Sunday 28 December 2014

Cecilia Peartree

This is the fourth in the series. They get better when you know the characters and their foibles. Excellent stuff.

My review - 

Every now and again an author creates a character capable of carrying a whole series. Amaryllis Peebles is such a character, but that’s not to say that the rest of the cast are two-dimensional. Amaryllis, recently retired from her high-powered job in national security - basically, she was a spy – finds so much going on in little Pitkirtly that she’s never bored. She is the woman many of us would like to be. She’s intelligent, resourceful, unconventional, and she doesn’t give a toss if her hair’s sticking up!

In this episode, three secretive siblings start up an unusual dating agency, and, this being Pirkirtly, even those happily paired up go along to see what’s happening. This story continues in the same vein as earlier ones – there's a body but it's not gorily displayed, and a good deal of wit and charm in the writing. These books are very enjoyable – I shall continue with them.

Monday 8 December 2014

Jonathan Hill

Maureen's back! I am one of many people who love the Maureen series of books. They are superficially silly but always contains nuggets of observation of the human condition. This is the best yet, in my opinion.

Maureen's Christmas Carol Maureen's Christmas Carol

My review -

Widow Maureen Banks is preparing to spend Christmas Day on her own in the company of chocolates, sherry and a few favourite films, in spite of a plea from her pal Louisa to join her and a few friends for lunch. On Christmas Eve, Maureen sees her late husband Roy telling her not to spend Christmas alone. He tells her she'll receive a warning from three spirits There's some of the usual silly slapstick we're used to from Maureen but this is also edgy and surreal in places. I really enjoyed spotting references to the Dickens original in this version.

Although this stands perfectly well as a story in its own right, I've enjoyed watching the Maureen series progress as the author's writing style has evolved. I feel it's very assured and has, like a good sherry, matured. I also loved the fact that, from Maureen and Louisa's rivalry there has emerged, by the end of this book, a spirit of cooperation. Look out, 2015 - they're in this together!

Saturday 6 December 2014

Martin Roy Smith

This author is new to me but I read this novella in a couple of evenings and really enjoyed it.

Amazon .com Eden

My review -

Adam is an archaeologist serving as a captain in the American army in Iraq. A dust storm has cleared some previously unknown ruins in the desert and he and a few colleagues are sent to investigate it. The information he finds changes his view of the origins of the human species.

This story takes a path perhaps familiar to some readers of this genre. Did we evolve as other creatures did or were we 'helped' in any way? I loved the way that various creation myths were invoked, some of which I was familiar with already. Towards the end the story took a turn which I hadn't expected. This isn't a long read but it's fluent and persuasive. I enjoyed it very much.

Friday 5 December 2014


This is a first novel but I found it very accomplished. It's not what you think!

The Magician in the Attic The Magician in the Attic

My review - 

If a young magician learning from an older mentor sounds like a Potter knock-off, you couldn’t be further from the truth. This isn’t wizardry, it’s magic as in card-tricks, disappearances, sleight of hand and escapology. Alex is given the gift of magic lessons from his mother but his teacher isn’t the person she thinks it is. He’s directed up to the top of the building and meets a man who shows him that as well as remarkable equipment, the best magician needs a stage presence and a well-structured show. He doesn’t know why this man is teaching him. We don’t find out right until the end.

This story kept me interested right the way through. I thought the insight into stage magic was a great part of the story and I loved the character of Alex. He knew he was good but he was often unsure of the motives of Francis Curlew, his teacher. So was I! Now that I know the ending I eagerly anticipate the next episode. I think it will be darker. A very good read.

Monday 24 November 2014

Katie W Stewart

A story for younger children which I enjoyed very much. The Dragon Box

My review -

This is a children’s story about James, a boy who takes part in what seems to be an adventure game, conceived by and featuring his elderly neighbour Mack. In the game, he meets characters who very closely resemble people he knows in real life. Mack assures him that he is safe and he can quit and exit the game at any time. He carries a device with a red button in his pocket for this purpose. The story takes the form of the traditional ‘quest’ tale with James being sent to search for three seemingly impossible things to bring back to the witch, Khalana. Although Mack could tell him the answers, he encourages James to work things out for himself.

This is a lovely, fluent story which will appeal to the sense of adventure in all children. There is often a real sense of danger and we are relieved each time James succeeds. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who was enchanted with the little dragon on the cover, which James called Ben. A book for younger readers will often fail to keep an adult’s attention but this was a splendid story, beautifully told. What more do you need to encourage young readers to become old readers?

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Cecilia Peartree

As you can see, I'm on a bit of a roll with these books but I have a couple of other books to read now before I can get back to them. I will be back!

A Reformed Character

Amazon . com A Reformed Character

My review - 

There are several people who could be fingered as the reformed character of the title. Christopher, in a new job, becomes dynamic. Darren, the not-quite-naughty boy, has an alibi though initially things look rather dark for him, Jock discovers an affinity with cats and even Amaryllis, ex-spy and hard woman, takes up knitting. This story has its twists and turns and surprised me on a few occasions.

This is another delightfully dotty and pleasurable read with characters I feel closer to in each book. It’s a cosy mystery in the sense that we don’t see too much of the blood and guts but there’s a definite sense of body-count here – it’s a nice story but it’s by no means bland. I really enjoy this style of humour and suspense. Altogether a great read.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Cecilia Peartree

This is the second in the series. I'm trying to read them in order!

Reunited in Death - Pitkirtly 2 Reunited in Death - Pitkirtly 2

My review -

Who'd have thought researching your family history could be dangerous? Jemima Stevenson, a nice little old lady, organises a Homecoming Day in Pitkirtly and the bodies start piling up. Amaryllis is looking after three young Tibetans and everyone's looking for a mud-coloured man. It could only happen in Pitkirtly.

This second book set in a Scottish village benefits from the fact that the characters are now familiar friends. I love the strong and sassy Amaryllis, the supportive but self-effacing Christopher, the solid, dependable (but maybe a bit dodgy?) Dave and the dotty and surprising Jemima. I also very much enjoyed the humour again. There are some luscious phrases - I particularly enjoyed Amaryllis's 'expiatory attack of niceness'. This is a series that's so easy to sink yourself into. I've started the next!

Monday 27 October 2014

Martin Cosgrove

This is the sequel to The Destiny of Ethan King. It can be read as a stand-alone but you'll miss subtleties if you do. 

Kara Kara

My review -

As a child, Kara Reyne is aware of having the memories of someone else – a man. As she grows she becomes aware that she has a special power and she meets a group of others, people who are outlawed, who also have banned powers. It’s her destiny to bring Universal Matter to the world. Her earlier incarnation, Ethan King, found it but it’s now hidden. It will bring down those who have an economic strangle-hold on a failing and increasingly brutal world. People are falling prey to lung and breathing problems and anyone exhibiting supernatural powers in public is put in a detention camp and left to rot. This has a huge impact upon Kara’s own childhood.

This is a story full of action, of good people and bad people who are not always all they seem. Kara is a classic case of someone who has destiny thrust upon her. I really enjoyed the scenes of people using their powers. It’s not easy to describe someone bending the laws of nature yet the author did this superbly in The Destiny of Ethan King too. Martin Cosgrove’s writing can take you to places as different as run-down inner cities and beautiful, unspoilt woodland. The characters are well drawn and three dimensional and I enjoyed and became really wrapped up in the story. A jolly good read.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Cecilia Peartree

This is the first of a series I've been meaning to read for some time. On the strength of this I can see myself working through them!

Crime in the Community Crime in the Community

My review -

Amaryllis Peebles is, at 40, a retired spy. She comes to live in Pitkirtly and muscles in on PLIF –the Pitkirtly Local Improvement Forum. The members of the committee have treated this as an informal drinking and social group, meeting as they do in a local pub. Amaryllis proposes that they do up the local village hall which is in a state of decrepitude, so that they, and other village groups, have a better meeting place. Naturally, as a new broom, her clean sweeping is resented. Christopher Wilson, chair of the group, seems particularly uncomfortable about actually improving the village.

