Reviews

I'm just as passionate about reading as I am about writing & will share my thoughts on some fantastic authors work that I've discovered.

I purchase all books that I've read & don't receive free books from other authors, ensuring that my reviews are honest & unbiased.

As a reader, the kindest possible way to repay an author is to leave a review, so if you've enjoyed a book, leave a comment on Amazon, Goodreads or the relevant place of purchase. 

Sixties Nostalgia

Harry, Daniel & Sam Hanway are about as different as siblings could possibly be. As they leave school and make their way in the world, each brother sets out on a unique path, each determined to find the answers they so desperately crave.

Through relationships, both personal and professional, the young men learn that they can't always have what they need. Splendidly written, the author takes us on a journey of discovery, showing us what happened to the boy's mother and how it really affected their individual choices.

Ackroyd weaves a good web, intertwining the lives of his characters so well that it's not until the end that you realise the inevitable. I devoured this on a lazy Sunday afternoon & immediately felt the need to seek out more of this writer's work. 

 

 

 

Vintage Publishing £9.99

An Absolute Delight 

Spanning three generations, this is a wonderful family drama that centres around a mysterious painting by talented artist Ned Horner. The tale begins with Juliet who works in an art gallery & has plenty of trials and tribulations in her life. Gradually the author takes us back in time, to when Juliet's grandmother, Liddy, escaped her turmultuous upbringing to marry Ned Horner & live in the house of her dreams.

Every chapter is carefully moulded, giving the reader just enough insight into the character's lives before whisking them off again to a different era. It's very cleverly done, with beautifully descriptive text and an obvious passion for weaving a good yarn. 

I would recommend this for a holiday read or during convalescence, as it deserves your full attention & is best devoured in a few long & lingering sessions. Superb! 

 

A Cracking Series...

Meet D.I. Gus McGuire & his team of officers, striving to rid the streets of Bradford of the lowlifes, drug dealers and underworld bosses who prey on the innocent. Gus is no run-of-the-mill detective, with his dirty blonde dreadlocks & disastrous love-life, yet after just a couple of pages you'll love him like a family member.

Each book in the series is fast-paced, well-written & so true to life that it's easy to imagine Liz Mistry's work as a top television drama. There are dark scenes & swearing, certainly no pussyfooting around, but that's what makes each case so believable. 

The characters are brilliant, from gothic petite Alice to Compo the computer whizz & human dustbin, not to mention Gus's mother and her burnt offerings. I guarantee that after the first book you'll be hooked & eager to read the rest in rapid succession. 

 

Simon & Schuster £20

Top Notch Journalism

In the beginning the murder of a Native American Indian woman raises few suspicions. But when the newly rich Osage nation are slowly bumped off in a series of poisonings, fires & shootings, alarm bells begin to ring and the FBI are called in to begin their very first high-profile investigation.

There are plenty of suspects who want the Osage dead. Men who lust after their oil-filled lands and corrupt lawmen who are willing to do anything to take their cut. At the centre of it all is Molly Burkhart, a native Indian married to a white man. Molly knows she's not safe but can't quite figure out why her family are being targeted.

This is an incredible true story, pieced together in a brilliant work of detection & journalism, which includes maps, photographs and a stunning conclusion. If you treat yourself to only one hardback book this year, make it this one. 

Incredibly Moving

In a time when potato farmers rubbed shoulders with fairyfolk & superstition, this harrowing tale follows Nora Leahy who is convinced that her grandson has been exchanged for a changeling. Told in beautifully descriptive detail, it's a story of loss, hope and courage in days when people's belief in the supernatural was sometimes the only way to carry on. 

I love this authors writing & the fact that she bases her books on historical fact brings them to life with breathtaking ease. It's not difficult to imagine the 'little folk' dancing around the whitethorn bush, or to acknowledge that the hens have stopped laying because of dark magic in the hills, when the tale is crafted so well. If you only read one book this year, make it this one! 

£8.99 from Picador Fiction

An Honest & Humbling Read

Peter Thornley had a turmultuous start in life & it appears evident from these memoirs that those humble beginnings instigated the disciplined physical and emotional changes that created his new persona, Kendo Nagasaki.

This fascinating autobiography holds nothing back, the tragedies & triumphs narrated in equal measure. The rise of televised wrestling catapulted 'The Man Behind the Mask' into the limelight, yet Thornley is remarkably grounded & frank about his time as a famous professional wrestler.

All proceeds of this book go to the 'Lee Rigby KNFoundation', yet another nod to the author's compassion & empathy for others. 

Available from Amazon for £9.99

More info at: www.leerigbyfoundation.org

A Chilling Tale

Based upon the true story of the crimes, struggles & tumultuous relationships of the Wardlaw sisters, the author has captured the scene perfectly. As the girls grow into young women under the watchful eye of their father, it soon becomes apparent that Vertiline, Mary & Carolee will do anything to survive, including committing murder. 

