Friday 31 August 2018

Book Review: The Artisan Heart by Dean Mayes

Title: The Artisan Heart
Author: Dean Mayes 
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Publication Date: 1st September 2018
Format Read: EBook
Source: Uncorrected copy from publisher via Netgalley.

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia's southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.

After disciplinary action at work and his marriage falling apart Hayden feels his life is spiralling out of control. He needed time to think and contemplate his future. With no family and no real friends in Adelaide he decides to return to his home town of Walhalla, in country Victoria. When he returns to the town of his youth, and the dilapidated house of his deceased parents, he is welcomed back with open arms.

Soon after Hayden arrives home he meets Isabelle (Belle) who is also starting over in Walhalla. Hayden and Belle have history and the memories aren’t pleasant. However in a small town it’s very hard to avoid each other.

At the beginning of the story you may think Hayden is a bit wishy washy. Belittled by his charismatic and powerful wife; he is reserved and downtrodden coming across as awkward and aloof. Don’t let this deter you. Hayden does grow and gain self confidence. However, the confidence he lacks in love does not carry over to his professional life. He is an excellent doctor well revered by his peers.

This is a sweet romance story of two broken people finding each other and falling in love.

Mayes touches on the societal issue of child abuse with the introduction of Genevieve a 7 year old deaf child. Placing a child as one of the main characters can be quite tricky however was well executed with Genevieve never pushed to the background or forgotten.

I especially loved Mayes’ depiction of life in the small rural town. The descriptions of the town, from the local cafe to the pub, are welcoming and warm. It’s easy to fall in love with this beautiful town and its friendly, unpretentious people.

I liked how Mayes weaved the word ‘artisan’ throughout the story making it more than a title; it became the essence of the story.

The Artisan Heart is as much a story of the town and its people, banding together in a time of need, as it is about Hayden and his finding himself, reconciling with his past and embracing his future.

I read an advanced reader copy of Mayes' novel The Recipient, an intense thriller centred around a heart transplant patient, and I loved it. It was filled with mystery suspense and drama. Could Mayes go from writing a gripping thriller to a romance? I have to be honest and say I had my doubts; but he did it! The story was perfect with well crafted characters and real emotion, drama and suspense.

I have no doubt you will fall in love with Walhalla and its residents. It was hard to say goodbye to them by the end of the story.

Mayes is fast becoming one of my favourite Australian authors and I do hope he continues with the Contemporary Romance genre.

*I received an uncorrected review copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

Content: Swearing – not enough to even warrant a mention
                A couple of sex scenes
                Minimal violence
                Mentions of child accidents in A & E

My Rating 5/5        🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

This review is part of the Book Lover Book Reviews Aussie author challenge

Booktastic Link it up Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Jo Linsdell where book bloggers can link up their latest book related post.

photo courtesy of Goodreads

 When he emerged in 2010, Adelaide based Intensive Care Nurse and author Dean Mayes, had almost given up on the prospect of ever being published. By then in his 30's with several abortive writing attempts under his belt, Dean believed he had missed his opportunity. But Dean had an idea for one last story he wanted to tell and, rather than allow it to wither and die in his imagination, he decided to blog it instead.

Quite unexpectedly, Dean's blog took off and after a chance encounter with Canadian based publisher Central Avenue in mid 2009, Dean's dream like tale about a young man who discovers he has taken on the memories and dreams of a complete stranger, became his first novel. Dean was signed to an initial two year contract and in 2010 "The Hambledown Dream" was published. The novel has since gone on to receive global attention and critical acclaim.

Dean set about penning a follow up novel that was not merely a repeat performance and in 2012 "Gifts of the Peramangk" a powerful Australian family saga. Chronicling a dysfunctional Aboriginal family in the struggle streets of Adelaide's suburban fringe, "Gifts of the Peramangk" has been described as significant literary achievement. In October 2013, it was nominated as a finalist in the prestigious EPIC Awards for contemporary fiction.

Dean's third feature length novel, a psychological thriller set in Melbourne called "The Recipient", showcased his ability to cross genres and deliver a taut and gripping tome about a heart transplant patient who discovers her organ donor was a murder victim - and that the murder remains unsolved.

He lives in Adelaide, Australia with his partner Emily, their two children Xavier and Lucy. An Intensive Care Nurse with over 15 years of clinical experience in adult, paediatric and neonatal medicine, he can often be found lying on a hospital gurney at 3 in the morning with a notebook in hand, madly scribbling ideas while on his break.

