Thursday 20 October 2016

Shalini Boland

This is a real mind-turner. Highly recommended.

My review -

Louisa and Jared have recently enrolled their son Joe in an expensive private school, all worth it as he's happy and thriving there. It's at school that Louisa meets his new friend Tyler and his mum, Darcy. Darcy Lane is rich, popular and generous and invites Joe to sleepovers and Louisa and Jared go meals. Is she too good to be true?

I read this with sneaking misgivings about Louisa's new best friend. Little things slip. Is she really as generous and well disposed as Louisa first thought? It's a tale of trust misplaced and friendship abused. How far would you carry a childhood grudge? Not this far, I suspect, but there are those who never let it go. Who always finish what they started. This book is never short of interesting and in parts is fast and exciting. Highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable.

I chose to review this book after receiving and advance copy.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Laura Tisdall

New author to me but this one packs a punch.

My review -

Echo Six is the online name of a sixteen year-old schoolgirl hacker. She is part of a forum who undertake hacks given to them by their leader, The Asker. She loves the challenge, but mainly loves the fact that the tasks they are given release information about wrong-doing. She feels the information she uncovers makes the world better. Then, hackers start to go offline. People are effectively disappearing but because of the nature of what they do, they have never divulged their real name, addresses or photographs to one another. The Asker finally request a meeting, to seek her help.

This is rather different from any of the other ‘hacker’ or ‘cybercrime’ books I’ve read. I really enjoyed the way she confronted her own issues and fears, fears for her family, and the black, white or grey nature of hacking. Neither she, nor the reader, knows who she can trust, and the story works up into a very exiting climax. If you enjoy speculative fiction of this style, you’ll be blown away by it. I found it a gripping and thrilling read and thoroughly recommend it.

Thursday 13 October 2016

David Haynes

A modern setting for this novel takes the reader into Alaska, looking for gold. this is it - pure gold!

My review - 

Scott Draper has had gold fever ever since his grandpa showed him a nugget. His obsession ruined his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. Now he’s got a chance to make a fortune on a site at Black Pine Creek, Alaska. The place itself is eerie. A good quantity of new mining equipment has been left at the site – even last season’s final run hasn’t been removed from the wash plant. What’s going on? Then, Draper finds a body – a suicide.

This is an atmospheric story which ramps up the tension as it progresses. Many of the gang have worked together before and trust one another’s judgement. Even the surprise member of the group (can’t say, spoiler!) is a hard worker and becomes a trusted colleague. One man, though, doesn’t click with them. We begin to see why. The characters are well drawn and believable and the root of the problem is greed and the things people will do to feed it. They all suffer nightmares in which their fears come back at them, magnified. It’s tense and scary and I spent the last ten percent of this book on the edge of my chair. Absolutely a corker and the author’s best yet.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Various Authors

The BBC Short Story award winners from 2015 will include names you know and names you don't. They're all fantastic examples of the genre.

My review -

This is a collection of the five winners of the BBC short story competition for 2015. I read it on the recommendation of a friend, and, though the stories are very different, they are all extremely good reading. They encapsulate the technique of condensing an idea and making every phrase work hard. Yet it's done effortlessly. For some reason there seemed to be a formatting problem with the eBook, resulting in the occasional running together of words - likethis. Not enough to spoil the read, though. If, like me, you enjoy the short story form, this is a great read.

Sunday 9 October 2016

AK Dawson

This is a sequel to the excellent Alien Love Story - and just as quirky and charming. I love them both.

Alien Love Song

My review - 

This continues the story of fifteen year-old Dan and his extra-terrestrial girlfriend, Alexander. At the start of the story, he can't remember how he came to be incarcerated in a locked room. He can't even remember who he is. His memory and powers return to him and he has to fight for his life, and hers.

This sequel to Alien Love Story is charming, funny, and it ticks all the emotional boxes without resorting to going overboard. If you've not read the first novella in this series, it's very good indeed. You don't have to be a young adult go enjoy YA fiction. Just to have been one at some time.

Cecilia Peartree

This is my sixth outing to Pitkirtly. I hope it won't be too long before I go again!

The Queen of Scots Mystery

My review -

Imagine being deprived of the thing you enjoy most. At the beginning of this book, Amaryllis is deprived of her freedom, so Christopher is deprived of her company. A body has been found in the cellars of the Queen of Scots, necessitating the pub’s closure as a crime scene. This loses everyone something they love. And Charlie, the policeman, looks like losing his job. The place is going to hell in a handcart! The body is that of Liam Johnstone, a man who, it seems, few have cause to love. Amaryllis gets herself into the usual scrapes and discovers all was not well in the Queen.

Reading these stories is like spending time with old friends. In spite of the body count, they aren’t gory or violent but neither are they bland. There’s a lot of enjoyable humour and wry observation here. I wasn’t let down by my sixth outing to Pitkirtly. I must try not to be a stranger and read number seven a bit sooner! Very good indeed.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Andrew Webber

A great 'voice' and a man to watch!


My review -

The lad of the title is Danny, an estate agent who feels the world owes him a living and that women should fall at his feet. He lives for drunken sessions with the lads and nights of steamy sex with women he is quite happy never to see again. He's not terribly scrupulous about how he comes about his money, having a few irons in the fire which his boss isn't aware of.

Danny's not a likeable lad but there's a huge amount of humour in this story which is laced with irony. He's critical of others for doing very similar things to those he is quite smug about doing. You follow his often disastrous exploits wondering why he can’t see his own biggest problem – himself and his attitude to others. It's compelling reading and you feel pulled along in the wake of his personal disasters, wondering if he'll ever grow up. A really good read.

Friday 7 October 2016

Patrick Gale

Such a brilliant story - it bowled me over.

A Place Called Winter

My review - 

Harry Cane is an Edwardian gentleman. He marries Winnie, has a daughter Phyllis, and, because of some investment advice from a brother of Winnie’s loses a good chunk of his fortune. Because of a liaison with an acting coach, met through one of Winnie’s sisters, a Gaiety Girl, he is forced to accept exile to Canada. Homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment and family disgrace, but Harry’s brothers-in-law cover up his indiscretions. The soft-handed man who has never worked undertakes a terrifying voyage, a long and arduous journey, and the acquaintance of an unpleasant and exploitative man who arranges his land allocation, near the small settlement of Winter. He’s lucky in his friendships there and stays to farm during the Great War, after which he has a complete breakdown.

Patrick Gale has created some wonderful characters here. I cared deeply about Harry, was sorry his family and in-laws cut him off so completely and loved the people he met and worked with in his new life. The fly in his ointment, Troels Munck, is brutal and untrustworthy, as Harry finds to his cost. Gale has explored friendship, love, trust, fear, cruelty and bullying in this remarkably good story. Every reader brings personal interpretations to a story, but for me, this was just about perfect.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Tom Bale

I have only recently been introduced to Tom Bale's books and I like his style.

My review -

A family barbecue becomes the start of a nightmare for Rob and Wendy Turner and their children. An elderly man who has been systematically tortured, staggers into their garden and is dead on arrival at hospital. Now, the people who targeted him turn their attention in the family.

The story is tense and exciting and the characters flawed and credible. Several of the family have issues which impinge upon their family life and their reactions when they become victims. I didn't always like all the family members but it's impossible not to root for them. All of them. A really good thriller which I enjoyed a great deal.