Tag Archive | One Man Crusade

Road To Nowhere by Steven Suttie

I spent some of last weekend lounging in the sun in the back garden finishing off the third book in the DCI Miller series, Road To Nowhere by Steven Suttie. Having been a fan of Suttie’s novels since I was absolutely floored by the phenomenal One Man Crusade last year, I was really keen to read this third instalment. I had been a tad disappointed with Neighbours From Hell, not because it was a bad book but because it didn’t quite end as I’d have liked. The ending had left me feeling deflated and sad that there appeared to have been a grave miscarriage of justice (though I did comment in my review at the time that perhaps that was Suttie’s intention). I was genuinely gutted not to have felt as blown away as I did after One Man Crusade, so I was really hoping that this third book would redeem the DCI Miller series.

Road To Nowhere catches up with DCI Miller a little time after the “Neighbours From Hell” case. The mother of convicted killer, Rachel Birdsworth, is campaigning for a retrial and DCI Miller has little time or inclination to entertain this idea as he is thrown into a case which will generate a national response. Well respected family man Sergeant Jason Knight has vanished after a bike ride and when his wife Rebecca calls it in, Miller is asked to head up the case to find the missing policeman. The pressure is on as “one of their own” is unaccounted for.

Typically for a Steven Suttie novel, the action is described in a detached journalistic style, which allows the reader to make their own mind up without the influence of the author. This works so very well as Suttie doesn’t shy away from highly emotive topics. I’m not going to go into detail about the plot as it would undoubtedly spoil it for future readers but Suttie has a brilliant way for leading you down one absolute train of thought and turning it on its head. The best part of it is, you just don’t see it coming!

I think it would prove confusing to read this book as a standalone, but to be quite honest, you’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t read the first two books first anyway, because they are wonderfully executed. The three books as a series would provide anyone with a good few brilliant hours of reading and although not for the faint-hearted, they contain some really strong characters.

DCI Miller and his team don’t interact quite as much in Road To Nowhere, and while I’d have loved to have seen more of the team dynamics, the book doesn’t suffer for this, in fact it works really well. I think there is plenty of mileage in further DCI Miller books to further explore these characters that we came to know and love in the first two books but this book has enough going on and to take up too much page space with this would have been an error on Suttie’s part, because it would have been lost. The plot moves fast in this novel and while the snippets that we get of Miller’s team are precious few, it feels very evenly balanced.

Suttie always provides a political edge to his novels and Road To Nowhere is no different. Lack of funding for public services, lack of resources and hidden agendas are all referred to in this novel. The role of the media and their manipulation of the unsuspecting viewers/readers is exposed but Suttie does not give any opinion in this novel. He gives the reader enough food for thought for them to make up their own mind. His narrative, apart from some character exchanges, is quite unemotional and more a provision of the facts, with an occasional clue as to what happens next, yet as a reader, my emotions were all over the place. Not quite to the extent that they were in One Man Crusade, (I don’t think any book will ever have quite the emotional effect on me that One Man Crusade did), but I felt shocked, sad, angry, amused, revolted and nervous that the scenarios that Suttie depicts in this novel (and his others too) could and most likely do, happen. Given that Suttie’s novels are based in the Manchester area, where I live, it is a bit disconcerting to imagine these events taking place so close to home. I recognise and have at least travelled through Suttie’s locations. Whilst adding an extra facet to like about these novels, it also adds another level of fear and suspense as you can’t help but consider that these potentially realistic fictional events are based just a few miles away.

Of course, there will be familiarities in Road To Nowhere for anyone who lives in the UK. Sky News is a big feature, almost another character, in this novel, as they play an equally helpful and hindering role in the search for Sergeant Knight. As Suttie describes the situation from the point of view of the Sky News staff and those who they source their information from, the reader gets a perception of every angle – from the police, from the relatives and friends of the victims and perpetrators and from the victims and perpetrators themselves. It is this balanced view that makes Road To Nowhere, like Neighbours From Hell and One Man Crusade before them, brilliant reads.

Special mention should go to Suttie’s brilliant choice of venue name for a truly brutal section of the book. The Segnalibro Sign Writing Co is an inspired bit of naming and it is shame that it was abandoned and used for such violent goings-on. Yet it worked so well and it brought a very big smile to my face!

My lovely friend Nichola, who has been reading these novels around the same time as I have, after she was captivated by One Man Crusade following my recommendation, was willing me to get cracking as she had already finished and it didn’t take me long to catch up because I couldn’t put it down. After a discussion over a nice meal this week, we were both in agreement that Suttie had absolutely smashed it with Road To Nowhere. Our gripes about the ending of Neighbours From Hell have been explored sufficiently and the main plot for this book is gripping and surprising throughout. The three books as trio would make a mind-blowing read for someone reading them one after the other and I sincerely hope that this is not the last we’ve seen of DCI Miller. There are so many storylines hinted at but not fully explored, and rightly so, in this novel but I would love to see them developed in future books. Nichola and I are waiting with baited breath to see if Suttie will oblige us with another instalment. Pretty, pretty please with sugar on top!!!!

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.

Neighbours From Hell by Steven Suttie

In my post on Friday, Six Months of Reviewing: An Education, I sang the praises once again of Steven Suttie’s novel, One Man Crusade, a book that stunned me with how much it affected me emotionally when I read and reviewed it back in May 2015, becoming May’s Segnalibro Book of the Month. This is undoubtedly a novel that will forever stand out as a brilliant narrative for me. So, when I heard that there was to be a sequel, I was very excited to read it. Released on 14th September, Neighbours From Hell reunites the reader with DCI Andy Miller and his team. I pre-ordered it once I knew it was due for release but I hadn’t had chance to read it when it downloaded onto my Kindle. I recommended One Man Crusade to my friend Nichola and she enjoyed it so much, she downloaded and read Neighbours from Hell before I had and although she didn’t tell me why, she said she had been left frustrated about the ending. I decided to put aside some time to read it myself this weekend, eager to find out where Suttie had taken the characters I had loved so much in One Man Crusade.

I’ll admit, I began reading Neighbours From Hell with high expectations after loving One Man Crusade so much. I wasn’t disappointed as I read the first few chapters and was instantly gripped, invested in a new set of characters, loving the characters Rachel Birdsworth, Mick Crossley and their family straight away. In true Suttie style, he has created a social dilemma whereby a housing developer has been brought back from the brink of bankruptcy after being paid by the local council to use the empty houses of a well-to-do housing estate as council houses. The involvement of the press has alerted the residents, who have paid a considerable amount of money to buy their large new houses, that they are about to have new neighbours who would never be able to afford these houses themselves had they not been placed there by the council. Rachel and Mick move in with their four children across the road from Graham and Suzanne Ashcroft. Graham is a high flyer at Bury Council and has objected from the start against this scheme from the beginning, making his feelings known by sending emails to all those council members who may be able to influence this decision, but to no avail, getting himself disciplined in the process.

Graham has no interest in getting to know the new neighbours, instead choosing to be downright hostile and rude to them, as his young, pretty wife looks on nervously. Rachel won’t have any of this, deciding to try to make peace with the couple, letting them know that they have nothing to worry about from her family. Suzanne seems to like Rachel from the beginning, but is well aware that her husband will not be happy if she makes friends with the new neighbours.  Rachel and Mick have had to sign a contract that has them having to follow strict rules and regulations otherwise they will be evicted from their temporary home, which is a considerable step up from the static caravan that their family have lived in since a fire destroyed their house eighteen months earlier, so they try to keep the peace. The arrival of a known criminal on the street a few doors down, does nothing to improve their attempts to keep themselves to themselves and out of trouble. After playing peacemaker between Graham and “Kev Soprano”, as Mick dubs him, Rachel and Mick’s concerns increase that they are likely to find themselves on the streets if this continues.

Rachel is a nice, kind soul, if a bit rough around the edges. She has a good heart and when she realises that Graham beats Suzanne up on a regular basis, she is torn between wanting to help her and keeping her head down. However, after making a snap decision to come to Suzanne’s aid, she finds herself inadvertently involved in a situation that could not only mean that the family could be evicted but that she could end up in prison for a long time. With the unpredictable Suzanne, the blackmailing Tania (Kev’s long-suffering wife) and her husband, Mick, they are all embroiled in a cover up which threatens to expose them all at any point. Following the realisation that Rachel and Mick’s daughter, Britney, knows their secret, and that our favourite DCI has been made aware of the disappearance of Graham Ashcroft by his friend, who is an apparent nosy neighbour, they are on borrowed time before the police put two and two together.

