Monday, 23 November 2015

Auto 2 by David Wailing

Whilst Auto 2 follows Auto, it is more of a linear story as opposed to Auto 1's individual stories only tying-in in retrospect.

Auto 2 follows the stories directly from the first book with the distinct chapters telling the story from different character's viewpoint.

Joanna has lost Greg but nobody knew they were seeing each other.  Her sister, Siobhan, has come to stay with her own problems.  But there's an even bigger problem on-line.

I love these stories set in the early 2020s.  Seeing the youngsters in work tapping on their social media makes me think of how things will be just 5-7 years down the line.  In fact whilst reading this book on my kindle, I had to leave the house to go fetch a curry and made sure I synced it on my phone so I could read it whilst waiting for my order.  Each little thing makes me wonder how historical the Auto series will become.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Journal of Reginald Perigar by David Haynes

This is a shortish story by the Master of Macabre David Haynes, but it's back in his smoggy London that he evokes so well.

Basil Jenkins is an old widower who likes to visit Jacques' Emporium to collect ever more exotic trinkets.  This time, Jacques has something a bit different for him.

Considering this book is about reading a book about chess, it is filled with creepy moments. I was drawn in from the off with wondering what was going to happen.

I love this author's works so much I refuse to read any synopses, so I rarely have any idea what's ahead.  To me, this makes the reading experience even more exciting, like Basil's anticipation as he returns home.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Mini Interview with Rosen Trevithick

This person has made me a junkie.  A chocolate junkie.  But now I cannot have any old stuff, it has to be hand-made with love and a bit of swearing.  And chocolate smeared everywhere, especially my cheeks from when I stick my face in the mixing bowl to make sure there's no waste.

So here's a few words from the dealer.

What’s Chocolate Making Adventures, and in what way is it about an adventure?

It’s a cookbook that teaches you how to make chocolate at home. By chocolate, I mean actual chocolate – the brown (or white) stuff. It’s not one of the many books where chocolate can only be made by buying some then melting it.
It’s an adventure in two senses. Firstly, developing the recipes was an adventure for me. I didn’t wake up one morning and think, “I know, I’ll type up my chocolate recipes and publish them”. I had to develop each one individually, trying out every kind of cocoa butter, sweetener and milk product until I was 100% happy with the results. Two forms of chocolate – milk and white – took months to perfect. It’s also an adventure in the sense that the book sets the reader on a journey with endless possibilities. Once you learn how to make chocolate, you will want to do it again and again, creating all kinds of variations.

You got members of the public to test recipes for you. Did that really make a difference?

Absolutely. No matter how hard you try and follow a recipe to the letter, when you’ve written it yourself, it’s impossible not to fill in any gaps. Invaluable recipes testers such as yourself drew attention to parts that needed tweaking and further information.
The recipe testing programme also threw up issues such as to only use full cream milk powder, which I would have never arrived at without people trying unexpected permutations.
Thank you so much for testing so many recipes, Joo. I really appreciate it.

How do you respond to allegations that your methods mirror those of a drug dealer?

Admittedly, there are some similarities between hooking vulnerable people onto addictive drugs, and sending out small samples of cocoa butter by post. Had I known so many would rush out and buy further cocoa butter by the sack load, I’d have bought shares.

Chocolate Making Adventures: Create Your Own Chocolate by Rosen Trevithick

I was told this is one of the only books to show you how to easily make your own chocolate from raw ingredients.  I didn't really believe it, but on having a look online, it's true, there is very little information on actually making your own chocolate.  There's plenty of books and websites on how to melt chocolate to make new shapes but that's not this book's main selling point.

The book starts out with info on chocolate, then has the main recipes on how to make dark, milk and white chocolate basics.  

I volunteered and got involved with a facebook group to test out the recipes.  I am normally someone who avoids spending too much time in the kitchen, but I soon got addicted.  The ver first time I tried following the first recipe I didn't have a clue and didn't have half the proper tools for the job.  I had no idea whether I was doing things correctly as I didn't know how the ingredients would react.  Then I had to do it again and again and again as I wanted to get better.  My colleagues like my new hobby as there I make far too much chocolate for me to eat.  They always asked what liqueur I used, but it's just honey.

There are also recipes for the insides.  My particular favourites are peppermint creams and the clotted cream mousse.  Sometimes I'll make my own chocolate for the outside and sometimes I'll melt a cooking chocolate to make things easier.  None of the recipes have loads of ingredients.  They are really simple.  I do advise on reading the recipe thoroughly beforehand, especially whether to use teaspoons or tablespoons.  One recipe said up to 6 teaspoons of honey.  I used 4 tablespoons!!!

There is a lot more info and help in the book such as troubleshooting, alternatives to recipes, what ingredients and moulds to use.

As a whole book, this one seems to cover everything you need to know about making chocolate (and a note on how to best enjoy chocolate)  Be warned, it's addictive.  I am awaiting more moulds so I can make even more chocolates.
Here are some photos of my creations.

