Wednesday 22 February 2023

Book Review – The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

The Only Way Out is Death
By Varun Gwalani

Loved watching the Korean survival drama Squid Game? Eagerly awaiting Season 2? Read Varun Gwalani's latest murder mystery to tide you over until the new season!

From author Varun Gwalani comes a new escape room murder mystery. The Only Way Out is Death is a fast-paced suspense novel set in an empty hotel, where twelve people have to kill to survive.

Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel.

Each of them have three choices:

Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel,

Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free,

Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free.

The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge uneasy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive.

Beware of the mastermind of this death game, who is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Place your bets on who will survive, if you dare.

Grab a copy HERE!

Twelve people, all in positions of power, were at a convention when they were kidnapped. All twelve next woke up in an abandoned hotel, with devices strapped to their legs, and are given clear instructions: they are trapped, and there are only a few ways out. If someone simply walks out the door, the device on their leg will release a deadly virus out into the world, and they will be responsible. If someone kills another, the killer will be free to leave. And if someone commits suicide, everyone left alive can go.

Surrounded by both moral and impossible choices, all twelve must make their choices as to who they trust, and who they don’t. And who they choose to spend their time around could be the difference between life and death.

This book is told from the perspective of Kiriaki, a lawyer, who uses her knowledge and skills at both deducing the truth and convincing others of said truth, to her advantage. It doesn’t take long until the group starts finding people dead, and Kiriaki tends to take the lead in the investigations. Finding out who the murderer was is vital, and both learning the truth, and convincing the others, is no easy task. This isn’t just a murder mystery. There are several mysteries surrounding murders, but also, the mystery of who it was that kidnapped them, who is the mastermind in the whole plot, and who within the hotel can be trusted.

There is a reason behind every single one of the twelve being taken, although details of the sins they seemingly must atone for are hidden until danger and accusation force the truth out. My favourite parts of this book were the ‘trials’ as such, when a body has been found and everyone gathers together to try and work out the motives, the actions, and the killer. Kiriaki is incredibly clever, and it’s fascinating watching her narrow in on the truth.

The confusion and fear of such a strange situation comes across perfectly. No one quite knows what to do, or how to act. Some isolate themselves, some try to come up with ways to escape, whether that be by following the mastermind’s rules, or by becoming a killer, and some simply try to remain calm, and pretend nothing is happening. After all, if no one dies, they are still in a luxury hotel, and have the option to live together in peace. Friendships form and break apart, and everyone is on edge. One might go as far as to accuse a friend if it keeps them safe. Anything goes, and the unpredictability, and multiple plot twists, certainly keeps you reading. 

I loved Kiriaki as a character. She has done things in the past that she is not proud about, and she can’t deny that the situation scares her, but she tries to be friendly to everyone. Alliances and enemies form almost immediately, for some of the people know each other outside of the hotel, but Kiriaki stays relatively neutral throughout the entire book. She gets to know everyone a little, and I definitely formed my views on the characters based on what she thought of them. Her inner monologue is almost amusing at times, but it’s perfect for letting the reader know what exactly she thinks of each person, and how she comes to the conclusions she comes to.

If I had any problem with this book, it was that I definitely struggled to keep track of the characters. While some of them were easy to keep track of (I knew who Malik, Anders, Shraddha, and Gideon were the entire time, but they did all have very specific character traits that made them stand out), others blended together, until I wasn’t sure who was who, who had what backstory, and what their role was. But it would be difficult to keep up with such a large cast of characters anyway, even if there wasn’t so much necessary information about each character that had to be revealed and then stored until it was needed.

While I haven’t read many murder mysteries before, I have watched plenty of thrillers, and this book would make an excellent film. After reading this book, I almost feel like I’ve watched it as a film already, for even though I couldn’t keep up with the characters, I could definitely keep up with the story, and it was absolutely amazing. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for this author in the future.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Book Review – Vanished (Faith Black FBI Case Files) by Jade Madden

By Jade Madden

An FBI Agent. A missing hiker. And a secret to die for...

FBI Agent Faith Black was damn good at her job.

But considering the events of her last case, she is lucky to still have her badge.

Her latest assignment lands her in a sleepy backwoods town where people are disappearing.

She’s less than enthused.

She partners with the local sheriff who's desperate for answers. They agree that their only option is to retrace the footsteps of a college grad who recently vanished while hiking.

Together they scour the hiking trail over 87 miles through the thick mountain forest. They can't shake the eerie feeling they are not alone.

Whatever was lurking in the shadows wants them gone.

And nothing could have prepared them for what they find.

