Sunday, 17 April 2016

Toxic Minds by Gordon Bickerstaff

This is the fourth in the Gavin Shawlens series, but Gavin takes a back seat in this one.  Alexa is a leading scientist in the fracking industry - which means she has many enemies.  This story is about her fall from grace and her family falling apart.

I found the first part of this book a bit lacking.  I wasn't too interested in what was happening to Alexa's daughter, even though this was a main storyline.  But after a third of the story I got more interested and read the rest in one sitting as it turned into more of a thriller than a family saga.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Boo by David Haynes

Clowns, or clownz - fun circus characters or evil monsters?  There's no doubt which type this book is about, the nasty, evil, serial killing type.

Maldon wants to smile again.  His smile was taken away when he was a child when he saw his parents get murdered by a clown.  The voices in his head say he needs to take other people's smiles away from them.

This is a creepy story (as usual from this author) with a mystery as to how the various characters' lives cross.  There are hideous murders, but told with a hint, rather than the gory detail, which for me makes it more hideous.  It's often not what's said, just hinted towards that makes this story all the more tense.

My favourite character is Stan the retired greyhound.  He wants to be brave for Ben, his owner, but doesn't know how to.

Yet another fantastic story from this author who has switched his horror from Victorian macabre to modern fears.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Tuesday Falling by S Williams

This is a story of revenge and tunnels.  Tuesday is a killer, but she kills those who deserve it.

A favourite reviewer said this is a roller coaster ride, so I started it, and didn't want to finish it.  There may be a high body count and some ingenious ways to die, but I found the journey fascinating.  Both where Tuesday's come from and the actual underground passages she takes.  Below the streets of London is a maze of tunnels and conduits.  How it hasn't fallen down amazes me.

It may only be mid-February, but this is one of my books of the year.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

I Can See You by David Haynes

Since Chris' father died when he was a boy, Chris has been haunted by nightmares.  But now it is coming to a head and his son is getting nightmares too.  He needs to go back to Cornwall and exorcise the demons from his and his father's past.

This is another creepy story by this author.  Things can be meandering along and then the tension is ramped up.  The author's descriptions are extremely compelling and I was biting my nails at times.

Thinking back on this now, I can feel the greyness and dampness of Cornwall.  Which to me shows what a great storyteller David Haynes is.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Void by David Staniforth

A bloke wakes up in a car on a cold street.  What is he doing there  Who is he?
And so our story starts.  We quickly find out that the man's name is (probably) Tom as he finds a journal in the glove box with a note to Tom.

It seems that every January Tom disappears from his life with his girlfriend Penny for a week.  He has no recollection of this week.  He also has no recollection of his first 20 or so years.  The journey he is now on is to work out why this happens.

This was quite a different book.  It was quite claustrophobic in the narrowness of the story.  We only find out what Tom finds out about his "normal" life as it happens.  We live through what he goes through in his week "away" with him.  As things unfold, we are with Tom all the way.

I really enjoyed this, I was always wondering where it was going.  Not knowing what a book is about is a great joy.

Monday, 11 January 2016

How Not to Self-Publish by Rosen Trevithick

First off, I'm not and will never be an author.  Second off, this is a very funny book that is not just for authors.

Yes, this is a very instructive book for would-be self-publishers, but it's a lot more about what not to do and how not to offend readers.

The book is set out into mini chapters based on potential scenarios, such as "A Reader Notices a Typo", "Your Wallet Hears Erotica Calling", "Your Quote About Dog Turds Goes Viral" and "Another Author Plagiarises Your Zombie Heptathlon".  There then follows guidance on how to manage these scenarios.

Since the book is set out in mini chapters it is easy to just read one or two when you have a few minutes.  I read this book in 3 goes as it was "just one more", "OK just another".  I found it to be very light and funny and quite adult in places.

If you've liked any of this author's more comedic stories, you'll like this, even if you are like me and prefer reading to writing.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Killer Colada by Sibel Hodge

This is the second in this author's Danger Cove mysteries.  It seems there are many authors writing about life in the town of Danger Cove.  This author's characters are centred around the Smugglers' Tavern which Hope inherited in the first book.  She is getting into her new life as bar owner and also her new love life with a cute Brit called Harvey.

As with any cozy mystery, there's a death.  And as the first story, the police decide who the killer is based on the minimum of evidence.  So Hope and her best friends, Ruby and Vernon, have to solve the murder mystery themselves.

This is quite a light easy to read story, but a bit heavy on the healthy fitness, new age lifestyle.  As a couch addict, I felt it was a little rammed down my throat.   It didn't take away from the story too much though.  

Having read 2 stories set in this world, I expect I will look at the others as it's a nice town (apart from the murders)

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Mysterious Pitkirtly by Cecilia Peartree

This is a "bonus" novella in the Pitkirtly series.  Someone's organised a coach trip round Pitkirtly to all the murder spots.  No, the organiser doesn't get murdered.  Although I'm sure Amaryllis would like them to.  This story is about the mystery about who the organiser is.

We visit many of the scenes of the previous stories.  This is like a gentle reminisce of what's (and who's) gone before. There are quite a few locations that are on the coach's itinerary.  Considering Pitkirtly is a quiet backwater town, it's a dangerous place to visit.

I enjoyed this story, even though it was not quite a "proper" one.

E.T. The Extra Tortilla by Ray Kingfisher

Hmmmm.  Where do I start on my brief description of this story?  In England at Heathrow Airport?  In BallyMcBunion, Texas at the Mexas Grillbar?  Or on Gneer Jjiiwn (pronounced Gneer Jjiiwn)?  It doesn't matter.  There is no "brief description" that I can come up with.  This story is just bonkers.  

The narrator is always talking to you.  Yes, YOU.  If you don't like this method of storytelling, then you probably won't like this book.  Once I got used to it, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I felt like being on a roller coaster reading it.  It was a wild ride, for sure.

Stranded by Tim Arnot

Stranded is the third book in the Flick Carter series and follows straight on from Hunted.

Flick, Shea and PJ find themselves trapped on a slave ship heading to foreign shores.  Back in Bristol, Socko doesn't believe the government when they say PJ (Princess Jessica) is dead and that Flick and Shea are terrorists who set off the bomb that destroyed much of the harbour at Bristol.

With nobody knowing who to trust and main characters being killed off, this is a good continuance and finale to this trilogy.

Even though the two main parties/threads of this story barely cross over, I liked both stories. Even though I think the audience for this is supposed to be younger, it had quite adult themes, whilst not being graphic about them.  The descriptions of this future, yet past world kept me in the time zone and I enjoyed being there.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Bricking It by Nick Spalding

As with Nick Spalding's other novels we have the "he said / she said" swapping forth of chapters.  I enjoy this method of getting both sides of the story.  This time, it's brother and sister Daniel and Hayley Daley who tell us of when their grandmother left them a dilapidated house in her will and they decide to do it up.  Obviously they haven't got a clue.

This is not an original story by any means, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  It was very lightweight and I'm sure more could have gone wrong.  Perhaps that was the beauty of it.  It didn't drag me down.  If I was watching it on screen, it would be in bright colours, rather than dingy greys. 

And who wouldn't want a pet Pat the Cow?

Piper by G. J. Reilly

Piper is the second book in the Jerrick series.

In the first book, Michael has been spirited away / rescued from the Grand Inquisitors to their enemy The Council.  It’s not clear which side is good and which is evil as neither are either.

We get a bit more about fairy tale history in this book, with Grimm being a librarian and what legend says is The Pied Piper of Hamlyn being the Piper of the title.

This is quite a long book and gets exciting in parts.  There’s also some rather nasty characters and death is always on the outskirts.  I found this to be a well-rounded story with some great characters.

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.