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Monday, 6 April 2020

The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown #Review @HQstories

The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown
Published 13th June 2019
Published by HQ 
288 pages

Book Description:

Horrifying, heartbreaking and eye-opening, these are the stories, the patients and the cases that have characterised a career spent being a doctor behind bars.
Violence. Drugs. Suicide. Welcome to the world of a Prison Doctor.
Dr Amanda Brown has treated inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons – first in young offenders’ institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs and finally at Europe’s largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield.
From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all.
In this eye-opening, inspirational memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career helping those most of us would rather forget.
Despite their crimes, she is still their doctor.


My Thoughts:

I am not a regular reader of non-fiction, but when a friend offered me the chance to read Amanda Brown's prison memoir I was interested to know what makes a regular GP move across into the prison service.

I was impressed with the leap of faith that Amanda took to step well and truly out of her comfort zone to leave the general practice she had spent so long building up and move into the prison service.

It is heart warming to know that the staff in our detention centres and prisons are concerned not only with the physical health of the inmates but also their mental wellbeing.  The constraints which restrict just how involved they can get are proven in Amanda's description of the doctor-patient relationship she built up with a young man at the detention centre, Jared. She gained his confidence sufficiently to find out what his passion was: writing and poetry. Knowing that he was moving to another facility Amanda wanted to expand Jared's vocabulary, buying a dictionary and thesaurus for him to take with him.  Unfortunately the rules state that she could not give him the book as staff are not permitted to gift anything to inmates and with no family to support him she watched him leave the detention centre with her hopes for his writing talent in tatters.

With language barriers, social and emotional walls which the individual has built up for self preservation plus the necessary rules of the prison system there are so many reasons a huge proportion of people entering these establishments fail to pull themselves out of the unfortunate cycle they find themselves in. The hurdles they have to overcome must feel like too much effort for many of them, when the draw of drugs and integrating into the right social group in prison must seem a much easier option.

I love the fact that Amanda and the others in her team do their utmost to not judge any one of the inmates. They all receive the same high standard of treatment no matter what their past has thrown at them. Every effort is given to help them escape the prison system and better themselves in the outside world, whether that be medical help or emotional support to identify with the inmate. It's not all about physical health but to help someone find it in themselves to be the best they can comes across so strongly in this book and I admire Amanda and every one in the prison system who is helping people when they are at their lowest point.

I learned a lot from this book and I recommend everyone reads it as I feel it will change your view of everyone on the other side of the bars, whether they be staff or inmate.


About the Author:

Dr Amanda Brown is a GP at the largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield. She was a regular NHS GP for a number of years, until she gave up her practice to move into the prison service.  She worked at a teenage detention centre, before moving on to Wormwood Scrubs and the finally to Bronzefield where she continues to practice to this day. The Prison Doctor is her first book.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Garden of Lost Memories by Ruby Hummingbird @bookouture @HummingbirdRuby #BlogTour #Review

The Garden of Lost Memories by Ruby Hummingbird
Published by Bookouture
Published 1st April 2020
310 pages
Genre: Womens Fiction

My thanks to publisher Bookouture for the opportunity to read this title ahead of publication and post my review as part of the blog tour.  All opinions are my own and unbiased.

Book Description:

Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else.

Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.

Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.

If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.

But there is always more to people than meets the eye…

Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.

Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…

My Thoughts:

Picking up a book by Ruby Hummingbird is like coming home and settling in to your favourite armchair. You know you're going to get comfortable and warm and everything will be okay by the end of the night.

Ruby's debut novel The Wish List of Albie Young was one of my favourite books of 2019 and it will stay in my heart for a very long time, so when the opportunity arose to read her next book I was keen to see whether she would be able to hit the bar again.  To put it quite simply, yes she has.

62 year old Elsie Maple is very set in her ways. She's prickly,  has routines and lists which keep her on track and safe in her every day life. Change is not welcome in Elsie's world and the easiest way to avoid change is to not let anyone in to her life which might upset her routine.  But 10 year old Billy comes crashing into her life when he and his mum move in next door, there's something about him which knocks down Elsie's defences and she finds herself offering to babysit Billy while his mum goes to work.  She can't explain it, but she feels she needs to help. They appear to have little in common - Elsie was home schooled so she can't even compare stories as to how school life may have changed over the years. They struggle to find common ground for even the most basic of conversations. The author describes brilliantly the awkward silences between the two characters and as the story is told from both perspectives we get an insight into what each of them is thinking.  Then one day Elsie takes Billy outside to see her garden - her life's work where she spent many an hour alongside her mother then many more after her mother passed away, finding solace in the tasks around the garden. Much to her surprise Billy comes alive out there, showing a passion to learn all about the different plants and jobs which need doing. In his enthusiasm Billy discovers buried 'treasure' in one of the flower beds, a battered old tin which looks like it has been covered for years.  The last thing Billy wants is to upset Elsie, especially now they've formed a tentative friendship so he is shocked and upset at Elsie's reaction when he shows her what he's found.

