Saturday 23 April 2016

Author Mark West - A triple feature

I have a bit of a different post for you today with not one, not even two but three book reviews! Yes, you did read that right, three reviews for three great stories written by Mark West.

Let me start by introducing you to the author himself.

                                            Photo © Liz Kearns 2015

Mark West was born in Northamptonshire in 1969 and now lives there with his wife Alison and their young son Matthew.  Since discovering the small press in 1998 he has published over eighty short stories, two novels (In The Rain With The Dead and Conjure), a novelette (The Mill), a chapbook (What Gets Left Behind), a collection (Strange Tales) and two novellas  (Drive, which was nominated for a British Fantasy Award and The Lost Film).  
Away from writing, he enjoys reading, walking, cycling, watching films and playing Dudeball with his son.

So now you know a little bit about the man behind the words here are my reviews.

Drive is a chilling tale of what happens when one man helps out a stranger in a strange town.

David offers friend of a friend Nat a lift home after meeting at a party, while at the same time a group of youths are cruising around the town of Gaffney in a stolen Audi, music blaring, looking for trouble.

The joyriders are either drunk or high on drugs and they begin their late night reign of terror by toying with a pizza delivery guy out on his moped. When they've had their fun with him they try to abduct a young girl outside a kebab shop but it's not until they try to mow down a group of women crossing the street that they encounter David and Nat at a set of traffic lights and the real terror begins.

For a novella Drive packs one hell of a punch. Both David and Nat's characters are developed enough that you can empathise with them, which is no easy feat in a novella.  I was reading with a real sense of trepidation, I knew something was going to happen, it was just a case of what, when and how. Just when I thought that David and Nat were safe. . . . . . boom, boom, boom can be heard again from the Audi's stereo or the headlights reappear in the rear view mirror. This is one thriller that will make your heart race and leave you breathless.

What Gets Left Behind is the story of Mike who finds himself back in his home town where he suffered a traumatic event when he was younger.

After visiting his then best friends grave he finds himself searching out the scene of the incident, an old disused warehouse.

Back in the eighties when Mike was a small boy out playing with his best friend Geoff, they run into a group of bullies and seek solace in a warehouse. At a time when the media is full of reports about the Rainy Day Abductor the pair make a terrifying discovery and the results still haunt Mike.

When he arrives at the location he decides that now is the time to finally lay the demons of his past to rest so he ventures in and it's not long before the atmosphere shifts becoming tense and oppressive.

This is a tale about growing up, regrets and loss. The descriptions are so vivid that I felt that I was in the warehouse with Mike, tentatively opening doors, not knowing what would greet me on the other side but luckily I wasn't and after reading the last word I could put my kindle down, breathe a sigh of relief and draw my own conclusion as to exactly what happened to Mike.

Last, but by no means least, we have The Mill, a wonderfully written novellette about a young widower struggling to deal with the death of his wife Nicola.

Michael has lost his focus in life the way that people do after the death of a loved one, lack of concentration, insomnia, strange dreams and hearing and seeing his wife. It's only when he attends a bereaved partner's group and picks up on a seemingly throw away comment made by someone in the group that he begins to think more about his dreams of The Mill.

Combining a chilling atmosphere as well as developing a character that will tug on a readers heartstrings is a hard task, but that's exactly what Mr West has done in this moving but creepy story. The supernatural touches just completed the story for me and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

So there you have it, three reviews for three fantastic short but gripping reads. I was lucky enough to receive all three books from Mark West in exchange for honest reviews after meeting him at a blogger/author event in London last month. I enjoyed the books so much I asked him if he was currently working on anything that I could share with you all and this was his response:

"There are indeed - 2016 is shaping up quite nicely for me.  Aside from some short story appearances (which are always fun), I also have two solo projects.  In the summer, Stormblade Productions are publishing - in print, ebook and audio editions - my novella “Polly”, which is another of my forays into dark thriller territory (following “Drive”).  It’s about a woman who discovers, on the eve of her 20th anniversary, that her marriage isn’t what she thinks it is and flees to Paris for the weekend.  Initial feedback on it has been very good.  Due to launch at FantasyCon in October is another novella, which is untitled at the moment - I’ve just started writing it - but concerns a group of old college friends who decide to explore an old factory.  This is me back to the horror genre, with some scary bits, plenty of suspense and a bit of gruesome violence.

