Saturday 30 June 2012

The Eradication Dilemma by William Wilkerson

The Eradication DilemmaWhat if you could help bring about the end of the world trade in cocaine simply by doing nothing and allowing those with the know-how to get on with a job they have already started? What if you are under orders to track those people down and stop them; orders that go against what you have devoted your working life to? DEA Agent Jake MacQuilkin is in exactly that position. Someone has found a way of targeting and killing off the coca plant. While he wants to applaud them he is being told he must hunt down and stop the perpetrators. The total collapse of the economies of a number of South American countries is a distinct possibility and there are international ramifications that can't be ignored. 

The premise of this book is a cracking one, and it was a bit of a surprise to read less about the horrors of addiction and more about the reliance of certain economies and groups of people on the cocaine trade. It made for a refreshing approach, while not seeking to legitimise cocaine. The plot had its fair share of twists as Jake sought to uncover the people behind the plot and the action moved around from country to country as the death of coca crops spread and caused unrest. 

Unfortunately the action moved around too much for my liking. With a shifting point of view too keeping up with where events were happening was a bit of an effort and I felt that with so many characters introduced I didn't really get to know any of them in any depth. I can keep track of a fair number of characters usually, but in this case I just wasn't invested enough to make the effort. Jake should have been a sympathetic character after the loss of his fiancee, and did come over as a good guy battling a real dilemma, but ultimately I wasn't really bothered what happened. Journalist Angela was a character with a lot of potential but again was under-developed. With a bit more background and detail I might have felt differently and been rooting for them more.

This story had a lot going for it but incorporated too much in too little depth. Combined with some passages that didn't read well and the odd typo I'm afraid it didn't live up to expectations.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Telemachus Press
My Rating: 2*

Friday 29 June 2012

Another week down

Yippee, it's Friday and as my little darling is amusing herself (reading Mr Men books) I've actually got some time to join in with TGIF! Over at Greads this week's meme question asks, as we're now scarily half way through the year, which have been your top 3 books of the year so far. This wasn't too difficult as I haven't given many books 5* this year, in fact 3 to date so it's pretty easy really. They were:

You Came Back by Christopher Coake 
A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols
The Demi-Monde- Winter by Rod Rees

What I find interesting is that they are all very different books. You Came Book is a contemporary novel with hints of a ghost tale, the Nichols book is non-fiction set in the sailing world of the late 1960s and The Demi-Monde is, erm, steam-punky sci-fi, fantasy-ish. It's pleasing to find enjoyment out of such a diverse range. There are too many notable 4* books that I don't think I have the time to mention them all.

As I spoke (or typed) too soon and madam is now on the move this will have to be short but sweet. 

Have a great weekend everyone, 

TC x

Sunday 24 June 2012

Liquid Fear by Scott Nicholson

Liquid FearWhen Roland wakes up in a motel with two identities (according to the contents of his wallet) and a dead woman in the bathroom, he wracks his brain to remember what has happened. The vial of pills labelled "Take one every 4 hours or else" clouds the picture further. Porn actress Anita has the same tablets and an encounter of her own that gets the heart racing. When they are reunited with the other survivors of an unauthorised drug trial the battle is on. They all want to take control of the pills that are helping keep them sane and stop them remembering what happened ten years earlier.

I have read other books by the author in the past and enjoyed them so was looking forward to getting into this. The premise sounded interesting, a botched drug trial that had left a group of people on the edge and despite this the interest of certain parties in developing the drug for military application. It sounded feasible enough to be scary, particularly in the hands of Mr Nicholson.

However I finished it feeling a bit apathetic about the whole thing. The point of view kept switching between a number of characters and I didn't feel like I knew much about any of them. The female characters felt slightly more fleshed out but only because there were chunks devoted to their sexual pasts. 

