2015 ~ My 20 Top Reads ~ #reading #books

A tough choice, I’ve read lots a great books this year and, in no particular order (as they say) here are my top 20 reads. They are all rated either 4.5 or 5 stars. Clicking on the cover links to Amazon UK.

ravenschoiceRaven’s Choice ~ The Replacement Chronicles #1 ~ Prehistoric fiction, based on fact

As Mark finds out, many people including himself, carry Neanderthal genes although he’ll never know for sure the exact circumstances that brought about this occurrence. But it signifies that Early Modern Man didn’t take the place of extinct Neanderthals but rather the races mixed and interbred, which is proved by the presence of Neanderthal DNA in present day man. It’s such an interesting approach to how life might have been all those years ago, and even more so because it’s a very credible scenario. 

A wonderfully researched, dramatic and detailed narrative sets the scene for forthcoming instalments of The Replacement Chronicles, which I look forward to following.

Full review      Amazon US

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00014]The Dead Lands ~ post apocalyptic, sci-fi, horror

This is a very well crafted story with perfect pacing, the drama unfolds with consistency to keep the narrative flowing effortlessly. The characters are well-developed and real, Lane especially, but all the personalities are drawn brilliantly, whether you love or loathe them. I think this story covers every eventuality with action, of which there is plenty, greed, deception, horror and sadness. Balancing out the negatives are loyalty, a touch of romance and truthfulness. And the promise of satisfactory karma for the villain of the piece. It’s graphic, gruesome, gritty….and great! 

Full review    Amazon US Continue reading

Blood Money ~ Georgie Connolly Book 5

  • BloodMoneyAuthor: E.L. Lindley
  • Kindle Edition
  • Category: Thriller, Suspense, Crime
  • five-stars

One phone call changes Georgie Connelly’s life forever when her mother reveals a secret that leads to the pair of them heading to London. They’re accompanied by Georgie’s lover James Finn but it soon becomes clear that the situation is more dangerous than any of them could have anticipated and they’re forced to call on their friends for help. Reeling from the shock of discovering that her father may not have been the man she thought he was, Georgie inadvertently finds herself falling foul of the Triad. The more she digs, the uglier the truth becomes but Georgie has invested too much to turn back. Will putting the past to rest help her to see the future more clearly?

James and Georgie are planning a holiday, although James’ suggestion of  camping isn’t quite what Georgie has in mind. Both of them realise they need some quality time together after the traumas of the last year. But fate, in the form of Marilyn, intervenes with some shocking news for Georgie. She has a half-brother, Simon, the result of her father’s affair with his secretary, which broke up her parents’ marriage. And, it seems everyone but Georgie knew about it. Not content with dropping that bolt from the blue, it appears Simon is missing and Marilyn, in her usual high-handed manner, has promised Serena they’ll go to London and help with the search.  Continue reading

False Allegiance

  • FalseAllegianceAuthor: E. L. Lindley
  • Kindle Edition
  • Category: Crime, Suspense, Romance
  • five-stars

When a grieving mother asks Georgie to look into the death of her daughter, she finds herself becoming entangled with a college fraternity and its sister sorority. As she strips away the tradition and elitism, she uncovers a dark core which suggests that the death of the young woman may not have been an accident. Calling upon her friends to help with the investigation, Georgie inadvertently places them in great danger. Rejoin Georgie Connelly in this fourth novel of the series where anything could and usually does happen.

Since the traumatic events of a month previously (A Righteous Path) Georgie is having difficulty shaking off the lethargy plaguing her. James is spending a lot of his time at the office and Danny is in the process of developing his own company and doing quite well. Georgie is feeling at a loss, without direction and in need of a project, something to get her up and back into the world. 

Wanting desperately to escape the house her mother bought, and promptly left Georgie and James to sort out, she tries again to contact her friend and taxi driver, Melvyn.

She didn’t even like the house; it was hideous. All open plan and glass, where Georgie liked walls. It was typical of her mother, to ride roughshod over everybody’s lives, and now, predictably, she was nowhere to be seen.

