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  1. My Rating: 5/5

    Belinda Jones has finally released her book after a gap of two years. She has written in total ten books, two of which were non-fiction. She is without a doubt a classic `Chick Lit' writer and I personally have been a fan since she began with her debut novel `Diva Las Vegas'.

    Belinda Jones started out as a magazine journalist and travel editor. It is clear from each and every one of her books that travel is the key to her heart. She has successfully made herself a firm favourite amongst us avid readers as she somehow portrays her love of travel into every book she produces. Her latest effort is no different.

    We meet Carmen and Beth who are best friends. Carmen works in the same industry as Beth but more behind the scenes. Whilst Beth is up there struggling to be noticed for her natural talent as a dancer, Carmen is the one who not only creates but adjusts the costumes.

    Carmen is currently working her way back to being a happy single girl as she recently split from her boyfriend Lee. Beth meanwhile sees the perfect opportunity for both of them. A TV advert is placed looking for somebody to learn the Tango in Argentina, the Flamenco in Spain and the Salsa in Cuba. There's only one catch, they need to be a dance novice.

    When they find themselves on the plane and en-route to their first destination they realise that this is the beginning of more than a reality TV show. The question is what will they discover along the way As usual Belinda Jones manages to write a fabulous book in which you find yourself immersed with the story. The characters Carmen and Beth are complete opposites but both are written so that you love them just the way they are. The journey they take has all the right ingredients, fun, glamour, romance, emotion and a slight teary eye. Belinda Jones has created a recipe with the perfect ingredients and has produced a book that not only tells a story, it takes you along for the ride.

    Her love of travel is evident in a huge way, and she has a special `something' with how she describes places and scenery. The actual story itself is very funny in places and you find yourself rooting for both Carmen and Beth. We also get to see what has happened to Carmen and her boyfriend in the past and how Carmen deals with it going forward.

    The length of the book was just right and some of the characters I loved even though they weren't perfect Rick the TV producer being one of them. The crew that are filming the girl's journey also become part of the story and we meet Simon the sound man and Dan the cameraman. There are many locations and different dance partners but all in all the story threads are simple and well thought out. I read this over the course of a day and a half and loved every single chapter. There was only one thing that was slightly unusual and that was the fact that with any other Belinda Jones book, I am hooked from chapter one, but with this it developed a little slower. I found myself warming up once I hit chapter 8 or 9.

    What I did find surprising was when I reached the end of the book. I had finished the story and enjoyed it, when I realised there was a short Q&A from the author at the back. I was surprised to learn that Carmen's relationship issues are something that came from the authors own experiences. All in all I would recommend this book for what it is, a light hearted but wonderful read.

  2. Jessie Keane Jail BirdMy Rating: 5/5

    Jessie Keane is an author that had her debut novel `Dirty Game' published in 2008. It was the first in the Annie Bailey series of books and was followed by `Black Widow' and `Scarlet Women' in 2009. 

    I read her first book and was hooked. Annie Bailey was such a great character and I was fearful that Jessie Keane would follow the all too predictable path that others do of relying too much on a good thing.

     After reading all three in the Annie Bailey Series I was even more worried. How on earth could she top her last three books? Not only did I love her style of writing but I fell in love with the characters. How would I feel with a new lead character? Would it be any good or would she fail at the first hurdle? To my absolute relief Jessie Keane is made of sterner stuff. Through my letterbox came her latest offering entitled Jail Bird and I excitedly ripped it from its box and settled myself in for the duration.

     Lily King has just been released from prison. She has spent the last 12 years of her life behind bars for the brutal shooting of her husband Leo King. When she is released she is determined to set the record straight. Not only does Lily have to prove she didn't kill her husband, she has to find out who did. She is battling not only Leo's family who want her dead, but her own daughters who can't stand the sight of her.