Dean is represented by Michelle Halket and is published by Central Avenue Publishing of Vancouver, Canada.


Saturday 25 August 2018

Book Review: Old Friends and New Enemies (Charlie Cameron #2) by Owen Mullen

Title: Old Friends and New Enemies
Author: Owen Mullen
Series: Charlie Cameron #2
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 31st January 2016
Pages: 338 
Format Read: EBook
Source: electronic copy courtesy of author 

 The body on the mortuary slab wasn’t who Glasgow PI Charlie Cameron was looking for.
But it wasn’t a stranger.
Suddenly, a routine missing persons investigation becomes a fight for survival. As Charlie is dragged deeper into Glasgow’s underbelly he goes up against notorious gangster Jimmy Rafferty and discovers what fear really is.
Rafferty is so ruthless even his own sons are terrified of him.
Now he wants Charlie to find something. And Jimmy Rafferty always gets what he wants.
There is only one problem... Charlie doesn’t know where it is.

Old Friends and New Enemies is book 2 in the PI Charlie Cameron series.
Charlie has been approached by Cecilia McNeil to track down her husband who has disappeared after the death of their son. When an unidentified body turns up at the morgue he thinks his job is done. However the body is not that of the missing husband but an old friend of Charlie’s, Ian Selkirk. How did Ian end up in the morgue and where is Fiona? Ian and Fiona were inseparable. While Charlie takes finding out what happened to Ian as his own personal case he will put himself in grave danger, be double crossed and reunite with the love of his life.

Mullen has written another gritty, brutal and unforgiving Scottish noir crime thriller. I always enjoy Mullen’s writing style.

Plenty of old friends from book 1, Jackie from the NYB cafe, DC Andrew Geddes and Charlie’s offsider, Pat Logue, make an appearance in this book with a few new enemies, in the cut-throat Rafferty clan, making Charlie’s life hell.

In this book I found Cameron rather self indulgent and lacking motivation. I think I prefer his cases to be a little less personal.

Old Friends and New Enemies has a gritty plot with some unpredictable twists and a good dose of Glaswegian humour. Well worth a read.

*My thanks to the author for my copy to read

Content: descriptive torture scene
                 mild sex scene
                 minimal coarse language

My rating 4/5                     🌟🌟🌟🌟 

photo courtesy of Twitter
Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist.
And So It Began earned a coveted Sunday Times Crime Club ⭐Star Pick.

Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His great love for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where the Charlie Cameron and Delaney series', and soon to be released psychological thriller were created.


Wednesday 22 August 2018

Book Review: Wild Fire (Shetland #8) by Ann Cleeves

Title: Wild Fire
Author: Ann Cleeves
Series: Shetland Series #8
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
Publication date: 31st July  2018
Pages: 416
Format Read: Paperback
Source: courtesy of publisher

 Shetland: Welcoming. Wild. Remote.
Drawn in by the reputation of the islands, an English family move to the area, eager to give their autistic son a better life.
But when a young nanny’s body is found hanging in the barn of their home, rumours of her affair with the husband begin to spread like wild fire.
With suspicion raining down on the family, DI Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate, knowing that it will mean the return to the islands of his on-off lover and boss Willow Reeves, who will run the case.
Perez is facing the most disturbing investigation of his career. Is he ready for what is to come?

This is my first Ann Cleeves novel and I seem to have come in on the tail end as Wild Fire is the eighth and final novel in Cleeves’ Shetland series featuring DI Jimmy Perez.

Wild Fire completes the second of Ann’s Shetland Quartets, The Four Elements following the original Four Seasons Quartet. The spin-off TV crime drama “Shetland” has now been signed up for season 5. To read more on Ann Cleeves books and the Shetland series visit Ann’s website here 

I did wonder if I would find the characters difficult to connect with coming into the story at the end of the series but this book can easily be read as a standalone. There were occasional references of past events however nothing that prevented me from grasping the storyline.

Wild Fire was an enjoyable, easy read featuring a compelling mystery which kept my focus throughout. I found I became swept up in the lives of the people of Deltaness.

Helena, Daniel and their two children hoping to escape their busy London lives have moved to the quiet town of Deltaness located in the Shetland Islands. Malicious gossip and anonymous notes leave Helena wondering if they will ever be accepted in the community or will forever be the newcomers.  When a young woman is found murdered in a barn on the newcomers’ land Perez’s first impression is this is to do with the family not being accepted but when a born and raised local is found murdered he must rethink his ideas and try to find out how these two people were linked.

