Andorra Pett Takes a Break by Richard Dee

Andorra Pett Takes a Break by Richard Dee

Yearning for peace and quiet with her partner, Derek, Andorra Pett heads home to the space mine off Saturn. It’s been a while since she left, she wants to be among her friends again.
Despite her good intentions, she soon gets dragged in station politics, so it’s a relief when the chance of a holiday comes up.
All she has to do is give a speech on the maiden voyage of the Solar Breeze, a new type of cruise ship. A voyage around the solar system will soon be the must-have vacation. Andorra will be one of the first to try it, along with the great and the good.
But nothing is ever simple in Andorra’s life. Things get really serious when the Solar Breeze is hijacked by eco-terrorists. They want an end to the dumping of rubbish on Mars.
Or else!
Andorra’s trip on the Solar Breeze might just be the voyage of a lifetime.

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

Richard Dee returns with Andorra Pett Takes a Break, the fourth full-length novel in the cosy crime series. Following her escapades back on Earth with her older sister, Andi is back on the space station close to the rings of Saturn. Ready for some much-needed rest, she cannot wait to return to the Oort Cloud Cafe, her friend Cy and her partner Derek. But with senior members of the OLC aboard to hash out contract negotiations with the miners, things are as busy as ever. When an opportunity for a free trip around the Sun on the latest cruise liner comes up, it’s too good an opportunity to take some time out with Derek and relax. But as is always the case when Andi is involved, nothing runs smoothly for long.

Andorra Pett Takes a Break by Richard Dee

Having read the previous novels in the series, returning for a fourth is very comforting. I know I can settle down and have finished the story in a few sittings. It’s like returning to something comfortable and so familiar. I love returning to characters I now feel I know so well. A sub-cast of new characters are handled fantastically well. I felt myself rooting for or against these, which I feel is testament to Richard Dee’s ability to create characters with depth, that are believable, and yet not need to labour on it over the course of an entire series.

With a cosy crime, there needs to be plenty of mystery and intrigue. There has to be some malevolent force bent on committing misdeeds somewhere down the line. And it has to be easy-reading, entertaining and fun to pick up in my opinion. Sometimes, as a series draws on, it begins to feel like the same tropes and cliches come to the fore, or that the writer is struggling for new ideas to keep things fresh. Thus far, Richard Dee has not suffered this problem. The story is brilliant. The unconventional crime-fighting style of Andi and her cohorts remains as entertaining as ever, if not more so. In past reads, Andi has ended up walking into situations through trying to help people out. It’s in her nature. This time out, I loved the way that even in giving her a holiday, Dee has found a new way into having her stroll right into trouble without even knowing it.

With each subsequent book in the Andorra Pett series, things keep improving. The characters grow, the new characters are interesting and the stories keep me entertained. Already I am looking forward to the arrival of the next book, though not so much at having to wait until 2021 for it!

My rating:

The Keepers by J.M. Richardson

The Keepers by J.M. Richardson

Some tales are timeless. As timeless as the waters of the Thames; as the stones in the White Tower. Tales of love. Hate. Betrayal. Murder. Dr. James Beauregard, hunted across London by a hidden enemy, must grapple with a new and deadly tale—his own. He must make sense of his past. Battle for his future. And perhaps the only ones that can help him are The Keepers.

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

Dr. James Beauregard, an acclaimed history professor with more demons than any man should harbour returns for another adventure. Following a lecture in London James does what he does best, heads out in search of a drink. In his favourite watering hole in the city, he runs into an old family friend. What at first appeared to be a chance encounter, turned into a meeting of dark revelations and deadly consequences. What ensues is a frantic dash around London to unearth history, discover a secret order dating back centuries and prevent a lethal attack.

The Keepers by J.M. Richardson

Over the years, I’ve read the preceding books in the James Beauregard series. I’ve also come to know the author, J.M. Richardson, quite well. He’s a meticulous author, stubbornly determined to ensure everything he writes is accurate in every possible way. As a Brit, living close to London, I have been keen to read this book from the moment he told me it was going to be set in London. When he sent it to me as an early copy, he told me he was a touch nervous having it read by someone living near to London.

That was a concern he need not have entertained. The facts and locations were accurate to the point of obsessive. It was brilliant to read about all the action and drama going on in places I know. The accuracy, in fact, was such that there are even a few places in the book that I’ve never heard of. I went off to Google places and was surprised and thrilled to discover places I’ll have to visit the next time I head to the city.

