Tag Archives: Amreading

Review – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

img_1948Every year, in the run up to Christmas, I always seem to manage to see some old, film version of this great Christmas story. It’s there in the background, the Bah Humbug! and the Bless us One and All, while I am wrapping gifts or preparing food.

This year has been a little different. Terrestrial TV has become almost a thing of the past for me so I was delighted when Audible offered a free version of the story starring Derek Jacobi and Miriam Margoyles, amongst others. No matter how many times I hear this story, I love it. It is as much a part of Christmas as Christmas pudding. This production is excellent, I have had my fix for this year and I see that this is still offered free on Amazon today!  Thank you, Audible!

Review – How Santa Changed by Karl Steam

img_1946What a delightful and different Christmas story this is. Illustrated in full colour and in a traditional style, How Santa Changed, tells the story of Santa as a young man, who loves to make toys for children. But as the years go by the burden of producing more and more toys takes its toll and the moose that pulls his sleigh can’t cope either!

Changes are needed if the annual task of delivering toys to children all over the world can be completed.

The story is told in rhyme in the style of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ – it’s a bright, cheerful and very seasonal read that I loved and I am sure children will love to find out how young Santa became the Jolly Old Elf that we all know.

There are a couple of clunky lines but otherwise the rhyming story worked really well. A lovely, quick read for Christmas!

 

Review -The Tales of Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah

img_1945These two short stories came to me as a freebie from Audible. Max Carrados is that most unlikely of people, a blind detective. Written in the early 1900’s this author was apparently a popular rival to Conan Doyle.

The stories presented are both about crimes involving coins, they are cleverly written (perhaps a little too clever) but rather uninteresting. I preferred the first story that introduces the detective.

The saving grace for me was the narrator, the great Stephen Fry, whose skill brought light and colour and humour to the stories.

Note – the cover displayed is one for a larger collection of eleven stories. The sample collection of two seems to be unavailable at the moment.

Review – Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

img_1944A young girl goes missing. At the beginning of the book we are privy to the girl’s thoughts; her gripes and grumbles about family life, her feelings of how unfair everyone is, the typical teenage problems. But then she is taken.
Margot Lewis a local woman who writes a column as ‘Dear Amy’ receives a letter from a missing girl, pleading for help. She is being held, is frightened and lonely and has no idea where she is. However, this missing girl is not the one who has just been taken. This girl, Bethan Avery, has been missing for two decades. As more letters arrive, Margot is determined to discover the whereabouts of the girl and in the process more is revealed about herself than she could ever have imagined.
I loved the premise of this story and the writing was strong but, for me, the truth was just a stretch too far. Without including spoilers I can only say that the author used a device that I have read in two other books this year but that doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t believe in Margot’s reaction to what had happened to her in the past and it’s relationship to the latest disapppearance. I felt that was a pity as the idea was a great one. But I will be looking out for what this author has to offer next as I felt that all the ingredients were there for a very strong story.

Review Wednesday – The Journal of Reginald Perigar by David Haynes

img_1943I downloaded this book when I saw it on a free promotion because it looked interesting but it was only after it arrived on my Kindle that I realised it was by David Haynes, an author I have read and enjoyed in the past.

This short book did not disappoint. Basil Jenkins is the collector of ‘intriguing objects’ so when he acquires a boxed chess set along with a journal recording matches played by Reginald Perigar, clearly a master of the game, he immediately begins to re-enact the matches one by one.

This Victorian Gothic story is perfectly pitched; the icy streets of London so apt. That the story was fairly predictable didn’t matter at all. Tales such as these are to be savoured in the telling. The twist at the very end is a really nice touch.

Best enjoyed on a cold winter’s night, along with a glass of rich mulled wine.

Review – Killing Jane by Stacy Green

img_1942The story starts with a killing so brutal that the attic where the body is discovered is reminiscent of a Jack The Ripper murder scene. And so it starts…

Called in as lead investigator for the first time is Erin Prince. It soon becomes clear that Erin has a whole bucket full of issues to deal with in her private life, most prominent of them the rich and privileged upbringing she has rejected, choosing not to work in the family firm but to make her own way in life. Even so she is given the nickname Princess by some, including unwanted attention from the media where the handle can be twisted anyway they need it to fit. There are also underlying, but mercifully, less well known reasons for Erin’s insecurities.

I didn’t find Erin very easy to connect with at first, she tends to whine and moan and her attitude is only made worse when compared to the solid and likeable figure of Todd Beckett, her new partner. Todd is a winning character, not afraid to say when he thinks Erin is wrong but sensitive to her lack of experience and willing to protect her public image.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this story, connections are everywhere and more grisly murders follow. The identity of the killer was fairly obvious as the book came to around the half way mark but more exciting for me than the identity was how the author was going to explain so many loose ends and if there could be a plausible link to the murders in Whitechapel so long ago. It could have been a huge letdown.

