Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Crocodile on the Sandbank - Elizabeth Peters

'The Crocodile on The Sandbank' is the first of a series of books by Elizabeth Peters that introduces us to the indomitable Amelia Peabody. The saga starts in 1884 when Amelia decides to use the money that she has inherited to travel to Egypt and indulge in her interest in excavating and Egyptology. Amelia is a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of woman, who carries a trusty parasol to great purpose. Whilst on her journey through Europe to Egypt, she rescues a young lady called Evelyn Barton-Forbes. Evelyn, who is a much more ethereal, 'shrinking violet' type of young lady is duly appointed as Amelia's companion and the pair become devoted friends, despite or because of the fact that Amelia fondly bullies her and interferes in her life!

When they arrive in Egypt, the murder mystery unfolds as they encounter strange happenings, ancient mummies that roam the night, and the two Emerson brothers, Radcliffe and Walter.

At 32, Amelia believes that she is set to be a spinster for life, but can the inscrutable and irascible Radcliffe Emerson melt her heart? Will romance also blossom for Evelyn and Walter? Will the mysteries be solved and will their little party survive the dangers that beset them?

One to be read while taking afternoon tea at the British Museum, while one knows that one should really be studying their hieroglyphics texts! Cucumber sandwich anyone?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Fellow Hubber Publishes Self-Help Book - Fear, Phobias & Frozen Feet!

I write regularly on a site called HubPages and one of the other Hubbers called CindyVine, who is a writer that I admire greatly, has recently self-published a book called Fear, Phobias & Frozen Feet which is now available on Amazon.

The book is about abuse, being a victim and how to stop being a victim. The book explores the relationship triangle and the Victim/Rescuer game that people play. The book is based on CindyVine's own experiences with an abusive husband and other abusive people that she has drawn into her life, how she managed to move away and move on from these people and situations and build a better life for herself and her children.

She also has another book available on Amazon called 'Stop the World, I Need to Pee!', which follows the fictional adventures of a girl called Fenella Fisher

Buy the books, as they are amazing and don't forget to check out CindyVine's Hubs for more great writing!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Shadow of the Moon - M.M Kaye

So I further indulged my nostalgic streak and pulled down my battered copy of 'Shadow of the Moon' by M.M Kaye, and reread it from cover to cover.

Another historical romance set in the time of the Indian Mutiny, The Shadow of the Moon follows the story of Winter de Ballesteros and Captain Alex Randall. Winter was an orphan who had spent her early years in the warmth and cosy bustle of a small Indian palace. She was ripped away from everything she knew, except for her old nurse, and sent to England to live on the estate of her elderly Great-Grandfather the Earl of Ware. England was a very cold and lonely place for the young Winter and spent she spent her childhood pining for the heat and colour of her birth country and by maintaining the Indian language that she had spoken as a child with her nurse.

She was fascinated by anything to do with India, and so, while she was still very young, she became entranced by a visitor from India called Conway Barton. She was unaware that she is a considerable heiress and was too naive to realise that Conway was a thoroughly debauched character who only wanted her for her money. Her Great-Grandfather the Earl agrees to the match because he is getting very old, is not such a good judge of character as he used to be, and is concerned about who would care for Winter after his death.

After his return to India, Conway sinks back into his life of drinking and debauchery and when the time comes for the marriage knows that he cannot go to England to fetch his prospective bride, as the years have taken their toll on him and he would surely be rejected if he presents himself at the Earl's estate. He takes advantage of the fact that his assistant, Captain Alex Randall, is on leave in England and orders him to escort his wife to India.

Captain Randall, who is very well aware of his Superior's reputation and lifestyle, is against the idea of his marriage to an impressionable young girl, and when he meets Winter and is instantly drawn to her, he tries to warn her off the marriage. Winter however, who was in love with the idea of returning to the India of her childhood and who viewed Conway through the rose-tinted spectacles of distant memory, was having none of it and bitterly resented Alex's interference.

They undertook the slow voyage to India under the kindly chaperonage of Mrs Arbuthnot and her two daughters Lottie and Sophie. Once in India, a too ardent suitor, drives Winter into running to Conway and it is only too late, when they are already married, that she learns to her horror what he is really like.

As the tensions rise in the Bartons marriage, the politics and landscape of India begin to boil and seethe with discontent. Faced with a disastrous marriage and her growing attraction to Alex, suddenly Winter finds herself immersed in trying to survive through the horror and tragedy of the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

M.M Kaye, who died in in 2004 aged 95, came from a prominent Anglo-Indian family and had been brought up in India. Her knowledge of the country and love of it's diverse peoples and landscapes shines through the writing. She is also very knowledgable about the historical aspects of the Indian Mutiny and is very even-handed in how she tells both sides of the story.

So you will need a long, cool drink and some little snacks as you escape into a world of moonlit palace gardens, deep jungles and teeming bazaars. An ideal book for the beside the pool on a long hot afternoon or on a long plane journey.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Zemindar - Valerie Fitzgerald

Wearying of conspiracy theory thrillers that find mystery, violence and shadowy secret societies in every corner of ancient and medieval history, sick of books that are promoting themselves as 'better than Dan Brown', and heroes that can jump out of planes while simultaneously machine gunning the bad guys and doing spiralling somersaults, I returned to my bookshelf for some nostalgia, for a book I had read many times and enjoyed each time.

Zemindar is Valerie Fitzgerald's story of a young lady called Laura Hewitt, who is sent to India as a companion to her beautiful, spoilt cousin Emily. Emily has recently been married to Charles Flood, a man that Laura loved and believed would be her husband. The object of the journey was to visit Charles's fabulously wealthy brother Oliver, the Zemindar of the title, on his vast estate of Hassanganj.

