Month: June 2017

‘The Fourth Monkey’ by J.D. Barker #BookReview #FridayReads

Brilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…

4th monkey

There’s a really clever plot at the heart of this novel. While the usual suspects of a serial killer tale are all here – good guy detective with a troubled back story; twisted psycho with a twisted past; a cast of good, solid, side characters – there are some unexpected twists and turns that are really well done. It is gripping at times, and I did want to keep reading.

The hunt for a missing girl, in the grip of a terrifying serial killer, is interspersed with the diary of that killer (found by the lead detective). This was really effective and very interesting too. Finding out what made the killer tick while hoping that Emory would be found really added to the suspense – the reader becomes horribly aware of just what 4MK is capable of.

This is a gory novel. There are some disturbing scenes. This doesn’t usually put me off – but I do prefer subtlety over a sledgehammer, and this was just too overdone for my liking. It wasn’t the gory scenes themselves, it was just that they did seem gratuitous. And sometimes things are more disturbing, more scary, more gripping, if they’re subtle.

I also thought that some of the dialogue – particularly the banter between the police – was a bit clichéd. And I really didn’t buy Emory’s dad’s reaction to her disappearance.

So I did sort of enjoy it. It was a good, entertaining read. But I didn’t love it.

three stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.


Authors for Grenfell Tower

Words and Fictions

I’ve never liked tower blocks. I had a friend who lived on the 13th floor of what used to be called a “hard to let” block in east London. She loved the view from her balcony, and kept flowerpots tethered in five unblowoffable ways to the railings, but even stepping on to it made me feel weak at the knees. Perhaps my knees were already weak when I arrived, because I always used to walk up the stairs. The lift was creaky and claustrophobic. Supposing it got stuck? Supposing someone scary got in it with you?

Fire 3 Cuttings from the “I”, “The Guardian” and the “Evening Standard”‘ June 17th & 19th 2017

Even posh tower blocks – skyscrapers, rather, penthouses, high rise living and the other more affluent synonyms – worry me. The only time I visited New York, I was less scared sleeping on the 34th floor than I’d anticipated…

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The Traditions and History of the Summer Solstice #SummerSolstice #Stonehenge

Here’s a post from a few years ago – it’s a beautiful day today for the summer solstice.

‘As the sun spirals its longest dance, cleanse us.

As nature shows bounty and fertility bless us.

Let all things live with loving intent and to fulfil their truest destiny.’

Wiccan blessing for summer

solstice stonehenge

Were you up early this morning watching the sun rise? If you were, you were joining hundreds of other people marking this year’s summer solstice.

The summer solstice happens when the tilt of the Earth’s semi-axis is most inclined towards the sun. In fact, the word ‘solstice’ derives from the Latin ‘solstitium’ which translates as ‘sun stands still’. On this day there are the most hours of sunlight.

Humans have long been amazed by the power of the sun and light has a key role in many rituals, beliefs and superstitions. For Pagans in particular, this day has a particular significance. They believe that the Goddess (who they worship along with the horned God) took over the earth at the beginning of spring. The solstice marks the day when she is at her most powerful. Some Pagans believe the day marks the marriage of the Goddess and God – their union creating the abundance of the harvest.

Although they come together to celebrate life and growth at the time of the solstice, Pagans also recognise that the sun will now begin to decline, days will slowly get shorter, and we will edge slowly towards winter.

If you live in the UK, then you probably associate the summer solstice with Stonehenge. Many Pagans and, indeed, non-Pagans, gather at this ancient stone circle to watch the sun rise. The Heel Stone and the Slaughter Stone are set just outside the main circle, and these stones align with the rising sun.

solstice henge 2

Although Stonehenge is the focal point for many, Pagans will gather outdoors to take part in rituals and celebrations that date back for thousands of years. These traditions have largely been forgotten or are now overlooked, but it is worth remembering that, although many were wiped from the history books once Christianity took hold, these ancient rites and beliefs were here long before the relatively modern Christian tradition. Because of the passage of time, and also because of the banning of many traditions and beliefs under Christianity, there is not much documented evidence of traditional celebrations marking Litha, or Midsummer, of which the Solstice is a part. There is some information to be found however; some of it, ironically, in the writings of monks.

One tradition that is known about is that of setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into water. This may have been used to signify the fact that although the sun is strongest in midsummer, it will then weaken. Water also reduces the heat of the sun; subordinating heat (the fire) to water signified the prevention of drought.


The setting of hilltop bonfires was also a midsummer’s tradition, again linking fire to the sun and honouring the space between the earth and the sun. This tradition was brought to the British Isles by Saxon invaders celebrating the power of the sun over darkness.

Pagans today see the solstice as a time for focusing on inner lightness and power. Whatever your beliefs, getting up early on the morning of the summer solstice and watching the sun rise is sure to fill you with awe. It’s a tradition we should probably all embrace.

‘Let the Dead Speak’ by Jane Casey #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview


In the chilling new crime novel from award-winning author Jane Casey, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth…

A murder without a body
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.

A girl too scared to talk
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won’t let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from?

A detective with everything to prove
As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

This is the first of Jane Casey’s books I’ve read, and although it is the seventh book in the series, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel at all. There were references to past events, but nothing that interfered with the story at hand.

Police procedurals also aren’t something that I go out of my way to read, but I liked the sound of this one and thought it as worth a try. And I’m really glad I did. This is a fast-paced, clever read, with sympathetic characters that are engaging and interesting and with a plot that has lot of twists and turns that are well-conceived and completely believable.

The dynamic between Maeve (who is a great main character – a woman that is intelligent, career-orientated, but certainly not perfect and very, very human) and her ‘partner’ Josh works very well indeed.  And the investigation itself has lots of very different and interesting aspects. The religious neighbours were intriguing and very unsettling, and the whole issue around Kate and her daughter Chloe was really well done.

My only gripe was that I felt the ending was a little rushed. Without giving too much away, I wanted to know more about what had driven the perpetrator, and the consequences of their crime.

All in all though, a really well-executed and clever novel. I’ll be reading more from Jane Casey.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy for review.

‘Mad’ by Chloe Esposito #BookReview #FridayReads


Alvina Knightly: Uncensored. Unhinged. Unforgettable. 

‘There’s something you should know before we go any further: my heart is in the wrong place. Now don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .’

Perhaps that’s why nothing in Alvie’s life has ever gone right? Until now.

She can finally abandon her credit card debt – and her fruitless three-way relationship with Tinder and Twitter – when fate gives her the chance to steal her identical twin’s perfect life.

It’s just a shame Beth had to die to make Alvie’s dreams come true.

So begin seven days of sex, violence and unapologetic selfies – one wild week that sees Alvie break every rule in the book. She never did have much respect for boundaries.

It might be madness, but rules are meant to be broken. Right?

Mad is the first in the sexy, shocking and compulsively readable Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know trilogy.

Alvie is a twin, and her life in London couldn’t be more different from that of her happily married sister Beth, in Sicily with her gorgeous husband and adorable baby, wearing designer clothes and living in a luxurious villa in the shadow of Mount Etna. Beth has the life Alvie wants.

Then Alvie gets an invitation (and a first class ticket) from Beth and she begins a sex and drug-fuelled trip that turns into a killing spree. At last Alvie’s found something she’s good at. But what’s really behind Beth’s invitation?

This is a really different book. It’s definitely uncensored and Alvie is definitely unhinged. It’s violent and Alvie is clearly a psychopath. But she’s also horribly funny and some of the situations she gets herself into are so mad that it’s difficult not to laugh. But she’s a horrible person and there really isn’t anything about her to counteract the terrible things she does.

But I think that that’s what makes this book so different. It makes you feel uncomfortable; Alvie makes you feel uncomfortable. There are no soft edges to her, nothing that invokes your sympathy. And that’s a brave character for the author to write.

I did think there were a few places where the writing could be tightened up a bit and where things were a bit too extreme, even for Alvie. But on the whole this is a fast-paced, uncomfortably funny book. And I’ll read the next in the trilogy, just to see what on earth Alvie gets up to next.

4 stars

Thanks to the publisher for a free copy for review

‘The Former Chief Executive’ by Kate Vane #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview @k8vane

#RBRT Review Team

I read and reviewed ‘The Former Chief Executive’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

chief exec

Without your past, who are you?
Deborah was a respected hospital manager until a tragedy destroyed her reputation. She has lost her career, her husband and even her name.
Luca wants to stay in the moment. For the first time in his life he has hope and a home. But a fresh start is hard on a zero-hours contract, harder if old voices fill your mind.
When a garden share scheme brings them together, Deborah is beguiled by Luca’s youth and grace. He makes her husband’s garden live again. He helps her when she’s at her lowest. But can she trust him? And when the time comes to confront her past, can she find the strength?
This sharply drawn short novel explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame.

Deborah’s vision of her retirement – to spend her days finally relaxing with her husband Peter after a long career – has had to be reimagined. Peter has died, and she is alone, struggling to know what to do with her time and how to live without him, and without the career that defined her.

Luca is also struggling – struggling with life after prison, a new job, a pregnant girlfriend. He finds solace in working on Deborah’s garden and the two develop a friendship.

But the arrival of Deborah’s daughter complicates things as their problematic relationship is put under new pressure. And Deborah also has to contend with her past, and the fear that it will come back to ruin the present.

This is a thoughtful book, measured and considered. The pace is rather slow, but it works with writing that is skilful and assured. The characters are incredibly well-drawn and have so many layers – they have a real depth, and, while not all are exactly likeable, their stories are compelling, and you really care about what happens to them.

My only issue is that I feel this could have been longer. I wanted to know more about Deborah’s past, about what happened at the hospital. And I wanted more about her relationship with Eleanor. Luca is so interesting too, and I felt that there were things in his past that could be explored more thoroughly. The writing is so well-crafted, so good, that it seemed a shame that that wasn’t more of it!

This is a well-crafted and enjoyable read. The restrained tone is deceiving – there is a great deal going on here, a lot of it seething away under the surface. The author shows a great amount of skill in resisting the temptation to let everything bubble over.

An excellent novella.

4.5 out of 5

‘Fur Coat and No Knickers’ by Adrienne Vaughan #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview @adrienneauthor


A mixture of thrilling, gripping and heart-warming short stories for a cosy fireside read anytime, anyplace. Fur Coat & No Knickers will introduce you to an impoverished heiress desperate to keep up appearances; a bitter and broken-hearted widow whose wilful terrier leads her to romance; an ageing theatrical masquerading as a highly-paid carer and a woman whose husband has maintained a secret family throughout their married life! These are just some of the fascinating and unforgettable characters in this fabulous new collection by award-winning author Adrienne Vaughan.

Writing a good short story is a tricky thing, and something that many novelists find difficult. The transition from novelist to short story writer isn’t easy and, having read and enjoyed this author’s novels in the past, I have to admit I was a little worried that these stories might not work as well as her novels undoubtedly do.

But they do work, and they work very well indeed. Ms Vaughan is a wonderful story-teller, and there are some wonderful stories here. These stories are character-driven, and the author has a real skill for drawing characters that are relatable and realistic; to build these characters so well and so clearly in such few words, and to make you care about a character that you only spend a few pages with is quite an accomplishment.

Stand outs for me were ‘Heir Apparent’, a story of deception with a little twist in the tail; ‘The Messenger’, which I feel could be developed into something longer; and ‘A Married Man’ which has a surprisingly dark edge.

A lovely book to dip in and out of, and perfect for a little bit of escapism.


4.5 out of 5