The Jack Toback series by Paul Falk – Read This Immediately!

When I was on holiday in California, almost four years ago, there was a story running in the local news about a female member of prison staff who had previously engaged in relations with two inmates. She had helped them escape on the promise that they would murder her husband. I never got to find out if they reneged on their promise or carried it out. I suspect it was an unhappy ending for all parties, but I never got to find out because on returning to the UK I discovered that escaped convicts in the US had not made the global news.

Needless to say, it is a wonderful thing when you find a book that reminds you of an anecdote. Last year, I read book one of the Jack Toback series. Set in California and in the future, here’s what I thought of book one, Caged:

A future prison in California, a solution to the cell-mate gang problems, but is it a solution? I can’t say anymore without spoiling the plot! Really enjoyed this book, it reads a bit like a Stephen King but obviously with its own style and original idea.


Ok, that was a short review from me, again I am conscious of spoiling- it’s a good book which ends in disaster for 4000 of its characters!

I have recently read book two The Line, and here’s what I thought:

I enjoyed book number two in the Jack Toback series. Set in the future, during book one, Jack had solved problems in California’s system with a great idea. Unfortunately, criminals messed it all up. But Jack is back, and in a meeting with the prison governor he becomes a major player in the new prison rehabilitation programme. The criminal underbelly don’t like this, and Jack is soon kidnapped. This is a great plot, and Jack the character is well rounded and believable. As a 5ft2 forty something woman, I would crumble if kidnapped, not Jack Toback; he had the resilience and the skills to trick his antagonist into sending a clandestine message to his rescuers. His ‘prison’ is the perfect setting and we find out what ‘the line’ is. Jack’s time in captivity is very cleverly written in the first person. Jack’s love interest, Irene is an endearing tough cookie and his captor, Woolfe is, well a wolf in wolf’s clothing! On the whole, the feeling of the book is a gripping read and yet again, a great idea for a story.


Both books are available from amazon here

A note about series books, I did not get a message from Amazon that book number two had been published… anyway, I got it in the end.

Three word review: GREAT STORY IDEA

5/5 page turner.

Happy reading everyone, Samantha xx

Reviewing Books; There is NOTHING to be afraid of.

Happy new year everyone!

For goodness knows how long, I have been reviewing every book that I have enjoyed reading. I’ve been writing ‘I like this book because it was about… and so on’ always with a star rating.

I never used to review books, because I used to think ‘who cares what I thought?’ This was wrong, reviews are very important to readers, I can only surmise as to why; perhaps if we readers see that lots of people have reviewed a book, this means that lots of people have read it. I know us Brits are always keen to get in a queue – even if we don’t know what we’re queuing for! Therefore, in turn, reviews are also important to self-published authors (like myself; hint-hint).

In the back of my mind, I worried about the ‘quality’ of the reviews… As a reader, I NEVER look at reviews, it’s always the blurb, or the recommendation that gets me to read a book, but that’s just me obviously I’m not the only reader.  From what I have gleaned, Amazon and Goodreads are the main two sites to review books you have bought and read, or if you want to read a review before you choose your next read.

So if we consider that reviews are written for readers, I should think about that when writing my reviews. There are guidelines available on Amazon, they are not specific to books, but well worth taking note of. On Goodreads, there is a guide as to what the star ratings mean – I’m sure most people are familiar with this. Aside from the guidelines on both these sites, I recently spoke with some people in the know a real-life writing group, and an internet (Facebook) very popular writing group used by authors, bloggers, people in the industry and readers.  Thanks to their help, here is a little bullet point guide about good points to include in book reviews:

  • A few sentences is fine.
  • What did you think of the setting?
  • Write a bit about the characters, did they work for you?
  • Plot
  • Pacing of story
  • Quality of prose.
  • What did you enjoy?
  • How it made you feel (this was a very popular point).
  • Never write anything intentionally cruel.

This has really helped me to put together a review, without repeating the blurb and so on.

