Time for a Book Review: “Tabula Rasa” by Gordon Bickerstaff #Thriller

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by The Book Club on Facebook and the author in return for a fair and honest review. All views are my own. Post contains affiliate links.

This is the fifth book in The Lambeth Group thriller aka Gavin Shawlens series – I must be honest that when I dived into Tabula Rasa I had not read the previous books and had no knowledge of the main characters. So the first thing to tell you is that this can be read as a standalone book.

 

The thriller launches straight into the territory of the underworld and secret agents, and an introduction for new readers, or a reunion for old to Zoe Tampsin – A Special Forces trained agent now working for The Lambeth Group. There is a description of extreme sexual violence at the outset, but don’t be put off as this is important in setting the story up. Her mission is to investigate the death of a government scientist and the mysterious “abduction” and guardianship of his son by a family of aristocrats, the Silsdens. This is where Zoe’s partner from previous cases, scientist Gavin Shawlens comes in to play as he is a personal friend of Lord Silsden’s son. Odd couple Zoe and Gavin go undercover as an engaged couple to try to unearth the secrets of the Silsden family business but someone wants to stop them at every turn. The mysterious phrase Tabula Rasa is brought to their attention – can Gavin’s knowledge of the world of science help them to understand what it means?

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I don’t intend to give any spoilers away here. But I will tell you is that this plot moves in so many directions and has twists and turns that are so unexpected that I defy you to be able to put it down! I hadn’t met Zoe Tampsin before, and whilst the books seem to be labelled the Gavin Shawlens thrillers, for me Zoe is the stand out character. Gordon Bickerstaff has created a strong woman with a great sense of self-worth, duty and loyalty. She has grown up in the military with a serving father and brother, has served an exemplary career herself and is a natural leader. I love the way that she can slip so easily into and out of character, doing whatever needs to be done, fooling even those who know her, and yet her love and loyalty for her family and closest comrades is uncompromising. Her strength of character is tested to the extreme both mentally and physically in this book – she is the ultimate survivor and a wonderful female protagonist.
Based on this book alone I felt that I didn’t get to know Gavin Shawlens particularly well and he at times feels the weak link when put alongside Zoe and her team. It feels that Mr Bickerstaff is asking us to question the need for Shawlens and whether he can be relied upon to remember which “side” he is working with. The attention to detail of the science is superb, and I really like the fact that not everything goes to plan and the characters have to think on their feet, make life changing instant decisions and show their vulnerability. This feels like real life, if in a world very removed to my own!

I could not put this book down and felt exhausted when I did reach the end. For me there were so many things that I just did not see coming – the sign of a great thriller, surely? My first thought on completing the book – “WOW!”. My second…..well, let’s just say it involved a certain online book store and I now have the first 4 books sitting on my Kindle too – I loved it that much!

Five stars from me!

Available from Amazon

Other titles in the Lambeth Group thriller series:

Deadly Secrets: The Truth will out…

Everything To Lose: The Chase is on…

Black Fox: Run For Your Life…

Toxic Minds: The Damage is Done

About the Author: biography from Amazon page

I was born and raised in Glasgow but spent my student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, I learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and I cut the grass in the Meadows. If I ran the lawnmower over your toes – sorry.GFB pic

I learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before I retired to write fiction. I like DIY and I do some aspects of DIY moderately well and other aspects not so well. I live with my wife in Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.

I write the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.

I enjoy walking in the hills, 60s & 70s music, reading and travel.

 

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#Blog Tour – How I Motivated Myself to Succeed by Shelley Wilson

Dream It, Live It, Become It

Disclaimer: I was fortunate to be given an ARC by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Blog Tour Banner for Shelley Wilson HIMMTS

I first met Shelley Wilson through the blogger community online and was soon following her on Twitter and her blog.  We also belong to a great Facebook group of bloggers who support and promote each other.  Now I must be honest and tell you that I haven’t read Shelley’s first book – yet – “How I Changed My Life in a Year”, but I do know that it was the precursor to this book and that she does refer to it throughout as one book describes the other.  So to put it simply we have “How I motivated myself to Succeed” in my challenge of “How I Changed My Life in a Year”.

Normally I would give a self-help book a wide berth, but I was intrigued by the concept of “How I Motivated Myself to Succeed” and wondered how it could apply to me.  My regular readers will know that my life has changed drastically due to health issues, and as a result I have started to write and connect with the chronic illness community.  I wondered if Shelley’s approach to motivation and success could be translated to something positive for those who are facing huge and often negative health issues.Motivation

This book is easy to read.  There are no difficult words, trendy psychobabble phrases or deep psychological discussions to dissect.  It really does do what it says on the tin – that is to describe Shelley’s personal journey to motivate herself to succeed.  I love the fact that she describes, in brutally honest detail, every little factor affecting her setting and then achieving her goals.  She describes how she learns – as a visual learner – and how preparing vision boards helps her to figure out what it is she wants to achieve.  But Shelley is not prescriptive in her approach and suggests that the reader may find other tools more helpful – she recognises that one size does not fit all.

Many of you will already be familiar with the use of acronyms in the workplace to motivate individuals, or within team building exercises or at a strategic planning level.  Shelley incorporates several acronyms – such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) DAD(Decision Action Determination) – along the way but does so in a very familiar and easy format that explains exactly how they can be used by ordinary people in day to day life.  I think that this is what I like most about Shelley’s book and her style of writing – she explains exactly how she personally set goals, undertook tasks and arranged her life to achieve her goals.  Now these goals may have included a mammoth one of writing a book, but equally she includes writing a meal plan for her family and encouraging her teens to tick of items on the household task list!

Shelley is a single mum who has run a holistic health business, but has also experienced her own major health problems which forced her to close her business.  I felt immediately drawn to this normal woman, living an ordinary life and I can identify with her.  Her descriptions of home and the teens made me laugh out loud – this lady knows how I live. If I can recognise myself and my friends in this writer, then I can definitely identify with her writing and her suggestions.

As someone who has been disabled with health problems, I accept that I am not going to set a goal to storm the workplace and become a tycoon as my body physically will not allow this.  But Shelley’s frank discussion about organisation, self-care and changing habits can be easily utilised by someone like me to both make the best of my situation, and to realise that I can still achieve something and flourish.  I love her section on decluttering – this covers both mind, surroundings (in my case home) and social media.  She writes about decluttering your Facebook & Twitter….it would never have occurred to me.

Whilst Shelley has written parts of this book with the twelve months from her first book in mind, and thus sets challenges across the year, she stresses, and I believe, that it is possible to use some of the tools over a shorter timescale or indeed for the longer term.  We talk about “pacing” in the chronic illness community and being “short on spoons”, and the second half of this book has so many good suggestions to plan and incorporate these needs with the goal to a success beyond our illness/limitations.  This might be writing a blog, visiting a friend or running an on line shop.

So before my review for this Blog Tour turns into a book, my conclusions!  If you are interested in reading a down to earth, personal experience of motivation and goal setting in order to succeed and achieve – then this is the book for you.  Nothing fancy, no psychobabble, pure sensible advice that we ordinary folk can use to flourish.

A fantastic four stars – please read Shelley’s guest post below!

Book review & blog tour

 

Guest Post From the Author, Shelley Wilson (@ShelleyWilson72) #BlogTour

 When my wonderful host, Claire, offered a spot on her blog for my book tour I was delighted. I’m ashamed to say that after writing a series of guest posts (seventeen in total!) my typing fingers are beginning to look like gnarled claws! Before they give out on my completely I wanted to take this opportunity to find just the right excerpt from my new release for Claire’s audience. I hope you like it.

 

Taken from How I Motivated Myself to Succeed:

When I began running my Motivate Me workshops, I used to leave a handout on all the chairs for the attendees to take away with them. It was my interpretation of motivation. I’d like to share this with you in the hope it resonates with what you are planning for yourself.

M = Mindfulness

O = Optimism

T = Trusting in the Process

I = Inner Wisdom

V = Validation

A = Activating Your Dreams

T = Thinking Outside the Box

E = Empowering Yourself

 

M is for being mindful and learning to be in the now. Slowing down and becoming aware of what your mind/body is telling you enables you to discover new opportunities and experiences. Try a five-minute meditation every morning or night.

O is for optimism. Start to look at your life through the eyes of a child, with innocence. See the simple things that can make a profound difference to your day/week/month, such as a smile, holding a door open, or paying someone a compliment. All these acts add to our well of optimism.

T is for trust. I’m not a life coach or a neuroscientist; I’m a single mum who turned her life around when she hit rock bottom. I had to trust that the lessons I’d learned were there for a reason. I believed that the universe could deliver, and more importantly, I began to trust myself that I could survive, make changes, and be the person I wanted to be.

I is for inner wisdom. You have the ability to change bad habits, to find happiness, and to love who you are. Sometimes you may forget that your inner wisdom exists. It’s always there, just beneath the surface, and it’s ready to provide you with the answers you long for. Using oracle cards can be the perfect way to tap into your inner wisdom.

V is for validation. For every issue you face, or problem you think you can’t handle, there are a hundred other women/men who have been through this and have come out at the other end. You can use their wisdom and experiences as a case study. Let those who have walked this path before you be a mentor, or join a support network, or social networking group. These are all ways to validate that you can get through anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You are not alone.

