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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Re-read October 2019. First published 1949.

The year is 1984, or is it? Does anyone really know for sure?

This is dystopian nightmare of a world, where your every move and even thought, is closely monitored. The Party is all and Big Brother is watching you day and night.

Winston Smith, worker at The Ministry of Truth, in Oceania, spends his days re-writing history to fit in with the current "truth" of The Party. But Winston knows that there is something wrong with the world in which he lives. He hates Big Brother and everything The Party stands for. He knows to even allow a hint of his true feelings to show would result in torture and execution, and yet he cannot help himself.

Winston is sure that there must be others among the apparent Party faithful that feel the same way as him, but how can you really tell? Is there anyone he can share his true feelings with in safety? Is there anyone he can love, and who will love him in return?

Compelled to act on his true feelings, Winston embarks on a course of rebellion against Big Brother, which he knows will ultimately lead to his death. Can he remain true to himself, or will be betray all he holds dear in order to survive?


Although the year 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's prophetic nightmare of a future remains as timely as ever, even though it was written seventy years ago.

This is a modern classic, that has spawned a host of dystopian literature that borrows from its themes of power and manipulation, and its influence has even pervaded popular culture and language - for instance, "Big Brother is watching you!".

The future portrayed in 1984 is bleak in the extreme. This is a dark and fearful world, where your every move is closely monitored for signs of dissension. Even to be caught thinking unpatriotic thoughts will result in your torture and execution within the walls of the delightfully named Ministry of Love.

Orwell's own political leanings are more than apparent in this book, and he has borrowed heavily from the period of history in which he lived himself (you will certainly recognise references to the Nazi Party and Comminism within these pages) which does date it a little, but it still has a lot to teach us about the world today. 

For me the most interesting aspects are the way that information and language are manipulated to keep The Party in power, and this probably stems from my background in psychology - I always find this fascinating in a book.

In Winston's world, The Party controls all information - history has been rewritten to show that The Party is right in all things and provides the citizens of Oceania with a kind of utopia that is far better than the past, but there is no way to corroborate any of this. Any written material that could disprove the current view has either been destroyed or re-written. The "facts" taught to the children of Oceania can never be disputed, so will always be the truth - and for those who are old enough to remember the times before, now far can you even trust your own memories when there is no evidence left to support what you thought you knew about the past? 

This is a really interesting, if chilling idea, and before you say that this cannot really happen, take a moment to think about the way history is taught today. Certainly, there are countries today who colour the past in the text books that are used in their schools - for instance, China and North Korea. Shockingly, I also read recently in Zeba Talkhani's excellent book My Past Is A Foreign Country that she had not even heard of The Holocaust before studying at a college in Germany - and she had received her education in India and Saudi Arabia! Someone else's "truth" may be very different from our own. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to read widely and to read books by people who have different views to ourselves.

The manipulation of the language used by The Party in 1984 is something I find particularly fascinating. The Party is attempting to evolve language so that there is only a very limited vocabulary available. Any words with shades of meaning are being eliminated, especially where they may be used to express freedom of thought or ideas - so that is will eventually not even be possible for the population to think any anti Big Brother thoughts, because they simply will not have any words to express any sort of dissatisfaction with the status quo - even within their own heads. This blows my mind as a lover of the written and spoken word - what a horrible future this would be. 

I am never truly convinced by the ending to 1984, but I not going to give any spoilers for those of you who have not read it. I will just say that in spite of the elements of this book which are relevant today, I cannot allow myself to believe in the existence of a world where the human spirit can be broken so completely as in Orwell's terrifying future. I hope I am right.

1984 continues to be one of those books everyone should read at least once in their life. I have read it several times over the years and get something more from it each time. It is not a perfect book, and some of the story will always fail to ring true for me, but its themes will always be relevant. It is definitely one of those books that I was always recommending as required reading to my older students, during my secondary school librarian days.

