Wednesday, 20 September 2017

S D Mayes

  A wartime story, a family story - a great story!

Letters to the Pianist link

My review - 

Ruth, her brother Gabi and sister Hannah experience the WW2 bombings in London’s East End. Ruth finds her best friend’s body in a bombed out house and eventually the children are rescued from their own bombed out home, orphans. The younger siblings go to one aunt, she to another, where she finds herself subject to the attentions of a very unpleasant uncle. Meanwhile, a man wakes in hospital knowing nothing about his former life, but discovers he is a very gifted pianist.

Though the book was quite long, it never dragged for me. It’s a riveting story and I liked the way it looked at different aspects of people’s war experience. The poor working people of the East End, the rich people who could eat and drink anything – not just the landed gentry but Ruth’s uncle who cheated his way to a pantry full of food, exploiting others. And of course, the way some people treated the Jews. It was interesting all the way through and exciting at the end. A great story!

I received an advance review copy of this book.

David Staniforth

Here's a man who writes great fantasy and excellent thrillers - and in this book, combines the two.

The Book of Maker link

My review -

Clarissa Bell buys a book in a second-hand shop. It’s blank – a rather posh notebook, it appears. She discovers that it’s possible to communicate with characters in a book. It’s also possible that you’re a character in someone else’s book. What possibilities this idea opens for a fertile mind like David Staniforth’s.

A story about a girl who hangs around bookshops – a girl who discovers the power of the written word? What’s not to like? But, as always, it’s the way he tells them. David’s got a great prose style. His ways of describing things are entirely his own and add so much to my enjoyment of his work – right from the first book of his that I read. The two realities are so believably created and the two sets of characters so sympathetic, that you’re standing behind them both and cheering them on. There are heart-stopping moments in this story and plenty of action and excitement. There’s also some dredged-up past to deal with and accept, and it all comes together to make a fantastic read. The book is probably going to be labelled as YA Fantasy because of the age of the major protagonists but there’s something in here for readers of any age. Never let a label put you off a great story!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Patrick Gale

A brilliant tale combining the past and present of a strained family life.

Rough Music paperback

My review -

Julian grows up a solitary boy, the only child in a rather straight-laced family. His father is a prison governor and Julian occasionally speaks to the prisoners. The family take a holiday in a remote seaside bungalow and are joined by his uncle and cousin. It’s as a result of what happened on that holiday that a repeat of the experience, when his cousin books the same bungalow proved traumatic for all, especially his mother with her gathering Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m a great fan of Patrick Gale’s writing. It’s elegant, sophisticated but not in the least flowery. It’s what writers should aspire to. He takes apart a family teetering on the brink of not really knowing each other, or of being in denial of what they know, and analyses their actions and deeds in an almost forensic detail. A really great book.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Carol Wyer

Third in a series which I'm really getting into.

The Missing Girls link

My review -

A young girl’s body is discovered in a trunk in a storage facility. She hadn’t been reported missing by her family. DI Robyn Carter is on the case and all too soon, another young girl’s body is found, this time buried in a shallow grave. When a third girl goes missing, they are looking for a single perpetrator. Soon it comes closer to home for Robyn, as a child she knows disappears. Her team follow the social media activities of the youngsters to see if they can connect them.

This is a really well-paced story, action building upon action as we witness the detectives’ fight to tie these girls’ stories together. I enjoyed the clues along the way, though I misinterpreted some of them! I’m enjoying the exploits of DI Carter and her team and I hope to read many more of them.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Jim Webster

Another lovely collection of short stories from Port Naain. 

Tallis Steelyard. The Monster of Bell-Wether Gardens and other stories link

My review -

If you wonder what comprises the life of a jobbing poet in the town of Port Naain, this little collection of stories will give you some idea. Tallis has a finger in many a pie, arranging soirees for ladies, helping to write and distribute literary journals (and their rivals!). He assists in redistributing the town’s abundance of food and arranges for a man to experience a haunting when he’s accepted the challenge to stay overnight in a disused tower. And that’s just some of it!

Reading these stories of Jim Webster’s is like putting on your slippers and picking up a cuppa. Comfortable, and they make you smile.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Alice Castle

New to me but I'll happily read her work again.

