Category Archives: Reading and reviewing

A Thousand Yesteryears (Point Pleasant) by Mae Clair

Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant fifteen years after the tragic bridge collapse that claimed many lives, including that of her father and her best friend Maggie.

After the accident, Eve’s mother decided a fresh start was needed and she moved with Eve far enough away to help forget the events of that night.

But now Aunt Rosie has died and left her house and the Parrish Hotel to Eve and so Eve has travelled alone back to her home town, to decide what to do with her inheritance.
Her first instincts are to sell and return back to her new home as soon as possible. The town has changed, weighed down under its reputation as a place of tragedy. But there are plenty of people that Eve still knows, the Flynn brothers, Caden and Ryan, .their mother Mrs Flynn and Katie Lynch whose sister Wendy disappeared. Events soon begin to take an ominous turn and conspire to keep Eve back in her old home.

This murder mystery; what really happened to Maggie and to Wendy Lynch, is woven into the paranormal tale of the bridge collapse and the legend of the Mothman, a creature said to roam the swampy area just out of town. Plenty of local people believe in the Mothman and some have seen it. Despite her early doubts, Eve begins to wonder if maybe the Mothman really does exist and if Maggie is trying to help catch a murderer from beyond the grave.

With a bit of romance thrown, in this is a great start to a series and a fluent, easy read.

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Pines by Blake Crouch

I am always attracted by those kind of blurbs that offer an intriguing dilemma and lately that has caused me to dip my toes into the world of Sci-if on more than one occasion.
The pines by Blake Crouch is such a book. Just after I purchased the audiobook, but before I started listening, someone told me they had watched the TV series and it was pretty bad. That put me off and I delayed. But honestly, I have enjoyed so many books that, in my personal opinion, have not been adapted well for the screen, that I knew I wanted to give the book a fair chance.
On the whole, I am glad I did, though, as with much of the science fiction genre, I think it is relatively easy for a good writer to come up with that killer scenario and much harder for him/her to explain all the mysterious goings on and come to a satisfying conclusion.

First though, I would like to say that, though this is the first in a trilogy, I didn’t feel cheated at the end of the book with a no-resolution type ending. Answers are given, a handful of loose ends tied.
Ethan Burke wakes by a river, he is hurt, has been in some kind of accident but he has no memory of it, or how he got there. He has no keys, wallet ID or anything else to identify himself.

He is told he was involved in a car accident, his companion killed and that he staggered out of the medical centre when staff were trying to help him. His belongings are with paramedic staff. So far, so believable, but Ethan is already beginning to worry that something is off kilter with the explanations he is being given.

He asks for the use of a telephone to contact his wife and son, his efforts to reach her are thwarted. As time goes on, Ethan is witness to violence and coercion and the definite knowledge that he and everyone else in the town are not at liberty to leave.

*Warning ! Spoiler alert from this point*

I usually prefer to skirt around the story and make my points without giving anything away but, with this one, I find it impossible to comment on, without touching on the issues that surround the reason for this isolated-town-with-no-way-out.

The basics are that Homo sapiens have died out beyond the confines of the town of Wayward Pines. In fact, everyone who lives there is an import, brought in, unknown to them, to continue the species before the disaster which will befall their fellow humans and see the end of their race.

One man in the 1980’s has had the foresight to see what will happen to the human race, through pollution of the planet. He took it upon himself to embark on the massive project of buying up a town and planning to repopulate it with people he kidnapped along the way and put into stasis until the right time came to introduce them to their new life. This is what has happened to Ethan.

Beyond the town evolution-gone-mad (in thirty generations) has transformed what remains of life into huge, jaw-snapping creatures, intelligent, hungry for human blood and impossible to communicate with. Towns and cities are overgrown and in ruins.

Of course the reader has to accept this crazy, evolutionary fast-forward that produced these creatures in under two thousand years, but this is science fiction, so… so far so good.

What didn’t work for me so well, was that the people were ‘kidnapped’ with such secrecy into the survival programme that even they were not told they were part of it. But more than that, the environmental changes that have been so profound as to wipe out humanity and send life on Earth on a completely different path, doesn’t appear to have affected the plant life. The town of Wayward Pines does not exist in a bubble of pre-disaster air and yet the town looks just like any ordinary old town of 2015, (two thousand years ago). And the surviving humans seem quite able to cope with the changes.

Science fiction is often a disappointment for me and maybe that’s not entirely science fiction’s fault, maybe I just think it out too much. However this kind of fiction is for pure entertainment and I was definitely entertained, I really wanted to know, as much as Ethan did, if he could break out of this weird village where he was being held captive and if he could find out why. I just wish the town had been isolated in some kind of dome, Logan’s Run style, where the environmental changes ‘outside’ could not affect them.

Then again, maybe the environment hasn’t changed? Maybe the Jaw Snappers are the result of some other mad experiment?

I may well have to read the second instalment!

A First Review for Dirty Work

So very pleased with this review for Dirty Work. It really can’t be said enough, reviews really do make an author’s day. Go on, readers,  write about the books you love and make an author happy!

Unsworth’s first novel – The Palaver Tree – will always be my favorite, because I too lived in Africa.

Her novel – Dirty Work – is another must read. The deceptively simple story of two couples morphs into a mystery with a number of surprising twists that kept me turning the pages. On the surface it would seem that Nathan, with all his money, his beautiful wife and stunning home, has the upper hand. Below the surface, however, things are churning – nasty things, that lead Nathan, his brother and his sister-in-law into a web they never could have imagined.

Well written with strong characterizations, great descriptions, and lots of action, Dirty Work is a story not to be missed if you like mysteries and even if you don’t.’

Wednesday Review – The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd

Hankering after something ‘different’, I picked up this book from Audible.

The story has a great premise and it is very different. Plus Plus.

What I liked about The Stone Man was the great idea; a giant stone figure appears, literally from nowhere. Then it begins to move, obliterating everything in its path. No one knows what it is or how to stop it.

Andy, our narrator, is one of the first people on the scene when The Stone Man appears. He is a reporter and he sees, as the destruction begins, a great opportunity to make his name with this story. Unfortunately Andy is not a greatly likeable character and, as the book progressed I found myself less likely to hope the best for him.

The writing style was easy to listen to throughout and the intrigue was there right from the first chapter, but for me, it dragged a little, with too much mulling over what was happening. I see the book has mixed reviews and usually find that a good indicator; maybe I am just not so into Sci-fi, or possibly sci-if with no answers. The implications were horrific for some characters in the book, but I wouldn’t call it a horror book either. I think maybe it was a mistake to label the book, ‘A Sci-fi Thriller’;

I am on the fence, therefore; an enjoyable book, a great idea but maybe not for me.

Finally, the author speaks in his own voice at the end, quite a long footnote about authorship and reviews. I don’t mind authors asking for reviews at all; they need them. But I felt he ventured too far into the nature of the end of the book. Some readers found it too ambiguous, but it was the ending the author chose. However, I felt he attempted to justify it too much. Maybe that would have been better left alone.

‘Interesting’, is a word I might use for this particular reading experience. I would read more from this author.

Wednesday Review- All the Little Children by Jo Furniss

All The Little Children starts right in with the action. Marlene and sister-in-law Joni are out for a camping trip with their kids and one of the children’s classmates. They’re a mixed bunch in age and personality and it is immediately clear that the outdoor life is not one they are used to.
Nevertheless the kids show some enthusiasm when they set off on a hunt for wood for the campfire.
The first sign of the coming problem is the arrival of a friendly and unaccompanied dog, ‘Horatio’ who Marlene takes back to camp until the owner can be found. Peter, the classmate, shins up a tall tree, despite Marlene’s protests, and reports a more disturbing discovery. He says that all he can see for miles around is fires ‘like volcanoes’.
As they cannot see for themselves neither Marlene nor Joni know what to make of Peters claim, but they are soon to find out that the problems they will face are much, much worse.

I hadn’t realised this was a dystopian novel when I started the book, but the signs are everywhere that something significant has happened beyond the sheltered confines of their isolated camping spot.
What follows is the efforts of this unlikely group to discover what has happened to the people in the surrounding countryside, and to make contact with any other survivors.

I have to say that, for me, on this occasion, the idea behind the story was more compelling than the course the story eventually takes. Marlene is not easy to like, and this part, her personality, was hard to get past, though I really wanted to be behind her in her struggle. The problem is that she is at the camp to bond with her kids, as if it is just another tick on her to-do list. She is a business woman who feels that her dedication to her work is misunderstood. Marlene didn’t need to be this way for the storyline, and I felt that it made her much less easy to get behind in her new role as leader of the pack of survivors.
There are some cruel twists and while this would never be a credible story without some of the cast falling victim to the circumstances, I felt that maybe there were a couple (or three) poor choices in there.

All The Little Children is a fluent and well written book, but this one was not entirely for me.

 

 

Review Wednesday -Just an Odd Job Girl by Sally Cronin

Imogen is fifty when her husband of over twenty-five years announces he has found himself a new and younger woman; a fast-tracker, as Imogen dubs her. This is a girl who is out to get man who has already established himself and made money, rather than marry someone of her own age and have to struggle their way to the top together.
Not only does Imogen lose her husband, she is left with no choice but to move from the family home and re-jig her life completely. It’s a daunting task; the children have flown the nest and she hasn’t worked in years.
Alone in her new little home on the edge of Epping Forest Imogen browses the local newspaper and comes across an ad from an employment agency. She telephones, makes an appointment, cobbles together something to wear and, for the first time in a very long time, compiles a CV.
The adventure begins.
From here the story takes Imogen to her interview, where Mr Jenkins ( call me Andrew) invites her to talk him through all the jobs, and there are quite a few, that she has previously undertaken.
Each chapter then describes unlikely and varied forms of employment. There is a lot of humour in the writing, but also some pathos too.
I won’t reveal the ending but, though it came as no surprise, it was just what was needed for this story, with a little comeuppance for the dastardly husband thrown in.

Reading a book like Just an Odd Job Girl by Sally Cronin reminds me that I should do this more often -I love thrillers and dark stories but a little lightheartedness, occasionally, goes a very long way.

Review Wednesday – Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

The opening lines of a book are so important; for me, even more so when the book is an audio book; it really needs to pull me in. There have been mixed reactions to Unravelling Oliver but even those who were disappointed by the story seem to agree on one thing, it has a great opening line.
I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her …. She didn’t even seemed to be surprised. I was surprised. I hadn’t planned to do it.
Oliver has hit his wife. His is the opening viewpoint, as he discusses with cool detachment his own feelings about the event. There was an immediate and chilling insight, for me, as the reader, that there was something very wrong with this man.
The story proceeds through several viewpoints, some I enjoyed more than others but all were very distinct and if you are listening rather than reading, recognisable with excellent narrators throughout.
Oliver is telling his story, from his strange and unhappy childhood, which certainly has had a massive effect on his psyche, to the present day. Despite a singularly unusual upbringing Oliver is a successful man, that is, he is a successful author who writes children’s books under a pen name and has enjoyed fame and fortune which includes radio and television interviews. Oliver met his wife, Alice, through his writing, when the two began to work together, her as an illustrator of his stories, but Alice has always eschewed the fame part of their success.
Unravelling Oliver is a perfect title for this book. Once the reader has taken in the shocking situation at the beginning of the story we go back, hearing the viewpoints of friends and relatives as we unpick the layers of the story and find the truth. Why did Oliver show this sudden and tragic violence toward his wife? What caused this golden personality to fall so far?
I enjoyed Unravelling Oliver, the writing is interesting and assured and the often convoluted aspects of the story were all tied in nicely. Some viewpoints were more interesting than others, but each one moved the story further toward its conclusion. This book is not a thriller and, at times, I felt that the author wanted to redeem Oliver, to show his regret and his admittance (if only to himself) of his failings. That part didn’t work for so well for me.
As a study of a man, shaped by his own early circumstances, and rendered unable to care for anyone but himself to the extent that he will go to any lengths to better protect his chosen lifestyle, it is a book I will remember.