Friday, 12 October 2018

Dead End - Rachel Lynch

When the seventh Earl of Lowesdale is found hanging from the rafters at Wasdale Hall, everyone assumes the aging, hard-partying aristocrat had finally had enough of chasing the glory of his youth. But when the coroner finds signs of foul play, DI Kelly Porter is swept into a luxurious world where secrets and lies dominate.
At the same time, two young hikers go missing and it’s up to Kelly to lead the search. But digging deeper reveals ties to two other unsolved disappearances and Kelly and her team find themselves in a race against time.
Now, as all roads of both investigations and Kelly’s own family secrets lead to Wasdale Hall it becomes more important than ever for Kelly to discover the devious truths hidden behind the walls of the Lake District’s most exclusive estate...

Having read and loved Rachel Lynch's first two Kelly Porter books, Dark Game and Deep Fear, I was very much looking forward to diving into Dead End. We return to the glorious setting of the Lake District for this nailbiting third installment and are plunged straight into the action. DI Kelly Porter is running two cases at once in Dead End, the supposed suicide of an elderly earl, and two missing hikers who disappeared from a local campsite in the middle of the night.

The earl was elderly and the pathologist, Ted Wallis, throws the suicide verdict into doubt because of his age and other factors. Whilst Kelly is trying to work out who may have wanted the earl dead, and didn't want to wait any longer for his death, she's also trying to find out exactly what has happened to the two missing hikers. The girls were being stalked by an ex-boyfriend and staying at a campsite run by an extremely repugnant manager.

When links are made to a third missing girl, eerily similar in appearance to the other two girls, alarm bells start to ring for Kelly and her team. When bones found by a local walker come up in the investigation and a body is found in the hills it's time to admit that something sinister is going on in one of the most beautiful places to live.

The Kelly Porter series gets better with every book and this latest one is full of tension, from all directions. Kelly's home life has not improved, her sister is as bitter as ever, and her mother, recently diagnosed with cancer, is caught in the middle of the warring sisters. Her romantic life is improving in leaps and bounds though, with her relationship with Johnny, a local mountain rescue worker, one of the only things keeping her grounded. The mix of personal and work lives is partly what makes these books so readable, it's rare to hear so much about a detective's home life in a series and considering the curveball that Kelly has just been thrown I can't wait to read the next one.

Incredibly well written and detailed, Dead End paints a picture of the more sinister side of the Lakes. It's a page-turner, albeit a slow burner of one, but this ratchets up the pressure on each and every page. There are red herrings by the dozen, I defy you to work out who is ultimately responsible and get it right on the first, second, even third attempt!

If you like female-focused police procedurals where the setting is as important as the characters then do check out this series. Dark Game was a fantastic start to the series and Dead End only builds on that, to make a superbly addictive crime novel.
Dead End (Kelly Porter #3) - Rachel Lynch
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - October 8th, 2018
About The Author
Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years. A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.

Find Rachel on Twitter

Many thanks to Ellie & Canelo for the review copy and the invitation to take part in the blog tour.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Deep Fear - Rachel Lynch

DI Kelly Porter is back. 

But will this new case push her beyond her limits?

On a peaceful summer's morning in the Lake District, a woman's body is discovered outside a church. She's been murdered and a brutal, symbolic act performed on her corpse. 

DI Kelly Porter is in charge of the team investigating the crime and is determined to bring the killer to justice. But as more deaths occur it is clear this is the work of a disturbed, dangerous and determined individual. Can Kelly put the puzzle pieces together before the danger comes closer to home?

Having enjoyed Rachel Lynch's first book, Dark Game, I was really looking forward to reading Deep Fear and, thankfully, it didn't disappoint. DI Kelly Porter returns, on a high after successfully solving one of the hardest crimes of her career. Little does she know what the immediate future holds for her. Backed up by her incredibly hardworking team, who know she likes to operate by now, they are stunned when a woman's body is found with a piece of poetry by a Lakes poet on her body. 

What follows is a frightening case, as more bodies turn up, and more poetry is located on each body. This case is getting the better of Kelly, and she doesn't like it. Frustrated at every turn, knowing she's missing something, her home life continues to deteriorate with her relationships with both her mother and sister hitting rock bottom. Her sister Nikki cannot get over her bitterness about Kelly having created a better life for herself, and her mother is in hospital.

The perpetrator of the latest series of crimes to hit the Lakes seems to be trying to teach people a lesson, each piece of poetry points to what could be considered a sin. Kelly can't help but think that she's missing something and when the case hits too close to home for comfort she's going to need all her strength to find the killer before it's too late.

I think of all the Kelly Porter novels this one is probably my favorite. I loved the literary twists and turns Deep Fear took and how it added to the storyline. Because of the poetry angle, I can only assume that everyone who reads it will leap to the same conclusions I did, that the culprit is somebody immersed in the academic world, or at least on the periphery. The red herrings from book one make a welcome return, follow the clues that Rachel plants and you'll be second-guessing yourself on every page. I spectacularly failed to guess who the killer was right up until the very last moment but this is something she does incredibly well.

Deep Fear is another fantastically written police procedural, the background of the Lakes adds to the sense of menace throughout the book, and as always, the character of Kelly is ably supported by well fleshed out colleagues, friends, and family.

Deep Fear (Kelly Porter #2) - Rachel Lynch
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - May 14th, 2018

Friday, 5 October 2018

Review and Q&A: The Secrets You Hide - Kate Helm

In her eyes, no-one is innocent...

A knock-out read for fans of Clare Mackintosh, Anatomy of a Scandal and Apple Tree Yard.

Georgia Sage has a gift: she can see evil in people. As a courtroom artist, she uses her skills to help condemn those who commit terrible crimes. After all, her own brutal past means she knows innocence is even rarer than justice.

But when she is drawn back into the trial that defined her career, a case of twisted family betrayal, she realizes her own reckless pursuit of justice may have helped the guilty go free.

As Georgia gets closer to the truth behind the Slater family, something happens that threatens not only her career - but even her own sanity. At first, she fears her guilt around the events of her terrible childhood is finally coming back to haunt her.

The truth turns out to be even more terrifying...

THE SECRETS YOU HIDE is an ambitious rocket of a novel. Every layer, every twist, every revelation makes you question the very characters you thought you could trust, and rethink a plot you thought you were beginning to unravel...

Kate Helm is also known as Kate Harrison and has published numerous books both fiction and non-fiction, including the YA trilogy that started with Soul Beach which I loved. This is her crime fiction debut, hence the name change, and it's a corker of a crime debut!

Georgia Sage is one of a dying breed in this digital age, a court artist. The person who draws the sketches you see on television, of the judges and jury, the defendants and other people of interest - all brilliantly brought to life in pencil and pastel.

But Georgia wasn't always Georgia and she knows the horrors and brutality all too well. It's this legacy that leads her to believe she can 'sense' good or evil in a defendant. When Georgia starts to see things, people that can't possibly be there, she believes her past is catching up with her and that she is going mad.

Blaming what turns out to be a desperately sad medical diagnosis on stress, insomnia, and even too much alcohol, Georgia carries on with her life.  Despite everything, she signs up for a new book project which takes her back to one of her most memorable cases of her court artist career. When she starts to jump to conclusions about what really may have happened, she ends up neck deep in trouble and with her life in danger.

The Secrets You Hide is a character-driven novel, all the way through, and has some of the most fleshed out characters I've read in a long time. Georgia is a simply wonderful character. Realizing she's about to lose everything that means something she throws herself into her work, knowing that what she's doing is driven by purely selfish reasons. Also standing out is Georgia's former fiance, Oliver, a barrister who is now married with a child on the way. Even though Georgia pushed him away he never gives up on her and is determined to remain in her life which is quite easy considering he is a barrister!

The Secrets You Hide is a page-turner from start to finish. I started reading it the minute I downloaded it and didn't put it down until I had finished, a couple of hours later.  It's a slow-burner of a novel but it builds up the tension perfectly, leading to what was an excellent confrontation with the real villain of the piece. I very much enjoyed Secrets and am certainly hoping that we'll be hearing more from Kate in her crime writing persona.

The Secrets You Hide - Kate Helm
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release date - October 4th, 2018

Q & A With Kate Helm

1. What inspired The Secrets You Hide?

KH - It came from hearing a podcast while I was at the gym about a courtroom artist in America who described what her job was like: I worked as a court reporter when I was a very young journalist, and I realized this was a way to write about justice and guilt and the secrets about ourselves that we all try to keep hidden.

2. What drew you to thriller writing specifically?

KH - I love reading thrillers but I hadn’t planned to write one until I had this idea – now I have been completely bitten by the crime-writing bug and spend an awful lot of time thinking about deadly scenarios, high emotions, and twists. It’s really cathartic and the thriller writing and reading community is just so welcoming too.

3. The book is about the world of the court artist. Are you artistic?

KH - I would love to be artistic but I can’t draw or paint to save my life (except walls: I am quite good at decorating!). I failed Art at school when I was going through a bit of a monochrome Gothic phase, but I love colour, especially the names of all the different shades, which are like a palette to paint word pictures with. It was fascinating to research how sketch artists work, and I share Georgia’s fascination with faces and portraits, but I will leave creating art to the people with a talent for it!

4. How would you describe the main character Georgia in five words?

KH - Damaged, vengeful, loyal, compassionate, courageous.

5. What is the best thing about being an author?

KH - So many things to choose from but I think it’s a huge privilege to be able to create characters and invent stories that become so real in readers’ minds that they want to talk about their decisions and disasters!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Lost Fleet: Corsair - Jack Campbell

The century-long war between two space empires, the alliance and the Syndics, has ended, but Captain Michael Geary, nephew of the legendary Alliance Commander John "Black Jack" Geary, believed MIA, is still a prisoner.

Together with former enemy, Destina Aragon, desperate to escape the reach of a tyrannical government, can he help her rebellion succeed, live up to the legend coloring his family name - or will he die trying?

Grievances must be put aside as a daring intergalactic jail-break becomes a battle for survival against the odds, in this gripping new comic series written by New York Times best-selling author Jack Campbell, based on his novel series.

People always seem to be surprised when I say I read military SF, I suppose at first glance they don't think it's the sort of thing that would appeal to me but it does. Ever since picking up my first military SF book (by accident, I hasten to add...) at the library I've read quite a few titles, including quite a few of the Lost Fleet titles by the legendary Jack Campbell a.k.a John Hemdy. After reading Lost Fleet: Corsair I definitely need to go back and catch up with the ones I haven't read as I'm pretty sure I've missed out on a lot.

Having said that, you don't need to have read any of the previous books (although you might want to just so you're acquainted with the Lost Fleet universe) to dive into the new Corsair comics. Lost Fleet: Corsair is a bindup of the original five issues and is strangely addictive. I whizzed through my copy one night, quite late, when I knew I should turn the light off and go to sleep but couldn't.

If you're a fan of the Lost Fleet novels there's only one question to be answered: is Black Jack alive? Well, read Corsair and you might get an answer. Really though, Corsair is Michael's story. Still held captive by the Syndics he's made an offer he can't refuse, even if it comes from someone he believes is his enemy. You know what they say though, sometimes an enemy can do more for you than friends and/or colleagues. Desperate to escape and find out what has happened to the fleet Michael agrees to team up with Destina Aragon (love that name!). Aided by a Syndic ship full of Alliance P.O.W.'s they make their escape and head for Destina's homeworld. Along the way, there are some superb space battles and more obstacles than one would wish for but that is what makes Corsair a page-turner.

The graphic novel is full of fantastically defined dialogue, accompanied by great illustrations. It's everything you want in a Lost Fleet novel but in graphic form. There's no over-sentimentality, everything has a point, and if you're not a fan at the end of 129 pages of Corsair, then go back and read it again! As for me, I'm off to start re-reading the Lost Fleet series and then diving into the rest of the series that I've missed. By my reckoning, that means I've got about ten books to read for the first time.

If you'd like to win my copy of Lost Fleet: Corsair, head on over to my Instagram account and like/comment on my photo. Open to those resident in the UK only due to postage, sorry to everyone else but postage is astronomical at the moment!