And then there is the history. As I have grown to expect when I read these books, the historic elements are so detailed and factually correct I cannot help but be absorbed by these novels. The characters are all so rich and diverse. They are all so human, flawed, and vibrant in equal measures. The story itself is intense. I cannot help but find myself feeling tense, on the edge of my seat, as the book rolls towards its climax. The story is well-written. It’s tense, frenetic and kept me guessing from start to finish. I had no idea what to expect or where it was going to end up. Once again, Richardson has scored a touchdown with his third outing for James Beauregard. I cannot wait to see if he has anything more in store for him!

My rating:

Infinity by Tabitha Lord

Infinity by Tabitha Lord

In the second installment of the award-winning Horizon series, Dr. Caeli Crys returns to her war-torn world to fight for those she left behind.

Almagest, Caeli’s home, stands on the brink of revolution. Long hidden from the rest of the galaxy, the once-peaceful planet suffers under a regime that grows more violent and oppressive by the day. Marcus, Almagest’s dictator, is building an arsenal of alien weaponry by selling empathic children into slavery. A resistance has risen, but they are outmanned, outgunned, and in hiding.

Joined by Commander Derek Markham and his elite squadron of operatives, Caeli embarks on a dangerous mission to find the Resistance, rescue her captive people, and save her civilization from destruction.

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

Having just finished the first book in this series, I was more than happy to dive straight into book two – Infinity. It picks up where Horizon left off. Things are really going south on the once-reclusive planet of Almagest. Power crazed dictator Marcus is keen to open up the planet to galactic trade in a bid to build his stockpile of weapons and work on his prototype air force. All the while, he trades off Novali children – empathic children with a host of potentially devastating skills, to any rogue or villain with the goods he needs.

Infinity by Tabitha Lord

Having fled the planet following her chance meeting with Commander Derek Markham, Dr Caeli Crys has worked hard to rebuild her life, first aboard the Alliance spacecraft Horizon as a medic. Then later, she moves in with Derek’s parents while he sees out his tour of duty. Then a case comes up – the sale of an empathic girl that can heal. Most troublingly, that she is being touted as able to kill as well. A mission to disrupt the illicit auction sees a wider plan enacted to attempt to overthrow Marcus and reclaim Almagest for its people.

Infinity builds on the characters and plots set out in Horizon, driving them further and expanding on the universe the stories are set within. Things are poised nicely for the third book in the series to continue the story as there is still clearly more to learn about Caeli and Derek, and the planet of Almagest.

As with Horizon, Infinity is written from dual perspectives – those of Caeli and Derek. It allows thoughts, views and feelings to once again be viewed from different perspectives as they both play differing roles in the story as it unfolds. Once again this is a wonderful sci-fi story without overdoing it. Tabitha Lord also goes into the back history of Almagest in this outing. We learn about the power of the planet, and how the empathic Novali came to be. It also gives insight into the rifts that occurred, the beginnings of a divide between the ruling powers.

My rating:

Horizon by Tabitha Lord

Horizon by Tabitha Lord

Caeli Crys isn’t living—she’s surviving. On the run after the genocide of her empathic people, she witnesses a spaceship crash near her hidden camp. When she feels the injured pilot suffering from miles away, she can’t help but risk discovery to save his life.

Commander Derek Markham awakens stranded on an uncharted planet. His co-pilot is dead, his ship is in ruins, and he’s only alive because a beautiful young woman is healing him with her mind.

As Derek recovers, Caeli shares the horror of her past and her fear for the future. When Derek’s command ship, Horizon, sends rescue, Derek convinces Caeli to leave with him. But his world is as treacherous as hers—full of spies, interplanetary terrorist plots, and political intrigue. Soon the Horizon team is racing to defend an outlying planet from a deadly enemy, and Caeli’s unique skills may just give them the edge they need to save it.

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

Horizon is a fast-paced sci-fi with plenty of twists and turns. It follows two leads: Caeli, a member of a race of people, some of whom have empathic abilities. She always looks to use her abilities to help, especially as she has the added ability to diagnose and heal patients just by touching them. She finds herself on the run from a fractured community of her people. A community not gifted with empathic abilities. A community that, while once amicable, has been whipped up into a fervor of fear and hatred against their neighbours. When the worst happens, their community is attacked and survivors carted back to be reintegrated into a society that worked to get rid of them. Commander Derek Markham finds himself stranded on a mysterious planet, Caeli’s planet, having crash landed his spacecraft in the forest.

