Welcome To My Blog

Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Black Boxes ...

... a review ...

I've done a review of Black Boxes by Sweet Caroline, and lovely Cathy has put it on bookersatz, so please pop over and have a look.

SmudgeWatch I'm quite worried about him today as he had a short period of struggling to breathe earlier. He seems a bit happier now though and has had some milk and a sleep.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Everything You Ever Wanted ...

... By Rosalind Wyllie

'Everything You Ever Wanted' is published by Tonto Books and was written by Rosalind Wyllie, who was mentored by Caroline Smailes author of 'In Search Of Adam'.

You can find Tonto Books here, Rosalind here and Caroline here.

Rosalind writes exquisitely and has drawn two main characters who are very different, and who will both keep you guessing what they are going to do next until the very end. She has woven together strands of humour and pain that will keep you gripped as they run alongside each other throughout the story.

Tiggy is a beautifully drawn character, a heart rending mix of emotions and insecurities. The delicate prose comes into its own when describing her life. Roz describes with considered precision Tiggy's feelings about her married lover. ‘He filled in the hollows and empty spaces where my parents should have loved me.’ This sets the scene for one of the most important themes of the novel.

Scarlett explodes into the novel forcefully taking Tiggy, and the reader, by surprise. Post Scarlett, Tiggy says, ‘My days have a rhythm to them now and whenever Scarlett is in the room there is noise and laughter.’

On the surface of it Scarlett is confident, sassy and funny. ‘South London is God’s way of telling people not to build bridges’, she tells us. But inevitably and inexorably, her darker and more damaged side is shown and she takes the reader on a very scary journey indeed.

Set in the early 1990s, the historical detail is evocative but never intrusive. Allusions to the release of John McCarthy and the endless occupation of the number one spot in the charts by Bryan Adams bring the era to life.

Music is used throughout to tell us more about the characters, from Dan Dan The Piano Man, belting out cover versions in the club and despairing at Tiggy's Cliff Richard LPs to Tiggy's own pivotal moment listening to the 'Kids from Fame' soundtrack - 'the holy grail of heartbreak'. And any novel which has ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’ and ‘Starmaker’ as an important part of the plot is all right by me.

The story is cleverly crafted, fast-paced and intriguing and is backed up by writing which is incisive, evocative and satisfying.

This is a refreshingly original novel and I can’t wait to see what Rosalind writes next.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Maeve Binchy ...

... Writers' Club

After my previous post a couple of people asked if this book was any good. So, in the interests of providing a public service, I thought I'd do a proper review of it.

I'm a big fan of Maeve Binchy's novels, although I must confess to not having read the last couple. It has been said that reading one of her novels is like going out for a coffee with a friend, pulling your chair up to the table and settling down for a good chat and to catch up on all the gossip.

This book feels the same, although here Maeve isn't telling a story - she's imparting her years of knowledge about writing in the common sense down to earth way that you would expect.

Throughout the book, Maeve's own observations and advice are interspersed with contributions from carefully selected experts in the various subjects she discusses. The areas include: writing short stories; the role of the editor; writing for stage; murder, mystery and suspense, and many others.

As an added bonus, you also get a new short story by Maeve Binchy written especially for the book. It's worth reading just for that.

And let's face it, wouldn't it be fantastic if Maeve Binchy set up a real life writers' club and we could all be members?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Robert Goddard ...

... Out Of The Sun

Regular blog readers will know that I have a bit of a Robert Goddard obsession. So, the lovely Welshman got me a couple of his books for Christmas, and this is the first to be read.

'Out Of The Sun' features the character Harry Barnett who also appeared in 'Into The Blue', which I reviewed on the blog a while ago. Harry is older, but by no means wiser in this novel.

The read has all of the usual Robert Goddard trademarks. A pounding plot, a huge cast of increasingly eccentric characters and an international stage. It also has mind boggling detail on the subjects of mathematics, financial forecasting and higher dimensions. It will make your brain hurt.

The back cover lists a review from The Times saying that this is, ‘Undoubtedly Goddard’s most entertaining book to date’. I’m not sure about this. Yes, it’s gripping, yes it’s a great absorbing read, but at its heart is the story of a father and his tragic relationship with his son. To call it entertainment feels a bit too slight.

If you stick with it through the twists and turns, the emotions and explanations – the end will move you to tears.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Disraeli Avenue ...

by Caroline Smailes … a review ...

Disraeli Avenue is like a box of butterflies. Each of the thirty two chapters has it’s own distinctive pattern. Some will make you laugh, and some will make you cry. Some will make you go back and read them again; and like butterflies, some will prove elusive.

In this novella, Caroline Smailes has created thirty two snapshots of moments in time which weave in and out of the plot of In Search Of Adam. You will recognise the characters, and they’ll make you think about ISoA in a new way.

Caroline has also used the novella to demonstrate the sheer joy and excitement of writing. Each self-contained chapter reveals its secret in a different way, making a unique impression on the mind.

The final chapter takes you right into the heart of ISoA. It throws light into some of the darker corners, but still leaves some questions unanswered. And chapters 19 and 30 will make you ache for Jude even more.

Like In Search of Adam, Disraeli Avenue is a ‘must read’, but more than that, it has been written in order to help all the ‘Judes’ out there. Disraeli Avenue is available as a free download from Caroline’s website, and Caroline has done all this to benefit the charity One In Four which helps people who have suffered abuse.

Please click the links below for more information:

Caroline's Website

Caroline's Blog

And please help if you can.
PS - lovely Sarah has given me an award. I'd like to pass it on to Sally, Lane, Leigh and Caroline.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Garden Spells ...

… by Sarah Addison Allen … a review

In Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen has created a cast full of people you will care about, and the magic in the story will enchant you so much that you won’t be able to put it down. The writing is full of vividly drawn imagery, realistically captured emotion; and intrigue which will keep you gripped to the last page.

You’ll need to know what happens to sisters Claire and Sydney, and you’ll have to find out how Sydney’s daughter, Bay, tries to make everything right in her world. All three of them are Waverleys , and Waverleys are different. This is where the magic comes in – literally – and takes the book to a higher level.

As Sarah says on her website, Garden Spells ‘was supposed to be a simple story about two sisters reconnecting after many years. But then the apple tree started throwing apples and the story took on a life of its own...’

The special powers of the Waverley sisters make this book more than just a romantic family story. With magic as part of the mix, you just don’t know what will happen next. And Claire’s recipes, which will cure everything from curiosity to a broken heart, keep the book grounded in a sphere which feels familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

As Claire cooks, you’ll taste the marigolds in your mouth and the lilac jelly exploding on your tongue. You’ll smell the lavender and the mint as you move through her house with her, and you’ll hear the thump of apples landing on the grass in her garden.

Every character in the book is important, from Aunt Evanelle who just knows that she has to give people certain things but doesn’t know why, to Fred who can’t understand why his boyfriend has left him, and Tyler who wants Claire so much it makes him give off purple sparks. Even the characters we don’t get to meet – like Claire and Sydney’s mother – seem real.

And of course, in the centre of it all, is that unruly tree that throws apples at people … and only learns to behave and stop when Bay starts throwing them back.

After all this, the breathtaking conclusion to the book will leave you feeling drained and longing for a sequel.

The paperback edition is released by Hodder in May. I’ll post a reminder nearer the time.

PS - is it just me, or has blogger gone totally insane?