I was loving this novel. It doesn’t quite have that emotive edge that One Man Crusade has (I didn’t come close to tears at any point) but it is a well-written story with enough unknowns to keep you interested throughout. I was thoroughly enjoying the reading experience until I got near to the end and it seemed that there wasn’t enough of the book left to answer all the unanswered questions  that I had up to that point. The ending felt really rushed, leaving more questions than answers, many that I assume are likely to be left unanswered, even if (hopefully) Suttie writes another DCI Miller novel. I had to wonder if Suttie up against a deadline to finish the book and rushed the ending?

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic narrative. However, it feels like so much was left out. Having since had a discussion with my friend, Nichola, as we swapped our viewpoints on this book, she reckoned there was at least another ten chapters missing and I have to agree. First of all, there was nowhere near enough interaction between the police department that we got to know and love in the first book, with the exception of DCI Miller, who effectively takes on this case as an aside to the many other cases he apparently has, just because he is intrigued about what has happened on his friend’s posh estate. He involves a PC who we met briefly in One Man Crusade which leaves scope for more in future novels, and while there is potential for a meaty investigation as Miller’s team investigate a series of canal murders in the Manchester area, this is only touched upon. It may be that Suttie intends to revisit this in a future book. Perhaps the rest of Miller’s team would be given more to do in the next novel.

Regarding the main plot, there are many holes in the conclusion that leave the end of the novel lacking somehow. Rachel’s mother and Britney knew what actually happened but didn’t add anything to the case in the end. Why? Also, once Rachel and Mick had figured out their situation, why did they not tell the truth then? Surely Miller and his team would have to investigate further if they had told the truth. As Suzanne isn’t exactly squeaky clean, surely it wouldn’t have been much of a stretch to extend the investigation and unpack the truth. Tania is only alluded to at the end of the novel and there is obviously more of a connection between Suzanne and Tania that wasn’t made clear. Was it genuinely developed when they met on the estate or was there a back story, a hidden past? Also, why is Maureen unable to keep her promise to look after the children? Why was Graham painted to be a pillar of the community despite being forced out of his job? Why did no-one speak up when he was being portrayed as an innocent victim, particularly as it transpired that he had a history of sordid habits? I sincerely hope that Suttie intends to address at least some of the above questions in future novels.

Suttie has a fantastic talent for highlighting the flaws in society. He did that wonderfully in The Clitheroe Prime Minister and  One Man Crusade. He doesn’t disappoint in this respect in Neighbours From Hell as he takes stereotypical opinions and turns them on their head, showing that situations are not always as they first appear. I wonder if his intention with the way he has ended this novel is a tactic to show the reader that there is not always a happy ending and life is most definitely not fair, further elaborating that appearances can be deceptive. Yet, with The Clitheroe Prime Minister and One Man Crusade, although the conclusions are essentially the main protagonists making the best of a bad situation, the reader was left feeling that the ending was as it should be. I didn’t feel that with this novel, and I’m really sad about that.

Despite my misgivings about the ending and my wish that their had been more involvement by the rest of Miller’s team, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I read the bulk of it in one sitting, which shows how invested I was to the plot. Suttie’s journalistic writing style is really engaging, allowing the reader to make up their own minds on any given situation and I would undoubtedly read any future Suttie novels. However, having absolutely loved One Man Crusade, I can’t help but feel Suttie has sold himself short. Perhaps my expectations were just too high. Maybe Nichola and I are in the minority and other readers would find this an appropriate resolution to the plot. I would certainly encourage people to give it a go, because even if you reach the same conclusions as we did, you’ll have a book that you will enjoy and won’t be able to put down, plus you’ll be up to speed for the next one, as I certainly hope that there will be future DCI Miller tales. Ultimately, it does not meet the exceptional brilliance of One Man Crusade (perhaps that is as it should be) but it does leave plenty of opportunity for Suttie to expand the series further, which I look forward to reading and reviewing in the future.

