Down the Tubes by Kate Rigby – Book Review : Gritty novel based in the world of addiction

I’m getting into the swing of regular book reviews – here is this week’s offering!

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Down the tubes

In her own mind Cheryl West tried really hard to be a good wife and mother, but it just didn’t work out.  For Cheryl there was always something missing and when her children (Elaine, Michael, Stephen and little Juliet) grew beyond the baby years, they lost their appeal and maybe her husband and then her boyfriend never had much appeal.  But now she wants to be a different woman, a woman with a career and that takes her back to London leaving a family behind in Bournemouth.  She becomes a worker in a drugs unit and there she experiences a side to life that is new to her as she speaks with clients and visits their homes.  The reality of the decisions that they have made and the impact they have had upon others forces her to evaluate some of the decisions that she has made.  This is coupled with the unwelcome visits paid to her by eldest daughter Elaine who only serves as a reminder of the life that she would like to forget.

The second family member who is key in this storyline is son Michael, who has had no contact with his mother, Cheryl, or other family members since walking out when just 16 years old.  Whilst Michael is mentioned regularly in Cheryl’s story, mainly for the lack of contact and wondering what has become of him, the individual family members are mentioned rarely in Michael’s story.  Ironically Michael’s life has also revolved around drugs as he has become an addict in his attempts to rid himself of memories of family life.

The mother and son “miss” each other by minutes in what could have been a chance meeting during a support worker visit from Cheryl to a client whilst in London.  Their paths seem destined to cross again when Cheryl takes a new post in a rural drug rehabilitation unit in Hampshire where Michael has previously been a patient.  Whilst Michael is trying to come to terms with the past in order to move on with a new chapter in his life, Cheryl finds some case notes that uncover secrets from that past life that she cannot accept.

Review Down the Tubes

I cannot sit here and yell from the roof tops that this book is an easy, enjoyable read because it is not.  But this is not a criticism.  Dysfunctional families and drug addiction should not be easy topics to write about or read about.  The feelings of discomfort and at times disgust that the reader feels are testament to the powerful writing of Kate Rigby.  She writes a novel that uses language and scene setting that is not only gritty and realistic, but also shows the soft under belly of the human psyche and the fragility of life.

It is difficult to like Cheryl at times.  She appears self centred and completely at odds with being a mother of four, yet she has her own addiction and that is to babies.  The descriptions of her feelings towards tiny babies are quite unnerving, but even more upsetting are how she views her own infants as they start to grow.  How much of the family’s past issues have been a direct consequence of Cheryl’s actions?  Even her response to certain actions by her husband (no spoilers!) has probably had a huge impact on certain family members.  Her chosen career as a drugs rehabilitation support worker seems completely at odds with her character and some of the thoughts that she has and her actions demonstrate her to be ill suited to the job.  Yet she skilfully manipulates her colleagues in both London and Hampshire to believe that she is doing a wonderful job and that she believes in what she is doing.  Her selfish ways remain even when she does realise that Michael has been a client, with her first thoughts for herself and how his “stories” might affect her.

Meanwhile Michael shows himself to have backbone and courage, even when in the depths of addiction and despair.  I find it interesting that it is the addict who I felt the empathy toward even as his life spiralled.  There are glimpses of Michael’s loving side early on as he firstly develops a relationship with Nicky, and then with his dog Woodstock.  He has no idea that whilst he physically removed himself from her, his life is still winding around his mother’s like a plant shoot binding around the main plant stem.  The way in which Ms Rigby writes leads the reader to feel that much of this confused young man’s angst is as a direct result of his mother’s actions in the past.  In his mind she favoured his younger brother and nothing that he did was good enough.  The reality is probably more that Cheryl was only ever truly able to relate to new-borns and that she struggled with his close relationship with his father.

However, this father /son relationship is another area so well described from the tension of making contact after years apart, the difficulties of acknowledging just what the relationship was in the past and a way forward for both men now.  Ms Rigby carefully and cleverly incorporates the different back stories from the individual family members into a tapestry that makes a whole.  The reader learns to care about the characters and becomes invested in their stories.

The language and description of life for the various different drug addicts within the story add both colour and steel to the tapestry.  The harsh truths of the impact that drugs have on both individuals and the family are not sugar coated in this novel.  The author shows that drugs can be found in the midst of any family from any walk of life and that the devastation of lies, deceit and thieving is far reaching.  I include in this the street families that many of the addicts in this find themselves a part of.

Abandonment, selfishness, dysfunctionality, abuse, addiction, love, relationships…..all huge topics that this book throws at the reader.  I applaud the author for not tying up the storylines as it would have been very easy to do so – although she did leave me very frustrated as I want to know what happens!  But this is about real life and we all know that not everyone lives happily ever after.  In my humble opinion a fantastic study of human life. 5 stars

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About the Author (from the author’s Amazon page)

Kate RigbyKate Rigby has been writing for several decades. She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so decided to write about it.

However she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka! (2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones including a version of her satirical novella Lost The Plot.

Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).

Her book Little Guide to Unhip was published by Night Publishing (2010).

She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and also as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology (Pfoxmoor 2011).

She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now ‘Did You Whisper Back?’).