A is for activating your dreams. These are the action points you take to make things happen. By taking that first step, you begin a chain reaction that pulls your dream towards you and activates those wishes into becoming a reality. Without this stage you become stuck.

T is for thinking outside the box. Learning to change the way you think can have a profound impact on your life. When you are worried about an issue, stop for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of someone you admire, a strong person who never seems to be fazed by anything – what would they do? Come at your problems and fears from an alternative direction.

E is for empowerment. In today’s society, you have the opportunity to sign up to be a part of powerful social communities both online and in real life. A group of friends with similar interests and beliefs can be invaluable. At home, you may be part of a networking group or a slimming club; perhaps you’re a member of the Women’s Institute, a book club, or a regular coffee morning event. All of these groups empower you. Being around like-minded people, meeting new friends, and sharing that positive energy will feed your motivation to succeed, and will grow your desire to be the best you can be.

If we think about our resolutions, goals, or projects as one big jigsaw, then by collecting all the pieces and slotting them together we achieve success.

This was the final spot on my blog tour for How I Motivated Myself to Succeed, available now in paperback and eBook. Huge thanks to Claire, for allowing me to invade her beautiful blog and share the book love. I hope you enjoyed a brief glimpse into my book world.

 

If you would like to read more then take a look at her new release, How I Motivated Myself to Succeed, out now in paperback and eBook, and packed full of information on self-care, freeing yourself from fear, organising your life, and much more.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Find out more about Shelley on her author blog www.shelleywilsonauthor.com or via her personal development blog http://www.motivatemenow.co.uk.

 

She is also on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram

 

Author Bio:

SONY DSCShelley is a multi-genre author of non-fiction self-help and young adult fantasy fiction. Her latest release, How I Motivated Myself to Succeed is being dubbed as the sequel-that’s-not-a-sequel to her bestselling book, How I Changed My Life in a Year. She writes a personal development blog (www.motivatemenow.co.uk) as well as an author blog (www.shelleywilsonauthor.com) where she shares book reviews, author interviews, and random musings about writing. Shelley was thrilled to win the Most Inspirational Blogger Award at the Bloggers Bash in 2016, and to scoop second place in the same category in 2017. She is a single mum to three teenagers and a black cat, loves pizza, vampires, and The Walking Dead, and has a slight obsession with list writing.

 

To conclude her Book Blog Tour – Q&A with author Laura Trentham

Earlier this week I posted my review for new novel Leave the Night On and now to celebrate and conclude her blog tour, here is a fantastic Q&A with author Laura Trentham.

 

  1. What inspired the novel plot?

Plots are strange things for me…I can rarely pinpoint anything in particular that triggers an idea. They usually pop into my head when I doing something else entirely like making dinner of driving the kids around.

  1. What’s your favorite scene? Why?

I love the scene where Sutton gets drunk and finally propositions Wyatt for real. I hope it’s funny and sexy and the reader can feel her mortification when she thinks he turns her down.

  1. Who’s your favorite character? Why?

Wyatt. He’s sexy and tough, but also incredibly sweet. He loves his family and would do anything for them. My heroes are complex and most definitely not a-holes.

  1. Any other books in the pipeline?

Two more Cottonbloom books! WHEN THE STARS COME OUT (1/30/2018) features Wyatt’s twin brother Jackson. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE (8/2018) is Mack Abbott’s book. Also, sometime in the fall of 2018, I’ll have a military themed romance/women’s fiction book releasing! I’m super excited about it too.

  1. What led you to write in this genre over others?

Actually, my first books were historical romances, and I’ll be re-releasing two and adding a new book in my historical Spies and Lovers series this fall (Sept/Nov 2017). But, while the historical books were on submission with publishers, my agent suggested I try a contemporary. It sold to St. Martin’s Press only a couple of months after my historicals sold. I’ve set all my contemporaries in the American south because that’s where I was born and have lived most of my life. I understand the way southerners talk and think.

  1. Do you have a favorite book and author?

I’m going to have to throw it back to Mary Stewart as my favorite author. I quite often reread her books. But as far as which book I’ve reread the most, it would have to be Julie Garwood’s The Bride.

  1. Why and how did you decide you wanted to write for a living?

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t even consider writing until five years ago. My daughter started preschool, and going back to work doing what I went to school for (chemical engineering) wasn’t feasible. I sat down one morning and started writing. At first, I didn’t even tell my husband what I was doing. I won’t lie, it took a lot of work and rewrites to get those first manuscripts good enough. But, eventually, I signed with an agent and sold them both.

  1. What’s your favorite way to relax?

Reading! (I know that’s a shocker:) I also enjoy the mindlessness of games on my phone.

  1. What’s your favorite food?

Fried rice! I just learned to make it at home. My rice cooker is my second favorite appliance (behind my coffee maker!)

