Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

The Ship
By Antonia Honeywell
Published by Orion (19 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-0297871491

Publisher's description

Oxford Street burned for three weeks
The British Museum is squatted by ragtag survivors
The Regent's Park camps have been bombed


Lalla, 16, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised Lalla and her mother that they will escape. Escape is a ship big enough to save 500 people.


Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla's unease grows.
Where are they going?
What does her father really want?

My verdict
The Ship is a beautifully written dystopian novel about survival. It is set in the not-too-distant future; there are many remnants from this current time period, which makes the story particularly realistic and terrifying.

While London burns and the population lives in poverty and chaos, a 16-year-old girl called Lalla is over-protected by her parents in their comfortable flat in Central London. She has grown up with no friends and little contact with the outside world; her only form of entertainment is visiting The British Museum daily, watching the exhibits gradually disappear and helping the homeless people who have set up camp there.

Throughout her childhood, Lalla has listened to her parents speak about a large ship, which her father is building to take them to a better place. Then as civilised society comes to an end, it is time for Lalla and her family to make that journey.

Her father claims that he has built the ship for her, to save her from the chaos, and has hand-picked each one of its 500 occupants. But as time goes on, Lalla begins to realise that the ship is becoming less of a home and more of prison.

The Ship follows a voyage - not only of the ship, but also Lalla's own voyage of self-discovery. The thought-provoking book flows from beginning to end, full of questions and moral issues.

This amazing debut is creepy and unique and I didn't want it to end. In fact the ending left me wanting more, and I am now desperate to discover the next stage in Lalla's journey.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Fear The Darkness by Becky Masterman

Fear The Darkness
By Becky Masterman
Published by Orion (5 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409143734

Publisher's description
Ex-FBI Agent Brigid Quinn thinks she has a second chance at life. After too many years spent in the company of evil, she's quit the Feds and is working out what normal is meant to feel like. She's swapped serious killers, stakeouts and interrogation for a husband, friends and free time. But when you've walked in the darkness for so long, can you stand the light?

When a local teenager dies in a tragic drowning accident, the community thinks Brigid might be able to help comfort the family. But when she does so, something doesn't add up. And it's no easier at home: after a bereavement in the family, Brigid has reluctantly taken in her niece to give her a break before  she starts college. Brigid's ever-patient husband Carlo tells her they must go easy on Gemma-Kate, the grieving youngster. Which is fine, until she starts taking an unhealthy interest in dissecting the local wildlife.

For Brigid, death still seems to be wherever she turns. But as she herself starts to feel unwell, it's her own mortality that is the most troubling. And as she tries to get to the bottom of a serious of allegedly accidental deaths and increasingly gruesome occurrences at home, she slowly realises that maybe this time, she's let the darkness inside the only place she ever felt safe. Sometimes, death is closer than you think.

My verdict
Fear The Darkness is set in Tucson, Arizona, which is one of my favourite US states. Ex-FBI profiler Brigid Quinn is asked to investigate the death of a teenage boy - the mother doesn't believe it is accidental or suicide. Meanwhile, Brigid's home life is disrupted when she takes in her niece, following the death of her sister in law. When Brigid starts to feel worse for wear, she wonders whether her niece is poisoning her or if it is related to the case.

Fear The Darkness is character led rather than crime led. Brigid Quinn is a very strong character and it makes a change to have an older sixty-ish female protagonist. She is physically fit and mentally sharp, with a dry sense of humour. This enjoyable thriller concentrates on Brigid's family, giving her a strong background and making the book quite personal.

After a slightly slow start, the pace picked up and then I couldn't put the book down. There's a great unexpected twist at the end. I haven't read the first Brigid Quinn book - Rage Against the Dying - but I will be doing so very shortly.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery
By Jenny Colgan
Published by Little, Brown Book Group UK (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-0751553918

Publisher's description
Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn't be happier. Because Polly is in love: she's in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she's in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she's in love with her boyfriend Huckle.
And yet there's something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that's floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend's fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he'd left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence.
Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?

