Tag Archives: Amreading

Review Wednesday – Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Annie grows up in a truly nightmarish situation. Her mother is a serial killer, her young victims brought to the family home where they are murdered. When Annie can stand by no more she takes the most decisive step of her life and goes to the police. This is where the story starts.

Whilst waiting to attend her mother’s trial Annie is protected with a new identity, a foster family and a new name, Millie. But nothing is easy for Millie, her new school, the well-meaning though already dysfunctional family who take her in and her past, never very far from her thoughts.

As the date of the trial draws nears tensions arise, at home, at school, even with the one new friend Annie has made. Her ‘step’- sister, Phoebe is certainly not her friend, making life at school and at home almost intolerable with her name calling and taunts.

The title of the book, Good Me Bad Me, is a tantalising one. Has Annie/Millie told the entire truth about what happened in that house of horrors? Perhaps not. Having shown her strength in going to the police, is she her own person or a chip off the old block?

After reading the book I have concluded a little of each. Surely we are all a product of our upbringing to some extent? When that upbringing is bad an individual may be consumed by that badness and become part of it but many break away, taking with them the scars, perhaps even benefiting from them as a reminder of what they do not wish to be.

At the heart of the story is a young teenager desperately seeking the stability of family life. moral dilemmas and extreme actions scream to be justified but, of course, they can’t be.

The writing style of this addictive read is short and choppy, sometimes effective, sometimes not so for me, but I always wanted to read on and the ending, the way paved throughout the narrative, was expected but surprisingly executed. 

A fast and effective read!

Children’s Books and What They Mean to Me

img_1990Books. When I was a child, I couldn’t get enough of them. Picture books, children’s encyclopaedia’s especially the sections on Volcanoes, tropical islands and exotic animals! I loved Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five series, because those kids had such adventures. Also, just William by Richmal Crompton and Jennings and Derbyshire by Anthony Buckeridge for their downright naughtiness. Later I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries.

When my children were small I began to discover children’s books all over again, old favourites and bright, new books. Parents are so lucky, moving through a few short years of The Hungry Caterpillar and Dear Zoo to The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Mog and Winnie the Witch and on to longer stories. When we read together (long after the children could read for themselves) The Animals of Farthing Wood, Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Series, Diggers, Truckers and Wings, and of course Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox and others I couldn’t wait for the next chapter any more than the children. I never got to read the Harry Potter books to my children as they came a little too late but I’m looking forward to that pleasure with my grandchildren.

At the time that I finished writing my first novel, The Palaver Tree, we also happened to be moving house and I came across an old box file of my writing from way back when I used a typewriter. In there was the outline for a children’s book that I had long ago imagined and named Kelly at Come-alive Cottage. I was excited by the story that I had forgotten and decided there and then that I would next produce a children’s book. After all, I told myself,  the process of writing a novel is a long and sometimes arduous task. I thought my little fifty page chapter book would be a breeze.

Wrong

It  was hard, just like any writing project, but it was fun and different and also gave me a new respect for children’s writers.

My blog is all about my love of and experience with books and, for a while I have wanted to separately feature some of the best children’s books, both old and new.  This is what Fridays will look like on the blog.

I started last Friday with a brand new and lovely book by Cat Michaels, The Magical Aquarium.

Which  children’s books have you loved and remembered? If you can recommend a favourite old or new or have written a children’s book please contact me with ideas for this feature. I will be choosy, I want to feature those that I would love to share with the next generation of readers (and parents!) I will be reading and reviewing each book, so please, none longer than about fifty pages. There  are still a lot of novels out there to read too!

Children are the next generation of readers. Who knows what publishing will look like by the time they grow up? Let’s give them all the encouragement we can with great books to start their reading journey.

My Come-alive Cottage Series

imageimageimageimage

 

 

 

Review Wednesday – Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

img_1988Ragdoll has already been getting some seriously good attention from reviewers in advance of publication and it’s not difficult to see why. The blurb is sensational. A killer who stitches together the parts of his victims to make a puppet-like corpse dubbed The Ragdoll by the press. Not only that, he has more murders planned and releases a list and the dates when he will  kill these latest victims.

The rush is on to hunt down the killer and save those intended to die next.

Detective Wlliam Fawkes (Wolf) is on the case in many more ways than one. He has a history that is interwoven with this new crime and even those closest to him are not sure what that is.

The story is complex with twists, some of them truly horrible, as are the ongoing crimes committed during the final race to catch the killer.

Several reviewers have commented that this was originally a rejected screenplay but surely, after the book, it will finally make the screen in one form or another. The characters are larger than life, the killings are larger than life and the final scene is something straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. Highly recommended – cast Iron stomach required!

*Many thanks to Orion Publishing Group and Netgalley for an Advanced Review Copy of this book

 

Review Wednesday – The Devil You Know by Terry Tyler

img_1982The question at the heart of The Devil You Know by Terry Tyler is ‘Do we ever really know anyone, even our nearest and dearest? The answer, clearly, is no. We can’t ever know for sure what goes on in someone else’s mind but also they can never know what goes through ours and so there is a vast capacity for misconception.
The story is split into parts that go beyond viewpoint. We meet The Wife, the Colleague, The Mother etc and at first I thought each was connected to the Lyndford Strangler who is terrorising the local area  but no, each person had a separate story to tell and the links back to the crime  were sometimes direct, sometimes tenuous. This was the whole point, to keep the reader guessing and to contemplate the real identity of the killer through the eyes of ordinary people who feared him.

It took me a little while to get to know the characters of each part of the story but once I did I wanted to know how each little scenario would play out. This is a really original and clever modus operandi for a crime mystery. We peek into the lives of different groups and I was invested in every one. I loved the way the author played on the worries, fears and the shortcomings of the characters, (some of them quite sinister), making the story multi-layered.

The narrative is straightforward and fluid and the dialogue spot on.

Very enjoyable.

Review Wednesday – The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey

img_1971If anyone had told me that one of my first reads of 2017 would be a Zombie novel I would have said, ‘Nah! You’ve got to be joking!’

So how come?

The truth is I went into this book having read one two-line review and the blurb. I was just looking for something ‘different’ and that is exactly what I got.

It starts with Melanie, a young girl, in her cell. She is strapped into a wheelchair every day and taken to her class for lessons by Miss Justineu. We don’t know why she is being held but the routine is clearly draconian. Then we discover Melanie and the other children have a once -a-week shower and are fed on bowls of maggots. Something is very wrong.

What follows is a story with a lot of very human qualities. Not only is Miss Justineu very concerned for the wellbeing of her charges, especially Melanie, but Melanie cares deeply for her. Questions of ‘the future’ begin to arise; after all the children are research subjects and some of the children seem to be taken away and never come back. Then the ‘base’ is attacked and a small group including Melanie and Miss Justineu are thrust out into a nightmare world of Hungries and Junkers.

I loved that this book was not just a scenario of Us against Them. The little group fighting for survival have problems within their ranks as well as without but the relationships and moral dilemmas seemed real.

The author does a great job of describing the cause and progression of the ‘outbreak’ and whilst the ending was probably the only one that could have worked I loved that there was no cop-out at the end of a very original story and that the conclusion was as it should be.

 

Review Wednesday – The Girl Before by J P Delaney

img_1970It’s always great to read an intriguing premise, one that tells you that you have to read this book and that was how I felt when I first read the blurb for The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.

A perfect house built by an architect who will accept nothing short of perfection, or at least his version of it. The house is available to rent but not just to anyone with the cash ( and this house is a bargain), applicants must fill in a lengthy questionnaire and be approved personally by the owner/designer Edward Monkford. And it doesn’t stop there, rules (over 200 of them) must be adhered to; no clutter, no pets, no children, very few possessions. The list goes on.

This concept sets up the initial intrigue of the story. Why would anyone agree to live under such rigid conditions? But then, Edward is an unusual and intriguing man and Jane, the latest applicant has fallen under his spell as well as that of the beautiful, minimalist house.

The story is told from two points of view and in two time-frames. As Jane moves into One Folgate Street and learns more about Edward, whose wife and son tragically died, she also begins to learn something about a former tenant, Emma. So the action Goes back and forth and we see the house with Emma and boyfriend Simon in occupancy and with Jane.

As jane delves deeper into Emma’s life (and death) it becomes apparent that there are a lot of parallels between the two women. What really happened to Emma and, Jane wonders increasingly, was Edward responsible?

The story is complex. Both women have relationships with the Ice-cold Edward, both have suffered some trauma in their past. At some point I felt that the author introduced too many angles and that maybe the creepiness of the perfect house and it’s strange owner were in danger of becoming swamped by a whole gamut of other findings and revelations that made it hard to like any of the characters.

