Monday, 11 February 2019

House of Beauty by Melba Escobar

I couldn't finish this soon enough. You're probably thinking, wow, is it that good?

Well... I couldn't finish it soon enough because I desperately wanted to move on to a more enjoyable book. This was monotonous, tedious (long, long, long paragraphs), unstructured and probably one of the worst cases of head-hopping I've come across: practically mid-sentence. The story was meant to be told from different POVs, but it was badly executed.

What is it about? I couldn't tell you, really. There were: a murder, rape, lots of waxing, massaging, eye-lashing tinting, Botoxing, bitching, funerals and weddings. Who was it about, mainly? I don't know. Maybe it was Karen, the single mother working in a beauty salon, but moonlighting as a prostitute. Or was it the part-time narrator, Claire, a lonely, middle-aged, frustrated pschyo-analyst? Or was it the mother of the murder victim, seeking justice for her murdered daughter?

This was set in Colombia…not a place you want to put on your bucket list. The story flitted about randomly, and I spent most of the time thinking: Who are you? What's happening now? The dialogue was starchy and stiff, and there wasn't a single character I liked or cared enough about to get to know, probably because the characters didn't care for each other and actually, were pretty snotty to each other, too. And if they did manage to throw in a reasonably affectionate term of address, all they could come up with was 'gorgeous'. Which was totally incongruous most of the time.

A translated book never bodes well, in my view: the text never flows as well as the original…there were some rather clunky phrasing and word choices. A book I regret wasting my reading time on.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan

An unusual and very well-written story (I'll forgive the 'was stood' and 'was sat' (grrr!!) and random use of Americanisms in an otherwise very British thriller), this was an enthralling, compelling book. It didn't quite have me guessing until the end, but although I connected all the dots beforehand, there was enough to make me wonder if I had got it right after all.

It's a story about cults and how devastating, manipulative and endangering they can be to the innocents on whom cult members prey. Callaghan really did her homework to bring credibility to the story and characters.

Sophie leaves her ordinary country-style upbringing to be a city dweller and worker, while her parents carry on with their modest, uneventful lives running a farm café. So when she visits them one weekend and finds her mother noosed and hanging from a tree and her father seriously injured, she finds it hard to accept the police's verdict of a murder suicide. As information about her mother and her life gradually comes to light, she discovers a past she would never in a thousand years have attributed to her quiet and accepting mum.

The tension and addictiveness builds gradually to classy unputdownable thriller.

More of this author to be read most definitely!

Sunday, 3 February 2019

When The Storm Ends by Rebecca L. Marsh

The back story in this novel was rather neatly done, I thought. Beth became a child psychologist to help troubled children…her own abusive childhood was her motivation. She finds a challenge in Erin, a young teenager who killed her father. She won't reveal why, and Beth, ducking procedural rules a bit, thinks the only way she can get her to talk is to tell her all about her own childhood. It's risky, but Beth, feels a compulsion to find out the truth and do all she can to keep Erin out of prison.

It's a shocking story, but a compelling one and very skilfully handled by the author, using Beth's story to coax Erin and culminates unexpectedly with a link between them.

This is a story about a difficult subject, but written in an easy, flowing style, with credible dialogue and believable characters. Beth's discovery of her real father and his subsequent temporary absence from her life raised my eyebrows a bit, as it was a little 'convenient', but the story-telling and the way Marsh combines what are, effectively, two stories is quite original, so my eye-brow raising was soon forgotten about.

Well told, well written, well structured with a nice neat, tidy ending.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Murder Walk by Melissa Bowersock

After ten Sam and Lacey tales, I don't even think of them as characters in a book…they're more like my next-door neighbours. I'm in awe of Bowersock's ability to find compelling stories for the pair's ghost sleuthing. (And there are another two after this!)

In this instalment, events are pretty close to home: Daniel's (Sam's son) best school chum has been murdered. Police investigation is slow and Lacey is chomping at the bit somewhat, keen to find the killer, especially as Daniel is showing signs of having inherited his dad's ability to 'communicate' with ghosts. And if the murdered boy can identify his killer to Daniel, will Sam be able to protect him until the police find the culprit?