Titles now available on Kindle and other e-books are:

Little Guide to Unhip (also in paperback*)
Thalidomide Kid
Seaview Terrace
Far Cry From The Turquoise Room (also in paperback*)
Break Point
Suckers n Scallies
Down The Tubes (also in paperback*)
Tales By Kindlelight (available as a collection – She Looks Pale & Other Stories*)
Savage To Savvy (also available in paperback*)
Did You Whisper Back?
Fall Of The Flamingo Circus
She Looks Pale (available as a collection – She Looks Pale & Other Stories*)
The Dead Club (also available in paperback*)
Fruit Woman (coming soon in paperback)

Short Stories:

Family Tradition
Coats
On Your Half Century
Sharing Sarah
Cutting Edge
Hard Workers

* paperbacks available by following the Amazon link where listed

Details about Kate’s work can be found at her website:

http://kjrbooks.yolasite.com/

Or her occasional blogs can be found at:

http://bubbitybooks.blogspot.com/Facebook

 

Blog Tour & Book Review of “Danube Street” by Linda Tweedie & Kate McGregor #LoveBooksGroupTours

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I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to be part of this blog tour by Kelly at LoveBooksGroup. This is a fair and honest review, and all opinions are my own.

Agnes McLeod is the bright, only daughter of a farmer living in the harsh wilds of Ayrshire.  When her pregnant cousin Mary comes to stay, she is fascinated by this young woman’s view of the world and her survival instinct.  Mary takes Agnes with her to Edinburgh and introduces her to a lifestyle far removed from the farm, rubbing shoulders with gangsters, prostitutes and police alike.  Agnes becomes Stella and the young women learn how to join the elite of “the oldest profession” amongst the hotels of the city. When an “accident” befalls Mary involving the infamous Williams brothers, Stella finds an unlikely ally in the city’s top barrister.

At this point Stella Gold, with the backing of the barrister, set out to turn a property in the Georgian terrace of Danube Street into Edinburgh’s most exclusive brothel.  Stella quickly becomes the city’s most respected Madame, entertaining clients ranging from sailors to councillors to clergy to police.  Surrounded by loyal friends, like young Jack and former prostitute Kitty who both work for her, and enemies, like the Williams brothers and working girls with grudges, Stella must remain astute and streetwise.

Into the picture comes fourteen-year-old runaway Rosie, picked up at the bus station by an infatuated Jack.  Rosie, the youngest of 3 daughters, is pregnant by an American GI and disowned by her father but the youngster has a survival instinct not unlike Stella’s and looks to match.  The older woman allows the youngster to stay at Danube Street until her baby is born, but Rosie soon finds herself at the receiving end of jealousy from some of the other working girls.  This is to have life changing outcomes for her.

Meanwhile Stella is finding herself the object of a vendetta by not only the criminal factions of the city, but also a corrupt Chief of Police, with several secrets of his own.  Stella is the ultimate survivor, but is time running out for her?  Who can she look to in order to ensure the future of Danube Street?

I have had to be so careful not to give away any spoilers as I get carried away in my description!  This novel had me interested from the moment that I realised that the premise is taken from the true story of 17 Danube Street – once an infamous exclusive brothel run by Madame Dora Noyce from soon after the end of World War 2 until her death aged 77 in the 10970s.  Links to articles of interest can be found at the end of my review.  The characters and storylines in this novel are fiction.

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Danube Street (PlanetEdinburgh Blog)

This was for me an easy read as I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the characters and the style of writing.  The plots are hard hitting, and the use of strong language, descriptive violence, drugs and abuse will mean that this is not for everyone.  But if you enjoy a fast moving, gritty drama that has a cast of characters that are human, flawed and believable, then this is a novel for you!

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Danube Street

The depiction of the young women and their back stories that led them into a life of prostitution is enlightening, and I think probably still rings true for today.   Whilst one could be led to believe that the life of a working girl in a smart hotel or in an “exclusive brothel” is glamorous, the writers also show the other side of the coin.  Jack’s mother Jeanie works the streets and is at the receiving end of vicious abuse, both physical and verbal, with “punters” rarely seeing her as a human being.  Yet when the writers take us back to her early years and the loss of her husband in the war, it becomes apparent that this story that could and should have been so different.  It is just one of many of a young woman doing anything and everything to support her family.  The girls who work for Stella definitely have a better life than the street girls – they are fed well and work in beautiful surroundings, but they are still very much at the mercy of the clients.  The writers also weave in the issue of sexual abuse from a young age and the fact that for some young people because this has been a “normal” for them, it continues to be the norm into adult life (no spoilers, but on reading the book I think you will understand).

I love the strong female lead characters in this book – Stella, obviously, for making her way and then holding her own as a respected business woman in a male dominated society; young Rosie who undoubtedly grows the most in this story, from spirited teen to a street wise young woman with a great head for business; Kitty, the older ex prostitute, whose wisdom, life experiences and loyalty are priceless for both Stella and Rosie.  Jack is the youngest of the male characters and understanding his back story, his mother’s decline into alcoholism and street prostitution, the obvious course for the writers to take him down (gangsters, drugs, alcohol) is not quite the route he follows. Certainly, his life is still set amidst this background, but he makes his life choices with a mature head following his own moral compass.

