Thursday, 12 December 2013

MORE THAN THIS by Patrick Ness

Title: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker
Genre: Science Fiction

Source: Library
Pub Date:  5 September 2013

Seth dies a brutal death, crushed on the ocean floor.  When he wakes up he is  in a strange, desolate, but somewhat familiar place and he can remember every detail of his death.

This is the opening chapter...WOW this is going go be another brilliant addition to Patrick Ness' accomplishments but unfortunately it just didn't deliver.

I've really mulled this one over before attempting my review, and I still don't know how to convey my thoughts without giving anything away.

I loved the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls and I so wanted this to be another firm favourite but alas, and I know I'm in a minority here, I really didn't like it at all on several levels; plot, characters, world building plausibility, and who is the intended reader: Teen? YA? I had put some questions to Patrick Ness but as yet I've received no reply so I'll go ahead with my thoughts.

As a parent, career or teacher would you want your 12/13 year old reading a book with, albeit  only a minimal part of the storyline, explicit scenes between 2 guys? The scenes are beautifully portrayed and sensually written and it's not a complete surprise as Patrick Ness has touched on the subject in the Chaos Walking trilogy.  Although these elements of the story were in my opinion fine for the young adult audience, much of the book seemed to be targeted at a younger reader and seemed inappropriate. I was confused and the two styles didn't gel for me.

My son raised the issue with me and the conversation went something like this;

Son: 'they're a gay couple!' with a questioning look
Me: 'yes I know' and 'there's nothing wrong in that is there?'
Son: No
Me: 'you know some gay people'
Son: 'do I?'
Me: 'Yes so and so'
Son: 'Is he/she?'

Much easier to explain than;
Son: 'he's a cock fiddler!'
Me: 'umm well yes that's what ... umm what book are you reading?'

I don't sensor what my kids read but I would like some warning as to the level of sexual content contained within a book aimed at teens / YA.  

As for the plot, I thought it was lacking in depth with flat characters which I didn't believe in.  'Much More Than This' raised far too many unanswerable questions for me, the world created was far too implausible.

A real 'Meh 2.5' from me on this one.

Unable to recommend this one as I just didn't care for it at all although some pretty good discussions could be had in reading groups.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

GRAHAM HURLEY Book Signing at Waterstones

Excellent news!

Waterstones has confirmed a signing with
Graham Hurley and he will be visiting the Portsmouth Branch, Commercial Road on,
28th November at 12:30

His new book is called 'Touching Distance' and is on sale now in store.

I'm pretty fed up that I won't be able to be there on the day due to a hospital appointment but I'm sure it will be a great day.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

OPEN ROAD MEDIA 'A Century of Crime' Giveaway

There’s only one thing better than a free book—eight free books.

Many aspects of the mystery novel have changed drastically over the past century—style, language, technology, and crimes—but the core of the genre has stood the test of time. As long as crooks persist, sleuths will be around to track them down.

– Looking for something from the Roaring Twenties? Try Grey Mask by British author Patricia Wentworth.

– How about the Fabulous Fifties? Maybe Charles Williams’ classic noir, The Hot Spot, is more your style.

– Check out mysteries from every decade, from favorites like Dorothy L. Sayers and Susan Isaacs, in the infographic.

And here’s the best part: Open Road Media are hosting a mystery book giveaway with a grand prize of eight mysteries and thrillers! To enter, simply visit their 'Century of Crime' page and scroll down to the bottom to enter.

This week, ignore the new releases, and dig back into history’s treasury of classic mysteries.

Monday, 4 November 2013


Title: Longbourn
Author: Jo Baker

Publisher: Doubleday / Transworld Publishing / Black Swan
Publish Date: 16 January 2014
Source: (digital) Newbooks Magazine

Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9780857522023 (p/b)
Rating: 4 out of 5

"If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah thought, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields.

It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and bleeding. Domestic life below stairs, ruled tenderly and forcefully by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman smelling of the sea, and bearing secrets.

For in Georgian England, there is a world the young ladies in the drawing room will never know, a world of poverty, love, and brutal war."

My Thoughts:
...“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats", Sarah often thought, "she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them."...

