Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


This is an absolutely delightful story about Ove, a man touching sixty, about to lose his job, who lives on his own with a cat and a Saab.

He is many things: grumpy, exasperating, pathetic, irritating, wise, pedantic, curmudgeonly, loyal, endearing, gentle, committed, generous even. He is complex and multi-layered. Oh, I don't know, maybe he isn't; maybe he's just very straightforward and uncomplicated. But, of all the things he is, every reader will recognise at least one of his or her own traits in him. Or in someone very close by. Whatever Ove is to you, whether you like him or not, he is compelling and utterly memorable.

This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry. Ove sucks you in from the very first page and doesn’t let you go until the very end. Although he needs absolutely no help to keep you turning the pages (with a tissue from time to time), there is a wonderful array of colourful, original characters in the supporting cast.

Superbly written, it's probably my favourite book of the year. It’s heartwarming, touching and uplifting, and stays with you like the bloom of your favourite scent.

To anyone who hasn’t read it, I’d go as far as to say it’s obligatory.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Lonely Mile by Allan Leverone

‘Walk on by’ would have been a good mantra for Bill Ferguson. A short stopover at a travellers’ plaza earmarks the beginning of a terrifying ordeal for Bill when he fudges a kidnap attempt by a serial killer, one who’s been on the police radar for over three years. Not a man to be crossed…ever…the killer exacts his revenge on Bill, the man who so very inconsiderately scotched his well-laid plans, in the most dreaded way any parent could imagine: he kidnaps Bill’s own daughter, Carli. Bill forges ahead with his own dramatic search for his daughter before she suffers at the hands of the sociopathic killer; after all, there’s the slightest hint of reticence on the part of the detective on the case. Odd, that...  But when he finally catches up with this evil man, he discovers that the killer is but a small cog in a much, much greater atrocity.

This was an excellent thriller that grabs you from page one. The chilling depiction of a serial killer plus the desperation of a father searching for his only daughter equals drama of nail-biting proportions. Brilliantly executed, well written with strong, solid, well-developed characters. 

This one’s hard to put down, I warn you! Highly recommended.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Blow-In by Susanne O'Leary


I’ve read a number of this author’s books. Whilst there’s no question that I obviously love her books, I’d be hard put to say which is my favourite because they’re all good, and The Blow-In is no exception. It’s another five-star read.

In this, we have the sassy, no-nonsense (my favourite female character!) Finola stepping down from edgy journalism to revive a local newspaper in a little Irish town. Not a bad place to start a calmer, less stressful life, away from failed relationships and controversial reporting. But we all know what happens to well-laid plans…conspiracy, good-looking men and way-too-adorable puppies upset the rural-bliss applecart.

O’Leary’s romances are mature, wholesome and robust. The plot is never predictable; there are surprises and twists. The Blow-In ticks all those boxes, along with some snappy, witty dialogue, characters who are colourful, interesting, funny, annoying, arrogant, all contributing to a cracking read.

See Also:
A Woman’s Place
Borrowed Dreams
Finding Margo
Hot Gossip
Hot Property
Hot Pursuit
Selling Dreams 
Sonja's Place

Friday, 16 September 2016

I Let You Go by Clare MacKintosh


This was quite a disturbing book, not particularly well written...or edited, for that matter...and littered with implausibility. And I found it a bit of a mess. Tackling three POVs is quite a feat, two in the first person, one in the third. But giving the two first-person POVs the present tense and the other the past tense was just messy and didn’t work. 

For all that, I was fairly committed to the story…for about 75% of the book…but then I just got irritated. I’m not too sure what the supposed ‘twists’ in the book were supposed to be…they’re fairly guessable early on.

A little boy is tragically killed in a hit and run. Jenna Gray tortures herself: could she have prevented the accident? Will running away to a remote Welsh village help her escape her torment or will her past catch up with her and ruin any chance she has of finding some peace and happiness?

This debut novel tries to tackle too much. The characters were bland (and Jenna was particularly annoying) and underdeveloped. The detective in charge of the case was probably the most interesting, and I was quite glad to get to ‘his’ chapters. There were also a number of loose threads, and I found myself thinking at the end, ‘Oh, is that it?.

Not a very satisfying read, unfortunately. There’s no doubt the author has some promise, but with this novel, I felt she ran before she could walk.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Shades of Gray by Andy Holloman

This was a slow-burner…I mean that in a good way, however. It ambled along at a steady pace, all the while holding my attention until the wow-I-never-expected-that ending, despite it linking back to the teasing prologue.

John’s travel business takes a nosedive after 9/ll when no one wants to get on a plane. He needs to stay afloat, and when his daughter, Lucy, his beautiful daughter, the light of his life, his sole reason for living, becomes ill with a life-threatening condition, he needs money for her treatment. Time to start calling in money owed to him and his business, in particular a substantial amount by Wanda Johnson, whose income is ‘earned’…let’s say rather dodgily. She convinces John that if they partnered up, she’d be able to pay him back and he’d have enough to take care of his daughter. A decent law-abiding man has a difficult decision to make. But without a viable business and therefore no income, he has no hope of helping Lucy. Desperate times call for desperate measures…

I enjoyed this despite a) the rather stilted dialogue—it lacked ease and naturalness…it was almost as if the characters were reading from a script and b) untidy editing. But the diversity of the two main characters was intriguing: it was hard to imagine how two people from very different backgrounds, with very different histories, were going to work. But they did…albeit dangerously.

I gather this is the author’s debut novel…started in 2003 and then shelved in 2006, before resurrecting it in 2011. A book with a rather ragged writing history which might have interrupted the flow somewhat, but a worthwhile read nonetheless.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Decisions by Jessica L Degarmo


A good book if you don't want anything heavy and intricate. It’s very lightweight, predictable, rather one-dimensional…typical chick lit. Having read a book I absolutely did not enjoy and wanted to get out of my head, this was just the tonic.

It was totally unbelievable: a tyrannical, unethical, violent, controlling dad insists on an arranged marriage for his daughter, Emma, to seal a somewhat dodgy lucrative deal. I had a bit of trouble with that: unless you’re from a culture that insists on arranged marriages, it just doesn’t fit in the twenty-first-century western world. The unfortunate daughter manages to run away with the help of her submissive mother and plots to find someone to marry, thereby throwing her father’s plans completely off track. But the unwitting prey turns out to be rather handsome and just…well…perfect. How on earth can she go through with her plan and upset a good man with an equally good family?

The plot had a few holes in it, the long-suffering mother was rather inconsistent (one minute she’s doing her utmost to help her daughter escape, the next she’s insisting that, well, how bad can it be marrying someone you don’t want to?). The father is ghastly beyond belief, and Emma herself is rather bland and, dare I say, a bit stupid. 

But, actually, I found myself looking forward to picking up my Kindle and to the mushy, marshmallowy, happy (not a spoiler, this is chick lit, after all!) ending.

A perfect holiday read for a lazy, hazy, sunny afternoon on the beach.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Stranded Love by Massimo Marino

No, sorry, Sig. Marino, I wasn’t very keen on this collection of five short (very, very short) stories. They were dark, violent, creepy and unsettling. They left a rather bad taste in my mouth.

The aim, I think, was to show that love isn’t always expressed conventionally; you know, with roses, champagne and diamonds. That expression can sometimes take a hideously twisted, murderous route. Psychopaths don’t usually have intentions with good outcomes.

I thought the stories just a tad too short. No sooner had they got going, they ended. They were rather bumpy…didn’t flow at all well. I found myself checking I was still in the same story and hadn't moved on to the next.

I think I need a very corny, clich├ęd chick lit now to restore my mind to its former pure and angelic state.