Georgie has been calling Melvyn and leaving messages for a couple of weeks with no reply and is seriously worried. And with good cause as she soon discovers. Melvin’s lady friend, June, persuaded him she needed money for her sick mother’s specialist care. Now he has lost everything since he remortgaged his house to raise the funds for June. Not quite all is lost, though – Georgie is on the case, determined to find June and hopefully recover some of Melvyn’s money.

Although Georgie and James are living together I’m glad to see not a lot has changed in their world. There’s still plenty of unpredictability in their relationship although I might sense a slight mellowing in Georgie. She is still determined and hasn’t lost her tendency to act before fully assessing the possible outcome of a situation, personal or professional, but she’s as endearing as she is exasperating. Poor James, sometimes he’s not quite sure what hit him. When June shows up at Georgie’s office asking for help Georgie can’t refuse her, regardless of the mixed feelings she stirs up in those closest to her.

The subsequent investigation is fraught with danger, involving attempted murder, marital upset and rich college students whose fraternities and sororities control the campus. An excellent and believable plot plus a great cast of likeable and interesting characters combine to make this a very enjoyable and absorbing read. I like the addition of Martha Chapman and hope she features in future stories. The development of the other members of the cast and their situations is realistic, if sad on some counts. I had to laugh at Marilyn’s attempt at driving and her passengers’ reactions. Looking forward to the next instalment to see how certain situations are, hopefully, resolved.

Book links ~ Amazon UK Amazon US

Author Links ~ Twitter, Blog, LindleyReviews

The Righteous Path (Georgie Connolly #3)

  • TheRighteousPathAuthor: E. L. Lindley
  • Kindle Edition
  • Category: Crime/Thriller/Romance
  • five-stars

In between projects and waiting for James to return from the Gulf, Georgie is excited when her old friend Sean Collins asks her for help in finding a missing girl.

When Sean Collins rescues Georgie from boredom and her uncertainty concerning James, with the promise of an intriguing project, she jumps at the chance of having something other than her precarious romance to occupy her mind. Sean’s suspicions are aroused when a young girl disappears from a religious cult group based on an estate in Ventura. Georgie is intrigued and envisions the seeds of a conceivably major story. She knows it will make a great documentary and loses no time in getting Danny on board. None of them have the least notion of where their investigations will lead and what they will uncover.

Georgie returned to the office  having agreed to meet with Sean’s damsel in distress just as soon as he could set it up. She had to admit she was more than a little bit intrigued. Sean wasn’t the type to make a fuss over nothing and something about this woman’s story had touched a nerve with him. He had remained tight-lipped when she had pressed him for more details, insisting that she wait and hear it directly from the woman herself. He had been ad adamant about one thing, however, if she was interested, there was definitely going to be a story here.

James arrives home two weeks earlier than planned, to Georgie’s surprised pleasure, and finds her about to throw herself into another potentially dangerous situation. It’s not the greatest of homecomings for James, he knows how Georgie dives in without thinking things through and it doesn’t take long for them to come to verbal blows. Georgie and Julie are still circling each other, which isn’t helping James either. Other relationships are suffering in this story too, which allows the characters more realism, given the dynamics between them all. And to top it off Marilyn makes an appearance with a surprising proposition.

Jed Munroe and the menacing religious cult’s activities makes a believable and very realistic storyline. Although charismatic and apparently sincere, Jed is not all he seems. E L Lindley weaves a tense and well thought out plot that gains momentum all the way to the unexpected conclusion.

I think this story is my favourite so far!  Georgie is still as impulsive and hot-headed as ever and her relationship with James just as volatile. There’s never a dull moment with these protagonists, that’s for sure. It was lovely to be re-acquainted with the great cast of characters from the previous books too. 

This passage taken from E. L. Lindley’s bio on Goodreads says exactly what I most enjoy about her writing ~ ‘Lindley writes in a style which is both light-hearted and fun but with serious undertones, often tackling gritty subjects. In all of her novels, the characters reflect her belief in humanity and the fact that the human spirit will always prevail, regardless of the situation.’