 

I particularly enjoyed the historical aspects of this story, which take place in the midst of the American Civil War, as it lends sympathy to the women’s actions & perhaps excuses a part of their crimes. The events certainly give food for thought. 

 

Dark & chillingly real, this is a book that explores the complex bond between siblings & the lengths that they will go to in order to protect one another. Clark has created a clever tale & writes in such the way that the reader is unable to stop turning the pages. I’m so glad that I’ve discovered this writer’s work as I know he will become a firm favourite.

Published by Penguin Classics £8.99

A Daringly Different Ghost Story

There has been a lot of hype about the television series which is based on this book and, despite it being very well made, what it cannot show is the masterful writing skill of Shirley Jackson. Her plot is perfect, setting four very different individuals together in a haunted house to record their experiences. We have excitable Theodora, dreamy Eleanor, flirtatious Luke and the very rational Dr.Montague. Then of course there is 'Hill House', a gloomy place full of history and sadness. 

 

The ghostly happenings are drip fed to the reader and interceded by a narrative that flits from one character to another, opening up their complex lives so that eventually the most sensitive of them is exposed to the horror which preys upon their souls. This truly is a classic read that you will want to peruse over again, so perfectly does the author instill fear into her captive audience. 

Raw, Emotional & Exquisite

Entering the world of Five Dragons, a highly motivated & unfeeling young man from rural China, the reader is at first unprepared for the effect that grains of rice have upon his future. But, scratching a living, expectations are surpassed as the country boy marries into the Great Swan Rice Emporium where the lives of those inside are ruled by crude rules and despicable greed. Su Tong writes with a no holds barred attitude, portraying every detail of treachery, filth and jealousy in raw unhindered storytelling. This book is anything but a light read, but it will draw you in and spit you out with tantalising ease. 

Published by Perennial

Published by Creativia

Ahoy Me Hearties!

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the depths of the world's most trecherous oceans? Or pondered at the origins of some of the scariest sea tales? This wonderful book will solve a few mysteries, yet have you scratching your chin at others.

With his superb storytelling skills, Jack Strange takes us on a literary voyage, discovering mermaids, monstrous sea creatures, missing lighthouse keepers & cannibalistic sailors. A lot of historical research and a passion for the weird & wonderful ensures that the author has his reader captivated from beginning to end. 

A book to treasure on Kindle, I'm ordering a paperback version to go on my 'forever'shelf, such is my addiction to the world of Strange. This would make the perfect gift for those who love a good yarn. Check out Jack's other books in his brilliant series too! 

No Ordinary Honeymoon

This is a great story. When a honeymoon couple stumble upon strange goings on in an abandoned house in the woods, there is much more intrigue to come. Not only are they caught up in a web of tangled circumstances, but locals are not all that they seem & the appearance of an ex-girlfriend complicates matters even further.

I love the way that characters from the authors other books make cameo appearances along the way & the upbeat writing style keeps you turning the pages well into the night.

Cleverly plotted & with a stinger of a twist, I found this a really different kind of read, but for all the right reasons. Well done Jim Ody, the ending left me open-mouthed and craving your next book. 

Paperback £8.53, Kindle £0.99

Hardback from Picador 12.99

This Book Will Haunt You.....

Set in the harsh remote farmlands of Iceland in 1829, this story is based upon the true circumstances of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed there. It's an extraordinary work, using an autobiographical text in parts, but a compassionate one too. Through the eyes of the condemned, those who hold her captive and the young priest tasked with bringing absolution, the reader is taken on a breathtaking journey, as the author leads us very gently to the hanging of a terrified young woman.

From the beginning, we know that Agnes is guilty. Yet the trials and tribulations of her life leave little doubt that perhaps there were extenuating reasons as to why she had a hand in murdering the man she loved. 

Despite having a horrifying outcome, the deceased woman's final months were undoubtedly incredibly significant to those whose lives she touched and Ms.Kent has done a remarkable job of capturing her last precious moments. Be warned though, this book will haunt you for a good while after reading as not only will you surface feeling exhausted, but there will also be an element of gratitude at being privy to one of the saddest stories you'll ever read. I am truly humbled to have this book on my shelves. 

A Thrilling Adventure.

As soon as I finished the first chapter, I knew that this was going to be one of those adventure tales that I just couldn't put down. There was an instant sympathy for the hero, Jack Windrush, as he found himself banished to the band of misfits & vagabonds in the 113th Foot Regiment, a black mark on one with such a noble legacy.

It's not long before the reader is swept away to the back streets of India, and then on to Burma where Jack boards a naval ship to meet up with his motley crew of men as they face tyrants in the jungle.

As with all of Archibald's work, there's a beautiful rapport between the characters, enabling one to sense the desperation and humanity of the situation. I can't wait to read the rest of the series to find out where Windrush sets out on his next escapade. 

 

Published by Creativia

Ancient Evils & Talented Prose

Published by PanMacmillan £7.99

I held my breath without even realising as I devoured this book, so engaging were the characters & events. Nevill has such an incredible talent for bringing to life the most dark & horrific scenarios that you can almost smell the damp forest & feel the ghoulish prickles of the ancient evils that lie within. 

The plot is simple but what starts off as a reunion of old friends on a camping trip in Sweden soon turns into a battle for survival as the group find that they are not alone in the dense wooded hillsides. As they're hunted down one by one, nerves are shattered and strange customs reveal themselves until it becomes obvious that there is only one way to leave. 

This book has been recently made into a film & I look forward to seeing whether justice has been done to the author's talented storytelling. This is the stuff of nightmares & I definitely need to read more of this author's work, even though I'm already convinced that it will scare me into keeping the lights on all night! 

Waifs, Strays & Runaways!

£10.99 from PanMacMillan

Living on the outskirts of society, the residents of Dogtown are as poor, down-trodden & unique as their canine counterparts, but they look out for one another & form a tightly knit community. 

Each beautifully descriptive chapter discloses how each resident arrived & their purpose in the forgotten hamlet. From Tammy Younger's rotten teeth to Mrs. Stanley's makeshift brothel, you'll warm to the characters in no time at all. 

Then, at the centre of the group is Judy Rhines, a generous & caring woman with a dangerous secret of her own, an illicit affair with a negro, which gives the plot just a little more edge, allowing the reader to feel the heat of condemning society surrounding the couple. 

Diamant has a great talent for portraying the era in fine detail, with its crimes, prejudices & superstitions, making this a fascinating read. Loosely based upon true accounts, it's easy to believe that every single Dogtown resident in the book was a living person. Wonderful. 

Gritty & Addictive

Published by Bloodhound Books

Set in vibrant Glasgow, this crime thriller is fast-paced & superbly written, taking you on a virtual tour of the sights & sounds of the Scottish city as an exciting storyline unfolds. 

When private-eye Charlie Cameron discovers an old friend is dead, he has no idea where the trail will lead, although it's soon clear that not everyone is being straight with him & his own life could be on the line. Enter the beautiful Fiona, melting Charlie's heart & promising hope for the future, the plot thickens & Cameron is forced to play his cards close to his chest.

Drug money, lost love & hit-men make this a hard book to put down, each chapter pulling the reader closer to an explosive ending. The author writes with insight & has moulded every page to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

I can't wait to read more of Mullen's work, his characters are so real that you start to champion their individual causes. Gritty, intriguing & amazingly addictive. 

Mayhem in Moscow

Published by MacMillan

Arkady Renko has issues, lots of them. As prosecutor's investigator in ruthless modern-day Moscow, he has learned to cope with the cut-throat world in which he carries out his duties, but when he's sent to uncover the mysterious sightings of Stalin's ghost in an underground train station, a whole new set of challenges begin. 

Renko's homelife is no less complicated, with a part-time lover & homeless teenager drifting in & out of his apartment, both tearing at his heartstrings. Add to the mix a caravan of twisted comrades, tormented memories from a strict upbringing & a chess grandmaster in need of help, this makes for a great thriller.

Each chapter is crammed with twists & it really keeps the reader on their toes. The harsh winter back-drop in which the novel is set lends itself to the perfect scene to take you over the Iron Curtain. There's only one problem with Martin Cruz Smith's work, you'll want more & may find yourself investing in the whole Arkady Renko series. 

An Alternative Paranormal Read

Paperback from Amazon £8.99

This is the tale of George who, after a brief illness, discovers than he can not only see ghosts causing disabilities & misfortune to their victims but he can also get rid of them too. George's new found 'talent' turns his life upside down as he desperately strives to cure the innocent & send the spirits into oblivion. 

This is no ordinary paranormal read but it's certainly very imaginative, with a unique twist in the tale. Margaret Millmore is a very creative writer with a great sense of how her reader needs to perceive each situation that the main character finds himself in. Each chapter is well planned and runs smoothly along, but the whole time you just feel that something bigger is coming. The author asks 'Can you kill something that's already dead?' The answer lies within the pages.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected take on a ghost story & look forward to the rest of the series.  If you're looking for something uniquely different but still want a spooky journey, this could well fit the bill. 

A Bewitching Mystery

Available from www.amazon.co.uk

When the matriarch of your family is a witch, you start to believe that anything is possible, and when a woman goes missing in one of the worst snowstorms to hit Staffordshire in years, that's exactly how six-year old Louise Whistler feels.

