Sunday 31 January 2016

A Genie Called Vodka & Other Short Stories - Bob Summer

A Genie Called Vodka & Other Short Stories is an excellent collection of stories from author Bob Summer.

The six short stories cover a variety of topics ranging from alcoholism to mental health issues. Don't let the subject matter put you off, these are wonderfully written stories that could easily be turned into full length novels. In the short time I had to get to know the characters I found myself genuinely caring about each one.

The recurring theme in each story is neglect. The fact that these children and young adults continue to battle through and try and survive to the best of their ability when it seems all hope is lost is vividly portrayed.

Bob Summer is a very talented and accomplished writer who is able to put a positive spin on stories that are both heartbreaking and harrowing. Her writing is addictive and that's why I wish that some of these tales were longer. If you're on the look-out for a new author I would highly recommend you read this as an introduction to Bob's work before moving on to her other novel's which include the great psychological thriller Alone But Not Lost which I read last year and you can read my review here.

A Genie Called Vodka & Other Short Stories is available free on Amazon at the time of writing.

With kind thanks to author Bob Summer for the review copy.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Blue Wicked - Alan Jones

Blue Wicked is not a book for the faint-hearted! I was warned by the author that this was a 'dark and gritty crime story' and he wasn't kidding.

Eddie Henderson is an unusual crime novel protagonist in that he's a vet. He's been looking into some gruesome cat cruelty and it's not long before Eddie suspects that whoever is responsible for torturing and killing the cats has moved on and now it's the drug addicts and alcoholics of Glasgow that have his or her attention.

When he voices his suspicions to the police it's only Catherine Douglas, a young officer, who thinks that he may be onto something and agrees to help him dig deeper.

The story that follows is uncomfortable reading at times but it's all relevant and makes for an original, gritty novel. I could feel myself squirming as I followed the unfortunate victims, a feeling which was made worse as I knew what was coming, whereas they had no idea. The descriptions are so vivid that I almost felt that I was a bystander at the crime scenes and at one point I swear I could smell the bodily functions! Eddie is a great character who stands up for what he believes in and will fight for what he thinks is right so as a result I got right behind him and wanted him to crack the case.

The author works in the animal health industry and it's very clear that he's extremely knowledgeable on this subject but I hate to think what his google search history looks like as there must have been an extensive search of certain aspects. I was wary of the Scottish dialect to start with and did wonder how I would cope with it (there is a helpful glossary at the back of the book if you get really stuck) but I soon found that it wasn't an issue and it added to the authenticity of the book. I can't wait to read more from this author.

If you're looking for an original story and you like your thrillers dark and voyeuristic then this is the book for you.

You can find out more about the author Alan Jones here and Blue Wicked is currently only 99p on Amazon at the time of posting.

With kind thanks to author Alan Jones for the review copy.

Sunday 24 January 2016

183 Times a Year - Eva Jordan

183 Times a Year is a delightful story about mothers and daughters, which is both heartfelt and funny.

Lizzie's family is a typical blended one, consisting of her angsty teenage daughter Cassie, her son Connor, emo step-daughter Maisy (aka 'Mania') and her second husband Simon.

Each chapter is from a different character and gives you a real insight into their individual personalities. Cassie is 16 and wants to be friends with all the popular kids at school, always on Twitter and Facebook and secretly lusting after Joe and nicknaming her stepdad 'Simple Simon'. Maisy is a year older and more independent but she's got the number of Cassie's fake friends and often voices her opinions on them which often causes friction.

Librarian Lizzie often finds herself at home with the children while Simon is working and has her own issues. Her first husband has more or less washed his hands of his two children as his new rich wife doesn't want anything to do with them, her job comes under threat and then a shocking revelation from her best friend causes a major rift.

Events take a sinister turn towards the end of the book which means we see the family pull together and face up to some harsh realities.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it explored the mother/daughter relationship but it also cleverly managed to incorporate lots of other conversation pieces ranging from teenage mothers, work issues and infidelity. Cassie's spoonerisms were wonderful and Eva Jordan did a wonderful job in conveying the thought process of a teenage girl. It's wonderfully thought-provoking books like this that stay with you and make you appreciate your family and life in general. I can't wait for the next book from this author.

With kind thanks to author Eva Jordan for the review copy.

Saturday 23 January 2016

Bomber Boy - Ike Pius

Bomber Boy is a novella which was initially intended to be a short magazine or radio feature and broken down into episodes it's a quick read.

Farouk Omar Muttab is a terrorist and when we first meet him he's just pressed the switch to trigger his bomb whilst travelling on Northwestern Airlines Flight 253. Fortunately for the other passengers onboard, the bomb fails to detonate and the flight lands safely but unfortunately for Farouk, it means he won't be going to heaven but he will be in serious trouble with the people who hired him.

This is a satirical, current story about the War Against Terror from the point of view of a would be terrorist and is quite humorous in places. The plot moves quickly enough to hold your interest and it's an interesting read that will leave you with several topics to contemplate.

With kind thanks to author Ike Pius for the review copy.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Our Song - Dani Atkins

Our Song is the third novel from author Dani Atkins. I remember reading Dani's first book, Fractured and being blown away by it and telling all of my bookworm friends that this was a book that they HAD to read. So when I was lucky enough to be offered a review copy of Our Song I jumped at the opportunity.

This is the story of two couples, Ally and Joe and Charlotte and David, who all find themselves at the same hospital one night.

