A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

‘Just for Christmas’ by Scarlett Bailey

Just for ChristmasI got a lovely surprise when I was sent a copy of ‘Just for Christmas’ by Ebury Press to review, especially when I discovered exactly who the author is.

Alex Munro is 28 years old and has lived in Edinburgh all her life.  When Alex discovers that Marcus, her childhood friend who she has secretly loved for ages is getting married to someone else, all she wants to do is be alone and get as far away as possible.

Having got herself a new job Alex moves to a small cottage in Poldore, Cornwall where she discovers she has also inherited the scruffiest dog ever.  Alex thinks that she’ll get the peace she needs but soon finds that the local community are determined to get her involved in the Christmas festivities, including the yearly pageant.  Then she meets Ruan who is her rather sexy and moody neighbour and finds that she doesn’t want to be alone at Christmas after all.  But Ruan has issues of his own and having lost his fiancée he has no intention of letting anyone get close to him ever again as he is scared of getting hurt.

I totally loved this novel and enjoyed reading about life in Poldore.  The cover is so beautiful and sparkly and it gave me a nice cosy feeling even before I started the first page.  Alex who I warmed to very quickly was my favourite character.  She took a big and courageous step in her life and I really admired her.  I also liked the dog and thought he was just adorable.

Although a Christmas story, I think this novel is suitable to read at any time of year as it is a stark reminder that some things aren’t just for Christmas.  It also deals with other life issues.

At the back of the paperback version of this book are extracts of two of Scarlett Bailey’s previous novels.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

‘You Must Be Joking’ by Douglas Gallagher

You Must Be Joking

I was thrilled when I received this book to review from Austin & Macauley Publishers Ltd as I love reading jokes.

‘You Must Be Joking’ looks at several different aspects of everyday life, everything from the office to the pub.  It even looks at the English language and the different ways in which words are misused.  This was one of my favourite sections, as was Pillow Talk.  There is also a test at the end of some of the chapters which adds to the entertainment.

They say laughter is the best medicine and this is certainly true of ‘You Must Be Joking’.  There are famous quotes, one liners and longer jokes throughout.  I have been going through a difficult and stressful time recently and this book has really helped me.  I read it from start to finish, but it’s also ideal to dip into if you just need a quick five minute laugh.

This is a book I will always treasure as I am sure to want to read it again soon, plus I am going to share some of the jokes with my family and friends.

If you are still looking for Christmas presents then this really is the ideal gift.

I give this book 5 out of 5.


For this and other great books visit Austin & Macauley’s site here:-


‘Cull’ by Michael G Preston


Austin & Macauley Publishers Ltd kindly sent me a couple of books to review.  I was really looking forward to reading ‘Cull’ as I enjoy horror fiction.

The story starts off in Miami, Florida.  Joseph Delgado, a bestselling author of horror fiction is found brutally murdered in the Albion Hotel.  This in turn leads to a shocking chain of events.  Four of his contemporaries – his friend, Nic Legrand; the American, Matt Myrick; the quiet and reclusive Lindsay Eddowes and the enfant terrible of horror, Jonathan Wraith are invited to the Dorchester Hotel in London to hear Joe Delgado’s last and rather unusual wish.  It seems that Delgado has instructed them to embark on a Halloween trip to the Chateau De Nuit in France.  But what exactly is the purpose of this journey?  Is it some sort of trick?

‘Cull’ has been split into five parts with a number of section breaks throughout.  I personally would have preferred it if there had been chapters instead though.  In Part 1 the reader is given a very good picture of each of the main characters with the story getting especially exciting in Parts 3 and 4.

This was an enjoyable read and it has been cleverly thought out.  I have to say I did find it a bit too grisly at times and the events in the Chateau did somewhat play on my mind.  I was very surprised at the outcome, totally unexpected.

I give this book 3 out of 5.

Luca Veste ‘Dead Gone’ Blog Tour

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I was invited to take part in this blog tour as part of a celebration of Luca Veste’s debut novel.  ‘Dead Gone’ is being published by Harper Collins’ Avon in eBook format tomorrow.  It will be out in paperback on the 16th January 2014.

Veste is set to get readers pulses and minds racing with this, his thrilling, intelligent and unpredictable psychological thriller which is set in the streets of his home city, Liverpool.

‘Dead Gone’ is a must read for fans of Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham.

Below is an extract from this book for those of you just dying to get a taster of it:-



Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.

Isaac Asimov

We are taught from an early age to fear death, that unknowable force we are all moving towards, simply by existing. However, this aspect of human life is not one discussed easily amongst those in western society. Death is not an easy topic to discuss openly, without the fear of perhaps upsetting or insulting. This one aspect that binds us all together, touches us all, irrespective of race, gender, or orientation; the one thing we all have in common, yet so often it is considered a ‘dark’ subject. Talking about one’s own mortality is considered morbid and morose.