If you have never read it, I urge you to do so - if you think you cannot stomach reading its politically heavy overtones, then there are some excellent audio book versions which may change your mind. I have listened to a particularly good version from Audible, narrated by Andrew Wincott, but there are plenty of other versions available and some of them are even dramatised. I would steer clear of the film adaptations until after you know the text though, as inevitably they are never a faithful representation of the story.

Give it a go and feed your mind!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Body In The Bookshop (Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries Book Two) by Helen Cox

Read October 2019. Published 31st October 2019 by Quercus Books.

Not long after the shocking events of Murder by the Minster, Kitt, Evie and co. are about to get involved in another investigation - this time involving the theft of some rare books from a bookshop owned by some of Kitt's friends.

Kitt's boyfriend, DI Malcolm Halloran breaks the news that his colleague DS Charlotte Banks has been suspended after being accused of attacking the suspect in the robbery with a hammer.

Mal is unable to get involved, and convinced that there is no way Charley could be guilty of such a crime, Kitt and Evie set about trying to prove her innocence, but it is not long before the dead bodies start to pile up and the case seems to be a lot more complex that they first thought.


The excellent Murder by the Minster introduced us to the Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries and it was an absolute pleasure to fall back in with Kitt, Evie and friends for this second installment of their investigative adventures - just like visiting old friends!

This time around, we are more aware of the roles of each of the team, at the start - Librarian Kitt, with her level head and penchant for literary references that her colleagues rarely get; vintage clothes/decor and language loving Evie, led by her emotions; the ever curious Grace, with her internet skills and constant FOMO; Ruby, with her psychic leanings and finger on the pulse of the gossip-central that is the local bus service; and of course our hard-working detectives, DI Malcolm Halloran and DS Charley Banks. So once the story gets going, we can be assured that no stone will be left unturned in the quest for the truth.

A Body in the Bookshop sees Evie take much more of a detective role than in their first escapade - the one which saw her scarred both physically and mentally - and it was lovely to see her regaining some of the confidence she had lost as a result of her experiences. It was also wonderful to see the relationship between Evie and Charley developing into something more than friendship, especially since this had been hinted at as a possibility at the end of Murder by the Minster.

The pacing is perfect, with endearing gentle humour, and there is a nice build up of tension as the story progresses to the exciting and satisfying climax, with a great little twist too. Something about the way this works really reminds me of the Father Brown mysteries TV series, which I mean as a massive compliment to Helen Cox - even though the Kitt Hartley mysteries are contemporary, there is something about the way the characters operate that resonates with the way Mark Williams plays Father Brown and his relationship with Mrs McCarthy and Bunty when they involve themselves in police investigations to the consternation of Inspector Mallory. Maybe this is just me, but I find it a good thing anyway!

Murder by the Minster and A Body in the Bookshop have definitely got me hooked on the Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries, and I am looking forward to the next book very much. I highly recommend them if you are a fan of a cosy mystery!

See my review of Book One here: Murder By The Minster

Monday, October 21, 2019

Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald

Read October 2019. Published May 2019 by Orenda Books.

Mary Shields is a sharp-tongued, forthright social worker, dealing with some of Glasgow's worst offenders. She has been doing her job way too long and is more than jaded by her enormous workload, the lack of time to deal with it, and the horrendous things she has seen.

The time has come for Mary to think about taking her life in a different direction, but she is torn between just handing in her notice, like a normal person, and seeing how far she can go with a string of reckless behaviours that should lead to her to getting sacked - being an empty nester, with an absent husband, and stuck in the middle of the menopause is not helping Mary to think rationally, either.

To top it all, the number of Mary's usual suspects has now been added to in the form of wife-murderer, Liam Mcdowell. Now out on licence, Mcdowell has become a sort of poster-boy for the Men's Rights Activist movement, after publishing a book of letters to his dead wife, called Cuck.

Mary is having difficulty keeping tabs on Mcdowell, as he flaunts his celebrity status and breaks every condition placed on him as part of his release. She soon starts to develop an unhealthy obsession with him, which is not helped when her son embarks on a relationship with Mcdowell's misguided daughter and becomes enamoured of the Men's Rights Activist message.

