‘The Player Without Luck’ by Kristina Gallo – Review

A thrilling page turning story that will keep you immersed from the start….

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English isn’t Kristina Gallo’s native language but that is certainly no disadvantage as she tells an immersive dramatic tale of the unexpected that grabs you from the start.

We’re thrown into the seedy world of gambling where main character ‘Silvija’ loves to spend her time and money. With her focus on trying to win she suddenly discovers a body and that’s when the journey of twists, turns and a sinister history begins. To the police she might just be that ‘blonde chick’ but soon enough the revelations come and she just happens to be linked.

Those revelations intertwine through a story that switches back and forth in time with a pacy page turning style and for a shorter read the author manages to include multiple themes from mystery, thriller, tension, deception and even with some erotic tones. There’s a lot going on in a short space of time giving readers a sense of urgency to read it all the way through because as soon as you start this book, you’ll want to read the whole thing.

4 – Stars, the newest read from Kristina Gallo makes for a great escape! 

‘The Dreamophile’s Diary’ by Shazrina – Review

A descriptive collection of tales that capture the very essence of dreams from surrealism to their deeper metaphoric meaning…

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Every one of the short stories in this collection represents an immersive journey and explores what’s there and what could be there. It’s rather unique in the sense that author Shazrina has captured a realistic account of what dreams are like using description and metaphor with a wide range of theme. One story see’s a tension filled chase during a stormy night while another explores the deeper meaning of life itself but the writing style always keeps the reader and events moving.

There are lessons and morale in each tale that focuses on a particular moment and the moment is what links them all, they cover a lot of different subjects

like facing your fears, being grateful for the life you lead, right and wrong, regret, family, the apocalypse and even the exploration of being a god along with a touching piece about the authors passion for writing which made for a strong ending.

Like the dreams we have most of the experiences in this book lean towards the surreal or even strange and it makes for some great reading that on the surface appears to be about nothing but underneath and through the mode of descriptive writing specific to each tale there is a lot happening. To me that’s the beauty of dreams and it’s relayed in this book. You can really feel the reflective element that the author channels into the words and dream worlds created and visited by characters who are looking for something in life.

‘Life is strange indeed, sometimes what you most desire becomes futile for you the very next moment’

For anyone looking to pick up something that is immersive and descriptive with an element of surrealism this is the book for you. There’s tension and mystery all blended with uniqueness from start to finish. Different but in a good sense.

4 Stars – Review originally premiered via Reedsy Discovery 

‘Magpie’ by Paul Jameson – Review

A quaint wonderfully written short.. 

Magpie by [Paul Jameson]

Magpie is a quaint and wonderfully written short by Paul Jameson who immerses readers from the get go with his unique folklore style. Having read it in just one sitting this story serves as just a snippet of the authors ability to tell stories that fuses classic and modern style description and composition. Having read his other work ‘Nightjar’ this book carries the same feeling and of course just an edge of darkness so readers who enjoy one will certainly enjoy the other.

From the note at the end it’s clear to see this story found the author in some sense while he was exploring a real place which heightens the immersive element of the setting. There’s a level of mystique about near enough everything including the history of what happened in this world and our own imaginations are given the scope to follow a story the author first followed. This is a story and reading experience that I highly recommend.

5 Stars – Magpie is currently Free to download and you can grab a copy here for a very limited time.

If you interested in reading more about Paul Jameson check out a very recent Hall of Information Interview I did with the him here; it’s a must read insight!

‘Mark of a Demon’ by Despoina Kemeridou – Review

A modern feel-good fable of forbidden love and a hint of darkness

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Despoina Kemeridou returns with her unique fairy tale style voice to tell a heart warming, feel-good modern fable that explores many different themes including love, sacrifice and the value of life. We are introduced to ‘Heather’ who is born with a weak heart and so her mother bargains with demonic forces to save her but at a cost. 

That bargain will eventually come to fruition and as ‘Heather’ grows up we see her young life unfold in the authors style that keeps pages moving while also providing important plot detail – this has all the feeling and vibe that fairy tales of old contain but with a fuller feeling story that carries more of an adult theme.

