My Review of A Mind To Kill  by John Nicholl

A Mind To Kill: A dark psychological thriller packed with suspense by [Nicholl, John]

Book Description:

When Rebecca’s childhood abuser escapes justice, it sets her on a path to revenge, revenge on any man who preys on the innocent.

Twenty-three-year-old Rebecca poses as a child online and sets her trap, luring one sexual predator after another to their deaths. 

When a severed head and other body parts are found washed up on a windswept estuary beach, the police begin their investigation.

If you’re looking for a page-turning book you won’t be able to put down, discover John Nicholl’s stunning new thriller today. 

My Review:

I received an ARC of A Mind To Kill  from the author in return for an honest review. 

This is a deeply disturbing book that deals with child abuse, murder and gruesome scenes. I’ve read and reviewed books by John Nicholl before: Bully Boy Blue  and Portraits of the Dead. Both dark, gripping stories where the author shows his knowledge of police matters and certain kinds of crimes.  For me A Mind To Kill is his most grim yet. It is obvious from the book blurb that it will be macabre in parts; readers are warned. There are graphic scenes that some may want to skim through. But it has to be borne in mind that these have a reason to be there; for revenge against one of the most horrific and vile crimes; child abuse.

That said I will review as usual.

 In the author’s previous books there has always been one character, the protagonist that I have felt some empathy for, some understanding of their actions and their mindset.  I was disappointed that I didn’t have this choice in  A Mind To Kill . Although I grasped the anger and passion for revenge that drives Rebecca, and recognised what happened to her in childhood has coloured her whole outlook on life, for me it is too one dimensional. I would have liked much more background of her previous life inserted somewhere; if only glimpses of her childhood after the abuse, her teenage years. Something that brought her to this point in her life which explains her relationship with her mother especially. I would have liked to have a flashback or two to see where the justice system failed this family and the emotions that the ordinary police must have felt. (I do like flashbacks!)

And, having met Inspector Gravell (Grav) in a previous book, I was disappointed in the change in him. I know, having lost his fellow partner, Detective Sergeant Clive Rankin, he would be a more embittered and cynical character but he is portrayed  as a completely unpleasant man in this book. His previous bluff yet compassionate side is well hidden.

Mostly the dialogue is realistic and plausible and differentiates the characters but every now and then, especially in the conversations between Rebecca and her mother I found it difficult to realise who was speaking. And, in other parts of the book, there is what I call ‘head hopping’ between characters. The spoken and internal dialogue between  characters jumps from the point of view of one of the characters, usually one of the two main characters to the mind of someone else, sometimes even a minor, flat character who adds little to the main plot or only appears once in a short side plot. 

Beyond an internal setting of one room, graphically and frighteningly described, there are few external settings, But these are well written and give a strong sense of place.

A Mind To Kill  is an extremely dark psychological thriller; the strong emotions, the vengeance, the hatred, the evil radiates throughout the story . The boundaries of right and wrong blend and become difficult to  identify with. It’s a book that is both contentious and provocative. I would recommend it for readers who understand that there is true evil in the underworld of vile child abuse… and have a strong stomach.

Links;

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2v1hALh

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2tLDB16

My Review of Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos by Jo Carroll #TravelWriting #FridayReads

bombs

 

I gave this book 5*out of 5*

Book Description:

Did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? If Jo Carroll had spent more time with her guidebooks and less with a physiotherapist preparing her creaking knees for squat toilets she’d have been better prepared when she crossed the Mekong in a long boat and stepped into the chaos of Huay Xai. But bombs still lie hidden in Laos’ jungles, in the rice paddies, and in the playgrounds. While young people open their doors to new ideas and possibilities, memories of war are etched on the faces of the old.
What sort of welcome would they give a western woman, wandering around with her notebook? Would they dare let her peer into their secret corners?

My Review:

 It’s a long time since I read a travel book other than looking for excerpts to use for teaching the genre in a workshop.

Reading Jo Carrol’s Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos made me realise what a wealth of entertainment and knowledge I’ve missed out on. And I would have carried on overlooking this gem if it hadn’t been for a fellow writer who recommended this author’s work to me.

 And what a gem!