As Mary's life spirals out of control, she will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice, even if it has devastating consequences for her own family.


Helen Fitzgerald's Worst Case Scenario packs a powerful punch and will leave you with plenty to think about concerning the state of social work today. It is uncompromising about the situations Mary has to deal with everyday and the huge responsibility placed on her to keep the offenders in her charge in line. Some of the things she has to deal with will horrify you and you will find yourself addressing some pretty tricky moral questions about the best way to deal with some of the more "difficult" members of society, and the cost of rehabilitation.

At the same time, there is a deliciously dark brand of humour throughout that turns this book into so much more than your common-or-garden psychological thriller. The irony that Mary lives her own life in freefall, indulging in all the kinds of behaviours she is supposed to be monitoring and eradicating in her charges, will not be lost on you, and you will find yourself chuckling at many points in the story - and then wondering whether you should actually be laughing or crying, as her life inexorably falls apart.

I loved that it was impossible to see where this story was heading, and the chilling climax shocked me to the core. It has been awhile since I have read a book so out-and-out dark as this one, and I have found myself thinking about it a lot since.

What better way to celebrate #Orentober than with a first-class thriller that certainly takes you to the deep, dark pit of the Worst Case Scenario!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Rise Against (Foundling Book 4) by Hailey Edwards

Read October 2019. Published 22nd August 2019 by Paitkus.

Luce Boudrou has formed an alliance with Death, and her coterie - and she is now recruiting allies from among the other charun for the forthcoming war against Ezra.

Former enemies will now have to team up if they are to have any chance against the power that opposes them, and protect human kind at the same time.

There are still hidden secrets for Luce and her loyal coterie to discover and they will have a bearing on how this war ends.

How far can they trust Adam Wu? What is he still hiding?


Rise Against is the fourth book in the highly enjoyable Foundling series by Hailey Edwards - I read the first three books very close together in January this year, but have only just got around to this one, even though it was published in August.

There is a lot to enjoy in this book and some more secrets have been revealed which will make the next one pretty interesting, but it did feel a bit like things were being strung out in this one, rather than getting to the point - although the Luce-Cole relationship has finally progressed.

I have enjoyed this one, but would really like to see the series reaching some sort of resolution in the next book - although I have no idea how many Hailey Edwards plans to write. The next one is probably going to have to be pretty special for me to carry on if this is not the case.

All in all a good read, if you have read the first three, and they have a lot of charm - make sure you read them in the right order though.

My short reviews for the first three books can be found here:
Book One: Bayou Born
Book Two: Bone Driven
Book Three: Death Knell

Monday, October 14, 2019

Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem

Read October 2019. published 22nd August 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Non-fiction.

Mudlark (/'mAdla;k/) noun A person who scavenges for usable debris in the mud of a river or harbour

Lara Maiklem has scoured the banks of the Thames for over fifteen years, in pursuit of the objects that the river unearths: from Neolithic flints to Roman hair pins, medieval buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes to Victorian toys. These objects tell her about London and its lost ways of life.

Moving from the river's tidal origins in the west of the city to the point where it meets the sea in the east, Mudlarking is a search for urban solitude and history on the River Thames, which Lara calls the longest archaeological site in England.

As she has discovered, it is often the tiniest objects that tell the greatest stories.


I love non-fiction books that delve into the history of ordinary folk, and I have particular fondness for them if they are also connected to London (the city of my birth), because we hear so much about the lives of the great and good (or bad!) but not often about how people like you or I actually lived. So when I heard that Lara Maiklem was writing a book about her years of mudlarking on the river Thames, I knew it was going to be one for me - especially as I have been following her Twitter feed and Instagram pages for some time.

Mudlarking takes us on a journey down the river Thames, from the tidal head around Richmond and Twickenham all the way to the Estuary. It covers the history and importance of the Thames and details of the artifacts that have been found along the foreshore - mainly by Lara Maiklem herself, over the fifteen years she has been searching for them. 