The story which follows puts Elsie and Billy's friendship to the test - and even Billy's mum starts to mistrust the older lady after some of the things Billy tells her. I really enjoyed reading about how despite how their relationship had faltered, they had built up such a nice respect for one another that they subconsciously wanted to still look out for each other. They each had to dig deep inside themselves and change how far they would go for an 'outsider' - neither of them had really had much experience of this before and I felt proud of each of them as they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone. Billy's cheeky personality began to reappear over the weeks and brought out a glimmer of Elsie's younger, more rebellious self which had been hidden away for years, much to Billy's amusement.


This is another fine example of 'up-lit' at its best and okay, the ending may have been a little bit fairytale 'happy ever after' ish, but I personally would have been heartbroken had it ended any other way. And who would have thought the humble custard cream could steal the show?

Thank you Ruby for another wonderful story. 5 twinkly stars from me. Buy your copy here:

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3bqY3Wr

About the Author:


Ruby Hummingbird is a novelist based in the English countryside. She loves nothing more than writing uplifting and heartwarming fiction that gets her readers reaching for the tissues. When she isn’t storytelling, she can be found tending to her beloved sunflowers or sipping on hazelnut lattes.

Social Media:  

Twitter: @HummingbirdRuby

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

March Reads 2020

A Window Breaks by CM Ewan
Published 20th February 2020

If your family was targeted in the middle of the night, what would you do?
You are asleep. A noise wakes you.
You stir, unsure why, and turn to your partner.
Then you hear it.
Glass. Crunching underfoot.
Your worst fears are about to be realized.
Someone is inside your home.
Your choices are limited.
You can run. Or stay and fight.
What would you do?


Knock Knock by Chris Merritt
Published 17th March 2020

Natasha Mayston wasn’t expecting anyone to knock on her door so late at night. And she has no idea that the face staring back at her is the last one she’ll ever see…

As Detective Dan Lockhart is called to a wealthy London street to investigate Natasha’s death, he’s startled by the similarity to a previous case. Noticing the cable-tie restraints and the tiny scratches on Natasha’s wedding finger, Dan already knows what he will find if he looks in her mouth – the metal ball which choked her to death. He knows Natasha isn’t the killer’s first victim and is certain that he will strike again.

Months earlier, Kim Hardy was found in the same position in a run-down hotel across the city – an identical silver ball in her throat. But Kim’s murderer was caught and sent to prison – did they arrest the wrong man? And what connects the two victims? Fearing that he’s dealing with a psychopathic serial killer, Dan calls in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help him to get into the perpetrator’s mind. Tough and smart, Lexi will stop at nothing to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths.

Then, another body is discovered, just as Lexi finds a clue online leading to the killer. Dan’s team aren’t convinced, but in pushing Lexi away from the investigation, they force her to dig further into the case on her own. Convinced that she’s on to something, she puts herself in unthinkable danger… but can Dan piece together the clues and identify the killer before it’s too late?


The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Published 25th June 2020 (paperback edition)
Kindle edition out now

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, you see your husband only one day a week. Thursday. But you don’t care, you love him that much. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself…
And then, one day it all changes.
You thought you were fine with this, with only having a fraction of a husband. But you can’t help yourself, you start to dig. Begin tracking them down, the other days… Who is Monday and why does she have bruises on her arms? Is she being abused? By who? Her husband? Your husband?
What else is he keeping from you?
And who is he, really?


The Garden of Lost Memories by Ruby Hummingbird
Published 1st April 2020

Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.

Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.

If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.

But there is always more to people than meets the eye…

Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.

Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…


Spider Games by K J McGillick
Published 27th January 2020

Kate O’Brien is pure dedication; she believes in the justice system. This feisty, no-nonsense attorney works herself to the bone every day, tirelessly building her reputation and career. She is on the path to being a legal star. That is until her corrupt law partner, Bill Brown, a criminal defense attorney, achieves a degree of notoriety which attracts the interest of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
When the inconceivable happens, Bill is arrested, charged with multiple counts of drug trafficking and money laundering leaving the law firm in chaos. As Kate slowly digs her way out, what she finds sends her down a dark path that could lead to her imprisonment or death. Bill has meticulously set her up to pay for his malevolent crimes. His cohorts, fearing she knows too much, have marked her for death. Can she stay ahead of the FBI and unravel crimes that reach as far as China and Russia? Or will she need to assume a new identity to save her own life?