The Lost Fleet: Corsair - Jack Campbell | Andre Siregar | Sebastian Cheng
ISBN - 9781785852992
Publisher - Titan Comics
Release date - March 20th, 2018

Huge thanks to Imogen and Titan Comics for my copy of The Lost Fleet: Corsair, and don't forget to enter the giveaway over on Instagram!

Check out the rest of the tour stops and click here to follow Titan Comics on Twitter!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Daddy Hairdo - Francis Martin & Claire Powell

A hilarious story for anyone who has ever had to tangle with a head full of hair!

When Amy is born she doesn’t have much hair. Not for long! Soon her hair is the stuff of fairy tales - so long she could throw it down a tower to let up a handsome prince. Only, hair this long is also really inconvenient, especially on windy days. So Amy’s dad comes up with some innovative solutions, and soon EVERYONE wants one of Daddy's Hairdos!

I'm a huge fan of picture books, for both children and adults alike, so when the opportunity came up to review Daddy Hairdo I jumped at it! With stunning illustrations by Claire Powell, illustrator of Have You Seen My Giraffe? this is Francis Martin's picture book debut.

Before I got a chance to read it the twins grabbed it and devoured it, so I had to wait my turn but it was worth the wait. Full of whimsical but stunning illustrations between them Claire & Francis have come up with a picture book that is a delight to read. 

Amy might not have had much hair to start with but soon she is out-Rapunzeling Rapunzel and it's up to Daddy to come up with some inventive hairstyles to allow Amy to carry on! Some of the wonderful masterpieces though, mean that Amy can't do the things she wants to. The Triple Beehive, for example, means she can't visit the sweet shop and my personal favorite, the Castle In The Clouds, means playing hide-and-seek isn't very much fun. This all leads to Amy's own favorite Daddy hairdo, which you'll need to read the book to discover...

The twins loved Daddy Hairdo, especially F, as he loves to play with hair and everyone always assumes that this is very much a 'girl' thing to do. I can assure you it's not, and over the years F has come up with some inspiring hairdos of his own. This is quite possibly one of the best, sadly without a name, but involves bobbles, clips, and a blanket!

Daddy Hairdo - Francis Martin & Claire Powell
ISBN - 9781471147876
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Release date - September 6th, 2018

Francis Martin can be found here on Twitter, whilst Claire is on Twitter here, and her website can be found here.

Huge thanks to Olivia, and S&S for inviting me to take part in this fantastic blog tour! Do check out some of the other stops for the inspiration behind the story and other reviews.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe. 

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group - a secretive extremist cult - founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe's Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he's tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most. who lose what they love most.

I'd heard lots of good things about The Incendiaries so when the request to take part in the blog tour popped up I had to accept. Virago publish some of my favorite books so I'm so glad I did because, although books like The Incendiaries aren't necessarily my typical read I'm very glad I sometimes take a chance.

The Incendiaries may appear to be a short novel but it packs a powerful punch in those pages. It's a tale of jealousy, religion, fanaticism, and love. The story of Will, Phoebe, and a man called John Leal, Kwon explores a man's loss of faith which has led to some life-changing decisions and his dismay as he watches the woman he loves being drawn deeper and deeper into a religious group named Jejah, by a charismatic man who may or may not be telling the complete truth about his past. As Will falls deeper in love with Phoebe, she, in turn, starts abandoning her friends, her studies, and Will.

The Incendiaries focuses on the character of Will, with Phoebe and John appearing as what feels like support characters. We get to know Will extremely well, about his life before Edwards, his mother's illness and get to explore the reasoning behind his loss of faith. Phoebe remains an enigmatic figure, and although we learn about significant events in her childhood, we don't know much about her as an adult and especially why she is so drawn to John Leal and his cult-like group. John himself remains a shadowy figure throughout the story, looming in the background and appearing at times when Will is feeling at his most vulnerable in his relationship with Phoebe. He claims to be a former prisoner of North Korea, goes barefoot all the time (Kwon's quite graphic description of the state of his feet turned my stomach! But I have a bit of a phobia about going barefoot...) and is charismatic to the point that people flock to him, take part in his group's initiation rites and become distraught if they're cast aside by him.