What makes this book so completely fascinating, and at times, poignant, is the way Lara Maiklem weaves the history of the great Thames with her own experiences out there on the foreshore, and the stories behind the objects she has found over the years. This really brings to life the way ordinary people lived and worked on and around the Thames. The book is very readable and full of so much interesting stuff that it is actually quite a page turner.

My one criticism of the book is that it really needs pictures as well as the fascinating text. Although, the end papers themselves are beautifully illustrated with drawings of many of the objects described and there are a couple of lovely maps of the Thames, I thought the lack of photographs was a shame - a few here and there would have enhanced the reading experience, rather than me having to break off every now and again to look something up in Google!

Having said that, the book itself is an absolute delight and I learnt so much from the information given in these pages. One of my favourite facts was learning about the "secret" statues that grace the river frontages of Vauxhall Bridge, which opened in 1906, as these are absolutely beautiful and I had no idea they were there - in fact, you can only really see them if you are travelling on the Thames by boat. 

The allegorical figures are twice life-size and were designed by two artists F.W. Pomeroy and Alfred Drury, who completed four each - Pomeroy completing the ones on the upstream side. The Pomeroy statues are of Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering and Pottery, and the Drury ones of Education, Fine arts, Science and Local Government. The Pomeroy ones are, for me, the most beautiful and Architecture is my absolute favourite, because she holds an amazing facsimile of St Paul's Cathedral in her hand. I am planning a trip to Vauxhall Bridge soon, so I can try to spot them "in the flesh".

This book is inspirational and will have you looking at what is under your feet the next time you are near a river! I am not at all surprised that this has become a Sunday Times Bestseller. Highly recommended!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Morte Point (Ben Bracken Book Two) by Rob Parker

Read October 2019. Published July 2018.

Ex-soldier Ben Bracken has been enjoying a soujourn on the Costa del Sol, bagging unsuspecting wanted men and returning them home for the attention of the his contact at the National Crime Agency - Jeremiah Salix.

Jeremiah knows what Ben is capable of, after he brought down the dangerous berg gang in Manchester and has been more than happy with the work he has been undertaking in Spain. But now he needs Bracken for a new job.

Word has reached Jeremiah that a genetically altered version of the botulinum toxin, called Apex, is being smuggled into Britain to be auctioned off the the highest bidder. The NCA have been warned off any attempt to try to intercept Apex, but Jeremiah feels in his bones that there is something wrong about this. He is not wrong.

Bracken arrives in sleepy North Devon, just in time to extract a package from a plane that has been deliberately brought down in the sea. He has no idea what he is carrying in his pocket, but knows that he must keep it safe.

Bracken is now being hunted down, but only begins to realise the importance of what he has after recruitng the help of a young Kosovan microbiologist, who saves him from exhaustion and injury while he is on the run, but the situation is far more complex than Bracken imagines. The authorities cannot be trusted - all the way to the upper echelons of the British Government.

Bracken is going have to play along for a while, but how far will he go to ensure that Apex does not fall into the wrong hands?


The Ben Bracken series has fast become one of my favourites. I have now read all three of the Ben Bracken books Rob Parker has written -  A Wanted Man, Morte Point and The Penny Black - and have lapped up every single one.

Morte Point finds our hero drawn into a plot which is going to expose him to the most unwanted attentions of some nasty elements of the British Government, and he has never needed his abundant skills more in order to survive.

What follows is a trail of glorious mayhem from North Devon to the East Anglian countryside, via a particularly explosive episode in London - only this time, the action and thrills are bigger, much bigger, than before and so cinematic!

Bracken is forced to use his skills to the max in order to stop Apex from falling into the wrong hands and he has to make a very difficult decision at the end of the book - one which is going to make him more of a marked man than he has ever been before - and this is saying something.
The ending sets the stage nicely for the latest Ben Bracken book, The Penny Black, which is lots of fun too, ladies and gentlemen.

