Monday, 28 August 2017

Robert Crouch

A new author to me but his debut novel has convinced me that I'll read more.

No Accident link

My review -

I do love a book that’s different, and this one is, in buckets! At one level, it’s a standard murder mystery, but at another, there are no police in sight. The man of the hour, Kent Fisher, is an Environmental Health Officer. He’s investigating a suspicious death in which a vital guard has been moved from a machine. He suspects it’s no accident and digs up a whole nest of hornets as he follows his instincts.

I enjoyed this hugely. Kent is an environmentalist, keeps a money-draining animal sanctuary and longs for a lady he can’t have. There’s lots going on in this book, plenty of characters and you need your wits about you. There’s also, considering the subject, a great deal of humour, sometimes witty, sometimes sarcastic and it acts like yeast in a bread mix. Lightens it and makes it wholesome. I have a new fictional hero! I very much enjoyed this story and look forward to the next.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

V K McGivney

This author shows a versatility of style. I first read and loved a science fiction book of hers. These are varied in genre but I enjoyed them all.

Ghosts, Resolution and Revenge link

My review -

I first came across V K McGivney when I read a futuristic science fiction novel she’s written, but this collection of short stories proves she’s the master of more than a single genre. This is a very readable collection of tales, some of which, as the title and cover image suggest, have the creepy feel of a classic ghost story, but some are very much grounded in the present, and have in all cases, satisfying and sometimes surprising conclusions.

V K McGivney’s writing style, characterisation and plotting appeal to me a great deal and I heartily recommend this book to those who enjoy short fiction.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Julie McLaren

Back and forth in time - what really happened?

An Unfortunate Incident link

My review -

Alice and Georgia were inseparable for a year in early secondary school in the 1960s. Georgie’s family were better-off than Alice’s and, when they meet again nearly fifty years later, they each acknowledge that they envied each other. They lost contact following an incident which traumatised them both in different ways.

The story follows the 1960s narrative and the 2016 reunion, the former from Alice’s point of view and the latter from a third person viewpoint. There were plenty of small details which absolutely nailed the early 60s in time, for me, and I enjoyed it a great deal. After Alice has invited the now homeless Georgie to stay for a few days, little truths emerge and we realise the full import of what happened back then. Though it moves back and forth in time, it’s easy to follow, and a fascinating look at contrasting life-styles and expectations. It’s also a reminder that events, and people, aren’t always as we perceive them to be. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Jonathan Hill

This is a familiar story to me. It first appeared in a joint publication, Is It Her? This is newly re-written in part, and contains an extra chapter. 

The Stars Just Watch link

My review -

It’s wartime, and Cliff and Tom have been called up. Jack, Cliff’s brother, is exempt as he’s got a serious leg injury. Violet, Cliff’s wife and Tom’s sister, gets them all together on the eve of their going off to war. The mood is, naturally, dark, edgy, tense and fearful. We soon find out what else Cliff has to fear, in addition to death at the hands of the enemy.

Most of the story is dark and dramatic, especially when Jack’s true role is revealed, though there is a glimmer of hope towards the end, when the climate has changed for Cliff. It’s a hugely thought-provoking book and I hope this slightly altered version sees it being more widely appreciated. It’s genuinely both awful and awesome.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

David Hadley

I've enjoyed David's work in the past and this one really tickled me.

The Dirty Book link

My review -

Robert Block is a writer with literary pretentions, whose agents has tried without success to get a publisher for one of his elevated works. Under pressure to produce more, he finds a forgotten work on his hard drive – Her Dark Confession – written in his early days. He self-publishes it and it’s a runaway best-seller. It should be easy to confess and take the credit for his dirty book’s success but for various reasons, some of his own making, he can’t.