Death in Dulwich link

My review -

Beth’s first day in her new job as archivist at Wyatt’s school is memorable for the wrong reason. Her immediate superior Dr Jenkins, the senior archivist, sees her into her office then disappears for the morning. She goes for lunch and finds him dead. Both Beth and Detective Inspector York are determined to find out who killed him. The case is surprisingly not straight forward. Nobody liked Dr Jenkins and the delightful village of Dulwich is quite put about.

Beth is intelligent and curious. She takes it upon herself, as the finder of the body, to try to solve the riddle of the death. Yes, she should have left it to the nice policeman. But really, would you? This book was full of gentle humour and sharp observation and I enjoyed it very much, despite having a bit of an idea before the end of whodunit. A great read in the cosy mystery genre.

I received a review copy of this book.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Sarah Waters

Set just after the first World War, this story is brilliantly set in its time and morality. A really gripping read.

The Paying Guests link

My review -

Frances and her mother are struggling, a few years after the Great War, to maintain their house alone. Her brothers were killed in the war and her father died following disastrous investments, leaving them unable to maintain the house or keep servants. They advertise for lodgers, whose rent will enable them to pay their food bills, if not to improve the house. The young couple seem not to have an ideal marriage and Frances hears raised voices from time to time. She and the girl, Lilian, become close and out of their burgeoning relationship comes a disaster.

This book didn’t seem as long as I know it is. I zipped through it, fascinated. So many tiny details lit up the times – buying a box of nibs, for example. While by no means a between-the-wars child I still remember dippy nibs. The story was beautifully set in its time through little things like this. The disaster, which initially welds Frances and Lilian together, changes their lives and the balance of their relationship utterly. I loved the ending which left me still with the characters and the story in my mind. Sarah Waters doesn’t spoon-feed her readers. She tells such a good story.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Steve Roach

I've been reading Steve's work on and off for years and his stories stay in your mind!

Animals link

My review - 

I’d already read The Whaler and The Farda but bought this collection to see what other tales the author had to tell about the animal kingdom. This is no cute anthology about puppies and kittens so if that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll be disappointed. Bear in mind the author’s reputation for horror stories and you’ll be nearer the mark. Although it’s called Animals, and animals certainly feature in all the stories, the real villains in the piece seem to be ourselves. The weak link is always humanity. I very much enjoyed all these stories – in a horrid kind of way. The final story, The Ruiner, is a real roller-coaster of a tale, in which an old man creates a paradise, a garden of Eden, in the desert.

I find that many books merge into one another in my mind and after a year or so, I can’t remember what it was about, or even what I found so special about it. With Steve Roach you know you’ll never read another story like his. His work has a way of fixing itself in your mind forever. These stories are often not a comfortable read but if you want your ideas stretched and challenged, have a go. Highly recommended.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Robert Crouch

A new author to me but his debut novel has convinced me that I'll read more.

No Accident link

My review -

I do love a book that’s different, and this one is, in buckets! At one level, it’s a standard murder mystery, but at another, there are no police in sight. The man of the hour, Kent Fisher, is an Environmental Health Officer. He’s investigating a suspicious death in which a vital guard has been moved from a machine. He suspects it’s no accident and digs up a whole nest of hornets as he follows his instincts.

I enjoyed this hugely. Kent is an environmentalist, keeps a money-draining animal sanctuary and longs for a lady he can’t have. There’s lots going on in this book, plenty of characters and you need your wits about you. There’s also, considering the subject, a great deal of humour, sometimes witty, sometimes sarcastic and it acts like yeast in a bread mix. Lightens it and makes it wholesome. I have a new fictional hero! I very much enjoyed this story and look forward to the next.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

V K McGivney

This author shows a versatility of style. I first read and loved a science fiction book of hers. These are varied in genre but I enjoyed them all.

Ghosts, Resolution and Revenge link

My review -

I first came across V K McGivney when I read a futuristic science fiction novel she’s written, but this collection of short stories proves she’s the master of more than a single genre. This is a very readable collection of tales, some of which, as the title and cover image suggest, have the creepy feel of a classic ghost story, but some are very much grounded in the present, and have in all cases, satisfying and sometimes surprising conclusions.