A note on Amazon’s website. I’m not the best on computer instructions, so I hope you can understand this. Open Amazon’s website, look at the top toolbar, which is black. Click on your Amazon (so when I open it, it says ‘Samantha’s Amazon’) Then click on ‘view orders’ there will be a list of the books you have bought from Amazon, the list on the right gives you an option ‘write a product review’ click on this, write your review (don’t just leave a star rating because that doesn’t show up) and submit.

If you borrowed the book from a library for example, you can still leave a review but you have to search for the book and then repeat ‘leave a review’ – might be worth checking Amazon’s guidelines. You do have to be an Amazon customer.

Goodreads I think you have to set up an account and then search for the book you want to review and then go for it. If you are reading from a kindle, there is an automatic link at the end nowadays.

A further note about communicating in real life. When I spoke to someone from the real-life writing group, she said she wasn’t in the habit of leaving reviews – but if she enjoyed a book, she always told a friend about it, and sometimes passed the book on. Bravo! Real life reviewing – word of mouth. Fantastic! We should all be talking about reading!

Happy reviewing! Samantha xx

My Favourite Christmas Read This Year is ‘Belle, Book and Christmas Candle’ by Sharon Booth.

I liked everything about this book, it is a Christmas read because of the setting, the festival of ‘yule’ and the anniversary of a legend. Sky St Clair finds herself in a situation where she has no choice but to return home, moving in with her two sisters in a house and (fictional I think but totally believable) town in Yorkshire that thrives off myths and legends about witchcraft. The characters were so real, their names their suggestion of mystery. Who is this bloke Sky meets on the train? Who does this cat belong to that seems to have made itself at home in the family shop? Why won’t her sister blow out that candle? I wanted to know, but then I didn’t want it to end!

When I was a little girl, I remember a family day out to the village of Pendle in Lancashire (home of the Pendle witch trials). There was a shop, with two women dressed in witch costumes outside (a sales promotion).  One of them asked me my name, and when I answered ‘Samantha’ I was met with ‘Ooh a witches’ name!’ Well, that was it then, any children’s book that had a witch theme became an instant hit with me. When I was a little older but still a child, the started showing re-runs of TV show Bewitched I was told that my older sister chose my name maybe that’s where she got the idea from?

I know I’m not the only person who is drawn to witchcraft stories, plus this book is set during Christmas time. Perfect!

I have read other Christmas books this year, more by Sharon Booth, Laura Barnard, Lacey London and Jan Ruth. I don’t think you’ll have much trouble finding a Christmas read, there are plenty of them but I just wanted to share my favourite,

Happy reading, Samantha xx

The Harold and Edith Adventures are on NetGalley during December!

Book two of the Curmudgeon Avenue series ‘The Harold and Edith Adventures’ is on NetGalley during December. Or you can get it here

Curmudgeon Avenue is about a Victorian house in Whitefield, Manchester that does not like it’s new owners. By book two, love is in the air between Harold and Edith, Edith’s sister Edna is missing, presumed living in France, and Ricky Ricketts is continuing his entanglement with on/off devotee, Wantha. Things take a turn for the worse, when a tall, dark and smartly dressed man starts prowling around the street.

A fun filled comedy drama that will lift your mood and make you smile!

Happy reading, Samantha


Book Review: An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns

Well, they don’t seem to show re-runs of Bonanza on the TV anymore, and to be honest I never watched it. I’m not comparing this book to it, but the setting reminded me, also reminders of any period drama of the late 1800s in America. I remember my mum telling me that my Nana used to stay awake all night reading ‘Westerns’ , and here I was last night reading this beautiful book, getting little sleep because I could not put it down! Goodness knows which books my Nana was reading, but you hardly ever hear the term ‘Western’ as a genre anymore. I would say, if anything this was an excellent adventure romance written of the time and setting. Good for Annie, escaping her matronly Aunt Bea, cousin Charlotte, and unwanted suitor, whilst collecting the affections of the moody and mysterious Colt. She managed to rescue a puppy and solve a mystery about her father too. Go Annie! I was so pleased for the character, that’s how well this book was written17202249

5/5 page turner rating

Three word review: Lost genre adventure.

