Friday, 16 June 2017

Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark

Melissa, producer of a news programme, is in a marriage which has lost its mojo…husband is never home and communication is on a yellow-Post-It basis. Added to which, her news anchors have a live fisticuffs on the evening show, resulting in both being dismissed and Melissa having to spruce herself up and fill in. Oh, and one more thing: her mother has dementia.

This all sounds all rather tame for a plot, if I’m honest. BUT…I really, really enjoyed this. What could have been a somewhat schmaltzy, boring, clichéd story was actually a very well-written one that kept me interested from start to finish, and I found myself really looking forward to picking up the story every night for my pre-beauty-sleep read. No schmaltz, no boring, no clichés. Written articulately with style, it was actually quite wholesome with some down-to-earth, believable characters. Every relationship was handled with skill and insight…they were diverse, relatable and sometimes touching.

And how refreshing to find a well-edited book for a change…quite the icing on the cake. A light and easy read, yes, indeed, but one that doesn’t skimp on balance or sincerity.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Complicit by Gillian E. Hamer

This was a compelling story that kept my nose firmly between the pages…I did actually guess ‘whodunnit’ before the revelation, but it didn’t mar my enjoyment at all, although I felt ten chapters dedicated to a war some two millennia earlier were rather boring and unnecessary. The relevance of the war to the plot could have been woven into the story in other ways.

Descendants of the Druids involved in that war hold secrets that one person wants to know…badly. So badly, in fact, that serial killings become the urgent focus of three detectives. A killer is at large who will stop at nothing to unearth these very closely guarded secrets.

It was a surprise to me to discover that this book is actually the third in a series, so I was particularly impressed how well it stood alone. The characters and plot are well developed (perhaps just a tad muddled towards the end). I also had to suspend disbelief…Druids might have had ‘seers’ in their midst in 60 AD…but in the twenty-first century? I don’t think so.

For all that, it was a gripping book and deserves a five-star rating, but sadly, the editing wasn’t up to scratch. Grammatical errors, some odd phrases verging on Malapropisms and a bunch of punctuation faux pas (too much reliance on software editing) means I have to knock a star off.

Notwithstanding, I like this author and will certainly hunt out more of her books.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Splinter by Michael Bussa

A pleasant hour’s reading. This is a short story…but packed with punch. In this mini psychological thriller, Adam has been wheelchair-bound for twenty-one years after a tragic incident and lives with Ada, his sister. His psychiatrist wants to help this young man who has remained troubled, seemingly traumatised by the event. Believing that finding out what actually happened will help this young man, he makes every effort to uncover the truth. But it’s not plain sailing.

Writing a short story requires technique. There isn’t much time to captivate the reader and every sentence has to count. There still has to be a start, a middle, an end, the plot has to have some meat on it, and the reader has to care about the characters. With the requirement of economy of words, they have to be carefully chosen.

Bussa has achieved all of the above in little under eight thousand words and managed even to throw in suspense. There are a couple of twists. I’ll be honest…I did actually guess them early on, but I must stress this wasn’t because they were obvious...more like an intelligent guess!

If you like short stories and psychological thrillers, you need look no further.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The blurb describes this novel as being ‘a small story’. It is…but it’s a small story over a big number of pages! Five hundred and sixty-two of them, in fact. It did require a bit of a commitment from me, but it was worth every single moment.

It’s told in quite a unique way and narrated by Death. As the book is set in Nazi Germany, Death was pretty busy. The story focuses on Liesel, a nine-year-old, fostered by a family living in Himmel Street. And she steals books.

It’s a beautiful story evoking a multitude of emotions amidst the tragedy that was Nazi Germany that saw the deaths of six million Jews and many, many others. By contrast you have a touching relationship between Liesel and her foster parents…her foster ‘papa’ in particular. Then there's the awkward, but tender friendship between Liesel and her peer, Rudy. This is a story like no other, crafted in an original style.

Ultimately, I rather enjoyed the fact that it was a long book. How many times have you reluctantly reached the end of a book with that mixture of joy to have finished a good story but sad to have to leave the world of the characters you love therein? It was rather comforting to know that for many pages, I wouldn’t be leaving the very endearing Liesel and the wonderful voice of Death.

Read it. Just read it.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Skin Walk by Melissa Bowersock

It was easy to glide into this book…I thoroughly enjoyed the introductory adventure of Lacey and Sam (Ghost Walk), the oddly matched couple who have joined forces as a PI team. Lacey is an ex LAPD cop and Sam a Navajo medium. 

Their investigation for this second instalment is a little more personal, as Sam is asked to look into the death of his cousin…the circumstances aren't sitting well with Sam’s grandfather. 

But this isn’t a straightforward piecing-together of clues. Witches, curses and shapeshifters are added to the mix…and Lacey and Sam find themselves conducting a dangerous investigation.

This sequel certainly lived up to its predecessor. I enjoyed the development of the couple as they grow more comfortable with each other as a team. They’re chalk and cheese, but are gradually settling into each other’s personalities. I think I’m looking forward to the progress of their relationship as much as the cases they’re commissioned to solve.

Roll on Case no. 3!


See also:

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Last Book by Michael Collins


Just as well this book was decent enough for me to overlook the under-editing; it's never good if one of the main characters has a momentary name-change...(to mention just one example).

Two books of a trilogy by a best-selling author have unwittingly caused public unrest of the worst kind. Mark Payne, the ruthless, greedy, power-mad head of a giant corporation, sees a way to increase profits (and his own wealth) with the third book. Not a good time for Payne for the author to get writer’s block. But that book must be written at all costs. He enlists the help of one of his rising stars, Ethan Cross, to find a ghostwriter to ensure the book is completed. It then becomes a race between Payne and the team put together to stop him. Payne is clever, determined, wealthy…the team has to work hard to get a step ahead.

The book is a bit busy at the start…every chapter features a new character with no obvious links to each other, punctuated with chapters for ‘The Boy’. It does all come together eventually…so perseverance is required…as well as the identity of The Boy (if you haven’t already guessed it), and everything falls into place quite neatly. However, there are a few loose ends at the end …they’re not game-changing loose ends, but I did fleetingly find myself wondering, 'oh, what happened to/what happened about...'

For all that, it’s a story that’s intriguing, keeps up a good pace and holds your interest to the end.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Your Soul Was Meant For Mine by C L Hunter


Not overly fond of this one, regrettably…it’s never easy to say you didn’t enjoy a book. It never really found its way. An erotic romance with a bit of paranormal thrown in, but it didn’t really sit comfortably in the story, the erotica lacked real steam…it was rather perfunctory...the romance was a bit forced, and the dialogue was rather clunky and unnatural.

After a tragic accident, forces beyond the grave decree that lawyer Thomas’s wife, Emmalyn, should be get together with his work colleague, Nolan, a very rich and successful businessman. Along the way, some chunks from Nolan’s past rear their ugly heads. And that’s about it…along with many scenes of bodice-ripping and throbbing organs. Emmalyn and Nolan’s acquaintance begins with a transatlantic exchange of letters. These were rather odd…they were a cross between Jane Austen and Essex girl. For a successful businessman with an idea for some very out-there technology, he seemed a bit dim…he hadn't heard of online translating (Babelfish, Google Translate???) and flustered over postage times. Email, anyone?

I can’t speak for the text in Irish, but the French was slightly off kilter…relying perhaps too much on high-school French, and I was increasingly irritated by the couple calling each ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ all the time. The plot didn’t just stroll, it dawdled painfully along. Bits and pieces came out of the woodwork rather suddenly and incongruously, and it just didn’t hang together.

The premise for this book was promising, and I think the author has writing ability, but this needs some substantial developmental editing to give the characters, well, character and the plot some body and cohesion.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Vigilante Dead by DV Berkom

Oh, Kate, Kate, Kate….what an inferno of…stubbornness, determination, passion and independence you are.

The seven Kate Jones novels preceding this have all been heart-in-your-mouth thrillers. I was slightly bemused by the fact that Kate’s finally able to stop running; she’s settled down with ex-cop-now-PI, Sam, she’s talking to her family again, and life is nearly normwait, wait, WAIT…this is Kates Jones! I nearly fell for the Kate-leads-a-normal-life line! Impossible…especially since someone she loves dearly is affected by some dodgy painkillers (from an equally dodgy source), and as a result, Kate’s on the warpath. And the route leads her into a head-on collision with irony, something which causes her to make some very rash decisions, blurring that very fine line between right and wrong.

This was the usual Kate Jones hold-on-to-your hat, roller-coaster ride…as you would expect…but there was an extra intriguing ingredient: the reader gets a little more intimate with Kate’s family…who up until now have been very much in the background. This adds another dimension to an adventure which nonetheless leaves you breathless right to the end.

Kate’s rounding up nearly all the bad spirits that have been derailing her life…what on earth is she going to do now, I wonder? Needless, to say, I was, as always, riveted by this book as will all Kate Jones/Berkom fans.

See also: