Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

Father Christmas’s  Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett

Have you ever wanted Christmas to be different?

Turkey and carols, presents and crackers – they all start to feel a bit . . . samey.

How about a huge exploding mince pie, a pet abominable snowman, or a very helpful partridge in a pear tree? What if Father Christmas went to work at a zoo, or caused chaos in a toy store or, was even, arrested for burglary!?

Dive into the fantastically funny world of Terry Pratchett, for a festive treat like no other. These ten stories will have you laughing, gasping and crying (with laughter) – you’ll never see Christmas in the same way again.

I purchased a copy of this book for my personal reading. 

As an avid fan of the works of Sir Terry Pratchett this book was a must order just as soon as I saw it come up for preorder. And because I am a sucker for a special edition, I went for the special version of this, complete with a nice red slipcase adorned with a gold-leaf effect design on it.
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Enough of that, though, on to the book. My main exposure to the works of Pratchett are his immense Discworld series, a personal favourite of mine. I love the fantasy elements, the humour and the slightly adult jokes and innuendo so subtly placed throughout. So how would I fare with my first try of Pratchett’s work predominantly for children.

Well personally I loved the book. It is filled with lots of fun, humorous short stories littered with Pratchett’s particular style of weaving magic and jokes together so well. This collection of tales is fantastic, ranging anywhere from the woes of a last-minute stand in shopping centre Santa, to a wannabe Arctic explorer making the most of the ice-melting milder weather.

The stories are well written, with a distinctly British flavour to them. Whether it be the style of the writing or the parodying of stereotypical English villages and small towns. Father Christmas’s Fake Beard is a wonderful collection of short stories, my only small gripe being that some of the stories aren’t Christmas themed, which you would easily be forgiven for expecting given the title. But don’t let that stop you reading this book either to your little ones or for yourself.

My rating:
goodread

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Murder in Little Shendon by A.H. Richardson

Murder in Little Shendon by A.H. Richardson

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens – not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with delightful twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper. Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From the murdered man’s housekeeper to Lady Armstrong, her staff and her nephew. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion. Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. A.H. Richardson, noted author, places in your trembling hands a mystery murder that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, his friend Sir Victor Hazlitt and the famed Shakespearean actor Beresford Brandon. Scratch your head with them over the strange clues that turn up. Follow them as they tread carefully among the landmines that appear innocent as they lie hidden beneath the surface of mystery. Something evil skulks in this tiny country village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community? You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead – it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What a fantastic book to read in the run up to Christmas! Not in that it is particularly festive, but just because it is a warm, cozy read just like enjoying a mug of hot chocolate with your favourite dressing gown and slippers on a cold winter’s night. I know this will sound very British, but that is intentional.
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Murder in Little Shendon is a murder mystery that meanders around the crime, piecing together the clues that ultimately lead us to the ne’er-do-well guilty of the crime. A.H. Richardson has crafted a comfortable read with a classic whodunit style. Here in England, it will put many readers in mind of Midsomer Murders or the old David Suchet Hercule Poirot TV adaptations. The village of Little Shendon is quintessentially English, a stereotypically chocolate-box type of place where everyone knows everyone, and very few secrets stay secret for long.

When the proprietor of a shop selling trinkets and antiquities is found dead, bludgeoned to death by a heavy candlestick, the inevitable investigation ensues. The only predictable element of this whodunit is the fact that everybody in this unassuming little village has motive. It turns out the deceased is a less than wholesome character and has, in myriad ways, managed to cross everyone at some point in time. And that includes the butler!

The story weaves its way around the village, talking to potential suspects and gathering evidence, piecing clues together without ever hinting at the identity of the culprit. In true Poirot fashion, Richardson collects all of the core characters together at the end, setting up the investigators for the most dramatic of reveals as to the identity of the killer. Murder in Little Shendon keeps the reader guessing all the way through to the end of the book and deals with dark deeds with plenty of fun and stereotypical Englishness to boot. One of the more fun reads I have had the pleasure of enjoying this year.

My rating:
goodread

Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna by Robert B. Sloan

Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna by Robert B. Sloan

This is the second book in the new Hamelin Stoop series, a young adult fantasy. Hamelin’s story began when he was found as a newborn in a tomato crate on the stoop of an orphanage in west Texas. Hamelin’s first adventures with the Great Eagle led him through the mysterious cave and finally, across the footbridge. He has learned that his quest to find his parents and learn his true identity will not be quickly done or easy to fulfill. The Great Eagle leads him through the dangerous Waters of Death and Life and into the Land of Gloaming, where Hamelin is thrown into the midst of a war already being waged between the evil Chimera and the mysterious Ancient One. He must help two new friends find a kidnapped princess and recover a stolen jewel, tasks for which they have special gifts that must not be misused; a scarf of sight, shoes of speed, and a sword of death. But these quests are only part of the larger story, a story including Chimera’s plan to use Hamelin — a child of two realms — to seize the kingdoms on both sides of the Atrium of the Worlds.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna is the second installment in the Hamelin stoop series. It picks up where the first book left off, following the adventures of orphan boy Hamelin Stoop. Knowing he failed in the mission ahead of him in book one, Hamelin feels he needs to make amends and embarks on a personal mission to try and find his way back to the land beyond the cave.
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I was really excited to get stuck into this second book in the series. In book one, the character of Hamelin was crafted really well, as were the supplementary characters including the Great Eagle and Bryan and Layla. My only gripe was that the real adventure that I was so looking forward to never truly materialised. That made far more sense in this book, as it allowed for character development and scene setting. This allowed the second book to really delve into the wider adventure ahead of Hamelin.

I felt myself becoming absorbed by the story as Hamelin continued his journey into the lands beyond the Atrium of Worlds. It felt like a classic fantasy adventure story with an overarching battle between good and evil. Sloan has crafted the locations well, with a sense of realism which adds to the adventure.

A new cast of supporting characters join Hamelin in this second book, all on their own separate missions. The story brings these very different people together, ensuring the success of each individual’s’ mission is linked to helping the others in their own. The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna is a fantastically well-written story with a sense of adventurous fun throughout. The element of fantasy and adventure that I felt was missing previously is present in abundance in the second book, which only serves to improve on its predecessor.

My rating:
goodread

We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews

We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews

London, 2046. The British Republic has a new First Lady. She’s Californian, ‘in-your-face, for sure’ and she’s got big plans for a Buckingham Palace refurb. When her three Chihuahuas go missing, one man is determined to avoid getting dragged into it all. His name is Pond. Howie Pond – presidential spokesperson, retired secret agent and cat lover.

Meanwhile, Howie’s wife Britt is handed her first assignment as a National Security and Intelligence Service rookie – to solve the mystery of the missing canine trio.

Will Howie manage to slope off to the pub before he can be roped into help? Will Britt unmask the dog-napper and grab the glory? Find out, in the latest, crazy comedy-thriller from dog-loving British author Paul Mathews.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Paul Mathews returns with the fourth book in his We Have Lost series, We’ve already been taken on the search for a missing President, missing pelicans and most worrying of all – missing coffee. Now our hapless hero and presidential media guru Howie Pond finds himself once again sucked into the hunt, this time for a trio of missing chihuahuas. But these aren’t just any dogs, these dogs belong to the First Lady herself.
WHLTChihuahuas_cover_small (2)Howie Pond returns in another comedy mystery, no longer working on his secondment for the National Security and Intelligence Service, hoping his days will now be somewhat less intense and perhaps featuring a few more donuts to boot. Sadly, things don’t go to plan. With a battle for government budget between the police force headed by his best friend Freddie English and the NSIS who his wife Britt works for, Howie cannot avoid this mystery.

Lured by the promise of a top-notch five-course dinner by Freddie, Howie simply cannot refuse his best friend. Once again Howie Pond finds himself having to flex his investigative muscles to hunt down the missing dogs and claim his delicious dinner in a race against time, and his secret agent wife.

Once again, Mathews has created a wonderfully funny mystery novel bringing back characters we have grown to love throughout this series including Howie, Freddie and Britt, along with head of the NSIS Martha. A supporting cast of possible suspects and villainous characters help bring the story to life. A series of recurring gags and references help tie the book back to the rest of the series, while new characters in minor roles add new entertainment to the story. We Have Lost the Chihuahuas brings all of the mystery and laughs of the first three books while managing to remain fresh, new and entertaining.

My rating:
goodread

Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, the Cave and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan

Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, the Cave and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan

Afraid of being caught by trackers from another world, a young mother abandons her baby boy in a tomato box inside the screened porch of a children’s home. The staff at the orphanage name him Hamelin Stoop, but he grows up longing to learn his real name, find his parents, and thus discover his true identity.

Life is not easy for Hamelin. He belongs to everyone, though in some ways to no one fully. And the people he is closest to leave him one by one. A letter from an older friend advises Hamelin to “keep waiting and keep hoping.” Bitter experiences force Hamelin to wait, but he has to learn how to hope.

When the children’s home forgets his eighth birthday, he sneaks away at night. He soon discovers that he isn’t just running away — he is being summoned by the Ancient One. Guided by the Great Eagle through a mysterious cave, Hamelin must pass a dangerous test of courage before he can find his parents.

Hamelin’s failures, fears, and hopes become part of a larger story, a story of a great struggle between worlds and kingdoms where the old myths of magic, evil contracts, and enslaved children turn out to be real.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book one in the Hamelin Stoop series from Robert B. Sloan is a fantasy novel for a young adult audience. In the last year or so I have tried my hand at reading YA books, and to my surprise, they have been enjoyable while not being too childish. I am also a huge fan of fantasy, more specifically the works of Sir Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. The books that make up the Discworld series are filled with subtle innuendo and adult humour that, while not overt, adds a really entertaining and enjoyable element.
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With these two factors in mind, I wondered how I was going to get along with this book. The last young adult book I read was Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold. It was filled with adventure and thrills, without being overly taxing but equally not treating the reader as a child. Very quickly though, I found the first Hamelin Stoop to be something different.