Book Review Cinderfella: Kristy Brown
I really enjoyed this lovely read, the Cinderella story is the stuff of legends, shaping ideas of romance and true love for who you are inside- not on appearances of wealth for generations. Who better to bring the story up to date with a twist than author Kristy Brown! Cinderfella is not a children’s story, Ashes meets Ellie in forbidden circumstances, he is gorgeous inside and out, and she, (also good-hearted) is searching for an escape from an arranged marriage. The setting worked around the storyline plot, obviously, some creativity used with bringing stories of Royalty up to date, but that did not matter at all, because if, like Princess Elle you are looking for an escape, then this book is for you. It is romantic, it is funny to quote – ‘shut your Royal gob!’ I enjoyed it, that’s why I’m giving it five stars.

Who doesn’t love a fairy tale re-telling? I’m off to watch the Princess Bride now!

5/5 page turner rating

Three word review: Stuff of Legend!


Happy reading, Samantha

Publication Day! Curmudgeon Avenue (The Terraced House Diaries : Book One)

On the day this all started, the sky was full of August apologies for a summer undelivered.

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAILWell, you are all probably sick of the sight of me harping on about my book ‘Curmudgeon Avenue’ It’s out today and is desperately seeking readers.

Synopsis: On the day this all started, the sky was full of August apologies for a summer undelivered. When a four storey Victorian house in Whitefield takes a disliking to its new owners, it starts narrating a diary about the intertwined lives of sisters Edna and Edith. They could not be more different if they tried. Edith cannot help bumping into ex partners of Edna’s. First there was Maurice, you will not believe what happened with him, then when Edith is heartbroken and vulnerable she meets the notable Harold. But things change again when Madame Genevieve Dubois appears on the scene.

Curmudgeon Avenue is available via the following places Amazon 99p  Also available in US .com also paperback. £4

Kobo (free)

Barnes and Noble (free)

BookFunnel (free)

It will also be on NetGalley for one month – August.

I promise that book two of the Curmudgeon Avenue series ‘The Harold and Edith Adventures’ is also almost ready, so there will not be too long to wait for the next one. This WordPress blog is the official headquarters of Curmudgeon Avenue, where all news of future publications will be posted.

Happy reading everyone Samantha. 🙂

Favourite Things to Read, Five Days (not necessarily consecutive)


A couple of weeks ago, I started a what’s your favourite book thread on Facebook. This was by no means as popular as the previous bombardment of ‘ten days of favourite albums’. Anyway, I want to restart this on my blog, right here where it is more likely to be received by book lovers, (like myself) . The first favourite books I would like to talk about is SERIES BOOKS.

The ones I am reading at the moment are

The Selkie Moon mystery series by Virginia King. is the website for the series.  This is where we meet Selkie, who has been known as ‘Elkie’ for most of her life. The books follow a transformation and empowerment theme where by Selkie follows the folklore connected to her name. In the first book ‘The First Lie’ (which is the one after the prequel pictured above), Selkie is pulled in all different directions, not knowing who to trust. Strange and mysterious things are happening all around her and to her. It has been challenging to review these books without giving too much away.  They are set in all different places, Hawaii Paris Sydney… They are really enjoyable. I am currently reading The Third Note. This one is set mostly in Ireland Selkie is trying to solve family tree mysteries, murder and Irish superstition is involved. Appealing to those who like to read something a bit different. Saying that, I am sure that this would appeal to the grown up Harry Potter generation. I can’t put it down. I don’t want it to end. I know there is another book in the pipeline so I don’t have to phone the ‘helpline for readers who don’t know how to cope when a series ends’ There is no such helpline, I made that up.

I save series books up as a special treat in between taxing life and work moments. This is one of the things I do maybe it is part of my time management regime. If I read a book I am really enjoying then this does not tax my brain or wear me out too much. Series books are like visiting old friends, you’ve got to know them, and the story is not over! Oh joy, you don’t have to wonder what would have could have should have happened to those characters that you have got to know so well.