I highly recommend the Ben Bracken series if you love a big, bold action thriller - Bracken is uncompromising in his ways, but has a strict moral code at heart, and this makes him just the kind of hero you can attach yourself to.

Mr Parker knows I am waiting for the next installment, which he tells me is coming in December - I have been promised a copy and I cannot wait!

See my reviews for the other books in the Ben Bracken series here:
A Wanted Man (Book One)
The Penny Black (Book Three)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Holiday by T.M. Logan

Read October 2019. Published 25th July 2019 by Zaffre Books.

Four women, best friends since their university days, head off for the perfect reunion holiday with their families, in the idyllic French countryside.

The villa is gorgeous, the weather beautiful and the scenery outstanding, but there is trouble brewing in paradise.

As soon as Kate gets there, she begins to suspect that her husband is having an affair with one of her old friends. Kate, as a scene of crime officer, is ideally suited to searching for the truth among the clues left behind and she sets about watching her husband and friends closely to discover which of them has betrayed her.

One of these friends is willing to sacrifice years of friendship to destroy her family, but is is Rowan, Jennifer or Izzy?

As Kate closes in on the truth, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined, because someone in the villa is prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.


Ok, let me say from the outset that this book is utterly brilliant - one of my top five books read this year (and I have read a lot of books this year!)!!!

The story revolves around old friends Kate, Rowan, Jennifer and Izzy, who have known each other since their university days. There is a lot of history between them, although they have grown apart a bit in recent years, especially since Kate, Jennifer and Rowan have become parents and Izzy moved overseas.

Although they used to go on holiday together every year, it has been sometime since they have all gone away together, so this year's holiday to the south of France has been much anticipated. However, almost as soon as Kate and her family have arrived, she sees some messages on her husband Sean's phone that shake her to the core - it seems he is having an affair with one of her friends and she sets about trying to find out which one it is.

Everyone on this holiday seems to have something going on, so there are a lot of blind alleys for Kate to go down before she even gets close to the truth of what is happening - and, oh my, the truth is absolutely explosive! You will never see this coming, but when it does, everything becomes clear.

The build up of tension is almost over-whelming and you will have your heart in your mouth for most of the latter parts of the book. I am not going to say anything more, because I abhor spoilers in reviews, but suffice to say you will not be disappointed with the ending. This book is so cinematic that I really hope it gets picked up to adapt for the big/small screen, as it would work so well.

This book has been selling like hot-cakes and is a well deserved best-seller, so I suggest you get to reading it as soon as you can. It is fabulous!

Eden Burning by Deirdre Quiery

Read October 2019. Published July 2015 by Urbane Publications Ltd.

Belfast, 1972: The Troubles dominate the lives of ordinary folk, on both sides of the sectarian divide, and the days are filled with kidnappings, shootings, bombings and riots.

Tom Martin has been forced to take drastic measures to protect the lives of his family - their only crime is to be Catholic.

On the other side of the divide, William McManus is pursuing a bloody crusade of violence that has drawn in both his sons. He is convinced his cause is is right, but has the killing become something more than a means to an end?

Both men are about to discover that the power of love can overcome apparently insurmountable barriers and can change a person's view of what is right and what is wrong.

Both families will be shaken by a long buried truth in a world deeply divided by the influence of history, politics and religion and their boundaries are about to be redrawn.


Eden Burning s a powerful novel that brings alive just what is was like to live in the deeply divided city of Belfast at the height of the Troubles. This was a time when unbelievable violence was meted out on both sides of the sectarian divide - when a person's only crime was to be born into the "wrong" religion - with the British soldiers in-between, trying to maintain the semblance of some sort of peace.

The character of William McManus gives us a glimpse into the sectarian killings carried out on the Loyalist side of the Troubles and the descriptions of the violence inflicted is difficult to read at times. However, we are left in no doubt by our author, Deirdre Quiery, that the same atroticies were being carried out by the Nationalist side too - often on a tit-for-tat basis. These were dangerous times to be caught out on your own, on both sides of the conflict, especially in certain areas and at night.