The book builds towards a main event, a trial if you will, for the lead character. Along the way the lead, Hamelin, has to face a series of events that build his character. Growing up in a children’s home since before he was one, he already had to grow up without parents. Throughout his development, Hamelin encounters loneliness, family, loss, fear and bullying along the way, along with a difficult test that he ultimately fails.

All of these are dealt with in a mature manner, not condescending or trivialised. The emotions he goes through when dealing with his defeat are well developed. You feel his disappointment, his anger and his determination to better himself should he get a chance to make up for his perceived failure. The book culminates in Hamelin looking to redress the balance and conquer the trial. Slightly infuriatingly, the book ends here, luring the reader on to book two in the hopes of finding out how successful he is. Hamelin Stoop is slightly darker than I had anticipated for a YA book, though not dark in the usual sense. It is very grown up while easily accessible and an all-round enjoyable read.

My rating:
goodread

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

A perfect world, at any price.

Miller Frank’s Utopian ideal is not such a good thing for Jimmy Renfro. Charged with fraud, he now works the tube, an atmosphere breaking conduit for the wealthy to travel to the Ouroboros space station, Imago. Within the mysterious station, their personalities are uploaded to robotic shells known as Zeroes.

When Jimmy comes into possession of a briefcase full of data tabs containing the profiles of several influential personalities, it begins a deadly game that may result in his end. Pursued by government and corporate assassins, with not just his own life at stake, but that of humanity, can Jimmy discover the truth about the tabs before he is caught?

Gravity’s Truth is a fast-paced Cyberpunk thriller by the author of Frame and Future’s Orphans.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been lucky enough to read through the first draft for the third books set in A.K. Alliss’ Ouroboros world hot off of the press. It follows along from the world created in Frame and Future’s Orphans, following the collapse of social structure around the world. The book starts with Miller Frank, a man with an ideal. That ideal is to create a Utopia from Dystopia.
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Unfortunately for some, Jimmy Renfro included, Utopia doesn’t look all too different to the hard slog the world is trying to break free of. A chance encounter gives Jimmy an opportunity to turn his fortunes around, returning himself to a position in life that he once held. Things never are quite so easy though, as apparently unknown forces seem to stop at nothing to regain possession of the briefcase Jimmy finds himself carrying. The case that could be a return to fortunes, could also see the end of his life.

Once again, Alliss has cleverly and expertly crafted a vivid world. The characters are also well defined so the reader feels a connection to them. As I read through the book, I found myself flip-flopping the way I felt about characters with each new revelation as to their back stories and future intentions. The story is well paced and at no point feels laboured or dull.

When thinking back about the preceding pair of books, Gravity’s Truth is a very different vibe to it. Firstly, this time around Alliss really goes to town playing with the science-fiction elements. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Frame and Future’s Orphans always flirted with science-fiction but it definitely plays a much bigger role this time out. This time around, the book feels different as well. The predecessors had a big feeling of loss. There was nothing to fight for, to strive for and aim at. The world was irrevocably changed for the worse, and there is nothing that can be done. But with Gravity’s Truth there is a sense of hope. Frank has hope to make a better world. Renfro also felt hopeful of turning his fortunes around, and building a better life for himself.

Once again, it is clear A.K. Alliss has pushed his writing on another step. He has taken what he has learned from the first two books and used these as his foundation for Gravity’s Truth. It is a fantastic way to expand on the world created, bringing about a new feel to the series. You can find Gravity’s Truth in paperback on Amazon now, and on Kindle from 6th December 2017.

My rating:
goodread

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pigeon-Blood Red held my attention from the very beginning. The blurb caught my eye, so I had a hunch the tangled mess described would make for entertaining reading. The way it is written added a nice twist for me as well. Too often, we see things from the view of the innocent that are caught up in the mess, or the hunted party. What Ed Duncan has created here is a tense, fast-paced thriller of sorts and told it from the view of the hunter.
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More than that, through the progression of the story, we come to learn a little of the background of the hunter, Richard “Rico” Sanders and how it informs his character. It gave reason to why Rico is such a closed off, independant character that seems to exhibit little or no emotion. Yet Ed Duncan has also developed his characters well. The way he has created relationships between his characters and added back stories adds to the emotional investment I felt I had with the main players throughout the book.

Although it became fairly clear how the deceitful ways of one of our victims was going to impact on the innocent parties in the story. Some level of empathy is felt towards Rico, while a sense of karma settles around the victims. The characters are written in such a way that Ed Duncan has lured the reader into feeling specific emotions towards them. The book is fast paced, and flows well thanks to their only being a handful of key characters, keeping things slick and well driven.

Decisions play an important role in Pigeon-Blood Red. Greed afflicts one victim, along with lustful choices. His choices drag his long-suffering wife into his ever-growing problems. An encounter between Rico and his marks’ wife leads to an important decision, with potentially life changing consequences.

In Pigeon-Blood Red, Ed Duncan has crafted a fantastic story with depth and brilliantly developed characters. The story is well paced, never feeling laboured or unnecessary, and the each individual character feels just that – individual. I look forward to seeing how this book ties in with its sequels, and how the main characters interact as they cross paths again.

My rating:
goodread