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Monday, 21 August 2017

Taking a short blogging break

I'm taking a short two week break while I catch up on my reading pile. 

I'll be back the week of September 4th.

Take care and see you soon!

Jo X 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Angel in the Stone @BexMcKinney @sandstonepress

About The Angel in the Stone

Having returned to his childhood home in the West Highlands, Calum leads a quiet life. More than two decades after his brother Finn fell to his death, he still relives the event and struggles to find peace of mind. It isn’t so easy, however: his mother, Mary, has Alzheimer’s Disease and his estranged daughter Catriona has arrived out of the blue. Unexpectedly, Calum has his mother and daughter living with him and the house becomes a crucible of old resentments, disappointments, unspoken revelations and fragile but enduring love. Together and separately, Calum, Mary and Catriona retrace the events that have brought them to this point and made them who they are.

My review of The Angel in the Stone

The Angel in the Stone is such an emotive and powerful read that made me think about family and how we support one another.  This is such a beautiful book that deals with the issues of depression, Alzheimer's disease and grief. This is a book to be savoured, to be read slowly. 

The story centres around three central characters. Calum is a man who lives a solitary life and who has never been truly the same after his younger brother fell to his death while rock climbing twenty years previously. When his mother, Mary, takes a turn for the worse, due to the progressive nature of her Alzheimer's disease, she moves into Calum's home. During this same period in time, Calum's estranged daughter, Catriona, has troubles of her own and decides to spend some time with her father. So three generations are suddenly all under one roof, and this makes for a very interesting and emotional story. 

This is not a light read, but a thought provoking one, that for me stirred up many emotions. It is a story about the importance of family and the ties that bind. It beautifully highlights the fragility of family and the vulnerabilities that are within the family unit. What I found most illuminating and incredibly touching was the relationship between Mary and Calum, the role now having been reversed. As a reader I could see both points of view and the reasons why both resented their new role. Relationships and the rebuilding of relationships is central to thes novel. It is Calum who has to leran to deal with his past, with the death of hs brother, so that he can love once more.

The entire story of how Calum learns to rebuild his relationship with both his daughter and mother is brought to life against the vivid depictions of Scottish life. The dialogue, scenery and imagery that are evoked are pure Scotland and I loved this. His relationship with his mother is a complicated one, and one that I don't want to go into it. But reading of how the two re-connect is both brutal and beautiful.

The Angel in the Stone is a thought-provoking, powerful and genuinely beautiful book. It made me question the relationships in my life, the past and ultimately, how our past shapes and defines our future. It is a remarkable book.

The Angel in the Stone is published by Sandstone Press on 17 August and can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to Sandstone Press who sent me the paperback for review purposes


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Way Back to Us @kaylangdale @Hodderbooks

About The Way Back to Us

Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don't know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy's care who constantly watch over Anna's parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else - including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can't seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can't help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

My review of The Way Back to Us

I'll just start by saying that The Way Back to Us is such a beautiful book that completely resonated with me. It's an emotional story about family, about disability and of how a couple's relationship is tested to breaking point. I feel that this is such an important book, as it gently, yet openly, discusses what it is like for the entire family to raise a child with a disability. This is one raw, emotional and at times, unsettling read. 

My youngest son is autistic, and so for me this book really hit home. I felt as though it spoke directly to me. Would I have viewed the story in an entirely different way, if I wasn't a parent to a child with additional needs? Probably, yes, but, I do feel that anyone reading this book, whether they have experience of the subject matter or not, would enjoy the story.

So, the story is told from four points of view. We have the parents, Anna and Tom, and then the two children, Isaac and Teddy. Anna is the stay at home mum, the main carer for Teddy who has SMA, spinal muscular atrophy, a generic disease that effects a person's ability to eat, walk or breathe as it alters the motor nerve pathways within the spine. This is a debilitating and life changing disease. Anna had had a successful career, but she gave it all up to care for Teddy. Anna was so real to me, I understood her. That need to protect her child, the guilt she felt for not being able to spend as much time with her eldest son, Isaac, or her husband. The fact that she believed she was the only person who could care for her son in the right way. All of this rang very true to me. 

This is a story about relationships, those between husband and wife, parent and child, and siblings. All of these different relationships are explored  via the differing viewpoints, told in alternating chapters.  For me, the most illuminating were the accounts of both Tom and Isaac. Tom was a father trying to do his absolute best for his boys. But while reading I wondered if Anna had gene too far in pushing him away. Would he ever find his way back to her? As for Isaac, my heart broke for this little boy. He has had to grow up quickly, be independent and act very much like one of the adults. I wanted to reach into the book and give him a big cuddle. While reading about him I thought about my eldest little boy. I really do feel that the author got this sibling relationship spot on. It brought  a lump to my throat.

