Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Engrossing Debut:- Remarkable, Suspenseful Thriller! The Candidates aDaughter by Catherine Lea.

Blurb:- "A thriller with heart." - Sara J. Henry, Anthony-award winning author of A COLD AND LONELY PLACE.

Twenty-two-year old car thief Kelsey Money thought kidnapping senate hopeful Richard McClaine’s kid was the worst plan Matt and his drug-fueled brother had ever come up with. But Matt's planned everything down to the last detail—nobody gets hurt, the kid goes home alive. Then Kelsey discovers she’s only got half the plan. By the time she finds out the rest, she’s been framed for murder, and six-year-old Holly McClaine won't be going home alive. Across town, Holly’s mother has no idea what her daughter was wearing when she disappeared. When Holly was born with Down syndrome and a cleft palate, Elizabeth McClaine placed her only daughter in the care of a nanny while she battled post-natal depression. But when Holly is kidnapped and Elizabeth discovers the detective heading the hunt has already failed one kidnapped child, Elizabeth knows she cannot fail hers. Now Kelsey and Elizabeth have twenty-four hours to find Holly. Because in twenty-five, she’ll be dead.

Review

Embark on a journey of utterly believable intrigue toward a nail-biting show-down that'll have you screaming "get'm, oh get'm, please", until the very last world-erupting word.

An emotional freight train running at an unprecedented pace into unfathomable darkness. A place of ice cold emptiness. A hollowed-out-heart. A wicked barren pit. You feel all this in the mother's pain, tangibly. You will hear a crinkle of paper, loud enough to set your teeth on edge, as she crunches up her heartfelt void right in front of you! Yet, it has rhythm, a speed to it that layers warmth to melt straight through the ice at the base of the tale. I felt myself rooting for the heroine(s) vocally(very loudly, in fact). At various intersections, I found my hands in fists of sheer anticipation. The suspense nearly killed me. I was so very involved in the story I dreaded its finale, now isn't that something? Incredibly eloquent, you'll be marveling at phrase after phrase of first class, sparkling writing; could I say more? Catherine Lea stitched me right into the fabric of her story without me even noticing that she had; the mark of a truly gifted author.

Friday, 25 October 2013

A Thousand Tears by J.C Martin a short story review.

Quote to set the scene

"So often in the course
Of life's few fleeting years,
A single pleasure costs
The soul a thousand tears."


- Francis William Bourdillon, “Upon the Valley’s Lap”
Free on Smashwords.
Here

Blurb:-
A tragic fantasy tale that will hopefully drive home the point: that communication is of foremost importance in all relationships. 
Review:-
Excellent short read. Well written. A demonstration in the effects of a hardened heart, a heart made unsure by the vastness of human uncaring.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Scary Mary by SA Hunter--A Review

Cute, quirky and side-splittingly funny. This is one hell of an entertaining read. Scary Mary is different, she's intelligent, but also more than a tad bit odd-ball. Nevertheless, someone, in the form of Cyrus--the hot new boy at school--finally recognizes her merits and wants to be friends. That is, until she has to tells him that his house is haunted and that the wicked malevolent spirit living in it is intent on having on going conversations with her, and possibly killing him(no wonder no one at school wants to know her, he thinks!). For the sake of good, Mary wants to rid Cy, of his ghost hoping stoically that she won't face the same fate as the only fairy tale female hero she knows of, The Little Mermaid, who for love gave up her legs only to be left to melt into sea foam while her prince marries his princess. Dear, oh dear, if you haven't read this book you've surely missed something and since it's offered at more than one retailer free of charge I can only urge you to stay that delay-- And Rush Forth And Get It TODAY!


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Ocean's Gift by Demelza Carlton

Pitch

Sirens don’t fall in love with humans. For centuries it has been so…

But Sirena is different. She lost her first love to sharks and a storm, cursing the islands that stole him from her.

Times have changed and she must swim ashore once more, at the islands she once cursed.

Gone are the boats powered by sail and steam – jet boats with GPS are now the order of the day.

Enter Joe, the deckhand on the Dolphin. A handy man to have around when the lights go out. He’ll fix your generator and have the lights back on in no time, no worries. But can he seduce a siren?

Or will she swim away, before he can uncover her secret?

A story about fishing, lobsters, beer and boobs, on some cursed islands off the West Australian coast. At least that’s how Joe tells it.

For Sirena, it’s a very different story.

Review
Beautiful Cover!

The Australian colloquialisms had me grappling here and there to get a handle on the tale(no pun intended). We have blokes, for dudes. Nah, for no and mates for friends not to mention a strain of humor a tad bit to the left of smooth. I would class this a light read, certainly not something that would make you overly thoughtful. It has entertaining moments, but is a mildly graphic romance with a Siren fantasy element at heart. I think a young adult audience may enjoy it.

The most striking character is Joe, who manages to pull a smile and a giggle with his candid thoughts and all male attitude to his mermaid girl wonder. The fantasy aspect is not very detailed, and indeed, most of the action takes place on land, boat or bed(take your pick!). I would recommend this as a beach read and would imagine that most of the target audience would rush to read the sequel, particularly as the unusual ending had quite a bit of bait(ha!) to it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Max and the Gatekeeper by James Todd Cochrane. A Book Review

Blurb:-(from Goodreads)

A war has been waging for centuries; a magical and technological battle between good and evil. This conflict will affect life everywhere, but not everyone is aware it exists. When twelve-year old Max Rigdon is sent to stay with his grandfather for the summer, he unwillingly enters the fight. The day Max steps off the bus he is marked with an evil curse and immediately becomes the target of evil men and creatures with designs on ruling the universe. Not only does this curse cause Max physical pain but it allows his enemies to track and find him. He soon learns that the reason for this unwanted attention is because his grandfather is the keeper of a gateway; a powerful machine that makes travel to hundreds of strange unknown worlds possible. The enemy will do anything to gain possession of this power in their quest to control all worlds. With the help of his friend Cindy and others, Max must quickly learn the necessary skills to survive if he is to avoid the deadly trap that has been planned for him and his grandfather. A trap that has been decades in the making with Max as the missing piece. If successful it will change life as we know it.