Once the horror novella is finished, I’m planning to start working on a new novel and, taking the lead from domestic noir, it’s going to be a dark, psychological piece.  I have the lead character and one set piece but it’s fun putting things together slowly and seeing if they stack up or not."
 After reading Mark's work I'm excited to hear that there is more on the way soon and I would highly recommend that you give one of the above little beauties a try as I'm sure you won't regret it!
If you want to find out more about Mark and his work he can be contacted through his website at and is also on Twitter as @MarkEWest

Once again with  kind thanks to author Mark West for the review copies.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Sister Dear - Laura McNeill

Sister Dear is a compelling story and once I'd started it everything else went on hold until I'd finished the last page.

Allie Marshall is about to be released from prison after serving 10 years for a crime she didn't commit. She strongly believes that someone set her up, she has her suspicions about who was responsible and being out on parole will enable her to find the proof she needs to clear her name if she's careful.

Along with proving her innocence Allie is desperate to reconnect with her now teenage daughter Caroline, who has been living with her sister Emma. It soon becomes obvious that Emma isn't so keen on mother and daughter building any kind of relationship and appears to be more than happy to let Caroline believe all the gossip that's started going around the town since her mother's release.

Even Allie's parent's aren't fully supporting her, despite finding her somewhere to live, her father buries his head in the sand and stays away while her mother will only see her away from the judgemental stares of her friends and the community. Her mother's visits are always awkward and anything about her past is a taboo subject.

Laura McNeill has once again written an enthralling novel with an intriguing cast of well thought out characters as well as an excellent plot which will keep you guessing from start to finish. Allie and Emma's back stories are skillfully drip fed to the reader, giving an insight into their lives and characters before Allie was convicted and to provide little clues to pick up on to try and figure out who really was responsible for what happened on that fateful night. Sister Dear is one of those books that you don't want put down and you don't want to end. I loved it and highly recommend that if you enjoy a good psychological/suspense thriller you give this one a try.

Sister Dear is published on the 19th April and is available for pre-order here.

With kind thanks to author Laura McNeill and NetGalley for the review copy.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Bloq - Alan Jones

OH MY DAYS! Where am I supposed to start with this review? I started this book late one night and by lunchtime the next day I was finished!

Bloq opens up with a disturbing prologue involving an illegal burial, but we don't find out anymore about this until later on in the book.

We then meet Bill Ingram, a recent widower, who is waiting at Glasgow train station for his daughter Carol to arrive from London. It soon becomes clear that Carol isn't on the train and despite numerous calls to both her mobile and home phone Bill can't contact her so he decides to drive to London to see if he can find any clues to her whereabouts.

The police aren't interested when he tries to file a missing person's report so Bill sets off on his own and slowly builds up a picture of Carol's life in London and it's not long before he hears about Bloq, a nightclub run by a charming but unsavoury Albanian named Aleksander. Carol and her friends were frequent visitors to the club but things start to turn nasty when Bill is spotted hanging around asking customers if they've seen his daughter.

Bill's journey is fraught with danger but he's determined to find his daughter at whatever cost.

Every single character in this book feels so real and I found myself living every page with them. At times it was disturbing to read but this story could be and probably is an issue facing real life people today. There were many occasions where I found that I was holding my breath as I was reading and the tension was mounting but that only prompted me to turn the pages faster and faster. For me, Alan Jones has an incredilbe way of drawing you into his books right from the outset, he then throws you around for a bit and then spits you out at the end and I love every minute of it. If you've read either of his previous books (The Cabinetmaker or Blue Wicked) you might think like I did in that he surely can't write any better. . . . . .think again as Bloq is the proof!

This is a tense book that will have you literally chewing your fingernails and I highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy.

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

Saturday 9 April 2016

Shtum - Jem Lester

Shtum is a story about Ben and Ella Jewell and their ten year old son Jonah who has a severe form of autism.
It's clear from the very beginning that both parents are finding it hard dealing with Jonah and his behavioural problems as they discuss the forthcoming legal battle with their local authority to get Jonah into a residential school that will be able to give him the help and support he so desperately needs.

When they find out that the chances of their local authority paying for Jonah are slim, Emma suggests that  they fake a separation to help his cause, as a single parent will be looked upon more favourably. Ben reluctantly goes along with this and moves in with his father Georg who he hasn't spoken to for months.

Ben starts to buckle under the pressure of taking care of Jonah, a failing business, looking at alternative schools for Jonah and his strained relationship with his father so he relies more and more on alcohol.

Jem Lester has written a truly wonderful, heartwarming but also heartbreaking book which will make you cry at times but will also have you laughing out loud. The main theme running through the book relates to communication, how do you communicate with someone who is unable to talk, how do you communicate with someone who isn't willing to talk  and how do you communicate with someone who isn't there?

I can't express just how much I enjoyed reading this book and I hope that it's a huge success.

With kind thanks to publishers Orion and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Exclusives: No One Can Hurt You More Than A Friend - Rebecca Thornton

The Exclusives is a dual time story about friendship, betrayal and the darker side of boarding school.

