Wednesday 26 December 2012

Lexi Revellian

I read two of Lexi's novels early in my kindle owning days, long before I thought of reviewing books.  She has a classy and readable style of writing and her work is always enjoyable.

Ice Diaries  Ice Diaries

My review - 

This story suggests that in a few years’ time, a pandemic wipes out most of the world’s population. Those remaining, presumably immune, have to find a way to survive after the weather changes and Britain is covered in 20 metres of snow. Tori is a member of a group who co-operate to forage and try to keep civilisation alive in their small community. She rescues a man from the storm to find he is a renegade member of a travelling group of survivors. She, and we, don’t know who is the villain in this group, and who the good man.

Lexi Revellian is an articulate and classy writer and I enjoyed her previous books, Remix and Replica. This story is well told in the first person by Tori, an ordinary person with no special skills (like me), the characters are believable and varied and the story has a pace and an excitement born of the situation and the interaction of the people in it. In such a situation, we might ask ourselves how we would behave. The story has the possibility of being continued. I enjoyed it very much and hope that it will be. 

Terry Murphy

This is the first of Terry's books that I've read.  It's very funny and I do love a laugh.

Weekend in Weighton  Weekend in Weighton

My review -

Eddie Greene is a new private detective and his very first client doesn’t last 24 hours before being found dead. Eddie’s task of finding his client’s killer isn’t made any easier by the fact that he has fallen foul of Weighton’s Mr Big, Jimmy Cartwright, and his thugs. Jimmy warns him off but our hero is determined. Eddie is a very likable, fast talking and fast thinking chap and all the characters in the book have three dimensions. 

This is a brilliantly told tale with a number of linked stories. There are some great one-liners here, for example, ‘I’d never not solved a case, and I didn’t intend to start with my first.’ I was very rapidly drawn in to the plot. Terry Murphy has a sharp wit and a knack for a story line and I found this book extremely funny and very satisfying. I believe there will be another Weighton book. I look forward to it very much.

Monday 24 December 2012

Alan McDermott

Gray Redemption ends the Gray trilogy of fast action stories.  It's superb!

Gray Redemption  Gray Redemption (Tom Gray #3)

My review -

This is the exciting denoument of the Gray Trilogy which features ex-SAS man Tom Gray and his personal crusade to tackle injustice, which we followed in Gray Justice and Gray Resurrection. He and his surviving friends are attempting to return to England where people in the heart of the government, want the world to believe he is dead. There is a sub-plot intriguingly twisted around this, which involves terrorism and a virus which can affect humanity genetically in an unexpected way. You have to read on!

Alan McDermott writes a great thriller and at times this book became almost nail-bitingly exciting. The books definitely have to be read in order because we get to know the characters in the earlier books and the start of this one builds up the plot and thickens the intrigue, rather than being character driven. As the first book began with the unpunished death of his young son, it was lovely to find Tom reminiscing about him at the end – and what a very satisfying ending it was… with just a little bit of a hanging thread. Absolutely brilliant!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Darren Humphries

Another short story by Darren Humphries which is prompted by the date.  Feb 14th!

The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D.'s St. Valentine's Day Massacre The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D.'s St. Valentine's Day Massacre

My review -

Agent Ward and the delicious Veronika are planning a Valentine’s night celebration when he is called to attend a case.  A greetings card factory has been attacked, or rather, just about annihilated.  Paper hearts and roses are scattered like confetti at an enthusiastic wedding.  Green gelatinous goo is left at the site.  What’s going on?  You’ll have to read it and find out…..

Darren Humphries has hit upon a winning streak with this character and his writing has mellowed and grown more assured over the time I have been reading his work.  I suspect Agent Ward’s humour, sarcasm, heavy irony and plain sense of fun are Darren’s own.  When added to the imaginative scrapes in which our agent finds himself, it makes for a winning combination.  Agent Ward fans, get your next fix here!  

Here's a little seasonal offering not to me missed.

The Man From U.N.D.E.A.D.'s Christmas Carol  The Man From U.N.D.E.A.D.'s Christmas Carol

My review -

Agent Ward, The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D., stands on his doorstep on Christmas Eve, just as his love interest Veronika is preparing egg nog. The glowing features of his former boss, in the guise of his door-knocker, then tell him he is to visit Christmases past, present and future. He meets his younger self and ensures that Ward Junior henceforth nurses a burning desire to become and agent when he grows up. He meets a present day adversary in the Oxford HQ, then travels to a future in which it appears that he is already dead!

An egg nog will never be the same again! This is another little belter of a short story from the man who has created a genre all his own. This is a truly Wardic tale and a great Christmas offering from Darren Humphries. Merry Christmas!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Paul Fenton (P A Fenton)

Paul's books are always very funny but with a dark streak.  This one is dark but with funny streaks.  I always very much enjoy his writing style and his own brand of humour.  This latest one is no let-down!

Natural Deselection  Natural Deselection

My review -

Chloe Bright is a business analyst working in a London office. She's a New Yorker and came to London to escape from an incident in her past. There's some wonderful corporate-speak in use here as the company brings in a consultant and Chloe becomes involved with him. The story is dark, Urban Noir, you might say, but nevertheless is shot through with Paul Fenton's own wonderful sense of humour. Chloe receives nasty and increasingly threatening messages on her phone and also appears to have a strange woman, masquerading as herself, stalking her on the underground. Her involvement with the `consultant' brings out more information than she's happy with. Her best friend at work tries to help her but that causes them both problems.

This is a really good thriller and the need to know what happens, what everyone is really up to, keeps the pages flying by. It's more serious than the author's usual stories but it full of memorable phrases that made me laugh a great deal. I found the ending, though a little poignant, very satisfying. An excellent read!

Wednesday 12 December 2012

A bit of a natter

Book and review blogger Joo has been interviewing authors over the last year.  She has decided to try a few readers and allowed some of the authors to choose the questions.  I'm first reader in the hot seat!

If you could live in the age and setting of a book, which book, and why?

I always loved the Arthurian Legends and fancied myself in Dark Age Britain.  I know it would be a brutal life and, compared to today, nasty and short too and I’d undoubtedly be a grubby serf not a noble lady!  My favourite books of this genre are T H White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, which begins with The Crystal Cave.

Does it annoy you the book finishes well before 100% because the author mentions their other works at the back of the novel. Do you mind if the author includes a synopsis or even an excerpt?

It does, on the whole.  I never mind a synopsis, or the blurb, but on the occasions when I’ve thought I had 12% still to go (there’s a kindle reader’s statement!) and the plot should still be thickening, it’s suddenly the end and I’ve got a chapter I don’t want to read.  Even if I want the author’s next book, I really don’t want it now.

Are you put off if you see a book is part of a series? Or does that entice you, knowing that if you like it there are more books to enjoy?

Not at all.  As a keen reader of fantasy, I love a series.  I have also recently read some modern crime trilogies and far from putting me off, I appreciate the chance to get deeper into the story and to get to know the characters better.  I sometimes think it must be harder to sell a series because you need the reader on board for the long haul.  The author is asking for commitment on the reader’s part but the reader also looks to the author for a good outcome.  I’ve never got over the total disappointment, after slogging my way through 6 thick books of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, to get to the end which I will not divulge (spoiler!).  I felt totally let down.  I have gradually learnt to trust authors again though!

Do you read the Look Inside before purchasing? Always? Sometimes, depending on the reviews? Never?

Only occasionally and generally if the author is completely new to me.  If I have a recommendation from another reader who I know shares my taste, I will read the blurb and then generally go for it.  If I’m not sure, or the reviews seem to be contradictory (why not?  No two people are the same) then I might Look Inside.  I can tell from an excerpt that long if I’m really not going to get on with the book.

Do you read for hours at a time, or in short bursts, or a mixture of the two?

In the day it tends to be short bursts but I read most evenings from tea-time to bed-time and then again in bed!  I discovered recently that I don’t know how to work my own television!  I never put it on but occasionally stop reading to watch something special.  If it depended on me though, it would rust away in the corner!  I love and relish the opportunity to have a really good soak in a book.

How important are reviews of a book to you? Would they influence your choice to buy it?

I do look at reviews but I look cannily, I think.  If a book has lots of good reviews, I check to see if the reviewer has reviewed anything else.  If it comes from a regular reviewer then I’ll take it at face value. If there’s a string of five star reviews from people who only have a single review to their name, then I take them to be his mates, his mam and his gran!  Reviewers with a bit of experience behind them – not necessarily top reviewers but with more than a dozen, say, are more likely to make me want to read the book.  I like it when they use the work ‘enjoyed’ !

Do you think you remain unbiased when reviewing books by people you know or interact with on the internet?

I hope I do.  I try to.  You have to ask yourself why you are reviewing a book.  I’m doing it primarily to let other readers know what I think of the work.  A review is only one person’s opinion and we all look for different things in our books.  If I tell people that I thought a book was amazing because I like the author, then I’m doing the readers no favours and ultimately I’m doing the author none either. Readers will find it’s not as good as I made it out to be and won’t take my other reviews seriously; authors will think they are writing books I like when they aren’t.  Eventually no-one will believe me!  I have to say that usually I find a book I love and then get to know the author afterwards.  It’s usually that way round.
How do you feel about leaving negative reviews?
It’s a hard thing to do.  When I’ve loved a book I want to shout about it and I can write a review quickly and enthusiastically.  I love reviewing good stuff.  Because I choose books I expect to like then I often do enthuse about them.  Why would I choose to read something I don’t think I’ll like?  Sometimes though, something about the blurb or someone’s recommendation will entice me in and I find to my dismay that I really don’t get on with it.  It’s maybe poorly written or the plot’s thin and predictable.  Maybe the characters are wooden and unconvincing.  I read a book recently where the man and wife talk to each other as if they’re addressing a committee meeting.  I will finish it, and give it a chance but if I really feel it’s poor then I have to say so.  Sometimes I’ve been awake for hours at night trying to think of ways to say it.  It’s not fair to fellow readers to suggest a book is good if I don’t think it is.  I would always say why I didn’t get on with it though.  I think those reviewers that say ‘This book is a load of rubbish’ help no-one.  You don’t help an author to let him/her think the book is good when it isn’t.  You also don’t help the good authors if you try and class them all the same so as not to cause offence.  I would always hope to be helpful. 

Are you more lenient with regards mistakes if you know a book is self published, or do you believe the authors should have hired an editor to make sure it's the best it can be?

I notice mistakes.  It’s just the way I am.  However, I prefer to point them out to the author privately unless there are lots, or it’s a matter of poor style, in which case I might suggest the book needs an editor.  I am aware that when I pay £2 or less for a book, the author isn’t being paid enough to afford an editor.  Traditionally published books have the resources of a publishing house to ensure they don’t come out with errors (doesn’t always happen though!).  Indies aren’t on a level playing field and I’m always pleased when fellow readers are prepared to help them out too.  Even really good authors can’t proof read their own work.  You read what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote. 
So, to answer the question (!) I don’t expect perfection but I’m happy to help.

If something an author did upset or bothered you, would it stop you reading more of their work, even if you've read their stuff before and enjoyed it?

I’m not sure how this would apply.  I would judge the book by the standard of the writing and the imagination of the author rather than any perceived view of his or her morality.  I don’t need to like an author as a person to enjoy reading his/her work.  Generally though, you get a feel for the person behind the book and I might be a bit shocked if I found they were up to no good!

So that's what I'm all about.  Thanks Joo - it was painless really!

Rosen Trevithick

Rosen Trevithick's last book was a funny one.  This is much more thoughtful and serious in some ways but still has that spark of humour that has me making highlights.

The Ice Marathon  Ice Marathon

My review -

This is the story of Emma, a young woman of 30-ish, who suffers from bi-polar disorder but who manages it with medication.  She is set up with a date by her flatmate and the two of them don’t get on.  The evening (or early next morning) ends with a brutal but mutual sex act which results in her pregnancy.  To save the baby from harm, Emma has to give up her lithium which keeps the disorder at bay.  Emma and Simon get together again in an off and on way and I really found I wanted to know what happened. 

To me, the clever part of this story is that it is a first person narration by Emma and we see her bipolar disorder begin to creep up on her.  Because she is telling us about it, we can see her rationale for her over-excited, hysterical behaviour, all the reasoning behind her fear and despair.  We know where things are heading before she does.  If this were described in the third person we’d only see the results, not the reasoning.  This aspect is extremely well done.  I also found some of the writing very funny – even in desperate situations, Rosen Trevithick can pull a funny out and I found myself highlighting a phrase or two that made me giggle.

There’s an exciting and ultimately satisfying ending to this story.  Very enjoyable.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Katie W Stewart

I read this story in a couple of sittings.  It's excellent - and it makes you care.

Treespeaker  Treespeaker

My review -

This is a fantasy tale for Young Adults, but people of that age pull no punches and neither does the author. Jakan, the Treespeaker, is one of a tribe of forest dwellers and through his gifts he can discern the will of Arrakesh, a forest spirit. Someone arrives within their community with the intention of cutting down the forest and enslaving the people. It's not an uncommon theme and was effective in Avatar, for example. Here, it's handled extremely well and touches upon human emotions and motivations with which young adults are just coming into contact, though they will deal with them as older adults too! We feel the greed of the interloper, the unfairness of what happens to Jakan, the disempowerment of the Treespeaker and the helplessness of his tribe. On the plus side we meet with loyalty, friendship, an urge for the common good, and I'm always happy to 'meet' a wise older woman - I like a good role model!

Katie W Stewart has an excellent writing style. It's clear, engages the reader in the subject and makes the characters feel real. I found that I cared about Jakan and his family and about the fate of the forest. I loved some of the other characters he met too, including the little girl who helped him when he was injured. If you're a lover of a good fantasy adventure story, enjoy some deeper things to think about than just orc and mage wars, and appreciate some good quality writing, this is absolutely the book for you. I enjoyed it hugely!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Darren Humphries

This is a collection of short stories in a variety of genres.  Some may surprise you.

Sharing a Fence with the Twilight Zone  Sharing a Fence with the Twilight Zone

My review -

The short story genre has grown on me since I bought my kindle and this collection is a great example of why.  We have several distinct types of story here.  The first group are often funny, wry, sometimes thought provoking; the second are, as they group title suggests, dark, apocalyptic and harsh.  The third group returns to the style of the first, sometimes outright funny, sometimes wryly amusing, always original.

Darren Humphries is often thought of as a humorous fantasy writer – a style of writing he does particularly well.  This collection of stories will prove that he is much more than this.  It’s well executed, thoughtful and far ranging.  It deserves a place on every e-shelf.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Nicola Palmer

This is the first Nicola Palmer book I have read and I admit I fell for the Christmas theme.  It's a delight!

One Strange Christmas One Strange Christmas

My review -

In this delightful short story for children, nine year old Jake wishes for something exciting to happen on Christmas morning. He believes firmly in Father Christmas - he's seen him! He wakes up to a heavy fall of blue snow - and the day becomes stranger still. It's a story for children which doesn't talk down to them and is a very pleasant read for an adult too. We meet Jake's family - his older brother Ben, who no longer believes in Santa, elves, even magic.

The writing style is easy for a child to follow - I'm going to try it on my 8 year old Granddaughter over the holiday! It doesn't patronise though, and is eloquent enough to engage an adult's attention. I love to try a few Christmas stories at this time of year and this one is a good one! It touches upon the heavily burdened mum, cooking the dinner for family and guests, the dad who has to work on the day and misses out on family time, but mainly, young Jake, who feels people are missing the magic of the season by falling asleep after lunch. I agree with him. If you haven't got children to read this story to, read it for yourself and remember when you felt the magic. You'll enjoy it.

Monday 3 December 2012

Will Macmillan Jones

This is the third in The Banned Underground series.  I love them and now await a fourth!

The Vampire Mechanic (The Banned Underground)  the Vampire Mechanic (The Banned Underground)

My review -

Will Macmillan Jones' latest Banned Underground story is another jolly romp with the musicians and their acquaintances. Grizelda (an ever present frog-producer in times of trouble) helps a fragile and sickly-looking Fungus, and the gang meet a sort of anti-Santa (and his Notsleigh) as well as finding the real Sleigh and Santa's Little Helpers (all over 6ft tall) while the Old Gentleman himself is away on his hols. The hapless followers of the Grey Mage are there too, abusing his credit card! The mechanic of the title is uniquely qualified to suck in his teeth and give an inflated quote for sleigh repairs.

There are some wonderful moments in this story - look out for a harassed airman from RAF Valley, a bolshy satnav and a little tribute to The Italian Job that I absolutely loved!

Will has developed a great style and pace with this series (although I still don't like footnotes) and I look forward very much to the next episode, due in spring, I believe (and hope!)

Jim Webster

Dead Man Riding East

Jim has created a wonderful fantasy world.  This is the second book in this series.  My review for the first can be seen on Amazon.

Dead Man Riding East  Dead Man Riding East

My review -

n this new adventure in the `Swords' series, we again follow Benor and watch and feel as though we take part in his hectic life. He both pursues and is pursued when he `liberates' a prince's concubine (and keeps her!) and the prince, naturally, doesn't want to let the matter rest. As well as being an excellent fighter, one of his companions on the journey is a master of the haute couture trade and manages to combine these two rather successfully.

Jim Webster has created a credible fantasy world here, populated by its own races, both rivals and allies, and with an intriguing group of wild creatures which you can almost taste when they are described as food species! There is a good deal of action in this book but also some softer, `Ahhh!' moments which I won't describe for fear of spoiling the story. Needless to say, he has once again used his own writing style to give us some wonderfully memorable phrases. I like his style and his gentle humour.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Steve Robinson

A new story from Steve featuring his genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  These just keep getting better!

