reviews, books

Book Review: Black 13 – Adam Hamdy

Black 13 is the brilliant first novel in the Scott Pearce series from Adam Hamdy. In this addictive and fast-paced thriller, ex-MI6 officer Pearce is about to show us that in a world where there is no loyalty to the nation state, it’s time to burn the espionage rule book.

An exiled agent. A growing threat. A clandestine war.

The world is changing beyond recognition.
Radical extremists are rising and seek to enforce their ideology globally.
Governments, the military and intelligence agencies are being outmanoeuvred at every step. Borders are breaking down. Those in power are puppets.
The old rules are obsolete. To fight this war a new doctrine is needed.
In a world where nothing is at it seems, where trust is gone, one man will make the difference.
Meet Ex-MI6 agent and man in exile, Scott Pearce.
It’s time to burn the espionage rule book.
Watch Pearce light the fire.

My thoughts:

The action kicks off from the first page and doesn’t let up, racing from London to Thailand, in hot pursuit of the shadowy figures manipulating world events from behind the scenes.

Pearce and his team of former intelligence operatives take it upon themselves to delve deep in the dark underbelly of politics and power to seek out the dangerous men hidden behind money and influence.

This is a high octane ride, I can easily see it as a modern take on James Bond, swapping black tie for biker jeans and Q for a genius refugee with more than a few tricks up her sleeves.

Adam Hamdy sent me a copy of this book to see me through self-isolation, which was very kind of him, but I think I would have picked up a copy somewhere as it’s a cracking read and I will certainly be looking out for the next in the series to hit the shelves.

I was not asked to review this book but I chose to in order to say thank you to Adam for sending me a copy.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Catalyst – Tracy Richardson*

Dallas, TX – There is more to this world than meets the eye in science fiction author Tracy Richardson’s newest installment in her young adult series, Catalyst.

The story features returning characters from the series’ first book, The Field, but centers on Marcie, who has a sixth sense. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained – an intuition that extends beyond normalcy. This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee.

The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds – something Marcie knows, only vaguely, that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken. She and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

“[Catalyst is] based in present-time Earth dealing with the real issues we face while also exploring the possibilities of what and who might be out ‘there’ and what our relationship with them can be,” said Richardson. “It also explores our evolution as a species.” Inspired by a desire to protect and sustain the planet, Richardson wrote Catalyst not only to entertain readers but to encourage them to think. “We can make the world a better place,” Richardson also said. “We don’t have to go with the status quo. Each and every one of us can be a catalyst for positive change.”

TRACY RICHARDSON wasn’t always a writer, but she was always a reader. Her favorite book growing up was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. In a weird way that book has even shapedher life through odd synchronicities. She has a degree in biology like Mrs. Murry, and, without realizing it, she named her children Alex and Katie after Meg’s parents.

Tracy uses her science background in her writing through her emphasis on environmental issues, metaphysics, and science fiction. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her doing any number of creative activities — painting furniture, knitting sweaters, orcooking something. She lives in Indianapolis, and, in case you’re wondering, yes, she’s been to the Indianapolis 500.

My thoughts:

I agree with the underlying message of the book – our planet needs us to save it. The book was interesting – I got a bit confused by the whole Universal Energy Field, psychic beings part of it – mostly because this isn’t really in my wheelhouse but it added a different dynamic to the environmental angle and the archeological dig the characters are working on.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Hunted – Gabriel Bergmoser

Frank owns a service station on a little-used highway. His granddaughter, Allie, is sent to stay with him for the summer, but they don’t talk a lot.

Simon is a dreamer and an idealist, in thrall to the romance of the open road and desperately in search of something.

Maggie is the woman who will bring them together, someone whose own personal journey will visit unimaginable terror on them all.

My thoughts:

This hits the ground running and doesn’t stop, a real horror story that unfolds with a lot of blood and violence.

