Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little LiesSweet Little Lies by Caz Frear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here’s a slightly different than normal review. Because this is a very different from normal police procedural crime novel.
I won’t go through the synopsis because you can read it for yourselves, but I recommend this to ALL MY FOLLOWERS WHO LOVE BRITISH CRIME.

Wow! Was this really a debut?
How can a ‘first timer’ be this good?
How long did it take to establish such awesome characters for a first book? Very impressive.
Is Caz Frear writing another?
And if so, when?
This doesn’t read like a debut.
It must of took some long and deep thought processes to create all these incredible people in the story.
I loved everyone for so many different reasons.
The intricacies of the whole story were simply complex, if that makes sense.
I love Cat Kinsella.
I need more of this kind of stuff.

Ok, the above ramblings needed to be off-loaded, because I absolutely loved this book! I’d reached page 46, and was thinking, this could be an average crime-mystery police procedural read. But then there was this;

Prepping the incident board are man-mountain DS Pete Flowers and blade-thin DC Craig Cooke – aka the Feast and the Famine.’

That alone, made me grin so much! So inventive! Characters that are given a personal and humorous persona from other characters POV’s before we even know them properly. I like that. I like that A LOT.

Caz Frear is a brilliant writer. She really attached the characters and story to my nosyness. I felt as though these people were so real! It gripped me quickly. There was mystery a-plenty, and I was hooked from about page 50. That is good going for me, I can tell you.

I absolutely loved this all the way through. And heading towards the very satisfying conclusion this little beauty of the New Years Eve scenario just grabbed me and had me nodding in agreement;

‘I’ve never subscribed to the cult of New Years Eve. Never grasped the fascination. All that reflecting on the past and hoping for the future always strikes me as a profoundly bad idea when you’ve been poisoning your body for seven days straight, and your nervous system’s shot to pieces by marathon-style boozing and energy-sapping grub’.

Oh how bloody true. I couldn’t agree more. Cat Kinsella, will you be my friend?

A very deserving 4 stars out of 5.

I’d like to thank Readers First and the author, Caz Frear for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review

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Environmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka

Environmentally FriendlyEnvironmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Environmentally Friendly is a fast paced short story that makes quite an impact considering how short it actually is.

The main protagonist is an army veteran suffering from PTSD. He is hell-bent on waging his own personal war against Mother Nature.

When I first started this, I was a little confused by what I was reading as I was thrown head-first into complete and utter mayhem! It took me a couple of pages to get to grips with what was going on. Once I grasped the concept of the story and characters, the full force of the story started to make sense.

The writing was descriptive and very action-driven. The author has the ability to capture the high speed nature of events, using expressive language and punchy dialogue. I felt that I hardly took a breath whilst reading it, to the point of when I’d finished, I let out a sigh of relief because I felt quite worn out!

This isn’t my usual choice of genre. Action adventure, dare I say, is possibly more popular with men, as testosterone-fuelled characters aren’t my favourite. Considering its overall length, the author certainly included everything that was required to lead to a satisfying conclusion. However, further detail and background of the characters would certainly enhance the experience, so I feel this could well be something to build upon with a part two, or even incorporate this into a far longer read.

Overall, I enjoyed this mainly because it was completely different to my normal choice. It’s nice to mix things up a bit sometimes. I would recommend this to readers who fancy a short, sharp read, who enjoy ballsy male characters where there’s lots of chaos and fury going on.

3.5 stars out of 5.

I’d like to thank the author Elias Zanbaka for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk In The Woods: The World's Funniest Travel Writer Takes a HikeA Walk In The Woods: The World’s Funniest Travel Writer Takes a Hike by Bill Bryson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Appalachian Trail is the longest, continuous footpath in the world. It stretches along the east coast of the United States from Georgia to Maine.

At 44, Bill Bryson and his friend, Stephen Katz decide to set off on this hike. What lies ahead is almost 2200 miles of mountain wilderness, filled with bears, bobcats and occasionally, other trekkers.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bryson invites the reader to accompany him and Katz into a breath-taking adventure. I took him up on his offer from the comfort of my sofa. And it was quite a journey!

“When I awoke it was daylight. The inside of my tent was coated in a curious, flaky rime, which I realized after a moment, was all my night-time snores, condensed and frozen and pasted to the fabric, as if into a scrapbook of respiratory memories”.

I chose to read this for two reasons, firstly, I recently watched the movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte and I liked it so much, I watched it twice. And secondly, I’m a trekker too, and I knew I’d enjoy the story. Ok, I say I’m a trekker, but compared to this, I’m just a walker or rambler, covering, at best, 10 miles on an occasional Sunday. My partner and I often pack up a rucksack with a picnic, flask and binoculars and go off for some fresh air in forests or along the coast. Clearly, the Appalachian Trail is not for beginners like me!

