Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Decisions by Jessica L Degarmo


A good book if you don't want anything heavy and intricate. It’s very lightweight, predictable, rather one-dimensional…typical chick lit. Having read a book I absolutely did not enjoy and wanted to get out of my head, this was just the tonic.

It was totally unbelievable: a tyrannical, unethical, violent, controlling dad insists on an arranged marriage for his daughter, Emma, to seal a somewhat dodgy lucrative deal. I had a bit of trouble with that: unless you’re from a culture that insists on arranged marriages, it just doesn’t fit in the twenty-first-century western world. The unfortunate daughter manages to run away with the help of her submissive mother and plots to find someone to marry, thereby throwing her father’s plans completely off track. But the unwitting prey turns out to be rather handsome and just…well…perfect. How on earth can she go through with her plan and upset a good man with an equally good family?

The plot had a few holes in it, the long-suffering mother was rather inconsistent (one minute she’s doing her utmost to help her daughter escape, the next she’s insisting that, well, how bad can it be marrying someone you don’t want to?). The father is ghastly beyond belief, and Emma herself is rather bland and, dare I say, a bit stupid. 

But, actually, I found myself looking forward to picking up my Kindle and to the mushy, marshmallowy, happy (not a spoiler, this is chick lit, after all!) ending.

A perfect holiday read for a lazy, hazy, sunny afternoon on the beach.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Stranded Love by Massimo Marino

No, sorry, Sig. Marino, I wasn’t very keen on this collection of five short (very, very short) stories. They were dark, violent, creepy and unsettling. They left a rather bad taste in my mouth.

The aim, I think, was to show that love isn’t always expressed conventionally; you know, with roses, champagne and diamonds. That expression can sometimes take a hideously twisted, murderous route. Psychopaths don’t usually have intentions with good outcomes.

I thought the stories just a tad too short. No sooner had they got going, they ended. They were rather bumpy…didn’t flow at all well. I found myself checking I was still in the same story and hadn't moved on to the next.

I think I need a very corny, clich├ęd chick lit now to restore my mind to its former pure and angelic state.

Monday, 8 August 2016

A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey by Sibel Hodge


I found this a little uninspiring. There were no ‘vibrant and adventurous’ recipes promised by the author in her blurb. They’re pleasant enough, but there’s nothing there I haven’t seen before, with or without gluten. The author of the book is a writer of fiction (her books are extremely enjoyable), not a chef, so this is just a collection of recipes she’s compiled having had to cook for her coeliac husband. Living in the Turkish Republic of Cyprus (she has dual nationality) means, of course, she's very familiar  with the cuisine. 

I’ve bookmarked a dozen or so of the recipes, not because they’re particularly different (I’ve cooked moussaka a million times in one variation or another and have made just about every mutation of hummous), but because they’re in a place I know I can find them. I follow a gluten-free diet, but have always used ordinary recipes tweaking them where necessary, so I didn’t find this recipe book that useful. And I was very irritated that the measurements were in cups and not in grams or ounces like just about every other cookbook for the UK market. 

The photos are a little amateurish, but the book is best viewed in colour rather than on a Paperwhite Kindle. 

I’m afraid there are millions and millions of professionally produced cookbooks out there on just about every aspect of cooking and nutrition. This just doesn’t have a USP.

See Also:
Be Careful What You Wish For

One Hospital Nightmare by A. P. Kasch


This novella was a little bit bland, despite the hint that the ‘nightmare’ of the title indicates some suspense, perhaps, and/or horror. 

After visiting his friend, Jared, in hospital, Nick finds himself in the same hospital after careless driving causes him to crash his car. His stay is from boring: the nurses put a new spin on ‘attentiveness’, time seems to move agonisingly slowly, if at all, and how on earth is he in the middle of a Comanche Indian battle that happened a hundred and seventy years earlier? The lines between reality and nightmare become rather blurred for Nick. He needs to find a logical explanation. Was it the medication having some sort of weird side effects?

The characters were rather one-dimensional, the dialogue a bit stilted and the historical fiction seemed a little too detached from the story—almost incongruous.

It was neatly ended, but it just left me thinking, ‘oh, okay’ rather than, ‘wow, that was a good story’.

If you like a marriage between modern-day hospital mystery and historical fiction, you may like this. It’s certainly an easy, short read, so you don’t have to invest too much time in it. For me, it just lacked a little 'oomph'.

Model Agent by Sean Sweeney


I realised my Kindle was accommodating four books by this author, so I thought it was high time I read one of them. I started with the first of the Jaclyn Johnson thrillers. Our model agent (modelling is just something she does when she’s not saving the world) has, as her first assignment, to stop a ruthless and unscrupulous man using outrageous methods to annihilate his competitors in the bottled-water industry. A man who’s almost tyrannical, despotic even, and has to be caught at all costs…some of which turn out to be very high and very tragic.

I’ve got to say  you have to suspend disbelief with this book. It’s a little OTT…a female Bond, Jaclyn isn’t. But she’s a no-nonsense, sassy, don’t-mess-with-me chick…and I love female crimefighters like that. And with her tools of the trade: Do-It-All Porsche, glasses, skintight Lycra suit…it’s all a bit daft. The ending doesn’t just require suspending disbelief, it needs gagging and locking up somewhere it can’t whisper, ‘Seriously?’ somewhat repeatedly.

And that…is why I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed it! Okay, it’s not the best writing I’ve come across (apostrophes, Mr S, apostrophes), but it was all delightfully silly and massively entertaining from start to finish. I loved it. Rogue Agent is the second in the series, and it's ready and waiting on my Kindle.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Being Travis by Melissa Bowersock


It was such a delight to get between the covers with Travis again. And you can take that smirk off your face because I know you know I mean the book covers!

I thoroughly enjoyed Book 1 in the Travis series, and was thrilled to find I didn’t have long to catch up with him again in Book 2. 

Two years after finding himself 140 years in the past, in the nineteenth century, Travis is now married to Phaedra, with a baby on the way and building a home and life…a happy one. His striker, the enigmatic Riley, is still with him. But Travis is finding it increasingly difficult to hide what he knows of the future, afraid that if Phaedra finds out the truth, his happy new life will be shattered. 

It’s very hard not to be completely invested in Travis. He continues to be so…wholesome and, well, nice. Bowersock presents the reader with wonderfully developed characters, whom you can almost imagine being in front of you, in person. As for Riley…I don’t think he needs words. His expressions say it all. That’s how good Bowersock is…she can make a character come to life without actually having to say anything very much at all.

Despite the progress that 140 years have brought (some of it good, some of it…not so good), Bowersock portrays a simple, cosy, unencumbered and dare I say, almost desirable community life, despite some of the disadvantages of not having the as-yet-to-be-available medical and technological advances…the lack of some of which are a cause of exasperation to Travis. 

A trick of time transported our lovely Travis to 1877. The same trick could just as easily transport him back to his own time and he would lose more than he could bear. I do so hope there is a Book 3…I desperately need to know what happens!

If you haven't read Finding Travis, then do and then waste no time with this sequel.  Delightful.

See Also:
Burning Through
Finding Travis
Queen's Gold
Sonnets for Heidi
Stone's Ghost 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Alchemy by Mike Wood

The author of this book states in his end 'Credits' that he 'doesn’t honestly like writing'. And yet, he persisted for 346 very long, tedious pages it seems. He also pays tribute to his editor's keen eye for detail. Really? Hmm...

‘I had just went…’

‘Why don’t you where your shoes?’