I would like to thank the author for writing such a beautiful novel that discusses family life with a disabled child. She doesn't shy away from the gritty difficulties, but tackles them head on in a sensitive and empathetic manner. 

The Way Back to Us is a novel about family, about disability, but most of all it is about hope and love. This is such a special book and I can't praise it highly enough. It's a must read. 

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for a paperback proof copy. 

The Way Back to Us was published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 10th.  It can be found on Amazon here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Lost and Found Sisters @JillShalvis @eternal_books

About Lost and Found Sisters

Lost And Found Sisters is the new novel from New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis, a story of friendship, love, family and sisterhood, for fans of Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins and Robyn Carr.

Life can change in an instant... After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, LA chef Quinn Weller seems to be getting her life back on track. So why does she feel so empty, like she's looking for a missing piece she can't find?

The answer comes when a lawyer appears, revealing a bombshell secret and mysterious inheritance in the small town of Wildstone, California. On impulse, Quinn heads up the coast and finds herself drawn to Wildstone's simple pleasures...and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

But there's another surprise to come. The inheritance is something earthshattering, that will make Quinn question everything she knows about herself and her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up, Quinn must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have - and could finally give her the fulfillment she's searched so long for.

 My review of Lost and Found Sisters

Lost and Found Sisters is the first in a new series by Jill Shalvis. and after reading the book's blurb, I was eager to read it. This is the first ever Jill Shalvis book that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! This book is hard to review without giving any spoilers away but I'll do my best to try and tell you why I enjoyed this book so much. 

Quinn Wellers lives in LA and is a thirty-year-old sous chef. On paper she lives the perfect life. She is doing her dream job, has wonderful caring, yet interfering parents, and an on off relationship with Brock, her childhood sweetheart. But inside Quinn is slowly dying. She is not living, she is merely existing after the death of her sister, Beth, two years previously. Quinn's life dramatically changes while she is waiting to be served in a coffee shop. She is approached by a lawyer who tells her that she needs to go to Wildstone, California, as there are urgent matters that she needs to sort out... and this is exactly what Quinn does, as a means of escape and an adventure.

We then are introduced to Mick Hennessey, who although left Wildfire many years ago to live and work in San Fransisco, keeps returning to the area to tend to his family home and business after the death of his father. Mick is everything you want from a romantic read. He is handsome, charming, polite and incredibly witty. I dare anybody not to fall in love with him. He too, just like Quinn, is a complex character who is chasing his very own demons.

This book examines what it means to escape your past and how you can truly find yourself and be happy. We watch as Mike and Quinn get to know each other, their chemistry is instant, but is what they share simply because they are both passing through? Or is it something much deeper? They also both have their own inner struggle.

The town of Wildfire changes Quinn. The way in which the area is described breathes life into the novel. I really dud feel as if I was living with her in this very different type of town, where everyone knows your business and secrets are hard to hide. Lost and Found Sisters is a light and enjoyable read. It is a book about hope, about family and that love will simply conquer all. As this is the first book in the Wildfire series, I am very much looking forward to reading book two.

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for a paperback copy for review purposes.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Dark Net @Benjamin_Percy @HodderBooks

About The Dark Net

The dark net is an online shadowland for criminals to operate anonymously, but when a demonic force begins to hack the minds of its users there is nowhere left to hide.

Twelve-year-old Hannah has been fitted with a high-tech prosthetic that restores her sight, but can't understand why she can now see shadows surrounding certain people.

Lela, an emotionally shut-off, technophobic journalist stumbles onto a story nobody wants her to uncover. A story someone will kill to keep hidden.

A former evangelist, Mike, suffers demons - figurative and literal - and keeps an arsenal of weapons stored in the basement of the homeless shelter he runs.

And Derek, is a hacker who believes himself a soldier, part of a cyber army dedicated to changing the world for the better.

With the virus spreading throughout the net and an ancient evil threatening to break lose on the real world, it falls to these strangers to stop the rising darkness. 

My review of The Dark Net

I'll be honest and say that I had absolutely no idea of what to expect when I opened the first page of The Dark Net. But after reading the short prologue I was hooked. Benjamin Percy has such a natural way of writing, that is both compelling and emotive. 

The story opens with Hannah, a twelve year old who has the degenerative eye disease, RP. This caught my attention straight away because this is an eye disease which runs in my family, and I thought that the author showed great knowledge and understanding about this condition. What we learn is that she is to be fitted with new technology, enabling her to see the world. From this moment on the story never lets up, I was simply propelled along with it. 

What I thought would be a modern day narrative on the dangers of the dark net, was in fact so much more. I am no computer whizz, and I thought I would not fully understand this book, but I did, as it works on so many different levels.  It is a horror slash urbane techno thriller that is packed with demons and the 'good guys' who fight them.  I loved it!

