Category Archives: Reading and reviewing

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.

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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.

Review Wednesday – Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

Robert Bryndza continues with his winning formula in this latest in the Erika Foster series. Last Breath is a breathtaking read, fast and furious as the race is on to find a serial killer who disposes of his victims in the town’s dumpsters.

This is a difficult one to say much about without spoilers but what I can say without giving anything away is that I enjoyed knowing the identity of the killer before the end of the book, seeing the twisted logic and also the costly mistakes. For me, this is a very effective way of story telling when I can see both sides and ultimately observe as the world’s of the killer and police collide.

If anything I think this is my favourite of the series so far. Erika is becoming a little more human after her past tragedy and her relationships within the force continue to develop. I particularly like Moss who is an intelligent and loyal member of the team. Erika is in conflict with her superiors as usual, but then she wouldn’t be Erika without a little bit of her headstrong, the rules don’t apply to me, style.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Review Wednesday – The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian

Set in the London of 1882, March Middleton, whose father has died, arrives to live with Sidney Grice who is to be her guardian. Sidney Grice is the most famous and celebrated private investigator of the era but his success is equally matched by his gruff and unapproachable exterior.

March however is not cowed by this bully of a man. She formerly assisted her father who was an army surgeon at the front and has already had a tough education in matters of life and death. When a distraught woman consults Grice on the matter of her son-in-law, who has been arrested for murder, March jumps in to pay the poor woman’s fee for the investigation but insists she must help with the case. So begins the hunt for a killer.

I did enjoy the mystery in the book which was quite convoluted toward the end, but for me, there were some reservations. Sidney Grice is clever, an astute investigator, but also an abominable man, rude and unfeeling. There were some funny moments, he is a dab-hand at a witty riposte and a few of them made me laugh but all-in-all I found the detective to be too unlikeable and his presence actually overshadowed the story. March is an enjoyable character but, I have to say, I was weary of Grice’s nastiness and peculiarities, even his love of tea, by the end of the book.

 

24 Days by Jacqui Murray

Today I am so pleased to feature Jacqui Murray on the blog hop for her new title in her explosive Rowe-Delamagente series 24 Days. This is the second book in the series and follows To Hunt a Sub where all the main characters are introduced. These are exciting, action packed stories with quirky characters and tech details that give the narrative a genuine feel without ever becoming  too overpowering.

Here is the blurb for 24 Days :-

 

An Unlikely team is America’s only chance! 

A former SEAL, a brilliant scientist, a love-besotted nerd, and a quirky AI have twenty-four days to stop a terrorist attack. The problems: They don’t know what it is, where it is, or who’s involved.

And my review:-

As I have only recently read To Hunt a Sub it was great to be able to dive back in and read the ongoing adventures of Kali, Zeke and the rest of the ‘crew’. This time two lethal nuclear subs are hijacked by terrorists and with the latest technology at their disposal are almost impossible to find.

As the days go by the involvement of Kali and Zeke’s old nemesis becomes clear and the stakes become ever higher.

I love stories that have a ‘countdown’ format to them, building the tension as the hours and days go by. And there is certainly no lack of tension in 24 Days. There is quite a bit of technical detail and naval terms that may be too much for some readers but, for me, they added to the feeling of authenticity. Jacqui Murray has a technical back ground that clearly shows through in this series but she also adds a generous cast of characters with all their expertise and failings building a human story as well as a taut thriller that rattles along at the kind of pace that entirely suits the story. I will look forward to more from Kali and Zeke and the increasingly adorable Otto in the future.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty- four Days. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.

Visit Jacqui at her website  https://worddreams.wordpress.com for all the latest background info and chat.