V K McGivney’s writing style, characterisation and plotting appeal to me a great deal and I heartily recommend this book to those who enjoy short fiction.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Julie McLaren

Back and forth in time - what really happened?

An Unfortunate Incident link

My review -

Alice and Georgia were inseparable for a year in early secondary school in the 1960s. Georgie’s family were better-off than Alice’s and, when they meet again nearly fifty years later, they each acknowledge that they envied each other. They lost contact following an incident which traumatised them both in different ways.

The story follows the 1960s narrative and the 2016 reunion, the former from Alice’s point of view and the latter from a third person viewpoint. There were plenty of small details which absolutely nailed the early 60s in time, for me, and I enjoyed it a great deal. After Alice has invited the now homeless Georgie to stay for a few days, little truths emerge and we realise the full import of what happened back then. Though it moves back and forth in time, it’s easy to follow, and a fascinating look at contrasting life-styles and expectations. It’s also a reminder that events, and people, aren’t always as we perceive them to be. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Jonathan Hill

This is a familiar story to me. It first appeared in a joint publication, Is It Her? This is newly re-written in part, and contains an extra chapter. 

The Stars Just Watch link

My review -

It’s wartime, and Cliff and Tom have been called up. Jack, Cliff’s brother, is exempt as he’s got a serious leg injury. Violet, Cliff’s wife and Tom’s sister, gets them all together on the eve of their going off to war. The mood is, naturally, dark, edgy, tense and fearful. We soon find out what else Cliff has to fear, in addition to death at the hands of the enemy.

Most of the story is dark and dramatic, especially when Jack’s true role is revealed, though there is a glimmer of hope towards the end, when the climate has changed for Cliff. It’s a hugely thought-provoking book and I hope this slightly altered version sees it being more widely appreciated. It’s genuinely both awful and awesome.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

David Hadley

I've enjoyed David's work in the past and this one really tickled me.

The Dirty Book link

My review -

Robert Block is a writer with literary pretentions, whose agents has tried without success to get a publisher for one of his elevated works. Under pressure to produce more, he finds a forgotten work on his hard drive – Her Dark Confession – written in his early days. He self-publishes it and it’s a runaway best-seller. It should be easy to confess and take the credit for his dirty book’s success but for various reasons, some of his own making, he can’t.

I really enjoyed this sideways look at the world of writing and publishing, book snobbery and populism. Block has talent but he’s also idle and self-indulgent. It’s a treat to watch him dig himself in deeper with things he ought not to have touched in the first instance. I don’t want to give too much away but I enjoyed the ending too. A good read and a good laugh.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Blake Crouch

I'm partial to a bit of sci-fi and this one didn't let me down.

Dark Matter link

My review -

It’s so hard to get my head around this review – and if you read the book you’ll realise why I say that. We’re all aware of the theory of parallel universes but it’s so different seeing dry theory populated by characters you’ve come to believe in. Jason finds he’s only one of, potentially, a massive number of men who can claim to be him. He’s desperate to get back to his wife and son.

In my view, this story was never less than gripping and escalated to breath-takingly exciting in the final few chapters. I found myself feeling fear and shock, and wondered how the story could be resolved. There’s a certain inevitability to the ending but I didn’t have that feeling right till the very end. It’s a tour de force and I enjoyed it immensely.

Friday, 11 August 2017

John Bowen

John Bowen has appeared on this blog before and each time the genre is different! That in itself is a laudable talent. This group of short stories is an absolute delight. Distilled fiction at its best.

Cold Sweats and Vignettes link

My review - 

This short collection of short stories fairly crackles along. A thief steals something which isn’t as harmless and he thought, the Large Hadron Collider warps time, a crash landing made this reader do a double-take and a gangland super-thug gets his comeuppance. There’s a bonus cartoon strip too.

The stories in this collection have a fresh feeling; old themes are seen from new angles. I read straight through, each little tale whetting my appetite for the next. The downfall of any collection is always the weakest story and I really didn’t think there was one. If you enjoy a bit of speculative fiction you should really give this a whirl. It’s a quick read, a great read and it’s even a free read!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

J A Clement

A longer work by J A Clement this time. One for the fantasy readers. I think it's splendid!

