Sunday, 24 April 2016

Mile High by Rebecca Chance

I’ve read and reviewed a few novels by Rebecca Chance before now and after having Mile High sitting on my Kindle for ages, I took some time out recently to get stuck in to another of her sizzling thrillers. 

Pure Air’s brand new luxury plane is making its inaugural flight from London to LA and the first class cabin is packed with celebrities. World famous pop star Catalina is the biggest VIP on board and despite battling to overcome a recent heartbreak, she has no idea that the deranged stalker she thought she had left behind is closer than she could imagine and will go to any lengths to satisfy their needs. 

Also among the elite list is naughty celebrity chef Danny with his eye on more than the in-flight food, Hollywood actress Jane with her own secrets to conceal and the CEO of PureAir Lord Tony who is hoping that everything goes without a hitch but has no idea of the antics that are about to take place. 

I’m sure I’ve said it before but one of the things I enjoy most about Rebecca Chance’s books are how glamorous they are; from the characters’ appearance and fashion sense to the luxurious locations and settings. 

I’ve not yet had the pleasure of first class air travel so I was wrapped up in the sumptuous details of the LuxeLiner flight where every tiny detail from the food, to the fixtures and fittings of the plane are so highly thought out for maximum comfort and indulgence of the passengers. Alongside the glamour, there is of course plenty of sex. 

With some spoilt high-flyers and an attractive air crew to look after them, there is plenty of opportunity for some sordid on-board antics. The novel tells of the LuxeLiner flight but also goes back in time to some of the characters’ lives leading up towards the eventful flight so there is plenty of sex and drama to keep you reading there too. I always find myself learning something new from every Chance novel I read and this one was no different! 

With her signature glamour and sex, there is also a gripping thriller with the role of the sinister stalker slowly seeing their carefully laid plans through to fruition. There are plenty of suspects on the flight and with subtle hints and misdirection, the reader is kept guessing right up until the end. Thoroughly researched and packed with alluring action, Mile High is racy, pacy read from a supremely talented author. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

5 Awesome Ocean Voyages

I often profess to have an affinity with the sea and naturally I love to travel. When an occasion arises in a novel when the characters embark on a life-changing adventure, there is something particularly exciting when a ship and the perilous ocean are involved. I’m sure there are tons of stories out there that involve a long water-based journey but I’m limiting myself only to what I have read. If you’ve read an ocean voyage novel of note, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, here in no particular order, are my current sea-faring faves!

1. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

How could I not include this classic pirate story fraught with adventure, buccaneers and the promise of riches. It is a coming of age story where a young man sets off to sea to locate some fabled treasure although he is not the only one who has set his sights on the prize. I’ll admit, it has been a while since I last read the book or even watched any of the screen adaptations (Muppets anyone?) but just the title evokes imagery of tropical islands, chests heaving with gold and pirates sailing on the high seas.

2. The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl 

Leading on from above, I had to include this novel after I enjoyed it so much. The story follows the lives of two high profile, rival bookaneers (that’s literary pirates if you don’t know) who both take to the ocean in one last attempt to score big in what is fast becoming a dying profession. They make their way to Samoa to where author Robert Louis Stevenson has made his home, in a bid to try and steal his latest unpublished masterpiece. The ship journey to Samoa is turbulent to say the least, and even more adventure is afoot once all players reach the island and the real challenge begins!

3. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor

Of course, not all ocean journeys need to feature pirates, as demonstrated with my next few picks. Star of the Sea tells the passage of the title vessel from Ireland to America. The passengers are a varied mix of people; rich and poor, good and bad, young and old. The story weaves between all the characters and details every day of the journey. Out at sea, there is no escape from fellow passengers, and as each person on board has their own agenda the reader slowly learns that many are linked in ways the characters themselves may never know.

4. The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay 

This is the first book in a three part series which starts off following the lives of crooked business partners Mary and Ikey in London, in the 19th Century. Their wicked ways soon catch up with them and both are sent separately to a penal colony in Tasmania. Both of their journeys are detailed, as well as the lives of other leading characters that are also uprooted from their homes and sent away to a brand new world. Bryce Courtenay is a talented author that wrote with great historical accuracy and emotion. I have enjoyed many of his books and definitely recommend The Potato Factory series.