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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

Elizabeth Gilbert The Signature of All Things 2 days in the top 100 The Signature of All Things (213) Download: £5.39

Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom – A Colouring Book Adventure

Millie Marotta 261 days in the top 100 Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom - A Colouring Book Adventure (1206) Buy new: £9.99 £3.99 46 used & new from £2.39

After Anna

Alex Lake 32 days in the top 100 After Anna (88) Download: £0.99

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire

Dan Howell , Phil Lester Release Date: 8 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £16.99 £8.49

Rogue Lawyer

John Grisham Release Date: 20 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £20.00 £10.00

Little Girl Gone

Alexandra Burt Little Girl Gone (18) Download: £0.99

The Clitheroe Prime Minister by Steven Suttie

A few months ago, I read and reviewed One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie. I loved it. I was a complete emotional wreck when I finished it and I have since told anyone who would listen what an absolutely amazing book it is and have tried to encourage them to read it. I also made it my Book of the Month in May. So, it was only a matter of time before I read his début novel The Clitheroe Prime Minister. I suppose I had high expectations given how much I enjoyed One Man Crusade and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

The tag line for The Clitheroe Prime Minister is “What if a beer guzzling welder from up north was PM?” and that really is enough to set up the premise of the novel. The plot follows Jim Arkwright, said beer guzzling welder from up north, who is a relatively successful local businessman who has a loving wife and three children and is putting the world to rights with his pals in the pub when he puts on an impromptu show for his friends, adopting the Prime Minister’s accent and giving the locals his amusing version of what he thinks should be the Prime Minister’s agenda. Little does Jim know that he is being filmed by some local skateboard journalists who have enjoyed Jim’s political speech and as it finds its way onto YouTube and Facebook, Jim unwittingly becomes an overnight celebrity, much to his bemusement, and he is dubbed the “Clitheroe Prime Minister”. Jim seems to be saying what the British public is thinking and he can back his arguments up with enough knowledge of society’s ailments to be a plausible leader. He is able to point out the flaws in society and with the politicians themselves. His brutal honesty of what is wrong with today’s society in comparison with the truth-bending politicians and their self-serving policies immediately resonates with the members of the public who feel that the country is on its knees and they come out in force to show their support as he dominates every media outlet in the country.

Much of what Suttie references in this novel is true of a large chunk of British society and is certainly resonant of today’s political outlook among a lot of working class citizens. Through Jim Arkwright, Suttie describes how we live in a materialistic society, living our lives through social media. Jim argues that there is no sense of community and no real consequences for those who flout the rules. He highlights that there is high unemployment, astronomical  taxes and low wages. However, not only does Jim point out the errors of today’s society but he comes up with such plausible solutions, the government has no option but to take note, after a number of political figures are left reeling following a verbal stand-off with Jim.

Of course, the situation that Jim finds himself in would never happen in real life, despite the fact that radical change is certainly needed in the current political climate. We only have to look at the current Labour leader debacle, where there are accusations being thrown around that thousands of Tory’s have joined the Labour party to try to sway the voting, presumably wanting someone elected who they feel will be easy to beat in the next elections, to realise that there is widespread corruption in the current political system. However, this is a book review, not a discussion on politics, so let’s get back to the book.

Suttie has purposely made Jim and his family and friends very funny characters who are extremely likeable whilst making the politicians rude and selfish. I have seen reviews that have described this book as “stereotypical” and I agree to a point, but that is how it should be, so that the reader wholeheartedly supports Jim and his supporters.  The situation Jim finds himself in is unprecedented but it unites most of the county in looking for a political overhaul, and at a time where the political leaders are fighting battles on many fronts, in and out of the novel, Jim is a beacon of hope for what Britain could be like when someone who can see the country’s flaws, and knows how to fix them, is in charge. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of Jim’s policies but he certainly has the right idea and I particularly like the £5000 each to spend on British-made goods idea. I could spend £5000 in 12 hours very easily! The novel also shows the power of money throughout the media and ultimately, although indirectly, this is Jim’s downfall, though he never really believes he will become Prime Minister anyway. At the end of the book, the one thought the reader is left with is that a loving family is more important than anything else, and despite the ups and downs of life, if you have a family who you can rely on to cheer you up during the bad times and who you can share your happy times with, then you are rich.