Review:-

A sweeping enchanting story set in a world where the forces of good and evil battle for sway. No, this is not a "read it before", predictable tale, it is a vivid, beautifully woven saga of magic, mayhem and mystery. Adventure abounds, wicked plots and evil questing beasts frighten and entertain. Rarely, if ever, am I faced with a book I'm actually nervous to write a review for, this was one; I was afraid I would not be able to do it justice, it is simply too excellent.

Max, pays a reluctant visit to his grandfather for his summer vacation, he is immediately marked and tracked by the creatures of darkness. Max soon discovers, not only that he admires his grandfather, but that the old man is a seasoned traveler to far flung fantasy worlds, courtesy of an intriguing time machine. He befriends Cindy, a beautiful, tomboy, and makes instant enemies with the group of town bullies, who are far more dangerous than first thought.

Max and Cindy are charming characters, full of warmth and fun. Their halting, first blush infatuation is a delight to read, both refreshing in its innocence and evocative in its promise.

Suspense, and danger force Max and Cindy into a vortex of "other worlds" for which they need to learn enthralling magical arts to survive. From believable, truly scary monsters, to shimmering fairies and stealthy night shades, this book has it all. The ambit and sheer breadth of the authors imagination is staggering and ever awe inspiring. The target market here is probably pre-teen, but for anyone who fears that wonder is merely a glimmer of vaguely remembered majesty on a fading horizon, this book will fix it totally, a fit read for both child, and the child in you. A must do fiction, more heart-stoppingly amazing than anything I've picked up in years: which kid(or adult), after all, does not want to be the hero with hard-won superpowers who is touted to save the world.

PROMO Blitz for S.M. Pace's Shadow of the Wolf

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Professionals (Stevens and Windermere), by Owen Laukkanen. A Gritty Tale of Crime and consequence.

The Professionals (Stevens and Windermere)

by Owen Laukkanen.


Blurb:-

Four friends, recent college graduates, caught in a terrible job market, joke about turning to kidnapping to survive. And then, suddenly, it's no joke. For two years, the strategy they devise-quick, efficient, low risk-works like a charm. Until they kidnap the wrong man.

Now two groups they've very much wanted to avoid are after them-the law, in the form of veteran state investigator Kirk Stevens and hotshot young FBI agent Carla Windermere, and an organized-crime outfit looking for payback. As they all crisscross the country in deadly pursuit and a series of increasingly explosive confrontations, each of them is ultimately forced to recognize the truth: The true professionals, cop or criminal, are those who are willing to sacrifice . . . . everything.

Review

A gritty read of crime and consequence, full of guilt and grime. The author sets an unsympathetic backdrop of hash economic times as impetus to stray from the straight and narrow. Authur, Matt, Marie and Ben devise a seemingly harmless plan--they are not going to hurt anyone, only hold them until their well off families pay to get them back. However, abducting people is never harmless as the 'team' soon find out. The trick the author plays with his characters and his plot, that set this yarn apart, are to make the reader empathize not only with the protagonists predicament, but also with angst. Unwittingly you might find yourself hopeful for their escape, not only from their assailants, but from the nightmare situation they find themselves in. This is the 'Sundance' syndrome, and the author does it very well. His fugitives are nice, normal kids, who have stumbled onto the wrong path, we want to save them.

On the other hand the cops, are not so likable--well made characters, yes, nice, not at all--Stevens, wants fame and thrills. Windermere, loves the run of adrenaline during a case, more than closure at the end. Both officers are in relationships but find themselves more than a little enamored of each other. Also, they neglect their life partners without much regret. So, although this story pans out in a moralistically predicable way, the characters and the point they are shooting from(no pun intended) make this read unusual and engaging. If you like thrill-a-second, action packed reads, with life like heroes then this is the book for you.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Wrecking Ball!

Oh! Be very careful here, it is so easy to dismiss Miley Cyrus as some over puffed piece of fluff looking for attention. No, this girl has a very serious talent, and her emotion resonates through every note, on every string throughout her lyrical prose in "Wrecking Ball". I adore her, I implore her: give us more! This is not a tantrum, this is a young girl pushing the boundaries of her ability to see where it might lead her. She does not remind me of Sinead( despite how much I loved her in my youth) this girl is Cyndi Lauper, she is Stevie Nicks... Patti Smith, I applaud her--her guts, her strength and I wish her luck in a world of semi-human robots who simply do not get it! However, even I wish she'd show just a little less tongue.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Exclusive Excerpt: Identity X. Michelle Muckley's Blog Tour.

Synopsis

Ben is a research scientist. He finds the cure for genetic disease in a serum called NEMREC. He celebrates with his best friend Mark and returns home to his wife Hannah. When he returns to his laboratory he finds that his research and his staff have disappeared. When he tries to leave the laboratory somebody tries to shoot him. He flees, and he manages to escape. But when he tries to contact his wife she cannot be reached. He has to work out who he can trust in an attempt to find his wife and his son Matthew, all the while dodging mysterious agents who seem to want him dead. He has lost his wife, his son, and the chance to save his son’s life with hisgenetic research. Identity X is the story of his fight to take these things back.

Chapter fourteen.

AS THE CAR SNAKED THROUGH the roads towards Headquarters, Mark sat isolated on the backseat, encased in the impenetrable cocoon around him. He sat with his arm resting against the heavy set door. It was almost as thick as the door of an aircraft, and he slumped into his seat with his elbow propped up against the inch thick glass that shielded the passenger from external harm. The reflection of his face rippling in and out of view with the passing shadows offered none of the familiarity or security that he came to expect. Instead he saw dark eye sockets and ruffled hair, he felt smaller, and disarrayed like his plan. He felt weaker, a man cut down by a virus, consumed as a host, unable to function.

