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Review of

Compass and Blade by Rachel Greenlaw

3.5star.jpg Teens

I can hear the song of the sea. The call of the deep, the answering beat in my heart.

Rosevear, a remote and partially forgotten island, survives on luring ships into the rocks and plundering the wrecks. Mira, like her mother before her, is one of the seven who swim out to survey the ruins – rescuing any survivors and any treasure that lies within. But when the Council Watch lays a trap to end the wrecking, they capture the island's leader and Mira's father. Desperate to save him from death, Mira makes a bargain with a wreck survivor who is as charming as he is secretive and with only coordinates to guide her, she sets off in search of a family secret that lies buried deep in the sea. With only nine days to unearth what might save her father, as her journey takes her from the watched streets of foreign islands to the heart of the smuggler's territory, Mira must be determined to stop at nothing to save the future of her home and the ones she holds most dear. Full Review


Review of

Planet Storyland by James Sherwood Metts

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Things have been a bit sticky for the Earthlings. AI and automation have been proceeding apace, often replacing jobs they're paid to do and other tasks that took time to accomplish. Just as they were beginning to get used to all this technological change and starting to think of other, new ways to spend time, along came an awful pandemic. Life was pretty much shut down and, along with it, all the many daily social interactions on which they depend so heavily. Full Review


Review of

We'll Never Know by Matthew Tree

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Timothy Wyndham wants nothing more than to be different from his father, a drunk and chronic underachiever whose dreams of being exceptional at any of his artistic passions all failed miserably and who had endless crises of self confidence. So Tim applied himself to his studies, cultivated his abilities rather than his daydreams and set himself high but achievable ambitions. Full Review


Review of

The Briar Book of the Dead by A G Slatter

5star.jpg Fantasy

There's a part of me that wants to keep this just to myself for however long I can. This secret magic of my own, all mine, at last. I just want to enjoy it for a while.

Within a remote mountain pass, far away from the world, lies Silverton; a town under the protection of the Briar's, a family of witches who protect the town and the wider world from the Darklands. Though she has always wished for magic, Ellie Briar is the first non-witch to be born into her family for generations and as such since she was young, her training as a steward revolved around letters and administration rather than spells and potions. When her grandmother suddenly dies, Ellie's cousin Audra becomes the Briar Witch, the town's leader, and Ellie takes her place beside her. As challenges come her way left, right and centre, Ellie uncovers the rare ability to communicate with the dead, putting her at the heart of a maelstrom of chaos. Reeling from one family secret to another, Ellie must decide who to trust and determine what to do as the Briar witches' legacy, everything they have sacrificed to survive, is under threat. Full Review


Review of

The Ghost Orchid by Jonathan Kellerman

4star.jpg Crime

It hadn't been Lt Milo Sturgis's fault that Alex Delaware had been badly injured but he felt responsible and even after Alex recovered, Sturgis was reluctant to ask for his help on difficult cases. His assertions that there were only open-and-shut cases which didn't need the help of a psychologist only worked for a while. Finally, it was Robin, Delaware's partner, who nudged Milo into asking for help again. She knew that the involvement was something that the man she loved needed. The next case did look simple, though. Two lovers were murdered in the swimming pool of a remote property in Bel Air. He was the heir to an Italian shoe empire and she is married to an extremely rich man and it's not the Italian. But which of them was the primary target? Full Review


Review of

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag: The Secret Life of a Vet by Sion Rowlands

3.5star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

Siôn Rowlands fell into veterinary science accidentally. His father was a GP and Rowlands didn't want to follow in his footsteps, particularly when he considered the strain that being on-call put on his father's life. When he was seventeen he took the opportunity of doing work experience with a family friend who was a vet and was convinced this was the job for him. Before long, he was at Liverpool University. It hadn't - as with so many students - been his dream since he was a child. If anything, he'd wanted to be a professional footballer. Full Review


Review of

A Nye of Pheasants by Steve Burrows

4star.jpg Crime

DCI Domenic Jejeune's close friend and former colleague, Danny Maik, has taken a short holiday in Singapore to meet up with an old ally, Guy Trueman. Maik was involved in a street brawl - he would later maintain that he was facing a man armed with a knife - and he killed a Ghurka. Initially, he faced a charge of manslaughter but evidence came to light that suggested that he might have planned to murder the man. Now he could be facing the death penalty. Domenic Jejeune can do nothing to help as any interference from another police force could provoke a diplomatic incident and wouldn't help Danny at all. Full Review