Bills writing style is chatty, very English and incredibly funny. He portrays his relationship with Katz in such a way that you really get a feel of the humour, the understandable tension and the touching comradery between them. I lost count how many times this book gave me hearty belly-laughs.

I loved the characters that Bill and Katz bumped into on their travels. Other (more experienced) trekkers, who couldn’t wait to question them about their poor choice of packs and their inadequate tents. Not to mention how obviously unfit and unprepared they actually were.

I read this with a continuous smile, an occasional sympathetic aww, and with a brain being fed with mind-blowing facts and figures about this stunning part of the world.

After reading this, it actually dawned on me just how ignorant about America I was. I used to instantly visualise the USA as a jam-packed, concrete jungle, squeezed to the max with people and traffic and stress. And obviously, in some places this is very true. But vast areas of the United States are beautiful, and the Appalachian Trail is just one of them.

What I found difficult was trying to see the real Bryson and Katz in my minds eye. I googled pictures of both of them just to try to remove Redford and Nolte from my vision. But I struggled to see beyond the movie. I’m not complaining, because had I of not watched the film, I would never of read the book, so its a small gripe. The movie covered about 65% of the book, the rest being various chapters on American history and how the Appalachian Trail came about. Rarely does it happen, but I liked the movie just slightly more than the book.

As a lover of woodland walks, this book has taught me one very valuable lesson. Always keep to the main path. No matter how tempting a shortcut may seem, it can be dangerous out there, and these places truly belong to the animals.

Bill Bryson is passionate about conservation, and conveys a very clear message; start loving this planet more and stop destroying it. It’s very unsettling to think that perhaps my great-grand children, or even just my grand-children may not see the things that I see now on my weekly treks.

“I had come to realize that I didn’t have any feelings towards the AT that weren’t thoroughly contradictory. I was weary of the trail, but captivated by it; found the endless slog increasingly exhausting but ever invigorating; grew tired of the bound-less woods but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts.”

I give A Walk in the Woods 4 stars out of 5. And I’ve added lots of other Bill Bryson books to my TBR because he’s a nature lover like myself. He’s also a really funny and likeable guy, who writes with an honesty and passion that I can connect with.

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Box: A Psychological Horror by Matt Shaw

Box: A Psychological HorrorBox: A Psychological Horror by Matt Shaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Box by Matt Shaw was definitely psychologically horrible!

I’d say it was a very simple concept, in that it was a short story, with very little actually going on. But it got right into my head!

I was hooked from the first few paragraphs, just because I’m a sucker for horror and I wanted to find out if it would disgust me, as other books by this author sound pretty hardcore!

Maybe I’m hardened to certain things, as being a horror fan for so long, I’ve read some twisted stuff in my time! A couple of parts made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but overall, I really liked it.

So, if you’ve got half hour or so to kill and fancy a horror that’s written by an author who thinks, erm,‘outside the box’, (ha!) give it a go!

I recommend this to readers who aren’t too squeamish, but it’s just horrid enough to subtly shock.

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Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

Lost For WordsLost For Words by Stephanie Butland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? I’m lost for words!

Loveday on her passion:

‘Anyone who’s worked in a bookshop for longer than an afternoon will tell you that people buy books for all sorts of reasons. There’s the simple love of books, of course: the knowledge that here is an escape, a chance to learn, a place for your heart and mind to romp and play’.

I read that statement, and I was sold. I knew I’d love this book.

Stephanie Butlands story started out as a quirky, cute little read. So bookish and perfect for anyone who has a penchant for books about books.

Lost for Words is the name of the book shop where our main protagonist works. Loveday (yes, that’s her wonderful name, and strangely my kindle auto corrects it to the word library, which pleases me) is a sweet, quiet soul, who has wonderful relationships with books and words, but humans, well, that’s a different matter altogether.

Loveday on people:

‘I don’t really do ‘nice until you prove you’re not’– I find it saves time to work it the other way around, in the normal way of things’.

She spends her days working in the second hand book shop, reluctantly dealing with customers and colleagues, just wanting to be left to immerse herself in books. They’re her escapism, for which I completely get. She’s so passionate about poetry and stories, her body is a canvas of book~quote tattoos. Wow, I just love that!

As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Lovedays introverted personality is the product of a childhood trauma, and she’s dealing with it. That’s until strange packages start to arrive at the shop, and Lovedays world is turned slowly upside down.

All the characters in Lost for Words are so convincingly real. Loveday has so many endearing qualities, she’s funny, dry and full of wit. But she doesn’t even realise it, she’s adorable. Archie, her book shop boss had me visualising Sir Ian McKellen playing the part. And Nathan. Lovely gorgeous, bonkers Nathan, with his DM’s laced up all wrong, he is a magical, mystical character. And rather bookishly good looking I’d imagine.