This story takes a sassy woman with an uncommon range of skills and drops her into a serene (on the surface) little village and the results are fun and frantic. I loved the characters – living in a village community myself I recognised several types! The writing was witty and most enjoyable to read. As this is the first of a series, I can see I have more treats in store!

Wednesday 15 October 2014

E M Foner

E M Foner is a new author to me, and as an American, his work is better known over there than here. It deserves to be read everywhere!

Date Night on Union Station

Amazon .com  Date Night on Union Station

My review - 

Date Night on Union Station is a comedy sci-fi story which I enjoyed very much. Union Station is run by benign artificial intelligences and Kelly Franks is the earth’s top diplomat, later promoted to acting ambassador, though the pay doesn’t reflect the job. She’s given a gift of 5 sessions with a dating agency. The agency is also operated by the artificial intelligence.

This isn’t a sort of holding your sides comedy but a streak of humour runs throughout it and it very much appealed to me. The characters are strong and you must look out for the scheming, manipulative little flower sellers. I loved them! The ending was satisfying and there’s a sequel which I must get around to reading. I want to know what happens to the people I enjoyed spending time with.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Wendy Percival

This is the first of the Esme Quentin mysteries. Typically, I read it second but I don't think it matters. They are each excellent stand-alone stories which just happen to have the same main character in common.

Blood-Tied Blood-Tied

My review -

This is the first of Wendy Percival’s Esme Quentin genealogical tales. I read the second one recently which stands alone very well but I thought it would make sense to read the first now. It’s a mystery, has touches of thriller but mainly it explores what it is to be ‘family’. Esme’s sister Liz is in hospital, in a coma. It could be because of an accident but it’s possibly as a result of an attack as she was seen arguing with someone shortly beforehand. Her niece, Gemma, is not particularly pleased when Esme starts to investigate.

I enjoyed the characters in this story and began to care about them. Without giving the story away, I especially like Polly, the elderly lady who seemed careless of her own assets and happy to see them disposed of at a snip of a price. Esme wants to help her but finds out far more about her own and Polly’s families as she does so. It’s a great story, well researched and it never dragged for a moment. 

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Wendy Percival

Wendy is a new writer to me but I'll be reading more of her work after this.

The Indelible Stain The Indelible Stain

My review -

This is the second book in the Esme Quentin mysteries, genealogical conundrums which Esme picks apart. I confess that I haven’t read the first and no doubt it would have added depth to Esme’s character if I had, but the book stands as a complete story and I felt nothing was lacking. Esme arrives at a coastal town to help an old friend to catalogue some documents and the moment she arrives she finds a woman on the beach at the foot of the cliffs, dying. She utters her two final words to Esme and the puzzle begins. Esme’s researches lead her back in time several generations to Sarah Baker, a young girl transported in a convict ship to Australia.

This is quite a complex story involving two lines of a family tree and going back to another country. However, it’s so well told that it’s not difficult to follow. I love the kind of mystery which sends me barking up the wrong tree a couple of times and this is just such a story. It was well written and I was totally engaged throughout. An excellent read.

Monday 6 October 2014

Natasha Holme

This is a Goodreads group read at the time of writing. I needed that nudge to get me reading it and it's totally compulsive reading.

Amazon .com Lesbian Crushes

My review -

I doubt I would have picked up this book had it not been a suggested group read. It really didn’t seem to have anything in it to interest me. Once I started, I was unable to stop reading it. The first part of the book, dealing with sexuality and its discovery while the writer was at university, took me back to my own university days. They offered the maximum of temptation and the maximum of opportunity. We see the author’s self-doubt, the attempts at chatting up fellow students of both sexes, and fumbling explorations. It made me aware of something I knew on an intellectual level – that we are all the same whether straight or gay. We are all looking for love and for someone to love in return.

I found the second part of the book, although it was heavily dependent upon the feelings in the first, a bit less of a compelling read. I’m a bit of a foodie and I couldn’t relate to the binge eating and attempts to purge the body afterwards. I found it really interesting that, although the author made herself a strict timetable of days when she ate absolutely nothing and interspersed them with the occasional day when she was ‘allowed’ food, she would dread the food days because she knew she would binge.

