Sunday, 31 July 2011


Hurray, I made it! Thanks to all my followers, and welcome to all the new ones. The deadline for entries for the giveaway is midnight on Sunday 7th August, and I will do the draw on on Monday 8th. If I get to 210 followers by the deadline more books will up for grabs.

You can find the original post here, just fill in the form to join in.

Good luck!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Book Review: In the Blood by Steve Robinson

In the Blood (A genealogical crime mystery)I picked this book up as it was chosen as book of the month for Goodread's Amazon Kindle group. Described a a genealogical crime mystery it sounded like a good book for me, one of my favourite genres combined with a particular interest of mine. It also has elements of historical fiction, another plus.

American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is packed off to England to finish off his latest assignment, the family tree to be a birthday present for the client's wife. JT thinks the worst part of the trip will be the flight, little does he know that he will be uncovering a dark secret that has lain hidden for centuries - one that will endanger his life. Primarily based in Cornwall, moving between the present and the 18th century, JT's research leads him to a wooden box once owned by a tragic young woman. This one little box unleashes a series of dramatic events.

At points in the book I found myself having to flick backwards and forwards trying to remember who was related to whom and how, but as I got into the book this largely ceased to be a problem. The moves in time were no problem though, they were smooth and well done. The plot contained a lot of twists and turns both in the past and present and I liked how the stories mirrored one another in certain ways. It certainly kept me thinking throughout. However, and this is a purely personal thing that probably wouldn't bother most people, I wasn't keen on the final twist that finally revealed the big secret. It's impossible to explain why without turning this into a huge spoiler!

I liked JT, and enjoyed having an unlikely hero who wasn't perfect, physically or otherwise. I also enjoyed the irony that despite his job he hadn't been able to uncover his own family history. There was a colourful cast of characters and knowing a lot of the places mentioned in the book I enjoyed the Cornish scene setting that captured the area well.

I am struggling on how to rate this book, it is well-paced, well-written and I would like to see more adventures for JT. However the resolution really made me go eurgh. For me that probably took it from a 4* to a 3* but I'm sure other people will respond to it differently.

Format: Kindle, bought by me
Rating: 3*

Friday, 29 July 2011

Book Review: HELPER12 by Jack Blaine

HELPER12I haven't read a lot of dystopian books but enjoy the dark glimpses of the future and the hope that is still to be found regardless in the ones I have read. That's why this book appealed to me and made it onto my TBR list.

HELPER12 is a baby helper, taking care of little ones up to  the age of 6 mths. Once they get to that age they are tracked and their future is determined by what vocation they are given. Will they be a Thinker, a Breeder, a Leisure Doll or one of many other designations? HELPER12 realises that despite not being allowed to do many things, including express herself creatively or build relationships, being a baby helper is far from the worst vocation to have.

However when Society family the Sloanes appear on her ward both she and baby Jobee (who would have been designated a number once tracked) are sold in an illegal adoption. Moving into the Sloanes house she thinks the rich must have the perfect life but comes to realise money doesn't equate to happiness. Her life becomes even more complicated when she realises she is bonding with Jobee and loves him, and as she develops a tentative friendship with the Sloane's biological son Thomas.

The world that Blaine has created is depressing, with a person's entire life controlled by the career they are allocated. Freedom of expression is long gone, and what people do is monitored constantly by cameras, with dire consequences for those who break the rules. The technology and the surroundings presented sound familiar which probably helps make this future sound all the more plausible. Yet despite this there is some happiness to be found, and hope springs eternal.

I thought the characters were really well done, and found that although HELPER12 has had limited experience of life outside her cube and is quite naive and joyful at the new things she sees she is also very perceptive. I found myself so attached to her and Thomas that when things looked like they would go wrong for them I had that leaden feeling in the pit of my stomach. On the other hand we have characters like the Director who is happy to arrange the illegal adoption, and Mrs Sloane who seems to immediately tire of her new baby, representing what is wrong with the society presented.

This isn't a particularly long book, but I think the reason I romped through it in a matter of hours had more to do with my being hooked. I was unable to put it down until I had completed it. I thought this was another polished book and would happily recommend it.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 5*

Hopping following freebie Friday!

Nearly the weekend again so that means meme time. As a bit of a recap, this week I have reviewed

Sci-fi thriller Season of the Harvest by Michael Hicks
Comic fantasy The Cornerstone by Nick Spalding
and We the Animals by Justin Torres, due for release on Sept 1st

I also read Helper12 by Jack Blaine, my review of that book will be posted later.

I'm now just 7 followers from the big 200, please help me make it to that total, and join in my giveaway (link on the top right of the page)

Now on with the fun!

At Webbiegrrl's Writings it's freebie Friday. To find some great free e-books and find out how to get your hands on them take a look at the blog. Some are available for one day only! This week's offerings include fantasy, comedy and literary fiction.

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jenn at You can find this week's link here. She's asking:

Highlight one book you have received this week (for review, from the library, purchased at the store, etc.) that you can’t wait to dig into!”

This is a bit of a cheat, as I started it yesterday but I was really looking forward to picking up In the Blood by Steve Robinson. It's a murder mystery with a genealogical twist, and set in Cornwall. I developed an interest in genealogy or family history years ago, picking it up from my Nan so that's an interesting dimension for me. The setting is good for me too, having looked at the author's blog some of the locations are ones I have visited in the past and it's a county I love visiting. I'm approaching half way through an it's pretty good so far.

Over at it's Follow Friday. The question for this week is:

Let's step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?

Oh boy, slogan t-shirts really aren't my thing. I've just done a quick google looking for inspiration and I'm drawing a complete blank. I remember holidays to Spain as a kid and even then avoiding them like the plague. Sorry!

Thanks for stopping on by, have a great weekend!

TC x

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Book Review: The Cornerstone by Nick Spalding

The CornerstoneFor a bored, x-box loving teenage boy the local library doesn't seem like an obvious choice of venue for an afternoon's entertainment. Yet that is where Max Bloom, a boy with "less purpose than an ambivalent sloth" finds himself one drizzly afternoon. Browsing a book he discovers a curious note which leads him to the Cornerstone - no ordinary book. It certainly makes his afternoon more interesting when it transports him to another universe, one which needs help saving itself (and Earth) from the Dwellers. Summoned by beautiful 16 year old Merelie Max is torn - delighted to have reason to talk to a gorgeous girl, but baffled by her insistence he must be able to harness the power of all the books on Earth to wordcraft. Yes, she's lovely but these Dwellers are pretty nasty and he's not convinced he can do magic.