I really enjoyed this sideways look at the world of writing and publishing, book snobbery and populism. Block has talent but he’s also idle and self-indulgent. It’s a treat to watch him dig himself in deeper with things he ought not to have touched in the first instance. I don’t want to give too much away but I enjoyed the ending too. A good read and a good laugh.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Blake Crouch

I'm partial to a bit of sci-fi and this one didn't let me down.

Dark Matter link

My review -

It’s so hard to get my head around this review – and if you read the book you’ll realise why I say that. We’re all aware of the theory of parallel universes but it’s so different seeing dry theory populated by characters you’ve come to believe in. Jason finds he’s only one of, potentially, a massive number of men who can claim to be him. He’s desperate to get back to his wife and son.

In my view, this story was never less than gripping and escalated to breath-takingly exciting in the final few chapters. I found myself feeling fear and shock, and wondered how the story could be resolved. There’s a certain inevitability to the ending but I didn’t have that feeling right till the very end. It’s a tour de force and I enjoyed it immensely.

Friday, 11 August 2017

John Bowen

John Bowen has appeared on this blog before and each time the genre is different! That in itself is a laudable talent. This group of short stories is an absolute delight. Distilled fiction at its best.

Cold Sweats and Vignettes link

My review - 

This short collection of short stories fairly crackles along. A thief steals something which isn’t as harmless and he thought, the Large Hadron Collider warps time, a crash landing made this reader do a double-take and a gangland super-thug gets his comeuppance. There’s a bonus cartoon strip too.

The stories in this collection have a fresh feeling; old themes are seen from new angles. I read straight through, each little tale whetting my appetite for the next. The downfall of any collection is always the weakest story and I really didn’t think there was one. If you enjoy a bit of speculative fiction you should really give this a whirl. It’s a quick read, a great read and it’s even a free read!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

J A Clement

A longer work by J A Clement this time. One for the fantasy readers. I think it's splendid!

Song of the Ice Lord link

My review - 

The Ice Lord is an uber-villain who cannot be killed. He has devastated the world, and only three tribes remain to stand in his way, if they can. A ‘Maker’ – an inventor, who lost a hand in battle – and a bard, make a strong bond. Between them, they come up with a plan, instigated by a dream of the Maker’s in which the spirits of ships lend him aid.

This is a lyrical work, filled with the traditional stories of the tribes, and it reminded me of some of the Norse tales. It took the form of a journey to a final show-down and, although drenched in bloody battle, the characters are warm and beguiling. Fantasy at its best. I really enjoyed this book.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Malcolm Hollingdrake

I'm not good with a series. It takes a lot of time and commitment to follow a whole series of books but a really good indication is whether or not they make sense as stand-alone stories. These certainly do. This is number five.

Dying Art link

My review -

Never one to read a series in a sensible order, I’ve gone from Book 2 to Book 5 of this series and found art-loving DCI Cyril Bennett recovering from a professional and personal tragedy. This story is so well told that you don’t need to have read the previous books. I like that in a series! On his return to work, the fact that a local art gallery has been burgled and that there’s a suspicion that fake art works have found their way into the system, means this job it totally up his street. Greed and murder are close bedfellows in this book.

I really enjoyed the story, straying into the machinations within the art world. It’s known that fake art works find their way into the system, even though that means faking their provenance too. Malcolm Hollingdrake delves into murky depths here and it’s a twisty and exciting read. I’m sure those who’ve followed all the books in the series (embarrassed blush!) have gained greater depth within the characters but a great read is a great read, and this one is!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

J A Clement

This little story reminds me of childhood folk tales. Short, but sweet.

A Sprig of Holly link

My review -

Young Greta and her grandfather are in trouble. It’s deep snow, they’re nearly out of fuel, so they go out to collect some. She’s hit and knocked unconscious by a falling tree and her grandfather is trapped beneath the trunk. All seems hopeless, but help comes from a surprising source.

This reminds me of the stories I read as a child. It’s got a bit of natural history and a dollop of magic. It’s only short but comes full circle and is a satisfying read. A little gem. I’m looking forward to Book 2.