Bout of Books #16 Sign up & TBR


Hey guys! I’m emerging out of blogging and reading obscurity to take part in one of my favourite bloggy/reading events – Bout of Books! I’m looking forward to dedicating a whole week to catching up with some of my favourite authors and shunning the outside world.

I am going to challenge myself this time to read over 2,000p over the week, so I won’t be committing too much else. There will be no blog updates on here, and I might complete a challenge or two, but they won’t be my priority. Also, I’ve decided not to host a challenge this BOB, so that’s a little pressure off my shoulders. Interesting to see that all the challenges will be hosted on the Bout of Books blog this year. If you haven’t before, and are interested in this wonderful event, check them out here.

Most of my Bout of Books’ing will happen on twitter, where I am @bookybecksa and am much more active than here! I’m trying twitter as my primary platform because I find blogging to be time intensive during a readathon, and I always end up having to compose and combine multiple day’s updates in one post. If I remember, I will post a summary/wrap up at the end of the week, linking that to the Bout of Books blog too.

I’ve got a cautionary TBR prepared, but will allow myself room to mood read if need be. I’ve tried to include long but easy reading books and new books by favourite authors so that I can hopefully hit my word count!



Deathlist – Chris Ryan
Fire Point – Sean Black
State of Emergency – Andy McNab
The Black Echo – Michael Connelly
First Response – Stephen Leather
Dead Girl Sing – Tony Cavanaugh

Short stories/Novellas

Budapest/48 – Sean Black
The Soft Touch – Tony Cavanaugh
The Sandpit – Stephen Leather

Ranty Roundup – January

January was a strange reading month for me – it started off so strong, but then there was a period of about 14 days that I didn’t read anything. Not a single page. The month started off with a very successful Bout of Books readathon, in which I hosted a challenge and did a significant amount of reading. You can read my wrap of of that here.

A friend and I then drove to South Gippsland in Victoria (about a 13 hour drive) to go to a music festival. It was a camping festival and we did quite a bit of drinking and meeting new and wonderful people. We saw some of our favourite bands, like Parkway Drive, Stray from the Path, Confession and Neck Deep. Needless to say, I didn’t get to read a single word. Normally I would read while my friend drove, but I did most of the driving and we talked so much. It was just so nice to be able to have a pressure free weekend and be able to catch up with a good friend.

Anyway, onto more bookish things – my favourite book of January was without doubt Dispatches by Michael Herr. It was my classics club spin, and I had DNF’d it a couple of years ago when I just wasn’t in the mood for nonfic. It just shows that I am such a mood reader that something I DNF’d could then become a favourite after a couple of years. My other reads for the month were not spectacular, and I was quite disappointed with Dead Wake by Erik Larson, because I had such high hopes and expectations.



Books read in January – 7

Birthdays for the Dead – Stuart MacBride – 3 stars

Dead Wake – Erik Larson – 3 stars

The Devil’s Bounty – Sean Black – 3 stars

The Business of Dying – Simon Kernick – 4 stars

A Good Day to Die – Simon Kernick – 3 stars

Dispatches – Michael Herr – 5 stars

The Payback – Simon Kernick – 3 stars


Book Reviews

Dead Wake – Larson

In The Cold Dark Ground – MacBride

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

Dispatches – Herr

Review Spree – Lynn, Black & Kava



Challenge progress

Read my Books Challenge

The Business of Dying by Simon Kernick

1 book read in January / 1 in 2016

Classic a Month Challenge & Classics Club

Dispatches by Michael Herr – Reviewed

Series a Month

Dennis Milne series by Simon Kernick – read 3/3 books.


February TBR


I’m not going to try and complete a series in February, rather I am going to focus on my steadily growing netgalley pile and clear my backlog. Currently I have 5 on my shelf that need to be read. My goal will be to read 4 of them at least.

I’ve also got quite a few books from the library that need attention, plus my monthly classic. So the following is my tentative TBR for Feb – however I’m not really expecting to read this whole list – maybe five or six from this list.

The Martian – Andy Weir

The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman

The Innocent – Sean Black

One Hit – Jack Coughlin

The Wrecking Crew – Taylor Zajonc

Youngblood – Matt Gallagher

Islamism – Tarek Osman

Red Line – Brian Thiem

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

I am so so excited that I am hosting a readathon for Agnes Grey, it’s the first time I have ever hosted one, so I am so grateful to have people to share this experience with. If you want to be involved, feel free to sign up – it’s still early days!

Agnes Grey Readalong

Upcoming Releases: February

There are so many exciting books being released in February… I’m already feeling like 2016 will deliver some lifetime favourites.

Here is a short selection of the books I am excited for, and a blurb shamelessly stolen from


Rough Justice by Brad Smith 

Series: Carl Burns #1

Publication Date: February 1, 2016

Carl Burns returns to his hometown to uncover a viper’s nest of corruption and dark secrets in this tense and twisting novel of suspense: first in a brand-new series.

After ten years’ absence and a spell in prison, Carl Burns has returned to his hometown of Rose City to offer support to his estranged daughter Kate, currently one of four witnesses testifying against former Mayor Joseph Sanderson III, who stands accused of multiple counts of underage rape.

Carl is determined to get justice for Kate, whatever it takes. But with his former sister-in-law Frances his only ally, he finds himself incurring the wrath of powerful enemies as he attempts to uncover the shocking truth beneath the layers of corruption and lies which engulf the town.

Rough Justice seems to be in the genre that I love – I seem to read and love lots of books in which the protagonist returns to their hometown and finds everything in crisis. The big difference about Brad Smith’s new series is that it is set in Canada. I read NOTHING Canadian, which should change.


First Response by Stephen Leather

Publication Date: February 25, 2016

London is under siege.

Nine men in suicide vests primed to explode hold hostages in nine different locations around the city, and are ready to die for their cause.

Their mission: to force the government to release jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh Prison.
Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today.

But the bombers are cleanskins, terrorists with no obvious link to any group, and who do not appear on any anti-terror watch list. What has brought them together on this one day to act in this way?

Mo Kamran is the Superintendent in charge of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met. As the disaster unfolds and the SAS, armed police, and other emergency services rush to the scenes, he is tasked with preventing the biggest terrorist outrage the capital has ever known.

But nothing is what it seems. And only Kamran has the big picture. Will anyone believe him?

Um… It’s Stephen Leather, so chances are, I will enjoy this one! I’m excited to read his latest protagonist, Mo Kamran. It’s been a long time since a standalone of his has been traditionally published, so I’m wondering if this is going to remain a standalone or be spun out into a series. I’ll find out more in late February, I suppose.


The Wrecking Crew by Taylor Zajonc

Publication Date: February 23, 2016

In exchange for his freedom from a secret Moroccan prison, deep-water salvage diver Jonah Blackwell agrees to lead a covert search for a missing research team in the dangerous coastal waters of Somalia, an area plagued by pirates and a deadly red tide killing all marine life within its reach. But when his expedition threatens the ambitions of billionaire industrialist Charles Bettencourt, Jonah’s survival depends on hijacking a hostile submarine and assembling an unproven crew who must simultaneously investigate the source of a mysterious oceanic plague and face down Bettencourt’s commandos.

A thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in the world’s last frontier, THE WRECKING CREW will resonate with James Rollins and Clive Cussler fans alike.

So, I’m pretty much trash for any type of naval thriller. This one has Somalia (PIRATES), a submarine (IT GOES UNDERWATER!) and a mysterious oceanic plague (Oh, MY GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!) I have this sneaking suspicion that this book could beat my naval love evidenced by the hashtag #iloveoilrigs. I might tweet this book with #ilovesubmarinesandoceanicplagues it’s a bit long, I’ll have to come up with something a little more catchy.


Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

Publication Date: February 2, 2016

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Doyle and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Jennifer Doyle, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Jennifer find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?

