Friday, 15 June 2018

Life of Crime by Kimberley Chambers

I couldn’t work out what sort of chancer/wide boy Jason Rampling was going to be: a Del boy? An Arthur Daley? An Alfie? Quite possibly all of those, but with a little more grit, fewer morals and more danger. Where they are all lovable in some way, Jason isn’t exactly that. But one key aspect of his character was something that struck home: his love for his daughter and siblings and determination to protect them and give them better lives than living on a gangland council estate. An aim he can’t achieve without a Life of Crime, unfortunately.

Never having read any books by this author, I had no idea what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's gritty, doesn’t stand still for a second, compellingly written, with a cast of characters that very definitely don’t fall into any grey areas. You love ‘em or hate ‘em.

But the one to watch is very definitely, Melissa: the hapless young girl who falls for Jason hook, line and sinker, thinking he’s Mr One Hundred Percent perfect.

A dramatic story, well executed and very enjoyable, with a (perhaps slightly predictable) twist at the end.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Castle Walk by Melissa Bowersock

Can you believe this is book number nine in the series? And I wondered, again, how was this pair going to hold my interest? By going overseas, of course!

Pleasantly surprised to realise that their skills are garnering worldwide acclaim, Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud are asked if they might offer their assistance to release the ghosts from a castle in Ireland. This is of some personal interest to Lacey because she has Irish ancestry. But even more exciting for her is that Sam’s talents are required in none other than Castle Fitzpatrick. Could it be that their trip for professional purposes might involve some investigation of a personal nature?

It was fun to journey with Sam and Lacey away from their homeland.

Yet another quick, easy and enjoyable read.

See also:

Blood Walk by Melissa Bowersock

When I set sail with this book, I’ll be honest, I was just a smidge apprehensive: book number 8. How long can the paranormal-investigative pair keep going? Or, more to the point, how can Bowersock keep the reader interested after so many books?

The answer is: successfully.

The changes are subtle with each adventure, but enough to keep you invested. Sam and Lacey’s personal relationship inches forward (happily) and their paranormal investigations take varied paths. And in this ‘chapter’, Sam is startled to discover that, abnormally, he is getting connectivity with a living person (in this case, the perpetrator of the crimes) rather than with the ghosts of he victims of tragedy.

The constant element of this series (this being the eighth) is Bowersock’s gifted style, making each instalment easy to read, enjoyable, compelling and a pleasure.

See also:

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Home by Amanda Berriman

Oh Jesika, Jesika, Jesika. How I want to dive into the words and grab you and cuddle and kiss you. I defy anyone not to love this adorable four-and-a-half-year-old little treasure.

I couldn’t quite fathom how an adult could get into the mind of a child so young and use her voice to tell her story, but, by golly, she didn’t half do it well. You fall in love with Jesika right from the start: she has you in a vice-like grip from the beginning and within a very short time, you’re thinking, I don’t want this book to end.

Jesika lives with her mummy and baby brother Toby in a hovel of a flat: the epitome of housing rented out by a scumbag. It’s damp, it’s cold, the bath has a crack in it, so you can’t fill it too high and the boiler pilot light keeps going out. But it’s home to Jesika. She loves preschool and very much wants to be friends with Paige. Such poignant innocence and blessed naivete. It’s all very adorable so far. About a third of the way into the story, you suddenly realise there are some red flags…and you hope beyond hope it’s not all going the way you dread. But Jesika has you hopelessly smitten by now. You’re besotted with her, and all the people in her little life, whom she loves.

It’s quite an exhausting read: Jesika doesn’t speak in commas and full stops. Four-and-a-half-year-olds don't. She can speak for quite a long time without drawing breath. But don't let this fool you into thinking that the novel isn't an adult one. It is.

I saw this author on Davina McCall’s programme, This Year Next Year: Berriman’s pledge was to have her first book published twelve months after her first appearance on the programme. And she did it. Successfully, brilliantly. This is without doubt my book of 2018.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles

I didn’t really take to the main character, Lux, in this book. One thing I can say, though, is that Ruffles is an extraordinary writer. She writes very intelligently and articulately. But that rather-too-adult intelligence and articulateness didn’t give credibility to eighteen/nineteen-year-old Lux, the narrator of the story. I would have been more comfortable with this in third person POV.

Lux, a (female) student at the Richdeane art school (for rich privileged teenagers), goes to a party and wakes up in hospital with an arm injury and no recollection at all of how she got there. As she spends most of her recreational time getting drunk and getting high, there's probably an obvious explanation for her blacking out and therefore not remembering how she got there. I never expected what actually landed Lux in hospital, and I enjoyed that element of surprise, but it still didn’t endear me to this character, who, despite her trauma, remained rude, ungrateful and simply not very nice at all. It was very hard to engage with her. If that was Ruffles' intention, then job done.  If not, it's a misfire.

The truth is revealed at about twenty-five percent from the end, and the story just goes a bit flat after that…three quarters of it seemed rather incongruous.

I liked the writing but the main character not so much.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Man on the Roof by Michael Stephenson

Well. I have rather mixed feelings about this book. A young boy is found murdered in a street, nine of whose residents are the immediate suspects. It’s up to Detective Cady Lambert and her sidekick to find out the connection between the suspects and the victim and which of them had sufficient reason to want a young teenager dead. Probable causes are many: drugs, theft, abuse…and more. So many secrets. For a whodunnit, however, the detectives make few appearances.

The book is rather long: too long, especially when it’s extremely hard to feel anything for any of the characters. There are chapters in third person POV, punctuated with chapters in the first-person POV for each of the suspects. But they are nameless…they are merely Suspect 1, Suspect 2, etc. It was very difficult to apportion any sympathy, dislike even, for anonymous characters.

More annoyingly, there’s a plethora of howling errors: spelling and grammatical. Annoyingly, because the author is actually a not-half-bad writer: his descriptions of people’s mannerisms in particular were very good. But the dialogue was inconsistent, the plot is rather convoluted and there is some very clunky phrasing. I just didn’t like the constant use of inverted sentences like ‘to the back she went’, which seemed totally incongruous to the author’s otherwise intelligent style.

I suspect that this was self-edited. I would urge the author to find a good technical and developmental editor, who could shave twenty percent off this novel and tighten up the errors. A lesson in the difference between 'lay' and 'lie' might well be at the top of the list, as well as when to use ‘they’re’ and when to use ‘their’, that thirst is slaked, not slated. Perhaps a dictionary would help solve the enigma of spelling words like cacoughany (yes, really).

I would also recommend checking a few facts. Us Brits do actually use electric kettles, Mr S. We’re quite civilised. We have pavements on roads and everything.

A half-decent plot, some stylish writing, but the frayed edges need some heavy-duty trimming.