Tag Archive | Matt Johnson

Cover Reveal – End Game by Matt Johnson

I’m absolutely thrilled to have the honour of revealing the cover for the final instalment of the Robert Finlay trilogy, written by the immensely talented Matt Johnson, and published by truly brilliant Orenda Books.

First of all, here’s the blurb:

Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.

Without further ado, here is the fantastic new cover:

Matt has also been kind enough to allow me to interview him, about his creation, Robert Finlay, about his struggle with PTSD and a reveal on when we can expect publication of this long-awaited climax to a wonderful series.

I’ll be posting this shortly!😊

Deadly Game (Orenda Books) by Matt Johnson

Today is the day that I get to post my review for the blog tour for a much awaited novel, ever since I had the fantastic honour of revealing the intriguing cover of Deadly Game by Matt Johnson last year. I have been a great supporter of Matt Johnson since his first book, Wicked Game, was my inspiration to start book reviewing, so I was particularly keen to get my hands on a copy of his book. Also, Orenda Books never disappoints, so when this book arrived, I started reading it straight away.

Robert Finlay is back and whilst he is struggling with the mental after-effects of the near-death experiences of himself and his wife, Jenny, he is trying his best to move on with his life. However, when he saves the life of the daughter of a Romanian publisher, Gheorghe Cristea, after an apparent chance encounter on a diving holiday, Finlay finds himself in danger yet again. Whilst investigating the murder of escaped slave trafficking victim, Relia Stanga, with his new team, Finlay finds himself questioning his judgement yet again, and as the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder take hold, Finlay’s marriage and his life is on the line. To add to Finlay’s misery, old ghosts seem to be raising their ugly heads and Finlay is struggling to work out what is genuine danger and what is just his paranoia getting the better of him.

Having suffered with PTSD himself, Johnson brings a real authenticity to Finlay’s suffering, as Finlay’s paranoia is another enemy that he has to try and outsmart. Finlay flits between vulnerable and heroic as he tries to manage his symptoms, whilst attempting to return to a sense of normality. Finlay doesn’t know who to trust, but nor does the reader, which adds to the mystery of who knows what and who is pulling the strings. Johnson writes Finlay so beautifully to generate the readers sympathy for this man who appreciates where his flaws are but who has such astute instincts that even when he is under pressure, he can still come out fighting and be able to weigh up a difficult situation and to know how to respond.

Johnson strategically manoeuvres Finlay through a world of spies, criminals and crime fighters, and as the authorities seem to all be at odds with each other, Finlay seems to be an almost impartial element who will follow his instincts more than he would follow the status quo. Where there should be a sense of protection from these various agencies, their motives are thrown into doubt throughout and Finlay is left to try and sift through the various viewpoints and game plans to try and work out what is true and what is staged for the greater good. Johnson provides enough authenticity to the roles and procedures of these various agencies that the reader is left to work out with Finlay who are the good guys and who are the bad guys and Finlay’s PTSD provides the reader with enough doubt in Finlay’s decision-making to generate lots of twists and turns and tension throughout.

Cleverly written, the intricate character building and changes in narrative voice has created a beautifully confusing plot as the reader doesn’t know who to trust. Also, the fear and worry of the one woman who knows Finlay better than anyone, his wife Jenny, further gives the reader a sense of doubt in their flawed hero. I made it clear in my review of Wicked Game that I loved the character of Jenny, and that hasn’t changed a bit. Although we don’t hear a lot from her in Deadly Game, she is undoubtedly the most important influence to Finlay and most in tune with his fluctuating emotions. Whilst I love Jenny and her input, it actually works to have her only in a few important scenes in the novel, as she is the key to determining just how much Finlay has a grip on things. These little hints are enough to confirm to the reader that Finlay is far from okay, but doesn’t completely obliterate the reader’s faith in Finlay by potentially giving too much information on just how much Jenny is concerned for her husband. Johnson’s care in building in each character up and revealing them just enough is key to how this book grips the reader and he gets it perfectly right.

Johnson has honed in on real issues which undoubtedly remind the reader of genuine atrocities that plague the U.K. The focus on human trafficking from Eastern Europe is not a fictitious problem and he takes great care to show how this occurs. He starts the book with Relia Stanga’s story, her belief that she is going to a better life, and the result of how this turns out for her is further explored throughout the book. Again, his extrapolation of real issues adds to the authenticity of his novel and definitely gives the reader plenty of food for thought. Johnson gives the reader an awareness of an issue perhaps not given a lot of thought to, which is a commendable thing to do in the writing of his book. Indeed, the promotional video issued by Johnson for Deadly Game focuses on the real problem of human trafficking more than the promotion of his novel.

Deadly Game does not disappoint at all. I loved reading this novel as much as I hoped I would. I love that the focus is more on Finlay’s state of mind rather than the action as we wind our way through the story. Again, awareness of an important issue, PTSD, is paramount for Johnson and this undoubtedly gives the novel a really interesting dimension. Rather than the main protagonist just doubting himself, he has a real issue that often prevents him from making sense of what is going on. Whilst the plot reaches a definite conclusion, Johnson leaves the reader with a sense of more to come. I am very much looking forward to Finlay’s next story, and would like to state my intention, here and now, that I would love to be on the blog tour for the next book too, please. In case there was any doubt… 🙂

Deadly Game By Matt Johnson Cover Reveal! (Orenda Books)

The wait is over! I am incredibly honoured to be able to reveal the new cover for Deadly Game by Matt Johnson, the wonderful sequel to Matt Johnson’s bestselling debut novel, Wicked Game. Without further ado, here it is…


The blurb

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police
Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a
peaceful existence has been dashed.
Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just
as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina
Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to
keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front,
Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as
an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation
that threatens them all…
Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game
sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by
new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague
from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate. (Courtesy of Orenda Books)