Horizon by Tabitha Lord

Circumstances bring the pair together as Caeli does everything to avoid being found while feeling driven to nurse Derek, critically wounded in the crash, back to health. During this time she shares with him the story of her past, and what has led her to be where she is, living in a cave and subsisting off the land. It’s a story of mistrust, hatred and civil unrest. When his crew rescues him, he takes Caeli off planet with him in the hope of giving her a sense of safety. Together with his crew, Derek and Caely seek to uncover who shot his spacecraft down, and uncover who is plotting a terrorist attack against an Alliance-protected planet.

I loved the way Horizon is written. It alternates from chapter to chapter, telling the story from the perspective of Caeli and Derek in turn. This makes for a fantastic read, especially once their stories combine and intertwine. It gives the reader a sense of the feelings and emotions of each character in turn. I enjoyed the way the story seemed to primarily focus on one character, then in the later stages the focus swaps. Horizon is an easy-reading sci-fi that is entirely enjoyable, and I am glad to have its sequel to dive straight into.

My rating:

Cranberry Lane by Lauren Lee

Cranberry Lane by Lauren Lee

Circumstance brought them together, fate will bond them forever.

Wayne Jacobs, a dedicated family man, makes his living murdering cheating spouses, out-of-control gamblers, and common wrongdoers. He’s a hitman with a perfect record—one he intends to keep.

Serenity Harris, a vivacious nineteen-year-old, deals drugs in between her shifts at the local record store. She’s a rebellious outcast with pink hair and an unforgettable attitude.

What do they have in common besides a life of crime? Both Wayne and Serenity grew up in the slums of Cranberry Lane.

When their paths randomly cross at a local dive bar, the attraction is instant. The couple’s lives quickly become intertwined, infatuation blinding them to the dangers lurking in the shadows.

Unexpectedly, Wayne and Serenity find themselves in over their heads with entities far more dangerous than could be imagined.

With their lives at stake, can they beat the odds? Or, will they succumb to the hand they were dealt and die, only to be known as former residents of Cranberry Lane?

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

Cranberry Lane is not a place of hopes and dreams. People on the lane don’t expect to make a success of themselves, but do what they have to just to get by. It’s a place that many wouldn’t know existed, or if they did, they’d do their level best to avoid it at all costs. Those who cannot escape, much like Serenity do what they can to get by. A street smart girl, she’ll push drugs all night long to make as much money as she can in a desperate bid to break free. Some managed to escape, like Wayne. As soon as he was old enough he fled Cranberry Lane with guardianship for his younger brother Sammy, escaping alcoholic parents. Though he finds he cannot truly leave, Cranberry Lane draws him back through his role as a hitman.

Cranberry Lane by Lauren Lee

The novel follows these two protagonists as they attempt to navigate their lives and put more distance between themselves and Cranberry Lane until a fateful moment sees their paths cross irreversibly. The two find their paths intertwined taking them down a dangerous and deadly route in their respective bids to make a life beyond the dark street.

Cranberry Lane is written in a style I don’t see too often. The narrative follows Wayne and Serenity with alternating chapters moving between the two. I enjoyed the way we get to unravel the two storylines in parallel and then how they weave together, delivering a brilliant whole from the two strands. We get to live their respective ups and downs, trials and tribulations thanks to this brilliant style.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cranberry Lane. I found it to be wonderfully paced and easy to read. The core characters were vibrant and interesting, the locations dark and grimy. Even throughout the happier moments there was a dark atmosphere lingering throughout the book. I’d love to discover further crime thrillers with the inherent vibe that Lauren Lee has injected throughout.

My rating:

Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie by Janelle Soong

Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie by Janelle Soong

What does a pharmacist really do? How much pill-counting is involved? Can I have a glass of wine with these antibiotics?”

Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie is a collection of funny (and 100% true) anecdotes from Pharmacy school and musings on the healthcare sector. From Viagra lovers to paracetamol hagglers, Janelle tells all in this labour of love inspired by her personal encounters. Delve deep into the colourful – and at times, mystifying – world of Pharmacy.

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

Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie makes for a bit of a departure from the usual sort of books I read. I’ve read plenty of short story anthologies, but as opposed to offering short stories, this offers a series of anecdotes. Anecdotes about the inner workings of what it is to be a pharmacist, about what goes into becoming a pharmacist, and some of the amusing and occasionally bizarre encounters out in the world of work.

