Cheat Play Live by Lisa Edwards

On a beach in California, Lisa finds a shell on a rock, its two halves open to the sky. On the outside it is sea-worn and unremarkable, but on the inside it gleams like a jewel. She wonders if it is waiting to be found and cherished – like her.

The shell is the image she uses to set up an online profile that will end her marriage. It leads her to more beaches around the world – to Kenya, Thailand, Turkey, Egypt and India – in search of the freedom to choose how she wants to live. On a beach in Goa, she confronts the grief that she’s been numbing with alcohol, and finds a way to break the lock on a secret she’s been keeping inside her since she was a little girl.

For fans of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Lisa Edwards’ story is about the search for a life beyond the one prescribed for women: marriage, babies and a high-flying career. Childfree-by-choice, she is determined to fly solo, going on holidays on her own, as well as to restaurants, bars and even clubs. But grieving for her parents, she begins to depend on the anaesthetic that alcohol gives her and it steers her life in unexpected ways. During the course of her journey she dates married men, younger men, men her own age and Muslim men, but none of them are prepared to give her her freedom. In India, she discovers yoga and a tribe of women who show her a new path, breaking the lock on the secret she’s been keeping inside her since she was a little girl.


Cheat Play Live by Lisa Edward’s is the story of her journey to self acceptance and a life lived on her terms, rejecting a loveless marriage and negative, self destructive relationships.

The story the author tells is both candid and emotional, detailing her battle against reliance on alcohol and negative sexual relationships following childhood trauma and professional pressures in the highly competitive world of publishing. What it then becomes is a story about a life, a journey, based on her terms and not societies expectations of an intelligent, single women.

Lisa Edwards story is not always an easy read, it is hard to bear witness to her decent into what felt to me a pattern of self harming to relive the relentless pressure she was under, at home to be the perfect contented wife and at work to the ultimate professional. You are party to some quite intense periods of the author detailing how destructive her life was, before seeking help and opening herself up to the potential of a life lived on her own terms. Free to love how she chooses, free to create a career that speaks to all that she is, not just those parts of her personality others seek to monopolize.

Part autobiography, part motivational message to other women in a similar situation, it’s power lies in the honesty of her writing and commitment to telling her story. Lisa Edwards lays bare her personal breakthroughs and the changes that have happened in her life, not just as a form of self healing, but a call to others that you don’t have to conform to societies expectations to be happy.

It is not an easy thing to do, but her self awareness adds a sense of sincerity to her writing, giving it emotional depth often lacking from other similar books. It is her bravery in letting us into her story that makes Cheat Play Live the powerful story it is! Not editing the often painful events from her life, to protect others and herself, was a brave thing for the author to do. True to herself and the life she has lived, it is inspiring. Her intelligence draws you into the story, her emotional honesty keeps you reading and makes this book a must read.

You can purchase this book from Amazon

About the author

Lisa Edwards is a former publisher who is now a freelance writer, editor, agent and yoga teacher. She grew up in North Wales, but has lived mostly in southeast England. She lives in Worthing, West Sussex, where she lives alone and walks by the sea every day. She splits her time between the UK and India.

You can follow the author on Twitter

Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren‘t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace.

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…

Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.


The crime writing genre is a tough one to get a book noticed in, simply because of the wealth of stunning books released every single year! So for a book to stand out, it has to be at the top of its game and Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurdardottir certainly is.

As a writer Lilja Sigurdardottir never fails to deliver storylines that are both thrilling and complex, yet at the same time subtle and moving. The plot revolves around the complex relationship between two troubled sisters, one of whom has apparently disappeared without a trace, leaving the second, Áróra battling her own demons to find her.

All sibling relationships are fraught with tensions, misunderstandings. Sometimes unsurmountable struggles lead to a breakdown in the family dynamic and this painful reality is beautifully wrought in this superbly written thriller. The writer explores how sibling tensions lead to Arora having to confront thoughts and emotions she has been running from. It forces her to return to the scene of her sisters disappearance, but much more importantly to the drama as it unfolds, why her sister would seemingly have disappeared, running from an abusive relationship, yet not contacted those who would offer her comfort and sanctuary, despite all that lies between them? The way this plays out within the narrative is moving and troubling in equal measure and creates levels of tension within a story that is so much more complex than the average thriller.