About the author…

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for
twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange
bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the
1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s
Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend
and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their
toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his
counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders,
shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and
started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as
having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. His
bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA
John Creasey Dagger, was the result. Deadly Game once again draws on
Matt’s experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its
predecessor. (Courtesy of Orenda Books)

Publication Information

The publication date for Deadly Game will be 15th March 2017. Wicked Game is an Amazon and Kobo bestseller and is available now in paperback, Kindle Edition, Audio Download and Audio CD. If you haven’t read Wicked Game yet, what are you waiting for? Here’s the link:

Segnalibro and Wicked Game by Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game, in its original self-published format, was the book that inspired me to review books in the first place, brilliant as it was. Since being signed to ace publisher, Orenda Books, Wicked Game has been revised into an even more compelling, intelligent and gripping novel. Check out my review of this wonderful book: Wicked Game by Matt Johnson (Orenda Books)

Watch this space for future updates about Deadly Game!

Wicked Game by Matt Johnson (Orenda Books)

It is just over a year to the day that I finished and semi-reviewed Matt Johnson’s self published version of Wicked Game, which inspired me to start reviewing the books I was reading. One year on, I’m a little more experienced in writing book reviews and it seems that I’ve come full circle, as I write this review for the revamped version of Wicked Game, published by the fantastic Orenda Books. I loved the original book, despite it not necessarily being a genre of book that I would normally read, and I’ve been looking forward to reading this new version of the book for quite some time.

Wicked Game tells Robert Finlay’s story, a former SAS officer who has just put in a transfer from Royalty Protection to become a police Inspector at Stoke Newington Police Station. When past events, and past enemies, come back to haunt him, Finlay finds himself using his old skills and contacts to fight for his life to protect his wife, Jenny and his daughter, Becky. Torn between running and facing his fear to protect his family, Finlay is forced to revisit his life before Jenny to fight against enemies who are targeting him and his friends and find out why they are targets.

Johnson originally wrote Wicked Game as a therapeutic way of dealing with his own battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and he uses his own experiences to authentically mirror the effects of P.T.S.D., not only in Finlay, but also in other characters too, to some extent. Most of the characters have suffered some kind of traumatic event and Johnson depicts the effects of this terrible disorder so well, particularly in Finlay, as it becomes apparent that it has it’s grip on him, even if he doesn’t realise it. The symptoms are eating away at him, exacerbated by the turn of recent events. Johnson cleverly adds the nuances of P.T.S.D. in the characters in an understated manner, illuminating how the symptoms are barely acknowledged by the characters, as they seem to be in a state of denial about their inner turmoil.

This novel is gripping from the first chapter. Johnson has written a great combination of fast-paced action and character exploration to keep the reader equally emotionally attached and invested into the plot. He constructs the elements well, with red herrings and clues along the way so that by the time you get to the end, there is a “Eureka!” moment where it all comes together. What is astonishing is that you could easily imagine such a situation happening in real life. It does not read as being exaggerated or over the top, and at a time when terrorism is in the news on a daily basis, the authenticity of Johnson’s novel gives plenty of food for thought about our own social and political situation.

The original novel was quite heavy on the police/soldier jargon, particularly in the first few chapters, which was fine for me, as I am happy to look things up that I’m not sure on. However, this has been toned down in this rewrite, which makes the narrative much slicker and whilst the jargon appeared to add an extra layer of authenticity in the original book when I read it then, having read it now it has been toned down,  it is no less authentic without it. In fact, it reads much better and the focus is on the action and the characters, which makes it a much richer narrative. The narrative voice has been altered too, which allows the reader to consider the action from the viewpoint of the other main players, as well as Finlay.

I was overjoyed to find that my one of my favourite chapters in the original book had remained and I was, once again, full of admiration for the likeable, feisty Jenny, Finlay’s wife. I’d like to think that I would be like Jenny – a supportive, loving wife who has every confidence in her man to support her and their daughter, whatever it takes, and can think with her head, not just her heart. I’m not sure how much I would live up to that (not necessarily that great at thinking with my head rather than my heart) , but Johnson has written her so well, I’m totally in awe of this literary character. She does not feature that often in the book, but she is referred to continuously and is fundamental to Finlay’s decision-making and she, along with Becky, are Finlay’s reasons for living, and ultimately what he is trying to protect.

Wicked Game is a wonderful depiction of the importance of friendship, cameraderie, honour and respect in the face of adversity in unknown quantities.  Finlay is not an obvious hero. He plays down his victories and has a rather unremarkable view of himself. He admits to his strengths, but quite modestly. I think that this is one of the reasons why Finlay himself is such a likeable character and why the reader champions him from the outset. Finlay’s struggle with the symptoms of P.T.S.D adds an extra emotional level for the reader, strengthening sympathetic feelings for our unsung hero.  Johnson has written a brilliantly multi-layered narrative that has a great plot, engaging characters, and although I knew the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. The original book was my very first Book of the Month and the new and improved Wicked Game absolutely gets my seal of approval, for what it’s worth. Johnson is an incredibly skilled writer and I cannot wait to read and review the sequel, Deadly Game. Again!

Segnalibro Book of the Year 2015

In my first year of book reviewing, I have read some fantastic books. The ones that have stood out particularly have been made Book of the Month in the month that I read them. I’ve given myself the unenviable challenge of picking one of these books to be the Segnalibro Book of the Year for 2015. As I write this post, I have to admit, I think it is going to be a very difficult choice. However, to help me to decide, and to give you a chance to offer your opinion on what you think should be made Book of the Year 2015, here’s a recap of the books I’ve had as my Book of the Month throughout the Year.

