Tuesday, 12 November 2019


Title: Beneath London's Fog
Author: Iona Caldwell
Genre: Occult Fiction, Ghost Story, British Literature
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing
Release Date: 30th October 2019

BLURB supplied by Xpresso Book Tours
Jonathan is the immortal master of Raven Hollow Manor – a decrepit mansion riddled with superstition, murder and restless ghosts. Beneath it lies a restless malice. 
Its previous owner driven mad, violently kills his guests with a rusted ax, creating the perfect venue for Jonathan to seclude himself in a prison of his own device.
When the streets of London begin to run red with blood; the bodies exhibiting disturbing signs and baffling wounds, the identity of the killer remains elusive to police.
The bodies are just the beginning of Jonathan’s troubles. A mysterious letter accusing Jonathan of committing the murders appear, raising suspicion in the police. Hidden beneath the mangled bodies, Jonathan soon realizes he is being forced to face demons he thought died in a forlorn past he attempted to escape.
One thing Jonathan knows for certain: He must deal with the demons of his past if he is to survive his future. Not only him but those he has come to love as well.
For fans of Jim Butcher, Stephen King, Darcy Coates and Nick Cutter.


The Streets Ran With Blood

I want it known before this tale begins – I am not a hero but a villain. I want no sympathy from whomever reads this recalling of my story; no mourning for the tragedy that befell my life. I am not an innocent man but a sinner forced to face the ravaging demons and ghosts of his own creation.
My story began as many do – a lie, a fire and murder. One of my kind murdered the woman I loved in the coldest of blood in one of history’s darkest times at the behest of a possessive noble.
After a run in with him in Nottingham, I soon found myself fleeing for my life from hunters, framed for a murder I had not committed.
Forgive me, I am getting ahead of myself.
Let me begin where this part of my story took place.
A bloody civil war ravaged London followed shortly by the Great Fire in 1666. A glorious time for me and those like me to take advantage of the chaos and remain hidden in the shadows.
I managed to pursue the one responsible for nearly getting me killed two centuries prior to the plague which befell London before the fire.
Within the shadows of the flickering flames of St. Peter’s Cathedral, I struck him down and departed the city, thus avoiding my demise.
I had yet to escape him, however, when his vengeful spirit devoured the souls of the innocent in a mad bloodlust.
Though greatly injured, I managed to drive his spirit to my new home Raven Hollow Manor in London, imprisoning him in stone coffin in the crypt beneath it.
Peace resumed in my life and nobles of all kinds enjoyed lavishly hosted parties within the halls of my estate.
Unfortunately, the short lived splendor at the hands of the hauntings filled the ears of the locals and my beloved home decayed into a tangled web of blood-filled rumors and superstition.
My once glorious halls became infested with dust, its crystal chandeliers covered with cobwebs, their spiders fat on the insects buzzing around the decay and mold-covered wallpaper.
Yet, there I remained as it proved a decent place to not only contain my greatest sin but served also as a castle of solitude.
The tides of time swept by in a cacophony of modernization and the movement from superstition to things only mortal science could explain.
I still needed to venture into the city, not only to feed but also to purchase other items needed for everyday living.
It wasn’t until the winter of 1910 that my silence would be disrupted in the form of a girl named Holly, a young street urchin accused of theft. I took her with me after using a bit of “persuasion” on the local officers to let her go.
They did not need to know where I would take her and she soon grew into a wonderful messenger on my behalf. She became a rather attractive young woman with bouncy blonde curls who kept me company with stories of what went on in the city.
I am sure, at one time, she became infatuated with me. It did not surprise me. To mortals, my kind held a certain allure they found difficult to ignore. I ended her infatuation quickly following a stern talking to and dousing with cold water.
One day, while in my labyrinthine garden, Holly came to me in tears.
When the people of London learned where Holly lived, the townsfolk dubbed her a practitioner of black magic.
One day, I found Holly sitting on one of the marble benches in the garden, sobbing. I picked a flower and put it in my daughter’s hair, sitting next to her beneath the statue of a praying angel.
“You need not worry about them, dearest. Mortals are always quick to place labels on what they do not understand.”
Holly sniffled and sobbed, wiping her nose and offering me a smile. “But why do they avoid this place, Jonathan?”