Song of the Ice Lord link

My review - 

The Ice Lord is an uber-villain who cannot be killed. He has devastated the world, and only three tribes remain to stand in his way, if they can. A ‘Maker’ – an inventor, who lost a hand in battle – and a bard, make a strong bond. Between them, they come up with a plan, instigated by a dream of the Maker’s in which the spirits of ships lend him aid.

This is a lyrical work, filled with the traditional stories of the tribes, and it reminded me of some of the Norse tales. It took the form of a journey to a final show-down and, although drenched in bloody battle, the characters are warm and beguiling. Fantasy at its best. I really enjoyed this book.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Malcolm Hollingdrake

I'm not good with a series. It takes a lot of time and commitment to follow a whole series of books but a really good indication is whether or not they make sense as stand-alone stories. These certainly do. This is number five.

Dying Art link

My review -

Never one to read a series in a sensible order, I’ve gone from Book 2 to Book 5 of this series and found art-loving DCI Cyril Bennett recovering from a professional and personal tragedy. This story is so well told that you don’t need to have read the previous books. I like that in a series! On his return to work, the fact that a local art gallery has been burgled and that there’s a suspicion that fake art works have found their way into the system, means this job it totally up his street. Greed and murder are close bedfellows in this book.

I really enjoyed the story, straying into the machinations within the art world. It’s known that fake art works find their way into the system, even though that means faking their provenance too. Malcolm Hollingdrake delves into murky depths here and it’s a twisty and exciting read. I’m sure those who’ve followed all the books in the series (embarrassed blush!) have gained greater depth within the characters but a great read is a great read, and this one is!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

J A Clement

This little story reminds me of childhood folk tales. Short, but sweet.

A Sprig of Holly link

My review -

Young Greta and her grandfather are in trouble. It’s deep snow, they’re nearly out of fuel, so they go out to collect some. She’s hit and knocked unconscious by a falling tree and her grandfather is trapped beneath the trunk. All seems hopeless, but help comes from a surprising source.

This reminds me of the stories I read as a child. It’s got a bit of natural history and a dollop of magic. It’s only short but comes full circle and is a satisfying read. A little gem. I’m looking forward to Book 2.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Debbie McGowan

I've just read this as the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act was celebrated. Huge coincidence? Or not. Debbie offered it free so I partook!

When Skies Have Fallen link

My review -

Although this book was published two years ago, I found myself reading it at the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, which began the process of decriminalising and equalising gay relationships in Britain. Arty is a member of the RAF ground crew and he embarks on a relationship with Jim, an American airman. Because of the fear of arrest, they manage to convince everyone that Jim is in a relationship with Arty’s dance partner, Jean. We’re taken through their lives after the war, right up till the Act of Parliament, at which point Arty writes to inform his parents of who their son really is.

It’s difficult to imagine the fear hanging over people early in my lifetime, who simply wanted to spend their life with the person they loved. Not merely society celebrities, like Oscar Wilde, but ordinary men and women like us, were imprisoned unless they admitted to an illness and accepted some quite barbaric treatment. I find you can know this on an intellectual level but until you read even a fictionalised account, you can’t imagine the terror of the knock on the door at night. As always, Debbie McGowan’s characters are written with a sure hand and become totally believable. This is a real food-for-thought book, as well as a darned good tale of enduring love. Highly recommended.

Tara Lyons

I admit I'm often guilty of buying the latest book in a series when I haven't read the earlier books. A good series can stand this treatment, and this one certainly does.

Deadly Friendship link

My review -

DI Hamilton is on a holiday weekend in the Lake District but he can’t escape work. He’s there when a body is discovered. This leads to the reopening of a case from the Met, his own area, and he investigates a group of friends, who all seem to be covering something up.

As one of the characters says, some friendships can be toxic. We have two narrators here, one of whom is the killer. Felicity is one of the first of this group that we meet and she’s not a sympathetic character. Some of the others aren’t nice people either, so we’re spoilt for choice as to who we finger for the murderer! The pace is nicely judged and the ending a surprise, but not an incredible stretch of a surprise. It’s the third in a series but I’ve not read the others and it stands alone very well. I also really enjoyed having a DI who wasn’t a maverick, breaking the rules to get to the results – a likable and believable character. Altogether, a great read.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Alex McGilvery

A feeling of evil can attach itself to a place and Alex McGilvery has caught it brilliantly here. Myth and modern life meet in this book. I love the cover, too.