March 2015 – Wicked Game by Matt Johnson

It was Matt Johnson who I have to thank for my decision to review books on a regular basis. When I set up www.segnalibro.co.uk back in March, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about. However, having been approached by Rob Sinclair (author of the fabulous Dance with the Enemy and the equally fabulous Rise of the Enemy) to read their books, I found myself wanting to tell everyone who was interested what I thought of their books. After reading Matt and Rob’s great debut novels, I realised that I could enjoy books that were not in a genre that I’d necessarily choose, and with some fantastic support and advice from Matt, not to mention a great introduction to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, I decided to make the bulk of my posts book reviews. I have enjoyed every minute and that is in no small part to Matt Johnson. His debut novel, Wicked Game, is a brilliant crime mystery novel which has a multitude of twists and turns in the life of main protagonist, Robert Finlay. I was so enthused by his novel that it was made March Book of the Month, Segnalibro’s first. This book has recently had a rejuvenation following Matt’s signing to Orenda Books and I am really looking forward to seeing how this amazing book has been improved.

Twitter ID: @matt_johnson_uk

April 2015 – The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross

As previously mentioned, I was introduced by Matt Johnson to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, who has kindly sent me a number of novels for me to read and review since. One of those books was The Last Days of Disco by David F.Ross. This book is brilliant because it enticed me on so many different levels. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me nostalgic as I considered my own 80’s childhood.  I loved this book when I read it and have since recommended it as a must-read. The follow up, The Rise & Fall of The Miraculous Vespas, has just been released and I am very much looking forward to reading and reviewing it in the near future.

Twitter ID: @dfr10

May 2015 – One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie

One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie was the first book this year that floored me by how emotive the narrative was and how beautifully constructed it was by Steven Suttie to have the maximum emotional impact. I was a an emotional wreck when I finished this book, leaving my partner to wonder what the hell was going on to leave me so inconsolable! The combination of the subject matter i.e. a vigilante killing paedophiles and the journalistic style in which it is written leaves the reader to formulate their own opinions without the author pushing one opinion or another on you. I have since recommended this book to anyone who would listen and those who have read it have been just as floored as I was. It’s follow up, Neighbours from Hell, didn’t quite have the same impact, but I believe there may be a third novel in the making that may sort out some of the open ends in the second book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Twitter ID: @stevensuttie

June 2015

Matt Johnson had a second month as Book of the Month in June with his follow up to Wicked Game, Deadly Game. I had eagerly anticipated the release of this novel, and there is always a sense of trepidation when you have enjoyed a novel so much and the sequel is released, as it has a lot to live up to. Deadly Game didn’t disappoint, as twists and turns ensued and Robert Finlay was a fascinating main protagonist. These two novels were so cleverly written and had a lot of political resonance too. What I loved most about this book, is Johnson’s portrayal of Finlay’s struggle with the symptoms of PTSD, something that Johnson has openly admitted to suffering with, his first book being written as a kind of therapy to combat his symptoms. The decision to use this approach with Finlay undoubtedly lessens the direct action so prominent in Wicked Game, somewhat of a risk on Johnson’s part, but one that certainly paid off. This was a brilliant sequel and again, I’m very much looking forward to Finlay’s future adventures.

July 2015 – Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

I got a little bit of stick from those who know me for making this book my July Book of the Month, as I am known to be a big Rob Lowe fan. Having made a massive deal out of getting a tweet from the man himself following my review of Love Life,  I can understand why this may have been an easy assumption to make! However, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that there was no favouritism involved in my decision to make this book my July Book of the Month. It is genuinely a fascinating, wonderfully written autobiography, that contains an intelligence not often found in celebrity autobiographies. There are plenty of celebrity tales, but it would have been impossible not to, mainly because Lowe has spent most of his life in and around celebrity circles (he used to play at Martin Sheen’s house with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as a child!). However, what struck me about this book, and it’s sequel Love Life, is that Lowe is not a name dropper for the sake of it. Every tale he tells are about people who have influenced his life, good and bad, decisions he has made, for better or for worse, and most importantly, how he holds the same values dear to him as many other people who do not have his celebrity status. His family are his strength, in particular his wife, Sheryl, and he portrays that so beautifully in both his autobiographies. Stories I Only Tell My Friends is not a self-obsessed celebrity boast, it is a moving tale of a boy who worked hard to make his dreams come true and he has embraced every moment with enthusiasm and awe of how incredibly lucky he is to have achieved his dreams professionally and personally. Read it if you don’t believe me! smile,emoticon,face,fun,happy,smiley,emotion,funny

Twitter ID: @RobLowe

August 2015 – Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen

Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen was the first release blitz and blog tour I was involved in and it was great experience, as have all the blog tours I’ve been involved with since. Although it was a bit of a slow starter, this was a brilliant debut novel that had me gripped. Eileen treated her readers to a chapter of the next in the JackholeS series at the end of this book which was a good job too considering the cliffhanger that she leaves the first book on! Whilst there is still enough anticipation left for the reader what happens next, without that first chapter of the next novel, it would have been unbearable to wait, a true testament to Eileen’s abilities. This is another sequel that I’m really looking forward to reading.

Twitter ID: @heyitsmejoy

September 2015 – The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox

PJ Fox’s novels have been a prominent feature on Segnalibro since I read this book back in September, the first book in The Black Prince tetralogy. As someone who enjoys classic novels as much as I enjoy more modern books, this series was a revelation to me when I first read it. The Demon of Darkling Reach is not only a wonderful novel that takes the best features from classic and modern novels but it has some of the richest characterisation I’ve read in a novel in a long time. Also, to read a PJ Fox novel is to educate yourself as she uses her location and time period to give the reader an insight into life in that time/place, in this series, medieval England in beautifully explicit detail. The narrative is wonderfully intelligent and her characters engross you from the start. I read a lot of books in September but this book stood out a country mile ahead of the others.