My reviews for book #1 and book#2

About the author

ELLindleyE.L. Lindley is an indie writer and general lover of books in all of their forms. She has written numerous contemporary novels, including the Georgie Connelly series as well as standalone novels. When she is not writing, she is devouring the works of other writers and is delighted by how indie publishing has thrown open the world of publishing. She sees it as a win win situation, allowing writers to publish their work, whilst providing readers with a richer and more varied choice.

Lindley has always loved writing but produced her first full length novel, Business As Usual, when she decided to move on from her career as an English teacher. She now supplements her writing by working on a free-lance basis. This also affords her time to travel and she has been fortunate enough to have travelled extensively throughout the world, using her experiences as a source of inspiration for her writing.

She currently resides in Sheffield in the UK but has lived and worked in many places including, London, Oxford, Southampton, Cheltenham and Brighton. She also studied for a couple of years at the University of Arlington in Texas and has consequently made many extended trips to the USA to visit and stay with friends. Her novels reflect this and tend to incorporate both sides of the Atlantic.

E.L. can also be found on Twitter. Click the book cover for Amazon UK, or here for Amazon US

2014 ~ Top Books

There have been so many great books this year, it was a very hard choice but, in no particular order, here are my top 12 reads/listens.

  1. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Alternating between the past and present and telling the story of a family drama. After the death of their father, sisters Meredith and Nina struggle to really get to know their seemingly reserved and cold Russian born mother. As the sisters finally begin to discover their mother’s tragic story the three women can reach out to each other and find the bond that ties them together. My review.
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts sent to Mars and because of a terrible misunderstanding he is left behind. Completely alone and facing certain death, Mark struggles to survive in a totally alien environment. When the people back at NASA discover Mark is still alive the race is on to rescue him before his supplies run out. My review.
  3. Once Dead by Richard Phillips. The first of three prequels that set up the Rho Agenda trilogy. Jack Gregory is the CIA’s top assassin but when an encounter with a notorious criminal goes wrong Jack is left for dead. On his death-bed Jack is revived by a dark entity and has the choice of being a host to the demon or death. A sci-fi thriller with a supernatural twist. My review.
  4. Swan Loch by Randy Mixter. A really lovely, romantic and touching story that traverses time. Swan Loch is a peaceful New England town until a killer strikes. Police Chief Chris Hayward and FBI agent Jake Stanton try to solve a seemingly impossible case and for Chris it becomes very personal. Just when all hope is lost Chris finds the most precious thing in his life. A touch of the paranormal in this mystery thriller. My review.
  5. The Black Hours by Alison Williams. A chilling tale of life during the time of the self-styled Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, as he travels the country seeking out those he believes are in league with Satan. Seventeen year old Alice Pendle finds herself under suspicion in a tale of persecution and superstition. A suspenseful and gripping drama which mixes fact with fiction. My review
  6. Beyond Midnight ~ Asunder by Sarah M Cradit. Part of the paranormal Southern drama series, The House of Crimson and Clover, Asunder finds the Deschanel family reeling with the backlash of shock and horror brought on by the results of a two hundred year old curse. Hope brings them together to face whatever the future may hold. My review.
  7. Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler. A uniquely different concept and delivery with characters that parallel the life and times of Henry VIII and his wives in a modern day setting. Harry Lanchester’s dream of becoming a rock star is shattered with the death of his older brother and as Harry steps up to take the reins of the family business his life takes on an uncanny resemblance to the famous erstwhile King of England. My review.
  8. The Test by John Lansing. Although I’m loving the Jack Bertolino series, this short story is so touching and evocative, with incredibly vivid imagery and beautiful writing that it had to make this list. From the present day Jack Morgan looks back on his teenage years, being a fourteen year old growing up in the Long Island of the 1960s amid the racial tensions of the time and how it affects the rest of his life. My review.
  9. Losing It All by Marsha Cornelius. Frank Barnes, a homeless veteran, is content living on the streets and making the most of the little he has. Chloe Barnes is evicted and left destitute with two small children and finds life in shelters harsh and unforgiving. The two lives are interlinked and brought together in a compelling storyline. My review
  10. Don’t Touch (Null City #2) by Barb Taub. Lette Simoneau inherits a drastic form of the family ‘gift’ or curse as Lette thinks of it. Everything she touches each day turns into something different. Lette’s search for a cure leads her to the conclusion that boundaries are self-imposed  and as such are surmountable. An imaginative and fun story with a likeable protagonist. My review.
  11. Disappearing In Plain Sight by Francis Guenette. A very well crafted novel centred on the very tight knit community of Crater Lake on the shores of Vancouver Island. The characters are all genuine and the way they deal with their feelings and situations is very believable and show the complex layers which make up human nature. My review.
  12. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby. Book three of the Wyattsville series is set at the end of the Second World War as Benjamin Church returns to Alabama. A powerful and moving tale of the prejudices and intolerance of the time, showing the good and bad sides of human nature regardless of skin colour. My review.