I also had a lot of questions that could have easily been answered in the course of the book. For example the group are all described as sociopaths but it's never made clear whether that is a result of the drugs or if they were chosen for the trial for a personality trait common to sociopaths in the first place. As it is mentioned a few times it would have been nice to know. 

With a lack of interest in the fate of the characters the tension that was being built fell flat, and I felt some threads were under-developed with scope for much more about the political forces supporting the mad scientist's research and its potential applications.

I was a bit disappointed in this book after having read Scott's other work, so it's just an "okay" from me.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
My Rating: 2*

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Addicted to Love by C J West

Addicted to LoveWes has holed up in a cabin in the holiday town he used to summer in with his family. He's sold up his business and fallen madly in love with a local hairdresser. He's completely besotted but his pleasure is interrupted by the death of the local sheriff. He is appointed to the role temporarily despite having no experience of any sort in law enforcement. What seems to be a one-off crime of passion turns out to be the start of a series of inexplicable attacks and Wes has to try and tear himself away from his new darling to try and prevent any more deaths in a town more used to love than hate.

I started this book with high hopes, having given The End of Marking Time 4* when I reviewed that book by West. And to begin with I was enjoying this book. However as things progressed, although the reason his behaviour became clear later, I just found Wes a bit too ridiculous. Also the whole premise of the town council appointing a man with no credentials but a respected family as sheriff for a murder investigation was unbelievable. The reason for the murders and attacks could have been chilling and thought provoking if it wasn't all quite so daft. 

I was also put off by the fact there seemed to be something missing when a major revelation was made about what was going on in the town. When an aspect of it was mentioned later in the book I thought maybe I had inadvertently skimmed the important sentence or paragraph but going back and re-reading the relevant part I still couldn't see it.

On the positive side there was one character I could warm to, and the author's style makes for an easy flowing read. There are some very interesting and potentially quite worrying ideas in this book but the way the story plays out almost cheapened those ideas. The end made my skin crawl a little. It was okay and might be to some people's taste but it's not a book I could really recommend.

Format: Kindle, freebie
Publisher: 22 West Books
My rating: 2*

Sunday 17 June 2012

Coming Soon: You Came Back by Christopher Coake

You Came Back: A NovelMark is in his 30s and finally finding happiness again, having endured the loss of his 7 year old son and the subsequent break up of his marriage. Having hit a low while grieving for Brendan he has now moved on and is in love with Allison. He is on the verge of proposing when an unwelcome woman comes barging into his life. 

She lives in the house where his son's accident occurred and claims he is haunting the house. Mark's father is very logical and has raised him to be the same, so he tries to ignore her. However ex-wife Chloe is more willing to believe and, trying to support her Mark finds himself in a downward spiral. Reliving the events of seven years prior changes him and his life is quickly unravelling once again as he faces sacrificing the present and the future for the past.

I have had this book on my kindle for a while and read it without revisiting the blurb. When I pulled it up on screen before writing this I was stunned to see that this is the author's first novel. I loved this book and am impressed by this debut. This isn't a ghost story per se, instead it is about relationships, love and how much people will change if they want something badly enough. I found myself cast in the role of cynic, doubting that the house was haunted, and read on to see whether I was going to be right or wrong. Mark's best friend Lew at one point provides a very helpful list of all the possible explanations of the chain of events which is similar to the thoughts I'd been having as I read and served as a good summary. There isn't a lot of action, but there is a lot of conflict as Mark tries (and mostly fails) to make the right decisions for himself and those he loves.

Mark has already been through the wringer and as we read about how he struggled to move on and see him rebuilding a good life for himself it makes the descent back into despair that much more stark. While at points I doubted her motives I felt for ex-wife Chloe as well as wife-to-be Allison. And despite his best efforts to mess up virtually every relationship he has I still felt for Mark. My favourite character though was his straight-talking and sage father, Sam. He is the voice of reason, but has plenty of charm and some hard stories of his own to tell.

I enjoyed the writing which flowed nicely, written in a way that allowed me to become engrossed by the story rather than noticing the style too much. The ending leaves some room for imagination, which in this case was a good thing.

