Wednesday 31 August 2011

End of the month, here comes autumn.

As it's now Aug 31st and tomorrow in my mind is basically the start of autumn I thought I'd do a bit of a recap of August and my favourite books of the last month. I haven't read as much as I would have liked, getting out and about with the Monkey means less free time to get into a book, but it's been great to visit so many fun places.

It was a good month for short story anthologies, I read four of them and gave three of those 4*s. However for me one merited a full 5*s -  Walking Through Shadows by Tara Manuel. It is a dark contemporary work where some of the stories are connected, to the point it could be considered a novel rather than a collection of short stories.

Of the novels I read and gave 4*s there was one that stands out to me, probably because it has helped restore my faith in action novels. Hired Guns by Mark Boss includes some great characters, with an almost superhero air about them, and was a real romp around the globe.

My 200 follower giveaway, the first one I have run, attracted a respectable number of entrants, and I hope the winners are enjoying their books.

Looking forward I have plans for more giveaways this month, so keep an eye on the blog and twitter (@TCBookedUp) for updates.

View BeNichols...jpg in slide show
September is going to be an exciting time here, with Be Nicholson's Agent taking place throughout the month. Expect to hear more about that very soon!

Goodbye August, and here's to an Indian summer!

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Book Review: Creative Spirit by Scott Nicholson

Creative SpiritI read and reviewed another of Scott's books, The Skull Ring, a while back and liked it. He has written a number of books that appeal to me and I was planning on reading more of his work anyway so I was particularly pleased to be asked to join in his Be Nicholson's Agent promotion. He is recruiting bloggers and readers to spread the word about his books, and in return is giving away 15% of his September e-book earnings. You can find out more on his blog and I'll be posting more in a couple of days. I chose represent Creative Spirit in particular, here is the product description:

"When artists gather at a remote Appalachian estate for a retreat, they are unaware that their energy is feeding something unwholesome. Sculptor Mason Jackson and dying parapsychologist Anna Galloway must uncover the dark secrets of Korban Manor before their spirits are trapped forever.
A modern Gothic thriller

After parapsychologist Anna Galloway is diagnosed with metastatic cancer, she has a recurring dream in which she sees her own ghost. The setting of her dream is the historic Korban Manor, which is now an artist's retreat in the remote Appalachian Mountains. Drawn both by the ghost stories surrounding the manor and her own sense of destiny, Anna signs up for the retreat.

Sculptor Mason Jackson has come to Korban Manor to make a final, all-or-nothing attempt at success before giving up his dreams. When he becomes obsessed with carving Ephram Korban's form out of wood, he questions his motivation but is swept up in a creative frenzy unlike any he has ever known.

Sylva Hartley is an old mountain witchwoman who is connected to Ephram Korban both before and after his death. Her knowledge of Appalachian folk spells and potions has bound her to the manor in a deeper and darker way. Sylva harbors a family secret that refuses to stay slumbering in its grave.

The manor itself has secrets, with fires that blaze constantly in the hearths, portraits of Korban in every room, and deceptive mirrors on the walls. The house's brooding atmosphere affects the creative visions of the visiting artists. A mysterious woman in white calls to Anna from the forest, while Mason is driven by the whispers of an unseen critic. With an October blue moon looming, both the living and the dead learn the true power of their dreams.

It's a power that Korban craves for himself, because he walks a shadowy land where passions burn cold and even the ghosts are haunted. "

This is one creepy book! The atmosphere created is filled with menace and foreboding, and yet the artists on the retreat feel they are being driven by their creative visions, rather than being manipulated by an unseen force. Some of the descriptions of the locale make it sound beautiful, while Korban Manor itself is sinister and oppressive. The author gradually builds the tension and paces it well, gradually reaching a dramatic climax. Along the way there are some twists that came completely out of the left field for me. I have a bit of an interest in the paranormal, especially when it is married with traditional beliefs as it is in this book (and Baby Jane by M Demers, which I have previously reviewed)

I liked Mason, and as his past was revealed got a good feel for why he was so driven. I also enjoyed the relationship between him and Anna, who at first seem very mocking of one another. She is a very interesting character, who seems to have a lot of strength and courage, either in spite of or maybe because of her diagnosis. Having the story told from the viewpoints of several characters works well in this instance. The reader gets details of a range of strange experiences of a number of the guests as well as the perspective of the staff, some of whom have already been "fetched" by Korban and others who are terrified that they will be next. There were a number of characters I felt very drawn to, rather than the usual one or two, which to me suggests very good characterisation on the part of the author. I thought the author's gentle poke at a a certain type of author, or indeed other creatives, was an at times amusing aside.

I was reluctant to put the book down and every time I picked it up I was hoping to find out more about what was happening and why. This is a very good book, that drew me in and put me on edge. I did finish it feeling a little unsure about whether certain things Anna had been told were true or false, but other than that it was a satisfying read. Modern Gothic describes it very well. At present it's a bargain on Amazon, so if it sounds like your kind of book snap up a copy, enjoy and contribute to the sum to be handed around to Nicholson's readers and bloggers.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Saturday 27 August 2011

Book Review: Port of Errors (Born of Tyranny) by Steve Cypert

Port of Errors (Born of Tyranny)Port of Errors is a swash-buckling pirate tale and historical fiction, set in the Atlantic in the late 1700s. Relationships between Spain, France and England are tentative and there are plenty of opportunities for privateers and pirates. Davy and Joseph grew up in the same orphanage, but when it was burnt down they were separated and took very different paths to end up on opposing sides. The pair are unwittingly trying to hunt down and kill each other, not realising the identity of their foe.