“Mortals fear what they cannot comprehend. Pay them no mind. You are a wonderful young woman,” I purred, brushing a blonde curl from her face.
The words appeared to have placated her as she smiled and joined me in a moonlight stroll through the garden.
Around midnight, after dinner with Holly, I dismissed her to bed. Once she departed, I sought out sustenance in the city.
A dense fog rolled in due to the cool winter weather and the recent days of rain.
Combined with the darkness of the streets and alleyways, I managed to meet a young working woman on the corner and wooed her into joining me for a walk to the park. As with other women, I made sure she understood I respected her body with gentle caresses and loving words murmured into her ears.
Once I placed her deep under my spell, I kissed the tender flesh of the woman’s throat and exposed shoulder, thanking her for her gift.
My fangs pierced her flesh, earning a moan of pleasure as her body surrendered its precious life force without any significant damage. Her body pressed against mine, her moans increasing with pleasure at my kiss.
I preferred this method to those of many of my other brethren who tore their victims apart during a feeding, choosing power to subdue instead of sexual allure.
When signs of weakness began manifesting I released my hold, picking her up after licking the small puncture wounds, my saliva healing them, leaving no marks or scars.
To assure she received care, I took her to the nearest hospital and deposited her on the steps without anyone noticing.
As always, I used hypnotic suggestion to erase her memory and leave her with a pleasant dream.
During the wee hours of the morning, I tended to enjoy the calls of the birds and the chirping of the crickets to help relieve the burden on my mind.
Not a soul roamed the streets near the bridge where I liked to sit and write poetry or read a book.
In the midst of the silence, a horrifying shriek caught my attention, almost startling me.
My pupils narrowed to those one might see in a viper or a cat. I let my body dissipate into the form of a black mist, hovering over the city in search of the source of the scream.
I found it in the shape of the body of a mangled man.
The whites of his eyes consumed most of the portion of the glossy orbs in his skull, mouth gaped open mid-scream.
I knelt before him, my own brows furrowed in frustration at the recognition of the familiar puncture wounds on the man’s throat. This cannot be. No other has hunted here in centuries.
The disturbing find made something clear.
Many of my kind preferred not to hunt in one place occupied by another of higher status, or in another’s territory for that matter. We changed due to the growing number of human hunters who would kill any of us they came across.
Despite the city’s size, my reputation often kept others out of my hunting grounds, for which I remained grateful.
This new kill had been malicious.
If I allowed such behavior to continue, it could draw the attention of the hunters or the local police to my home.
Whomever the responsible party, I needed to locate them and have a word with them or kill them if necessary.
My eyes closed, a heavy sigh drawing up from within my lungs. I placed my fingers over the man’s eyes, using a gentle touch to close them. “Forgive whichever of us did this to you. You did not deserve to die in such a horrific manner.”
Searching through the pockets of his trench coat, I located his identification card and vowed to send some money and roses to his family.
Sounds of sirens and the calls of the corner watchmen announced the arrival of the authorities. I left them the man’s wallet so they could inform his family of their loss.
I lurked in the shadows listening to the inspectors scrutinizing the scene.
“Bloody mystery, it is. This is the second mangled body we found this week. One has to wonder if we might be witnessing the birth of another blighter of a serial killer.” One of the inspectors scratched his head beneath the dome shaped hat.
I recognized him as Bertrand Abrams, a well-known officer and one of the only men who aided Holly during her visits to town.
From his looks, one would expect him to hail from Scotland. A bushy mustache and stringy hair with the consistency of sheep’s wool held the color of fire. Dimples set into high cheekbones and a double chin made me smile. A portly belly betrayed his affinity for too many scones and perhaps Scotch.
He had been wrong. This death held no mystery. I merely needed to find the one responsible before it resulted in too much of a personal dilemma.
Following the release of the corpse to the medical examiner, I took the form of black mist and drifted back to Raven Hollow.
The beginnings of my night would be haunted by dreams of a past filled with love, vengeance and pain.
It would be filled with shining auburn locks and eyes the color of the fresh leaves of spring.

Iona Caldwell is the lover of all things arcane, folklore, nature and magic.
She is the author of the British Occult Fiction, Beneath London’s Fog set to be published by FyreSyde Publishing October 2019. Her second title, Hell’s Warden is forecasted to release in February of 2020. When she’s not busy weaving worlds of the arcane and dark, she’s spending time out in nature. An avid lover of books, Iona claims her biggest inspirations are H.P Lovecraft, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allen Poe.
She believes storytellers should tell the stories they want to tell. As such, most of her titles are stand-alone novellas she hopes will leave her readers immersed in magical worlds.
She is also an extremely active book blogger who will review primarily horror, suspense, supernatural thriller, mystery, and occult/gothic fiction.




Monday, 11 November 2019


Title: Vagrant Youth
Series: Dead Aware
Author: Eleanor Merry
Genre: Sci-Fi, Post Apocalyptic
Release Date: 22nd September 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
How will a group of homeless youth fare against a viral apocalypse?

Fever Induced Rapid Encephalitis AKA. F.I.R.E.

This is the name humanity gave for the virus that covered the globe within days. A highly contagious disease that first seemed to be a run of the mill flu but soon turned into something much more sinister.

Abby has been living on the streets of Vancouver for years, acting as a leader to a small group of homeless youth. When the FIRE virus hits the city, the kids must use all of their street smarts to stay alive. Unable to fit into society prior to the virus, will they be able to find their place in a new undead world?


Vagrant Youth was the first instalment of the Dead Aware series that I came across. The novella was just 99p which is a a good price when you are trying an author that you haven’t read before. Also, I haven’t really read many books in the Zombie genre either.

The main characters in this book are a bunch of street kids. The eldest ones are Abby and Ike, they end up acting like the parents of the rest of the group, Benny aged 8 years old, Joshua & Tara aged 14 years old and the youngest being Olive who doesn’t really speak at all. Each child/member of their group have their own tragic story of how they ended up on the streets. What they all have in common are that they are unwanted, and unloved. Rather than let their stories turn them down darker paths, together they have all flourished. Abby and Ike brought them in and gave them love and a purpose. They felt responsible for the well-being of each of the youth and on the whole, they manage to find food and live in abandoned buildings.  

It’s whilst out scavenging that Abby finds a newspaper and learns about the FIRE virus that is sweeping the world. FIRE stands for Fever Induced Rapid Encephalitis. The virus started in Delhi India but has soon spread around the whole globe. The newspaper states that at this time, the World Health Organization is working around the clock to determine more of this virus’ origins and its possible effects; however, in the interim, they have advised all citizens to remain indoors whenever possible and to stay away from anyone who is exhibiting signs of illness. We will provide updates when we have more information on how the virus is spread. Please be aware of the following symptoms:          
● Fever ● Lethargy ● Vomiting ● Diarrhea 
  ● Photophobia ● Confusion ● Seizures

It's not long until one of the street kids becomes infected, then the virus spreads despite Abby’s best efforts at quarantining anyone showing symptoms. It seems that some people are immune, so it ends up with only Abby and Tara escaping the illness and being nurses to the others.
Ike, Joshua, Benny and Olive all die but to the initial shock and horror of Abby and Tara, Ike “comes back”, though he is initially violent when he looks at Abby and spots a necklace he gave her he suddenly seems to be well aware of who Abby is and what sort of relationship they had. When Joshua dies, Tara hopes that he will return and be the same type of zombie as Ike, however that is not the case. Joshua is violent and it is Ike that has to defend the girls and kill Joshua. With just Ike, Abby and Tara left they decide they have to move and try somewhere where they can live together that is safer than their current home which is becoming more dangerous every day. They need to find somewhere they can obtain food and supplies.

One of my favourite characters was Ike who even though is a zombie himself and Joshua was attacking a member of his family, he still finds it difficult to come to terms with the fact he killed Joshua who was also a member of his family. I also adored Benny, the way he looked up to his hero Ike. It is apparent that Benny kind of keeps Ike fighting his illness as he takes on caring for Benny when the boy is quarantined in the same room as him.

I think the name of the series, Dead Aware is genius as there are more than one type of zombie on the rampage. There are the mindless, fight and kill everything in sight zombies and there are those who died, came back as zombies yet seem to be aware. So Dead Aware is perfect for these zombies such as Ike, Guy and Cassie.

To sum up, I really enjoyed the introduction/taster this novella gave of the Dead Aware world a lot and immediately purchased the first full length book in the series, A Zombie Journey. I honestly couldn’t wait to start reading more. I already love the characters of Abby, Ike & Tara and am definitely wanting to learn more about Guy, Cassie and the rest of their group and how they came to be together. I am also anticipating some more great adventures and dangerous situations that these characters are going to find themselves in as well as maybe meeting even more dead aware zombies too.

Sunday, 10 November 2019


Title: A Zombie Journey
Series: Dead Aware
Author: Eleanor Merry
Genre: Zombie Fiction, Post Apocalyptic
Release Date: 23rd August 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
Fever Induced Rapid Encephalitis; AKA. F.I.R.E.

This is the name humanity gave for the virus that covered the globe within days. A highly contagious disease that first seemed to be a run of the mill flu but soon turned into something much more sinister.
When Max and Clara Jacobs married 20 years ago, they promised to love each other until death did them part. But what happens after that?

The devoted couple are at opposite ends of the country when a highly contagious virus sweeps across Canada, making zombies of a third of the victims. Waking after death, Max and Clara must learn to accept their new forms, and navigate a chaos-ridden world filled with people who are out to get them.

Dead Aware is a post-apocalyptic novel written mostly from an undead point of view. Motivated by love this is a story of death, adventure, acceptance… and zombies.

Amazon US
Amazon UK


I had already read and really enjoyed Zombie Mom, and Vagrant Youth both from the same Dead Aware series, so I knew I had to read this book, I needed to know more! I will be totally honest I aren’t overly keen on the cover for this book, though it’s the content that truly matters and that does not disappoint in any way!

A virus has broken out called Fever Induced Rapid Encephalitis, shortened to the acronym FIRE, which originated in India but soon spread worldwide. FIRE sort of begins like a bad case of flu, with a fever, lethargy, aches & pains, vomiting, diarrhea, photophobia, confusion and seizures too. Then people die. But. . . . and it’s a rather large but some people come back to life. Some of them are mindless flesh hunting and eating “zombies” and another “but” others turned are coming back zombie like, yes, they are tempted to hunt and eat flesh but they retain some of their humanity, enough of their humanity to know right from wrong and having memories of their lives before.

The main characters in the book are Maxwell Jacobs and his wife, Clara Jacobs. Clara and Max have been through a lot, they tried for a long time to have children and Clara finally became pregnant only to lose their child 6 months ago. So, when Max reveals he has to go on a business trip, Clara is upset and she really doesn’t want to be alone.
It is whilst Max is away at his business meeting that the virus really takes a hold on the world. Max himself becomes ill, and goes through the different stages, from the fever right through to the waking up knowing something is different but not being sure what. When he looks into the mirror in his room, he see’s a reflection of a changed man, his once clean hair is greasy, dirty and sticking out in all different directions. The biggest change is in his face. His skin was now alabaster and devoid of colour other than brown fuzz covering his cheeks and his veins stand out against his skin, with his lips now having a bit of a blue tinge. His eyes colour is now vivid blue! Max feels odd, he feels slower and can’t remember his own name! More disturbing for him is the way he looks at the door and the door handle but can neither remember, nor work out how to use the door handle to escape his hotel room. A teenaged boy called Jason is running from someone who is of the mindless zombie type and takes refuge in Max’s hotel room. When Jason see’s Max and the fact he too is a zombie he rushes to the hotel rooms en-suite and locks himself in. Over a few days they befriend each other with Jason eventually teaching Max how to open the hotel room door when it becomes a possibility he may die. Max watches over the teenaged boy, hoping he will not die, the feels guilty about wanting Jay to be an “aware zombie” like himself.

Whilst all this is happening to Max his wife Clara is at home desperately trying to contact him but with the world in disarray because of the virus there are no ways to communicate any more. Clara ends up caring for a neighbour when she becomes sick so it’s no surprise when Clara becomes sick herself. Clara literally goes to bed clutching an old photo album and prepares to die. Clara also becomes an “aware zombie” but she is captured by the army and taken to an army base and put in a cage with other zombies that have varying awareness. It’s there that Clara meets a scientist charged with learning more about the “aware zombies” called Rachel Samborski. Rachel is trying to gain the trust of the zombies and is unaware to the extent of their ill treatment by the army guard to begin with. It soon becomes apparent that Rachel and Clara need each other, and they need to get away from the army as quickly as possible.

Once I started this book I was hooked, I seriously hated having to put it down to . . .to do anything, eat, drink, or sleep! I thought that the world building and setting in the dead aware series is really great. You can visualise the scenes this author writes. You feel like you are right there in the overlooking all the action. There’s not only the main story of both Max and Clara wanting to reunite but there’s the other characters and what they want now their lives have irrevocably changed due to the virus.
I adored the family that Max and Jay find and stay with for a while and would love to know more about their specific story and what happens to them, maybe in a novella?

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading was I honestly really adored this book, in fact, I love all of this series that I have read so far, and yep I am definitely looking forward to and intending to read more!

A Zombie Journey has the same family feel throughout it as Vagrant Youth & Zombie Mom had. The characters may not be biological related, and they may be made up of survivors, and aware zombies but they create their own hierarchy and have deep, protective feelings and family love for each other. I will forewarn you that there is a really sad ending for one of the characters I had instantly adores and had become rather attached to.
This book certainly left me yearning to read not just more of this zombie series but willing to try out some other zombie fiction too. I think the idea of the existence of the “aware zombies” is a fantastic, I guess they are a kind of hybrid, different type of zombie, rather than what you may immediately think of when the word zombie is used.
I would love to read more about Jay, and I am hoping that Max & Clara join Sam & Guy at some point soon. I would also be interested in what happened to Sue, Lucy & Chip. Oh, and more from Rachel maybe too, both her life, why she is immune and what she can or will do to help the “dead aware”.

Finally, to sum up, I honestly haven't read much zombie fiction but will look out for more in the future. I really liked the differences in humanity in this book, the humans, the zombies that could talk, remembered & loved and those zombies that were the more typical attack & bite first zombies.

Saturday, 9 November 2019


Title: Zombie Mom
Series: Dead Aware
Author: Eleanor Merry
Genre: Zombie Fiction, Post Apocalyptic
Release Date: **Newsletter Exclusive**

BLURB from Goodreads
Zombie's are pretty happy folk, for the most part. Eat, sleep, hunt and repeat. Sounds perfect, right?
When a zombie woman meets a young girl, she must come to terms with the creature she has become and make the ultimate decision. Are people friends, or food?

**Free when you sign up for the authors newsletter**

I had really enjoyed reading Vagrant Youth, which is a novella from the Dead Aware Series and I saw that Zombie Mom was exclusively available free to those that signed up for Eleanor Merry’s newsletter and as I wanted to read more of the series I signed up. Zombie Mom is shorter than the Vagrant Youth novella so I would probably call it a novelette.

The two main characters of this novelette are a young 9 year old child called Octavia, or Ava for short and a female adult zombie who Ava names Angela as the novelette progresses.

Angela doesn’t remember her “before”, as in her before she was a zombie. She remembers waking up in a park bathroom and just laying there as she couldn’t work out how to use the door handle that will allow her outside. She persevered and finally made it outside, though she comes back into the bathroom at night to sleep. It’s when Angela is outside that she hears voices nearby, she looks in the direction of the noise and see’s a small child frantically running away from some unseen danger or person. Angela smells that smell that makes her salivate for something to eat, fresh meat. She stands up and sees the young girl run into her bathroom, the zombie man chasing her cannot work the door handle so gives up and leaves. Angela goes to investigate who it is in her bathroom and what is wrong with the clearly human girl.

When Angela hears the child crying, whimpering, then quietly saying hello, it is as if something clicks inside her and she suddenly realises what she was about to do and that its not right. Angela wonders “What am I?” as tears roll down her face. When she looks up, she is looking straight into Ava’s innocent face staring down at her. Ava is curious as to what has happened to Angela and like only children can, strikes up a conversation with her. It soon becomes apparent that Angela is not the usual type of out of control zombie that attacks humans to eat etc. Angela is on of the dead that are still somewhat aware of the world around them.

Later in the novelette Angela and Ava meet up with some of the other characters from the Vagrant Youth novella which ties the novelette into the series well. I could have read on and on about these characters both the aware zombies, and the humans that are trying to survive attacks by the mindless zombies and other humans that are out for themselves looting places and shooting people who get in their way.

To sum up I think this short story, novelette that is part of the Dead Aware Series, and is set in the same virus ravaged world is a great taster of what is to come from the rest of the series. I really enjoyed reading this one especially the relationship that develops between Ava & Angela. Liked the way the characters from Vagrant Youth and Zombie Mom have met up. I am certainly looking forward to reading more about these characters in the rest of the series as well as meeting more aware zombies too.

Friday, 8 November 2019


Title: In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety
Series: Cecily Taylor 
Author: Krysten Lindsay Hager
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Release Date: 3rd September 2019

BLURB supplied by Xpresso Book Tours

Cecily feels like she has it all: great best friends, the beginnings of a career as a model/actress, and she’s dating her favorite singer, Andrew Holiday. Then Cecily’s best friend Lila begins to ditch her every time Lila’s boyfriend calls. Cecily feels lost, but she and Andrew begin connecting more and she’s never been in a relationship where she felt so understood. Andrew even begins to confide in her about his anxiety. Soon Cecily experiences her own anxiety on a magazine photo shoot, but she manages to impress the magazine staff. Just when it seems like all her dreams are coming true, everything comes crashing down when a photo of Andrew with another girl appears online. He swears nothing happened, but Cecily is crushed. She feels like she’s lost two of the people closest to her. Was her perfect relationship real or was she in over her head?

Goodreads Link

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / IndieBound

“They were talking about how they’re using unknown models right now and I mentioned how awesome you were in the video and they agreed. We started talking and they wondered if you’d want to come to New York and do a shoot for the magazine. What do you think?” he asked.
I almost fell off my bed. Me? Model? I wasn’t pretty enough for that and everyone would write in to let them know that just like they all felt the need to voice that opinion in the online video comments.
“Wow, it’s…wow.”
“I know, right? And I’m here for a few weeks recording so we could see each other. My manager said he’d talk to your parents and work out the details. You’d be working just to get exposure, so the contract would be about rights and not money—is that cool? It’s a great way to get your name out there and stuff for your book.”
               “My book?”
“Your portfolio. You know, the photos people look at to decide whether or not they want to hire you for modeling jobs.”
Was I going to be modeling enough that I needed a book? Did this magazine actually want me? It sounded too good to be true—going to New York to model and be in a magazine while visiting my pop star boyfriend. Was this my life?
“I don’t know if my parents will go for it,” I said.
“Let my manager talk to them and see what magic he can work. He wants to help this magazine out, too. You want to do it though, right?”
Part of me did—the part of me that wanted a big life and to be famous and adored. The reality side of me was an anxious mess just thinking about flying out there though.
               “Yeah, for sure,” I said hoping I sounded convincing. 
“Great, give me your parents’ number and I’ll have my manager give them a call.”
               I felt like I was having an out of body experience as I recited my mom’s cell phone number to him. 
My entire life could change in a phone call.

Who knew all those embarrassing, cringe-y moments in middle school and high school could turn into a career? And who would have thought that daydreaming in math class would pay off down the road? Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values.
She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends...Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star, Dating the It Guy, and Can Dreams Come True. True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book and the Dayton Book Expo Bestseller Award for children/teens. Competing with the Star is a Readers' Favorite Book Award Finalist. Landry in Like is a Literary Classics Gold Medal recipient. Krysten's work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times, Springfield News-Sun, Grand Blanc View, Dayton Daily News and on Living Dayton.



Wednesday, 6 November 2019


Title: Jihadi Bride
Author: Alastair Luft
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Release Date: 29th August 2019

BLURB from Goodreads
Erik Petersson works with the High-Risk Traveler Task Force, an organization that prevents radicalized individuals from joining extremist groups. Disciplined and dedicated, Erik’s carefully controlled world is upended when his daughter, Arielle, leaves university to join the Islamic Caliphate, a terrorist regime in Syria. Erik rallies a desperate effort to stop her, but when he fails, he resolves to bring Arielle back, whatever the cost.

Driven by a secret she can’t outrun, Arielle’s dream of a more purposeful life is confronted with the brutality of life in the Caliphate. When she attracts the attention of Abu Noor al Kanadi, a terrorist leader bent on punishing America for its actions in the Middle East, Arielle must choose whether to sacrifice her dreams to survive or risk a frantic bid to escape. Torn between rival agendas, father and daughter must choose between family or country, love or fear. 


I had looked at this book a couple of times and I was honestly not sure whether I really wanted to read it or not. You hear so much in the news about young people being radicalised and going out to places at war. In the end my curiosity got the better of me and I went into reading the book with an open mind and the intention I always have of giving my honest opinion. The genres listed for this book are historical fiction, mystery and thriller. I am not wholly sure I agree with the “historical” label as I feel the subject matter of the book is more current than historical really. I would agree with the labels of mystery, and thriller and would add suspense and maybe political/religion to the list.

One of the books main characters is Erik who works as part of the High- Risk Traveller Task Force that attempt to prevent those that are radicalised from joining extremist groups. Erik takes his work seriously and certainly puts a lot of hours into his job to the point of being a workaholic. Sadly, it means when something awful happens to his daughter, he doesn’t know about it and she doesn’t reach out to him. In fact, she reaches out to an already radicalised friend she has at college. Erik and Arielle regularly remotely play Warcraft together. So, it comes as a total shock to Erik when he receives a phone call from his daughter Arielle before their pending Warcraft game session cancelling it and saying she doesn’t have much time, that she is in Frankfurt, that she loves him, doesn’t disown him, even though she is supposed to do that and live their previous life behind. Arielle tells her dad she loves him and will pray for him and goodbye. Arielle reveals she is travelling with her friends to Turkey, to meet someone who will then take them into Syria.
Erik tries his best to talk his daughter out of her plans, saying there is a civil war in Syria, its dangerous, he asks her not to do this. But her reply has him thinking back to the headstrong, hard headed child she was at just age three. It’s when she says “Now that there’s Caliphate, hijrah is an obligation”. When asks what all that has to do with her, Arielle reveals she converted six months ago. Erik tries his best to keep his daughter talking to gain clues as to who she is with, where she is and how she is getting to Turkey and then onto Syria. These clues are the base stones he has to rely on when he tries to find his daughter. He tries going through the official channels but when those wheels grind increasingly slower and he is shut out, told he is too involved emotionally, he takes the only course of action left to him, to go after his daughter himself. In Eriks mind and world there is not “if” he will find his daughter and get her back only a “when” he will.

Arielle is the other main character of the book and comes across as a fairly strong, independent character who lost her mother when she committed suicide when she was much younger. Arielle is joining in college life and whilst out socialising something awful happens to her. Arielle feels ashamed and reverts into herself, becoming quiet and timid until she meets Naomi, the friend that introduces her to a bible class. After attending the class and hanging out with Naomi and her boyfriend Hamza she soon becomes caught up in the religion and going to Syria. Arielle and Naomi are under the impression that they will be working in a hospital, caring for the ill or injured. Naomi believes Hamza will be there to greet them when they arrive in Syria. It soon becomes apparent that the girls have not really been given the true facts about where they will be staying, who they will be with or what they will be doing either!
Umm Fatima who met the girls on their arrival, escorts Arielle and the other girls to a woman named Deeba. In the small room there is a row of seats and Deeba sits at a desk with paperwork in front of her and a man standing guard near her called Tariq. The room is hot and wearing her new attire Arielle feels claustrophobic and ill. Deeba is in charge of giving the girls new, more suitable names and their job/purpose. Arielle is renamed Hafsa and is told she is to marry Mus’ab Saleh, when Arielle says she is there to work in a hospital she is told there are enough working at the hospitals that she has to marry and her first duty is to “make cubs for the Caliphate”. Arielle feels numb and just returns to her seat, thinking of what she had been told she would be doing and why it has all suddenly changed, but she is too scared to speak up. When her friend Naomi is given the name Abdia and told who she is to marry she says no, she has a boyfriend and wants to know where Hamza is. When Naomi refuses to return to her seat, Tariq steps forward and strikes her continuously until she is in a heap on the floor. Arielle tries to comfort her friend, but soon leaves the room and doesn’t know what happens to her afterwards.

The book is told in a kind of diary format, in that at the beginning of the chapter the place/setting and time of day are listed. Then we find out which character we are following in that specific chapter. I would say there are three, maybe four angles to the story. There is Erik’s which
tells his part of story from his point of view and we follow first the official channels to try and trace his daughter with the intention of her being picked up by Police and being returned to him. Then when those channels do not seem to be interested enough in his daughter, Erik is forced to take matters into his own hands approaching the problem in a more unofficial way.
There is Arielle/Hafsa’s side which tell of what is happening to her in her day to day life and what she sees. Hafsa/Arielle is soon married off to Mus’ab Saleh. Luckily for Hafsa Mus’ab is kind and quite gentle with her, not insisting on consummating their marriage immediately.
We also have the chapters on Abu Noor al Kanadi who is a known extremist and his second in command Mamdouh al Qassam who are in fact being monitored by the High-Risk Traveller Task Force.
It seems that Abu Noor al Kanadi doesn’t have the stomach for the public be-headings and other such atrocities, though his second in command Mamdouh al Qassam more than makes up for it!
As Erik did work at the Task Force there are the interaction between him and his colleagues. In fact, there’s the beginning of a possible romance between Erik and Stephanie. Another colleague called Jordan gives Erik some intelligence prototypes to use as well.

Characters I instantly liked were, Erik, Stephanie, Jordan and Ziad. I grew to like Arielle/Hafsa who soon realises that she is being used as a pawn in a much bigger game and war than she ever thought she was entering into. I felt a little sorry for Arielle/Hafsa and Naomi/Abdia how na├»ve they were. They thought they were going to work in a hospital, tending the ill. Though if I am honest, I don’t think either girl would have easily slipped into caring for the type of injuries they would have had to deal with. Having said that, when Arielle/Hafsa is forced to face a highly contagious disease she does try to help those with the illness. I also liked the character of Mus’ab as when an opportunity arose where he could desert his post and disappear back to his own country, he doesn’t take it. Mus’ab returns to Raqqa for his newlywed wife Hafsa/Arielle and they attempt to escape over to Lebanon but are caught. I won’t reveal what comes after their capture as you need to read the whole book yourselves.
I did enjoy reading this book, even though I was unsure to begin with about reading it. It was interesting, yet disturbing at the same time. The punishments that Mamdouh delivers are horrendous and he seems to be totally unaffected by them. However, Abu Noor al Kanadi is quite happy to let others do the dirty work of punishing, torturing and killing on his behalf. There are some really poignant moments towards the end when both Erik and Arielle are suspected of having Ebola. There’s also quite a bit of fighting action too from the different sides of the war, the mercenaries Mark and Chris who also seem to enjoy the killing a little too much.

My immediate reaction upon finishing this book were that it had been engrossing, a very realistic, and believable story. Also, that it had some great characters.

So, to sum up, I am glad I went ahead and read the book, it did show different sides of an horrendous war and how people can get caught up in it fairly easily.