Thursday, 30 January 2014

RR - The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent WifeThe Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Publisher - Headline

Pages - 372

Blurb from Goodreads

A chilling psychological thriller portraying the disintegration of a relationship down to the deadliest point when murdering your husband suddenly makes perfect sense.

Todd Gilbert and Jodie Brett are in a bad place in their relationship. They've been together for twenty-eight years, and with no children to worry about there has been little to disrupt their affluent Chicago lifestyle. But there has also been little to hold it together, and beneath the surface lie ever-widening cracks. HE is a committed cheater. SHE lives and breathes denial. HE exists in dual worlds. SHE likes to settle scores. HE decides to play for keeps. SHE has nothing left to lose. When it becomes clear that their precarious world could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows she stands to lose everything. It's only now she will discover just how much she's truly capable of...


My Review

The story opens and introduces us to Her, Jodie Brett, common law wife of Him, Todd Gilbert. With an intro of who Jodie is and a declaration of "a few short months are all it will take to make a killer out of her". Their routine and lives shared together are spread out between chapters, the past and leading to present that brings us to the murder itself. Jodie has always turned a blind eye to her philandering husband however this time is different, this time she is going to loose everything and Jodie cannot allow that to happen.

This story flips between the two and their views points of their relationship, past and present. Jodie is a bit of a cold fish, she likes control, is a psychologist working her own hours from home with a selective client list. He is a business man, his own boss who restores or builds, makes a profit and has a roaming eye for the ladies.

The story is very well done, the smallest detail described to what keeps Jodie going to keep from seeing what her husband gets up to. the book also flips back to Jodie revealing things from her past whilst she is a trainee which gives the reader a possible reason for how she is and all she accepts and refuses to see.

We get some insight into Todd's past too which count attribute to his philandering ways but ultimately the story pushes to Todd's betrayal and Jodie's reaction to it. Even when has two lives on the go Jodie still seems in denial until she is pushed to drastic action. I found quite a bit of it unbelievable, how easily the idea of murder comes up and how acceptable and docile Jodie is to it.

Some of it is very realistically done as even in this day and age some women will do anything to keep their husband and what happens when that is threatened. I can't say I liked any of the main characters however the author does a fantastic job in hooking you into wanting to see how it plays out. It goes at a sedate pace after the initial murder is mentioned however it builds a vivid picture of their relationship and interactions as well as how they end up on the paths they do.

It is quite a compelling read although some of it found me wanting and quite frustrated at times which is why it gets a rounded 3/5 rating. Thanks to Realreaders for providing me with a review copy and introducing me to yet another new author.

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ARC - Payback by Kimberley Chambers

PaybackPayback by Kimberley Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1.5 days

Publisher - Harper Collins

Pages - 454 (uncorrected proof copy)

Blurb from Goodreads

Family. They're supposed to watch your back. Not stab you in it

When the enemy is one of your own, the payback is twice as hard.

The Butler brothers are the Kings of the East End, and their motto is ‘what goes around, comes around’.

In their world, family counts; so when the truth about Vinny’s nephew’s death comes to light, it rocks the Butlers to the core. One by one, Vinny’s friends and family are turning against him…

Then, the unimaginable happens – Vinny’s little daughter Molly goes missing. She’s the one chink of light in all their lives, and the one they’d commit murders to bring back.

But is it already too late for that?

Is this PAYBACK?



My Review

Welcome back to the Butler family. After the last installment where we left a dent in the family with deaths and secrets, it is time to face the music and have some payback. Michael and Ahmed know Vinny's secret about how Champ really died and the truth will always out. As the truth comes to light everything in Vinny's world will fall apart and everything he holds dear is threatened.

Oh. Dear. Lord. - I loved this book! I have said it before and I will say it again, you have a fear when you pick up a loved authors new book in case it doesn't cut the mustard. This one may have bettered the first, which is no mean feat. Vinny is still his hard, mental self although we see a new side as he knows his actions from the first book may come back to haunt him. Michael is different this time too, he has developed and has a darker side I felt this time around due to all that has passed and having to deal with it.

There are secrets throughout this book, the reader knows some but not what will come from them and some that we don't and will blow you away. I love the Butlers, I love the tension, the story sucks you right in. I picked this up after finishing a book that I hated thinking I will read a chapter, I was still up 100 pages later! You are pulled into their world and absorbed in the story from the prologue where violence and retribution await you.