Laura is immediately intrigued by all that India has to offer, and starts to learn the language and its customs. The party arrives in Calcutta and is introduced into British Indian society and then moves to Lucknow to stay with the Averys, a couple who are troubled by alcoholism and gambling debts. The cracks are already appearing in Emily and Charles's marriage, and Laura finds it hard to leave her feelings for Charles behind her as Charles starts to confide in her.

A meeting with Charles's elusive half-brother Oliver, leads to an invitation to visit the estates of Hassanganj and gives Laura a chance to see even more of the real India. However, it is Laura that Oliver is interested in, not his previously unknown sibling, and a budding attraction grows between the pair. Against a backdrop of growing troubles in India that threaten to overspill, Emily finds herself pregnant and it is amid the dramas of the birth of her child and the tensions between the adults that the tragedy that was the Indian Mutiny starts to encroach on their lives.

Laura, Charles, Emily and the baby find themselves caught up in the horrors of the Siege of Lucknow, while Oliver who had parted from them to care for his illegitimate daughter, finds himself trapped in the flimsy entrenchments of Cawnpore and the hellish aftermath of the massacre of the British prisoners on the river.

Will Oliver survive to find Laura again? Will Laura be able to let go of her supposed love for Charles to fully embrace Oliver's love? Will they survive the guns, the hunger, the disease and the filth of the siege?

This is a sweeping historical romance that is set against the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It outlines some of the causes and reasons why the Mutiny occurred, and is even handed when apportioning blame. While Laura and her British companions suffer great hardship and dangers, the book also shows the suffering of the Indian population, both those that supported the Mutiny and those that stayed loyal to the British.

It is a long book, and at times a harrowing book. So get the biggest box of chocolates that you can lay your hands on and a huge mug of tea. It is a book that is a perfect escape on a wet Sunday afternoon to another time and place, to a land of dazzling wealth and opulence and grinding poverty. To a time where horrific cruelty was counterbalanced by incredible humanity and courage on both sides.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Nostradamus Prophecies - Mario Reading

The Nostradamus Prophecies by Mario Reading is based on the surmise that Nostradamus wrote a thousand prophecies but that only 942 have survived to the present day. The action starts when a gypsy named Babel Samana is trying to raise money by selling a manuscript containing missing verses of Nostradamus; the problem he has is that he doesn't actually have the manuscript but only some clues as to its whereabouts. Unfortunately for Babel one of the prospective buyers that he attracted was Achor Bale, a man who is a member of a secret society that is sworn to support the 'Three Antichrists' predicted by Nostradamus - Napoleon, Hitler and one still to come. And Achor Bale is also a cruel, ruthless man who will kill and torture mercilessly to achieve his objectives.

The other bidder is American writer, Adam Sabir who is just looking for a boost to his writing career. Samana entangles Sabir by binding him by blood in a cafe and giving him a couple of clues, before he meets his grisly end at the hands of Bale.

Sabir suddenly finds himself on the run, suspected of the murder of Samana, and following the clues he finds himself entwined in the lives of the gypsies, as the blood brother and new protector of the fiery Yola and her cousin Alexi. The trio must then try to interpret the clues they find and follow the trail to the missing Nostradamus prophecies, always trying to outwit the merciless, indefatigable Bale, and stay one step ahead of the police in the form of Calque and Macron.

Sabir has to immerse himself in gypsy cultures and learn their customs and their history to survive. The plot is very fast moving and moves through France and Spain, and is fairly violent, courtesy of the merciless Achor Bale.

Will Sabir and the gypsies manage to stay one step ahead of Bale, or will they suffer the same painful fate as Babel? Good read for the plane or by a pool - try a white wine spritzer and a ham salad on white!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Man In The Moss - Phil Rickman

The village of Bridelow has always been an isolated, wind swept place; a place where the old beliefs and the newer Christian beliefs have been woven together. The only way to get to Bridelow is across a primeval peat bog known as 'The Moss'.

When an ancient body is discovered in the peat and taken away to be investigated by the archaeologists, perfectly preserved after thousands of years, the villagers know what they have to do to preserve the balance between light and dark in their town. They must get the body back, and put it back where it belongs. The body in the peatbog had been an ancient sacrifice, and the sacrificial victim had died the triple death.

Bridelow is also a village that draws back the people who left; and musician Matt Castle buys the village pub, after the local independent brewery is sold. Matt who plays the Pennine Pipes to appease the Moss.

Drawn into this circle of gathering darkness are folk singer Moira Cairns, American film Director Mungo Macbeth and the fundamentalist vicar Joel Beard. But one of Bridelow's own is using the energy in the town for his own ends. Having once been banished, he has now found a way to return and work his black magic.

But Bridelow has guardians; a group of women who have retained the old knowledge and pass it down from generation to generation. As people are killed and disaster threatens to destroy the village, can the remnants of the Mother's Union do enough to save Bridelow and it's inhabitants?

Set in the dark, wet weeks around Halloween - ancient Samhain - this is one to read with a big bowl of hot chilli, a baked potato and a pint of real ale!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Skin Tight - Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen books are definitely an acquired taste and you most certainly need to be in possession of a very sick sense of humour to enjoy them. Fortunately I do and I find his satirical, humorous novels set in South Florida totally hysterical.

Skin Tight delves into the murkier realms of cosmetic surgery among the rich and famous in Florida. An area where expensive surgeons are not all they seem and are apt to make mistakes, even fatal ones. The emergence of one of these carefully buried mistakes and the ruthlessness of those who want it to stay hidden, cause investigator Mick Stranahan to have several bad days, where he is compelled to kill some people, who for some reason all of a sudden seem to want to kill him.

