Monday, 11 October 2021

The Trials of Isabella M Smugge: #IssySmuggeisback

 

#PerfectlyArrangedforEffect

Good morning Bookaholics, well, the day I have been waiting for has arrived. Everyone's favourite lifestyle blogger, #influencer and #hashtagqueen is back in her second book, The Trials of Isabella M. Smugge. When it comes to follow up books one is always worried that the book will not measure up. So, I approached this book with a great deal of excitement and some measure of trepidation - would this second book live up to the brilliance of the first?

Let me reassure you my fears were groundless. I enjoyed every well-crafted word as much as I enjoyed the first book. I can safely say Issy's return is a triumph for her author, Ruth Leigh. In this book Isabella is pregnant and her husband has ditched her and run off with the au pair. Quite frankly, Issy is in a pickle, having to manage household and kids singlehandedly, for the first time in her life. How on earth would she cope and would this have an impact on her perfect lifestyle image? These questions kept me engaged, enthralled, and entertained throughout the whole book. I loved Issy in the first book but in this one she seems somehow more relatable. I loved seeing her progression and the way she handled every 'trial' that was thrown at her. Her growth was a delight and we get to see the softer side of her. I also loved seeing the way her friendships develop and grow and she relates to people much more fully. 

The ending left me on a cliff edge yet again. Ruth Leigh is a gifted writer and this shows in the way she teases and tantalises the reader, drawing them in and keeping them reading. Throughout the book I genuinely wanted to know what would happen next. I loved the book, I loved the ending, and I can't wait for the next one. I would like to recommend this book to the gallery. It is outstanding; what more can I say.

If you would like to buy a copy you can do so through the links below. 

Thank you, Bookaholics, for joining me for another review. Watch this space and I will be back soon with another post. Until then, keep reading and keep writing. 


Sunday, 19 September 2021

Devil's Cauldron by Alasdair Wham

 


I would like to thank Reading Between the Lines Blog Tours for giving me the opportunity to bring you this book, my Bookaholic friends. This gritty thriller is set in my native Scotland, so a real local flavour today. It's enough to make you crack out the Whiskey.

Blurb

What would you do if you saw your father murdered and no one believed you? When he was twelve Finn McAdam, saw his father, a scientist, murdered. No one believed him. Now he has returned to his native Galloway to discover the truth. Wherever it leads him. Whatever it costs. But the conspiracy he discovers exposes a cover-up involving leading political figures and places his life in great danger. Some people are determined that the truth must not get out.


Extract

The jam and cream filling palatable, the sponge harder to swallow, the flavour now tainted with the metallic tang of blood.
An elderly couple got up to leave, and as they reached the door it was held open by a woman who was entering. She was dressed in a black jerkin and matching black trousers – a uniform. She headed to his table to be greeted with a brief smile as she stood there, not, it seemed, expecting to be asked to sit down.
‘How long, Tania?’ I had heard that voice before.
‘The car is ready, sir. They managed to repair the puncture. I’ve parked it in St Andrew Street, close to the Kings Arms Hotel. As usual, there were no spaces left on King Street,’ she added, not with a smile but with a slight softening of her features, an attempted apology for any inconvenience caused. There was a rapport between them. Tania must be his chauffeur.
Tania was stocky, muscle not fat, I thought, her dark shoulder- length hair streaked with wisps of grey, her face impassive. She knew her place. She was also disrupting my plans. I couldn’t approach him now, not when he had company. I quickly supped some of the coffee to suppress my emotion.
‘That’s good. I’ll be out in a minute. Just wait in the car.’ He certainly was a charmer, knew how to treat women. Same way that he treated my father, contempt inbred. Now things could change with a bit of luck, I thought, shovelling down another piece of cake, although it stuck in my gullet.
Tania complied, not reacting to the brush-off, and turned about to leave the cafe. I looked around, no one else had noticed his chauvinism. However, no one else had the personal interest I had in him.
After a few seconds, he drained his coffee cup and stood up, putting his pen back carefully inside his jacket, and then, picking up the paper, he beckoned the waitress over and handed her a paper note. He waited while she brought his change. I kept my head down, managing another mouthful of coffee, masking my face.
‘Thank you.’ He took his change and headed towards the door.
Suddenly, I realised that I needed to pay and follow him, but the waitress had disappeared into the kitchen. I got up as he left and rushed over to the counter.
‘Hello,’ I said loudly and rapped on the counter. I repeated myself and a face appeared, an older woman.
‘I need to pay up, I have to go.’
‘Okay, no problem. Michelle, can you settle this gentleman’s bill? He’s in a hurry,’ she added.
Seconds passed before Michelle appeared. Precious seconds. Michelle returned, reached up and took the tab from a clip and checked the menu for prices.
‘Everything okay, sir?’ She glanced across at the half-eaten cake.
‘Yes,’ but she was taking too long. He could be away in his car by now. I threw down a ten- pound note and said, ‘Keep the change.’ I turned and ran out of the cafe. A glance told me he wasn’t on King Street. I knew Castle Douglas well – after all, I had lived in it for many years when I was younger – and rushed the short distance to St Andrew Street and looked along it. There he was, walking slowly, catching up with Tania who had not yet reached the car. I lurked at the corner and then quickly crossed the street and tried to walk fast without attracting their attention. I stopped beside an antique showroom as Tania pressed a key fob. The indicator lights flashed on a dark-coloured sports coupe, trimmed with a line of lime along the sill, the vivid colour reflecting off the highly polished body of the car. It looked like an Aston Martin, top of the range, a dream car only for the wealthy. Tania held the passenger door open and, as he got in, I took a picture with my iPhone.