The year is 1996 and Josephine Grey is a high achieving student at Greenwood Hall who appears to have it all. She's just been chosen as head girl, has a perfect friendship with best friend Freya and is confident about securing a coveted place at Oxford but this isn't Malory Towers and the story soon takes a dark turn when something happens on a night out.

Fast forward to 2014 and Josephine is now working on an archaeological site in Jordan and hasn't thought about her school days until she receives an unexpected email from Freya asking to meet her to talk about "that night" but Josephine has no wish to revisit the past and open old wounds that caused a rift between them so goes to great lengths to avoid her old friend. As time passes and the memories start trickling back it soon becomes clear to Josephine that maybe meeting up with Freya is exactly what she needs.

This is a clever book as the author keeps back the secret of what happened on that night for a good three quarters of the book but without sacrificing anything of the plot or losing the readers interest. The characters are both engaging and believable and although it was easy to feel sympathy for both Josephine and Freya at times they were frustratingly annoying in their reluctance to face up to things and actually sit down and be honest with each other.

For a debut novel, Rebecca Thornton has written a very accomplished novel that had me eagerly turning the pages to find out exactly what happened on that fateful night and I'm looking forward to reading more from her.

With kind thanks to Bonnier Publishing for the review copy.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Help me celebrate!

Woo hoo, it's my birthday!! 

Yes it is actually my birthday today, not my blogoversary, but my real life birthday and I'd love you all to help me celebrate.

I've organised a little giveaway both here on my blog and over on my Facebook page which you can find here. Feel free to give me a like if you do pop across there. . . . .it is my birthday after all!

All I'm asking you to do is leave me a birthday message that incorporates my favourite things. . . books, hippo's and the colour purple. Yes that's all you have to do. Just be creative, funny, original and nice, picture or text and the best one will receive a gift from me to share the birthday love.

You can leave your comment here or on Facebook until 7pm on Sunday 10th April and the winner will be announced at 9pm on the same night. This is a UK only giveaway due to postal costs.

I'm looking forward to reading your comments and help yourself to a slice of cake!

Sunday 3 April 2016

Mini giveaway!

So I've decided to do something a little off the cuff and run a little giveaway to give one lucky reader a chance to win something from me!

I will post the details both here and on my Facebook page which you can find here so make sure that you check back over the next few days to find out what you can do to be in with a chance of winning.

A Barrow Boy's Cadenza - Pete Adams

A Barrow Boy's Cadenza is a crime novel with a difference and with one of the most eccentric protagonists I think I've ever met.

When we first meet DCI Jack "Jane" Austin he's hungover in bed and concerned about what his partner Mandy is doing with his tutu which was part of his previous night outs outfit. Fast approaching 60, with only one good eye and varicose veins amongst other issues, he's not your usual type of hero but he is one that will definitely intrigue you.

When Jack heads off to the harbour to investigate rumours of dead dogs being thrown into the water the last thing he expects is to get shot but it's when two murders occur, one, the head of Armed Forces and the other head of a City of London bank that the pace really starts to pick up.

This is the third novel in the Kind Hearts and Martinets Trilogy but this can be read as a standalone. I found this to be a wonderful mix of crime, whodunit, thriller with a healthy sprinkling of humour and romance which to me is a highly unusual combination. Pete Adams has written a novel which is like a breath of fresh air within the crime writing genre, with larger than life characters combining cleverly with humour and a plot that will keep you guessing. If you're looking for an original crime thriller then this could be just the book for you.

With kind thanks to author Pete Adams for the signed review copy.

Saturday 2 April 2016

On Track For Murder - Stephen Childs

On Track For Murder tells the story of Abigail Sergeant as she leaves London with her younger brother Bertrand to go and live with their father and step-mother in Australia at the end of the 19th century.

Their journey onboard the SS Elderslie is a treacherous one, the sea is rough and Abigail finds herself on the receiving end of some unwelcome attention from a sleazy crew member named Briggs.

When they finally disembark at their destination and make their way to their fathers house it's not long before their hopes of a wonderful life with their father are shattered and they're caught up in a murder investigation.

The police are convinced that they have the killer but Abigail doesn't agree and sets out to prove their innocence with the help of young police constable Ridley Dunning.

What follows is an epic train journey across Western Australia, with Abigail facing deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, which forces her to draw on a determination she didn’t know she possessed.

On Track For Murder is a clever mix of murder mystery, history with a large dose of romance which makes for an enjoyable read. This wasn't a fast paced story but the twists and turns were frequent enough to keep my interest and want to find out who the real killer was.

With kind thanks to Authoright for the review copy.