Substitute by Susi Holliday – Review.

About The Book

Three people live. Three people die. You make the choice.

Like any mother, Chrissie wants to protect her family. She would do anything to keep them safe. So when a mysterious stranger turns up at her door, offering to prevent the deaths of the people she loves, it sounds too good to be true. The only problem: she must choose someone to die in their place. A substitute.

When her daughter Holly has a terrible accident, Chrissie has no option but to enter the programme. In that horrifying moment, she would do anything to save her. But even after Holly makes a miraculous recovery, Chrissie is convinced it’s just a coincidence. After all, who can really control the laws of life and death?

But as the dangers to her family escalate and her chosen substitutes begin to disappear, Chrissie finds herself in an underworld of hidden laboratories and secretive doctors. And the consequences of playing by their rules are far deadlier than she ever imagined…

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received. I can always rely on Susi Holliday to entertain me with one of her novels. They are original with a storyline that I know will always have me reading one more chapter.

A dual time framed novel, in the 1980s we have two scientists who have differing views on how their work should be handled. Excited and fearful but maybe not fearful enough. These two are completely out of their depth despite their differing passion for wealth and knowledge. And in modern day there is Chrissie, young mother who struggles with loneliness but is devoted to her young daughter Holly and insists on family time where her and her husband Nathan take Holly to the park and just spend time together without their phones. Sounds ideal, but you just know that nothing is as it seems. It doesn’t take long for this seemingly happy family unit to be torn apart by the work of the scientists years earlier.

How do you handle knowing that you have the option of choosing who has to die to protect the ones you love? And then realising that you may have chosen incorrectly. Both to live or die! It is a feeling that made me slightly uncomfortable. And despite feeling relief at being able to take advantage of the offer Chrissie also felt a lot of guilt.

Whenever I read a novel there are always characters I dislike but it was different in this book. There were ones I wasn’t keen on initially but the more I read and realised what happened to them I was more inclined to feel sympathetic. Mistakes made mainly due to the thrill of wealth and power, but which had catastrophic results. And there was also a character whose actions I misunderstood throughout most of the novel and then saw that person completely differently towards the end. 

I found Substitute a great read, I really hope that none of the fictional discoveries become reality.

Mimic by Daniel Cole – Audiobook – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

The stand-alone thriller from best-selling author of Ragdoll – soon to be a major TV series.

In life, she was his muse…. In death she’ll be his masterpiece….

1989: DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are on the trail of a twisted serial killer with a passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – their killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished. 

1996: Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Metropolitan Police Service, fuelled by a loss that defined her teenage years. Obsessed, she manages to obtain new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between police officers and vigilantes in their pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated..

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the audiobook received. Listening to audiobooks is a relatively new thing for me so I jumped at the opportunity to listen to the new novel by this author. His Ragdoll series was one that I enjoyed a lot.

A dual time framed novel, the first part concerns a series of deaths. Chambers and Winters are convinced that they are linked but with lack of help from their superior officer, a somewhat unconvincing confession and finally a tragic accident the investigation is dropped.

Jump forward seven years and a young female officer, Marshall, who had known one of the victims, wants Chambers to look at the case again and find the killer. Despite misgivings and breaking a promise to his wonderful wife Eve he agrees. 

Life hasn’t been kind to any of them. All three have suffered during the seven years and I really hope that there are no members of our police who are like this trio. Not because I didn’t like them but because they have all been damaged by what happened. To the extent that I worried for their safety and sanity. Marshall was very much an open book, you knew immediately how she coped and some of the trauma she experienced. Winters was more reticent, in some ways I felt he suffered more than Chambers. 

But despite their issues they had a friendship that went beyond the job. Chambers was very much the father figure and managed to help both of them. In particular Marshall who he quite easily could have had removed from the investigation. Instead he showed encouragement and a belief in her abilities. 

Whilst the case was an interesting one, that sent me to the internet a few times to learn more it was the relationship dynamic they grabbed me. This felt like an honest example of a team. Working on their strengths and supporting their weaknesses. And there was also some dark humour, mainly caused by frustration.

This novel is described as a standalone but I feel that there could definitely be a follow up. There is certainly potential. 

The Devil’s Advocate by Steve Cavanagh – Review.

About The Book

A DEADLY PROSECUTOR

They call him the King of Death Row. Randal Korn has sent more men to their deaths than any district attorney in the history of the United States.

A TWISTED RITUALISTIC KILLING

When a young woman, Skylar Edwards, is found murdered in Buckstown, Alabama, a corrupt sheriff arrests the last person to see her alive, Andy Dubois. It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that Andy is innocent.

A SMALL TOWN BOILING WITH RAGE

Everyone in Buckstown believes Andy is guilty. He has no hope of a fair trial. And the local defense attorney assigned to represent him has disappeared.

A FORMER CON-ARTIST

Hot shot New York lawyer Eddie Flynn travels south to fight fire with fire. He plans to destroy the prosecutors case, find the real killer and save Andy from the electric chair.

But the murders are just beginning.

Is Eddie Flynn next?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have enjoyed the books from the Eddie Flynn series that I have read and after reading this I know that I need to read the couple that I have missed. The Devil’s Advocate could be read as a standalone but I would recommend reading the earlier books if you want to know more about the characters, in particular, Eddie. 

I knew that this book was going to be a favourite from the prologue, it isn’t often that just a few pages can leave me feeling horror and fear over the actions of one of the characters. Even more so, because they were totally unexpected. This feeling didn’t diminish throughout the entire novel. I can imagine that there are communities that exist like the one here in parts of America.

There are a few nice people in the novel but nearly all of them are forced into being little help to Eddie and his team. There are threats and also promises. Offers of help which had a high price to pay. What was evident throughout this novel is how easy it was to manipulate somebody who was grieving. There was no compassion and no remorse. There was guilt from some, but only when it was too late. I also noticed that the ones who saw through the act of kindness were on the whole female. 

It is difficult to review without revealing the plot but this novel is extremely powerful, especially with recent events around the world. I felt horror at some of it but this was offset by the way Eddie worked. All of his team made me want to smile and clap.

A brilliant addition to a well established series and I am happy that I saw a tweet that showed signed copies are available at Waterstones.

Will This House Last Forever? by Xanthi Barker – Review.

About The Book

When Xanthi Barker’s father died when she was in her mid twenties, she could make no sense of her grief for a man who had been absent for most of her life. Her father, poet Sebastian Barker, had left Xanthi, her mother and her brother to pursue writing and a new relationship, when Xanthi was a baby. Growing up she had always struggled to reconcile his extravagant affection – a rocking horse crafted from scavenged wood, the endless stream of poems and drawings and letters, conversations that spiralled from the structure of starlight to philosophy to Bruce Springsteen – with the fact that he could not be depended upon for more everyday things. Though theirs was a relationship defined by departures, he always returned, so why should this farewell be any different, or more final?

WILL THIS HOUSE LAST FOREVER? is a heartfelt and wholly original memoir about the pain of having to come to terms with a parent’s mortality, the way grief so utterly defies logic, and about learning to see the flaws in those that we love, and let them go

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I rarely read non fiction but there was something about this book that appealed to me. My first thoughts, during the prologue was that nothing I had read previously had contained as much raw emotion as Will This House Last Forever. That feeling didn’t fade as I read more.

I don’t read a lot of poetry, I occasionally look for a certain poem if it is mentioned in a film or novel. I had never heard of Sebastian Barker. But not knowing anything about him didn’t impact on my appreciation of this novel. Instead it had me looking for more information, wanting to know more about him and his work. 

This is a novel about a daughter talking to her father. She mulls over their relationship, their friendship, their disappointments and her devastation over his illness and eventual death. It all felt incredibly honest, Sebastian isn’t shown to be without faults. He had many, usually involving alcohol or his work but as Xanthi got older and started to care for him as his health deteriorated she accepted them more. But she also acknowledged that she often felt embarrassed or let down by him. She also accepted her own failings, especially with relationships, insecurities with friendship and also the problems caused by her own issues with alcohol and eating disorders.

Once I got used to all the other characters described as your wife, my brother, my mother I realised it was the only way it could be. This was just about father and daughter. Each of them could have had their own story to tell, their own memories of good times and bad. 

Sebastian’s character really showed during this novel. Talented, charismatic but sometimes flawed. And his daughter loved him. 

In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

Set against the lush backdrop of early 20th century India, In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced is the moving story of one woman’s journey back to herself.

Agra, 1938: Eighteen-year-old Florence Hunt has grown up riding horses past the Taj Mahal and chasing peacocks through her backyard under the critical gaze of her father. Increasingly enamoured with his work on the booming railway, Florence yearns to know more, but finds herself brushed away, encouraged only to perform the more ladylike hobbies of singing and entertaining guests. So when a dazzling young engineer walks into her life, she finds herself not only gripped by secret lessons in physics but swept entirely off her feet.

Portsmouth, 1953: Fifteen years later, Florence finds herself pregnant and alone in post-war England – a far cry from her sun-drenched existence in India. Struggling to cope with the bleakness of everyday life in a male-dominated world, Florence is desperate to find the woman she used to be. But when someone from her past reaches out, Florence might just have a chance to start over.

Soaring from the shimmering heights of the big top to the depths of heartbreak, can Florence find the happiness, independence, and passion she once had in order to start living again?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced is a  historical novel that only covers a short period in time, between 1938 and 1953. It is however a very important time in India, where much of this novel takes place. During that time India gained independence from England and there was also the partition from Pakistan. I have read about both before but never anything that shows the level of anger, fear and worry from all affected. 

Florence lives with her widowed father in Agra. She loves her life, apart from her father trying to live his dream of being an entertainer through her. Her passion is engineering, but with attitudes to women at the time she is discouraged. I have to admit that the engineering terminology went way over my head but thankfully they are only a small part of this novel. Instead we got to know Florence, her friends, her family and witness her unhappy marriages. 

I found it fascinating that Florence had more freedom in India than she did in England. I thought she was listened to more, less patronised and was a lot happier. She didn’t want to be sent to a finishing school and married off. She wanted to be in a country with people she loved. Her relationship with Sita and Ravi was one that meant a lot to her, probably more than the one she had with her father. 

I found this novel to be original and an extremely accurate account of an important time in history. Different to many that are set at the same time, the war only plays a small part, but when it did it highlighted the differences in attitude to the English armies compared to the Indian. It was hardly surprising that it caused a lot of upset.

I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author and also more about Indian history.