However, the book is certainly a page turner. The narrative flows easily and the short, sharp changes in viewpoint made it a fast and satisfying read. I would usually say that I love a convoluted plot with many twists and turns but, in this case, just for once, maybe a little less would have been more, just as with the house that features so prominently in the story.

Wednesday Review – Cast Iron by Peter May

img_1969*Many thanks go to Quercus books and Netgalley for an advanced review copy of this book*

The ‘Cast Iron’ of the title refers to the term often used for an alibi when it is deemed to be beyond question. But can an alibi ever be considered so, until the case is solved?

Enzo Macleaod, forensic expert, has been involved in a bet to unravel the details of a series of cold cases that have thus far baffled investigators. The sixth case is the mystery of what happened to young Lucie Martin, who goes missing from her home one evening, her remains discovered some years later, after a long, hot summer, in the bottom of a dried up lake. The modus operandi indicates the work of a killer already behind bars but he denies involvement.

In the course of the investigation to try to identify Lucie’s killer, Enzo soon realises that there is more than one person who would prefer that  the truth never come out. His life is in danger and his family are at risk.

In the past couple of years I have read and reviewed several books by Peter May. I thought I knew his style but found this book, set in France, a little different and, to be honest, a little difficult, at first. Enzo’s complex family life had probably developed over the previous books and so, coming new to the series I found myself backtracking at first to keep the threads of his convoluted relationships clear in my mind. However, the story is a good one, well worth the effort and the investigation a solid standalone that requires no previous knowledge.

For me at least, endings are so often a bit of a let-down even after a very enjoyable rest-of-the-book, so I would also say bravo to Peter May for bringing the elements together in an ending that did not rely on sheer luck or a happy coincidence or a massive and unbelievable hunch. The twist that brings the main characters together in the crucial scene did not disappoint and left a very satisfying aftertaste to an enjoyable read.

 

 

Review – The Epic Santa Chase by Lee M Winter

img_1955This book finishes up my reviews for the year. A short story first or children 9-12 years and a contemporary take on the true meaning of Christmas.

The story is fun all the way. At the end of a Nativity Play, Angus, who was cast as Joesph, and Hamish his best friend who was playing a chicken, give chase to a thief who takes off with some food donations for the poor and a bag containing Angus’ iPad! It’s an unlikely scenario, especially as they are accompanied by a Nike-trainer–wearing nun.

When Angus finally catches up with the thief, who was wearing a Santa costume at the time he committed the crime, he finds a very different situation to the one he had expected.

I wasn’t quite sure about the ending; maybe that should have played out a little differently, but the message was clear and the reading was fun.

 

Review – The Reading Group:December by Della Parker

img_1954Continuing my hunt for some nice, short reads over Christmas, I came upon this story by Della Parker. It is apparently an opener to a series of books but this is just a brief tale to introduce the characters.

I immediately liked the idea. In this story the group of six friends meet to discuss the month’s reading choice A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Fiction mirrors life as I guess it will in all the books and in this one Grace is the Girl in trouble, with the prospect of her Christmas looking decidedly unrosy. Through the course of the short story, friends rally, worries are prioritised and blessings are counted.

This is a simple, very quick read but a sweet story that made me want to know more about The Reading Group.

Free at the time of writing this review.

 

Reviews to finish up the year

So, I am three reviews short of my Goodreads Challenge and, it has been an important part of ‘getting back on track’ for me this year, to complete it.

I knew I was running short of time. Although I have several great books that I am currently reading, Christmas has meant travel from Portugal to England and Scotland  to spend time with loved ones and all the hectic activities that go along with that. There is no prolonged period in the day to read chunky novels!

Therefore I downloaded three, free, children’s books with a Christmas theme to end the year. Here is the first review:-

Winter on the Farm by Beata Noemi Balint

img_1953This book seems to appear on Amazon as The Snowman but on Goodreads as Winter on the Farm. That was confusing when trying to tie up the two.

The story is very cute. The Snowman is created on a wintry day by children out to have fun in the snow but, all too soon, is forgotten when the time comes for father to chop down a tree for Christmas. The children’s attention is diverted and the Snowman is left alone, but not for long, soon all the creatures who had lived in the fallen tree are crowding around him asking where they can live now that their home is gone.

There are a lot of themes here; the impact of humans on the environment, the changing of the seasons, loss and renewal, the circle of life, but they are presented in a way that is fun, easily understandable and never preachy.

This really is a very lovely story but there are grammatical mistakes and it is in need of a thorough edit and polish up.