Tuesday 25 September 2012

Lexie Conyngham

Another brilliant tale from the ever elegant pen (word processor just does't have the ring!)  of Lexie Conyngham.

An Abandoned Woman

Amazon.com  An Abandoned Woman

My review -

This is another wonderful episode in the saga of Murray of Letho, but it can perfectly well be read as a story in its own right. If you have followed the books from Murray's University days in St Andrews though, you will have fleshed out the character of the main protagonist to your benefit. There is a young, unknown woman found murdered in Letho and another, one of Murray's own kitchenmaids, is attacked. This is a murder mystery enshrouded in the social history of Scotland in the early 1800s. Lexie Conyngham is like a Scottish Jane Austen! We follow the attempts of Murray to repair the chronic dampness of his servants' quarters, the problems of damp exacerbating the asthma of the young daughter of the manse and the mystery enshrouding two new arrivals to the area. There are several strands carefully woven together to bring us to an exciting and to me, unexpected climax. In fact it's rather a double climax.

Lexie Conyngham's writing is never less than clear and elegant and contains the lovely lilt of the Scottish voices, particularly in the case of the servants, who haven't had the vernacular schooled out of them. Blair, friend of Murray's late father and frequent guest at Letho is another delightful creation who brings a great deal of wisdom and creative oddity to the book. The style of writing here is absolutely fitting to the age in which the book is set and it all reads beautifully. An excellent story and very well told.

Friday 21 September 2012

Will Macmillan Jones

This is the first of Will's books that I've read although I know him from various forums.  I like his sense of humour and it's there in full in this book.

The Amulet of Kings - The Banned Underground

Amazon.com  The Amulet of Kings - The Banned Underground

My review -

I don’t know why I didn’t read this book ages ago – funny fantasy is so far up my street it’s practically sitting on the doorstep.  I think the blurb put me off and I expected a weak knock-off of Pratchett’s Band with Rocks In.  I’ve been wrong before.  (Often!)  The story was built from classic fantasy components; witches, mages, dwarves, dark lords, the Tuatha; and was embellished with some wonderfully witty humour and decorated with musical allusions.  A couple of teenage siblings are packed off to stay with their Auntie in the Lake District.  She has some strange powers and give the kids a couple of pendants to wear which come in very useful as they get embroiled in a battle under the Lakeland fells.

I have to say though, that I don’t like footnotes outside of a technical work.  In almost all cases the material they contain is better used in parentheses so as not to hold up the flow of the story.  There are many characters, so I didn’t feel I got to know any very well but of course this is the beginning of a series so there’s still time for that.  I don’t want to sound as if my minor quibbles coloured (colored!) my view of the book though.  Its light-hearted nature made it a joy to read.  The author expresses himself well and clearly and he evidently enjoys and delights in the word-play he uses to entertain us.

Will Macmillan Jones has a clever, jolly wit and it makes his work very enjoyable.  I shall be following this series with interest!

Thursday 13 September 2012

Karen Lowe

Karen's two previous books, which I read before I began to review, would also have received 5 stars from me.  They are gardening related murder mysteries.

Death in the Winter Garden
Amazon.com Death in the Winter Garden

Death in the Physic Garden
Amazon.com  Death in the Physic Garden

Her latest book involves both plants and quilts.  It could have been written just for me!

My review -

This is a delightful story which includes many of my favourite things - patchwork and quilting, family history, botany and a murder mystery. I've done all of them except murder! Bronwen, a quilt artist, is giving a lecture when a young girl, Cat, brings her a quilt which belonged to her great, great grandma. She wants to sell it and use the proceeds to leave home. Bron and Cat together start to research the family and to remove the hexagonal papers over which the quilt is formed. These are re-used letters and diary pages. Through these means we move back and forward in time and, like making a quilt, we piece together evidence to produce a whole fabric of history. In the meantime, a modern murder is committed and Bronwen, now settled in detective mode, has her suspicions.

Karen Lowe re-creates a past in which a young girl in a financially secure position tries to push the limits of acceptability to rid herself of an unwelcome new governess; she creates a present in which a young girl is in danger. Her writing is immediate and believable and we care about them both. I enjoyed this book very much and read it in 24 hours. I loved Karen's two earlier books so I knew I was in for a treat.

Nick Wastnage

Death in the Fishing Net

Amazon.com  Death in the Fishing Net

My review -

This is a short novel which I was able to read in an evening. Nevertheless it is packed with action and stuffed with believable characters. Monroe has a row with his wife, after which she leaves him. She is found murdered shortly afterwards. He later meets a new woman, Stevie and they marry. Stevie, through a series of discoveries, comes to believe that Monroe himself did away with his first wife. We follow her and Monroe's son Greg as they try to make sense of all this and begin to unravel the truth.

The writing is very good, crisp and immediate. I was very soon sucked in to the story and made to care about the characters. I found Stevie and Greg to be very sympathitic characters although perhaps the Police Inspector was too rude to be true! (Maybe I've only met the polite ones?) The last part of the story, as we came to realise what had happened, became very tense and exciting. A great little read, this!

Skyler West

They Won't be Missed

Amazon.com  They Won't be Missed

My review -

I enjoyed this story very much. Mark, a widower and a policeman, is trying to regain custody of his 6 year old daughter. He is a hot-headed man who sometimes makes bad decisions but when he seems to be getting close to finding out what's going on at a neighbouring housing project for the homeless, he gets in deeper trouble than he could have imagined. He is fired from his job, fitted up for a murder and goes on the run. Things go from bad to worse.

The story cranks up the excitement as we follow Mark's attempts to gain information and to save his daughter whose safety is threatened. I found this story fast and tense and really had trouble doing anything else all day. Fortunately it's a bank holiday! The writing style is easy and accessible and if you (like me!) love a high level conspiracy, you will really enjoy this book. I hope Skyler West is working on another.

Jacquelynn Luben

Tainted Tree

Amazon.com  Tainted Tree

My review -

I have previously only read a couple of Jacquie's short stories so I thought it was time I tackled something longer. This is a story of an American girl, adopted from birth after the death of her English mother. Addie finds she has inherited property and money from someone described as her mother's godfather. She comes to England to see the place, possibly to put it up for sale, and to find out more about the mystery of her family background.