This book is a comic fantasy novel. There's some cracking observational humour that really rings true, and plenty of laughs throughout. With the main protagonist being a seventeen year old the humour isn't too adult but a lot of the humour comes from observations about seventeen year old boys that older people would probably find funnier than teens themselves.

I do like fantasy novels like this one that don't take themselves too seriously, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the author has created a great alternative world and society with means of travel to other places and a form of magic I thought was brilliant. As a keen reader I loved the concept of harnessing the power of words and instead of having a God having a Writer. The action was well-paced and there was plenty going on to keep me interested, although the plot is pretty straightforward.

Max is so stereotypical, perpetually bored (until he meets the Cornerstone), mouthy, embarrassed by his mum, but I couldn't help but be on his side. The other characters aren't as strongly drawn but I reacted to them in the way I suspect the author wanted the reader to. I'd love to know more about Merelie and I thought Max's grandad was great.

Nick Spalding has two other books available, comic autobiographies but this is his first novel. I have Life With No Breaks on my kindle, yet to read it. If the humour is in the same vein and as polished, well formatted and proofed as this I'll definitely enjoy it. I was pleased to see Nick's teaser about potential future installments of the series, and liked his insight into how the book was conceived.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Book Review: Season of the Harvest by Michael R Hicks

Season Of The Harvest"What if the genetically modified crops that we increasingly depend on for food weren’t really created by man? What if they had a far more sinister purpose?" asks the blurb for Season of the Harvest. Topical with a hint of the X Files, it sounded worth a look.

FBI Special Agent Jack Dawson has been told to keep out of the investigation into the gruesome death of his best friend and fellow agent, who had been investigating an eco-group and was suspected of going rogue. This group believes that a major company, with friends in high places, is developing genetically modified grain that could lead to the demise of mankind. While Jack initially dismisses the group, including beautiful genius Naomi Perrault, as cranks but once he sees what they have seen he gradually realises the threat is serious. They have to act fast once events start to escalate in order to prevent the end of the world as we know it.

First up the plot. I really like stories that have a decent grounding in science but take it that step further. This falls firmly within that camp. No little green men here, but the bad guys definitely aren't human. For me though the scarier element is the highly plausible suggestion that there might be ruthless corporations out there trying to genetically modifying organisms within the food chain for their own ends. It's closer to sci-fact than sci-fi. Reading the author's note at the end it appears a lot of research has gone into this book and I learnt some (worrying) things I didn't know. The book starts with action, and the ride didn't really let up from there. I thought it was really well paced and built to a great climax. This was the sort of book I was picking up every time I had 5 minutes to spare, and I was reluctant to put it down.

Next, there were some great characters. Jack has a traumatic past and after his friend's death is plunged into battle with a terrible enemy but stays strong and in control, with fleeting moments of doubt. Naomi is a strong, smart woman and I wanted to be irritated that she's gorgeous too (feels a bit cliched) but I couldn't help warming to her. There were also more minor characters that I empathised with, all with very human strengths and weaknesses. I even liked the cats (and I'm a dog person) Early on in the book I felt a little overwhelmed by all the characters, particularly trying to figure out who was on what side. However I soon got things straight in my mind. My only other criticism would be that a lot of the action is based in a former Cold War missile base. It is described in detail but I still couldn't really envision it and couldn't immerse myself as much as I might like to. 

I loved the pace and the action, and could easily envision this on the big screen. I'd certainly like to see more of Jack Dawson's adventures in future. If you like action and thrillers but not sci-fi I'd still suggest it's well worth a go.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Coming Soon Book Review: We the Animals by Justin Torres

We the AnimalsThis book is Justin Torres' debut, an intense story about three brothers growing up in a household that veers from euphoria to despair in what seems a perpetual state of chaos.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the youngest brother and we are given a series of extracts from their life. It feels quite disjointed, possibly as there is no indication of how much time passes between each piece, but then children often have little concept of time so it suits the story where I might have found it difficult in other books.

The boys have a white mother and Puerto Rican father from Brooklyn, who became parents in their teens. As the story is told from a child's point of view what is happening, particularly between the parents, it isn't always explicit. However we learn enough to understand that despite hardships there is a lot of love and happiness. The three brothers are constant companions and despite all the fights are a tight unit. However as they get older there is a major shift, particularly as our narrator begins to see the world for himself.

To start with I was unsure how I felt about this book, it felt a bit mundane, but by the end I really appreciated how the first part set up the dramatic changes in the second part. It is a strangely beautiful and touching story, and although short at 144 pages felt the right length, understated rather than overdone.

Format: Advance review copy, anticipated release date 1st Sept 2011
My Rating: 4*

Friday, 22 July 2011

Friday meme time

Phew, that was a short week! And boy am I looking forward to my first weekend at home for  a month. I've had a busy week on the review front, posting the following:

Lessons of Evil by Linda Myers
The Final Winter by Iain Rob Wright
Haunted Ground: Ghost Photos from the Gettysburg Battlefield by Hollister Ann Grant
The Accidental Father by Greg Williams,
and last but not least
The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

I'm also very excited to have launched my first ever giveaway, to celebrate hitting the 200 follower milestone. Take a look and enter by completing the form if you haven't already done so!

Book Blogger HopMoving on to my fave memes, first of all Sarah's Freebie Friday. Due to time zone differences I'll add the link to the specific post later but in the meantime have a nose at her blog - EDIT - here's the link for the specific post Sarah has included more new freebies for your delectation.

At Jenn is asking:

What’s the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can’t?

There aren't many genres I won't read but I do sometimes wonder if I'm missing out on some of the YA fantasy books and series. Vampires and werewolves just aren't my thing but when I hear people raving about them I wonder if I'm wrong.

Last but not least it's Follow Friday over at The question is:

Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?

A while back there was a question about which authors we'd like to meet on one of the memes, so  again my answer would include Clive Cussler, I think he'd be fascinating. I suppose JK Rowling is a bit predictable but she would be amazing to shoot the breeze with, and for the third author...This is hard! I'm going to say Ben Elton, I love his books and he is a comedy genius.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Book Review: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

The Hairdresser of HarareThere can't be many places in the world that are as fierce about trying to control foreign interest as Zimbabwe. Many of us undoubtedly know the headlines but little about the daily life of the country. I love novels set abroad and find those set in Africa particularly interesting, and as Zimbabwe is something of a mystery this was an alluring offering.

Vimbai is the queen of Mrs Khumalo's salon, revelling in her reputation and enjoying esteemed clientele. Her position is threatened when Dumisani is taken on. She tries to remain immune to his charm but when he can no longer afford his rent she takes him in as a lodger. She gradually comes to see him as a friend, and when she attends his brother's wedding with him in an attempt to heal a family rift she is surprised to find out he is from a wealthy family. Despite her lowly roots, and her status as the mother of an illegitimate child, they welcome her into their family. Their relationship gradually changes but the pair are moving in different directions, and the future becomes perilous when a secret blows their world apart.

The early part of this book provides a picture of daily life for the ladies in the salon and while politics influences so many aspects of their life it isn't explicitly discussed. Hyperinflation is so much the norm it barely rates a mention. Despite the country's problems there is humour too. The story gradually picks up pace and starts to address more serious issues, such as racial intolerance and homophobia, as it progresses. While the secret that changes the course of Vimbai and Dumisani's lives came as no surprise to me the results of the revelation were dramatic and saddening.

I thought this was a beautifully written novel, especially for a debut, and the author's style feels polished and accomplished. Despite an economy with descriptive prose I could almost imagine the places Vimbai frequents. The use of local lingo threw me to start with, but once I accepted there was no need for interpretation, just a sense of the meanings, it added to the feel of the book. The violence and narrow-mindedness was astonishing to me, but values are relative and while Vimbai's initial response to Dumi's secret shocked me I found myself trying to look at the situation through different eyes and with a different upbringing.

I devoured this book over the course of two days in a matter of hours, and am struggling to find any criticisms to level at it. This is a great piece of contemporary fiction.

Format: Review e-book copy
My Rating: 5*

Book Review: The Accidental Father by Greg Williams

The Accidental FatherBrowsing the library shelves and seeing this described as a book for fans of Noick Hornby and Tony Parsons I thought I would take a look. Alex's life is pretty darn perfect, a good job, nice house, gorgeous wife. But the grass is always greener. He's bored of work and dreams of setting up a coffee shop. He finally gets the momentum he needs to make a change when two things happen. First he discovers his wife is having an affair, then he discovers he has a teenage daughter. Her mother has died and he has been named Caitlin's guardian. While trying to figure out what to do about his marriage Alex has to get to know his daughter, learn a few parenting skills and get his new venture up and running.

Told in the first person from Alex's viewpoint the story is humourous but serious, and quite touching. I imagine for a lot of childless men in their 30s it would be a nightmare scenario and his tentative relationship with his 13 year old is so rocky that it made me smile when he appeared to make tiny breakthroughs. I mostly felt for him, but did find myself palm to face at some of his less impressive decisions. I thought Caitlin was a well-drawn character, but a little feistier than girls of her age I know. Wife Amanda was definitely not my sort of person, possibly another reason I was rooting for him to put his life back together without her.

The plot is simple to follow, maybe a little formulaic on the marriage front, and it's not a difficult read, but I was disappointed to figure out the twist very early on. Having seen the end coming it lessened the impact. However the emotional tone pulled at my heartstrings.  If you are looking for an easy read in the lad lit vein then you might enjoy this book, but as a warning for those who aren't keen on bad language - Alex is fairly liberal with expletives.

Format: Paperback, borrowed from the library

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Review: Haunted Ground: Ghost Photos from the Gettysburg Battlefield by Hollister Ann Grant

Haunted Ground: Ghost Photos from the Gettysburg BattlefieldDo you believe in ghosts? I'd consider myself sceptical but open-minded and willing to take a look at any evidence to support their existence. That's why this book was interesting to me.

It is a short book, around 40 pages of print, including photos including unexplained orbs and mists. The photos were largely taken by the late Jack Grant, an American civil war buff, around the Gettysburg battlefield. The author includes stories of strange happenings, explains the locations of the photos and details of the civil war battles fought at the various locations and provides some useful information for anyone planning on visiting the area.

I know very little about the civil war so found the details of the battles enlightening, and was interested in the comments on the pictures and equipment used. However some of the photos aren't clear on the kindle's black and white display and I felt like I was missing something. Did they convince me that ghosts do exist and that they'd been captured on film - not exactly, I would need a little more information ruling out other causes, but they certainly got me wondering.

If you are planning a trip to the area or have a general interest in the subjects covered this is a good little book, although a colour version would probably be a better bet.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Book Review: The Final Winter by Iain Rob Wright

The Final Winter: an apocalyptic horror novelAfter an exceptionally hard winter in the UK, and my husband's oft stated desire to be snowed in in a pub, this book sounded like a good read for me.  Something very strange is going on. News channels are reporting that it is snowing in every country of the world. That night in old English pub The Trumpet a small group of locals gather, debating the cause of this odd occurrence. But as the night goes on things get stranger and the group grows as other take refuge from both the snow storm and sinister characters outside. As events unfold it appears someone in their group may be the cause of it all.

The book is described as an apocalyptic horror, and while it starts in a way that provokes thoughts about climate change and doesn't appear to be setting up a horror story, as the evening goes on members of the group witness terrible things. Although some of the action takes place outside and in shops nearby most of the evening is covered from within the pub, in close quarters which feels quite claustrophobic and adds to the atmosphere. The tone starts as quite conversational and there are moments of humour which lightened the book and made it less dark than I was expecting while still containing some terrible moments. Will the group freeze to death, kill each other or have some other fate befall them? What on earth is behind the freak weather and are the newest members of the group exaggerating about what they have seen outside?