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Complex by Toby Zara

From reading the sample, I was hooked and wanted to read more.
This is a great little story introducing us to the character of Abigail who has no family and joins the space army.  She has special talents so immediately gets transported to a special unit.

Whilst this is aimed at young teens, I thought the premise was good and liked the technology in this sci-fi-lite story.  

This is a shortish book for me, but I presume plenty long enough to keep a teenager interested without boring them.

I look forward to finding more out about Abigail.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Hunted by Tim Arnot

This is the second in the Felicity (Flick) Carter series of books, set in a post-apocalypse England where there's no technology, and martial rule keeps most people in order.

Even though she's very young, Flick has been using alcohol to drown her sorrows about losing her home, her family and her friends.  She's kicked out of her village and ends up becoming a trainee in the Kingsmen.  A lot of this book is her during her enforced training.  I wasn't too interested in this bit, 

We also follow Shea as he loses friends too.  In the background we have the mystery man who is following Flick and killing anyone who gets in his way.  We also have more of Princess Jessica/Lieutenant Dixon, who I think is my favourite character.

I am enjoying this world that the author has fleshed out.  It might be England, but it's a very different one to now.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Where The Memories Lie by Sibel Hodge

The title of this story can be read in more than one way.  Oliva's father-in-law tells her what seems to be a confession, but since he has Alzheimers Disease, is what he's saying true or just his mind getting muddled.  As Olivia tries to investigate based on just an off-hand comment, she starts to wonder who in her family is telling the truth.

This is a great story that's hard to put in a genre, it's not a psychological thriller, it's not a police procedural and it's not really a murder mystery, although it seems there might have been a murder and there's certainly mystery around it.  It's more about Olivia and her convictions and about family and about lies.  Should you tell them?   Should you keep secrets?

I enjoyed reading this although I did want to knock the characters' heads together at times.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Cage by David Haynes

I started reading this story without a clue of the plot.  All I know is that I love this author's stories.

This one starts with a murder in a hotel room.  But who did it?  Was it really the husband who was caught "red handed"?

Ted is hired to investigate this and sets off in a snowstorm to the hotel.  There's just him and the twins who run the place staying in the hotel.  Or is there?  

This started off more of a mystery, but as it progressed and the snow penned the people in, the story got more and more claustrophobic and ever so creepy.  The noise the cages made was horrific in my imagination.  This is not a story to read late at night.  There are many layers to this story, even though it's not a mammoth read.

As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  This author's mind is a bit warped.  Which is good for us readers.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Closer to Death in a Garden by Cecilia Peartree

Number 10 in the ongoing adventures of our faithful Pitkirtly gang has a bit of a mouthful for a title.  It does become obvious what it refers to early on, so it didn't bother me for much.

As usual there's a murder, as usual Amarylis is in the middle of it.  As usual Christopher doesn't want to be in the middle of it.  And there are alpacas about.

I always start reading these books expecting them to be five star reads and, for me, they never fail to live up to what I expect.

What's to say - the gang are all here, doing what they usually do.  They get in the way of the police, they kind of solve the mystery.  The joy of reading these stories for me is the familiarity of the characters and somehow, each mystery seems to be fresh and new.

Another top Pitkirtly read indeed.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Bad and Badder by Ray Kingfisher

Bad and Badder is a collection of 5 short stories with the theme of badness.  They are all different and, in my opinion, all great self-contained stories.

Each of these stories had me getting more and more gripped as I read on with little twists to keep me on my toes.

I think my favourite was the last one, Crow Ridge, as it was more other-worldly.  More of a macabre gothic tale.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Demon Road by Derek Landy

This, apparently is the first in a new series from Derek Landy.  I enjoyed the first of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, but this one is aimed for a bit older audience.

When Amber becomes 16, she realises why her parents haven't really been bothered with her for all her life.  Until now, when she becomes interesting to them and their friends.  And so starts a mad road trip across America with her new found minder, Milo, and Glen the annoying side-kick, trying to stay one step ahead of her parents.

Following the "Demon Road" Amber and the gang meet all sorts of unsavoury characters and usually have to fight it out.

This is quite a violent story and I don't think Amber has as many good one-liners as Stephanie in the Skulduggery Pleasant series.  It was a good read, however and I did enjoy it.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

No Time Like the Past by Jodi Taylor

No Time Like the Past is Jodi Taylor's 5th book in the St Mary's series.  This time Max and the team are in a "quieter" period of this history.  Well, quiet by St Mary's standards.

Max tries to take it easy, but history doesn't like that.  The team go back to their roots of rescuing artifacts that are about to be removed from existence, but things never go to plan.

I found this book to be more educational with the history they visit.  That's the good thing about these stories, I learn lots as well as enjoying the journeys.