The Last Queen of England   The Last Queen of England

My review -

American genealogist and man of mystery Jefferson Tayte has a rather different and much more personal assignment in this latest book.  Steve Robinson has previously given us a past and a present narrative, woven together with great skill, but this time the action all takes place in present day London.  His friend Marcus Brown has been tracing the families of five people hanged in the reign of Queen Anne and JT and a history professor friend of Marcus Brown’s become embroiled in the spin-off, potentially fatally.  It’s wonderful to get closer to the true feelings of our ‘loner’ hero and to feel his passion for his subject and for his friend Marcus. We also feel him grappling with his own insecurities, his shyness, his social ineptitude, as he warms to a new friend.

Steve Robinson takes a slightly different tack with this new book in that he takes the reader through a historical puzzle which is intriguing and complex.  His story telling abilities are as sharp as ever and JT doesn’t work this job alone.  We are introduced to an intelligent and feisty companion for this story.  We are in the realms of major conspiracy theory here – and I do love a conspiracy theory.  It’s not the sort of puzzle with a pat answer and we have loose threads left at the end which hint of further intrigue to come.  I, for one, can’t wait!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

David Wailing

This short book of two stories and a few 'Drabbles' - ultra shorts, has rather a different feel.  The two main stories are told by youngsters - and very convincingly too!

Fifth Season   Fifth Season

My review -

This is a short book comprised of two (longish) short stories and a few ‘Drabbles’ – one hundred word super-shorts. Fifth Season is the first of these longer stories and is set a little way into the future. It begins with a near-global panic and we follow it through the eyes and the understanding of a 9 year old boy – one with a particular interest and intelligence. Nineteen Seventy-Steve is set in the past. Mostly! Those of us who remember the 1970s will find a sudden smile twitching our faces as we recall television programmes, adverts and the like. The drabbles are especially intriguing. It’s quite a feat getting a ‘story’ into 100 words.

David’s writing is usually unfussy, modern, I might almost say suave. Here it is very different. He accurately speaks in a young boy's voice and persuades us to believe it’s a child telling us the stories. Have you ever listened to a youngster telling you something s/he’s excited about and said ‘Slow down, take a deep breath and tell me again.’? It’s a bit like that. The story comes excitedly, phrases trying to leapfrog over one another, in a convincingly child-like way. All in all, it’s very well done. 

Monday 26 November 2012

Beverley Carter

Beverley usually publishes novellas and I'm quite a fan of her writing.  She has an ability with surprise endings and she's at it again in these short stories.

Tales of Strangeness and Harm  Tales of Strangeness and Harm

My review -

This collection of short stories is prime Beverley Carter in that she can create a situation of which the reader cannot predict the ending. I do love surprises! Each of these stories, some featuring rather unpleasant characters, has a twist in the tail and will leave you smiling, nodding and thinking, 'I didn't see that one coming!' It's always difficult with a collection of stories, to choose a favourite and in this group I have several. I found the story of the Millefiori paperweight quite unexpectedly creepy at the end. The story of the laboratory cat, First Filial, tells of a lab technician who doesn't feel sufficiently stretched in his job and takes on a project of his own. The final tale, A Box of Fudge, also finished with a shiver.

I very much enjoy Beverley's style of writing and these 'tales of the unexpected' didn't disappoint me. You can read a story or two here and there, or do as I did and read straight through for an evening's entertainment. Excellent!

Saturday 24 November 2012

Alex South

Alex South is a writer of short stories and this first collection I've read was seriously good.  The themes were imaginative and unusual and I often didn't know where he was going with them.  I'll read more!

Seven Stories High  Seven Stories High

My review -

This collection of seven short stories is extremely imaginative and very unusual.  The endings of some are quite thought provoking and one or two left me thinking, ‘What happened there, then?’  This in itself is not a bad thing.  I’m not a reader who wants to be spoon-fed a lot of pre-chewed pap.  I am more than happy to re-read a good story.  The first story, possibly my favourite, is Copy and Paste, which asks what would happen if one or more exact copies of you were to appear in your home?  The way the author considers and resolves this is really interesting.  Each of the stories had its own merits and was considered in a fairly unusual way. 

The stories contained here are written in an engaging and mature style and take rather unusual directions.  I have never read anything else of Alex South’s though I understand this is one of a proposed series of short story collections.  I highly recommend this and will look out for more by this author.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Will Macmillan Jones

This second book in The Banned Underground series is a cracker.  I enjoyed it more than the first - and I enjoyed that!

The Mystic Accountants-(Banned Underground)  The Mystic Accountants (The Banned Underground)

My review -

This is the second book in the Banned Underground series.  I found it a better read than the first – and I loved that one.  Maybe the author was getting into his stride – maybe I was getting into his style?  The wonderful multi-species Banned (including bog troll, dwarf – now even a dragon!) are on a mission to acquire a new throne for the King under the mountain.  Then they’ll have the ultimate gig in the hall of the mountain king!  The Mystic Accountant, meanwhile, has big things in his sights, beginning at the Welsh Assembly.  Typical teens Chris and Lynda with their atypical aunt Dot are chasing the sect who kidnapped their uncle while the route of the whole quest is strewn with distressed frogs.  You’ve really got to read it to get the benefit!

This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who loves fantasy, anyone who loves a laugh.  I think Will Macmillan Jones’ default setting is ‘funny’.  The writing style is easy, conversational, accessible and, did I say funny?  We get to see the Banned’s play lists too, and I have to say, I rather fancy attending one of their gigs – especially if they can manage to hold it at a beer festival again.  Many fantasy lovers adore a series, a saga, and are disappointed to find stand-alone books.  If you’re one of these, look no further.  This series, with its trail of distraught frogs, will run and run, I hope.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Ian Ayris

Ian's latest book, a novella, will not take you long to read but it will stay with you for much longer.


My review -

This book will no doubt lose readers from the start due to its uncompromising use of ‘bad’ language.  I hope they will not be deterred from reading what is a very emotive story.  It sets the scene for a man who is an enforcer, a hit man, for a gang boss. He is tough, not afraid of violence, but almost has a ‘secret life’ in that he is fond of literature and loves Shostakovich.  He has a surprisingly cultured outlook for a thug.  He is also obsessively concerned with buying his daughter Sophie a birthday present.

This is a moving account of a man on the brink of desperation.  If you can take the style of language you will be moved beyond belief by the content.  I found it a totally gripping read.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Marianne Wheelaghan

Marianne's latest novel is very different from The Blue Suitcase. 

Food of Ghosts  Food of Ghosts

My review -

Louisa, a Detective Sergeant, goes to the Gilbert Island of Tarawa as a European Commission trainer.  She was born on the island and lived there till she was eight, when she moved with her family to Edinburgh.    While there, she is face with a murder and a huge amount of frustration.  The police have no radios, there is no SOCO service and the mortuary freezer’s broken, still awaiting a part.  Her frustration is compounded by the archaic views of her male colleagues and the cultural differences between people in her Scottish home and those on the island.  She is faced with bullying, monstrous injustice and some very nasty expatriates.

This is one of the quirkiest detective stories I’ve ever read.  The situations Louise finds herself in are funny, infuriating and completely gripping.  There’s the magic of the island with its family centred culture and the mystery of the increasing body count.  The character of Louisa, with her deep sense of justice, her mild OCD and her extended island family to complicate matters, is surely one we must see again.  Marianne Wheelaghan is a great story teller and she’s created a potential series here.  This is a hugely enjoyable book, complex and engaging, and I hope there will be more of the same to come.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Andrew Barrett

The Third Rule

This is not so much a trilogy as a story in three segments.  At the time of writing, only Part 1 is available but I believe the second and third parts will be published within a day or two.   
This story is utterly gripping and stays in the reader's head.  It's impossible to conceive of reading another book between these.  I have a deep hunger for the second and third parts.  You can find out more on Andrew's website -

The Third Rule Part One: Atrocities   The Third Rule Part One: Atrocities

My review -

Eddie Collins is a Scenes of Crime Officer with problems.  His wife has thrown him out because of his drinking and his young son has died in a hit and run accident.   One of Andrew Barrett’s great gifts is that of being able to get ‘into the head’ of his characters and we know that Eddie feels responsible for his son’s death; he should have been with him at the time but was hung-over.  We get inside his estranged wife Jilly’s mind as she grieves with anger and sorrow for her family life and her young boy.  The government has brought in a new Justice Act which allows for Capital Punishment for murder (The Third Rule).   One of the proponents of this act is covering up for a son who is responsible for 2 hit and run deaths.   There is evidently corruption in high places.

This book is an exciting read:  the author writes very well and tells a complex but convincing story which is nevertheless easy to follow.  There are several strands cleverly woven together and for me, the story never dragged.  Andrew Barrett is an intelligent and articulate author.  He is so good at empathy and we feel with his characters.  I love his writing style.  Down to earth dialogue is interspersed with brilliantly crafted descriptive prose.  I can’t believe a mainstream publisher isn’t paying this man to write books.  The Third Rule is beyond good; it’s excellent!

The Third Rule - Part 2: Running Scared

The Third Rule. Part 2: Running Scared   The Third Rule Part Two: Running Scared

My review -

In this continuing story, SOCO Eddie Collins is the author of much of his own misery. His drinking has alienated his wife and his young son is dead. His wife blames Eddie for this. His drinking pal, failed journalist Mick, is on a final warning with his job and turns up some information which implicates the son of the man who has driven through the new Justice Act – Sir George Deacon. Eddie’s wife offers to take him back into the marital home but he fears being thrown out again within a week. He is given the job, with his work partner Ros, of analysing the car which killed his own son.

This is an exciting story of a man trying to save himself and find the killer of his child. It is also the cleverly woven story of a number of others for whom the family of Deacon are pivotal. Andrew Barrett is a skilled story teller and knows his stuff with police procedurals. He is excellent at building up tension in a story and at making you care about characters who appear to be heading for self destruction. There is an emotional depth and richness here that elevates the book above the common run of crime fiction. I so want it to end well for Eddie yet at times I find him a very unprepossessing ‘hero’. Can he prove who killed his son? Will the corruption at the heart of government be revealed? Andrew Barrett makes you think; he makes you feel. I really look forward to seeing how this trilogy ends.

The final part of this book is a triumph. I'm absolutely up in the air with excitement about it. It's so much more than a crime thriller. It goes deep into human nature, both the good and the bad, and will chime within every reader.

The Third Rule. Part 3: Sacrifices  The Third Rule Part 3: Sacrifices

My review -

In the final part of this intriguing and gripping tale, Eddie Collins and his alcoholic friend, aging journalist Mick, finally make some headway in finding out who killed Eddie’s son in a hit and run accident. Drop-out artist Christian is being framed for the murder of his girlfriend. The justice system is falling apart but no-one will take any hard evidence into consideration. Eddie and Mick find the evidence that Sir George Deacon, Minister for Justice, is guilty of ordering murders to protect himself and his career. Can Eddie make sure justice is done?

This final volume in the Third Rule trilogy is an absolute corker. The writing is masterful and convincing, evidence unwinds before us and the story is involved but coherent. It’s a masterpiece! How I wish I could write like this. I was totally emotionally engaged with this story, especially in this, the final book. Andrew Barrett is a writer of enormous skill and talent and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. You could measure this ending on the Richter scale. This is an awesome book and I totally recommend it.

Monday 22 October 2012

Jon Rance

Jon writes very funny books but you can believe it all might happen!

This Thirtysomething Life  This Thirtysomething Life

My review -

This delightful book balances manic chaos and thoughtful poignancy on the fulcrum of a laugh-aloud sense of humour. It takes the form of a diary by Harry, the thirtysomething of the title, and the effects of impending fatherhood upon himself and Emily. Each section starts with where he is and what he is eating – obviously his food (largely junk!) plays an important part in his comfortable life. We follow the couple through the excruciating meals with old university friends, their relationship with Emily’s parents, Harry’s lovely Granddad and his own care-home love life. It’s all beautifully observed and very funnily told.

Jon Rance has a very accessible and readable writing style and his sense of humour shines through the book. We get a deeper understanding of Harry as his year progresses, with some honest self-criticism as well as a little more understanding of Emily and her side of the story. It’s definitely British humour, a bit mad, rather self-deprecating but open and light-hearted in the main. He doesn’t dip out of the deeper questions though, and we really see Harry’s belated ‘growing up’ in this book. I enjoyed it a great deal and will be looking out for more from Jon Rance.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Jonathan Hill

Jonathan burst onto the scene earlier in 2012 with a very good collection of short stories.  This is his first longer work - short novella in length - and it's wonderful!

Maureen goes to Venice  Maureen Goes to Venice

My review -

This is Jonathan Hill's first longer work, although it is still possible to read it in an afternoon or an evening. My main problem with his earlier work 'Eclectic' was that I didn't feel I got to know the characters, or indeed, the author. This work addresses all my earlier misgivings. Maureen, met briefly in the earlier book, is seen here in all her dreadful glory! She goes for a short break in Venice, meets (well, can't avoid) a gentleman, and the story continues from there.

The character of Maureen is fleshed out (apt choice of word maybe?) and in addition to her 'immovable object' persona we also see a softer side. She hates to be cruel (deliberately) and there's a touching moment when she misses her late husband. There are some wonderful phrases used here - the author can certainly manipulate language to make you smile, laugh and think a bit. Maureen reminded me a little of Agatha Raisin, but Agatha is more deliberate, cunning, whereas poor Maureen is a force of nature. There's no malice in the hurricane that trashes your house, but it's just as wrecked as if there had been! Jonathan Hill, you've created a monster! She's atrocious and I want to read more!

Monday 15 October 2012

Paul Fenton (P A Fenton)

Paul's latest publication is a novella.  It's both funny and thought provoking.

The Spanner  The Spanner

My review -

Paul Fenton’s novella takes the sort of irritating character we may all have come across and blows him completely out of proportion (although I believe this was based on a real character!)  Stan Ramble has engineered his project at work so that only he can keep the job going.  He has removed from the computer code anything that will allow another person to get to grips with it.  He’s horrible and irritating both at work and at home.  Eventually, he is found out.  We see the ends to which he is driven in order not only to escape that discovery, but to try to reconnect with his son.

Paul Fenton has a genius for humour and this book with its inexorable inevitability reminds me a little of the film ‘Clockwise’ – it’s that rolling out of control that this author does so well.  A real treat for fans of the ludicrous (and people with an irritating and obstructive colleague!)

Saturday 6 October 2012

Marianne Wheelaghan

This story, based on the life of the author's mother, is one that will stay with you.

The Blue Suitcase The Blue Suitcase

My review -

This is the story of Antonia, a girl growing to womanhood in Silesia, then part of Germany, in the 1930s and 40s. We see the rise to power of Hitler and his insidious beliefs from the viewpoint of her family members. It divides the family as some feel the Nazi movement is bringing Germany back her pride and self-belief while others start to notice what is happening to the weak, the non-Aryan, the mentally ill. Some refuse to believe what is happening. Some believe it and are mortally afraid to speak up, knowing what happens to those who go against the regime. Through the diary of Antonia, and family letters, we watch a gradual slide become all out terror and follow the lives of people who are forced to live in brutal conditions to survive as they try to stave off the Russian attacks.

The writing is spare and factual and all the more hard-hitting for that. Marianne Wheelaghan based this story on the life of her own mother and the narrative, initially child-like as Antonia starts her story aged 12, rings very true. It ends as she is in her late 20s and of course, much more thoughtful and bearing a great weight of experience and suffering. I found that reading the young girl's viewpoint with the hindsight of one who knew the outcome of the war made for a gripping read. Some books stay with you. This one certainly will.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Cornelius Harker

This third book in the continuing Gothic Saga is the best yet.  It's revelations are amazing.  What an imagination and what skill in the telling!  Utterly Brilliant!

Words to the Wise Book 3: Sirrenvaag (Part 1)

Link for  Words to the Wise Book 3: Sirrenvaag Part 1

My review -

If you are reading a review of the third book in an on-going series then I am preaching to the converted.  Nevertheless I can assure you that you will be astonished by this latest volume.  At last we follow The Wanderer and his young and impetuous friend Rickard into that town of which we’ve heard so much.  It is macabre in the extreme, both in the architecture and in the construction of the houses, being the product of a group of people obsessed with death.  The revelations in the first day shocked and amazed me.  I realised I had made assumptions about the creatures which share the human soul and they were incorrect.  It was like looking through a kaleidoscope, when the shifting of one or two little pieces completely alters the picture.  This is such brilliant writing.  I knew I’d been cleverly misled but the fault was mine; the clues were there. 
We learn about Sirrenvaag from the keeper of the House of Litithius and we also learn, through a narration by the Lighthouse Keeper, a Simeon-like figure, of the history of the town and its inhabitants’ belief systems.  At this point a lot fell into place for me.  I realised how many assumptions I’d made and I now understand a great deal more.  I was fortunate in receiving a preview copy of this book and in fact I have read it all again in the light of what I had discovered by the end; I’m so glad I did.  Parts of the story now come together and demonstrate that Cornelius Harker has not only created a wide story arc but has given it depth too.  
The story is faultless, the writing, as ever, combines that 18th century Gothic flavour highlighted by the author’s own distinctive, creative approach to prose.  Altogether this book is a Wonderful Thing and its author is a Class Act!

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Darren Humphries

This latest story of The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D. is another delightful romp of an adventure story set in a sci-fi/magic near-future near you!

One Small Step for the Man from U.N.D.E.A.D.  One Small Step for the Man from U.N.D.E.A.D.

My review -

Agent Ward excels himself in this latest adventure. He not only leaves the planet's surface, but goes back in time, and all for the love of a lady. He meets some strange creatures this time; Braindrain Spider Demons, Bodycrunchers and Howler Demons are but a few of his adversaries in this action packed adventure. Once again, the writing is full of wry humour and some silly sideswipes at things we all know and love - the acronym TADRIS, for example. The book is at once a light-hearted romp and a quest for the answer to `How far would you go to save a loved one?' There's a bomb-shell ending too.

Darren Humphries excels at word-play, irony and even occasional belly-laughs. Agent Ward, whatever the circumstances, can hardly help his sarcastic tongue getting him into trouble. These `UNDEAD' stories are heavy on the fantasy and science fiction but very easy on the eye. I really enjoyed this!