July 21

Digital Circumstances – BRM Stewart

Digital Circumstances‘Martin McGregor left school in Glasgow with nothing but a talent for working with computers. He built up a successful business, installing hardware and software for companies and individuals. He was settled in a loving relationship.

But Martin’s company steals theirs and their clients’ data, all of it: account details, credit card numbers, identities – and sells them on to international cyber-criminals.

Martin never meant this to happen: it was all from circumstances all through his life, starting with a gangster’s money which gave him what he thought was his first lucky break.

Now he is trying to get clear, but his attempts attract the attentions of police and gangsters from three countries, and some people die. His partner knows something is going on, and she once told him never to lie to her.

And in New York, FBI agent Mark Grosvenor is on his trail’.

 

I downloaded Digital Circumstances to my Kindle on the recommendation of my Sister-in-Law. She and I share quite similar tastes in books and if she is praising a story I will tend to pay attention…except for Dan Brown books, there will always be something on top of the TBR pile before another Dan Brown novel.

So working only on a recommendation and the five paragraph blurb from the book description I launched into Digital Circumstances, the first novel by BRM Stewart. Loved it! Loved it! Loved It!

The central character (Martin McGregor) is a tech-head and as his story develops you also see the evolution of computers and how they evolved into our lives – a nice touch here and I suspect that McGregor is around the same age as I am given the computers he owned at the outset of the book! More worrying was the ease with which the gangsters, who also feature heavily in the story, quickly adapted to the technological developments and profited from our lack of understanding.

I found McGregor’s character was really well developed and I wanted him to come through the tale unscathed. There are some ‘Thrillers’ I can finish and not even remember the central character’s name much less care what happens to them during the course of a book. The supporting characters were well realised and as they came and went from McGregor’s life there were times I felt genuine regret for what had happened to them or anger towards how they were behaving.

Another bonus was that Digital Circumstances is mainly set in Glasgow, a city I studied in and where I got my first job. I always feel that when I am reading about a place I know well it becomes much easier to become engaged in a story. As the story also features Portugal, America and Eastern Europe there was a real feeling of the scale to the book: it highlighted the extent of the reach of the criminal underworld and the even longer reach of the authorities chasing them down.

The story played out well and kept me gripped, one of the books that I did not want to end. A cracking debut novel and I was delighted to hear Mr Stewart is writing his next book. I strongly recommend that you grab a copy of Digital Circumstances.

 

 

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July 17

In Progress…

I am trying to divide my reading time between too many books this week!

After a weekend trip to Englandshire I forgot to bring my Kindle home. Fortunately my family were continuing the holiday without me (work commitments) so the Kindle and I will soon be reunited – but it left me on paperbacks for the week.

As it turns out this has been a bit of a blessing as I got to catch up on a Stephanie Plum novel (from Janet Evanovich). Although the series has now reached the 21st book, I am dragging my heels and have only just finished Smokin’ Seventeen.

The lovely people at my local library kept me going in Evanovich novels for a few weeks last year and I romped through the first 14 books in record time. Cracking, entertainment with humour and excitement in equal doses. However, I didn’t want to catch up with all the books in one run as I liked the idea of still having a few books left to read so I took an enforced break for several months.  That period of self denial is over and am loving reading about Stephanie Plum again.

When the Evanovich book was not within reach I have also been using the Kindle App on my ‘phone to read Digital Circumstances by BRM Stewart. What a joy that has been!  I will post a review once I get through the final 10% but it is fair to say I will be recommending it to everyone – especially those who know Glasgow.

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July 15

Fan – Danny Rhodes (a tough fixture)

I received a copy of Fan from the lovely Sophie at Reviewed The Book – Sophie has an amazing number of reviews on her site and you should take a wander over to http://www.reviewedthebook.co.uk  Sophie, thanks for the copy!

I had seen a lot of mentions on Twitter about Fan. The overwhelming opinions I heard stated that it was a great read. References were made to the Hillsborough disaster, Nottingham Forest and the football world of years gone by. As a football fan this sounded like something I had to read and the other bloggers who were showering praise have been seeing me right thus far and making great recommendations. I will also highlight the publisher Arcadia Books who are doing a fantastic job in promoting a title that many people should seek out.

Scroll down my pages and you will soon find that I started Fan some time ago. I have started (and finished) several books since beginning Fan but this one took me quite a bit longer than I expected. This is not because I am a slow reader, nor is it down to my reluctance in writing up my reviews it is because I was not sure how I felt about Fan.

It is a very, very powerful story. It captures a time I was a part of but probably too young to fully understand. I recall several of the key historical events with more clarity than I would like and the depth of detail and accuracy almost gives the story the feeling of reading a diary rather than a work of fiction. HOWEVER….I found it hard to read and I put it down for several weeks about half way through before I felt that I was ready to finish the story.

Let me be clear, it is a great book and I will recommend it to anyone who asks me if they should read it but, it just was not for me. I like my fiction a little less realistic and generally the books that I really get into are sometimes best taken with a pinch of salt.

The central character in Fan is a flawed individual who did not endear himself to this reader. His is story which spans two time lines, there is the memory of growing up as a Forest fan in the 1980’s and this overlaps with the present day as he struggles to maintain a normal life while haunted by the ghosts of his past.

I found that I was looking forward more to the present day parts of the story rather than the historical reminiscing. I wanted to see where the character was going and if he could salvage something from his self-enforced darkness.

I am glad I read this one, not my usual type of story but it will stay with me for a while (which is more than can be said about lots of the more generic titles I have read).

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July 12

Friday was a catching up day

A good day as I managed to finish two books from the reading pile. Will post up full reviews of each in the very near future, however, tonight I have the fun problem of what to read next.

Busy day ahead so I may sneak in a quick read of a Batman graphic novel – one of the books I finished today made me want to read one Batman’s The Long Halloween (one of my favourites).

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July 9

The Hunter – Chris Carter (Short Story)

It is hard to gauge from reading a short story if you are going to enjoy a full novel penned by the same author. In the case of Chris Carter’s The Hunter I also suspect that this particular short story was mainly written as a wee extra  treat for established fans rather than be intended as an introduction to his recurring hero, Robert Hunter.

However, as my introduction to Carter’s work I found this a very satisfying experience and I will certainly be moving on to read The Crucifix Killer (described as ‘the first full length thriller featuring Robert Hunter’ in the sneak preview that was attached to my kindle copy of The Hunter).

I am rapidly finding that following fellow bloggers on Twitter is throwing up too many recommended reads – my TBR pile has grown considerably in the last few months. Chris Carter is one such recommendation and The Hunter seemed a good jumping on point – how many spoilers could there possibly be in a book set before the first full novel? None! (I think).

The Hunter is a great take on the classic ‘Locked Room’ murder.  A young woman is found dead in her locked apartment – apparent suicide and the police wish the case closed as quickly as possible. Enter Robert Hunter and suddenly he is asking the questions that no-one else seemed to have considered. Nicely written with good characterisation which makes me want to see the characters expanded upon in subsequent tales.

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July 4

Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore

Richards, Mann, Finch, Morris
Richards, Mann, Finch, Morris

As it had been foretold, the armies of the Universe gathered at Trenzalore. Only one thing stood between the planet and destruction – the Doctor. For nine hundred years, he defended the planet, and the tiny town of Christmas, against the forces that would destroy it.
He never knew how long he could keep the peace. He never knew what creatures would emerge from the snowy night to threaten him next. He knew only that at the end he would die on Trenzalore.

Some of what happened during those terrible years is well documented. But most of it remains shrouded in mystery and darkness.

Until now.

