Sunday, 30 August 2015

Review: Lawyer for the Dog by Lee Robinson

Attorney Sally Baynard is baffled when Joe, her judge ex-husband, appoints her to represent the interests of a pet dog - Sherman, a miniature schnauzer - in a divorce case. 

As Sally begins to investigate, she discovers the battle for Sherman masks a whole host of problems between Rusty and Maryann Hart. The more she discovers, the more Sally starts to realise the dog is the least of their worries.

But is Joe's request all that it appears? And as Sally delves deeper into the family's love of their canine best friend, might Sherman prove to have a nose for love?

Lawyer for the Dog is Lee Robinson's charming, moving and funny debut novel.

My Thoughts:
I admit it was the combination of intriguing title and the cleverly silhouetted figures against a backdrop of rich red hues on it's cover that initially drew me to this book. Whilst the saying goes that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover this book didn't disappoint. I loved this book which was warm & witty and like a breath of fresh air. 

Packed full of family and relationship drama this is far from a typical novel about a female lawyer. For a start she is middle-aged but sassy, caring and still attractive if only a little out of the dating game, but atypically not because she is tied to her desk. 

Sherman is adorable but who would have thought that such a small dog could make such a difference to her life. Enter the handsome vet who rivals Joe for Sally's affections. But there is a deeper side to this story too as the relationship with her ex and ageing mother are explored.

In contrast to other page turners where I can hardly wait the outcome and the inevitable end this was a relaxing read, which left me with a smile on my face and the taste for more. The book is well written with a quirky plot, interesting dialog and flowing text. The characters are so well fleshed out each with their own distinct characteristics that they feel real. I was satisfied but sorry when it ended.

With plenty of story and a sprinkling of romance I liked that it touched on life's deeper issues in the context of caring like divorce, age related dementia and even cancer. Like most popular women's fiction the underlying theme of this book is about coming to terms with life's current issues and making new beginnings.

Highly recommended.

(Grateful thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review.)

What others are saying:

Bookfan: "I loved being in Sally’s head while she navigated through her days. It was difficult not to laugh much of the time."

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Review: The Future of Sex by Lexi Maxxwell

The Future of Sex by Lexi Maxxwell

In the hyperconnected and artificial-intelligence-enhanced future, sex is like a cyberpunk video game: a realm where no desire is left unexplored, and even the unimaginable is possible.

In the year 2063, the civilized world exists only within the North American Union, walled off by a defensive shell called the Lattice, protected from the barbarian East and rising sea levels while life goes on in a hyper-stimulated dystopia. Life inside the NAU is overseen by the Crossbrace network, soon to be supplanted by the next-gen AI of an arriving entity called "The Beam." And sex -- which hosts a bevy of technological wonders within its toolset (nanobots, bodily enhancements, computer-simulated immersive porn) has been turned into a commodity, diverted away from humanity and toward profit.
The monolithic O corporation has mainstreamed sexuality through social engineering and political manipulation -- not in order to legitimize it, but to advance its own market share. O is in search of the elite to please the NAU's wealthiest and most demanding men and women -- true to its mission to strive toward "the future of sex." Among those recruits is Chloe Shaw: new, green, and downright inexperienced. But as it turns out, Chloe has a gift that even far-seeing O doesn't suspect. She's a prodigy for sure … but will her abilities prove to be more than even O can control?
The Future of Sex takes place within the world of The Beam, a groundbreaking sci-fi serial by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. This cyberpunk trip down the rabbit hole straddles the line as a hybrid science fiction / erotica series, and as such contains explicit sex scenes.

My Thoughts:
I love new technology but don't normally read erotic titles, however there was something about the description and the science fiction tie in that attracted me to this title. The amazon sample confirmed it, this was a book which I had to read and I am pleased to say I wasn't disappointed.

The description states clearly that this story takes place in Sean Platt's and Johnny Truant's Beam world. Not having read any of the Beam titles I chose to read The Beam: Season One first and whilst not strictly necessary it did give me a better understanding of the backdrop against which the story took place.

I enjoyed this story immensely, it felt fresh and original but similar to a pilot for a Tv-series it ended with a cliff hanger. It was a quick read and the first of a series. Given the books each contain only 62 pages each I would have preferred a longer book containing more episodes.

What I don't like is the sales model, publishing a book in parts (or episodes) and bundling later into complete books (or seasons). The Future of Sex is published in 4 parts.

