Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review Catch Up!

I've been meaning to post these reviews for ages!  You never know, you might find your next read amongst them.  Just click on the links if you'd like to download a free sample from Amazon (I always do), then you'll never download a book you're not going to finish!  


Stories about ordinary people are Wendy Janes’ speciality.  ‘What Jennifer Knows’ reminds me of a kind of contemporary soap opera – plenty of intrigue and tantalising indiscretions!  It is impossible not to get involved in the dilemmas Jennifer faces as she lurches from one problem to the next.  I wouldn’t like to be in her shoes, that’s for sure.  Her husband, Gerald, is a very amusing character and his deadpan attitude is a great foil for Jennifer’s moral wrangling.  I suppose I enjoyed this book so much because the plot is so well handled and because, although I guessed what was happening early on, I was always trying to work out what Jennifer would do next.  With very little ‘wool’, this is an entertaining bedtime read (as long as you are prepared to stay up late).  Janes’ style of writing is fluid and engaging, too.  In fact there isn’t anything not to like!

OCTOBER RAIN by Dylan J. Morgan

The action takes place on Mars, but all is not well with the planet, and only a small percentage of the original Earth survivors remain, awaiting transport to a new home.  We are introduced immediately to Steele, ruthless, and a cold fish, except when it comes to his wife and child.  His mission to assassinate a list of terrorists provided by the government carries this action thriller along at a cracking pace from the word go.   The author communicates not only the notion of imminent danger at every turn, but also the desperation of a man who longs to spend time with his family and live a normal life.  It’s easy to root for Steele as he faces challenges against the odds, encountering a range of adversaries in some of the harshest environments possible.
The only downside?  I didn’t like the ending.  But endings are so personal, and I’m not going to give away any spoilers here!
Suffice it to say that I read this accomplished novella in a couple of sittings, was never tempted to skip ahead, and would definitely read more if a sequel were in the offing.  


In the Welsh valleys again I took up the stories of the characters I'd first met in ‘New Voices in the Valley’.  The continuing soap opera of the various and sometimes surprising residents of Allt-yr-Coch (pun intended, I believe) soon became essential bedtime reading.  The author’s style is fluid and the Welsh flavour always evident – Griffin makes full use of the local vernacular!  There is action in the form of a serious terrorist threat, but there is also more down to earth drama with ample scope for the reader to become involved in the lives of the characters.  Wholesome and entertaining, this is definitely one to try if you like real life dramas with an international flavour.

THE RED DOOR by Rosa Fedele

The main character in this dark mystery set in Australia is artist Maddie who has bought a mansion, 'Rosalind', letting out apartments to tenants. As she completes her renovations, she begins to have suspicions about the tenant in number three, who won't let her in. This is all linked to some local murders that occurred in the 1950s. There are unanswered questions surrounding Maddie herself, too.

I really enjoyed The Red Door.  The language is beautiful, especially in the first third of the book, which includes the kind of descriptive imagery that brings a setting alive – and the setting is unusual in that it centres around a period house in an Australian suburb of Sydney.  Maddie buys ‘Rosalind’ as a renovation project and one by one we meet the people who either live nearby or come to work on the house.  I found the observational style reminiscent of Henry James’ novels – fine detail and expertly written dialogue.  We learn about the people who inhabit Maddie’s world from a variety of perspectives and yet Maddie herself remains rather a mystery until later (we don’t even learn her name until the end of the book). 

The plot is intricate.  We gradually discover the history of the house and its local environment.  A history filled with disturbing tales of child abuse and murder.  Maddie becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to two young girls whose bodies were found in a local park – I was riveted.  The bringing together of the sub-plots is nothing short of miraculous.  

If I had to say what detracted from my enjoyment it would be that the second third of the book seemed to lose pace a little.  But in the final third, the action picked up with a vengeance and I stayed up far too late, reading until the words swam on the page! 

There will be a sequel, apparently, and I very much look forward to reading it.  

THEMSELF by James Kemp

As a writer myself I enjoyed James Kemp’s experiences of following an OU course in creative writing.  Apparently, these were published regularly on his blog and then integrated into a book, which means that there is sometimes repetition.  But this doesn’t detract from the interest. 

There are helpful pointers for inexperienced writers and useful reminders for those who have been writing for years.  It was fascinating to follow the processes included on the course and to read how the author structured his various writing assignments, which include a number of different genres.

Instructive and entertaining.