Friday, 11 November 2016

The Man in the Black Hat by Melissa Bowersock


Ah, the enjoyment-sure experience, courtesy of Ms Bowersock, who always manages to put a glint in your eye for her leading man, somehow. It's Clay Bauer this time, an actor who doesn’t have a pretty enough face to get good-guy roles. But, he has bills to pay, so villains it is. After the final shoot at the end of yet another B-rated movie in Sedona, Arizona, he wanders off on his ‘stage’ horse to find the vortices he's heard so much about. He finds himself passing through a vortex to a Sedona a hundred years earlier. 

Having not long read Bowersock’s Being Travis, another time-travel novel, I was having a bit of déjà vu. But I should have known that the very talented Ms B would have something up her sleeve. And she did. But I’m not telling, I’m afraid.

Clay’s become a bit Hollywood-superficial, but his experiences in early-twentieth-century Sedona and a certain Ella reveal a warm, caring, decent man, who ultimately makes a decision that turns his life around dramatically. And by ‘around’, I mean…no, sorry, shan’t. Read this and find out. Wonderful.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Black Pomegranate by David W. Cowles


The plot of this book lacks the same sophistication as its cover, which doesn't scream 'read me', alas. 

And that's a bit of a shame, because the actual writing isn't at all bad. It's rather good, in fact. It’s articulate, fluid, expressive…which I think is what helped me limp along to the end of the book.

Thankfully, though, the plot doesn’t take itself too seriously… the reader shouldn’t either, and you can just about do that until about halfway, at which point, it really gets a little bit silly.

A beautiful, Hispanic student persuades a geeky, nerdy, lanky, unkempt computer lecturer to help her with her studies so that she can save her little South American republic, Granada Negra (Black Pomegranate), from the rebels seeking political power. They make a rather unlikely couple…but well, Beauty and the Beast made a pretty good story, I suppose. But then the detail overstretches the imagination somewhat and what could have been a quirky, albeit totally unlikely, little tale just gets rather ridiculous.

However, I can’t deny that I enjoyed the style of the writer and I was über, über impressed by the impeccable editing. And I don’t get to say that often about the books I read. I certainly won’t rule out another book by this author.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Tree of Everlasting Nolfi by Christine Nolfi


I didn’t go past ‘Go’ when I selected this book. I just went straight to my TBR. I didn’t remind myself what it was about…I relied on my judgement that if it was on my list, there was a very good reason for it. And I’m pleased to say I can still rely on my judgement. This was an excellent book.

However…I’m totally and utterly confused. In slightly reverse order, having  read and enjoyed the book, I was a little curious to see what the ‘blurb’ said. And therein I find there’s a character I haven’t even heard of. I really thought, well, that’s it. I’ve finally qualified for men-in-white-coats-ville. Further confusion reigned when I realise the other characters and…more importantly the plot…are identical. In short, my main character—Ourania—morphed into ‘Rennie’. What on earth?

Anyway…confusion aside (and at least the character didn’t change name during the story) this was a Very Good Book.

Secrets can change lives. They changed Ourania’s, a competent electrician…and fosterparent…they changed Troy’s, the eldest son of a rich and powerful family and the strain of keeping secrets change the lives of two young children. Secrets that are held by a magnificent old oak tree.

This is a powerful drama with strong, solid characters in a robust plot. There are twists and turns, and although I guessed the major twist fairly early on, Nolfi writes with such passion and compassion, intelligently and articulately, and the story builds to such a dramatic climax, it really didn’t matter.

I will certainly be checking out more books by this author, and I really wouldn’t mind catching up with Ourania (Rennie, whatever she’s supposed to be called) and Troy.

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.