(Review copy gratefully received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Highly recommended as a quick read.

Format: Kindle Edition
Publisher: Lexi Maxxwell (7 May 2015)

The Series:

Friday, 28 August 2015

Review: The Beam by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt

In the future, the Beam network has taken over our lives -- but now, it's developing a life of its own.

The year is 2097. North America has become the North American Union -- the only place on Earth not decimated by the environmental catastrophes of the 2020s. To protect citizens during the technological renaissance, the NAU erected the Lattice: an impervious net to keep the so-called "Wild East" at bay. That was when the NAU began to regrow as a cyperpunk utopia … ordystopia, depending on where you stand. 

Today, the NAU appears to be divided into two political parties: the socialist Directorate and the capitalist Enterprise. But within secret circles, the true division of NAU power and wealth is more apparent: there is the Lower 99 Percent, who rely on The Beam to entertain and connect the nationwide hive mind ... and there is the Beau Monde, who control it. 
Meet Micah and Isaac Ryan: Figureheads of power, pawns within a greater game
For the Lower 99, the choice between Enterprise and Directorate is simple. They can choose the security of Directorate: fed, sheltered, and provided-for by the government … but unable to advance beyond their assigned (and modest) station. Or they can choose the potential and risk of Enterprise, where a few entrepreneurs and artists thrive, but many more die in the gutters without a safety net. 

Micah heads the Enterprise party, blessed with family wealth that grew from rumored unsavory practices during the dystopian years. Isaac heads the opposing Directorate -- just as wealthy, just as enhanced with restricted Beam-interfacing upgrades much better than those widely believed to exist. 

But both of the Ryan brothers ultimately serve an inner circle, with strings pulled from high above. 
Meet Kai Dreyfuss: A prostitute assassin with aspirations to join the Beau Monde, harboring a cortex full of dangerous secrets.
Kai is eternally young, eternally beautiful, her add-ons suited to her dual careers in pleasure and espionage. Kai would do anything to ascend to the secret club she's learned is above her pay grade … and her connection to Nicolai Costa (the power behind Isaac Ryan) gives her an unfair advantage. 
Meet Leah: A girl with no last name, no past, and a hacker's mind in the body of a luddite.
Not everyone loves the hyperconnectivity of The Beam, although few are immune to its influence. Leah (young, dreadlocked, with a penchant for disobedience) lives a pair of lives between the Organa settlement that eschews technology and plots to disrupt the network … and her prodigious ability to see behind The Beam's AI to the intelligence growing within it. 
And meet Doc Stahl: A biological upgrades dealer who knows too much.
So far, the Beau Monde has kept its secrets under wraps and the true breadth of its power hidden. But Thomas "Doc" Stahl has stumbled into a place he shouldn't be and seen things he's forbidden to see. There are upgrades on the market far superior to those he's been allowed to sell -- and interests out there who are prepared to kill to protect their secrets. 
But Shift is coming 
The Enterprise and Directorate parties have always given people an identity … and a "them" to resent so the true power balance can remain hidden. In the past, the chance for citizens to change their party (or stay in the same) for the next six years at Shift has been routine. But this year, the air is different. Riots are blooming. And this Shift promises to be anything but ordinary. 

The Beam is part hard science fiction, part political thriller, part heart-pounding cyperpunk adventure, part techno thriller. Science fiction in the footprints of Asimov, where nothing is quite what it seems.

My Thoughts:

WOW, This was brilliant, original and the best in this genre that I have read in a very long time.  This is also a series I discovered by pure chance which following in the footsteps of both Asimov and the Matrix it is truly groundbreaking. 

Set in the future this alternate reality feels so recognisable and real. The "internet of things" is already a reality in our lifetime, The Beam takes us further into the future where the internet develops first into Crossbrace and then simply the Beam. To date there are three titles set in this beam world, I am hooked and have already devoured The Future of Sex and plan on continuing with The Beam: Season Two.

What I liked about this book is that it is so different and yet so recognisable. The technology whilst advanced can be traced back to what we have today and people are people and politics is politics no matter what technologies are at hand. The book covers a lot of ground and is full of interesting three dimensional characters and situations. The attention to detail is also incredible. 

There is so much going on but the main story in this season is about Kai and Doc. A simple case of mistaken identity spirals out of control. At the same time another thread is about Leah and is the link into the next book.

What I don't like is the sales model, publishing a book in parts (or episodes) and bundling later into complete books (or seasons).