One truth remains however. We all die. Every single living organism experiences death. Indeed, according to Dr. Sigmund Freud, ‘It is the aim of all life.’ We live to die. Homo sapiens as a species have shown great technological advances over the past few centuries. Yet one thing we have not, and will arguably never achieve, is to create a way of dealing with death in a uniform manner as a population. We grieve differently, we die differently.

Death touches us all. Should we fear death, try to actively repel it, through attempts to prolong our lives? If technology moved to such a point that death could be avoided, endless life became a possibility, would we ever be able to really live?

Without being able to investigate death and the repercussions for the deceased, is it possible to study death in any meaningful way, without being able to experience it?

Taken from ‘Life, Death, and Grief’, published in Psychological Society Review, 2008, issue 72.


Experiment Two

She hadn’t been afraid of the dark.

Not before.

Not before it entered her life without her knowing, enveloping her like a second skin, becoming a part of her.

She hadn’t been claustrophobic, petrified the walls were closing in around her. Crushed to death without knowing they’d even moved. Not scared of things that crawled around her toes. Wasn’t afraid to sit alone in a darkened room and wonder if something was touching her face, or if it was just her imagination.

Nope. She wasn’t scared before.

She was now.

It took time to become afraid of those things, and time was all she had, stretching out in front of her without end.

She blamed herself. Blamed her friends. Blamed him. She shouldn’t be there, and someone was to blame for that.

Had to be.

She’d become a responsible adult. The right thing, supposedly. Gone were the days she’d spent going into town, two, sometimes three times a week. Karaoke on a Friday, pulling on a Saturday ‒ if there were any decent lads out ‒ quiet one on a Sunday. Now she was always the first one to leave, early on in the night, when everyone else was just getting started.

She didn’t like the feeling of being drunk. That loss of control, of sensibility. She’d been hungover so many times. She’d decided it wasn’t what responsible adults did. Her mum had drummed that into her one night, holding back her hair as two bottles of white wine and god knows how many vodka and lemonades decided they wanted out.

She’d rather be at home now, watching TV after a day’s work, especially if it meant he  was sitting close to her. She didn’t even mind that he always had the laptop on, playing that stupid football management game. Just being there with him was enough.

She still enjoyed a drink at the end of a work day, a glass of wine with a meal and the occasional full bottle at the weekend. But the binging had stopped. That was for certain.

When a Cheeky Vimto cocktail had been forced into her hand by one of the girls who told her she’d love it she didn’t say no.  Port and WKD. Who thought of these things? She didn’t care. It tasted bloody great.

One more led to four more, and before she knew it, she was in an eighties-themed nightclub, dancing her heart out to Chesney Hawkes. Two a.m. hit, and she was saying her goodbyes. She loved them all. Her girls. Always left wondering why they didn’t see her more often.

‘Don’t go yet, we’ll all share a taxi later. Club doesn’t shut for another hour.’

‘It’s alright, I’ll be fine. I’m knackered, want my bed. Need to get back … No, it’s okay I’ll walk up to the tunnel stretch by the museum if I can’t get one.’

Voice going hoarse from shouting over the music. Promises to do it all again soon. To give them a text when she’d arrived home.

Finally she was out of the club, the bouncer helping her down the final step. Fresh air hit her, along with the realisation she was as drunk as she’d been in a long time. She began searching through her handbag for her phone, eventually finding it in the same pocket it was always in, wanting to call a taxi to pick her up.

‘For fuck’s sake.’

Too loud. Not in the club any longer, but her voice hadn’t caught onto that fact yet. A couple stared as they passed by, as she continued her argument with the stupid battery-sucking smart phone. The decision to wear comfortable shoes becoming the best idea she’d ever had. She set off for the taxi ranks at the end of Matthew Street, hoping it wouldn’t be too long a wait. She walked past the old Cavern Club, the sound of some shitty band murdering old hits wafting out of the doors, as a few tourists spilled out onto the street.

She couldn’t find a taxi, queues of people down North John Street. She walked away from the lights of the clubs in the city centre, hoping to get one coming out of the tunnel. When she was younger it had been easier, as there was always enough of them to be safe getting the night bus home. Now she had money in her pocket she wouldn’t have to sit on a full bus, the stink of kebabs and vodka shots seeping into her clothes. The lads who were either squaring up to each other, or trying it on with any girl with a pulse. No thank you, she could pay the eight quid and get home without any of that.

She stood on the corner near the museum, waiting for a hackney with its light on to pass her. She wrapped her arms around herself, cold air beginning to bite as she stopped walking and leant against the St John’s Gardens wall, the museum over to her right. The entrance and exit to Birkenhead tunnel directly opposite her. Swaying to silent music.

