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Archive for July, 2019

  • Title: Forest Adventures: More than 80 ideas to reconnect with nature all year round
  • Authors: Claire Gillman & Sam Martin
  • Publisher: Modern Books
  • Publication Date: 9th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Gadget-free games, activities and adventures for the entire family.

Forest Adventures is jam-packed with Forest School-inspired activities you can do any time of the year, whatever the weather. With this book in hand, an adventure is surprisingly easy to come by, whether it’s birdwatching or building a sundial, making a compass or tracking wildlife. Whatever the season, the activities within are fun for the whole family and are sure to get you excited about all that nature has to offer.

My Thoughts:

With six sections, there’s bound to be an activity for everyone in this book, and a simple key makes it easier for you to gauge the difficulty of each and the time involved.

Flicking through the book with my daughter, we spotted lots of fun activities to try out, the artwork in the book sparking her interest where words didn’t. We quickly made a list of the things we’d like to try, baking brownies, making gingerbread people, making a bird feeder, beach art, learning about clouds to name a few. Plenty of laughter and fun was had as we tried out the various games and activities, and often we’d use the book as a basis and go on to expand on the ideas and have our own adventures. What started as a simple idea of beach art soon had us walking along the beach looking for stones to spell out our names and practice counting.

The only downside is that with it being summer, there’s a lack of snow for us to try out some of the cold weather inspired fun! But we will definitely be making snow shoes and ice art when the mercury plummets later in the year.

Getting outdoors and playing in the garden is wonderful and this book gave us some great inspiration, and it was quite fun handing the book to my daughter and letting her pick an activity from a section that she wanted to try out. It’s great for the summer holidays, for those days where you’ve nothing planned and the kids utter the dreaded “I’m bored”, or even a good book to keep in the caravan for ways to entertain the entire family by collecting leaves on a nature walk to make leaf rubbings or a nature picture. And the gadget free games section is perfect if the summer weather decides to stick around, get everyone out in to the garden to play frisbee or make their own kites and fly them!

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  • Title: I Have Sinned
  • Authors: Caimh McDonnell
  • Publisher: McFori Ink
  • Publication Date: 23rd June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Nothing is ever easy.

Bunny McGarry has finally got a lead in his mission to find the Sisters of the Saint but the lead, one Father Gabriel de Marcos, isn’t willing to play ball. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Bunny has to put the padre under surveillance with a little help from some old friends. Father Gabriel runs a boxing club at the bad end of the Bronx, battling to keep kids out of gangs – noble, thankless work. Thing is, saints don’t typically have assassins sent after them. What sins are hidden in the padre’s mysterious past?

The Sisters of the Saint are many things but pushovers they ain’t. To regain their trust, Bunny must save the priest from the demons that are on his tail. Keeping the cantankerous priest alive would be difficult for anyone, never mind that Bunny has to resist the urge to kill him, himself. He has to manage all this while living under the rules that chill him to the very bone. No drinking. No swearing. No violence.

I Have Sinned is book two in the McGarry Stateside series, a continuation of the smash hit Dublin Trilogy which also featured Bunny McGarry. It melds high-octane action with a distinctly Irish acerbic wit. 

My Thoughts:

I do love catching up with my favourite poteen swilling, expert swearer of an Irishman, and in Caimh McDonnell’s latest book to feature Bunny McGarry, fans of the character are in for a mega treat. Bunny is still n America, and still asking questions about where to find the Sisters of the Saint, and leaving chaos in his wake at times.

With McDonnell’s trademark dark humour and wit, the characters come alive to dramatically play out the story of Father Gabriel de Marcos and his boxing club run through his church in the Bronx. The children there don’t have the easiest of lives, and the danger posed by the various gangs vying for supremacy makes for a very tense community setting.
Father Gabriel is an odd character, and as the reader gets to know him better through his thoughts and interactions with others, it becomes clear there’s more to him that first meets the eye. The exchanges between him and Bunny are particularly brilliant, there is a natural humour that comes out with these two and I found that on several occasions I laughed out loud.