5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Last but not least, this is not what you might initially class as an ‘awesome ocean voyage’ but it is certainly a unique one! Following a ship crash, Pi Patel finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with some survivors from his family’s zoo. With nothing but the open ocean around him, this novel is more survival story than anything else, but it is gripping nonetheless. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Scarlet Widow by Graham Masterton

I understand that Graham Masterton is already a bestselling horror writer and although this was my first read of his, I was already excited to try out his crime writing too. 

Scarlet Widow is a historical crime novel with dashes of horror, which for me made a winning combination. The story centres on Beatrice, an apothecary’s daughter living in London. Her father has taught her a lot and so she has an extensive knowledge of medicines, plants and herbs, as well as principles of science from a young age. 

Tragedy befalls poor Beatrice and after the death of her mother, her father falls into decline and later passes away too. She later marries a preacher and emigrates to America. 

After a while a strange spate of demonic acts befalls the town. It starts with the death of Beatrice’s pigs; all found slaughtered with shards of broken mirror in their mouths. Soon, across the farms, it is not only livestock which come under threat but people too. 

Being such a religious and superstitious community, the work of Satan and demons are soon blamed, with accusations of witchcraft and sinners cast around town. But with her extensive knowledge of plants and science, Beatrice suspects that the culprit is much more human than widely assumed and must work quickly to uncover the perpetrator before she becomes the next victim herself.  

Beatrice is a very likeable lead. She is clever and caring and goes through so much hardship and yet remains strong and competent throughout. It was interesting to see what her father taught her and how she applied her knowledge of chemistry, botany and other scientific ideas to the crimes in an age where crime scene investigation wasn’t an established study yet. 

I love reading about things like alchemy and old-fashioned apothecaries; it puts me in mind of coloured potions, fragrant plants and crude science and so this story had some great inclusions of all those things which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

This novel also explores religion against occult beliefs and it doesn’t skimp on the violence or graphic depictions of gore and murder which I also really liked. There was so much mystery and there were some parts that were actually quite tense. 

Scarlet Widow is skilfully written and wonderfully unnerving thriller. This is the first in a new series introducing Beatrice Scarlet and I genuinely can’t wait to see what future mysteries are in store for her.

Monday, 4 April 2016

The Bearer of Grievances by Joseph McKinley

Back in February I read and reviewed the first release from Unsung Signals (Winter by Dan Grace – in case you missed it). So when the next book was introduced to my inbox and I read the premise, I was deeply intrigued. 

The Bearer of Grievances is a collection of eight short stories that explore futuristic bureaucracy and technology that is out of control. The reader is first introduced to a shady pharmaceutical corporation who have developed a drug that takes away your bad and aggressive memories. 

In the quite terrifying future that McKinley presents, technology is at the forefront of everything. Drone delivery services, genetically engineered bureaucrats run the world and there is a form to fill in for everything. 

The eight stories explore different areas of this new, technology driven civilisation and they demonstrate the far reaching powers of the corporation behind it all. 

My favourite of all of them was the title story The Bearer of Grievances. With a Mad Max vibes it tells of an ex-prisoner who has been reassigned with the task of exacting revenge for people’s grievances. He is supplied with weapons and a motorbike and can hear the voices of the aggrieved in his head and know his target instinctively. It really sets the tone for how much anger even one human being can harbour, and how it can affect behaviour. 

Most of the stories were quite heated in tone but they were also darkly comic and I really enjoyed the black humour running throughout. This is heavily sci-fi based and with so much technology, I must admit that some of the really techie stuff went over my head. But it sounded really cool and fits right in to the quirky nature of the stories. 

Another part of this scary new future involved masses of paperwork; a form for everything and levels upon levels of administration and bureaucracy. I actually just started a new admin based job which comes with a lot of form-filling and paperwork and I couldn’t help but see the irony in what I reading compared to reality. 

If you like unnerving sci-fi or dystopian depictions of the future then this is a short and snappy read that is actually quite thought-provoking. Once again, Unsung Signals has introduced something a little weird, a little dark yet very entertaining and I’m looking forward to what comes next!