My verdict
I have always enjoyed Jenny Colgan's books for some light feel-good relief and this was no exception. I read her previous Little Beach Street Bakery book last summer.

This book yet again brings Cornwall to life, with fun endearing characters and lots of mishaps. It's chick lit at its best and not the formulaic girl meets boy storyline. This has a hint of tragedy alongside the warmth and entertainment, including a tame penguin and a rundown lighthouse.

read the book in just a few hours. It's ideal for a night in, curled up on the settee with a hot cup of tea and a big bar of chocolate. You don't necessarily need to read the first Little Beach Street Bakery book before this one, but I think it helps to give you the background and meet the characters.

I hope Jenny Colgan has a third Little Beach Street Bakery book in the pipeline.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

Stranger Child
By Rachel Abbott
Published by Black Dot Publishing Ltd (24 February 2015)

Goodreads description
One Dark Secret. One act of revenge.

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.

Then a stranger walks in their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.

Emma's life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they're right.

My verdict
Stranger Child is a gripping read, involving a tangled web of deception. I was intrigued from the first chapter, which described the car accident and disappearance of Natasha Joseph.

There are many twists and turns and questions that need to be answered throughout the book. Different subplots gradually come together as the story unfolds, and it is hard to know which of the main characters can be trusted.

Stranger Child is a written well, hard-to-put-down psychological thriller.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

By Vanessa Lafaye
Published by Orion Publishing Group (1 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409155379

Publisher's description
Horrifying and beautiful, Summertime is a fictionalised account of one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history.

Tens of thousands of black and white men scarred by their experiences of war in Europe return home to find themselves abandoned to destitution by the US government.

The tiny, segregated community of Heron Key is suddenly overwhelmed by broken, disturbed men with new ideas about racial equality and nothing left to lose.

Tensions flare when a black veteran is accused of committing the most heinous crime of all against a white resident's wife.

And not far off the strongest and more intense hurricane American has ever witnessed is gaining force.

My verdict
Summertime is a beautifully written novel of racial segregation, the tragedy of war, broken war veterans and the beating of a white married woman in Florida in the 1930s.

It has well-developed memorable characters, vivid descriptions of life in the Florida Keys and ample historical background. You can feel the racial tension, with scenes of violence and oppression, and the despair and frustration of the veterans living in poverty.

The book begins with the community preparing for the annual Fourth of July beach barbecue, which all goes horribly wrong when the angry veterans arrive and a local white woman is found beaten and left for dead.  The pace of the writing changes as the ferocious hurricane arrives, capturing the terror of those caught in the middle of the damage and devastation. 

The whole community is struck by tragedy - and the sad and moving ending reveals how the survivors' lives will never be the same again.

I could picture the scenes as they panned out - always a sign of a well-written book for me.  It's an excellent debut novel.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A Way From Heart to Heart by Helena Fairfax

A Way From Heart to Heart
By Helena Fairfax
Published by Accent Press (18 November 2014)
ISBN: 978-1783757015

Publisher's description
After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway's world collapses around her. Her free time is spent with a charity for teenage girls in London, helping them mend their broken lives - which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.
Reserved upper-class journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren't. But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity by accompanying her on a trip to the Yorkshire Moors, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything, and leaves Kate torn.
Can she risk her son's happiness as well as her own?

My verdict
A Way From Heart to Heart is a lovely easy read. It is a sad but uplifting story of two people mourning the loss of a husband/friend. The emotional scene when Paul breaks the news to Kate of her husband's death (at the beginning of the book) is beautifully and sensitively written.

This romantic love story proved to me that a novel doesn't need sex scenes to make it work. The characters are extremely likeable and believable with interesting backgrounds to shape their personalities. It is clear that Paul cares for Kate, but she has to learn to trust him and let love into her life again, whilst protecting her young son's happiness.

Helena Fairfax has written a lovely contemporary romance, keeping the reader guessing until the end about whether it will be 'happily ever after'.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan

Burnt Paper Sky
By Gilly Macmillan
Published by Little Brown Book Group UK (Kindle edition - 5 February 2015; Paperback - 27th August 2015)
ISBN: 978-0349406398

Publisher's description
Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.
But what really happened that fateful afternoon?
Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?
The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

My verdict
I read Burnt Paper Sky in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. This very cleverly written psychological thriller follows the search for a missing boy through the eyes of his mother Rachel Jenner and also Jim Clemo, the police officer running the case. It taps into parents' biggest fears and worries - and the guilt they would feel if their child disappeared after leaving their sight for just a few moments. It's a story about finding the balance between protecting your child and giving them enough independence to grow and develop as an individual.

Filled with twists and turns, this brilliant debut flows from beginning to end. You can feel Rachel's anguish and Jim Clemo's frustration. At first there are few leads, but then more information comes to light as Jim Clemo searches the family background. The use of social media reports, television and newspapers adds to the tension and makes the story feel very real, as the nation responds to the case.

Burnt Paper Sky gets five stars from me, and I will be watching out for more books from Gilly Macmillan.

I received an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, and then also won a printed version through Goodreads.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Two Parts Bloody Murder by Jen J Danna

Two Parts Bloody Murder
By Jen J Danna with Anne Vamderlaan
Published by Five Star Publishing (18 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1432830274

Goodreads description
Prohibition was a time of clandestine excess - short skirts, drinking, dancing… and death. But a murder committed so many years ago still has the power to reverberate decades later with deadly consequences.

It's a double surprise for Trooper Leigh Abbott as she investigates a cold case and discovers two murder victims in a historic nineteenth-century building. Together with forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and medical examiner Dr. Edward Rowe, she uncovers the secrets of a long-forgotten, Prohibition-era speakeasy in the same building. But when the two victims are discovered to be relatives - their deaths separated by over eighty years - the case deepens, and suddenly the speakeasy is revealed as ground zero for a cascade of crimes through the decades.

When a murder committed nearly forty years ago comes under fresh scrutiny, the team realises than an innocent man was wrongly imprisoned and the real murderer is still at large. Now they must solve three murders spanning over eighty years if they hope to set a wronged man free.

My verdict
Yet another great book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries series - this is the fourth book in the series.

A wonderful mixture of historical information, a well-written plotline, forensics and romance. I like the way each chapter starts with a historical fact and how the authors describe the forensics in layperson's terms.

I look forward to the next book.

Thanks to Jen J Danna for sending me a copy of the book all the way from Canada.

Tell Tale by Mark Sennen

Tell Tale 
By Mark Sennen
Published by Avon, Harper Collins UK (12th February 2015)
ISBN: 978-0007587872

Publisher's description


But before Charlotte can get her revenge, disturbing events start to unfold on Dartmoor…

A woman's naked body is found near an isolated reservoir on the bleak winter moors. When the woman's housemate also goes missing, Charlotte knows she must move fast.

But in a police force tainted by corruption, Charlotte's hunt for the killer won't be easy.

And resisting her own urge to kill will be even harder…

A page-turning, terrifying crime thriller, perfect for fans of Peter May and Tim Weaver, and TV series Broadchurch and Scott and Bailey.

My verdict
I hadn't read a DI Savage book before, so I was very interested to discover if I could read this fourth book in the series without reading the first three. Thanks to a well written plot, with enough background information about DI Savage's past, I was able to do so. There were slight spoilers about the previous books, but not enough to turn me off reading these as well at some point.

Tell Tale starts off as the search for a murderer, following the discovery of the body of a naked young woman on the moors. However, the book is about far more than this, with several subplots that come together at the end in one giant web of deception.

One subplot concerns the identity of the hit and run driver who killed DI Savage's young daughter five years earlier. And how DI Savage is torn between doing the right thing as an officer of the law and the bitter choice of a mother tormented with grief.

Another involves police corruption and a cover up to protect those involved in a criminal act.

And then there is another subplot about the bloody slaughter of horses in satanic rituals.