This book seems to be genuinely scary. Also, very recently my sister was a victim of a vicious facebook hack in which very private photos of her were shared on the social media site, using her account. Family members, friends and colleagues all saw these X rated photos, and she is now dealing with the mental fallout. They were only online for two hours, and they certainly didn’t go viral. It can happen, it does happen, and I think Fitzgerald’s exploration of these themes is timely and topical.

Review:In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride


In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride, Trade Paperback, January 2016, 528p.

4.5 stars.

Okay – I will attempt to get through this review without too much flailing, gushing and incoherent squealing. No promises, however. This book was much too good to promise the impossible.

In the Cold Dark Ground might just be the best Logan McRae novel published thus far. I’ve read all 9 in the past two years, and loved them all. The cases that McRae investigate are usually dark and twisted, which is right up my alley. This one was no different. There was a very satisfying who-dun-it with all the appropriate red herrings and twists.

That isn’t what made this book into a 4.5 star read – that would be the personal story lines that came to a head in this book. I will attempt to not spoil anything, but some major changes happen during In the Cold Dark Ground. Things that just made me drop the book on my lap and loudly exclaim “oh, my god.” There were also moments that made me a bit teary, and wonder how the hell Logan was going to get out of this mess that he finds himself in.

I really enjoy MacBride’s tongue in cheek exploration of corruption, and in this book, that is played to the extremes. There are some very memorable scenes with Napier (who sounds so much like my grandfather it is scary), and we get to meet some interesting characters who work in internal affairs.

This book was thoroughly enjoyable, but the last few pages truly had me squirming in my seat, wondering what the hell is going to happen in the next book. That is the sign of a really great series, where you read a complete story with a solid ending, but are already checking out the publication dates for the next book. (Couldn’t find a date, assume it’s not written yet. Might need to abduct Stuart MacBride and force him to write the next one now. Although, it would suck if my life became a B grade adaptation of Misery.)


Review: Dead Wake by Erik Larson


Dead Wake by Erik Larson, trade paperback from library, March 2015, 430p.

3 stars.

Dead Wake had to have been one of the most hyped non-fiction books in 2015, and I decided that I couldn’t let it sail past without at least giving it a read. I’ve always enjoyed nonfiction about boats, especially submarines, and Dead Wake follows the sinking of the steam passenger ship, Lusitania by the German U-Boat, U-20 during WWI.

I’m not familiar with Erik Larson’s previous work, but was impressed by the quality of the writing. Larson is very adept at weaving together the stories of multiple people and following them throughout and after the disaster. I didn’t find his writing exceptional, rather proficient. What is exceptional is Larson’s ability to select a story that can captivate an audience and including a mix of personalities that we know or come to know.

Honestly, I found the chapters about the U-20 and Walther Schwieger to be more interesting than the ones aboard the Lusitania or on dry land. The operation of the U-boat, and the way the captain of the ship, Schwieger, had complete command over which ships he was going to attack, where he was going to travel and how he was going to conduct missions was really interesting to me, I didn’t actually know much about WWI U-Boat operations. I found the descriptions of his personality to be especially interesting – he seemed like a ruthless but personable character. I would have liked to know more about the other Germans who were onboard, but we only really got introduced to one other person on the U-Boat.

The numerous chapters about President Wilson and Edith Galt were boring, not necessary to the plot and seemed to be thrown in because the author felt he needed a romantic subplot. He didn’t. It wasn’t entertaining, I was more entertained in the half page story of Clementine Churchill’s dinner party. The pace at sea was increasing, the intelligence was heating up, the war was being inched forward in the trenches with thousands dead, the politics were becoming more convoluted between the numerous countries – but now we must stop to see the President and Galt go for a drive in his car and a round of golf in the morning. It would break the rising tension and frustrate me every time, it was badly constructed and I can’t imagine anyone REALLY caring about this relationship.

There is one thing missing from this edition of Dead Wake that was surprising to me – a lack of pictures and maps. Normally in a nonfiction like this you get treated to at least one package of photos – usually glossy pages in the middle of the book. I would have expected a number of pictures of the Lusitania, some of U-Boats, maybe even a destroyer, pictures of what some of the other sunk boats looked like, a map of where major events occurred, pictures of the people included in the novel. I know that there are pictures of all these things because Larson mentions people taking the photos and he includes them in his notes. In Dead Wake there was a single picture of the Lusitania at dock. There were no pictures of what a U-Boat looks like, or a map of the path the ships took. It was something that I personally missed, because my factual brain liked to know what things actually look like, not what my imagination assumes.