The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown
Published 13th June 2019

Violence. Drugs. Suicide. Welcome to the world of a Prison Doctor.
Dr Amanda Brown has treated inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons – first in young offenders’ institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs and finally at Europe’s largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield.
From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all.
In this eye-opening, inspirational memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career helping those most of us would rather forget.
Despite their crimes, she is still their doctor.


Firewatching by Russ Thomas
Published 20th February 2020

ONE WRONG MOVE
A body is found bricked into the walls of a house. From the state of the hands, it’s clear the dead man was buried alive. Soon, the victim is linked to an old missing person’s case and DS Adam Tyler is called.
WILL IGNITE
As the sole representative of South Yorkshire's Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler recognises his role for what it is – a means of keeping him out of the way following an ‘incident’. When this case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.
THE CITY
And then Tyler discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him. He makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors, certain that he and only he can solve the crime. But now Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth, without destroying the case or himself.

Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy affinity with fire. . .

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Knock Knock by Chris Merritt #BlogTour @bookouture #review @DrCJMerritt #KnockKnock

Knock Knock by Chris Merritt (Book One in Lockhart & Green Series)
Published by Bookouture
Publication Date: 17th March 2020
Genre: Crime

My thanks to Noelle Holten from Bookouture for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.
All views and opinions are my own and unbiased.

Book Description:

Natasha Mayston wasn’t expecting anyone to knock on her door so late at night. And she has no idea that the face staring back at her is the last one she’ll ever see…

As Detective Dan Lockhart is called to a wealthy London street to investigate Natasha’s death, he’s startled by the similarity to a previous case. Noticing the cable-tie restraints and the tiny scratches on Natasha’s wedding finger, Dan already knows what he will find if he looks in her mouth – the metal ball which choked her to death. He knows Natasha isn’t the killer’s first victim and is certain that he will strike again.

Months earlier, Kim Hardy was found in the same position in a run-down hotel across the city – an identical silver ball in her throat. But Kim’s murderer was caught and sent to prison – did they arrest the wrong man? And what connects the two victims? Fearing that he’s dealing with a psychopathic serial killer, Dan calls in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help him to get into the perpetrator’s mind. Tough and smart, Lexi will stop at nothing to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths.

Then, another body is discovered, just as Lexi finds a clue online leading to the killer. Dan’s team aren’t convinced, but in pushing Lexi away from the investigation, they force her to dig further into the case on her own. Convinced that she’s on to something, she puts herself in unthinkable danger…but can Dan piece together the clues and identify the killer before it’s too late?


Fans of Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Cara Hunter will love this thrilling new series from Chris Merritt. From an explosive start to a heart-stopping finale, you will not want to put this book down!

My Thoughts:

I love to come in to a series right at the start so I can get a feel for the characters, their backgrounds and personalities.  This is a very strong start to the series with Dan Lockhart being called in as the SIO in the murder of Natasha Mayston who has been discovered murdered in her own home, a large steel ball forced down her throat rendering her unable to breath.  He feels there are similarities to another recent murder however the team investigating that case have a man awaiting trial and Dan's superior officer won't give him permission to interview the suspect.

Lockhart's team include DS Maxine Smith, a single mom who is determined to prove her worth on the team. She goes above and beyond to follow her hunches - and doesn't always disclose these activities until after she's discovered evidence to back up her thoughts.  Also on the team is relative newbie Mo Khan who is young, enthusiastic but still wet behind the ears. Lockhart needs to keep him in line or he could become a bit of a liability.

As is often the case, Lockhart has his own demons in his personal life and is seeking counselling to try to make sense of life without his wife who went missing one night and hasn't been seen or heard of since. He's been seeing Dr Lexi Green, an American psychologist in a professional capacity and despite struggling to adjust to sharing his inner thoughts on his personal life he respects her and comes to the conclusion that her input would be helpful in profiling the person responsible for his latest case at work.  His team are less than supportive, many of them not holding much faith in psychological profiling and Lexi feels very much out of her depth as she presents her professional assessment of the type of personal capable of murdering Natasha. She ups her efforts in line with the rest of the team when another body turns up in identical circumstances only a matter of weeks later. She feels she has to prove the value of profiling to the cynical police team. But how can she get them to listen to her?

There are multiple persons of interest in the book and I felt very much part of the investigations as the different officers went about their lines of questioning, analysing each of the suspects and their alibis as events unfolded. This is not a fast paced thriller but a steady police investigation until the climax of the book when I found my heart racing very much faster as the pieces of the mystery suddenly clicked into place and one of the team suddenly found themselves next on the killer's hit list. Would the rest of the team work things out in time to foil the Throat Ripper's master plan?