Tell Tale is an intriguing story, with a strong independent female lead character. The story moves along at a decent pace, with enough action and new events to keep the book flowing constantly. There are plenty of twists and turns as the story unfolds, right until the end. 

I look forward to reading more DI Savage books.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde

A Vintage Wedding
By Katie Fforde
Published by Cornerstone, Random House
ISBN: 978-1448136971

Publisher's description
In a small Cotswold country town, Beth, Lindy and Rachel are looking for new beginnings.

So they set up in business, organising stylish and perfectly affordable vintage weddings.

Soon they are busy arranging other people's Big Days.

What none of them know is that their own romances lie waiting, just around the corner ...

My verdict
Katie Fforde's latest book is sweet, light hearted chick lit.

A Vintage Wedding is the story of three young single women living in a small English village in the Cotswolds (one of my favourite parts of the UK). Lindy lives there with her family, Rachel is living permanently in her holiday home following her divorce and Beth is staying in an empty holiday let (her sister's future parents-in-law's cottage).

The three women all have their issues to address. Rachel suffers from OCD and likes to be in control. Newly graduated Beth has a rebellious nature, running away from decisions in her life, and needs to find some direction. Lindy is devoted to her two young children, yet at the age of just 23 her life is already stuck in a rut.

The women quickly become friends and decide to start a vintage wedding business. This is partly to help Beth organise a wedding for her sister but also to give their lives some focus.

A Vintage Wedding was entertaining and enjoyable. However, it was maybe unrealistic for three complete strangers to set up a business together so soon after meeting. It was also very convenient that they were able to do certain tasks without any proper training, such as icing a cake and wedding make up (all with the help of YouTube videos). These skills take most people years to learn and perfect.

The book was maybe a bit too convenient and idealistic for me. However, it makes an enjoyable holiday read - easy and well written with some romance thrown in.

I received an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Dolls House by M.J. Arlidge

The Dolls House
By M.J. Arlidge
Published by Penguin UK
ISBN: 978-1405919197

Publisher's description
A young woman wakes in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who kidnapped her. So begins her terrible nightmare.

The body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing - her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years.

For DI Helen Grace it's chilling evidence that she's chasing a twisted monster who is clever and resourceful - a predator who's killed before.

As Helen struggles to understand the killer's motivation, she realises she's in a desperate race against time...

My verdict
I really enjoyed the first two DI Helen Grace books, which is why I was looking forward to reading this third instalment in M.J. Arlidge's series. I know that this third book has been enjoyed by many other readers and reviewers, so I was surprised to feel disappointed at the end.

The underlying storyline - the kidnapped woman and the bodies discovered on the remote beach - had the makings of a great plot. However, having read some similar books recently, I found The Doll's House to be a bit too formulaic. There was no 'wow' moment or any particular twists and turns.

The book covers a lot of background with office politics and the personal struggles of three female characters. This was interesting to read, but I felt that this detracted away from the murders and slowed down the pace too much for me.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Three Twisted Stories by Karin Slaughter

Three Twisted Stories
By Karin Slaughter
Published by Cornerstone, Random House UK (10 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1473535329

Publisher's description
From the hallucinatory noir story 'Go Deep' to the twisted short stories 'Necessary Women' and 'Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line,' this collection showcases the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author’s dark humour, limitless imagination, and masterly command of voice and character. ('Go Deep' and 'Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line' also available as single stories and 'Necessary Women' also available as part of a bundle with 'The Mean Time')

Go Deep
Growing up dirt poor, Charlie Lam worked his ass off to make something of himself, no thanks to his deadbeat father or his long-suffering mother. And now a lot of people depend on Charlie: by his last count, sixty-eight employees at his Atlanta auto dealership, eleven shiftless brothers and sisters, an ungrateful wife, a spoiled daughter, a shameless girlfriend. Who could really blame him for wanting a little extra?
The arrangement is simple: Charlie picks up a suit from the dry cleaner’s. In the suit pocket is the name of a very important man. The next day, that man walks into the dealership, drives out in a new car, and Charlie gets a fat envelope full of cash. Everyone’s happy. No one gets hurt. So long as Charlie doesn’t cross his business partner. But with one twist of a knife, the unthinkable happens. And suddenly Charlie is in deeper trouble than he could have possibly imagined.

