Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

There's nothing original about this plot. It's been done before many times, in novels, in TV dramas: girl finds Mr Perfect, but mum-in-law-to-be is a possessive, evil bitch, who will go to jaw-dropping lengths to ensure her Supernova son will never belong to anyone else. It's a tried and tested format, and Jones tackles it competently in this, her debut novel. However, committed though I was, eager to find out how Emily would detach Adam from his mother's, Pammie's, vice-like grip, I found the ending was a little far-fetched and a bit of a let-down. The methods Pammie employs are totally disproportionate to the reasons for them.

Pammie's manipulation is very clever and strategic, making it very hard for Emily to convince others. I couldn't help thinking, though, 'Emily, you have a twenty-first-century phone, record your vitriolic conversations between you and Pammie.' That would have put the kibosh on all Pammie's plotting. But then, I guess, the story would have run out of steam.

I won't give the editor any stars, either: apostrophes to pluralise words is an editorial sin, an 'I was sat' (aarrgghh!), one too many instances of 'there's' which should have been there are, along with...'for asking Kate and I'. For I??? Naughty, naughty.

Despite all the negatives, the rather stereotypical characters and the misnomer of a 'thriller', it's quite well written, and strangely, rather addictive.


Thursday, 18 April 2019

The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore

I'd completely forgotten what this book was about, and for some reason, I thought it was a light-hearted, comedic even, novel. It was a bit of a shock to find it was the complete opposite…there's a lesson learnt: check what you're about to read! 

This was dark novel, sometimes violent, but…gripping. It follows the lives of three people, each living in a flat of a three-storey house. Each of them with diversely dysfunctional lives: Tam on the ground floor has retired himself out of the police force—a rash decision he starts to regret. Nick on the middle floor is autistic and is trying to live independently using strict routines and daily lists. Karen on the third floor is a career-focused doctor, whose obsessive research into autistic people has wrecked her marriage and personal relationships. A violent and seemingly senseless unprovoked murder implicates and interweaves their lives.

The story is told by each of the three characters' POV. I thought it was a well-structured and compelling thriller. Karen is obnoxious and really, a victim of her obsessive career-mindedness, Nick struggles…not just because of his condition, but because of his upbringing, and Tam regrets his rash resignation from a job to which he was dedicated and reacts rather erratically. His policeman hat, however, stays firmly on his head…as it were…because it's his instincts that force the three residents' lives to connect.

There are characters you dislike intensely, some you feel frustrated for, Nick in particular, and some you like. Tam is a bit shambolic, but I did feel there's a sequel in him!

This was a bold book for a debut novel, but Moore has crashed into the literary world with quite a bang. I shall look forward to her next novel.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Mine by Susi Fox

One thing's for sure: if I ever go to Australia, I'm going to make jolly sure I don't end up in hospital. Because if they're anything like the one portrayed in this book, I think I'd plump for the alternative outcome of whatever necessitated hospitalisation. I really, really can't believe hospitals…maternity ones in particular…are that draconian or the staff that unprofessional. Thank god for the NHS.

The poor woman who's fallen victim to this Victorian treatment is Sasha, who, after an emergency premature birth, doesn't believe the baby is hers and has been switched: accidentally or intentionally. But no one takes her fears seriously, apart from her best friend, and she's therefore transferred to what is, basically, the psychiatric section of the hospital. There are a few twists and turns before the rather unbelievable end.

What keeps running through your mind is: a DNA test by the hospital would be the obvious solution, but for some reason, is deemed unnecessary by the doctor in charge. And I suppose it would be a very short book and not a rather repetitive one.

Oddly compelling, strangely enough, but somewhat implausible: a decent plot whose potential is wasted.


Sunday, 17 March 2019

Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

I don't know much about the world of strippers and lap dancers…but my concept of it has certainly been endorsed. It's a bit seedy, unsophisticated, unglamorous and a bit pathetic. Attended by either men who need company, to forget their unhappy lives or merely just to objectify women. The strippers are women trying to survive financially by earning a quick and lucrative buck: let's face it, their shelf life is pretty short in this industry. 

But the thriller set in this backdrop was quite accomplished. Lana is trying to finance herself through law school by working as a lap dancer in the club and finds herself turning into a bit of a sleuth when a rather undesirable regular to the club, Billy, collapses and dies. Amber is Lana's best friend and falls in lust with the paramedic who comes to attend to the dead man. But Lana is concerned. She's not so sure Billy's death is quite so cut and dried. And Amber isn't picking up her calls. And Lana seems to be getting trolled on social media. And her ex-boyfriend is sending her death threats…or is he?

This moves along at a very decent pace and keeps you fully engaged right to the (perhaps a little over-dramatic) end. I could have done without the constant mention of every detail of every song played by the club's DJ, and the present-tense narrative didn't work for me at all, but that aside, this was packed with suspense, darkness, sizzle and drama. 

Not for late-night reading, though…and be prepared to be quite a little bit shocked…

The Gift of the Quoxxel by Richard Titus

Weird. Totally weird. Bonkers…about as nutty as a fruitcake and mad as a box of frogs. Quirky, odd, mystifying. But...utterly unique and very enjoyable.

I'm not so sure I made total sense of this tale, and after a few pages, I did wonder what I'd let myself in for. But then you get totally sucked in by the king of Nibb and, of course, Yill.

I really have no idea what it's about. Actually, not quite true: it's about the land of Nibb, the pirates on the Blaggard, and the Quoxxel, of course. It's whimsical, magical, with some very dry wit. It's brimming with imagination and fantasy and at the same time written with intelligence, articulately and with humour.

I may have started the book with some misgivings, but by the end, I was totally topsy-turvied in a very pleasant way.

I'm off to my baker now to tell him that doughnuts, cupcakes and custard slices are so very last year and that he should start to make some gwinberry quffs and blanderberry bitquicks.

Told you. Totally bonkers.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Spirit Walk by Melissa Bowersock

When you get to book number eleven in a series, you don't just have respect for an author who can keep your attention eleven times, you have certainty and reassurance that you're in a safe and welcoming place. I so needed this after a book which I really did not like. Looking at my review list, Bowersock's eleventh Sam and Lacey case was the inevitable next book because I knew there was a hundred-percent guarantee of enjoyment.

And in this case, Sam and Lacey investigate the death of Sam's brother's (Gabe) friend. Written off as a tragic accident, Gabe doesn't believe his fall to his death to the bottom of canyan is an accident. After the ritual 'walk', Sam can confidently agree with his brother.  He and Lacey are tasked with finding who killed him.  But canyons can be dangerous…life-threateningly so.

I'm not going to apologise for saying the same as I do with all of the 'Walk' books, or indeed all of Bowersock's books: well-written, well-characterised, enjoyable and addictive.

And number 12 is waiting patiently for me in my TBR queue!

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!