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.

Monday, 8 August 2016

A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey by Sibel Hodge


I found this a little uninspiring. There were no ‘vibrant and adventurous’ recipes promised by the author in her blurb. They’re pleasant enough, but there’s nothing there I haven’t seen before, with or without gluten. The author of the book is a writer of fiction (her books are extremely enjoyable), not a chef, so this is just a collection of recipes she’s compiled having had to cook for her coeliac husband. Living in the Turkish Republic of Cyprus (she has dual nationality) means, of course, she's very familiar  with the cuisine. 

I’ve bookmarked a dozen or so of the recipes, not because they’re particularly different (I’ve cooked moussaka a million times in one variation or another and have made just about every mutation of hummous), but because they’re in a place I know I can find them. I follow a gluten-free diet, but have always used ordinary recipes tweaking them where necessary, so I didn’t find this recipe book that useful. And I was very irritated that the measurements were in cups and not in grams or ounces like just about every other cookbook for the UK market. 

The photos are a little amateurish, but the book is best viewed in colour rather than on a Paperwhite Kindle. 

I’m afraid there are millions and millions of professionally produced cookbooks out there on just about every aspect of cooking and nutrition. This just doesn’t have a USP.

See Also:
Be Careful What You Wish For

One Hospital Nightmare by A. P. Kasch


This novella was a little bit bland, despite the hint that the ‘nightmare’ of the title indicates some suspense, perhaps, and/or horror. 

After visiting his friend, Jared, in hospital, Nick finds himself in the same hospital after careless driving causes him to crash his car. His stay is from boring: the nurses put a new spin on ‘attentiveness’, time seems to move agonisingly slowly, if at all, and how on earth is he in the middle of a Comanche Indian battle that happened a hundred and seventy years earlier? The lines between reality and nightmare become rather blurred for Nick. He needs to find a logical explanation. Was it the medication having some sort of weird side effects?

The characters were rather one-dimensional, the dialogue a bit stilted and the historical fiction seemed a little too detached from the story—almost incongruous.

It was neatly ended, but it just left me thinking, ‘oh, okay’ rather than, ‘wow, that was a good story’.

If you like a marriage between modern-day hospital mystery and historical fiction, you may like this. It’s certainly an easy, short read, so you don’t have to invest too much time in it. For me, it just lacked a little 'oomph'.

Model Agent by Sean Sweeney


I realised my Kindle was accommodating four books by this author, so I thought it was high time I read one of them. I started with the first of the Jaclyn Johnson thrillers. Our model agent (modelling is just something she does when she’s not saving the world) has, as her first assignment, to stop a ruthless and unscrupulous man using outrageous methods to annihilate his competitors in the bottled-water industry. A man who’s almost tyrannical, despotic even, and has to be caught at all costs…some of which turn out to be very high and very tragic.

I’ve got to say  you have to suspend disbelief with this book. It’s a little OTT…a female Bond, Jaclyn isn’t. But she’s a no-nonsense, sassy, don’t-mess-with-me chick…and I love female crimefighters like that. And with her tools of the trade: Do-It-All Porsche, glasses, skintight Lycra suit…it’s all a bit daft. The ending doesn’t just require suspending disbelief, it needs gagging and locking up somewhere it can’t whisper, ‘Seriously?’ somewhat repeatedly.

And that…is why I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed it! Okay, it’s not the best writing I’ve come across (apostrophes, Mr S, apostrophes), but it was all delightfully silly and massively entertaining from start to finish. I loved it. Rogue Agent is the second in the series, and it's ready and waiting on my Kindle.