Review – Bound by Vanda Symon

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect


You just know sometimes that when you pick up a book by a certain author, that it is going to be fabulous and Vanda Symons is one of those writers for me. Every novel she delivers to eager readers is pitch perfect and guaranteed to be full of wonderful character development and a story that will thrill as well as entertain.

In Bound book four in the Sam Shepherd Series she has delivered a story that I found thrilling and yet at the same time moving. Sometimes continuing drama can become bogged down, but this series remains a fresh and addictive read.

It’s best asset is Sam Shephard herself, determined, flawed and honest. She is a breath of fresh air, as far removed from the traditional lead in such books, grumpy, badly dressed. worn down male detectives as you can dream of. In each instalment we get to know her better and this is definitely the case in Bound, where she battles a bullying boss and a complicated love life. Like many women Sam wants a career and to do so she has to navigate complex emotions and personal relationships every single day, to remain a functioning adult and this is why she is so loved by me. She is a complex, emotional human being and we can all identify with the challenges she faces. In this latest instalment Vanda Symon really put her and us through the emotional ringer and I know this sounds wrong, but her pain, her confusion, her distress, made this book a richer, more involving read. Her beloved dad is ill, she’s not sure what she wants from her current relationship and then a new dilemma throws her into a whole new level of soul searching and we ride those ups and downs with her. Yet it never distracts Sam from her determination to deliver justice for those victims that cross her path, in fact her career if effectively keeping her sane.

The story is equally addictive and that is because the writer not only knows that to keep a character fresh, she needs to develop them, but to keep readers hooked the stories have to be theatrical, with moments of humour and electrifying points within the narrative that have you glued to the edge of your seat. Bound, abounds with them all. We are swept across New Zealand as Sam seeks to tie together the treads of a murder investigation, that seems to be spiralling out of control, moments of humour help to lessen the pressure in our chests as we worry Sam is pushing herself towards ever greater danger. One minute we are holding on the edge of our chair as she is hurtled throw traffic in pursuit of a suspect, the next moment we are cheering her on as she gives her boss some overdue attitude and then holding her hand as she faces her father’s terminal diagnosis. We embrace the quiet moments, the conversations with family and friends and then are swept like adrenalin junkies on a roller coaster ride as Vanda Symons delivers the killer, sweeter and more delicious because it is Sam’s keen intelligence and analytical mind that captures the criminal.

From the mind of a first rate writer, comes a character and story with a flourish of magnificence, a large portion of humanity and oodles of excitement.

You can buy this book directly from the publishers ebook store. Amazon or Waterstones!

About the author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

You can follow the author on Twitter @vandasymon

Review – Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.
Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?
In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable . . . and willing to kill to keep what they find.


Nighthawking by Russ Thomas is the superb sequel to Firewatching, his nerve tingling debut novel.

There is always a sense of trepidation when you pick up an author’s new novel, will it live up to the promise he showed in his first book, building on both the characters and the story arc? Russ Thomas not only does both, he does so within a provocative tale of corruption and murder. Importantly he builds on the events of the first novel, but not to the extent that you can’t either read this as part of a series or as a standalone! There are enough subtle references to events in Firewatching to allow you read Nighthawking only if that is what you prefer. Personally I like to read books in series order, because I feel you get a richer experience, but it so nice to know you can do either.

As for Nighthawking it is a superb! You know you have a cracker in your hands, when you whizz through a book it at a rate of knots, putting life on hold until you’ve read the final page. This was me! Picking it up at any opportunity that came to me and feeling cheated when I had to focus on real life instead.

Characterisation is yet again superlative. From the main characters such as Adam Taylor and Rabbani, we have a new cohort personalities that fill Nighthawking. From the Nighthawkers of the title, seemingly harmless treasure hunters, to students and hardened criminals. Russ Thomas brings them all alive and makes them two dimensional, forcing me on more than one occasion to reassess my feelings towards them, because i never knew which of them I could really trust. I loved how he allowed us to get to know Adam in more detail and also, introduced more nuanced reflection on the actions and decisions he makes. Best of all is how Rabbani maybe his subordinate, but she is never a lesser character than Adam himself, the workhorse of the tale, her commitment and frustrations with those around her are something so many can relate to.