For me style over substance doesn’t work and Lilja Sigurdardottir has not fallen into that trap. She weaves a complex tale of betrayal and violence, loyalty and love and yet never loses sight of the essentials of a great thriller. Because I do want to be thrilled, I just don’t want endless moments of excitement and tension without emotional connection to the characters. I wanted Áróra to face her worst fears, to suffer emotionally, which I know sounds bad of me, but it’s true and then face the possibility of a loss greater than her ability to cope with it. To see if she could carry on, to grow and change and for that the be the focus of the dramatic tension and the author delivers that and much more.

She weaves complex characters within a story dripping with a sense of ever increasing dread. No one within it is flat or one dimensional. She even turns the concept of atypical villain’s on it’s head and delivers assemble cast all of whom could have played a part in her sisters disappearance. Page by page we are taught never to take anything for granted, you heart will go out even to those you initially find yourself distrusting.

This is without a doubt one of the finest thrillers I have read this year, from a master storyteller!

You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher at Orenda Books

Or from Waterstones and Amazon

Why not order it from your local independent bookshop?

About the author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series and Lilja’s English debut shortlisting for the CWA International Dagger and hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap soon followed suit, with the third in the trilogy Cage winning the Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year, and was a Guardian Book of the Year. Lilja’s standalone Betrayal, was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja is also an award-winning screenwriter in her native Iceland. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

About the translator

Quentin Bates escaped English suburbia as a teenager, jumping at the chance of a gap year working in Iceland. For a variety of reasons, the gap year stretched to become a gap decade, during which time he went native in the north of Iceland, acquiring a new language, a new profession as a seaman and a family, before decamping en masse for England. He worked as a truck driver, teacher, netmaker and trawlerman at various times before falling into journalism, largely by accident. He is the author of a series of crime novels set in present-day Iceland (Frozen Out, Cold Steal, Chilled to the Bone, Winterlude, Cold Comfort and Thin Ice) which have been published worldwide. He has translated all of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series.

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.


I am a massive fan of Antti Tuomainen’s writing and was excited to open the pages of his new novel and delve right in. His writing is always dark and quirky, full of characters that leap straight off the page into the reader’s mind. So fully formed, you can almost imagine them walking down the street next to you.

Henri is a delight, he is warm, funny and in an oddly comforting way isolated from the often-crazy world around him. I loved the way the writer didn’t alter his natural inclination towards resisting change as if by magic, but gradually opening him up to the possibility of a life where allowing others in, has its own rewards. He is honest, prefers the company of his cat and yet when thrown into a world of criminal activity, murder and violence, his quiet resilience is his greatest strength. Antii Tuomainen draws characters that defy the expectations you have of them, especially in The Rabbit Factor.  He takes Henri from the ordered world of an insurance mathematician, turns his life upside down and proves that not all hero’s wear cloaks and sometimes they are capable of actions that are bat shit crazy, so out of character, that you will find yourself cheering him on, no matter what he does. In Henri the writer has created a warm, loving character and in doing so, manages to make him funny and surprising, off-centre in a way any reader can understand and never predict. That is the beauty of the way Antti Tuomainen writes his characters, you can always relate to Henri, love him and cheer him on, laughing at the most unexpected moments, never at him, but because part of you can’t help but find the absurdity of the situation he finds himself in very entertaining.

The story itself is both funny and moving. I didn’t expect to feel such an emotional attachment to Henri, but by the end, I found his quirky reaction to his new life, his palatable shock at being removed from a world of order into criminal chaos, deeply endearing. I laughed at the assemble cast of peculiar characters and loved how the writer wove them in and out of the story, using them to distract and deceive the reader, while the true mastermind of what you hope will be their combined redemption or fear could be their failure, worked their magic behind the scenes.  The joy is that you never really know, if the adventure park can be saved, if Henri can not just find love, but navigate his way through the chaos to grab it with both hands, until Antti Tuomainen flicks the switch to reveal all.  He weaves all these characters and the absurdity of the events into what is a well-controlled, perfectly played out drama about the random, crazy way,life sometimes throws us curve balls, that we either catch or find our lives in free fall.  As Henri and we discover, sometimes life cannot be predicted, that mathematical equations don’t provide all the answers, but in the richness of the world outside his normal world, Henri is about to find out just what he is capable of.

It is one hell of a ride, full of surprises and always, funny.

The Rabbit Factor can be purchased directly from the publisher Orenda Books.

You can also buy it from Amazon and Waterstones

Or why not order this fabulous novel from a one of our fabulous independent bookshops?

About the author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later, in 2013, they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018) was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’, and Little Siberia (2019) was shortlisted for the Capital Crime/Amazon Publishing Readers Awards, the Last Laugh Award and the CWA International Dagger, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel. The Rabbit Factor is the first book in Antti’s first-ever series. Follow Antti on Twitter @antti_tuomainen, or on Facebook:

About the translator

David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain, two crime novels by Matti Joensuu and Kati Hiekkapelto’s Anna Fekete series (which currently includes The HummingbirdThe Defenceless and The Exiled, all published by Orenda Books). He also translates Antti Tuomainen’s stories. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation. David is also a professional countertenor and a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.
Follow David on Twitter @Countertenorist

My Wonderful Reading Year – September 2021. The Journey Continues.

Well summer is over and autumn approaches! My favorite thing to do as the nights draw in is to cwtch up on my bed with a fabulous book and a hot drink. I’m looking forward to fascinating and moving non-fiction reads, powerful and emotional fiction to.

What follows are the books that I read in September as the seasons change.

The first book finished was a book I have owned for quite some time, Fighting Proud by Stephen Bourne. This is the untold stories of the gay men who served in our armed forces during WW1 and WW2. Moving and fascinating in equal measure, this book proves a need for the hidden history of LGBT+to be taught in our schools.

Next I finished Poems To Live Your Life by- Chosen and Illustrated by Chris Riddell. This is a wonderful collection of familiar and less familiar poems with illustrations by the immensely talented illustrator. I enjoyed it so much, especially the sense of libation I get from reading poetry collections, that can be dipped in and out of easily. The illustrations are stunning and mirror the mood and poignancy of the poems perfectly.

Next came the new release by Paula Hawkins, A Slow Fire Burning. Another superb read and my first by this author. I will now have to go back and read her other novels! Clever, funny and moving, it deserves to be a best seller.

Catch Your Breath – The Secret Life of a Sleepless Anaesthetist by Ed Patrick tells of his journey to becoming a anaesthetist and the harrowing time he and other NHS staff had working the first days of the Covid outbreak. It is funny, moving and should be read by everyone.

Next I read a book that I admit has been on my bookshelves for about two years! Never Greener by Ruth Jones is all about the consequences of the decisions we can on those we love. A little bit like my reaction to Richard Osman’s novel I liked it, sort of, but not enough to want to read her other books. Yet my mother loves her novels, so each to their own, what appeals to one, doesn’t to another reader.

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde is a wonderful collection of stories that encourages the reader to take a closer look at the lives of people we think we know, challenging us to see them and their backstories as not just figures in history, but real people.

Cheat Play Live by Lisa Edwards is the story of one women’s journey to acceptance and a life lived on her own terms.

Piranesi by Susanna Clark is stunning and a worthy winner of Women’s Prize this year. One of my favorite reads so far, it is magical and beautifully written.

Well that was September 2021. October is already set to be one full of fabulous reads and will see me take part in my first ever read along with two other wonderful book bloggers, I so excited to take part!

Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Can you find the famous person hidden in every story? And once found, can you understand them?


Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde is a wonderful collection of stories that encourages the reader to take a closer look at the lives of people we think we know. Challenging us to see them and their backstories as not just figures in history, but real people.