He felt the vehicle draw to a halt, and the sound of both front doors opening prompted him to ready himself for his exit. He had loosened his tie on the journey on account of his throat feeling constricted and his breathing difficult in the expensive custom made but tightly fitting suit, and he straightened himself and his clothing up. In the centre of his head he felt a similar pressure. It was a tight knot that had positioned itself directly between his eyes and fed off his stress. The patch of eczema on the palm of his hand was itching, and it had got worse this last week, which he had repeatedly told himself was coincidental. He had a new patch on his foot too, and he could feel it itching in a location that was utterly inaccessible without the removal of his shoe. This was not an option, and he therefore crunched his toes up and rubbed the side of his foot against the other as if trying to stimulate a spark between two dry sticks in the search for a snippet of relief, but yet found none. He rubbed his forefingers against his forehead as he waited for the sound of the door handle to indicate it was time to leave, to flee from his isolation and be comforted in the crowd of people and responsibility. Left on his own for too long, it was easy to allow the mind to wander. His skin conditions always bothered him more when he was alone, when he would find that his palms would sweat for no reason and the itching would take control of his thoughts. Caught up in the moment, surrounded by action, it was easier to forget these other botherations, and in the last twenty four hours specifically, convincehimself that they were doing as much as they could to rectify the failure of the operation.

The heavy door opened, and he slipped out his feet in one steady motion. He heard the raindrops first on the umbrella that had been opened and was waiting for him, casting his exit in shadow.

“Sir.” He was greeted by a faceless agent, somebody that he didn’t know. He said nothing in reply and walked at his usual quick pace, not once considering the umbrella holding agent beside him who quickened his pace unnaturally in order to shield him from the falling rain. The steps that lead up to Headquarters were innumerable, and his quick pace continued as he proceeded towards the main entrance door. Above him the rows of identical windows offered no view in. They appeared reflective like mirrors, and yet as black as the raven that he could hear cawing in the trees whichencircled the building. They offered no clue to the presence of hundreds of Civil Servants that existed behind the walls. The rain began to fall heavily as he approached the front doors, and the flanking agents atMark’s side stepped up their pace to move ahead now that he was covered by the elaborate entrance held up by a balustrade of columns. They stood with their hands on the covered keypad, and as they simultaneously entered their private key codes they looked at each other to indicate that it was time to press their respective buttonstogether. They did so and the doors opened, and with second perfect timing, Mark approached the thick mirrored glass doors to see his wavering reflection disappear into the recess as they slid away, permitting him entry into the belly of Headquarters. He looked tired and dishevelled, and the usual sense of self gratification that he relished by seeing his reflection in front of these doors was lost on him today.

The heels of the crowd of agents resonated as they walked through the foyer with each step vibrating up to the high level ceiling. Captain White greeted them as they neared their destination of the rear door, his arms laden with papers. His usually neatly coiffed hair appeared tousled, scruffed up, like he had either had a really rough night’s sleep or had been running his oversized hands through it this morning. It was probably a mixture of both. He looked spent.

“Sir, all of the arrangements for Agent Sadler have been completed and Seventy Fourth Street has been cleaned.” His words came spluttering from his lips, all breathy and eager like he was talking to a really hot woman, each word jumbling into the next. He fidgeted the papers about in his arms waiting for a response, hoping he had impressed.

Mark stood quietly in front of his subordinate, his crowd of underlings waiting anxiously for his reaction to Agent Sadler’s name. Sets of eyes twitched left and right, looking for comfort in another man’s gaze at the uncomfortable mention of Ami. They had all heard by now what had happened. The news had filtered through like Chinese whispers, bringing with it sorrow and disbelief. Then the second wave of gossip had spread, she was a foreign agent, a double agent, working for both sides. Oh in that case, good job. It was for the best. Even the ones who didn’t really mean it kept their grief to themselves.

“It is quite clear to me now that Agent Sadler was not at all what she seemed. Amena Saad was in fact the daughter of Abdel Salam Saad, a well know buyer of weapons who feeds not only the east, but the west, the north and the south. Had they have successfully stolen the data that we have tried for many years to acquire he would have undoubtedly made a fortune from the nearest buyer and we in the near future would have been the victim of our own success, and failure.

“It is your department that manages recruitment and dissolution of contract, is it not, Captain White?” The whole crowd knew the meaning of dissolution of contract. It was a phrase that made even the most secure of agents fearful. There was not a single agent who would have wished for ‘dissolution of their contract’ and the discomfort rippled through the ten pairs of feet as they shuffled uncomfortably under the tension of the confrontation.

“Yes Sir. It is indeed.”

“Then you are as I understand solely responsible for her recruitment.”

“Yes Sir. That is my responsibility.”

“Then you and I will discuss matters regarding AmenaSaad at a later date. Right now I want to know the location of Ben Stone. What do you have?” Mark began to walk towards his office, through the corridors and hordes of eyes that gazed upon him as he walked, startled at the presence of their boss after the rumour of the operational failure had began its diffusion throughout the department. Captain White turned on his heels and followed in the footsteps of his superior. He glanced repeatedly from the papers towards the corridor, reading as they moved through the crowds, sidestepping the other agents in order to get close to Mark.

“Sir, Agent Mulligan tracked him to the underground station on Sixtieth. He shot an agent and disappeared into the tunnels. Her team followed him but came up with nothing. We picked up a signal from his phone line briefly, and we have sent agents in that direction, but it was a very brief signal, and has subsequently not been identified again.”

“You mean you haven’t got anything on him since he left the underground station?”

“For half an hour it looked as if he was heading in an easterly direction, but the last activity we recorded was over forty minutes ago.”

“Tell me, Captain White, how is it possible that a man with no identity, no financial strength, and approximately one hundred agents at our disposal to be placed on his tail as and when we choose to do so should evade our grip. We have tracked this man successfully for many years and controlled his life down to the decision of what breakfast he might eat. What holiday destination he may visit. Short of controlling when he goes to the toilet we knew everything about him, and suddenly we know absolutely nothing?”

“Sir we have every agent out looking for him. We have every underground station sealed. There is no exit he could take that doesn’t go through us.”

“Find him.” They had reached his office door and he held up his access card, another heavyset door opened giving access to his office. He turned to look at Captain White for the first time since they had started walking together. “Find him and kill him.” He turned to another agent on his right just before he closed the door behind him. “Mulligan is on her way in. When she gets here, send her directly to me.”