‘Must of called in sick’

‘By dinner time, I had made up my mind to just peddle over there…’

‘I might get a peak at the upstairs’


…to quote just a few from the appallingly long list. There were missing quotation marks, bad grammar, characters starting nearly every sentence with ‘well’, inconsistent spellings. And...plurals are not formed with an apostrophe and an ‘s’. As for punctuation…not quite a ‘Let’s eat Grandma’ example but ‘Be sure to come right in Cammie’ wasn’t far off.

If a badly edited book really annoys you, don’t read any further. This book isn’t for you.

Editing aside, this book wasn’t for me simply because it was mind-numbingly boring. Al Newman is a fifteen-year-old teen, whose father left the family home one day and never returned. Refusing to believe he simply walked away, Al sets out to explore theories of abduction. He is helped by Cammie, staying in the area with her father for the summer period. Cammie is a beautiful young girl for whom Al falls hook, line and sinker.

This doesn’t actually get remotely interesting until Al finally learns the truth of his father's disappearance, which is over halfway through. The book could easily have been a hundred pages shorter. The first half overdoes the teenage angst thing while trying to hold your attention with the explanation of Newman Senior’s vanishing act (which I guessed early on).

Despite the fact that this practically put me to sleep every night, I stuck it out to the end. I liked Al. I liked his mother.  Although the writing isn’t prize-winning stuff, there’s a gentle humour and wit throughout. 
I got the feeling that a lot of the author was in Al...and Wood seems like a nice chap. So it does pain me to say that, regrettably, I can't recommend this.  I would recommend, however, an editorial overhaul. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A Very Distant Affair by Faith Mortimer

Mortimer’s books are like a reassuring comfort blanket. You have reassurance that you’re going to have a cosy, satisfying and thoroughly delightful read. This is number four in the ‘A Very...Affair’ series and stands proudly amongst the rest.

It’s true what they say about money. It doesn’t always bring you happiness. It certainly didn’t bring Cheryl Taylor happiness. Success, yes, fame, yes, a luxury lifestyle, yes. But for talented artist, Cheryl, certainly not the contentment she imagined would accompany all those things. As a struggling artist in her early twenties, Dan Taylor saw a glittering future for her. So he married her and managed her and her success. And therein lay the problem. When did the management become control? When did Dan last look at Cheryl as a woman, a mother, a wife? These are questions that buffet around in Cheryl’s head when she meets Michel, an Australian-French hotelier from Australia. And when she visits him in Australia, these same questions gradually get answered. Just when her future is suddenly looking very clear, a bombshell from Dan rocks her world, and she has to decide whether to follow her head or her heart.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Love Story for a Nation by Mark W. Sasse

I've read four of Sasse’s novels…four very different novels, four very enjoyable reads. Naturally, I dived eagerly into what is now my fifth Sasse read. This is not only different from his other books, it’s also hugely different from anything I’ve read before. It’s quite extraordinary. It’s a rich tapestry of many different threads: history, politics, courage, determination, love, passion, compassion, commitment, loss, heartbreak, tragedy, death, friendship, grief, surprise, sadness, joy, perseverance, hardship, danger, hope. Phew! But I’m not lying. They’re all in there.

How on earth can a story encompass all that? you may ask. Well, it does, uniquely…this tapestry is very cleverly woven and blended. You are drawn compellingly into Gerald Sanpatri’s simple, meagre lifethat he lives without rancour or resentmentunder the tyrannical rule of an evil dictator. It’s virtually impossible not to be smitten with this gentle, humble, compassionate and tolerant man, who fell in love with the perfect woman when he least expected it. And when tragedy strikes in a cruel way—in many ways, in fact—his quiet and gentle determination never wavers as he strives to fulfil his hopes and dreams...for himself and his country. 

There are many surprises in this book tucked into the each of its many layers. It started out as a ten-minute sketch, the author tells us, but he was encouraged to develop it, and so was born a novel of some sixty thousand words. 

A unique novel that is as heart-rending as it is heart-warming.

See Also:
Beauty Rising
If Love is a Crime: A Christmas Story
The Reach of the Banyan Tree 
The Recluse Storyteller