Latest Reads: Love Like Blood – Mark Billingham.

Publication Date: Available Now (UK) from Little Brown (US) from Grove Atlantic

Source: Netgalley (Grove)

DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold.

Always a joy to spend some time with Tom Thorne, definitively for me one of the best fictional detectives on the scene currently, with Love Like Blood Mark Billingham tackles a sensitive and I think very important subject with a healthy dose of reality and genuine consideration. That plus giving us a banging great read as always.

Much less a whodunnit and much more a twisted tale to the full truth of the matter, Tom is pulled into a contrary situation by Nicola Tanner (see  Die Of Shame ) who having suffered a horrific personal lost is determined to bring those responsible to justice. Convinced it is tied into a theory she was investigating she hopes Thorne will show his usual disregard for procedure and follow the leads unconsidered in the main investigation. So there we begin..

What I love generally speaking is the way this author brings a strong emotional core to the centre of all the stories he writes – the ongoing interpersonal relationships (I’m the biggest fan of Phil you will find) are always layered beautifully into each individual plot, whilst the supporting cast are given just as much depth. The writing is always immersive and completely addictive – as a reader you genuinely live with these people for a while. No different with Love Like Blood which I read fast, often angrily, the best reads are the ones that grip you by the heartstrings, not letting go and send you through a gamut of emotions as you head towards the finale. And this finale had me clutching my hair.

Honor Killings are very real, difficult to talk about, difficult to pin down, Love Like Blood is obviously researched and there is a huge authenticity to it that sends you on that emotional journey. I’d like to point out that when I read the Authors Note after finishing the book I had actual tears in my eyes, it made me look back on what I had just read with slightly different eyes.

Overall a really excellent, entertaining yet hugely thought provoking read that I would actually like to throw at everybody.  Read it. Even if you are new to the series I see no reason you couldn’t start here.

There is no life…

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Godblind Anna Stephens

Publication Date: Available Now (Kindle) 11th July (Hardback) from Harper Voyager

Source: Review Copy

The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.

Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.

Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces King, help Rilpor win the coming war?

Warning: Do not read this book if you are of a nervous disposition (Cue: Everyone running off to read this book to find out why – excellent, as you are in for one hell of a ride)

Godblind is dark fantasy at its very best, bloody, visceral, excellent characters and a top notch fantasy plot with increasingly imaginative world building. Including at least one incredibly realistic scene that will have certainly have you reeling if you are of the male variety and a whole plethora of adrenalin building action sequences Anna Stephens still manages to create an almost perfect character drama. Shades of grey in an immoral world where the good guys and the bad guys blend into each other for much of the telling until finally shaking themselves out towards the end and leaving you desperate to find out what happens next.

The plot is twisted, multiple points of view keeping us in the overall picture, this is not a straightforward start middle and end but a beautifully layered, often horrific, always compelling journey that takes many paths and drops you in and out of the action, building to a rip roaring, rollercoaster ride of a finale. Very much a part one, the scene is set for what is bound to be the trip of a lifetime. Seriously if somebody doesn’t give me book 2 soon I may actually explode.

Incredibly immersive descriptive prose grips you throughout, the author pulls literally no punches in letting you know what life in this world is like, Godblind is full of magic and mayhem, within an utterly fascinating political landscape that edges around reality within the fantasy and feels totally authentic from first page to last.

Godblind is banging brilliant, accomplished writing, deliriously psychotic plotting, cleverly manipulative character building, a book that once you are in it you cannot escape it until you are done, nor would you want to.

Highly Highly Recommended.

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Sweet After Death Valentina Giambanco Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.

Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives…but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep their secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.

As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege. And as they become targets Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.

The Alice Madison series is fast becoming one of my favourites – mostly it has to be said because of the character dynamics, I’m a fan of Madison/Brown/Sorensen and look forward to moving back in with them for a while.