In my case having read Firewatching it has a group of protagonists that I already knew and cared about, meaning I was invested in the story straight away. Then there was the antagonist or in this case antagonists, because the writer cleverly presents us with multiple possible contenders and then leads us on a merry dance, before with a clever slight of hand, throws a curve ball into the mix and left me feeling bamboozled by the killers identity. It is such a clever story, that follows more than one storyline, which in the hands of a lesser writer, could have become bogged down in confusion, but it flows with ease between the tale of a killer and Adam Tyler’s continued search for answers to a tragedy that has plagued his life! The tension comes not just from the teams hunt for a killer, but the interplay between them all. There are scenes that show the pressure they are under from above, the politics at play, as well as the real threat to their careers if they fail to track the killer fast enough to keep both the public and their superiors happy. It creates between them a tension that feels real and tangible and adds to the story a feeling that they are walking on a tightrope, one wrong step, could see them freefalling into professional and personal failure. Placing their lives in danger and leaving me as a reader, thrilled and excited for what comes next!

You can buy this novel from Amazon and Waterstones! But why not buy it directly from your local Indie bookshop?

About the author

Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. His highly-acclaimed debut novel, Firewatching, is the first in the DS Adam Tyler series and published in February 2020. Nighthawking, the second book in the series, will publish in February 2021.

Review – Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.

Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.

The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .

But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.


I admit I was drawn to Dangerous Women by Hope Adams by the stunning cover, as much a work of art as any painting hanging in an art gallery in my very humble opinion. Often what draws me to pick up a book while a wonder around a bookshop, is the cover, because they are, I believe a window by which we can glimpse the soul of the story! When I saw the cover of Hope Adams novel about a group of women being transported to Australia on the Rajah, it called to me. It whispered this novel is one you are going to love and it was right, I thought it was extraordinary.

The rough seas that the ship is sailing across suggest a dramatic murder mystery, which it is, but best of all it’s a character driven tale in which the lives of the women and the terrible things they were forced to do to survive are revealed to us slowly. Drama doesn’t always have to be shouty, sometimes it is quiet and clever, as Dangerous Women is! From the moment I walked onto the Rajah with women like Hattie, forced to steal to provide for herself and her son, or Kezia privileged and seeking to turn them towards a better life, I instantly felt drawn not just to the cover, but the women. To a story about the terrible decisions that led them to this fateful voyage and the possibilities it offers them for redemption, if only they can survive to reach Van Diemen’s Land.

For me the writer gets the balance between story and character right, because in order to become invested in the outcome of the novel, we have to care about the women themselves. They, as much as us, need to take the journey together! If they were simply portrayed as one dimensional, thief, prostitute, malefactor, or on the opposite spectrum altruistic, we would simply be skimming over the surface of their lives and as a result, the story itself. Once that connection is made, the drama flows from our relationship with them. Hope Adams has created a group of women who develop and reveal their deepest secrets, the tragedy of their pasts and as they bond, as we get to know them, the tension builds in increments, because we care, because the writer has crafted a sisterhood from a disparate group of women. The reality of their perilous situation is laid bare to us and I found myself helplessly and happily lost in this tale of murder, friendship and a desire to survive and flourish.

I can’t recommend this book enough, It is on the surface a murder mystery, the reason I loved it so much, is because it is so much more. It is captivating, yet dark, with a mystery at its core, that thrilled and left me waiting to see what this writer will produce next.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones. But why not order it from your favourite Indie Bookshop?

About the author

Hope Adams was born in Jerusalem and spent her early childhood in many different countries, including Nigeria and British Norht Borneo. She now lives near Cambridge. She has written books for children and adults as Adèle Geras.