Necessary Women
In a border town between Georgia and Alabama, in a three-room house made of cement block, a fourteen-year-old girl watches her mother die. Her father is a long-haul trucker, away for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. Her mother, with two menial jobs cleaning restrooms and working nights at the laundry, had been just thirty years old.
A week before she died, noticing her daughter getting attention from a boy, the girl’s mother warned her not to make the same mistakes she did. Now, her father tells her, she’s the woman of the house, and she must do all the necessary things the woman must do: the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry. But there’s a lot more to being a woman than fixing dinner and doing the wash. Her mother was right: She won’t end up like her - and she’ll do anything to prove it.

Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line
As an intrepid adjudicator of World Records, Mindy Patel has met lots of strange people in lots of strange places. But they’re no match for the Swampers of the Georgia bayou. Mindy has braved the oppressive August heat in search of Remmy Rothstein, who they call 'The Cajun Jew'. If the photos are indeed accurate, she might be about to certify Remmy as the World Record Holder for Longest Tongue in the World . . . and maybe even the Widest!
First Mindy meets Remmy’s half-brother, Buell Rabinowitz, surely the world’s only one-legged, albino, Jewish African American. Then she makes the acquaintance of Remmy’s mother, a foul-mouthed old woman with an impressive beard. None of which prepares her for an eyeful of Remmy: a man who measures up to his singular reputation in ways that will change the course of Mindy’s life.

My verdict
I don't usually read short stories, but I am a big fan of Karin Slaughter's Will Trent and Grant County series, which is why I wanted to read Three Twisted Stories.

The book contains three stories - Go Deep (the longest story, with nine chapters), Necessary Women and Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line. Each story is well written and highly readable and I didn't feel like I was missing out by not reading a longer novel.

Go Deep was my favourite of the three stories. It was a little slow to start with, but then picked up. It is dark, off beat and good fun. A great satirical tale.

Necessary Women was short but certainly not sweet. It was very dark and very cleverly thought out.

Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line was my least favourite, although that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. I just found the story didn't flow as well as the other two in the book. I thought the author was trying too hard to make it humorous. However, I loved the ending.

Karen Slaughter fans will find Three Twisted Stories to be completely different from her usual offering. But if you like dark humour, this is a quick enjoyable read.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Forgotten Holocaust by Scott Mariani

The Forgotten Holocaust
By Scott Mariani
Published by Avon Books UK (29 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-0-00-748617-5

Goodreads description
A lost, aimless and hard-drinking Ben Hope has wandered back to his old haunt in Ireland. The ex-SAS soldier is searching for peace, but trouble soon appears when Kristen Hall, a young journalist, is brutally murdered right in front of him. Unable to prevent it, Ben is driven by guilt to hunt down the killers. All he has to go on is a handful of clues from Kristen's research - but how can the journals of Lady Stamford, the wife of an English lord during the time of the Irish Great Famine, have put Kirsten in mortal danger?

Ben's quest for the truth leads him across the world and finally to Oklahoma, USA, where a deadly secret awaits. What connects the journals, a wealthy American politician and an intrigue surrounding the Irish famine?

When Ben uncovers is a shocking historical conspiracy linked to the deaths of some two million people: a veritable holocaust that time has all but forgotten. Those who are still profiting from the lies and corruption of the time, and who are ready to kill anyone to protect their secret, are about to pay...

My verdict
Ben Hope is my ideal action hero, with his military training, determination and caring nature. I am always surprised that Scott Mariani's series doesn't get as much media coverage as Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. I am a big fan of both characters, but find that Ben Hope is a much more attractive character due to his sensitivity and vulnerability.

The Forgotten Holocaust is the 10th book in the Ben Hope series. It combines everything I enjoy in a book - an interesting underlying historical story, a fast-paced plot, a modern-day action figure, strong female characters and some blood and gore. The only aspect missing was a hint of romance, but Ben Hope is recovering from a past relationship, so that's been put on hold - hopefully only until the next book.