@Twitter ID: @pjfoxwrites

October 2015 – The Prince’s Slave Trilogy by PJ Fox

While I was waiting for the release of the final two parts of The Black Prince tetralogy, I wanted to read another PJ Fox novel to see if I’d enjoy her other books as much as I enjoyed The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen (the second book in The Black Prince series). I downloaded The Prince’s Slave trilogy in it’s entirety and I was once again enamoured by Fox’s characters and her writing style. A modern re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, The Prince’s Slave is completely engrossing and I could have read about Belle and Ash for more books than the three in this series. I have still to make my way through Fox’s back catalogue but I am sure it will be an amazing journey. I have also had the great pleasure of chatting with Fox on a regular basis and I am extremely pleased to have made her acquaintance.

Twitter ID: :@pjfoxwrites

November 2015 – Dear Mr You by Mary-Louise Parker

Dear Mr You fascinated me when I read it as an ARC copy via NetGalley. This uniquely written autobiography is one of the best autobiographies that I have ever read. It could actually read as a work of fiction due it’s style – a series of letters written to the men in Parker’s life who have knowingly or unknowingly had an effect on her life and her decision making over the years. Men who were close to her heart, men who she met only once in passing and imaginary men who she may meet or could have met. No name dropping, no big celebrity scoops, just a beautifully written series of letters that illuminate the highs and lows of Parker’s life.


December 2015 – The Black Prince Part One and Part Two by PJ Fox

These two books were so eagerly anticipated by me, there was a very real chance that I’d built them up in my mind to be better than they’d turn out to be. Not so in the slightest! The final parts of PJ Fox’s The Black Prince tetralogy were a very fitting ending to Isla and Tristan’s tale, as well as the other wonderful characters that the reader is introduced to over the course of the four novels. Fox manages to give plenty of page space to other characters, whilst still maintaining Isla and Tristan as the main protagonists and the focus of the novels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and reviewing these two books, as much as I have with Fox’s other novels.

Twitter ID: @pjfoxwrites

So there you have it, the contenders for Segnalibro Book of the Year 2015. All of these books have connected with me one way or another and it will be a very difficult choice to pick one out of these ten books. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think of them in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll announce my Book of the Year on 31st December 2015.

Six Months of Reviewing Novels: An Education

It’s been a while since I did a train of thought post so I thought I’d put the reviews to one side for an evening and do one now.  My first few posts on Segnalibro were about my thoughts on things that interested me in the literary world. However, two conversations with the brilliant authors Rob Sinclair (Dance With the Enemy, Rise of the Enemy) and Matt Johnson (Wicked Game and Deadly Game) inspired me to review their début novels, as I found myself surprised that I was reading, and enjoying, books in a genre that would never have appealed to me before. It is pretty safe to say that I caught the bug and I have reviewed books in more or less every genre since then. Six months after that first semi-review of Rob and Matt’s books, I feel that I have learned a few things about this reviewing lark.

One thing I have found is that it is much easier to review books you have enjoyed immensely or hated with a passion. I’ve been very fortunate that I have read some lovely novels which have been engaging from start to finish and I have loved waxing lyrical about some of the books that I really felt stood out among the others I was reading at the time. There are three books that spring to mind as books that completely floored me with their amazing narratives and wonderful plots. The first one is The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross. I loved this book for its nostalgic reminders of my childhood in the 1980’s and the hilarious antics of main protagonist, Bobby Cassidy. Just when I thought that this book couldn’t get any better, by the end of the book, the flood gates were open. If a book can make me laugh and cry, it’s a winner for me, and The Last Days of Disco did just that. This was also the first book I reviewed from Orenda Books and it won’t be the last, that’s for sure!

The next book that had me stunned was One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book but after being contacted by Steven Suttie requesting that I tried his book, I thought I’d give it a try. Never have I had such an intense reaction to a novel. I broke my heart reading it. This gritty novel about a Manchester police department hunting down a paedophile killer left me reeling as Suttie, in true journalistic fashion, gives the reader an illustration of how a situation can escalate in a society that has 24 hour updates and constant social media feeds. Suttie merely gives the facts, leaving the reader to decide their own point of view, not to mention, his clever tactic of waiting until you are a several chapters into the novel before giving you the story of the man who is killing paedophiles and has become the hero of the nation for doing so. I implored everyone I know to read this book and if I’m ever asked to recommend a book, One Man Crusade is always one of the first I mention. A friend of mine read this recently on my recommendation and I was really happy that she liked it, so much so that she bought and read the sequel, Neighbours from Hell, which was released on Monday, which I haven’t even got round to reading yet!

The third book that has surprised me by its brilliance is a recent read, The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox. Again, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be a book that I’d enjoy, again allowing myself to be put off by the genre. (I will never learn!) However, this is one of the most beautiful narratives I’ve read in a very long time. When I was studying towards my English degree, I read many classics, a number of them gothic novels, and I was reminded of the intricacy of these novels when I read Fox’s tale of Isla, a feisty, young daughter of an imprudent earl who has squandered his money away to the point where he has to offer the hand of his daughter in marriage to the enigmatic duke, Tristan Mountbatten, aka The Demon of Darkling Reach. The plot itself is magnificent but what I loved was that the narrative had all the beauty of a classic novel but with the features of modern literature that are only hinted at in their predecessors, such as swearing and direct sexual references. This book was also an education in the traditions and practices of mediaeval life, which I found absolutely fascinating. This is another book that I am plugging endlessly to anyone who will listen!