We meet the husbands first, Joe is on his way home when he encounters a group of young children who beg him to save their brother and their dog who have fallen through the frozen lake and David is out buying a present for his wife when he collapses.

When the wives arrive at the hospital we find out that they know each other from university and neither of them is especially pleased to see the other one. The two girls parted on bad terms and we find out exactly what happens through flashbacks from both Ally's and Charlotte's perspectives as they both patiently wait for news on their spouse's.

Dani Atkins has written a stunningly beautiful novel that took me on one of the biggest emotional journey's I've ever taken whilst lost in the pages of a book. The story is ingeniously written over a 24 hour period with the characters backgrounds intricately woven seamlessly through it. Towards the end of the book I had to keep re-reading the words as I couldn't see them through my tears, yes this book broke me! The more I found out about each character the more involved I felt, they are ordinary people with ordinary lives and the situations they find themselves in could happen to any one of us. I imagine that Dani is a people watcher, happy to sit for a while and watch others going about their daily business as her observational skills are very apparent in Our Song. I honestly can't recommend this book highly enough and I can already see this being a must read book as well as being on my top ten list for 2016.

Our Song is published on January 21st and available for pre-order now.

With kind thanks to author Dani Atkins and publishers Simon and Schuster for the review copy.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Another Love - Amanda Prowse

Another Love is the latest novel from Amanda Prowse and one that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. When it arrived I settled down on the sofa and got comfy. After taking it literally everywhere with me, putting it down to prevent myself from reading it too quickly and then not being able to bear not knowing what was coming next so I'd find myself picking it up again. The next day after reading the last sentence, I closed the book, put it down next to me and thought one word. WOW!

Romilly has everything, the perfect marriage, a wonderful daughter, a job she loves and a beautiful house in the nicest area of town. As a child growing up with younger, prettier, twin sisters Carrie and Holly, she was always pushed forward by her mother as being "the clever one" and it was at university that she met her husband David.

Nervous about her first date with David a friend suggests that she has a drink to calm her nerves and Romilly soon discovers that the alcohol does help her relax and it's not long before she's finding more and more reasons to drink.

Once again Amanda Prowse has taken a sensitive subject and beautifully crafted a story around it in such a way that the characters leap from the page and into your heart. Watching Romilly's life falling apart as her drinking spirals out of control was painful to read and as a reader on the outside looking in you could see all the mistakes she was making and the effect that it was having on her loved ones. The astutely integrated chapters from Celeste, Romilly's daughter, tell their own compelling story of how precarious life is as a young child growing up with an alcoholic parent. Amanda has a real flair for writing stories and characters that really pull you in and make you feel a part of their story and they become your friends.

I absolutely loved this book and in my humble opinion it's Amanda Prowse's best novel yet but don't just take my word for it, read it for yourself. I'm sure you won't regret it.

Another Love is available from the 16th January 2016 and you can pre-order it here.

With kind thanks to author Amanda Prowse and publishers Head of Zeus for the review copy.

Sunday 3 January 2016

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells - Virginia Macgregor

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells is another beautifully written novel from Virginia Macgregor and after having been so captivated by her debut book What Milo Saw,  I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy.

Six years ago Norah left her life and family behind. She left her youngest daughter Willa with her best friend Fay, dropped her eldest daughter Ella off at the school gates, left a note for her husband Adam and then disappeared from their lives, but now she's back.

Life at Willoughby Road has changed now though. Fay has not only held her family together, she's taken her place with both her daughters and her husband. So why has Norah come back as if nothing has happened?

Everyone has questions. How is Norah's return going to affect them, why did she leave, where has she been and why has she come back now after six years of silence? Is she hoping to pick up her life where she left off?

This is an emotional novel that will tug at your heart strings the more you read. The characters are superbly written and Macgregor has deftly portrayed  Ella, the turbulent teenager, who now resents her mum for coming back, Willa, who talks to her dog and sees the world as being full of hope, Fay, who has harboured her feelings for so long and finally Norah, who made the tough decision to leave the family she loved so dearly. It's a wonderful story about growing up, self-discovery and family relationships. I think this is a book that will become a favourite for many readers and Virginia Macgregor is definitely an author to watch out for.

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells is published on 14th January and available for pre-order here.

With kind thanks to Netgalley and publisher Sphere for the review copy.

Friday 1 January 2016

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood is an atmospheric, tense thriller from debut author Ruth Ware.

When Nora receives an unexpected email invitation to a hen party she is mystified. She hasn't seen her old school friend Clare for ten years but after speaking to her friend Nina, who has also received an invite, she decides to go as long as Nina goes too.

The hen weekend is being arranged by Clare's new best friend Florence and being held at her aunt's house which just happens to be in the woods. We then find out that Clare is marrying an ex-boyfriend of Nora's but something has obviously happened previously as Nora doesn't seem happy and it ends up being a very unforgettable weekend for everyone.

Ruth Ware's writing is reminiscent of Agatha Christie and her descriptions were so vivid I could picture myself in the house with them. There was a very sinister undertone growing as the story progresses and you get to find out more about each of the characters, some of which are more likable than others.
Some of the revelations were a little obvious but there are plenty that I didn't see coming and I was keen to find out more about this eclectic group of people.

I thought this was a first-rate debut novel and I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

With kind thanks to Netgalley and publishers Vintage for the review copy.