Monday, 20 August 2018

Paloma's Dream by Paloma Rambana

I don’t normally read books like this…but something grabbed my attention when I was given the opportunity to read it.  Paloma Rambana co-wrote and self-published a book about how she lobbied Floridian legislature for funds for blind and visually impaired youngsters.  What I was smitten by was the fact that Paloma is twelve years old and was born with Peters Anomaly.  Peters Anomaly is a rare eye condition in which the central part of the cornea (that’s the transparent front part of the eye) is hazy, thereby considerably reducing vision.  Aware that the financial help for visually impaired children was seriously lacking, Paloma takes enormous strides (for someone so very young) to secure a million-dollar funding.

Being British, a lot of the processes, legal bodies, etc., were totally unfamiliar to me, but the purpose and the cause are shared by many countries.  Typically, there are glaringly insufficient funds for children/adults with special needs. 

I hoped this wasn’t going to be a ‘aren’t I a wonderful person, dealing with my disability so valiantly’ kind of book. It’s the absolute opposite.  Paloma is an intelligent, well-adjusted, non-self-pitying young girl who does her utmost to lead a normal life (and all credit to her parents and sister who never indulged her disability but helped her embrace it) and it has to be said, a very determined and courageous one.

This a seventy-nine page account written by a very charming girl who will go far.

Body & Soul by John Harvey

Whilst reading this Frank Elder mystery, I made a mental note to seek out any sequels or any subsequent novels by this talented author. Seems I’m a bit late to the party: not only was it Frank Elder’s last case, it seems it is also the author’s last novel (he’s eighty years young). Ah well, I’ll just have to go backwards! 
This was a totally addictive crime thriller, entwining two crimes: a present-day one and one from the past. Whilst the crimes themselves aren’t connected, ex-Detective Frank Elder’s estranged daughter is linked to both. Katherine is a troubled soul…not without good reason…but the murder of an artist with whom she had an affair topples her fragility. Elder saved her once and now has two tasks: to protect her from the past and prove she had nothing to do with the murder of her ex-lover.

The book moved at just the right pace and I never felt disadvantaged by not having read any Frank Elder prequels. There’s exactly the right dose of back story. There’s a perfect balance of plot and character story: police members have lives too. The many aspects of the story have been well researched and the result is a brilliant, convincing crime thriller.

What a way to exit a forty-year career of crime writing. I’m off to make up for John Harvey lost time!


Monday, 13 August 2018

You Only Get One Shot by Kevin J. Kennedy and J. C. Michael

This was a clever novella that not only showcased these two authors’ story-telling ability, but their short-story ability too.

Four authors are sent the most chilling email ever: my friend’s suicide was all your fault, so you will pay. Post a short story on the internet…the best story will mean its author survives. The other three, alas, won’t be so lucky. Cue four short horror stories. I’ll be honest, horror really isn’t my thing…I find myself doing some heavy-duty eye-rolling with this genre…but I did recognise very competent writing and actually found this rather good.

The totally unexpected final twist was an excellent ending. I’ll certainly look out for more work by these two authors—separately or together—as long, of course, it isn’t horror.


Skin Deep by Liz Nugent

“You were tied to wrong, wedded to it.” Cordelia Russell to a T. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a main character quite so much. Evil, but wow, utterly compelling, Cordelia had me spellbound from the very start, right to the end. Shock, horror, disgust, disbelief, dislike…these are the emotions that roar around your head as you read about the life of a beautiful, beautiful young girl, orphaned at a very young age. At no point…even over the forty-plus-year span of the story… is it possible to feel any love, sympathy or even empathy for this character, who learnt manipulation (with tragic consequences) at a very young age and more or less set the course of her life by it. At no point do you find yourself actually wanting to like her…which makes this book all the more compelling.

This is a chilling psychological thriller about a girl, then a teenager, then a woman…at whatever stage of her life, her impact on those around her, those who loved her (there were, undeservedly, a few) was devastating and tragic. It’s hard to imagine anyone as cold, unfeeling and selfish as Cordelia, but Nugent does the job absolutely brilliantly. She hooks you in immediately when she sets the scene of Cordelia standing by a blood-soaked body, after which it’s almost impossible to put the book down until the last word.

Nugent is not an author I’ve read before, but she’s earned a place in my list of authors to explore further…and soon!

This was an excellent, well-written and truly memorable story.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

I found this book very compelling until about two-thirds of the way through, the point at which I had an inkling whodunnit (it wasn't obvious, I hasten to add, just an educated guess), but also where the silly witchcraft tosh started to weave itself into the story. As a straightforward crime thriller, this would have earned itself more stars.

A young but forward-thinking WPC, Florence Lovelady, in an era (the late sixties) when she had to prove herself to a lot of male testosterone is the driving force in finding the evil criminal who has abducted and buried three teenagers alive. Case closed…were it not for the fact that something doesn’t sit with this clever officer quite right. Thirty years later, when the culprit dies and she attends his funeral, those niggling doubts resurface and Florence, now a top-ranking member of the Met, knows that she’s got to get to the bottom of it.

All the elements of a fast-paced and gripping thriller were right there, and they all that were needed. The witchcraft nonsense spoilt it somewhat and as a result the ending was rather ridiculous, if not somewhat unbelievable.

For all that, it's a dark and suspenseful story about a very ghastly and unimaginable crime that was hard not get totally immersed in. If you like a thriller with a bit of the paranormal (witchcraft) thrown in, then this is for you. Personally, I'd have preferred it without.