This was a section from the opening chapter and I was immediately ensnared. I have not yet read Pride & Prejudice, and did wonder if I would be able to follow the meshing of story lines, but with writing this good I decided to give Longbourn the benefit of the doubt.  I'm so glad I did. I do not believe it detracted from my enjoyment nor understanding of the characters or plot. I am very keen to read Jane Austin's classic and it has certainly been plucked from the 'books to read' pile and is now at the top destined for an earlier read.

Longbourn is an alternative retelling from 'downstairs', the servants points of view on the affairs of the privaliged lifestyle of the Bennets, and gives extensive insight into the servants gruelling exhaustible daily chores of cleaning and the never ending work involved in the running of the household.

The story is told in three volumes taking place over the same time period of the original story. The first two are mainly based at Longbourn concentrating on the feisty Sarah, the 17 year old orphan housemaid. The final volume focuses a little more on the history of James Smith the Footman, the newest addition to the servants quarters, and whose history is somewhat clouded in mystery. Other characters include, Polly another orphan housemaid, and Mrs Hill, the Head Housekeeper and Cook who is married to Mr Hill.

I absolutely loved Baker's style of writing. She has written an excellent historical tale with such depth of character development it evoked strong visual images in my head as I read. I found the characters to be believable and credible and was totally drawn into the world, if sometimes bleak and grim, that Baker so wonderfully portrayed.

Such a beautifully written book, I would have no reservations in recommending it to anyone interested in romantic classics and/or lovers of period dramas such as the current tv serialisation 'Downtown Abbey', or the classic 'Upstairs, Downstairs' tv series from the 70's. There is something for everyone, romance, intrigue, mystery, scandalous behaviour, dastardly deeds, doubt, distrust and expectations for a better future.

Book reading groups would have an enormous amount of enjoyment discussing the privaliged characters from the classic and this retelling about the poverty stricken, hardworking servants.

Disclosure: I received an e-review copy of Longbourn for an honest, unbiased review. It was a pleasure and I thank Newbooks Magazine for this opportunity.

Monday, 14 October 2013

I have been neglecting my blog over the last couple of weeks due to the start of my new job.
Working full time and dealing with the family, the dog and cat has taken it out of me and I have had no 'me time' for reading and reviewing.

I will be back very soon !

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Letters From a Murderer - A Jameson and Argenti case John Mathews

Letters From a Murderer - A Jameson and Argenti case
John Mathews

Publisher: ANGRY ROBOT Ltd

Publish Date: 24th September 2013
Source: (digital ARC) Publisher via NetGalley

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery / Thriller/ Jack The Ripper

ISBN: 9781909223363

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

"New York, 1891. A new breed of cop for a new breed of killer…

The first in a series of hard-boiled New York Victorian mysteries, featuring Finley Jameson & Joseph Argenti.

If Arthur Conan Doyle had been asked to write a sequel to Gangs of New York, then this would be it.

“One genius criminal profiler. One ruthless, streetwise cop. Both will need all their wits to capture the most notorious killer of all time.”

New York, 1891. A prostitute is found brutally murdered. The victim bears the same hallmarks as a notorious recent killing spree in England. Could it be that killer has crossed the Atlantic to fresh killing grounds? Or is this simply a copycat murder? Fear spreads through a city already rife with cut-throat gangs, corruption and vice. Aristocratic English pathologist, Finley Jameson, is teamed up with Joseph Argenti, a streetwise New York cop, to solve the case. But as the body-count rises and the killer taunts his pursuers in open letters, Jameson & Argenti find themselves fighting not just to prevent yet more victims, but also to save the city’s very soul."

My Thoughts:
I liked this atmospheric period piece set in New York in the 1890's. It is a stylish thriller that immersed me into a dull dingy gaslight world in its infancy of emerging into a brighter world of modern electricity. A world full of the 'hustle and bustle' of noisy smelly streets, dark sinister alleys with a crime detection force on the cusp of modern day forensics. Think Sherlock Holmes with a touch of The Gangs of New York and a dash of Deadwood, that would pretty much describe this novel.

The plot is a generous mix of historical fact and supposition fiction and is a very credible piece. It places the murderer 'Jack The The Ripper' back in his homeland of New York where he leaves another bloody trail of slaughter on his latest murder spree.

There are all the 'usual suspects' for a Ripper tale including police corruption, the criminal underworld, secrets and lies, and of course the unfortunate 'ladies of the night'. Other characters include Holmes', I mean Jameson's manservant, Lawrence, and the evil, sociopath Michael Tierney, of the Tierney mob.