    This book was an absolute corker and I read the book cover to cover in 2 days. It is everything Jessie Keane does but better. We meet a great leading character in Lily, she has guts and determination and is absolutely focused on finding the truth. She has her battles along the way and the characters that make up the King family are right on the money. The storytelling is, as usual, brilliant and she manages to create very believable scenarios without it bordering on the unrealistic.

    It's a pacy book with plenty of plot twists and enough action to keep you both interested and guessing. I particularly liked the fact that there are lots of different characters all being brought together by one event. There are just enough to keep you intrigued but not too many that it get's confusing.

    After reading a short Bio on Jessie I realise how she manages to exude an air of masculinity into her writing being the youngest of 8 children, all boys! I have been a fan of Martina Cole for years but to be honest, find myself not looking forward to new books she releases as they are all the same sort of thing. Don't get me wrong I still read them but don't have the level of interest that I used to. If like me, you were a Cole fan in the early days, get yourself down the shops for a copy of Jessie Keane's book. She reminds me very much of Cole's early work and she is certainly giving the likes of Mandasue Heller and Karin Slaughter a run for their money. If I were Martina Cole I would be looking over my shoulder for a certain Ms Keane! Now all I have to do is wait another 7 months for her new book!

  3. Jodi Picoult House RulesMy Rating: 4/5

    Jodi Picoult is an author that I, like many others, are very aware of and the majority of her new books seem to be very popular. However for some reason I have never gone out of my way to ever read any of her work. When this book landed on my lap I was genuinely intrigued.

    Jodi Picoult has been publishing books since her debut novel `Songs of The Humpback Whale' in 1992. Since then she has gone on to write a further 16 novels including her latest `House Rules' which was published in May 2010. Her books are translated into 34 languages in 35 countries and 3 of her books have been made into television movies. More recently her book `My Sister's Keeper' was turned into a big screen release starring Cameron Diaz.

    Like I said previously I was intrigued by the jacket detail of this book as Jodi appeared to be focussing on a subject that I am sure many people have never heard of. Asperger's Syndrome. Jacob Hunt is 18 and looks just like any other 18 year old boy. The difference is that Jacob is not like any other boy in his town. He lives with Asperger's which is a form of autism. Jacob tends to fixate on certain things and his most current fixation is Forensic Science. He avoids eye contact, will only eat certain colour foods on certain days and has an almost photographic memory. His mother Emma not only has to deal with Jacob, but has to raise her other son, 15 year old Theo, on her own as a single mother. Jacob regularly turns up at crime scenes where he offers unwanted advice to the police about the forensic tests they should be running. One day, Jacob returns home from his meeting with his social skills tutor and is behaving oddly. His mother Emma finds that when the police turn up on her doorstep they only have bad news to give. Jacob's tutor Jess was found dead and now they want to question her son about what had happened. All of the innocent traits associated with Asperger's, like not looking somebody in the eye; now all seem like the signs of a person who is guilty. Emma, Jacob and Theo are thrown in at the deep end and have to fight to prove his innocence.

    I admit I had never until reading this book, heard of Asperger's Syndrome. Of course I had heard of autism but not of this individual type. The story is written incredibly well and we are introduced to Jacob with a wide understanding of his individual quirks and traits that come with his syndrome. I couldn't help but grow to like Jacob and his quirky ways. Jodi Picoult introduces each character by chapter and along with that she changes the typeset so that it is very clear which character you are following.

    Each character is written with feeling and compassion, to the point that even as they are making bad choices you can't help but feel for them. Along the way we meet Rich who is the Detective in charge of the murder of Jess as he tries to catch who he thinks is the right killer. We also meet Oliver who is a lawyer who is just starting out. Oliver becomes not only their lawyer but an integral part of their lives. He gets to see the Hunt family day in day out and in all kinds of situations. He witnesses Jacob's `meltdowns', where he cannot cope with a situation and has to be coaxed out of it by reciting movie quotes or singing Bob Marley. The book is incredibly well written due to not only the talent of the author but the compassion she shows in writing about subjects that are open for debate. I found to my surprise that I was over halfway through the book and I still had no real idea of what had happened, I just felt that I knew the characters that bit better. As the book progresses through the second half we are drawn into the court case that the Hunt's have to prepare for.