The first one - Tony the Eel - is quickly and efficiently dispatched with the spear-like snout of a Marlin, but the others who follow like Chemo, the abnormally tall psycho with an unfortunate skin condition and a weed strimmer as a prosthesis on one arm and the crooked cops Salazar and Murdock are harder to get rid of.

Stranahan has to pick through a web of lies and distortions to find out who and why someone suddenly wants him dead. Dealing with black-mailing nurses, ego-maniac TV presenters, crooked County Commissioners and good cops and bad cops, he has to try and stay alive and uncover the truth.

A more eclectic and outrageous set of characters you could never wish to find between the covers of a book. And as always Hiaassen comes up with some very original ways to be maimed or murdered!

A rollicking, laugh-out-loud read that pokes a sly finger into the underbelly of modern society. Order a cold American beer and a side of fried clams and prawn!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Last Oracle - James Rollins

Another outing for Gray Pierce and Sigma Force! Gray is dumbfounded when on the threshold of Sigma an old tramp is shot and thrusts an ancient coin into his hand. This coin bears the images from the ancient Oracle of Delphi, but what is it's meaning?

The old man is identified as a missing scientist and his body is for some reason incredibly radio active. So where had he been and what was he doing? Meanwhile an old man and an autistic child called Sasha appear in Washington, and the child's kidnapping causes panic for the old man.

Who is this autistic child? Why does she have a mysterious metal plate in her skull and what is the origin of her amazing talent. The trail leads to India and an old city created by the Ancient Greeks who fled from Delphi with a very precious cargo. It leads back to the Romany communities in Eastern Europe and a secret violation hidden since the Second World War.

So who are the bio-engineered children living in a giant cavern in the radio-active regions around Chernobyl? Who created them and for what purpose?

Only one man and a truly remarkable chimpanzee can help the children and save the world from a horrific fate. Can Sigma get to them fast enough, when a secret group in the US called the Jasons have attacked Sigma HQ and are threatening to destroy them?

Very fast paced with lots of action - it made me tired as I was reading it! An interesting plot and engaging characters. If you like chimpanzees (and who doesn't!), you will fall in love with Marta and her human child companion Pyotr. Have some tissues ready!

You will need lots of carbs to keep up with this one - a good doorstep cheese and tomato sandwich with a pint of cider ought to do it!

Prophecy - Peter James

So how do you like your horror? Do you like it British and set in familiar locations? Do you want to think that ancient evil lurks under the City of London?

Francesca Monsanto's life seems to be a set of coincidences. She meets a man and a child on King's Cross station and feels an instant pull of attraction. When she picks up a magazine that she would not normally read in the dentist and sees an advert from the man on the station looking for her it seems like fate. But is it a kind fate and a happy destiny?

As Francesca and Oliver Halkin kindle their relationship, things seem to spin out of control in other areas of Frannie's life. Things start to happen to her friend's from College - horrible things; and at times Oliver's child Edward seems to be very strange. Is it just the death of his mother that is causing him to behave strangely at times, or is there something more sinister afoot?

As Frannie learns that Oliver is actually Lord Sherfield, and that there is a very black sheep in his family's ancestry, does she pull back from the relationship or forge on? And when she puts the pieces together and realises that the bad things are happening to the group of her friends who had met for a session with a Ouija board in the cellars of her parent's cafe in the City, how does she stop what is happening?

The links to the Halkins and the Ouija session keep piling up, as do the bodies. How can Frannie and Oliver extricate themselves and keep Edward safe? And why didn't at least one of them run for them there hills!

Perhaps not for those with weak stomachs as the book contains some pretty inventive ways to die, and especially to be avoided by those who don't like lifts!

One to read under the covers with a torch on Halloween with a big mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on top to keep you warm

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Reef - Di Morrissey

Di Morrissey is a best-selling Australian author, but for some reason her books are hard to find over here in the UK. Most of her books are set in Australia, and some are historical. She often intertwines an historical storyline with one set in modern times. If I had to compare her to an author known in the UK, it would be Victoria Holt (showing my age!).

The Reef is the story of an island on the Great Barrier Reef called Branch and of a young woman called Jennifer, who had not had an easy life. She had been brought up on a small country farm in Victoria, but when she was still a small child her only brother had been swept away by a rogue wave on a seaside holiday and drowned. Jennifer was left with a dread of the sea and swimming and was further devastated when a eighteen months later her beloved father was killed in a fishing accident on the same beach.

Her controlling mother, Christina, sold up the farm and moved into a small town. Jennifer grew up and moved to Sydney, where she went to University and stayed with her Auntie Vi and Uncle Don. She met a chef in a cafe called Blair and after a few years they got married.

Jennifer's course at University was Environmental Science, which was something she loved. Blair's career in Hospitality and Hotel Catering came first, however, and he moved them both to the resort on the island of Branch.

Branch was a tropical paradise, but from the moment they arrived Jennifer realised that there were strange undercurrents and her marriage to Blair started to crumble. He expected her to live in a small resort unit and help with his career, but Jennifer discovered that there was another side to the island when she found Gideon and the Shark Bar.

Gideon introduces her to the crowd at the Research Centre, and Jennifer finds herself being drawn into their work and interests. She is introduced to Isobel Belitas, an internationally renowned marine biologist, who takes a keen interest in Jennifer and helps her to see the world in a different way.

Jennifer's unexpected pregnancy drives a further wedge in her marriage to Blair, who dreams of working in Europe. Also there are strange happenings at the Resort, and Jennifer does not know how deeply involved her husband is.