To say anymore about the story would be giving spoilers and this is a book that deserves to be discovered and immersed in, even if it is a shorter read that is by no means a disadvantage. There a moments that are both heart breaking and heart warming that make up the drama that is a fun read and escape that I highly recommend.

4 Stars – A great addition to the authors repertoire. Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

Check out a recent Hall of Information Interview with Despoina here.  

‘Moon-Sitting’ by E.M. Harding – Review

An original and well-paced character driven sci-fi with a difference…

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E.M. Harding writes with a style that initially holds it’s cards close to the chest allowing readers imaginations to be fed an original world that views it’s moon as somewhat of an enigmatic danger. Since it’s arrival to the planet of ‘Infinity’ which brought much destruction, people are assigned to watch this threat. Main character ‘Lucky Marsh’ happens to be one of three Moon Sitters and her curiosity fuelled by nightmarish visions drives the story to unfold while answering the many questions that surround this dangerous lunar force. With a beginning that carries mystique, answers come soon enough.

I’ll happily admit I was caught entirely off guard with this book. It doesn’t take long until the twists and revelations light the path this story takes the reader on. The characters and how they interact with the world to find answers is just one of the many strengths along with original world building and originality as a whole – I haven’t read a science fiction book quite like this one.

The revelations and twists eventually form into an issue of morality and choice that ‘Lucky’ must face as well as a matter of time while readers discover her past and present which run in tandem throughout the book. Novella’s and shorter books deserve just as much credit especially when they are as good as this one. It’s different, readable and enjoyable.

4 Stars – Reviews left via Amazon UK and Goodreads 

Discounted Book Alert – The Teleporter

Super hero comedy novella ‘The Teleporter’ is currently discounted to less than a dollar for a very limited time. In fact it’s the only time this year I shall be promoting the tale of boozy undertones and social media justice! For all those who have downloaded, read and reviewed I salute you. For everyone else in the blogging and writing community, today I am in need of YOU.

I’m not interested in the minimal royalties but I am interested in climbing the charts and getting some new eyes on the book, something which all of you can help with. The strength of this community is it’s people so let’s prove that!

Click on the book below for the Amazon International link, other links are below that..

Amazon UK: 

Amazon Canada

Amazon AUS: 

Or just type this into your regional Amazon: B07CKFXDP4

 

 

Books With Unique Voices

If we don’t talk about books, then how is the world going to know they exist? 

In the past few years and even recently I’ve delved into some truly unique stories that deserve a little more than a review. And a little more than a review is simply talking about them. 

With that in mind let’s dive in and look at some books with unique voices…
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The Good Audit by C.P Aiden (cool pen name) tackles the subject matter of accounting in a funny but very accessible way where pretty much anyone can enjoy it. This book is unique because the delivery style intertwines with a sense of humor that captures every essence of the pressures, the laments and even the eating habits of those who work in accounts. Characters are simply named by their job title which is an original concept as well as a potential protective measure for any type of libel. You don’t need to know about auditing or accounts to enjoy this one!

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The Four Before Me by E.H Night is an 80’s slasher that brings a whole new dimension of intelligence to the genre. It’s unique because of that and over the years literature and cinema have churned out so many stories that follow the same slash, character makes a stupid decision, kill, repeat formula without any depth. This one breaks that mold with a twisting story of suspense and an array of realistic primary and secondary characters that make up the small town vibe where four women have previously gone missing, women who share similarities to the main character. By the end this book becomes more than a slasher trust me…

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Fated to Meet You by Despoina Kemeridou is a modern fairy tale that serves for some unique escapism much like the M.C ‘Nora’ who literally escapes to another world of Kings, Queens and Castles. It’s a quick read that brings a modern twist the the genre that might possibly be as old as time…

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Nightjar by Paul Jameson is truly unique for it’s writing style that reads much like a classic. It’s no easy feat to achieve that and keep it going for the entirety of a book which sits somewhere between fantasy and folklore. Set in a ‘Feudal Future’ two boys stray from the confines of home and embark on a unique journey and come face to face with Nightjar – just who or what that is, read the book and find out…

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American Blasphemer by John Gillen is unique literary fiction like you’ve never seen before and I say fiction but from this book you’ll get biographical vibes from the very beginning. You can probably guess what unfolds by the title and yes to some it might appear Blasphemic or even the anti bible, but to me it serves as a companion to life in the United states while everyone can relate to it. From sex and drugs to family and religion or even Bob Dylan this one is incredibly unique.

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How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal by S.D. McKinley is the reason I put this list together and it’s not only unique but fun, sometimes random but always enjoyable. To quote my very recent review  ‘Main characters LJ and Rom decide that they are done with rally car racing and decide to make a pilgrimage of sorts across country along the open road to save their close friend. The action picks up quickly and doesn’t let off the gas near enough all the way through page turning chapters where our heroes come across a multitude of ‘out there’ experiences from trashing motel rooms rock and roll style, fixing their vehicle, high speed racing to even the supernatural and everything else in between...’

Is there a unique tale you want to share with the world? 

 

‘Breaking the Darke Crusader’s Code’: The making of a book that almost wasn’t to be…

Some of the best moments come from the most difficult of circumstances in this funny old thing we call life. In early 2017 when I began to embrace the idea of drafting a ‘second book’ I never expected that journey, laced with internal creative difficulty and even physical health obstacles, to end up producing a book which is now my most critically and statistically acclaimed.

Of course I am talking about ‘Darke Blood’ which on the surface appears to be a vampire story, but in truth there is a hell of a lot more going on underneath the surface of just blood sucking creatures of the night. This post is a deep dive into the making of that story, and yes there will be some element of light spoilering with the intent more to advertise and spotlight the qualities of a book’s success that still fills me still with baffling but swelling pride. I’ve never really spoken about the process that goes into writing a book and they sort of get forgotten after being released. But what I went through to write ‘DB’ should be remembered, because it did not come easy and hence the swelling pride… 

Rule one in all writing: always embrace the good things that comes from it, especially the one’s you don’t expect…

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Before the books that now make up my back list (I have a back list? even that baffles me sometimes…) there was a time where I exclusively wrote science fiction with a hope to query agents, get a book deal, get a movie deal and thank the academy for giving me  this here best original screenplay award. Let’s just say the experience of getting nothing more than a few good people’s attention, none of them rhymed with Spielberg was humbling and as a writer and person, I grew up and started again mostly from scratch.

It’s never too late to start again, or even start. Starting is the first step to anything worthwhile…just start okay! 

The feeling of dropping a project that saw zero success was liberating to say the least and even though I left those sci fi books behind they stand as a testament to how I learned to write. Post writing liberation came my first foray into the world of indie publishing with a book known as ‘Open Evening’ which had some ‘success’ but before even sending that manuscript to my editor, like always I was looking to what would come next.

With 6 months until ‘Open Evening’ would see the pen of an editor I decided to get into another story which eventually became ‘Darke Blood’. My divine wisdom told me after writing a creature feature chase story with heaps of action I needed to do vampires next along with a slower more mysterious and fleshed out pace. Like everything I write, it needed to have some differential concept to the last project and the whole vampire thing would also be a tribute to probably my all time favourite character driven show – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

What’s in a name?

Okay, so I’m doing vampires, that means the setting would need to be dark and shadowy, perhaps almost black like the night. This would tie in with the title and be both catchy and unique, something only someone searching for your work would find; and that’s a pro tip when coming to deciding title’s, make it stand out

There would be some kind of forest, one with trees where the leaves don’t fall and a town that’s small enough to realistically host vampires. In 2017 I was spending a lot of time in a place known as Iver Heath which is a neighbourhood surrounded by mostly trees and farmers fields. They have two country parks nearby one of them called ‘Black Park’ so in the beginning I just merged ‘Black’ and ‘Heath’ but it turns out Black Heath is an actual place – back to the drawing board but I was set on using ‘the Heath’ I just needed a word to put before it. Next came Dark, but as the history of the town began to spiderweb in my head, perhaps when it was established back in colonial times it would be spelled oldy worldy style and so ‘Darke Heath’ was born. Put the concept of vampires, blood and all that along side Darke, you have ‘Darke Blood’. Trust me this process sounded prettier in my head…

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Black Park in Buckinghamshire near Iver Heath in the UK

So we have a forest, it’s going to be shadowy and there’s a colonial history to the place. By the time I had reached this point, the Prologue had already been drafted. A page turning chase in the shadows where some not so happy campers are split up, they first find an old cemetery and then a house – the haunted house trope always, always has a place in my heart, it just does. At the very end of that sequence we are introduced to the perhaps slightly condescending main narrator. Open Evening had more of a pessimistic trope busting narration style, this one, straight up insulting, trust me those differences are important…

What’s in their names?

That narrator just happens to be named Blake Malone. The Blake I can’t recall settling on,  it came after I decided to use Malone which is tribute to the narrator ‘Edward Malone’ from Conan Doyle’s Lost World – a book I first read when I was 12 and then proceeded to get bitten by the literature bug. Blake Malone also shares a light Irish heritage like Edward as they both have a pale complexion and they both are recalling their account of an experience in going into the unknown.

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The second billed character and creature of the night/ bad ass ‘Caitlyn Turner’ came next. Her inspiration came from the world of video games. One of Fallout 4’s popular and bad ass companion’s is an Irish lady known as ‘Cait’. I gave her a full name and a backstory of depth and history which spans back to those colonial days and is inspired by the many episodes of ‘Angel’ that see’s a younger version of the title character in the past. She has a history of love, deception and fighting along with links to witchcraft. Her story serves as the second part of the first act and by that point should hook most readers in.

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Another popular face in the lore of ‘Darke’ is the older gentleman known as ‘Angus Greene’ who is a pick up truck driving, helpful and kind country fella who’s family have been taken by the vampire threat in the Heath. His inspiration and name is tributed loosely to ‘Hershel’ from when it was popular TV show The Walking Dead. Although Angus is more of a fighter and perhaps a little more cynical. He becomes more and more of a leader in later books.

The Darke Crusader’s code

Blake Malone has arrived in Darke Heath for a ‘new start’ or so he says but after confiding in the reader only, he is actually in the Heath to investigate the findings of someone known only as the ‘Darke Crusader’ which is in fact an anonymous internet handle who has reported some weird things going on in the Heath before disappearing. This is the central motive as to why Blake has come to town but worryingly his recollection of anything before arriving is blank, and this works as the conflict our MC would overcome later on in the narrative. It also adds a unique psychological edge to the whole deal – so we’re already better than Twilight…

Much of the time during my writing process I will just throw open ended ideas into the mix, and originally what brought Blake to town was most likely going to be dealt with much later on. The Darke Crusader was originally in fact someone external from outside the character loop who would arrive and lift the dramatic lid later on, sort of like a murder mystery reveal. Unfortunately this concept didn’t really line up or work. Bearing in mind I was already 40,00 words into the book at this point and in April/May of 2017 I was suffering badly with sciatica – to the point where sitting, laying and standing hurt. Writing is still painful by the way… always.

The concept of this mysterious internet persona held everything together. After all it’s why Blake is in the town and why the story is happening. The magic word there is motive, which all stories must have, the why.

I just couldn’t find a way to link it all together to reveal this external character and break the Darke Crusader’s code and it started to piss me off.

The recycling bin beckoned…

Frustration loomed, and anger, lots of it. This was my second foray into writing an original story from scratch and I’m stuck. After an angry gym session (is that sweat or tears?) I seriously considered putting that many words into the recycling bin but then, inspiration hit me. Like always while in the car on the open road a solution appeared.