Within its pages are the backstories of a collection of public figures, all of whom have made their mark on our collective history, for good and bad. None are actually named, leaving the reader to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, as the writer slowly reveals his interpretation of the events that led to that moment in history, for which we know them. Some I recognised, others I didn’t, but that is one of the wonders of this series of stories, you can simply read them as that, or go on to search them out and learn more.

Simon Van Der Velde takes us on a journey that feels like a series of revelations, taking these figures and turning them from the distorted, often one-dimensional caricature created by public scrutiny and political bias, opening them up to us in all their diversity, humanity and sometimes the quiet evil that that drove them to acts that will make you shiver.  

He makes you realise that not all our super heroes wear cloaks and that murderers are often that person living next to you, the one that makes you feel uneasy, though you can’t quite explain why. They had lives that shaped them, that led to either acts of extreme bravery, of quiet, yet life changing decisions which changed society for the better, crossroads in history, that altered the lives of millions. Or acts of such evil, that you are left wondering how humanity can be both good and bad.

The writing is superb, perfectly formed stories that feel complete, not rushed, but rich and complex. The short form narrative is not easy to write, it requires discipline to tell a story in a much tighter format, without leaving the reader feeling robbed of detail or emotion. Simon Van Der Velde has created a series of stories that feel compelling, that take names from history, allowing them to walk out of the past and making us realise that the rich complexity of mankind, is not about the loud shouty people, but those that step out of the shadows and into the light, sometimes just for a moment, but forever changing the world as we see it.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author

Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, laborer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as traveling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing M.A. (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including; The Yeovil Literary Prize, (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Prize, and The Harry Bowling Prize – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.

Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, labradoodle and two tyrannical children.

You can follow the author on Twitter

Catch Your Breath by Ed Patrick

Catch your Breath is a gut punch of a memoir by a doctor – and comedian – whose job is to
keep people alive after putting them to sleep. Ed Patrick is an anaesthetist. Strong drugs for
his patients, strong coffee for him.

But it’s not just sleep-giving for this anaesthetist, as he navigates emergencies, patients not
breathing for themselves and living with a terrifying sense of responsibility. It’s enough to
leave anyone feeling numb especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Hilariously funny, moving and truly insightful, it follows Ed’s journey from bewildered
medical student in Aberdeen to unflinching anaesthetist on the NHS frontline. A dose of
insight into life on the hospital wards during the pandemic, while injecting hope that we will
all get through this.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of laughing gas to be had.


We have all lived a shared experience in the last two years, but for some, the essential workers, the experience was much more acute, it took all they had and more. For those on the front line, in our hospitals and ambulances, our GP surgeries, we asked of them to walk towards a virus that threatened both their lives and of those they cared about. They faced an emotional and physical threat and did so with little thought other than treating those most in need. Nothing in their training could prepare them for the onslaught of the loss of life, the relentless waves of admissions, lack of governmental support and the terrible knowledge that there was little they could do! Yet through all of this, the abuse from the Covid deniers, the corruption around PPI, they kept going, they found humour in the darkest of moments!

This is what Catch Your Breath a deeply moving and often hilariously funny book is about, not just the authors journey to becoming a anesthetist, but the often harrowing reality of life in our already struggling hospitals even before Covid hit. It’s the experience he shared with his colleagues, the sudden knowledge that their lives were about to change for ever, caring for patients would become much harder, more emotionally and physically draining. Their worlds were about to be caught up in a tsunami that left them scared, traumatized and numb. Yet still they got up and carried on, what other choice did they have and they found humour and a connection with humanity wherever they could. People like Ed Patrick looked to their colleagues for support, they took heart from messages left by those working outside of ICU “Good luck, ICU! Love from the Medical Team!”

Please don’t worry it is not all heartbreak and devastation. Yes it is a memoir that hits you at moments like a hammer blow, yes it will upset you, cause you to reflect, but also it will have you rolling around laughing so hard you will need tissues to wipe away tears of laughter. Catch Your Breath moved me from laughter, to moments of remembrance and gave me a whole new appreciation of what working in a hospital is like. It reminded me that humour is the greatest tonic we have, that at it darkest it is the most healing, the more perverse, the more irrelevant the funnier it can be. Because it pushes away the darkest of thoughts, allows those facing what men and women like Ed Patrick did, to maintain some level of sanity.

