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!