Review of

The Perfect Passion Company by Alexander McCall Smith

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

The Perfect Passion Company is a dating agency in Edinburgh, run by Ness and operating as an alternative to all the online apps in providing a more personal, tailored service. Ness has asked her younger cousin Katie if she could come and look after the business, as Ness is planning to take a trip to Canada to get away for a while. Katie is coming out of a break up with a bad boyfriend, and so jumps at the chance to come home to Edinburgh. And so begins this new story from Alexander McCall Smith, bringing us to an Edinburgh we already love, thanks to 44 Scotland Street and the Isabel Dalhousie novels, but with some new characters who quickly begin to charm. Katie has no experience in running a business, or in match-making, but Ness has full confidence in her abilities, and there's always her very helpful (and rather handsome) neighbour, William, to lend a hand… Full Review


Review of

InstaKnits for Baby by Melissa Leapman

4star.jpg Crafts

Melissa Leapman's InstaKnits for Baby gives us a collection of knits from toys to blankets. Some will be quick knits - others are of the 'long, cosy afternoons in front of the fire' variety. The projects are divided by the time they'll take to complete - less than five hours, five to ten hours, ten to twenty hours and more than twenty hours. All the projects are attractive, modern and useable. I perhaps show my age when I wonder about 'social-media-worthy projects' but that's me being picky. Full Review


Review of

The Bad Weather Friend by Dean Koontz

4.5star.jpg Paranormal

Benny is having a terrifically bad day. He loses his job, he loses his fiancee, and his house gets trashed. Oh, and someone has delivered a really weird, disturbing coffin-sized object to his home, and it's possible that whoever or whatever was inside is the thing that has trashed his house! The thing is, Benny is the very last person to deserve all this bad luck. He is a nice person. A really nice person. So fortunately for Benny it turns out that the delivery to his house is a new friend, a bad weather friend called Spike, who has been sent to help him since Benny is clearly under attack from nefarious forces for being a good person. Spike is going to take care of Benny, and will certainly take care of Benny's enemies, if he, Benny, and Harper (a waitress slash Private Investigator who finds herself roped into Benny's wild adventure) can figure out who exactly they are. Full Review


Review of

Murray and Bun by Adam Stower

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Murray is supposed to be a humble, tidy and friendly cat, one who is able to sleep and eat and eat and sleep and, well, whatever takes his fancy next of the two. But he's a bad magician's cat, so his favourite bun has been turned into a hyperactive sticky rabbit called Bun, and the catflap they both use can chuck them out, not into the regular back garden, but into a world of frightening adventure and whiffs. This time round it drops them into a Viking land, where a troll hunter is expected – well, one much bigger than Murray was, to be honest, but he's turned up and he'll have to do… Full Review


Review of

Fragility by Mosby Woods

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Can you make a Yo birthing person joke? And if you could, is the question should you make it? Or is the question if you did, would it land? The catch is that the answer for both could well be.... no.

Fragility is set as the city of Portland, Oregon, cautiously begins to emerge from the restrictions imposed during the covid pandemic Full Review


Review of

The Winter Visitor by James Henry

4star.jpg Crime

It's February 1991 and Essex is bitingly cold, which made Bruce Hopkins' return all the more surprising. He'd been exiled on the Costa del Sol as a wanted drug smuggler for a decade. The return has come about because he's had a letter from his ex-wife, saying that she's ill and hasn't long to live. It's hard to feel any sympathy when Hopkins is abducted, stripped to his underwear and sent to a watery grave in the boot of a stolen Ford Sierra. Is it a warning from a Spanish gang or a problem closer to home? Full Review


Review of

The Glorious Race of Magical Beasts by Alex Bell and Tim McDonagh

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Eli is a busy lad – by day an apprentice in the wondrous library we start by visiting with him, and in the evening a helper at the dessert cafe his gran owns and runs. Eli lives with his lovely gran, too – for there is a generation missing in the family. A few short years ago, Eli's parents were both lost to the titular race, a globe-trotting adventure where all entrants have to navigate the world in the company of a magical beast. This has made the race anathema to the pair – but when a bad incident at the eatery leads to a confession from gran, Eli knows his only hope is to dare to enter what he most hates, with the sole aim the prize of magic at the end – the only thing to possibly save his gran. Full Review


Review of

Knife Skills for Beginners by Orlando Murrin

4star.jpg Crime

Chef Paul Delamare took a teaching job at a residential cookery school in Belgravia. He didn't really want to but celebrity chef Christian Wagner had a way of getting both men and women to do what he wanted. Paul somehow got the impression that he'd be at the school to assist Paul, who had a broken arm, but it didn't turn out that way. The teaching - and the problems - are all his own. The one thing he hadn't expected was for someone to turn up dead. Unfortunately, he was the person who discovered the body and everyone knows that the police consider that person to be the prime suspect. Full Review


Review of

A Sign of Her Own by Sarah Marsh

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

After a bout of scarlet fever as a child, Ellen Lark loses her hearing. Suddenly plunged into a world of silence, everything about her life changes. Living in a time when the use of sign language was seen as something only savages do, Ellen is sent to a school where she is taught to lip read, but physically restrained from signing. From here, she ends up in another school studying under Alexander Graham Bell who has been teaching the deaf and using a system called Visible Speech. At the same time, Bell is working on other inventions and ideas, and Ellen finds herself unwittingly caught up in a complicated tangle of espionage. Full Review


Review of

The Unravelling by Will Gibson

4star.jpg Science Fiction

It's 2038 and Joe is a bored cop policing the wealthy and peaceful New York City. Joe longs for a bit of adventure and to get stuck into some really gritty crime detection. But then something goes horribly wrong with the AI system that now runs everything, making life easier for many, and riots start to spread. Finally, Joe gets to do some real policing. In the aftermath of the rioting global pop star Suki is kidnapped and Joe is assigned to bring her home. Joe isn't the only one trying to save Suki - Dylan, a British superfan and tech nerd, is also on the case. What went wrong? Did the system fail or was it hacked? And how is Suki's kidnapping connected? Full Review


Review of

Laying Out the Bones by Kate Webb

4.5star.jpg Crime

It was one of those flash downpours that the British weather often delivers in a heatwave. In a gully, a human skeleton came to the surface and forensic testing proved the body to be Lee Geary, who had disappeared nine years earlier. He'd been a known drug user and had learning disabilities, so it could have been a simple case of misadventure but DI Matt Lockyer wasn't convinced. Geary was a townie, so what was he doing out on Salisbury Plain alone? There are connections to the suicide of Holly Gilbert and to two other deaths which were not considered suspicious at the time. Lockyer and DC Gemma Broad of the Major Crimes Review Unit (that's cold cases to you and me) investigate. Full Review


Review of

The House of Broken Bricks by Fiona Williams

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The House of Broken Bricks is the story of four people. Tess Hembry's roots are in Jamaica: temperamentally she might be happier there, but instead, she lives in the house on the riverbank, built of broken bricks. Insubstantial as it might look, it's stood the passage of time, storms and floods. Her husband, Richard, struggles to grow his vegetables, to complete the delivery rounds - and to bring in sufficient money. They have twin boys - Sonny and Max, the rainbow twins. Sonny's colouring reflects his mother's Jamaican heritage. Max takes after his father. People don't believe that they're related, much less twins and there's an assumption when Max is out with his mother that she's his nanny. Full Review


Review of

Lost and Never Found (A D I Wilkins Mystery) by Simon Mason

4.5star.jpg Crime

In Oxford, there are two D I Wilkins. Raymond Wilkins is of Nigerian descent, Balliol educated and always exquisitely dressed. D I Ryan Wilkins, son of Ryan and father of Ryan, is not. He's not any of those things. He's white, originated from a trailer park, barely educated (reading's not really his thing) and his wardrobe consists mainly of shell suits and trackies. They're usually in lime green or acid yellow. You might wonder if you're being introduced to a police procedural written for laughs. Well, you're not. The two men are just different sides of the same policing coin. Sometimes the combination works brilliantly well. Sometimes it's problematic. Full Review


Review of

A Whirly Man Loses His Turn by Mosby Woods

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

The West isn't the dominant force it once was. Nobody in the West is quite sure how to mend this or even if mending it is the best course of action. Governments are flailing. A war here, a push for climate action there. A feeling that nobody is in actual charge. Imagine then, there was a man with precognition. Imagine the strategic advantage in this asset; a man who can tell you what will happen given any set of circumstances. That man would be valuable, right? Perhaps the most valuable asset in history. Imagine then, that this man loses this ability. What would governments do to get it back? Full Review


Review of

Local by Alastair Humphreys

5star.jpg Travel

Alastair Humphreys has walked and cycled all over the world. And then written about it. For this book he walked and cycled very close to home and then wrote about it. As he says in his introduction, the book is an attempt to share what I have learnt about some big issues from a year exploring a small map. Nature loss, pollution, land use and access, agriculture, the food system, rewilding… One of the joys of the book for me was that the biggest thing he learned about all of these things was that there are no easy answers, no single 'right or wrong', that every upside is likely to have a downside for somebody and that there are some hard choices ahead. Full Review


Review of

The Teacher Who Knew Too Much by Rob Keeley

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Seventeen banks and a jeweller’s have been raided. The police are baffled, but only Ben knows the truth – his Maths teacher, Miss Judson, is really a safecracker! With police and her gangster boyfriend Al on their trail, Miss Judson and Ben go on the run. But Al needs them for one last job...

Goodness me, that Miss Judson is a terror! How on earth did a nice teacher like her manage to get mixed up with a bad 'un like Al? We'll find out. Luckily for Miss Judson, the pupil who discovers her terrible secret is Ben, the son of a famous magician who has ambitions to be as good as his father some day, and who thinks Miss Judson is worth saving Full Review


Review of

Verdura: Living a Garden Life by Perla Sofia Curbelo-Santiago

3.5star.jpg Lifestyle

The most important part of a garden is the one who enjoys it.

I've 'gardened' in a vague, indefinite sort of way for more than half a century. I know (most of) the basics but life has changed and I needed 'projects' rather than a general commitment to gardening. Verdura with its promise of projects for both indoors and outdoors of varying complexity seemed like the answer. So, how did it stack up? Full Review


Review of

Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Ronan's not entirely sure why he decides to go to the party but his interest is piqued by the way it arrived. And it seems like a good opportunity to get out of his room and away from the online activities he makes a living at. So he makes his way there, dodging the buses that make up most of the traffic and watching the local energy storage indicator lights. Should be enough power. Hopefully. Full Review


Review of

Sugarless by Nicole M Avena

5star.jpg Lifestyle

This isn't a diet book. The last thing anyone needs is another diet book.

There was a time, not that long ago, when it was thought that sugary food was better for you than food with high-fat content. Fat was the demon food which was going to elevate your cholesterol and cause heart disease. Sugar was a carbohydrate, so good. There's a problem, though. Sugar is addictive and can hijack your brain in much the same way as drugs like heroin and cocaine. Does that sound over the top? Well, it isn't. Full Review


Review of

They Had It Coming (Greg Mason mysteries) by Keith Redfern

4star.jpg Crime

Greg Mason's just beginning to get his confidence as an investigator to the point where he'll warn someone about how much he charges. It's a good job too because Greg and Joyce will soon have a baby and they're both delighted. Joyce will be more delighted about the baby when she gets past the morning sickness. Greg is approached by an old friend whose brother-in-law appears to have killed himself. Stuart's concerned about his sister, Lucy, who's struggling to make ends meet and her son is not thriving. Lucy, he says, is convinced that Gil would never have killed himself - it simply wasn't in his nature. The police and the coroner have accepted that the death was suicide, but Stuart's prepared to pay Greg to find out what happened on the night Gil died. Full Review


Review of

Responsibilities (Greg Mason mysteries) by Ann Macarthur

4star.jpg Crime

It's the 1990s and Greg Mason's twenty-eight years old. He used to have a high-flying job in the city but it wasn't satisfying so he's now set himself up as a private investigator. 'Shades of Cameron Strike', you might be thinking. Nice bloke, but where's the life experience that backs up this profession? On the other hand, he has been asked to look into something. Joyce and Helen are half-sisters, or rather, they were until Helen was killed in what's been written off as a tragic accident at an unmanned level crossing. Joyce - and her parents, Oliver and Pam Hetherington - can't understand what she was doing there - or how she could come to fall in front of a train. Greg's been asked to investigate. Full Review


Review of

A True Account by Katherine Howe

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Hannah Masury is living in Boston, having been sent to live with a family who run an inn, and being made to work there from a young age. When she hears there is to be a hanging of some pirates in the town, she decides to go and watch. Enthralled and horrified in equal measure, Hannah finds herself embroiled in a young boy's death at the hands of two vicious pirates. She hides away, so that they don't find and kill her too, and then to escape them completely she runs away to sea, dressing as a boy and joining the notorious Ned Low's pirate ship as a cabin boy. She soon finds herself in the thick of things when there is a mutiny on board, and from there we are caught up in her rip roaring tale of life on the ocean waves. Full Review