Sweet After Death finds them heading to a small town that has lost its Doctor to an unspeakable act. Sent to help out the local police sort out the mess, they find themselves caught up in an act of violence that may not be as isolated as it appears.

I was especially taken with the setting for this one – Valentina Giambanco creates a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere around our crew as they get to work – moving them very much out of their comfort zone which keeps this intriguing and edgy. We learn a lot more about Alice whilst she is away from home and the mountainous wilderness closes in around her.

The path to the ultimate resolution is compelling and unpredictable, the supporting cast of characters all well drawn and fascinating especially Samuel. Sweet After Death is a novel you sink into. somewhat nervously making your way around Ludlow and waiting to see what will happen with a real sense of hanging onto the edge. Overall completely riveting.

Definitely a series to watch. Really very excellent indeed.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Waking Land Callie Bates

Publication Date: 29th June from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

It’s been fourteen years, since King Antoine took Elanna hostage. Fourteen years since her father’s rebellion failed. Fourteen years spent being raised by the man who condemned her people to misery. A man she’s come to love as a father.

Now 20, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again… but this time by her father’s mysterious righthand man.

Her father wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as figurehead. He will tell his followers she is the legendary Wildegarde reborn, a sorceress who could make the very earth tremble.

But what no one knows is that magic really does flow through Elanna’s veins. Now she must decide which side she’s on, and whether she’ll use her powers for mercy… or revenge.

The Waking Land really does have THE most beautiful cover and some beautiful writing inside it too, telling a fantastical tale of a land steeped in a magic that has fallen out of use. Elanna, kidnapped at a very young age, grows up belonging to them – before being taken back by her Father and beginning to learn that not everything she believes is necessarily true.

That is where we begin then and Callie Bates weaves an intriguing and enchanting tale of lands at war, morally blurred politics and ever changing family loyalties. Underneath it all lies a magical land, whose power slowly comes to the fore as Elanna discovers her true potential. But being ever conflicted, her struggle to see a clear path forms one of the most absorbing elements of this novel.

It is also a love story – and thank heavens in this case not an annoying one. Callie Bates has a wonderful attention to detail when fleshing out her characters, I loved that even minor ones ended up being entirely important to the plot, sometimes seemingly unimportant events take on a different meaning as things progress. I also adored the descriptive sense of it, ushering the reader into a world so different yet so similar to our own and making us feel the sense of it. The Waking Land is a novel to sink into, lose yourself for a while, away from the mundane routines of life.

Elegantly written and completely captivating, The Waking Land is one to watch this year in the Fantasy genre.

Recommended.

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Deadmen Walking Sherrilyn Kenyon New Release. Blog Tour Blurb.

Publication Date: Available Now from Piatkus

About the Book:

Hell hath no fury as a demon caged . . .

Centuries ago, a bitter war for humanity was fought and lucky for us, the Sons of Darkness were put down. Yet nothing lasts forever. When one of their most capable generals is unknowingly released from her infernal prison, Vine sets out to free her brethren and retake what was once theirs.

But things have changed, and now an old dalliance is her sworn enemy. Devyl Bane hasn’t forgotten the betrayal that damned his soul, nor is he willing to forgo his one chance at redemption. With a new crew of Deadmen at his command, he is the last hope humanity has to close the cracked Carian Gate and ensure once and for all that the Cimmerian forces never again see the light of day. And nothing will stand in his way . . . this time.

About the author:

Writing as Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kinley MacGregor, she is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of several series: the Dark-Hunters; the Lords of Avalon; and the League. She lives with her husband and three sons in Nashville, Tennessee.

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I Know My Name C J Cooke. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: June 15th from Harper Collins

Source: Review Copy

Komméno Island, Greece: I don’t know where I am, who I am. Help me.

A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.

Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Eloïse Shelley is officially missing.

Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie…

Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Eloïse missing? Why did she forget?