Never underestimate a good drive to clear the mind and find thoughts… sorry environment I need to think!

What if this Darke Crusader was actually already an existing character? What if Blake had no recollection of the past because it was removed in some way? Maybe he was already from Darke Heath in some capacity and then sent out by the evil forces to shut down this crusader. The whole plot began to turn back on itself and unfold into the series of twists and revelations that followed. I’ll admit I put Blake Malone through a Shutter Island level of mind melt hell. But it worked; just about… I was already going down the psychological route anyway so it lined up. There is also just a slice of the Shining in there too.

Big reveals turned into twisting revelations as the Darke Crusader’s code had been cracked in front of my own eyes and imagination. The characters figure out themselves as the story unfolds. Placing this character into an already introduced persona made for a justified twist that the vampiric powers were willing to go to in order to find out who this crusader was because after all they had control of Blake. He also found out where he had come from and it was much closer than he thought. Doing this aligned him with the forces to fight back and so the final act emerged out of such struggle.

Keeping it in the Heath…

Deciding to keep the Darke Crusader inside the confines of just the town made for the feeling of no escape. The world was just limited to that town between the trees. There is an alternative ending to ‘Back to the Future’ where instead of harnessing lightning from the clock tower in Hill Valley, they go to a nuclear power plant instead, out of town and away from where the story takes place. Comparing my stuff to that masterpiece is a little indulgent but keeping everything in the Hill Valley/ the Heath rounded the story perfectly.

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Overcoming it all to tell one heck of a tale…

The struggle I went through in both back pain related and story related issues may have made for the reason why Darke Blood stands out as probably my better books. The whole tying together in the penultimate act either turns people away or grips them more. It’s decisive and carries weight. And this is before the awesome editing and cover art work that tops off the whole deal. It didn’t come easy, and much like those difficult second albums, it felt like an uphill fight to tell a story that I desperately wanted to be different from Open Evening and so it was, but they are connected…

The Open Evening Connection…

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In order for the past elements in Darke Blood to work (Cait’s story and the main antagonist), it made sense for the creatures seen in Open Evening to exist in the same universe. And so after all of that struggle and part of it was making the whole deal fit, I managed to tie it into a wider universe which is still growing today.

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Final witchy thoughts…

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This deep dive is in fact just more of a shallow swim into the complex but satisfying tale that is Darke Blood: You’ve never known true darkness. There is a whole segment of the book that is probably best described as ‘Light Witchcraft’ which I haven’t really mentioned here but later on becomes ever so important. This is also galvanised by the Sisterhood theme that runs beside the second billed character of Caitlyn Turner who turned out to be way popular than I thought. Her journey continues in the next Darke coming this September.

Looking toward the wider ‘Darke Series’

In what is hopefully going to define my work as an indie author Darke Blood works as a stand alone but can also be delved deeper into a trilogy which will continue this September but the Open Evening side arc is very important to that. They are tied together and will culminate together.

Have you read Darke Blood? Not many have but those who left reviews, thank you. 

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How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal By S.D. McKinley – Review

An entirely unique and original page-turning journey of variety on the open road…   

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Somewhere between unique, random and fun is where you’ll find How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal which is a road trip story with a difference. This unique tale is told with imagination that makes for perfect escapism while also carrying an intelligence with snappy dialogue, fun characters and interesting encounters. 

Main characters LJ and Rom decide that they are done with rally car racing and decide to make a pilgrimage of sorts across country along the open road to save their close friend. The action picks up quickly and doesn’t let off the gas near enough all the way through page turning chapters where our heroes come across a multitude of ‘out there’ experiences from trashing motel rooms rock and roll style, fixing their vehicle, high speed racing to even the supernatural and everything else in between. The unpredictable is at play here, making it feel like the story could go anywhere next and it does. There are even zombies!

In most logical circumstances everything in this story shouldn’t work, but it does and the style of writing just flows and works flawlessly in what is one of the most original books I have ever come across. It’s clear that the imagination of S.D McKinley is one of a gifted story teller with an original voice.

5 Stars – A real interesting and fun read. Thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for am honest review. Reviews also left on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Best books I’ve read this year… so far Part 2…

Because one measly blog post isn’t enough to cover the great books I’ve been immersed in during the first part of 2020 – year of the shit storm. And let’s face it, I love a sequel, I can’t help but leave the door open and in this sense it’s for the greater good of books so here we go, let’s dive in to some part 2 of best books….

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

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Westerns have always captivated my imagination. From the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to the modern television epic ‘Westworld’ and even the final part of my all time favourite film trilogy Back to the Future Part 3. I’m a connoisseur of modern country music and have even dabbled in possibly the greatest video game story ever told which also happens to be a western; Red Dead Redemption 2.

With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until the right book came along and The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is just that. Authentic history meets romance that spans over some years during a time in America where the modern world is still emerging. Nina Romano has constructed an epic tale of love that delves into Native American culture complete with the sights and smells. The love between the main protagonists is perceived as destiny and that’s how I saw it anyway. To quote my reviewIt’s both poetic and sometimes poignant while even being brutal in parts, of course the old world was back then and you cannot fault the factual elements that are intertwined with the fiction…’

‘The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb : The Willie Abrams Saga’ by C.J Evans

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Continuing with the historic fiction theme we’re going a few years ahead to a post WW1 world where a pair of american veterans are living out their retirement in Cuba (booze was banned back home). While it seems to be the ideal life, the sun, the sand and the daiquiris, history soon catches up with Willie Abrams. It’s part treasure hunt come rescue mission with a little dusting of Indiana Jones – if he went to middle america on a mission to find an artefact and use it to bargain for an old flames release. And quoting my review; The Quest For The Sun God’s Tomb is an easy to read tale of action and adventure guaranteed to keep readers interested all the way to the end! This one will definitely whisk you away for a while!’

‘Scarred’ by Damien Linnane

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We’re going down the crime vigilante rabbit hole now with ‘Scarred’ by Australian author Damien Linnane who has put together a unique and sometimes violent tale that will question your judgement of justice. There’s a conflict in the story that runs throughout – that being whether or not the actions of the MC are right and wrong. To quote my review‘there are so many messages within the story such as revenge not always being the answer and the true morality of justice…’ 

American Blasphemer: A Novel by John Matthew Gillen

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This story captivated me like not many books do and I’m afraid that’s all I can say because ‘American Blashpemer’ is the first book I have read and reviewed for Reedsy Discovery and because it was an ARC, the review will be coming very soon, but trust me you don’t want to miss it!

Life Signs by Christina Engela

PHIS#2 Life Signs by Christina Engela - cover

The sci fi stories of Christina Engela appear quite frequently on my shelves, they are both fun and in good supply. Like the many of her books I have reviewed in the past ‘Life Signs’ deserves a shout out as well as the wider Panic! Horror in Space series. This one is a trio of stories that tie into the wider world of space, horror and even some comedy. To quote my review: ‘From poignant to quirky and fun, these stories pretty much cover everything that Engela is known for with a writing style and depth that will draw you in…’

‘Mr Mercedes’ by Stephen King

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Okay it may not be an indie book but sometimes we all need a break to switch things up. I bet Superman even has cheat days, not that I am comparing myself… plus I had this in paperback on my to read shelf for quite a while. Now I know, it’s Stephen King and if you tune into his twitter, we can probably describe his tweets as ‘interesting’ at best, he’s not quite at the J,K Rowling level yet but he’s on his way, the less said about that, the better….

Mr Mercedes is outside of the usual genre we all know and ‘love’ King for but he still manages to retain the depravity and the places he’s willing to go in order to tell a good crime story. That being retired detective who has let himself go is taunted by the criminal he never caught. It’s very readable, has a few gasp type moments and overall worth a look. You can check out my full review here

And so that wraps up another Best Books blog post. Of course there are still some other books which didn’t get a mention, so look out for them! Peace out, thanks for reading, stay safe…