The pacing is steady throughout carefully building up a credible, sinister, sleazy, cut throat world in which the characters live. The characters are well drawn and fleshed out along with complex and flawed personalities. Argenti, a down to earth, perceptive immigrant cop in New York has been teamed up with the charismatic, highly privileged British 'toff', Finley Jameson. They are an odd couple indeed but the polar differences in their backgrounds and personalities works wonderfully well making 'Letters From A Murderer' an exciting, captivating, thrilling and believable read.

The unlikely duo assisted by Lawrence battle to identify and apprehend the murderer to put an end to his slaughter, but their efforts are hampered by a possible copy cat murderer, and corruption within the force. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Letters From a Murderer' and look forward to reading more from the duo.

Fans of historical crime, Jack The Ripper style books, and crime fiction in general will enjoy 'Letters From A Murderer'. I highly recommend it.

I received a digital ARC from the Publisher via NetGalley and thank them for the opportunity to review this title.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

MONSTERS : The ASHES Trilogy - Book 3

Monsters: The Ashes Trilogy
Ilsa J. Bick
Pages: 688

Publisher: Egmont USA
Publish Date USA: September 10, 2013
Source: (digital ARC) Publisher via NetGalley

Genre: YA / Teens/ Dystopic / Zombie / Horror
ISBN: 9781606841778

Rating: DNF / Unrated

Amazon Synopsis
"The Changed are on the move. The Spared are out of time. The now.

When her parents died, Alex thought things couldn't get much worse--until the doctors found the monster in her head.

She headed into the wilderness as a good-bye, to leave everything behind. But then the end of the world happened, and Alex took the first step down a treacherous road of betrayal and terror and death.

Now, with no hope of rescue--on the brink of starvation in a winter that just won't quit--she discovers a new and horrifying truth.

The Change isn't over.
The Changed are still evolving.
And...they've had help.

With this final volume of The Ashes Trilogy, Ilsa J. Bick delivers a riveting, blockbuster finish, returning readers to a brutal, post-apocalyptic world where no one is safe and hope is in short supply.

A world where, from these ashes, the monsters may rise."

My Thoughts:
My 13yr old daughter and I absolutely loved Ashes, and Shadows and eagerly awaited the final instalment of the trilogy. However, I was rather disappointed. I found the writing style to be jumpy, leaping from one scene and character to another, sometimes it seemed mid sentence. This was far too disorienting for me to want to continue and I regretfully did not finish this one.

Ashes in my opinion was by far the best and told the story focusing on, Ellie, Alex and Tom's points of view. Shadows, not packing as much punch as Ashes, but still a great read, concentrated on a greater cast of characters perspectives. Monsters has too many voices, with the main cast and secondary characters jostling for attention. It also became tedious at times with so many long drawn-out action scenes that I began to skim read, and ultimately abandoned it.

Maybe it's been too long between reads, about a year since Shadows but I just found it hard work to keep up and just wasn't enjoying having to put such effort into a YA/Teen book. There is a section at the back summarising some events and characters from the previous books which I feel would have been better placed at the front, but even this wasn't enough for me to want to persevere.

Don't get me wrong Monsters is very well written and I would still recommend it to anybody who has already invested in this trilogy, but just not to expect any wrapping up of the series as it certainly didn't answer any of the questions raised in Ashes, like who or what was behind the EMP for starters.

My daughter is still reading it and thoroughly enjoying the story line, all be it very gory. She does say that it's very confusing with all the different characters but she is determined to finish it. I will include her final verdict in due course.

I received a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley and would like to thank them for the opportunity to review this title.

Taking Fire: Saving Captain Aikman: A Story of the Vietnam Air War

Taking Fire: Saving Captain Aikman: A Story of the Vietnam Air War
Kevin O'Rourke & Joe Peters
Pages: 216 (H/B)

Publisher: Casemate
Publish Date: August 2013
Source: (digital ARC) Publisher via NetGalley

ISBN-10: 1612001262
ISBN-13: 978-1612001265

Rating: Read but Unrated - Not my thing

Synopsis: (Amazon)

"American military special operations forces Rangers, SEALs, and others have become a well recognized and highly respected part of our popular culture. But whom do these elite warriors look to in their times of greatest need: when wounded on the battlefield, cut off deep behind enemy lines, or adrift in the expanse of the world's oceans? They look skyward, hoping to catch a glimpse of their own personal guardian angel: a U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper (PJ) who lives, and sometimes dies, by the motto that others may live.