I really enjoyed the open day scenes.  I'd love to have visited to see the race.

Again, another great story and since there's lots of history that's happened, there's lots for the team to visit.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Hybrid by Vanessa Wester

This is a book of two very different halves.  The first half is Caitlin's story.  She starts at college and meets a guy Steven.  They start off as friends, but it soon develops.

But Steven has a past he doesn't know about.  And when Steven finds out about it, it's too late for him and Caitlin.  The second half of the book is him finding out what he really is.

I enjoyed this story, although it seemed like two separate stories.  Southampton was a long long way from the Brazilian rainforest.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Power Games by Victoria Fox

I'm on holidays and fancied a bit of a bonkbuster, so I started this one.  As it happens, this is not a bonkbuster, it's a story of survival.

Seven "celebrities" who are rich and shallow get invited to a charity appearance.  Whilst travelling there, their plane explodes.

The first part of the book is the shallow lives of these people.  We find out what their public faces are.  The second part is after the crash and how they cope with themselves.

This is a blockbuster-sized book and I found myself addicted to it.

Godsquad by Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Having adored both Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings I thought I might miss Jeremy.  As it happens I didn't.  The "Godsquad" were almost as good as Jeremy.

A prayer has come in from Simon.  Simon doesn't seem to have a soul, so Joan of Arc, Saint Christoper and Francis of Assisi have been sent back to earth to track down Mary Mother of Jesus and then find Simon.  Mary has gone AWOL in Europe and Simon seems to be counting down to the Apocalypse, so it's a bit urgent that Joan and friends find them.

This story was a road trip with a difference. The cast are out of time and out of this world too.  They meet up with people who help them and those that hinder them, although they certainly hinder themselves with ease.

I love this author(s) writing.  It's fast-paced, funny and irreverent.  A joy to read indeed.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor

This is the fourth story in the St Mary's Chronicles and has to advance the story from the catastrophic ending of book 3.  I'm not sure if I'm 100% for the way they did it, but that's how it starts and this one is the most action packed of all the books.

The Time Police are after Max and she and Leon try to keep one step ahead of them as they jump across time, sometimes they are only half a step ahead.

The main adventure is set in Pompeii and, as usual, nothing goes to plan.  This all builds up to the final fight, which may well be the final fight of all.

I really enjoy this series.  As the books go on the characters develop.  Max is not the young newcomer from the first book anymore. The supporting cast are well rounded and bring more to the story with their St Mary's quirks.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Eye of Dominion by David Staniforth

This is the sequel to Alloria, the tale of Alloria finding out she is the first wizard's daughter.  They think they have vanquished the villain in the first book, but it seems his spirit is still alive.  Alloria has join her father Ymarid, and their protectors Bane and Nathan and venture back into the labyrinths to visit other worlds to save their world.

This story is about Yrion, Alloria's brother who is jealous that she has returned.  Yrion is under the influence of Glebester, one of the most gross characters I've ever read.  I really disliked reading about his "seepages" to say the least.  His hold over Yrion was very powerful

I enjoyed this story, even though its intended audience is the teen YA market.  It had enough grown up intelligence without talking down to the younger audience.

Gray Retribution by Alan McDermott

Tom Gray has settled down with his wife and child and is just running the company now.  He sends people out to train up foreign armies, but tries to keep out of trouble himself.  Until the day he visits his wife's uncle's shop and gets into a bit of a fracas with a local thug.

Two stories then unfold.  The thug wanting revenge and an uprising in Africa.  Tom is torn between the two, but needs to help his men as they are seemingly overwhelmed.

With this series of books I seem to really like the odd numbers and aren't fussed on the even numbers.  This being book number 4 didn't do much for me.  His team in Africa didn't appear to be in too much peril, even being outnumbered 10 to 1.  I'm not saying I didn't enjoy this - the writing is good - but the subject matter didn't interest me as much as books 1 and 3.

Sword of Damocles by Andrew Barrett

Eddie Collins the SOCO guy is back.  This time he's investigating a murder that might just go back a long way.

I do like a good murder death kill story and since the author works as a crime scene examiner I feel that the story has "bones" so to speak.

The story was a bit slow to start, but it got going soon enough.  It was a good chunk of a book due to the twists and turns and many extra clues.

Eddie's personal life is going to the dogs again and there's a case that's annoying him.  Something is not quite right and so he needs to go back in time to solve it.

I enjoy reading this author's stories as they keep you interested all the way.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Stranger in the Shed by Nicola Palmer

Nicola Palmer writes children's books.  I like reading Nicola Palmer's stories.  I'm not a (young) child.

Again, this is a fab story from this author.  There's an underlying story about bullying, but it's more about friendship.  Is smelly Angus real or imaginary?  Is Angus' world real or imaginary?  Does it matter to Rory when he's ignored by just about everyone else?

Even though this is aimed at 10 year olds, I thoroughly enjoyed it.