Tania paused as she walked round the car, as if she had noticed my action. I turned away and took a picture of a white plaster bust of some historic figure in the window and pretended to be interested in it, breathing hard to steady my tension.
Minutes later I heard the throaty sound of the sports car starting and turned trying to note the registration number, but a car passed blocking my view. I could only see three letters... AGL. The car turned up Queen Street, which ran parallel to King Street, and was gone. I stood for some time, letting my emotion subside before I continued towards Queen Street.
He existed and he knew the area. I had to find him, so many questions to ask him and then... as my thoughts turned to plotting revenge, I saw the car pass the end of the road. I barely had time to turn away but noticed a lime-coloured stripe on the bonnet. Had Tania doubled back to check up on me? Had he recognised me after all? Unlikely, but I had to be careful until the conditions were right for me to exact my revenge.

You can buy the book via the link below. These are affiliate links and I will take a small amount of money if you buy the book. 

x.   x

About Alasdair Wham

Alasdair first two two novels were set in Islay and Mull (west coast of Scotland) and have proved very successful, rich in local detail with interesting plots.
His third novel, Devil's Cauldron, is set in Galloway which is in south-west Scotland, he likes to write about places that he knows the best.

Before he turned to fiction, he produced a series of books exploring Scotland's lost railways, a hobby that he enjoys with his sons and that took him all over Scotland.

Find out more:



That's it for another week my Boookaholic friends. I will see you soon with another post. Until then, keep on reading and writing. 


Sunday, 12 September 2021

The Migrant by Paul Alkazraji - a do not miss thriller

 


Hello, Bookaholics, and welcome back as I bring you another cracking book. I did review Paul's book previously on this blog and you can check out my review here. Today, I am honoured to be bringing you an exclusive extract from the book so you can find out why I loved it so much I am devoting two blogs to telling you about it. 

Blurb

Fascist populists, callous sex-traffickers and murderous mafia gangs - these were not what Pastor Jude Kilburn had expected to face when he moved to Albania. But when vulnerable 19-year-old Alban disappears from his poverty-stricken village to seek work in Greece, Jude has to undertake the perilous journey across the mountains to try and rescue him from the ruthless Athenian underworld. Accompanied by a volatile secret-service agent and a reformed gangster, Jude soon finds himself struggling to keep everyone together as personal tensions rise and violent anti-austerity riots threaten to tear them apart and undermine the mission. Caught between cynical secret police and a brutal crime syndicate, the fate of them all will be determined by a trafficked girl - but not every one will make it home. The Migrant is a tense and evocative thriller with a powerful redemptive twist.

Extract

It was then that Alban heard two different sounds almost at the same time. In the corner of the clearing a branch snapped. Two round eyes, low to the ground, bounded towards the plastic bags and beer cans, and the form of a large brown bear took shape in the darkness. The bear stopped when it saw them and gave a long, whining growl. Heavy running footsteps and the electronic hiss of a two-way radio came from the stone bridge. Ervin was staring wide-eyed back at Alban. Seconds later, the muscular policeman climbed up on the far edge of the clearing. The bear growled at him and rose up on its hind legs before turning and bolting back into the undergrowth. The policeman fell back out of sight.

Alban grasped his sack and plunged into the pine trees until the branches struck his face and knocked him onto his back. Ervin suddenly stood over him looking down.

‘Come on!’ he shouted. ‘Quickly, get going.’ Ervin lifted him by the shoulders. Alban turned and began scrambling forwards on all fours dragging his sack along with him. He could feel Ervin at his heels bumping into him. The stones, twigs and pine cones scratched his forearms and knees as he charged under the tightly interwoven lower branches. He coughed and gasped for breath as the dust came up into his face. He felt two hands grasp his ankles and he spun over to see Ervin being dragged backwards, his hold now released on him.