It was a secret that the ominous forest has been hiding.

A secret only the dead knew...

Vanished is the prequel to the Faith Black FBI Crime Files series; it can be read as a standalone.

Disclaimer: This book is for mature audiences and contains mild profanity and violence.

Grab a copy HERE!

June Robinson was eager to get going on her hike, but a downpour on the second day, and a chill that settles in her bones, slows her down. She finds her seven day timeframe destroyed as she grows sick, and has a difficult decision to make – does she press on, even through she barely has any energy, or does she try to turn back, even through the way back would be difficult. Without cell service, June is stuck by herself.

FBI agent Faith Black is lucky to still have a job after a mistake she made on a previous case, so she can’t complain too much when she is assigned a missing person’s case in a quiet town. The town has had multiple missing people reported, but none of the cases have yet to be solved. The most recent is a young girl, June Robinson, who was last heard from when she called her parents at the beginning of a hiking trail, before she inevitably lost cell service. Teaming up with the town’s Sheriff, James Hollow, Faith heads into the woods to retrace June’s path in the hopes of finding her alive and well.

I have an immense love for short stories, but there is one problem when it comes to writing reviews – there’s always so much I want to talk about, but I can’t because it’ll give away too much of the plot! There is so much packed into this book, with Faith trying to solve a mystery that the reader already knows the truth behind. I have always found crime/mystery books creepier when there is the perspective of both the victim and the law enforcement, because you know the dangers that the law enforcement characters are in, even when it doesn’t seem to them that they are in any trouble. There are certainly moments in this book when I was scared for Faith and James’ lives, and they had no idea about how concerned they should really be.

This book is not without some gore, but everything that happened, no matter how much it might make me cringe at the mental images, added immensely to the story and depiction of the characters. I felt like I thoroughly understood all the characters, not just the good guys. The author has done a wonderful job at adding backstory to everything, without overwhelming the reader in such a short amount of time. Every single character is perfectly fleshed out, and they all seem incredibly real, even though the realness of certain characters will creep you out.

This is only the prequel of a series, but it is more than enough to get you hooked on the characters. I can’t wait to read more about Faith, and her cases. The length of the book, along with the pacing, almost makes it feel like the first episode in a very binge-worthy television series – as soon as you finish episode one, you immediately want to click through to episode two. Except, this is a prequel, and book one isn’t out yet. You must wait for the next instalment, but it is a series to bookmark, so you can immerse yourself in the next part as soon as it is available! 

Faith is a wonderful character, who I connected with immediately. The reasons she has been assigned to this particular case, and what exactly went wrong before, are revealed slowly throughout the story, so you have time to get to know who she really is before you judge her on past mistakes. Even through she feels a missing persons case is beneath what she should be doing, that doesn’t mean she is any less dedicated to the case than any higher profile case she might’ve been assigned to. Finding June is her number one priority, and she puts her all into it. I really enjoyed following her, and definitely look forward to joining her again in future books.

This is an excellent start to a series that promises to be just as gripping, exciting, and well developed as this first book. I read this book in one sitting, in just over an hour. It is well and truly unputdownable. 

Jade Madden lives in Minnesota with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing, she loves to travel, long-distance hiking, camping, gardening, clean eating, learning about and living a healthy lifestyle, bushcraft, herbalism, and staying fit.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Book Review – Veteran Dreams: Forever Young by Cherron Riser

Veteran Dreams: Forever Young
By Cherron Riser

How could one party change so much?

It had been ten years since that night, and walking into the high school reunion, Lita wasn’t sure what to expect. Her mind was riddled with memories, and her heart was racing. The moment her eyes locked with Alex’s, her heart started to beat again, as if part of her had been dead all those years. Life certainly hadn’t gone as expected, and she had not lived up to the promises made that last night.

Feeling broken, Alex longed to move past the disappointment of his military career. After his friend convinced him to go to his ten-year high school reunion, he was surprised to find himself smitten with a girl from the past. Lita had been sweet and innocent back then, but was she still? Part of him longed to see.

The two of them fall into a whirlwind, wanting to help the other heal and pursue their dreams. But they may find the pressure is more intense than the passion the old spark ignited in them.

A stand-alone novel, Forever Young mixes passion and a drive for new beginnings in the Forever Young series.

Grab a copy HERE!

I bought my copy of this book several months ago now. I did initially start reading it as soon as it had downloaded to my ereader, but for some reason, I never got further than the first chapter, and then didn’t read any more for weeks. When I finally did pick it up again, I read the whole book within two days. I am not sure why I never finished it initially, but I do wish I had read it sooner!