Let Sleeping Pharmacists Lie by Janelle Soong

Some anecdotes are educational, offering an insight into the world of being a pharmacist. Others about the process of pharmaceutical manufacture, and others offer an insight into the training that goes into becoming a pharmacist. Any technical jargon is defined, and industry specific elements are explained in a simplified way that even an outsider can understand and find informative.

Mixed in with the informative and educational are the downright absurd. Anecdotes of the more ridiculous moments encountered by a pharmacist in training. They add to the insight of what it is to be a pharmacist, while also colouring the book with humour. The brevity of the stories make for a quick and entertaining read for anyone curious about some of the inner workings of the world of pharmacy.

My rating:

The Storm Hag by Adalind Hargrave

The Storm Hag by Adalind Hargrave

It has been almost a year since Anna moved to Chicago to stay with Blake, a medicine man and warlock who is not only her half-brother but also the key to saving her mother’s soul.

Blake has been diligent in volunteering work for her around the city, but extremely evasive when it comes to meeting with his own part of the deal. So far, Anna has had little leverage with her brother, but things change when Blake sets on his own quest.

Anna delivers a message to a patron of the bar Moonshine, Aidan Bishop. Though ordinary looking, Bishop is another of the supernatural beings that inhabit the city, a scryer capable of discovering even the best hidden objects.

Alas, she can’t help it but to create a ruckus. Because Anna is a hag – a creature with immense untapped power and some serious anger management issues.

But she is not the only magic and supernatural being in the city, and most don’t appreciate being observed too closely.

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

Though this book has been updated by Adalind Hargrave and retitled The Storm Hag, I read its earlier form, Into the Darker Half. From the very beginning I really enjoyed this book. It follows Anna, a young hag – not entirely dissimilar to a witch – learning to deal with her powers. She lives with her half-brother, the warlock and healer Blake. The story takes Anna on a journey through the dark, grimy underbelly of Chicago, heading to locales not known to those not looking for them. Working for Blake, things twist and turn and come close to unravelling catastrophically for the young hag, and for the city at large.

The Storm Hag by Adalind Hargrave

The Storm Hag is a gritty, dark urban fantasy filled with menace and a distinct lack of hope. It’s a genre I have only dabbled with following my long sojourns into the fantasy realm of the incredible Discworld series, but if this is anything to go by, it’s a genre I want to delve into deeper. The location felt dark and grim, not too different from the dark, mean streets seen in the recent Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix. It felt like there was a threat at every turn, waiting to strike.

Aside from the well-crafted locations, the characters that Adalind Hargrave has created are vibrant. I found myself feeling for Anna and her struggles, really disliking Blake and his aloofness. Even the side characters felt lively and well created. There were plenty of people to like and loath, to root for and against throughout this book. My only complaint is it was over as soon as it was. I want to learn more of Anna and her life managing the powers she has thrust upon her in life. Into the Darker Half delivered a dark story in an even dark location that made for fantastic reading.

My rating:

A Role to Kill For by H. Paul Doucette

A Role to Kill For by H. Paul Doucette

When the mutilated body of a young man is found in an alley in the early hours of a winter’s day, events would be set in motion that would lead Matt Murphy into the world of a young woman’s twisted desire to find a love that could never be had and the betrayal of a father. As the bodies pile up, he is drawn into the delusional mind of a serial killer who is obsessed with young, handsome actors working the Off Broadway circuit of the Village. Why these men? And, why the mutilations? As Murphy delves further into the case, he knows he is moving closer to a confrontation: a confrontation that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

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

A Role to Kill For is another journey into historic fiction with H. Paul Doucette. This time out we head to the seedy side of 1960s New York. A series of grisly murders of young men in the trendy, free and easy Village part of town. Only one thing seems to connect the victims – they are all actors or script writers with a love of the performing arts.

A Role to Kill For by H. Paul Doucette

Private Investigator Matt Murphy is hired by the family of one of the victims to find out who killed him and why. He embarks on a case through the clubs and bars and neon lights and questionable substances of the beatnik hangouts of The Village. He works with his contacts in the NYPD and leverages less than scrupulous informants for help.

The case is an eye opener into a world Murph would never have imagined existed if he wasn’t used to seeing the worst of society. As the case unravels he uncovers dirty family secrets and illicit dealings with influence all the way to senior officials. Murph learns some distrubing things about those involved.