For me, this book was special because of the rich tapestry of characters. We have Hannah, the young girl who is about to embark upon her teenage years, but who is an old soul at heart. She was instantly likeable and not defined by her disability, something that I felt was very important. Then we have Lela, her Aunt, the journalist who both distrusts and dislikes technology. She has a brick of a phone, and only uses the computer when absolutely necessary. Luckily, she has an intern who is tech savvy and is friends with the hacker, Derek. I warmed to Lela instantly, and thought she made a good argument with her lack of enthusiasm regarding the Internet and social media. It got me thinking, as did the book, about how reliant we are upon social media and the Internet in general, and of how dangerous it can be. For me the most interesting character of all was Mike. As a reformed evangelist, now running a homeless shelter, I felt a great deal of empathy for him. I also found his life choice fascinating. It took me a while to figure him out, but when I 'got him', I knew that he would be the character who reasonated most with me. 

The Dark Net, although set in a fantasy world where the good guys fight demons, is scarily real. The dark net is out there and the threats mentioned in the book are real. This is why this book is so incredibly thought provoking. It did make me think about our reliance on the Internet, and it made me want to switch off social media for a little while. But most of all this was simply a cracking read. It is fast paced, and left me reeling in places. I highly recommend The Dark Net. 

The Dark Net is available to buy from Amazon. It is published by Hodder & Stoughgton on August 3.

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for a paperback proof copy.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Fatal by John Lescroart @headlinepg #bookreview

About Fatal

John Lescroart, bestselling author of the Dismas Hardy series, whose recent titles include THE FALL, THE KEEPER and THE OPHELIA CUT, returns with a gripping one-off thriller about a deadly love affair that will enthrall fans of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben.

Kate is happily married to Ron with two children and a beautiful home in San Francisco.

But everything changes when Kate meets Peter. What begins as a passing fancy develops into a dangerous obsession and one intense, passionate encounter.

Confident that life can go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.

Until a masked man fires a weapon into the crowd of a café that Kate is in with her best friend. This tragedy is just the first in a series of horrifying events that will show exactly how fatal the consequences of one mistake can be...

My review of Fatal

I am ashamed to say that I have never read any of John Lescroart's books. I therefore had no idea of what to expect when I began to read Fatal. All I will say is that I am now a huge fan and will be reading many more of his books. Fatal is a fast paced, twisted and engaging read that I found hard to put down. This is one fantastic domestic thriller that will be hard to forget. 

The story begins with two friends, Kate and Beth going for their weekly walk. Kate is a stay at home married mum of two children, and her friend Beth, a single mum who has one daughter, is a police detective. It is while on this walk that Kate confesses that she is attracted to a man and that she is thinking of acting upon these feelings. Beth is appalled and tells her friend to forget this man. She has seen the repercussions of infidelity and tells her friend that it always ends badly. However, Kate does not listen to her friend. She is fixated with Peter Ash, and this fixation leads to one intense afternoon in a hotel room. Kate keeps this brief affair to herself, life continues. But everything changes when six months later Peter's body is found washed up on a beach will a bullet in his heart. This is when the story really begins. As Beth says, fidelity always ends badly. 

What then ensues is a riveting, page turner of a read, as Beth digs deep to find the murderer. It really is a who-done-it kind of read and the ending truly surprised me. But as well as being a good old detective story, this novel is so much more. It is a domestic thriller, with the family being at the centre of the narrative. There is a huge moralistic overtone to the narrative, that of those who are unfaithful in marriage will pay the consequences. It is this aspect that intrigued me. The depictions of everyday family life, and the reasons why men and women stray from their partners. 

Fatal is a character driven novel with a strong female voice, that of Beth Tully. I admired and liked her, and I feel that this is important to get the absolute best from this book. She isn't judgmental, just realistic, and has a strong moral compass, she also doesn't suffer fools lightly. 

Fatal was a most enjoyable read, and one that provoked many questions. I love domestic thrillers, and this one didn't disappoint. Highly recommended.

Fatal by John Lescroart is published by Headline on 15 June 2017 nd is available to buy from Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for a paperback copy for review purposes. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Little Bird @svjdempz @Bloodhoundbook #Blogtour

About Little Bird

Some secrets are best kept quiet.
Declan Wells, a forensic psychologist, has a lot on his plate. He has been struggling with the aftermath of a car bomb, which has left him in a wheelchair, his wife has been dutiful but Declan is certain she is having an affair, and his eldest daughter Lara’s new property developer husband, has dubious business practices.
Meanwhile, Anna Cole is running away from her mother’s death and a stale relationship. On secondment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland from Wales, Anna hopes that she can throw herself into work to distract herself from her guilt.
Then the murders begin and the killer leaves behind some very strange messages.

