Monday, 8 January 2018

Hungry for Love by Maya Sacher

Here, supposedly, is a lady with a dilemma. Or does she?

Dentist, Elizabeth’s husband, Jesse, has been in a coma for two very long years. Along comes very handsome Australian zoo curator Aiden, and of course, she falls head-over-heels in love with him. She moves in with Aiden and doesn’t tell him she’s married until, rather predictably, Jesse wakes up. What an inconvenience. Elizabeth then spends the next 75% of the book trying to convince herself and the two men that well, couldn’t the three of them work in a non-ménage-à-trois sort of way. Why couldn’t she just merge them into one perfect man? Really.

I’m afraid I found this situation and Elizabeth very irritating. In fact, I rather wanted to slap her. Let’s remind you, dear: you’re married, and you must have realised that there was every likelihood that your husband (you know the one…in sickness and in health?) might wake up. I disliked her for her infidelity, I disliked her for expecting Jesse to be okay with her infidelity, and I disliked her for continually striving for a three-way set-up. It could work, couldn’t it, alternate weeks with each one? Seriously? I kept hoping that both men would just tell her to get on her bike, but no, she spoke, they said how high. 

I found it difficult to feel anything for any of the characters; they were all rather bland and one-dimensional. Aiden came over as an Eastender, rather than an Aussie and had a very irritating habit of saying ‘bout, instead of about. I’m not sure why.

I think I would have rather read ‘bout Jesse and Elizabeth rebuilding their lives after such a life-changing event. This author certainly has the ability and competence to develop these characters. Maybe there’s a sequel I don’t know about! 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Krysten Ritter is an actress…I’ve only seen her once as Jesse’s rather unfortunate heroin-addict girlfriend in Breaking Bad. A memorable role. So…is she going to be a memorable author with this, her inaugural novel?

This is a story of environmental lawyer Abby Williams who returns to her home town, Barrens, after ten years to investigate a large company, suspected of poisoning the town’s water reservoir with their toxic waste. Not an easy task for her, as she’s returning to some bad memories. However, they not only resurface, she discovers a very unsettling secret making the investigation very complex indeed.

I’m not a great fan of the present tense, especially for dramatic novels…but it’s never a deal breaker in my choice of book. In this instance, however, it did confirm why I don’t like it. It just didn’t work, especially as this was also first-person POV. The run-up to the ending was tense and dramatic, but unfortunately, loose threads were hastily tied up in a clunky manner in the epilogue in a sort of ‘I later found out that this is what happened to me' way. It all fell rather flat. 

However…this is a debut novel, and I would be lying if I didn’t say it was well written, well observed and for the most part, pacey and dramatic. Despite my misgivings, this author can only get better and has a promising future.

I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for her next novel.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Dragon Walk by Melissa Bowersock

Well, really. There I was, in full mourning mode, after reading what I thought was the last Lacey and Sam book, when up pops number five! Quite threw me off kilter…ah, but was I glad. It seems the Lacey and Sam fan club just would not let them rest after their fourth mystery, so thank goodness for an author who listens. Cue Book 5 which sees our spirit hunters trying to solve a case that’s dumbfounded the police. 

A young marathon runner disappears suddenly on a regular morning run. All paths lead to either an ex-boyfriend or her current abusive one. It rests on Lacey and Sam to see if they can pick up any trails the police couldn’t. 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dying to find out how their relationship was panning out…we saw it get to a very satisfying level by the end of Book 4. So I really needed to find out if was all wine and roses. And the answer is: yes, I did find out.

This book is a good 100-150 pages shorter than its predecessors. But fans, never fear…Lacey and Sam are not lying low just yet. A sixth mystery is imminent. And that, is very good news.

See also:

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Close to Home by Cara Hunter

Set in the lovely university town of Oxford, I was expecting this to be, from current reviews, a gripping thriller about the hunt, led by DI Adam Fawley, for eight-year-old Daisy Mason, who goes missing from a family party. The title suggests the obvious: were the parents responsible, a neighbour perhaps, a sibling? Your expectation is of a suspenseful, edge-of-your seat thriller to find out not only the culprit, but of course, is she dead or alive. It certainly lived up to all of that, but my guessing journey was completely thrown off course with a surprise twist at the end. I really wasn’t expecting a good way! (Sorry, no spoilers.)

A very skilfully written and devised plot with a full cast of well-portrayed characters…those you’re meant to hate (oh heck, you really hate them) and those who are meant to garner your sympathy, empathy even, did just that.