The book was simply and grippingly written, coming as it does in the form of a diary. Things were not dwelt upon or fluffed out for effect. The starkness was in many cases the strength of the writing. This is a book which will lead you to understanding. 

Monday 29 September 2014

Paul Dale

The second in this humorous 'Handbook' and a must if you enjoyed the first.

The Dark Lord's Handbook: Conquest The Dark Lord's Handbook: Conquest

My review - 

Morden, who has learnt all his Dark Lording from a book legible only to him, is now intent upon Issuing Forth from his dread stronghold to conquer his enemies. There are heroes intent upon stopping him and they have recruited some ancient beings to help. Griselda, his foul-mouthed Dark Queen, leaves and opposes him. However, a new flight of dark dragons arises to assist him. There's a furious battle at the end and things throughout didn't always turn out as I expected.

I loved Book One of this series and the same wry humour pervades this second book. For a ruthless, self-serving villain, Lord Morden Deathwing has an endearing side and I find myself torn between wanting the 'goodies' to win - including a rich and self-indulgent Chancellor and cheering for an undead dragonlich. Such is the persuasive power of Paul Dale's writing. Very enjoyable.

Darren Humphries

Here's a selection of dark short stories - sensational, as pulp fiction is.

They Came From Beyond Pulp They Came From beyond Pulp

My review -

This is a great selection of short stories of varying length. What they have in common is the voice of the author who writes in a very accessible style and uses words cleverly. I enjoy his barbed wit and gentle horror. I don’t mean it’s wimpy but it never goes beyond the bounds of taste. These stories remind me a little of the old Tales of the Unexpected. I enjoyed them all but the first and the last were my favourites. It’s always good to leave a book with the memory of enjoyment. Clever, intriguing and… unexpected, this is a short-novel length collection of stories which will blow on the back of the neck of your imagination. Delightfully dangerous!

Monday 22 September 2014

David McGowan

I enjoyed David's first book, The Hunter Inside, but this story hangs together better, in my opinion. It's the first of a trilogy and we shouldn't have to wait too soon for the second.

From the Sky: Arrival  From the Sky: Arrival

My review -

This is a First Contact story set in America and we meet a small group of people who, in a very short time, have their whole existence overturned. They are individuals who each have a lot of baggage and carry history and sometimes tragedy of their own, even before they see the three massive ships in the air above them and find out what they are capable of. This is just the first of a trilogy and I don't want to spoil it with too much detail but it involves this group in a road trip. One is a small boy with his grandfather and his pet dog and he features in the exciting climax of book one.

I loved the writing, the atmosphere of helplessness and the dogged determination of Jim, the lawman, to uphold the law he believes in, even when it appears pointless to others. There are a few loose ends to be tied up and they augur well for the sequels. The interplay between the characters was enough to keep the tension racked up and the end was exciting enough to increase my heart-rate for a couple of pages. I thought it was excellent.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Sheila Perry

This is (at the time of reading/writing) a hot topic. It's a speculation on the future of Scotland with its independence and its battle against climate change. I found it thought provoking and amusing.

The Mountain and the Flood The Mountain and the Flood

My review -

Gavin and Emma live in an Independent Scotland some years in the future. This book was published in 2010 when to most of us, Scottish Independence probably still felt fairly fictional. Emma works for the Scottish government and is concerned about the effects of climate change. Gavin is an archaeologist and spends more time with their teenaged children than Emma can. Gradually, the authorities take draconian measures and Emma, opposing them, is edged out of her job. When things get out of hand, the couple’s son Dan becomes involved with an environmental group and gets himself locked up. Climate change makes violent weather and eroded coastlines and rivers commonplace. It’s a bleak looking future!

I really enjoyed this book. Whatever your feelings about the current debate, you will enjoy the humour in here. I loved things like the recent epidemic of flamingo flu! Warmer weather doesn’t just affect the polar bears. The story is told alternately from Emma’s and Gavin’s viewpoints and although at the beginning they appear to be a couple growing apart, the family comes through in the end. I love a bit of speculation, especially when it both makes me think and makes me laugh!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Lexie Conynhgam

Another adventure of Charles Murray of Letho and his butler, Robbins. It's a complete story but oh, how I want to know what happened next!

