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Friday, 15 July 2016

Blog changed to website!

To make my book reviews easier to find, I have moved all my reviews to   

Here you can look for books I have reviewed under genres such as Thrillers, Romance, Non-Fiction.

I hope you like it - and are happy with the change.  Look forward to seeing you there, and receiving any comments you have.

Emma b Books

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Old Friends and New Enemies by Owen Mullen

Glasgow based, fast moving thriller

My rating:  5 out of 5

Whilst investigating a missing husband case Charlie finds his old friend Ian Selkirk dead; an event which  brings him to the attention of the powerful Rafferty gangster family .   What follows is a fast moving thriller with mystery, twists, lots of action and high stakes to play for.

Set mostly in Glasgow, but with visits to the beautiful surrounding countryside and Edinburgh, this is a gritty story of how easy it is to suddenly find yourself the subject of an unwanted, very scary,  spotlight.  Will old friendships be rekindled? Can new enemies be appeased?    The opening pages of the book are dramatic, and this sets the scene for the rest of the book - no gentle ramblings here!

The main characters are well developed, interesting and easy to follow.  Glimpses of their lives and what makes them tick are given, making them very real.   Many of the places, bars and towns visited in the book exist (according to Google), and many of the peripheral events seemed so real that I wondered if they were anecdotes from the author's past (not the gangster bits!). There are moments of violence in the book, (the Rafferty's are a frightening family) but these are in context and necessary for setting the scene. 

The writing style is great.  Lots of short sentences.  No waffling dialogue. 

This book has everything - fast pace, build up of suspense, mystery, action, great characters, sub-plots and lots about Scotland.  Just my sort of book, and perfect to be made into a TV series!  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall

Essential Reading for Twitter Users                                       My Rating5 out of 5
(Writers and non-Writers)

This books shows you how to get the best out of Twitter, with recommendations on what to do and what not to do, plus useful time saving hints.

Chapters are divided into easy to use sections, such as "The Basics"and "Advanced Strategies".  There is plenty of space within the pages to jot down notes, and the typeface is quite large which makes it very user-friendly, especially if you are using it as a guide whilst implementing the suggestions online. 

NB:   A marker pen is essential, if reading a paper format of this book, to highlight all the useful information that you will want to refer to again.  There is a lot of it!   There is no index at the back (though there is a useful glossary of terms).

Using Twitter over the last 5 months has significantly increased my blog viewings, ,  but I needed  some better understanding of how Twitter really works.  I am not a "Writer", but nearly every chapter in this book is full of information and suggestions  which I have found really relevant and useful to me - sites to help speed up the Tweeting process, how to spot fake Twitter accounts, staying safe and so much more is all included.  There are a couple of chapters specific to book writers which I skipped.    

In the week since I have bought this book I have taken up loads of Rayne Hall's suggestions, and now have a list of others great ideas to look into.  Fantastic!  Thank you Rayne. 

I strongly recommend this book if you are a Twitter user, or thinking of using Twitter (and the price is fantastic!).  I wish I had read it before now.  Come and say hello to me on Twitter @EmmabBooks

Friday, 17 June 2016

Fire in My Eyes by Brad Snyder and Tom Sileo

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Overcoming adversity and living life to the full                My rating:  5 out of 5
Publication Date 9 August 2016

This motivational memoir is about Brad Snyder's life from approximately 5 years old through to his 30s, during which time he experienced enormous life changing events, including losing his eyesight.

The US Naval Academy and explosives disarming training was riveting. The emotions of being out in Iraq and Afghanistan really showed through.  The narrative - all from Brad's perspective - focuses on what he feels is important (his family features often), so does not dwell on the downbeat parts of his life, but rather uses them as a time of learning to enable him to move on.  There are times of heart racing drama, times of deep sorrow as friends and team members are lost and poignant moments that brought tears to my eyes. 

The first half of the book follows Brad's fascinating life before the moment when he loses his eyesight in an explosion.  The second half is about getting to grips with being blind, like how to do the washing up, and working out a strategy to overcome these problems instead of just getting frustrated and despondent about them.  The books takes the reader up to Brad's hopes of competing in Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 Paralympics. 

The message of the book (to my mind) is about learning to live with what you have, not what you don't have, and Brad uses his life experiences to illustrate this.  This is not a book about how awful life can be, but about how to overcome life's problems one tiny step at a time.

At the end of the book Brad sums up his philosophy on life.  This is a section I shall read again and again to put my world back into perspective,  and learn from his motivational attitude. 

