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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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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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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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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Latest Reads: Dead Writers in Rehab – Paul Bassett Davies

Publication Date: Available Now from Unbound

Source: Review Copy

When literary reprobate Foster James wakes up in a strange country house, he assumes he’s been consigned to rehab (yet again) by his dwindling band of friends and growing collection of ex-wives.

But he soon realises there’s something a bit different about this place after he gets punched in the face by Ernest Hemingway.

Is Foster dead? Has his less-than-saintly existence finally caught up with him? After an acrimonious group therapy session with Hunter S Thompson, Colette, William Burroughs, and Coleridge, it seems pretty likely. But he still feels alive, especially after an up-close and personal one-on-one session with Dorothy Parker.

When he discovers that the two enigmatic doctors who run the institution are being torn apart by a thwarted love affair, he and the other writers must work together to save something that, for once, is bigger than their own gigantic egos.

Dead Writers in Rehab was totally insane. Nuts. Right out there and I absolutely loved it. Not only is it darkly witty and hilariously funny but also emotionally resonant and just downright cool.

If you like your literary heroes then this book is chock full of them. Possibly not as you would have imagined them but the author gives them clear and authentic voices and a touch of beautiful madness. The story told as it is in various ways (I’ll let you come to that by yourselves)  becomes a bit of a page turner. There is mystery and romance and a whole host of laugh out loud moments, tempered by the very real emotional core of the novel that just grabs you by the heartstrings.

Dead Writers in Rehab kind of defies logic but makes perfect sense – a work of imaginative genius, you will literally enter this world and live in it.  The only thing worse than waking up with a hangover from hell is waking up with a hangover IN hell. And there you have it.

I’m probably supposed to make comments about ambitious prose and relative reasoning but frankly who cares – Dead Writers in Rehab is one of the most entertaining reads of my year so far, I laughed, I nearly cried, it works on many many levels, defying genre and description it just IS. Brilliant. Clever. Whimsical. And often quite rude.

Whats not to love? NOTHING that’s what. Go get it!

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Honeymoon Tina Seskis

Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin

Source: Review Copy

There’s trouble in paradise. . .

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight’s retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy. It should be paradise, but it’s turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes. After everything they’ve been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all – where has her husband gone?

This book. Seriously.

Ok so on the surface you have a psychological thriller in the vein of many other psychological thrillers, a life turned upside down, secrets hiding around corners, characters you are not sure are trustworthy and a twisty plot that keeps you turning the pages.

Well “The Honeymoon” has all of that and brilliantly done too – add to that a beautifully described setting, Paradise then Paradise Lost, add in this authors keen eye for characterisation and rather dastardly plotting, all done in a wonderfully immersive style and you do have a winner. A proper page turner where you really are not sure where it is going.

I mean considering the enclosed environment our protagonists are stuck in you wouldn’t think there would be much room for maneuver  –  I mean Jemma’s husband has to be SOMEWHERE right? Anyone who has read “One Step Too Far” will know that whatever is on the surface the underneath is where the truth lies when it comes to Tina Seskis, therefore I would just hold onto your hats.

Honestly this is just pure brilliance – that ending though.

Just wait.

I loved this. I’m sure it will divide opinion but one thing I’m reasonably certain of is that nobody will work this out before they get there. Oh there are plenty of clues. There is no cheating of the reader here. But until you read those WORDS I’d like to bet you will be on the other side of the world from the truth. Maybe on a random beautiful little island…..

Inventively clever, devilishly tricky – The Honeymoon takes its place on the very small pile of books that actually made me gasp at the resolution. Like One Step Too Far before it – This could get to be a habit.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Lying Game Ruth Ware

Publication Date: June 15th From Harvill Secker

Source: Review Copy

The text message is just three words: I need you.

Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her now.

Something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three best friends she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten. Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, after what they did.

At school the girls used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But for some, did the boundary between fact and fantasy become too blurred?

And how much can you really trust your friends?

I’ve loved both of Ruth Ware’s books to date and The Lying Game was probably the one I banged through fastest – once I was in I couldn’t get out again, sucker as I am for a good tale that involves school clique cover ups and future consequences. This author  writes some of the twistiest tales out there and I’m never quite sure where she’s going until she gets there.

In The Lying Game we have four close friends who have hidden a horrible secret for years and now it is going to come back and haunt them. The group dynamic is tight and compelling, we follow along mostly with Isa, learning the back story and slowly discovering what has them so haunted. Cleverly done and intimately woven, The Lying Game is a mystery and a slow burn of a character drama, a beautifully done mix that keeps you turning the pages.

It is a little different from her other two novels, focusing more on the dynamics of the relationships than thrills and spills but certainly there are a few edge of the seat moments. The setting of Saltern is atmospherically described with the decay of the house the girls used to frequent equalling the decay in their current friendship as they all struggle to readjust and find a way out of an untenable situation.

I loved the village life focus, the wider cast suspicious and waiting – and the historical school elements were utterly fascinating. I refer you back to I’m a sucker for school cliques.

Overall a really great read once again from Ruth Ware and honestly I can’t wait to see what she does next having managed to write three very different novels already each one captivating me entirely.

Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Don’t Look for Me – Mason Cross

Publication Date: Available Now from Orion

Source: Purchased Copy

Don’t look for me.

It was a simple instruction. And for six years Carter Blake has kept his word. He hasn’t looked for the woman he once loved and lost. But now her life is in danger and Blake is forced to break that promise.

Trenton Gage is a hitman with a talent for finding people – dead or alive. His latest job is to track down a woman who’s on the run, harbouring a secret many would kill for.

It turns out Blake and Gage are after the same person – but who will get to her first?

I love a good thriller, me, but they have to be actually thrilling with characters that are more than cardboard cut outs running around with guns and there has to be some heart and soul in there otherwise I get bored and grumpy.

Enter, a few years ago now, onto my reading list Mason Cross and the Carter Blake novels. Each one has been a pure joy to read and this one is no different in fact it is probably my favourite so far.  The reading adrenalin rush of these knows no bounds and they are fast paced, incredibly addictive, super compelling and definitely chock full of heart and soul.

Don’t Look For Me also has a beautifully twisted plot and a little emotional trauma for Carter Blake this time around plus it had Sarah who I really really engaged with (so let’s hope we see her again sometime) – really there was absolutely nothing at all that I did not like about this book. There’s not really a lot else to say, if you like thrillers you’ll love these. Handily enough you can read any one as a standalone – and although I would recommend reading in order for full immersion ( The Killing Season would be where to start) actually Don’t Look For Me would be a great entry point into the series so what the heck,  go for your life.

A hot book for the hot weather – fantastic. Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Last Seen Lucy Clarke.

 

Publication Date: June 29th From Harper Collins.

Source: Netgalley

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.

I loved this novel – it is an extremely clever, emotionally resonant psychological family drama in which Lucy Clarke explores many levels of relationships and what can happen when something goes horribly wrong.

Two best friends. Two sons. One is lost, one is not. That  moment in time ripples both outwards and inwards during “Last Seen” as both families come to terms (or not) with a genuinely horrible loss. Too many people are keeping too many secrets but it is still utterly authentic and completely believable from the first moment to the last.

I love it when a novel in this genre gives you divisive and sympathetic characters, Lucy Clarke brings a huge amount of reality both to Sarah and to Isla. I will confess that I actually ended up detesting one of them (no spoilers!) but the road to that was rocky and incredibly addictive and the oceans (yes I did that) of depth in the storytelling, well,  simply brilliant.

I genuinely did not see where this one was going, that of course is a big tick for me as so much is so predictable (not necessarily making it bad but just taking something away) – Last Seen really DID keep me guessing as to what really happened the day two little boys ended up in the sea, on the way to that knowledge was a twisted and intelligently drawn plot that kept me immersed throughout.

In the end there was a bit of a tear in my eye. For what was lost and what was gained and for the child that didn’t make it out to grow up, but there was such a wonderful sense of closure to it all eventually that it was a genuinely satisfying read.

Yep. Highly Recommended.

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