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Archive for the ‘book blog’ Category

It’s not often that I post anything other than reviews on here, I do occasionally consider writing a “round up” each week of what I’ve read and what reviews are coming up, what blog tours The Quiet Knitter will be participating in etc but I never quite get around to it…..time slips away from me and well I forget entirely once I’ve written and scheduled another review.  But from Friday (10th February), I will be hosting a special feature to celebrate independent publishers, their books and their authors.

For those who have followed The Quiet Knitter over the last year you will probably be aware that I love Indie Publishers, their books are diverse and exciting.  I’m always keen to help put their books in the spotlight and share how great they are and I’ve decided that a good way to do this is to dedicate every Friday to sharing a post about a book/an author/or a publisher.  There are some fantastic publishers lined up to take part and the books that I have to share with you are some of the best ones I’ve had the privilege to read.  There’s also some wee giveaways lined up throughout the year so be sure to check back for details.

The first to feature will be Urbane Publications with a book review of The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes and also an author feature with David Gaffney

Here are some of the fantastic publishers taking part, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to share their books with you.  A huge thanks to these guys and their authors for taking part and most importantly for their devotion to incredible books.

 

If you are an independent publisher and would like to take part in this feature please get in touch.

 

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I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Keith Stuart’s wonderful  novel “A Boy Made of Blocks” and share my review with you.

Description:

41frqz6l1cl-_sx315_bo1204203200_

Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile.
Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex

He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
Meet eight-year-old Sam

Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.
But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

My Thoughts & Review:

A Boy Made of Blocks is one of those rare books that changes how a reader thinks, it makes you pause and re evaluate things you once took for granted and makes you appreciate the things you do have.

From the very beginning of the novel Alex is a character that many readers will struggle to connect with.  His attempts to rebuild his life after the breakdown of his marriage are awkward, showing incredible insensitivity, impatience and a complete lack of understanding.  Making the decision to try a trial separation from his marriage to Jody he moves in with a friend, his temporary break from the toils of parenting are welcomed.  However, there is no break for the long suffering Jody, she still has to parent Sam, their eight year old autistic son.
It’s at this point that I will freely admit to not having much knowledge of Autism and related spectrum disorders.  Having never encountered this disorder I did some research whilst reading this book and I can understand some of Alex’s struggles.

Narration by Alex opens this character up for a lot of criticism, but also lets the reader see what it can be like to struggle to adjust to something so huge.  There is no comprehensive parenting manual handed out when exiting the maternity hospital, and as a parent I know that sometimes “winging it” is the only thing you can do.  So when parents are faced with a life changing diagnosis of their young child this must make things 100% more confusing, more difficult, and more challenging.

As the story unfolds, the reader begins to empathise with Alex, understands his troubles and realises there’s a deep rooted issue that needs to be addressed.  I sympathised with Jody, she is the main carer for Sam having given up her job previously.  Alex feels that Jody has no time for him, and in a way he is right, Jody spends her day navigating the labyrinth of triggers with Sam whilst trying to keep a home for Alex to retu

rn to at the end of the working day and she is exhausted – physically and mentally drained.  It’s no wonder therefore that their relationship falters, they are both struggling and both need the others support.

Sam is a wonderfully rich character, the author’s writing really gives the reader a feel for how Sam struggles with everyday life.  How noises or changes to routine can upset him to the point of meltdown, and the fallout from it all is traumatic for both Sam and his parents.  His struggles with school and the interactions highlighted an issue faced by many parents in this situation and the need for more specialist schools equipped to help and support.

The turning point for the family is the discovery of Minecraft, a computer game that Sam discovers after Jody was given an old xbox for him to play with.  The effect it has on Sam is beautiful, Alex’s reaction when he watches Sam playing it was a joy to read.  Seeing that light bulb moment for Alex when he realises that his son has connected with the game, captivated by it.  Minecraft appearers a very structured game, things have purpose and a place which means that Sam can relate to this.  But through playing the game he and Alex begin to bond, a connection between them forms.

There is a very poignant aspect to this novel, but it’s also humorous and insightful at the same time.  Keith Stuart has written a story that evokes emotion and laughter whilst educating his audience, the fact that he has written it from personal experience adds an authenticity.

Utterly brilliant, tear jerking, funny and true to life are just some of the things I can say about this book, but it’s really one you need to read for yourself to decide.  Just make sure you have tissues near by….

You can buy a copy of A Boy Made of Blocks here.