She was cold, wishing she’d picked a warmer coat when she’d left the house earlier. She’d picked the right shoes, that was supposed to be enough. Ten minutes went by, then fifteen, before a hackney finally came towards her, slowing down before passing her.


It went up towards town, then did a U-turn and headed back her way, coming to a stop in front of her. She opened the door, barely registering the driver at all, just shouted her address at him, and settled back in the seat. She was glad to be in the warmth of the car.

As they drove through the city centre, she began to feel just a little uncomfortable, the driver looking straight ahead, barely acknowledging her presence. He’d not said a word since she’d entered. Must be one of the new foreign drivers that were coming over from Eastern Europe or wherever. Her mum would know. She should ring her mum tomorrow, she thought. She hadn’t been in touch much lately, and she wanted to catch up.

She yawned a few times in succession, the blurred buildings going past becoming hypnotic as the cab wound its way out of the city centre towards home. She battled her tiredness and lost, as her eyes closed and stayed that way.

That was her mistake.

She woke when the cab came to a stop and looked up to see the driver getting out of the cab. Through bleary eyes, confused by the sudden absence of movement, she sat fully upright.

‘I’m awake, it’s okay,’ she called out, but he was already walking around the cab, past her door and out of her sight.

Panic didn’t set in straight away. Confusion was first.

‘Where are we?’ The windows inside had misted over, and she swiped her hand over the pane. To one side she saw trees lining a gravel driveway. She tried opening the door, but the handle wouldn’t budge. She moved across the seat, and tried that door handle. Same result. She swiped her hand over the window again, seeing a house to the other side. A strange house. Not her house. Oh shit, not her house.

‘What’s going on?’ She could hear the man’s shoes crunching through the gravel behind the car and then her window darkened. She jumped in her seat. He was crouched level with the window, his face obscured by a black balaclava.

Panic started then.

His voice came through the window. Slow, precise.

‘We’re in the middle of nowhere. So if you scream, no one will hear you. More importantly, if you do scream, I’m going to break the fingers on your right hand. Scream again, and I’ll cut them off. You understand me?’ There was no trace of an accent, yet there was something odd about his voice.

She started to move across the back seat to the opposite door. Adrenaline kicked in. The need to get away, to get out of there, overtaking everything else.

He was quicker though. The door opened behind her and a hand grabbed her by the shoulder. He was strong.

Fight back, fight for her life, fight back.

Without screaming.

She used her fists against the opposite window, pulling on the door handle with all her weight, as the man attempted to drag her out.

He got a firm grip of her dress, and placed his arm around her neck, turning her around. She kicked out at him, but felt herself being lifted from the car. He dragged her all the way inside the house, his grip around her throat choking the air out of her lungs. Her eyes drifted downwards and then around. Stone steps with marble pillars to the sides marked the entrance, but she had no time to look at them as she was pulled along a darkened corridor. She needed to breathe properly. Watched as one of her comfortable shoes slipped off and became lost in the darkness. She kicked at the ground, scratched at his arm, used her fingers to try and prise her way out of his hands, but nothing worked. She was being dragged along on her heels.

He stopped, shifted his grip so she was now in a headlock. She could breathe a little. They went through an opening, before she bounced downwards. A staircase, she guessed. She couldn’t tell. It was too dark.

They came to a stop. He took his arm from around her head, and before she had a chance to move, he pushed her with two hands. She fell backwards, landing hard.

She heard, rather than saw a door close. She sprang up, the pain from the fall lost in the midst of heavy breathing and adrenaline.

‘Let me out of here you bastard! Open this door, open it now.’

She was in darkness and grasped at the door, trying to find a handle or anything that would open the door. She used her fists, banging on the door with all her strength. ‘Please, don’t leave me here.’

She continued to bang on the door until her hand started to ache.

She switched hands.

It came then. A voice through the walls, an audible static over it. She stopped, cocking her head to listen.

‘You will be fed. You will have water. There is a hatch opening on the door which can only be opened from the outside, through which this will be provided. On some days your food will have an extra ingredient, in order for me to clean up. You will not know when this is. If you’re good, I won’t have to kill you.’

The voice was silent then. She stood still, straining to hear any other noise, backing away from the door carefully. She put her hands out in front of her, her eyes trying to adjust.

There was no sound, other than her own breathing, panting in and out. She spread her arms around, jumping a little as her hand brushed against a flat surface.

She took a large breath in, struggling to keep the panic in. She couldn’t see the walls around her, yet she could already feel them. Closing in on her.

She was alone, in the darkness.


If reading this extract has left you hungry for more you can get yourself a copy on Amazon.  Click on the link below to be taken there:-



Don’t forget to drop by the Fiction Fascination blog tomorrow for the next part of the tour.


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