Mark didn’t wait for a response. He didn’t need the confirmation from his staff that his instructions would be followed. He knew that there was not a single person working in this department that would dare go against his will. He expected his commands to be followed as if they were in a military battlefield. There had been many whisperings that his appointment into his position had been misguided, a gentle nod from most of the staff with military experience that his lack of exactly that made his position untenable. They had all been professional to his face of course, but he knew what they were really thinking. He knew they were talking about him. This one flaw, some believed, would be the downfall of this operation. It had until now been an unfounded idea, a hypothesis courted by those he believed suffered at the hands of their own jealousy and envy. After all, who wouldn’t want his job?

He was more than aware that his failure to see through his final task, one that he had both requested and guarded against delegation to others in the scientific team surrounding Ben, would add fuel to such beliefs. To fail in Ben’s elimination at the final hurdle had the potential to show weakness and undermine everything he had ever achieved. It would render years of his work worthless. He knew people were already talking. They were wondering if his friendship had prevented him from delivering the fatal drug, and that somehow Ben’s unbelievable escape was part of a covert plan. They wondered if it was their leader that had warned him, and that had somehow ensured his escape. How dare they question me? Was it even Ben Stone that they were tracking now? Perhaps he was already out of the city, or the country? The only proof of his dedication to the agency now was Ben’s body, cold and dead and on a slab for display like a witch’s head on a stake. It was his only option.

As he sat at his desk, his arms folded defiantly in front of his chest, tapping his top lip with his forefinger, he gazed at the computer screens around him. He saw the multitude of red lights, each representing an agent in the field, and corroborating Captain White’s account that there was indeed no underground exit that wasn’t covered. The red lights blinked in uniform straight lines following the course of the train system, equally spaced and in pairs as his team sat guard at the stations. There was also a small collection of dots forming an arc around the eastbound perimeter of the city, a backup team in case Ben’s travel eastward had in some inexplicable way been successful. He rested his heavy head on the palm of his hand, as if his muscles couldn’t cope with the weight of it, which served only to make his painful headache feel worse. He took several deep cleansing breaths, safe from view of his team on the other side of the reinforced wall where such a display of tension he had forbidden himself long ago. His private office was a fortress within a fortress. It acted as an instant reminder to all who work there of the level of risk and secrecy in which they had chosen to live their lives, perhaps naively and years before they had begun to crave the love and security of a family, or a real connection to the world. The walls were reinforced against radiation and built with an aluminium and steel layer. The building had the potential to keep everything out, but should it fail, the walls to his private office offered him at least a secondary line of defence. From here he had his own passageway towards the underground bunker. It wasn’t for him, but he had access to it. Under no occasion had a senior member of the state been forced to visit Headquarters, to learn of its existence, and all involved in The Agency’s operation hoped that fact may remain for years to come, for it was their secrecy and invisibility that permitted their ongoing survival. Once it was compromised, it would be the end of the system as they knew it, because for it to survive, first it had not to exist.

He pulled the top file from the pile on his desk and after pushing aside the large glass paperweight he placed the pale beige coloured cardboard folder in front of him. It was marked three of ten, which meant that the pile had become irritatingly disarranged, no doubt by the staff that he had ordered to transfer the most recent files to his desk rather than the storage area. Mark had ensured that when the equipment had been removed from the laboratory, the one that Ben had called home for such a long time, that the equipment be placed in storage but for the documents to be entrusted to his own safe keeping. In truth, he wanted to read through them. He wanted the words to lift from the page and transfer into his own mind, reawaken his scientific abilities and transcend their ownership by Ben. Eventually he intended for them to become his own words, his own work. He had decided to read them repeatedly, until it made sense to the point that when requested to do so he could paraphrase it in a way that would instil confidence to his audience, but with just enough mystery that they would undoubtedly realise that without him the future application of the findings would remain an ambitious dream. First, he had to replace something that had until now proven irreplaceable. Ben.

He knew that he wouldn’t understand the majority of what was written immediately. It would take time. These were after all Ben’s handwritten notes from years of research. The date on the top of this file was from three years previously. He leafed through the contents, the notes and diagrams a foreign language to him. He brushed his thumb against the spines of the other files that sat atop his desk and felt their rough texture which set his teeth on edge, like fingernails on a chalk board. He found the latest file, named ten of ten. Opening the folder he saw that the latest page was dated only two days before, the final day of Ben’s existence. He glanced at the page as report after report was completed detailing the success of repeated experiments. He found it unbelievable how Ben had failed to maintain computer records, and had continuously tried to push him towards starting them, knowing that it would be infinitely easier to secure the work this way. He closed the file, knowing now was not the time to focus on Ben’s work, and opened his desk draw in order to place all of the files securely inside. Amongst the cigarettes, pens, and other office paraphernalia there was one other thing that caught his attention, and he found his eyes being antagonistically drawn towards it against his will. It was a photograph of him with Ben, taken as teenagers and before any influence from The Agency had snuck malevolently into their lives. As much as he denied it to the public and also to himself if he cared to admit it, seeing the past documented like this was painful. He threw the files on top of the photograph and slammed the draw shut, leaving his hand in place against the closed draw as he took in another deep breath. Angry at the photograph’s presence he reminded himself that to bring it here had been a moment of unacceptable weakness, and he tossed it back inside. There was a bin next to the desk which remained empty. He told himself it was the wrong place for disposal. He may have been right.

Taking one final look at the red lights blinking on the screen, he stood from his desk, leaving the office behind him as he stepped out into the corridor. The only sounds around him were the tapping of computer keyboards or the occasional scratch of the lead of a pencil against paper, and they resonated through the silence. Which one of you was talking about me before I came out of my office, he thought to himself rhetorically, fearing that the answer could be all of them.

Walking through the corridors he could feel the eyes upon him as heads raised as he passed them, like a Mexican wave as they each looked up to catch a glimpse of their under pressure boss. He knew what they were thinking. He knew that they considered his appointment to the head of this operation a failure. He knew they were thinking him to be a weak leader, or worse, a traitor. He ignored his desire to question them, to turn around and give them a piece of his mind and ask them if they had any idea what it was that he had given up in order to get this operation off the ground in the first place. If they had any idea of what personal cost he had paid in the pursuit of success, the thought wouldn’t even cross their minds. He held his head up, and pushed all memories of his youth to one side. There is no shame in what I have done. Anybody would have done it, maybe not exactly this but everybody is selfish. It’s normal. He focussed his mind on the metronomic beat of his shoes as they struck the stone floor of the corridor. It’s true, nothing lasts forever.