I’ve read a few books now by H. Paul Doucette and have to say this is probably my very favourite so far. Murph is a brilliant character and his relationships both personal and professional with characters such as his girlfriend Jane and his childhood friend and NYPD detective Abe Goldman are well crafted. Incidental characters such as hustler Crazy Pete and Gabriel the bar owner make for a brilliant, easy read. I would love to see more from Matt Murphy.

My rating:

Flow by Clare Littlemore

Flow by Clare Littlemore

A world in tatters. A society where rebellion is not tolerated. A girl desperate to discover the truth. 

Sixteen year old Quin lives in The Beck, a saviour society. Her community has risen from the ruins of a land shattered by Mother Nature. But Beck law is tough. Quin knows that the rules must be followed in order to sustain life in a place where flood waters constantly threaten existence. A single violation could land her in Clearance. 

But some laws are harder to follow than others. And as Quin discovers the horrifying truth, she knows she cannot stay silent forever.

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

Flow is a dystopian novel set in a world affected seemingly by the climate. The Beck is a settlement with strict rules governing society. Rules are necessary to ensure the safety and security of the citizens. Everything is governed – live stock, food production, even the birth of future citizens. A vast wall surrounds The Beck protecting it from the flood waters that frequently threaten the community.

Flow by Clare Littlemore

Following Quinn, we learn about the difficulties of life in The Beck. Though it might be a sanctuary, life is difficult. Every member of the community must show they are contributing to society or be sent to Clearance. Everybody must follow the rules or risk being sent to Clearance. Everyone that serves no purpose is sent to Clearance and is never heard from again. Once a year citizens take part in a test, psychological evaluation and physical test that could see them promoted or moved to different sectors within the community. Quin finds herself leaving the Agricultural Sector to start a new chapter as part of Patrol – the division of citizens tasked with policing The Beck. But during the few short days she spends training with patrol it becomes clear that not everything in The Beck is quite as it seems.

Overall I enjoyed the dystopian world of The Beck with its draconian rules and dark mysteries. That said I did struggle with the core of the story only really coming to light right at the end of the book. I felt the story was progressing to a big reveal that came very late. That frustration, in large part, was of my own making, not entirely realising the book was the first in a series. With that in mind, I would really like to see now where things go for Quin and her compatriots as I did for the most part enjoy the story. All in all, Flow ticked the boxes for a dystopian novel – bleak world, little hope, rebellious elements – to make an enjoyable read.

My rating:

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People by Kevin E. Buckley

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People by Kevin E. Buckley

THEY ARE RIGHT HERE AMONG US…HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

When partners in crime-reduction Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beefy” Goodness — two of the LAPD’s most skilled homicide detectives — investigate the bizarre killing of a fashion model at the Hollywood Sign it soon becomes clear that this murder is part of a much larger conspiracy that threatens not only the people of America, but the entire population of the planet. As the case progresses, they recruit the help of a Jesus-lookalike ufologist, a streetwise Goth graffiti artist, a world-renowned geneticist, a super-nerd cyber investigator, and a fire-and-brimstone inner city reverend. The detectives and their motley crew of improvised freedom fighters must work quickly to take down the tainted global elite and avert the merciless enslavement of humanity that looms large on the horizon.

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

This book is an incredible romp of Hollywood proportions. It’s ludicrous and laugh out loud funny. At its core The Secret Sign of the Lizard People is a buddy cop style story with plenty of to and fro between the two leading men – Jerry “Leafy” Green and Bill “Beafy” Goodness. They make a formidable team that work well and complement each other. They know how to get a job done, but they equally know how to press one anothers’ buttons.

When a glamour shoot goes wrong atop the Hollywood sign, Leafy and Beefy find themselves wrapped up in a riddle. Model N. Emma Johnson seemingly has no enemies, so who would wan’t to kill her? The investigation points to a case of wrong place wrong time when footage shows a seemingly homeless man on the run.

The buddy cop vibe made this into a fun, easy read with the casual relationship between the pair. They dive into the investigation, working to unravel each thread of the mystery. From a random attempt on the life of a homeless man, the attack becomes an effort to silence an eminant expert in his chosen scientific field. A wild conspiracy theory becomes a reality nobody could ever imagine as the case becomes ever stranger with every turn.

The Secret Sign of the Lizard People has been one of my favourite reads this year to date, if not my absolute favourite. It’s mysterious, it’s well written without the endgame being obvious before Buckley reveals the true plot and it is genuinely funny at times. A well written crime novel littered with puns and groan aloud humour, I’d love to see more of Leafy and Beefy in the future.

My rating: