Ireland – Peace, Quiet and Lots of Reading!

Enjoying the peaceful Irish countryside – reading as usual

I have just returned home after a wonderful two-week holiday in Ireland. I took full advantage of the quiet countryside to catch up on some reading. In this photo I was engrossed in ‘Steel City Confidential’ , a new thriller by Anne Hagan. The Carlingford Mountains are behind me and The Irish Sea in front. I could have heard a pin drop in the garden of the cottage, so it was the ideal location to read.

The Irish Sea

Whilst there I also read ‘A Shot at Love’ by T.B. Markinson and ‘After Mrs Hamilton’ by Clare Ashton. I can certainly recommend a trip to the emerald isle for those seeking a space to relax. I was also able to get some writing done and squirrel away some ideas for future stories. Of course there are plenty of things to do for those days when you want to get out and about. I visited The Giant’s Causeway, Portrush, Dublin, Dundalk and had many lovely meals out at some truly fantastic restaurants. All in all a truly memorable trip.

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Review of ‘Steel City Confidential’ by Anne Hagan

‘Steel City Confidential’ by Anne Hagan is a triumph. It’s a fascinating story, well-told and with characters readers will warm to immediately. Ro Rabinowitz, a Pittsburgh lawyer takes on the case of Pamela Wilson, a woman in her sixties charged with the murder of a college professor who got her daughter pregnant. She’s confident that the case can be won, but there are complications – and a story from the past that Pam’s not telling. It’s not going to be that simple. I was drawn in from the start with a revelation of something I’ve known and loved for many years. Characters from the past . It was a brilliant set up. There are plenty of surprises that will have readers jumping for joy – but that’s all I’ll say. I won’t divulge any spoilers. But they are stunning.  Now, I know that  Anne Hagan writes great mysteries, but she has really found her forte with this legal thriller. I am so glad that this is book one in a new series for her. I was intrigued from the start and it just kept getting better and better. She skilfully weaves a complex tale of secrets and revelations and her characters are likeable and I want to find out more about them. Ro is a great mentor, a principled and caring lawyer. I liked her associate Dominique too. I can see her developing well in the future. Oh, and for aficionados of Ms Hagan’s Morelville Mysteries Series, a certain name pops up that will have you smiling. The book is brilliantly done and if Hollywood has any sense then this would be made into a movie – because I can guarantee there will be a huge audience for this particular story. Highly recommended.

I was given this Arc for review.

Review of ‘Meant To Be Me’ by Wendy Hudson

‘Meant To Be Me’  is a heart-thumping, nerve-jangling, suspense story that had me glued to the page. Inverness-based engineer Darcy has a stalker and finds it hard to let her guard down, even for a second. Her loyal best friend Anja is always on hand with support and work keeps her sane. When she literally bumps into an early morning jogger, Eilidh, she dares to hope that things may be looking up for her. Will the two women ever be able to find a way to get together? Circumstances and interference conspire to put stumbling blocks in their way. But there is much more to it than that.

I have read Wendy Hudson’s first two novels and found them seriously impressive. But I believe this is her best so far. She knows just how to ramp up the tension and this story had a psychological suspense element that had me on the edge of my seat. Just when I thought I knew where it was going I was surprised again and again. It was scary, perfectly pitched and did not let up. The baddie in the mix was so plausible and I wanted to scream out to Darcy. ‘Meant To Be Me’ is beautifully written and one that I can see me re-reading. Highly recommended.

Review of ‘The Scandal’ by Mari Hannah

‘The Scandal’ is a gripping story from the start, as a terrified woman flees for her life, frantically trying to evade her pursuer. I could feel her fear. But it is the investigation into another death that impacts DS Frankie Oliver and she finds herself in conflict with her boss, DI David Stone. The realism, be it of story, character or setting, really struck me.

Mari Hannah captures the emotions of her characters with such insight and precision. I appreciated that the police never lost sight of the victims and their families. I also can’t get enough of the North East as described in Ms Hannah’s novels. She moves from the beauty of the Northumberland countryside to the modern, vibrant city of Newcastle. This is the first of the Stone and Oliver series that I’ve read but I was so impressed that I’ll have to go and read the other two. An excellent read and highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review by Netgalley and Orion.

Review of ‘Alice’ by Sam Skyborne

‘Alice’ is one of those books that surprises, engages and takes the reader off in unexpected directions. It is the story of a young woman trapped in an awful marriage. When she decides she can take no more and leaves, her life becomes one of secrets, new friends and a fight to keep her new found freedom. Sam Skyborne made me feel an affinity with Alice. I felt as if I was along for the ride and worried about her as she became more involved in her new life in Cape Town. A PI, Toni Mendez, is sent to track her down and her part in the story opened up a whole lot of other issues. This book had so many layers and was intelligently plotted. I could never have guessed the twists and turns and I take my hat off to the author. Bravo!