This is the best book I have read in a while. I felt so much for Mark that at one point I almost got up to go and cuddle my sleeping daughter, imagining how awful experiences like his must be. It's not often that I am moved like that by a book. 

Format: Kindle, ARC from Netgalley, due for release 28th June 2012
Publisher: Penguin
My Rating: 5*

Friday 15 June 2012

Puzzlebook: 101 Puzzle Quizzes by the Grabarchuk Family

I reviewed the 100 Puzzle Quizzes book a little while back and was pleased to take a look at the next book in the series. 

Puzzlebook: 101 Puzzle Quizzes (color and interactive!)The basics of this book are exactly the same. Each puzzle has a number of solutions which you select in the relevant way, depending on the format you are reading it in.  Only the correct answer will take you to the solution page, which in turn has a link to the next puzzle. While my Kindle is a plain grey and white screen the problems are in colour for other apps and Kindles. 

The book again contains a mix of different types of problem to give the old grey matter a workout. The puzzles start at 1* difficulty, working up to 5* as you work you progress through, but as with the previous book I found some of the 2* problems completely beyond me while some of the more difficult problems of a different type were still relatively simple. I did find some of the solutions completely incomprehensible and couldn't see how you could solve them without being a maths whizz, and others didn't have a full explanation of why the answer was correct where I would have appreciated it.

Although I think there is a bit of room for improvement by and large I am enjoying this series as something a bit different for the moments when I want a distraction but don't have the time or inclination to pick up a novel. If you like a mental workout you could do far worse than picking up one (or several) of these.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Grabarchuk Puzzles
My Rating: 3*

Thursday 14 June 2012

Cracks in the Ceiling by Dave Cornford

Cracks in the CeilingThis book comprises a collection of short stories based on the lives of people affected in different ways by the global economic crisis. Some are tales of ordinary people who are faced with losing their jobs and homes, others are about wealthy individuals who have lost millions and are having to drastically rewrite their plans. There is a degree of overlap between some of the stories which adds an additional dimension to the tales as the reader begins to see both sides. It is a very contemporary theme with recession and the possible failure of the Euro still dominating national (and international) headlines.

Although they are short stories the characterisation was well done and the way the relationships between different characters were portrayed made for some touching writing in places. While the author clearly knows his onions when it comes to the financial world and the background to the current turmoil, the content is accessible even to someone like me who is no financial wizard. I found the story about the vulnerability of large organisations thanks to the power of modern technology particularly interesting and enjoyed this as a thoughtful collection that made me stop and think.

Despite the subject matter there were plenty of rays of hope in the book and rather than being slightly depressing the stories of survival and friendship were quite positive. I found it well formatted and don't recall noticing any typos. Overall I really enjoyed this read.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*

Sunday 10 June 2012

Flashbyte by Cat Connor

Flashbyte (Byte Series - Ellie Conway)Flashbyte is the 4th book in the Ellie Conway Byte series. I jumped straight in with this book and it works on its own, but more on that later.

FBI Special Agent Ellie Conway wakes one morning to find news of her death has been greatly exaggerated. Not a good start to the day but things get progressively worse as someone tries to shoot her and she receives an unwelcome package at home. Ellie soon finds herself facing up to ghosts from the past while trying to solve a string of bank robberies, uncover a possible serial killer in a hospital and keep various other balls in the air.

I took to Ellie Conway virtually from the start. She's certainly kickass but not invincible, and she works on all the competing demands while demonstrating a sense of humour and giving the impression of being a very capable woman. Her personal life is slightly complicated and she is self-deprecating which make her easy to warm to. However this is where I wish I had read the earlier books because there are a lot of people in the team she works with, and who become involved through the various cases, and I found it took a little bit of work to keep the other characters straight. Had I been used to them already I think I would have given the book another star.

