Saturday, 28 December 2013

Midnight in Havana by Peggy Blair - Police Procedural

Welcome back to Bookaholic where I bring you another top notch police procedural.

In this book (previously published as The Beggar's Opera) Peggy Blair transports us to the steamy underworld of Havana, Cuba. Canadian Detective Mike Ellis, on holiday in Cuba with his wife, finds himself arrested for the rape and murder of a small boy. This is hours after his wife walks out on him and returns to Canada. Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police is in charge of the investigation. Ramirez is no ordinary detective as he has a succession of ghosts following him around and vying for his attention. Rather than detracting from the story this blends in beautifully as it gives some insight into the Cuban psyche. This is a land where catholicism and African mysticism meet. I have to admit to being a little in love with Ricardo, despite his obvious flaws. His character is real and he does everything he can to bring justice despite the flaws in the system.

When I say, Blair transports you to Cuba, I mean you can picture yourself there. The surroundings, sounds, smell and very heart of Havana are portrayed through the writing. I have been to Cuba and I can sure you Blair has everything spot on. The very cynicism of the characters gives a very real depth to the lives of the characters, and how difficult life can be for the ordinary man and woman in the street. This book not only excels in its depiction of the place but also in the structure and flow of the plot. The storyline is strong with enough twists, turns and plot changes to move it along at a swift pace. Even when you think all has been revealed the surprises keep coming and everything is tied up clearly and neatly. 

I found myself reading this long into the night and grabbing it first thing in the morning when I woke up. If you like a well written mystery, set in unusual surroundings then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. I would not hesitate to recommend it. In fact I would say it is a must buy and read now. At the time of writing the UK kindle version is only £0.77 so well worth snapping up at this price. The US link is for the paperback as Amazon would not let me share the kindle link. Once on the site you can click on the kindle version which is $1.39.

That brings us to the end of another bookaholic review. I'm having a day away from the telly so I'm off to grab another great book. See you all back here soon and enjoy this book when you get it.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

An Elf's Christmas

Good evening bookaholics and welcome to the special boxing day edition of the blog brought to you by the Elf. I promised you before Christmas that I would post pictures of me as an elf. Never one to break a promise here I am. This was taken at the Bridge Community Project Christmas party. In the absence of Santa, who was busy getting last minute gifts together, I acted as chief present distributor. The party went with a swing and a great time was had by all.

Santa was very good to me at Christmas and I received too many presents to name. As this is a book blog I should confess this bookaholic received two books.The first was  "Martha Gellhorn: A Life by Caroline Moorhead". This is the biography of a woman who was a celebrated war correspondent and also one of Ernest Hemmingway's wives. The second was "A Hitchhikers Guide to Heaven by John Blanchard". I am looking forward to reading them both and will be posting reviews fairly soon I am sure. 

Christmas day and boxing day were spent with family including a 12 year old and a 9 year old. This led to some surreal moments. The following conversation will give you a flavour. Freya, aged 9, got a furbie boom from her gran.

Aunty Wendy (aka The Elf): Freya what's the difference between a furbie and a furbie boom? 

Freya: A furbie speaks furbinese and a furbie boom speaks human language.

Auntie Wendy: Do you mean English? What if someone in Germany gets one.

Freya: it speaks English or maybe it speaks Germany language. You can speak to the furbie and make it do things through the app on your iPad. 

So there you have it. As clear as the rich dark chocolate on our post dinner dessert. I am sure you have spent the whole of Christmas worrying about these very things and now you know. You can't say this blog isn't educational. You now know why I spend my time writing fiction. It's less confusing than my life. 

The Elf is off to pour a nice glass of wine and unwind whilst reading a good book. I'm reading Midnight in Havana and will definitely be reviewing as it's excellent. What books did you get for Christmas and what are you reading. It would be great if you let us know in the comments below. See you all back here soon. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Crime Writers Christmas

Good morning and seasons greetings to all my bookaholic readers. It has been a hectic couple of months for me as I try to fit in writing book number two, editing book number one and fitting in all the Christmas shopping, meals and parties. I am sure this will resonate with many readers of this blog whether you are a writer, reader or even both. 

So what am I up to this Christmas. Exactly the same as everyone else I am sure with an added extra twist. Although I am taking a few days break from sitting at my desk and writing, I still have my trusty notebook everywhere I go. My mind never seems to stop thinking about murdering people. In a storytelling sense of course before you think I've turned into a mass murderer overnight. Although I could be tempted when fighting my way around the shops and standing in yet another queue which would make the Alaskan oil pipeline seem short. 