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘The Doll Maker’ by Claire Highton-Stevenson

‘The Doll Maker’ is a seriously impressive thriller. It is gripping, well-written and an excellent example of the genre. It deserves to get recognition and should definitely appeal to a wider audience. I can see it transferring perfectly to TV – and if Ms Highton-Stevenson continues the story into a series, it should get snapped up. 

DI Sophie Whitton is on the trail of a serial killer – one who leaves macabre-looking dolls by the bodies of the victims. Her home life is a mess as she finds her relationship with her lover Yvonne becoming more and more strained. The story is disturbing and deals with unpalatable subjects. The realism is stark and the writing captures every nuance. The author has quite a turn of phrase and her descriptions of characters are so well done that I had no problem visualising exactly what she was getting at. As the story progresses the suspense is ratcheted up perfectly. I was on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed ‘The Doll Maker’ and highly recommend it. I can’t wait for the next one!

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Killer Instinct’ by Barbara Winkes

Barbara Winkes has surpassed herself. ‘Killer Instinct’ is an excellent story, full of suspense, mystery and characters that seem so real.  I couldn’t stop worrying about them. Joanna, an ex-cop, finds herself unable to keep out of an investigation into a serial killer. She should know better – it didn’t end well for her before. Her friends warn her off but the danger is at her door and she wants to make sure no more women have to die. A new woman in her life, Rue, makes her feel good again, but does she really want to expose anyone to the darker side of life, a life that she can’t seem to escape? 

I was gripped by the story and found myself shocked and surprised at some of the twists and turns. Ms Winkes certainly knows how to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Joanna really got under my skin too. She was a complex character, with a background that made her strong, resourceful and someone to rely on. Seeing her realise that was empowering. This is a definite must-read for lovers of high quality suspense and thrillers. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Blind Trust’ by Jody Klaire

I didn’t think I could love Aeron Lorelei any more than I did after reading the first in the Above and Beyond series. I was wrong. I adore that woman. In ‘Blind Trust’ I saw another side to her and a impressive depth. There is nothing she will not do for other people and when it comes to Renee her devotion knows no limits. Renee’s feelings for her are so strong too. Will Aeron ever see what is right in front of her face? 
When she and Renee are trapped in a small mountain town by an avalanche they are faced with problems only they can solve. But they can’t let anyone know who they really are. Renee’s behaviour begins to confuse Aeron. What is behind it all? 
The story is exciting and full of tension and gives an insight into Renee that fascinated me. Both Aeron and Renee are developed so well and I love how Jody Klaire allows us to hear Aeron’s thoughts through the first person chapters in the book. This is fast becoming my favourite series. I can’t wait to get onto book 3! Highly recommended.

I was given this book for review.

Review of ‘The Empath’ by Jody Klaire

empath

‘The Empath’ – the first in The Above and Beyond Series – completely blew me away. I have never felt such a connection with a character as I did with Aeron – certainly not since Scout in ’To Kill A Mockingbird’ when I was a teenager. Aeron Lorelei made an immediate impression on me and I couldn’t put the book down. She has had a terrible start in life, growing up with parents who ignore and resent her and living in a small town where everyone seems to hate her. When she takes the blame for the death of her friend’s younger brother and is sent away to a correctional facility they think they’ve heard the last of her. Not so. When she returns 11 years later the town is beset with tragedy and fear as young women start to go missing – and who do they decide to blame? Why Aeron, of course.

Aeron is an empath but she only knows the half of it. The mystery behind her life, what and who she is is woven with the terrible goings on in her town. The mystery was chilling and powerful and never let up. I was completely stunned by the story – the intensity, the feelings it evoked. Aeron’s growing relationship with someone who wants to help her was beautifully pitched. It let us see more about her and I liked what I saw. She had an amazing heart, having dealt with so much, but still choosing to see the good in people and in life. I was amazed at the talent and skill of someone being able to write such a story. There were so many twists and turns and the characterisation was excellent. Jody Klaire knows how to look into the souls of her characters – be they good or bad. I am so happy that there are 5 more in the series for me to look forward to reading. This is the best book I’ve read in a long time – and I can’t wait to see if she can top it with book 2!

I was given this book for review.

Review of ‘Against All Odds’ by Kris Bryant, Maggie Cummings and M Ullrich

odds

‘Against All Odds’ is a heart-achingly beautiful love story. Peyton and Tory meet under tragic circumstances and have to deal with so much together in the aftermath.  The connection between them was intense and true and felt completely natural. It was also unbelievably sexy and the intimate moments captured the feelings they had for each other so well.  I liked getting to know them through their individual chapters. Each of the three authors wrote a character and it really worked.  Their styles intertwined seamlessly and  I hope they may consider doing another book together in this way. The appalling situation that brings them together is full of tension and suspense. It introduces us to Bradley, a class A creep and psycho. Weaving his thoughts through the story was chilling but highly effective. An excellent novel that had me gripped till the very end.

I was given this ARC by Netgalley and Bold Strokes for review.