Saturday 28 February 2015

Andrew Lawston

This is a second collection of stories from Andrew. They are never quite like anyone else's and that's partly what I love about them. He's also got a writing style that I get on with very well.

Something Nicer Something Nicer

My review -

I enjoyed the author's first collection of short stories, Something Nice, so I was pleased to see that there was another volume of these off-the-wall tales. They vary in length from the short, almost knee-jerk 100-word flash fiction drabbles to longer works and the one thing they have in common is a sideways look at the world. In any collection a reader will have favourites - I have a partiality to the quick-fire drabbles - but some of the others really made me sit up. I found some odd, some a little horrific and my favourite – Bushimi: The Cat Who Wanted To Be An Art Critic - was charmingly surreal.

If you enjoy quick reads in between your longer novels, if you like to be made to think, if you want a different slant on the world, this book is for you. The writing is clear and enjoyable. It took three years for a second collection of these stories. I hope we won't have to wait so long for another book.

Friday 27 February 2015

Debbie McGowan

This is part of a series featuring some of the same characters but I read this as a stand-alone and it works beautifully. Ruminations

My review - 

Josh, a young man who finds great difficulty in social situations, goes up to university with one of his two best friends, Jess. She is in another faculty and begins to make new friends – people Josh doesn’t think much of. Sean, from a very poor background who has grown up in The Troubles in Belfast, is put in the room next door – on the floor reputed to be haunted. Josh continues to find friendship difficult whereas Sean is a girl-magnet. Their unlikely friendship flourishes and Sean is very helpful to Josh in trying to resolve the goings-on in his room. Can it really be haunted?

This book sensitively explores the relationships of two young men who have grown up very differently but who are mutually supportive in a time of upheaval for them both. It’s quite funny in places and a very easy, enjoyable read. Definitely a winner for me.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Rachel Abbott

Rachel's new book is a psychological thriller which I enjoyed a great deal.  

Stranger Child Stranger Child

My review - 

Abduction must be a parent’s worst nightmare. David doesn’t only lose his wife in an accident but his six year-old daughter disappears. He remarries and has a son with his second wife. Then, unbelievably, his daughter reappears, now aged thirteen. In this gripping and disturbing thriller we find out gradually what has happened to young Natasha over the intervening years. DCI Tom Douglas becomes involved when David’s second child is kidnapped and we watch as his mother, Emma, struggles with the decision to involve the police. We find out more about Tom’s late brother Jack and his relationships in this story, too.

Rachel Abbott’s plots are always complex but believable psychological thrillers and this is no exception. I found myself asking what I would do in this case and I honestly don’t know. A very gripping thriller indeed. I received an advance copy of this book from the author, in exchange for a review.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Jonathan Hill

This novella is a quick but thought-provoking read in which a gay teenaged boy struggles to be himself in the face of parental lack of understanding. Beautifully done.


Amazon .com Pride

My review -

This novella tells the story of teenaged Liam and his struggle to become the person he knows he is. His family don’t know that he’s left the house to take part in a Gay Pride march in another city, but they find out and he feels sure his dad has been snooping in his bedroom. Over the next couple of years he meets the same group of young men there and feels he has his first true friends but at home, things take a downturn and his mother says something he can’t forgive.

This is a bittersweet story in which, whatever our own past, I’m sure we can all share in Liam’s uncertainty and lack of self-confidence. We’ve all been there. Though we may not be like Liam, we all potentially have a friend or even a child who might and what we say to them and how we say it can make the difference between a squashing boot and an open door. The story is told simply and beautifully and touches on both Pride and pride. I found it uplifting. A great little book with a stunning cover!

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Lisa Hinsley

This thriller from Lisa Hinsley has such an unexpected ending - I didn't read it, I devoured it!

Stolen Stolen

My review - 

The title of this book makes it sound like one of those abducted baby books but it couldn’t be further from that. When she’s trying to escape from her parents’ over-solicitous, smothering manner, Emily meets a man who owns a Scottish island. Her partner died violently a year ago, she miscarried their baby and she has never got over it. His offer touches her and she hopes to take this time out to pull her thoughts together and exorcise her demons. That’s not exactly how it works out.

This story is a really good read. I found myself continually thinking I knew how it would end, changing my mind as the story progressed, but I wasn’t within a mile of the true ending. It’s full of human ingenuity and the desire to survive. I will always reach for a new Lisa Hinsley book but this is, to my mind, her best yet.

Saturday 7 February 2015

David Haynes

This is the first horror story from this Master of the Macabre which is set entirely in modern times. It's all the more horrid for that!

Beneath the Boards

Amazon .com Beneath the Boards

My Review -

I’ve read and enjoyed the Victorian horror stories by David Haynes but this is the first set entirely in the present day. Perhaps because of that, I found it more intense, more creepy, because it seemed closer to the modern life I recognise. Jim Stokes is a policeman who takes early retirement on medical grounds because he was stabbed in the line of duty. After suffering flashbacks and being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he buys a cottage by a lake in a remote area with a view to leaving the terrors behind him. He is still troubled by frightening visual images of the stabbing but he becomes convinced that there is something in the cottage with him. This is where it begins to be really scary.

This story pulled me in from the very beginning and is full of action. Because most of it is from Jim’s point of view, we are drawn down into the nightmare he suffers, witness it from his point of view and learn the awful truth about the small community he has joined. It’s a great story, a classic horror and I hope David Haynes doesn’t slip back into Victoriana without a fight!