A certain frisson is added to Christmas dinner when thinking about how a stuffed turkey or a huge gammon could be used in a future book. Will this appear? You'll have to read my books to find out. I can hear the cries of that's not fair from here. Well I like to keep you all in suspense. That is what I write about after all. I will be eating Christmas lunch with my family including my two nieces. I have the job of cooking the gammon and turkey. My family may be thinking about murdering me if it all goes wrong. I've never actually cooked a turkey before. Oh well there are lots of vegetables.

In he meantime I must dash. I am off to help at a Community Christmas Party at my church. City Church Dundee in case you are wondering. I've got to get into my rather fetching elf outfit. No I am not joking. I will post a picture in the next blog. 

I would like to end by wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope Santa brings you lots of nice books. More importantly I wish Joy and Peace to you all. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Dark Mind (The Lizzy Gardner Series 3) by T.R. Ragan

The reading is fast and furious in the Bookaholic household this week. I bring you another perfect murder mystery, which no fan of the genre could fail to enjoy.

This is the third book in the Lizzy Gardiner series and the third one I have read. You will guess by this that I am a fan of the series. In this book Lizzy is as tortured as ever and is on the trail of the Lovebird Killer. A serial Killer is busy killing off couples who are very much in love. Although not specifically hired to find the killer PI Lizzie Gardner she becomes embroiled in it when she believes one of her clients is innocent.

There are multiple plot lines in this book and sometimes I found myself a bit confused. I couldn't really see where the story was going or how it would all tie together. However, it is all brought together seamlessly at the end in a thrilling climax which had me on the edge of my seat. Gardner's writing is razor edge sharp and the scenes are drawn beautifully. The characters all have their own inner demons which are perfectly described. This makes them all the more real. There were several surprises in the book which meant I kept reading.

I would recommend anyone to read this book. If you have already read books one and two then buy this one now. However, if you haven't then start with the first tow books. Although this can be red as a stand alone you will miss a lot of the nuances, particularly with the characters. This is another top notch read from Ragan.

I was given a copy of this book by Amazon for review purposes. This in no way influenced my review and this is based on my reading, and enjoyment, of the book.

Tune in again soon as another review of another great book will be winging it's way towards you. Keep up the reading as you relax and take time out from the Christmas bustle.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath - Evocative mystery set in Alaska

Hello once again Bookaholics. I am spending my week catching up on reading having been chasing my tail (rather than tale) for the past couple of months. Probably like most of you during the holiday season. So, as an antidote, I bring you a superb murder mystery by a new author, to me, M.J. McGrath. This is the perfect book to take your mind off all of the Christmas activity.

This book was gripping from beginning to end and the story spoke to me in a number of different ways. The first was the setting which is Alaska among the different sets of people from the Inuit. The landscape of this area is evocatively described and it transported me to the area. I found I could picture everything perfectly and it left me with a longing to be there. Edie Kigaltuk is in the area to support her ex husband at his attempt at winning the Iditarod. She trips over the dead body of a baby. No one seems to be bothered and arrest the first person they can think of for the murder. This sets Edie off on a quest to find out the true murderer of the child.

McGrath's evocative writing elevates this story from the humdrum. This is not an edge of the seat mystery but the multiple plot lines give it an urgent feeling, making me want to keep reading. The threads of the story are so expertly woven together but in a simple way which makes sense. There are a number of twists and turns, some of which I never saw coming at all. The characterisation is spot on. I could see the inuit people in my mind and felt like I knew each character intimately. This could be unsettling at times as some of the characters are nasty, which could be said with a capital N.

In conclusion this is a book which would be enjoyed by all lovers of mystery. It would make a superb gift for anyone you know who enjoys murder mystery. I haven't read any of McGrath's other books but I certainly intend to remedy that immediately.

There we have it, for another day, bookaholic's. I'm reading furiously so see you all again soon with another review. There's still time to pick this one up as a present before Christmas, and I'm sure it would be appreciated. Til then, keep reading.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Inspirational Books by Marion Stroud

Today on Bookaholic we have a couple of superb inspirational books for women by author marion Stroud. Each of these books would make a fabulous present and there is still time to get them before Christmas. The links for UK and US Amazon are on the right of the page to make ti easier for you.

Dear God It's Me and It's Urgent

The tagline for this book is - Prayers for Every Season of a a Woman's Life and it more than meets it's mandate. This is a beautiful volume of inspirational prayers for women for times when you need more of God. It contains a mixture of prayers and bible verses which cut to the heart of the matter in areas such as Women and Work, Women and Children, A woman who cares and a woman who is growing older. It is beautifully presented with a cover which enhances the overall theme and shows that this is a high quality book.

