Sunday, 27 September 2015

Anna Reviews: GodBomb! by Kit Power

***The author, Kit Power, has kindly offered a copy to gift to one lucky winner! Please see below for details about the giveaway to be drawn on the 5th October!***

Some people know how to write disturbing texts…Like a pebble in your shoe, Mr Power’s prose gnaws and gnaws, until it is quite unbearable, but at the same time so addictive there is no way in hell one can put the book down. Hell is actually quite a good word to use when thinking about this book. But then, so is God and love. Strange? Bear with me.
  It is 1995, and a group of people have assembled in the community centre of a small town somewhere in the English backwater. All of the people present are there because of God. Well, that is not quite true. Some, like Deborah, have been carted there by her parents who hope their daughter can be miraculously cured if she finds her faith. Others, like Alex, are there to protest homophobic tendencies in the upcoming sermon. Some are just bored, had nothing else to do, really. Emma and Peter are there because their baby is due any day and they love God, believe in Him, need Him. Mike is there to play the sax – but also because this is where he wants to be, close to God who speaks regularly to him. The preacher is there to convert, bring one more sinner to the light. And Isaac…No, let’s leave Isaac alone.
  Seventy odd people assembled and the preacher begins to speak. A young man in the audience shifts restlessly on his seat, is clearly anxious, and the preacher, well-acquainted with the signs, zeroes in on him. This young man may be the one closest to redemption, the one most desperate for grace. Just what the preacher needs, a person with that hungry look in his eyes, all of him begging to be saved. The preacher smiles encouragingly, coaxing the lad to speak. He knows what the question will be – it is always the same question, more or less. At long last, the lad whispers an anguished “do you believe God is real?” People around him titter, are quelled by the preacher’s look – this is a potential convert, for Christ’s sake!
  The preacher assures the boy he believes God to be real – no, he goes one step further and says he knows God exists. When he asks the lad’s opinion, he gets an “I don’t know” in reply. “I came here to find out,” the young man adds. The preacher almost cartwheels – this is going to be easy, like taking candy from a kid. He invites the young man to join him on the stage, saying God will give him the answers he needs.
  “You promise?” The kid is bolt upright now, almost rigid, face rippling with emotions. “I can talk to God? He’ll come talk to me?”
  And that, dear people, is when the preacher makes his second mistake. The first was to zero in on the young man. Now he nods, assuring the young man God is already here, and yes, of course this young seeker will hear his voice.
  “I hope you’re right, preacher, I surely do.” As he talks, his hands pop up from his pockets. The left is just a closed fist, but the right contains a lump of black plastic, with a wire running up his sleeve.
And so begins a nightmare for the people who came to hear the word of God, and instead stand face to face with Armageddon, as represented by a young man with a bomb vest and enough explosives to blow them all sky-high.  Unless God speaks directly to him, the young man says, he will release the switch and condemn them all to death. So, he adds, it is up to the congregation before him to pray to God and ask Him to contact the bomber directly.
  All of this happens within the first few pages of the book. What follows next is an excruciating drama, told through various POVs as the people trapped with the bomber try to work out what to do. Pray and hope for the best? Turns out very few have that kind of faith – in fact, with the exception of Emma and Peter, very few seem to believe in God. Well, Deborah does, she discovers, but she hates God. It’s His fault she ended up in a wheelchair seven years ago, when she was only thirteen. And Mike does, of course. Oh yes, Mike believes in God, puts his life in God’s hands, and whether that helps him or not is something I leave for the readers to discover for themselves.
  The bomber is genuine in his need to find out. Mr Power has avoided the pitfall of making the bomber a caricatured evil maniac. No, this bomber desperately wants to hear God’s voice, hopes that God will speak to him so as to save all these innocent lives. He vacillates between compassion and anger, one moment he is leaning over a man suffering a major fit, the next he casually eviscerates someone who annoys him. Yup. Eviscerates – more or less.

  He taunts Deborah, stuck in her wheelchair, wondering what good it’s done her to pray to God, to hope for healing. Nothing, Deborah replies – which is when she realises just how much she hates God, so much in fact, that the anger coursing through her causes her toes to twitch for the first time in seven years – a miracle?
  Emma goes into labour, and the bomber doesn’t want things to be like this, apologises for doing this to her, but what can he do? He needs answers, and he needs them now. Mr Power does a masterful job of depicting the bomber’s anguish: on the one hand, he is determined to blow them all up with him, but on the other, he is fully aware that these people have done him no wrong, and now there’s going to be a baby as well?
  Six hours in hell. Six hours of sitting in a claustrophobic room, some trying to pray, others just waiting.  Of course, someone in the congregation decides to act. Death is staring them straight in the face, and unless someone does something they’ll all go up in a bang. Alex doesn’t want to go up in a bang – but she has no faith in God, so she isn’t exactly expecting Him to come to their rescue. As a reader, I can’t but smile crookedly, remembering that old adage “God helps those who help themselves.”
  I will not reveal what happens. I will just share with you that rarely have I been so engrossed in a book. I read and read and read, I hoped and prayed, I sighed and cursed. The various characters are brought to vivid life by Mr Power, their distinctive voices blending into something that very quickly begins to sound as a Requiem. Whether it is or not, is not for me to tell. I urge you instead to pick up GodBomb! and read it for yourself, and while you’re at it you may have to confront your own beliefs, your own fears.