Taking Fire provides an up-close look into the heroism and mystique of this little known segment of the Air Force Special Tactics community by focusing on one of the most dramatic rescues of the Vietnam War. It was June 1972 and Capt. Lynn Aikman is returning from a bombing mission over North Vietnam when his F-4 Phantom is jumped by an enemy MiG and shot down. He and his backseater Tom Hanton eject from their crippled aircraft, but Hanton lands near a village and is quickly captured by local militia. Badly injured during the ejection, Aikman lands some distance from the village, and there is a chance that he can be recovered if American rescuers can reach him before the enemy does.

Now on the ground and drifting in and out of consciousness, Captain Aikman looks up and suddenly sees his guardian angel in the form of USAF Pararescue Jumper Chuck McGrath. As Sergeant McGrath is preparing to hook the downed pilot to a hoist line, he sees it fall to the ground. Hostile fire on the hovering Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter has damaged the hoist mechanism causing the operator to cut the line. While circling A-1 Skyraiders strafe the militia to keep them away from Aikman and McGrath, the helicopter crew races to come up with a plan. It's getting dark, and they'll only have one chance.

Taking Fire is an exciting, highly dramatic story of life and death over North Vietnam. Much more than a chronicle the events of 27 June 1972, the book gives the reader an up-close look at the little known world of the U.S. Air Force's elite aerial rescue force.'

My Thoughts:

Taking Fire is written in a military documented style of writing using interviews with the para rescue servicemen. I felt disengaged and emotionally unconnected because of this style of writing and did not really get a sense of who the real men were. The authors do go some way to describe Chuck's life leading upto the main event but felt they were far more comfortable with in-depth details of the various helicopters used during the missions.

There are some horrific incidents described during the course of this book but even so I did not feel any real sense of involvement. I am not heartless it is purely the writing style. I don't think the authors meant it to be a 'tear jerker' or 'feel sorry for' story, and intended it to be a clear, matter of all the facts, military book documenting the rescue missions and the bravery of these little known servicemen during the Vietnam war. They definitely achieved their aim.

I have read many factual books about war but this was just not for me. In my opinion this is a man's book and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in military operations wanting to find out more about these extremely brave men and about the dangerous rescue missions.Thank you to the Publisher via Net Galley for allowing me to review this title.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

DUST by Hugh Howey

Spoiler warning: I have made an effort not to reveal plots although I may have unknowingly done so.  If you haven’t read 'Wool' or 'Shift' yet you may want to read them before my review and especially before reading 'Dust'.

You can read my review on 'Wool' & 'Shift' here.

Initial rating 3.5 but once it got going rose to a steady 4.0

I loved 'Wool', it was hauntingly atmospheric and beautifully written. 'Shift', as a prequel of sorts had an interesting backstory, and 'Dust' picks up from where 'Wool' left off.  We rejoin some familiar and much missed characters and follow them to the climactic finale.

'Dust' is released in one volume unlike its predecessors 'Wool & Shift' which were in episode format initially.  Not sure if it was because of this that I found the pace slower. I wondered if Howey had lost his 'magic touch', but then it picked up pace and pretty much kept going.

We still find the majority of people in the silo living in ignorance of a terrible truth which is being discovered by the inquisitive few. They are comfortable remaining in the dark, living routine lives.  What will happen when they are confronted by the truth after their world is sabotaged?

Howey creates some unforgettable, believable characters and uses several strong assertive women, as well as male protagonists, with a sense of vulnerability without feeling patronising or going 'over the top'.  There are some intense moments throughout and in one scene I felt absolute angst and sorrow after finding out that maybe one of the villains wasn't so bad after all... Who could they have trusted without being betrayed or misunderstood.   It was an highly emotive discovery.

Dust is an exciting, thought-provoking, action-packed read which kept me guessing right through to the very end.  An absolute 'must read' for those who have already invested in Wool & Shift wanting to find closure, and those of you wanting an extremely well written, easy to read Dystopic, sci-fi tale.