So what was happening on Branch and threatening the Research Centre? And would investigative journalist Tony Adams be able to get to the truth? Will Jennifer be able to protect herself and her unborn child from the dangers that swirl around them, deal with her controlling mother and put her fears of the sea to rest once and for all?

A good poolside book, so order a bottle of ice-cold dry white and a big bowl of peanuts and read it in one gulp!

Monday, 31 August 2009

'Salem's Lot - Stephen King

I am one of those people who, if they could, would keep every single book that they had ever read. Unfortunately that is not possible, and you would not believe how many bin liners of books I have taken to charity shops!

Some books are just evergreen to me and I can read them again and again. One such book is Stephen King's vampire classic 'Salem's Lot'. This poignant story of how novelist Ben Mears returns to his home town to reclaim his past and face up to some of the disturbing events of his childhood only to find that he has walked into a living nightmare is one of King's best novels.

Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem's Lot after a personal tragedy to confront his fears about the Marsten House by possibly leasing the property and writing a book. The Marsten House was the scene of some grisly murders and had been talked about and feared ever since. Ben once entered the house for a dare, and saw and experienced things that left him terrified. He finds that the house has been recently occupied after standing empty for many years by a couple of very strange strangers and scary, nasty things have started to happen in this very ordinary, sleepy US town.

It takes Ben some time and a lot of soul searching to realise that there are vampires terrorising the Lot, and he can only persuade a few of the residents to believe him and try to destroy the infestation, which is led by a very old evil.

The scariest thing about the book is how this small town dies gradually, with very few people acknowledging that there is even a problem. Residents fade away and disappear without comment, people tremble with fear behind their curtains but do not voice those fears until one day nothing is open, the schools have no pupils and the town has died. No news of this penetrates the outside world, and only Ben and the boy are left to confront the vampires and strike at the heart of the evil.

The characters as always in a Stephen King novel, make this book and involve you from the very first paragraphs.

If you are among the few who haven't read it yet, you are in for a treat and for those you want to read it again, choose a dark, foggy night around Halloween when the shadows are long and the nights are chill. Have copious amounts of hot chocolate and marshmallows, and be very careful of who you invite into the house!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Killing Hour - Lisa Gardner

The temperature is going up in Virginia and GBI Special Agent Mac McCormack is getting increasingly worried. The serial killer known as the 'Eco-Killer', who murders young girls in pairs during heatwaves in Georgia, had been quiet for several years, but recently Mac has been getting strange calls warning him that he will strike again.

Kimberley Quincy is a new agent at the FBI Academy at Quantico, trying to forge a new career for herself and forget her troubled, violent past. Kimberley and Mac run into each other in the Quantico grounds and are drawn back together when Kimberley discovers the body of a young girl, with the mouth sewn up with black yarn, when out on a training run.

Kimberley risks her fledgling career with the FBI, to help Mac find the murdered girl's friend and catch the killer before he can take another pair of girls. Their search takes them deep into some of the most inhospitable terrain in Virginia's National Parks, pushing them to their physical limits. Will they be able to interpret the clues the killer left behind in time to save the missing girl? Is the killer closer to home than they realise?

Very descriptive, and full of action, the book makes you really feel like you are in the steam bath of a Virgina heatwave. There are several twists in the story, although some of them are very easy to spot. Not one for people with a weak stomach, or people who do not like snake and insects!

Read with an ice-cold pitcher of lemonade and a big bowl of salty crisps!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Scott Mariani - The Heretic’s Treasure

Ben Hope has left the SAS, and after the tragedy of his wife’s death, has settled down to run a training school for hostage retrieval, leaving his old life behind him. His ordered existence is thrown into disarray when he receives a phone call from a man to whom he owes a great debt; a man who is now calling that debt in.

Ben is torn, but Colonel Harry Paxton had once saved his life in the jungles of Sierra Leone, so he answers the call and is asked to track down the killers of Harry’s scholarly son in Egypt. But is everything as it seems? What was it that Morgan Paxton was looking for in the sands of the Egyptian desert? Was it something worth killing him for?

Ben soon realises that he can trust nobody; and the action moves from Italy, to Egypt, to Scotland and the Sudan. He soon learns that a number of people want the treasure of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten that Morgan Paxton was seeking and will stop at nothing to get it. Even the woman he loves may not be who she seems to be.

This is a fast moving novel, with plenty of action and a high body count. Lots of severed limbs and heavy duty weapons! Definitely one the lads will enjoy. It is one of a series featuring Ben Hope, so if you enjoy it, you can carry on reading.

Good holiday book – around the pool, on the beach or on the plane. I’d say it would go down well with a pint of lager and a cheese and pickle on brown.

Warning Rant – this is my little rant, but who else is getting fed up with book covers that say ‘fans of Dan Brown will love this’. It’s not like Dan Brown is a particularly good author. He was lucky enough to have one phenomenally best selling book, but I’m sure that not every writer out there is trying to emulate him! We’ll see what his new offering is like when it’s released in the autumn.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Miss Garnet's Angel - Salley Vickers

After the death of her long-time friend and flatmate, Julia Garnet for the first time in her life gives in to impulse and rents a flat in Venice for six months. She was brought up by narrow-minded, religious parents and had escaped into a life of teaching and dabbling with socialism. She had never explored her emotional or spiritual self and had always kept other people at arms length.

The beauty and history of Venice begin to open her up and she makes friends and connections in a way that she has never done before. She becomes especially interested in an old story of a family of Jewish exiles in ancient Nineveh, whose only son Tobias goes travelling to claim a debt long owed to his father. He is unaware that his travelling companion is the Archangel Raphael, and has to face great danger in order to claim his bride and bring her home safely.