Buy this book, immerse yourself in the story, and wonder at the moral and mental strength of Brad.  Then re-read it.

Thank you Brad (and Tom) for your wonderful story.  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ruby Flynn by Nadine Dorries

(Book received from, and review written for,
Drama and secrets in Ireland and Liverpool                My rating:  5 out of 5

Set mainly near Doohoma Head, County Mayo, but also with visits to Liverpool, this wonderful story sweeps the reader through Ruby Flynn's early life in the 1950s.

Ruby Flynn is a feisty (for her time) girl who,  following the loss of her family, is brought up in a convent, and then sent off to a service role at the local castle.  This engaging story follows her through her making of friends (and a few enemies) at the convent, and how she makes a pact with those friends that one day they will be free to live as they want to in their beautiful Ireland.   In the meantime she is sent to work at the castle, where she makes some shocking revelations, wonders at the story behind the ancient curse and finds new friends and foes. 

Set mostly in rural Ireland, where the rainy days are as integral part of this story as the seemingly fewer beautiful sunny days, most of the transport is by horse and cart, with the occasional motor vehicle and bicycle - and this speed of transport is also repeated in the story.  There are many wonderful chapters at the pace and loveliness of the horse and cart.  Sometimes there is the drama of the motor car speed, and then there is the exhilaration of a  bicycle flying through the beautiful Irish scenery.

Each chapter ends neatly (no cliff hangers here), so this book is perfect for reading in short chunks.  However within the chapters treachery and secrets abound with loyalty, love and loss also playing their parts.  The poverty of rural Ireland at this time is well described, together with the friendliness of the people and their willingness to share and help each other - whilst telling a story or two. 

In contrast to the life and surroundings of the castle are the chapters based in Liverpool, where the Lord of the castle is starting up his shipping business.  The hustle, bustle and excitement of Liverpool in the 1950s is great reading, and the differences and similarities of his two worlds (life at the castle and in Liverpool) make great reading, and  give plenty to think about if you are that sort of reader.   Lots of information about both locations to interest any reader.

For me this was a book written in the style of the Bronte sisters, but with a modern approach.  I was swept away into the story from the start, and absolutely loved every moment of it. 

Apart from one mild sex scene near the end, there is no sex, violence or bad language.  Just wonderful page-turning story. 

Buy it, read it and keep it on your bookshelves for ever!

Friday, 3 June 2016

A Single Step by Georgia Rose

Romance and Mystery                                                                  My rating:  4 out of 5

Emma Grayson finds a job advert mysteriously left in her letterbox, and after an interview is offered  what seems to be the perfect job of looking after the stables of a manor house.  However very soon the reader (and Emma) is wondering why the Estate Manager is so against her, and gradually begins to wonder if  everything is quite as it appears.

The first page throws the reader straight into the intrigue, and the story builds up gently and steadily, until mid-way through the book there is a sudden twist and drama.  Skilfully woven into the story are events from Emma's past, and the question as to whether she can ever move on , or indeed whether she wants to. 

The main characters are well written, with plenty of interest and great personalities; it is easy to keep track of who is who, and become involved in their varied roles within the estate and in the story.   There is a lot of feel good  and camaraderie  in the book, but also some very moving parts and a few heart racing moments.

I found this was a book that acted like a treat.  It kept drawing me back to see how  Emma was getting on, and was an easy comfortable read.

The book's ending means it can be read as a stand-alone book, or the enjoyment  can be extended by moving onto the other two books in this trilogy.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen

(Book received from, and review written for,

Disappointing                                         My rating:   Didn't finish it   

Set in Norway this crime novel starts with Varg Veum sitting beside his dying girlfriend, and then travels back to the events leading up to that moment.

Varg is a private investigator hired to investigate the disappearance of Mons Maeland - a land owner and industrial developer (though it says on the back of the book that he is a wind-farm inspector).   The start is a little vague and confusing - or mysterious, depending on your point of view.  There are family conflicts and another unexplained death/disappearance in the past.  For the first third of the book Varg meets with various people enquiring about the whereabouts of Maeland, during which the wind and rain swept landscapes of Norway are well described.

After reading a third of the book I gave up with it.  The novel has received great reviews from others, so maybe I gave up too soon.  Despite interesting themes of wind farms, family conflict, crime etc. it wasn't holding my attention.  It would have been helpful if I had written down the names of all the characters (there are not too many), rather than just the main protagonists;  that would have saved a lot of flicking back to remind myself who people are. 