I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Forty Days at Kamas by Preston Fleming

Just won an ebook, FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS, by Preston Fleming at

FORTY DAYS AT KAMAS is the first book in the Kamas Trilogy of dystopian novels set during the 2020s after a dictatorial President-for-Life has brought the United States under totalitarian one-party rule.

 "A brutal portrait of a dystopian America, full of dramatic irony and shocking revelation." KIRKUS REVIEWS

"A page-turner…moves at a solid clip. An overtly political story that succeeds as entertainment.” PACIFIC BOOK REVIEW

Theatres of War by R J J Hall

Update: I have received a copy to review !

Thursday, 5 September 2013

'Wool' & 'Shift' - The Silo Series by Hugh Howey

My Thoughts:

'Wool' and 'Shift', (#1-#8) kept me reading into the early hours even with flu. The opening chapter of  'Wool' was a real clincher.

Will not say too much about plot or characters as, in my opinion, the Silo series needs to be read in ignorance to get the full surprise impact, and have the mystery slowly revealed throughout the series. In brief it's about life and survival in a silo sometime in the future after a world wide catastrophic event.

Hugh has written an intelligent, engaging story with totally credible characters in an environment full of tension and intrigue. I felt many emotions ranging from dread, disbelief to excitement, fascination and relief. Hugh's descriptive style is perfect in bringing to life the world that his characters live in. The scenes played out vividly and effortlessly in my mind to such a degree that I hope I'm not disappointed with the film version whenever it comes out.

It may not be a 'hard core', 'hi-tech geeky' Sci-fi book and may not be suited to everyone but for fans of Dystopian fiction or for anyone who enjoys a really good story, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Gripping stuff.  Totally addictive.  Loved it !

I hope the energy and thrill of the ride will continue into the final phase in the series...Dust

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Well it's been a great week for post deliveries.
I received these great titles and looking forward to reading and reviewing them.

1. The Genesis Key by James Barney

2. City of Devils by Diana Bretherick

3. The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
Amazon UK Link:

4. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Amazon UK Link:

Monday, 2 September 2013

THE ALMOND TREE by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

"The Almond Tree's" opening scene was achingly difficult to read but mesmerising and I was instantly hooked.  I absolutely loved this beautiful piece of fiction about the  uncertainties of Hamid and his family's day to day lives.  Set in the Middle East in Israeli occupied Palestine it is told in four parts spanning a 50 year period from the 50's to 2009.
It is predominantly the story of two brothers one eaten up and destroyed by hatred and one who is able to forgive and manages to remain humane.

Imagine at 12 years of age your country has been invaded and the conquerors telling you, you have no right to be there because, in a 'book', it was written that this country is theirs. They have come to claim their land with the support and protection of other countries. They take your home and land that has been tended and cared for for centuries. You  are unwelcome, hated and forced to comply with curfews with fear of imprisonment if you break the rules. Your makeshift shack can be destroyed at any time leaving you without shelter and defenceless. There is no redress for the murder of your siblings or children or for the violence and destruction rent on your people.

With Ichmad's narrative it successfully transports you to this place and you experience the  constant tension of conflict, you feel the  grief and frustration that he feels. It leaves you wondering if you too could tolerate the aggressors violence and injustices with the dignity and calm Ichmad does.

This story is so powerfully portrayed that I had to remind myself that it was a novel and not a memoir.  I 'Googled' on occasions to see if  the characters were indeed real.  I did come across one, that of the poet Mahmoud Darwish and his poem 'Identity Card' which I found rather profound and have included at the end of my review.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti's characters are amazingly well drawn with warmth, love,  but also frustration, and hatred.  I believe she has tried to write  in an honest and unbiased a manner. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the  generalisation  portraying the Palestinians as victims and the Israeli's as aggressors.  With the complexities and passions of all involved in this longstanding conflict things are seldom so black and white. While reading this book I had to constantly remind myself that  Michelle Cohen Corasanti is herself an American Jew. 

If you enjoyed 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini, or  'Mornings in Jenin' by Susan AbulhawaI  I would definitely recommend 'The Almond Tree,' and especially to anyone interested in human rights. Book reading groups would benefit from reading it and it would certainly generate some interesting discussions.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author via 'GoodReads', and I would like to thank them for the opportunity to review this debut novel.

Identity Card by Mahmoud Darwish

Put it on record
--I am an Arab
And the number of my card is fifty thousand
I have eight childern
And the ninth is due after summer.
What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.
--I am an Arab
Working with comrades of toil in a quarry.
I have eight childern
For them I wrest the loaf of bread,
The clothes and exercise books
From the rocks
And beg for no alms at your doors,
--Lower not myself at your doorstep.
--What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.
--I am an Arab.
I am a name without a tide,
Patient in a country where everything
Lives in a whirlpool of anger.
--My roots
--Took hold before the birth of time
--Before the burgeoning of the ages,
--Before cypess and olive trees,
--Before the proliferation of weeds.

My father is from the family of the plough
--Not from highborn nobles.
And my grandfather was a peasant
--Without line or genealogy.
My house is a watchman's hut
--Made of sticks and reeds.
Does my status satisfy you?
--I am a name without a surname.

Put it on Record.
--I am an Arab.
Color of hair: jet black.
Color of eyes: brown.
My distinguishing features:
--On my head the 'iqal cords over a keffiyeh
--Scratching him who touches it.
My address:
--I'm from a village, remote, forgotten,
--Its streets without name
--And all its men in the fields and quarry.

--What's there to be angry about?

Put it on record.
--I am an Arab.
You stole my forefathers' vineyards
--And land I used to till,
--I and all my childern,
--And you left us and all my grandchildren
--Nothing but these rocks.
--Will your government be taking them too
--As is being said?

--Put it on record at the top of page one:
--I don't hate people,
--I trepass on no one's property.
And yet, if I were to become starved
--I shall eat the flesh of my usurper.
--Beware, beware of my starvation.
--And of my anger!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Duty to Investigate is a military crime thriller set in 2004 at the lead up to the Iraq War. I believe it is an authentic depiction of events and of the effects the war has on those involved, and the repercussions of misinterpretation of events and  actions taken.  It is a story in narrative form from several perspectives, the military, the interaction of troops with civilians and the enemy, and personal relationships.

The protagonist Lieutenant Colonel Mike Beck (USMC reserve) is good looking, highly intelligent with chauvinistic tendencies. He treats women as an R'n'R activity, to be used and discarded, but he is also compassionate, with a great deal of integrity and a strong sense of morality and totally dedicated to his work. Beck is a successful lawyer who is appointed as the 4th Division's Staff Judge Advocate. 

Anne Merrill is a highly motivated newspaper journalist who also works for a tv corporation.  She is beautiful, independent, headstrong and totally driven to get to where, and get what she wants on her own terms with no compromise. After an incident with fatalities taken in an ambush in Fallujah she is determined to provide coverage of the war in Iraq and has no qualms about using her positions to get her there.

Anne stumbles across an 'incident' and takes photographs. She is convinced that she knows what occurred and is determined to report what she has witnessed.  Mike however wants to investigate further but will he jeopardise his integrity in the process to get to the truth.

Haitham Rasheed and his cousin, Ahmed are teenagers wanting to do anything to help their family and make the difficulties of everyday life in a war torn country more bearable. Their actions have disastrous repercussions for all involved.

I particularly enjoyed reading about these characters and genuinely felt empathy, and concern for them.  They  were well drawn out, highly credible with flawed and complex traits, and I'm sure that some of the events and tragic circumstances will not sit well with some readers.  However, I did not fully believe in the relationship between Beck and Anne towards the end as it appeared out of character and rather rushed.  But then again, maybe being in an intense war zone where the threat of death is a possibility, perhaps people do act out of character during that period. I don't know, but the author does, so I asked him if Beck and Anne were based on real people but as yet I've had no response.  I had hoped his reply would give credibility to his characters actions.

'Duty to Investigate' is a thrilling military tale which at times has some harrowing scenes.  It humanises the Iraqi civilians instead of demonising them as a nation.  'DTI' should appeal to anyone interested in military thrillers, and about the Iraq War.

I look forward to reading more from JW Stone.

I received an e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley for an unbiased review. I should like to thank them for the opportunity to review this title.