Review – While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

Paris 1944
A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

Santa Cruz 1953
Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi Occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

On a darkened platform, two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined…


As a reader, I have always loved historical fiction and so I picked up While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart with much excitement.

Here is a remarkable story about how the destinies of two people become entwined by one moment during WW2, that has consequences long after the horror of war has ended.

War is always a brutal act, yet often novels ignore this, they gloss over the cruelty and focus on the big events, consigning the voices of people like Jean-Luc and the young women of the story to obscurity. What I loved about While Paris Slept was this novel gives a voice to the personal tragedies of those caught up in war, with a story that left me emotionally drained and heartbroken, quite fitting when the story it tells, contains tragedy as well as selfless acts of bravery. All this occurs within a narrative that floats between Paris 1944 to Santa Cruz in 1953, allowing the author to show that the decisions made by ordinary people in an occupied country during wartime, are often driven by desperation, strategies to cope in a world of extremes. The narrative explores the issue of what people are prepared to do in times of great danger to protect those they love and how some choose to resist and others to simply be. Best of all there is no judgment, no attempt to shame, just a simple acceptance that war is madness written large and those caught up in it don’t always act how we expect them to. While Paris Slept asked me to think how I would act, to take a journey with characters, that though they are fictional, represent people that lived those lives and faced those terrible judgment calls day after day. It balances excitement and drama with a very real feeling story, that grabbed me and whirled me through historical drama at it’s very best.

The cast of characters is varied and I couldn’t help but love them all. Ruth Druart delivered people who felt real and tangible and I found myself acknowledging that it was fine to feel moments of frustration with their actions, given the context of their lives. Jean Luc is written as a man who knows working with the Germans is wrong, but worries about the consequences for those he loves, if he acts. His ability to free himself of the fetters of the society he has grown up in, makes him adaptable and the type of man you would want at your side in times of crisis. Charlotte, passionate, looking for purpose, feels constrained by her parents refusal to resist, making her sometimes blind to how her actions threaten the wellbeing of others. Spikey and quick to judge, she feels like a fine wine, needing maturity in order to see that sometimes quiet resistance during war, takes immense levels of bravery. Then there is Sarah, full of love, persecuted for being Jewish, a character whose quiet courage both inspired me as a reader and called out from the pages as a reminder of a people who lived through the darkest of times. Her enduring hope of finding her loved ones, created in me a deep felt love of a women, whose courage seems to escape the boundaries of the novel and call out to future generations to never ever forget! Quieter is David her husband whose role in the novel seems to be support her story and yet he comes into own in a way that felt particularly poignant and moving.

Here is an historical drama both nuanced and brave enough to tell a story that will play with the emotions of a reader, but never seeks to trivialise events with melodrama. Ruth Druart lays out a story full of quiet moments, that allow the reader to absorb the power of her story. Of course there is drama, but it is played out against the theatre of war and never loses sight of what matters, characters whose stories keep you turning those pages, because of the power of their story ignites a deep seated emotional reaction in the heart of the reader. People, place, plot, purpose, all combined to tell a story that feels epic and yet quietly intimate.

You can by this novel from Amazon and Waterstone. But why not consider ordering from your local independent bookshop?

About the author

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.

Review Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz

Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life – and family –have been destroyed by Hoogsmart’s actions. With the police looking on from outside – their colleagues’ lives at stake– and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation … and a devastating outcome for the team … all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge. Crackling with energy and populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, Hotel Cartagena is a searing, stunning thriller that will leave you breathless.


Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz is the latest in the Chasity Riley series, caught up in a hostage situation events take a perilous turn when she develops sepsis.

Each writer has a distinctive style of writing, around which they create stories with distinct vibes. Simone Buchholz peppers her story with bold strong sentences, that suite the story that is centred around the streetwise and  flawed Chastity Riley.  Very cleverly she creates layers of tension and mounting pressure within the reader by reducing the narrative to short snappy sentences, almost poetic looking text, that creates a breathless sense of urgency and the narrative fizzles as a result.