Another set of series books I enjoyed was Alexander McCall Smith’s ’44 Scotland Street’


These books are charming, a cross between reading a sitcom and a soap opera. Set in Edinburgh about the lives of people who happen to live on the same street. Now, I had heard of Alexander McCall smith, but had not read anything by him. In 2014, I was lucky enough to join a Creative Writing class at a library. The class and the library are no longer in existence unfortunately, however this really jump started my ambitions and increased the amount that I read. I said lucky before because the teacher… I have never met anyone so passionate about reading and writing, she is/was brilliant. The first short story I wrote ‘Winter’ she compared to Alexander McCall Smith’s writing, so I went out and read a lot of his books. Right up my street. Every pun intended, because, four years on I am about to embark on the publication of my very own set of series books ‘Curmudgeon Avenue’ for a preview, here is the link to a free copy of the first book on BookFunnel It takes a few clicks to download it. I am hoping that my characters will become like old (annoying) friends. I just want someone to read it (sigh) …

Other series books I have started and are on my reading lists are:

a brand new look for the kearton bay series! (4) The Kearton Bay series by Sharon Booth.

Fragile Cord And the DS Coupland psychological thriller series.

Well, I had better end it there. There are many more series books that I have read, loved and am yet to read. I don’t want to go on too much.

Happy reading, Samantha

Anne Frank’s Diary; Thoughts.


I’m not going to review this, reason being, I feel too humble. It is nothing to do with me. I was not alive at the time, I’m not Dutch, or Jewish, or German. But I am human and am always overly touched by stories of what happened in WWII. (bearing in mind this was written by the woman who wept when she visited the Bronte museum last year). I just want to share my thoughts and explain myself as to why it has taken me so long to read The Diary of Anne Frank. It is just over thirteen years ago that three of my friends and myself visited Amsterdam for our thirtieth birthdays. (Yes Sara, if you read this it was your 21st, as it was last year also). We were having a fun packed weekend, but respectful silence fell when we visited Anne Frank’s house, which as you probably know is a museum now. I had first learned of Anne Frank when I was at school, and I remember trying to imagine what it was like to have to stay silent during the day, hidden away so that the unsuspecting pepper factory workers were oblivious to your existence. What if you needed to sneeze, or cough? Although this was the least of Anne’s worries, her writing took you right there, into the world of the hidden rooms. When we were leaving the museum, we passed a display of Anne’s diary books for sale. I cannot tell you why I didn’t buy it then, maybe I resisted because, I’m embarrassed to say I think I thought it would upset me too much. In my defence, the year I turned thirty, I had just received a life changing diagnosis and had gone through a relationship break up. Hark at me! Making excuses, this kind of thing was the least of the Frank family’s problems. You know that feeling when you pass something and think ‘I should buy this, otherwise I’ll regret it’? Well I must have regretted it all these years, because The Diary of Anne Frank was on my mind.  Fast forward thirteen years to the world of E-books and increased internet use, it took me two days to read the book, and although I said I feel as though I am in no position to review it, I want to share my thoughts. Anne’s writing is beautiful, articulate and funny at times – but filled me with sadness about what Anne could have become. She talks about wanting to be a journalist, but Anne Frank would have gone on to be one of the strongest female writers of our time. The book filled me with an emotional overload. And look at her picture, she is beautiful. I knew how the story ended, but when you arrive at the end… oh. What happened next, you know when you finish a Kindle book, and it asks you how many stars you would give the book? It then asked me the standard question, would I like to follow the author, Anne Frank? So that I the reader can be notified, should she write any further books. That’s when it hit me the most. Yes I would follow you, Anne I’m pretty sure you would have been one of my favourite authors. The very best author of our time.

Book Review: The Case of The Black Tulips by Paula Harmon and Liz Hedgecock.


If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes type of settings or Miss Marple (but wished she was alive in Victorian times and had a sleuth partner) then this book will appeal to you, I am sure of that. It is so good. Written by two authors, we meet and get to hear the voices of two different characters. Connie and Katherine meet by chance and soon, without giving anything away, black tulips seal their friendship and give them a mystery to solve. While this is going on, the pair are unable to go all ‘Cagney and Lacey’ because they are living in London in Victorian times! Written with the language of historical fiction, I felt right there with all the letter writing and petticoats. Marvellous. This, and the rest of the series a definite must read.

Page turner rating 5/5

Three word review: Great Victorian minds.