Highly recommend and not to be missed by all with a love of new technology, especially when offset against a backdrop of humanity.

(Review copy gratefully received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Format: Kindle Edition
Publisher: Realm & Sands; 1 edition (16 July 2013)

The Series:

Friday, 21 August 2015

Review: The Other Half Of My Heart by Stephanie Butland

“It smelled bittersweetly of sourdough, and there was the trace of hot, fresh bread in the air. She took a deep breath and unlocked the door”

Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.

She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.

Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina's bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .

Can she ever go back?

My Thoughts:
I love the smell of freshly bread and only minutes after receiving this book couldn't resist taking a peek. My curiosity having already got the better of me, once opened this book promptly sucked me in and proved to be extremely hard to put down. Cleverly written this is really two interwoven stories of Bettina the baker and Tina her younger self who loved and worked with horses and was in love with Roddy.

It is immediately obvious that something bad happened, and as the stories progress the clues begin to emerge.

Only the authors second novel. it is extremely well written and well paced with interesting and three dimensional characters. The two novels are loosely connected because this book makes a few references to events in the first and features some of the same characters. I enjoyed this one without having read her previous title. It was a good book, good enough to cause me to put another which I was enjoying on hold.

At first I assumed the theme of the book was "new beginnings" only later to realise it was actually about "running away and hiding".

It doesn't matter how far you run and hide, you cannot hide from yourself......

This is a really moving book with a really great and original story. To classify this as a romance would be to sell it short.

Finally a big thank you to the publisher and NetGalley provided me with a pre-release copy in exchange for an honest review.

Highly recommended.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (22 Oct. 2015)

  • Buy Links
AmazonUK | Amazon | B&N

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Review: Stirred With Love by Marcie Steele

Stirred With Love by Marcie Steele

Sometimes the best friends can be found where you least expect them … 

Still grieving after the loss of her beloved husband, Lily Mortimer is determined to do something with the time she has left. 

After the end of her fairytale marriage, thirty-something Kate is trying hard to mend her broken heart. 

Chloe, a young woman with the world at her feet, is struggling to know what to do with her life. 

When Lily embarks on a new venture in the picturesque town of Somerley, the three women come together to open The Coffee Stop, the most charming cafĂ© for miles around. 

But opening a coffee shop is never as simple as it seems, especially when you add neighbouring competition, local heart throbs and heartbreak to the mix. 

When tragedy strikes, can the three women pull together to make the new business fly, or will Lily’s last chance disappear down the drain along with yesterday’s coffee grinds? 

As comforting as a cappuccino and a better pick-me-up than a grande Americano, Stirred with Love will captivate readers of Milly Johnson, Carole Matthews and Jenny Colgan.

My Thoughts:
A rollercoaster ride of emotions this book was a joy to read and packed full of humour and compassion. Despite the cover which literally screams chic-lit this is a book with the emphasis on a great story making it a really engaging read.

The general theme is new beginnings and the value of friendship set in the context of a new coffee shop.

Three women each in different phases of their lives come together for different reasons to build a new business. The characters are 3 dimensional and compliment each other well. Each is very different but all very likeable with characters that develop as the story progresses. There is plenty of drama and love interest, Lily has a plan and a secret but you'll have to be patient and wait until almost the end of the story to find out what they are.

I liked the well paced nature of the story, the story twists and the element of surprise. At no time did it feel rushed or forced which made it a very relaxing read.

Highly recommended. I will be looking for more from this author.

(With grateful thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.)

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Bookouture (3 Sept. 2015)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review: The Time Stopper by Dima Zales and Anna Zaires

The Time Stopper by Dima Zales and Anna Zaires

A lucky and chance find freebie spotted only earlier today which at 62 pages is easily read in less than an hour.

From a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author comes a novelette in the Mind Dimensions series. This short story does not require you to have read the other books in the series.

I can stop time, but I can’t change anything.

I can access memories, but not far enough.

My name is Mira, and my life is about finding the Russian mobster who killed my family.

My Thoughts:
Wow, this is a really enjoyable and original story. The Time Stopper is a complete short story in its own right but also an excellent teaser for the Mind Dimensions series.

This is essentially Mira's story. Mira like her father and brother has a gift, she can literally stop time and shift. This a fascinating concept where shifting involves stepping out of herself into the "quiet" where she can explore both her surroundings and those around her before stepping back into herself and restarting time. This added to the question of which Russian mobster who killed her family makes this a fascinating and engaging read.