 Laos is perhaps a place I will never visit but I now have at least an insight to this country still  afflicted by the devastation of war; the people traumatised, often with permanent life-changing injuries. And yet one of the main threads interwoven in the narrative is the kind courtesy that the author experiences from the Laotians. Alongside the often humorous accounts of her fellow back packers, this is a truly personal, empathetic and compassionate account of the people of Laos as much as of the magnificence and breath-taking ambience of the places Jo Carroll travels through.

 I loved one excerpt, one example of this, that made me smile; the way, in one place where Jo Carroll stayed, that she was exclaimed over and admired just because she was a mature woman of a certain age. And the way the teenage girl in the family carefully escorted her up and down the ladder to the room she stayed in – and even to the family outside WC. 

The author’s descriptions, so full of evocative imagery yet so personal, made me feel as though I was walking alongside her. There are many  contrasting scenes. The visit to the COPE centre where prosthetic limbs are made for those so injured during and in the aftermath of the “horrors of the Khmer Rouge”, together with, the descriptions of the museum. The uncomfortable way she watches a film of the almost casual, yet breath-holding, defusing of an unexploded bomb and the faces of the people in the village, “…lined with dread, with the memory of blood and screaming and the fear of dying.”

 She cries; she’s not the only one;  I cry as  I read of her ” misplaced Western guilt”, her “…collusion with the silence that went with this war” and the naive belief I’d also long ago held of “President Nixon’s assurances that the USA guaranteed Laos’ neutrality”, even as the country was bombed.

 That excerpt contrasts with joyful and wonderful descriptions: of the river in Nong Khiaw from her hammock in a wooden bungalow (one of the places the author stayed in away from a group she travelled with at one point). She watches the man peacefully net fishing in the river, the banks richly green ; the swarms of tiny white butterflies. And later she writes of the riotous colours and chaos of markets, of jumbles of fruit, jewellery, spices. throughout this book there is always the evocative use of all her senses. Great stuff!! 

This is a very individual account of travel writing. And it drew me in; I felt her struggle with having to come to term with so much as she travelled around; tourists having their photos taken with what i presumed were drugged tigers. Elephants giving rides to entertain the visitors (this brought back a memory of a ride I had in a zoo as a child; I hadn’t thought of this for years and it brought back an uncomfortable feeling for my lack of understanding at the time – how things have changed in this country… or have they?)  In Laos Jo Carroll battles with her conscience even while knowing the people nee to make a living to exist.

I could go on and on. This is an easy read that transported me to Laos. It won’t be the last I read of Jo Carroll’s travels. 

 I can’t recommend Bombs and Butterflies: Over the Hill in Laos highly enough.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2tsIJqE

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2gMkyxJ

My Review of White Lies by Ellie Holmes for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

white lies

 

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave White Lies 4* out of 5*

My Review:

White Lies is an  interesting story that explores the different ways in which people in close relationships can so easily lie and deceive one another, however well meant the lie; however ‘white’ the deception. And ultimately reveals the damage such duplicity can cause, both to themselves and to those around them.

Ellie Holmes writes in a skillful easy to read style that smoothly keeps the plot going. It’s a compelling read as we are led one way and then another, following the characters, empathising with them, condemning them, getting exasperated with them, even disbelieving some of their actions and reactions. I suppose the fact that I reacted like this shows how realistic the authors has created and rounded these characters. But, ultimately I realised that I didn’t really ‘root’ for any of the main, not even the protagonist, Sam.

All that aside, I felt the dialogue, both spoken and internal  was realistic and consistent with the characters.

And I must say I did like the minor sub-plot of recently widowed Daphne  and the artefacts. And the benevolent character of Connor, Sam’s business partner, was  a light relief amongst all the machinations of the others.

There were also some good descriptions of the characters’ appearance, subtly drip-fed in. Usually this isn’t something I comment on; I like to imagine how each looks but they were quite understated portrayals that fitted my thoughts from how each acted.