‘Go – just go. Keep going,’ shouted Ervin. He saw his friend’s eyes widen as his arms flailed and grasped at the rows of trunks. He heard him cry out in pain. Alban turned to look ahead of him, and set off like some spooked forest creature, on and on until he tumbled out of the far edge and down a bank. He got to his feet and sprinted along a narrow track, up onto a rocky knoll, and jumped down into a cleft between two boulders to hide. As his panting for breath began to ease, he wiped the tears and dirt from his cheek. He listened. It was quiet. He waited and could hear no one in pursuit. He lowered his head into his hands and heaved out two sobs. Oh, Uncle Skender, he thought to himself, what have I done?

There was little noise around him except the hum of cicadas and the far-away trickle of water. Then carrying across the still night he heard a voice shout something in Greek and a terrible shriek of pain, and fragments of phrases: ‘No, no ... please ... stop ... don’t ... dog ... you dog.’ He listened again. Ervin cried out. Alban bit his hand as he heard it and closed his eyes. He let his head hang and then he drew his hand under his nose to clean it. He lifted his face slowly, rose out of the rocky cleft and peered around. There was no one. He threw his sack over his shoulder and trod down the knoll. He walked cautiously back in the direction he had come until he found the place where he had tumbled out of the pine trees. He moved past it looking to see where the treeline went, and kept to it hoping he might circle back close to the clearing where they had been. Ten minutes later, he was following the ravine back upstream until he could make out the arch of the stone bridge ahead of him. The sound of Ervin screaming and pleading had grown louder. He winced. He crawled closer on his front up a bank and set aside his sack. He peered over the edge of the clearing and he saw his friend being held by his shirt at the neck. The policeman flung him down and kicked him. Ervin moaned and rolled over.

Sliding back down lower, Alban closed his eyes. He thought about what he could do. He opened them and looked at his hands. They were trembling. He saw a broken branch by his side. It looked thick but dry and rotten. He stretched his hand towards it, and with the tips of his fingers pulled it closer and into his palm. He eased himself onto his back and began to breathe deeply. He saw his breath steam rise high in gusts. He looked up at the millions of stars in the clear Balkan night above him. In his field of vision the policeman suddenly entered and stood looking down on him. For a split second he saw his broad, muscular shoulders, his hair sheared close across his temples, and his eyes – yet one was odd. In fear and panic he brought the branch up into the man’s face and it smashed there into pieces. The man groped at his eyes and tumbled down the bank.

Alban got to his feet, grabbed his sack and ran towards Ervin. He pulled him up off the ground and looked at his face. It was dark and blood-sticky.

‘Hey, friend. Are you coming with me to Greece?’ he shouted. A grin broke across Ervin’s dazed face. Alban clutched his shirt and dragged him forwards, stumbling over the clearing. They tore down the edge of the treeline together. Soon they were running parallel to the ravine. Alban’s sack caught a branch and was snagged from his hand. He stopped to retrieve it. He looked back. The policeman was up now and coming.

They came to a rocky hillock and bounded up it like young goats and then down the other side into a hedge of rosehip bushes. Ervin waded through them ahead lifting the long fronds aside so that they would not snap back on him. Alban, though, felt the thorns of one cut into the flesh of his shoulder and he cried out. They tumbled out of the other side onto the grass and crawled forward until they came to the edge of the land. Alban looked down. Below them was an almost sheer bank of earth falling to the rocky bed of the stream perhaps fifty metres down. He looked out over the mountains before them. The moonlight caught a row of wind turbines on a distant ridgeline. He could smell Ervin’s sweat and blood. He thought he heard the bear growl far away, but he was sure he heard a man grunt and spit. He turned to look behind them. On the top of the hillock the policeman stood against the stars. He reached his hand down to the holster on his thigh and drew out the fat, black pistol.

‘You little dogs!’ he shouted. He mounted it across his right forearm with his left hand. Alban grabbed his friend’s arm and dragged him over the edge as two shots cracked out and echoed along the ravine.

You can buy the books via the links below. These are affiliate links so I will receive a small amount of money if you buy. 