I found the background of the Irish Potato Famine fascinating, as this isn't an area of history that I am particularly familiar with. Scott Mariani seamlessly weaves the history and action together. His descriptive passages are highly visual and no word is superfluous. I read The Forgotten Holocaust in one sitting - I couldn't put it down and the book flows from beginning to end.

I am looking forward to the next Ben Hope book - The Martyr's Curse - I hope it isn't too far away.

I won this book in a a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

Silent Scream
By Angela Marsons
Published by Bookouture (20th February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1909490918

Publisher's description

Even the darkest secrets can't stay buried forever…
Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult-sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood…
Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.
But when human remains are discovered at a former children's home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she's on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.
As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it's too late.
Fans of Rachel Abbott, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham will be gripped by this exceptional new voice in British crime fiction.

My verdict
It's highly unusual for me to find a book that leads me to put my life on hold. But Angela Marson's Silent Scream has led me to virtually abandon work for the last day, even with deadlines looming, leaving my house a mess and the ironing pile untouched.

Silent Scream kept me guessing from the start, with its intelligent well-planned plot line, believable yet suitably flawed characters and a constantly flowing pace to keep me intrigued. It is highly readable and I love the references to forensic/forensic archaeology as this is a particular interest of mine. I also enjoyed the dynamics between the central characters (e.g. Stone and Bryant), providing some light humour in this dark tale.

DI Kim Stone is a strong character. She follows her convictions, rather than orders from her seniors, but with enough integrity to keep her on the job. She is courageous, but also loyal and vulnerable. Her tragic past is revealed gradually throughout Silent Scream, helping the reader to understand the background to her vulnerability.

Crime fiction and psychological thrillers are my favourite genres. Silent Scream ticks all the boxes for a 5* rating from me: a well written flowing story; strong but vulnerable protagonist; fast pace; intrigue; twists and turns until several final OMG moments; plenty of action; and the revealing of a brutal murderer.

There are still many questions to be answered about DI Stone, which I expect would be covered in a sequel. I hope that Angela Marsons has another visit to DI Kim Stone planned in the near future.

I received this as an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

Lost & Found
By Brooke Davis
Published by Cornerstone, Random House UK (29 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-1473517011

Publisher's description
Millie Bird is a seven-year-old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Milli's mum leaves her alone beneath the Ginormous Women's underwear rack in a department store, and doesn't come back.
Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year-old woman who hasn't left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.
Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife's skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.
Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie's mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.

My verdict
Lost & Found is very quirky - completely off the wall in fact. It's full of bizarre characters and an unbelievable storyline. In some ways, it reminded me of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. However, while I enjoyed Harold Fry and found it gentle and touching at times, I found Lost & Found was rather odd (if not alarming).

This is the story of seven-year-old Millie, whose mother has abandoned her in a department store. Sometimes Millie's thoughts and actions are those of a much younger child; at other times, her thoughts are way beyond her years. Millie is a very strange, although endearing, girl, with an unnatural obsession with death. I don't know any seven year olds who would stay in the department store over night if their mother didn't return, which gave the book a lack of credibility from the outset.

I assume that the book is intended to be funny, but I thought that the older people - Karl and Agatha - were completely irresponsible and rather disturbing. They should have reported Millie to the authorities for her own safety, and they often discussed adult subjects such as sex in a way that was inappropriate for the ears of a seven year old. All of the characters (other than Millie) were shallow and seemed cartoonish rather than rounded and realistic. The ending seemed rushed and incomplete. I also found the use of italics for the dialogue difficult to follow.

Overall, this is a unique story, but the book was a little too bizarre for my liking.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China
By Matthew Reilly
Published by Gallery Books (12 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1476749556

Publisher's description
The all-new thriller from #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly!

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane 'CJ' Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can't…


My verdict
As promised in the publisher's description, The Great Zoo of China certainly gives you action, as well as blood, gory deaths and destruction. If you like action movies, then this is an ideal book for you. The Great Zoo of China reminded me of Jurassic Park - not the book (which I haven't read) but the film. Once it starts, the action doesn't stop, right through to the end.

