Sunday, 25 November 2018

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland

I love a book in which you connect with a character and her story from the first page. And how can you not love a character named Loveday? A Cornish name that has its roots back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

I absolutely adored this. Every character is alive and intriguing. Each is unique, fascinating, appealing, funny, tragic…all in their own ways.

Loveday loves books and words. At the age of nine, one single event changes her life dramatically. Thrust into social care for the next six to ten years, she cocoons herself in a blanket of solitude and books and words. It's the way she learns to protect herself from hurt and disappointment. But  her wall of self-made security is in danger of crumbling around her when she realises someone knows about her past.

Butland is a superb author who sucks you into her characters with a story that's enriched with quirkiness, sadness, smiles and sheer joy.

It was with a downturned mouth that I picked up my Kindle after reaching the ever-so-brilliant ending having spent some wonderful hours with Loveday. The author of my subsequent read had a very hard act to follow.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

Hmm. I think the blurb for this book makes it sound a lot more enjoyable than it was. 'Thought-provoking and psychologically complex'. Sorry, no, it was neither. The story begins with two parents, Jen and Hugh beyond relief at the return of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who went missing for four days during a painting holiday attended by Jen and Lana. Injuries and confusion render her seeming unable to explain what happened to her, but the truth must be uncovered...especially if someone else is to be held accountable. Lana insists she doesn't remember what happened to her.

At first, it's easy to feel compassion and sympathy for both mother and daughter. Jen was after all with her on the holiday when she went missing and Lana has a history of severe depression. But regrettably that sympathy disperses. I found Lana to be an obnoxious spoilt little brat and her inability to recall what happened isn't convincing; it's clear she's just rude and stubborn. 'Typical teenager' doesn't wash with me. Initially, it's also easy to sympathise with Jen as the exasperated mother who feels helpless and inadequate, but she irritated me too as the book progressed. I think the character I liked most was Grace, Jen's tree-hugging friend, whose quirkiness was a welcome relief.

The book is slow and the ending lacklustre and underwhelming. I never abandon a book, but I only wanted to finish this to find out what really happened to Lana. My road to the finale wasn't especially enjoyable.


Friday, 26 October 2018

Quick Fix (The Reluctant Hustler Book 1) by J. Gregory Smith

You wouldn't think that someone who put his life in danger for his country would consider walking the rather thin line between right and wrong to help out an old friend in a dodgy scam. Don't worry, it'll be easy, says Ryan, his friend, to our intrepid ex-military man, Kyle. Nothing can go wrong, you don't have to do much and you'll have a bit of spending money at the end of it. Easy peasy.

Ah, but….there's 80% of the book left, which is a smidge of a hint that it might just all go a little Pete Tong…although, 'little' is a tad euphemistic. From 'nothing will go wrong' things go rather Titanic. Kyle suddenly finds himself at the business end of a ruthless Irish mob, a drug cartel and a gun or two too close for comfort.

I enjoyed this thriller: it's sharp, it's smart, moves along at a good pace, but it's also the range of characters that's appealing. We've got Kyle, the main character, an injured ex-military man, who's very likeable: he's obviously a bit gullible, allowing himself to be sucked into Ryan's antics, but they're old friends and he's loyal. Ryan's a bit of a cheeky rogue whose luck seems to have held…until now. Balancing things out we have greedy ex policemen, drug cartels and Irish villains. The dialogue is snappy, sometimes humorous and witty, but always on point.

This book's subtitle is 'The Reluctant Hustler Book 1' which very much suggests there may be sequels. I do hope so: I want to stick with Kyle for a bit.

Monday, 8 October 2018

What Did I Do by Jessica Jarlvi

This book starts in a rather confusing manner: rather a lot of chapters introducing a different character in different settings and different time frames. It takes quite some commitment to stick with Kristen who fleas to Sweden after finding herself a person of interest following the death of her brother and husband. Despite compelling motives, she keeps asking herself if she's capable of murder.  She can't actually remember...

Despite a promising new start in Sweden, her past starts to catch up with her in quite an unexpected manner.

It’s quite a relief when you start to join the dots, but this author doesn’t make it very smooth. It’s a little clumsy and it’s hard to connect with any of the characters.

The editing was a little ragged in places and I was rather shocked that an editor, copy editor and proofreader had missed some howling grammatical errors.

However, once the pieces started to fall into place, I did find myself quite immersed in the book and eager to discover how it would end. 

Monday, 1 October 2018

Enemy Self by Suzanne Kovitz

I really, really wanted to like this book: I'm a tad lukewarm about the paranormal/extra-ordinary genre, but the premise for this book actually won me over. I was intrigued by the concept: a bully’s body being taken over by her complete antithesis. I figured this would be an insight into what makes a bully a bully.

Sadly, this was a bit of mishmash, with some large holes in character and plot development, and ultimately, it was a little ridiculous.

Denise Bower is a high-school bully. Jessica is a hardworking, grade-A, compliant, well-adjusted, student. Two complete opposites. How would Jessica feel in Denise’s body and life? It all starts out promisingly, and oddly, you start to feel a glimmer of sympathy for Denise…just a glimmer, though…she’s very unlikeable. But then the story goes downhill. The story darts about in unexplained time frames, events are unbelievable and the dialogue is trite. Little is portrayed of Denise’s life as Jessica…which would have been the obvious parallel, and Jessica’s wholesomeness just wasn’t there in Denise. The conclusion was weirdly absurd.

This was a great idea for a story. It promised ‘Freaky Friday with more drama’. I’m afraid it wasn’t.

However, Krowitz has great writing potential: there’s no doubt she’s articulate and has some great imagination. Regretfully, this doesn’t showcase those skills to their best.