‘Lost Lands (Changing Times Book 2)’ by Shaun L. Griffiths

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Lost Lands (Changing Times Book 2)
new-5-stars

Haunted by an evil, unseen enemy, Carter and the snow bears set out to find Holly who’s been left for dead in a mountain pass. However, time is against them and with the apes in hot pursuit, the friends may already be too late to save her. Battling storms, ambushes and voices in their heads, they must also safeguard the Crystal and return it to their people, before their sinister rival can triumph.

This is book 2 in the Changing Times series by Shaun Griffiths, and while it’s not essential to read the first book, it’d probably help, as there’s a lot of characters to get to grips with. The epic tale is a fantasy adventure suitable for adults as well as children, and is packed with shape-shifting creatures, magic gateways and powerful crystals. The story moves from one group to another, as well as giving us an insight into the Evil force that tries to control the minds of the central characters. This is a cracking good book with some beautiful descriptions and well-developed characters – if you like The Chronicles of Narnia, this’ll be right up your fantastical street.

 
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‘The Community’ by S C Richmond

the-community
The Community
4-stars

When a body is found in Charmsbury park, journalist Alex sets out to learn the woman’s identity. However, the mystery quickly leads her into a complex story spanning fifty years. Meanwhile, still mourning his lost love, Jack finds he has more pressing concerns than a nosy reporter – the death of a friend prompts a police investigation and it looks like The Community may be about to be exposed…

Stephanie Richmond tells a good tale – always a good sign with a debut novel. Her characters are believable and realistic and their relationships develop well over the course of the book. The narrative unfolds gradually, piece by piece, as the author poses questions and lays out her clues, allowing it to build to a comfortably satisfying conclusion. It’s an unusual mystery-cum-love story that kept me guessing almost until the end. My only criticism – and it’s a small one – is that it was maybe a bit too long and might’ve worked better if the action (especially in the closing chapters) was condensed a little.

 
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‘Living Like A Vampire’ by Jacky Dahlhaus

living-like-a-vampire
Living Like a Vampire (Suckers Book 1)
new-5-stars

A dangerous virus brings deadly consequences to a small town in Maine. During Black October, faced with the threat of being turned into a super-strong blood-sucker, schoolteacher Kate naturally decides to get out of town. Along with two friends, she heads for a safe place to hide – but the vampiric menace has far-reaching consequences that will change her life forever.

I’m not a great lover of vampire stories, particularly those that simply churn out the same old bitey routines over and over. However, I’d read an earlier version of this book (originally titled Succedaneum’), and thought the author had an interesting take on what’s become a bit of a tired genre. With this rewrite, Jacky Dahlhaus has produced a clever and witty novel, creating a bunch of interesting and quirky characters who grabbed my attention by doing exactly what I didn’t expect.

I loved the rapport with the three teachers, especially the rather complicated relationship between Charlie and Kate, and I liked the way the characters developed over the course of the novel. The story surprised me several times, going in directions I hadn’t anticipated. It’s also very funny, which added a nice tongue-in-cheek feel to the book. I’ll happily admit that Ms Dahlhaus is no Anne Rice or Stephen King, but she writes a damn good tale of vampires, with plenty to get your teeth into.

 
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‘Toxic Minds’ by Gordon Bickerstaff

toxic-minds
Toxic Minds
4-stars

High flyer Alexa Sommer works hard in a controversial job where backstabbing and sneaky tactics are the norm, but the fallout from her divorce has ramifications she couldn’t have foreseen. When her daughter accuses Alexa’s estranged husband of child abuse, it seems their world is heading for a major meltdown. Fighting to save her job and her family, Alexa finds herself with few friends and plenty of enemies. Her only hope is her colleague, the biochemist Gavin Shawlens, but he has problems of his own…

‘Toxic Minds’ is the fourth book in the Gavin Shawlens series, though it works well as a stand-alone thriller. This time the hero takes a lesser role, while the main action concerns the plight of career-woman Alexa and her daughter. This is the second time I’ve picked up a Gordon Bickerstaff novel and while it certainly is a bit of a page turner with plenty to get your teeth into, it didn’t quite have the bite and drive of my previous read (Deadly Secrets). The various plot strands are a little complex, but come together nicely at the end, with the usual Bickerstaff twists to finish off the action.

 
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‘Storey’ by Keith Dixon

storey
Storey
new-5-stars

Returning to his home town of Coventry to escape the difficulties of his professional life, Paul Storey decides to take things one day at a time. But when he meets an attractive young woman who has a habit of manipulating everyone she comes into contact with, he starts to wonder what he’s getting into. Is she just playing silly games, or is there a more sinister reason behind her behaviour? Certainly, the low-life rogues she hangs around with aren’t what Storey had in mind for a social life – in fact, they’re exactly the sort of people he’s been trying to avoid.

This is my first taste of this author’s work and I’m very happy to say it won’t be the last. The novel begins quietly, sliding its characters into your mind, planting the seeds of what’s to come. There’s no hit-hard, smack-em-over-the-head opening, but rather a slow-burning fuse that sizzles away, gathering momentum, building to a thrilling climax. Keith Dixon’s writing appears deceptively simple, the text easy on the eye, the language ordinary and straightforward. Except – it isn’t. The author’s skill is in avoiding the obvious, painting a picture we can’t quite see as he introduces his characters, each subtly different, beautifully drawn and wryly observed. This is a highly intelligent, witty and well-plotted thriller that’ll keep you guessing til the end.

 
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‘Jurassic Park’ by Michael Crichton

jurassic-park
Jurassic Park
new-5-stars

We all know the story – a remote jungle island, genetic engineering that knows no bounds, and a bunch of humans who (mostly) think they’re in control. Naturally, the creatures Hammond and his pals create have other ideas and when given the opportunity to escape their enclosures, carnage and catastrophe can’t be far behind.

I feel a little ashamed to admit that this is the first Michael Critchton novel I’ve read, and even more so that it’s taken me so long to get round to it. Anyway, having seen the movie (and all the sequels) I was surprised to see how different the novel is – not in the basic storyline so much (though there are significant differences), but in the sheer amount of detail that reinforces the novel. Though it takes a while for the dino action to get going, there was no feeling of being held back by Crichton’s character development and explanations of the complex theories behind recreating dinosaurs. For the most part this is a good old rollicking adventure with plenty of torn limbs and ground-shaking panic. An absolutely fascinating read for all fans of noisy monsters and screaming kids.

 
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