However, just a couple of issues needled me a little throughout. Firstly, various fonts and typefaces were used to isolate 'public' tweets (the public invariably become judge and jury in these cases)…but some were extremely difficult to read as they were very feint grey which does not work in Kindleland. Not a deal-breaker, but I just didn’t see the value of it as well as struggling to read them.

Secondly, whilst the book was written from both first POV and third-person POV in the present tense (not my favourite, I'm afraid), the present tense didn’t work for me with the flashbacks. They were in the past, so for me, they should have been in the past tense. And a message to the author, editor and copy-editor: ‘there’s (there is)’ is followed by a single noun, not a plural one. This is elementary grammar, so I was a tad disappointed to see the error in one of the slightly better-edited books I’ve read. 

For all that, this previously unknown-to-me author is a new, exciting find for me. Not only that, I gather this is the first in the D. I. Adam Fawley series, so I’m really looking forward to getting to know more about him.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Espionage London by John Day

Told from both a British and German perspective, this was an interesting approach to a second-world-war spy thriller. Set in 1943, a quartet of young spies, led by Karl Strom, is sent by Hitler to set up devastating system that would, he thinks, ensure a positive outcome for Germany.

There is a lot of intrigue, twists and turns, and action. The characterisation is mostly good…a couple of characters are a tad unbelievable…the action scenes are compelling, and the wartime scene-setting is competent.

Day must have done a good deal of scientific and engineering research to make the device the spies are to plant so very credible, an element that contributes to a mostly engaging thriller.

What didn’t work for me was that the spies took on assumed names—obviously. Whilst the plot characters required them to be known by these names, I think the narrator should have referred to them by their ‘real’ names. It was a tad confusing. Secondly, the romantic element didn’t quite convince me. It seems one night between the sheets was enough to declare never-ending love for two couples, at least.

There are some serious editing issues, but nothing that can’t, hopefully, be fixed by a good editor.

John le Carré has no competition here, I’ll be honest, but it’s a decent espionage thriller that keeps you turning the pages right to the end.

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Last Deception by DV Berkom

I’ve read a number of good books since my last encounter with ex assassin Leine Basso, and with each (most of them by new-to-me authors), I had to hope they’d all be worth my time investment. I never have to 'hope' with a Basso adventure. You all know the sort of book: one that comes with an unwritten guarantee of excellence.

Berkom alternates books between two strong and bolshy female protagonists: Kate Jones and Leine Basso, whose turn it is in this, the sixth of her adventures. No less strong, no less bolshy, no less kick-arse, no less no-nonsense. Determined, sassy, independent and cunning. This time, she’s wading through the dark and murky waters of espionage and deception that casts a very heavy shadow over the relationship between two super-powers.

What do I say that I haven’t said before? I could dive into Mr Roget’s best seller to try and find some alternative words for 'captivating, page-turner, thrilling', but I’ll keep it simple: it’s another bloody good book by a bloody good author.

See Also:

Monday, 9 October 2017

After The Fire by Henning Mankell

I’m not a fan of translated novels…more often than not the text is a little stilted, as the translator is usually a native of the language from which the novel is being translated, English, therefore being the second language. This, from Swedish, wasn’t too bad, although the translator got into a pickle with the past tenses. However, the most annoying thing about this book was that every pronoun ‘I’ was in lower case, every word at the start of the sentence and many proper names didn't start with capital. Is this a Swedish thing? And why wasn’t it picked up by an editor? Five per cent in and I was seriously irked by this, but, as they say on Mastermind, I started so I finished.

I found this book rather dreary and lifeless…like most of the characters. Fredrik Welin is a disgraced retired doctor living alone on an island in the Swedish archipelago. His very mundane and routine life is dramatically overturned when his house is completely burnt down and he loses everything. When the police can find no cause, he is suspected of arson, not really considering that he’s lost his home (one that had been in his family for a number of generations) and just about all his possessions. With only the clothes he was standing in, he then has to deal with his terrible loss, the tragedy heightening his loneliness and purpose in life. Ultimately, of course, he wants to find out who set fire to his house and why. 

Fredrik is neither likable nor unlikable. He is bland, a bit feeble and devoid of any personality, so I found it very hard to feel sympathy...or anything...for him. Many of his neighbourhood islanders were the same. As for his daughter (who he’d only recently come to know), she was really rather obnoxious.

Mankell…I realised halfway through the book…was the author of the Wallander novels. I guess if you’re a fan of those, you might like this, the author’s final work before his death in 2015.

But this wasn’t for me…I found myself wanting to shake the characters to get some passion, a spark of life out of them.

Alas, this left me as cold as the icy sea Fredrik Welin swam in every morning.