    

About Paul Alkazraji



Paul Alkazraji worked as a freelance journalist in the UK from the mid-nineties. His articles were published in Christianity Magazine, The Christian Herald, The Church Times, The Baptist Times and other publications. His travel articles were also published in The Independent. His first book Love Changes Everything, a collection of seven testimonies, was published by Scripture Union in 2001. His second book Heart of a Hooligan, a biography of ex-football hooligan Dave Jeal, was published by Highland Books in 2000. His third book Christ and the Kalashnikov, a biography of missionaries Ian and Caralee Loring, was published by Zondervan in 2001. From 2004 to 2010 he was editor and publisher of Ujëvarë magazine in Albania. His first novel, 'The Silencer', was published by Highland Books in 2012. His new novel, 'The Migrant', set in Albania and Athens during the austerity troubles, was published by Instant Apostle in February 2019.

I hope you have enjoyed the extract and it's whet your appetite for the book as a whole. Meet me back here soon for another cracking blog post and until then, keep on reading and keep on writing. 

Find out more 




Thank you to Reading Between The Lines Book Tours for the opportunity to highlight this book. 

Monday, 2 August 2021

Book Review: The Shetland Sea Murders by Marsali Taylor

 


And yet another Murder Mystery which will blow you away my Bookaholic friends. When I was offered the chance to review Marsali Taylor's latest sea based novel, I jumped at the chance. Having preciously read some of this series I knew I was in for a good read. In the latest book, Taylor has not let me down, as The Shetland Sea Murders is as good if not better than the last books. 

Blurb

While onboard her last chartered sailing trip of the season, Cass Lynch is awoken in the middle of the night by a Mayday call to the Shetland coastguard. A fishing vessel has become trapped on the rocks off the coast of one of the islands.

In the days that follow, there's both a shocking murder and a baffling death. On the surface there's no link, but when Cass becomes involved it is soon clear that her life is also in danger.

Convinced that someone sinister is at work in these Shetland waters, Cass is determined to find and stop them. But uncovering the truth could prove to be deadly . . .

Review

The first thing I love about this book is that Taylor does no pull any punches, she's bang straight into the action. A mayday call has Cass Lynch straight into the heart of the action. As always, Cass is a fabulous heroine and we get to find out more about her and Gavin in this book. The characterisation is sound with characters that leap off the page and engage the reader. 

Setting is a large part of this story, that setting being the sea. Taylor has a deep knowledge and love for the seas and this is evident in every skilfully written word. I could smell the sea, feel the swell of the boat, picture the fish landing on the fishing trawler, and feel the wind on my face. Descriptions are handled well and add to, rather than detract from the story. Talking of story, this is skilfully handled and Taylor keeps up the pace throughout. At times I found myself holding my breath. The highs and lows kept me reading and wanting to know how the story would be resolved. Whilst this is not an edge of your seat thriller, there is certainly enough action and suspense for the strongest crime aficionado.

I would say this is another Triumph from Marsali Taylor and I would highly recommend it for all fans of crime fiction. 


Find out more


Amazon


I was given a copy fo this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. At no point was I asked to provide a positive review and my review is based on my reading and enjoyment of the book. 

That's it for now Bookhaolics. You'll love this one, I promise. See you soon and until then keep reading and keep writing. 






Monday, 26 July 2021

Book Review: Style and the Solitary by Miriam Drori

 


Yet again, my Bookaholic friends, I am delighted to be kicking off a Blog Tour. This one is for Style and the Solitary, a cracking crime book by Miriam Dori. 

BLURB

An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.

A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem. That’s for sure. The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself. How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?

His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast. She understands its moral. Maybe that’s why she’s the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect. But she’s new in the company – and in the country. Would anyone take her opinion seriously?

She coerces her flatmates, Yarden and Tehila, into helping her investigate. As they uncover new trails, will they be able to reverse popular opinion?

In the end, will Beauty’s belief be strong enough to waken the Beast? Or, in this case, can Style waken the Solitary?

Review

Having lived in Jerusalem for a year I jumped at the chance at being able to read this book as I love anything to do with Jerusalem. I also love crime fiction, so this was a no brainer. I loved the premise of the book, a retelling of beauty and the beast and was intrigued to see if it would work.

Let me reassure you straight away that it most definitely worked. From first word to last, this book is fabulous. The characters are well drawn with a lot of depth and nuances of characterisation. I found myself both drawn to them and empathising. I would say they are true to the Israeli people and culture. Asaf and Nathalie, the main characters are realistic and I found myself imaging them and their character traits, perfectly. I could genuinely feel Asaf's bewilderment, confusion and pain, and found myself wanting to take him away from it all. 

Drori is a skilled wordsmith, with a real gift for writing, something which is evident in every skilful word and sentence. She uses the words to draw the reader in and to keep them reading. The pace is swift and at no point did I feel the storyline flagging; in fact, the very opposite was true. I toyed the story which tantalises and intrigues in equal measure and I genuinely wanted to know the outcome. 