Catching snippets of the adult conversation around her, Louise begins to see and feel dark elements creeping into her everyday life, but little does she realise just how far back in history her family secrets lie.

Rarely do I become so gripped in a book that I abandon work, but this book had me absorbed from the start. The prose is so descriptive that you'll find yourself imagining snowflakes landing on your face as you read & the spine-chilling thrill that creeps up on you is one that you find has been tugging at you like a spider catching a fly, until there, right at the end, you sit back exhausted having just been taken on the most bewitching of rides. Dark, believable and cleverly plotted, this author will leave you craving more. An easy five stars to award. 

Plenty of Bite!

Available from Amazon

Having thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series (Unknown) I was eager to see how the author would keep me gripped in his next offering & I must say that he does a great job. I've stayed up far too late at night with this one as I couldn't put it down. 

The already developed characters are given a new dimension as vampires Eddie & Elias begin a personal vendetta against hero Jake with dire & tragic consequences. The story is brilliant, taking you between two worlds, one mythical, the other real but both of great significance to Jake & his family. Well told & descriptive, it's easy to imagine the parallel worlds coinciding with each other & this book is just a little more scarey than the last.

I particularly love the way that the chapters pan out, one minute you're safe in a cosy Cornish kitchen drinking tea & the next sharpening stakes to ward off blood-thirsty monsters. Phil Price is a great storyteller & I can't wait to read the next instalment. If the last two are anything to go by, it's going to be a tale  with plenty of bite! 

Historical Delights

Published by Creativia

There's nothing quite like a good old-fashioned murder mystery & this one delivers perfectly. Set in the mid-19th century, around the historic spa town of Malvern, the story begins with the mysterious death of poor Mr. Findhorn. Recently dismissed teacher Lorna Buchanan rises to the challenge of finding the culprits whilst puzzling buried treasure, ancient rituals & a  ghostly woman in white. 

Every chapter was an absolute delight to read & many of the investigative techniques employed by the main character & her trusted assistant brought a smile to my face as I waded through the pages. There were also references to Lorna's unconventional upbringing which gave credibility to her skills of detection. 

Swift can weave a convincing tale & her careful attention to historical detail makes this a glorious read,  which by the end will have you imagining fresh country air & cool water springs. The final conclusion is both satisfying & plausible, and I will definitely be seeking out more of this author's mysteries.  

Breathtakingly Moving

Bloomsbury £11.99

This completely absorbing tale begins in Nagasaki, when everything that Hiroko Tanaka holds dear is destroyed by the bomb. In that one moment she loses her father, friends & beloved German fiance Konrad Weiss. The one constant reminder of that fateful day, that Hiroko will forever carry with her, are three blackened scars, imprints from her mother's kimono, depicting the flight of cranes. 

With nothing to keep her in Japan, except for dark memories of a lost love, Hiroko travels to Delhi in search of the Burton family,  Konrad's only relatives. But life in India is changing & soon the British will be leaving, as a new regime threatens to divide the multi-religious city. Finding love with Sajjad Ashraf, the Burton's employee, adds complications & the Japanese woman finds herself torn between following tradition & carving a different path. 

This is a book that should be read multiple times as with each dip in you'll find new emotions for the characters ranging from admiration to respect & compassion. The author is extremely talented & takes her reader on an intense journey using such descriptive powers to draw you in that you'll find yourself holding your breath right up until the very last page. 

Amazing Insight Into A Tragic Life

Published by Mango Books

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have read books or seen films about the life of Joseph Carey Merrick, commonly known as the 'Elephant Man.' In most, Joseph is portrayed as an object of ridicule, living his early years on display in sideshows & the latter part of his life shrouded from society. Now, thanks to the authors in-depth research, we can finally learn what life was really like for a man who suffered from a terrible medical affliction but made the most of his situation & took pleasure in the smallest of kindnesses. 

Joanne Vigor  Mungovin provides extensive detail into the Merrick family history, plotting homes, births, deaths & financial circumstance, helping us to better understand how it was that Joseph spent time in a workhouse, travelling freak show & finally as a permanent resident at the London Hospital. We are also treated to a history lesson about Leicester, Joseph's hometown, and vibrant details of how it thrived in the late 19th century. 

There are tender moments in this sympathetically written biography too, as the author has included personal memoirs from those who met and knew 'The Elephant Man'. We also learn that Joseph was able to get respite in the countryside from time to time & was an educated man with a passion for books, not so unlike you and I after all. One sentence, from the authors personal note, says it all 'Whatever illness Joseph did suffer from, it should not define him as a human being.'

A Masterpiece.

Published by 4thEstate £7.99

 I have quite literally savoured every single page of this delightful book, with its very cleverly constructed short sentences & intriguing characters. I recommend that everyone add this to their reading list as it will take you through a whirlwind of emotions from pity, frustration, sadness & joy. A truly amazing read.