There are many truly unlikeable characters in this novel – psychopathic, vicious and violent Freddie Williams, Mags the aggrieved working girl – but for me the vilest is probably DCI Ross.  Whilst I detested the man, the writers were very clever to give us his childhood story – harsh conditions with equally harsh parenting – allowing the reader to have an understanding of why the man behaves as he does and almost feeling empathy for him.

The story is fast, packed with action and wonderfully rich characters – I might unpick them all, but you really can enjoy this without doing so! I applaud the wonderful descriptions of both Edinburgh and the isolated areas of Scotland.  This was a novel that I found difficult to put down as I became invested in the characters and genuinely wanted to know what happens to them.  Strange as it may seem, there are some very tender relationships and genuine feelings – the joys and despairs of parenthood, loss, grief and love. Many ends are tied up, but there are also many loose ends and new lives…. a sequel please, Ms Tweedie & Ms McGregor!! Meanwhile I plan to look out your other works.

I can’t help feeling that the original Madame, Dora Noyce, would approve of this version of Danube Street.  She always objected to the word brothel and wanted her house to be known as one of “leisure and pleasure”, where she gave glasses of wine to gentleman arriving and then tea and sandwiches for “afters”.  The opulent house of the book and the rich characters within its walls would get a nod of approval from the real Madame of Danube Street.

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17 Danube Street (from Planet Edinburgh blog)

I loved it too! 4 stars

Articles of interest:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/lost-edinburgh-17-danube-street-1-3334496

https://planetedinburgh.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/17-danube-street-what-your-parents-never-told-you/

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Currently available on Kindle at Amazon here:

Publisher: Fledgling Press

Publication Date: 01/08/2018

ISBN-13: 9781912280131 

Details:

Type: Paperback

Format: Books

About the Authors

LINDA TWEEDIE lives in a small coastal town on the east coast of Scotland and has been a market trader, encyclopaedia salesperson and a drug rep (rep, not dealer) but for over 20 years, until her retirement, (early of course!) she spent most of her time behind a bar barring toilet breaks as landlady of numerous watering holes. Her first three novels came about through customers and friends telling her on almost a daily basis that she should write a book. Well, she did not just one but three The Life series, in collaboration with her best friend and cohort Kate McGregor. The Silence is their début crime novel set mainly in the dark and mean streets of Glasgow at the time of the infamous Ice Cream Wars. A fast-paced, gritty story which will keep you enthralled. 10458773_978010128897355_2150746344268007796_nKATE McGREGOR co-author was born in Paisley, once labelled the most dangerous town in the UK. But, it quietened down considerably once she left and went to work in London. Kate has been a beautician, logistics manager, advertising guru and sexy party planner who, after being made redundant twice in one year, decided it was time to be mistress of her own destiny and with the hindrance and interference of her best friend Linda, embarked on a seven year career in booze! Together they wrote The Life series, the first of which, Life Behind Bars, was a finalist in The People s Book Prize. The Silence is their début crime novel and if you like Martina Cole or Jessie Keane, you’ll love this.

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Drugs to Forget – Blog Tour and Review

Yes, yes..another blog tour!  Most unusual for me to have 2 in one week, but this book sounded too good to miss – and today is publication day in paperback!

With many thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for the opportunity to be included in this book tour in return for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Natalie Thompson is an investigative film director, tasked with making a documentary on the threat of bioterrorism.  She is quickly made aware of an Ebola outbreak in central Africa which is being kept under wraps by the authorities, and the journalist in Natalie seeks to find a way into the local healthcare system in order to search for answers.  She gains the trust of medical staff by posing as a film maker for a Western aid charity who wishes to learn more about their vaccination programme.  Whilst in Africa, a contact introduces her to a Zimbabwean terrorist group and she must take on yet another undercover persona, posing as a blogger and Western African rights sympathiser.  Is it possible that these terrorists are really planning to give the West a dose of “African disease”?

Meanwhile in London Tom is a new rookie to the investigative film world and is set to work doing research for Natalie’s project.  He uncovers suspicious activities in a laboratory in Java and soon finds himself dispatched off to investigate – and with a minder in tow!  They make contact with a young chemist who is concerned about the research work that she is being asked to undertake. When Natalie and Tom touch base with each other, they find that there are various strands to their stories that are linking to each other and to the terrorist group.  Certain names in pharmaceutical companies keep cropping up too, alongside studies into Alzheimer’s disease. Now the question is do they continue with the sole purpose of making a documentary or should the authorities be alerted to the very real prospect of a bioterrorist attack?

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Action, suspense, intrigue, danger, fear, excitement…..just some of the words to sum up this novel.  I believe that Natalie Thompson has appeared in several other novels by the author, but this can be read as a stand-alone book – I haven’t read the others.  This novel is so current and the author’s background in investigative documentary films is very evident with the detailed descriptions of both fieldwork and the editorial offices.  The devastation of Ebola has been on our television screens for several years now and the Western world is well aware of the havoc that it can wreak.  Add to this the recent happenings in the UK with the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter, this storyline becomes completely plausible and for that reason more frightening.