What did I love? Everything! What did I hate? The end because I want it to keep going and now have to wait for Miss Chambers to write it, edit it, publish it ahhh. I honestly didn't think the book could get any better but the end totally blew me away, you need to get this book now! If you haven't read the first in this series you can get away with picking this up as the author paints enough back story to keep you in the loop however you would be depriving yourself a great tale if you don't get the first. 5/5 for me, I loved it, Chalmers has not only came through with this one she has topped herself! Thanks so much to HarperCollins for providing an ARC copy which is available to all good retailers from the 1st of February 2014, in Hardback for £12.99.


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PRR - Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

Just One Evil Act (Inspector Lynley, #18)Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 week +

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Pages - 708

Blurb from Goodreads

When Hadiyyah Upman disappears from London in the company of her mother, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is as devastated as the girl's father. They are her close friends as well as neighbours, but since the child is with her mother, nothing can be done. Five months later, Hadiyyah is kidnapped from an open air market in Lucca, Italy, and this triggers an investigation in the full glare of the media spotlight. Barbara's clever manipulation of the worst of London's tabloids forces New Scotland Yard to become involved. But rather than Barbara herself, her superior officer DI Thomas Lynley is assigned to handle a situation made delicate by racial issues, language difficulties, and the determination of an Italian magistrate to arrest and convict someone - anyone - for the crime.



My Review

Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers next door neighbors child Hadiyyah Upman disappears from London, along with her mother. The father is devastated, as is Havers who is close to the family, suspecting her mother has taken her. Five months later the mother returns screaming Azhar, the girls father, has kidnapped her from Italy in retaliation. Together they must all work together to piece the case together and find the little girl before harm befalls her. DI Thomas Lynley is on the case to handle relations, translate upon arriving in Italy, racial and family issues. On top of that, the press is watching and reporting and there is a leak coming from the police.

Well what a story this turned out to be! To begin with I quite liked it, kidnapping by the mum and no idea where she went only to turn up months later saying the child has been truly kidnapped. The immediate response from Havers was ridiculous, she attacks her hair in response to the news. I still don't understand that and she has no relationship bar friendship with Azhar yet does so many things to potentially wreck her career AND break the law, repeatedly. Her behaviour is off the wall, she puts everything at risk and breaks the law continuously like a love crazed person rather than a respected, high ranking police detective.

When they are in Italy, Elizabeth George does a mix between Italian and English. Phrases are spoken in full Italian then the response or action is commented upon in English which I found totally distracting and very annoying. There is also some racist words battered around which will definitely offend some people so keep that in mind when picking the book up.

The book seemed far too long and went off in tangents which seemed more about padding the book out than adding anything to the actual tale. Lynleys "relationship" with Daidre I just didn't get either, he seemed to pursue and pursue and get nothing back at all from her other than what seemed forced communication. They seem to be at the same point in the start of the book as at the end so it really had no bearing or contribution to the tale at all, unless it is set up for the next book but even still I felt it added nothing.

I found myself getting bored often reading this one, some parts where quite good which is why is gets 2/5 however ultimately there was more to fault than like, for me however harden fans may still love it. Thanks so much to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with a copy to review in exchange for an honest review, this one just fell wide of the mark for me. I won't be rushing to pick up another by this author but won't rule out trying her again in the distant future.

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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review - Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

SlammerkinSlammerkin by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Publisher - Virago Press

Pages - 422

Blurb from Goodreads

Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age, where she encounters a freedom unknown to virtuous young women. But a dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, to become the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and to live the ordinary life of an ordinary girl. Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. She remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty; Clothes make the woman; Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. In the end, it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that lead Mary to disaster.
Emma Donoghue's daring, sensually charged prose casts a new sheen on the squalor and glamour of eighteenth-century England. Accurate, masterfully written, and infused with themes that still bedevil us today, Slammerkin is historical fiction for all readers.


My Review

Mary Saunders is fourteen and knows already she does not want the life her mother has, she wants more. When she covets a red ribbon and approaches the seller she is attacked and the consequences that follow leads her down a path of no return. By the age of fifteen she is a hardened prostitute, her and her friend Doll do what needs to be done and drink away the hours. The story follows their friendship and Mary's health and Doll lead her to the Magdalen Hospital which sees her follow a different path that flings up twists and turns that keep you reading to the last page.