Of course, these all fall into the “Books I’ve Loved” category. There has only been one book that has left me so irritated that I felt the need to write an almost fully negative review, which was Gray Justice by Alan McDermott. I was completely frustrated by this book because it had all the makings of a really enjoyable novel, if only the writer could be bothered putting the time into his main protagonist. As a reader, it was expected that you would sympathise and champion Tom Gray, yet we know barely anything about him. McDermott focuses his attention on the wrong characters, has unfeasible plot twists and the final showdown has so many characters in so many locations that it is impossible to fathom who is where, at what stage and what the implications are of where the characters are located for the rest of the novel. I was frustrated because it could be such a better novel than it is with a bit more investment from the author into the main character’s emotions, perceptions and by building an affinity between the reader and Tom Gray.

What these four books had in common is that they were easy to write about. The paragraphs almost wrote themselves as I typed away, because, good or bad, the narratives were rich in elements to comment about. What I have found during this reviewing learning curve, is that it isn’t always that easy. I will always give my honest opinion and I will always try to focus more on the positive than the negative, but sometimes, when the narrative is distinctly average or it is a book that doesn’t particularly interest me although it may be enjoyable to others, it is difficult to find the words, which for someone who can normally talk/write until the cows come home (this post being a classic example), is a very strange situation to find myself in. There have been a few books which, to be honest, have just not excited me. They were okay and readable, but there is just not much to say about them. I probably just need more practice, but that would mean reading many more “okay” books and less time reading the “amazing” books as I have noted above.

However, I have found that I have really enjoyed reading and reviewing books from all genres and I have loved the conversations that it has led to with the various authors who I have reviewed books for. Special mention must go to my lovely guest reviewer, J.L.Clayton, who has become an amazing Twitter/Facebook Buddy and is, without a doubt, my biggest supporter as she retweets/shares everything I post, which is invaluable to me. She has also wrote two fantastic books with a third in progress (A Spark of Magic and A Blaze of Magic) and I really value her encouragement and her experience in writing and publishing her own books.

The fact that I have generated a review feedback page attests to my joy at the great feedback I have received over the last six months. The feedback has been so gratefully received by me while I have been finding my feet at book reviewing and I want to thank every author who has taken the time to thank me for my efforts. Of course, my feedback tweet from Rob Lowe, though short and sweet, will be forever etched in my memory (and in my phone photos, and on my website, Twitter feed, Facebook page…) although a “Thanks for making Stories I Only Tell My Friends Segnalibro’s July Book of the Month” would have been nice! (Just kidding – I love my tweet for Love Life and I will treasure it forever!) In all seriousness, another thing I have learned in this process is that the authors I have encountered are lovely and I have been very fortunate that I have had nothing but encouragement from the authors whose books I have reviewed. Long may this continue!

Finally, I have learned that book reviewing is an addictive hobby. If I’m not reviewing, I’m reading (although I did a lot of this anyway) and it is a lovely way to enjoy my spare time. I have got myself into a little routine now: day job, time with the children, reading/reviewing, with a few meals and chores in between. I never thought when I started my website that I would be enjoying writing posts as much as I do. I wish I had more time to spend on it but nonetheless, setting up www.segnalibro.co.uk is one of the best things I have done and I am immensely proud of it. Here is to many, many more book reviews, train of thought posts, Golden Book Ratings, Segnalibro Book’s of the Month and to making contact with some amazing people. I hope this indulgent, not-so-little post hasn’t put you to sleep, and if it has, I hope that was the intention when you started reading, in which case, the post is a success! Thanks for reading and thanks for your support over the last six months. Lisa xx


Girl Online: On Tour

Zoe (Zoella) Sugg Release Date: 20 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

The Signature of All Things

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After Anna

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The Amazing Book is Not on Fire

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Rogue Lawyer

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Little Girl Gone

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Deadly Game by Matt Johnson

I owe Matt Johnson a great deal of gratitude. He was one of the earliest supporters of Segnalibro.co.uk and it was after reading his début novel that I decided to try my hand at book reviewing. I used my experience of reading Wicked Game, alongside Dance with the Enemy by Rob Sinclair to show how I decided not to discount the idea of reading any particular book simply because of the genre it fell into.  (A New Approach to Reading – 1st April 2015) I really enjoyed Wicked Game despite expecting that I would not and I had been eagerly awaiting the sequel. I wasn’t disappointed. I promised Matt an honest review, and here it is.

At the end of Wicked Game, Robert Finlay was left reeling after he had almost been killed in a revenge plot where a number of his SAS colleagues had been murdered. His preoccupation with his own troubles is short-lived as the 9/11 terrorism attacks shock the world to its core. Deadly Game picks up with Finlay a few weeks later, as Finlay and his family have been put into a safe house while the Security Services investigate previous events to make sure that they are out of danger. Finlay has a new job on a CID team that is investigating the sex trafficking trade and the events of Wicked Game are still resonating as MI5 and MI6 try to bring the investigation to a close to suit their own agendas. Finlay also makes some new friends in Romania which may not be all that it seems. However, the main storyline of this novel is Finlay’s state of mind as he is overcome with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These symptoms were present to an extent in Wicked Game, but following recent events, Finlay finds himself battling the symptoms and struggling to keep it under control.

Anyone hoping for an action-packed novel similar to Wicked Game may be a little disappointed, as Johnson changes his approach, focusing more on Finlay’s reactions to the action rather than the physical action itself. Personally, i think that this makes for a truly brilliant narrative. In fact, if the focus had been on big action scenes, Finlay’s P.T.S.D. would have been overshadowed, and that would be a real shame, as Johnson seamlessly embroiders the symptoms of this disorder throughout the narrative showing how it creeps into every little nuance of everyday life. Deadly Game is more about strategy, mind games and the hidden agendas of the military, the security services and the criminals; ultimately it is a tale of how the hero manages to overcome his demons (to an extent) for the greater good.