The main character is Quoyle, a large oafish man with few prospects, who finds himself preyed upon by Petal. Their relationship quickly turns sour & before long Quoyle becomes a widower with two young daughters, Bunny & Sunshine. More grief follows with the death of Quoyle's father but this brings fortune in the form of an old aunt, Agnis Hamm. With nothing to keep the family in the States, Quoyle & his ageing relative pack up his station wagon & drive all the way up to Newfoundland in search of the Quoyle family property. As you may guess from the title, our man gains employment at the local newspaper, reporting on the shipping news. From there I will let you find out the family's fate for yourself.

This book delivers on every level, from quirky characters with names like Jack Buggit, Wavey Prowse & Alvin Yark, to the author's natural talent for telling a great yarn, this is one book to add to your collection. 

 

 

One of a Kind!

Published by 4thEstate - £20

In this truly unique volume the author shares her devilishly tongue-in-cheek research on a few topics that would definitely have been brushed under the carpet in the 19th century. Told with scholarly prose & genuine facts, this is a must-have for historians, literary fans & gossips alike.

In the opening chapter, entitled 'Lady Flora's Belly' we find out what it was like to be a lady-in-waiting under the scrutiny of Queen Victoria, in a household where accusations were rife and extra-marital affairs the norm. Forced to endure intrusive medical examinations in an attempt to redeem herself, poor Flora Hastings becomes the victim of a hateful campaign against her. 

Subsequent topics include 'Charles Darwin's Beard' which reveals his terrible skin complaint & inferiority complex, the truth behind the rumours of 'George Eliot's Hand' supposedly enlarged from the action of milking cows, Dante Rossetti's obsession with 'Fanny Cornforth's Mouth' & the true story of 'Sweet Fanny Adams'  who's murder gave rise to the saying that we all know so well. 

Thoroughly addictive from beginning to end, this is a work that shall remain on my shelves always & dipped into when I need a reason to remember that our ancestors weren't quite as pure & innocent as they liked to make out they were! 

 

Hilarious, Cheeky Comedy

Peter Kay's Tours are currently on hold.

It seems quite ironic that in the week where Peter Kay announced the cancellation of all his upcoming tours, I just happened to be to be reading his fabulously cheeky autobiography. 

Born in Bolton, it was always apparent that the comedian belonged on stage, but finding his way there would entail a Catholic school upbringing and a host of unsuitable jobs. It is with an open heart and frank honesty that Peter Kay shares his his life story in this hilariously funny book.

I was tickled by the number of times young Peter found himself sitting in A&E having frequently befallen an accident of some kind, these incidents are littered through the tale and always end with a raucous  one-liner or clever play on words.

It was with a heavy heart that I listened to the newscaster announcing that, due to family issues, tours have been cancelled because if this book is anything to go by, fans will be missing out on a great deal of fun & laughter. 

Paranormal Antics

Published by Crooked Cat Books

In this first book of the series, we are introduced to Ruby who comes from a long line of women with the gift of being able to communicate with spirits. Together with Theo, Ness & Corrina, her trusted band of 'Psychic Surveyors', Ruby runs a service investigating all things paranormal. 

Ghost dogs, screaming ghouls & restless souls are all in a day's work for the team but, when they're called out to Highdown Hall, dark forces prove to be menacing. Faced with solving a fifty year old mystery involving Hollywood actress Cynthia Hart, Ruby must pull out all the stops to rid the house of a vengeful & evil presence. 

This ghost story is refreshingly different in that it is tackled from the standpoint of the woman tasked with guiding the spirit towards the light, making it both insightful & enticing. There is a little romance thrown in for good measure & each character has traits that add to the effectiveness of the team's work. I found this an easy read & the ending was well-crafted. Highly recommend for a Winter evening as the pre-Christmas setting lends itself to the overall  suspense. 

I look forward to 'Psychic Surveys: Book Two' with relish! 

Delightfully Dark

A Creativia publication.

Crossing the genres of paranormal, fantasy & supernatural, this trilogy of novellas is imaginative & deep, perfect for reading when you have the time to digest one story each night. Bound to cause vivid dreams, the tales are crafted very cleverly, drawing you in and then leaving you standing on a cliff edge, wanting more but exhausted from the ride. 

We meet Astria Brin the heiress who revels in her poisonous relationships, Lori & Duke whose dependency upon one another goes beyond life on earth and then finally Big Daddy with his unreasonable demands & destructive obsessions. 

Throughout the book, the author has carefully littered a scattering of details that make you stop and pause. A sharp glimmering tooth here, a splatter of gooey substance there and the shadow of something lurking in the gloom, all so expertly woven into the prose that you're never quite sure how things are going to end. This book is edgy & unusual, definitely deep but delightfully dark. 

A Hidden Truth

Chatto & Windus £12.99

It's hard to imagine that in a country as prosperous & constantly evolving as China, there is still a certain stigma about giving birth to a baby girl. 

This is not a recent phenomenon, brought about by the Cultural Revolution's stringent one-child policy, but one that has blighted poverty-stricken communities in remote provinces for generations. Barely able to support themselves, young couples were forced to get rid of any newborn females, by whatever means necessary, in favour of producing a male heir who could grow up to help work the farms & inherit valuable land. 

Some newlyweds would travel to the city & leave their daughters outside poorly funded orphanages but, tragically, in many cases this option was taken out of their hands as over-zealous grandparents paid the mid-wife to smother or drown the poor child before it had barely drawn its first breath. Unsurprisingly this caused an inevitable shortage of brides, leading to a situation where girls would be adopted into slave labour, later being forced to marry the son's of their captors. 

Heartwrenching but honest, former Chinese radio broadcaster Xinran writes of the women who have chosen to share their stories sorrow & loss with her, telling each tragedy in their own words & putting a modern day perspective on an ancient problem that has spiralled out of control. 

Kidnapping With A Twist

Kindle version is a bargain at just 99p!

Ed's daughter has been kidnapped. He doesn't know why or by whom but it's apparent that it has something to do with his father who has been missing for several years. Clues lie in his childhood home, Cauldfield Hall, a grand place full of secret staircases & hidden rooms. Ed has to race against the clock to gain entry to his father's study in order to find out what it is that the criminals want. 

So, a straightforward mystery tale? Certainly not. This book packs a punch with its complex characters & rumours from the past, each having bearing upon present day events. Even the main character's childhood is not as privileged & straightforward as one would assume, with Ed's mother hosting lavish parties while his father locked himself away working on a mysterious invention. 

The author adds just enough romance & friendship to make the storyline & main characters believable, all with their own issues & demons, but keeps an air of intrigue too as the reader ponders the fate of Daisy & tries to figure out which of her father's acquaintances holds the key to her freedom. 

This was a book that I savoured over the course of a week, reading just enough each night to ponder the scenario & mull over each individual persona. Jim Ody has a fluid & imaginative writing style, drawing upon human nature & instincts, something that will ensure readers of this particular book will seek out more of his work. I, for one, definitely will be. 

Exploring Human Nature

Fourth Estate Press £10

This is one of those very special books that I reread every couple of years simply to remind myself how good it is. 

Set in an Alaskan frontier town in 1915, the author treats us to an insight into human nature when conditions are extreme & surroundings unfamiliar. The main character, Bigelow, is a scientist sent to the north to build a weather station but loneliness in this hostile & barren land soon finds him in the house, and bed, of a local Aleut woman. 

Although the pair share meals and caresses, Bigelow finds himself frustrated with the woman's indifference towards him but only when she disappears does he discover the true depth of his obsession with her. During the woman's absence Bigelow desperately tries to move on with his life & finds other pursuits to fill the void, only to find that the one thing he truly needs is her return. 

Beautifully descriptive, this amazing story portrays both life in Alaska during the turn of the century era and the essence of desperation in such a way that you will be championing the couple's relationship right up until the very last page. 

Insightful & Refreshing

Available from www.ripperworld.net    £11.99

Having researched the crimes of 'Jack the Ripper' for several decades, there are few new suspect books that make me sit up & pay attention but this one is very different. Mick Priestley's in-depth look at a man who was right in the midst of the chaos during the Whitechapel murders is a plausible and cleverly insightful read, logging the movements and employment of someone who involved himself through circumstance. 

Not only does the author lead us carefully to the conclusion of his suspect's guilt, but gives food for thought on other puzzling events that have caused debate amongst 'Ripperologists' for well over a century. 

The prose is descriptive & upbeat, informative & intriguing, making this a one of a kind publication from a man who undoubtedly knows his subject well. As so much time has now passed, it is unlikely that the case will ever be closed or the identity of the murderous fiend known, but the author prompts speculation that there are still documents to be found that may shed new light on the subject. 

For anyone new to this genre or someone looking for genuine expertise on these unsolved crimes, you can't go wrong with this superb volume. The worthy winner of the 'Jack the Ripper Crime Conference' Book of the Year 2017. 

 

A Fantastical Journey

Published by Zombie Cupcake Press

Imagine if there were doorways or portals to other worlds, where vampires, beasts & giants co-existed with humans in strange lands. A place where the houses bore crosses to ward off the demons who preyed upon them & seas where giant killer whales rose up to snatch their victims from the shores.

This very clever tale spans over a century in human years, craftily weaving a story of missing people, from all walks of life, whisked through to another world in order to feed the sleeping monsters who rule the night. Into the web of mystery comes ex-policeman & private investigator Jake, who finds himself tasked with saving the daughter of one of the clan elders, but first he must cross over to the other side. 