I laughed hysterically at the moment he was asked to make a unicorn out of a medical glove to distract a young child before he was anesthetized, wanted to hug him tight when he realized he couldn’t save every patient and found what being an anesthetist involved endlessly fascinating.

That he is a comedian as well as an Anaesthetist shines through in his writing, he brings a lightness of touch to his narrative and as a result Catch Your Breath feels like a perversely gentle read despite some of the subject matter! I found I didn’t want to put it down, even when I felt the remembrance of the early days of the Covid Pandemic coming back, because his warmth and humour made it easier to deal with. His and his colleagues sense of humanity shines through and I can’t recommend this book enough to all of you.

So to all those that railed against nurses doing dance video’s on Tik Tok, for those that blamed medical teams for cancelling surgery, closing clinics, take a step back and take a long deep look into your souls and acknowledge the debt we owe these people.

You can of course buy Catch Your Breath from Waterstones and Amazon. But why not pay your local independent bookshop a visit? Many of them deliver!

About the author

Ed Patrick has performed across the UK, including at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ed hosts
the “Comedians’ Surgery” podcast where he speaks to guests including Joe Lycett, Rose
Matafeo and Reginald D Hunter about their health stories and experiences.
He also created and presented “Infectious Personalities” with Hat Trick Productions,
broadcast on BBC Radio 2 with guests Charlie Brooker and Sindhu Vee. Ed has written and
performed on BBC Radio 4, for shows such as “Now Wash Your Hands” and “Newsjack”, and
he has also written for the Guardian about the intersection between medicine and comedy.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

‘What is wrong with you?’

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.


It is not often that I say this, but I was hooked on A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins from the very first page. The story and writing literally capturing my attention before the first chapter had even started. What Paula Hawkins does is set the tempo of the narrative from the opening moments and I knew instantly that this novel was going to be dark, clever and utterly compelling!

It takes a lot for a novel to stand out from the mass of books published each month, so to be able to say that this new offering by Paula Hawkins is thrilling and worthy of your hard earned money, is a testament to how much I enjoyed it.

I like books of all types, I love thrillers that are fast paced, but my very favorites are those that are intelligent, full of characters that feel like people you might know. Because the seeming normality of the world the story is set in, makes it quietly more terrifying and emotionally more compelling. A Slow Fire Burning is full of damaged individuals and it is a tale that takes their complex lives and weaves a gripping story around them. Their lives, their actions, the events leading to up to the murder are what makes this story so clever, so much so that the actual murder feels incidental to why this disparate group are all the potential killer! She has created characters who each have a reason to be a person of interest and as in one of Agatha Christies best tension filled drama’s, plays with the minds of the readers. Teasing them with clues and wrong turns, until the final reveal, which is deeply emotional, heartbreakingly complex and altogether more effecting that a traditional police led narrative.

As a writer she taps into the complex nature of humanity in all it’s variety and manages to give the reader a reason to care about them all. It is like all great thrillers filled with twists and turns, but it has an emotional depth so many ignore, rather than choosing violence and grim detail over a characters psychological characteristics, she brings their feelings, their background into play, leaving me utterly devastated at the end, yet at the same time heartened by the lengths some people will go to protect the most vulnerable. A Slow Fire Burning is a tale about secrets, lies, heartbreak and the damage done by the cruelty of others. Paula Hawkins delves deep into the way events shape us, drive us forward into lives constructed equally by love as by cruelty and deprivation. That person sat next to you on the bus, walking past you in the street could each be containing within them moments of heartbreak, shaped by one badly chosen action and that is why A Slow Fire Burning is exceptional, it taps into this and creates from it a story that grabbed me and still haunts me still!

You can buy this novel from Amazon and Waterstones, but why not pay a visit to you nearest independent bookshop and show them some bookish love?

About the author

PAULA HAWKINS worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been a global phenomenon, selling 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a No.1 bestseller around the world and was a No.1 box office hit film starring Emily Blunt.