Having previously read about the Troubles from the point of view of either one side or the other of the divide, I found it really interesting that you are able to see both sides in this book. Deirdre Quiery cleverly draws the picture of the two families here to show that there are in fact, many similarities between them and the link that is forged between Eileen and Lily is particularly touching.

Although not really about the part the military played in the Troubles, there is a side to the presence of the soldiers, touched upon here, that is often overlooked. Many of them were just boys trying to be men, with chaos reigning all around them - they still wanted to talk to pretty girls, fall in love, and be happy. The young soldiers must have turned the heads of many a young girl on both sides of the Troubles, with dangerous consequences.

The most wonderful thing about this book is that it is about the power of love. Our characters are living in dangerous times and yet they are willing to risk all to save the people they love - sometimes they are misguided about what is the right way to protect their loved ones, but ultimately, love has the power to overcome barriers and open the eyes of those who have done wrong. Love can bring redemption and forgiveness. Love can find a way to build bridges.

So, this is a story about love and violence...but there is a other thread here that is utterly delicious and will keep you turning the pages until the characters find out the truth about the link between their two families - the truth that will offer them the chance of redemption and forgiveness. You will have to read this book to find out what this is, but I loved the way that the little pieces of the shocking truth dropped throughout the story gradually come together. Superb writing.

Eden Burning is a compelling and emotional tale that uses the turbulent background of the Irish Troubles to tell a story that will draw you in completely. You will develop deep feelings for some of the characters, and wish with your very soul that they can find a way to be together in peace. Interestingly, you will even want the characters who seem utterly lost to all that is good to see the error of their ways and understand that they are actually no different from the people they purport to hate.

I thoroughly enjoyed Eden Burning. Although it was challenging to dwell on the senseless violence described in these pages, love found a way to overcome. It is important to understand that the Troubles were very real and as such, cannot be forgotten. The beauty of such stories is that they teach us how important it is not to repeat the past. Whatever your colour, creed, or political leanings, we are all just human beings after all.

Eden Burning is available now from your favourite book retailer.

From the book cover of Eden Burning:

Catapulting us into 1970s Belfast in the heart of the Troubles, Eden Burning pulses with conflict and introduces us to a cast of characters we profoundly care about, even when they are warring with each other. Above all, though, it is a novel with a true spiritual and emotional heart. --Rachel Connor, bestselling author of Sisterwives

Northern Ireland, 1972. On the Crumlin Road, Belfast, the violent sectarian Troubles have forced Tom Martin to take drastic measures to protect his family. Across the divide William McManus pursues his own particular bloody code, murdering for a cause. Yet both men have underestimated the power of love and an individuals belief in right and wrong, a belief that will shake the lives of both families with a greater impact than any bomb blast. This is a compelling, challenging story of conflict between and within families driven by religion, belief, loyalty and love. In a world deeply riven by division, a world of murders, bomb blasts and assassinations, how can any individual transcend the seemingly inevitable violence of their very existence?

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Logotti Family Series by Leopold Borstinski

Read The Heist: Book One of the Lagotti Family Series September 2019. The Lagotti Family Box Set published June 2019 in paperback and ebook formats by Sobriety Press.

Fresh out of jail, Frank Lagotti Jnr is looking for a way to get rich quick and escape all his worldly troubles, and he has just the people in mind to help him.

Frank's big idea is to rob a bank and he soon gathers the men he needs. His girlfriend Mary Lou is also central to the plan, as she is the ideal one to use her ample charms to get on the good side of Carter Reinfeldt, one of the bank's employees - and Carter falls hook-line-and-sinker, allowing the gang all the information they need for the job.

You would think all would be going swimmingly, with an inside man, a skilled group of compatriots, and the backing they need from Frank Jr's mobster uncle, Frank Lagotti Snr, but trouble lies ahead.