Jacquelynn Luben is a classy writer. Her work is always clear, logical and uncluttered. Here she patiently displays for us the history of a family through 4 generations as discovered by Addie. Addie finds help from her benefactor's lawyer and his family. This is no dry genealogical tome, however. The author has the ability to descibe and evoke emotion so that we are drawn into the details of the story and we want, we need, to find out more. There is a sad family story which unfolds here and there's scope for the old discussion about nature or nurture as we see how the women's lives reflect one another down the years. Addie is a strong character though and her determination comes through. I enjoyed this book very much indeed.

Adam Sifre

Inside my Shorts

Amazon.com  Inside my Shorts

My review -

This is a really eclectic group of short stories which I found very accessible and easy to read. They included a couple of post apocalyptic stories and even these were very different from one another. One followed the last man alive whereas one took the stance that the Artificial Intelligences were keeping everything running. Many of the stories had a twist to them, or were from an unusual viewpoint. There's a touch of horror, a good dollop of humour, all human life is here.

There was a real `story-teller' tone to the writing. It was like having a friend tell you a tale over a glass of wine. A very enjoyable collection.

Jason P Stadtlander

Ruins of the Mind

Amazon.com  Ruins of the Mind

My review -

I have grown to enjoy short stories much more since I bought my kindle and this must be one of the best collections around. They are different from one another in style but they all have something in common. They have 'real' characters, protagonists who have feelings, needs, with whom you empathise. My heart was in my mouth with some of these stories and the subjects dealt with are not easy ones - cancer in a young mother, death of a parent etc. The author is very good at getting into the minds of children. Several of these stories feature youngsters and they and their worries are taken seriously. Some stories have an 'otherworldly' element to them. Fantasy, miracle, magic? - whatever you want to call it, there's just a little sprinkling of its dust on the edge of the tale which is quite uplifting.

The author tells us at the end of the book that he intends to turn one of them into a longer work. I look forward to this. It is a story with considerable potential and many unanswered questions. Jason Stadtlander writes with intelligence and passion and this is communicated to the reader. I just love this book!

Nigel Bird

Dirty Old Town

Amazon.com  Dirty Old Town

My review -

This is a very well-written book of short stories. I am enjoying shorts more and more since I bought my kindle. I would never previously have bought them or taken them out of the library. These stories are not only different in genre but in 'voice' - 'Sea Minor' is a haunting little tale told very convincingly in a child's voice (and is possibly my favourite). One or two are told in a vernacular style and some are third person narrations. All are successful examples of their genre and many give considerable food for thought.

It is rare that one reads a book of short stories and doesn't feel that a couple are make-weights and not up to standard. These are very good indeed.

Rosen Trevithick

Rosen writes over several genres but this book is a funny one.

Pompomberry House

Amazon.com  Pompomberry House

My review -

This is a warm, knowing and very funny elbow in the ribs of the epublishing community - writers, readers, forums, reviewers, all get a nudge and a wink in this clever spoof. A group of writers from a kindle forum meet at an Island retreat to produce an anthology. Afterwards, stories from the book begin to happen in real life. Spooky. Scary in fact, since some depict murder. The author has caught the excitement of the new era in publishing, and the desire of budding and experienced authors to establish themselves in that world and be appreciated for their talent. There's also a side-swipe at reviewers! Moreover, she has written it very cleverly. Dee, the first person narrator, tells her tale at times in a slightly self-conscious 'writerly' fashion, as though trying to sell us her story. Rosen Trevithick's own voice sings through though, in some extremely funny lines and memorable phrases.

This book is a truimph. We will all recognise some of the characters but wince in horror at some of the monstrous exaggerations she has turned some of them into. The story itself carries us through to a rollicking ending. So far I have only read a few of Rosen's short stories but enough to tell that whatever her subject, she is a talented writer. This contains that extra spark that has me jumping up and down, waving things in the air and shouting 'Five stars, five stars!'

Robert Franks

Bob is writing a series called The Glass Apple; of the three currently published I have given 5 stars to books 1 and 3 with book 2 a close second with 4 stars.  Here are the 5* reviews.

The Glass Apple

Amazon.com  The Glass Apple

This book is a wonderful work of imagination. It's a fantasy which moves through time and introduces us to some familiar characters - familiar if you love Celtic mythology anyway. It revolves around 3 children and their strange but endearing Grandad (who is much more than he seems to be). The children also prove to have hidden depths as the tale progresses. They are given a quest which takes them back in time and involves them with some great characters.

The action is fast paced in this story; it's exciting and gripping. It's a funny book too, you'll enjoy the humour. Robert Franks also writes some beautiful descriptive prose - he has a flair for this - and he can set a scene in a very special way.

There is another book in this series so I think I'm going to have to download that one - I really need to find out what happens.

The Song of the Shaman - Glass Apple Book 3

Amazon.com The Song of the Shaman

My review -

This is the third book in the Glass Apple series and it deals with the great questions posed in the earlier books. Although some of this is deadly serious, the evil Mebd and Kylie's missing little sister Anna, it has a light side. We see Etain becoming a woman again (instead of a plastic doll) and we are introduced to Jason's librarian friend, the gay and feisty Ant. In this volume the siblings and Ant are taken back through time to early America, the home of their mysterious father. Etain and Gobswistle meanwhile are present at the destruction of a huge road bridge and a scene of total devastation in the British Museum.

There are some wonderfully funny moments in this book. Although Robert Franks has a handle on the traditions of world mythology he doesn't get too serious and allows his delightful sense of humour to enliven it all. There is chaos and mayhem in abundance and a great deal of excitement. If you love fantasy you will love this book and those still to come.

Ruby Barnes

How to define Ruby Barnes' writing?  Apart from excellent!

The Crucible

Amazon.com   The Crucible

My review -

What a brilliantly written novel this is. In real life I am heartily indifferent to politics but this action filled thriller incorporates so much more. It is set in the near future and features Greg, a man who has invented a device for producing cheap power when dropped into a water course. He has his identity stolen by the mysterious but very powerful Thomas who is involved with restoring fortunes which have been acquired by self-serving African dictators. Meantime, the AIDS pandemic is increasing alarmingly and the Americans, fuelled by fundamentalist righteousness, are trying to wipe out Iran.

The characters are three dimensional - they have back-stories and family involvements that make them more than silhouettes. The writing is accomplished and professional and gave me a really satisfying reading experience. It is obvious that there will be more to come in this story and I will certainly follow up with reading Crucible #2. I can see that I have been missing out by not finding Ruby Barnes and his work until now. I intend to remedy that in short order! Highly recommended.

The Baptist

Amazon.com  The Baptist

My review -

This stupendous psychological thriller had me on the edge of my seat with my brain-cells fully in gear. It's a complex plot and is told from several stand-points. The main protagonist, John, spends some years in a mental hospital after killing his brother. There he meets Mary, a fellow patient. The hospital closes and the inmates are dispersed into the community, each with suitable medication. John marries and has a family. Eventually he takes himself off his medication. We are faced with several personalities in this story, and the clues are there to tell us what is happening. John has delusions and is helped by his old friend 'Mary' to try to bring them to fruition.

The story is very cleverly told and I found the device of multiple narrators took us to places that John himself could not. I do enjoy the author's style of writing. It's immediate and thrilling and he really catches the Irish speech modes in his dialogue. I finished this book almost breathlessly and I look forward to Ruby's next book. He's a very talented story teller.

Nell Grey

The Golden Web - Three Magical Women

Amazon.com  The golden Web - Three Magical Women

My review -

Nell Grey has a wonderfully poetic writing style well suited to this story. Ellie grows up with a deep connection to the land around and to the cycles of the year. She discovers she has abilities which her own instincts refine. We learn of her journey to find and join with other practitioners of the Old Religion, The Craft. In the second part (originally a separate story) we learn of her grandmother who had similar talents. You don't need to have any beliefs in witchcraft to enjoy this book. I found it entirely fascinating and beautifully told.

These days more of us are holding to ecologically based beliefs and the knowledge that humans cannot do as they wish with the world and simply take what they want. The balance shown in this book, the following of the cycles of the year as causes for celebration, all this rings true without a belief in the ways of Ellie's Hidden People. This is at its basic level, simply a gripping story of members of a family whose gifts are strange to most people but whose intentions in using them were good. It's a riveting read!

Martin Cosgrove

The Destiny of Ethan King

Amazon.com   The Destiny of Ethan King

My review -

This story of the growing into manhood of a young man from Merseyside is a variation of the tale of the `Mysterious Artefact from the Past with Miraculous Properties.' The really miraculous thing here though, is the young man himself, Ethan. Not only does he discover that he is gay but that he is the holder of supernatural powers. The usual troubled teenage angst really has plenty to go on. For those like myself, who love a touch of the supernatural and a dollop of the occult, this story is a must. You need to suspend your disbelief but then, that's what fiction is all about. The strength of this story is that we would all like to feel we are a little different, special, people of destiny. Ethan King really is. I will not spoil the story but simply say that we are perplexed as to what are the influences of good and evil in the book but we learn along with Ethan himself.

The writing is very accessible and the story, I felt, gathered pace to an exciting ending. I found myself eager to read on and discover what happened next. There were places where it set the reader to thinking. What would the result be of a source of infinite power? Would it free mankind or tempt the despotic to steal it for themselves and further enslave the poor. Nothing has a simple answer. Martin Cosgrove has a fluent writing style and some interesting ideas. I will certainly read whatever else he publishes.

Robert Clear

I loved this book; funny, fast, furious.

The Cambridge List

Amazon.com  The Cambridge List

My review -

This book reminds me of Tom Sharpe's work in that it becomes almost manically funny in places. Five monstrous and venal Cambridge classics dons meet a series of unlikely ends due to the influence of a group of egocentric and spiteful Olympians who are outraged at their lack of belief. James, an ex-student of the Cambridge List, who has also suffered injustice at the hands of the academics, is both the perpetrator and the victim here, as the gods are waging their personal vendettas in his brain. In spite of the fact that I would really be morally outraged at the thought of condoning murder, I was swept along with the story and loved the feuding gods and goddesses and the grossly immoral university staff.

I found the writing style intelligent, accessible and very funny. Humour is always a personal thing and I can't guarantee it will suit everybody but this book was entirely to my taste. If you love caricature, the exercise of a clever imagination and have a sense of the ridiculous it will be to yours too. I am delighted to learn that a sequel is on the cards

Steve Roach

Steve writes in many genres but I like his take on horror.

The Farda

Amazon.com  The Farda

My review -

This is a little gem of a book. The story concerns a grossly obsese man who is confined to his home because of his size. He has no friends and effectively no life. His predicament is sensitively described. He is about to trench his way through a crate of bananas when he find a huge spider (which can talk!) The growing relationship between the man and the spider is a delight as we watch it unfold. Steve Roach has a dark side to his humour though. Things go downhill!

This is a short story but as there's a small cast there is time for character development and the plot has a slight inevitability although I didn't see the final page coming. The author's writing style is skilful and accessible without being in any way simple. Short but sweet, this one, and well worth a read.

Filthy Shades of Gray

Amazon.com  Filthy Shades of Gray

My review -

It's difficult to review a book in terms of parody when you haven't read the book being parodied (there are still a few of us). However, the author states that it stands alone and I agree, it does. It's rude, crude and raunchy and in places downright gross but the purpose of parody is to exaggerate as well as to amuse. I downloaded the sample of the original book but found it very dry. I evidently didn't persist as far as the juicy bits! This short novel starts rather similarly to the book itself but is very funny. I have probably missed a good number of 'in' jokes which will mean more if you have read 'Grey'. As the book progresses though, it becomes darker and takes on a more thougtful tone. I feel that it actually became something else, something of its own. Instead of simply telling us 'what' it began to ask 'why' - and to tell us.

I'm sure this book will offend a few people but if you are up for it, it will amuse and amaze you. I read it in a single evening - I'm not sure if that tells you more about me than the book!

A K Dawson

Andrew writes in various genres and I enjoy his style.

Clan Fraser, Once Removed

Amazon.com  Clan Fraser, Once Removed

My review -

The main character in this book, Richard, is not a pleasant chap. He's self-obsessed, convinced he's brilliant at his job (graphic designer) and when he's sacked he's certain he will soon be snapped up by another company. His 22 year old special needs brother Charlie comes to stay with him. Charlie is a huge, happy and enthusiastic toddler in a man's body. Everyone loves him except the brother to whom he is a burden. Through its first person narration, we listen in on Richard's thoughts and from his views on other people and especially his brother, we get a clearer picture of his character than he has! There's a woman in the story, there's a castle, a sword and a Dad back home in South Africa. The story all comes together and towards the end we become aware that Richard has grown up a good deal and we like him a lot more.

Andrew Dawson is a fine writer with a delightful sense of humour. There are some wry smiles, some giggles and a few laugh-aloud moments here. I really enjoy his style and feel that at the end of the book I have learnt something about life and had my enjoyment of it reinforced. I recommend this lovely story wholeheartedly.

Poison Oak Summer - Part 1

Amazon.com  Poison Oak Summer - Part 1

My review -

I don't normally read books about teenagers but the product description for Poison Oak Summer drew me in. Lucy, an English eighteen year old, goes to work as a counsellor at an American Summer Camp. She is viewed by many as being boring and law abiding but so are many of us! She is burdened by a heartbreaking event in her recent past and hopes to try to forget a little. She finds the body of a little boy in the river but can't make anyone take her seriously.

The writing is superb and the characters felt real to the extent that I occasionally wanted to give Lucy a shake and to ground some of the girls! At the end of this book Lucy walks to the nearest town and finds some surprising, even shocking things about her fellow campers. The book is long novella length and is the first of three. I have already downloaded the other two. I NEED to know what happens next. It's intriguing, exciting and very good indeed!

Poison Oak Summer - Part 2

Amazon.com  Poison Oak Summer - Part 2

My review -

This second part of the Poison Oak Summer trilogy of novellas starts straight in with the excitement. I found myself deep in the story from the very beginning and AK Dawson ratchets up the tension expertly. I don't wish to give away the story but the young Summer Camp counsellor Lucy finds out about her fellow members of the camp and in the process does some growing up.

I find the author's style of writing fluent, deceptively simple and very engaging. The story continues in part 3 which I shall start immediately. I gave part 1 a 5* review. I now find myself reaching for a sixth!

Poison Oak Summer - Part 3

Amazon.com  Poison Oak Summer - Part 3

My review -

This concluding part of AK Dawson's wonderful story came to a really satisfying conclusion from my point of view. He is a talented writer and I've enjoyed all of these novellas. I can see that if published together they would make a rather long book but it's a great story. As with anything involving the paranormal I have had to undertake some willing suspension of disbelief but it has been a pleasure.

The story became complicated, characters' relationships more involved. The author has managed to make the 18 year old Lucy mature in a convincing way over these three books and she finds herself and her role by the end. I really recommend these books. They tell a great story.

Lisa Hinsley

My Demon

Amazon.com  My Demon

My review -

Although I found it took a while to get going (largely I suspect because the doings of teenage girls don't hold my attention these days!) I found the concept amazingly good. Alex, a nineteen year old girl, begins to see a demon who is visible to no-one else. The fact that he is devastatingly attractive helps him to persuade her to follow his suggestions. Later, as she tries to back out, he uses more forceful tactics. He informs her that humanity is being taken over by an alien species and she can tell by spotting the blue smoke coming from their eyes. He persuades her that for the good of humanity and for the sake of her own life, these people must be killed. This is a huge change of viewpoint on life for Alex. Is she delusional? Is he a figment of her mind or is is all true? She can, after all, see the blue smoke.

Once the demon began to exert his influence over Alex I found the tension and excitement mounted quickly for me. There are some 'hot stuff' moments when the demon uses his sexual influnce over her and some horrific scenes when Alex tries to resist. On one occasion he takes her out to prove it's all true and the results are gruesome. I was by then totally on her side and wanting a good outcome.

Eventually it's information from her past which comes to her aid. I didn't quite expect (but really enjoyed) the ending. There are still questions hanging after the book finishes but the sign of a good story is that you want more! A great read.

Andrew Lawston

I was amused to discover that this collection of strange stories got its name from Andrew's mother asking him when he was going to write 'Something Nice!'

Something Nice

Amazon.com  Something Nice

My review -

Andrew Lawston is a new writer to me although these stories have evidently had previous incarnations. There wasn't a single one I didn't enjoy. They were particularly well written and all had that little edge of discomfort. With many, you wondered if it could happen. The best accolade I can give him is that his stories didn't remind me of anyone else's work. He writes with his own voice. Long may he continue.

G L Breedon

The Wizard of Time

Amazon.com  The Wizard of Time

My review -

This book throws the reader into the deep end from the beginning. It is a faced paced fantasy adventure in which a young man discovers his gifts and his destiny and undergoes training as a Mage. Don't for a moment think 'Hogwarts' though. This is training on the job. Gabriel, the young Time Mage, find himself in a war between Good and Evil Mages and he realises that each side wants to 'use' him.

I kept finding myself thinking of Ursula Le Guin's work but this seemed to me to be faster paced and in some ways a more satisfying read. It also makes the reader think about good and evil and the fact that there can be grey areas. This is a must for fans of the Fantasy genre and it is obvious that there will be more to read about this charming young man, Gabriel. I'll be there when there is!

Kate Rigby

She Looks Pale

Amazon.com  She Looks Pale

My review -

This quirky and sad little story (10,000 words) is narrated by a little girl called Hannah and is convincingly child-like in its descriptions. I enjoy the first person narrative style because of its immediacy and this was particularly effective here. Sometimes we get more of an adult perspective as photo albums and other writing by adults are included. We realise that the child is helplessly in the grip of her parents' monstrous beliefs about the modern world. The characters were beliivable though not all likable by any means. Her mother's high standards eventually become tainted and deformed as the story progresses.

Kate Rigby's writing is deceptively simple, lucid and flowing. I do enjoy her style. It's creative and effective. On a personal note, I particularly enjoyed the fact that Hannah referred to the cat next door as the Funny Ossity. That's a term I haven't heard for years. My Gran used to call me a funniosity! Throughout the book, tone of a child's narration was true and I found it a most unusual and compelling story. A good and memorable read.

David Wailing

David Wailing writes modern fiction and deals with relationships in an unusual way.

Relationship Status

Amazon.com  Relationship Status

My review -

This short story (6,000 words or so) makes a great quick read for in between the longer books. It proposes that our technology will have grown so fast in the next 10 years that we can have an 'organiser' that learns our likes and dislikes (Google, Amazon, I see where he's coming from!).