The author has clearly spent considerable time researching a very unpleasant section of society who hold women in very low regard and are very vocal in their online chatrooms. It is scary to think such groups exist and not only with women as their target group. I will be very interested to see where Chris Merritt takes this series as I feel he will keep things very contemporary as to the types of crime this team will be investigating.  Plus there is the personal side of Lockhart's story - and Maxine Smith has lots more to offer us yet as well. Both officers have proven that they will push boundaries to get results which always makes a series that bit more interesting from a reader's point of view. And will Lexi Green be figuring in any future cases? We will have to wait and see.

I am very much looking forward to the next instalment.







About the Author:





Chris Merritt is a British author whose crime thrillers combine psychology, suspense, and characters you care about.

All his novels are set in London, where he lives. He began writing fiction in 2014, after previous careers as a diplomat, based in Iraq and Jerusalem, and later as a psychologist working with victims and perpetrators of crime. He specialised in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which sparked his interest in telling stories about how people cope when faced with extreme adversity.

Now he spends most of his time writing novels and drinking coffee while *thinking* about writing novels. When he's not writing, he loves climbing and playing basketball.






Author Social Media Links:





Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Some Days Are Dark by Miranda Smith @bookouture #BlogTour

Some Days Are Dark by Miranda Smith
Published by Bookouture
Publication Date: 16th March 2020

My thanks to publisher Bookouture for the opportunity to read this ahead of publication as part of the blog tour. All opinions are my own and unbiased.

Book Description:

When you have nothing to lose, how far will you go to save yourself?

Everyone in Whitaker was sure Olivia Miller shot her husband, until Marcus Rowe confessed. But a month before the trial, Marcus has been proved innocent—putting Olivia back in the frame.

Olivia is the first to admit she isn’t perfect. She’s made a lot of mistakes in her life, the worst of which was marrying Dane Miller. She fell for his kind eyes, his lack of judgement—she thought she could be free with him. That was before the chaotic parties, the dangerous friends, the lies… But one bad choice shouldn’t mean a life sentence. Now her friends are turning away from her, gossiping about her wherever she goes, wondering when she’ll be arrested this time.

Olivia isn’t going to run from the stares, from the whispers, from the doubts. She won’t leave her beloved son behind, or give her ex-husband Frank and his new wife any excuse to stop her seeing him. And if the police and the world think she’s guilty, there’s only one thing she can do—prove her innocence herself.

But if Marcus didn’t murder her husband, then the real killer is still out there.

And they’re not going to want Olivia stirring up the past…

An absolutely gripping, heart-pounding suspense novel about bad choices and second chances. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Karin Slaughter and Lisa Gray.
  


My Thoughts:


I have mentioned before that fiction based in the USA is not my go-to option but Miranda Smith has impressed me with her writing so much that the setting was not an issue for me.

The story is told from Olivia's point of view and relates how she should be happy and settled in her marriage but has become restless and feels unfulfilled with her life.  Husband Frank works hard to provide all they could possibly want in life albeit in modest ways. But Olivia's head is turned by Frank's employee Dane and soon the cracks in her marriage are sufficient to break it apart. 

Olivia moves in with Dane and it's not long before he proposes and Olivia certainly gets the exciting lifestyle she has been craving.  Dane certainly mixes in different social circles to those Frank did, but Olivia soon realises that she should have been careful what she wished for.  While Olivia and Dane have been partying hard and their house guests have been pushing the boundaries of social acceptability, Frank has met and married Julie a dedicated nurse who has taken on Olivia and Frank's son as her own.  Their life together is a picture of respectability, in stark contrast to Olivia's.


Dane is murdered one night when Olivia is allegedly out of the house and the local police are quick to suspect her.  Dane has few close friends and Olivia struggles to name any of the people who frequented their regular house parties which makes the police suspicious but suddenly a local homeless man has been arrested and charged with murder.  None of this makes sense to Olivia but the investigating officers are not confident with her alibi.

The book follows the people involved in the murder investigation and Olivia's reaction to the information she discovers along the way. The officers aren't keen to share much information with her as she is still a possible suspect in their eyes but fortunately for her there is someone working on her behalf in the background to discover the truth.   Can they prove her innocence in time or will they tread on the wrong toes in their quest to bring the right person to justice?

An interesting insight into how as a society we judge people on first impressions and preconceived ideas when sometimes it's those who appear to have their ducks in a row who are the most messed up.
Buy Links:

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Q9xGwa



About the Author:


Miranda Smith writes psychological and domestic suspense. She is drawn to stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Before completing her first novel, she worked as a newspaper staff writer and a secondary English teacher. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband and three young children. 


Social Media Links: