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.

Friday, 16 August 2013


EARTH STAR by Janet Edwards

I received a promotional copy of Earth Star by Janet Edwards from the Publishers this morning for a 'Giveaway' prize on my blog which I will put up very soon along with my review.

Thank you so very much to Rosie Bathurst at HarperFiction/HarperCollins. I was thrilled to receive your email and this offer.

Amazon Synopsis:

The highly anticipated follow-up to Janet Edward’s sensational YA sci-fi debut, Earth Girl.

18-year-old Jarra has a lot to prove. After being awarded one of the military’s highest honours for her role in a daring rescue attempt, Jarra finds herself – and her Ape status – in the spotlight. Jarra is one of the unlucky few born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Derided as an ‘ape’ – a ‘throwback’ – by the rest of the universe, Jarra is on a mission to prove that Earth Girls are just as good as everyone else.

Except now the planet she loves is under threat by what could be humanity’s first ever alien contact. Jarra’s bravery – and specialist knowledge – will once again be at the centre of the maelstrom, but will the rest of the universe consider Earth worth fighting for?

Monday, 12 August 2013


Tite: Day of the Elephants
Authors: Ron Swager & Ed Chinn
Pages: 104

Publishers: Smith Publicity -- Reel Marketing Systems, LLC
Publish Date: 10th July 2013
Genre: Biographies, Memoirs, Christian
Source: (e-copy) Publisher via Net Galley

Rating: A Liberal  3 out of 5

'Day of the Elephants' : African proverb - "When the bull elephants fight, the grass always loses."

Set in Liberia during the 1989-1996 civil war 'Day of the Elephants' is the heart wrenching tale of Roland Deah who as a child of 8 is witness to horrific torture, violence, and mass murder on an epic scale.  He loses family members and friends and along with masses of refugees is forced to flee for his life from the warring tribes.

I cannot imagine the absolute terror and horrors endured by the people caught up in this man made tragedy,  unfortunately I think that the writing style also fails to convey it.  It appears sanitised with the author drawing parallels of his own health issues with the horror of Roland's struggle to survive. I felt it detracted from Roland's experiences and didn't quite have the same impact.

It felt trite, trying too hard to incorporate a connection of a privileged society with that of the suffering people endured in Liberia.  The underlaying message that with faith you can endure anything did not sit well with me and left me feeling that Roland's story would have had more depth, and impact had it been told without this ulterior agenda. There is nothing wrong with including Psalms and Bible passages, but it was unbalanced and just not appropriate in my opinion.

What we learn is a brief history of Liberia and of its connection to the USA from the days of slavery. We learn, to some extent, the politics of the tribal regimes. Knowing very little about Liberia this spurred me on to research  Liberia, its tribes and the civil war. 

Even with the issues about the writing style, or even because of it  I would have no concern with my 12 year old daughter reading 'Day of the Elephants'.

Roland Deah is a proud, seemingly unbroken man, who against all the odds has survived thanks to his faith and the unselfish and brave acts of others.  Roland's tale has stuck with me and I really do hope and pray for the best possible future for him and others like him throughout this troubled world we currently reside.

My view is that the intended market for this book would be readers who do not necessarily want, or need to read in any depth, the details of horrendous acts and  I think they would be moved and appreciate this book.

I would like to thank the Publishers, in particular Anne Johnson of Smith Publicity,  and Net Galley for the opportunity to review this title.

Friday, 9 August 2013


Welcome Home, Mama and Boris:
How a Sister's Love Saved a Fallen Soldier's Beloved Dogs
By Carey Neesley

WOW just received an e-version to review of this one.
I thought I'd Google the title and found this You Tube Link:

I'm in tears already and not even read the book !

Publish Date for UK/US Release: 29 August 2013

Available on Amazon US: Link
Amazon UK: Link

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Taking A Rest

Just to say that I am on a couple of days break from reading and reviewing due to getting over my operation yesterday. I had planned plenty of reading time but the recovery from the general anaesthetic says NO !

Nothing serious, just an operation to clear the debris behind the knee cap ! No more Spinning or Shcwinn for me. Only walking and swimming, for a while at least.

Hope to be back to normal very soon.

Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 2 Show Chats to Terry Hayes

If you missed Simon Mayo's chat to Terry Hayes about his debut novel 'I Am Pilgrim' you can catch up at the following link:

Saturday, 3 August 2013

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Title: I Am Pilgrim
Author: Terry Hayes
Pages: 704

Publish Date: 18 July 2013
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers / Bantam Press
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Source: (e-copy)Publisher via NetGalley
& (Hard Back) BBC Radio 2 Drive Time with Simon Mayo
ISBN: 9780593064948

Rating: 5 out of 5

Book Synopsis:
Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

My Thoughts:
'I Am Pilgrim' by Terry Hayes is an outstanding, exceptional piece of work.
It opens in a hotel room in New York, at the scene of a rather gruesome murder of a woman found in a bathtub.

Pilgrim is the codename of a man who doesn’t exist, but here he is at the request of a friend to attend and help him with the investigation.
Whilst surveying the crime scene it becomes evident that the perpetrator may have used a criminal forensic investigation book as a reference to  assist with the a murder. Intreagingly a book  that just happens to have been written by Pilgrim.

'I Am Pilgrim' by Terry Hayes is an outstanding, exceptional piece of work.

I didn't know anything about the book before I read it and don't want to spoil it for other readers but suffice to say that the reader is in for a tremendous fast paced, action packed thriller.  Hayes takes us on an exciting journey from London, Paris, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia to the Hindu Kush, on an international manhunt to find the killer and to thwart a plot to bring down the House of Saad, the Saudi Arabian Royal family, and destruction of the USA.  

Pilgrim is a witty, intelligent, quiet unassuming character that I liked very much.  I found all the characters intensely interesting.  Hayes’ style of writing is slick, taut and intense and at times pretty gruesome.  Some scenes are incredibly emotive and you find yourself believing in and caring about the  characters.  During one section set in Jeddah I was really moved, and horrified as the scene unfolded, and by the emotional destruction of those affected. The transitions between character to character and their associated stories is seamless and flawlessly managed.

This is the first spy thriller I have read, but in the post 9/11,  Iraq and Afganistan world we live in, I, as  are many other people,  am a little more aware that governments and intelligence agencies are working in the background to seek and intercept acts of terrorism.   Having also lived in Saudi Arabia, with an interest, and a little understanding of the politics of that country,  I find this a credible and frighteningly plausible tale.

The 700 pages just flew by and I never lost interest, even slightly.  'I Am Pilgrim' is my absolute favourite read this year and I would certainly recommend it to family, friends and any thriller enthusiast or novice as in my case, without reservation.
This is Hayes debut novel and I will definitely keep a look out for more by him including the film !
I absolutely loved it !

Thank you to Transworld Publishers, NetGalley and BBC Radio 2 'Drive Time' for the opportunity to review this amazing title.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Postman This Week

I won another Giveaway !
This one was a GoodReads First Reads win.

Amazon Synopsis:
During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, IRA members Brendan O’Hara and his son, Seamus, are ruthless executioners of informers.  Brendan, betrayed by an unknown informer, is arrested but Seamus escapes and tries to put the past behind him. On his deathbed, Brendan forces Seamus to take an oath to kill the informer.  But Seamus discovers he has a personal connection to the man who betrayed his father. Can he avenge his father without destroying himself? 

With several 5 star reviews I'm looking forward to reading it.