 

About the Author:

keith_stuart_2015_copyright_ashley_bird_horizontal (2).jpg

In 2012 one of KEITH STUART‘s two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together – especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.


Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour, a new set of bloggers each day right up to Friday 20th January 2017!

blog_tour1

 

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It’s time to finally set in stone the books of the year, a list that I have created, edited and ripped up mentally for the past few days…..When you’ve read so many books over the year it’s hard to narrow down a top 5, a top 10 or even a top 20, but I will attempt to share my top books of 2016.

Top Indie Books:

In no particular order:

  • Death of a Nobody by Derek Farrell (Fahrenheit Press)
  • The Mine by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda Books)
  • Summoning The Dead by Tony Black (Black and White Publishing)
  • A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone (Orenda Books)
  • A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh  McDonnell (McFori Ink)
  • Casing Off by P.I. Paris (Black and White Publishing)
  • Death In Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson (Urbane Publications)
  • Doorways by Robert Enright (Urbane Publications)
  • The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn (Orenda Books)
  • The Cleaner by Elisabeth Herrmann (Manilla / Bonnier Zaffre)

Top Crime Fiction & Thriller:

I really tried to keep this to 10…..but well I just couldn’t…..

In no particular order:

  • Strangers by Paul Finch
  • Dark Water by Robert Bryndza
  • Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge
  • The Killing Game by J.S. Carol
  • Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst
  • The Dead House by Harry Bingham
  • All Fall Down by Tom Bale
  • Out of Bounds by Val McDermid
  • Blood Lines by Angela Marsons
  • Love You To Death by Caroline Mitchell
  • The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza
  • In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride

Top Books of Brilliance or Smile Inducing Wonderment:

In no particular order:

  • The Accidental Dictionary by Paul Anthony Jones
  • How To Find Your (First) Husband by Rosie Blake
  • The Last Pearl Fisher of Scotland by Julia Stuart
  • The Life Assistance Agency Thomas Hocknell
  • The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig
  • A Very Merry Manhattan Christmas by Darcie Boleyn
  • 183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan
  • Christmas Under A Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin
  • A Home in Sunset Bay by Rebecca Pugh
  • Christmas At The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

What books would you rate as your top ones for this year?  Have you read any of these ones?  Let me know your thoughts below.


And just because I can, here’s ones I think will be top books for 2017….

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A Boy Made of Blocks

Author: Keith Stuart
Published: 1 September 2016
Reviewed: 13 August 2016
5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Little, Brown Book Group UK / Sphere in return for an honest review

Description:

Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile.
Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex

He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
Meet eight-year-old Sam

Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.
But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

My Thoughts & Review:

A Boy Made of Blocks is one of those rare books that changes how a reader thinks, it makes you pause and re evaluate things you once took for granted and makes you appreciate the things you do have.

From the very beginning of the novel Alex is a character that many readers will struggle to connect with.  His attempts to rebuild his life after the breakdown of his marriage are awkward, showing incredible insensitivity, impatience and a complete lack of understanding.  Making the decision to try a trial separation from his marriage to Jody he moves in with a friend, his temporary break from the toils of parenting are welcomed.  However, there is no break for the long suffering Jody, she still has to parent Sam, their eight year old autistic son.  
It’s at this point that I will freely admit to not having much knowledge of Autism and related spectrum disorders.  Having never encountered this disorder I did some research whilst reading this book and I can understand some of Alex’s struggles.  

Narration by Alex opens this character up for a lot of criticism, but also lets the reader see what it can be like to struggle to adjust to something so huge.  There is no comprehensive parenting manual handed out when exiting the maternity hospital, and as a parent I know that sometimes “winging it” is the only thing you can do.  So when parents are faced with a life changing diagnosis of their young child this must make things 100% more confusing, more difficult, and more challenging.   

As the story unfolds, the reader begins to empathise with Alex, understands his troubles and realises there’s a deep rooted issue that needs to be addressed.  I sympathised with Jody, she is the main carer for Sam having given up her job previously.  Alex feels that Jody has no time for him, and in a way he is right, Jody spends her day navigating the labyrinth of triggers with Sam whilst trying to keep a home for Alex to return to at the end of the working day and she is exhausted – physically and mentally drained.  It’s no wonder therefore that their relationship falters, they are both struggling and both need the others support.

Sam is a wonderfully rich character, the author’s writing really gives the reader a feel for how Sam struggles with everyday life.  How noises or changes to routine can upset him to the point of meltdown, and the fallout from it all is traumatic for both Sam and his parents.  His struggles with school and the interactions highlighted an issue faced by many parents in this situation and the need for more specialist schools equipped to help and support.      

The turning point for the family is the discovery of Minecraft, a computer game that Sam discovers after Jody was given an old xbox for him to play with.  The effect it has on Sam is beautiful, Alex’s reaction when he watches Sam playing it was a joy to read.  Seeing that light bulb moment for Alex when he realises that his son has connected with the game, captivated by it.  Minecraft appearers a very structured game, things have purpose and a place which means that Sam can relate to this.  But through playing the game he and Alex begin to bond, a connection between them forms.  

There is a very poignant aspect to this novel, but it’s also humorous and insightful at the same time.  Keith Stuart has written a story that evokes emotion and laughter whilst educating his audience, the fact that he has written it from personal experience adds an authenticity.

Utterly brilliant, tear jerking, funny and true to life are just some of the things I can say about this book, but it’s really one you need to read for yourself to decide.  Just make sure you have tissues near by….

You can buy a copy of A Boy Made of Blocks here.  

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Fear Dreams 

Author: Joyce Schneider
Published: 28 March 2016
Reviewed: 15 August 2016
4.5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by author in return for an honest review
Description:
A sensitive woman fearing insanity… Liddy Barron, an artist, was injured in a hit-and-run accident that left her with recurring nightmares, gaps in her memory, and an increasing obsession in the disappearance of a coed named Sasha Perry. 
Was Sasha murdered? Liddy’s turmoil grows as she begins seeing ghostly images. 
Her husband Paul, a scientist, tries to help but insists it’s just her imagination…while intuitive Detective Kerri Blasco, also obsessed with young Sasha’s disappearance, senses that Liddy may have a key to solving the case, and tries to unravel the shocking truth of what really haunts her. 
My Thoughts & Review: 
When I was contacted by the author of this novel I was immediately intrigued by the description of the story and jumped at the chance to read and review this.  Despite being billed as a psychological thriller, this novel touches on several genres (and does so very cleverly), there is suspense, mystery, and a supernatural element all running alongside one another.  

Narrated by Liddy Barron, an artist struggling to regain her memory and psychical health after a horrendous hit and run accident, and Kerri Blasco, a detective investigating the disappearance of a college student named Sasha Perry.  The author cleverly weaves these two seemingly unrelated tales together, holding the reader in the dark until she is ready to reveal just how they join together.  
Liddy is an odd character, you want to feel sympathy towards her because of the accident, her struggles to recover but at times I wanted to shake her.  Her slow slump into madness was very well written, and fascinating to read.  Leaving little clues to keep the reader guessing if she was really losing her mind, hallucinating or actually seeing these things. 
Detective Kerri was absolutely brilliant, perhaps a perfect character to do a spin off series with in the future.  She is well crafted, the reader gets a feel for this character and how she genuinely seems to care about people.  The friendship that developed between the two women was enjoyable to read. 
The pace of the novel is good, drawing the reader in and building suspense effortlessly.  Towards the end of the novel it becomes more of a speed read, the desperation to find out what happens in the end is intense.  
Despite there being no obvious clues as to what happens, the author has left little flags here and there for the budding detectives amongst the readers to try and piece together.  Cruelly, however many of these had me tangled up in knots and I was none the wiser.     
I loved the idea that Liddy was somehow haunted by a ghost, her obsession with Sasha taking over and I found it was difficult not to get caught up in the momentum of it, and I was desperate to know what happened to Sasha by the end

This is a brilliant psychological thriller, it’s gripping, it’s intense and it’s very well written.  I would thoroughly recommend it to fans of thrillers!  

You can buy a copy of Fear Dreams here.


About the Author:

 
J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek. Words and story ideas are always teeming in her head – “a colorful place!” she says. She’s a wife, mother, and loves thrillers and medical thrillers. Once a Liberal Arts major (French and Spanish Literature), she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine and forensic science. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means that there’ll be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes.
For more information about Joyce Schneider, go to her website, or follow her on Twitter at @JoyceSchneider1

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The Woman Next Door

Author: Cass Green
Published: 22 July 2016
Reviewed: 13 August 2016

4 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by HarperCollins, UK / Killer Reads in return for an honest review



Description:

Two suburban women. Two dark secrets. The almost perfect murder. 

Everybody needs good neighbours…

Melissa and Hester have lived next door to each other for years. When Melissa’s daughter was younger, Hester was almost like a grandmother to her. But recently they haven’t been so close.

Hester has plans to change all that. It’s obvious to her that despite Melissa’s outwardly glamorous and successful life, she needs Hester’s help.