It is not long before the gang members are all plotting to kill each other; Frank Jnr has a score to settle with Frank Snr; Frank Snr has a plot of his own; and Mary Lou does not know where her allegiance lies now she finds herself attracted to the reliable Carter, who it turns out is planning to rob the bank too!

This is not going to be such an easy job after all...


The Heist is book one of the four part Lagotti Family Series, which tells the story of two generations and four decades in the lives of Frank, Mary Lou and the rest of the gang.

The action gets going straight off the mark and it is soon clear that trouble lies ahead, when the gang members rub each other up the wrong way.

Leopold Borstinski introduces us to the different characters in an explosion of diverse storylines, but the separate threads soon begin to weave together in a way that lets you know there is going to be a bloody reckoning sooner or later. As rivalries, petty jealousies and downright hatred breed between the characters, they are pretty soon either planning the demise of each other, or looking for a way out once the money is in their hands. This lends the story the air of a darkly comic farce, where you are party to all their evil schemes, while on the surface they are calmly biding their time and looking forward to the bank job as an apparently stable team, and I found this rather interesting.

My one issue with the book was the amount of sex. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a bit of sex in a book - the characters in this book are all motivated by sex and greed, and it is interesting to see how their obsessions influence their behaviour. However, there is so much of it here that the sex gets in the way of the story and the gratuitous fumblings, fingerings and squirtings did little to advance the plot. I was here for the mob story and did not really care about how the characters got their all too frequent sexual kicks, although I think Leopold Borstinski was probably trying to convey that our less than intellectual cast of characters were looking for a way to pass the time. I found myself skipping over the rude bits just to find out what was going to happen next and less would most certainly have been more.

Looking past the sex, if you can, there is an engaging mob story fighting to get out and I became intrigued by how this would play out. The Heist forms a solid foundation for the other books, and book two, The Getaway, runs seamlessly on from the ending of book one - although I have not ventured far into the second installment. As predicted, things did not turn out as Frank expected and there are still plenty of trials and tribulations ahead for him and the gang -  there is also an interesting development in the form of a snippet of  Mary Lou's backstory right at the beginning, which is a bit of a shocker to say the least.

If you like a mob story, with an interesting cast of complex characters, and you are not squeamish about graphic sex, then The Heist offers an intriguing introduction to the world of the Lagotti family and tempts you to read more about the exploits of Frank and the gang.

Thank you to Leopold Bortinski, Sobriety Press and Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for providing me with a copy of The Lagotti Family Box Set in return for an honest review.

The Heist is available as part of the great value Lagotti Family Box Set:

Purchase Links:

From the book cover of the first book in the series, The Heist:

One jailbird. One bank. One heap of trouble.

After leaving Baltimore Penitentiary, Frank's get rich quick scheme to rob a bank requires his girlfriend, Mary Lou to sleep with an inside guy and for his gang to stay together long enough to take down the vault. Meanwhile Mary Lou falls for the inside man and can’t decide whether to go with him or Frank. If she chooses the wrong fella she’ll be penniless and wind up dead.

How would you choose between a fool and a dreamer?

From the book cover of the second book in the series The Getaway:

After ex-con Frank and his girlfriend Mary Lou rob a Baltimore Bank, they must flee 
across country before the Feds find them and the mob ices them for stealing from an organized crime boss. As they dash to California, trust becomes the most important currency as Frank and Mary Lou grapple to decide whether love is enough to keep them together. And by the time they reach their goal, they must fight to the death to survive hired guns and trained police shooters. If they don’t kill everyone in their way then they will die themselves. Would you risk everything for a sack of greenbacks?

From the book cover
of the third book in the series Powder:

When Mary Lou takes the proceeds from a bank robbery to start up her heroin dealing business, old enemies circle overhead and threaten the lives of her twins. How will she keep them safe in such a dangerous place and what is she prepared to do to secure her new venture?

