Thursday, 26 May 2016

Guest Reviewer: Julie Haigh reviews More Into Africa Ann Patras

Julie Haigh who is a Top 1000 Amazon reviewer and part of the admin team for the Facebook group 'We Love Memoirs' is my guest reviewer today reviewing More Into Africa: Ann Patras

Julie's Review:-

Great fun, a very entertaining read.
 I’ve read Ann Patras’ first book in her Into Africa series and I loved it, it was great fun. This is the follow-up book-and I’m hoping there are more in the series? 

This book had a fab start, I was straight in, so easy to get into! I loved it! I love memoirs based on diaries and letters, and, like Ann's first book, this is based on letters she wrote back home to family in the early 80s. 

I love this because people can look back and read EXACTLY what happened-not just remembered things, the book will be more authentic. I do love her humour. It's great that she puts little 'jog your memory' bits in: in the initial few chapters, she recaps a few bits of background info from book one. This is very useful if you read her other book a while ago or, if you've not read book one, it could be read as a standalone perhaps?

 There are great expressions and word choices in here. I just love how she seems to write as she speaks, no nonsense. This book has a lovely conversational style, like a friend having a chat with you-and great comedy timing! You think you are reading a sentence which is completely serious-then there's a little chuckle at the end. There are photos now and then, in relevant places where people are mentioned.

 I loved the natural expressions such as 'Couldn't sing for toffee'-exactly as I would say, they bring a certain charm to the book. A nice easy, fun, friendly style, not standing on ceremony. Titled chapters provide easy reading which is really entertaining. Each one is a scene remembered from their time in Africa in the 80s and you don't have to remember things from previous chapters. You can pick it up and catch up easily, it takes no getting into at all. 

Loads of good words in here, comical, down to earth speech, I love writing like this.

 If you're thinking this is about Africa and hearing about lots of lions, elephants etc-you'd be wrong (although there are a few camping trips with friends/nature reserve/seeing some of the animals later in the book) It's really more about changing home in England and what normal, everyday family life is like in the different country-the shopping, washing and cooking, travel, entertainment etc. and the challenges associated with these. Add to that telling it with a grand sense of humour-well, you get the idea. Another fun book by Ann Patras. So, will there be a book three-about their stretch in Lusaka? I hope so!

Thank you Julie for sharing this review

To purchase

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Review - The Cold, Cold Sea: Linda Huber

This review has also been publshed on Goodreads, Amazon UK & US

This will be a hard book to review because I really don't want to give away any spoilers, so here goes:

Linda Huber is very adept at building up tension slowly within her books. This is the second psychological chiller of hers that I've read so far.

A young child goes missing from a Cornwall beach and there is the understandable aftermath of guilt and recriminations from each parent and with each other. Then the hurtful comments, suppositions and lies emerge from some members of the public that add to the parents pain and distress while they wait for any news from the organised search, of what has happened to their beloved little girl.

Meanwhile in a different household, another drama is developing that is entirely chilling and I found myself racing through until the very end of the book to find out what happens. There were times when some of the characters absolutely infuriated me with their actions and inactions, I'd got into the book so much, but all in all a very good read that kept me enthralled until the end.

A story about a missing child is always a very difficult subject but the author Linda Huber writes very sensitively on the subject here and there are no gratuitous, gory scenes within the book.

To purchase The Cold Cold Sea

Guest reviewer: Rebecca Hislop

Rebecca Hislop, (on Twitter as Aye Reader @RebeccaHislop1) a retired teacher from Scotland, kindly agreed to be a guest reviewer on my blog to share her review of Rat Stone Serenade: Denzil Meyrick.

Rebecca's Review:-

I'm a huge fan of Denzil Meyrick’s  D.C.I. Daley series and this was the best yet. They simply get better and better and we get to know the characters and learnmore about their strengths and weaknesses. This is to be DCI Jim Daley’s last case before he takes early retirement and he teams up again with DS Brian Scott. Daley is hoping to make a fresh start with his wife Liz and his baby son. Scott is having episodes where he sees visions and has been told it’s the DTs so he has stopped drinking. There is a new Superintendant, Carrie Symington, who comes across as competent and likeable. The opening chapters foreshadow what is to become a complex and thrilling tale centred round the Shannon family. There is a tinker’s curse, a missing child, druidic rituals and the sinister Rat Stone. Add to that mix international finance, dark secrets and harsh winter weather and it’s a recipe for a superb and gripping murder mystery. The story is set on the west coast of Scotland in Blaan near Kinloch on the remote Kintyre peninsula. It’s an area steeped in history and certain areas are indeed tremendously atmosphericwhich adds to the sense of menace. Following the discovery of a child’s skeleton on the Rat Stane the horribly mutilated body of a journalist is discovered.There are other disturbing events and brutal murders which push the police to their limits. By this time I couldn’t put the book down as I wanted to see how all this would work out. There are a great many plot twists and it was impossible to predict what was going to happen next or who was involved in the various intrigues. It’s a fast paced story with thefts and murders and financial shenanigans, and of course, revenge. Fortunately, the wonderfully realistic dialogue and flashes of black humour, with some brilliant one liners from Brian, occasionally lifts the tense atmosphere. The ending was so unexpected it made me gasp... oh! I can’t wait for the next book in the series. It’s 5 stars from me. 