The plot is full of twists and turns and there are some weird overlaps that appear as the tale progresses. At one point I thought I was starting to lose the plot but by the end it all made sense and I wondered how the author managed to conclude so many individual threads in one book, even if not all of them were very in-depth.

This was one of those books I struggled to put down, wanting to find out where the action would take Ellie and what would happen to her next. The hints of romance also kept me wondering, and every time I went to put it down I found myself trying to fit in just one more chapter.

I really enjoyed this book and think I will now have to go back and start at the beginning.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Rebel ePublishers
My Rating: 4*

Wednesday 6 June 2012

The Camping Pocket Bible by Caroline Mills

They say staycationing is the new going abroad and that camping is the cooler than ever. I need no conversion; until I sold one of them recently we were a three tent household. The blurb for this book offered tips for beginners through to fun ideas for the more experienced camper. We camp a handful of times a year for up to 5 nights so we're not novices or super-experienced and I was hoping to find some useful info.

The Camping Pocket Bible (Pocket Bibles)What I got instead was an incredibly basic guide that would be suitable for new campers with no common sense. At points I was stunned that some of the content was seriously included. There were 5 tips for things to do while camping that you don't need any equipment for that included looking at the stars and watching the sun rise or set. Honestly.

I was looking forward to the promised fantastic food ideas for a camp stove, but apart from a recipe for what was essentially a fry up and one for pancakes the rest were all for BBQs, something we never use. When it got to a checklist for a repairs kit I got my hopes up that something useful would follow but there was nothing on how to use the bits mentioned.

There was nothing in this book that you couldn't find online via a search engine, although I am sure for someone taking their first trip ever it could have a few gems in there. I can't remember if I picked this up as a freebie or if it 99p - it was definitely one or the other - but if I had paid the current £4.80 price for the kindle edition I would be seriously unhappy.

This book tried to cover too much ground in too little detail and in places just came off as patronising. The only thing this book has done is remind me how much I love camping and get me thinking about getting our kit together for the first trip of the year soon.

Format: Kindle
Publisher: Pocket Bibles
My Rating: 1*

Tuesday 5 June 2012

The Tibetan Talisman by Rob Ingalls

"Shortly after his plane crashes near Chinese spy ships, US Air Force Captain Peter Forrest, a member of an elite team of airmen who fly into the center of typhoons, discovers his destiny. For reasons unknown to him, he has been chosen to return a unique talisman to its rightful owner. At the conclusion of a challenging journey, he is surprised and amazed to learn the identity of its owner.

The Tibetan TalismanTwelve thousand years ago, seven gold and silver talismans were created, each inscribed with cryptic symbols. Left in the custody of seven religious guardians throughout the world, each was linked with a different faith. For generations, these guardians have kept the talismans safe, while keeping their vital secret. However, when one of the talismans is stolen, the combined energies of numerous groups struggle to obtain possession. A powerful tool, the talisman could cause international chaos under the control of an evil influence.

Why are the CIA, the United States and Chinese governments, even the Tibetan's exiled government, desperate to gain possession of the talisman? How can Captain Forrest retrieve the talisman and return it to its rightful owner? Discover the commanding power and incredible journey of The Tibetan Talisman." from

From the product description this book sounded like it ticked a lot of boxes for me, action, intrigue, political manoeuvring...and it delivered those elements. The author seems very knowledgeable about  a lot of the topics covered. This is a romp through a number of exotic locales as various factions try and influence the destiny of the Tibetan Talisman. Only Peter seems to be ignorant of what it is capable of, although he becomes very aware it has special powers. I particularly liked the descriptions of the work of the tyhoon hunters and enjoyed the dynamics of the team. The crew were the characters I was most able to empathise with, although I also liked the characterisation of the potential Chinese defector. 

