Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Vanguard Legacy: Foretold By Joanne Kershaw

This YA fantasy fiction  by UK author Joanne Kershaw has much to get your teeth into, and I was swept away but it’s similarity to some other genre series might grate for the die hard fans of those tattooed teens.It is unfortunate that  every time the word Divergent was used, comparisons with the similar storyline of genetically modified teens being catergorised by skillset swims into the mind’s eye.

That being said, there are enough fresh ideas here to create a feasible setting for this battle between the forces of Light versus Dark. There is a spunky heroine, the loyal and devoted best friend and the inevitable expansion of the friendship group that creates tension and jealousy as they adjust to new feelings, new powers and new dynamics.

This is a tale of fighters, biters and spirit guides with enough teen angst and fledgling love, unrequited crushes and parental overbearance to keep YA readers engaged.

The framing of the story in the period where all recruits to to the Vanguard come into their full powers helps to provide some delineation between the various “types” in this story, we learn their various strengths and weaknesses at a time when they themselves are exploring their limitations.

A very promising start.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Skeleton Draws a Picture (A Family Skeleton Mystery) by Leigh Perry.

A Cosy Mystery with a difference!

I am really annoyed. Annoyed that I have only come upon this series at Book Four, the lovely people at Netgalley have remedied my total ignorance of  the books, but I will now have to read them out of order!

Travelling English Professor Georgia is rootless and listless as she does not hold tenure so as a kind of Literary minstrel she brings better grammar to the students of an mid-range art school. Used to a full house filled with parents (fellow scholars) and her teenage daughter, she is a little lonely and bored, enter Sid, the family Skeleton of the title!

Literally an ambulatory and autonomous bag of bones,Sid is able to assemble and disassemble at will,  this state often affected by his own emotional state of being . Despite his lack of body, he inhabits the story perfectly.He is an unlikely sleuth, but with a gift for researching the Internet and an inquisitiveness second to none, Sid's arrival heralds another suspicious death in what appears to be a line of precedent of murder wherever she and Sid roam.

In this story, a body in the snow begins a chain of events where friendly rivalries for a tenure spot turn into more ominous underhanded acts in a bid to bury more than the deceased.

I warmed to Georgia immediately, she is kind of ageless despite her progeny so I suspect most readers will enjoy her too. Sid is a really fun character and the ingenious ways that Ms Perry finds ways to incorporate body parts into expletives and humourous asides just raises the story above the norm. With  just enough peril to keep this thrilling, this is a near perfect light mystery.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage by Zara Stonely

This is the second in a Cosy Romance series - The Little Village on the Green.

The summer is over and the escape from the city to Langtry Meadows that was so necessary for  school teacher Lucy Jacobs has become a return to her true home. The people are friendly and her job filled with brushes with the animal kingdom, so thank Heaven's the local vet is hook line and sinker in Love with her.

The only problem is the ever present shadow of the chance that Charlie might lose custody of his beloved daughter Maisie who may not even be his.The potential for very messy divorce proceedings might just be a a obstacle too high for even these sweet lovers.

Throw into the mix a few other burgeoning romances, some puppies, a guinea pig and a long hidden secret and you have a  framework for what is a rather marvellous confection.

The story is written with a warmth and affection for the rural way of life and unlike many similar Cosy stories of this type,the characters are not hackneyed or stereotypical, no they are perfectly formed people set in village that I think all of us would like to spend a little time in.  The school setting allows for plenty of chuckles in between the angst and the central relationship is as satisfying to the casual reader dipping their toe into a lighter genre of reading as it is to the devotee of the form.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Miss Seeton Omnibus 1-3 by Heron Carvic

Picture Miss Seeton
Book 1  Just superb.

This is Marple mixed with the dry wit of Jack Dee.  A village setting with (in this the first of a reissued series) a dark underbelly of violence, extortion and even a wee bit of Heroin thrown in.

I guffawed often and fell in love with more than just Miss Seeton as the Local Quack and Yard Detectives also wormed their way into my heart!

Miss Seeton Draws A Line.
Book 2

These books are such fun! The crimes are deceptively dark but wrapped in  in  such a gloriously tongue in cheek humour that the frisson of discomfort is soon abated by another laugh

MIss Seeton and her Umbrella get involved in a spate of bank robberies that the Good folk at The Yard have linked to some terrible  child murders in Plummergen and the surrounding areas, so Miss Seeton's skill for drawing emotions and feelings  are called upon again.

Witch Miss Seeton
Book 3

This third in a collection of books reissued on kindle format by Farrago Books and graciously gifted to me via netgalley for review is somewhat shorter (or it seems that way, maybe I am just more attuned to the cadences of the style now) than the first two.

All the favourites are still in there in the wake of this calamitous woman, whose very belongings become weapons with minds of their own. Here cults, satanism and capitalism collide. The body count is not so high, but the humour is just as virulent.

Very enjoyable!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

I am so glad that I decided to read this particular novel by a writer who has become so precious in my reading life this last twelve months as a accomplished biography writer.

Read in isolation this would have been a wonderfully dynamic and emotionally arresting novel set in  Post War Paris and the Cote D’Azure  and in Paris in the modern day, intertwining the lives of two women who at first glance could not seem more different. who meet on one traumatic and historically resonant night in Paris in 2015.