I like historical fiction and have been known to enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean so this sounded like a good bet. I knew a little about the political climate of the time and thought it made for a good backdrop. I also thought the way the boys had been torn apart but had never forgotten one another, yet were now attempting to destroy their former friend was a good twist. I certainly enjoyed the basic premise of the book. I also liked the slightly archaic language and turns of phrase which gave a taste of the setting without getting too cartoon-y.

However I found the plot and the number of characters, some of whom switched allegiances, a bit confusing at times. It was all just a bit too complicated. Black-Hearted (Davy's pirate name) and Captain Stirvin (Joseph's adopted name) were good characters with a decent background presented, but many of the other characters lacked depth and felt a bit superfluous. And I'm afraid although I'm not talking about an error a page there were far too many for my liking, a mix of spelling errors, missing or extra words and rogue commas and apostrophes. Unfortunately in this case it did affect my appreciation of the book as I found it a bit too distracting. Some more attention to formatting, for example putting more obvious breaks between paragraphs when the scene changes, would also be helpful. The good news is that this is easily corrected, and the story itself was pretty good.

I did enjoy the story and could be tempted to read future books in the series (set up nicely at the end of the book) However I can't give it a great rating because of the above issues.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Friday 26 August 2011

Meme time

Wow, I'm a bit behind schedule today! A morning round a friend's turned into a day out at the aquarium. Monkey had a definite affinity for dogfish and I was envious of the divers in the big tank. As is normal when we go to places like that we have come home with a cute new book for her.

Somehow, after another crazy week, I have almost finished the book I am reading so expect a new review tomorrow. Since last week I have completed:

A Selection of Meats & Cheeses by Danny Gillan, a short story anthology
The Wrinkly by Paul Collis, a comedy
Formed of Clay by Thea Atkinson, historical fiction, and
Stress Proof Your Elisabeth Wilson, a self-help kinda thang.

Book Blogger HopOver at Webbiegrrl's Writings Sarah has some really interesting looking free reads, so take a look if you're after some inspiration or some free e-books in time for the holidays.

At it's Book Blogger Hop time, and this week we've got a non-book related question to answer. Simply, do you have pets?

Yep, over the years I've had all manner of pets but now living in a flat we're a bit limited so we just have 2 budgies (parakeets) called Blue and Bumble. I used to think they were old people's pets but I was very wrong, they are great fun and real little characters.

Monday 22 August 2011

Book Review: Stress proof your life: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Taking Control by Elisabeth Wilson

Stress proof your life: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Taking ControlLet's face it, who doesn't have at least a bit of stress in their life? That's why I'm always open to ways of reducing stress and making life a little bit better. I picked this up as a Kindle freebie (still free as I write the review) and compared with the last non-fiction guide I picked up for free this one was pretty good.

Unsurprisingly it provides 52 ways to try and reduce stress levels. These hints encompass diet, organisation, relaxation and plenty more. What I liked was that the author acknowledges life will never be stress free, and that in fact it's probably not healthy to be that way, but seeks to provide ideas to suit all sorts of people. She also accepts that some of the hints may be a bit zen or new age for some people but gives reasons as to why they are worth a try and approaches the whole thing with a touch of humour. The fact that it's not presenting a vision of utopia made me feel like the ideas were achievable. I've already put some of the ideas into practice and am planning to try some more. I loved No. 26 Restoration Day, a sort of duvet day combined with a bit of gentle exercise and mini-detox.

Each idea starts with a description, followed by an activity to try, then another idea appearing in the book that relates to it, followed by a Defining Idea -  a quote, then a Q&A to pick up on areas that might be difficult or additional info. Some of it is common sense, and other ideas may not be covered in sufficient depth is you have already a lot about topics like aromatherapy, but it covers such a range that was fine with me.

Handily this book is well-formatted with a proper table of contents with a brief description and a link to each of the ideas. I think this is so helpful in this sort of book, especially as each one cross-references other linked ideas. I did find myself skimming some hints that didn't seem applicable or were a bit too hippy-dippy for my liking, but with so many to choose from there was still plenty to learn from. I have taken a while to read the whole book, because it is so well-suited to dipping in and out of.

I really liked this book and the approachable tone adopted. It is the length of a short novel and had some good ideas and info. I'd definitely say grab a copy if you could do with reducing your stress levels.

Format: Kindle, freebie
My Rating: 4*

Sunday 21 August 2011

Book Review: Formed of Clay (A novella of betrayal in Ancient Egypt) by Thea Atkinson

Formed of Clay (a novella of betrayal in ancient Egypt)I enjoy historical fiction and haven't read any for a while so picked this up looking forward to revisiting the genre. This novella is set in Ancient Egypt and is the story of Sentu, who wants to be accepted into the Priesthood to be able to study in the Pharoah's court. Coming from lowly fellahin origins he feels it must be a miracle when he is initiated into the Priesthood. From the start he appears to be special to High Priest Hozat, earning him the disdain of the other initiates, apart from faithful Ahmen. He quickly realises his world is corrupt, and discovers the horrors of life under Hozat. This is a story of friendship and betrayal.

The story contains rich details of Egyptian beliefs and mythology that had me fascinated. To start with Sentu was a sympathetic character but by the end my feelings about him were far less clear cut. The details of ritual sacrifices and torture were uncompromising as painted a different picture of the people of that time to the one I have seen previously. So often the Pharoah takes a starring role in stories of Ancient Egypt but here one of his wives, Berenib, is more prominent. She is scheming and vindictive, a complete contrast to Nubian priestess Asrule, who is dignified and strong despite her imprisonment.