I do love the fact that the lead character is a woman – but then I would say that, I suppose!  Natalie is gutsy, strong, intelligent and driven.  At times I was fearful for her when she appeared to be reckless in her actions, but this for me is an indication of the great suspense that Mr Granger conjures with his writing.  The complexities of her character develop as she becomes more involved with the medical programmes in Africa and meets the real people who are affected.  She is empathetic and finds herself conflicted between the story that she is out to uncover and the other very human stories that she is finds thrown into, including research trials into drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. Essentially, she is lying to people who believe that she is there to help and I like the fact that I can feel her grappling with her conscience when recording in an undercover capacity.

The other characters develop nicely through the story too –  young Tom who finds himself in dangerous situations that he would never have dreamt of and using his sexuality to win the confidence of a source; Nick the ex-soldier sent to babysit Tom who has useful contacts within various police/ authorities; and Geoff the boss, who is spinning so many plates in his office that it feels at times that he can’t possibly keep everyone happy and produce a great programme.  I learnt so much about film production from the great descriptions of the actual filming to the editing and beyond.

The author does cover moral and ethical conflicts that I imagine are a daily occurrence for any documentary maker.  In this case the issues are around the findings of the investigations as it becomes apparent just what the terrorists are planning and just how the pharmaceutical companies are linked.  Should the team continue filming in order to get a fantastic story?  Just when is the right time to inform the authorities what they have discovered? What happens if the authorities in other countries don’t listen or are just too corrupt themselves to act?  Then Mr Granger introduces us to the legal implications!

I loved this book from start to finish.  The fact that at times my heart was in my mouth for me shows how well it is written – the suspense created through the investigation was great.  For an action-packed, exciting, believable investigative read with a twist in the tail, I would definitely recommend “Drugs to Forget” – this gets full marks form me! Now I am off to find the other books from this author.   5 stars.

Available from:

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Publisher: RedDoor Publishing Ltd (31 May 2018)

About the Author

Martin Granger

Martin Granger HeadshotMartin has been making documentary films for thirty years. In that time he has won more than 100 international film awards. His work has ranged from directing BBC’s Horizon to producing a BAFTA nominated science series for Channel 4.His novels, although fiction, are based upon his experience in the film industry. He lives in Wimbledon with his wife Jacqueline.

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Blog Tour & Book Review – “Just Sam” by Kristy Brown

With many thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for the opportunity to be included in this book tour in return for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Sammy is growing up within a loving family and just showing herself to be a real tennis talent.  Her future,as she enters her teens, seems set when her world is blown wide apart in the cruellest way and her mother is diagnosed with and dies from cancer.  Life will never be the same again as each member of the family – Sammy, her father and her older sister – deal with their own grief and the difficulties of living on.  A house move, a new school and new peers all present Sammy with additional challenges, alongside an increasingly distant sister and a father working long hours.  Her love and enthusiasm for tennis, which was encouraged by and shared with her mum, suddenly feels meaningless so she stops pushing herself and misses out on a big chance for sponsorship.

Her life feels like it is spiralling as she tries to navigate the uncertainties of the secondary school playground, new friends, romantic friends, the school prom and her tennis.  Added into the mix is an eight-year-old girl who comes to Sammy for tennis coaching and an unlikely relationship develops.  But without her mother how can she possibly cope?  She needs to become a different person and to do this Sammy becomes “Just Sam”.

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This is a poignant young adult/teen novel which tells a story of love, loss, grief, relationships and moving on during the tough years of adolescence.  The author explores tough subject matter and there is no sugar coating.  Sam’s grief is raw and tangible, but it is also very private and not something that she wishes to share.  Without her mother to be her cheerleader through life, she feels unable to move forward, so it is a nice touch from the author that it is a young girl, lavished with all that money can buy yet starved of parental attention, who helps Sam reconnect with the important things in her life.  The family dynamic is well examined as Sam, her sister and their dad all grieve individually, in the mistaken belief that by not talking about their feelings will protect the others.  No spoilers but there are several nice twists toward the end of the story.

The teenage relationships are depicted well with rival friendship groups, petty jealousies, miscommunication, envy, sexuality, feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.  Ms Brown has built a rich cast of real teens, not from a glitzy teen soap opera, but rather young people with flaws and problems, hopes and dreams growing up in ordinary, often dysfunctional, families.  They feel deeply, as only teens can, and struggle to balance their relationships, school, home life and hormones.  The romances are full of teenage joy and angst in equal measure – the feeling of first love for Sam as her heart beats loudly when she glimpses the neck of a particular young man or how one youngster feels after trying to discuss sexuality and coming out with parents.

As mum to three adolescents (and having been one myself although they can’t believe this!) I do relate to this story and I really enjoyed it.  I can empathise with the situations that all the parents face – they are all very different, yet all very relevant. I enjoyed watching the young characters grow, particularly Sam as she learns for herself the importance of moving forward from her mother’s death.  With time her increasing maturity shines through as she accepts that her tennis isn’t something to hate because of the connections to mum, but rather her success in her burgeoning tennis career is a wonderful way to honour her mother’s memory.  The characters all move on in life – as we all do – and the younger cast are learning to go forward no matter what is thrown at them.  If I were to be very picky, I would say that for an adult novel I would have liked the end to have been fleshed out more – but I would describe this as adolescent/YA fiction and as such the tying up of loose ends is entirely appropriate.  This is just the type of book that I would have loved as as a teen – great antidote to the literature syllabus!