The writing was superb with well developed 3 dimensional characters. I liked the way the story teased me as the reader keeping me fully engaged and curious to read more about Mira, her quest and time shifting in general. Having never read anything by this author before I cannot compare this to other works but it has sparked my interest to read more in this series.

I have always enjoyed short stories and novellas but don't purchase many unless they are free or very cheap as I don't find them very good value for money given how quick to read they are to read. Using a short story or novella however to promote a book or series is an excellent idea, especially since this short story is now free (at Amazon) for a limited time.

Highly recommended.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Mozaika Publications (7 Jan. 2015)

The Series:

Friday, 14 August 2015

Review: A Meditation on Murder by Robert Thorogood

An original story from the creator and writer of the hit BBC One TV series, Death in Paradise, featuring on-screen favourite detective, DI Richard Poole.

Enhance your enjoyment of the series as, for the first time, Robert Thorogood brings the characters to life on the page in an all-new locked-room mystery. One murder victim, five suspects and a room no person entered or left; the classic murder in a locked room conundrum.

Aslan Kennedy has an idyllic life: leader of a spiritual retreat for wealthy holidaymakers on one of the Caribbean's most unspoilt islands, Saint Marie. Until he's murdered, that is. The case seems open and shut: when Aslan was killed he was inside a locked room with only five other people, one of whom has already confessed to the murder.

Detective Inspector Richard Poole is hot, bothered, and fed up with talking to witnesses who'd rather discuss his 'aura' than their whereabouts at the time of the murder. But he also knows that the facts of the case don't quite stack up. In fact, he's convinced that the person who's just confessed to the murder is the one person who couldn't have done it. Determined to track down the real killer, DI Poole is soon on the trail, and no stone will be left unturned.

A must read for fans of the TV series and Agatha Christie crime classics featuring Marple and Poirot.

My Thoughts:
As a fan of the existing tv-series, I was delighted to find more adventures in book form to supplement the series.

Robert who was the series originator has on the whole done a good job of translating the characters to another medium.  I am not sure why but the book takes us back to the period around the first series where DI Richard Poole was still in charge and irritated by his surroundings and colleagues. In the second season he whilst still grumpy had mellowed somewhat as we got to know him and likewise as he and his colleagues got to know each other better.

This book is a delight with the all usual elements that we have come to expect from the tv-series namely: red herrings, plot twists humour and the inevitable bringing together of all the suspects for unveiling of the murderer at the end. In common with other books which are part of a series, it assumes to a degree that the reader has some prior knowledge. Personally I wouldn't recommend reading this without at least watching the first episode in the tv-series.

Both Camille and Dwayne translate well to paper. It was interesting to learn that origin of the motorcycle and sidecar is somewhat a mystery having joined the force around the same tome ad Dwayne. Richard himself whilst he had all the same traits inevitably came over a little differently than in the series with the investigation being written mostly from his standpoint. Personally I thought it a shame that the author didn't switch between the characters to tell the story.

I really enjoyed this book with all its twists and Harry the Lizard antics. As in the series Richard's grumpy attitude and behaviour is offset by his fellow islanders and police officers. His colleagues laid back attitude is the perfect balance to the straight-laced and often tactless DI Richard Poole.

This is the first in a series, I am looking forward to reading the next in the series where I hope to learn more about the characters in the series.

Recommended as light reading for fans of the tv-series. However it has to be said that DI Poole on paper misses the Ben Miller touch.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: MIRA; 1 edition (1 Jan. 2015)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Review: The Ladies' Room by Carolyn Brown

Secrets told in the church ladies' room are supposed to stay in the ladies' room. But that doesn't mean that what Trudy overhears there during her great-aunt Gertrude's funeral won't change the rest of her life.

Trudy has a daughter in the middle of a major rebellion, a two-timing husband who has been cheating for their entire married life, and a mother with Alzheimer's residing in the local nursing home. She doesn't really need a crumbling old house about to fall into nothing but a pile of memories and broken knickknacks.

Billy Lee Tucker, resident oddball in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, lived next door to Gert, and in her will she leaves him the funds to help Trudy remodel the old house. That's fine with Billy Lee, because he's been in love with Trudy since before they started school. And just spending time with her is something he'd never ever allowed himself to dream about.

A beautiful home rises up from the old house on Broadway, and right along with it rises up a relationship. But is Trudy too scarred from what she heard in the ladies' room to see a lovely future with Billy Lee?

My Thoughts:
What is heard in the ladies' room stays in the ladies room. What a lovely and original story; literally every cloud in this book has a silver lining making it a wonderfully relaxing read. The idea of a "divorced women's (or wife of a cheating husband) scholarship" was a really nice touch.

This is a story about family, relationships and individual strengths with a hint of romance. It is an extremely well written book where the text literally flows with some interesting characters. I loved the character development; how each women had a backstory and whilst a product of both their environment and own mistakes, how they each came into their own.

I had to admire Trudy's courage, with luck on her side she went from strength to strength after dumping her cheating husband. Also as the story progressed so grew my respect for Aunt Gert. Life isn't about making the right choices and worrying about what other people think.

Admittedly this story is sweet and very sugar coated but charming too with plenty of surprises.

Recommended for a relaxing read which is sure to make you smile and currently available from the kindle lending library.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Montlake Romance (4 Sept. 2012)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Review: Pleasure Island by Anna Lou Weatherley

Pleasure Island: A gripping beach read packed with mystery, suspense, drama and romance.

Secrets. Scandal. Betrayal. In Paradise, pleasure comes at a dangerously high price…

Three couples each receive an exclusive invitation to the fantasy holiday destination of a lifetime…

The host:Martin McKenzie, global billionaire and media mogul. Charismatic, powerful and always gets what he wants.

The location: A breathtakingly beautiful undiscovered island, nestled in the Aegean Sea. Private, secluded and not quite as it seems.

The details: Seven days of pure hedonism, five-star luxury tailored to every desire, also includessecrets, liesand infidelity.

As the guests begin to enjoy everything the luxury island has to offer, cracks begin to surface between the three couples. But that is not all. Someone is watching them.

When they discover the truth – it will be explosive in more ways than they can ever imagine.

A jaw-dropping, absorbing and spectacular blockbuster of a novel. THE beach read of the summer you won’t want to be without.

My Thoughts:

Not really a fan of the reality tv trend and having previously enjoyed Ben Elton's books I was delighted with this original and entertaining novel.

Sometimes larger than life I really liked the stereotype mix of evil billionaire, Barbie, Journalist, Judge, ageing soul singer, footballer and young and upcoming Rockstar. Whilst at times some of the characters felt a little too two dimensional this fitted well into the storyline and may well have been intentional. The super eight who are introduced in the first chapter whilst necessary to the plot didn't feature much in the story which was primarily centred on the three couple cast.

On the whole a well written work of fiction with plenty of plot twists and surprises. This book like reality tv itself provokes the candidates or cast (as they are here referred to) to enhance the entertainment value, and this is understandably where many of the best scenes and plot surprises take place.

This title made a perfect and captivating holiday read and was difficult to put down. I loved this over the top title with it's sexy thought provoking "what if" and revenge nature with a hint of romance. To my surprise at the end of the book my favourite character for entertainment value was Billy-Jo with Nate rated the lowest who seemed a bit soft to me for an ex pro-footballer, I would personally have preferred him a bit more macho.

Recommended reading.

(Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review)

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Bookouture (31 July 2015)

Review: Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby

Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.

Ignoring Gravity connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feels so different from her sister Lily. Then just when she thinks there can’t be any more secrets…

This is the first in a series of novels about Rose Haldane, identity detective. The second, Connectedness, will be published in 2015.

My Thoughts:
This book genuinely surprised me. Reading the first couple of pages I almost put it down but I am really glad I didn't make that mistake because as it drew me in I found it increasingly difficult to stop reading.

I love books about secrets and this was no exception. Solving this puzzle was literally like peeling layers off an onion. A chance discovery of an old diary turns Rose's world upside down causing her to question her identity and initiate her search for her other family.

The less than perfect, even flawed nature of the characters in this book made them believable and the situations easy to relate to. I liked the way the story contrasted the sisters, the way they were so different. One so desperate for a child the other more concerned with life and career, also how this was mirrored into the past giving the story more depth. I liked too the way they both changed too as the story developed, as weakness became strength.

The story pulled together well, with sufficient plot twists and quiet a few surprises. There is a romance in here too, but this is more story than romance with the emphasis on relationships rather than romance.

Highly recommended debut novel. Whilst promoted as the first in a new series this book is complete in itself and easily stands alone.

(Review copy gratefully received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.)

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Beulah Press; 1 edition (21 Nov. 2014)