As Julia falls in love for the first time with an unsuitable man and has her heart broken, makes friends with the English restorers who are working on an old chapel associated with the artist Raphael, and wanders through the ancient buildings of Venice, she has to absorb new truths and start seeing the world around her in a totally different way.

This is a slow moving book that took me a while to read. The descriptions of Venice and the story of Tobias were fascinating, and it was a refreshing change to have an elderly heroine. Lovers of fast-moving action will not enjoy this, but if you are in the mood to just gently drift along with a book; this one is for you.

Break out the prosecco in honour of Julia Garnet’s favourite drink in Venice and have a dish of olives handy!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Duma Key - Stephen King

Were you wondering when the king of horror and fantasy writing was going to show up? Well, wonder no more! Duma Key by Stephen King follows the story of Edgar Freemantle after a construction accident causes him to lose his right arm and his marriage. He moves to a remote island off the coast of Florida to heal his physical and emotional wounds on the advice of his therapist.

But in usual King fashion all is not what it seems on this isolated piece of paradise. Edgar discovers a new talent for painting that begins to border on an obsession and finds himself producing works of strange beauty and power. Is the key to the mystery the new friends he makes; the enigmatic Wireman and the elderly Elizabeth Eastlake who knows more than she is capable of saying.

As the shells under his house whisper secrets to him, can Edgar find the strength and the courage to face an ancient evil and bottle it up forever? Or will his family and friends have to face further tragedies and certain death.

A long and highly descriptive book; this one is good for long days on the beach or long haul plane trips. A big jug of homemade lemonade, topped up with ice and a good supply of crisps will keep you going!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Choosing Books for The Lunch Time Book Review

You might be asking how I choose books for 'The Lunch Time Book Review'? Well I don't choose books for 'The Lunchtime Book Review' specifically, I review the books I am reading anyway.

I have been a voracious reader since I was a small child, and still usually pile through several novels a week. I am the type of reader who will have several books on the go at once, and they will be dotted all around the house. My tastes run to thrillers, anything with a supernatural theme, the odd romance or two and anything else that catches my eye really.

I am incapable of walking into a book shop and only buying one book, that's why I love 3 for 2 offers, and I am one of Amazon's favourite customers!

The Watchman - Robert Crais

I have never read any of Robert Crais's books before, but I really enjoyed 'The Watchman'. Set in the broiling heat of Los Angeles, Joe Pike must accept a job as a bodyguard to a young, spoilt rich girl in return for help he had been given many years ago. His job is to keep Larkin Barkley alive, after she was involved in an accident in her car and saw somebody who did not want to be be seen or identified.

Keeping her safe might be the hardest job that Joe Pike has ever had to undertake, as whoever is searching for the girl seems to know where their secret location is everytime. Realising that he can trust nobody, not even the cops or FBI agents, he flees with Larkin and enlists the help of his old friend and colleague Elvis Cole. Joe realises that the only true way of buying Larkin's safety is turning hunter and finding his way through the maze of lies to find out why she is being targetted and who is the puppet master behind it all. In a race against time, where even Larkin's own father is telling lies and can't be trusted, can Joe Pike and Elvis Cole discover the truth and kill before they are all killed?

Action packed with a high body count, I think this is one the boys will like. Order a pint of bitter and some chips!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Nights of Rain and Stars - Maeve Binchy

'Nights of Rain And Stars' by Maeve Binchy is a gentle summer read. Five strangers from around the world gather one hot afternoon in a taverna high in the hills above the little town of Aghia Anna in Corfu. A tragedy is unfolding in the bay below them, as a pleasure boat suffers an explosion and many lives are lost. As they struggle to come to terms with what is happening far below in the harbour, they gradually open up to each other about the details of their lives, aided by the support of the elderly taverna owner, Andreas.

As they get to know each other better in the aftermath of the disaster, they also receive help and wisdom from Vonni, an Irish woman who escaped to the island to be with her love many years ago. Will Elsa, Fiona, Thomas and David be able to work through their individual problems and find the right path to follow to happiness? Will the magic of this sleepy little town in Corfu, dozing in the sun beside the sparkling blue sea help to heal their past and let them move forward with their lives?

Make a Greek salad, uncork a bottle of retsina and read this in one gulp!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Phil Rickman - The Smile of A Ghost

Merrily Watkins is no ordinary vicar looking after a parish. For a start she is female, she is a single mother and she also happens to be the Diocesan Exorcist or as they call it in these supposedly more enightened times 'deliverance consultant'

The Smile of a Ghost picks up Merrily's story when a teenage boy seemingly jumps to his death from the walls of a medieaval castle in the ancient town of Ludlow on the Welsh border. By the looks of it an 'open and shut' case of suicide, the boy's uncle, a retired detective called Andy Mumford, contacts Merrily to talk about his worries.

Merrily is drawn into a web of mystery in the old town, where it is hard to see whether events are supernaturally inspired or are the actions of man. More people will die and Merrily herself is put in danger, before she can get to the bottom of the mystery.

Another supernatural chiller, to snuggle under the duvet with. Have a large cup of strong tea and lots of chocolate!

The Good Guy - Dean Koontz

Most of us enjoy a couple of beers or a wine or two after work occasionally (or regularly!), but when Tim Carrier sits down to enjoy a quiet beer one night, he will find that it will change his life forever! He enjoys having a chat with the people who come in the bar, but on this particular evening is taken aback when a nervous stranger hands him an envelope full of cash, and the photo and address of a beautiful woman and then leaves with the chilling words 'Ten thousand now. You get the rest when she's gone.'