I definitely recommend this novel and applaud the author for tackling some difficult life situations – bereavement, loss, love, sexuality, eating disorder, mental health, relationships – but giving young readers a very positive message for the aspects of life that cannot be controlled.  A well written, sensitive, heart-warming and insightful look at the informative years! 4 Stars

Available at Amazon

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About the Author

Hi I’m Kristy and I live in the U.K. I have always written short stories and poetry. I went to university to study acting which I loved, but my real passion has always been writing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo now I write the kind of stories I would have wanted to read when I was a teen. “Kiera’s Quest-Awakenings” is my first ebook. There will be four in the series. I have written the chapters like scenes in a film, with the action cutting to different characters. It’s fast paced! Book two-“Sacrifices” came out August 2012(Muse It Up Publishing) Book three, “Perceptions,” was released in May. Book four, the last, was out Feb 2014. My YA contemporary romance book, “Just Sam,” Is available on Amazon in print & on Kindle. “Summer’s End,” a YA Paranormal series will be out shortly with ‘Muse It Up Publishing.’ My dream is to have them in print someday! I love reading YA angels,vamps etc. I love my kids and hopefully one day they will enjoy my crazy tales!

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Review of Books in Divided World Series by G. L. Cromarty – Divided Serenity & Serenity Falling

Divided World Series by G.L. Cromarty

Divided Serenity (book 1) and Serenity Falling (book 2)

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I was fortunate to be given copies of these books through The Book Club on Facebook and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Serenity.  A world that is divided.  The Aterran people live inside a “virtual” wall with a land is progressive and based upon technology.  Outside the wall live the Shadowlanders and the Jaru, two groups of people sharing as much hatred for each other as for the Aterrans.

Bill Bremmer and John Tanis are sworn enemies, once best friends.  Bremmer is the leader of the Aterran people whilst Tanis has been banished from Aterra and is now a fully-fledged Shadowlander.  When the normal pattern of war between the Shadowlanders and the Jaru seems to have changed, and Bremmer receives intelligence that there might be Aterran technology within the hands of the Shadowlanders, the already shaky status quo is threatened.

Aterran technology is maintained with the help of so called “ancient technology” stations situated beyond the wall in the heart of Shadowland.  When one of these stations misfunctions and power the Aterran is lost, teams of field agents and scientists are sent to repair the technology.  The youngest and brightest of these scientists is Hannah Duvall, who is in a relationship with Bill Bremmer and has never been into Shadowland before.  The question is why is the Aterran leader sending his partner to near certain death? Or is there more fuelling Bremmer’s motives, such as his intense hatred for Tanis?  Is his need to see John Tanis dead taking over everything?

Hannah and her party must ride on horses to the station, making their journey perilous and prone to attack.  But who will attack the small group and who will accompany them to the station?  Jaru or Shadowlanders?  Can Aterrans be accepted in the Shadowland and how will Hannah fare when she comes face to face with John Tanis, half Aterran half Shadowlander?

I could continue with a plot synopsis, but I can’t write more without giving away spoilers!

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This is not a genre that I would normally reach for, but since joining various book clubs I am enjoying reading different styles of storyline – plus my children have introduced me to Game of Thrones type dystopian fantasy in both books and television!  Initially I struggled to get into the story as it felt slow and slightly disjointed – but after a couple of chapters, once Hannah was in Shadowland, I was completely hooked.  Honestly, I could not put these books down and read them back to back.

Once the story got going I found the plot to be pacey and action packed with some very complex characters. Warning: this is not for the squeamish as the battle scenes are described in great detail – there is blood and gore in copious amounts, and life has little value amongst the soldiers.  The characters really develop throughout the novels and are fleshed out as their past is disclosed to the reader.  Bremmer remains an unlikeable man and as the story moves into the second book, it becomes increasingly apparent that he is a deeply flawed character.  Tanis should also be equally unlikeable, with his apparent lack of emotion and his bloodthirsty warrior gene, yet for me I felt that I started to understand him and actually empathise with him the more I found out about him.  Hannah, as the only female main character, seemed weak and too naïve early on in the story, particularly regarding her relationship with Bremmer.  However, it is her character that probably grows the most and the quickest, to show an inner strength and steely core that surprises Hannah herself.

Secondary characters include the geneticist mother of Tanis, disabled genius scientist and mentor to Hannah – Dan, Hannah’s sister Ella, Tanis’s half brothers and father, and the mysterious Theo and Nate.  The fate of all the characters became important enough that I wanted to know what happened to them!

The premise of the story is good, and for me the book is well structured and well written. The fine line between a world entirely led by technology alongside one that is so primitive is explored well with a survival of the fittest theme, and I love the idea of the virtual wall.  The conflict, the power struggles, and the personal emotions spilling into the professional world is fascinating and could just as easily be in our world as in this dystopian land.  I am itching to get my hands on the third book.