This for me was the strength of Killing Jane. The author did a very good job of tying up all aspects of quite a large cast of characters, all with something to hide, and what I thought might become a messy or unsatisfactory end was actually quite perfect, if horrific.

Hopefully Erin will move on from the tragedy and trauma of the past and in subsequent books we will see a more affable character. Whilst she has so obviously suffered there was some resolution in this first book; in my opinion, a nice touch.

Final note – what a superb cover; it really stood out for me.

To be published in January 2017

*Many thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book*

Review – Write to Be Heard by Aaron D Gansky and Diane Sherlock

img_1940Write To Be Heard is a straightforward no-nonsense read for writers wanting to improve their skills and, I imagine, that is most writers. There is nothing fancy and I think that is probably the intention, to make the book accessible to all writers.

The book begins with the subject of its title, the narrative voice, and how to achieve something natural and fluid in the prose we write. It goes on to characters and how to get to know them, their backgrounds, quirks, foibles, motivations. Plot, structure and dialogue are also discussed.

There are exercises to follow and to apply to a piece of work or a WIP.

I don’t believe anyone interested in writing can ever read enough of these kind of books, even if the reader doesn’t necessarily agree with every point made; there can be something to learn in that too.

A solid read that disappointed me a little just in that I would have liked more on that narrative voice, the subject of the book (although the subtitle does include … ‘and more.’..). But for anyone looking for a good overview of the creative writing process plus a few nice nuggets of motivation this will hit the spot.

Review- A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

img_1939Wow! This is a great book. An autobiography that I didn’t want to end; that’s an unusual situation for me.

I don’t go much for celebrity reads or celebrity anything really but I downloaded this audiobook because I so admired Cranston’s role in Breaking Bad, ( where he played the amazing character Walter White) that I wanted to know more about this actor.

The book isn’t just about Breaking Bad, not at all. It begins at the beginning; family problems, divorce, hard times though always told with humour and a sense that optimism was a non-negotiable attitude for the Cranston children.

Bryan and his brother take on all manner of jobs to keep the wolf from the door. There are some very surprising accounts of boyhood in an era when you could lose a job one day and walk into another the next and when CV’s and an interview process for minor and summer jobs hadn’t yet been invented. He tells of early no-holes-barred training for a career in the police force, including time in the morgue and a life-defining road trip before the serious work of acting began.

As far as his acting career goes, Cranston’s account seems honest and straightforward. He believes in hard work and is willing to walk the walk. He speaks of his great career boost with his role in Breaking Bad, the camaraderie on and off set and the relationships that didn’t work out so well. Fans of the series will appreciate some of the insight into this great show but beware, anyone about to begin watching there are some spoilers. Maybe watch first, read later.

A very interesting and enjoyable book. I listened to this on Audiible and Bryan Cranston with his warm, just-sitting-across-the-table-from-you, voice is a very good narrator too.

Review – Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

img_1938Reasons to Stay Alive is an important book. I know this because many reviewers who are also sufferers say it has helped them, that it is important to them, and they after all, should know.

I’ve read dozens of books on depression, old and new; some by doctors, others honest, personal accounts by those who suffer and have suffered.

Matt Haig, already an accomplished writer before he wrote this book, tells his own particular story very well. He talks about the confusion at the onset of his depression and the fear and debilitation it caused. He goes into great detail, he relates the awful challenges of simply maintaining an ordinary existence.

Reviews of the book by those affected by depression really bring home how much it can mean to read the account of someone who has gone through similar experiences and felt similar feelings. People with depression often feel very alone with their problem, unique even in the most horrible of ways, and finding that they are not is powerful.

Reading from the viewpoint of someone who is related to a sufferer is different. Reasons To Stay Alive and similar books can give hope and just a little bit more understanding. We can encourage our loved one to read the book and engage with it, see the sense and the hope in it, but don’t know if they will. But anyone who can articulate their experiences should keep writing books such as these. Let’s keep being open and honest about this devastating condition and hope the future can be brighter for many.

 

Review – Harry and the Hot Lava by Chris Robertson

img_1921A  colourful and striking picture book. Harry imagines hot lava is on the loose, running through his house.

Reading this book reminded me of when children have a what we used to call in our house a ‘mad half-hour’, running,chasing, screeching and laughing, the type of behaviour that makes parents quickly say ‘okay now, lets just sit quietly and look at some books.’

The illustrations in Harry and the Hot Lava are cute, colourful, dynamic and very well drawn. However the story is minimal, not really a story at all. I somehow think that once the impact of first seeing it was over it’s not a book that could be read over again very much.

Great fun, though. 3.5 stars