Alex had been Lita’s high school crush for ages, but it was a crush she never acted on. It was only when, at a party to celebrate the end of school, when Lita was dared to dance for Alex, that any sort of sparks seemed to fly. She drove him home afterwards, and he kissed her goodbye.

Ten years later, Lita’s artistic dreams have been pushed aside for a more realistic job, not that working in an office was ever part of her life plans. Going to her high school reunion wasn’t something she thought she would enjoy, but it was a chance to get away for a while. What she didn’t expect was to run into Alex again, and to find herself just as, if not more, attracted to him as she was ten years ago.

But neither Alex, nor Lita, are the same people they were ten years ago. Alex’s time in the military has left him in a wheelchair with a damaged back, and the girl Alex remembers was into writing stories and singing. Life has got in the way, and the dreams they both had ten years ago have dissipated. But with everything that has changed, the way they feel when they see each other hasn’t. But, Alex and Lita know the dreams they each had ten years ago, and while they want to help each other follow their dreams, maybe their dreams have changed. The Alex and Lita from ten years ago have grown up, and what they saw for their futures has been adapted as things have gone wrong.

Alex and Lita’s love develops quickly, but really, it has just been lying dormant for the last ten years. While neither of them acted on their feelings before, they can’t deny them now. Even just going out for coffee seems to be something they have been missing. While Lita has been independent and on her own, Alex has been unable to have such freedom, but together, they give each other what they each need. Lita finds the inspiration to pick up her old hobbies, and do something for herself for once, and Alex gains the courage to put in the effort to strengthen his body. They don’t depend on the other to give them what they need, but rather, the other person gives them a reason to push themselves further.

This is the kind of book you don’t want to put down. There is plenty of world building that makes the story seem very real. Lita is living away from her friends, but she keeps in touch, and their relationships and dramas help to flesh out Lita’s life. I loved Alex and Lita, and there are some incredibly steamy scenes in this book. Maybe not the book to read when you’re sat in the car, waiting to pick someone up… I speak from experience! I turned off my ereader very quickly when they got into the car!

There were some aspects of the story, nearer the end, that I started to find slightly unrealistic. There is a happy ending, but I wish it had gone in a different direction. It seemed slightly like things were happening just to make sure there was a happy ending, rather then because it was a natural way for the story to go. Nevertheless, I did really enjoy reading this book and getting to know the characters. There was a very strong theme of learning to do things for yourself, rather than doing them to please others, and I loved watching Lita and Alex both build confidence and realise that they did have the courage to do the things they wanted to do.

It mentions in the blurb that this book is a stand-alone novel in the Forever Young series. I can’t find any more books in this series, I think it may be the first, and I am not sure if any future books will follow on with Alex and Lita’s story, or if they will feature other characters, but I am excited to find out more about the series, and read more by this author.

Cherron Riser is a multi-genre author that writes in romance, paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi for both adults and young adults. When not hard at work on her next novel, she can be found with a good read in hand or trying to convince her puppy that she is in fact a dog and not a person. She is a mother to two great kids. Her family is unabashedly geeky and enjoys sharing a good board game or role-playing game. Cherron is happy to spend time at conventions enjoying books and the geek life with friends, family, and fans.


Cherron Riser was born in Dothan, Alabama on November 2, 1983. With her family being military, she spent a lot of her early childhood traveling all over the country, giving her a lot of new and different experiences she would not otherwise have been given. When she turned ten, however, her family settled in the small town of Ozark, Alabama where she finished her high school career.

After high school, Cherron began college, however she found herself focused on family and would have to revisit college later in life. She welcomed her first child in October of 2003, after moving to Knoxville, Tennessee. In December 2008 she welcomed her second child. Not long after that, she returned to Alabama. In 2019, Cherron finally finished college, obtaining her Associates Degree.

All through her life Cherron has been drawn to the arts. As a child she danced and sang all of the time, often driving her family crazy. During middle school, a group of friends and Cherron started "The Outcast" a club established for building a love of writing. Once the club was formed, Cherron was never seen without a spiral notebook and pen. She wrote daily, developing silly stories for her friends. After high school, Cherron began to write more serious stories and develop more original plot lines. It is a talent and love Cherron has developed over the years, filling her computer with story after story.

As an author, Cherron began her career as a self published author, releasing the book Defying Destiny in March of 2015. She gives a lot of credit to her family and friends for inspiring her characters and worlds, and she looks forward to showing them to all of her readers in the near future. Cherron can often be seen at conventions, both for readers and for geeks, as she is and will always be a geek herself, and proud of it.