A fast, exciting, bloody read – 5 stars

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About the Author

(from the author’s website – GLCromarty.com)

g l cromartyBorn in England, G.L. Cromarty grew up exploring castles and watching Star Wars. As an avid reader, she has been influenced by a wide variety of writers ranging from Tolkien to George R.R. Martin and Anne McCaffrey, and Harry Harrison to Isaac Asimov. Now living in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and two oddball cats, she spends her spare time writing. Divided Serenity is her debut novel – her latest writing blog post is here

 

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Book Review : Mortiswood Evil Rising by Gina Dickerson

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I was fortunate to be given an ARC of this book by the author & publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

 

This is the third book in the Mortiswood series, the young adult fantasy fiction following the story of Kaelia and in this case I would recommend that the other two books are read first: Mortiswood Kaelia Arising and Mortiswood Kaelia Falling. (Book Review “Mortiswood: Kaelia Awakening” – a little magic in the ordinary)

Kaelia

 

The story continues with Kaelia having been reunited with her mother and father, but also discovering that her mother is the goddess Vanadis who guided her early on in the tale.  After a short time with her family, Kaelia and Bay (her Vallesm boyfriend) must return to their own world to battle with the Salloki and their evil leader Thom, who plan to take over the human Earth.  They find that Thom and his new wife Cadence, previously human but now a Draugr, have wreaked havoc in Margate and killed many humans – and these bodies are now inhabited by Salloki souls preparing for battle.  Are you keeping up?

 

Bay is outraged to find that his father, head of the Vallesm (human/wolf), does not believe that his relationship with Kaelia can survive and instructs him to pair with a Vallesm girl.  This view point seems to be borne out when Kaelia disappears for weeks with Bran.  Do you remember him?  Bran and Kaelia are described as the opposite sides to a coin, he the darkness to her light and they draw on the other’s strengths enhancing their own powers.  There is an attraction between them that neither can shake off, even if Kaelia desperately wants to for Bay’s sake, and Bran has ulterior motives for winning Kaelia’s trust.  Kaelia is experiencing a darker side to her magic now as the darkness seems to speak to her more and more.

Determined not to let whatever magic was deceiving her, win, Kaelia charged
back out into the corridor and, using her magical speed, flew through corridor
after corridor, up and down staircase after staircase until the light outside had
slipped into darkness.

‘Why won’t you let me go?’ Kaelia pulled at her hair and collapsed in a heap
outside the room with the bed.
‘You don’t want to leave,’ Bran said, startling Kaelia. He held a crystal
candelabra in one hand, wax dripping from the burning tips of the three gold
candlesticks and running over the crystal.
‘Of course I do. Stop playing tricks on me. This is your doing. I don’t know what
you’re playing at and I don’t care, just stop whatever it is and let me out.’ She
jumped up and glared at Bran. ‘I’ll fight you if I have to.’
‘There’s no need to be stroppy with me, I’m not doing anything.’ Bran set the
candelabra on the small stand beside the chair outside of the bedroom and folded
his arms over his slender chest. ‘It’s all part of the tower’s protection. You can
leave if you want to but if you don’t want to, you can’t. It’ll keep you here until
you really want to leave. It’s the tower’s way of keeping you safe.’
‘I don’t want your stupid tower to keep me safe. I’m quite capable of looking
after myself.’
Bran reached her in two easy strides. Sparks of cool purple light crackled from
them both as he pressed close against Kaelia, trapping her between him and the
wall. ‘The tower knows the secrets you can’t speak, those you can’t admit even to
yourself.’
‘Rubbish!’ Kaelia shivered from the transference of power.
Such a feeling, a powerful, intoxicating feeling.
Only achievable with Bran.
No-one else.
No-one else could make her feel like this.
They were two sides of a coin.
Night and day.
Dark and light.
Kaelia shook her head. No, it was the power surge talking, not her, she was
nothing like him and needed nothing from him!
Yet part of her yearned for it, the power they shared whenever they touched.
Right then and there it was as if she needed it so much she couldn’t live without
it.

 

Meanwhile Calix, another human friend, has been taken by Thom to be turned into a Draugr – will Kaelia be able to reach him in time?  The battles and deceptions rage throughout the tale, until Kaelia is left at the end in no doubt as to what her destiny really means.

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Book review Mortiswood 3

 

It is very difficult to give a succinct outline of the story and give no spoilers…in fact there is so much action in this chapter of the Mortiswood tales that it impossible to make it succinct.  It feels like being on a rollercoaster ride as the tale lurches from one action packed event to another with such high energy and speed.  I love the way that the realms of the fantasy world are woven into our mundane world, with crucial battle scenes happening at the seafront at Margate!  The writing is colourful and bright, painting a great image of the characters and the action – the descriptions of the bone furniture in the Salloki fortress are particularly gruesome!  The characters all go from strength to strength – goodies & baddies! – developing their good or evil sides, their mystical powers and using their humanity.  The relationships between the characters continue to weave in and out of love, deception, alliances and sworn enemies.  This is not the final instalment of the Mortiswood story and Ms Dickerson leaves us on the edge of our seats with a cliff-hanger…..

Another thoroughly enjoyable, easy to read tale – Mortiswood remains a guilty pleasure for this middle-aged mum!! 4 stars.