 Ellie Holmes cleverly brings the expectations of Sam’s talents as an interior designer into the narratives so it is easy to picture the settings of the rooms and houses.   And  the external settings were described to bring alive the action of each scene: the misery of the sleet and rain in the initial scenes, the mist over the garden and looming darkness to match the despair of the protagonist in a later scene. (I don’t give away any spoilers if i can help it in my reviews, so you’ll need to read the book to discover what i mean here)

There was only one main problem with White Lies for me. Normally I do like to feel that there is a satisfactory ending, if not a happy one, to a novel; even if it is left open ended for me to imagine. I didn’t quite know how I felt about the denouement in White Lies, I was a little dissatisfied.

Nevertheless, this is a book I would recommend to be read during long summer days.

 Book Description

From the author of The Flower Seller

Have you ever told a white lie?

Sam Davenport is a woman who lives her life by the rules. When her husband Neil breaks those rules too many times, Sam is left wondering not only if he is still the man for her but also if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.

Actions, however, have consequences as Sam soon discovers when what starts out as an innocent white lie threatens to send her world spiralling out of control.

White Lies is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk; http://amzn.to/2uldTjo

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2t2gcUH

My Review of Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson for #RBRT #contemporaryread

Skin Deep: A beautiful read that will get under your skin by [Wilkinson, Laura]

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave Skin Deep 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty, but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything and Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?

My Review:

I have previously read Public Battles, Private Wars by Laura Wilkinson and admired her writing style,  so was looking forward to delving into her latest offering. I wasn’t disappointed, even though it is completely different  from what I expected.

In a way it’s a strange, almost uncomfortable tale, told in both present time and flashback. But it is one I came to understand; so many times we are judged by how we look and the author skilfully handles the characters; they come to life slowly but surely as the story progresses.

The dialogue is realistic and natural; the internal monologues of Cal as an adult are fascinating.

Some sections of the Northern setting in the 1980s were familiar for me  and gave a good sense of place. The descriptions of the darkest parts of the city and the living conditions of the characters were well written and gave an insight to the seedier side of Manchester at that time.

Less than a plot and more of a thoughtful unravelling of the interior lives of both the protagonist, Diana, and the other main character, Cal, Skin Deep is a book that left me pondering on the rights and wrongs of Diana’s actions on how her relationship with Cal. progresses.

Loved the ending by the way.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2sodsmE

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2soGkes

My Review of That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3 by Marcia Meara

That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3 by [Meara, Marcia]

I received  a copy of That Darkest Place from the author in return for an honest review.

 I gave the book 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

In Book 3 of her popular Riverbend series, Marcia Meara, author of Wake-Robin Ridge, A Boy Named Rabbit,and Harbinger, takes another look at the lives of the Painter brothers—Jackson, Forrest, and Hunter. While Hunter is home again and on the mend, the same isn’t true for his oldest brother. Jackson’s battle has just begun.

“There are dark places in every heart, in every head. Some you turn away from. Some you light a candle within. But there is one place so black, it consumes all light. It will pull you in and swallow you whole. You don’t leave your brother stranded in that darkest place.”
~Hunter Painter~

The new year is a chance for new beginnings—usually hopeful, positive ones. But when Jackson Painter plows his car into a tree shortly after midnight on January 1, his new beginnings are tragic. His brothers, Forrest and Hunter, take up a grim bedside vigil at the hospital, waiting for Jackson to regain consciousness and anxious over how he’ll take the news that he’s lost a leg and his fiancée is dead. After all, the accident was all his fault.

As the shocking truth emerges, one thing becomes obvious—Jackson will need unconditional love and support from both of his brothers if he is to survive.

Just as he begins the long road to recovery, danger, in the form of a sinister, unsigned note, plunges him back into bleak despair. Scrawled in blood red letters, the accusation—and the threat—is clear. “MURDERER!”

Will the long, harrowing ordeal that lies ahead draw the Painter brothers closer together, or drive them apart forever?

Suspenseful and often heartbreaking, this small-town tale is a testimonial to the redemptive power of love and paints a story filled with humor, romance, and fierce family loyalty.

 My Review:

 I’ve always liked this author’s writing style and her ability to tell a good story and this latest book is no disappointment.  This continuation of the events that affect the Painter brothers’ lives is a rich emotional tale of despair, love, familial support, intrigue and triumph.

