2 October 2011

Update on Reviews

First, let me say thank you to all the wonderful readers who follow Tomes of the Soul and also a huge thank you to the authors who supply review copies, without whom the content of the blog would be much less varied and interesting.

In the past few weeks the amount of review requests I have received has been phenomenal and unfortunately this means it is taking longer and longer to reply to every request. As such, whilst I will still consider all requests sent I will no longer be able to reply to everyone. I will still reply to authors when I have completed and posted the review they requested.

I sincerely hope this will not put off anyone requesting a review.


Tome Keeper

26 September 2011

Review: Slabscape: Reset by S. Spencer Baker

Take the most sophisticated A.I. designed mind that has ever existed, encase it in over fifty million cubic kilometres of diamond nano-rods and send it off on a twenty-thousand-year odyssey towards the centre of the galaxy. Then screw it all up by allowing thirty-two million humans to go along for the ride...

Slabscape: Reset is not my usual type of read, but I was very impressed with the level of imaginative realism in this sci-fi outing. The plot and characters are very believable, humour was weaved throughout the plot and it reminded me a little of the Red Dwarf universe. There were times when the pace of the book slowed but overall the book was well paced, and as such I was left wanting more at the end.

I liked the idea of an online resource providing additional information and value to the book, and whilst I personally didn’t find it all that useful, I can see many readers enjoying the material provided there. The wiki will probably become more useful and interesting as the series progresses.

Overall Slabscape is a very humorous and believable sci-fi outing. Drago as a character is easily the most thought-out and well written character I have come across this year.

The book is available from Amazon UK for £7.69 and from Amazon US for $12.35. It is a shame that currently this book does not appear to be available in non-Kindle formats, although the paperback version can be obtained from Amazon.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

19 September 2011

Review: The Quest for the Cure by Brent R. Stockwell

Brent R. Stockwell takes the reader through on a journey through the history and future of drug development in his book The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines.

It is written in a very accessible style and so is open to both those with a scientific background and those who do not. Although a basic grasp of biology will ease things along. As well as dealing with the science of drug development Stockwell also deals with the business side of the pharmaceutical industry, a combination lacking in similar books. I was particularly interested in his exploration of the role of ‘undruggable’ proteins in diseases such as cancer, and how these pose an issue for drug developers. Professor Stockwell’s expertise in this area clearly shows and I especially liked the many anecdotes from his own work that were included.

Overall this is a very interesting and up to date book, which although aimed at those with an academic/professional interest in the topic, is accessible to a much wider audience. It was of particular interest to me as I trained in a field closely related to drug development.

The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines is available from Amazon UK for £8.51, from Amazon US for $13.66 and from WH Smith for £17.75.

[Columbia University Press provided a review copy] 

12 September 2011

Review: Midnight Fear by Leslie Tentler

Midnight Fear is Leslie Tentler’s second novel and follows Agent Novak’s dangerous job to catch a copycat killer before he kills the ex-socialite Caitlyn Cahill.

The book starts with a bang – or more accurately a murder and does not slow down after that. The plot is complex and in places very chilling, although the characterisation, particularly of Novak is at times hit and miss, perhaps a bit 2D for my liking.

I didn’t realise that this was a romantic suspense until I started reading, this for me spoilt the book a bit as I felt it detracted from the plot – though this is my personal preference.

Overall an interesting read with a great ending. The book is let down by the unbelievable lead character and, in my opinion, a token romance plot. All in all, the brilliant plot outweighs the downsides - which is why this has a four-star rating.

Midnight Fear is available in paperback only at Amazon UK for £4.91 and at Amazon US for $7.99. If you would like to see this in an e-book format get in touch with publisher Mira.

[A review copy was provided by Mira]

7 September 2011

Review: Cat Versus Human by Yasmine Surovec (Non-e-book)

Yasmine Surovec is a talented designer and illustrator who maintains the blog catversushuman.blogspot.com. I first came across her work on icanhascheezburger.com, famous for it's lolcats, and became a follower of her online comic. Cat Versus Human is a visual tale of life of a couple with a few cats and a dog, with all the feline related ups and downs, a situation replicated around the world. I was lucky enough to get hold of a review copy of Surovec's first published collection of the comic, also entitled Cat Versus Human.