Links:

Goodreads

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

About the author:

Gina Dickerson Profile pic
Gina Dickerson lives by the Thanet coast on the north-eastern tip of
Kent within the UK, with her family and bouncy Siberian husky.
Having previously worked for a Local Authority, and been a Systems
Supervisor for the departmental database, Gina is now a full-time
author and designer. Her books include the dark urban fantasy
Mortiswood Tales series, Lies Love Tells – part of the thrilling romantic
suspense Eastcove Lies series, dark fairy tales The Pennington
Christmas Curse and Always Golden, as well as a collection of her dark
short stories, Underleaf.
Gina has also written newspaper articles, and was a fashion and
shopping columnist for her local newspaper, as well as having had short
stories and poetry published in anthologies. She designs book covers
and other promotional material under the name RoseWolf Design, and
belongs to the author co-operative Authors Reach.

Links
https://www.ginadickersonwriter.co.uk/
https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/GinaDWriter

https://www.facebook.com/ginadickersonwriter

5 Star Book Review: Oracle’s Hunt by A. Claire Everward #SundayBlogShare @ClaireEverward

 #SundayBlogShare #SocialSaturday

I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review – thanks to The Book Club on Facebook. All opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links.

This is the first book in the Oracle Series.

Donovan Pierce is a United States Federal Investigative Division Agent and he has been called to a new case – the destruction of the data storage facility for the worldwide defense and security services. This will not be a mission to be taken lightly. Ever since a group of forward thinking citizens of the world had formed a peaceful alliance calling themselves the Internationals and had grown in numbers, strength and support from major powers, there were factions desperate to topple the peace and take power for themselves. This latest act of sabotage shows all the signs that it has been carefully orchestrated by one such group, as the level of professionalism has ensured that there are no traces of evidence left behind. Except one.

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Oracles Hunt

The terrorists couldn’t have known that the old security cameras for the facility were still operating, and that Donovan’s IT team have picked up one very important word: Oracle. But as the investigation commences, it is starting to feel to Donovan that someone is blocking his access to the information that he requires – someone with the highest level of security clearance. Then imagine his surprise the following morning when his new neighbour is sitting sipping coffee in the garden and she is none other than the elusive female who was part of a video call shutting down the investigation into this word the previous day! This is Lara Holsworth.

I really enjoyed the concept behind this book, particularly with current world politics as they are, and I immediately felt sympathetic to Donovan and also felt his frustration. He becomes more convinced that Lara is central to Oracle…..but just what is it and has the impossible been achieved with a functioning human/Artificial Intelligence interface? I must admit that I had to quiz my electronic/computer science engineer son about this – and was still none the wiser by his explanation! The relationship that unfolds between the two main characters is as interesting as the investigation, but I am not going to give away any spoilers! Lara is enigmatic, intriguing and attractive to both Donovan and the reader, and of course Donovan is described as a very fine specimen as well as being a fantastic investigator.

It was only one word, always the same word that lit up whenever it appeared, one word that was the target of those who had made such an effort to procure this information, destroying everything on the way. Just one word. Oracle.

The plot is intricate (I had to keep reminding myself of the different abbreviations for the various agencies – not so easy to flick back and forth on a Kindle)), fast paced and rang alarm bells for me as the reader for just how much fact there could be in this. With the increasing number of terrorist attacks that we see in the real world, it is hard to dismiss the criminal elements as merely fiction. But it kept me on the edge of my seat and I found it very difficult to put the book down, devouring it in a couple of days. I was delighted to see the opening for next in the series pop up on my Kindle and it is on my Christmas list.

If you love contemporary, investigative plots with great three-dimensional characters, you will enjoy this. Five stars from me!

Publisher: Author & Sister (2017)

Available from Amazon here:

Author Biography:

Anna Claire Everward

A. Claire Everward is a suspense author with a love of knowledge and a lively imagination that made writing the natural thing for her to do. Claire is also the author of The First, and is currently working on her next book in the Oracle series with the help of her two hyperactive cats and a laptop named Stanley.A1FEpiy0jnL._SY200_

Claire spent years away from home getting a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, with a risk management specialty. During that time, she lived in the university, surrounded by forested hills and too much silence, so to keep away the boredom she also took on an MBA, and now she feels ridiculously over-educated.

She tried to work in her field, she really did, and even put her education to good use in the finance field. But eventually her love for writing took over, and she decided to leave it all and move to the world of her imagination. Her characters had a lot to do with that—they had lived in her mind, waiting patiently for her to be ready, for too long, they felt, and so they finally decided enough is enough and took over. And Claire didn’t put up that much of a resistance. She has always loved to read, but writing, that’s a whole new world she soon knew she could never give up.

Link with Claire on social media:

Amazon author: www.amazon.com/author/a.claire.everward

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/AClaire_Everward

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annaclaire.everward

Twitter: https://twitter.com/claireeverward

https://twitter.com/authorandsister

Instagram: https://instagram.com/authorandsister

Website: http://www.authorandsister.net

Email: kate.a@authorandsister.net

 

 

 

 

Book Blog Tour & Review: “When The Stars Come Out” by Laura Trentham

 

Review Tour

 

Disclaimer: I was fortunate to be given an advance copy of this book by the author and publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Blog Tour – for the latest in Laura Trentham’s Cottonbloom series 

I wonder if you remember my previous review of Laura Trentham’s book Leave The Night On in which we met the Abbott brothers?  Well this new contemporary romance in her Cottonbloom series follows the brothers again, focusing particularly on Jackson, twin of Wyatt who we met before.  The Abbott garage is in trouble, not least because eldest brother Ford has announced that he plans to sell his share and he has now disappeared.  The remaining three, Jackson, Wyatt and Mack have now idea where he is and no idea who the mystery buyer could be.