In his effort to forget his past, his present was doing little other than making him feel angry at himself. He had planned almost every step of this operation personally, and those that he hadn’t planned were organised under his close scrutiny. So far today he had suffered the embarrassment of not only discovering that Ben must still be alive, randomly wandering the streets and seeking access to the underground stations, but also that he had enabled and worked alongside a double agent for the last two years. Amena Saad had paid the ultimate price, her body now resting in their mortuary and waiting for cremation, but yet to Mark that still did not seem enough. He had no idea of the level of information that Ben may have gained from this traitor before he had given the order to take her out. For the first time in a long time he felt that he was the one in the dark, that he was no longer in control of everything. There were things happening that were not directly the result of his hands and he wanted it to stop. He needed Ben’s body in his mortuary, alongside Amena’s. It didn’t matter how hard it would be for him to see. He had hoped that his body could be disposed of directly, and that he would be able to avoid forming a real visual memory, but so be it. He would take responsibility for the mess that had occurred. His punishment would be the sight of his dead friend, Ben cold and lifeless, tag on the toe and penis hanging pathetically limp along his leg for all to see. That would be the price of success. Then he could put an end to the embarrassing whisperings of his staff regarding his potential involvement in Ben’s escape. Then he would be absolved.

As he approached another door he swiped his access card against the screen of the card reader. The red light at the side of the door changed to green and he slipped into the room in front of him.

“Where is he?” The agent stood to attention as the door opened and his boss walked through. Mark’s words werecannonball-blunt and unfriendly.

“Sir, he is just through here.” The guard led him towards another doorway which had no locking mechanism or card reader to grant access. Mark pushed the door open to see the little boy playing on the floor with a popup book, taking in each of the details as he turned the pages that brought to life images of mountains and animals, a tour of the world and its zoological inhabitants. A female agent, who looked less than excited with her appointment to this latest assignment, stood as she realised the man walking through the door was in fact her boss, but he brushed her away, ushering her to resume her disinterested position in her seat as if he knew this assignment was beyond boring.

“Hey Matthew,” Mark said, as he got close enough to crouch down next to the boy and ruffle his hair. His sudden change of tone, a full about turn, sounded alien to the other agents who shared their surprise in a quick glance behind the safety of Mark’s back.

“Uncle Mark!” A smile spread across Matthew’s face and he threw his arms around Mark’s body, his chubby arms wrapping themselves without caution around his waist. His hands gripped onto Mark’s clothes, and Mark naturally and softly slipped his hands around the small body, encasing him in a genuinely warm embrace as he scooped him up. “Did you bring it?” he asked.

“Did I say I would bring it?” The boy nodded, unsure if the response was in his favour or against him. “If I said I would bring it, then I must have brought it.” Mark pulled out a rolled up book from his inside pocket, no thicker or smaller than a magazine. Matthew’s eyes grew wide as he saw the blue of the book appearing as majestically as Poseidon from an underwater domain, which had been stowed there this morning, before he knew that Ben was about to wake up and slip through his not so carefully cast net.

“Wow!” exclaimed Matthew, unfolding the football sticker book onto the grey tiled floor as Mark placed him back down, pushing away his popup book and X-Men comics. “And the stickers?”

“I got ten packs.” Mark pulled the packets out from his inside pocket and scattered them onto the floor. He crouched down next to Matthew, uncomfortable in the oppressive room, dimly lit and claustrophobic on account of the low ceilings.

“Shall we do it now?” Matthew asked, as he tore open the first pack and scattered the contents to the floor, faces of football players tumbled to the ground. “I’ve gotGerrard, and Cassillas,” and he paused as another sticker came into view. “I got Beckham. We should wait. We should do it with Daddy when he gets here. He loves Beckham.” Mark slipped his hand underneath Matthew’s chin, and pulled it towards his. He leant down so that their faces met. Matthew’s smile drained away, just as if somebody had pulled the plug on his excitement, his dreams. Mark saw the shift of the female agent next to him, and wondered if she too thought him to be the libertine that he knew he had become.

“You remember what I told you yesterday Matthew? You remember what I told you about Daddy when you got here?” Had he not been holding Matthew’s head so tightly, a grip that said you will listen, it would have dropped like a fallen ice cream, splat into his chest, the thought of what he had been told enough to crumble his childish will and sense of hope. Instead Mark pulled on his chin, dragging his eyes back up to meet his own. “Do you remember what I told you Matthew?”

“Yes. You said he had to go away to work for a while.”

“That’s right.”

“But he promised me that we would go and play football on Saturday. He never breaks his promises. You promised too.”

“And we will Matthew, but not this Saturday.” Mark stood up, ruffling his fingers through Matthew’s curly blond locks which looked so much like Ben’s, but he felt him pull away as he did so. “Mummy will be back soon.”

Matthew pulled the comics towards him once again, discarding the sticker album in an act of childish defiance. He allowed his dreams of one day becomingWolverine or Cyclops to replace the thoughts ofbecoming Beckham, his fantasies drowning out the last words to leave Mark’s lips before he left the room.

“Don’t let anybody else in here,” he said to the agent that stood guard against the door.

“Sir, what about Agent Mulligan?” the guard of the main exit door asked, immediately regretting questioning his instructions as Mark glared at him through cold eyes, glass eyes, glistening like polished crystal.

“I said nobody.” Mark pulled his jacket neatly back into place, before once again swiping his card and passing through the door. As he walked back up the corridor, he saw Captain White approaching him. He looked even more harassed, his hair having a party atop his head, crazed like it was on a bad trip, as he hurried towards his superior.

“Sir, we need to talk.” Mark had seen this look before. It was the type of clenched-jaw tension that never proffered good news. Add into that ‘we need to talk’, and you virtually guarantee the imminence of disappointment.

“Tell me you have found him.” Mark clung onto the last unrealistic hope of positivity.

“We lost Mulligan.” In an instant, hundreds of half formed ideas raced through his mind, uncertain if any of them could represent the truth.