From Amazon
Cat Versus Human is very similar to it's online cousin, no surprises there. The full-page colour illustrations are as detailed as they are online, but there is an added benefit from being able to view the cartoons as a self-contained story. The illustrations are both comical and true to life, I personally recognised many of the situations played out in the book, especially page 107, to which my long suffering boyfriend can testify. The 'story-based' pages are interspersed with short, self-contained pieces such as "Things cats will destroy", "Presents from my cats" and "Kitten verses dinosaur". My personal favourites are "If the internet breaks - forever" and "Life without a cat". 

Overall a fantastically funny coffee table book, which will resonate and amuse cat lovers and non-cat lovers alike . Surovec has demonstrated that she can easily compete with the likes of Simon's Cat and Kathy Hoopmann. 5 Stars!

Cat Versus Human will be released in paperback on October 4th, and is available to pre-order from Amazon UK for £5.60 , from Amazon US $9.99 and from Barnes and Noble for $9.99. If you'd like to see this in e-book form (who wouldn't!) use the 'Tell the Publisher!' button on Amazon UK or get in touch with Andrews McMeel Publishing directly.

[This review copy was provided by Andrews McMeel Publishing but did not effect the review in anyway]

5 September 2011

Review: Public Anatomy by A. Scott Pearson

“While recovering from a career-threatening injury, surgeon Eli Branch is pulled into the turbulent world of Dr. Liza French, a colleague he hasn’t seen in ten years.  Liza uses their past to lure Eli into a highly-publicized debacle in a Memphis hospital that has put her own career in jeopardy. 

But when the murder of medical personnel at Gates Memorial appears related to Liza’s surgical complication, Eli finds that more lives are at imminent risk. 
Eli discovers clues from the victims that match anatomical art found at the crime scenes, a connection that leads him to the manuscript of a sixteenth century anatomist whose methods of dissection are over four centuries old – but are being re-enacted in the present. 

Aided by the expertise of forensic pathologist, Dr. Meg Daily, Eli uncovers a pattern to the escalating deaths and the search begins for the killer who the media and the city come to know as The Organist.”

 As a fan of the medical thriller genre, I have to say that Public Anatomy is an outstanding cross between this and standard crime thrillers. Whilst it is perhaps less of a true-medical thriller, it certainly competes with the likes of Tess Gerritsen in the crime thriller genre.

The writing style of Pearson is tight and concise, and the book is gripping and full of suspense, particularly near the end, where you constantly feel the ‘ticking clock’. Also, there are lots of little details included in the narrative, which make the plot more complex and interesting, as does the inclusion of the robotic surgery technology.

Overall, an amazing thriller that I will happily read again. Full of suspense and with a clear, concise writing style. If there was any criticism of this book, it would be that it was perhaps slightly too easy to guess the identity of the killer, although this did not diminish the suspense for me. I am looking forward to reading his previous novel Rupture, which features the same central character. 

Public Anatomy is available from Amazon UK for £8.62, from Amazon US for $13.85 and from WH Smith for £7.81.

[A review copy was provided by Oceanview Publishing]

3 September 2011

Guest Blog: No more OCR excuses: Here's how to do it right by Steven Lyle Jordan

Steven Lyle Jordan is a Maryland based Sci-Fi author who has published his series The Kestral Voyages in e-book format, as well as a number of stand-alone novels. For more information visit his site at rightbrane.com. His guest-blog is on the advantages of e-publishing in terms of making revisions.

No more OCR excuses: Here's how to do it RIGHT

I am, to put in simple words, sick and tired of hearing the same lame excuses for the state of quality of old and backlist books that are scanned and converted via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software into ebooks.  All of us ebook readers are painfully familiar with the ridiculous text errors, the "a"s turned to "o"s, the "p"s turned to "q"s, the lost punctuations, the nonsense words and phrases, the missing lines, paragraphs and entire sections, etc, etc, that turn up in these ebooks.  And we are also painfully familiar with the publishers' excuses for this state, which usually boils down to: "We work hard... it's the hardware/software's fault!"

BULL.  It's how you're using the hardware/software; in other words, WRONG.

So, I’m going to tell you how to do it…the way we did it over a decade ago, and got less than .1% errors in our work. Pay Attention.

Over a decade ago, I worked in an in-house print department that produced thousands of short documents a day, using 3 high-speed printers, 2 of them networked DocuTech digital printers.  Those machines were capable of printing anything (in black and white, anyway) in high quality.  All they needed was high quality going in.  My initial job, upon arriving there, was showing them how to get that high quality input that would give them high quality output.  I had done the same at my previous job.  So I knew whereof I spoke when I was hired.

Occasionally, we were asked to produce a digital version of a book our offices had created.  After going through the process a few times, I hit upon the best method for clean and accurate digital conversion.  My attempts using this method were highly successful, and not that difficult at all... any small to large organization can do this.

The process starts with the original book... and this is where the most important first steps must be taken to ensure high quality.  Many books aren't in the best shape for scanning, due to age, flimsiness of the paper, coloring, stains, etc.  Also, text is often rendered rather small, especially in paperbacks. This is a notoriously poor source material, and must be improved before it is used.

To deal with this, the first step is to CREATE NEW AND BETTER PAGES.  Use a high-quality photocopying machine or scanner that has both adjustable brightness and contrast settings, and an enlarging feature.  Before you start, take sample images of a page, adjusting brightness and contrast to basically darken text to as close to 100% black as possible, and erase any image artifacts from browning or stained pages; you want as clean an image as possible, solid black text against pure white backgrounds.

Once you have your clean high-contrast setting, ENLARGE THE IMAGE to letter-size.  This simple step, which few OCR processes use, improves the recognition of characters immensely, possibly on a logarithmic scale, during the scanning process.

Finally, if you are using a scanner, this is an important addition to the process: Before doing your scan, MAKE SURE THE SCANNER IS SET TO BLACK-AND-WHITE AND AT LEAST 300DPI RESOLUTION.  Many photocopiers will allow you to make the same settings.  This results in a larger file, which can take a longer time to process, but is important to get the best image of each character possible.

With these settings saved, SCAN OR PHOTOCOPY YOUR PAGES.  For best results, cut the pages free of the spine so they can be perfectly flat when scanning/photocopying.  If your scanner/photocopier has a feeder that will automatically feed and scan both sides of a page, by all means, use it and save yourself the grief (and the time).

If you used a photocopier, you should now have a letter-sized, one-sided stack of papers that represent your book.  This is ideal for running through a sheetfed scanner with pretty much any OCR software.  Many high-speed sheetfed scanners have limited adjustment controls... that's why it is important to provide the highest-quality input sheets.  If you do have contrast and resolution controls, make sure they are set to black-and-white and at least 300DPI, just like your earlier photocopied images.

Most scanners these days come with OCR software, or recommend OCR software to use with their hardware.  Start with these applications, but don't be afraid to try other apps with more features if needed.  When you do your scan, the software should automatically start the OCR process.  WAIT UNTIL THE OCR FILE IS DONE, AND SAVE IT.

MAKE A COPY OF THE FILE FOR EDITING.  If you have good OCR software, it will allow you to do sophisticated find-and-replace tasks; this is great to have if you discover an odd OCR artifact, such as the transposition of every "h." with "la" or "&" with "$".  Most of the incorrect artifacts you're likely to find will be a result of dressy typography that uses non-standard or oddly-shaped characters.  These are things that even the best OCR applications can't always interpret correctly.  Your larger and high-res images should generate much better recognition and fewer errors of almost all of the rest.

If your OCR software can't do the find-and-replace tasks, open the file in a word processing app like MS Word, and use its find-and-replace functions there.  As you make these document-wide edits, check to make sure you didn't mess something up (such as correct words that your find-and-replace made incorrect), and if everything's good, save the file.  Then do the next one, check it, and save it.  This way, if you do an edit that doesn't work out, and it's too wide-spread to easily fix, you can revert to the last saved file to try it again.

Done with that?  Good.  Now, READ IT.  I mean, REALLY, REALLY READ IT.  Look for type artefacts that were missed by your initial find-and-replace process, possibly words that have been re-recognized as similar words, such as "words" to "wards," "it" to "if," etc.  A thorough proofing pass should catch these typos, and thanks to the process outlined above, there shouldn't be many.