One prayer which particularly spoke to me was Forgive Me. We all have times when we are angry at God or do something which is against his will. This prayer will help you express how you feel to God.

This book would make an excellent present for any occasion. I would highly recommend you buy it for all your Christian female friends and relatives, they will appreciate this book.

It's Just You and Me Lord

This is another beautiful book of inspirational prayers from marion Stroud. Although I found myself reading a lot of this book in one sitting, this is not it's intended use. The prayers in the book allow you to speak to God and reflect on the issues which arise. This means it is a book which can be used for many years to come. There is a prayer for every eventuality of life. The prayers are intimate, raw and uplifting, revealing much of Marion's own life. The book spoke to me on many levels. The beautifully illustrated cover supports this theme of intimacy and means that this is a beautiful book.

This would be an ideal present for any occasion for women and I can guarantee any woman would thank you for the gift.

As I say these books would make an ideal Christmas present or stocking filler for a woman. Although I am writing this a week before Christmas there is still time to get those for Christmas. Your laical Christian Bookshop will also stock them. 

That's it for now on Bookaholic. I will be back really soon with another great review. Until then grab a book and pull up a chair. Take yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the season and lose yourself in the pages of a great book. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Pago Pago Tango - Murder Mystery by John Enright

As regular bookaholic readers will know I read a lot of murder mystery series but none so far have been set in American Samoa. I loved the fact that this one was as the setting and the culture is as much part of the story as the thriller. Having read this book I really want to visit the country.

Apelu Soifua has returned to his native Samoa and is investigating a break in and burglary at a white mans house. This seemingly simple crime turns into one which is bigger than anyone knows. Apelu is an unconventional cop with his own views of the way in which things should be done. This leads to a very individualistic and fresh feel to the book.

The characters are superbly drawn with descriptions of the country and people which make you feel you are there. You never seem to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys and these seem to be interchangeable. However, rather than confusing the reader, this added to the story. This is an expertly written book which is highly enjoyable and which I couldn't put down. I will certainly be looking for others in this series and from this author.

I received this book form Amazon for a fair and honest review. My review is based on my reading of and enjoyment of the book. I was not coerced in any way to provide a positive review.

That's it for now Bookaholics. I am already knee deep in another murder so expect another review soon. See you then and keep reading.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Trials and Tribulations of Writing


As many of my readers will know Novemenr is NaNoWriMo month, where all those writers who take part pledge to write 50,000 words over the month. Last year, 2012, I zipped through the words and emerged victorious at the other end, well before the deadline. This year, 2013, however, has been a totally different story.

I started well, the words were flowing and I was getting a great head start on my new novel. Then everything that could go wrong went wrong. There were days where, despite the fact I got up, my muse stayed firmly fast asleep in bed. Rather than flowing swiftly along on a river of words I felt like I was trudging on fly paper. This was an unusual feeling for me as I am used to being able to write with abandon. 

Add a pre booked weekend away and a rather unexpected hospital admission into the mix and you will get a general idea of where my month was going. The hospital admission and subsequent recovery meant more days where taken out of the writing equation. However, Looking on the bright side it did give me a lot of inspiration for my writing. The writer in me knows I can't let an opportunity pass to expand my knowledge and develop my skills. It also gave me a lot of thinking time which is often missing in my life. There were many other disasters and issues which got in the way of my writing but I won't go in to them here. These could be made into a novel and I don't want to give any plots away. 

The month culminated with a washing machine flooding the utility room which is at the end of my, fortunately, large office. The subsequent clean up operations and mending of said washing machine took up a great deal of writing time. However, the good news is, the month also culminated in my completing NaNoWriMo by the skin of my teeth amidst some degree of stress. 

What has this month taught me. Firstly it has taught me that No matter how hard I plan things will go wrong and this is out of my control. It has also taught me that despite everything I should keep writing. Putting one finger I front of the other on the keyboard is crucial. I've learned that sitting at a desk typing is not the only form of writing and sometimes I need to take time out to think. 

I've also learned that I need to go with the flow and the important thing is to keep writing when I can. Using up spare moments can often be as productive as sitting down for long swathes of time. The one thing I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, is that I now feel like a real writer. I've had the month from hell and still managed to come through at the other end victorious and determined to write. 

That' sit for this week Bookaholic's. Normal service will be resumed next time with another review of a great book.