The quality of the writing and story-telling is consistently at optimum level, and you ease into the story quickly and comfortably. Sam and Lacey's personal life is an enjoyable back story…it never intrudes the main plot but gives you enough to feel and know the characters. 

I'll be honest: the paranormal genre really isn't my thing;  I very rarely give it the time of day, so it's quite something that Bowersock always has me looking forward to the next case.

Being Travis

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh

This book teeters a bit between being rather far-fetched and saccharine and admiration for a very sassy, determined seventy-five-year-old, Evie. I think the first thirty percent of the story had me on the former side, but at the end, I had quite a fondness for this old girl. The same can also be applied to her son, Brendan, and his wife, Maura. The sentiments for him waver between exasperation and sympathy. For Maura, between intolerance and empathy.

For Evie, the death of her husband discombobulates her a bit…and rather rashly decides a care home will be best for her. But at seventy-five, she realises she's not in the slightest bit ready for god's waiting room. So she gathers her things, along with her passport, and sets off for a European road trip. Horrified, Brendan and Maura set off to find her to take her home. But Evie has not only driven off to Europe, she's driven into enlightenment. Brendan and Maura have to prepare themselves.

Ultimately, my patience was rewarded because Evie's character developed quite satisfyingly. Brendan is someone you just want to slap in the face at first, but the author manages to rescue you from GBH by bringing just enough of your sympathy to the surface. As for Maura…well, yes, she starts out being rather unlikeable and domineering. But Brendan's behaviour and attitude is enough to make a Maura.

I did actually enjoy this by the end. It is all a little bit silly, totally incredible, but it is undeniably rather fun: and you can't help admiring Evie just a smidge. She really does exemplify 'age is just a number'.


Saturday, 29 December 2018

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Lost For Words by the same author was one of my top five books of 2018, so I was more than enthusiastic to read this. I think Lost For Words is a hard act to follow. I didn't gel with this quite so much. That said, it was written with the same wholesomeness, so despite my misgivings, it is still an enjoyable book.

Ailsa Rae, aged 28, has a heart transplant that saves her from very near death. Twenty-eight years of catching up to be done now. Where on earth is she going to start? Her health, up to now, has made all the decisions for her, so her head struggles to take on the task. So she runs polls on her blog to help her. Her mother finds it hard to slacken the reins of protectiveness for her sick daughter, whom she's looked after single-handedly. The love of her life missed out on a transplant…and died. Her future should be easy now, but it's all so hard.

Whilst this was all about Ailsa, I felt this was a little too much about Ailsa...not far off self-indulgence and as a consequence, I thought it was about a hundred pages too long. The present tense narrative didn't work for me, either. It was still a good read, however, and I'm glad I read another book by this talented author.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Mother Of by Lauren Coffin

Meredith tragically loses her eldest son, her husband and sister-in-law in a car accident. Unimaginable. Ten years later, her youngest son is arrested for murder. Even more unimaginable. I can't begin to embrace how someone can process this. Fate intervened where the accident was concerned, but a killer son? A parent must ask him/herself so many questions. What did I miss, was it my fault, where did I go wrong, why did I not see what my son was like… Meredith's nephew, Curtis, the son of the sister-in-law who died in the car accident tries to help his aunt through this trauma. But he has the same issues to process: his mother dying in an accident, then discovering ten years later, his cousin is a merciless killer.

This was a very ambitious plot to pack into a novella, but I think it was a little too big for the length of the story. It was written in the first person, from Meredith's POV. Personally, I don't think this worked. There was much to explore in Curtis, much to explore in Percy. This couldn't be done first person POV unless their POVs were tackled in separate chapters and that might have congested this short story.

That said, there was time enough to appreciate Coffin's skill as a writer and despite the aforementioned issues, there was also time to enjoy the novella.