 Thanks Rebecca, smashing review - I must read the book.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Review - French Illusions book 2 Linda Kovic Skow

French Illusions: From Tours to Paris 

Linda Kovik Skow

The following review has been posted on Goodreads, Amazon US & UK

This second book in the French Illusions series is another great read from Linda. Her first memoir in the series documented her time as an au pair to the children of the difficult and capricious Mme Dubois and her discovery of France and all the highs and lows a seventeen year old girl, thousands of miles away from home, with a very difficult employer might experience.

In this second book Linda has left the Dubois household in Tours and is going it alone in Paris with the help of the friends she's made there. She rents an apartment and attends a local college. It's a struggle at times for her, but even living on a tight budget with partial parental funding, Linda still needs to eat and enjoys French cuisine that is mouth-wateringly described with each meal.  Linda also falls in love and has relationships that take her through the sometimes painful aspects of becoming an adult and learning about life. At times this is a little too descriptive, but all part of the story.

The reader learns what Linda discovers on her sojourn in Paris. All is eloquently described and is a must read for any Francophile. I hope there is another in the series.
To purchase this book

The link to my 5* review of Linda's first book in the series

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review -Meadowland: John Lewis-Sempel

The following review has also been posted on Goodreads, Amazon US & UK

I doubt if I have enough words in my vocabulary to give this book the full praise it deserves but here goes:

I found this beautifully descriptive book such a joy to read. I've learned so much about nature and wildlife from it. 

The author John Lewis-Stempel is such a master of poetic prose, that at times I was brought to tears by the sheer beauty of his descriptions and observations of the flora and fauna during a year in the life of a meadow on his farm on the Herefordshire border.

 The book is interspersed with poetry, folk lore and historical snippets of country living and farm life, I suspect that quite a bit of research has gone into producing such a masterpiece but the author is obviously a very well-read chap and much is drawn from his own love of the land, memories and considerable knowledge and experience.

We have birds - their mating, feeding and migratory habits and patterns; wildflowers beloved and necessary to all different types of butterflies and bees. Foxes, with whom the writer appears to have mixed relationship and a grudging admiration for, but if they mess with his chickens  'I am an Old Testament poultry-keeper. I say a life for a life, and have a gun that speaks death'
Voles and other types of small mammals including hedgehogs and anything living that inhabits the meadow throughout the year. Mouldywarps, which are moles by another name. All have a role, a part to play as an occasionally anthromorphic character in this life and death meadow saga.
I could quote huge sections of this book to illustrate the beauty of it but will just include one
21 MARCH Heavy rain. The horses in House Field stand back to the rain, the sheep and their lambs are either under the hedges or tight against the bales. The red-tailed bumblebee must be glad of the house that it has taken from the mouse. In Lower Meadow I see a small flock of forlorn redwings, the thrush with the fetching cream eye-stripe and orange flanks, in the hazel. At my approach, up into the air they go, slipping left, slipping right, drunkenly unsteady. They loiter for a day. On the 23rd I hear redwings ‘zeeping’ in the starred night when I’m checking the sheep. Next day there are no redwings on the farm. They have gone north, to home in Scandinavia.

Sigh! Beautiful.

To purchase Meadowland

I'm looking forward to reading John Lewis-Stempel's latest, recently published book 'The Running Hare' that I pre-ordered and it arrived by post the other day.

To purchase The Running Hare

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Review - Play Dead: Angela Marsons

This review has already been posted on Goodreads and will be posted on Amazon US & UK

This is the first Angela Marsons book I've read and I was able to enjoy it even though this is book 4 in the series, so it can be read as a stand alone. Obviously there is much more to find out about the enigmatic, tough detective DI Kim Stone.  I suspect that little snippets of the story of her past have been rather cleverly revealed throughout previous books in the series, which I now must read and that there is even more to come.