While the switches of location were well handled I did reach a point where I was struggling to keep track of all the characters, particularly those within the CIA and US Government. Trying to keep who was ignorant about the Talisman and who was in on the secret straight was a bit of an effort. My other criticism would be that I put the book down feeling that I didn't really understand what the Talisman was actually capable of. As there is more to come from Peter Forrest I am sure readers will learn more as he does but I would like to have felt I understood the basics of how or why it worked and what could be done with it. Along with a few typos I couldn't say I really liked this book, although I would be interested to see how the series and the writing develops.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: iUniverse
My Rating: 3*

Friday 1 June 2012

The 500, Bomber and Issue 49 (Dark Shorts) by J D Hughes

It's been a while since I read any short stories, so picking up these three (available separately) made a refreshing change. As suggested these are three dark little stories, equivalent to between 11 and 17 pages.

THE 500In The 500 we meet Gemma who is about to take revenge on her cheating ex. This revenge backfires and mires her in guilt until she sees a way to redeem herself.

ISSUE 49Issue 49 introduces lonely Billy Bunter fan and comic collector Tobias. After past humiliations and years of loneliness he meets the woman of his dreams. However there is more to her than meets the eye.

BOMBERThe Bomber is about a young man who likes cars and girls but finds himself in the frame as a potential suicide bomber. He wants to prevent the planned attack but his fate has already been determined by others.

All three tales move at quite a pace but contain telling little details that give the characters some depth. However with The Bomber I felt that I had missed something key to understanding exactly who was meant to have done what, and felt it could have been explained a little more expansively as events unfolded at the end.

Overall I enjoyed this trio of dark, bordering on macabre, tales and was reminded why I have become a short story convert.

Format: Kindle, review copies
Publisher: Northwood e-Books
My Rating: 3*

Time for a weekend of fun

Although bank holidays don't mean a lot to me as I only work a couple of days a week this long weekend is shaping up to be a good one. For those of you who aren't Brits (and those who are but having been hiding in a cave) it is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year and celebrations reach their peak this week. There's so much going on in my town that I've taken the time off work to enjoy it. It seems that even those who aren't Royalists are in a buoyant mood and that people are more positive than they have been in ages. It's a really fun time and with the Olympics on the horizon I'm a happy bunny.

Since my last TGIF and weekly (probably should be fortnightly these days) round-up I have read and reviewed:

I also managed to fit in some short stories for the first time in ages, review following soon, and am hoping to finish the novel I'm reading at the moment some time tonight.

Over at GReads it is TGIF time and the question is a cracker. Which books have you found to be very rewarding when it comes to tackling tougher issues?

One book I have read more recently that I thought dealt with some hard topics well was The Girl in the Box by Sheila Dalton Here's the brief synopsis to explain it  -Dr. Jerry Simpson brings a traumatised girl named Inez, who may be autistic, back to Canada from Guatemala as an act of compassion. He is unable to establish exactly what has happened in her past, but in a country torn apart by civil war it is clear the girl who lives in a box has seen or experienced terrible things. When Inez turns on Jerry and kills him partner Caitlin desperately needs to find out why this terrible incident occurred so she can forgive and move on with her life.

Inez becomes a cause celebre during her trial, provoking discussion about whether Jerry was right to remove her from her homeland and about what he must have done to provoke her fury. She exudes a compelling and innocent aura that draws people to her. Almost worse than being locked up in a bleak hospital in the north of the country Inez is locked within herself. Can Caitlin find it in herself to forgive and help the girl she once loved?

I thought the author treated the subject matter well, not shying away from providing details but without pushing it to the point of melo-drama. 

I don't read a lot of books whose central plot deals with tougher issues, maybe because life is hard enough without reading about some of the worst of human nature, and maybe because I have read a couple where I have felt bad because despite heart-rending stories the quality of the writing hasn't been up to the task and I've felt guilty for not feeling more moved by the stories. I'm interested to see what others think about the subject!

To anyone having a street party or other Jubilee event, I hope you have a brilliant time and that the weather is kind, and of course to everyone else Happy weekend!

TC xx