I have not read much of David Wailing's work but enough to know that he has a clear and readable writing style and can certainly get to the heart of a story. I enjoyed this very much and now I REALLY must read one of his full length novels. It's a shame to know a talented author only by his shorts!


Amazon.com  Timeline

My review -

This is another short story set in the same imagined future as Relationship Status. Technology is managing people's lives to such an extent that their 'autos' or on-line assistants can take care of all daily needs including making and updating friendships. I enjoyed both these stories for the way they make me think about our current penchant for sharing our lives through digital media. Some of David's ideas seem wonderful and some absolutely monstrous! I wonder how far we will go in ten years? Currently certain on-line retailers cannot reliably predict which books I would like to read!

David Wailing's writing is clear, light hearted and modern in style and he tackles some unusual subjects and does it in depth. I like his style!

Fake Kate

Amazon.com  Fake Kate

My review -

In this exciting story by David Wailing, Belinda impersonates her sister Kate in an attempt to discover why she has suddenly disappeared. She attends 8 meetings her sister has set up on an internet dating site. At each she learns more about her sister, much more than she bargained for. The story ducks and weaves as we follow Belinda's efforts to appear and act more like her sister.

David Wailing takes an ordinary relationship and asks us, `How well do you know anyone? How well do you know yourself?' His writing style is well suited to following the trivialities of the lives of clubbers and DJs and then finding the deeper levels. He is a thoughtful writer and sets the reader challenges. There is often more to his characters than at first appears. This is the case here and our preconceptions are knocked down time and again. The ending of this book seems to have divided readers. You can count me firmly in the positive camp. I love it when an author leaves me something to think about. This is a great story, well told.

Friend Request

Amazon.com  Friend Request

My review -

This short story is yet another little gem set in David Wailing's near future world. This will make you want to switch off your phone! It's set in a time not too far away when we all have electronic 'autos', effectively personal assistants, to which we confide our deepest secrets. What if your secrets came to light? What if the autos talk to one another and spill the beans?

This is funny, thought provoking and also rather horrific! Is there any one of us without some little bit of information we wouldn't like spread abroad? As always, David's writing is clear and unfussy, with a modern feel. He can get technical about the computery stuff without losing me - quite a feat. This is a very enjoyable read which gives you something to mull over - what more do you want from a book?

Jamie Sinclair

Jamie writes a good story with great characters and uses some inspired language to do so.

All the Fun of the Fair

Amazon.com  All the Fun of the Fair

My review -

This is my first Jamie Sinclair book and I was mightily impressed. It begins by introducing us to a selection of dysfunctional characters, living lives on the edge of society - social misfits. Gradually as their stories unfold to us, their lives touch each other tangentially, coalesce in some cases, and I found myself fascinated. It is a difficult book to stop reading!

I enjoyed the style, the dipping in and out of lives, the eventual realisation that many were interlinked. I also loved Jamie Sinclair's use of vocabulary. We have so many nuances in our language - we are lucky and should use them. Each apparent synonym conveys a different shade of meaning and I love to see the language used more extensively. The denoument of the book is wonderful. Some of the characters 'came good' and reached within themselves for the sake of others. Some managed, through finding each other, to excise the poison of their past relationships. (Slime balls still remain slimeballs though, but we relish their downfall!) This is altogether a satisfying and enjoyable read and I thoroughly recommend it.

Jon Rosenberg

I read Jon's first two books in the Hidden Academy series before I began to write reviews.  Had I been reviewing then, I would definitely have given the first book The Unicorn Crisis a five star review and The Digital Wolf a four star.  Pantheon was so dark and wonderful - back to five again!

Pantheon of the Dead (Hidden Academy)

Amazon.com Pantheon of the Dead (Hidden Academy)

My review -

The third volume of Jon Rosenberg's Hidden Academy series will not disappoint any of his many fans. David Ash goes up against the Greek gods who are trying to regain their old powers. He needs to enable the return of his fellow Summoners who have all been spirited away and he journeys into Hades to do so. The work is darker, more thoughtful, than the earlier books which often contained a good deal of humour. Jon has moved his writing up to a new level with this story.

What impresses me greatly is the descriptive talent he displays in showing us the use of Ash's powers. There is some wonderful writing here and to be able to explain and describe so clearly a process which doesn't exist is an enviable skill. I read it, I saw it in my mind, I believed it. This book will enhance Jon Rosenberg's reputation as a skilled storyteller. His writing is developing both in style and in power. I loved it!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

D M Andrews

Darren writes in different genres.  He's a hard man to categorise.

The Serpent in the Glass

Amazon.com  The Serpent in the Glass

My review -

This is an excellent story, allegedly for young readers but interestingy told so that it will appeal to adult fantasy readers too. I always feel you need to be at least as good a writer and possibly better to write for the young, who do not suffer fools gladly. They are not prepared to wait for long expositions or scene setting and demand action, sense and a darned good story. They get them all here. Thomas Farrell, an orphan, goes to boarding school after his 11th birthday and for the first time, has friends other than his adopted sister.

We find out, with Thomas, about the school he attends, the place it 'joins' in another world and his father's place there. We meet other races from this world too, which to me, harked back a little to Alan Garner's wonderful creations. There are echoes of Celtic mythology too - very nicely done. There is some lovely writing here, especially when Thomas first discovers Darkledun Grange. The pace of the story is just right and there were exciting episodes in there that kept me reading much longer than I should have been! I enjoyed this very much and I was pleased to see from the ending, that the way is left open for more from these believable characters.

This next book, a novella really, gave me a huge lot of pleasure.

Pied and Prodigious

Amazon.com  Pied and Prodigious

My review -

This book is a little gem! I was privileged to read this pre-publication and I enjoyed it so much! I am a very keen Jane Austen fan and have read Pride and Prejudice at least half a dozen times so I am aware of how closely D M Andrews has followed the orignial. His take on the names gave me many a giggle and I found myself looking forward to how he would deal with Mr Coggins' risible and ego-centric proposal to Lizzy and the appearance at her home of the monstrous Lady Catherine de Bore. I was not let down! There are some laugh aloud moments in this book, particularly when the author, in the midst of following Miss Austen's story very closely, drops in a modern expression.

This is very different from D M Andrews' previous book The Serpent in the Glass (The Tale of Thomas Farrell) and demonstrates his versatility as an author. The better you know Pride and Prejudice the more you will appreciate his talent at parody. I enjoyed this book very much. It remained respectful to the original but the resulting humorous version is one I feel sure Jane Austen herself would have laughed at.

Ian Ayris

I shouldn't have liked this book.  I loved it!

Abide with Me

Amazon.com  Abide with Me

My review -

On the surface I shouldn't like this book at all. I do like my correct English, spelling and grammar and this book is written in East End vernacular. It also heavily features football, which is of no interest to me at all. I began reading with trepidation but after a page or two I found that instead of reading 'incorrect English' I was listening to Johnny Sissons' voice in my head. It was excellently done and 'hearing' it like that made you feel you were sharing his thoughts.

It's a tale told in the first person by a lad from a caring family who grows up with their values. We start with him in the top end of his primary school where he looks out for his neighbour, a fat and intellectually challenged boy who is the target of bullies. He discovers that Kenny is also a target at home for his own father. John shows deep emotions; he really loves his little sister, he respects his parents and loves The Hammers. Even a non-footie person could pick up the excitement and cameraderie of the football matches, especially the final, which has such final results for his family.

Over the next few years we see influences on John which result in his imprisonment. He still lives by his own moral compass though, except that it gradually becomes flawed. His 'lightbulb moment' when he sees what he has become and what it means for his mother and sister is brilliantly done. The ending is fast, exciting, inevitable. This is a surprising and wonderful book. It will challenge you, make you think, pull at your emotions. I highly recommend it.

Jim Chaseley

Jim's manic cyborg stole my heart!


Amazon.com  Z14

My review -

This funny fantasy sci-fi story concerns a cyborg who can only remember the past 5 years and makes a living as an assassin. Not a prepossessing figure you might think but in his computer brain is the remains of human elements from his former life and this often influences his decisions. He is a Robin Hood figure and if he deems the hirer to be less worthy than the victim he `reverse assassinates'. He joins forces with some strange human rebels and a technically dead professor to try to protect his planet, an earth colony, from some anatomically strange blue aliens. It's all in here!

I love this sort of light hearted fantasy and it dropped onto my Kindle just as life made me really appreciate a laugh. You need to suspend your disbelief but if you do you will have an enjoyable ride. Our hero Zed, or Zee as he is sometimes called to his annoyance, becomes gradually more dismembered as the story proceeds but still manages to come out a winner. There is one little episode (about his son) which was short, powerful and not at all sentimental, which I thought was brilliantly done.

The author's sense of humour really chimes with my own. I loved the ending and eagerly anticipate another Z14 book. I hope I don't have to wait too long for it.

Katie W Stewart

Kaie writes fantasy for Young Adults but doesn't write down to them.

Mark of the Dragon Queen

Amazon.com  Mark of the Dragon Queen

My review -

This book, written for Young Adults, had this Old Adult completely in thrall. I enjoy fantasy fiction and this, with its magicians, dragons, crystals, had the lot. It was imaginative, the story moved along at a good pace and I was drawn in from the beginning. There was some lovely use of language in here too and the characters were exceptionally well drawn. I found them believable. Good people can be saccharine if not allowed to have some flaws but these were great characters, warts and all.

I love a book whose author's passion for the story pulls me in. I can't abide blandness. This tale explored many deep emotions, anger, fear, suspicion, jealousy, love, hope, despair and loyalty. It pulled no punches in regard to its younger readers. I enjoyed every minute of this book and was sorry when it ended.

Paul Dale

Paul's book takes the fantasy genre and rather turns it on its head. 

The Dark Lord's Handbook

Amazon.com  The Dark Lord's Handbook

My review -

A Dark Lord is Rising. He is opposed by a Hero. There are a couple of dragons who spend much of their time in human guise. There are orcs, downtrodden and despised. There are political machinations and skulduggery galore. Pretty standard fantasy stuff eh? Not likely! Paul Dale has produced a fantasy adventure with an inept Dark Lord still learning the business from his mysterious handbook. The Hero is a shouty bumpkin with a serious sword and no common sense. The fantasy hero story is turned on its head and you are really rooting for the Dark Lord in this clever, funny, witty tale.

Paul Dale writes ripping yarns adventure with a tongue in cheek humour that I found enchanting. His characters are wonderful. The `love interest' for both the Dark Lord and the Hero is a stubborn, bad-tempered foul-mouthed piece called Griselda - I love her! Any lover of the fantasy genre is going to find this a hard book to put down. It's a jolly good read!

Monday 10 September 2012

Beverley Carter

Beverley writes short but perfectly proportion novellas.  I haven't read one that I've not enjoyed.

The Tonic

Amazon.com  The Tonic

My review -

This little novella is a gem. I read it in an evening and it had everything I want from a book. Beverley Carter writes very well. The story was intriguing, the characters, in spite of the fact that the work was short, were well balanced. There was a forthright and practical 96 year old, a keen but concerned researcher, an efficient yet sensitive doctor's secretary and of course, the dastardly pharmaceutical industry, bent on profit. The story was well paced and I almost read it at a sitting it was so good.
There is a glorious and satisfying end to this little book too. What more could you want? I would recommend this work without hesitation.

The House on Tremawney Hill

Amazon.com  The House on Tremawney Hill

My review -

This is another excellent novella by Beverley Carter. Lorna buys a run-down property in Cornwall shortly after the death of her controlling husband. In her new found freedom she makes some good friends. The cottage she buys though, is rather spooky.

This is an atmospheric story and Beverley Carter is always able to create characters we can relate to, we like, we soon feel we know. Although the book is short, you can really get your teeth into a story with enough meat to satisfy any literary appetite. A compelling and enjoyable read.

The Surrogate Vigilante

Amazon.com The Surrogate Vigilante

My review -

I have only just discovered Beverley Carter and she is a natural story teller. This novella places us in something of a moral maze. It asks us how we would react if given the chance to right a judicial wrong. The protagonist is given this opportunity and right to the very end we don't know if he will do it or bottle out. I don't want to give anything away but I'll say that the ending was a complete surprise but in the most satisfying of ways.
I often feel that the short story or novella is a difficult thing to get right. Either a thin story-line is stretched out too far or in order to complete the tale, the characters are insufficiently fleshed out. In both the novellas I have read by Beverley Carter, she has struck the balance and produced a finely crafted book. I look forward to reading more from her.