Into the Water, her second stand-alone thriller, has also been a global No.1 bestseller, spending twenty weeks in the Sunday Times hardback fiction Top 10 bestseller list, and six weeks at No.1.

Black Reed Bay by Rod Reynolds #Review

Don’t trust ANYONE…

When a young woman makes a distressing middle-of-the-night call to 911, apparently running for her life in a quiet, exclusive beachside neighbourhood, miles from her home, everything suggests a domestic incident.

Except no one has seen her since, and something doesn’t sit right with the officers at Hampstead County PD. With multiple suspects and witnesses throwing up startling inconsistencies, and interference from the top threatening the integrity of the investigation, lead detective Casey Wray is thrust into an increasingly puzzling case that looks like it’s going to have only one ending…

And then the first body appears…


Having read Blood Red City by the same author back in 2020, I was excited to learn that Orenda Books was publishing another novel by this writer. Blood Red City City showed he had exceptional talent, a way of telling a story that boded well for anything that came next. So I picked up Black Reed Bay filled with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, would it be as good?

Well I’m delighted to report, that it is an absolute corker of a read!

Rod Reynolds is an author who creates tension within Black Reed Bay that builds up from the small moments, into a tsunami of events leaving the reader feeling plummeted and exhausted and boy it feels good. It is a joy to sit down and read a book that leaves you feeling like you have been immersed in events that both terrify you and fascinate at the same time. I was left feeling shocked, entertained and desperate for more. Luckily for me, this is the first in a series, bring it on!

So why did I enjoy it so much?

Rod Reynolds writes like a seasoned pro. He immerses you completely in his tale of murder, treachery and mystery. From the moment you read the first page, to the last, you are gifted a tale of immense quality. He sets the scene like a master, you as if you are there, the sky feels epic, big and foreboding, the community from which the girl goes missing feels claustrophobic, as if behind any of it’s doors a potential murderer lurks. You want him to unlock the doors to each house, but at the same time, you really don’t, the tension so palatable, you feel you can taste it. The world seems to recede as Detective Wray walks the streets of a community that sees no evil, hears no evil, speaks no evil if it threatens their comfortable world, until she forces the truth out into the open. It is unbearable at times, how the writer plays with their motives, your emotions, all the time leaving you teetering on the edge, of what feels like a cliff edge. Did the girl die that night, do the inhabitants know her fate or is she still out there somewhere, terrified, running for her life still?

In Detective Wray he has a fascinating new character who is career minded, intelligent, conflicted, she is in fact a perfectly formed detective. So many writers portray women in such roles, as either closed down and cold, or overly emotional and flighty. Wray is far more balanced, she knows when things feel wrong, she bases her actions on her own gut reactions, just like her male colleagues would. I found myself willing her to not always need to seek advise before she acts, but to just do and Rod Reynolds never let me down. Better still he doesn’t surround her with male colleagues determined to undermine her just because she is a women, because although this happens, often intelligent men and women can work together without ulterior motives and it felt refreshing. This novel is about the evil presence that haunts the community of Hampstead County and her role within it is to solve the mystery around the missing women and she does so, because she has natural empathy and a keen resourceful mind. He creates a story around his characters, makes them integral to the natural flow of the narrative, but never allows each individual personality to overpower the story itself. Here we have a cleverly crafted story, with evil at it’s centre and a exciting new character, who is up to the challenge of bringing it to justice.

I wanted a keen intelligent thriller and that is what Black Reed Bay is!

You can buy this novel directly from the publisher Orenda Books, Waterstones, Amazon and all good independent bookshops.

Many thanks to the publisher and author for the ARC in return for an honest review.

About the author

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); the Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir.’ A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books published his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red CityBlack Reed Bay will be published in 2021. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters. Twitter: @Rod_WR email:

My Wonderful Reading Year – August 2021. The Journey Continues.

I am continue to try balancing my reading simply for pleasure, with book reviewing and have found some absolute gems that have patiently sat on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

What follows are the books that I read in August 2021.