Within a few minutes of his departure his place is taken by another stranger; the man who was obviously supposed to have been given the money and the details. A hired killer. What does Tim Carrier do? His split second decisions will have a shattering effect on his future. Does he find the strength and courage to do the right thing and save a stranger, risking his own life in the process? Or will he turn the other way and try and forget it all happened?

A tense and eerie thriller, where Tim finds that he really does need to be 'The Good Guy' if he is to help Linda Paquette and find the killer who proves to be much more than a hired gun. Even with the help of his friend from Homicide, Pete Santos, will he be able to save all their lives?

A couple of glasses of red to gulp at the scary bits and a large bowl of crisps are required to navigate this truly chilling tale!

Friday, 10 July 2009

The House of Lost Souls - F.G Cottam

Now this book - The House of Lost Souls by F G Cottam - is as different to Kelley Armstrong's slightly tongue in cheek supernatural chills as day is to night. I am not easily spooked, but the is a creepy book that you want to read with the lights on and someone else in the house!

Ten years ago Paul Seaton stumbled into the wrong house and his life has never been the same and he clings to this sanity by threads. He is living a narrow but reasonably stable life, when everything in it is totally disrupted by the arrival of Nick Mason, an ex-soldier who needs his help. Nick's sister has also found her way into the notorious Fischer House and now Nick must find a way to save her before it is too late.

One of the few leads they have is a few photographs taken by the beautiful society photographer Pandora Gibson-Hoare, and they must delve into her life in the hedonistic upper class society of the 1920s to search for clues, unaware of the evil that they will find there.

Can Nick persuade Paul to return to the Fischer House in order to save his sister and her friends? Can Nick and Paul prevail against the terror that they find there?

A big glass of red and a family pack of Maltesers for this one!

The Swarm - Franz Schatzing

Now I am very partial to an 'end of the world is nigh, humanity is doomed' disaster novel or film, and The Swarm by Frank Schatzing is one of my favourites. A big book, with a story on a large scale, it takes you into the world's oceans amongs the creatures who live there. What would we do if the ocean's whales and dolphins suddenly started to attack shipping and fishermen? Or if previously harmless crabs and lobsters were suddenly mysteriously poisonous and started coming ashore in great waves? These are the questions that Inuit whale expert Leon Anawak has to ask himself and come up with the answers quickly, when reports of attacks on shipping start coming in from around the world and the animals that he studies off Vancouver island start display the same disturbing behavioural patterns.

So what or who is causing these disturbing new developments beneath the waves? Could it be that we have been searching for alien life in the wrong place, and it has been amongst us in our seas all along? Leon, the Norwegian scientist Sigur Hohanson, Jack Greywolf and the rest of a small band of disparate scientists around the world, frantically search for answers as time begins to run out, and the world as we know it begins to crumble. Their research also takes them on an inward journey, and for Leon particularly as he has to finally come to terms with his Inuit heritage and the sadness and tragedy of his early years.

I wouldn't recommended sea food for lunch, but a warm, hearty bowl of soup with fresh bread and a big mug of tea!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Broken - Kelley Armstrong

If you are a fan of Buffy, Angel or Torchwood, you will love the books of Kelley Armstrong. I suppose they could be described as supernatural horror or supernatural fantasy fiction. They are action-packed, have a bit of gore and can be very funny. The action centres around a Werewolf pack and a witch called Paige. Throw in some sorcerers, a few vampires and the odd necromancer and you have a rollicking romp that weaves between our world and that of that of the supernatural.

Broken takes up the story where pregnant werewolf Elena goes to Toronto to retrieve Jack The Ripper's 'From Hell' letter. What should have been a simple theft goes badly awry, and opens a portal that goes from Toronto to Victorian London and literally all hell is let loose. Cue infected rats, devious vampires and zombies until one of the werewolf pack has to risk their life to get the portal closed again.

Not really scary, but snuggle down on a comfy sofa with a bowl of nachos and sour cream and a large mug of hot chocolate!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Tutankhamun - Nick Drake

Tutankhamun by Nick Drake is the second outing for Rahotep, Medjay officer and super sleuth in Thebes in the time of Egypt's 18th Dynasty. Rahotep is summoned from his bed in the early hours of the morning to attend the unusually gruesome murder scene of a young man. When the murderer strikes again, along with his faithful assistant Khety, he has to try and get inside the head of the murderer and find out what is motivating him.

As events spiral out of control, Rahotep is once again sucked into the very heart of Egyptian political life and intrigue, when he is summoned by the young queen Ankhesenamun, wife of pharaoh Tutankhamun to discover who has been leaving gifts and messages in the palace designed to terrify the royal couple. She needs him to find out who is behind this campaign of terror and fast!

Can the events in the city of Thebes and those in the palace be connected? Which of the powerful courtiers surrounding the pharaoh and his queen are implicated? Will Rahotep only discover the information he is seeking too late to prevent a major tragedy?

An atmospheric and detail filled murder mystery adventure set in Ancient Egypt - get your hammock out in the sun, chill a nice bottle of dry white and fill a bowl with grapes as you disappear for a few hours into another time and ancient culture.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Seven Ancient Wonders - Matthew Reilly

Seven Ancient Wonders by Australian author Matthew Reilly is a 'Boy's Own' type romp through the locations of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world to find the pieces of the capstone of the Great Pyramid at Giza and reassemble them in time for a solar event that can bring immense power or peace for whoever possesses them.

Three different groups are on the hunt for the pieces, two for their own gain and one heroic, brave group, led by the dashing soldier and archaeologist, Jack West Jr, for the good of mankind and to stop the 'baddies' gaining control.

They have seven days to find all the pieces; battling against time, the other two groups and booby-traps and false trails. Will they make it in time, can the little team beat the 'Goliath' of the other two powerful groups? It is rip-roaring, action-packed and good fun.

A good beach read - fish paste sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer!

Mean Spirit - Will Kingdom

Mean Spirit by Will Kingdom is a supernatural chiller. This is one to read late at night with the duvet pulled up to your ears and all the lights on! Seffi Callard is one of the world's most famous mediums, but is living in fear of her life. She has gained the attention of Gary Seward, a violent career criminal, who needs her help with the spirit world. She applies for help to her old friend, Marcus Bacton, who runs a paranormal journal,and he sends his young assistant Grayle Underhill to the rescue.

As the two women are propelled into a nightmare, they get help from Bobby Maiden, a police detective whose life was irrevocably changed by a near-death experience and Cindy, a fading comic who now hosts a Lottery programme.

The action builds to fingernail-biting climax orchestrated by Seward at creepy Overcross Castle. Will they be able to save Seffi? Will they be able to save themselves?

Have a big bag of maltesers and a mug of hot, sweet tea handy when you read this one!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Books I Read When Travelling

When I went travelling for six months in Australia and New Zealand, I had a lot of time to read. I travelled mainly on buses and some of the journeys took 24 hours to complete, and there was time spent on the beach or sitting by the pool.

Australia has wonderful 'Book Exchanges' where you can go in and buy second hand books, but they will also buy your books off you. Some of these 'Book Exchanges' were piled to the rafters, and there were books on every topic and every genre. In Perth, for example, there is the marvellous 'Elizabeth's Bookshops'.

As another occasional/irregular series I'm going to review some of the favourite books I read travelling, starting with 'One Night at the Call Centre' by Chetan Bhagat.

The book focuses on six Call Centre workers in India - Shyam, Priyanka, Vroom, Esha, Radhika, and Military Uncle. They all work the night shift, and the story covers one momentous night that changes their whole lives. The book examines their backgrounds, their relationships, how they feel about their lives and how they feel about their jobs.

Shyam and Priyanka are star-crossed lovers, who used to date. But since splitting up Priyanka is seeing someone else and her parents are pressurising her to marry him. Vroom likes all the trappings of Western culture such as Pizza, bikes and clothes but is also deeply patriotic and has an intense dislike of the US. He is very attracted to Esha, but belittles her in public when he discovers that she slept with someone to help her modelling career.

Esha's modelling career is hampered by the fact that she is not tall enough. She really wants to go out with Vroom, but worries that he will get rid of her if he finds out about her past. Radhika is unhappily married to a cheating husband, and finds out when her husband is tricked onto a radio programme by Vroom that the would rather dedicate a song and flowers to his mistress. Military Uncle is the only older character and is desperately unhappy because he has alienated his family. He tries to make amends with his son, but it all goes terribly wrong.

On that fateful night, the crew discover that their boss has taken credit for a project of Shyam and Vroom's, so they plan their revenge. They sneak out to a nightclub and as they are driving back to work, they crash the car and end up suspended over some iron rods on a construction site. As the iron rods start to give way under the weight of the car, Shyam's mobile starts ringing and it is God who is on the line....

This book, is both funny and sad, but ultimately gives hope that every difficult situation that we face can be overcome and sorted out if we just look at things from a different perspective and are open to change.

A great book for overnight trips on the Greyhound - read it in one gulp!


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

I Just Can't Get into This One!!

The first in an irregular series - books that I just can't get into! I bought this book because it had rave reviews and it seemed really interesting. It is the story of two different men who have lost the loves of their lives, one a soldier in the Great War who has to overcome the Siberian Wilderness to try to return to the girl he loves, and one who wakes up in a hospital in South America to find that his gorlfriend is dead.

I'm sure that most people who have read this book loved it - so can someone please write a review in the comments, so that I can try again to get into reading it!

My most memorable 'can't get into it' to date has to be Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Ecco. A vertiable classic that was recommended to me by all my friends, who told me that the subject matter was right up my street and how much they had all enjoyed it. To date I have never been able to get past page 66!

Divided Loyalties - Patricia Scanlan

Divided Loyalties tells the story of Shauna, Carrie and Bobby, three siblings who have grown up in Ireland with a loving, gentle mother and a controlling, tyrannical father. The story starts with a disastrous family Christmas, and ends with another family gathering. But will the intervening years have changed the family dynamic for the better?

Shauna is married to Greg and has one daughter Chloe; she is desperate to have another child, but Greg has different ideas. All he wants to do is get on materially in life and relocates the family to the Emirates where they live a glitzy life in a fancy apartment high above the Corniche. Will Shauna have to let go of her dreams of having another child and how far will Greg go to ensure that it does not happen?

Bobby is the only son, and has a very difficult relationship with his father, who cannot accept the fact that he is gay. His father blames him for the death of his wife, so Bobby moves from Ireland to build a new life for himself in London. Will Bobby ever find love, will his father ever grow to accept him as he is and can they heal their fractured relationship for the sake of the whole family?

Gentle Carrie feels put upon and resents the fact that her brother and sister leave the care of their ageing father to her. She is married with two children of her own, but is the one who has to deal with all her father's demands and wants. Will she find the strength to stand up to her father, and insist that her siblings take on their share of the burden?

Throw in a scheming, money-grabbing sister-in-law, beautiful settings on the coast of Ireland and the Gulf and this one is definitely worth a prawn mayonnaise on white and a packet of ready salted!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Lottery - Patricia Wood

Lottery - the fortunes and misfortunes of Perry L Crandall, is an enchanting book about a young man with a low IQ who wins a fortune on the lotttery.

Although not blessed with brains, Perry was blessed with a grandmother who taught him how to cope with life, how to write everything down, and how to play the lottery. After she dies, his grasping family take her house, which is rightfully Perry's, leaving Perry to rely on his work colleagues and friends. Luckily, Perry has a knack for making good friends and moves in over the boating supplies shop where he works.

His family, however, come crawling back into his life when he wins a large amount of money on the lottery. Follow Perry's adventures as he comes to terms with his new riches, fends off his greedy family, and builds new relationships with the people who care about him.

Lottery is often funny, sometimes sad, and ultimately a parable on how greed and love of money do not buy you happiness and contentment. Makes sure that you have a box of tissues, a large bowl of nachos with extra sour cream and a large glass of white wine!

Kings in Grass Castles - Mary Durack

When I was travelling in Australia and New Zealand, I had lots of time to read - some of the journeys between towns on the Greyhound Bus in Australia took 20 hours or more! When I was staying in Kununnura, I visited the Durack Homestead which had been the home of one of Australia's remarkable pioneering families. The original homestead was flooded by the creation of Lake Argyle when they dammed the Orde River, so it has been recreated on higher ground using some of the original materials.
Kings in Grass Castles tells the story of Patrick Durack leaving Ireland with his family in 1853 for Australia and their struggles to establish themselves and to build a great cattle empire across outback Australia.
Follow them from their landing point in Sydney and early days in New South Wales, through to opening up remote parts of Queensland to cattle ranching and then driving cattle overland to establish huge cattle stations in the Kimberley. The hardships that they faced are almost umimaginable now, but the sights they must have seen and the experiences that they had are now out of our reach.
Kings in Grass Castles has lots of family and historical detail, so I found it slow, but fascinating reading. Leaving on a jet plane for Oz? This is the perfect book for that 24 hours - order a gin and tonic and recline your seat!

The Durack Homestead

Life Sentences - Laura Lippman

How well do we really know anyone? How much of our past is a scramble of events and people that we remember, things that we have been told, connections that we refuse to make and memories that get pushed deep down beyond the fringes of awareness.

Writer Cassandra Fallows is unaware of the can of worms that she is going to open when she decides to follow up her first book about her earlier life with a book about her ex-classmate Calliope Jenkins, who was accused of murdering her infant son.

Cassandra returns to her home town of Baltimore and starts asking questions and doing research, trying to find out what really happened to Calliope's baby, only to find that what she had always believed about her past is not always what had actually happened.

As she tries to reconnect with three former classmates, track down the elusive Calliope, and forge a new relationship with her divorced parents, dark secrets come tumbling out and the her picture of her world will never be the same again.

A fascinating look at childhood memories and alliances, distorted memories and how things are never really as they seem. Find a comfortable sofa, make the tea, break out the chocolate and keep on reading!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Wedding Season - Katie Fforde

A frothy romance, perfect for the summer! Follow the adventures of Sarah, a wedding planner who doesn't believe in love, Elsa, a shy but gifted dress designer who has never really had a boyfriend and Bron, a hairdresser whose relationship has run out of steam, as they come together to save a wedding and end up joining forces and pooling their talents.

As they land the celebrity wedding of the year and also have to help Sarah's sister put together a shoestring wedding on the same day, they each also have to face challenges in their love lives in order to find true love and happiness.

The Wedding Season has the mandatory happy ending, so cut your cucumber sandwiches, pour yourself a glass of bubbly and put your feet up for this light-hearted page turner.

Fractured - Karin Slaughter

A classy thriller from Karin Slaughter set in the torrid heat of late summer in Atlanta. Special Agent Will Trent walks into a crime scene where a teenage girl lies dead on the landing in a pool of blood, a young man who is believed to be the perpetrator has been killed in the hall and a misjudgement by the local police leads to the life of another young girl being put in grave danger.

Agent Trent has secrets of his own to hide, so is dismayed to be partnered for the the first time with detective Faith Mitchell. She in turn, has her own reasons to resent and mistrust Agent Trent, and as time starts to run out for the missing teenager, they have to try and find a way to work together to bring her home.

With many twists and turns, graphic portraits of violence and human cruelty, the plot delves into the darkest parts of the human psyche, and it is sometimes difficult to tell who is a victim and who is a perpetrator.

Not one to read if you've got got rare roast beef sandwiches for lunch and if you read it late at night - leave the light on!

The Laughter of Dead Kings - Elizabeth Peters

I have been reading Elizabeth Peter's novels now for many years, and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. 'The Laughter of Dead Kings' is the latest in the 'Vicky Bliss Murder Mystery' series. It reprises the characters of Vicky Bliss a tall, blonde American Professor of Art History, her erstwhile lover 'Sir John Smythe,' a former antiquities and art thief now going straight, and Schmidt, Vicky's madcap boss at the Museum of Art in Munich.

The plot centres around the theft of the mummy of one of Ancient Egypt's famous pharaohs from under the noses of the authorities in the Valley of the Kings. A desperate visit from an old friend, who is also an Inspector of Antiquities in Upper Egypt, begging for their help leads to Vicky, John and Schmidt pursuing leads from London, to Rome, to Berlin and finally to Egypt and the Valley of the Kings itself.

Throw in a handsome, charismatic Head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, an agent called Suzi who pretends to be in love with Schmidt, and a thoroughly unexpected villain and you have an effervescent mixture of murder mystery and comedy, with a strong dash of romance thrown in!

A very easy read, so pack it for the pool or drag it out of your overstuffed handbag for a lunchtime read in the park!