Thursday 29 June 2017

V K McGivney

A great writer of science fiction - one to watch.

Inheritors of the New Kingdom link

My review -

Richard, writing his doctoral thesis, looks out in the early hours and sees what he can only think is a UFO. An elderly nun has seen it too, as has a local man living rough. The old man’s beaten up, the nun disappears and Richard is determined to find her, feeling that he’s in danger too. His new girlfriend, an old school friend he’s not seen for ten years, becomes involved and reports him missing in his turn.

This story takes on several themes, the largest being First Contact. It also covers the End Times religious sect idea, spiritualism, a little budding romance, and much more. The story is as successful as it is because it has credibility. It’s all too believable which is what makes it such an exciting read. I found myself thinking of the Orson Welles radio adaptation of the HG Wells classic War of the Worlds in the 1930s which was believed by many to be a ‘breaking news’ story and caused widespread panic. This is a considered and well-paced story which evolves towards a very thought-provoking ending. If you enjoy science fiction, I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s an absolute corker of a tale.

David Videcette

David's an ex Scotland Yard investigator and ex-terrorism specialist so this has an authentic ring.

The Detriment link

My review -

Jake is faced with a number of crimes which don’t appear to be connected. He recklessly attempts to disarm a car bomb (which fails to detonate anyway). A spy is found in his own garden and it’s assumed he leapt from his window in the block of flats. Jake’s old girlfriend enlists his help in something suspicious. There’s a lot going on in this novel and all of it illegal, nasty and involving high-level corruption.

David Videcette knows how to crank up the tension. His protagonist, Jake, is often out on a limb but can’t let bad things happen. I was torn so many ways in this story, wanting bad people not to get away with it though I feared some of them would. Everything isn’t always black and white and Jake has to deal with the shades of grey and choose between the lesser of the evils. This is a very through-provoking book and the section at the end, taken from real documents, is a bit of a shocker. Really, this is a book not to miss.

Rowan Coleman

My first Rowan Coleman book - I can see it won't be my last!

The Summer of Impossible Things link

My review - 

After her mother’s death by suicide, Luna and her sister Pia journey from their British home to Brooklyn, their mother’s old home. She has left them a message about something which happened there in 1977 and badly impacted her life and future happiness. Strange things that happened in Luna’s childhood lead her to feel she is returning in time and to wonder if she can possibly alter her mother’s life.

This is a very well evoked time-slip story and brilliantly re-creates the year 1977, which I recall clearly. Luna has the opportunity to interfere in the timeline and save her mother from the disaster which befell her. It becomes obvious that if she is able to do this, she may damage or destroy her own future. The arguments for and against are well argued and the story is absolutely compelling. A real unputdowner!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Paul Flynn

Paul Flynn is a journalist and this non-fiction book charts the changing attitudes of the public and the pressures upon LGBT people over the past thrity years. It's gripping.

Good As You link

My review -

Paul Flynn is a journalist and has watched Britain evolve from largely homophobic to largely accepting, passing through the terrible AIDS years. During the thirty years he charts, the country has also been accepting of other minorities such as colour and religion – but not in every case. Things are so much improved, however, and this book follows our progress as a people. I’d like to think it brought more understanding to a wider audience.

I have to say that, as an ancient, straight woman, this book could be considered to hold no interest for me but that’s not true. I read it in a short time, and was totally fascinated with the story it told. The book works forward through the years but not in any strict way. It’s told through the words of many people and contains funny and heart-breaking stories, as well as much common sense and observational detail. I found myself constantly checking on Google as I’m no follower of popular culture but I suspect many people will know the celebrities involved or have followed the television shows. The style is conversational, easy to follow, and it’s like having a chat with a very knowledgeable and well-connected friend. I heartily recommend this book to everyone.

I received a review copy from Netgalley.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Sam Kates

And now for something completely different, as the man said!

That Elusive Something link

My review - 

Quirke (just call me Quirke) is aware that his relationship is in trouble and before long, things at work go pear-shaped too. His mate Dave is also living an unsatisfying life. After Quirke’s last session with Seff, a compelling, slightly mystical character, he decides to go off and find the community he speaks of. Dave, in it for a walking holiday, accompanies him.

I believe this book was begun seventeen years ago. I can only say it was worth the wait. I enjoy the author’s writing style, always easy without being simple. There’s a lot about human nature here, too. An idyllic life can be endangered not by the environment or outside forces, but from within, by our own flawed natures. I became very engrossed in the story and read it in two days. If I’d not had meals to eat, or a bed to call me, I’d have read it in a single session! Highly recommended if you want something out of the ordinary.