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Book review - Stars

 

Still employed at the garage is mechanic Willa, quietly and diligently working under the bonnets of cars and trucks, but hugging a multitude of secrets about her life and loves to her heart.  She doesn’t think that anyone notices her, with her home cut hair, charity shop clothes and beat up old car – and this is how she wants it.  She certainly doesn’t want Jackson to know how she feels about him.  But Willa hasn’t factored in that the Abbott boys are a close-knit family and do notice when someone they care about is in need.  Wyatt has had a few rough edges knocked off him since falling for Sutton Mize (see my last review!), and Mack has always looked out for Willa.  But it is Jackson who has started to notice Willa as a living and breathing woman, rather than just a mechanic and he wonders why she is living in a cold, damp caravan, driving a clapped out old car and failing to eat properly.  Don’t they pay her enough and why does she want cash only?

“I’ll have a pork plate and sweet tea to go.” Willa did a mental calculation for tax and
pulled out two fives. More than she should spend, but her stomach vetoed any protest. Now not only was she saving to fix her car, but she needed a cushion. If she had to move, money was a necessity. Any decent place required a deposit for rent. Not to mention utilities. And how long would it take her to find another job that didn’t require her Social Security number or real name? The thought made her stomach hurt from something other than hunger.
“Make that two for here, Rufus, and I’m buying.”
Willa spun around. Jackson Abbott’s chest filled her vision. The animal like noises her stomach was making must have drowned out his approach.
“Sure thing, Jackson.” Rufus favored them with a grin and turned to dole out barbeque, baked beans, and slaw. She tucked her hair behind her ear, feeling intensely vulnerable without her steel-toed work boots, coveralls, and ball cap. Her flip-flops, worn-out jeans with a rip at one knee, and a black T-shirt with the emblem of a band she’d never listened to were from the thrift shop down
the street.
“You don’t have to pay.” When she found her voice, it was breathy.
“I want to.” His words were low and rumbly and sexy, and she resisted the urge to lay her cheek against his chest, desperate to have someone, anyone, to lean on, even for a moment. Obviously, hunger was impeding her mental faculties.
In the two years she’d lived in Cottonbloom, she’d never run into Jackson outside of the garage. Her forays to secretly watch him race didn’t count since he’d never noticed her. The only place she was a regular was at the library, because it offered free Internet and entertainment—two things she couldn’t afford to waste money on.
Her mental faculties slipped further away as she allowed her gaze to wander over his shoulders before rising. He’d showered, his damp hair darker than its usual rich brown, but hadn’t shaved, his stubble even more pronounced from the afternoon. The scent of soap and clean laundry was mouthwatering in a different way than the barbeque was. The butterflies in her stomach did a slow bump and grind. God, she was hungry for so many things.

So begins the romance that forms the bedrock of the story, but it is by no means plain sailing.  Willa is a determined young lady who trusts no one and is living a life on the run – but what or whom is she running from? Her back-story winds through the book allowing us to watch a veneer of self-preservation to be chipped away as her confidence in those around her begins to grow.  She allows herself to form an attachment to a stray dog and this is when her true nature starts to shine through and little by little we learn just what Willa is running from and how much of this is herself.

Gracefulness

Jackson has his own demons to tackle, in the form of his absent brother and his estranged mother, who abandoned the family as children.  But we see him mellow as his feelings for Willa deepen and he realises that he can have what he sees his twin enjoying – that is a loving relationship.

This would not be a good contemporary romance if there were not some glamour and an opportunity for the hero to be dazzled by the hidden beauties of his new love.  Ms Trentham does not fail us, and with the help and friendship of Sutton, Willa allows herself to once again feel feminine and become the lovely young woman that is hiding beneath her greasy overalls.

not a car - Social Media

I think that if you enjoy a good romance, with some intrigue and some great characters then you will enjoy When The Stars Come Out.  It can be read as a stand-alone book, but I personally enjoy a series that is set around a town and which interlinks characters and plots from book to book – like large chapters of an overall novel.  This is an easy to read, light story that will brighten these cold, wet months at the start of the new year.  I am now looking forward to the next instalment – surely, we need a tale about the other Abbott brother, Mack! Please, Laura Trentham!!  Four stars from me.

Published: January 30th 2018 by St Martin’s Paperbacks

Book Links:

Goodreads

Amz: Amazon
BN: Barnes & Noble
iBooks: ibooks
Kobo: Kobo
GooglePlay: GooglePlay

Author biography:

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in
Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an
English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical
Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS
ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book, was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.

When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to
soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be- read pile of books on her nightstand.

Link with Laura on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraTrentham
Or join my reader group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1733284316920632/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraTrentham
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lauratrentham/
Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bwbOkD
Follow me on Bookbub for new release or sale announcements:
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/laura-trentham