“What do you mean you lost her? You can’t just lose an agent.” He could feel his throat drying and pulse quicken as his muscles tensed across his body, like an electric shock they tightened in waves.

“Sir, it’s not just her,” he paused, as if saying it would somehow make it worse. “We just lost her whole team.”

Monday, 7 October 2013

Read a mind altering excerpt from author Michelle Muckley's Identity X

Chapter Seven.

BEN HAD NEVER BEEN TO Seventy Fourth Street before, or the park behind it. He had heard of it because he knew that from this road led another small road, a dead end that led to nowhere. At the far end of the road sat a regal building which had been standing for over two hundred years. Its beauty was celebrated, especially at night when the rows of purple blooming Paulownias were illuminated and romanticised by the delicate light of the ancient street lamps. The building once stood as a palatial home of a local aristocrat, who alongside his own home had built a series of coach houses where his servants lived. These coach houses lined a small road that arose from Seventy Fourth Street and now did nothing more than guild the walkway to the square and hide its beauty away from the rest of the city like a beautiful but veiled face, there but unseen. This place of beauty had been left to its own devices, and much like love, after a period without care, attention, or somebody to nurture it, became less than precious and eventually forgotten until it was past the point of recovery. History would regale how this road was purpose built to carry horse drawn coaches many years before the advent of the car, but which now carried only feet towards a crumbling backdrop of long lost decadence. He didn't much care for being here, and couldn't for the life of him think why Ami would arrange to meet him in this place. The thought that this dead end could in fact be a trap rose poisonously in his mind like air pockets escaping from a stagnant quagmire, inserting doubt upon pre-existing doubt, cairns set to lead him in the wrong direction. He acknowledged this brief moment of hesitation, but found himself accepting the fact that he had no other option, and so despite his fears steeled himself for the moments ahead.

He turned from Seventy Fourth Street and into the narrow lane. Above him were rows of poorly constructed coach houses, abandoned and no longer in use. Newspapers dating from over twenty years ago had been pasted to the windows in several layers, the deepest of which were peeling and yellow from the heat of the sun and ground with dust and grime. Before him stood the beautiful regal building, decorated with ornate iron balustrades covering the base of the long oversized windows. Underneath the Paulownias there were a series of benches that sat empty and looked rickety and partly rotten. As he approached, he saw that the park opened out to the left and to the right forming a T shape with the narrow lane that led up to it. On his first look he couldn't see anybody. He was stood beneath the trees, heavily laden with buds that looked set to burst into bloom as the temperature would surely rise next month, coaxing them out. There was no wind here, and it felt immediately warmer surrounded by the height of the buildings proudly standing tall, unashamed of their atrophy and disrepair. He was suddenly hit by an overwhelming desire to bring Hannah here, and to sit with her on the benches beneath the blossoming trees. In his vision they wouldn't speak, only sit together, needing nothing more than each other's company and the sight of Matthew playing at their feet. In his visions Matthew remained an eternal toddler, short of words and rich in love and awe for his father. It was only as he saw Matthew in his mind’s eye today, that he realised his reflections were always from the past, every vision born of a time before Bionics.

He was snatched back into reality as he heard Ami whisper his name. As he turned to the direction of the voice he saw her stood in the corner of the square. She was tucked into the shadow of the great building, and she motioned for him to sit. He sat as instructed onto the bench which was facing away from her, but he turned and gripped the panels of brittle and splintered wood in anticipation of her approach, his eyes never once leaving her face.

Ami waited hesitantly for a moment, seconds ticking by at a pace which felt as if time had become stationary, until she eventually took her first steps towards him. He could see her indecision in her cautious steps and in the way that her eyes darted left and right, occasionally looking back over her shoulder. For a moment Ben was sure that he had seen a man dart back into the shadows of the building behind Ami, but as she approached he soon found himself completely focussed on her presence, remembering why he was here and forgetting anything else. Just before she sat down next to him she took a deep and fortifying breath, and he wondered why it was that she looked so fitful and apprehensive. He followed her with his eyes, and as she sat he turned to face her. His leg and arm muscles were braced and ready to run like a watched gazelle in the African bush, aware he was being watched but still anxiously waiting, fearful that any quick and sudden departure could render him vulnerable and exposed.

Her long casual hair that he had admired on so many occasions was wrapped neatly into a bun behind her head, and she was wearing a long Macintosh that swung freely and draped open as she sat. For the first time that he could remember she was wearing trousers. She appeared different from his memory, beautiful still, but rather than the softly painted vision that he kept close in his mind, it was a harder edged reality in which she appeared sharply focused and dangerous.

"Ben, there isn't much time. You have to listen to me carefully."

"Hang on Ami." This was his first chance to try to find out what the hell was going on, and if there wasn't much time he sure as hell wasn't going to hand it straight over to her. "Before you start, I need to ask you something."

"No Ben. You need to listen." This woman looked like Ami, but for the first time he could detect a slight accent in her voice. It reminded him of Mr. Saad, the man who was trying to fund his continued research programme. This was the first time she had demanded anything.

"No, no. Ami wait. Listen. I have to ask you some things."

"There will be a time for your questions but it isn't now. At the moment your questions will get us both killed." He didn't interrupt her again and he sat with his arms obediently dropped into his lap, his muscles limp and helpless, sun melted candles, leaves starved of water. "Ben, everything that has happened to you over the last few hours was not supposed to happen. It should already be over. We are only lucky that it is not." Ben's mouth dropped open in shock. Lucky? He didn't feel too damn lucky. "You should already be dead."

"I know that. Somebody tried to shoot me at the lab."

"I'm not referring to the lab. You were never supposed to wake up today. They started it much quicker than I anticipated. If I had known I would have found a way to tell you at the bar."

"What bar? What did they start? Anyway, who are they" Ami wasn't making much sense to him. "Is this about Mark?"

"Ben, who do you think you work for?"

"Bionics."

"You work for the government. Bionics is just the public face of the Office of Scientific Weaponry Development. OSWED."

"The government?"

"Yes, but not the one you see on the television, or in the newspaper. It's the same one, but it's the side of it that nobody knows about."

"Ami there is only one government."

"That's what I just said. There is the government that you see, the one that stands up and leads the country with clean hands, the one that can deny that certain things ever happened because they don't even know about it. They are public puppets. They are the ones that don't have to lie. Then there are the rest of us. The people that nobody knows about. The people that do what you might call dirty work."

"Ami, you're a scientist."

"Correct. But I don't work for you. I work for OSWED. They are supposed to be the people that keep you safe. It's supposed to be about intelligence and development. They believe it is what makes your Great Country so great.” Ben could hear a certain level of sarcasm coming through in her newly accented voice. "We work outside of standard military intelligence. We don't exist, at least as far as the rest of the world knows. That counts for the rest of the staff at Bionics."

"You're telling me that I work for a secret government agency, and that all of the staff I work with knew nothing about it except for you? What have you done with them? What happened to my research?"

"NO. Start paying attention Ben. You're the only one that doesn't know anything about it. Why do you think the lab and all of the staff have disappeared? The mission was complete. Your theory had been proven and NEMREC worked." She could detect the surprise on his face, the inability to understand as his mouth hung limply open. She wished that she could spare him the details, but she had to be honest. If ever there was a time it was now. "You were already supposed to be dead."

"What the hell!"

"They knew how good you were. They targeted you. They knew you would succeed so they started to control everything about you. They wanted your brilliance in the palm of their hand, and they did everything they could to get it. Your friends, your wife, your whole life. It's a set up Ben. It was all about getting NEMREC. You did it. They don't need you anymore."

"You're saying my whole life is a set up? That's bullshit Ami!" He was up and off the bench now, arms flailing like compliant branches in the wind without any control over their own movement. Who the hell does she think she is? Mark? Hannah? Matthew? She had to be lying.

"It's not bullshit. It's the truth. It's the first truthful thing you have heard in years. You discovered how to change people's DNA Ben. You know what they can do with that kind of knowledge." She was up on her feet now too, trying to make contact with him and reaching out for his arms as he span around, propelled by the inertia of disbelief. "I'm trying to cure disease, Ami not make weapons for your government."

"Your government, Ben. You might not be trying to make weapons but OSWED are. They want the ability to change DNA to build a stronger army. An elite force. They don't want to manufacture pharmaceuticals to cure Huntington's disease like you do. They want to make a stronger army and build weapons. They want people to be their weapons, and you have given them everything they need."

"And you?" He was stood still staring straight at her. "Why are you helping me if you work for them?" She sat down onto the bench, her head bowed. For a moment he thought he could see tears forming in her dark almond eyes.

"I want what you want, Ben." She turned her head up to look at him, and her eyes looked swollen and set to burst. "My father is dying. So am I. I want a chance to live to grow old." The pain in her face, in her blurry eyes and crumpled brow was a feeling that he recognised. He understood the feelings that she described, and he felt them every day in every one of his mutated cells. Her words could have been his own, his own feelings, his own hopes, his own aspirations. Any fears he had, any caution for the woman before him had passed. He saw his own reflection in her glassy eyes as he contemplated her sadness and regret. It softened him and he sensed the need for truth and trust, believing in the freedom and strength that it offered.

"Ami, why am I not dead already?"

"I don’t know. You should be. What she gave you should have been enough to kill you?"

"What who gave me?" He saw that same sense of pity on her face, as she wiped away a tear from her cheek. He traced his thoughts back to when he passed out on his settee, how he assumed he had merely been drunk, and how he had been dragged up the stairs, and how he had slept for thirty six hours, and how he had been sick, and how it was still there the next morning, and the next morning, and how Hannah hadn't been home. Suddenly he had visions of her as a spy carrying a gun and speaking in Russian on a foreign mission and seducing people to steal data chips, right before he reminded himself that the explanation that he had conjured up seemed utterly ridiculous. Yet still he said it. "You think Hannah tried to kill me?"

"No Ben. I know she tried to kill you. She poured you champagne, it was drugged. That's why you feel so awful now." She sat down on the bench, steadying herself, and attempting also to steady Ben, hoping that their current connection was enough to pull him towards her. Skin on skin, a real connection. She knew they had felt it before, and she hoped he felt it now.

"I threw up." He thought back to the pile of sick on the floor and couldn't remember ever being so pleased that he had been ill. He tried again to remind himself of the absurdity of her accusations, but found that the more time that passed and the more he listened to himself, the dismissal of her theory didn't seem quite so easy.

"Then that's why you're still here."

"Ami. What do they want from me?"

"They want you dead, Ben. It's their only aim. To them," she paused apologetically before she finished her sentence, "you already are. There is no record of your life anymore. It's not like you died, it's like you never existed."

"Ami, will you help me?” She nodded reassuringly. After everything that had happened this morning he had only one other question. "Ami, where have they taken my son?"

Friday, 4 October 2013

Michelle Muckley is Going On Tour. View Dates.

5th We Blog About Books Giveaway and excerpt.
6th The Book Read Cave Biography & Interview and excerpt.
7th Oct Extaordinaryreads.com Biography & Interview
8th Oct get-a-ebookreview.blogspot.com Biography & Interview
9th Oct Wackywhatever.wordpress.com Biography & Excerpt
10th Oct get-a-ebook-review.blogspot.com Exclusive Excerpt
11th Oct Wackywhatever.blogspot.com Synopsis and interview
12th Oct The self-publishing genie.tumblr.com Biography & Interview and excerpt.

All stops feature giveaways and prizes.
Buy the book here from Amazon

Biography

I was born in the town of Warwick in 1981. It is a small historical town in the heart of England, and I was the fifth child born into a family of boys. I developed a huge interest in the written world from a young age, and with more than a little help from Roald Dahl found quite the taste for anything gross and gory. Home now is Limassol, a city on the southern Mediterranean shores of Cyprus. Winters are spent in the mountains, summers are spent at the beach, and pretty much all hours between are sat at a computer where I am writing the next novel, or reading somebody else's.

Blurb:-

Ben Stone has one aim; discover the cure for genetic disease. He watched his father die and promised himself that it would never happen again, especially to his own son. After his appointment as lead researcher in Bionics Laboratories he begins his desperate research. It takes four years, but he succeeds. He discovers NEMREC, a serum able to reconstruct DNA and cure the diseases that have driven him. It should be the beginning of a new future, but by changing the face of the world, he has unwittingly destroyed his own. After arriving at his laboratory to find that it has disappeared, he is sucked into a world of conspiracy and betrayal. The Agency wants NEMREC and will do anything to get it, believing it to be the most powerful scientific discovery in decades. But it wasn't just NEMREC that they wanted. The Agency wanted Ben dead, but somehow he survived. His best friend, his wife, and Ami, the beautiful scientist who he has fallen for at work all offer to help him, but each has a different version of the truth. They all have their own agenda, only one of them wants what he wants, and in a world where you are already dead, how is it that you are supposed to survive?

Interview:- Michelle Muckley

What inspired you to write your first book?

From the first time I said to myself I want to write a book, I had been procrastinating very well and doing a lot of thinking, but not much else! A lot of thinking that did not get me very far, until one day an idea popped into my head which was something along the lines of, how far would a person go to preserve their own life at the cost of those around them? It got me thinking about what is precious to people, and what is so important that they would betray those close to them, or ignore their moral code. From this one thought, The Loss of Deference was born. What books have most influenced your life most? When I am asked this question the book that always comes to mind is The Beach by Alex Garland. For months afterwards I could not settle in my job, and all I wanted to do was give it all up and go travelling. The fact of having a mortgage however stopped me! Also, Gerald's Game. It was the first Stephen King book I read and from that point on I wanted to be a writer.

What are your current projects?

I am currently writing a book set in Bowness on Windermere in the Lake District, UK. It is my favourite place in the world. It is about a woman who has many psychological issues and how she is dealing with them with her less than perfect husband and the death of her father. But unfortunately for her the problems reach further than her mind. I have just finished the first draft. It need a heck of an edit!

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Here is a little bit from Identity X.
He waited before he spoke again, unable to focus on anything but the burgundy pool of blood forming underneath the waist of the dead shooter. "Why did he want to kill me?" "Because you are already dead, Ben. There are no options left for you. They will kill you. They will not stop until they do. They have hundreds of these men, and each one of them will die before they give up their duty,"she said, looking at the body on the floor, "and four of them are standing next to me right now." Ben looked up at the men at his wife's side and contemplated in what possible reality his wife would be flanked by four assassins. "You are going to walk out of this station with me, and you will get into the van parked outside." "If I don't?" "Then we will kill you here and now. I will do it because you will leave me with no other choice. If you come with me, if you trust me, I will protect you." What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life? For me editing is always the biggest challenge. I think as I write, which always means that story changes and develops and needs adjustments afterwards. The first book was difficult to write because I was working full time with an on-call commitment at the time. Finding the hours was tough. Right now the challenge is that I can hear the Disney Channel in the background in Greek, which when I'm not concentrating just sounds like blah blah blah.

What advice do you have for writers?

It is really important as a writer to practice your craft. By this I mean write consistently, and do it as frequently as you can. Ideally I think you should write each day, even if it's only for a short while, but sometimes this isn't practical. Reading is just as important, and I love to do it. It is like research and for me if I am not reading I feel my writing is more sluggish.

From a practical point of view for somebody who wants to test their skills in the world of publishing, the best advice is to polish whatever you want to publish to the point when you cannot possibly stand to read it anymore, and until you believe it is as good as you can possibly make it. Then make a choice between traditional and self publishing, and just go for it. And whichever you choose, make sure you are tough enough to stand rejection and criticism. I have experienced both, and it is essential to ride through it if you want to succeed. Professional writers are after all, the amateurs who didn't give up. I heard that recently. I cannot remember who said it, but I think it sums up the journey perfectly

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. A Book Review.


Don Tillman manages himself. He doesn't fit in, in any conventional sense nor in any ordinary way. He lives by route, eats by standardized meal selection and finds the concept of fun totally alien. Nevertheless, he sees the need to initiate a search for a life mate. However, normal dating routines leave him cold; he hates the waste of time--he simply does not have the social skills to patiently wait out traditional matchmaking trial and error. So, like the scientist he is, he decides to tackle the problem logically. He draws up a questionnaire to eliminate any potential time wastes in his quest to find a suitable wife--really! To fob this off as a, feel good frolic, is to severely undermine both the truly magical story as well as the gut-wrenching hilarity of the novel; I laughed so hard, and so long that my eyes watered, literally. Don meets Rosie a wholly unsuitable candidate on his marriage rating scale--she smokes, hates red meat and drinks copiously. Despite everything Don finds Rosie unbearably attractive. As a geneticist, Don, decides to assist Rosie in conducting a series of surreptitious DNA tests on possible paternity candidates, whom Rosie's mother, long deceased, led her daughter to believe might be her rightful father. In the ensuing antics, Don and Rosie grow sideways and longways both in the mind of the reader and in the plot of the story, to become the most charming fictional couple since 'Harry met Sally', including inappropriate, tear-drenchingly funny behavior. The Rosie Project, is simply one of those books you know by instinct will remain on your 'to recommend list' for years to come. A wholly entertaining read, that pokes trills of unpredictable thrills to pop goosebumps of pleasure over your skin with almost every smile-a-minute word.

Dust by Robert Williams a short story review.

Title is availiable free of charge on Smashwords.com
Here
Blurb:-Billionaire adventurer Stan Owens has everything, success, fame, all the luxury money can buy... until a plane crash leaves him stranded in the desert. Alone in a hostile environment, he makes a horrifying discovery in the desert wastes. This is a frightening new short story by Robert Williams, the acclaimed author of "Peculiar, MO."
Review:- Stan Owen is a billionaire risk taker. He is so enamoured of his image as a high-flying larger than life know it all, that he does not find it necessary to carry a cellphone with him during his aerial adventure in a very old, typically elegant, plane. When he lands sans water, navigational equipment or food in a challenging desert-like environment he has to reassess his sense of his own worth and the things he finds important. This is an at times gruesome, at others poetically told story that will have you riveted to your screen until the bitter, horrific finale. Few short stories maintain perfect pace, while spinning a descriptive engaging yarn; THIS IS ONE!

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