I could not review this without mentioning the setting, Jerusalem. Whilst setting does not play a major part in this story, what was sprinkled in was enough to give the reader a flavour and transport me back to my time living in the City.

To conclude, an excellent and well written crime novel which I would highly recommend. 

   



You can find out more about the author and her books via:

That is it for another week, Bookaholics. I will be back soon with another reading or writing blog. Until then, keep reading and keep writing. 

I was given a copy of this book from the author and blog tour operator as part of the Reading Between the Lines Blog Tours. At no point was I asked to provide a positive review and my review is based on my reading of the book. The links above are affiliate links and I will receive a few pence if you buy the book via the link. 


Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Unravelling by Helen Forbes





Well, my Bookaholics friends, you know I like crime books and the book I bring you today is a cracker. Seriously, I'm blown away. Unravelling by Helen Forbes draws you in from the first exciting sentence to the very last word. I am going to start by giving you the blurb as come context.

Kate Sharp’s family is a mystery. Her mother, Ellen, disappeared into the shadows of Craig Dunain psychiatric hospital when Kate was a child. When her grandmother dies, Kate is desperate for answers. What were the circumstances of her mother’s life and death? Who is her father? Kate’s not the only one trying to uncover the truth. The remains of two bodies with murderous injuries have been found buried in the forest next to the former hospital. And someone else is searching for answers, and he will stop at nothing to find them. As the tale of Ellen’s tragic unravelling unfolds, the secrets that led to her death are exposed, along with the shocking truth about Kate’s father. Unaware of the danger stalking her, Kate continues her search. Will she find the answers? And can she save her own life?

Forbes is an outstanding wordsmith and this is apparent throughout the book. I do workshops on writing a killer first line and this first line is going to make it to the workshop as being a perfect example. I am hoping the author and publisher will forgive me but I just had to share it here. 

'The sway of the noose was mesmerising against the shimmering light that danced between the branches'.

From the minute I read that line, I was hooked and knew I just had to read on. This is writing which invites and tantalises drawing you in word by perfectly crafted word. 

The tense plotline is also superb with highs and lows which had my emotions all over the place and I genuinely wanted to know the secrets that had shaped Kate's Life. Kate is a troubled character but realistic and interesting. I think the author has drawn her well and takes the reader deep inside her head an her soul. We certainly know her by the end of the book.

Page-turner may be a cliche but it certainly applies in this case. I found myself reading way past the point of a sensible bedtime as I wanted to know what happens.

Well done to the author, I am going to search out more books by her. 

You can buy the book from any bookstore or from Amazon via the links below. These are affiliate links and I will receive a few pence if you purchase via the link. 

 


I was given a review copy of  this book as part of the Reading Between the Lines Blog Tour. At no pint was I asked to provide a positive review and my review is based on my reading and enjoyment of the book. 



 

Monday, 12 July 2021

Scent of Water - Words of Comfort in Times of Grief

Good morning, Bookaholics. As you know I review a variety of books on this blog but today I bring you one which will bring comfort to those who are grieving. As I write this, it is a year to the day that my cousin died suddenly, his wife having died a few days earlier. So, I write this from a place of grief myself, knowing the truth of what is contained within its pages. When I say this book is suitable to buy as a gift for anyone who is grieving, I can relate to what they re going through. Grief is not something which disappears overnight and Scent of Water acknowledges that. It does not dismiss grief but provides words to support those who are in the midst of their grief. 

Penelope, herself, went through a great loss, seeing her mother being swept away by an out of control car. This plunged her into a two year period of overwhelming grief. She is honest about her feelings and shares her story at the beginning of the book. The fact that she has walked where the reader walks gives this book greater clarity, sincerity, and meaning. The book is unapologetically Christian and is, in fact aimed at the Christian market. This means that God is very squarely at the centre of every short section.

The book is broken into sections, the first being for the special days where the loved one who has died will be missing. These include Birthday's, Christmas, and New Year. The next section contains 25 weeks of short devotionals which can be read in any order. Each has a bible verse and a short prayer, acknowledging every emotion and every stage of grief. These do not shy away from  the difficult times or difficult emotions but help the reader to acknowledge them and to bring them to God in heartfelt prayer. 



This could not have been easy for the author to write; I applaud her generosity in pouring her raw feelings onto paper in order to help others. And help it will. It will allow those grieving to acknowledge their own feelings and, at the same time, will soothe like a literary balm.

I can highly recommend this book if you know anyone who is grieving. You can order copies from the authors website 

I am honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for this book. I was given a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. At no time was I asked to provide a positive review and my review is based on my reading of the book. 


That's it for another week my Bookaholic friends. See you soon and until then keep reading and keep writing.