Considering The Clitheroe Prime Minister and One Man Crusade together, it seems that Steven Suttie is an expert in reading society’s inadequacies, the causes of those inadequacies and how things could be changed for the better. I loved both books, both beautifully written, witty and clever. While The Clitheroe Prime Minister has a completely different tone to One Man Crusade, which was an emotional roller coaster tackling highly emotive topics, the truth that emanates from these two novels is what makes them so effective. The Clitheroe Prime Minister, although serious with regard to the political “hot potatoes” that are discussed, is funny and uplifting, showing the people of Clitheroe to be down-to-earth, hard-working citizens. Suttie himself described this to me as his “Marmite” book so I think it probably does depend on the reader’s political leanings as to whether you will enjoy this book or not, although this shouldn’t be the case. Suttie does not place Jim as a supporter of any political party, just as someone who wants a better life for his friends and family and if this narrative was a political manifesto, I think that it would have a lot of backing from quite a few British citizens. Although some of the “policies” are a little unrealistic, some politicians would do well to look to this book for ideas on how to improve the country’s financial, political and social problems. I’d vote for Jim in a heartbeat!

Revenge

Martina Cole Revenge 228 days in the top 100 Revenge (1686) Download: £0.99

Grandpa's Great Escape

David Walliams Release Date: 24 Sept. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

Username: Evie

Joe Sugg Release Date: 10 Sept. 2015 Buy new: £14.99 £7.00

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee Go Set a Watchman 134 days in the top 100 Go Set a Watchman (631) Buy new: £18.99 £9.00 81 used & new from £6.19

How I Lost You

Jenny Blackhurst 45 days in the top 100 How I Lost You (367) Download: £0.99

Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Colouring Book

Johanna Basford Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Colouring Book 167 days in the top 100 Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Colouring Book (358) Buy new: £9.95 £6.97 43 used & new from £4.49

Abducted (Lizzy Gardner Series, Book 1)

T.R. Ragan Abducted (Lizzy Gardner Series, Book 1) 102 days in the top 100 Abducted (Lizzy Gardner Series, Book 1) (570) Download: £1.00

Gray Justice Alan McDermott

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine suggested that I read Gray Justice, the first in a series of novels by Alan McDermott that, by all accounts, is doing very well for itself. The reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are, on the whole, very complimentary and the blurb promises an interesting plot. I started the novel with an open mind, aware that although my friend had not particularly enjoyed it, that was no indication about how I would respond to it. Indeed, all these people who have read it and got it into the Top 10 of the Kindle chart can’t all be wrong!

Gray Justice is a novel about Tom Gray, who is left devastated after his young son is killed by a runaway car abandoned by a career criminal, followed by the suicide of his wife in the wake of this tragedy. A former member of the SAS, he decides to take matters into his own hands when the car thief gets a 15 month sentence but is let out straight away as he has served half his sentence while he was on remand. Gray sells his security services firm and, with the help of his former S.A.S. pals, he holds five career criminals in makeshift cells in an old pottery factory and sets up a website to allow the public to decide if these criminals should live or die by voting on his website. Using his army training, he builds himself a fortress to hold these criminals in while the police, security forces and media watch on.

The premise of the novel is good, however McDermott wastes it. In a book with such a plot, I would have expected to connect with Tom Gray very early on, cheering him on throughout the novel. However, we learn very little about Tom Gray. He loses his wife and child in tragic circumstances and I would have expected to feel a heavy sense of sympathy for this man but I don’t feel that the reader get this chance to really feel Tom Gray’s pain through the narrative. This pivotal event in this man’s life, that causes him to sell his house and his business to fund a vigilante scheme to bring awareness to the flawed justice system is reduced to no more than a few paragraphs. We don’t even get to experience his emotions through the other characters reactions, and there are many other characters, especially in the first few chapters. It was easy to get confused with who was who at times. I realise that Gray’s personal feelings is not what the plot is necessarily about and that there is a bigger picture to consider, but without this build up or exploration of Gray’s feelings to any great extent, the narrative just drags on without any real emotion from the reader. We get no real understanding of just quite how much this has had an impact on him. Of course, we can imagine, but I want my heart-strings to be tugged at. In Gray Justice, it just wasn’t to be.