It made me think of some of the Australian Outback horror films like Wolf Creek, with two young women’s lives at risk in the middle of nowhere.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book with no obligation to review.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Singapore Killer – Murray Bailey*

A helicopter crash results in the pilot and a military policeman burned to death. It’s unclear what they were doing, but this was no accident and the name BlackJack is found at the scene.

Ash Carter knew that the Special Investigations Branch were tracking a killer, and when a faceless body is found in Perak, and he loses contact with the SIB, he races to north-east Malaya to help. There Carter discovers a mysterious town that the locals won’t talk about.

With no sign of his contact and a mounting body count, Carter is drawn into a dark case from which there seems no escape.

Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in the Times at 18 and in his local newspaper. Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of 4 technical books. His first work of fiction, I Dare You, was published in 2016 and The Lost Pharaoh continues the ancient Egyptian story glimpsed in Map of the Dead and is his ninth title. Murray was born in Greater Manchester, England and has being moving south ever since. He now lives on the beautiful Dorset coast with his wife and family.

Q and A

Q: What was the inspiration for Singapore Killer?

A: The whole series was inspired by my father who was a military policeman in Singapore during the 1950s.

Q: What prompted you to start writing the Singapore Series?

A: I read a Lee Child novel and thought: I can do that. I have a character and an exotic setting – plus the seeds for a plot. However I subsequently found it harder than I expected.

Q: How much research did you do before starting?

A: I took my dad to Singapore for his 75th birthday. He thought it was a holiday but I never stopped asking questions. I’ve been again since. I’ve and also been to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, both of which feature in the series.

Q: So no further research as you work?

A: Lots of research! I have a number of good reference books for the period including a fabulous one full of photographs. Of course I use the internet, but I also have a few readers who can also be called upon to help.

Q: Singapore Killer is book 5. Can it be read as a stand-alone?

A: I hope so. It’ll help to read them in order, but it really shouldn’t matter.

Q: Will there be a sixth book?

A: Yes, it’s called Singapore Fire, and it will be the last of the series. However Ash Carter may well appear in Hong Kong if he does resurface.

Q: Map of the Dead which had flashbacks to ancient Egypt, was an Amazon best seller. Your dad didn’t inspire that one?

A: No. One of my hobbies is Egyptology. Reviews have compared the stories to Dan Brown and Preston & Child, although I think the flashback/sub plot to ancient Egypt makes mine distinctive.

Q: You’ve had three ancient Egypt based stories published so far, are there plans for more?

A: There is a standalone which is the story of the character in the flashbacks. The other two are part of a trilogy. I’m hoping to complete Code of the Dead fir publication next year.

Q: What tips would you give to an aspiring writer?

A: Just write. Edit, listen to feedback and try and improve. However be true to yourself and your style.

Q: If you could pick the three best books in your chosen genre, what would they be?

A: I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes; The Woods by Harlan Coben, and; The Last Child by John Hart.

Q: How much time do you spend writing each day?

A: It varies a lot because I do other work as well, but writing and research probably add up to four hours a day on average. However I don’t write at weekends because that’s family time.

Q: If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

A: I’m fairly well-travelled, both for work and pleasure, but I also love home. I live close to the beautiful Jurassic Coast of England and as long as I can also travel, I have the best of both worlds.

Q: You didn’t always live on the south coast.

A: My family originate from Manchester, where I was born. However I lived in numerous places in England before settling about 7 years ago.

Q: Which has been the hardest book you’ve written?

A: Always my next one. Code of the Dead has required a lot of research both modern day and historically.

Q: Which of your books is your favourite?

A: That’s difficult. I think it’s either Singapore Killer or Secrets of the Dead (this is being renamed Sign of the dead for a re-launch later this year).

Q: What was the first story novel you wrote?

A: When I was a teenager I wrote a kids book. I’m not sure what happened to it!

Q: What was your first taste of success as a writer?

A: If you count journalism, then I would say having an article published by the Times when I was 18. Otherwise it wasn’t until I wrote the first version of Singapore 52. It was originally called The Jin Deception and won a competition to be reviewed by Harper Collins. The result was a total rewrite!