The Tide Will Turn

Amazon.com  The Tide Will Turn

My review -

Beverley Carter's latest novella keeps up her high standard. She is very good at drawing believable characters, getting into their heads and allowing you to get in there too. These two men, Cliff and Gary, are lifelong friends. Their journey along the coast throws up some real surprises.

Beverley Carter's writing is always clear and unfussy. She excels at novella writing because she can get to the heart of a story. She throws up moral dilemmas and most of what she writes sets me thinking. This little tale was interesting and gripped me throughout. Her endings are always unpredictable too!

Alison Buck

Alison writes horror; not blood and guts horror but classy horror.  She has an elegant writing style which I admiore very much.

Abiding Evil

Amazon.com  Abiding Evil

My review -

Let me assure potential readers that Abiding Evil will stay with you long after you've read it. It is 'filmic' - I'd love to see Hollywood have a go! It's packed with characters, all well written, some that you like and some you really find distasteful - all human life is there! It has that quality that true, good horror fiction has, that makes you feel the chill on the back of your neck and the thought that this could possibly happen. I find myself wondering if there are some places that have an evil 'nature' about them. Places where bad things happen.

Without giving anything away I think I can mention the soft spot I had for the 'excluded' person in the woods. None of these characters is a stereotype. They are all rounded and believable which makes the bad that happens seem all the worse. Some of the descriptive passages are truly scary. It's a very exciting ride - fasten your seat belt!

Devoted Sisters

Amazon.com  Devoted Sisters

My review -

Two elderly sisters, Lizzie and May, have isolated themselves from the world for many years. Lizzie is afraid of the dangers of modern living and May is fragile both in body and mind. They are bound together by a promise made to their mother. Lizzie must look after May, May must obey her older sister.

Alison Buck is fine and elegant writer and always able to get inside the mind of her characters. Gradually the sisters' relationship breaks down and we become aware that they are not 'seeing' the same things. They are hallucinating and becoming irrational in their thought patterns. Reference is made several times to the sisters growing their own cereal to add to bread - I put two and two together! The ending is dramatic but under the circumstances, believable.

Alison can write beautiful description and sinister, threatening nightmare. The juxtaposition in the same story is delightful. A jolly good read, this!

Harry Nicholson

Harry writes poetry and you can tell.  There is a dancing of verse beneath his descriptions.

Tom Fleck

Amazon.com Tom Fleck

My review -

I have really enjoyed reading this book. It is set at the time of the battle of Flodden and tells story of a young cattle man from the Tees-side area. It helped that I know much of the area but that's just an extra for me. I loved the dialect words too, which added to the 'true' feel of the narrative. The author is evidently a keen observer and lover of natural history. Most of the book is set outdoors and he never fails to mention birds and plants in his descriptions which are sensitive and poetic.
The historical aspect of this book must have been researched in detail as it rings so true. This is a very satisfying book to read and I recommend it most heartily.

Sophie Robbins

Sophie is a young author with, if this is an example, great prospects.

A Hole in the World

Amazon.com  A Hole in the World

My review -

In theory I wouldn't enjoy this book. It's a relationship driven, romantic fairy tale which features and is probably aimed at young adults. In fact, it's exactly the genre I wouldn't read. However, it was one of the Goodreads Christmas Gifts, donated by authors - thank you Sophie, you did me a favour! It was beautifully written and the author engages the reader in a remarkable way. The story is interesting, the pace is sustained and the end is quite exciting. Even those of us long out of our young adulthood can remember the feelings, self doubts and anxieties that filled our lives at that stage. Sophie Robbins writes carefully and cleverly and the characters leap from the page.
I enjoyed this book very much and I think Sophie is a young author well worth watching.

Ravi Veloo

This looks like being the first in a series and I look forward to reading more.  A great concept.

Radio Multiverse

Amazon.com  Radio Multiverse

My review -

This is a really well written book from the point of view of its lack of English language errors and typos, the curse of the self proof-read indie author. The concept is fascinating too though I'm not sure I understood all of the science. I have a science degree but 'back in those days' they hadn't invented string theory! However, it was all explained clearly and in a fascinating manner. The main action of the book is what would normally be called 'thriller' in that there are multiple strands of plot line and several groups trying to catch up with Paul, the man who received the radio communication.
I found it gripping, very hard to put down and I look forward to reading more of this 'multiverse'. Much was explained but there are still enough loose threads to ensure that a sequel will be eagerly sought by those who, like me, have found this book so enjoyable.

John A A Logan

John's first novel, Thomas Ford, is a strangely ethereal thriller/mystery which had great depths.  I loved it.

The Survival of Thomas Ford

Amazon.com  The Survival of Thomas Ford

My review -

This book starts with a death in a motoring accident and the survivor of the crash becomes engrossed in trying to find the man who caused it. We are drawn into the life of the perpetrator, an amoral man, whose family and friends are evil or weak. There are some really strong characters in this book yet somehow I didn't feel I got to grips with Thomas Ford himself.

It is a very compelling story and I tried for 15 minutes to put it down after lunch today! The writing is really well crafted and there are certain parts of the story where I found myself wondering if the supernatural would play a part. I'm still not sure!

There is a lot to think about in this book; about survivor guilt, about the corrupting effects of the love of power, status and money, about how family ties can prevent us discerning the difference between good and evil. There is a little reference or two to the influence of Grandmothers. I liked that too! I recommend this book as a really good story.

His second book is a compilation of short stories.

Storm Damage

My review -

This book of short stories is elegantly told in John Logan's etheral, dancing prose. Whatever this man says, he says it beautifully. The stories are like modern day fables, and from each one we can take a lesson, a thought; sometimes a rather deep one. It's always hard to choose favourites from a book where each story has its own place in the collection but I found Late Testing very gripping, I loved the emotional ending of The Airman and The Orange Pig really was Aesopian. A couple of the stories nudged at the theme of looking back at the end of life and did it very well.

There's no doubt that John Logan is a skillful writer. You can skate on the surface of his prose and enjoy his work but if you take a breath and go below the surface there is always so much more there than you thought (like a swan!) I usually buy short stories thinking I will read one or two between longer books but sometimes you just have to be greedy. I defy anyone to put this down once started. A memorable collection, and I hope there are more!

Lexie Conyngham

Lexie writes historical murder mysteries.

Death in a Scarlet Gown

Amazon.com  Death in a Scarlet Gown

My review -

This is the first book in what I hope will be a long series. The young man Charles Murray has a serious falling out with his father over his future. Young Charles is a natural academic but his father wants him to take his place in society and help with running the family's estates. We meet with characters both pleasant and unpleasant and of course with murder most foul. The writing is superb and there's enough action to keep us on the edge of our seats, both with the progress of investigation of the mysterious deaths and with Murray's fight to stay in St Andrew's to take his MA.

Murray is a really 3 dimensional character, with his own likes, dislikes and prejudices etc. I hope to read much more about him!

Knowledge of Sins Past

Amazon.com  Knowledge of Sins Past

My review -

Charles Murray, cut off financially by his father, is forced to make a living in spite of being heir to a great estate of his own. He does this by taking the post of Private Secretary to Lord Scoggie and tutor to his sons. The setting at Scoggie Castle, the locals who have historic reasons to detest one another, the one-legged war hero and of course, the two young lads Murray has to teach, give a huge variety to the writing. The boys are real little lads - I think I know them! Murray is a well rounded character - not a perfect know-all - and you can really warm to him.
The rest of the family and the locals are well drawn and the writing overall is excellent and the story gripping from the start.
I understand there are more Murray of Letho books in the wings. I really look forward to them.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Seb Kirby

Seb Kirby's books are most certainly thrillers though the first two are rather different in theme and style.  I have very much enjoyed them both.

Take No More

Amazon.com  Take No More

My review -

This is a wonderful novel from a new author and I hope it will be the first of many. The plot moves fast and often surprisingly. There is much to admire about Seb Kirby's knowledge of the art world and there's plotting and deceit in the criminal underworld to contend with too. Seb is a master at writing emotion without overdoing it. He can make you feel the full jolt under the heart from bereavement, the lack of purpose felt by those who experience it, but he is never soppy about it. He can also express utter joy in a way many authors would love to be able to do.

I really enjoyed this book. It's a very satisfying read from an intelligent and talented author. More, please.

Double Bind

Amazon .com  Double Bind

My review -

Seb Kirby has taken a new direction in his second novel. It is at heart a deeply intriguing psychological thriller.
I would say it leans a little towards science fiction although it still contains elements of mystery and murder as in his debut novel Take No More (The murder mystery thriller). Imagine not only the sort of identity theft where someone steals your credit card and passwords but where s/he effectively becomes you. The physical resemblance is so close it fools your nearest and dearest. This is not Sci-fi in the tentacled green monsters or whizzy machines sense but it concerns the potential destruction of our planet at our own hands.

I began by suspecting the narrator, Raymond Bridges, of concocting the story for his own ends but as the book progressed I found him a sympathetic character and was really rooting for him. Had I been a nail-biter I'd have been up to my elbows by about 85%. The chapters are short so it's tempting just to read another... and another! The book is narrated by a character who is not familiar with the use of the past tense and initially this takes a little getting used to. It doesn't hinder the flow of the story though and I found it an effective ploy for distancing him from others.

Friday 7 September 2012

Ken Magee

Ken Magee writes very funny fantasy novels which manage to combine the internet with ancient magic.

Dark Tidings

Amazon.com  Dark Tidings

My review -

What an unusual cross-genre book this is, and how heartily I have laughed at and enjoyed it! There are two parallel story lines for the first part of the book, one being set a millennium ago and its two major characters being an elderly magician and a young thief. The other story line follows a young securities expert in a big bank, who discovered that money is being syphoned into the vaults of the already rich, to the detriment of the poorer savers. Incredibly, the first two characters time-shift and the three meet. So far, so fantasy.

The later chapters become the most wonderful, story-twisting thriller where, on so many occasions, I wondered what was going to happen. Usually it didn't; something completely unexpected happened. I found these characters so interesting and engaging that I was stuck to the book to find out the outcome. Ken Magee has a delightful sense of humour and the whole book was a joy. I would love to think he has more in store for this odd bunch! I really recommend this to anyone who loves a good tale, well told.

Amazon.com  The Black Conspiracy

My review -

This wonderful book takes the story forward from Ken Magee's debut novel Dark Tidings. It's a fantasy but with a difference - ancient magic meets big banking and the internet. The characters from the first book are even better fleshed out here and we meet some new ones. A favourite of mine is Tung. He's illiterate, inept, can't get to grips with the modern world - he makes me feel good about myself! He has depths though and the team would be totally lost without him. There's a huge conspiracy by the Black Magicians to take over the world and ensure that evil reigns. Just a few good men (and an elderly wizard and an inept illiterate) stand in their way.

This is a hugely funny book. Ken Magee's sense of humour shines out through the story and leaves the reader with some beautifully memorable phrases. It's not often that I've encountered the Universe as a character. She's a corker, if a little unpredictable after a tipple! He is a clever and fluent writer and I enjoy his work immensely. I detected enough little loose ends to allow me to hope that there will be more of the same. Utterly brilliant!

R J Askew

Ron Askew has a background in journalism and is obviously a man who loves words.  So do I and I love his work!

Watching Swifts

Amazon.com  Watching Swifts

My review -

This book tells the story of a relationship which takes place over a few summer months. A woman who is a war photographer meets a man selling ice-cream in Kew Gardens and he starts to draw her. Over the months she returns and he continues. As he draws, he talks, initially about the swifts he constantly watches. Most of the book is his words and a scattering of poems as his own life story comes out. He also tell us about some of the other workers and some of the visitors.

If you love creative language you will warm to this book very quickly. Tom, known to his fellow workers as Leonardo because of his drawings, gradually lets his own story come through and we see how he has coped with a life full of problems. He has become a rounded person unlike some of those he tells us about. The gardener, Parker, an angry and dissatisfied person, finds an equilibrium in a surprising manner.

There are real depths to ponder here; redemption after disastrous failings; the difference between 'real' and 'perfect' love, for example. It is a book that will stay with me and I loved reading it. It's one of those you don't want to finish.