The action of the story was addictive, and I enjoyed the chapters dedicated to the actual sinking of the ship and the aftermath. I won’t say much more about it, but the gradual conspiracy that emerges through the book is terrifying and made me look at a certain Englishman in a different light.

To conclude, Dead Wake was enjoyable but I don’t think it quite lived up to its hype. I would recommend it to readers of naval history, world war one history or those who enjoy the occasional non-fiction romp.

BOB15: Day 3


Just a very quick update this afternoon – I managed to finish Dead Wake last night, and spent a couple of hours reading at work this morning. We had the BF’s parents over and we went out for dinner then stayed up talking, which is the time I normally read.

The Rainbow challenge went really well, there were some beautiful responses and some brilliant rainbows. I have already contacted the giveaway winner, and I’m always intrigued as to which book they are going to select. I don’t know why it interests me, but on one occasion before I actually purchased myself a copy!

I’m hoping to get some serious reading done over tomorrow and the weekend, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make my 2,000 word goal. It’s not the end of the world, of course, but I had just been hoping that I was going to hit that shiny target.

I’m going to spend a little time tonight putting together the Agnes Grey readalong – I feel like February will be here before we know it! I’m so excited to be able to read it with you guys, and I’m going to go scour the internets for interesting stuff to post in accompaniment.

Hope everyone’s days went swimmingly, and thank you to everyone who entered the rainbow challenge!

Day 3: 

250p of Dead Wake by Erik Larson – Completed

Total for today: 250p
Total for readathon: 690p

Books completed: 1
Birthdays for the Dead – Stuart MacBride
Dead Wake – Erik Larson

Top 15 of 2015

It’s the end of another year! I can’t believe how quickly this year has passed. There have been some great moments and some not so great moments, but I am ready for 2016! I’ve read some great books in 2015, and I have compiled a list of the 15 best books, according to me. I’m surprised by how many new releases have made my list, most years I usually work my way through author’s backlists, but now I am actually caught up with quite a few of my favourite series. Anyway, onto the list! I’ve linked to my reviews, if I happened to review them!


15. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

I really enjoyed this novel, I read it so that I could teach the short story at school, but found myself wishing I could just teach the novel. It brings to mind so many questions about morals and disability.

14. Kingdom of the Strong by Tony Cavanaugh

Such a great book! So tense and well plotted out. My first foray into Cavanaugh’s work, but I’m going to go hustle up some copies of his backlist.

13. Lockdown by Sean Black

I chose to include the first book in this series in my list, despite liking book 3 just as much. I discovered this series in 2015, and I am loving it. Lock is such a great character and I love his tough-cool sidekick, Ty.

12. The Sniper & The Wold by Scott McEwen and Thomas Koloniar

Yet another series I started this year, this series follows Gil Shannon who is a sniper. I love the way Ewen and Koloniar mixes political, military, action and family drama to create really involved storylines.

11. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

One of the better classics I have read, this one had a really great twist at the end and kept me reading through a readathon!

10. Black Ops by Stephen Leather

Leather’s Spider Shepherd series is my favourite series – and Black Ops was a solid addition to it. I get so excited to read these books when they are released, then power through all 500p in less than a day. This was a fun read, but doesn’t feature higher up the list because other books have been more memorable.

9. Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin

The first in the Charlie Berlin series – Diggers Rest Hotel is a historical mystery set in the 60’s and 70’s Melbourne. It is really interesting and the characters that McGeachin has created are second to none. This whole series is worth checking out.

8. Sandakan – Paul Ham 

Sandakan took me AGES to read – about 3 months. It was too heavy to read for prolonged periods, but I felt so compelled to know more that I kept picking it back up, reading for ten pages, and then putting it down in disgust. Not at the author, but at what happened. This is one of those non-fiction reads that made me angry (also, how could I have not been told about this in my many years studying history at university) and will stick with me for a long time.

7. Death Force – Matt Lynn

I’ve read all four books in the Death Force series, and they rate up there – each one earning at least four star ratings. My average on Goodreads is 3.2, so that tells you something about how many 4’s and 5’s I award! The big difference about these military thrillers is that it surrounds a team or mercenaries who are completing dangerous jobs not for queen and country, but for their bank balance. It adds a different element. I also like the way that these books feature a very strong ensemble of characters, from all over the world. The last book in the series would be my favourite, but I’ll always be thankful to Death Force for hooking me.

6. In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride. – Review to come in 2016

I had MacBride’s other novel The Misisng and the Dead at number 8 in this list, but I read In The Cold Dark Ground at the very end of December and it deserves its place higher up this list. I’m a total fangirl for McRae – I love him and his boss/friend/annoyance Roberta Steel. This would be one of my favourite books of the series, I won’t give anything away but… so much happens. The ending is UNBELIEVABLE, and it made me cackle like a mad old witch.

5. Hellfire – Chris Ryan

The Danny Black series is strong. It was made stronger in Hellfire through an amazing plot featuring Caitlin. She would have to be my favourite character of the year – she was strong, capable and realistic. She was not introduced as a love interest, and although she ended up hooking up with someone, it certainly added depth to her character – not his! Hellfire was riveting, fact paced and Chris Ryan at the top of his game.

4. The Call of The Wild – Jack London

I read the whole of The Call of The Wild in my ophthalmologists waiting room. It was sensational, I loved its exploration of the similarities between beast and man. After I finished it, I was talking about it for weeks. I’ve also just built a unit plan around it and cannot wait to teach it (hopefully in 2016!)

3. The Devil’s Anvil – Matt Hilton

The Joe Hunter series is one that has cemented its place in my bookshelf and heart. The first few books in the series were good, but a bit formulaic. They combine the hunting down a serial killer trope with the action man character. That’s great, but in the past few books the plot has deepened and the characters have become more engaging. I also have an obsession with the banter between Hunter and Rink – it is so witty and hilarious.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Damn, Wilde can write. I know, that’s not news, but I hadn’t known. I wasn’t ready and I was blown away. The storyline is so well known, so how can you be surprised? I need to hunt down more Wilde now, but I haven’t squeezed him into my classics club list, so it will have to be additional to my monthly classics club read!

1. Fortress by Andy McNab

This surprises me. I like Andy McNab books, and I’ve probably read close to a dozen. They are always enjoyable, but somewhat mindless action romps in which the hero does remarkable things to save the world/the girl/the company and then proceeds like it is no big deal. Not so with Fortress. I was emotionally invested in Buckingham’s situation. I identified with his background and where he was coming from. The exploration of politics and moral issues was deep and complex, with a delicate handling of racism and right-wing extremists. I have put off reading the next book in the series because this book was so good, I can’t imagine that anything will top it, and as such, it will be a disappointment. I’ve never felt like that about a book before.

As such, Fortress by Andy McNab is the best book I read in 2015

Review: Kingdom of the Strong by Tony Cavanaugh


Kingdom of the Strong by Tony Cavanaugh, Netgalley copy, July 2015, 368p.

4 stars.

Kingdom of the Strong was the first book by Cavanaugh, and honestly I don’t know why I hadn’t picked one up sooner. I read so many books in which the main character is a hard cop who sometimes crosses the line – but for some reason I overlooked this Aussie writer, who is setting these brilliant cop stories in Australia. Kingdom of the Strong was set in Melbourne, and although the furthest east I have ever lived is Adelaide, I have visited Melbourne and know street names, famous places and events. This makes the book so much more relevant and suspenseful!

I really like Cavanaugh’s character of Richards- he is hard, brilliant and confused about his life. He certainly doesn’t have everything sorted out; he has turned his back on his career, the woman he loves, and his friends. When one of his oldest friends and mentor finds him and asks him to head up an investigation, he feels obliged to say yes.