The initial focus of the reader is on the career criminal, Stuart Boyle, as we are told his story first and his complete lack of concern for anything but the financial gain he will receive after procuring a car for someone who will pay him a meagre fee of £500. We hear all about his tricks of the trade, how he avoids the police etc. Whilst it is necessary for this information to be related to the reader, this should not be the first thing the reader encounters. Perhaps this would have worked better if we had read a bit more about Gray’s relationship with his wife and child. It could have been as simple as a typical morning at breakfast, showing some interaction as a family. The reader’s sympathy for Gray would certainly have been heightened with this simple juxtaposition of a before and after view to add to the reader’s understanding of Gray’s loss. Perhaps we could have been given an insight into how Gray’s wife descended into such a depression that she couldn’t take it anymore. Without this preparation, the reader does not get a chance to understand fully why Gray takes the course of action that he does and is left to just go along with the plot.

The narrative itself was not particularly engaging either. There is very little use of figurative language and lots of inane descriptions of car journeys and technical processes that would have been better to have been left to the imagination. I find it odd that so much of the narrative is dedicated to these mundanities when so little was given to Gray’s back story, which in my opinion, was imperative to understanding Gray’s full motivation. There was obviously some intention to add authenticity by throwing in some S.A.S. technical terms  and some jargon relating to computer programming and IP addresses etc. but quite frankly, they were lost in the surrounding narrative. The things that McDermott chose to write extensively about baffled me, when there were areas that could, and should, have been expanded upon. The narrative’s momentum stalled at regular intervals because of this which made it difficult to build up any kind of suspense.

I also struggled with the part of the storyline that saw a young analyst being given a job by a senior MI5 operative who is apparently so senior, his immediate boss takes direct orders from the Home Secretary! I found it hard to believe that there is no chain of authority in MI5, however, I am not an expert in these matters. This poor young girl can’t get the attention of a senior agent so she takes it upon herself to follow a potential terror suspect, one who she knows to be extremely dangerous, along with a coach load of his cronies. I understand that perhaps the intention is for Tom Gray to inadvertently facilitate a potential terrorist threat, thus making the point that vigilantism is not the way forward,  but with the real life political relevance that I would imagine McDermott was trying to emulate in this novel, I would have appreciated a more realistic plot to better make the point. There were other ways of causing a distraction, perhaps a report of a fake device, which distracted the Security Services and S.A.S. into action miles away from Tom Gray’s fortress, allowing the real terrorists to attack without any unrealistic plotting of an overzealous junior agent taking on a coach load of terrorists alone.

My interest increased in the last few chapters as the pace increased but it was very difficult to keep up as a reader, trying to mentally visualise the numerous locations of the various attackers, whilst considering where the police and media presence were situated. With the terrorists, the police, the media, the S.A.S. friends of Gray, and not to mention Gray and his band of criminals all placed in or around vehicles or various ridges and perimeters, I really wasn’t sure who was where and which characters were dead, injured or still running around. I felt like I needed a battle map similar just to get a grip on where everyone was. However, I must admit, I did find myself keen to know what was going to happen next at this point, even if I was a little confused about who was where.

The cause of Gray’s actions is completely lost in the final chapters with a bit of a summary of what happened next by someone who, I assume, is a doctor. Not all the gaps are filled, to encourage the reader to read the next novel but I’m not sure I want to. I was continually disappointed in this book, willing the author to cut out the irrelevant stuff and enhance the plot.  I recently wrote about One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie (One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie) , and I absolutely loved it. The reason I mention it here is that its premise has similarities with this book in that a good man, distraught by the death and suffering of a loved one at the hands of a criminal becomes a very public vigilante to try and encourage the powers that be to change the law, gaining unprecedented support from the nation and highlighting flaws within society. With One Man Crusade, I engaged straight away with the characters. There was real depth to the narrative and every piece of information relayed was relevant to the plot. There are only a few relevant protagonists who are introduced in such a way to avoid any confusion and you got to know the personalities and lifestyles of the characters so that you cheered them on. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion reading One Man Crusade. That’s what I’d have expected to experience at some point when I read Gray Justice, given the emotional experiences of Tom Gray in the beginning. I always try to balance my reviews out of respect for the author who will have undoubtedly put blood, sweat and tears into writing their novel and, of late, the majority of them have been mainly positive but I really struggled to find positive features in this book apart from the premise itself, which was a real shame. I may read book two out of curiosity one day and perhaps my opinion of that will be completely different but, whilst this was a very good idea for a plot, its execution was severely lacking. However, apparently lots of people disagree with me and love this book, so perhaps I’m missing something…