The way that Johnson shows how Finlay’s P.T.S.D. is developing throughout this book makes the reader question Finlay’s responses and judgements which adds an extra layer of suspense as to what is going to happen next, as Finlay himself becomes an unknown quantity. The responses of those around him, particularly his wife, Jenny, who knows him better than he perhaps knows himself, enhances the sense that Finlay is becoming his own worst enemy. As Jenny points out, he is brilliant at reacting on the spot, less so when sensing and avoiding potential danger. This is demonstrated most obviously when Finlay and Jenny are invited to a wedding in Romania as a thank you to Finlay when he saves the life of the daughter of a rich Romanian publisher. He doesn’t check the family out first and this error of judgement almost becomes his undoing.

There are a couple of familiar characters from Wicked Game and a few new ones too that I hope will have a place in future Robert Finlay novels. In Wicked Game, I loved Finlay’s wife, Jenny. She doesn’t feature in a lot of the action but when we are privy to her thoughts on any given situation, her analysis is fundamental to understanding Finlay. Behind every great man is a great woman, and Jenny is certainly that. She is ever-present in Finlay’s thoughts and she grounds him. She is understanding to Finlay’s plight and she recognises that something isn’t right as his symptoms take hold. She loves him despite his inability to discuss his worries with her and he loves her. Her happiness and that of his daughter, Becky is paramount to him. Johnson displays this well in their actions and reactions to each other. Their ultimate goal is a shared one: they are both determined to keep their family together.

Kevin, Finlay’s former colleague and friend, is also back as Finlay’s partner-in-crime. Kevin is loyal to Finlay and will be there for him whenever Finlay needs him. As he recovers from his injuries after he was shot in Wicked Game, he is ultimately Finlay’s go-to guy if he needs the help of someone he can trust.

We are also introduced to a number of strong female characters in this novel. Toni Fellowes is the MI5 agent who is writing a report on the incidents that occurred in Wicked Game and  she is investigating whether there is any danger to Finlay and his family. She is determined to uncover the hidden political agendas and find out why the S.A.S. soldiers were really targeted. Was it an act of revenge as originally suggested or is there a political agenda? Her assistant, Nell, certainly thinks there is more to it. Nell has Asperger’s Syndrome and although her role in the novel is as a super-investigator who compiles information that is invaluable to Toni’s investigation, she could also be seen as an antithesis to Finlay. She is someone who doesn’t let emotion get in the way, while Finlay is struggling to keep his emotions in check.

In terms of the sex trafficking storyline, we are introduced to three very strong female police officers. The first, WPC Lynn Wainwright, is a dedicated police officer who has overcome prejudice from her male counterparts to get to where she wants to be. She is a tough cookie and her inner strength becomes crucial as she finds herself in grave danger. The second is Superintendent Wendy Russell. She is a blast from Finlay’s past and perhaps another confusion for Finlay in his turbulent state. I’m not going to elaborate further but she is instrumental in the latter half of the novel. Finally, DS Nina Brasov is an abrasive but talented detective who guides Finlay through the investigation and she is an expert on the sex trafficking industry. He relies on Nina heavily at times and she seems to have the measure of Finlay from the start.

Deadly Game is a really clever sequel to the brilliant Wicked Game. Its multi-faceted storyline gives the reader a lot to think about. At a time when we hear of the occurrence of terrorist attacks around the world throughout the media with increasing regularity, this novel has a particular resonance. As an illustration of the effects of P.T.S.D., Deadly Game is particularly effective, and while it was definitely a risk on Johnson’s part to change his approach from the first book, it really has paid off. There is enough action to capture the imaginations of those readers who enjoyed this aspect of Wicked Game, but the build up to the action is where this novel comes into its own, as we are informed of Finlay’s mindset throughout. I enjoyed Wicked Game and I enjoyed Deadly Game. I’d be struggling to pick a favourite as they are both really great reads but for different reasons. What I do know is, I can’t wait to read the next one!

The Effects of Dialect and Swearing in Novels

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m experimenting with the use of Scottish dialect in the chapters that I have written so far in my book. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t come easily to me, as I’m not actually Scottish. However, as my Dad is Scottish and I have relatives in Edinburgh, I am familiar enough with Scottish phrases to be able to blag my way through (and I have every intention of running it past an actual Scottish person to make sure I don’t get it wrong!)

I do worry that perhaps people who are not familiar with Scottish idioms would struggle with the “cannae’s”, “wouldnae’s” and “ken’s” in the speech of my Scottish Mum and Granny characters. Surely, though, by omitting the dialect, I’m losing the authenticity of the dialogue. I’m considering putting footnotes in to give the translations but again, I worry that this would be distracting. So, I find myself in a bit of a catch-22 situation.

Initially in my first draft, I didn’t really add dialogue, just the occasional “wee” and “aye” to make sure that the reader knew that the characters were Scottish. However, following a read-through by my fab proofreader extraordinaire, she suggested that it should really be all or nothing, and I was inclined to agree with her, otherwise it would seem like a lazy attempt at authenticity, and I certainly didn’t want that. If, and when, I ever feel ready to publish a finished novel, I want it to be well-written, accurate and as perfect as I can possibly make it, so I certainly don’t want any potential readers to feel like I couldn’t be bothered to make it authentic.

So, with all this in mind, any dialogue by the Mum and Granny characters will now (hopefully) be authentically Scottish. Both characters will only feature in certain chapters as neither character is my main protagonist (who is from Manchester) so I hope that overall, if they are not totally understood, the gist of the conversation will be enough to keep the interest of the reader. I’m toying with the idea of having a glossary too but again, I worry that his would distract the reader if they feel the need to keep looking up various words in the glossary. I need to give this more thought.