In true murder mystery style Cleeves gives out just enough information to have the reader believing anyone could have and had cause to murder the victims.

The characters are well drawn from the newcomers to the island, that feel like they don’t quite fit in, to the bitter gossiper who feels the need to dissect everyone’s actions and spread malicious gossip.
I actually thought I had the murderer pegged until my main suspect turned up as the next victim.

To finish off the series Cleeves gives Perez’s life a major upheaval which has him contemplating where he wants his future to go.

Many readers will be sad to see the end of DI Jimmy Perez and the Shetland series but I am happy to say I still have seven more books in the series to read and I’m eagerly looking forward to them.

If you enjoy old-style murder mysteries this series is for you.

*My thanks to Pan Macmillan for my copy to read.

My rating 5/5                                🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Ann Cleeves is the author of over thirty critically acclaimed novels, and in 2017 was awarded the highest accolade in crime writing, the CWA Diamond Dagger. She is the creator of popular detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez who can now be found on television in ITV’s Vera and BBC One’s Shetland. The TV series and the books they are based on have become international sensations, capturing the minds of millions worldwide.
Ann worked as a probation officer, bird observatory cook, and auxiliary coastguard before she started writing. She is a member of ‘Murder Squad’, working with other British northern writers to promote crime fiction. Ann is also a passionate champion for libraries and was a National Libraries Day Ambassador in 2016. Ann lives in North Tyneside near where the Vera books are set.

Friday 17 August 2018

Book Review: The Honourable Thief by Meghan Wilson Anastasios


Title: The Honourable Thief
Author: Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
Publication Date: 31st July 2018
RRP: $29.99
Pages: 448
Format read: Paperback
Source: courtesy of publisher

'Achilles? Because...?'
'Obsession of mine. Half man, half god - and his own worst enemy.
My kind of man.' He laughed.

Istanbul, Turkey 1955

Benedict Hitchens, once a world-renowned archaeologist, is now a discredited - but still rather charming - shell of his former self.

Once full of optimism and adventure, his determination to prove that Achilles was a real historical figure led him to his greatest love, Karina, on the island of Crete and to his greatest downfall, following the disappearance of an enigmatic stranger, Eris.

He has one last chance to restore his reputation, solve the mystery of Eris and prove his Achilles theory. But it is full of risk, and possibly fatal consequences...

In her breakout novel, Meaghan Wilson Anastasios weaves an action-packed tale of honour, passion, heroes and thieves across an epic backdrop of history.

Move over Indiana Jones.

Dr Benedict Hitchens renowned archaeologist’s life ambition is to find the final resting place of Achilles and prove his theory that Achilles was a real person.
Ben is tall, blond with rakish good looks. Hearts will be broken on his journey.

I dare you not to fall for this broken ant-hero! I know I did.

Wherever Ben goes trouble soon follows and at times even his credibility starts to be questioned leaving his career in tatters. Ben is forever searching for the next big discovery. He makes some bad decisions and runs with his heart rather than his head.

The story moves around from 1955 back to 1938, pre war Greece with the threat of war looming over the quiet Greek island, with flashback of the years between. This style of narration may be off putting to some although as the story progresses the date changes become easier to adapt to.

This moderately paced adventure drama lends itself to both the Historical Fiction genre with the inclusion of the effects of war and the German invasion on the small Greek island, with Ben joining the Resistance Movement, and the tumultuous history between Turkey and Greece and Contemporary Fiction genre as Anastasios describes the people, their way of life and the vivid village street celebrations and feasts. Don’t pass this up just because you don’t read historical fiction.

I would love to see this on the big screen it has all the elements of a Hollywood hit.

The Honourable Thief is an epic adventure of love and loss, greed and cunning, obsession and danger.

The story although fictional was inspired by real events.

An interesting author interview with Meaghan Wilson Anastasios, where she explains the inspiration behind the book, can be found on Theresasmithwrites. Well worth a read!

My rating 4.5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟☆

Content: occasional coarse language
                 minimal sex scenes
                 allusion to paedophilia
                 minimal violence

 Meaghan Wilson Anastasios spent her formative years in Melbourne before travelling and working as an archaeologist in the Mediterranean and Middle East. She holds a PhD in art history and cultural economics, has been a lecturer at the University of Melbourne and was a fine art auctioneer. Meaghan now uses her expertise to write and research for film and TV. She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband and their two children. The Water Diviner was her first novel, which she co-wrote with her husband Andrew. The Honourable Thief is her first solo novel.