After their appearance in Angels in the Moonlight, I have been curious about the Sisters of the Saint and patiently awaiting their appearance in another book to find out more about them and their mission. McDonnell does not disappoint, the new faces that we meet in the convent are fantastically vibrant and buzzing with exciting energy. Getting to know these new characters and becoming reacquainted with older ones makes this such a thrilling read and the quick pace that the plot moves along with makes it almost impossible to put this down.

McDonnell seems to have found the right mix of humour and hard hitting themes that conveys the seriousness of each situation faced by his characters, whilst giving readers relief in the form of dark humour and wit. I don’t know how he does it, but he makes readers feel a deep sense of connection with characters they’ve only just met, you become invested in their fates and although some of the people around them may be a toxic influence, you still feel empathy for their heartaches, confusions etc.

A fantastic crime caper that ensures readers are kept on the edges of their seats, both with tension and by barely clinging to the cushions to save them falling onto the floor with laughter.

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I’m thrilled to welcome you to another Celebrating Indie Publishing and share a mini review of A Killing Sin which was published on 4th Jule 2019 by the fantastic Urbane Publications. This is a book that’s set to challenge readers and thrill them with some highly topical themes, and the publisher has informed me that it’s available on Amazon for a limited time at a bargain price!

  • Title: A Killing Sin
  • Author: K.H. Irvine
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • Publication Date: 4th July 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Would you surrender your secrets to save a life?

London. It could be tomorrow. Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, dons a burqa and heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community. What is she doing there?

Ella Russell, a struggling journalist leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror.

Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage. And then it gets personal.

Friends since university, by the end of the day the lives of all three women are changed forever. They will discover if friendship truly can survive secrets and fear.

My Thoughts:

Do you ever hear about a book and then instantly feel the urge to find out more, need to read the book and discover what it’s all about? This was one of those books for me. I heard murmurings about it on Twitter when the publisher gave a preview of what was to be published throughout the year, and I knew that it would making it’s way onto my ever growing list of books to buy.

With a post Brexit London setting, the plot is very current and the themes are ones which will spark plenty of debate among readers. The characters are profoundly interesting, the depth of their personalities means that you connect with them, become invested in their lives and care about what befalls them. The writing is compelling and at times uncomfortable, the range of emotions that the reader goes through is extensive and I was very aware of my frustrations and sadness. But it’s a breathtaking rollercoaster that engrosses the reader, thrills them and then leaves them utterly shocked at what they’ve read. The style of writing is punchy and makes for an tense and pacy read, the short chapters convey the perfect level of realism and intensity as we witness how vital each minute of the day is for the three women.
It’s quite hard to put into words how much this book got under my skin without giving anything away, the author has taken great care and time on this book and it really shows in her writing. It’s compelling reading, and as I mentioned above it can be uncomfortable at times, even distressing but it’s also very informative.


Author Feature:

KH Irvine grew up in Scotland and now lives near London. The book was her 50th birthday gift to herself, believing you are never too old to try something new. Her work has taken her to board rooms, universities and governments all over the world and has included up close and personal access to special forces. A Killing Sin is her first book. The second follows on a few years later as Britain moves to civil unrest with the rise of the far right as the personal and political become intertwined.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

The most favourite thing is where I write which is the very north coast of Northern Ireland. When I get stuck I walk on the beach in the (usually) howling gale until my mind clears and I find the answer. Helped by the fact that I have to walk past a little old fashioned bakery specialising in the wonderfully Irish ‘tray bakes’.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

The least favourite thing is passing it to someone else to read and the anticipation of their response. It is not just like handing over a baby but being stripped naked at the same time! In the early days I wrote like I dance – like no one was watching but then, thankfully, found most people were kinder about my writing than my dancing.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