Following last Sunday’s blitz on my already drafted chapters, I ditched my laptop for my Kindle to continue reading Ed James’s novel Ghost in the Machine, which is also set in Scotland; in Edinburgh, to be precise. Having tweeted about my task for the day, Mr James very kindly tweeted back with some sound advice following his own writing experiences on the pros and cons of using dialect. He removed most of the dialect from his own novel as “nobody south of the Tweed could understand it” and also it may “take the reader out of the book”. I was really grateful that an author who has already published a number of novels had taken the time to give advice to a “rookie” like me, and Ed James wasn’t the only one. Matt Johnson (Wicked Game) has also took time to advise me on occasion (including his thoughts on the subject matter of this post via my Facebook page), and it is really heartwarming that they have been willing to use their experience and knowledge to make suggestions on how I might approach my own writing. Thank you to both of you. If I ever do publish my book, I’ll make sure you get a mention in the acknowledgements!!  smile,emotion,emoticon,happy

Following the posting of my review of Ghost in the Machine (http://segnalibro.co.uk/ghost-in-the-machine-by-ed-james/) on Thursday, Mr James posted a very complimentary comment about my review and commented that I “[d]idn’t even mention the swearing…”. This confused me a little and I commented that “I may have made comment if there hadn’t been any swearing! Adds authenticity!!”. Mr James asked me to take a look at the 1 star reviews he had received as the swearing seemed to be a real irritation to some of those that had read the book, as well as the amount of dialect in the first edition of the novel. Sure enough, many of the readers had taken issue with the swearing and dialect. It was these comments that prompted this post in the first place.

Now, I understand that sometimes excessive swearing can be unnecessary. Personally, I don’t find swear words particularly offensive (unless they are aimed at me, of course face,wink ) as I just consider them as words trying to convey the extent of someone’s irritation or frustration. I understand, however, that not everyone feels that way. Also, there are particular groups of people where swear words are used more than perhaps they would be in other groups. There are people who would find this offensive, but, as I saw written on a post the other day “Every book you’ve ever read is just a different combination of 26 letters.” (Courtesy of Grammarly.com) Aren’t swear words also just a combination of letters?

Don’t get me wrong. I realise that I am simplifying the effect of swear words and that people use swear words for emphasis and to give a derogatory effect to whatever it is that they are saying. By their very nature, they are often used to be deliberately offensive. I do wonder, though, would I be any more offended if someone called me a “cow” or whether they called me a “f**king cow”. I genuinely don’t think I would be. I would absolutely be upset that someone thought I was a “cow” but the swear word in front of it only represents that person’s strength of feeling on the matter.

Ghost in the Machine is a gritty detective novel set in Edinburgh, and like it or not, as with most inner city areas, swearing is fairly commonplace. To remove all swearing from this book would be like adding mobile phone use to Pride and Prejudice – it just wouldn’t be authentic. In the edition that I read, there didn’t seem to be too much swearing. The amount of swearing may have been cut down from the original edition of the book, but unless every other word was a swear word, I would be surprised if it could be perceived as overly excessive. I can’t believe that a group of detectives investigating a series of brutal murders wouldn’t swear a fair amount, as they dredge through disturbing images and come across the vilest individuals; as they get increasingly frustrated by a lack of leads and the amount of red tape needed to be cut through in order to be able to obtain vital information for their investigation.

I’m not saying that the people who complained about the amount of swearing didn’t have a right to be offended, or that those who were put off by the use of dialect were wrong, but I also do not think that the author was wrong to include these types of dialogue either. Swearing is quite commonplace in areas of Edinburgh and Scottish people do tend to have a strong dialect which can, on occasion, be difficult to understand. (I actually think it is easier to decipher written down than it is when it is spoken, but that may just be me!) By not including these common features, in my opinion, it lacks authenticity. James didn’t completely remove any trace of dialect, but chose to adopt an accented English style. There were also a number of Scottish phrases, for example, “back of the hour”. Therefore, he managed to retain authenticity but I would have preferred a few more “didnae’s” and “wasnae’s”, perhaps not with every character but at least with some. However, I understand why James decided to cut out the dialect given the response of those who didn’t like it. Yet there are 931 four and five-star reviews on Amazon (one of which is mine) who like James’s novel and 59 one and two star reviews who weren’t keen, not to mention the 104 at three stars who seem to have found good qualities in Ghost in the Machine. Also, there will also be readers who just don’t connect with a particular novel. Reading is an extremely subjective past-time and it is impossible for every reader to be fan, no matter how well written the novel.  However, when you consider that the 1-3 star reviews only counts for just over 15% of the reviews posted, Ed James has had a very successful first novel.

However, this post is not meant to be another review of Ghost in the Machine but a discussion of the use of dialect and swearing in novels. My own thoughts are that, in order to extend the readership of a novel, it may be prudent to keep swearing and dialect to a minimum. As my novel would be aimed at mid-teens, and because the plot wouldn’t particularly require it, there will probably not be any reason to insert any swearing in anywhere, and if there was, it would only be mild. However, if it did, I would use it if it meant that my novel would lack authenticity without it. If it was set in a prison, for example, I would absolutely put swearing in it, because, in my opinion, it would be necessary to provide the reader with authentic dialogue, and I’m fairly confident that swear words would be used often in that environment. My own concern is with the dialect and, although I’m putting dialect in for now, I will be sure to do some market research before I commit to using it throughout.

Matt Johnson’s thoughts on the matter were that:

Dialect – better to show than tell, but only in small measure. Try writing dialogue that includes a very strong accent and/or local words and many people may not understand you. For example, if I said ‘cwtch’ would you know that was a welsh expression for a hug or cuddle, and it has other meanings as well. Swearing , also something that can be used for authenticity but if too frequent starts to get offensive, in my opinion. And I hate it when people write sex scenes in books and use awful language to try and make it gritty. I always skim it!