Kurtis is in a state of emotional flux, the sudden loss of her teenage daughter as a runaway has impacted every day since, fracturing a marriage which was already showing cracks and fissures and for better or worse allowing an alluring American to capture her passions and emotions, further muddying her marital tension.

 After a reconciliation of sorts in search of a common goal, she sits in a bar in Paris awaiting word from her fading Actor  Husband Oliver on whether he was able to find and bring her daughter to her for a reunion she has been dreaming of since her daughter’s disappearance.

Here she meets Marguerite and elderly film star of regal bearing who becomes her saviour and eventually confidante after it becomes apparent Lizzie and Oliver have been caught up in the Bataclan Terrorist incident of November 2015.

Here Carol Drinkwater crafts a complex  story with a constantly moving narrative where the gentle romance of two post war young people is interwoven with the modern day travails of Kurtis and Oliver.

Charlie and Marguerite are outsiders whose chance meeting and shared adventure bring them to love.She is seeking solace in the glamour of the movie making haven of Cannes and it’s environs and, He seeking anonymity in a long dreamed for  rural idyll. By seeking to be come part of the agricultural fabric of the Riviera ,growing glorious scented blooms for a local perfumery,Charlie makes an attempt to escape from the bitter memories and traumas of the War.

It is brave and difficult to set a large portion of a book in the real events of a very recent terrorist atrocity, readers will have their memories of that awful night, but Carol’s descriptions of those first traumatic, confusing and manic hours is tightly described and sensitively handled.

What elevates the book to something quite extraordinary is the authenticity of the description of the French and Middle Eastern settings in flashback, the fragrances, the flavours and colourful snapshots of the flora and fauna of the area. The Rose harvest in the book echoes strongly of the issues the Carole and her beloved husband  Michel had with their olive harvests and her love for the people and the area is evident and boosts this part of the story immensely.

Carol’s personal experience as an olive farmer, beekeeper and adventurer on the ancient routes of the Olive informs and enriches the story, giving it a depth that is rare in stories of a similar type. 

I loved the story, was swept away by Marguerite and Charlie , felt the pain of Kurtis in the uncertainly of that night and the the confusion and frustrations at the  gradual unraveling of her marriage after their own whirlwind romance and the palpable , if not final loss of a child. The uncertainty is a bar to all but a cursory existence rather than a rich and fulfilling life, something Marguerite has managed despite personal tragedy.

 I liked the juxtaposition of the two central women, seeking personal fulfilment outside the domestic confines.

I left this story with a warm glow. The final chapters are a wonderful reward, more than that I cannot divulge.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Timothy Other- The Boy who Climbed Marzipan Mountain

Timothy Other - The boy who climbed Marzipan Mountain  by L.Sydney Abel

Genre: Children's Fiction.  ages 8-80

Regular visitors to my blog will know I am not adverse to indulging my more childlike side by reading a book aimed squarely at children.

Timothy Other was a rare treat! Written in a fun and playful style that pulls the reader in from the opening, where unfortunate foundling are given glorious names derived from the events of their arrival by a kind but slightly distant proprietor. The kids are well fed and treated like individuals, not an idyllic upbringing, but as close as one can get in an Orphanage.

Timothy is an inquisitive and questing young boy and his adventure begun as a stowaway on a removals lorry  is filled with whimsy , humour and fantastical friends and foes. The story whizzes along and I am sure will enthrall and thrill the younger reader and filled this rather more seasoned child with a feeling of warmth and contentment as I journeyed with Tim and his pals.

This is a story about family both acquired and lost and it is one I would heartily recommend for anyone seeking a story to transport you for a while. I look forward to Tim's continuing adventures!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

In The Darkness, that's where I'll know you. By Luke Smitherd

This was an audiobook read that I was gifted by my lovely friend Leya who is already a fan of Master Smitherd and thought I might enjoy the book.

She was not wrong, this is a marvellous book made up of four shorter instalments previously published separately. It begins as a mildly strange ,scenario -led fantasy  where man wakes up after a heavy night in the mind of a troubled young woman. The story begins with their initial shock, horror and fear  and gradual acceptance of the problem at hand . Soon romantic overtones begin unfurling from the catalyst of their shared predicament but here things get a lot more complicated and the story develops into something complex and dark that really engages the brain cells to keep up with the twists and turns.

The ideas of alternate realities, the notion of self and the idea that  love is born from a meeting of mind's rather  than anything more visceral or palpable are all developed with a deft and light touch. The reader is drawn deeper and deeper into a world of alternative lives where the smallest of change might affect the destiny of our fated lovers  and how the smallest deviation from our projected course can have consequences in horrific and life changing ways.

The complexity of the plot is breathtaking and the tension truly does build to an almost unbearable level.

I throughly enjoyed the story and the enjoyment of the tale was increased by the non "dramatic" delivery from the author himself.  It was not acted, more expressed. It was all the more emotionally arresting and deeply ominous by having the inflections in exactly the place the creator of the piece intended.

Definitely an author I will seek out again and not in the distant future at that. I strongly recommend it.