The story begins with the discovery of a body on the body farm used by forensic scientists to learn and discover about the changes to the human body after death using up to date scientific methods. There are bodies throughout the grounds of this establishment, some partly buried, others left to the elements and insects but the one found of a young girl is newly buried, not one of theirs and the woman has obviously been murdered.
DI Stone and her team are called into investigate. So begins this chiller of a book that is a scary, intense psychological thriller with quite a few twists and turns.

I found myself holding my breath quite a lot during a lot of the scenes and turning the pages quite quickly to find out what was going to happen next. A good well crafted and intelligently written read that kept my interest right until the very end.

(Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for ARC)

Friday, 13 May 2016

Guest Reviewer - L M Krier

Crime fiction writer L M Krier reviews Paula Hawkins' Girl on the Train

I tend to be a bit like the little boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes. The one who just has to point and say 'The King is in the altogether.' So deciding to post a review flying in the face of all the gushing over a No. 1 Best-seller felt like donning my tin hat and sticking my head above the parapet.

But, never one to avoid controversy, I posted my 3-star review on Goodreads and was pleasantly surprised at the results. There was quite a bit of 'I thought the same but didn't want to be the only one to say so' going on behind the scenes. So here, once again, is my review:

I tend to avoid any over-hyped book like the plague, until all the fuss has died down, and this one was certainly well hyped. But I happened to notice it on the library shelf so decided to see what the fuss was about.

Starting with the positives. Rachel, the girl of the title, although far from being a girl, is a well-drawn character in many respects. It's strange that she is described as so overweight, given the demons which plague here, which often have the opposite effect, but perhaps she is in the early stages.

Every day she takes a train to London and back, and on the way, observes the occupants of a house, attributing names and personalities to them. Now we come to the first of many 'that's a bit like ...' moments, with more than a nod to Hitchcock's Rear Window. One day Rachel sees something which shatters her illusions and when the woman from the golden couple she has been observing disappears, she goes on a mission to find out the truth. Here's the nod to the obsessive searching in the earlier Elizabeth Is Missing, a superior book, in my opinion.

Now for some of the less than positives. The identity of the killer was so obvious from quite early on that I really hoped I was mistaken and there was a twist yet to come. Alas not, and I was right with the reasoning behind the character, too. Not that that was difficult.

Next on to the police 'investigation' - I use the term loosely. I could not believe the amount of confidential information Riley was sharing with every man and his dog. I was surprised, too, at the amount of information given out to the press and all and sundry when suspects were in custody. I thought that had changed, post-Leveson, but then I haven't been in the UK for ten years.

On to the final death. The problem here is that a post-mortem examination would have put paid to the ending of the book entirely as it would have shown up what actually happened. Not to mention any sort of forensic examination of the scene, which should have happened. I kept visualising John Luther shaking his head and saying, 'It's not right though, it's just not right.' Oh well, it was a nice cosy ending so let's not quibble.

Overall it was a reasonable read and I didn't at any point feel like stopping. I read it relatively slowly as I read in French which slows me down. It's an okay book, nothing really all that wrong with it, apart from the points I've highlighted, and a few other niggles. I certainly didn't find anything in it to justify the hype though, although that is, of course, just my humble opinion.


If you are a fan of 1940s classic cinema, then look away now, for the next 'this reminds me of ...' moment ..........

The biggest 'this reminds me of ...' moment, and the reason I knew the killer and his back-story from quite early on, was the similarity with the excellent 1944 American thriller-mystery starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, Gaslight. To gaslight someone even became a verb, which is relevant to this book. It may, of course, be pure coincidence.


Retired journalist, freelance copywriter and copy editor Lesley Tither writes under various pen names for different genres. Already well known for travel memoirs as Tottie Limejuice, Lesley also writes crime fiction under the name L M Krier.

Lesley's first crime thriller, 'Baby's Got Blue Eyes', was published in February 2015, followed by 'Two Little Boys' in June 2015. Books 3 and 4 in the DI Ted Darling series, 'When I'm Old and Grey' and 'Shut Up and Drive' are now available and Book 5 in the series will appear later in 2016."Sell the Pig" is the first in a series of travel memoirs describing how Lesley, writing as Tottie Limejuice, decided to make the move from the UK to France to start a new life, taking with her an 89-year-old mother suffering from vascular dementia. The story continues in three further books, 'Is That Billinge Lump?', 'Mother, Was It Worth It?' and 'Biff the Useless Mention'. A fifth book in the 'Sell the Pig' series is scheduled for release later in 2016.Her first children's fiction book, writing as L M Kay, will be published later in 2016. 'The Dog with the Golden Eyes' is an exciting children's crime thriller.Lesley also writes under the collective pen name of Jilli Lime-Holt, together with authors Jill Pennington and Janet Holt. Their first joint book, Take Three Birds, was published in December 2014.Lesley is a former journalist, working as both a criminal court and coroner's court reporter. She also worked as a case tracker for the Crown Prosecution Service, and for a firm investigating irregularities in offshore finance. Her other jobs have included owning and running a holiday riding centre and acting as a 'charity mugger', lying in wait to sign up shoppers for a wildlife charity.Lesley's interests centre around nature and wildlife and encompass dogs, wild camping and organic gardening. She lives in the Auvergne region of Central France and holds dual French/British nationality. Her current dogs are two rescued border collies.



Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Review - A London Affair: Jan Ellis

The following review has been posted on Amazon UK & US, Goodreads and Netgalley

It's a while since I've read anything like this book and it was a breath of fresh air after reading quite a few heavy and dark crime fiction titles.

A young twenty year old girl moves from Hertfordshire to London to work and live in at a trendy Chelsea bistro. The generous Russian owner provides a flat above the premises for some of the employees to share. They all become friends and some of them decide to explore the dodgy dating scene in London with some very comical results.

Altogether an enjoyable easy read that held my interest right until the end. Light, entertaining and funny.
I didn't realise this was a novella until I went to Amazon to leave a review. Felt about the right book length to me.
 An ideal holiday read.
(Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for ARC in return for an honest review)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Review From a Storm to a Hurricane: Anthony Hogan

I first read and reviewed this book when it was released in Kindle format.
Since then, the book has been edited and republished as a paperback and due to be released on June 15 2016 by Amberley Publishing. Order here:

My original review:

What an absolutely brilliant book! It's clear that Anthony Hogan, now emerging as one of Liverpool's finest historians, has written this book straight from the heart and has thoroughly researched the story of one of most important bands from the Merseybeat era in Liverpool.

At the end of the book, we discover just why Rory Storm (real name Alan Caldwell) and the Hurricanes had such an impact on the author and became such an important factor in his life, but first he chronicles the story and events of that time starting when the group were feted as the best band in Liverpool. Ringo Starr, who of course went on to worldwide fame as a member of the Beatles, was their drummer. The Liverpool bands, including the Beatles, who then had Pete Best as their drummer, were all known to each other at that time and their lives intermingled. They played at the same venues at home in Liverpool and abroad in Hamburg and gathered at Rory Storm's home, where they were all made welcome by Violet Caldwell, Alane mother.

Iris Caldwell, Alan's sister who was very close to her brother, had dated Paul McCartney at the time, and was friends with many of the people who are included here, has invaluably helped the author of this book with his research and provided much to the background story, as well as numerous photographs of Rory (Alan) and the band. Others, including surviving former band members and friends and family have also contributed interesting information and memories of that era

We learn about what really happened in Hamburg, and how so many of the books written about the Beatles, are factually incorrect. Anthony Hogan, with the help of those who were around at that time has set the record straight here with this important book. Such a sad ending and leaves the reader wondering about what might have been, if circumstances had been different.

The Birdwatcher - William Shaw

The following review will be posted on Amazon UK and US, Net Galley & Goodreads.

Birdwatching and Crime Fiction - two of my favourite subjects combined!
With some atmospheric descriptions of the birds and coastal scenery of Dungeness on the South Kent coast, more than one mystery to wonder about and likeable, believable characters, I found this book to be an enjoyable page-turner that is well worth reading.

The main protagonist is a police officer called William South, an avid birder, whose past living in Northern Ireland during The Troubles as a young boy is slowly and skillfully revealed throughout the narrative in short snippets.
William lives in one of a handful of old cottages in a sought after area close to the sea in Dungeness. It's an area of natural beauty and a haven for wild birds. The only downside is the towering, brooding presence of a Nuclear reactor that doesn't seem to bother South at all.
His friend, neighbour and fellow birdwatcher is murdered and quite a few mysterious and tragic events in the neighbourhood may have a connection.

As an ordinary copper and not a detective on the murder enquiry team, and with a close connection to the victim, South is limited into exactly what role he can play in the investigation. In typical crime fiction fashion though, this doesn't stop him and he embarks on discreet investigations of his own.

DS Cupidi, recently transferred into the area from the London Met,  a member of the murder investigation team and her young teenage daughter Zoe are likeable characters and welcome the sometimes reluctant, rather anti- social South into their life with surprising results.

All in all, a very enjoyable read and I would certainly read more from this author.

(With thanks to the publisher via Net Galley for an ARC copy)