we sang at mass. Worse, I spoke Latin with an unusual accent. The others spoke either Norman or Saxon. In my early years, I was not proficient in either language. Thus, my fellow students rarely spoke to me.” No wonder, then, that Thoma welcomes being sent to an esteemed medical school in Sicily. Thoma’s journey comes at a time of great change, which is finely evoked with a tremendous sense of place, and fascinating details of political and religious conflict. These wider conflicts are lived-out by Thoma himself, not least when he’s asked to take up his father’s role as a spy. Teeming with vividly-drawn characters, among them pirates, assassins and crusaders, and driven by Thoma’s desire to discover what became of his father, and by his identity struggles, this is alive with intrigue and pacey adventure. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
'The Woman of Stencils' is the title of the tenth story in Marianne Price's book of 22 short stories. As a West End actor and singer brought up in North London, the author draws on her very varied life experiences as well as her prolific imagination to enrich her writing of these exceptionally wry and moving tales. The common theme to all is that of loss, or perceived loss, of something or someone, and the very profound and lasting effect that can have. A few of the stories, such as 'Remember, Remember' and 'The All Too Perfect Teddy Bear' deal with the loss of a child in a very dark and ghostly way, so that they read like horror stories, guaranteed to have the hairs on the back of the reader's head up on end. Far more laid back are the stories dealing with the fragility of romantic attachments, whilst the saddest and most poignant are those dealing with lost youth and time. All the stories have a surrealism about them, are thought provoking and compelling. Perhaps the most memorable in the collection are the stories with a theatrical backdrop, where the characters and scene setting are particularly realistic and well drawn, since performing has been the natural environment of the author for so much of her life but every story will resonate with and be appreciated by the reader. We look forward to more soon. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Dream is a fantasy book which follows Aldon as the secrets of his past force him on the run. With a lot at stake and an opportunity to clear his debts, Aldon and his companions discover a grand conspiracy and Aldon must place his trust in a stranger. This fantasy story is set in a familiar world, with aspects of both modern and medieval combined, all steeped in magic. The story dives straight into action but this means that getting to know the characters and understand the storyline is more challenging as you are trying to keep up as you read. I also found it quite violent throughout. I felt that this book had a flow similar to that of a dream where it didn’t feel like it followed an order and sometimes didn’t feel like it even made sense to me. I think that as a stand-alone fantasy then it could be a good read.
Secret to Sultan follows on from Gordon Lewis’ first book, the Secret Child. Although I don’t think you necessarily need to have read about the first part of Lewis’ life in order to enjoy this book, it does start without preamble, so I would recommend you do. Born and raised in a hostel for Single mothers in 1950s Dublin, Gordon has ambitions of a much better life for his family and when he moves with his family to London, he works hard to achieve it. From his interest in pop culture to a Beatles concert, Gordon is inspired to pursue a career in show business. This book focuses on Gordon’s career, how he worked hard to develop a very successful Production business before taking on a new challenge of creating a London gay village as a part of the Soho nightclub scene, this lead to his favourite nickname and inspiration for the title “The Sultan of Soho”. This book covers such a wide range of modern history. Through Gordon’s life experience we learn more about growing up in both Dublin and London, including the discrimination the Irish experienced in England. We find out about the development of a video production company as well as getting behind the scenes access to the running of bars and clubs in Soho. Gordon introduces us to interesting people and colourful anecdotes throughout and I think that this is a witty and wonderful book for all non-fiction fans.
Soul Seeker is a complex thriller packed full of tension, drama and the supernatural. I liked that this book starts off with a poem, almost like an old shakespearean narrator introducing the plotline and what’s about to happen. We are first introduced to the story of Benjamin Poe, A death row inmate finally sharing the twisted events that led to a shocking murder. After reading the synopsis for the book I was eager to start reading and I soon became engrossed in Benjamin’s story. I like the small town that the author creates and the variety of characters that live in Lochton. I also liked that it wasn’t stereotypical quaint and peaceful, with a brief shoplifting incident early on. I think that this added an underlying realism and grittiness and was a solid foundation to build the darker aspects of the story. Even early on in Soul Seeker we are aware of evil events and non-moral actions which I think set the tone for later on in the novel and provide an interesting environment to introduce the supernatural characters. I found the characters interesting and I enjoyed how the characters are developed alongside plot twists. These plot twists kept me guessing throughout the book, with more questions than answers and a need to find out more. I liked the supernatural element of this story, I think it really helps to ramp up the suspense that builds throughout the novel while also maintaining a sense of realism and moral complexity - even Crighton, a high ranking demon, is made up of more than pure evil. I liked seeing his relationship develop with Ariel towards the end of the book. Soul Seeker is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading more. I think Soul Seeker would be enjoyed by fans of the supernatural, darker relationship stories and thrillers.
Fake is the intriguing story of James Cowper, an art dealer grappling to recover his work and married life after misdemeanors including theft and gambling which take place before the start of the book. I found James quite endearing throughout, his dry humour and quite optimistic outlook despite his circumstances made me quite fond of him. The plot, without going into too much detail reminded me of a Harold Pinter play, the author does very well at creating a tense and uncertain atmosphere in Delancey Street, a home that’s supposed to be a space of refuge. This unease builds and, even though you can feel where it’s going you don’t quite know how bad the fallout would be. The general unlikeability of Bruce demonstrated how good the author is at developing characters, and I felt differently towards each of them.As more of the plot is revealed those feelings towards all of the characters changed too. I wouldn’t say any of the characters are likeable, they all have their flaws, but you get to know them in a great amount of detail. This is a book that I think readers could find farcical, as one comically bad situation develops into another. I actually found Fake to be quite tension-filled, with the uncertainty and uncomfortable feeling of the living situation at Delancey Street leaching out of the pages and giving me slight anxiety about how everything was going to turn out in the end. This was an absorbing read and I’ll look out for more books from this author in the future.