Chasity is the perfect heroine for this tale, not your typical heroine, hers a deeply troubled life, with a history of failed relationships, which makes her feel unconventional and rebellious.  You can believe that she would land herself in this situation because trouble seems to follow her around and she is able to watch events as they swirl around her, her illness makes her feel detached from the ebb and flow of events. This adds depth to the story, it becomes a more assemble piece, which her colleagues doing all they can to bring a dangerous situation to an end and bring her to safety.  As a reader I spent more time worrying about her than anyone else, because she is such a central character and anything happening to her would be a huge emotional blow and the writer plays on that, by ramping up the tension and teasing the reader, will she survive? Obviously you will have to read the book to find out? I felt on edge at all times, wondering, worrying and it felt that a real connection was made with the story, because of the writing made me believe that all the people in the room and those outside and everything to play for.

Many novelists would have chosen to concentrate on the claustrophobic atmosphere Chasity finds herself in, but this novel works so well because the writer gives us a background that leads to the terrifying events she finds herself in. The story gains depth and as we drift in and out of the present, our anxiety grows, as well realise all that we as readers stand to lose.  So many have so much to gain and so little to lose, that you can never turn away from the growing threat of violence. My chest tightened when I fully comprehended that Simone Buchholz was a writer that delighted in putting her character in this situation that toyed with the stress levels of her readers, because in doing that she delivers a novel that you feel and absorb the real peril a much loved character is in.

You can purchase this novel from the publisher’s ebookstore, Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

About the translator

Rachel Ward translates from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study Modern Languages at the University of East Anglia. She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saarbrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002. Her published translations include the Nea Fox series of crime novels by Amelia Ellis, and books for young people such as Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel.

Review- Dog Days by Ericka Waller

‘DOG DAYS is a Russian doll of a book that twists and tugs each outer husk,
revealing delicate and poignant inner layers…a soulful, lyrical tale that brings them – and
their dogs – together in a satisfying whole. Such a treat.’

George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there’s the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn’t want a dog – he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people – if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge’s fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons – if she can keep her secret just a while longer…

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

I always know I have found a special read when I find myself reading sentences and paragraphs over and over again! It feels like I need to inhale the characters and their lives. Dog Days by Erika Waller is one of those books and it joins a very exclusive club, well my little exclusive club, it made me cry, simply because the story and the characters touched me deeply.

The characterisation is perfect and I don’t have a favourite character, just because I loved them all. George, Dan and Lizzie are all beautifully drawn.  George is grumpy, depressed, alone. Lizzie is running from a past both painful and traumatic. Dan is hiding his sexuality from family and society out of fear of rejection. When you combine them together, you have a story about the truth we carry within us, that we have yet to accept. The writer brings together these three people together to illustrate it’s not a simple thing to understand ourselves, that it takes time and often the kindness and patience of others to do so . The result is deeply moving, heart breaking, but at the same time, you feel that the lives of all three have the power to sustain a better tomorrow.

I read in another review that stated that it takes a steady hand to weave a story with so many complex characters and their canine companions, but it also takes a writer who has an intrinsic understanding of the complexities of the human heart!   Erika Waller handles it like a seasoned pro, the depth and purity of her characterisation, would lead you to think she is an author of countless novels, but this is her debut and it is stunning.  She takes all three people and creates a triangle of fragile connections, where they touch on each other’s lives often only fleetingly, yet she never loses sight of the importance of their individual voices, giving the story depth and heart.

It is a tale of paths taken, regrets that can haunt a person forever, but it never leaves you feeling bereft of hope. You are taking a journey with three deeply complex people and it is worth it. I inhaled the story over two days, set aside tasks I had promised myself I would complete, because my heart was connected to the story and I was invested in their lives. Yet then I slowed, because I didn’t want it to end! It did, of course it did and it was worth it, oh how it was worth it.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones. But why not consider buying a copy from your local independent bookshop?