I liked this novella with its strong characters and different perspective from other books in this vein. There were some paragraphs I had to re-read to make sense of, which pulled me out of the moment, and there were some Gods and Egyptian terms I wasn't familiar with and as a result I felt I might be missing something, but overall it was a good, intelligent read and I'd happily look at other works by this author.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Book Review: The Wrinkly by Paul Collis

The WrinklyI like a good comedy, and I've seen one or two communities in Florida that have quite frankly scared me with their perfect appearances and promises of idyll, so this seemed like a good read for me.

Mike Lewis is 39, sells TV advertising slots & dates younger women. On a trip to Florida for a conference he discovers a community with wonderful leisure facilities and every class going to enrich a life. All the people he sees look happy. Returning home he checks into his financial affairs and decides to move there, announcing at his 40th birthday party that he's taking early retirement. It's only after he's paid the deposit on a rental home that he realises it's for the over 60s only. He's so sold on the way of life that he decides drastic action is necessary to blag his way in. Once there he finds himself playing plenty of golf, and meeting attractive women of various ages. However keeping up the facade provides good comedy material. While trying to adopt the gait, voice and habits of a man 20 years older he still finds himself fending of advances, ends up in a very confusing romantic situation and finds the golf club is being used by drug dealers.

The basic premise is a bit far-fetched, and at the start I didn't understand why Mike was so easily hooked on the idea of moving to Goldenville, but if you get past that and enjoy the ride there's some good humour to be had from the situation. The author also makes his motivation for the move a little clearer later on in the book. Many of the characters are larger than life and although Mike felt like the only fully developed one the ensemble cast helped make the book.

The plot is pretty simple and provides some nice humour. There is some wonderful description of Mike's encounter with manatees and his visit to the Everglades which I particularly liked, and found so evocative I assume they are close to the author's heart. This wasn't a particularly long book, and it was a nice, easy fun read that left me in a good mood. If I was the sort of person who kept a pile of books for summer/holiday reading this would sit nicely in that pile.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 3*

Saturday 20 August 2011

Off topic, RIP Flt Lt Jon Egging

I probably haven't mentioned it a lot on here but one of the other things that has played a big part in my life over the last few years has been airshows. I was heavily involved in the organisation of my local show before Monkey came along, and having attended various symposiums and conferences in the past have met key members of the RAF Aerobatic "Red Arrows" team. Therefore I am particularly saddened by the tragic news about the death of "Red 4" Jon Egging as a result of a crash following their display at Bournemouth airshow. The entire team ooze professionalism and dedication, and their displays are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands every year. The Red Arrows are a truly world class display team, and along with many others my thoughts are with his wife, family, friends and the entire RAFAT family tonight. RIP Jon Egging.

Friday 19 August 2011

Book Review: A Selection of Meats and Cheeses by Danny Gillan

A Selection of Meats and CheesesHaving previously enjoyed Danny's novel Scratch (review here) I was keen to read this short story collection. The fact that it was available as a freebie was just a bonus!

This is a book containing 12 short stories, with crime and the darker side of life a regular component. Some, like Awake are quite poignant. That is the story of a man whose wife has just died, and his observations about the people in their life as they attend her wake. There are also tales of addition and mental illness.  It's Not About You is told largely from the point of view of a twelve year old, and is a sad story of the violence between his parents. Telling the story from a child's perspective gave it a greater impact for me.

However Danny often writes stories with a dark, humorous edge which was evident in stories like Stalk and Cheese, where there are plenty of candidates for the role of Colette's stalker. Slightly different from the other stories is What Gives, a dystopian story where a research assistance tries to figure out how to get people to start giving to charity again.

This is very good collection of stories about the grittier side of life. I particularly enjoy the myriad small observations that I found myself agreeing with, on topics that have never really crossed my mind before. The language may be a bit strong for some in places but as in Scratch it seems to fit with the characters being portrayed so it didn't bother me.

The book is presently available for free on Amazon and Smashwords, so grab a copy while you can and if you enjoy it support the author by buying his novels.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Lazy Friday

This week has been a fun week for me, it's my town's carnival and air show so loads going on to see and do. I've been a little neglectful of my reading as a result! However this week I have reviewed :

Hired Guns by Mark Boss, an action novel
...and Night Falls by Tommie Lyn, a crime thriller and
Twists & Turns, A Red Adept Collection of short stories

I've just finished another anthology of short stories, review coming later, A Selection of Meats & Cheeses by Danny Gillan. I previously reviewed his novel Scratch and Danny is the focus of this week's special over at Webbiegrrls's Writings. Take a look to find out more on this Glaswegian author and his works.

And now onto Follow Friday. At the question for today is:

If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

I don't have a particular book in mind, but I would love to be a kick-ass, adventurous, tough yet smart girl. I like to surprise people, hate the idea of being average, and I love new experiences so an outdoorsy type who turns their hand to all manner of extreme sports, acquitting herself well in hand to hand combat while would be kind of cool. I guess a Lara Croft kind of character would be great.

No Book Blogger Hop over at so I'll try and come back to that later.

Last but by no means least I am excited about an upcoming promotion I'm taking part in. Author Scott Nicholson is running Be Nicholson's Agent, details are on his blog here. It should be fun and will give bloggers and readers the chance to win gift cards, freebies and prizes. Keep an eye out for more news on this soon.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend, I'll be trying to relax and enjoy a break from running around like a maniac. TC x

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Book Review: Twists and Turns - A Red Adept Reviews Collection

Twists and Turns - A Red Adept Reviews CollectionThis is an anthology of nine short stories created for the Red Adept Reviews Twists contest. The simple rule was that entries were to be short stories with a twist a la O'Henry or Bruce Willis' Sixth Sense. These stories are the best of the crop, with one by Lynn O'Dell - the force behind Red Adept. Their quality is really the only common thread, albeit a very good one.

The stories span a range of genres, including sci-fi, fantasy and crime, and vary in length. What struck me most was how different they all were in style and form too. The stories and authors are:

Building God by Jessica Billings
Should Have Seen It Coming by Brendan Carroll
Granny Theft Auto by T L Haddix
Fired by Lynn O'Dell
The Unbroken Mirror by C S Marks
42jorie by John Philpin
Leo's Wife by Patricia Sierra
Traditions by Michael Sullivan
A Long, Lonely Time by J R Tomlin

I'm not sure I would have come up with the same top 3 as the judges, which either indicates the strength of the entries or how subjective taste is. Traditions, A Long, Lonely Time and Granny Theft Auto really made me think, Fired, 42jorie and Leo's Wife all had the sort of twist that packs a punch right at the end, and Building God lead me down one path to then hit me with a clever and unforeseen conclusion. The only story that didn' grab me was The Unbroken Mirror, which was an elven fantasy, outside my comfort zone, although still with a nice twist.

As a short story fan I really enjoyed this varied collection, especially because of the Twist theme. It was a bit like a selection pack of chocs, with plenty of tasty goodies to suit all palates.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Sunday 14 August 2011

Book Review: ...And Night Falls by Tommie Lyn

...And Night FallsThe blurb for this book really caught my eye - " Bullets and blackmail and beaches...a hit man and a hurricane and a high-stakes political campaign

...And Night Falls ramps up the action and suspense when Pensacola native Shelley Goodnight finds the body of a murder victim...but not just any victim. Dead man Farrell Gilbert worked at the desk next to Shelley's in her father's real estate inconvenient fact the authorities can't ignore.

Add a hitman, Hurricane Ivan, and conscientious Deputy Clay Cameron from Santa Rosa County to the mix, and the tension tightens like a corkscrew."

Shelley is a spoilt daddy's girl who moved back in with her parents after her divorce and treats work at her father's real estate office as more of a hobby than a job. She has decided to be independent (but not that independent that she gets a job elsewhere) and moves into her own place. Her life is pretty sweet, but on a camping trip with her buddies she discovers the body of her colleague. Her father is already suspected of wrong-doing by the authorities and the massive coincidence makes Shelley a target of their investigations too. With plenty of people around her double-dealing she soon finds her life in danger for what she might know. Her new relationship with Deputy Cameron gives her an ally and someone to help her run for her life.

Now the plot of the book is pretty good, and had a nice mix of blackmail, politics, corruption, old family vendettas and danger. I would also say that I quite liked the author's narrative style, and the balance of description and action was pretty good. However for me the book just didn't work that well. Firstly I couldn't warm to Shelley, she was just too spoilt, selfish and childish, and frankly a bit dense. She has been toting round a couple of letters that she didn't recognise, the names on them were a pretty obvious clue but meant nothing to her until someone pointed them out at the end. Her developing relationship with Clay was too syrupy for my taste too, and in places overpowered the main story. I also felt that at the end I knew who had done what, but in some cases I couldn't quite figure out why, or exactly what influence others had been exerting over them. It felt like it was meant to all be tied up nicely but bits of the puzzle seemed to be missing, although in fairness it is possible I didn't pick up clues as to how it all fitted. Although it is largely typo free there were a few instances where the main character's name was spelt wrongly.

I also had a problem with the format of the book. I was given a copy by the author via Smashwords. As there is no specific Kindle friendly format available on that site, I downloaded the PDF which was so small I found it difficult to read. If you are going to buy this book for kindle I would seriously recommend getting it from Amazon so you can change the text size if it isn't suitable for your eyes.

Format: PDF for Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 2*

Friday 12 August 2011

Book Review: Hired Guns by Mark Boss

Hired Guns: A NovelI have a bit of a love/hate relationship with action novels. I've read plenty of Jack Higgins, Colin Forbes and Clive Cussler books, and similar by a range of authors, in my time and perhaps that's the problem. Having overdosed and seen them all merge into one I think I got a bit jaded and too used to cliches and formulaic stories. I've been keeping an eye out for fresh authors writing this type of books and the product description for this book sounded up my street though, with foreign climes and interesting sounding characters. So, the question was, could it help rekindle my interest in the genre?

Hector Tombs is a gang member making good. While his tattoos mark him out they are a sign of an old life. He has been given a job by a charismatic billionaire, has a new girlfriend and is attending college. His new life is halted in it's tracks by a crazed gunman who kills his girlfriend and colleagues. Former Spetsnaz commando Turgenev leads a team of mercenaries employed by a bitter scientist bent on poisoning people to make a fortune. He is the man responsible for the tragedy that finds Hector. Along with his boss Hector is determined to find justice for the dead, and between them put together an unlikely team including a cage fighter and quadruple amputee with experimental prostheses. The team clashes with Turgenev's equally odd squad as they cover the globe in a race to get to the same thing.

I'll answer the question first, then explain why. Yes, this was a breath of fresh air! None of the usual cliches I'd come to expect within the genre, brilliant. The characters were so off-beat and unusual, I have to admit to begin with I couldn't quite figure out who I should have been cheering as I found Turgenev was likable (even considering his employment) By the end of the book I did still quite like him, thanks to the emotions and principles he showed. Hector's crew had a real superhero feel about them and the overall feeling was that there was sense of humour behind the book, it doesn't take itself too seriously (although it is far from a comedy, maybe there's a slight satirical edge)

I really liked to locations visited in the book, which made a change from the oft frequented locales in many other books. From Japan to Russia via South Africa I felt a definite flavour of each of the places visited and enjoyed the small details. There was plenty of action and I found it well-paced and a good mix of description and plot development. As a final plus I found the medical science involved quite interesting and while it took a bit of time for the plot to reveal itself it wasn't too complicated.

I have a couple of slight criticisms, but they didn't detract from the book too much. There was a sprinkling of typos and I felt the author overused phrases along the lines of "the blocky young man" to describe Hector. All in all I found this a really enjoyable read and I'm hoping the end of the book, intimating more from Hector, isn't just a tease.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Friday meme time

This week feels like it has been super-busy for me, which probaby explains why this week I haven't got a lot of reading done. However I did manage to post reviews for:

A Paradise for Fools by Nicholas Kilmer, due for release 6th Sept, from the Art Mystery series
Waiting for Pops by John Riffice, a biography about growing up dealing with lies and betrayal, and
Walking Through Shadows by Tara Manuel, connected short stories about small town life.

I also posted a Q&A with Jason Blacker earlier today. He was one of the authors who took part in my 200 follower giveaway, the draw for which took place on Monday. Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone who took part, as well as all the authors of course!

Over at Webbiegrrl's Writing's Sarah has beaten me to the punch posting first despite the time zones (was a bit tied up at a wonderful music therapy session with Monkey this morning) Take a look at her post for three free e-books she has selected.

This Follow Friday the question from is:

How have your reading habits changed since you were a teen? or If you are still a teen what new genres are you in love with currently?

I left my teens quite a while ago (and thank goodness, life gets better as you get older I think) so part 1 of the question for me. I used to be quite serious and a bit of a nerd when I was younger, so in my late teens it was all about the classics and "serious" books. As a young teen I read a ton of Mills and Boons and Clive Cussler books. Now I wouldn't touch a M&B with a bargepole, but I do still read some of Clive's work and fit in the odd classic, but I think my tastes now are much broader. I definitely read more since I got the kindle, and I would never have picked up indie authors pre-kindle, so I think my habits have changed a lot!

Finally it's blog hop time.

Let’s talk crazy book titles! Highlight one or two (or as many as you like!) titles in your personal collection that have the most interesting titles! If you can’t find any, feel free to find one on the internet!

Wombling out to my bookshelves I think the ones that best fit the question are The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters (from the author's website - Devil's feather - [derivation: Turkish] - a woman who stirs a man's interest without realising it; the unwitting cause of sexual arousal) and Past Mortem by Ben Elton which I like as a play on words.

I love this week's questions and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's answers.

Have a great weekend,
TC x

Author Q&A with Jason Blacker

Product DetailsPoor Jason is now probably fed up with seeing my name pop up in his inbox, he was one of the authors who participated in my 200 follower giveaway, so a huge thank you for agreeing to do this Q&A.

Firstly, a bit about Jason in his own words.

I live in Calgary, Canada at the moment though I was born in Cape Town, South Africa but grew up in Johannesburg. My heritage is Welsh, Irish, English, and as much as I have a thirst for justice, I’m not as funny or as tough as Anthony Carrick.

I’ve spent a couple of years at art school. Alberta College of Art here in Calgary and I have an English degree from the University of Calgary. The only award I’ve won of note is Best Dad of 2005, but I think the jury (my son) might have been biased.

I live with 4 cats, my wife and my son and somehow “still getz to rite over furry fingerz”. I’ve done a bunch of different jobs from school bus driver, coffee shop manager and cop, though none of them have given me the satisfaction I get from writing for very little pay.

I have 2 novels out right now, both available in paperback and a variety of eformats for most ereaders. Dust on His Soul is my literary novel and First Feature is my first Anthony Carrick mystery. There is also a short story mystery starring Anthony Carrick called Money Ain’t Nothing (all available on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Smashwords).

Now for the questions.

When did you first think of becoming a writer and who or what got you interested in writing?

I started thinking of becoming a writer probably around grade 5 or 6 when I wrote a poem that got really great reception from my English teacher at the time. I had always been artistic and to this day I still love to paint. But the idea of painting with words, of conjuring up imagery in a reader’s mind through words was and continues to be very intoxicating. 

I have always had a great fondness and interest for poetry, and I owe a debt to the great poets who helped me understand the intricacies of life and how to give expression to that. Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman and Charles Bukowski come to mind, but they are certainly not the only ones.

How would you describe your books and style?

I write 2 types of books or in 2 different genres and so I think there is some difference between the 2. I started writing poetry and from there literary fiction, my first literary novel being Dust on His Soul. My literary fiction is very much about the character more so than the plot or story. Through my literary fiction I’m trying to explore the fragility and difficulty of human life but at the same time the ability of the human spirit to always triumph. 

I think with both my literary fiction as well as my mystery fiction, I enjoy to paint pictures with words and this is perhaps imbued from my artistic background and being a painter. For me, words are just a different medium with which to paint pictures.

With my mystery novels, the first one being First Feature, I’m still very much driven by the character, but here the plot and the mystery plays a much larger part than in my literary novels. Though to be fair, my private investigator Anthony Carrick seems to suggest the mystery or story from his character. I’m not sure if that makes a lot of sense. But if you look around at your closest friends, if they got into a certain situation you’d “get” it, it would seem right for them to get into that situation. It’s the same with Anthony Carrick, it just seems right that he is tasked with investigating certain mysteries because of who he is.

My mystery novels are also very much in the hardboiled genre of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I loved their books and wish they had written more. They didn’t, so I got to writing my own : D

When you write do you have a particular routine you follow, and what do you find the most difficult part of writing a book?

I don’t have a particular routine that I follow when I write. No talisman or other habits. I don’t have a special pen although I do have to chug 7 fingers of Scotch before I start… just kidding!
I do however find writing hard. It is a labour and if you’ll forgive me for the simile, I find it to be very much like a birthing labour. The pain and the anguish and the work is incredible, difficult and at times seems like it’ll never end. But the outcome, just like a baby is beautiful and unique and very much worth it.

So the most difficult part of writing a book is the actual writing. When I’m starting a book I have to commit to it and do it everyday whether I want to or not. I don’t leave my chair until I’ve written my 1,000 words for the day. Some days that takes several hours and other days it seems to come easier. But it’s a grind. I sit down and do it regardless, with maybe the occasional day off on the weekend.
Many writers seem to flow with their muse. I wish. In my dreams that would be the case for me. Writing for me is a bloodbath, at the very least a bloodletting. 

Do you start a book knowing what the beginning, middle and end will be or does it take on a life of it's own as you write? 

This depends on the genre. For the literary novels I write about, the character carries the story and I write it as it unfolds. I generally have an idea of the beginning and the overarching theme of the story I want to tell. For example, in Dust on His Soul I knew what I was going to write about. I was inspired by the life of Stephen Biko so I wanted to try and explore the character of such a man. The beginning was there and the general idea of what happens at the end was there, though not necessarily the specific ways it happened.

With my mystery novel First Feature, I find that the plot must be developed ahead of time. So I come up with it in more detail. I try and think about why the person murdered was murdered, and I come up with some folks who could have done it, each with a valid reason, and then I choose the person who will be the actual killer and from there I have only rough outlines for the chapters. But as I said, the mystery must be known to me before hand. I must completely understand the who done it of the whodunit before I can write the book.

I think that having worked as a cop for some time certainly helps with some of the technical aspects, but I think having a natural curiosity about people and their motivations gives me an understanding of why people do the things they do.

Are you self-published or traditionally published, and what has been the best and worst thing about the route you have taken?

I am self published and I think it is becoming a more viable option as time goes by. It happened because I really felt that DoHS was a story that needed to be told and made available to the reading public and after more than 300 rejections (I stopped counting at that point), I decided to publish it myself. Now that I’ve done that I’m comfortable with the process and will continue in this vein unless something exceptional comes my way.

The best thing about it is the complete control you have over the entire process. But this is a double edged sword as it is also the worst thing about it. The amount of work involved in marketing, proofing, cover design, publishing it etc, etc, can be quite overwhelming.

If this isn't too much like asking a dad which of his children he likes best, which of your characters is your favourite?

I like Anthony Carrick, my mystery PI the best. He’s just a really cool guy who I’d love to hang out with. Though I admire my protagonist in DoHS for his passion, ethics and sacrifice.

What do you like to read and do you have any other passions?

I love reading good books generally, though I tend to stick with what I like to write about which is literary fiction and mystery fiction. Currently I’m reading Janet Evanovich. I also love reading poetry. Poetry to me is like a big buffet of tapas where you can find so much tasty goodness and it’s not filling. I love the quick serving that poetry can offer. 

I have several other passions. I love painting too as I mentioned. It was painting where I started with my artistic pursuits. I really enjoy running and I love cooking and baking. I’m always trying new and unusual vegan recipes and I make damn good New York style boiled bagels. I’m really enthusiastic about coffee and I roast my own coffee beans, favouring African and South American beans as rule, but as they say about rules, there are always exceptions!

Finally, what are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

I’m sort of working on 3 projects at the moment. The first is a literary novel that is told backwards in time. The idea being that if we start at the end and work backwards perhaps we can prevent the end from happening in the first place. 

Then there is the second Anthony Carrick novel which brings Anthony to New York to solve the murder of one of the Philharmonics violinists. This is a story that arcs through 70+ years and takes place in Europe and New York. Grudges can be held for a long time before they find their outlet. I’m hoping to have this out early in 2012.

Finally, I’m percolating the idea of a new series of books that will be a mix of the A Team meets Jason Bourne. These will be pure action adventure, adrenaline, over the top stories for just pure entertainment and escapism. Expect the first one out in the middle to late 2012.

Another very busy author with a coffee habit! I'm beginning to think the two go hand in hand. A man with a really interesting background, you can find out more about Jason and his writing at and he writes a daily haiku at Haiku, and says "you tweet me if you’re a sweetie" (groan) @JasonBlacker (his groan not mine!)

Monday 8 August 2011

Book Review: Walking Through Shadows by Tara Manuel

Walking Through ShadowsSmall towns always seem to offer a range of distinctive characters, and more often than not you can trace the links between them. That is exactly what Tara Manual does in this book. It is effectively a collection of short stories, each revolving around one of these characters, with some of the stories and people being connected in various often unexpected ways.

Spider Girl is a lonely teen who has built up a fantasy life and is vulnerable to online predators, predators like her seedy teacher Don Wand. The self-styled White Prince is a noted member of the community but disliked by many around him, including the young man whose father's life he has destroyed, and the committee member who sees through his facade.

The individual stories are beautifully crafted but the way they work together is brilliant. I'm not sure whether to consider it a novel, or an anthology, either way it is a clever work. The author has peeled back the respectable veneer of a religious small town and picked some fascinating characters to introduce to the reader. This piece of fairly dark contemporary fiction really engaged me and for anyone who likes short stories and fiction with a hint of noir I would highly recommend this book.

Format: E-book, review copy (only available in paperback at present)
My Rating: 5*

And the winners are...

Just a quick post to let you know I have done the draw for the giveaway. Thank you to everyone who took part and those who spread the word for me. As I had more than 210 followers by the deadline I am giving away 4 prizes.

The winners are:

Webbiegrrl - prize pack B

Shanan Book Addict - prize pack A

Madley - prize pack C

and the mystery extra prize pack goes to Grace Krispy.

Keep an eye on your inboxes folks! If the authors are not able to contact any of the above winners then I have drawn a 5th name and will be in touch if applicable.

Congratulations and thanks again.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Book Review: Waiting for Pops by John Riffice

Waiting for Pops
Johnny's teenage years growing up in 1950s Chicago involve dealing with many of the rites of passage familiar to all boys, like first dates and kisses. His story though is also one of a boy growing into a man having to deal with his father's death, his mother's alcholism and his sister's admission to a sanatorium as they struggle to cope with her autism. He grows up with memories of wonderful times with his father while being angry with his mother, believing she is the root of all their problems. As a grown man he comes to realise things weren't what they appeared and has to reappraise his view of his parents.

This is a biographical novel that moves between Johnny's youth and more recent times. It is a painful recollection of a childhood blighted by his parent's relationship problems, loss and addiction. Viewed from the eyes of a child it is clearer to the reader what is really going on than to Johnny himself, and having a young narrator probably makes the story more painful and poignant.  Before his father dies and his sister is diagnosed their life seems happy and loving, despite the long hours and little money. This makes the contrast with what happens later even more stark. Johnny is brought up in a neighbourhood where gossip is rife and he is desperate to keep his mum's secret, so is left to deal with the results of her drinking alone.

Despite the subject matter I found it quite a positive read. Johnny grows to be a gentleman, as his Dad taught him, and deals with all the problems thrown at him with strength and sensitivity. I found the details of how they tried to approach his sister's autism, a fairly new diagnosis at the time, very interesting. The story of his first romance helps lightens the tone and I was wishing such a sympathetic character well with his first love. The story is well-written, and while I'm not old enough to remember the 50s and have never visited Chicago the narrative voice helped transport me to the place and time.

This is not just the story of the impact of addiction, it is a tale of love and lies, friendship and betrayal. I found it emotional and absorbing, and thought it was a really good book.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Saturday 6 August 2011

Coming Soon Book Review: A Paradise for Fools by Nicholas Kilmer

A Paradise for Fools
When I read the synopsis for this, as someone with a passing interest in art, it sounded really interesting. I hoped that reading the 8th book in the Fred Taylor art mystery series without having read any of the previous books wouldn't affect my enjoyment of the story. I was definitely keeping my fingers crossed that the book would stand on its own.

Fred Taylor is getting his hair cut when one of the salon employees furtively shows her colleague a tattoo in progress. What he sees is a scene including strange animals and naked people, and the woman describes a hidden figure she characterises as a "gremlin" She mentions an old wooden painting as the source, and Fred realises it could be rare and valuable and decides he has to see it. In the course of trying to track it down he meets Arthur, the tattooist with amazing recall, and his friends. Fred finds no one is willing to talk and events turn sinister when one potential source of information is killed in a hit and run accident. At the same time Fred is involved in a nascent relationship with librarian Molly, providing him with a pleasant distraction.

In this book the reader finds out a little about Fred's background and his present employment, working for art collector Clayton Reed. However he still felt quite mysterious, although likeable. I imagine had I read any of the previous books in the series I would have had a better feel for who Fred is and what has happened in his past. I don't think it took away from the story though. The whodunnit aspect of the book for me was secondary to the who has it? and what is it? questions about the mysterious painting, and for the amount of time devoted to it in the book I suspect that was the author's intention. His descriptions of various artworks got me interested enough to google those I wasn't already familiar with. It's always a bonus to come away feeling like I've learnt something from a book, as well as being entertained.

I didn't feel the other characters were developed in any great depth but it wasn't to the detriment of the story, and I wonder whether Molly will warrant more time in future books in the series. My only real negative was that in places dialogue was more like a stream of conciousness, very stop and start, and at times it became hard to follow what a character was talking about as their thoughts jumped around. Mostly I was able to gloss over that but I hope I didn't miss anything important.

This was a very good read with one slightly worryingly and unexpected side effect - it's reignited my interest in getting more ink myself! It works fine as a stand alone book, although I can see it would probably be better if I'd read the earlier books. In fact I've already been and looked for the others in the series (although disappointingly only a couple of the previous 7 are available for kindle) I'm glad to have found this series.

Format: E-book, advance review copy, anticipated release date 6th Sept 2011
My rating: 4*

Friday 5 August 2011

A Friday First

If you are reading this I have achieved a first for me, I will have sucessfully used the scheduled post function! I should be somewhere in the Forest of Dean on another camping trip with my family. As I won't have decent web access no Follow Friday this week, but will be blog hopping when I come home on Sunday.

Over the last week I have reviewed the following books:

HELPER12 by Jack Blaine (dystopian)
In the Blood by Steve Robinson (crime with a historical spin)
The Evil Inside (Krewe of Hunters series) by Heather Graham (crime, released soon)
The Saints Go Dying by Erik Hanberg (crime)

I also had a "Did not finish", a YA fantasy that just wasn't for me, so no review on that one.

Excitingly I finally made the 200 follower mark, and the end date for my giveaway is midnight (GMT) Sunday night. I will be doing the draw on Monday, and as I have now got as far as 210 followers I will be giving away another prize. Thanks to all of my followers old and new.

Another exciting moment in my week (am I painting a picture of a bit of a sad individual here?) was hearing on FB that The Hunger Games series was finally available on for the kindle. I've been keen to read it having heard soooo much about it, but don't need more paperbacks and my local library doesn't have the first book so I've been waiting patiently. Needless to say I have downloaded it and will be trying to work it into my schedule soon.

In the meantime don't forget Sarah over at Webbiegrrl's Writings is hosting Freebie Friday. As a new month has now dawned I'm sure she'll have some interesting new finds for e-book lovers.

Book Blogger HopEDIT: Home at last, and back to civilisation and an internet connection! Here's my slightly belated blog hop! Jenn at is asking:

What is the one ARC you would love to get your hands on right now?

Ooh, hard one. There are a lot of sequels I'm looking forward to but not necessarily any ARCs. I tend to find I have so much to read that I'm not the sort of person who is itching to get their hands on a book asap, I'll get to it when I get to it.

Have a great weekend everyone,
TC x

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Book Review: The Saints Go Dying by Erik Hanberg

The Saints Go DyingA serial killer has been targeting LA for over a year, and the police are struggling to find new leads. They are also continually exasperated by the spotlight shone on them by TV crime show Watchdog, with the show's staff taking every opportunity to ridicule the team, and worse. The killer masquerades as a modern Whore of Babylon, revelling in evil, and is killing modern day saints. As if Arthur Beautyman doesn't have enough to contend with, his secret hacking to help solve cases has brought his online persona to the attention of his unsuspecting colleague and potential love interest.

I love a good crime novel, and this definitely fits the bill for me. It is fast paced, with a bit of gory detail (not too much though), a likable lead detective and some smart twists. I found it a quick read, partly as it's not that long and partly because I got into it so easily and then had problems putting it down. Arthur is an interesting character, one who is pretty self-aware and admits to his weaknesses. Not being ultra-handsome or recovering from some major trauma as is often the case within the genre he is very human and more empathetic for it.

This storyline had a few twists and some humour to it, which helped make it such an enjoyable read, without being over-complicated. The identity of the killer was no major surprise, and I don't think it was meant to be, but the ending was very satisfying and tied up the ends nicely. I'm sure you could read a lot more into the book as a commentary on the role of the media in major investigations but I'm content to enjoy it purely as a crime story.

Looking at the negatives, there were a few typos I spotted that could do with a tidy up, and in places it seemed a bit far-fetched. However overall this was a really fun crime read, and I was pleased to see that the next book in the series is due in November.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Coming Soon Book Review: The Evil Inside (Krewe of Hunters series) by Heather Graham

The Evil Inside (Krewe of Hunters)The Krewe of Hunters is an FBI special unit and paranormal forensics team. Team member Jenna Duffy has been summoned back to Salem by her uncle after two murders, and she arrives just as a teenage boy, Malachi Smith, is arrested, covered in blood, for slaying his family. They lived in the notorious Lexington House, which has a history of violence and a reputation for evil. Defence attorney Sam Hall is in town to try and figure out what to do with his late parents' house. Having been the one to find the boy he feels a connection and agrees to take on his case. Both Jenna and Sam become convinced Malachi is innocent but use very different methods to try and uncover the real killer.

This book is the 4th in the Krewe of Hunters series, but the first I have read. I didn't feel I was missing out having not read the predecing books, possibly because Sam's side of the story is slightly more dominant and the FBI team aren't heavily involved until later in the book. The story is told in the third person from a few viewpoints, allowing the reader a good overview of everything that is going on surrounding the case, and all the efforts being made to uncover the truth.

Sam is set up at the start as a bit of a wealthy playboy but we soon see a softer side. It is almost the other way round with Jenna, who is the dutiful niece at the start but moves into the role of hard-hitting FBI agent later on. I liked both characters, and found the other minor players an interesting bunch. Jenna's ability to see ghosts, or postcognition as she refers to it, added a paranormal element that I really liked, as I'm open-mided about that sort of thing (unlike Sam)

I found the setting, and the history of the house and Salem, a very good backdrop for the story. With nuggets of information about the witch trials, and the different faiths and beliefs of the people of Salem, I felt like I learnt something as I read. I enjoy reading about other religions and faiths so it was a good match for me.

This book hit the spot in a lot of ways, crime - tick, a historical element - tick, religion/faith - tick, a not too out there paranormal element - tick. All good. However although there were moments when members of the team were in peril I never felt the level of tension was as high as I would like and I didn't have that feeling of needing to press on to find out how they would fare. I did really enjoy it and will at some point try and get my hands on the other books in the series.

Format: Advance review copy, e-book. Anticpated release date 30th Aug 2011
My Rating: 4*