From the book cover of the final book in the series Mama's Gone:

When Mary Lou makes some bad decisions, her twins and her husband must decide whether she’s losing her mind. If they can get that cleared up then all they have to worry about is their feud with the Russian mob. And then someone goes and ices the old lady. 
Who would have the cajones to murder the head of the Lagotti family?

About the author:

Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

See more about Leopold Bortinski here:
Author's Amazon Page

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Wanted Man (Ben Bracken Book One) by Rob Parker

Read September 2019. Published May 2017 by Endeavour Media.

Ex-soldier Ben Bracken, set-up and fed up, has engineered a break-out from Strangeways Prison and is now looking to settle the score with the London gangland boss that put him behind bars - Terry "The Turn-Up" Masters. He even has an insurance policy that will keep the eyes of the prison authorities elsewhere, while he does the job - if he can keep it safe.

Reconnecting with a young friend from his past, Jack Brooker, who has held Ben's money for him for the two years he has been in prison, it soon becomes clear that Jack is in a spot of bother. Jack's father was part of a nasty criminal gang based in Manchester, called the berg, and he has been the victim of an apparent gangland revenge killing. Jack is desperate to find the killer and extract some vengeance for his father and Ben's sense of duty means that he cannot let him do it alone - and his military training means he has just the right set of skills too.

As Jack's protector, Ben is drawn into the upper echelons of the berg and earns the admiration of the men at the very top - Felix Davison and his son Michael - who seem keen to aid him in the search for Jack's father's killer. They are so impressed by Ben's resourcefulness that Felix even offers him the chance to take Jack's father's place at the table, and he is forced to play along, eventhough he longs to take them all out - especially once he discovers that the full-scale of their operations make them just like his old nemesis Terry Masters.

But once Ben starts to look closely at the events surrounding the murder of Jack's father, he discovers that things are not quite as Felix and Michael have claimed. There is something else going on here and Ben does not like what he uncovers. Jack is in danger and Ben must find a way to save him from being a victim of the same fate as his father.

But can Ben also take down the berg at the same time?


I was recently honoured to be part of the blog tour for the third cracking installment of the Ben Bracken books, The Penny Black, which I enjoyed enormously. See my review here: The Penny Black (Ben Bracken Book Three) by Rob Parker

It often happens, when you take part on blog tours, that you come upon a book series part way through, and you may not have read the books that have gone before. As a stickler for normally reading books in order, I always try to go back and read the previous books too, to fill in the back-story, though I must admit I do not always get around to this as my tbr pile is pretty enormous.

However, having galloped through the glorious The Penny Black, and I knew straight off that I would be absorbing Ben Bracken's back-story as soon as possible - so here I am, book one A Wanted Man down, and book two, Morte Point, to be consumed very, very soon.

What can I say, Mr Parker? I absolutely loved it!

Ben Bracken's first adventure starts with a prison escape and ends with an almighty ding-dong of a climax that left me rubbing my hands with glee. I particularly loved the way that Bracken's past is revealed slowly, over the course of the book, which I must admit I was not expecting. When you start reading, it is almost like you have missed a previous book (and I did actually double-check that  was reading the first and not the second book, by mistake), but by the time you get to the thrilling end of A Wanted Man, you are definitely up to speed with the events that have made Bracken the way he is - a man who was keen to do his utmost to serve Queen and Country, but has been treated rather badly along the way. Bracken maintains his sense of duty, and a desire to do right by people that makes him an ideal sort of "Equalizer" - and he is not afraid to take the law into his own hands to achieve his aim.

There are thrills galore as Bracken sets out to try to save his friend Jack and bring down the mighty force of the berg - violent altercations, shootings, explosions, subterfuge and a literally banging ending - what more could you want? Move over James Bond!

No spoliers, but Bracken is a man on a mission and he is not happy with half-measures. The end of A Wanted Man leaves everything nicely set up of Morte Point, and  cannot wait to get started.

Mr Parker, I am very soon going to be in need of the installment that follows on from The Penny Black. I hope you are working you socks off on the next adventure, so I will not have to wait too long!