I have used this process to create ebooks, and have experienced fewer than 1 word or type errors in 20 pages of OCR results.

I am sure that most of the organizations doing scan-and-OCR of older books—most of which are probably contractors working to generate as much text per hour as they can—are not enlarging copy or scanning at 300DPI resolution.  Why?  To save time; low-res versions of smaller pages process faster.  This is why the overall quality of files presented to publishers is so dismal.  Unfortunately, the publishers are still responsible for proofing the text and catching these errors, and I have serious doubts that they are doing that job at all.  If scan-and-OCR workers use my production steps, the publishers' proofers will have even less of an excuse for bad copy.

Feel free to forward this entry to any publishers or OCR companies you know of; maybe we'll see much better quality ebooks in the future, especially if some people take heed of these steps.

29 August 2011

Review: Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels

I do like a good, reality-based laugh and whilst not explicitly marketed as humour, with a blurb stating the book is very funny and when linked with books such as Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor, the reader would be justified in expecting a good few laughs. Unfortunately this is where the book was disappointing, there were a few humorous stories, a patient having pornographic dreams about Tom Jones, to name one, but there was an overall lack of humour. Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but this book is distinctly less funny than other examples of the genre.

What was refreshingly different about Confessions of a GP there was less angry ranting than similar books, although it still exposed the short falls of the system. Dr Daniels himself comes off more a someone who is frustrated with a system that he sees is failing his patients and not sticking the NHS ethos, rather than an man who is opinionated just for the sake of it.

Overall, whilst I did find the book a bit of a let down in terms of humour, it did give an accurate, non-ranting look at the life of a modern GP and was enjoyable to read. 

Confessions of a GP is available from Amazon UK for 99p, from Amazon US for $1.64 and from WH Smith for 99p.

22 August 2011

Review: Maddie - A Verdade da Mentira [The Truth of the Lie] by Goncalo Amaral

I don’t believe in banning books, unless they are written from a criminal wanting to profit from his crime, as such I was shocked to find out that Goncalo Amaral’s book, Maddie: The Truth of the Lie, written by an investigator who worked on the case, had been banned following a law suit by the missing child’s parents. As of October 2010, that ban has been lifted (see here) but the book still has not been published in English. As a follower of True Crime accounts, and having reviewed two previous works, mainly focussed on the abduction theory of Madeleine’s disappearance, I decided to read and review Amaral’s account of the investigation, which whilst following the various hypothesis that his team came up with during the investigation, settles on the hypothesis that Madeleine was accidentally killed in the apartment.

The book is written in such a way that you truly feel that you are following the developments of the investigation, only occasionally jarred out of this by a retrospective comment. You feel both the excitement and frustrations of the team at critical points in the investigation. It is also the only book on the topic in which I have found significant information on the case that I was previously unaware of, such as the descriptions of a man carrying a child away from the hotel by an Irish family. Amaral also addresses, indirectly, some of the questions and accusations raised in Danny Collin’s book Vanished: The Truth about the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (review here).

One major downside to the book is the formatting and occasional use of strange sentence structures seen in the English translation. However, it is quite possible that this is due to the book being translated and copied onto the website, rather than errors in the original copy, but it is something to be aware of. There is also a factual inaccuracy in an early chapter where Amaral talks about the possibility of Madeleine being drugged by Calpol. In fact Calpol itself does not contain an anti-histamine as alleged in the book, and so does not have a sedating effect on children, which would explain the described confusion and denial by Kate McCann that Calpol could have been used to sedate the children. A form of Calpol called Calpol Night, which is not as frequently used in the UK as regular Calpol, does contain an anti-histamine so could make a child drowsy, through it would not truly sedate them. It is unknown if this inaccuracy, which is misleading and presented badly in the book, is due to a true error on Amaral’s part, a translating issue, or an attempt to deceive.