About the author

ERICKA WALLER lives in Brighton with her husband, three daughters and pets. Previously, she worked as a blogger and columnist. Dog Days is the sum of everything she has learned about love, loss and the healing power of dogs.

You can follow the author on twitter @erickawaller1, Instagram @erickamary and her webpage

Review- Magic Marmalade by Petra Quelch

Imagine you didn’t have to travel the ordinary way of transport. You could get from one place to the other quickly and without any delays. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Mabel Bloom doesn’t like to travel the ordinary way. She dislikes buses, cars, trains or even planes. But one day she receives a very important invitation from the Other Side of the world, so she turns to her grandpa for help. Grandpa sends Mabel a recipe which, when made correctly, will give her the power to travel a very unusual way. And Mabel’s extraordinary adventure begins.


What a charming and fun book Magic Marmalade by Petra Quelch is!

Mabel Bloom receives an invitation to visit her grandfather on the other side of the world, but doesn’t want to travel the normal way. The result is a story about magic and love.

Children’s books should always spark the imagination and I feel this delightful offering will do that for all it’s young readers. The story shows us that anything is possible, especially within the realms of the imagination, as long as you are brave and have the support of those that love you. The story and the themes within left me feeling happy and optimistic, reminding me of the real possibilities fiction presents within the minds of readers of any age.

Magic Marmalade encourages the reader to explore vocabulary and interact with the story. For example, parent and child could, as they read wobble about and then pack a bag with a jar of marmalade and go on their own adventure. Which really is what good children’s books are all about, that sense of wonder and connection.

It is also packed with lots of bold illustrations that complement the story, important as for children of this age, reading is as much a visual experience as it is about reading the story itself.

If you looking for a gentle, fun read for your child, then this one would be a perfect selection to make!

You can purchase this book from Amazon

About the author

Hi there! I am the author of Magic Marmalade and Lottie Sparkles Magical Discovery. I love everything sparkly, glittery, magical and mysterious.

Aside from all the glitz and glamour, I am a collector of books, pens, tea sets and a huge fan of chocolate.

I have two little girls, also known as “The Little Book-Fairies with a BIG imagination.

Most days, I find myself conjuring up stories for children or reading books in my favourite spot by the window.

You can follow the author on her Website, Instagram and Twitter.

My Wonderful Reading Year February 2021 – The Journey Continues!

I know we are not where we wanted to be at the beginning of 2021, but I believe my love of reading contributed to the little bit of sanity and hope I managed to hold onto in 2020.

So I have decided to be kind to myself this year and not place too much pressure on myself to meet set reading targets or publish a certain number of reviews.

As much as I can, I’m going to make 2021 about reading for the simple joy of it. I won’t stop doing blog tours, because I love how they challenge me and at least keep me focused reading when life is stressful and I am so distracted. But I will be doing less and reading more of the books on my to be read pile and gaining some more balance back in my reading world.

So here we are in 2021 and what follows are the books that I read in February 2021.

February started with yet another wonderful read from the Orenda family, Smoke Screen by Jorn Lier Hurst and Thomas Enger.

From this I read The Other Daughter by Caroline Bond. A fascinating and loving tale!

I haven’t read much non fiction lately and so I was delighted to review Botanical Curses and Poisons ~ The Shadow Lives of Plants by Fez Inkwright. Not just a fascinating read, but filled with stunning illustrations.

Then came a book that I am one hundred percent sure will feature in my list of all time favourite reads, One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin.

Deity by Matt Wesolowski is another tale in superb Six Stories series! Chilling and addictive, it really is a compelling read.

Then I dug deep into my to be read pile of books and selected White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and I loved it. It has been sat on my bookshelves for about 2 years, maybe slightly longer and it served as a good reminder to me, that I need to read books, no matter how long they have sat unread.

Then came the deeply moving and beautifully written Dog Days by Ericka Waller.

I read some stunning books this month, some of which will definitely feature in my books of the year and I am looking forward to some fabulous reads in March!