It becomes clear that the void left by his lack of faith and the absence of God in his life, Will is using Phoebe to fill that hole and his love becomes an obsession rather quickly. It was interesting to this happen as Will himself doesn't really realize this until the end but it's clear to Phoebe's friends, especially the colorful Julian who tells Phoebe to stay away from him.

Ultimately, R.O. Kwon has written a compelling and engrossing story that plays on the tropes of an obsessed man, whose memory is unreliable - at his own admission, and the sections featuring Phoebe could be either her actual memories or Will trying to fill in the blanks, trying to make sense of everything that happens, and the group's descent into extreme violence. Her ability to play with perspective is partially what makes this book so readable, and I think the most important thing for me was being able to read it in one go. It allowed me to immerse myself fully in Will's story, to try and understand exactly what was going on with Will. I liked that Phoebe was never fully fleshed out and that we never got to know her side of the story if we see her sections of the book as being Will's memories rather than her own thoughts. Kwon's writing is wonderful, her ability to draw the reader in from the first page is remarkable for a debut author and such a short novel. Some of her descriptions were so powerful that you can feel yourself in the actual presence of these characters, rather than just picturing them, and I think The Incendiaries fully deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it. 

Please be aware though that The Incendiaries contains mentions of rape, possible suicide and quite a bit of violence.

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon
ISBN - 9780349011875 
Publisher - Virago
Release date - September 6th, 2018

About The Author

R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, was published by Riverhead in the U.S. earlier this year and in September by Virago in the U.K. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.

Huge thanks to Grace Vincent and Virago for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the advance copy I received in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Drone Racer - Andy Briggs

Carson and his friends love racing drones, and they can't believe their luck when they stumble across a discarded one at a junkyard. But this new find is full of surprises. 

When they power the drone up, it starts talking! And it's fast. Really fast. They could win big prizes in the racing leagues. Trouble is, someone wants their incredible drone back, and they'll stop at nothing to get it. 

How can three kids protect their new friend?

I'm a huge fan of Andy Briggs and his MG books. I've previously read his Inventory series which, unsurprisingly, features some pretty amazing technology. It's also no surprise that Andy has turned his writing towards drone racing as it's gaining in popularity, and fast!

Carson and his friends, Trix and Eddie, are known as the Carsonators and are amongst the youngest drone racers in their local league. When their current drone gets smashed up by a fellow competitor it would seem it's all over for them. A trip to the local scrap yard changes all that, when Carson makes an amazing discovery, thanks to a savage dog and a fall into a pile of scrap. What follows is a high adrenaline, blood pumping adventure for the three 12-year-olds as they race their new drone, start winning some races, and make some startling discoveries!

As with all his books, Drone Racer's central theme is about friendship. Carson, Trix (aka Tracy) and Eddie - don't ever call him Edward - are best friends with a shared love of drone racing. Carson is the pilot, Trix is the engineer and Eddie is the tech advisor, look-out and anything else that might need doing type. Together they work as a team to win races, earn some money, discover just who is breaking into competitor's houses, and start to notice that there seems to be an awful lot of security around for a local drone racing league.

Carson is not only drone racing though. He is also dealing with the death of his mother, and his fractured relationship with his father. Like most children, he naively assumes that his father is pulling away because he blames Carson in some way. Naturally, this is not the case, and Andy deals extremely sensitively with the issues of grief and trying to move on after losing a parent.

With some wonderful friendships and furious fast-paced writing, Drone Racer is a great MG adventure with action spanning two continents, a blackmailing but bewildered older sister and some seriously death-defying stunts. It's easy to picture the action that takes place thanks to Andy's screenwriting experience, and I think Drone Racer would make an amazing children's movie or even a television series. It's a page-turner that you'll be hard-pushed to put down unless you're forced to and although it's not completely obvious from the ending whether there are more adventures for the Carsonators to come I would definitely read more adventures in drone racing.

Drone Racer - Andy Briggs

ISBN - 9781407188429
Publisher - Scholastic
Release date - September 6th, 2018

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