That is very hard. I would opt for either a Thousand Splendid Suns or To Kill a Mocking Bird. Probably the same reason for both but if pushed to go for one I would have to go for Atticus Finch and Scout. They are probing, compassionate, complex characters with right on their side in a context that is just the opposite. We can’t be anything but empathetic as Scout tries to make sense of a world around her that often makes no sense. A bit like the world now.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I work full time. I have two daughters who are 20 and 23. I travel a lot both for work and pleasure and still have a fair few places on my bucket list. I read, watch films, visit the theatre and spend a lot of time eating and drinking. I try to swim and go to the gym and I love just kicking back with nothing to do but that doesn’t happen too often.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I go to our house in Ireland and spend the first day in total indulgence – a walk, a box set and a nap before getting up early the next morning. For a frenzied week or so at a time I write in 2-3 hour bursts, starting at 8 and then be completely done in by about 4 o’clock. When I decided to start the book, which was a 50th birthday present to myself, the song I loved at the time was Hozier, Take Me to Church and I like to play that through my headphones on the beach. Every day. It reminds me that the Irish (even though I am not) punch well above their weight in literature, spoken word and song and I hope to get some of that in the sea air.

What’s on the horizon? 

Book number 2 is a few years further on from a Killing Sin and is about the rise of the Alt Right. There is a tit for tat war on the streets of the UK and we have normalised some pretty appalling views. Two characters return Millie and Alex plus some new ones. Again, it meshes the personal and the political in a female led thriller. Number 3 I have in mind to call 11 Days – maybe apocryphal but that’s how long it can take any one of us to fall through the net and end up on the streets, I want to write it backwards from day 11 to day 1 so its hard to guess who it is that is begging for money in the prologue.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

Fiction is one of the greatest ways of understanding others and I would like A Killing Sin to thrill, make your heart beat faster but also maybe make you think about what might drive you to commit an act of terror.

Can you tell me a little about your latest book?  How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

It is shocking, not because it’s unimaginable, but because it might just come true. State surveillance, home-grown terror, shady politics and a race against time. At face value, a breath-taking, pulse-racing thriller. Beneath, a thought-provoking novel that questions what lies ahead for a tolerant, democratic Britain. 

A quick summary:

Amala Hackeem, lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, dons a burqa and heads to the women’s group at the Tower Hamlets sharia community. What is she doing there?

Ella Russell, a struggling journalist leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth. She is about to learn truth is the first victim in the war on terror.

Millie Stephenson, a university professor and expert in radicalisation arrives at Downing Street to brief the prime minister and home secretary. Nervous and excited she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage. And then it gets personal.

Friends since university, by the end of the day and all three women’s lives are changed forever. They are about to find out if friendship is stronger than fear.

And who is Nusayabah? The damaged and strategically brilliant terrorist holding the nation hostage.

She strikes at the centre of power,  the establishment and the lives of the three friends.

For her it’s personal. But who is she?

How can she know so much?

How far will she go?

Can they find her before it’s too late?

A Killing Sin delivers the strong, believable female characters so often missing in top tier thriller writing. I hope it is an audacious first novel, gripping from start to finish, full of hairpin twists and turns and surprisingly thought-provoking insight.

My thanks to the author for joining me today and sharing a little about herself and her writing process. It’s hugely impressive that this book was a 50th birthday present to herself, and I’m so glad that she could share it with us! Looking forward to books two and three, and if they’re anything like this one, then I know that I will love them!

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  • Title: Our Little Secrets
  • Author: Peter Ritchie
  • Publisher: Black & White Pulishing
  • Publication Date: 27th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

At a dark place in Edinburgh’s heart, secrets refuses to lie dormant.

At Police Scotland HQ, Grace Macallan has pitched up in Counter Corruption. But the demons of her past are never far behind.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s gangland is in turmoil. As a new breed of upstarts challenges the old criminal order, their battle for territory causes serious havoc.

Into the war steps DI Janet Hadden. Ambitious, hardbitten and addicted to risk-taking, she knows how to throw opponents off balance. But when she’s thwarted, Hadden seeks help from a notorious underworld fixer, a man who keeps secrets but always extracts a price.

Beset by violence and double-crossing, Grace is soon embroiled in a savage game of cat and mouse with colleagues and criminals alike. With all sides driven by dark desires, theirs is an endgame that will take Grace down unless she holds her nerve.

My Thoughts:

The Grace Macallan series is fast earning Peter Ritchie the audience he thoroughly deserves. He has created a character that readers can connect to and become invested in, but she also approaches police investigations that pit her against some of the most dangerous figures in the criminal underworld, and she takes is in her stride.

In this instalment of the series, we see Grace Macallan take a back seat and the focus of Our Little Secrets is on DI Janet Hadden. Hadden is as corrupt as they come, but has managed to avoid appearing on the radar of Macallan in Counter Corruption. Operating well outside the rules, she takes risks and blurs the lines of acceptability but always gets results and keeps her bosses happy. That is until the reward is too tantalising to resist, and as the stakes are raised, it seems that she has met her match.
The glimpses into the mind of this utterly complex and often depraved character makes for entrancing reading and I applaud Peter Ritchie for creating such a fascinating character. But Hadden is not the only one that grabs the attention of the audience, the criminal figures are equally intriguing and the development of their personalities keeps readers racing through the pages. As the plot unfolds, the true colours of the characters involved begin to shine through and turn this into an exercise in speed reading as you frantically race through the pages to find out what will happen.

As with each of the books in this series, the raw grittiness of the plot is realistic and the level of detail that Peter Ritchie weaves throughout is exceptional. Writing from personal and professional experience, he is able to give the readers something that feels intensely authentic as well as utterly fascinating. I can only imagine the things that Ritchie saw over the course of his time in various policing roles, but he condenses it into some of the most atmospheric and powerful reading material that leaves the audience often lost for words.

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  • Title: Girl in a Cage
  • Author: Jane Yolen & Robert J Harris
  • Publisher: Gob Stopper (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 20th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

DAUGHTER OF THE OUTLAW KING. PRISONER IN THE LAND OF THE ENEMY.

When her father, Robert the Bruce, is crowned King of Scotland, Marjorie Bruce becomes a princess. But Edward Longshanks, the ruthless King of England, captures Marjorie and keeps her prisoner in a wooden cage in the centre of a town square, exposed to wind, rain, and the bullying taunts of the townspeople.

Marjorie knows that despite her suffering and pain, she must stay strong: the future of Scotland depends on her…

Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris bring to life a breathless chapter from Scottish history in this thrilling novel with an unforgettable young heroine.

My Thoughts:

Robert the Bruce is a name I am very familiar with, his part in Scottish history was appeared in many tales as I grew up and so I was eager to read Girl in a Cage to find out more about this character and the struggles faced by one of the most important people in his life, his eldest daughter Marjorie.

Marjorie Bruce is exactly what you would expect from a young girl, headstrong and views the world as black and white, right and wrong. But she has the luxury of being the daughter of Lord, and therefore has received an education and sits in a place of privilege. When her father is crowned as King of Scots in 1306, she becomes a princess. It is around this time that things being to go wrong for the Bruce family. Without giving a history lesson, I will say that the Bruce’s end up running and fighting for their lives, their survival depending on their allies.

Through Marjorie, the reader experiences the exceptionally atmospheric settings of this book, the things she sees and feels, we experience them too. Her worries about her father and uncles, her unhappiness about being treated as a child and excluded from adult conversations but most of all her inability to make sense of the events around her. As events unfold and their positions becomes precarious, Marjorie and her family flee for various places of safety around Scotland, trying to stay one step ahead of their enemies and those who would do them harm. Along with her father’s second wife, two of her aunts and the Countess of Buchan, Marjorie was captured by the Earl of Ross. Her fate was a imprisonment at the hands of Edward Longshanks. For a young girl, this seems like an incredibly harsh punishment, and indeed Marjorie voices this thought throughout her confinement, but she never lets others see the torment that this causes her. She shows great strength and courage, all the time thinking about her father and his men, fighting for the good of their country, fighting for their beliefs.

Powerful writing makes this such a gripping read, and I found at times I was desperately reading on, hoping that things might improve in the short term for Marjorie. Her time in the cage was physically and mentally hard on her, the townspeople and monks in the priory were forbidden to speak to her and the rations she was given were barely enough to keep her going. But she found an inner strength despite this torment, she was defiant to the face of Edward Longshanks, she would not be beaten by him or his army, not whilst her father, uncles and countrymen were still out there fighting.

A thrilling and powerful read for any age reader, one steeped in history and woven together with charm and wonderful detail.

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