On the whole, I agree with him, although I suspect my threshold for swearing may be slightly higher than his (there is one particular swear word that I absolutely detest, but as I said earlier, I don’t generally get offended by swearing). I agree with his comments about dialect, which is why I have only made the less frequent characters Scottish, and I am still not completely decided on the use of dialect yet. I also agree with his comments on sex scenes but that’s a topic for another post. I’m also very grateful that he responded to my request for thoughts on the subject!

I think that the key to these devices is authenticity. Unless the use of swearing and dialect is being used to make the dialogue more authentic, it should be used sparingly. However, if the dialogue requires it, then it should be used. Swearing, in particular, doesn’t seem to cause the same offence generally these days, as it is used more often in general conversation (rightly or wrongly). Whilst there will always be people offended by swearing, sex scenes etc. it is impossible to please all the people all the time, so surely it is better to be true to the characters that are being developed and for those that are offended, they are not being forced to continue reading. When you look at the numbers of bad reviews compared to the number of good reviews that Ed James received on Amazon for Ghost in the Machine, that tells its own story. If the use of these devices can be justified, that’s good enough for me. Whether I will continue to use dialect, the jury’s still out…


A New Approach to Reading

Reading has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I was the child who hid books under my duvet so I could read after I had been sent to bed. I didn’t mind the slow bus commute to Manchester because I knew it would allow me a good hour of pure reading time. I read classic books for pleasure, as well as for studying purposes. Yet, after I had finished my degree in 2011, having read a good few books that I wouldn’t have read out of choice and hadn’t enjoyed during my studies, I was looking forward to reading books purely for pleasure again. 

Unfortunately my book choices were evidently poor because the first few books I read were not enjoyable at all. I was devastated that I wasn’t enjoying my previously favourite past-time. I wondered if it wasn’t the books but maybe I’d lost my passion for reading whilst scrutinising books for analysis purposes and reading theories and studies that pointed out the flaws and misunderstandings with various literary greats (and not-so-greats). To test the theory, I read books that I’d read and enjoyed before and was relieved to find that my love for reading was still there, as long as I liked the books in question. To that end, I’ve spent the last couple of years re-reading old favourites, reluctant to try anything new in case I didn’t enjoy it. I have precious little time to read so I don’t want to reach the end of a book and find it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Since starting this site, I realised that I would need to step into the foray of reading new books again, if only to give me more to write about. However, there are so many books to choose from, it’s difficult to determine what to start with. Thanks to my Twitter Feed, I have been encouraged to venture back into the unknown and try out a couple of new books. 

First of all, I had a direct message conversation with Rob Sinclair (www.robsinclairauthor.com) who suggested I might want to try his debut novel, Dance with the Enemy, a thriller novel about a troubled secret agent called Carl Logan. After he had given me words of support about my first blog post, I felt that I owed it to Rob to read his book in return. I’ll be honest, thrillers have never really been my preferred genre but I absolutely loved Dance with the Enemy. It was fast paced, with lots of twists and turns and I would never have guessed the ending, yet all the clues were there as I  consider it in hindsight. I can guarantee that I will be one of the first to download the sequel, Rise with the Enemy, when it is released shortly.  

The next Twitter conversation that I had was with Matt Johnson (www.mattjohnsonauthor.com), who had very kindly been the first to comment on my site, which I will be eternally grateful for! Of course, again, I felt compelled to read Matt’s book, Wicked Game, another thriller, about a former SAS officer who finds himself a target of a terrorist cell years after he has left the forces. Again, I was gripped to the fast-moving storyline to the point where I just couldn’t put it down. I loved the main protagonist, Robert Finlay, but I particularly loved his feisty wife, Jenny. Again, I’ll be looking out for the sequel and hope that Jenny will continue to be Finlay’s tower of strength.

As I mentioned previously, thrillers aren’t my genre of choice, yet here I am waxing lyrical about two thrillers! Perhaps this is a sign that maybe my tastes are more eclectic than I had thought but more importantly, that ruling a book out because of the genre it has been categorised under can rule out books that I may have enjoyed wholeheartedly, like I did with Dance with the Enemy and Wicked Game.

I’m a sucker for a love story and both these books contain love/lust as an underlining factor, Dance with the Enemy to a lesser extent, although Logan does embark on an emotional relationship of sorts. Finlay’s main priority, in Wicked Game, is the safety of his wife and child and I loved that these two protagonists are swayed in their decision-making, despite all their training to the contrary, by emotional factors, such as love, lust, fear and revenge.

So, two wonderful books down, many more to go, and with that in mind, I’m going to start a new page on my website where I will put the new books that I have read in case there are others out there who can’t decide what to read and would like a helping hand. A hint to other authors out there, if you fancy giving me a nudge in the right direction about what I should read next, please do tweet, direct message, leave a message on the website or on my Facebook page. 

Word to the wise however, messages such as “I’ll eat my own liver if you don’t read my book” or “If you read my book, I won’t sell my grandchildren” will not encourage me to read any book. I’ve had a number of messages with these types of comments and, rightly or wrongly, it puts me right off reading the book being suggested. I realise that it’s a selling tactic and I’m sure it would work with some people but it just doesn’t encourage me whatsoever. It was really lovely to have a few words with Rob Sinclair and Matt Johnson and their approach was mutually beneficial: they got a sale (and future sales too) and I had a truly enjoyable reading experience, not to mention some valuable feedback about my own site. If you want me to give your book a try, let me know. Hopefully it will end up on my Recent Reads page! In the meantime, anyone who wants a good book to read, I can wholeheartedly recommend Dance with the Enemy by Rob Sinclair and Wicked Game by Matt Johnson.


RYDER (Slater Brothers Book 4)

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