Well-written and beautifully descriptive, Phil Price has created a real page-turner worthy of a place on the shelves on any horror fan. I found myself carrying this book around with me, hoping to snatch another chapter at every opportunity. It is very easy to imagine this work as a film and I sincerely hope that it happens as this is a truly distinctive piece of creativity. 

Christmas, Crime & Craic!

Published by Creativia

If you fancy a light read with believable characters & an interesting plot, try this novel which will whisk you back to Ireland in the 1980s. 

As Conor Doyle returns to his hometown village for Christmas, intent on meeting up with old acquaintances and family members, the mood is marred by the news of a tragic hit and run accident. Revelations and passions run high as Conor tries to enjoy his break surrounded by friends, with the Gardai (police) slowly & carefully casting their net in the hunt for the driver who left his victim for dead. 

The author treats us to the 'craic' as the main characters enjoy their nights out drinking and a light sprinkling of eighties pop music is  forever playing in the background, giving an authentic mood to the tale. With just the right amount of suspense and a little bit of romance, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. 

Hauntingly Real

Amberley Publishing £14.99

It is almost impossible to read this book, looking upon the sad faces that stare back from the photographs as you go, without feeling tears welling up inside. 

For the former residents of the Menston Pauper Lunatic Asylum, laid to rest in unmarked graves, they were forgotten to the world until an amazing group of people set out to give them voices. Each page details a different inmate, their afflication or cause of incarceration in Menston and details of their family history. Many were simply misunderstood or suffering from previously unrecognised mental health issues, such as post-natal depression, but once inside none were ever to experience freedom again. 

Abandoned by their families, who were undoubtedly ashamed by the stigma of having a relative who's behaviour was unacceptable to society, many of these people's conditions worsened and aided a premature demise. 

Containing official asylum photos and documents, the author takes us on a journey back in time, one that will stay with you for a long time to come. Proceeds from the publication go towards the upkeep of the newly created High Royds Memorial Garden, a fitting way to remember those who were unable to tell their own story. 

An Unlikely Suspect

Old Bakehouse Publications £8.50

This book is an old favourite that I pull down from the bookshelf every once in a while & read by the fireside, almost as if to reacquaint myself with an old friend. 

The narrative is clear and pleasant, almost as though the author is telling you the history of 'Jack the Ripper' from the comfort of his own armchair, occasionally going off on a tangent to compare other criminal cases or personal opinion. He does, however, set out the murders in detail and gives great insight into the conditions in which the victims lived and worked.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the key detective in pursuit of the Whitechapel fiend, Inspector Abberline' features quite prominently in this work, giving us an idea of the difficulty and pressure under which he worked.

A great book for a person beginning to step their toes into 'Ripperology' although the suspect of choice is less than convincing. 

 

Heartwarming & Harrowing

Published by Linkville Press

This amazing journey begins in Cornwall, where smugglers ply their trade under cover of darkness, risking all to earn a crust. For Joff Owens the persecution of his family by the local squire, who rules with an iron fist, starts the ball rolling on an epic journey to fulfill his dream of becoming a piano player. 

Chance meetings with revolutionaries & Chartists along the way spark the young man's passion for equal rights and we see the main character embroiled in underground meetings and protests, bringing him to settle in the East End of London where he finds employment in the music halls.

Evoking a wonderful atmosphere of nineteenth century London life, the author has obviously embarked upon a lot of research which shines through the tale. Intertwining the tragedy of opium dens, life in squalor, the political movements fighting for working men's votes and one young man's search for happiness, this book will appeal to many genres of reader, and most certainly one that will be read over again. 

The descriptions were such that I could almost taste the salty Cornish sea air and hear careful footsteps stepping through the treacherous back alleys of Whitechapel. I would love to see this made into a period drama & sincerely hope that the cliff-hanger ending means that we'll be hearing more about Joff Owens. 

 

Fantasy, Frolics & Fangs

Published by Creativia

Shifting landscapes, cloned monks & five hundred year old princesses are all in a day's work for Jean, the mystical vampire & main character of this great book. 

Jean's antics get him into all sorts of scrapes & situations, but I won't give you any examples here as it will be such a treat for you to discover the fantasy lands of 'The Eternals' for yourself. Fast-paced & full of twists, every character has a delightful edge to their nature, ensuring that you never quite know who is defending who or what will happen next.

I totally lost myself in the pages of this novel & I'm sure that my imagination was working over-time as I sped through the tale trying to keep up with Jean's exciting escapades. The author has a wonderful satyr to his writing style too, which ensured that I had a permanent grin on my face whilst reading.

There are so many witty quips and asides in the narrative that you can't help but love this fabulously constructed fairytale, although there is still enough gothic darkness in the pages to give you the occasional shudder. 

An entertaining read to momentarily whisk you away to the dark side. 

Hell on the High Seas

Published by Creativia

There's nothing quite like a tale of adventure at sea, especially with a historical setting & great plot. But add Count Dracula into the mix & you have something quite different, putting a very sinister twist on an already perilous journey.

The characters in this high seas epic are particularly well-crafted, each personality conflicting or gelling with the next, enabling conspiracies and alliances to sit side by side as the 'Demeter' makes her journey from Eastern Europe to Whitby, England. Every fear & suspicion is perfectly narrated as the crew onboard realise the truth behind the fifty wooden boxes held in the ship's cargo hold.

Throughout, I was particularly impressed with the author's knowledge of nautical terms and nineteenth century shipping, although the reader isn't over-whelmed by complex descriptions, simply given just the right amount of information to make each scenario exciting and plausible. 

I look forward to reading more by Doug Lamoreux, he's a very talented writer with the natural ability to spin a yarn. Dracula & the high seas is a winning combination. 

A Tale of Love & Determination

Faber & Faber £20.00

Having waited for a decade for one of my favourite authors to write another masterpiece, I couldn't wait to become fully absorbed in this one.

Set in a dismal & uncertain period after the Romans have left Britain, we follow an elderly couple, Beatrice & Axl, as they cross dangerous lands in search of their son. The author describes the journey in mesmerising detail & gradually the reader becomes absorbed in the couple's relationship as they reflect on the past and struggle to come to terms with their destiny.

The people and dilemmas that Beatrice & Axl encounter along the way aren't always as they first appear, pushing their love for each other to the limit, but their faith & strength push them on, until finally they reach their destination. 

I have often wondered, in awe might I add, at how a Japanese writer can capture the very essence of British society & situations in his work, but Ishiguro does so in such a wonderfully natural way that one easily forgets his origins.

I won't spoil the ending for you, but will say that it's one that takes you by surprise and will have you rereading the whole book in search of clues. I bought the hardback edition as I'm confident that this will be a volume to treasure for many years to come. A great book by a brilliant author. 

Historical Intrigue & Suspense

Grace-and-Favour Publishing £9.99

Having read & thoroughly enjoyed Robert J. Lloyd's 'The Bloodless Boy', I was keen to see if the sequel held my attention just as well & this didn't disappoint.

Set in 1680, we follow the hero of the series, Harry Hunt on a quest to find out what happened to the Queen's dwarf, mysteriously found murdered in the Norfolk Fens. From there the trail leads to Paris & then ultimately Harry uncovers a plot that threatens the throne.

The author has incredible knowledge of the era & every detail is described in vivid, wonderful prose. One can only wonder at the amount of research that must have gone into this fabulous series, enabling the reader to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the 17th Century.

Not only is this a great book of historical insight, but also a story with complex characters whose actions bear great impact upon each other. I'm crossing my fingers that Lloyd will keep Harry Hunt alive & well for the foreseeable future as I look forward to many more books in the series. 

 

Fabulous Insight Into A Bygone Era

The History Press £14.99

This was such an enjoyable & enlightening read. Neil R. Storey knows his history & this great book is packed with information. Beautifully illustrated with sketches, photographs & diagrams, it's a must for anyone wanting to learn about the prison system in the 19th century. 

Every chapter is dedicated to a different topic, from wardens to escapees & no stone is left unturned. Punishments were harsh compared to modern times & the reader is left feeling that we are lucky to live in a modern age where penalties are remarkably lighter & conditions luxurious compared to those suffered by our ancestors. 

Written in such detail,  it was eye-opening to learn about food rations, daily exercise & medical provisions but also very interesting to hear about the lives of the employees inside the prison system, often dedicating their lives to working in difficult & trying conditions. The author has done considerable research in gathering his evidence and it shows, providing hours of educational brain matter for the historical enthusiast & crime lover alike. Highly recommend. 

Is Truth Stranger Than Fiction?

Available from Amazon

We've all heard the tales of the Loch Ness Monster, Braveheart & the stone circles featured in Outlander, but who knew that Scotland was full of demons, ghosts and fairy folk? 

Taking us on a tantalising trip around the northern isles, remote villages, lochs & cities of his home country, Jack Strange is a master storyteller, bringing to life the legends of old & showing his reader why these fantastical tales have been handed down through the generations, making them both believable & terrifying. We encounter monsters in cahoots with the Devil,  castles so haunted that your hair will stand on end, toiling goblins, the roar of battlefields from yesteryear and so much more. 

From the first page I was gripped & have added the paperback to my groaning shelf, content in the knowledge that I shall be dipping into this book again & again, whether to plan a road trip to see some of these wonderful sites for myself or just to curl up with in front of the fire on a cold winter's night. An excellent read.