Written in the third person from a range of viewpoints we are able to find out about the secrets some of the refugees from the weather have. Harry is one of the main characters, a regular since tragedy hit his life. The others see him a bit of a drunken joke, not knowing about what has happened in his past. Local thug Damien lacks respect for the other regulars and has a hard man reputation but isn't all he seems. Nigel the trucker is an unknown quantity for the others, a man who keeps himself to himself, but probably for good reason.  Some of the characters like duo Ben and Jerry start out light-hearted and confident but reveal their softer more thoughtful sides as the night goes on. Possibly the most interesting character to me was the Irish charmer who has made his first appearance in the pub on this of all nights and seems to have uncanny insight. I thought the development of the characters and their interwoven relationships was great, and a real strength. The different types of people and their contradictory views were pretty representative of the sort of people you can find on any given evening in locals across the land. I definitely found myself identifying with and rooting for some of the characters while being disgusted by others.

It's proved quite difficult to review this book without giving any spoilers, so suffice it to say that towards the end all is explained and I really liked the what and why. I also liked the very last chapter which acted as an epilogue, but again would hate to say more for fear of ruining it for anyone else.

I thought this was a very good book, only let down a little by a few typos and misplaced apostrophes, with both a clever plot and a number of engaging characters. Oh and as an added bonus there is a revolting short story at the end! I'd definitely look up Iain Rob Wright's other works.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Monday, 18 July 2011

200 Follower Giveaway - my first one!

I know my progress has been very slow compared to some super-bloggers out there but I'm now on the cusp of 200 followers and very excited about it. To celebrate I am having a giveaway. I have 3 prize packages up for grabs, details following.

All the books being given away are e-books available most importantly in MOBI and EPUB formats, to suit the most popular e-readers. Don't forget though that even if you don't have an e-reader there are a range of applications available for use on computers and smartphone. (Other formats are available but it would be a complicated list, so if you want to know about others please just ask) You can find free Kindle reading apps here.

This giveaway will be open for a week after I hit 200 followers, and for every ten more followers over that I will be giving away more books! **Edit - I have now hit 200 so the deadline for entries is midnight GMT Sun 7th Aug**

If you want to earn an extra entry just tweet about the giveaway (my Twitter ID is @TCBookedUp)

I guess I ought to tell everyone about the books now!

Prize A)
Product DetailsProduct Details
On Dark Shores by JA Clement & Three Sisters by Helen Smith

You can find out more about these authors at and and my reviews for the books are here and here.

Prize B)

Product DetailsProduct DetailsDust on his Soul by Jason Blacker & Transfection and If You Go Into the Woods by David Gaughran
Product Details                            

Jason can be found at  and David blogs at

You can also check out my reviews for Dust on his Soul, Transfection and If You Go Into the Woods.

Prize C)

Product DetailsBaby Jane by MA Demers

Here is more info about the book on the author's website, and my review is here.

These books are a real mix of genres, and of full length novels, novellas and short stories, so I hope there's something for everyone.

To take part please fill in the form, providing your email address, preferred format and order of preference for the prizes (first person picked from will get their first choice, second person their highest available choice etc) As some of the content may not be suitable for younger readers you must be 18 or over to join in.

Book Review: Lessons of Evil by Linda B. Myers

Lessons of EvilWrite a book description that mentions psychology, cults and suspense and you'll probably have, at the very least, piqued my interest.

This book is set in Oregon in 1989. Laura Covington is a psychologist who has given up private practice to join a community mental health unit, moving from a city to a small town with her mother and 5 year old Wade, who she became guardian of when a client died.

Her new clients range from the slightly odd to the seriously ill. One of those at the latter end of the spectrum is David, who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. While her boss doesn't even believe in this relatively new condition Laura is convinced he must have suffered some major trauma. Her digging, work with other clients and research by best friend Helen suggests a link to a cult set up in the desert nearby. When Helen dies in what Laura does not believe was an accident getting to the root of David's problems becomes urgent, and Laura has to decide how far she can go to protect herself and those around her. What happens to ethics when lives are at stake?

This book is written in the third person from more than one point of view, allowing the author to weave in more details about the cult and really build up the suspense. It launches into the main story relatively quickly and builds to a surprising climax at quite a pace. Laura has quite a complicated home life, with a stubborn mum, an unexpected child and a skulking cat to deal with, so I enjoyed seeing her deal with being a parent and was pleased to watch a budding romance grow.

I found the details relating to MPD and its acceptance as a proper diagnosis interesting, and the way the cult was manipulating members and its effect on the victims disturbing. The suspense built up kept me reading, but I also really enjoyed the way the author offset the tension a little with the development of some of the quirkier characters from the clinic.

This was a very good read which made me think, and definitely contained enough suspense to keep me hooked.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Airshow shopping

Soldier I (General Military)I've just spent the weekend at RIAT, apparently the largest airshow in the world. I'm a bit of an aviation fan so I'm more than happy to go along with hubby every year. For the less aviation minded there's also plenty of shopping to be done.

I even managed to come home with a new book for my TBR pile. The book is Soldier I, written by former SAS man Pete Winner, and Michael Kennedy, and it details Pete's 18 years in the elite SAS regiment, including his role in the Iranian Embassy Siege. Pete was at the show and signed the book for me, and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I have read a few military memoirs in the past, including Joint Force Harrier which I found fascinating and Eight Lives Down which was very moving, so it'll be interesting to see another perspective on military life.

I also managed to come home with a lovely piece of art to go on the wall. The Letter Art Co. uses pictures of objects that resemble letters to spell out names, surnames or any other words you might want. The selection of pictures available included some architectural and beachy ones that caught my eye so we had monkey's name done, and I love the result. It's brilliant idea for a new baby or wedding present, and I love the concept, so simple but so clever. You can mock up your own on the website, which is great and I'll be bearing them in mind when I need present ideas in future.

We did buy lots of other bits and pieces but I'd hate to confess to exactly how much (although unlike some people I wasn't buying double glazing or garden furniture) and just thought these might be of interest to readers and those who love attractive things.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Friday - Hopping and freebies...

...and another weekend away for us. We're off a bit later to a huge airshow called RIAT, camping for a few nights so we can really enjoy all the comings and goings. It's our third weekend in a row away, I'll be kind of glad next week to be at home!

For those of us who like a freebie the wonderful Sarah Yoffa has made Freebie Friday a regular feature over on her blog, Webbiegrrls Writings. This weeks list will include Danny Gillan's Scratch, which I thought was a great fun read, Dan Holloway's literary novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall and new listings including The Trouble with Green, a romance by Liv James. Make sure to take a look at the full list later.

Book Blogger HopOver at it's blog hop time and Jennifer is asking

How/Where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use like paperbackswap?

Ignoring all the review copies I get, most of them come from Amazon or Smashwords. I do also try and make use of our library, with so many closures taking place it's one of those community facilities you use or lose. I'd hate the monkey to grow up without a library nearby! I've never tried swap sites, but I do still get the odd paperback from my dad and grandad. I'd be interested to find out how book lending is going for the kindle. I've heard about sites pairing up lenders and borrowers and would love to hear more about how they work and if they're any good.

As it's another crazy weekend I'll leave the memes at that for now, have a great weekend everyone, and when I get back I'll have some exciting news on my 200 follower giveaway!

TC x

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Book Review: Colin Preston Rocked and Rolled by Bert Murray

Colin Preston Rocked And RolledColin Preston is 19, at university in upstate New York and doing all the things students are meant to do. When he meets free-spirited Jasmine he is besotted. This is a story of his first real love, betrayal and friendship.

Colin's other love is music, mostly from the 60s and 70s, and song titles and lyrics run throughout the story. For someone who knows their music better it would probably mean more to them, but a lot of it passed over my head. However the book is set in the mid 80s and contains plenty of nods to the fashion and culture of the time. Although I wasn't that old then a lot of the references took me back and made me smile.

The book is narrated by Colin, and while I had a lot of sympathy for him at times there were also points where he came over as needy, and he did seem guilty of using friend Liz. That made it hard for me to completely connect with the character. While the first person POV gives you a good insight into Colin I would love to have known more about Jasmine's background to have better understood her.

In addition to the love story Colin strikes up friendships with two very interesting people, Spanish lecturer Mrs Vesquez and reclusive student Chester. They work both as sounding boards for Colin and as a demonstration that while love can hurt and narrow your focus other people may have bigger things going on in their lives.

This is a good, light and easy summer read, and it is probably because I don't read a lot of romance and when I do like them with a comedy spin that I'm giving this 3* but if it's your thing you'll probably rate it more highly.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Book Review: Treespeaker by Katie W Stewart

TreespeakerThis book is my latest foray into the realm of fantasy, a genre which has really grown on me lately. Jakan is the treespeaker for the 5th Tribe of Arrakesh. He is the man who communes with Arrakesh to determine the course his forest village should take, and as such is an influential person within the community. However his role, and the village's way of life, is threatened when an outsider arrives with hidden intentions. When Jakan finds himself outside the veil which protects the forest, trying to save his life and his village, his son Dovan is discovering powers he didn't know he had.

This is an adult book but the content and themes make it suitable for the younger reader too. I loved the pastoral feel and the beliefs held by the Arrakeshi people, and thought the testing of their beliefs and the lure of the neighbouring, arguably more advanced, land was a great element. I also liked the creatures in the story that appear in the Arrakeshi's mythology, and the magical elements.

There is definitely an element of "the grass is greener" for the young people of the tribe who are allowed outside the veil for a year once they are 18. Dovan is looking forward to his own Sharesh, and exploring new places, but in order to save his home he has to grow up quickly. I really liked this character and felt for him as he tried to overcome tragedy but still be strong and almost take on his father's role despite his age and inexperience. It's probably an overused phrase but it is partly a coming of age story in addition to the age old battle of good and evil.

In places I found the introduction of several new characters at once a bit hard to keep track of, especially with some of the unusual names but I really enjoyed the beautiful world the author had created, and the level of detail regarding their culture which is woven in well. It's been very well edited and I would love to see a sequel, especially with more of Dovan's viewpoint.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Book Review: 329 - A Science Fiction Short Story by Christopher Valle

329: A Science Fiction Short StoryCombine a new found interest in short stories with a bit of science and you've piqued my interest. The description of this book goes like this: "The atoms that compose your body were around long before you were born and will remain long after you're dead. Their brief sojourn with you is a tiny episode within their life in this universe. This short story traces the path of a single hydrogen atom from the Big Bang to the edge of the universe. If we could ask an atom to recount its adventures perhaps this is the story it would tell. "

I must admit I was a little unsure about where this story was going to go and how scientific it would get, but any concerns were misplaced. Narrated by an insignificant proton we find out its entire life story in a chatty conversational tone. It is a story of the beginning and the end of the world, and encompasses a love story, the object of the proton's desire being 329. Who knew that by the end I'd feel empathy with a proton.

I really enjoyed this story, it's such a great concept, not overwhelmed by science and providing a novel viewpoint. It think I took me less than an hour to read and I was almost sad to reach the end. It's probably something that might not have leapt off the virtual shelf for me, had I not been offered a review copy, but I came away from it thinking that it was a great, clever, quirky read.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 5*

Monday, 11 July 2011

What is wrong with e-books?

Right, this is a bit of rant, just so you are pre-warned! Anyone who reads my tweets may have seen this coming...

I am getting a bit naffed off with people slagging off those of us who prefer to read e-books. Lately I have seen various articles where people, who often don't seem to have ever tried one, feel it's perfectly reasonable to be rude about fans of the kindle, nook and their kind. The most recent one I've seen is one in which Penelope Lively (who I used to rate but am now rapidly going off of) has declared we are "bloodless nerds" ( There was another one last week that also got my goat but typically I now can't find it to share. 

I would just like to point out my preference for e-book over tree book does not make me a philistine (or indeed bloodless, or soulless) While I wouldn't deny anyone their opinion belittling a group of people because of their personal preferences seems pretty juvenile to me. By all means state your preference and reasons but less of the name calling please! 

I have no problem with books, or with people that like the smell and feel of them, but personally I have too many of them, and I'm more about the content and the writing than the delivery system. Do I not like the tactile experience a book provides? Yes, absolutely,  and I was concerned at first that I would miss turning the page, but I find the leather and felt cover on my beloved e-reader a far nicer experience than a mass market paperback, and have no problem with pushing a button instead. And why the apparent assumption that you can only read one or the other? I suspect lots of e-book lovers probably still have shelves of books, or will continue to buy the books they really like in a physical format. It doesn't have to be us vs them.

Maybe I am just missing the articles that declare people who still prefer a physical book are Luddites. If anyone wants to provide me with links that pursue that argument, to give me a sense of balance, I'd be delighted. In the meantime I'm thinking that there are a lot of people out there who are afraid of change and feel threatened by it.T hat or it's just an extension of the sort of snobbery that persists in relation to, horror of horrors, the rise of the self-publisher or indie author.

As to why I have, and prefer, a kindle (I haven't tried any other major players but I'm sure some of the arguments are equally applicable)...

1) Storage! I have several book cases, most shelves have two rows of books jammed on, with more books laid on top. I DO love books and have a hard time getting rid of them. By being more selective about what I get in hard copy I can control my storage problem better.

2) Related to 1) is space - but in my handbag, or hand luggage. One the days I work I spend a lot of my time commuting, and there's very little worse than finishing one book and sitting twiddling your thumbs for ages because you don't have another with you. When we're off camping or flying somewhere it's a real boon being able to take more than enough books to keep even me going.

3) Choice. Yes, I will freely admit there is some absolute dross available for the kindle but I've also picked up some stinkers that have won major awards in physical copy. At least I have a huge range to pick from and the great Sample feature to help filter out anything too awful. Another admission, yes there have been books I'd like to read that aren't available, and other that have been "price fixed" by the publishers at a level I'm not prepared to pay,  but I have the choice to go to a bookshop, or a library, or wait until it is available or the price is more palatable.

4) An enhanced experience. There are plenty of added features, but the only one I use regularly is the facility to look up a word in the dictionary. So simple, and I'm expanding my vocab no end. In the past I would have understood an unusual word in context but would never go to the effort of getting a dictionary out. Now it's so quick I'd be a fool not to.

5) An unexpected bonus - it's easier to read lying down than a book, at least if you, like me,hate your books less than pristine and refuse to risk a spine break. And when your days are as busy as mine a lot of reading gets done in bed!

6) Instant gratification. You have one of those moments where you're watching something or talking to a friend and a book is mentioned that you think you'd really like. Downloading takes a matter of seconds and there it is. No having to head into town or wait for the postman. Just so convenient.

7) I may not be a philistine but I am a bit of a cheapskate, so buying books from supermarkets to get a good deal was starting to limit my reading. (As above I'm a bit precious about my books being pristine so charity shops aren't much of an option for me) While Tesco, Asda and co are great for umpteen and one thrillers they're not so hot for anything more literary.While I don't think it's fair to authors to expect them to accept the 99c/72p price model I think it's a useful tool to introduce readers to new authors or new genres, and I've certainly widen the scope of my reading no end.

Now in the interests of balance, the one thing I really do prefer about a physical book is the cover art. Some of them truly deserve to be called art, and a small reproduction in black and white just isn't the same. I think that's about it though. I'm selfish and don't particularly care that I can't lend a copy in the same way. Maybe if books were still leather bound and gilt edged I might be a bit more sentimental about them.

My conclusion? Let the debate rage, but please no name calling children!

Book Review: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Reading Guide Edition)Browsing the shelves of the library recently, looking for some new books to count towards the Borrowed Book challenge, I spotted this book and remember a friend raving about it back when we were doing English Literature at school. It's one of those modern classics that I thought it was about time I read.

The book is set in the 1950s and tells the story of a day in the life of the title character, who has been sentenced to ten years in a Siberian labour camp, or gulag. When the book was first published in the 1960s the author self-censored parts in order to ensure publication, but this version includes more details that would have been unwelcome to the ruling class at the time.

I found the narrative style quite unusual, as it presents the thoughts and opinions of Ivan as if in the first person, yet it often makes observations about him as if the narrator is some omniscient being. Unlike other Russian literature I have read in the past this was not a difficult read, although there were a few terms I wasn't familiar with. I devoured the hundred and  fifty or so pages in a matter of hours. I thought the interaction between the various characters was fascinating, and found myself both reviled by yet in sympathy with those in the camp who had learned to play the system in order to survive.

While it presents a bleak picture of life in a labour camp and provided fantastic descriptions that almost made me shiver along with Ivan and his fellow internees I put the book down feeling remarkably positive. This was undoubtedly because despite all the hardships he faces, that would be unbearable to me, everything it relative and for Ivan the day could have been far worse.

I picked up this book knowing a little about the gulags, as I imagine many people would, and it served to confirm and expand upon what I already knew but put a human face to the suffering so many faced. Rather than appearing trivial all the small details of his daily existence really enhanced the book. For anyone with an interest in modern history I would suggest this is a very good read.

Format: Paperback, borrowed from the library
My Rating: 4*

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Book Review: Coffin Dodgers by Gary Marshall

Coffin DodgersSome time in the not too distant future an ageing population has become even more of an issue. Natural procreation has all but ground to a halt, and young people are massively outnumbered by and subservient to their elders. Wealthy seniors are spending their time, and large amounts of money, in casinos and on the golf course. 20-something Matt and friends Dave and Amy all work in a casino, and spend their free time playing juvenile pranks like writing "Old Farts" on the bowling green with weedkiller. They are as irreverent as the title and Dave's disastrous love life and Matt's crush on best friend Amy are their main concerns, until Matt realises someone tried to kill him in an "accident" When the police refuse to investigate he decides to look further and the trio uncover a sinister plot to pick off young people.

This book was a really quick, fun read. I romped through it, amused by the antics of the threesome and curious to find out what was going on and whether justice would be served. It's set in a world that's not too hard to envisage and the three main characters are the sort of people I could happily sit and chat in the pub with. Written in the first person from Matt's viewpoint the style is chatty and conversational, and the banter felt very familiar. I really warmed to Matt and wanted a HEA (happy ever after) for him and Amy. It had me chuckling away in places, definitely a few LOL moments reading it.

I liked the crime story running through it, it was quite a clever idea especially bearing in mind the book's setting, and a nice variation on a theme I have seen before. The bad guys were a bit stereotypical but in a comedy with such likable good guys that wasn't a problem. Coffin Dodgers is a fun, light-hearted read that doesn't take itself too seriously and Gary Marshall's debut is a well-polished end product. I'll be keeping an eye out for his work in future.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Friday, 8 July 2011

Is it Friday already?

This week has flown for me, probably because we had a few days away basking in the Cornish sun. Camping with the monkey means I don't get any extra reading time, probably less in fact, but I have still managed to post reviews on the following in the last week:

The Backseat Virgin - a collection of noir short stories
The Quest for Nobility - a fantasy incorporating some great elements of legend
Dead Game - a crime novel about a vigilante seeking out child killers, and last but not least
The Oxford Virus - an intellectual crime novel

It was strange for me, going back to a physical book for the first time in quite some time, I kept going to middle right of the page for the button to turn it! I also finally got to test the kindle (now looking very nice in its new steel blue cover which arrived in swift time) in bright sunlight and it was great, not a hint of glare.

We're off on another trip a bit later so I ought to move swiftly on to the Friday memes.

Due to time zone differences no Freebie Friday post yet, but take a look later for the latest list of free e-books over at

For Follow Friday is asking: Let's step away from besties...What is the worst book that you've ever read and actually finished?

I haven't got a great memory to come up with the worst ever, so going on the ones I have read since I started the blog it would probably be a close run thing between The Accident by Ismail Kadare and No Easy Road by Patsy Whyte. The first was just to abstract for me, the second was so let down by the writing style of the author (and the over-egging of the content)

Now I usually join in the Blog Hop too, but I need to be ready to leave home inan hour and half and the monkey and I are both in PJs still, in need of a bath and with all our packing still to do. As this week involves a task - posting about someone else's giveaway - I just don't have time, but I hope everyone else has great fun with it!

Have a wonderful weekend all x TC

Book Review: The Oxford Virus by Adam Kolczynski

The Oxford VirusI was intrigued by the synopsis for this book, with it's apparent blend of science with crime thriller. Dr Olembe believes he has a potential cure for cancer, and is about to start a human trial when he is approached with a desperate husband's request to try and cure his terminally ill wife. When she dies shortly after being treated it seems like an open and shut case that will bring Dr Olembe's trial to a premature end. However DCI Dardai asks Professor Konstantin Zolotov, former medical student, current head of Russian and E. European Studies of Clapperton College, to help him uncover the truth. Is a second death, apparently a suicide, linked to the first, and does Zolotov know more about the case than he is letting on?

The characters in this book are so diverse, representing a veritable United Nations of people. The first part of the book dealing with Dr Olembe's hopes for his new treatment was interesting, containing enough of the science to make it credible but without being overly technical and bogging the reader down. The next part mainly revolved around Zolotov, a flamboyant character who surprised me time and again, and his investigation into the deaths. The end of the book drew together the threads and brought things to a surprising conclusion. I didn't feel that I was able to get behind any of the characters in great depth, but other than Zolotov they mainly served as vehicles for the his investigation and with their various backgrounds and quirks provided plenty of colour. I think I would have liked a little more of the science and police investigation, and more time on the final conclusion as the largest part of the book was the off the wall investigation by someone who seems a very strange choice on the part of DCI Dardai, with no apparent investigative credibility.

This is a rather cerebral book with a wonderful vocabulary that would have had me flicking to the dictionary had I been reading it on the kindle. However it didn't come across as a writer who is over-using a thesaurus, rather it was reflective of the main protagonist. I was grateful for the glossary of Russian terms at the end. It is certainly a different style of crime novel, the closest book in this vein I have previously read would be The Company of Fellows by Dan Holloway. The author has created some brilliant imagery, which in places made me smile despite the events unfolding.

This book took me no time to read, although I did feel that in places I had to re-read parts to fully understand the point being made, but if you like a more literary crime novel this book is worth a look.

Format: Paperback, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Book Review: Dead Game by Jennifer Chase

Dead Game (Emily Stone Series #2)On paper Dead Game sounded very much like my sort of book. Driven by her past experiences Emily Stone has devoted herself to catching child killers, but when her partner Lopez's mentor is killed she becomes involved in finding a twisted murderer who is selecting his victims through an online spy game. The hunters become the hunted though and it ends in a battle to the death.

However despite my enthusiasm for the book and starting it being convinced I'd really enjoy it I came away from it feeling rather flat. When I was offered the book for review no mention was made that it was in fact a sequel, something I've just realised as I started to prepare to write the review. This may account for one of my first criticisms. Emily is a cop turned vigilante who faked her own death after being stalked by a serial killer. This is a big part of her motivation but merited only a few rushed mentions and no real details to allow the reader to understand her better. Even if it was intended to only be read in conjunction with others in the series and in sequence, I have read other books where important info like that is recapped in more detail for readers who might pick a tale up at random.

Perhaps as a result of the lack of background I couldn't find myself empathising with Emily. Although some would argue hunting down child abductors and murderers is a valuable service she herself commits murder and has committed insurance fraud. Coupling that with her apparently finding being in proximity to her prey a turn on didn't make her a character I warmed to. I don't think the multiple view points employed in the book helped. In some cases it allows greater development of the plot but here I think sticking with just one or two POVs would have given the reader better insight into the characters. Unfortunately come the final showdown I didn't really care who lived or died.

I also found some of the book pretty implausible. Okay, I'll accept the idea of two ex-cops going round the country hunting down criminals, managing to keep below the radar as she is officially dead. However the under-cover FBI agent who arms and brings a civilian in on the final confrontation with the suspected serial killer? That seemed like a step too far for me, especially when Emily later describes him as a competent agent.

