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 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 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

My Review of Blind Side by Jennie Ensor for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

#RBRT Review Team

 

blind side

I was given this book by the author as a member of #RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave Blind Side 4*out of 5*

The Blurb:

Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.

But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

Blind Side explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears.

My Review:

I liked this book. Jennie Ensor writes in an easy to read style and, after an initial fairly slow start, the book flows with various story lines interwoven so I was soon absorbed. And, although Blind Side can be seen as a romance novel it is much more than that; the story reveals the darker side of relationships, of life in a contemporary world, of remorse and self-reproach, secrets and lies, of disappointments and  regrets

The author has obviously researched into both the political, societal and historical backgrounds for the fairly recent settings that the characters move in and this is equally dark. And so realistic; I love when there is such a good sense of place.  Here the background reflects some of the underlying themes of racism, terrorism, immigration. Chilling stuff!

And against this there is the personal turmoil of the characters. Well played out, with enough tension and suspense to keep the reader on their toes.

The main characters are well portrayed with many levels to their personalities. I liked the protagonist, Georgie; despite the fact that I first thought her shown to be quite cold. The character is well rounded and the author gives her a history that explains much about her actions in the story; her fears, her suspicions, her obsession, her need to trust in Nikolai.  This character is also well written and given a past life that shocks. Despite not understanding his motives at first (and it took me a while to get used to the way the dialogue is written for him) I liked Nikolai. And then, the character of Julian; initially seemingly naive and harmless (in an obsequious way, I thought) but is ultimately shown to be less than the friend first portrayed.

 Told mainly from the point of view of the protagonist it would be easy to see the plot only from her side of things but the author manages to insert enough external detail, away from Georgie, to give more depth to the story.

There were a few parts of the plot that slowed the story (only a few though) and I found it trailed off a little at the end but, as I’ve said, I enjoyed Blind Side.  All in all, it’s a good debut novel from Jennie Ensor and one I would recommend. I look forward, with anticipation, to further offerings from this author..

LInks:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2naq5Mw

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2mK697y

My Review of Bully Boy Blue: A dark psychological suspense thriller by John Nicholl #crime #FridayReads

Bully Boy Blue: A dark psychological suspense thriller by [Nicholl, John]

I received an ARC of Bully Boy Blue from the author in return for an honest review.

The Blurb:

Every aspect of Kathy’s life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she’s pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

A gripping page-turner of a psychological thriller packed with suspense. Discover John Nicholl’s chilling new short story today

My review:

 The Blurb says it all… and more. The desperation, the ability to deceive, the reality of not knowing what goes on behind closed doors. Hidden truths. 

This is a novella; yet the shortness of the story does not detract from its chilling quality. The portrayal of both the characters in the book are frighteningly real and disturbing; the husband who convinces the outside world that he is a caring, long-suffering man with an unstable wife, the tense, oppressed wife, yearning to escape yet fearful.

 To say I loved this book might seem odd  but I love this author’s writing. His style is rich in both a sense of place and in his portrayal of the characters. Both the spoken and inner  dialogue is realistic and  draws the reader in.

I can’t recommend Bully Boy Blue highly enough for the above reasons

 I’ve also included an interview I had with John some while ago: 

john nicholls

 

May I start by asking you why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? 

I guess that given my career in law enforcement and child protection, psychological thrillers chose me. I’d like to write something light, funny and life affirming, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

And how long have you been writing?

I wrote a multi agency child protection guide and articles for newspapers and a national social work magazine during my career, but ‘White is the coldest colour’ was my first novel. I began writing fiction about five years ago.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? 

I wrote ‘White is the coldest colour’ with the primary intention of producing an entertaining and original psychological suspense thriller. However, I also hoped it would play a small part in raising awareness of the risks posed by sexual predators. Reader feedback suggests I went some way towards achieving those ends. ‘When evil calls your name,’  the sequel, addresses domestic physical and psychological violence towards women, within the context of the story. Again, I hope it raises awareness of the problem to some extent.

white

 John hasn’t said a lot about his books so I’m adding the next few lines myself. This is the blurb on Amazon for White is the coldest colour:  “The Mailer family are oblivious to the terrible danger that enters their lives when seven-year-old Anthony is referred to the child guidance service by the family GP following the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. 
Fifty-eight year old Dr David Galbraith, a sadistic predatory paedophile employed as a consultant child psychiatrist, has already murdered one child in the soundproofed cellar below the South Wales Georgian town-house he shares with his wife and two young daughters. 
Anthony becomes Galbraith’s latest obsession and he will stop at nothing to make his grotesque fantasies reality.

The book includes content that some readers may find disturbing from the start. It is dedicated to survivors everywhere.”

Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book? 

I spent twenty years as a social worker, which was all the research I needed. My books are entirely fictional, but they draw heavily on my professional experiences. I worked with some amazing people, some of whom have contributed to the characters I’ve created.

What do you think most characterises your writing?

I like to get inside the characters’s heads, and to portray their thoughts and feelings in addition to their actions.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

In many ways, writing ‘White is the coldest colour’ was cathartic, but it brought back some memories which were perhaps best left in the past.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? 

Everyone has the right to live free of the fear of oppression and violence. I think those are the key principles underpinning my novels. Both of my first two books address important social issues, and talk about subjects many in society would prefer to ignore.

And, here again, I add the blurb on John’s second book: When Evil Calls Your Name: 

“When twenty-nine-year-old Cynthia Galbraith struggles to come to terms with her traumatic past and the realities of prison life, a prison counsellor persuades her to write a personal journal exploring the events that led to a life sentence for murder. 
Although unconvinced at first, Cynthia finally decides she has all the time in the world and very little, if anything, to lose. She begins writing and holds back nothing: sharing the thoughts she hadn’t dare vocalise, the things that keep her awake at night and haunt her waking hours.”

What inspires you?

Family, spirituality, justice, beauty, travel, art, great writing, yoga and so much more.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I’ve been unbelievably lucky, in that the success of my first novel has enabled me to write full time. Now all I have to do is to keep writing books people want to read. I suspect that’s going to prove to be a lot easier said than done.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

I tarred roads, emptied bins, and worked as a kitchen porter before moving on to police and social work. Once I qualified as a social worker, I worked for two social services departments, the child guidance service, and the NSPCC.  I’ve also lectured on child protection at several colleges and universities. I like to think my woking life has helped introduce an air of realism to my writing.

How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

The more reading options open to people the better. Ebooks are relatively cheap and accessible, and that has to be a good thing. The publishing world is changing fast, enabling writers to self publish, if they so wish, and to let potential readers decide if their work is worth buying. I’ve chosen to remain independent despite contact offers from three publishers, and I would encourage anyone considering writing a book to give it a go. It’s never been easier to get your writing out there in front of the public.

What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

I believe that reading will always be a major pastime, although the introduction as alternatives like audio books gives people a viable alternative.Both my books were recently produced as audio books, and I have to admit that I was both surprised and impressed by the additional dimensions the narrators brought to the text.

Find John here:

http://bit.ly/29s3BAq

http://amzn.to/29CN2qh

https://twitter.com/nicholl06

http://bit.ly/29BhTAt

Buying Links: Amazon.co.uk:

White is the coldest colour: http://amzn.to/29tXtsO

When evil calls your name: http://amzn.to/29Bfy8G

Bully Boy Blue: http://amzn.to/2oc0abZ

Amazon.com:

White is the coldest colour: http://amzn.to/29x73Nf

When evil calls your name: http://amzn.to/29sIcfR

Bully Boy Blue: http://amzn.to/2oaVjYs