But taking help from Hester might not be such a good idea for a woman with as many secrets as Melissa… 

My Thoughts & Review:

Another début from a promising author, The Woman Next Door is a slow burning psychological thriller that quietly unsettles the reader.  

The story is narrated from the points of view of Hester, a lonely older woman and Melissa, who outwardly appears the complete opposite of Hester.  
Hester has no children and having lost her job in a nursery she became indispensable to Melissa by looking after her daughter Tilly until she reached teenage years. 
Melissa is married to a handsome and famous man, but his recent affair has pushed her towards a depression, this coupled with the fact that her daughter is growing up causes her great unease.

The characters in this were interesting, all completely normal people that you could encounter in everyday life which helps to make this so unsettling.   
Hester is a well constructed character, so bitter and judgemental, and Green uses her well throughout the novel as an unreliable narrator – her tainted views and negative perceptions adding to the tension and atmosphere.  Cleverly, she evokes sympathy for this character through details of the abuse she suffered at the hand of her late husband, a complete juxtaposition.  Melissa is a hard character to like, she is obsessive about her appearance, and very bitter towards her husband but she’s haunted by something.  However, Green has ensured that the reader is kept on their toes as all is not as it seems.

This novel is packed with deception and secrets, and the pacing of the book allows the intensity to build slowly ensuring the reader remains captive.  Good descriptions allow the reader to envision characters and situation easily. 

Overall a good début from a promising author, I am keen to see what Cass Green writes next.

You can buy a copy of The Woman Next Door here.

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The Perfect Gift

Author: Emma Hannigan
Published: 14 July 2016
Reviewed: 11 August 2016
4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Headline Review in return for an honest review
Description:

Happy Birthday, darling girl…

Ever since she can remember, Roisin has received a birthday card in the post. Signed with love from the birth mother she has never met.

Brought up by her adoptive parents, Keeley and Doug, Roisin has wanted for nothing. But on her thirtieth birthday a letter comes that shakes her world.
For Keeley, who’s raised Roisin as her own, the letter reminds her of a secret she’s been holding for thirty years. 

And for Nell, keeping watch in the lighthouse, the past is a place she rarely goes. Until a young runaway arrives seeking shelter, and unwraps the gift of hope for them all…

My Thoughts & Review:

The Perfect Gift is a heart warming tale about mothers and daughters.  How they must learn the diplomacy of compromise, to build trust and let go of secrets in order to move on in life.  

This is Emma Hannigan’s tenth novel and quite possibly her best yet.  Her writing flows beautifully, evoking emotions from readers at the very beginning of the book with a deeply moving prologue that had this hardened crime fiction fan tearing up.
  
Set in Ireland, the story centres around three women, who have all suffered great sadness and pain.  Roisin, adopted as a baby by Keeley and Doug has always struggled to fit in and find her place.  She decides to return home to set up her own business after travelling.  But she has a secret that she has never shared with anyone. 
Keeley runs a B&B with husband Doug, and is very successful.  But she also holds a secret, one that she has kept from her husband.  

Finally Nell, a recluse who lives in an old lighthouse, her only company is her cleaning lady Mo.  Nell has a past she would rather forget about, but the discovery of a young runaway pushes her to face her past.  
Each of the women are forced to confront their secrets and the revelations open their eyes to a different world, one where they no longer need to protect themselves from hurt by hiding away.   

Characters are truly wonderful, Roisin is such a spirited character, her ambition and enthusiasm are infectious, almost leaping off the page at the reader.  They are all believable and easy to relate to.  

This is the sort of book to pick up when you need to slow down, lose yourself in a good book and just relax – an escape if you will.  Despite guessing some of the secrets part of the way through this book I still thoroughly enjoyed it.  Reading Emma Hannigan’s books are like catching up with an old friend, they’re comforting and wonderful, you feel emotional but ultimately you feel a sense that everything is ok in the world after reading it and it reminds you to appreciate the family you have.  

You can buy a copy of The Perfect Gift here.   
 

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Saving Sophie

Author: Sam Carrington
Published: 12 August 2016
Reviewed: 12 August 2016
5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by HarperCollins UK, Avon in return for an honest review
Description:

Saving Sophie is Sam Carrington’s début novel and having seen the hype about it on social media I was curious enough to get a copy from the publisher to review.  Thank goodness I did, this is an absolutely brilliant book, it’s a cleverly plotted, gripping psychological thriller that sucks the reader in and holds them rigid.

The prologue and first chapter ensure that the reader’s interest is piqued, and sets up the plot perfectly.  They also define what you will be doing for the rest of the day/evening…… yes, this is a book that once picked up you will struggle to put down again.  

Narrated alternately by Sophie, her mother Karen, Detective Inspector Lindsay Wade (who is investigating Amy’s disappearance), the reader really gets to  know the main characters well.  Cunningly, Sam Carrington has created characters that are multidimensional with interesting personalities and quirks – so much so that the reader can experience the impending doom, and the desperate panic felt by them but also the panic attacks suffered by Karen, the inclusion of the details about breathing was very shrewd and I will admit that it did have an affect on me.  Characterisation in general was good, they were engaging, believable and at times infuriating (aren’t most teenagers?)  Clearly Sam Carrington has experience with troublesome teens.  

The plotting is something of an art form, little hints of information peppered throughout reveal hidden secrets and surprises, yet all the while the story twists into a coil of intensity.  This is not a book where the reader can easily pre-empt the author, just how a thriller should be in my opinion.  Carrington’s writing style was enjoyable, adding in the anonymous email correspondence broke up the narration but also allowed the tension to build, moving the story along smoothly whilst reminding the reader of the dangers of the internet and those using it.  

A gripping thriller, and an unbelievable début from Sam Carrington, this book will have most readers hooked for the duration.  This is definitely an author to keep a watch on, and thankfully book two is in the pipeline.

You can buy a copy of Saving Sophie here.  

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Dark Water

Author: Sara Bailey
Published: 3 October 2016
Reviewed: 8  August 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by Nightingale Editions (an imprint of Blackbird Books) in return for an honest review

Description:

Friendship doesn’t die, it waits… 


A haunting and lyrical novel, ‘Dark Water’ is a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession. 


When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. Her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia, disappeared after a swimming incident. But what really happened that night by the wrecks? 

My Thoughts & Review:

Before I say anything about this book I feel I need to stress to you that this is the début offering from Sara Bailey.  I say this because as you read this book you are completely unaware of this fact, the author writes so comfortably that this could be her 20th published novel.  

Cleverly weaving the past and the present, Bailey brings to life her characters and their respective tales.  Helena returning to Orkney because of her father’s ill health, struggles with being surrounded by the place of her childhood, the memories and the murmurs her reappearance has caused with the locals.  

Not only does the reader learn about adult Helena, but also learns of her as she grew up on the island with her best friend Anastasia.  How the two girls had the best of times together, their mischief and hijinks until they reached teenage years, when they drifted apart, their friendship strained by jealousies, heartbreak, envy and worst of all death.  

The physical setting of this book adds to the haunting atmosphere of the psychological thriller.  Orkney’s rugged coastline and beautiful scenery provide the perfect backdrop for the story.  Bailey draws the reader in with the eerie setting, her wonderfully flowing narrative and attention to detail.  
The characters are interesting and engaging, the plot is intense and gripping, absolutely amazing that this is a début novel.

You can pre order a copy of Dark Water here.  

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Loose Cannon

Author: Jack Steele
Published: 26 January 2016
Reviewed: 11 August 2016
4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by the author in return for an honest review
Description:
A psychopath is loose in London. Detective Joe Stone must hunt the serial killer before a gangland civil war breaks out.
My Thoughts & Review:  
Loose Cannon is the début novel for this writer, and what a début it is!  It’s hard hitting, action packed and an engaging read.  With short chapters the pace is brisk and the story flows well, almost too well as I found I read it in 2 days (a mountain of ironing kept me from finishing the book on the first night).

Detective Joe Stone works for the Special Investigations Unit in London so it’s only natural that he is called in to the investigation of a kidnapping.  The kidnapping victim just so happens to the the daughter of the head of the London Mafia.

Stone has his work cut out for him with this case, brutal gang violence aplenty as two rival Mafia families clash and he struggles with his own demons, the disappearance of his girlfriend almost a year ago, which he is sure is connected to one of the Mafia families. 

Physical descriptions are excellent in this book, transporting the reader to the heart of the London underworld.  The characters are cleverly written; they are engaging and realistic, the tension between the two families oozes out the pages, and the interwoven storyline of Detective Stone’s missing girlfriend makes this a compulsive read.  
This is a fast paced read, the author’s writing style works effectively here drawing the reader in with short and punchy chapters, great dialogue and a gripping story.

I’m happy to say there will be a sequel to this, once you get to the end of this book you will know why I am so happy about book two!

You can buy a copy of Loose Cannon here. 

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