Wendigo Whispers link

My review -

Leigh and her husband move to a new town, Spruce Bay, after she has suffered a psychotic illness which her medication now controls. The town is on its uppers, with a defunct mining industry, a demoralised Cree population and out of work whites. Leigh, a primary school teacher, and her husband Jim, a police officer, arrive to find there’s a dark fear in the town.

I leapt at the chance to review this book because I already knew a little about the wendigo from Algonquin folk tales. Alex McGilvery explores the theme as it applies to an individual and to a town with a terrifying and believable tale. The story also explores a decaying community and the ways in which their self-belief can be bolstered. Without being preachy, it sounds a note of hope. A really gripping and exciting story.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Laura Marshall

When Netgalley offered this book I was intrigued. It's a compelling study of young people trying to fit in to a peer group, with a knock-on effect into adulthood. 

Friend Request

At the time of writing, this is not yet realeased in the US

My review - 

Louise receives a Facebook Friend request. It’s from Maria, a girl she was at school with. The surprise, though, the thing that makes her shrink back in horror, is that Maria died twenty–five years ago at their leavers’ party. Louise is horrified because she believes her and her friends’ bullying cause the death. Only her husband knows her part in it as he was at the same school. The plot becomes more entangled when there is a school reunion for their class.

This is an interesting study in what young people are prepared to do to fit in with their peers. When your contemporaries’ opinions define you, you can persuade yourself to go against your own better nature and good sense. Louise is still, in adult life, bending her own nature and desires in order to fit in with those of others. If Maria is dead, someone else sent that friend request. Someone who blames Louise. Right at the very end, the story went a little out of my credibility zone but nonetheless, I enjoyed it a great deal.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Mark L Fowler

I love writers who aren't stuck in a rut, and Mark Fowler is demonstrably one such author. This is his first crime story and I'm chuffed to see it's the start of a series. I love the cover too, incidentally.

My review -

On a redevelopment site in Stoke, a boy and his dog find the bones of a teenager. He went missing on his way home from school thirty years ago. DI Tyler and DS Mills interview his old school mates, teachers and his sister. They begin to pick apart who could have been involved but the problem is evidence. It’s who you know that can keep your nose out of trouble, it seems.

I really enjoyed this crime story, including the plot, which takes us back to a different era in school discipline, and the characters, particularly the two lead detectives on the case. Tyler is new to the area and Mills a native. As you read, you can feel their growing respect for one another. It’s a team that I hope we’ll see again. As in life, not every thread is tied up. There’s someone bad still at large. I wonder if Tyler and Mills will come up against him again. This could be the start of a great new detective series. I really hope so, and heartily recommend this book to all crime readers.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Dean C Moore

This is the second of Dean's books that I've read. I know they won't be for everyone but they're pretty high-tech and they always give me a laugh. 

Setup: Android Assassins link

My review -

What can I say? The Futurists of the FBI have a strange way of recruiting. Max Chase has been set up and is now a wanted man. Problem is, his wife and son are being pursued too. They are accompanied in their journey to foil an evil genius by another ‘family’ of three androids. These three are made to resemble Chinese domestic workers but have massively useful powers. It looks bad – but it could be worse.

Dean C Moore has a vivid imagination – I’d hate to be in one of his dreams! The story here is long but the action never lets up. It’s set in the near future and there’s the horrible suspicion in the reader’s mind that some of these things could really happen. Not too many, I hope! This is an exciting, action-packed romp with a huge body-count but seasoned with a great deal of humour. I’d love to see a film of this. It’s vivid and thrilling – and probably hugely expensive in special effects!

I received an advance review copy of this book.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Claire Douglas

Claire Douglas seems to home in on the theme of identity. Those of her books that I've read, I've loved.

Last Seen Alive

My review -

Libby and her husband Jamie are offered a house-swap for a week, exchanging their compact flat in Bath for a large, beautifully renovated mansion of a place in Cornwall. Libby deals with the owner only by telephone but an amicable agreement ensues and Libby and James seem to have fallen on their feet. Things don’t add up, though, and the place begins to get creepy. Jamie suffers from food poisoning and when he has to spend the night in hospital the dream holiday falls flat. The mysterious owner then tells them he’s going to stay in London so they can return to their own poky flat.