It was obvious from the first chapter that this book was going to end in disaster. Some of action scenes were so over the top and far fetched that I found them hilarious. Eventually though, the book descends into fantasy more than action thriller, with its implausible storyline.

Most of the characters die off by the end, but it's obvious early on which ones are likely to survive. CJ started off as a believable character, with her scarred face and expertise on reptiles. But then it all goes downhill. I certainly didn't expect a herpetologist turned vet to become such an amazing action figure, with her ability to operate weapons and literally 'dive' out of precarious situations. She saves the day virtually single-handed.

I received an Advance Review Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sail Upon the Land by Josa Young

Sail Upon the Land
By Josa Young
Published by Keyes Ink (1 December 2014)
ISBN: 978-0993124808

Goodreads description
The mysterious death of a young mother damages the precious, protective bonds of family love.

What happens when two fractured families collide in the dynamic social landscape of the last eighty years?

Is the courage she displays during WWII enough to carry her through a long life of love and loss?

Living in her own fairytale, will she find the strength she needs to survive reality?

Rejecting her background when her stepmother makes life intolerable, can this driven young woman ever find her way home?

Who is she really, and will she deliver the one precious gift that will heal all their wounds?

My verdict
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sail Upon the Land follows four women through the generations, over a period of 80 years. Josa Young carefully weaves in stories of love, hate and tragedy, and how these shape the lives of each generation. She addresses the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, as well as issues such as rape, abortion, birth defects, mental illness and abandonment.

The book is written with vivid descriptions of each time period, ranging from the 1930s to the present day. Each character had their individual strengths and weakness. Sarah, the matriarch of the family, had the most resilience. Melissa is the fragile one, while Damson has the most determination. The character I liked the least was Mellita, but this may be because her character didn't get enough page space to develop fully.

The book begins and ends with the story of Damson, which made the book come full circle and seem complete. Overall, this is a powerful family saga and I hope to read Josa Young's previous book, One Apple Tasted, in due course.

Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner

Crash & Burn
By Lisa Gardner
Published by Headline (3 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1472220233

Publisher's description
My name is Nicky Frank.

I'm in hospital after crashing my car. I am afraid. The only thing that I can think about is Vero. I know I have to save her but why couldn't I find her? She's just a little girl.

The man standing in my hospital room tells me we are married but there is no Vero. That six months ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury which caused changes to my personality. I have dramatic mood swings, an inability to concentrate and large gaps in my memory. I'm much easier to anger these days. And I drink. All of which he says explains the car accident and my confusion.

Now a Sergeant Wyatt Foster is investigating. He has questions about the car accident. He has concerns about my husband. And he's worried about a missing girl.

He would like to know what happened to me. So would I.

My name is Nicky Frank. This is my life.

Watch me crash and burn.

My verdict
I have been a fan of Lisa Gardner for many years, enjoying in particular her DD Warren books. This the third in her Tessa Leoni series.

I was gripped from the first chapter of Crash & Burn, with its vivid description of the car accident and Nicky's escape. The book is well written to keep up the fast pace and tension. I could feel Nicky's desperation and panic.

Nicky Franks has suffered several traumatic brain injuries, which have affected her memory and behaviour. She has a husband, Thomas, who seems to be protecting her from something, although it's not clear what that is. And she has no other family or friends. She is obsessed with finding a little girl called Vero, but there's no evidence that Vero exists. I wanted to unravel her mysterious past as much as the police officers investigating her case.

At first I thought she was in an abusive relationship or was being held against her will in a loveless marriage. But it's clear as the book progresses that there is far more going on. There are many twists and turns in this dark complex psychological thriller, leading the reader back and forth across many different paths.

It's a horrifying and complex story and definitely not a light read. There are a few unconvincing plot lines and it was a little confusing in places. But overall another great read from Lisa Gardner.

I received this book as an Advance Review Copy from NetGalley.