The main characters, Jackson, Forrest, and Hunter.  are now well established and have become more rounded and multi-layered and remain true to the traits they have portrayed over the series. I felt as if I’d known and understood them for a while which is always a good sign for me. The different points of view of each brother to a greater or lesser degree works well and I cared what happened to them.

 The setting of Riverbend is constant, even with the introduction of different minor characters and places; Marcia Meara has a nice touch when it comes to descriptions and giving a sense of place.

There are one or two twists and turns in the plot which progresses at a steady pace and I finished the story with a sense of satisfaction that all will be well… hopefully.

 A good read. And a book I would recommend.

 Book Links:

 Amazon.co.uk; http://amzn.to/2tqUFWv

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2sRfld8

 

 

My Review of Shadows by Thorne Moore #psychological crime

thorne

I received an ARC of Shadows from the author in return for an honest review. I gave the novel 5* out of  5*

Book Description:

A compelling blend of mystery and family drama with a gothic twist, by the Top Ten bestselling author of A Time for Silence

Kate Lawrence can sense the shadow of violent death, past and present. 

In her struggle to cope with her unwelcome gift, she has frozen people out of her life. 

Her marriage is on the rocks, her career is in chaos and she urgently needs to get a grip. 

So she decides to start again, by joining her effervescent cousin Sylvia and partner Michael in their mission to restore and revitalise Llys y Garn, an old mansion in the wilds of North Pembrokeshire.

It is certainly a new start, as she takes on Sylvia’s grandiose schemes, but it brings Kate to a place that is thick with the shadows of past deaths. 

The house and grounds are full of mysteries that only she can sense, but she is determined to face them down – so determined that she fails to notice that ancient energies are not the only shadows threatening the seemingly idyllic world of Llys y Garn. 

The happy equilibrium is disrupted by the arrival of Sylvia’s sadistic and manipulative son, Christian – but just how dangerous is he? 

Then, once more, Kate senses that a violent death has occurred… 

Set in the majestic and magical Welsh countryside, Shadows is a haunting exploration of the dark side of people and landscape.

My Review:

I have long been a fan of Thorne Moore’s work and, for me, Shadows, yet again, proves what a brilliant tale teller she is.

The author’s ability to create an atmosphere is exceptional. In Shadows the descriptions of the rooms and spaces within  Llys y Garn provide an eerie, dark presence and a vaguely distant, though dangerous, affluence in its history. It’s a great  background for the novel. In contrast the narratives portraying the surrounding Welsh countryside underline the myths, the legends of the land, the beauty of the settings, to give a wonderful sense of place.

 The characters are excellent; believable and rounded they instil either empathy, dislike, or exasperation. I loved the protagonist, Kate, and found myself willing her to make the right choices; to stay safe. In contrast, the character of her ex-husband and even sometimes, the lovable cousin, Sylvia, frustrated me. And I despised the “sadistic and manipulative son, Christian” (even though I hadn’t read the book blurb at the time) – I suppose that’s a sign of as well portrayed, multi layered character. And there is one character who was a great disappointment for me… saying no more here

The book description gives a good outline of this steadily-paced plot; what it doesn’t say, obviously, is how the reader is drawn into the story from the onset and then, piece by piece, caught up in the twists and turns of the narrative.

This is  is a book I recommend, without hesitation.

 

Praise for Thorne Moore

‘Thorne Moore is a huge talent. Her writing is intensely unsettling and memorable.’ – Sally Spedding

Thorne Moore

Thorne Moore was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University and the Open University. She set up a restaurant with her sister but now spends her time writing and making miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton. She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” including A Time For SilenceMotherlove and The Unravelling.

Links to Thorne:

 Website
Blog
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My Review of Not Thomas by Sara Gethin #contemporary fiction

Not Thomas by [Gethin, Sara]

I gave Not Thomas 5* out of 5*

My Review:

Every now and then I read a book that sets all my senses tingling with the brilliance of it.

And this is why I wanted to write my review in a different way than normal.

 I don’t just mean that the characters are so multi-layered and rounded that I can empathise with them. Or that the descriptions give a wonderful sense of place that make the settings easy to envisage.  Or that the plot makes a story that is innovative and original.