    Overall I actually enjoyed the book and the story it told but was extremely let down by the ending. I actually visited her website after I finished her book and had a browse at her other books. It seems that she writes about subjects that are extremely sensitive or subjects that are currently being debated in one way or another. I am not saying I didn't enjoy this book, it's just that I question it when an author produces books that only cover sensationalist subjects. I think that Picoult fans will not be disappointed however can't say that I would rush out to pre-order her next book.

  4. Karen Rose Scream For MeMy Rating: 3/5

     Karen Rose is a RITA award winning novelist who has been writing since her debut book `Don't Tell' in 2003. Karen Rose then produced a series of books starting with Die For Me which was released in 2007. The series feature Special Agent Daniel Vartanian. This book is the second in the Series and is entitled `Scream For Me'.

    I have only read one other Karen Rose book which was her debut novel and I was thoroughly captured by her writing style and thoroughly enjoyed every page of that book. When I picked up this one I was totally unaware that it was the second in the series but this had absolutely no effect on the enjoyment as previous events are explained in detail. If you wish to read from the beginning of this series I would suggest you don't read onwards from this point as there may be spoilers relating to the first book.

    In this second instalment we again meet Daniel who has recently buried his parents following their brutal killings at the hands of his own brother. Not only does he have that to deal with, but the fact that his brother Simon died at his own hands too. When a new case lands on his desk he is determined to absorb himself in this new case and catch the killer that seems to be replicating murders from 13 years ago. The problem with that is that the murders seem to be linked to a collection of photographs that belonged to his brother.

    Alex Fallon is an ER nurse and is getting over the breakup of her relationship with a fellow Doctor. Alex has a murky past with her twin sister having been murdered thirteen years ago. When she finds out that her stepsister Bailey has gone missing she fears the worst. However Bailey has a history of drug abuse but would her own stepsister abandon a small child alone in her house just for her next fix. Alex doesn't want to take any chances so takes Baileys daughter Hope into her own care and begins her own search for her stepsister.

    Alex and Daniel inevitably cross paths when Daniel realises there may be a link between the murders from 13 years ago, the murders that are happening now and the disappearance of Bailey Crighton. Between them they try to make sense of what is happening and why.

    The proper description for this type of book genre is romantic suspense. When I reviewed Karen Rose's previous book I totally disagreed with that label but I have to say it is more fitting to this book. The story itself is far from a bed of roses and is largely based around multiple murders of young women. However all of her books do have a romantic element running through them. I have to say though, that in this case it just became part of the story as opposed to taking over from the central focus of the book. It runs along nicely and is integrated well without becoming too over the top.

    You do have to pay attention as there are many characters introduced throughout which all have a part to play somewhere along the line. This author has a knack of switching seamlessly between a horrific murder scene and a scene in which two people are falling for each other despite the circumstances. I loved the element of the story which was written from Bailey Crighton's point of view as the story is then staggered and the reader is drawn further into the reasoning for a lot of things the further in to the book they get.

    Overall I think I preferred her debut novel to this but this was still a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. She has also introduced Daniel Vartanian's sister Susannah along with Daniel's friend Luke Papadopoulos who are to take a much more central role in the follow up to this book. I think Karen Rose is a great author and I look forward to reading the next installment.

  5. Karen Rose Dont TellMy Rating: 4/5

    I had never read any Karen Rose novels but a friend of mine mentioned I might like her books.

    When it comes to genre I am a little bewildered. The front of the book as well as the jacket information gives the impression that her books are thrillers. Yet her website seems to suggest that she writes `Romantic Suspense' books. After finishing her book I am not sure I would quite call her genre this but can see that she does have a romantic element running through the story.

    Having said that this book is far from Chick Lit and the happy and bubbly lives the characters seem to lead. This book is real in all its glory. It's almost real to the point that some people could empathise with the character. This story is based largely on a woman's survival following years of domestic abuse.

    Caroline Stewart has created a new life for her and her son and is trying to do the best she can to move on. 9 years after leaving her husband after faking her own death, a new man enters her life and she has all the challenges that a woman in her position is not used to dealing with. The aspect of the book that deals with the nicer side to Caroline's life is refreshing. The reason I say this is that we also see the fear and absolute terror she is subjected to. Karen Rose has hit the nail on the head in terms of balance.

    In my opinion, any author that can create a character like Caroline's husband has done a first class job. It has been a long time since I have read a book that raises such hatred in me towards a certain character. Make no mistake, after reading this around a third of the way through, I was already hoping that the husband would wind up dead and in a long and painful manner.

    The book takes us through Caroline and her son Tom's life after their awful experiences with Rob, Caroline's husband. Not only that, with the introduction of Max, Caroline's new boss, we see how her son Tom reacts to the presence of a new man around the place. When Caroline's car is found in a lake her husband realises that the chances of Caroline being alive have been upped. He is furious that he `stole' their son away and is determined to find them.

    The author picks up the pace considerably with Rob trying to trace Caroline and there are various scenes where he is seen for what he really is, a psychopath with a taste for murder. This book isn't all roses but is a gritty and real thriller that I literally couldn't put down. The author manages to create a fast paced book with the element of `real life' added to the mix. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have already got my next Karen Rose novel ready to read.

  6. Craig Robertson Random
    My Rating: 4/5

     The cover of his book is pretty eye catching with its red cover and a picture of a figure in the shadows. The jacket information was even more interesting with a description of a Serial Killer operating in Glasgow. He has been nicknamed The Cutter by the media and the police are baffled by the killings. DS Rachel Narey is on the case and she cannot seem to find any connection between the victims. There seems to be no real motive or reason for the murders and there seems to be absolutely no links between the people.

    When I opened the book the first thing that was strange was the fact that the book is written in the first person, and said first person is the killer himself. There was something slightly unsettling about that in the beginning for me. As the book progresses the story is stretched and we learn more not only about his mindset but the reasons behind the killings.

    I don't particularly like spoilers but this book is very hard to describe without some risk of spoiling the plot. I will say however, that the more you read the more you will question "what would I do if that was me?" I found that over halfway in not only had the unsettling feeling I started with gone, I found myself seeing things through the eyes of somebody in his position.

    Ultimately as the title and jacket information describe, the serial killings are made entirely at random. This is not only a disturbing thought, but one that is written with incredible skill. I was amazed at how I felt whilst reading it and felt myself becoming more and more absorbed by it. The story is set in Glasgow and the writing and speech of the Glaswegians is done superbly.

    The pace of the book is also pretty good, I wouldn't say particularly fast but reasonably paced with more intent on seeing things from the `bad' side of the fence. This gave the story good momentum and more intent on the sheer genius of being inside a killers mind. I cannot say anything bad about this book; I thoroughly enjoyed it and eagerly await the next novel by Mr Robertson.

  7. My Rating: 5/5

    Well it has been 11 long years since Lisa Jewell released a book entitled Ralph's Party. She wrote and I read Ralphs party (unbelievably) 11 years ago and even back then her writing was great.

    In Ralph's Party we meet the residents of 31 Almanac Road, who consist of flatmates Ralph and Smith and their new neighbour who moves in, Jemimah. Upstairs live Karl and Siobhan and they have been unmarried for fifteen years albeit happily. When Cheri moves in to the flat above them she causes havoc by deciding that Karl is the man she wants and sees no reason that a girlfriend should get in the way. The book itself leads us into their lives and sees the end result with both Ralph and Jem getting together and leaving the book with that happy ever after feeling.