The Tender Herb

Amazon .com The Tender Herb

My review - 

Charles Murray of Letho is in self-imposed exile in Italy with Robbins, his butler. Robbins receives a letter from the erstwhile maid, Mary, who married a soldier and moved to India, to Delhi. Her husband is accused of murdering a man of the cloth and is being held in jail and she begs that Robbins might come, if Murray will allow him, to help her secure his release. Murray, on the point if being trapped into a marriage he doesn't want, decides that he will go too.

This is just the opening section of the story in which Murray and his butler take a long sea voyage and an overland trip of many months. Robbins develops a touching fondness for elephants and Murray befriends a mynah bird. More deaths take place and Murray finally faces the culprit. The ending is fast and exciting and, after watching Murray’s progress like a fussy mummy, I finally witnessed his wedding. Oh deary me! This is another hugely enjoyable story, complete of itself but leaving the reader longing for more.

Saturday 23 August 2014

George Hamilton

George Hamilton has a very readable style and like many a good indie writer, he isn't tied down to a single genre. I always find his work thought-provoking.

The Disease The Disease

My review -

This tells the story of Ludmilla, a doctor is an Eastern Bloc country and her dissident student daughter, Olga. Ludmilla is working hard to treat and inoculate people who are suffering from a worldwide plague. Her countrymen have discovered a cure but can't produce it in sufficient quantities. Perhaps a western country could do so? Olga and her student friends are determined to steal some to hand over to the West. This is a severe test of Ludmilla's loyalties. There is more to the drug than meets the eye, though, and this causes her more problems.

The story is gripping and exciting, challenging the reader's beliefs about the well-being of family versus the greater good. I felt drawn into the characters' dilemmas as the plot writhed its way to the end via several twists. I also felt that the title could convey another meaning. The dis-ease or discomfort experienced by someone wanting to do the right thing but finding that she has been lied to and the foundations of her belief and trust in her government have been shaken. A great story, well told.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

George Hamilton

This is a story based in the history of the Indies and their sugar plantations. Gripping and thought-provoking, it's a great read.

Road to Rebellion Road to Rebellion

My review - 

Charles Morley runs the Morley Estate sugar plantation in the West Indies. His father, now largely retired, wants him to marry but he's only interested in one of the slave girls. She doesn't feel the same about him. He's taken to London to find a wife but prefers the mulatto girl. He marries a woman who owns a rival plantation and both bear him sons. The story includes much of the history of the Indies and the shameful way a treaty between the British crown and the Maroons was broken.

It's full of action, excitingly told and the birth of the babies is particularly memorable and significant in the story. There was a lot of history in the text but it was necessary to the story and I didn’t find it intrusive. I began by like Dianna’s character very much then being turned off her by her attitudes, though I suspect they were common at that time. I also found my view of who was a weak and who was a strong character shifted as I went through the story. I was engaged by it all the way through and can really recommend it.

Nicola Palmer

Third in a lovely series for children. We've all felt different, haven't we? Not as different as Alice, though!

Alice Parker and the Secret of Arcanum Cove Alice Parker and the Secret of Arcanum Cove

My review - 

Alice, her brother and her grandparents go on holiday to Arcanum Cove where Alice discovers her remarkable new swimming ability. She meets her grandfather's friend, Felix, her enemy Hugh's grandfather. She learns that she has been left a legacy by a mysterious woman but to find it she and the group need to go to Aspen Island.

This book, intended for youngsters of around 9 - 12 years of age, is a thrilling adventure where discoveries are made, not only about the legacy Alice receives but about the identity of the woman who left it to her. Her grandfather is also left a bequest which the whole family enjoys. Alice now has the ability to know the future. If you could, would you dare use it? A great story for the young at heart.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Tim Arnot

I've been waiting for this one. It was worth the wait!