This is a glimpse of just some of the terrors the people faced, the monstrous threats the Doctor defeated. These are the tales of the monsters who found themselves afraid – and of the one man who was not.
(Tales of Trenzalore documents four of the Doctor’s adventures from different periods during the Siege of Trenzalore and the ensuing battle:

Let it Snow – by Justin Richards
An Apple a Day – by George Mann
Strangers in the Outland – by Paul Finch
The Dreaming – by Mark Morris)

A review copy was kindly provided by Netgalley.

 

It needs to be made clear from outset that I am a long-standing Doctor Who fan and have been for around 35 of my 40 years. Love it, followed it, collected it and kept the faith from 1989 to the full resurrection when Rose aired. I collected the Virgin New Adventures, The Missing Adventures, the BBC collections of 8th and Past Doctors. I listen to Big Finish audio adventures and read the fantastic Doctor Who Monthly. I am a fan!

One thing that should also be known is that I found the concept of The Doctor being stuck for years on Trenzalore at the end of Matt Smith’s regeneration a bit….sad. All the buzz and energy he showed only to have his wings clipped and be made to ride out his time in the odd town of Christmas – this was an unexpected twist.

Fortunately, it appears his time was not too dull as evidenced within the 4 stories captured in Tales of Trenzalore. For fans of the classic stories there are some returning foes that will bring a nostalgic smile to your face. Newer fans can enjoy familiarity too as the Ice Warriors feature in the first story (no more reveals though, read to see who else appears!)

Each of the 4 stories are well paced and capture the essence of Smith’s Doctor. I have read several of Justin Richards previous Who novels and know he is very adept at crafting a strong adventure. No change here I was pleased to find. The introductory story in the collection whetted the appetite and made me crave the next tale.

I found An Apple a Day to be the most emotive story – classic enemy and Mann also showed the impact that the Doctor’s ongoing peril has upon the other citizens of Christmas.

Scroll down my Blog and you will see my newfound love of Paul Finch stories. Imagine my delight when I find Mr Finch’s name on the author’s list of a Doctor Who story! Strangers in the Outland un-nerved me most as this was the enemy I found the most threatening and the author really captured my attention with an isolated Doctor being relentlessly chased down. Strangers in the Outland ended all too soon for this reader!

Finally the Doctor reaching the end of his life faces another ‘classic’ enemy in The Dreaming. A strong story with a more frail Doctor than I like to contemplate but a Doctor who remains resolute and as ingenious as we would expect.

As a collection of stories I found Tales of Trenzalore to be a delight. I am shunning unread books to re-visit some Doctor Who stories and have dug out a couple of Doctor Who DVD’s to feed my inner fan.

5/5 for this collection – Grab this Book!

 

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June 23

Forty Acres – Dwayne Alexander Smith

Forty Acres – Dwayne Alexander Smith

Martin Grey, a smart, talented. young lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, is taken under the wing of a secretive group made up of America’s most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men. He’s dazzled by what they have accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be one of them They invite him for a weekend away from it all – no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But what he discovers, far from home, is a disturbing alternative reality which challenges his deepest convictions…

A novel of rage and compassion, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

 

Review copy kindly provided by Netgalley.

One of the joys of any new book is the pending adventure. Where will the story take me? Will I be gripped by adventure? Bored by excessive detail? Or be challenged with new ideas and concepts? Fortunately 40 Acres managed to grip, entertain and, at times, even made me seriously consider some of my personal perceptions.

At the heart of the story is a successful lawyer, Martin Grey, who gets the chance to join an elite band of successful black businessmen and entrepreneurs. The foundation behind their unity is shrouded in mystery which is slowly and (often) shockingly revealed to the reader, and Grey, as our perceptions of equality in the 21st Century is challenged by author Dwayne Alexander Smith.

Although I felt the book got off to a bit of a slow start, this was short lived and I quickly found that I wanted to learn more about Mr Gray and his new friends. The central character was nicely grounded and when faced with some of the extreme concepts and situations that confronted him as the story unfolded I found I was able to empathise with the dilemmas he faced – excellent writing by Smith who took some unpleasant concepts and almost gave them a rational spin at times. By the time I was deep into the book I was engrossed and could not wait to see how the story panned out.

A little bit of learning in this book for me too. The titular Forty Acres is a direct link to the freehold land given to former slaves by the American Government when they got their freedom. Had I known this before starting the story I may have been a bit more aware of where the story was leading so I was a little slow on the uptake! I don’t feel that being better informed than I would in any way spoil what was otherwise an excellent story.

For readers that enjoy an adventure story, but don’t want to suspend their belief and read about the all action hero, then I would have no qualms recommending that you Grab This Book.

June 19

Stalkers – a great book crept up on me

stalkersSTALKERS – PAUL FINCH

Time’s up. You’re Next.

“All he had to do was name the woman he wanted. It was that easy. They would do all the hard work.”

Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is investigating the disappearance of 38 different women. Each one was happy and successful until they vanished without a trace.

Desperate to find her missing sister, Lauren Wraxford seeks out Heck’s help. Together they enter a seedy underworld of gangsters and organised crime.

But when they hear rumours about the so-called ‘Nice Guys Club’ they hit a brick wall. They’re the gang that no one will talk about. Because the Nice Guys can arrange anything you want. Provided you pay the price…

 

Having spent some time hanging round Twitter and getting a feel for what fellow readers were spending time with there was one name which cropped up more than once…Paul Finch.

Stalkers seemed the ideal jumping on point as it introduced Mark Heckenburg, a recurring central figure for Finch’s books. Promising start from my point of view – I love when an author establishes a character and builds on their story over a few books.

From the outset I was drawn into the story the Stalker element was unsettling when described  from the victim’s (limited) viewpoint. The scale of the true horror that was to follow was skillfully revealed and kept me hooked. There were some very disturbing concepts brought out and the author really put his characters through the wringer.

I read a lot of Michael Slade books when I was younger. Murder stories featuring the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but with nasty ‘shlock horror’ undertones.  This is the closest UK equivalent that I have read for many years but Stalkers was better – much, much better than anything Slade ever wrote.

I have no hesitation in calling Stalkers the best book that I have read this year – GRAB THIS BOOK  I give it an A+.

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June 16

New Find – Paul Finch

The best thing about this blogging lark is when fellow bloggers give you a heads-up on authors that you may not have read yet.  Over the last two weeks I have read the name Paul Finch many times on my Twitter feed.

Time for a bit of an investigation and I discover he writes thrillers, set in the UK and that (best of all) there is a recurring hero as the lead character in his ‘Heck’ books.

On the train to work this morning I began Chapter One of Stalkers.  I was immediately drawn into the story and 40 mins later left the train in very grumpy mood as work was about to interrupt a great story.

Lunch was too short but I squeezed in a few more chapters and the journey home meant another 40 minutes of uninterrupted reading. The true test of how good this story is – I turned off the World Cup commentary on my radio to read Mr Finch’s book.  Probably the most telling sign as to just how good it is!

Full review soon but writing it now would only slow me down from finishing the story.

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June 12

Books in progress

Lots of reading going on over the last few days.  Taken to the Amazon Kindle sale to stock up on some of my old faves.  Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct stories are a great wee piece of escapism for me, however, they are short so I grudge paying £8 or so for a book I will read in a night.  This is why I nab as many as I can when they go on sale (ie now).

This week’s digital reads are JD Robb stories. I love the Eve Dallas books and as work has been a bit hectic this week I am re-visiting one or two of the Dallas stories I remember less well from the first read through.

In paperback I am reading FAN – kindly provided by Sophie from @ReviewedTheBook. This one is full on and I am reading it in bursts as I find it intense and not always in a good way.  Must check with Sophie if she found any empathy for the protagonist (I am feeling sorry for his fiancee more than him).

A full review of FAN will follow soon as this is a book everyone should see.

Finally – I was planning attending an author signing this week in Edinburgh but found out it had been cancelled late in the day.  Both the publisher and author offered me apologies on Twitter after I posted my disappointment. See – there ARE nice people on Twitter.