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Stuart Warner

A new author (to me) with a lovely style!

The Sound of Everything link

My review - 

Jack has returned to the small town of his birth to take over the family accountancy firm. He discovers that a local man lodged a box with his late father twenty years ago. He and the family concerned assume it to contain something valuable. In between other work, Jack is trying to find it. Though unsure of his aims in life, he meets people from his father’s past and begins to build up a picture.

This is a gentle amble through small-town life with a deeper look at the spiritual side of our nature, though it in no way touches on formal religion. It explores why we’re here and whether out lives had a purpose. I found it a very easy book to read and devoured it in two days. Highly recommended.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Jeff Vandermeer

A new author for me and a great imaginer of future worlds. If you love dystopian fiction, go for this one.

Borne link

My review - 

This story takes place in an almost derelict city in the future. The Company, through experimentation and biotechnology, has produced monstrosities, including a huge bear which terrorises those still eking an existence there. Rachel, a scavenger, finds a plant-like creature in the bear’s fur and brings it home. She calls it Borne and as it grows and exhibits intelligence, she realises she loves it/him like a child of her own. Other powers are at work in the city but the existence of Borne changes the balance.

I found this book thoroughly gripping from the very first. It reminded me of science fiction stories of my younger days which were able to take me out of my own world and into one completely different, and usually far more horrific. The style was thoughtful, occasionally lyrical and always totally entertaining. Heartily recommended.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy of this book

Wednesday 14 June 2017

Tom Trott

A new author to me but I enjoyed his style.

You Can't Make Old Friends link

My review - 

Joe is a private detective, currently out of favour with the police. He’s now getting so little work that he can’t pay his rent and an old client is suing him. Then his old schoolfriend’s body is found washed up on Brighton beach, badly disfigured. Joe recognises him.

There are several strands going on here, with drug dealers, Joe’s old (only) friend and his family and a downright difficult female DCI, newly arrived from London. As one of the characters said to Joe, ‘You’re a good man, but not a nice one’. I really enjoyed this story which had an edginess which gave it flavour. I particularly liked some of the expressions used in the writing – cliché is isn’t. A great read.

Friday 9 June 2017

Carol Wyer

The second in thje DI Robyn Carter stories and I think the author is really getting into her stride.

Secrets of the Dead link

My review -

DI Robyn Carter and her team are investigating murders which may or may not be related. Their local newshound has decided that they are and reports on a serial killer, which makes the police’s work more difficult. The murders are occurring over a very short time and Robyn has to work out exactly who is in danger, before more lives are lost.

The case is difficult because Robyn is dealing with a damaged individual seeking revenge and his mind doesn’t work like a normal person’s. She has to second guess him and the resulting search and chase becomes very exciting. The story alternates between the police work and shorter sections from the point of view of the killer. I really enjoyed this story with its side plots which added greater depth to the main tale.

Jonathan Hill

This follow up to A Christmas Outing will please a lot of readers - me included!

This Crazy Thing I Call My Life link

My review - 

Coming out to his parents was only the first hurdle for student David. He and Jamie decide to get both sets of parents together so they can get to know one another. It sounds nice. It wasn’t! You know the way you can say what you like about your own family but woe unto the one who criticises them in your hearing? That!

Jonathan Hill picks up on our tendency to fly to the family’s defence, even when we know the criticism to be true. The boys have their first row while defending the very attitudes they have complained about in the past. And that’s not even the worst that can happen. This is another very funny and well-observed slice of life from an author with a strong sense of the absurd.

Steve Roach

A short which will make you think, and maybe worry a little.

All that Will Be Lost link

My review - 

This is a short story with a very thought-provoking message. Michael, aware that the war in the east is encroaching upon his life and his country, has bought a house and created an enlarged basement where he holds a party for friends and colleagues in the magazine he publishes. The war grows ever closer, while Michael and his friends attempt to save what will be lost if the fighters prevail.

Steve Roach has taken the premise that the desire to kill, to wipe out other ideologies, is a disease. It has resulted in a darkly futuristic tale and sadly, feels all too plausible. Let’s hope the spark of humanity is too strong to be quenched. A really good, short read.

Thursday 1 June 2017

Jim Webster

Tallis Steelyard, jobbing poet, again relates stories of his early life. Some wonderful observational humour here.

Tallis Steelyard, a harsh winter link

My review -

This is a collection of stories about Tallis which go to show that it’s not all drinking afternoon tea or partaking of soirees for a jobbing poet. We discover some of his early life, some of the society feuds he became entangle with, and the story of how he met his wife and acquired the boat on which they live. Great little tales!