  Does God exist? Well some events in this book definitely point to the answer being yes. Others indicate the reverse. And if God does exist, is he benign? The bomber wants to know – by the end of the book, you will also want to know, while mulling over the unexpected ending.
  I have read Mr Power before, have been swept away by his mastery of language, his way of wiggling into the brain of his characters until you’re quite sure you’re sitting in their head, privy to their every thought. In this book, his obvious writing skills come together with a magnificently constructed plot. The result is dark and explosive. I can but congratulate Mr Power on this little masterpiece, an emotional rollercoaster that left me quite incapable of even drinking my tea – I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the text.

About the author

Kit Power lives in Milton Keynes, England, and insists he’s fine with that. His short fiction has been widely submitted, and occasionally published, including in Splatterpunk magazine, The 'At Hells Gate' anthology series, and most recently by The Sinister Horror Company as part of 'The Black Room Manuscripts' anthology. His short story collection 'A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss As A Collection Of Short Ficton: Not A Novel: A Novel' will be released by Double Life Press in October 2015. Those of you who enjoy near-professional levels of prevarication are invited to check out his blog at:

He is also the lead singer and chief lyricist for legendary rock band The Disciples Of Gonzo, who have thus far managed to avoid world-conquering fame and fortune, though it’s clearly only a matter of time. They lurk online at:
GodBomb! is available on Amazon UK and

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Anna Belfrage is the author of eight published books, all part of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on amazon, twitter, facebook and on her website. 



Thursday, 24 September 2015


For a chance to win a copy of  Almost Invincible leave a comment at the bottom of the page

There are many biographies of Mary Shelley. There is always fascination with her as the teenage author of the iconic Gothic novel, Frankenstein, and the eventual wife of the poet, atheist and reformer, Shelley. What I found fascinating, though, was an aspect of her story that seemed to be pivotal, and was always in the background. This was her relationship with her stepsister, Claire. When Mary eloped with Shelley she was only sixteen, and he was already married with a child and one on the way. Unaccountably, they took Claire with them, and she was part of their household, their ménage, as the scandal went, until Shelley’s death. During the nine turbulent years Mary and Shelley were together, Claire was the ever-present third, whose manipulative behaviour often drove Mary to despair, especially as Claire also loved Shelley.

I deliberately used the novel form to explore the emotional truth of this relationship and it’s effect on Mary’s life. It seemed to pervade every aspect of the scandals, deaths, tortured relationships, loves and losses that pursued her and Shelley. I also found enormous depth to Mary’s character as a teenage rebel, grieving mother, determined author, and long suffering lover of a man well ahead of his time.

One of the many difficulties created by Claire was her seduction of Lord Byron, and her pregnancy by him. This excerpt is from the moment when Claire reveals her pregnancy to Mary and Shelley, when they are staying next to Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva – which is where Frankenstein was also conceived….

It was two a.m. before Shelley, Mary and Claire wound their way down the rocky path to Maison Chapuis, their little cottage on the lakeside, wrapped in blankets against the night chill. Byron’s Villa Diodati stood high above the lake, its three stories commanding a magnificent view but vulnerable to the icy winds of the past weeks. Maison Chapuis, because it was lower down on the lakeshore and surrounded by trees, was more sheltered, and they reached their porch with relief. Claire had not tried to hang back to be alone with Byron as she so often did, and he had made no attempt to detain her The rain had made the short descent to the cottage treacherous and they arrived cold and dishevelled. Claire took off her shoes by the door, the thin white leather and velvet trim clogged with mud. ‘Ugh. These are ruined. I hate this weather.’ She pulled on some slippers and tried to brush the dirt off the hem of her skirt. Mary went to check on William, who had been brought back earlier and put to bed by the nurse, Elise. Claire drew Shelley into his study. ‘I need to talk to you. I’m pregnant,’ she said, unceremoniously. Shelley staggered slightly, then managed a weak smile.
‘That’s wonderful, Claire. And Byron ... is the father?’ He tried to keep the question out of his voice, but failed enough for Claire to step up close and poke him disgustedly in the chest. ‘You, of all people, should know that it could only be his.' ‘We must tell him. Have you told Mary?’ As he said this, Mary came in, looking between the two, suspicious. ‘What is it?’ Shelley told her, while Claire went to face out of the window, looking for light in the darkness, keeping her back to them. Mary pulled Shelley to the far corner of the room and exploded, hissing into his ear. ‘Oh yes, now she has it all. She has achieved her ambition to be just like me. She has the poet, and now the poet’s child.’ Her voice got louder, so that it became audible to Claire. ‘Except that it won’t be that poet,‘ — pointing back up towards the Villa Diodati — ‘who takes responsibility for it, I’m sure of that,’ she rasped. ‘It will be this poet.’ His already dishevelled shirt suffered another poke. ‘The drain on our limited resources will not just be for my stepsister, as it is now, but for my stepsister’s child as well, who everyone will say is yours, and our lives will be even more complicated and hateful.’From the window came the sob of someone who was not prepared to allow herself to sob. Or someone who knows that a restrained sob can be more wrenching than an overt one. ‘She is right in one thing,’ said Claire, turning to face them. ‘Albe won’t want anything to do with the child, because he no longer wants anything to do with me. I will go away. I’ll go to ... I don’t know, Russia, and earn my living as a governess, and leave the baby with a nursemaid. I don’t want to be any more of a drain on you, Shelley, and I don’t want to face Mama back in London. It was bad enough me refusing to go back home after running away with you both. This would kill her, and yes, she and everyone else will assume it’s yours. What a mess! Ten minutes of happy passion, and it discomposes the rest of your life.’ Shelley looked at Mary, worry and appeal distorting his features. He was choosing to ignore her bitter and vindictive explosion. In a situation like this, she was resigned to knowing that compassion would be his strongest emotion. This man who could not comfortably walk past a beggar without tossing a coin, who sought out orphans to subsidise, this man could only see distress, not justice. Yet again I must maintain the image of Mary that he has constructed, she thought tiredly, the calm and in control Mary who can soothe her distraught stepsister, hiding the angry and insecure Mary who more often finds her stepsister selfish and manipulative.So she went to Claire and enfolded her, while Claire stared piteously at Shelley over her shoulder. ‘I’m sorry, Claire, it was a shock. We will look after you, of course, and Shelley will talk to Albe for you.’ Mary was conciliatory and Shelley nodded, vigorously.‘We will demand that he acknowledges the child and takes responsibility for it,’ he said firmly. ‘But he will not acknowledge me, so how is that to be managed? He has already said he wants me to leave.’ Mary was also wondering just how Byron was to be made to take responsibility for Claire’s child. He would feel no compassion for Claire and would need to be assured that the child was his. Perhaps he could be appealed to as a potential father, since Lady Byron never allowed him to see his legitimate child. Perhaps he would do it out of friendship for Shelley. Shelley would be prepared to support Claire and her baby as much as he could, but, as things stood, his father barely gave him a decent allowance, and if he were thought to be responsible for a child by yet another woman he would be completely disowned. ‘Not, of course that I would ever want to be married. Hateful institution,’ Claire went on, defiantly. Mary felt the surging hatred of Claire that ebbed and flowed, but whose peaks had become continually higher since they had allowed her to come with them when they eloped, two years ago. Shelley had adopted responsibility for her, since he and Mary were supposedly at fault in Claire’s tumble from the rickety heights of respectability, but Mary constantly worried that it was not only duty that drove him. She saw that Shelley was drawn to Claire’s freethinking attitudes, which were more extremely liberal and careless of what society thought than her own. It unsettled Mary that Claire knew her secret, that her true nature was essentially modest and conservative. And Claire knew just how to use that knowledge. Since Mary had first met Shelley in the St. Pancras churchyard, in North London, she had learnt to share many of his passions and admired him for those she could not quite endorse. The problem was that he expected her, the daughter of two radical thinkers, to lead him in liberality, while in reality she felt she was desperately trying to keep pace. With Claire always on her heels, threatening to overtake and overcome.
Note From the Author
Suzanne Burdon

   I have an honours degree in Sociology with a major in Literature and a Trinity College London Licentiate in Effective Communication. My day job is as a social and market researcher. My projects involve understanding the behaviour and motivation of a wide range of people in many different contexts often conducting interviews and focus groups where dialogue is a major contributor to understanding. I've tried to make good use of that insight in my writing. I have previously only published short stories, poetry and academic papers on research. This is my first novel.
An underlying thread of Almost Invincible is Mary’s damaging relationship with her stepsister, Claire and this sparked my curiosity and snowballed into an obsessive four years research.
Amongst the volumes of extant information and many biographies, I glimpsed a Mary who was a teenage rebel, a grieving mother, a determined author and a long suffering lover of a man well ahead of his time. It made me want to tell her story.
   The research has been extensive and the book is factually based, but tries to fill in the emotions, conversations, and some of the mysteries surrounding her life. Finding Mary has taken me to many of the places which were important to her life, and to libraries around the world.

"This book is a terrific read. I have bought numerous copies as gifts for family and friends." - Wendy Cox

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Monday, 14 September 2015

Sharon Reviews: Duval and the Empress's Crown by Michele McGrath

Please see below for details regarding an ebook giveaway of this 
enjoyable read, kindly donated by the author
The Prize draw was made on Tuesday 22nd September. Thank you to everyone for entering and for your kind comments. And the winner is....Lauren Pullen! Congratulations Lauren.

"Police Agent Alain Duval is tasked with finding the crown but time is very short and his suspects many. Present when the crown disappeared are Napoleon's sisters, Princess Elisa, Princess Pauline and Princess Caroline. Are they involved or merely witnesses? Aided by his wife Eugenie and his friends Lefebvre and Fournier, Duval sets out to unravel the mystery." 

   Ever since I was a teenager I've had a soft spot for the Napoleonic Period.  Napoleon's story has always fascinated me; the rise of an obscure Corsican to become the most powerful man  in France (a novelist just couldn't make it up!). So when the chance came to review a novel of the period I jumped at it.Duval and the Empress's Crown is not the longest book you'll ever read. At just shy of 100 pages, it's short and sweet. But it is a little gem. From the first words you are drawn into the world of Imperial Paris, still recovering from the petrifying post-Revolutionary Terror, but looking forward to the pomp and pageantry that accompanies an Empire.
   And into this world are thrown 3 friends: Duval the former soldier, Fournier the career policeman and Lefebvre the reformed thief. They work for Napoleon's feared Chief of Police, Fouquet. With just days until the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine, the Empress's crown is stolen from the jeweler tasked with creating it. Duval and his friends are given the unenviable task of finding it - in time for the coronation.
   It's a race against time...
  To make matters worse, it soon becomes evident that the prime suspects are the Emperor's own sisters; the Princesses Elisa, Pauline and Caroline. Duval has to be both determined and diplomatic in order to recover the crown in time for the coronation, just days away. With the Terror still only a recent memory, Duval has to tread very carefully, or he could end up not only with a ruined career, but facing the guillotine! 
   Duval and the Empress's Crown is a great detective novel, full of adventure, intrigue and royal scandal. The story takes you through the investigative process in great detail, while giving you the human side of the lead characters. The three policemen enjoy a wonderful relationship, and the book is at its best during the scenes when they are together. Their banter seems natural and easy and makes the reader smile:
 [Duval] "What about my lame leg?"
[Lefebvre] "What about it? You ran at such a high speed when Monsieur Duclos was firing his pistols at you, I couldn't catch you up, lame leg and all"
[Duval] "Just as well he was such a bad shot...."
   You are also treated to glimpses of the glamour and power of the French Empire by visiting the salons of the Emperor's sisters, as Duval tries to unravel the mystery of the crown's disappearance. He has to tread carefully with the wily Elisa and pregnant Caroline. And then there is the Emperor's over-familiar sister, Pauline:

"Let us be comfortable while you tell me what my brother wants of me"

Although this is the fifth book in a series, it really doesn't matter. It is eminently readable as a standalone, with only vague references to the previous novels in the series - ensuring you don't feel like you are missing anything. The author has done a wonderful job of taking the reader on a journey through post-Revolutionary Paris. You can still feel the long shadow of the guillotine, while being treated to a glimpse of the splendour and elitism of the emerging Imperial court, where careers are made and ruined by the whim of one man...
   Duval and the Empress's Crown is a wonderful, easy, light read. The plot is not over-complicated but flows smoothly and swiftly to its conclusion. Whilst it could benefit from deeper descriptions of locations and events the characters are well-developed, amusing and capable of eliciting a range of emotions from the reader.

   It's a wonderful novel for a lazy day in the sun. A highly enjoyable read.

If you would like to get your name in the draw for this fabulous book, please leave a
comment below or on our Facebook page

About the Author:

 Award winning author, Michele McGrath, was born on the beautiful Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea. She has lived in California, Liverpool, France and Lancashire before returning home. Living in Paris and Grenoble taught her to make a mean ratatouille and she learned the hula in Hawaii. Michele is a qualified swimming teacher and manager, writing self help books on these subjects. Although she writes in many genres, her real loves are historical romance and fantasy. She has won numerous writing competitions, had second places and been short-listed many times. She has had tens of thousands of sales and downloads.


Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years. She has studied history academically and just for fun – even working as a tour guide at historical sites. She is now having great fun passing on that love of the past to her 10-year-old son. Having received a blog,  History...The Interesting Bits as a present for Christmas 2014 she now enjoys sharing that love of history with her readers.