Well, I read and really liked Room but don't remember the writing being like this, maybe that was because it was told in modern day and via a 5 year olds view point. This is written in a different time period, the 1700s and whilst historical novels are not something I generally go for I really enjoyed most things about this book. I learned a bit about this time period and the writer creates a vivid picture for the reader where you can almost smell and feel the scenario being created.

Mary, whilst being a child and wronged doesn't immediately evoke sympathy from the reader which I found hard and pondered over even after finishing the book. She is selfish, hard, materialistic and cold to a point, I often found myself forgetting her age as I read. Her actions evoked a sense of horror a few times throughout reading and I didn't see the biggest twist coming.

The book paints a very dark picture and baring in mind prostitution is the main theme of the book it is not for the easily offended as sex and that which goes with it is prominent throughout. Morals are another thing that gives pause for thought, what she does, why she does it and other characters actions in the tale.

I normally don't mention covers however within the book, before the first page, my copy had a picture of a slammerkin on a postcard type print inserted into the book (see below). It was unusual but I quite liked it and after reading the book you know its significance. The Slammerkin, as well as being the book title, plays a part to the story but for now I will leave you with the definition within the book. Slammerkin, noun, eigtheeth century, of unknown origin. 1. A loose gown. 2. A loose woman. Perfect title for the book, I felt. 4/5 for me this time and if the other title on my to be read is as good I will buy up the rest of the available titles.

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

ARC - Respect by Mandasue Heller

RespectRespect by Mandasue Heller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1.5 days (I missed a day of reading)

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Pages - 360 (uncorrected proof copy)

Blurb from Goodreads

Chantelle has everything going against her. She's a good student who only wants to pass her exams and find a way out of the sink estate in Manchester where she grew up. But now her feckless mother has taken off for Spain with her latest boyfriend and she's single-handedly raising her tearaway nine-year-old brother Leon. She thinks her worst problem is the debt collectors at the door. But Leon has made some new friends: teenage gang members who have given him a mobile phone, a knife - and some drugs to hide in her flat.
A part-time job seems to be the answer to Chantelle's prayers. But the violence is about to come home to her - with a vengeance. And the only person who's offering any help seems to be just as bad as the people she's trying to escape from . . .



My Review

Chantelle is fifteen and holding everything together, raising her nine year old little brother, Leon, whilst her mum gets wasted and parties. It is not uncommon for her to disappear for a few days and leave Chantelle holding the fort. However this time Mary, Chantelle's mum, goes off with her newest man and leaves Chantelle with nothing. All she wants to do is go to school and get on with her upcoming exams and stay out of all the trouble that comes from living in an estate. Leon quickly gets into trouble with a gang, Chantelle needs to find money so they can eat and try and track down her mum, before Marys debts fall on Chantelle and estate life takes over.

When you pick up a new copy of one of your favourite authors book, it is always with excitement, joy and apprehension. The last books have been fabulous and you worry that something will be lacking from this new one. Thankfully this was an unfounded fear, the book was fabulous.

Chantelle is a likable character, she is so young yet wise beyond her years. She has a strong family ethic and does what she has to to look out for her brother by taking a job as well as trying to keep up with studies. This leads her a new kind of trouble that puts her and Leon in grave danger. Only one person can help her, Anton, a local Lothario who has been giving her the eye since he got out of jail. Involving him is her only hope but is she trading one evil for another?

This story, I have to say, is quite different from the previous books. Yes there is violence, sex and all the usual we have come to expect and love from Heller however this one has very strong focus on family and loyalty which I really loved. Her mother is one of the most despicable characters and Chantelle's only role model however she still cares about her. As much as she wants to better herself and do well at school she doesn't look down on anyone and her brother comes first, at all costs despite him being a wee horror for a lot of the book.

I really enjoyed this, 5/5 for me this time and you only have to wait until the end of the month before you can get your hands on a copy. Available from the 31st f January 2014, for all good retailers. I received an advanced copy from Emilie Ferguson from Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Author Interview: Q & A with Mark MacNicol

Thanks Mark for taking the time to answer some questions for me. If you haven't already read Coconut Badger it is this months giveaway and you can enter via this link http://www.alwaysreading.net/2014/01/januarys-pre-loved-giveaway-is-coconut.html

How did you get into writing? I’ve always been a consumer of stories, TV and Film mostly but also novels. I left school at 16 with no qualifications and it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that the bug started to get a grip of me. I had my own IT business in London then and was starting to spend more and more time on what would eventually become Coconut Badger. I had serious overheads and It was financially very reckless but I just couldn’t stop myself.

I knew in my heart I wouldn’t be able to do both and would have to choose. It was a very hard decision made easier by being single with no children so I went for it and sold my IT business. That was four years ago and I’m still here. It has been very tough, I’ve skipped a few meals and periodically I can’t afford to put the heating on but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

What inspired Coconut Badger? I grew up in a fairly rough neighbourhood in Glasgow called Pollok. I seemed to be the only person I knew who didn’t like fighting and discovered at a young age that my life might be made easier if I found a way to deal with it. Hard to explain to people who don’t come from this background but a coward can often find themselves with low status in the hierarchy. Where I grew up, people who could ‘handle themselves’ had higher status it was that simple.

On a serious note our prisons and graveyards are full of people from socially excluded backgrounds who were conditioned to handle confrontation in a certain way. I believe people growing up in more affluent areas are conditioned differently. There is less stigma associated with not liking confrontation/violence, if anything that is likely to be encouraged. My hope is that there are multiple themes in Coconut Badger but for me this is the central one. The sense of shame Tam feels at his inability to handle confrontation and any subsequent violence with the, shall we say enthusiasm of his peers.

How long did it take you to get the idea for and write Coconut Badger? I had completed a third of the novel part time over a two year period I reckon, so it was fairly slow going. Obviously the pace picked up when I went full time and the remainder probably took me around nine months.

Are any of your characters or stories based upon real people? Obviously Tam is inspired by me not liking confrontation and violence growing up but he and all the other characters and stories are fictional. The ‘Monkford’ is loosely based on an area inside greater Pollok known as ‘South Nitshill’. Pat is an amalgamation of every psychopath I’ve ever met in my life. The ‘Lord Darnley Tree’ figures prominently, that’s an actual tree on Nitshill Road.

What authors do you read? Some of my favourites are Iain McEwan and George Orwell, Alisdair Gray, James Kelman, Archie Hind, Irvine Welsh, too many to list. I’m currently reading female protagonists written by men to help me with my second novel.

Do you plan to write any more stories with the Coconut Badger characters? I spent a couple of months in Hollywood recently and a production company want to film an adaptation in Glasgow in 2014. The fat lady isn’t singing but she’s in her changing room warming up so fingers crossed the deal finalises.

When is the next book due out? I released the first part of my second novel as an ebook on Kindle last month ‘Finn McCool Rises’ the Celtic legend arrives in Scotland to come to the rescue of a female journalist who has uncovered a politically sensitive story that puts her life in danger.

Couldn’t be any more different from Coconut Badger which was an urban, gritty story with a male protagonist written in the third person. Finn McCool is fantasy, rural with a female protagonist written in the first person. So I’m getting in touch with my feminine side.

How hard, or easy, is it to get a book out there? Probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I couldn’t find a publisher for Coconut Badger so decided to self publish. Just because you can’t find a traditional publisher doesn’t mean your story isn’t good enough. If you walk away from it.. Let it die on your hard drive.. What does that say about how you feel about your own work? No way I was walking away so I decided to self publish.

One thing I knew for sure was that it must be comparible in every way to a mainstream house. You sit my book next to any of them and you wouldn’t know the difference. I invested a lot of time and resources to recruit a top editor, artist, typesetter, printer etc to make sure that the physical book is comparible in quality.

As for the contents, well obviously I’m biased, but I believe the reader contact I’ve had via my website and twitter, along with decent reviews, more than demonstrates that the work can hold its own. My biggest challenge has been marketing and distribution without the backing of a publisher. I rely heavily on social media and word of mouth.

On the plus side I have a lot of freedom. I don’t think a publisher would have let me do something so different with my second novel.

Which author would you most like your writing to be compared to, if you had to pick one? I found myself thinking of Brookmyre whilst reading Coconut Badger. I’m happy for people to compare me to whoever they like but I don’t personally want to be compared to anyone. I know it’s a fairly standard answer to that question but I do genuinely just want to be myself with my own voice.

What’s next for Mark MacNicol? Current focus is completing the second part of the Finn McCool Rises novel. I just finished co-directing a short comedy film I wrote. Hopefully the LA deal closes and Coconut Badger feature shoots in Glasgow 2014. Also co-producing a George Gunn play at Edinburgh Fringe 2014. That lot should keep me busy.


You can follow Mark MacNicol on twitter and via his website, listed below, for updates. www.markmacnicol.com @markmacnicol

Monday, 13 January 2014

Review - The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly

The Sick RoseThe Sick Rose by Erin Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Blurb from Goodreads

Paul was led into a life of crime by his boyhood protector, a bully named Daniel; but one night, what started as a petty theft turned into a grisly murder. Now, at nineteen, Paul must bear witness against his friend to avoid prison. Louisa's own dark secrets led her to flee a desperate infatuation gone wrong many years before. Now she spends her days steeped in history, renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan garden. But her fragile peace is shattered when she meets Paul; he's the spitting image of the one person she never thought she'd see again.

These two, scarred and solitary, begin a secret affair. Louisa starts to believe she can again find the happiness she had given up on. But neither of them can outrun his violent past.

A story of secrets and guilt set among the ruins of a sixteenth- century English garden, The Dark Rose explores the extremes of obsessive love and loyalty, devotion and desperation. Like Kelly's critically acclaimed debut novel, The Poison Tree, this fantastically creepy, atmospheric novel thrills until the final shocking moments.


My Review

Paul is in trouble with the police and he is going down for it, unless he reveals what happened and gives up his accomplice. After becoming the one thing you never do in a rough estate Paul is under protection and relocated where he meets Louisa. Louisa has a big secret in her past and keeps herself reserved, low key and interaction minimal, until Paul arrives. Paul reminds her of a past she would rather forget, they both have big secrets to hide however it could be the one thing that brings them together or puts them both at risk.

I quite liked the story, it splits into chapters between each of them and skips between time periods of present and back to the past that led to their secret past. The jumps in time periods as well as characters took a bit of getting used to. The suspense and mystery that surrounds what happened in their past was drawn out just a bit too long for me.

I liked the contrast of Louisa then and Louisa now and the story unraveling to show what happened to make her the way she is. The end was unexpected and I think it will be loved or hated, no in between. I quite liked it however I felt there was a few unanswered questions left and a few things happened really fast after a fairly sedate pace. Despite a few issues I did quite like the story and would dance with this author again, 3/5 for me.

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Friday, 10 January 2014

Review - NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

NOS4R2NOS4R2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - on and off for 8 days

Publisher - Gollancz

Blurb from Goodreads

Summer. Massachusetts.

An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business.

Anyone could be next.

We're going to Christmasland...


NOS4A2 is an old-fashioned horror novel in the best sense. Claustrophobic, gripping and terrifying, this is a story that will have you on the edge of the seat while you read, and leaving the lights on while you sleep. With the horrific tale of Charles Manx and his Silver Wraith, Joe Hill has established himself as the premiere horror and supernatural thriller writer of his generation.


My Review

Imagine meeting a guy who prays on children in a way you couldn't begin to imagine. Charles Manx, travels to a place of his own making, Christmasland, where children can never be "harmed". In doing so he feeds off them and they are transformed into a shadow of their former self. With his Rolls royce Wraith, he is kept "younger" than his years and death awaits anyone who trys to stop him. He encounters a young Victoria McQueen who has the ability to travel as he does but it effects her differently and she, as a child helps those around her. Manx and Victoria "battle" and it seems young Victoria is triumphant and Manx is "dealt with".

Fast forward to the present, Vic is a grown up with scars of what happened in her past. She has destructive behaviour, addictions and a child of her own. Manx doesn't forget and soon Victoria has to face evil once again or risk losing her son, forever.

This is a great read, it took me back to my childhood to when I first discovered Stephen King. The writing pulls you in and creates a world where good and evil exist and the normal people have to rise up to the occasion.

Some of the chapters interlink, one end in an open sentence with ends with the title of the next chapter. I thought that was quite well done and I hadn't come across it before. The chapters were fairly short(ish) in length which is also good when you need to put the book down often to keep on top of a busy schedule. Overall I really enjoyed it, the ending packs quit a punch too which is always a good thing. 4/5 for me this time and I will definitely seek out more by this author.

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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

January's Pre-loved Giveaway is Coconut Badger by Mark MacNicol

Apologies this is a tad late, essay deadline looming had to take precedence I am afraid. This months giveaway will be Coconut Badger by Mark MacNicol. My review is here http://www.alwaysreading.net/2013/10/arr-coconut-badger-by-mark-macnicol.html



The book is in immaculate condition, spine is intact and it looks as it did the day I received it.

I don't often do author interviews, however as Mark was a new author to me and from my home town I wanted to know a bit more about him. I have an author interview with him set up and will pop the Q&A on later today.



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