Hunted: Flick Carter Book 2

Amazon .com Hunted: Flick Carter Book 2

My review -

This second part of Tim Arnot's Flick Carter series is an exciting ride. Flick is pursued by a black-clad figure seemingly out to assassinate her. She hears him enquiring after the Carters. Later she finds that friends of hers have been killed by this man she calls Black Ghost. She is forced to make a bargain with Princess Jessica which results in her erstwhile boyfriend Shea running away from her in disgust. 

I enjoyed the pace of the story and meeting characters I liked from the previous book. Tim Arnot’s good people have flaws like the rest of us and his bad people are wonderfully hateful. Dialogue flowed well and there were new characters to love or hate. There's mayhem at the end. I really need to read Book Three to see how it all pans out in this splendid series. An excellent read all round.

Friday 8 August 2014

John Marrs

John Marrs is a new author to me. Here he takes the Nature-Nurture controversy and give us a viewpoint. I've found it's not necessary to like the protagonist to get really involved in a book!

The Wronged Sons

Amazon .com The Wronged Sons

My review - 

Simon walked out of his family home twenty-five years ago, leaving his wife and three small children. His keys, his car, his wallet were all left behind. He just vanished. No sign of their husband and daddy and no body to mourn. It was a total mystery. Then he walked back in. Meanwhile, his wife had rebuilt her life and made herself a good career. The children he abandoned did well in later life. Why did he leave? Generally speaking I find it hard to enjoy a story when I dislike or fail to empathise with the main character. I couldn’t agree with or approve of Simon’s actions but eventually, through the story he tells his ex-wife, who was forced to have him declare dead, we find out the influences on his life which turned him into the man he eventually became.

This is a story which slips back and forth in time and is told from two different points of view. That can be confusing but I didn’t find it so here. Teasingly, the fragments of their history are unfolded and only at the end, as they each give their own point of view, do we see what happened, and how damaged Simon was by his own background. Sometimes, you can’t find an excuse but you can find a reason. Amazingly good tale and I’ll happily read more from this author.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Julie McLaren

This is the third book of Julie's that I've read and I love her style. Each time she has changed genre. This, to me, is the true strength of indie books.

Chickens Chickens

My review -

Tony's girlfriend has just left him, telling him that he's socially inept. He is left in charge of her three rescued ex-battery hens. He decided to fill the hollow in his life by offering to join a mentoring scheme and befriending Justin, a young man in care. We begin to see parallels between Tony's and Justin's lives and watch as Justin takes himself rapidly off the rails. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was Tony's emails to his ex in which he tells her the highs and lows of his relationship with Justin. He saves them all to a file because she has told him that if he contacts her she'll just change her email account. It’s like having an invisible person in the story.

I loved the interplay of characters here. Tony has his eye on the girl who runs the mentoring courses. As the story progresses he gets his life together and learns social skills and this is wonderfully observed and recorded. I read this book in just a couple of days because the characters came alive for me and I felt I needed to know the outcome. This is a great story and quite different from the author's previous work. I do love to see versatility in an author and Julie McLaren demonstrates it brilliantly.

Friday 18 July 2014

M T McGuire

This is the final part of a trilogy. It's Book 4. That probably tells you rather a lot!

Looking for Trouble

Amazon .com Looking for Trouble

My review -

We left The Pan of Hamgee in dire straights at the end of Book 3. One of his friends is in desperate need of medical attention. Without it he's a gonner. This book guides us through the complexities of the politics of K'Barth and the Underground and Resistance movements working for freedom from the Grongolian oppressors. We find that not all Grongolians are wicked.
Ruth is due to marry the dreadful Lord Vernon who intends to become the new Architrave. Can The Pan rescue her and come into his own destiny? I'm not going to tell you but it's an exciting and bumpy ride.

The author has created a world here that we want to believe in and characters we variously detest, admire or even love. It's dotted with danger, humour, horror and romance. It’s oozing with charm but it’s not a sweet, chintzy charm. It’s charm with a side order of sarcasm and drizzled with attitude. You can't help but be drawn in. I loved every moment.

Monday 14 July 2014

David Haynes

A great collection of classic Victorian style tales.

A Gathering of Ghosts A Gathering of Ghosts

My review - 

This is a collection of Victorian style ghost stories written by David Haynes who has made a name for himself through writing these atmospheric period pieces. The stories here are all of a reasonable length so they can set a scene and create characters. They seem to me each to be long enough for a fire-side tale in the great story-telling tradition. They deal with the Victorians’ obsession with death and their fascination with science through which they attempted to explain some of the deeper superstitions which puzzled the Victorian mind. I had three particular favourites here – The Last Waltz, the Speaking Tube and The Ghost Train. What they have in common is that they appear to take a scientific approach but fail to find an explanation other than the supernatural.

Mr Haynes tells a good tale. I wonder if he can sleep at night? If you’ve read his work before you’ll know what to expect and you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Michael Murray

This is a compelling and thoroughly engaging read. Highly recommended.

Amazon. com Magnificent Britain

My review -

Warning! This book is seriously addictive! Sir Maurice Brearley, founder and sponsor of the Magnificent Britain gardening competition, is a man with secrets. Biographer Nigel Lush has been commissioned to tell Sir Maurice's life story. He, too, has secrets. Lady Brearley insists, together with the publisher, that the biography must show what a wonderful man her husband is, but Lush receives a letter from someone whose dying father has a different story to tell. The old man says he knows Brearley from their time fighting together in World War One. Lush wants to add a postscript to his book but is unable to tell what he now believes is the true story. 
Later, we read the personal testament of Sir Maurice, hidden until after his death, which tells his version of their relationship and the story behind his honourable discharge with crippling injuries. Will the true story ever be told? Not if Lady Brearley's MI5 brother can help it.

This book is convincingly told and brilliantly manipulates the beliefs of the reader. We are told of cowardice under fire, punishable by execution if confirmed. We read of sexual entrapment to prevent a homosexual writer from telling what he knows. The story moves back and forth from the late 1960s to the First World War to the 1930s and finally to the early years of this century and very believably sets the historic scene with its class divisions and the illegal status of homosexuals in those days. It's a most compelling story and a great study of the complex trap we set for ourselves with lies and deceit, even if originally well-intentioned. An excellent read and thoroughly recommended.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

M T MgGuire

Although I label MT's books as funny fantasy, this is rather different.  It's far more introspective and angst-ridden. It's full of tension and nicely ratchets up our expectations for the final book. No pressure, then!

One Man, No Plan One Man, No Plan

My review - 

I assume readers of this review have read the first two books in the excellent K'Barthan series but if you haven't I'll try to make sure that I don't spoil either of those for you. The villainous Lord Vernon is determined to declare himself The Candidate and marry The Chosen One. She, however, is in love with The Pan of Hamgee – form a queue behind me! Actually, I have a thing for the Thing. Big Merv, the Swamp Thing. On with the review! 

This book is more introspective than the earlier two which were full of action. Here we deal with motivations and feelings. Ruth is asked to choose between her own happiness and the life of the person she loves. She has to be convincing so he must believe she doesn't love him. There are some heartrending passages here. It's horrible but it's beautifully done. The Pan pulls things together towards the end, then steps out to meet his fate. I won't be the only one hardly daring to breathe till we find out what happens in Book 4.

Friday 13 June 2014

David Hadley

This is the first longer work I've read from David Hadley and it gave me a lot of chuckles!

Juggling Balls

Amazon .com Juggling Balls

My review - 

Martin lives in a shared house and begins to realise the other inhabitants have memories that he should share but he doesn't. He has to rely on the others who inform him he's their leader. Someone is trying to take over the world but in a benign way. He doesn't want power or riches, but to make people cooperate and to end wars. He's known as the Colonel. Would you want peace at the price of a chip in your brain which takes away your free will? And this chip is going to be activated by... Elvis! This is really off-the-wall stuff and a quirky mix of fantasy, sci-fi and humour.

I enjoyed this story and found the characters very individual and distinct which isn't easy with a big cast. The story is funny bordering on silly but I loved some of the detail. The Colonel's guards are called the Hound Dogs, for example. This book as has a high enjoyability quotient and is a light, fun read.