The chapters range from ‘Poetry’, ‘History’ and ‘Crime’, with various timelines that steadily combine to form the ‘bigger picture’ and pull the reader in with emotionally charged realism. I felt as though I was ‘people watching’ in this book. At times I was THAT ENGROSSED that I felt as though I was hiding at the end of the bookshop, (among the Classics) ear-wigging everything that was going on!

Everyone and everything sat very vividly in my mind, and that is a sure sign of superb writing.

Lost for Words is an enlightening, powerful and rather heartbreaking read. There’s lots of life~lessons in here as well as laugh out loud moments. Bad stuff happens to good people sometimes, and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from accept it and move forward.

For those of you who enjoyed Gail Honeymans ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, I urge you to give this book a go. I found a few similarities throughout the story, which I loved because Honeymans book was brilliant. And so is this.

I’m going to give this a 4.5 star rating, rounded up to 5 stars as 4 isn’t enough. And it’s going on my ‘best of 2017’ Goodreads shelf.

I’d like to thank the author, Stephanie Butland, Zaffre Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
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The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England by Simon Read

The Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural EnglandThe Case that Foiled Fabian: Murder and Witchcraft in Rural England by Simon Read

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating read about an unsolved murder case that took place in Lower Quinton, a sleepy little Warwickshire village back in 1945.

Chief Inspector Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard was sent in to solve this grisly crime, as he was considered the best man for the job. But as the title suggests, it completely foiled him, and to this day, it remains unsolved.

Rumours of witchcraft and satanic worship in the picturesque village played a part in this real life murder mystery and the locals remained tight-lipped throughout the investigation. Nobody knew or saw anything. In such a small farming community, somebody somewhere must of seen or heard something, surely.

Fabian spent countless police hours trying to fathom out why Charles Walton was viciously attacked and killed with a pitchfork, his torso left pinned to the field where he was working that February morning. Who would do such a thing to this elderly gentleman?

What I enjoyed most of all about this fascinating book by Simon Read, wasn’t the main crime story itself. The author incorporated a thoroughly interesting insight into the early workings of police procedural and the establishment of the CID into the police force in early 1900’s England.

It’s incredible to think how the police themselves would completely ruin a crime scene, because their knowledge of forensics were somewhat limited. Filling a footprint with cement and examining clothing fibres was about as technical as it got back then! Luckily, Fabian was a breath of fresh air for our police force, and quickly made a name for himself as Scotland Yards most successful Inspector, with a habit of locking up countless criminals for murders, robberies and suchlike throughout his career.

The book covers various other crimes that Fabian was involved in solving, as well as very interesting chapters on Witchcraft and ancient Pagan traditions. In addition, there’s black and white photographs of the village of Lower Quinton, including the church and graveyard, as well as a macabre photo of the ACTUAL murder scene!

I gave this book 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 because it was a very different read for me. I’m always reading crime fiction where the murder gets solved, forensics have all the tech and gadgets, and it’s a complete story. This non-fic, however, left me with lots of questions, and the fact that Fabian was foiled by whoever committed this gruesome crime, and actually got away with murder makes a real change.

I also liked the chapter about ‘The Beast’. And by that, I don’t mean Mark Labbett from The Chase! This is the original Beast, the one and only Aleister Crowley, the infamous occultist and ceremonial magician who reeked havoc and mayhem with his crazy, but rather intriguing beliefs!

Overall, this book was enjoyable because it was so educational, and the photos enhanced the experience. I learned a lot about the history of the police, it has reminded me that true crime is a great genre and I must read more of it. (Oh my poor TBR!)

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Within the Heart of Silence by James William Peercy

Within the Heart of SilenceWithin the Heart of Silence by James William Peercy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yesterday morning I was up at silly o’clock! It was going to be a glorious day, and if you live in the UK, you know full well that we have to grab these moments, because our weather can be pretty rubbish!

So, my partner and I were going on a forest trek, and this ebook of poetry by James William Peercy was the perfect introduction to my day.

The author was kind enough to send me a free copy, via Booktasters to read and review. The timing to receive this couldn’t of been better! So, at 5am, coffee in hand and the sun peeping through my window, I started to read what proved to be a truly beautiful book of poems.

Each poem was accompanied by a stunning photograph taken by the very talented Jacqueline E Smith, which enhanced the visuals when immersed into James’ world.

I will say that this kind of book would be better as a physical copy. The photos could be bigger and the page set ups would look fantastic with the poems set out as one per page. An ebook just doesn’t give this the justice it truly deserves, as one or two poems needed the last few verses or lines continuing onto the next page. This has a bit of an effect on reading flow. But this certainly didn’t ruin it, some books are just better printed on paper. Especially if there are photos or pictures.

So the poetry. It was a pleasure to read! The author has a real passion for nature, as does the photographer. The spiritual element shines through, and it leaves you with real food for thought.

My favourites were:

Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, in Texas USA.

Here’s what caught my attention;

‘The irises of color: green, blue, and brown.
Flow through the scattered rocks of life,
No limits are the bound.’

So beautiful.

And also:

Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, California.

‘Touch the trees, we dare you.
Feel the flowing tide.
Reach down deep for who you are,
You will know inside’.

The photo accompanying this one was breath-taking. I am a lover of trees, woodlands and forests, so it really caught my eye.

And finally:

Big Top Candy Shop, Austin, Texas.

Not nature based as such, but an ode to the memories of an old guitar! It was truly brilliant!

‘The mileage may have added up
But the strings, they’re going strong.
If I look a little worn for wear
It’s just my journey home’.

This brought a real smile to my (early morning) face!

Not only was there inspiration from America, but a fair bit from Scotland too. This just made it even better for me, as I love Scotland and all things Scottish, as my partner is from that neck of the woods!

Overall, the author took me, as a reader, on a spiritual journey, through the woodlands and the delicate streams of nature’s wonders. And the guitar poem was the icing on the cake!

I’d recommend this to all poetry and nature lovers, who appreciate stunning photography, and the serenity and peace of what our world can give us through the medium of poetry.

I’d like to thank the author, James William Peercy, the photographer, Jacqueline E Smith, and Booktasters for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.

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The One by John Marrs

The OneThe One by John Marrs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Previously published as A Thousand Small Explosions

Absolutely superb! How the hell did you even come up with this Mr Marrs? And the fact that it was on my NetGalley wishlist, and you granted me my wish! You’re my FairyGodfather!

What we have here is five different stories combining into one delicious chomp-a-thon. Five characters each experiencing the roller coaster ride of their life because they’ve been matched with The One. That person who is supposed to be made for them. Hearts and flowers eh? Um, nope.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this! It was chocablock full of cliffhangers. Nearly every short chapter ended like I was left precariously dangling over the edge. Leaving me no choice but to take off from the last woah there! from one of the other four POV ‘s.

It was enormously entertaining, there was touching moments, humorous moments and absolutely no effing way, what the….. moments!

This is, without a shadow of a doubt going on my Favourite Books of 2017 shelf.

It was destined to get 5 stars from me from about chapter 5. IT WAS THAT GOOD

Read it. I recommend this to everybody.

I’d like to thank the author, John Marrs (aka FairyGodfather), the publisher, Penguin Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. The pleasure was all mine!

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Psycho Analysis by V R Stone

Psycho AnalysisPsycho Analysis by V.R. Stone

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

1 star seems a little harsh, but I just can’t give it 2.

Well, I’ve been all over the show with this one, I started writing this review before I’d even finished the book at around 85%. It started out as ‘liking it a lot’, and then to ‘it’s an average read’, and finally settling on ‘no, just no’. I’ll be honest, it just done my head right in. As my dear Mum would of said, “I was all at sixes and sevens with it!”

I’ve not had this happen ever before. Normally, books I’m feeling average-y about, whether I’ve just started, or I’m half way in, have a tendency to either grow on me, or plummet rapidly into the oblivion of DNF. But this one, I think perhaps indifferent would best describe my feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, it really isn’t a bad book, I’ve read far, far worse. It just seemed to fall flat, considering it had so much going for it. The writing style was well organised and the character combination was somewhat unique. A crazy-assed multi-millionaire female serial killer, a police detective with a serious weed problem complete with baggage galore, and an ironically bonkers psychotherapist who I was looking forward to getting to know. But I just didn’t care for any of it very much at all. Like my internet at times, I just had connectivity problems.

As the story unfolded, we are introduced to a few extended police characters who just felt like a bunch of faceless props. Although essential to the story, they just didn’t feel like they belonged. I was unable to visualise any of them. Luckily, the three main characters made up for this, particularly Sarah, our serial killer. Had it not been for her, I would of probably DNF’d this.

There were a few big reveals, nothing spectacular, just a little bit lack-lustre I’m afraid. It had the potential for some OMG and WTF moments, but alas, there was none. Actually, I lie. There was one WTF, but it was a bad WTF. At 86% there is a small chapter which is just absolutely horrible. Now, I’m no prude, and I’ve read a lot of gory questionable stuff in my time, but this, well, it was sickening. Had I of known this kind of content was in it, I WOULD NOT HAVE READ IT.

I’d like to thank the author, V R Stone and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. I’m just sorry I didn’t like it very much.

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