Finally the narrative was lots of tell and not enough show, with too much needless repetition and more than a couple of typos. I wouldn't go as far as to give this book 1* because the villain of the piece and the use of modern technology to select victims weren't bad at all. However as it stands all I could say is that I thought it was okay.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 2*

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Book Review: The Quest for Nobility (Rule of Otharia series) by Debra L. Martin & David W. Small

The Quest for Nobility (A Fantasy Adventure) (The Rule of Otharia series)Heirs to the Duchy of Telkur, twins Darius and Dyla, have not only lost their parents but have also seen their names dragged through the mud after their death. Having recently finished their education they are trying to save the Duchy from bankruptcy and deal with their cousin's attempts to seize power. However when they are framed for murder they flee Otharia, heading for previously quarantined Earth. Once there though they may not be able to find their way back.

This fantasy novel had a lot of good elements to it. The classic power struggles and plotting transcend genres. There was plenty of tension throughout which kept me reading. I wanted to find out what would become of the Duchess, whether the twins would win the competition, and finally whether they would make it back in time to save Telkur, if they made it back at all.

To me the fantasy element came from the setting, on another planet, and the powers the characters have, including telekinesis. That suited me perfectly, as none of it was too far flung which is when I can start to lose interest. I enjoyed the elements of legend that were entwined in the story when the twins fled to Earth with friend Eclair, and thought it was cleverly brought together. I also warmed to the younger characters, particularly Dyla who is a strong young woman, and liked seeing their growth throughout the book.

One of the things I particulary appreciated was the excerpts from the Chronicles of Otharia at the start of each chapter, giving details of the rule of the Kingdom and pieces of its history. I found it really helpful as a concise way to set up the background and explain some of the events taking place.

On the negative side I felt a bit overwhelmed early on with so many characters introduced so quickly. It took a bit of getting straight in my own mind, particularly as to who was plotting what with whom, but as the book went on it was no longer an issue. There were also a few typos and some of the grammar and turns of phrase employed didn't sound quite right to me. It only interrupted the flow slightly but was still a bit of a distraction. I also found sometimes the things the bad guys said or how they were described came off as cliched or amusing, which took away from the image of the sinister power-hungry plotters.

This is the first book in the Rule of Otharia series, and I liked it enough, and found myself with  lingering questions I want answered, to probably go on and read the next book although I won't do so in a great rush.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Friday, 1 July 2011

Book Review: The Backseat Virgin: A South Florida Noir Collection by Scott Chase

The Backseat Virgin: A South Florida Noir CollectionSouth Florida - all sun, sea, sand and glitz. Or maybe not. This collection of short stories takes a look at the seedier side of life in the Sunshine State, one that most tourists never get a glimpse of.

The book contains five short stories, with some of the same places and characters appearing in more than one, all revealing the lives of bent cops, PIs, strippers and gang members. The collection definitely deserves its "noir" designation! I particularly like the first story, Tropical Wave, where Vaughn has to face forces beyond his control while hunting the woman who has run away with a kilo of weed, and the title story The Backseat Virgin, which relates the reluctant involvement of a PI in a year old murder case and was pretty twisted.

I thought this was a well put together collection with a clear theme running through it. It almost felt like episodes in a series. I didn't particularly feel a connection or empathy with any of the characters but given the length of the stories that's not really surprising (and honestly, I'm not sure I should want to feel a connection with any of the dodgy characters in the stories) Without employing masses of description I still felt like I could imagine the settings and felt drawn in by the writing.

Since I have started looking at short stories I have been amazed by how different they can be, partly influenced by the length. I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed just one of the stories in isolation but I think putting these stories together in an anthology with the same threads and background running throughout definitely made them stronger as a whole.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Half the year down...

Wow, I can't believe it's July already and I imagine I'm not the only one who is wondering where the first half of the year went! To everyone in the US and Canada, enjoy your holiday weekend, must be a good way to mark what to me always feels like the start of the summer. This month is shaping up to be a busy one for me, lots of trips away planned and I can't wait.

This past week on the blog I reviewed:

Fezariu's Epiphany by David M. Brown

Clutter-free Home Living: The How-to Guide by Eugenia Orr and

Cold Hillside by Martin Cooper

A bit of a mix, but that's reflective of my tastes!

Earlier today I took the monkey to the library for Stories and Songs, she loved it and I came away with a couple of books - The Accidental Father by Greg Williams, which is apparently in the Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons vein, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which I've been meaning to read for years. I love supporting our local library, I'd hate for there not to be one when little 'un gets bigger, and I need to keep up with the Borrowed Book Challenge I signed up for over at Book'd Out.

I've finally had reason to put Amazon's customer services to the test. I've heard glowing reports about how great they are, so when the elasticated strap on my kindle cover came unstuck at one end (despite hubby telling me to just use an elastic band instead) I pinged them an email. It was pretty late so I was impressed to log on this morning to a reply saying usually they'd have already sent a replacement, but as the black cover was out of stock they were asking me to order a new one in another colour or order and wait for the black one, and they will refund the money in full. Result! I didn't tell my husband when he bought me the cover as a present that I really wanted the steel blue one, not the black, so I'm now getting a new cover and the one I was really after!

And finally before I move onto the Blog Hop and Follow Friday, author Sarah Yoffa has started a Friday feature on her blog, Freebie Fridays. She is providing a list of a select few free e-books for your delectation. They are available from Smashwords and some are free for one day only. Take a look at this week's list right here. 

Book Blogger HopCourtesy of Jennifer at crazy-for-books the question for the hop is:

What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?

It's very rare I don't finish a book, so it doesn't take a lot to keep me reading beyond the first few pages. For me to put it down it would have to either be a case of mistaken identity, picking up a genre I don't normally touch, or absolutely full of spelling and grammar errors.

And over at the question is:

ACK! Your favorite book/movie character (example Hermione Granger played by the Emma chick) just walked into the room! Who is it and what would be your first reaction? You get extra points if you include visual stimulation.

Oh, I'm rubbish at these fave character questions. If it was a character who has appeared in a film, like one of the HP gang I would probably be stood trying to look cool and trying to think of an original opening line to engage them in conversation. I'm not the type to get starstruck, but I'd hate to walk up and ask the same question or say the same thing they've heard a million times.

If you're read this essay thanks for persevering and thanks for stopping on by. As I'm edging ever closer to 200 followers look out for an announcement on a giveaway to celebrate! Have a great weekend all. x TC