I mean a book that holds all these… and more. And this novel does just that

 Not Thomas is narrated through the point of view of the protagonist, Tomas. He’s five years old. And, because of this, the narration and his dialogue are simplistic and poignant; the words jump off the page as those of a five year old child. And it works so well.  

We see his world; his home, his school, the people around him, through his eyes. We learn of his perception of himself, the capabilities of his body; often described in almost a third person, personification kind of way; “my ear is listening “, ” my teeth are hurting my tongue”

 Sara Gethin has an usual talent for seeing through the eyes of a child and I love her style of writing.

 Without giving any spoilers to this superb novel I will say that, despite the simplicity of a lot of the narrative, this is a dark, compelling story with a gripping plot. I could see this as a television drama.

 I thoroughly recommend Not Thomas. I’m not ashamed to say there were moments when I cried reading this story, sometimes in  a sad way but sometimes, as Tomas would say, when “my mouth was laughing”.

Book Description:

“The lady’s here. The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair. I’m waiting for her to go away.

Tomos lives with his mother. He longs to return to another place, the place he thinks of as home, and the people who lived there, but he’s not allowed to see them again. He is five years old and at school, which he loves. Miss teaches him about all sorts of things, and she listens to him. Sometimes he’s hungry and Miss gives him her extra sandwiches. She gives him a warm coat from Lost Property, too. There are things Tomos cannot talk about – except to Cwtchy – and then, just before Easter, the things come to a head. There are bad men outside who want to come in, and Mammy has said not to answer the door. From behind the big chair, Tomos waits, trying to make himself small and quiet. He doesn’t think it’s Santa Claus this time.

When the men break in, Tomos’s world is turned on its head and nothing will ever be the same again”

Other Reviews: 

“Heart-wrenching, captivating and beautiful… a poignant portrayal of a hostile world depicted through the eyes of a child. Gethin writes with profound depth and compassion in this exceptionally moving and powerful novel.” Caroline Busher, Irish Times best-selling author

“The ability to use sentiment without descending into sentimentality is a rare commodity. But it is something Sara Gethin does effortlessly in Not Thomas. The book is, by turns, compelling, disturbing, enthralling and both physically and emotionally draining. It is, ultimately,an up-lifting tale that is rewarding and an affirmation of the human spirit. Do not expect an easy read, even though she writes fluently with a skill that drives the reader on. Expect to cry, to run the whole gamut of emotions. This is a book that will reward any perceptive reader. It is thoroughly recommended.” Phil Carradice, writer and broadcaster

“This novel should be printed on plastic paper so that the reader’s ample tears don’t blot the paper. Sara Gethin has given us an undeniably memorable character in Tomos, a lovable boy living in the most brutal poverty and abject neglect. It also casts light into the dark shadowlands of child poverty and should act as a reprimand to those who let it continue. Yet Gethin doesn’t forget that the writer’s first job is to hook the reader with a strong story and this one really gets under the skin. A deeply convincing novel that surges with emotion and compassion in equal measure.” Jon Gower, author, producer and former BBC Wales arts & media correspondent 

“Sara Gethin’s use of simple language, clipped sentences, and repetition assist in creating a very believable and natural-sounding child’s voice… The narrative pace is quick, at times breathless, as one would expect from a lively and care-deprived child, and it contributes to a thoroughly engaging page-turner. Sara Gethin, with her impressive range of writing skills, takes us to a tragic place, a bleak corner of messed-up lives and hopelessness, but she also shows us the warm spirit of human light that can break through such darkness.” –Peter Thabit Jones, Poet and dramatist

Wendy White

Sara’s Bio:

Sara Gethin is the pen-name of Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli and studied Religion and Ethics in Western Thought at St. David’s University, Lampeter. She has worked as a childminder, an assistant in a children’s library and a primary school teacher. She writes for children as Wendy White, and her first book Welsh Cakes and Custard won the Tir nan-Og Award in 2014. She has two grown-up children and, while home is still west Wales, she and her husband spend much of their free time across the water in Dublin. Not Thomas is published by Honno