This is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staalesen; perhaps I should have started with another of his novels.  

Friday, 20 May 2016

Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How the Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy by Michael Connick

Computers, spies and excitement                                      My rating:  5 out of 5

This novel, based on true events, tells of how Stephen Connor, a US University graduate, accepts employment by the NSA (National Security Agency) to avoid conscription into the Vietnam War.   Following working as a programmer in the early days of computers, Stephen  is then is transferred to the CIA and a role in Iran where the Shah is still in control.  Whilst there, working for Iran's secret intelligence service, he becomes a source of great concern to the KGB.  Then follows an assignment to Vienna, Austria - working with Austrian counter intelligence and anti-terrorism.  The KGB, completely unknown to Stephen, can't believe that he has yet again turned up at the place of a major operation they are carrying out, and so Stephen's life is in grave danger - whilst he is happily visiting the tourist sites of Vienna.

A great book that starts off with interesting glimpses into the computer world in its early days, then moves into the fascinating final part of the Shah's reign, and gallops into excitement and action when Stephen arrives in Vienna.  The book contains humour - mostly involving Stephen's unwitting and naive tumbles into the world of espionage and danger, and the chaos he causes within the secret service agencies.  It contains many interesting stories and historical facts of the years between 1968 and 1982 and it has excitement and heart racing moments as Stephen's gets the action and excitement that he imagined the espionage world was full of.

A short, interesting and gripping self-published book.  Well worth reading.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Publication date 14 June 2016

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Romance, mystery and suspense                                      My rating:  5 out of 5

Andrea, the mother of two teenagers and a toddler, carer to her slightly dotty mother and partner to Jonathan,  is thinking of giving up her teaching job and starting up a new business.  And then her home burns down leaving her homeless, possession-less, dog-less and for some reason Jonathan has also disappeared.    Fortunately the moody (but good looking) neighbour opposite steps into help, and so begins this fast moving, fun story about Andrea's chaotic life, and that of her family, friends (not all of whom are a friendly as they should be) and neighbours. 

Things are not quite as they seem at first, and the book rushes along with plenty of mystery and suspense, feel good moments, romance and disasters. All punctuated by strops from the teenage daughter and witticisms from the dotty mother.  This is a wonderful book to make you laugh, sigh and read a little bit longer than you really have time for.   

A great womens' fiction book. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan

(Book received from, and review written for,

Exciting race through Europe                               My rating:  4 out of 5

Kate is in hiding under a police witness protection scheme.  When those she is hiding from arrive to kill her, Miller offers to take over Kate's protection using his own  private protection scheme.  However his terms are that if she wants to live she must give up every part of her previous life - and that may be too much to ask. 

Then, unexpectedly, Miller finds himself in a race against time to save the clients he has hidden away all across Europe.  His clients are not always as grateful and obliging as he would hope, and, as his is an illegal protection scheme, he can't look to any law enforcement agencies for help.  Who is Miller? Can Kate trust him? Who is he protecting, and from what?

The first page of this thriller is exciting and dramatic, and the action and drama continues throughout the book, alongside a great story.   Miller's team are people you get to know through the book and are an interesting group.  Their roles certainly made me stop and think about what hiding and protecting people might involve in real life.

The book travels through many European locations starting in the Isle of Man and Manchester, then travelling to Hamburg, Rome, Arles in France, Prague and Brienz in Switzerland  etc.  Life is very hectic during these visits, so mostly the reader only gets a quick glimpse, often at a running pace, but enough is shown of some of these settings to give the reader a flavour of their character. 

The themes of starting a new life afresh and hiding one's past are interesting in themselves, as are the logistics of keeping track of these people and keeping them safe - particularly with all the positives and negatives of technology if you are trying to stay hidden.

Quite apart from the thrilling pace of the book, and the action, there are some great background stories going on , which give the characters life and interest.  Most of the book is involved with only a few main characters, though there are quite a number of peripheral characters and sometimes I found I had lost track of exactly what had happened to them.  However the writing was so good that I did not need to go back and check it out, the author clarified things quickly as the story progressed. 

There is so much going on in this book that it is not a quick read but is easy to follow.  My guess is that most readers will rush through it, but the writing style also makes it perfect for short stints of reading.  Perfect for a holiday, long flight, or if you just want to escape into a great book. 

Overall a great, and exciting thriller.  I hope to read more of Chris Ewan soon.