  1. Sounds like Sutton’s fiancé’s a cheating…um…cheats.  Why did you decide to use that as an aspect of your story?

Andrew is a secondary character in the first Cottonbloom trilogy about the Fournette siblings. He’s kind of a slime ball in those books too.

  1. Tell us something about Wyatt that we don’t learn from the book.

He likes to wear women’s underwear. Just kidding!! Actually, I’m drawing a blank, he’s an open, honest kind of man.

  1. This book is set in Mississippi.  Does this location contribute to the story in some way?

It’s actually set half in Mississippi and half in Louisiana. I wanted a southern location. But, I also envisioned a twist on the wrong side of the tracks story. In Cottonbloom, the more affluent live on the Mississippi side and the blue-collar working class live on the Louisiana side. I wanted that push-pull and rivalry between the two. It informs the relationships between my couples.

Thanks Laura for a great new read!  I will be looking out for some of the other Cottonbloom books….quite fancy finding out what happens to those other Abbott boys!

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Blog Book Tour: Review “Calling Major Tom” by David M. Barnett – Part 1

This week has seen author David M Barnett on a book tour flying between the online world of blogs & social media and the real life world of book stores, as he publicizes his wonderful book “Calling Major Tom”.  You can meet David at The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley  gateway to the Yorkshire Dales on Thursday 13th July from 7pm, if you are in the area!

I first wrote a book review at the beginning of the year ahead of publication and later recommended the book to my local book club as our monthly read.  I would like to share my review with you again, before putting some questions from our book club to the author.

Warning: whilst the review does not contain spoilers, the subsequent questions might!

Book Review for Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett

I was given a copy of this book(ARC) from Netgalley via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair & honest review.  All views are my own.calling-major-tom

I challenge you, whether Bowie fan or not, to read this book without constantly having Space Oddity going round your head!  Thomas Major is a lowly scientist working at the British Space Agency when he finds himself in a position to be the first man to visit Mars.  The only thing is that it is a one way mission, but Thomas has his own reasons for wishing to leave his life behind & entering a self imposed solitude.  Back on earth the Ormerod family are struggling to survive – teenager Ellie & younger brother James living with grandmother Gladys whilst their father is in jail. Ellie should be having the time of her life shopping & partying with her friends, but instead her mother has died, she is working 3 jobs, caring for her brother & worrying that social services will split them if they realise that Gladys has dementia.

It was difficult to see how these two very separate story lines could interlink and work, but they dovetail together beautifully from the day that major Tom tries to call his ex-wife from space and Gladys answers the telephone.  Their lives are linked through the most unusual series of events which see Thomas Major helping the Ormerod family overcome financial and social issues…and even come to terms with a few of his own demons.

I loved this book – it made me laugh and cry.  The view from the space ship window is described so vividly that I could see it, and the personalities of the individual main characters brim with life.  The comedy that the writer incorporated into the character of Gladys turns a sensitive situation into a human one.  She made me laugh out loud.  The back story for Thomas Major unfolds and he is surprised to find himself changing as his relationship with the family on Earth develops and makes him re evaluate.  These people were very easy to identify with and I wanted to know what life had in store for them.  Mr Barnett makes the reader care.

A feel good story showing the best in human nature without over sentimentality, and how communities can come together.  An uplifting read that I give 5 stars.

Review also on goodreads, Netgalley & Amazon

Questions for the author

Who was the inspiration for the Thomas Major character?
Why space? And specifically Mars?
If Calling Major Tom were to be made into a film, who would you like to play Thomas Major? Matt Damon of The Martian fame?
The family dynamics between Gladys and her grandchildren are tangible – has David had first hand experience of dementia and if not where did he gain his insight for Gladys’s actions that made us laugh and cry?
Did Thomas see in the Ormerod family what had been missing from his own upbringing? Could he have ever moved forward from this if he had stayed on Earth?
When you started the book, did you intend that it would be so humorous?
 I remember that at the end I felt it wasn’t particularly heartwarming because I didn’t see how Major Tom was going to survive on Mars. What did the author think would happen next – or is there a sequel?
And finally….the obvious – are you a Bowie fan?
Some of the comments from my book club included:
Just finished the book, laughed out load, and cried, loved it!
 
Not finding this easy and it is because I am not liking using the iPad to read. (Book club read it – at my suggestion – before available as a  paperback book)
 
very quick read after the initial few pages…very funny..
General consensus was that we all really enjoyed it!

Answers to follow in Part 2

The book is published by Trapeze Orion Books UK
 
Available from 29 June in paperback, currently £5.59 and ebook £1.99 on Amazon

Calling Major Tom and also from your local bookstore (prices vary).

This contains an affiliate link.