What follows is a crazy look into Melbourne in the 1990’s and how the characters then have progressed with their lives. The death that Darian is investigating is convoluted, with at least three suspects who have motive and opportunity. The investigation is hurried because of political factors. I found the plot exciting and unpredictable – the end did shock me, but in the sort of way that you come to the realisation with the detective. As Darian was uncovering the truth, we were being let into the mystery too.

I really enjoyed the cast of characters in this book – Darian’s friend and always hungry fellow cop is Maria, who is dating a very interesting character of Casey. The character that stuck in my mind the most was that of Racine, who is such a grey but despicable character from the get go. He made my skin crawl on a couple of occasions.

I’m going to hunt down copies of the first three books in this series, and add them to my ever increasing TBR.

Review: Hellfire by Chris Ryan


Hellfire by Chris Ryan, (Danny Black, #3), Trade paperback from library, August 2015, 391p.

I live tweeted this book: #iloveoilrigs

4 stars.

Hellfire slowly built up the tension and suspense until I was frantic in the final 70 pages. I always forget how epic the conclusions of Chris Ryan’s works are, and Hellfire certainly delivered. At times it felt like I was racing against the clock alongside the protagonist of this series, Danny Black. I’m a sucker for anything with nautical themes, and so seeing a picture of an oil rig on the front of a favourite authors’ book – I jumping up and down to get reading!

This is the third novel in the Danny Black series, and I have given all the books in the series a four star rating. I feel like each one adds a little more to the background characters that feature in the series. The most infuriating character ever written (ever!) features in this series, Mr. Hugo Buckingham. The desire to punch Buckingham in the face is all encompassing, and I certainly was rooting for Danny to just lose his cool and let fly.

Danny Black as a character is fairly stock standard, he is the guy you want to come to your rescue. I found it interesting in this novel when he was thinking about his morals, convictions and motivations. Black spends much of the book looking down on his team mate Tony because he seems to be associated with some shady business and is a general all around douchebag. Tony is connected with the seedy underbelly of London, and I sure didn’t like the guy. However, all of the torture that Black seems to constantly engage in doesn’t even get a second thought from the protagonist. Now, I understand that this is an action novel, where it’s all about the thrills – plus – in a time constricted, high stakes situation maybe torture could be used (that is a could, not a should), but the fact that Danny Black seems to be completely at peace with what he has to do to get the job done seems a bit strange to me. Maybe I’m just becoming too much of a bleeding heart in my old age.

In Hellfire we are introduced to a new character, Caitlin. She is Australian and awesome. As an Australian woman myself, I am partial to kick ass Aussie women. I would have liked a little bit of information on her, but she certainly held up her end and was portrayed as just as capable as the men in the unit. At the beginning of the novel there certainly was an element of the unit being unsure if she would be a liability – but Ryan wrote the character with integrity and a no-nonsense attitude. By the end of the novel she was just another member of the unit, and the only concession made to her was people not referring to the unit as ‘guys’ or ‘men’. I hope that she shows up in future novels, because I think her story could be very interesting!

Those who are familiar with Ryan’s style will be comfortable with this effort – it is condense, terse and fast paced. There are few adjectives and when they are included they are usually to describe machines or pieces of kit. This is exactly the type of prose I enjoy – to the point and no-nonsense. It can take a while to settle back into this style after reading wordy literature for school, but I always appreciate the break.

If you are looking for an action-packed thrill ride (with added oil rig!), you can do no wrong in picking up a Chris Ryan novel, although I would advise starting with the first in the Danny Black series – Masters of War.

The Twelve Books of Christmas Sign-up

Hello blog world!

I’ve been frantically busy with work & life recently, but am so excited to have a somewhat empty December to play with. I saw a twitter post about The Twelve Books of Christmas being hosted at Shaina Reads and decided that it is the perfect challenge for December.


I normally read between 12-15 books in a good reading month, but I have only read 4 books in the past 3 months – so it should be a good kick up the behind for me! I’ve also made it my goal to write 10 reviews this month (hopefully inject some life into my ranty blog!)