Amaral’s book is full of anti-British statements, not surprising considering that this was suggested to be the reason he was removed from the McCann investigation in the first place. The anti-British statements come in two forms, those directed at the police and politicians of the UK and those directed at English culture in general. The former are hard to verify, and revolve around the lack of information and cooperation given to Portuguese investigators, the latter, are quite offensive to me as a Brit, suggesting that British parent’s regularly drug their children and prefer to off-load them on others rather than looking after them themselves. These offensive statements seem to have evolved through both cultural differences and misinformation, although they perhaps do apply to the situation in question, they are certainly not true representations of British parenting and Amaral should not have generalised in this way. I have to admit these statements where quite off putting for me as a reader, and distracted me from the point of the book, I fear this could be particularly distorting and distracting for those who are unaware of British culture, and could misinform their views of the case.

Overall, a detailed and compelling account of the investigation into this tragedy. All hypotheses’ are covered, according to the importance given to them by the original investigation, and evidence is explained clearly and linked to each hypothesis. I was surprised at the number of times that Amaral acknowledged the shortcomings of the investigation, almost in a apologetic way, and although there is a clear prejudice developing near the end against the McCann’s, the book is definitely less bias than the other two accounts I have read, and the accusations are justified and backed up, although sometimes minimally, by evidence.

It should be noted that this review is based on an English translation by Anna Andress and not the bound, published version of the book.

15 August 2011

Review: Ratticus: A True Tale from Critter Corner by Raymond Birdsell

The premise of Ratticus: A True Tale from Critter Corner was admittedly a little strange, it is purely the true tale of one family’s experience of a rat problem in their home, and would’ve been blog-fodder in the days before self-publishing. Still I gave it a go.

Despite my scepticism Ratticus is actually an amusing and fast paced read. The frustration of the householders is palatable, especially when trying to find the mysterious creature that was destroying their white goods. The author’s vivid description gives an hilarious mental-picture of all out war between him and the rat. At times it felt more like fiction than non-fiction, not a bad thing at all.

I like the idea of a blog providing extras to the book, something that has been suggested for several years in order to add value to e-books. In this case however I do not feel the minimal blog content actually adds to the account, and could have benefited by being linked to certain events/pages in the book.

Overall, whilst short (a ten minute read at most), it is a hilarious and well written account of one man's battle against a smaller, but quicker mind. It may be lacking real information (for a non-fiction book) or a complex plot (as a piece of fiction) but this does not affect the enjoyment for the reader, as long as the reader does not expect too much.

Ratticus: A True Tale from Critter Corner is available from Amazon UK for 86p and from Amazon US for $1.38. It is also available in a range of formats from Smashwords priced at 99c.

[A review copy was provided by Raymond Birdsell]

8 August 2011

Review: TAG by Simon Royle

In the TAG universe everyone is monitored via a device called a dev stick which monitors a person’s every move. When Jonah, an arbitrator, is called to interrogate a prisoner, he discovers a disturbing plot to wipe out two-thirds of all humans, and knows he must stop it. But can he save the majority of the population, when his own life is being de-constructed around him.

TAG is set 100 years in the future, with a very detailed and believable universe. Rather than recreating everything from scratch, the author has allowed a natural evolution of technology and behaviour which gives the book a very realistic feel, and as such it is not a ‘strong’ sci-fi, which is great for readers like me who like sci-fi elements rather than full on, hardcore science-fiction. The plot its self is more of a thriller than a sci-fi and has a very Orwellian theme running throughout. Whilst fully formed, the plot takes a while to get going, particularly with the wordy writing style and the author’s focus on the intricate details of the character’s life, and the true suspense does not kick in to near the end of the book. It is however, an enjoyable read and the characterisation is, like the universe, very believable.

The book was let down by the addition of some very explicit sex scenes which did not contribute to characterisation nor the plot. I’m not a prude, but do not like to see sex included just for the sake of sex, which I believe is the case in this novel. It is definitely not a book for minors.

To conclude, a perfectly formed and well-thought out universe is presented in this novel and provides the backdrop for a believable and entertaining thriller. The book is affected by a slow pace in the first half and the inclusion of unnecessarily explicit sex.

TAG is available from Amazon UK for 70 p and from Amazon US for $1.14. 

1 August 2011

Review: Transfection by David Gaughran

When GM food is linked to animal cancer, scientists start racing to find the reason. Dr Peters discovers the cause of the cancer and an even more shocking truth.

Transfection for me was a let down – the cover was perfect, the blurb intriguing and concept exciting but the execution – just didn't live up to the promise. Transfection is a short story of only 5,700 words, I have nothing against short stories but hold them to the same standards as a full novel, and that was where Transfection failed for me. The whole book reads like a proposal for a novel, it is very descriptive, as if you are being told the story rather than reading it. In addition the story seems to jump in time at several points with little signposting which made the book feel disjointed and even more of a ‘proposal’. The characterisation was good, especially considering the length of the book, although at times Dr Peters’ character undergoes quite dramatic shifts that are not fully explained or explored, although perhaps this is due to the length of the book.

Overall, the premise was excellent and had the promise to be an excellent example of the medical thriller genre and I hope Gaughran continues to come up with such interesting plots. However, the execution was sub-standard, and the book felt more like reading a proposal for a new novel, rather than a stand-alone story its self. There was too much ‘tell’ on the part of the author and at times the story jumps around which disrupts the flow although it does mean that the story is pacey. This story could have easily been much longer, and it was ambitious for Gaughran to attempt to fit such a full plot into such a small number of pages.

Transfection is on sale at Amazon UK for 70p and at Amazon US for $1.12, it is also available from Smashwords priced 99c . On his blog the author talks about a bundle release of 5 books for $2.99, so watch this space. 

[A review copy was provided by the author]

28 July 2011

Promo - The Story of Solomon Bear by Phillip Laird

"A girl and her teddy bear share a promise to keep love alive in a home where it’s been all but forgotten. When they are forced apart one day, Solomon Bear is determined to find her at any cost!

In the tradition of The Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Prince comes Solomon Bear. At once a children's romance and a fable about rediscovering innocence and unconditional love, this sentimental tale has the capacity to transcend genre and age boundaries. For while a taste for porridge, marmalade, or honey might make a bear more human, Solomon would remind us: it is love that brings us all to life."

A story for both the young and the young at heart, would your teddy bear try to find you? It has gained 5-star reviews so promises to be a great read.

The Story of Solomon Bear is available from Amazon UK for £2.82, from Amazon US for $4.55, from Barnes and Noble for $3.95 and from Smashwords for $3.95. 

26 July 2011

Tomes of the Soul featured on Simon-Royle.com

Recently I was interviewed by author and blogger Simon Royle to discuss my views on reviewing and e-books in general.

The IndieView can be viewed over at simon-royle.com.

25 July 2011

Review: Lethal Remedy by Richard L. Mabry

When patients who received an experimental drug, the only cure for a deadly infection, start falling ill weeks after treatment, a team of doctors at the Southwestern hospital must find out how the drug is causing these illnesses. But there are those who do not want the truth discovered and will stop at nothing to ensure the experimental drug goes to market.

The plot of Lethal Remedy is enjoyable but unremarkable, with no major twists and turns that make a good thriller, instead the plot is quite transparent and really as a reader you are following the diagnostic and treatment process, rather than figuring out a gripping puzzle. Mabry has missed many opportunities to build suspense in the plot and the result is that there is no sense of urgency or danger, even at major plot events where these feelings should be in evidence; this is perhaps due to the focus on the mundane details. The ending of the book is also a let down, with a quick, unsatisfying ending that is wrapped up all too neatly in the epilogue, with a unbelievable ‘tell all’ moment from the main antagonist.

On the other hand, Mabry characterises well, and as such the reader can empathise with the characters and they are, in the main, believable. There are several sub-plots involving the characters that develop during the story, but these tend not to be fully explored or concluded, such as the cause of Sara’s nightmares, which promise more than they ever deliver, and leave a reader feeling let down.

As with Mabry’s Diagnosis Death, there is a very strong Christian theme throughout which at times is jarring, more so than in Diagnosis Death. I personally would have preferred the characters to take more responsibility for their decisions rather than leaving it up to God and whilst I understand that Mabry is a Christian writer, I feel the novel would have worked better with the religious theme still intact but downplayed. Elsewhere in the plot there are references to Christian ideals, including in the naming of the killer bacteria as Staph luciferus, which I thought was a nice touch. Also like Diagnosis Death there is a romantic sub-plot that is included, although this time it was much less of a distraction, but again made it a more cozy novel than in traditional thrillers.

Overall an enjoyable but disappointing outing for Mabry. The lack of suspense meant that whilst the book had a thriller plot, it just didn’t read like a thriller, although it was no less gripping. The book is saved by excellent and believable characterisation. The detail in the novel makes it a must read for medical thriller fans, although they may be disappointed at the lack of suspense. In addition the discussion questions at the end of book are a nice touch for reading groups, particularly those of a Christian nature.

Lethal Remedy by Richard L. Mabry is due for release on the 30st October and is currently available from Amazon UK to pre-order for £8.09 in paperback form; it is also available from Amazon US for $11.19. Readers can also pre-order from Barnes and Noble and WH Smith. It is very likely that Lethal Remedy, like Mabry’s other offerings, will be made available on Kindle as well but if you would like to ensure this please let the publisher know, either through Amazon or directly via their website

Note: The previous books in the series were released under the name Richard Mabry, but this one is under the name Richard L. Mabry, which can lead to issues when searching for the book online.

[An ARC was provided by Abingdon Press]

18 July 2011

Review: Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Alice Humphrey, fiercely independent daughter of a movie tycoon, gets her dream job after months of searching. It all seems too good to be true, well, that’s because it is. When her manager is found dead in the gallery, in the midst of accusations of child pornography, Alice suddenly finds her life turned up side down and discovers years of deceit has led to her being the police’s number one suspect in her bosses death.

Alafair Burke’s latest offering starts slowly, and it did take me a while to get into it, especially with the constant switching between characters during the first short chapters. However, it soon gets going and it becomes a gripping read. What really sets this book apart is that it doesn’t go for the ‘easy’ plot option, instead an idea is dangled in front of the reader then snatched away; the plot turns are unexpected which makes the novel even more suspenseful.

Overall a fantastic thriller, with many twists and turns, and a very surprising ended.

Long Gone will be released on the 21st July (28th July for the e-book version) and will be available from Amazon UK for £4.49 and from Barnes and Noble for $11.99.

[A review copy was provided by Avon]

16 July 2011

Free e-book - You've gone too far this time, sir! by Danny Brent

Have you ever woken up in the sultry heat of the morning, your hair and beard teeming with maggots, and then had potatoes picked out of your ears?

Have you ever felt the cold barrel of a semi automatic gun against your forehead?

When Danny Bent cycled 15,000 kilometres from the UK to India to raise money for ActionAid, it was a decision that took twenty years and one minute. For twenty years he had wanted to do something to raise money for charity. The one minute was when as their teacher he was put on the spot by his pupils and declared that the means was by bike, and he was going to India.

What he had signed up for was slogging along roads with trucks bearing down on him, unable to see and choking in the smog; shooting down treacherous descents with 100 foot drops, shaking with cold and too numb to brake; muscle burn and saddle sores; delirium and food poisoning; thirst and malnutrition; foul and insanitary conditions; life-threatening crises; obstructive border guards, crazed dogs and inquisitive passers-by.

'You've Gone Too Far This Time, Sir!' is a real and compelling blow-by-blow account of Danny's trip across Europe, the former Soviet Republics, Russia, China, Pakistan and India.

And what people he met! They are the true delight of this book, mostly charming, sometimes reckless, occasionally threatening, always unpredictable, and forever inviting Danny to be up for the challenge of entertaining them, in one instance by dancing in front of a packed stadium, in another by eating sheep's brains in a local night market.

Danny turns the wheels, you turn the pages. The pace is relentless. The story is both heart-stopping and heart-warming. The arrival is breakdown-and-cry emotional. And there's loads of fun and wonderment along the way too. 

The book is available free from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

11 July 2011

Review: Go the F**K to Sleep by Adam Mansback

Go the F**K to Sleep is the nightly routine that many parents go through, as such I am surprised that this is the first time someone has turned it into satire in this way. The book, designed to mimic a children's story book, is the internal dialogue of an exhausted farther who's daughter just won't sleep.

The book had me in stitches from page one, although most of the humour seemed from the 'naughtyness' of the liberal swearing throughout, this is not a high-brow satirical piece but is nevertheless a great read. I especially liked the ending, which happened to my own parents more than once over the years. The illustrations however are generally unappealing and the use of several different children in the illustrations instead of just one is confusing and unnecessary. Amusing as it may be, it is not a work of literary genius with lines such as "How come you can do all this other great s*!t, But you can’t lie the f*@k down and sleep?"

Overall, it is an amusing story, which all parents will be able to relate to, and would make a great little gift for new parents. Obviously this is not a children's book and should probably be kept away from little readers due to the language.

Go the F**K to Sleep is available from Amazon UK for £4.54 and from Amazon US for $7.35. There is also a free audio book version available from Audible, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

[An ARC copy was provided by Open Road Media]

9 July 2011

Free e-book - Painted in a Corner by Autumn Dickinson

Bianca Barrett returns to her hometown after graduating college to find herself feeling trapped and haunted by her past. An old flame burns brighter and the girl who considered herself reserved throws caution to the wind, along with her inhibitions. Strong love, new friendships, lies, betrayal, and revenge turn Bianca's world upside down. Will love be enough in the end? 

Painted in a Corner is available FREE from Smashwords by entering code JP34V at the checkout. 

7 July 2011

Free audio book - Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansback

For a limited time Audible is offering Adam Mansback's satirical bed-time story Go the F**k to Sleep for free! It is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson who's reading adds to the already humorous story.

Download it here.

6 July 2011

Free e-book - Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand

Det. Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out. But when he's the only one at a crime scene to find evidence of a missing female victim, he's given one last chance to prove himself. Before he can crack the case, he's transferred to a new one that has grabbed the spotlight--the disappearance of a famous Houston evangelist's teen daughter.

With the help of a youth pastor with a guilty conscience who navigates the world of church and faith, March is determined to find the missing girls while proving he's still one of Houston's best detectives.

Get this 5-star rated mystery from Amazon UK for FREE (R.R.P. - £8.99)! Also available free from Amazon UK

3 July 2011

Review: Diagnosis Death by Richard Mabry M.D.

Diagnosis Death is written by Richard Mabry, a qualified doctor who specialises in ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat), and has practiced in several major hospitals in Texas. Since retiring he has turned his hand to medical thrillers, and as a medical thriller fanatic, I had to take a look at this, the third book in his Prescription for Trouble series.

From Amazon
Dr Elena Gardner is a physician in fear, after the death of her husband on ICU a series of phone calls accuses her of performing a mercy killing. When the deaths continue, and Dr Gardner cannot remember where she was when the deaths occurred, rumours start to spread. Is Dr Gardner killing patients or is someone trying to set her up?

Slow to start, the pace picks up quickly and the story is beautifully crafted to ensure that there is suspense at every turn, and a ever-present sense of danger and disaster. This makes it a page-turner, and means that it is very easy to read, despite at times an odd-writing style and over-zealous medical exposition. The medical exposition, whilst at times a bit much, is as well-researched and believable as you would expect given Mabry’s medical background. Mabry also avoids the common mistake in many who-dunits of making the plot to easy to guess, and as such it keeps you guessing right till the end.

There was a very strong Christian theme running throughout the book, as well as a romantic sub-plot. The latter makes this a more cozy/happy thriller than most, and whilst the former does not detract from the reading experience for me, it could put off some readers, and should be considered. The story would have worked just as well without the Christian element, but I do understand that the author is staying true to his own beliefs.

Being the third book in the series, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to follow the plot without reading the previous two instalments, thankfully this wasn’t the case and Diagnosis Death works perfectly as a stand-alone novel. The reason why the real killer was committing the crimes was not adequately explained, and this left me feeling slightly frustrated at the end. As I have yet to read the other books in the series I do not know if the motive was implied in the previous novel.

Overall an exciting read, with dollops of suspense, and a creative and intriguing plot. It is a bit frustrating that the killer’s motives are not more satisfactorily explained, and for some hardened genre fans the romance may be a bit much. The Christian theme is strong but does not distract the reader from the plot. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Mabry in the future.

Diagnosis Death is available from Amazon UK for £7.86 and from Amazon US for $12.76.

[An review copy was provided by Abingdon Press]
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