Q: Why didn’t you go into journalism?

A: Maths and physics was more my thing back then and I wanted a career that would pay well. Years later, I edited a magazine for a year which gave me enough experience to know that I’d made the right decision.

Q: Would you write full time if you could?

A: I’m not sure. I have a fantastic work-life balance, where I consider writing to be work. Whatever I do, I ensure I get plenty of family time.

Q: Map of the Dead had a treasure hunt embedded within the story. Has the golden pyramid been won and are you planning any more hunts?

A: Yes the pyramid has been won. It took up far too much of my time and detracted from my writing. It’s spawned a story idea involving reassure hunters though, so expect that in a couple of years. Would I do it again? Never say never.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing?

A: Getting feedback from readers. If I entertained them, then it makes me happy. It’s an odd motivation when I try to rationalise it, but it’s more important than the satisfaction of completing a story. And definitely more important than financial reward.

Q: Have you attended any courses in creating writing.

A: After my early failures, I did an online course and a two-day one. The thing that helped the most was learning to structure the story. Understanding the traditional stages and thinking about story arcs.

Q: Your stories are all different—even within a series. But do you use the Twelve Steps or Snowflake approach?

A: I think about structure but I don’t let it dominate the story. I hate it when a writer seems to follow a formula or a story is too linear. My aim is to surprise my readers. Hopefully I achieve it.

Q: What was the best advice you received as a writer?

A: To set my book aside after the first draft and only return to it when I’d almost forgotten the story. That way I aim to edit my story like I’m reading it for the first time. Because I have a number of projects on the go, I can forget the story detail reasonably quickly! And the older I get the faster I seem to forget it.

Q: Do you have any routines when you sit down to write?

A: Not really. The main thing is that I don’t procrastinate. If I’m not sure of how the next scene works, I don’t fret about it, I just write. I can cut it out or edit it later.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block?

A: Again, not really. It’s usually because the story doesn’t progress correctly. I either work on another project or jump to a later chapter. The most fun I had was writing Singapore Killer. I was about 2/3rds through when the sequence of events didn’t seem quite right. So I jumped to the end and wrote the last chapter (which I hope you like!) then worked backwards chapter by chapter. It soon became clear that I needed an extra day so that everything could happen without feeling crammed in—and to give BlackJack enough time.

Q: Can you give us a teaser for Singapore Fire?

A: In the first book, Carter falls for Su Ling, the niece of the criminal gang. However the relationship doesn’t work because they are on different sides of the track. In the final book, they plan to escape from Yipp—although it’s not as straightforward as they hope. A few other loose ends also get tied up, but that’s as much as I’ll say.

The Ash Carter series

  1. Singapore 52

New Year 1952. Ash Carter is coerced into working for the Singapore government. Both political and military tensions are high. The great fear is that the “war” in Malaya will spill over onto the island and that Chinese Communists are plotting against the government. Carter is tasked to uncover the plan. Meanwhile he has his own personal agenda. He wants to find out who killed his friend.

  1. Singapore Girl

A grisly discovery. When a headless body is found on the causeway, Ash Carter is called upon to investigate. He needs to find out if this is just another drug-war punishment or something more. The investigation soon gets shut down. But he knows it’s not over. And it’s not in his nature to quit.

  1. Singapore Boxer

Undercover agent. Ash Carter joins a private protection force in Malaya. He thinks he’s investigating a missing person, but locals are dying. Amid intrigue, deceit and deception, will Carter uncover the truth before it’s too late?

  1. Singapore Ghost

Bad spirits in Penang. Ash Carter has a job that seems beneath him: babysit a newspaper reporter. She’s investigating ghost stories at the Penang barracks but it’s Carter’s past that is back to haunt him. Stuck between the two criminal organisations, Carter must find a solution and put the ghosts to rest.

  1. Singapore Killer – to be released 1 June 2020

Who is BlackJack? Ash Carter knew that the Special Investigations Branch were tracking a killer, and when a faceless body is found he’s drawn into the case. As the body count racks up, Carter realizes he’s also a target and no longer knows who he can trust.

  1. Singapore Fire – to be released early 2021

The Endgame: Ash Carter is in love, but Su Ling is inextricably linked to Andrew Yipp, the head of the biggest Chinese Secret Society in Singapore. Political tensions are high and the Secretary for Internal Security tasks Carter to find evidence against Yipp. Fail to do so and Su Ling will be arrested and charged.

Once again caught between the government and the criminal gangs, it’s time for Carter to choose. Escape now or stand and fight?

My thoughts:

This a fast paced thriller, taking us deep into the jungle as Ash Carter pursues the mysterious BlackJack and starts to uncover a conspiracy and criminal enterprise taking place under the authorities’ noses.

I hadn’t read the previous books in the series before reading this one, and I don’t think I suffered for it, there’s enough back story to explain Carter’s skills and reasons for being in Singapore, while not just repeating the previous stories. A lot happens very quickly, but not in a way that’s confusing – rather the plot hooks you and speeds you along as the investigation heats up and Carter becomes a target.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti

From the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish comes the unforgettable story of the one small town’s biggest hoax and the two brothers who started it all.

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town–it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

Told in a report format and comprised of interviews, blog posts, text conversations, found documents, and so much more, It Came from the Sky is a hysterical and resonant novel about what it means to be human in the face of the unknown.

My thoughts:

This was a fun read, following two brothers who fake an alien appearance to cover up a science experiment gone wrong.

A very silly trail of chaos ensues, and this is one of those reads that makes you smile.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book with no obligation to review.

books, reviews

Book Review: True Story – Kate Reed Petty

A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she cannot tell: the story of, as she puts it, “the things that happened while I was asleep.”
Back in 1999, Nick Brothers and his high school lacrosse team return for their senior year in a well-to-do Baltimore suburb as the reigning state champs. The afterglow of their big win is bound to last until graduation; not even the pressure of college applications can get in the way of their fun. But when a private school girl attempts suicide in the wake of one of the team’s “legendary” parties, and a rumor begins to circulate that two of Nick’s teammates sexually assaulted her, it seems like it might ruin everything–until the team circles the wagons, casts doubt on the story, and the town moves on.
But not everyone does. Fifteen years later, four people–Alice, Nick, a documentary filmmaker, and a wealthy entrepreneur–remain haunted by the roles they played, the things they still don’t understand, and how the story has shaped their lives. In sections told from different points of view, each more propulsive than the last, the layers of mystery are gradually peeled back as we barrel toward the truth of what really happened that night . . . and what came after. At once a compulsive page-turner and a thought-provoking exploration of issues both timely and timeless, True Story marks the debut of a phenomenal new voice in fiction.

My thoughts:

I still don’t quite know how to describe this book, which feels a bit like the point.

It’s an incredible piece of writing that discusses a very timely issue, looking at different angles and in a variety of writing styles.

It’s definitely something you need to read for yourself.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book with no obligation to review.

books, reviews

Book Review: Fifty Fifty – Steve Cavanagh

Alexandra Avellino has just found her father’s mutilated body, and needs the police right away. She believes her sister killed him, and that she is still in the house with a knife.

Sofia Avellino has just found her father’s mutilated body and needs the police right away. She believes her sister, Alexandra did it, and that she is still in the house, locked in the bathroom.

Both women are to go on trial at the same time. A joint trial in front of one jury.

But one of these women is lying. One of them is a murderer. Sitting in a jail cell, about to go on trial with her sister for murder, you might think that this is the last place she expected to be.

You’d be wrong.

My thoughts:

The Eddie Flynn books are very popular in my house and so there was a little unseemly squabbling about who got to read this first.

The plot is so clever, the twist at the end I couldn’t even see coming, and I’m pretty good at spotting them.

Cavanagh is an excellent writer at the top of his game and knows how to deliver a clever, witty plot and play with his readers’ brains in the process.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book with no obligation to review.