The truth is found in these pages…

I Know My Name was really beautifully done. A page turner of a novel with genuine emotional resonance at the core of it I was completely caught up in the story of Eloise and Lochlan as he desperately searches for her and she tries to remember what happened to her.

It is a psychological thriller but with a slightly different vibe. There isn’t a huge mystery or a huge twist in the tale, CJ Cooke simply opens her characters up to the reader and lets them see the story unfold. Left with two children Lochlan can’t understand how Eloise could leave them. A gap in memory leaves Eloise unsure of anything at all apart from her name. Separated by an ocean, you are rooting for these two to come back together.

It is difficult to say too much without giving away the heart of this book so I’ll just say that it is beautifully complex yet simply told in a way that really digs deep into the themes that anchor the tale. Unpredictable simply because it is not trying to hard to be clever, I Know My Name draws you in and leaves you at the end with all the feels. In some ways it is less psychological thriller and more family drama, pulling apart the layers of one family unit and letting you find the truth.

Really terrific. Just excellent.

Highly Recommended.

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The Black Hornet Rob Sinclair – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available Now from Bloodhound

Source: Review Copy

What do you do when the love of your life vanishes without a trace? If you’re ex-intelligence agent James Ryker you search for the answers whatever the cost, however much blood and sacrifice it takes…

Six months ago Lisa was taken from Ryker, and he’ll stop at nothing to find out who is responsible and why. Following a trail to Mexico, the ex-Joint Intelligence Agency asset soon finds himself in the firing line of enemies he long thought he’d left behind. Set-up for the murder of a former informant, Ryker is thrown into a crumbling jail run by The Black Hornet, the notorious leader of a Mexican drug cartel. But what connects the cartel to the informant’s murder, and to Lisa’s disappearance? And just who is the mystery American claiming he can help Ryker in his hour of need?

So I’ve been reading Rob Sinclair’s thrillers for a while now, starting with the Enemy series and more recently Red Cobra, the spin off featuring “James Ryker” and I always always enjoy them and read them pretty much in one sitting – it was no different with The Black Hornet.

The thing that this author does so well is the fine line between thrill seeking and storytelling, you have to have great characters and you have to have levels and nuances for me to enjoy a thriller and you get that here. Some of the action in The Black Hornet is truly edge of the seat, the fact that you care about what happens making them even more so.  I would caution that reading the earlier books is probably wise, the ongoing underneath of it all would work better in full than in a vacuum.

The portions set in the Mexican jail were especially hard hitting – in a way that keeps you turning the pages – and the sense of it all is very authentic. I like Ryker as a character, I like his attitude, a very intriguing main protagonist to walk the road with.

Overall very good indeed. One of those authors that just kind of fell onto my must read list, pure escapism and always a darn good yarn.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Final Hour Tom Wood.

Publication Date: June 29th from Sphere

Source: Well a couple really.

Agent Antonio Alvarez has been tracking a dangerous murderer for years, a nameless hitman responsible for numerous homicides.

The Agency deflected him away from his search, but he didn’t give up, piecing together clues and hearsay. Now a promotion has allowed him to pursue this man with a hand-picked team and bring him to justice.

Only problem is, the murderer has vanished.

Thousands of miles away, the assassin known as Victor has stopped working – recently he began to care; he made mistakes. Now he has a choice: whether to give up the life or return to being a cold-hearted weapon. But there’s another killer who needs his help – and she might be harder to refuse . . .

All while the good guys are closing in on him.

I am a Victor fan.

There’s this thing I have with this series where it is spot on perfect reading for me at certain times in my reading mood because I know I’m just going to really get into it and live with Victor for a while. Not that I’d *actually* like to live with Victor he’s a bit up and down on whether he’ll drink with you or break your neck but whatever. Nothing like a bit of danger.

Anyway, seriously speaking these are terrifically good thrillers in comparison to a lot that are out there at the moment because Tom Wood’s writing style is cleverly immersive – in the way that you don’t realise you are in it until you come out again. I like that as a reader and I like the lilt of the storytelling, simplistically elegant, I also like Victor as a main protagonist because he seems predictable but really is not.

In “The Final Hour” things get shaken up a bit. Raven returns (and I know not everyone warmed to Raven but I’m a little in love with her especially after the early morgue scene and then the ending) – the relationship between the two of them was one of the highlights of this instalment for me. Someone from the past is after Victor in a very focused way and by the finale I was all edge of the seat and stuff. Plus its left me rather more eager than usual for Victor 8 so that says it all really.

These are actually classically good. Great writing, great storytelling GREAT characters. Just great.

Bring on the next.

Definitively recommended.

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If We Were Villains M L Rio – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: June 13th from Titan

Source: Review Copy

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

Because I am huge fan of Shakespeare and all that entails this book worked for me on every level. I lived this book and loved it. It is a homage to the bard and of course an atmospheric, beautifully layered and indomitably emotional story in its own right.

When you get sucked into a book to the extent that you feel the characters are quite quite real, when everything that happens is authentic and easily believable – when you get so involved that you do get angry and sad and all the emotional levels in between, that is when you know you’ve found one of “those” books. If We Were Villains is one of “those” books for me.

The comparisons to The Secret History (which I feel I should mention here) are for once quite valid, but shoot me if you like, I much preferred this. I’m not a fan of Tartt’s occasionally pretentious and seemingly self absorbed writing style that lacks any sense of editing, its not that I didn’t enjoy The Secret History or appreciate the talented prose I did, but it banged on interminably at times taking 5000 words to get as much depth into the action as M L Rio manages here in mere paragraphs. So as a very subjective thing for me this was much better. Plus I should probably say its similarities are less than its differences so any comparisons made are on the surface.

I read If We Were Villains in 4 hours stopping only for caffeine hits and got entirely caught up in this insular, elite and yes pretentious world of a group of theatre students whose friendship, love and obsession leaks off the stage and into their personal interactions. The author uses Shakespeare both allegorically and practically – the language they speak, the way they form ties, its all beautifully written and stunningly addictive. The last paragraph shot me off my chair, so perfectly clever was it, having been lulled into the ebb and flow of a novel that seemed to be done with me at that point suddenly going ha ha NO now you will think of me always. And I will.

This is going to be a book I return to again and again. For its rich language, its incredibly divisive characters and its beautiful tribute to the work of Shakespeare, a man who formed the basis of a whole lot of our pop culture language use today. For me it was spot on perfect.

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Ones To Watch in 2017: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Publication Date: October 2017 from Grand Central Publishing.

Source: Netgalley

Rose was lit by the sun, her beautiful face giving nothing away. Even back then, she was a mystery that I wanted to solve.

The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind’s student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.

As much as Rosalind’s life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town’s richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?

Rosalind’s enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets—an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.

I really loved The Dark Lake – One of those brilliantly layered human drama’s that are within the psychological thriller genre. Sarah Bailey has created some memorable and relatable characters who will stay with me – especially the victim Rosalind who even after resolution will linger in your head and make you wonder.

Gemma as a main protagonist is, to be fair, divisive. Haunted by memories of a past she can’t fix, living in a family situation she is not sure of and involved in a slightly obsessive affair, when the beautiful Rosalind is found dead it throws up some difficult challenges for her that may be beyond her ability to cope with. I felt sorry for her and at random times annoyed with her – she is certainly prone to human error both in her working and personal life. This really worked for me I was with her all the way even on the occasions I wanted to slap her.

The mystery element is clever, haunting and unpredictable – I loved the setting, descriptively speaking the author puts you right there and the surroundings added to the slightly melancholy feeling the narrative gave, that emotional core that I love to find in a book.

Overall The Dark Lake is one of the good ones – addictive and intelligent with a heavy dose of drama and a twisted mystery that may well have you guessing right up until the end. Nothing not to love here.

Yep. I’m a fan. Highly Recommended.

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