Amazon UK Link:
Amazon US Link:

Thursday, 22 August 2013



A thrilling tale which moves back and forth through time, from the early days of Byzantium to the thriving metropolis of Istanbul...A corpse is discovered at the base of the statue of Atatiirk in old Istanbul, an antique coin left in its hand... But it's not to be the last corpse and the bodies soon begin to pile up...And so the hunt for the killers begins...Seven murders, seven sovereigns, seven coins and seven ancient monuments, with one thread binding them all: the history of one of the world's most mysterious and most dazzling cities.

"The sea was shrouded in a mist, our boat hidden from view. Istanbul was lost in the mist. Only the minarets of Sultanahmet Mosque, the dome of the Hagia Sophia and the turrets of Topkapi Palace were visible above the haze.  The city seemed unblemished and pure, unharmed and untouched, the white mist veiling anything and everything which could blight the view. It was like a vision from an ancient myth emerging for a fleeting moment before the light of the day...A newly founded city, a new start, shimmering in the grey light of dawn... Young, vibrant and full of hope...

We were looking at the city from the sea. At King Byzas' legendary country, at Constantine's imperial capital, at the stone necklace of the walls built by Theodosius II, at Justinian's peerless Hagia Sophia, at Topkapi Palace, from which Mehmed the Conqueror ruled over half the known world, at the Lawmakers stunning Siileymaniye Mosque...From out at sea we gazed upon those kings, those extraordinary generals and captains, at the nobility and the citizens of repute and bearing, at the slaves and the Sufis and the saints...At the women: Pulheira, Theodora and Roxelana... From our vantage point out at sea we looked back upon heroics, cowardice, creativity and destruction, at intelligence, foolhardiness, compassion and cruelty...From out at sea we gazed upon the whole of man's madness and mystery, at the entirety of his daring and his exploits."

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Knitted Teddy Bear by Sandra Polley

This is a lovely book with some charming colour photographs of traditionally knitted bears.  New knitters with basic skills will easily progress from the simple bear to the more adventurous jointed bear in a short amount of time. Clear diagrams and instructions will help to create the teddy bears of different sizes,  style and character. Matching knitted wardrobe accessories are included with clear diagrams and illustrations on how to sew, join, and complete the bears.  Sandra Polley offers handy tips and some money saving ideas including stuffing alternatives for your bear.

Advice is given on the various yarns that can be used along with a handy converter for the different US/UK terms given for the respective yarns.  A variety of looks can be achieved by using different yarns or materials, and size of knitting needles, so once you're confident enough you should be able to create your very own unique heirloom.

A charming  book for any bear fan to knit for gifts, heirlooms or to keep for themselves.  This book is suited to any level of expertise. The only limit is your creativity.

I would like to thank the Publisher via NetGalley for the opportunity to review this craft book.

The Trader of Saigon by Lucy Cruickshanks

'The Trader of Saigon' by Lucy Cruickshanks is set in the 1980's Vietnam.  It is primarily about 3 main characters, Phuc a once affluent  businessman (pre war) who is now desperately trying to do the best for his family in the miserable circumstances they now find themselves.

Hahn a 15 year old girl trying to survive as best she can in abject poverty looking after her sick mother and working as a latrine girl.

Alexander, a coward and deserter from the US Army; a man of very little substance struggling with his demons but making a very comfortable living from the trafficking trade.  He is an extremely unlikeable character with many failings, some out of his control, but most of his own making.  I felt ambivalent about Alexander but eventually formed the opinion that he could only do his best under the circumstances.

The main characters paths cross in dramatic and unexpected circumstances and 'The Trader of Saigon' is an enjoyable, if somewhat unsavoury, read which I found hard to put down. The pace is gentle at the start but rages to an ultimate climax which kept me reading right into the early hours. It is ultimately a tale of survival, retribution and forgiveness.

Lucy Cruickshanks has written this tale in a beautiful, simplistic style, painting vivid scenes of a foreign land and culture.  I was drawn so easily and quickly into this world.  I could almost smell and feel the atmosphere, the sights and sounds of the streets of Hanoi and Saigon. The impending malevolence palpable from every alley or street corner. The apprehension and fear that anything could happen to you with no help of rescue or assistance. 

This is an outstanding debut novel which I enjoyed very much and it will certainly appeal to a wide audience.  'Reading groups' would definitely have some interesting and lively conversations. 

I am looking forward to what Lucy Cruickshanks does next.

Thank you to the Team at Newbooks for the opportunity to review this title.