And my top 5 series.

  1. Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. This is a supernatural urban fantasy series which really caught my imagination with a very unlikely hero – or anti-hero would probably best describe James Stark, half angel, half human. Stark’s return from 11 years in hell, bent on revenge is a sharp, hilarious and sardonic tale. MacLeod Andrews portrays Stark and a multitude of diverse characters perfectly. Audiobooks 1-3.5.  Audiobooks 4-6
  2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. An Urban Fantasy series featuring Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, who lives in Arizona and runs an occult bookstore. Atticus draws his power from the earth through the Druidic tattoos on his arms. He is able to shape shift and enjoys hunting with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. A fun series full of myths, legends, gods, goddess, witches and demons. Superb performance by Luke Daniels, with distinct voices for each character. My reviews 1-3, 4-6, 7
  3. The Project Eden Series by Brett Battles. This is a really compelling storyline. As Daniel Ash’s world crashes down around him he’s catapulted into a nightmare scenario. He can’t comprehend the fact that what happened is no accident. And there is worse, much worse to come as a deadly organisation plots the end of humanity as we know it. MacLeod Andrews delivers a flawless narration. My reviews.
  4. The Georgie Connolly Series by E.L. Lindley. Georgie Connolly is a transplanted English woman living and working in Los Angeles. Feisty and very often landing herself in hot water, Georgie acts on the spur of the moment, without thinking things through.  A change from the norm, Georgie is not connected to law enforcement but makes documentaries, no matter how serious the subject. A fun and easy series but with dangerous undertones. My reviews #1 #2
  5. The Black Series by Russell Blake. Artemus Black is a Hollywood P.I. Down on his luck, with money problems, anger issues and an assistant who ridicules him endlessly and a fat cat that hates him. Life couldn’t get much worse. A great characterisation of an easy to like protagonist with a cast of memorable, humorous characters and excellent and witty story lines. My reviews #1, #2, #3, #4

 

The Ties That Bind (Georgie Connolly #2)

  • TheTiesThatBindAuthor: E.L. Lindley
  • Kindle Edition
  • Crime/Mystery/Thriller
  • four-half-stars

After a harrowing couple of months, Georgie and James Finn prepare to take their relationship to the next level, only to find their plans scuppered by the arrival of Georgie’s estranged mother, Marilyn, who is accused of murdering her husband. Suddenly Georgie has to deal with issues that resonate back to her troubled childhood. 

Georgie Connolly is back. And although she may have been under the impression she and James Finn could spend quality time together after the traumas of recent weeks and their entanglement in the seedy world of a Russian gangster, a phone call from Los Angeles Defence Attorney, Leonard Spalding puts their plans on hold. Georgie’s mother, who abandoned her when she was six, has been charged with the murder of her husband. Bail has been set and Marilyn is now, much to Georgie’s discomfiture, released into her custody. Georgie hasn’t seen her mother for ten years and initially Marilyn’s self centred attitude clearly shows why mother and daughter are not close and explains Georgie’s reluctance to let go of her deep-rooted feelings of hurt and abandonment.

As James listened intently the attorney explained the situation and it wasn’t good. Georgie’s mother had married a man called Charles Beck, seven months ago and had actually been residing in Beverley Hills. He was left reeling by the idea that all this time Georgie had no idea that her mother was living here, in LA.  He could have quite happily strangle the woman on Georgie’s behalf.

James and Julie Sellars have become partners in a private investigation and security business and have decided to take on Marilyn’s case. James has serious doubts about the validity of the accusation levelled against Marilyn after speaking to Detective Sean Collins, his and Georgie’s very good friend and newly promoted Lieutenant in the Hollywood division. As James and Julie’s investigation deepens the case becomes ever more involved.

Callie Delaney, Georgie’s best friend, has offered to have Marilyn to stay at her house, much to her husband Eric’s chagrin. Georgie, on the other hand, is grateful and guilty in equal measure. She decides to put her time and effort into research for the job at hand. Little does she know this, along with her mother’s situation, will lead her into peril from the world of gang culture with its appalling and sordid crimes.

I’m really enjoying this series and the way the books are written, with serious and sometimes deadly implications as well as a light-hearted and humorous slant. Thank goodness Georgie and James’ unpredictable relationship gains ground eventually, with both ready to admit their feelings although even then, nothing goes smoothly. They’re each too good at disrupting the balance and it doesn’t help that James is struggling with life after the Marines and Georgie is focusing more on making her documentary about the public schools system. 

E.L. Lindley has created a great cast of likeable and realistic characters. Georgie is fortunate in her supportive network of friends and I love that she has her own personal friendly cab driver. Georgie is still as impulsive and liable to put herself in dangerous situations however, and this instance is no exception. 

Business As Usual (The Georgie Connolly Stories, Book 1)

  • BusinessAsUsualAuthor: E.L. Lindley
  • Kindle Edition
  • Category: Crime, Mystery, Romance
  • four-stars

Rosie's Book Review Challengers 1

 

A thrilling crime novel, introducing Georgie Connelly a feisty protagonist along with a cast of loyal and likeable characters who surround her. If you enjoy novels that have heart and humour why not give it a try.

Many thanks to E.L. Lindley for sending me a copy as part of Rosie Amber’s book review team.

As we meet former teacher, now a Los Angeles based documentary film maker, Georgie Connolly, she is about to start a stint of community service. Due to an embarrassing mix up she was convicted of driving under the influence. Her penance is to teach media studies to decidedly uncooperative students one day a week. Georgie is a volatile character, with an explosive temper, and sometimes (a lot of the time actually) acts before thinking things through properly, landing her, and sometimes the people around her, in precarious situations. But underlying her irritability and tendency to jump in with both feet, she has a good and caring heart and is quite sensitive. 

James Finn, an ex Marine, is hired, albeit reluctantly on James’ part, by his friend, Eric, who is also Georgie’s boss and her best friend’s husband, to protect Georgie from a white supremacist, out for revenge and sending death threats. Georgie exposed the group in a previous documentary and as Georgie bounces from disaster to disaster James is in turn infuriated with her and trying to deny the spark of attraction growing between them.

“Stay there,” he ordered, disconnecting the call. He didn’t need to tell Georgie that he would be there as fast as humanly possible. More and more, she was coming to rely upon James’ strength and his innate sense of always knowing what to do and, for the second time that day, she had an uneasy feeling, wondering what her life would be like once he had moved on. 

When one of Georgie’s students goes missing, Georgie’s attention is drawn to Maxim Petrov, a questionable Russian and suspected abductor, with ties to ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ and the seedier side of life. Not one to let an opportunity pass her by, Georgie decides to investigate Petrov by making him her next documentary subject, not realising just how dangerous and corrupt he is until it’s too late. 

I like the twist of Georgie making documentaries instead of being connected to law enforcement. The cast of characters surrounding Georgie are all interesting, real and easy to identify with. The relationship between Georgie and James had me wanting to knock some sense into them both at times though.

This is a fun and entertaining read, even though there are darker aspects and menacing connotations involving corruption, prostitution and trafficking, both in drugs and girls. This adds to the drama, and the action and suspense is kept on the boil throughout. The story flows, and is paced well. I look forward to following more of Georgie’s adventures.

Guest Post from author E.L. Lindley ~ Are Libraries Relevant in 2014?

I’m very pleased to share E.L. Lindley’s perceptive reflections on libraries past and present. Over to you, E.L. and thank you very much for taking the time to write this post…..

I’m guessing that for most of us who are avid readers and writers, libraries have played a significant part in our lives. I know, for me, libraries were a massive part of my childhood and student years as both a treasure trove, filled to the brim with wonderful finds and a place of quiet sanctuary in which to study. The idea then that, due to government cuts in funding libraries are being shut down in increasing numbers, fills me with a sense of outrage. Is it a situation more complex than it first appears however?

I suppose even though I was born in 1962, I consider myself a child of the 70s. It was the 70s, after all, when I was old enough to have my first taste of independence and one of the places I liked to visit was the local library. Ironically, during the late 70s and early 80s the economy wasn’t booming but, during that particular economic recession, the arts seem to flourish rather than be sacrificed at the altar of tightening our belts. Libraries were thriving and often the central focus of communities.

During my childhood, books were seen as something of a luxury and, although we would be given them as gifts for birthdays and Christmas, most of what I read came via the library. Given that it wasn’t unusual for me to get through a couple of books a week; I spent a lot of time haunting those big wooden shelves. I discovered a wide range of beloved authors who I wouldn’t have otherwise read from John Steinbeck to Alice Hoffman and everything in between. Later on, as I revised for O-levels and A-levels, I would raid the archives for past papers and, in that beautiful silence, put myself through my academic paces.

Libraries then, for me, have always represented places of peace and quiet. I have to confess, however, over the years I visited them less and less. Once I started work and became financially independent, I began to buy books rather than borrow them and, having my own home, meant I no longer needed a bolthole from a noisy family or irritating housemates. The arrival of the Internet seemed to be the final nail in the coffin because then I didn’t even need to use the library for research.

Sometimes, over the years, I would venture in for old time’s sake and I’m one of those people who would be scandalised by the way libraries had morphed from the quiet places of my childhood into glorified children’s play areas, complete with bean bags and screeching toddlers. Not to mention the fact that in these modern libraries there were far more computers than books. Libraries, over the years, had changed into something I barely recognised – annexes for job centres and places where young mums meet for coffee while their children play. Although I couldn’t really complain, as an occasional library visitor, I didn’t like it one little bit. I wanted proper, old-fashioned libraries back.

That all changed, however, with the onset of library closures. Hub libraries, which are essentially the large central libraries, were to remain open but smaller community libraries were facing the chop. I suddenly realised that for a lot of people, like the unemployed and young mums, the library might be the last bastion of any sense of community. After all, traditional community centres, catering to all members of the local area from Brownies to pensioners, are long gone so could we really afford to lose libraries as well.

When it became obvious that no amount of protesting was going to persuade the council to ‘leave our libraries alone’, I became one of many volunteers who stepped forward to help run community funded libraries. At the same time, I began asking around to get a sense of other people’s library experiences. Most of my friends, like me hadn’t use libraries for years whilst most kids had never even set foot in one. It became clear that, sad as it may be, libraries as we used to know them are no longer relevant in our modern, technology-based society. The rhetoric coming from the council in the run-up to the library closures was ‘use them or lose them’ and, much as I am loath to admit it, people just didn’t use them.

In the new reality of community run libraries then, what lies ahead? I’m not too sure. I’ve only been a few times so far in my role as volunteer and frankly, once the grand opening day fanfare disappeared, the library where I’m helping out is not well used. Plans are afoot to find ways of getting the community back into the library and, during all of the meetings and surveys that have taken place, the idea of the library as a place of books and reading has not featured high on the agenda. Maybe it’s time for me to let go of my notion of libraries as places of quiet calm and hand the reins over to a new generation to do with them as they will. After all, it is, ‘use them or lose them’.