This is a superb story about identity. It seems to be a pet theme of the author’s and she handles it very deftly. The story develops, taking us away from the picture we had built up and replacing it with another. I found myself not knowing who to like or trust. Another great story from Claire Douglas.

Thanks to Netgalley for a review copy of this book.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Sarah Waters

This wartime story is told in a kind of reverse order. It's not as complicated as it sounds!

The Night Watch link

My review -

Duncan is in a dead-end job, having been in prison. His sister is seeing a married man. Kay lives a solitary aimless life. Julie and Helen’s relationship is rocky due to Helen’s jealousy. Little bits of their 1947 lives are dropped as hints that something in their past is relevant to their situations now. And then we go back, and a little further back, to see what happened.

This story looks at an existing situation and shows us how the characters got to where they now are. The war is an ever-present horror in the later sections and a haunting wraith in the first. Sarah Waters’ writing is always beautiful and the characters’ dialogue is spot on, bringing them to life. I really love this idea of going back in a story, rather than forward. We are often given hints of a back-story but here we live through those events as they happen – just in reverse order. This fills in a lot of things we didn’t know, but explains the situation in the earlier, 1947 section. It’s an unusual device but it worked very well for me.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Frank Westworth

This author has written novels I've never quite had time to read - but this series of short stories is a great way in to getting to grips with the characters.

First Contract link

My review -

Meet JJ Stoner. He’s a killer. He’s in the Army. That’s what they do. But Stoner goes beyond… He’s removed from his role and offered another, if he’ll take it. It’s that of a contract killer. Initially things aren’t as straight forward as he might have hoped.

This is a short story but it’s not short on ideas or action. Stoner is a callous killer yet a curiously attractive character. The story is beautifully told and packed with characters and incident. This is the start of a new career for JJ and I enjoyed reading it.


My review -

Stretch is a navy man and he falls for the wife of an army man. Not a good mix. He appears to be a womaniser but this particular woman has really got to him. Then she is seriously injured. He meets Stoner, investigator and ruthless eliminator if need be, who gives him an opportunity to – to do what he feels he has to do.

This is the sort of story where you have to face that two wrongs don’t make a right and that you would hate to be in this situation. Really, what would you do? Stoner is an antihero and certainly isn’t a man to emulate – but in the context of the stories, he has his own code and follows it. It makes for very good reading, but not for characters you’d particularly like to meet!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Heather Burnside

A second Manchester-based series by Heather Burnside and it's off to a great start.

Born Bad link

My review - 

Adele and her brother Peter are like chalk and cheese. Peter turns to petty crime, which then becomes not so petty, while Adele works for her A levels. She’s hard pressed to do so. Her mother lives on tranquilisers and her alcoholic dad is physically abusive to his wife. The children learn to tread carefully. She can’t understand why her mother puts up with the abusive treatment and humiliation her father hands out.

This is the first of another series set in Manchester, my native city, and it has such a sense of place. It’s a long time since I heard one or two of the words or expressions used here and they nailed the story geographically for me. Heather Burnside is so good at getting into characters’ heads and leaving you understanding their predicament, but I confess, I didn’t expect the turn the story took. I found it very good indeed.

I received a review copy of this from the publisher.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Jean Gill

I asked to review this book because I have a left-handed granddaughter. It's easy to forget how the world is right-hand-centric.

Left Out link

My review -

Jamie is picked on at school for her clumsiness, which she attributes to being left-handed as nothing she uses is suitable. The only real friend she has is Ryan. He encourages her to research left-handedness and she finds out how many famous people, present and past, have been southpaws. She writes for the school newspaper, as does Ryan, though using a pseudonym. To both their horror, Ryan’s mum takes him away from their school in Wales to her native America but Ryan has hopes of wangling his way back.

This is a great little book which takes issues of bullying and being different, and manages to celebrate some of those differences. It opens the eyes of left and right handers to just how difficult it can be to use ordinary items – a potato peeler, for example – but how many left handers turn out to be extraordinary people. It’s not just a preachy book, though. It’s got some dark themes running under it, and a real page-turning feel to the plot. A very good read.

Too much back-matter for me but that's a personal preference.

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.