Thursday 30 April 2015

Tales of Tinfoil

This is an amazing set of stories about those conspiracies that refuse to lie down.

Tales of Tinfoil Tales of Tinfoil

My review -

Sometimes you just fall in love with a title! This is an anthology of stories on the theme of conspiracy theories. They are not simply rehashes of the theories themselves but fictional extrapolations or possible explanations of the things that won’t lie down. We’ve all heard about the JFK theories, of how many people think Elvis didn’t die and the suspicion that the Apollo 11 moon landing was a fake. You’ll probably have heard of Roswell and Area 51 and you may have heard of the HAARP project. If you haven’t, each story is followed by a little piece on the current theories which abound on that topic.

This is a slightly off-the-wall collection in which each story is very well told and the historic setting explained but the whole idea is quirky and imaginative. The title comes from the idea that conspiracy theorists are middle-aged men who live in their mothers’ basements and wear tinfoil on their heads ‘so nobody will read their thoughts’. It’s tongue in cheek but the introduction is written by an academic who studies conspiracy theory – and there’s a lot of it out there. If you’re looking for a collection of well-crafted stories, many of which will make you smile and all of which will give you pause for thought, this is the book for you. It’s an extraordinarily good read and I enjoyed it immensely.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Cathy Murray

This short book is a real re-creation for those of us who remember it - and a probable eye-opener for the young.

Cabbage and Semolina Cabbage and Semolina

My review -

This novella length work is effectively a series of short essays on aspects of life as a child in 1950s Britain. As I grew up in this era myself, I found lots of echoes of my own early years. The title refers to school meals in the 1950s when rationing was still a recent memory, for the adults at least. The ubiquitous Sunday Tea was exactly the same in my own Manchester household. Why, I wonder? There are tender reminiscences of grandparents, more robust tellings of the ways we ‘played out’ and the sort of holidays we had. It’s told with a warmth and an eye to detail which bring the past back to life. The style is conversational so I kept wanting to chip in with ‘do you remember…’ details of my own.

The author has a keen interest in family history and regrets that her mother-in-law didn’t write down her own story. With the rise of ebook publishing, it’s so much easier for these individual reminiscences to be recorded. Documents like Cabbage and Semolina will become a useful word-of-mouth archive for the future. Apart from which it’s a really interesting read.

Friday 17 April 2015

Lynda Wilcox

People call these cosy mysteries but there's nothing cosy about the predicaments Verity Long finds herself in. I love these stories.

Murder by the Glass Murder by the Glass

My review -

Once again, researcher Verity Long can’t keep her nose out of a murder. She’s usually reprimanded by her long suffering boyfriend, a detective inspector of police, but this time she’s left him behind. Verity and her boss, crime writer Kathleen Davenport, are taking part in a wine-tasting weekend and, on their first morning, Verity finds the body of another guest. With a cast of a dozen, plus the staff, can Verity narrow it down? Should she leave it to the police? Of course she should, but they can’t be contacted.

This novella is another classic Verity Long mystery. I’m a huge fan of these stories and find them gripping and interesting but not gruesome. That doesn’t mean there’s no danger – especially to feisty young women who can’t help themselves when it comes to a bit of amateur sleuthing. Verity fans – prepare for a treat. Everyone else – come in and join us! Another great story which I enjoyed very much.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Paul Levinson

This is the first longer work of Paul Levinson's that I've read. It was a great experience.

The Plot to Save Socrates The Plot to Save Socrates

My review -

This intricate plot successfully combines time travel, history, philosophy and a good writing style to bring a story such as I’ve ever read before. The main premise is that a group of people are attempting to persuade Socrates not to take the hemlock which kills him. There’s a plot to save him but he feels he needs to take this step, agonising though it will be. We find out why and how it’s proposed to do this. There’s a complex thread of both time and place as characters move from past to present and future using programmable chairs. As you can imagine, it requires a degree of suspension of disbelief but the story was coherent and, within its genre, credible.

Paul Levinson has a comfortable writing style and I was rapidly drawn into this tapestry of historical and fictional characters. Some of the outcomes were very satisfying and it’s evident that there will be more to come. Enough hanging threads remain to ensure that there’ll be more time travel in my future. I enjoyed it very much.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Lucas Bale

I recently read the first in this series - Heretic - which I enjoyed a great deal. This is Book 2 which I think surpasses it. It's a corker.

Defiance Defiance

My review - 

This is the second book in Lucas Bale’s Beyond the Wall series. I enjoyed the first a great deal, although it necessarily had the feeling of a precursor. It had to set up the premise for the story arc which follows. In this book, we are straight into the action with a different group of protagonists and yet we come to see a connection with the finale of the first book, Heretic. There’s a huge amount of action in this book and some very exciting passages when we begin to realise what’s happening to some of our characters. This is no one-thread book. It’s a testament to the writing that when I was carried away in one scene, I was almost upset to be dragged away to another, much though I hadn’t wanted to leave that one behind on a previous chapter end.

I’d find it hard to define this series. It’s sci-fi, it’s speculative fiction but it’s also thriller, adventure story and a great deal more. The tension and the body count are ratcheted up as the book progresses and I finished the second half in a single, concentrated session. I find Lucas Bale’s writing style to be rich and evocative and I’m very glad it’s not going to be long before the next book is the series is available. Highly recommended.

Julie McLaren

This psychological thriller starts straight in - no messing about. 

The Butterfly Effect The Butterfly Effect

My review - 

Amy wakes up in a strange room. She’s locked in with a freezer full of food and a wardrobe of clothes which look like her own but are new. She’s been abducted by her stalker. We know this from the start. She’s in mourning for the love of her life and bumped into a man at a gig where she sang with her friend’s band – The Butterfly Effect. He’s creepy, manipulative and she regrets giving him any positive signals. There are two people looking out for her. One is Olga, her friend from the band; the other is her late boyfriend’s best mate, a man Olga can’t stand. Amy is conflicted.

This is an unusual ‘stalker story’ in that the abduction has already happened by the time we enter the narrative. We watch as Amy works out, with horror, what has gone on in her life and how difficult it is making choices of friends. I enjoyed the tension set up in the story and Amy’s initial denials of what she eventually finds to be the truth. A very good, well-written read.