Sunday, 18 August 2019

Before This is Over

A great read but hard to categorise. Not dystopian but definitely a version of the future. I imagine the term speculative fiction fits best.


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Book description

A normal family. A quiet, leafy street. A terrifying epidemic.
It's been coming for a while: a lethal illness. With sons of five and fourteen to look out for, Hannah has been stockpiling supplies, despite everyone telling her that it's unnecessary.
Then it arrives.
At first there are a few unconfirmed cases. Then a death. Now the whole city is quarantined. But Hannah's family is not yet safe behind their locked front door...
Basics soon become luxuries, and neighbours become hazards. There are power cuts, food shortages and an ever-growing sense of claustrophobia. How will the family cope?
How would you cope?
How far would you go to protect your children?

My review  

This book was inspired by the SARS outbreak of 2002/3 which spread with astonishing rapidity. It’s set in Sydney, Australia and feels frighteningly possible. Hannah seems to be paranoid but her meticulous planning comes into play when their suburb is quarantined. It sets up a lot of questions for the reader. Who would you trust? If you isolated your family, would you allow anyone else in? What when the usual services go off? I found this, although long, a really interesting and quite worrying read. I liked the family and wished the best for them. The characters were very well drawn, especially Zac, the teenager, whose principles were bright and shiny and sometimes clashed with his parents’ pragmatism. A great read.


About the author
Amanda Hickie lives a brisk walk from Coogee Beach in Sydney with her two computer oriented sons and husband and two non-computer oriented cats.

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Just a thought

I love the solitude of reading. I love the deep dive into someone else's story, the delicious ache of a last page ― Naomi Shihab Nye

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Moths

Subtitled A Trio of Dark Novellas, this book by Sam Kates is a winner for those who like something dark but something a little different.



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Book description

The Goldfish Syndrome: a mystery takes a sinister turn—some secrets are best left undiscovered…

Moths: when the line between reality and fantasy grows blurred, tragedy beckons.

Returned: a soul dragged from the afterlife, an ancient secret and a race against time to thwart evil.

My review - 


The three novellas in this collection are all dark, as the subtitle says, but in very different ways.
In the first, a young woman comes down off Dartmoor with amnesia. Her story is followed up by a trainee reporter who finds more than he expected. This one I found very readable but deeply unsettling. Could it happen?
In the second – the title story, Moths – I began by sympathising with a youngster who had little in his life but one best friend. This story left me wondering what is true and what is in the mind. A really thought-provoking story.
The final one was more like a traditional horror story but, as often with Sam Kates, taken from a different perspective. Very dark humour in places and an exciting denoument. I loved this book and if your tastes lean towards the dark side, it’s the book for you, without a doubt.

About the author

As you've probably gathered since you've found your way to my author page, I sometimes go by the name Sam Kates. If there's a photo on this page of a middle-aged bloke with a hair shortage, that's me.

I live in Wales, a small constituent country of Great Britain and the U.K. Like many of my fellow countrymen, I possess a fondness for rugby union (though these days only as a spectator) and a good pint of beer. Usually the two go hand in hand.

As often as I can make the time (darn that interfering day job), I'm an author. I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and general fiction. 
Outside of writing, my main ambition is to see Wales beat the New Zealand All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup. A forlorn hope, I suspect, but if you're going to harbour ambitions, they might as well be lofty, right?

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Just a thought

Books - the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity ― George Steiner


Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Marriage Betrayal

I love Shalini Boland's books and this one leaves you wondering who is hiding what from whom.


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Book description

Faye Townsend has planned the perfect summer trip for her family. But returning to the small seaside town her husband grew up in does not go to plan, the rain pours and the long days become stifling. And then the unthinkable happens…

Her husband Jake and her six-year-old son Dylan go for an early morning walk along the beautiful, windswept clifftops. They don’t come back.

As the hours tick by, Dylan’s red baseball cap is found on the beach and Faye finds herself being questioned by the police. They want to know everything about the man she married - is Faye ready to face her husband’s dark past? Or will she have to confront her own secrets first?

And just how far will a mother go to save her only child?


My review 

Faye arranges a holiday as a surprise for her husband Jake. Jake’s sister, Lainey and her husband Tom and their children are there for Jake’s birthday but there are underlying tensions. The reader knows there’s something wrong but not what it is, or who is involved. Shalini Boland is very good when it comes to tension and unease in a story. Gradually the situation unfolds and every mother’s nightmare occurs. Jake and their young son Dylan disappear. The true situation is revealed much later on in the book and I thought the tension was kept up all the way through. It’s an involving read and you find yourself taking sides, then wondering if you’re right. A very good read.

About the author

Shalini lives by the sea in Dorset, England with her husband, two children and their cheeky terrier cross. Before kids, she was signed to Universal Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter, but now she spends her days writing psychological thrillers (in between school runs and sorting endless baskets of laundry).

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Just a thought

What kind of life can you have in a house without books? ― Sherman Alexie


Friday, 9 August 2019

Killing the Girl

A new author is a great way of widening your reading. Elizabeth Hill has written a book I really enjoyed. Here's to the next.


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Book description

For over forty years Carol Cage has been living as a recluse in her mansion, Oaktree House. Fear is her constant companion. She’s been keeping a secret – and it’s about to be unearthed.

When she receives a compulsory purchase order for her home, she knows that everyone is going to find out what she did to survive her darkest weeks in 1970. She writes her confession so that we can understand what happened because she wasn’t the only one living a lie. The events that turned her fairy-tale life into a living hell were not all they seemed.

She’s determined not to pay for the mistakes of others; if she has to face justice, then they will too.

Carol Cage has a terrible secret … and she’s about to exact retribution on everyone who had abandoned her.


My review 


Carol, in her teens, comes under the spell of the charismatic Frankie and after he charms her and gives her jewellery she marries him. She’s not the only one he’s charmed, she discovers. The murky past comes to light when the home Carol inherited is demolished to make way for building and she has to relocate nearby. This is a terrific tale of obsession, envy, friendships made and broken, secrets hidden, and I was glued to it all the way. ‘The Girl’ that Carol was in 1970 is still inside her as she battles her demons in 2016. This is a really good read.



About the author

After a career Credit Management and Litigation Elizabeth is now a full-time novelist.

Enjoying a good psychological/crime mystery story, but tiring of them being based on the murder of women, her books reverse that premise so that men are at risk of being murdered in the course of a great story! 

Her debut novel is about a young girl who makes mistakes because of the confusing messages and expectations of 1970s society. She pays for those mistakes in a devastating way but grows stronger in the process.

Find out more on her website wickedwritersite.wordpress.com

Elizabeth lives in Bristol, UK.


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Just a thought 

Books, the children of the brain ― Jonathan Swift

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Last Orders

A novella in the Danny Lancaster series by Bill Todd. Short, sharp and full of memorable characters.


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Book description

Big Eddie Archer is throwing a celebrity party for the reopening of The Bellerophon public house. When singer Paul Toopen, star of TV reality show Dreamboat, goes missing there is only one man the pub’s guv’nor can call on. 
But Danny Lancaster is off his game after overdoing Eddie’s free hospitality at last night’s dress rehearsal. Fans besiege the pub and the media are everywhere. This could be a public relations disaster but Eddie reckons if Danny can crack the case before closing time it will make the new Bellerophon famous.
Danny’s head is pounding but Eddie’s star guests might just be trapped in a pub with a killer. And the clock is ticking down to last orders. #TheBigBellBash


My review - 


This novella length Danny Lancaster story puts us in the classic locked room situation, but there are over one hundred people in the room with Danny, and one has committed a murder. Two of the stars of a reality TV programme are present at the reopening of The Bellerophon, and there’s huge media interest. We see the efforts of staff to prevent people leaving and the vlog reports transmitted live from the pub. It’s a great story, with the clock ticking and so many people who could be in the frame. Danny’s incentive for sorting it out is the promise of free beer for life. An excellent read.



About the author

I've spent most of my working life as a journalist on local and national newspapers. 
You meet a lot of people, see things, learn stuff. For a crime writer, it's a plot factory.
Before journalism I tried my hand at odd jobs including furniture removals (watch out for the flat-packs, they tend to pack flat when lifted!), photography, teaching and running a magazine group.
I've done quite a bit of travel writing. It's not all cocktails under the palm trees but it is a fantastic job that's taken me to more than 40 countries, from the white wastes of Arctic Finland to the deserts of Namibia.
People often ask my favourite place. In an age of globalisation, many destinations look the same but Iceland and Namibia are like stepping onto another planet. Go if you can.
I've enjoyed a long love affair with Western Crete. The mountains, coastline, food and people make me wonder if I lived there in some previous life. I just have to watch the waxed wings on a hot day.
I was delighted and surprised to receive the Ed Lacy travel award in 2007.


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Just a thought

Never put off till tomorrow the book you can read today ― Holbrook Jackson

Sunday, 4 August 2019

LA'LUN

La'lun, meaning little one, is a YA book set mostly in the English Lake District. It's a great read.


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Book description

When Camille discovers the secret her grandmother has protected for decades she knows that to tell anyone would be to tell everyone - with terrible consequences. But it could also bring the rest of her family back into her life. This is a story about love and loyalty, truth and lies. Real news, fake news and how far you'd go to protect what you love. It's a story for now with its roots in ancient folklore. Set in the Lake District, it's the story of a young person finding her place in the world by discovering something the rest of the world knows nothing about. The more she learns of the past the more she can see of her own future.

My review 

La’un (Little one). I really enjoyed this Young Adult novel. Camille is forced to leave school and live with her frosty grandmother and some ancient distant cousin, her grandmother’s age. Gradually she becomes aware that there’s something going on that she’s not aware of. She’s a typical feisty, opinionated teenager and doesn’t take kindly to being told there are things she can’t do and places she can’t go. Her grandmother otherwise treats her very well, indulging her love for art by buying her as much as she wasn’t in the way of art materials. Her only friend there, Sarah, has an older brother who is a reporter and desperate for a scoop which makes him a danger to the family secret that Camille manages to discover. The characters are very well drawn and the secret quite unexpected. I would read more by this author.

About the Author

J N Harris has no author profile on Goodreads or Amazon but he is John Harris, professional storyteller who takes his stories into schools. 

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Just a thought

Books are a narcotic ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 2 August 2019

The Black Ditch

Powerful debut novel from Simon J Lancaster. First of a proposed trilogy - and I'm up for reading the rest.


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Book description

LAURIE STERNE feels like he’s been cut adrift in space. His father has been shot dead, caught in the crossfire of a gangland war that has also claimed his boss’s life. Laurie is a refugee who lost his adoptive mum years before and doesn’t know where he was born, let alone who his birth parents were. But he’s not alone in the world: someone is trying to kill him.
This is London, 2050, a dumping ground for climate refugees and dissidents. Gangs rule, murder goes unpunished and the police make sure you can’t escape.
In his struggle to stay alive, he finds an ally: his former boss’s secret daughter.
But with the killer predicting his every move, is the man without a past being betrayed by the woman who seems to offer him a future?

My review -


It’s 2050 and some things we are aware of now have come to pass. Basements in London flood at high tide because of the rising sea-level. Tower blocks are ruled by gangs and London is effectively a prison city. The government, known as Jack, is a dark threat in the background. The gangs do their work for them – people are killed with no comeback. Laurie Stern, even in such a place, falls in love.

This is a grim foretelling of the future and the direction of modern politics makes it seem all too possible. I enjoyed the chase aspects of this story. Laurie doesn’t know, right to the end, who he can trust, and his life is on the line. The story is very readable and becomes extremely exciting as Laurie’s life is in danger. This is the first of a proposed trilogy and it’s intensely dark and very gripping. I’ll be reading the rest.

About the author

Simon J Lancaster is the author of The Black Ditch, the first in the Laurie Sterne trilogy of dystopian future thrillers. Prior to writing novels he was a national newspaper journalist in London, as well as a music critic and private pilot. He has written short stories and plays and, after reading extensively about climate change, concluded that the fantasy gun-play of contemporary-set action novels would be the lived experience of our coming world.

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Just a thought

Books, the children of the brain ― Jonathan Swift,