    However, Lisa Jewell decided that 11 years later she would transport us back to Ralph and Jem's current relationship with her book entitled After The Party. So a few years down the line we find that Ralph and Jem are unmarried, but living together with their two young children. Things are not all sweetness and light and Jem is feeling unsettled with just about everything. She is currently trying to raise her demanding and Diva like daughter Scarlett, still nurture her baby boy Blake, and keep her career going with a difficult client as well as keeping her marriage to Ralph on an even keel.

    Both Ralph and Jem find that life doesn't seem that simple anymore. Jem begins to feel quietly disgruntled with everything that Ralph does and Ralph is feeling more and more like he's not even part of his own family. Slowly they realise that their ideal family life that they viewed all those years ago through rose tinted glasses is nothing like their present reality. Whilst Jem and Ralph both go on their own paths of discovery they both wonder at whether their relationship can survive. Will they make it through or will they be like the thousands of others that have tried and failed to make a marriage work.

    Firstly, I cannot believe that an author has finally made the fantastic move to revisit a previous `happy ending' story. I really enjoyed Ralph's Party but found that not only did I enjoy this current book, but I fell in love with the characters all over again. Lisa Jewell has exceeded every expectation I could have imagined and produced an absolutely first class book. She didn't take the easy option of the characters being 100% happy with a perfect life. This book is far from what most would expect an easy `chick lit' author to produce. Lisa Jewell tackles all of the gritty real life issues that couple who are married and with a family may encounter.

    She managed to keep the spirit of these characters but yet developed them as older and wiser from what they were in Ralph's Party. There are some sensitive issues that I think are dealt with incredibly well although I'm reluctant to be specific as I don't want any spoilers in my review. The story is started with the current situation that Jem finds herself in and slowly introduces the past year and the story unfolds as the reader gets further into the book. What I also loved was the fact that the author didn't rush the ending and the reader is still wondering what will be the outcome right until the last few chapters. I cannot praise this book enough and would highly recommend it to anybody. It's isn't necessary to read the first book Ralph's Party but for those that have I think this is a wonderful way to look at the progression of Ralph and Jem's life. An absolutely fabulous read that can't be awarded anything other than 5 out of 5. Get out there and get yourself a copy!

  8.  James Patterson 9th Judgement
    My Rating: 3/5

    The women who have all been part of the `Women's Murder Club' do all appear in the story but to varying degrees.

    You have Lindsay Boxer the lead character who is meant to be a feisty detective and she works alongside Rich Conklin. Cindy is a reporter and not only does she cover the case of Hello Kitty she is also in a relatively new relationship with Rich Conklin. Yuki is a lawyer and isn't directly linked to the cases but appears in the story albeit briefly. Claire is a Medical Examiner and has a family of her own. She features more prominently in this story as she attends all the murder scenes.

    The story itself is a vast improvement on the last one in the series. I have said before, and will say again, I wonder at the speed in which James Patterson produces books. They come out frequently and some books tend to have that slightly `unfinished' feel to them. This one had some great twists in it and like I said before the actual storyline was pretty captivating. It made a change to have two stories running parallel through the book that eventually intertwine at the end. The chapters were written in the classic Patterson style; short and sharp. I have personally found that this makes the book very edgy and easy to get pulled along with.

    The characters themselves are another matter altogether. As I have read every single one of the series you find yourself knowing the characters that bit more than a stand alone novel. All I can say is WHAT HAPPENED? Our leading lady Lindsay Boxer has had a personality transplant, and not one that I like all that much. She has always been a very strong woman that has had to fight her way through the usual politics within law enforcement. Although she is involved in a long term relationship with Joe, she has always been fiercely independent. Suddenly she has become this wimpy woman with no backbone?!?

    The other women characters are all pretty strong too but with the author and co-author suddenly `finding' Yuki a man it seemed ... well... just wrong. It didn't fit, as the relationship between Cindy and Rich just doesn't fit. I felt like the characters have changed too much and I can't see many fans of this particular series liking it all that much.

    Overall I am glad that the story and writing itself was a vast improvement but the characters lost so much that it made the book that little bit less enjoyable for me. I would still recommend.