Can Anna and Declan work together to catch this deranged murderer?
Will either of them be able to get over their turbulent pasts?

My review of Little Bird

Little Bird is the debut novel from Sharon Dempsey and what a page turner it is. I loved this book, and found it very hard to put down. Described as a serial killer thriller, I feel that this book is so much more. It is a book about a serial killer that has so much depth to the writing and two utterly captivating lead protagonists in Anna and Declan. Yes, the story is obviously about a serial killer, but it is really the story of their past, and learning to deal with the present.

So, the story begins with Anna moving to Belfast from Wales. Her mother has recently died of cancer, a slow and lingering death. Anna is running away from this, as well as the pressures of living in a relationship that she knows is long over. On her arrival in Belfast, she is thrust into her new job. Here we meet the enigmatic and boyishly handsome Detective Thomas King (I loved him) and together they start to investigate the first of the murders in the book.

Anna is a detective who was very  'real' to me. I found that sometimes, woman detectives are often stereotyped and share similar qualities. the attractive yet determined female officer on the force, but Anna is completely her own woman. She has flaws but is instantly likeable. She very much felt like the girl next door to me, doing her job at any cost. She fascinated me, as I needed to learn her back story, who she really was, what motivated her. Declan was equally fascinating. A man who was the victim of a car bombing, and became paralysed as a result. The man whose daughter was murdered, an educated man, a police psychologist who wants to be in the inner circle of the investigation, who wants to contribute to the investigation. I really felt for him, for his pain, both physically and emotionally. These two very different characters worked well together on the page to create a most unusual and refreshing read.

The book is written in the third person, with viewpoints from Anna and Declan, plus the killer. This gave much insight into their thoughts and feelings and gave the novel great depth, especially the inner thoughts of the killer. The writing is sharp, descriptive and to the point. It is methodical. I knew exactly what was happening and was propelled along the pages. The pace is pretty much relentless, although the investigation is slow, as the killer is clever, methodical and knows all the tricks of the trade to keep off the police radar.

Little Bird is part detective novel, part serial killer thriller and a novel about self discovery. It highlights Belfast's past and present troubles. These stories are interwoven into the plot and help to add substance and meaning to the narrative.

I enjoyed reading Little Bird, for me it was a very different type of serial killer read and I look forward to reading more from this author.

 Little Bird released July 17 with Bloodhound Books can be found on Amazon here.

About Sharon Dempsey
Sharon Dempsey is a Belfast based writer of fiction and non-fiction books, with four health books published. She facilitates therapeutic creative writing classes for people affected by cancer and other health challenges and runs a creative writing group for young people, called Young Scribblers, at the Crescent Arts Centre.
Sharon studied Politics and English at Queen’s University and went on to City University, London to do a postgraduate diploma in journalism.  She has written for a variety of publications and newspapers, including the Irish Times.
Through the Arts Council NI’s Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP), Sharon was awarded funding, which she used to acquire mentoring from, bestselling Irish crime writer, Louise Phillips. Louise was a great support while Sharon was writing Little Bird, her first crime novel.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

99 Red Balloons by @LibbyCPT Avon Books

About 99 Red Balloons

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

My review of 99 Red Balloons

I'll just start by saying that I loved 99 Red Balloons. This was a disturbing book to read, and one that I found hard to put down. It really is an exceptional debut by Northern author, Eliabeth Carpenter.

The story begins when eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop near her home after school. Her distraught parents, Emma and Matt, alert the police and the search begins.

The novel is told from various viewpoint's. We read from the viewpoint of an abducted girl, but we ate not told her identity. We read the thoughts of Stephanie, Grace's Aunt, and from Maggie, a woman whose granddaughter vanished many years ago. All of these stories are important, and bring a rich tapestry to the narrative.  I found Maggie the most interesting and endearing of all the characters. A woman who has suffered tragedy, but who stoically gets on with life, I found her tale completely gripping.

This is a difficult subject to read about, the abduction of a child, but the story focusses upon how the parents and loved ones deal with this trauma. It is about their relationship with each other. Although Grace is abducted, the chapters about her are not physically or sexually graphic.

As a pnyschological thriller, this book most certainly lives up to its name. There are many twists and turns and it is not until the end that you get the full picture of what has gone on. In that respect it is very clever. I found myself racing through the pages, wanting little Grace to be found safe and well. It is a highly emotive read.

99 Red Balloons is a psychological thriller and one that is packed with emotion, complex characters and narrative. I enjoyed this debut immensely and look forward to the next novel by this author.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy

99 Red Balloons, published by Avon on 24 Aug. 2017 can be found on Amazon here