One of my first reads for August was The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons. This YA novel is about young Transgender boy who is passing, accept no one knows. When a discriminatory law forces his soccer coach to bench him, he has a choice to make, sit on the sidelines or fight for his right to play!

It is a very moving and enjoyable read.

Next came No Honour by Awais Khan about a young women in Pakistani village, who seeks a life in which she can choose her own destiny.

Very moving and powerful, this is a story that will haunt you for some time to come!

The next read was a gentler novel, though equally enjoyable and addictive. Miss Austen by Gill Hornby. This is a wonderful and imaginative retelling of the life of Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra.

My next read so me return to one of my very favorite book series, The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone. This family lead drama is full superb characters, a thrilling storyline, humour and sadness. It is simply put, the perfect package. I’m so glad there are more to come!

We Begin At The End By Chris Whittaker certainly deserves being lauded as the must read crime novel of the year! I had sort of fallen out of love with the traditional crime novel, but this stunner reminded me why I loved them so much.

The last book I read in August was the exceptional Black Read Bay by Rod Reynolds.

I have read so many exceptional books so far this year that choosing my favourite ones at the end of the year will be no easy task, but I’m delighted to have been so lucky as well. September is set to be full of some wonderful reads as well.

No Honour by Awais Khan – Review-Blog Tour

A young woman defies convention in a small Pakistani village, with devastating results for her and her family. A stunning, immense beautiful novel about courage, family and the meaning of love, when everything seems lost…

In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.

When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.

Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.

Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.


Orenda Books over and over publishes novels that are beautifully written, challenging and captivating. No Honour by Awais Khan is another such book!

It has grand and mesmerizing themes about the things that make us human love, family and bravery, yet it also explores human characteristics that are dark and threatening, misogyny, cruelty, poverty and violence. Complex themes to bring together successfully in any story and a balancing act to ensure they align perfectly to create a narrative that challenges the reader, yet doesn’t overwhelm them. Awais Khan in this his second novel, creates the perfect storm, by taking all these powerful themes and creating a novel of startling honesty, breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking pain.

Sixteen-year-old Abida chooses love, in doing so she finds herself threatened by age old customs that are shaped in a deep rooted culture of contempt for women, ingrained prejudice and systematic violence. Only her father, who recognizes her spirit, who loves her, allows her to escape from the village. What follows for them both is a journey to Lahore, where the threats Abida was running from, become ever more complex and terrifying. From this, you would be imaging a story of never ending misery, but this is a far more nuanced piece of literature. Abida is brave and resilient, but for every threat she faces from those that seek to abuse her, the writer shows us that not all men are her enemy. He creates a picture in words of a society and culture that is not one dimensional, because her indomitable spirit, is matched by the devotion and friendship of the men that love her the most and often it is other women, that seek to exploit and control her. It gives the story a sense of hope and though, he never hides the violence Abida faces, neither does he seek to lesson the central tenant of his story, love and it’s remarkable power to redeem us all. He delves down into the dark heart of the city of Lahore, then shines a light on individuals willing to risk everything to bring change for the better.

He fills his story with stunningly wrought characters that bring the story to life. Abida has a spirit that yearns for the freedom to choose, longs for change, to be free of claustrophobic village life, no matter the consequences. Her father frets over her choices, but inspired by a strong woman in his life, chooses change, despite all that it will cost him. There are women who are complacent in the violence, there are young women like Abida that face the awful consequences of threatening the honour of their fathers. There are men that use violence because they can, but there are good men to. Altogether they make No Honour a must read novel, one that will open your eyes the frightening complexity of Abida’s world.

You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher at Orenda Books.

From Amazon and Waterstones.

You can also order it from one of the amazing independent bookshops we are so lucky to have, such as Bert Books that offer an Orenda book subscription.

About the author

Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He has studied creative writing with Faber Academy. His debut novel, In the Company of Strangers, was published to much critical acclaim and he regularly appears on TV and Radio. Awais also teaches a popular online creative writing course to aspiring writers around the world. He is currently working on his third book. When not working, he has his nose buried in a book. He lives in Lahore.

You can follow the author on Twitter.