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

Thursday, 21 May 2015

We Are All Made Of Stars by Rowan Coleman

We Are All Made Of Stars

Warning. You are going to need a lot of tissues for this one.

‘We Are All Made Of Stars’ is a very emotional read. It is largely set in a hospice where people are facing the end of their days, so death and its coming are a significant theme. But it is also about love and, in particular, about finding love in impossible places.

It’s also about how the way we experience the world is different at night under the moon and the stars, from how it is in the full light of the sun. And about how people (and cats) can turn up in our lives just at the moment they are most needed.

We follow three overlapping story strands throughout the book. Stella is a nurse working nights at the hospice, sharing her house in shifts with a husband who has come back from Afghanistan so damaged she fears she can’t reach him. Hope is a young woman with CF. She knows her life is fragile, but can she reach out and make the most of it? And Hugh is just lost. What will it take to help him find himself again?

As well as these main storylines we get glimpses of the lives of some of Stella’s patients through the ‘last letters’ she writes for them before they die. Letters from husbands to wives, from fathers to sons, from lovers to those they’ve loved and lost a long time ago. Some are as short as a page, but they encapsulate the lives of the senders perfectly in their last moments.

So yes, it is about death and loss on one level, but it’s also about finding love and fighting for it. And about how we find the light - by looking up.

You will cry, but you will also be left feeling very grateful for the life and the love that you have. I highly recommend this skilfully written and achingly beautiful book. But don’t forget the tissues.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Double Tap by Hania Allen

Double Tap

‘Double Tap’ is a complex, fast moving and very satisfying crime novel. The main character, Von Valenti, is ex-Police and now working as a Private Detective. She thinks she’s working on a missing person case, but when her path crosses that of a colleague from her Police days who is investigating a double murder she starts to realise there is a whole lot more to it than that.

I loved the characters in this book. Von herself is complex; caught between the demands of her job, the demands of her errant daughter and the desire to have some sort of life for herself. And the relationship between Von and her former police colleague, who is more than a little bit in love with her, is brilliant.

The author has also made great use of setting. Edinburgh forms the backdrop of the story and is a character in its own right as Von gets deeper into both her own missing person case and the investigation of the professional hit style ‘double tap’ murders. The case takes her into a paintballing club and a gun club, and brings her up against some very unpleasant characters.

 I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interesting in a slightly unusual crime novel with an interesting premise, robust characters and a great setting.

This book is the second in a series featuring Von Valenti. I haven’t read the first, but suspect it is also pretty good!

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Guest Review - The Morgenstern Project by David Khara

The Morgenstern Project 

by David Khara

A guest review from Lady Techie.

It is difficult to express in words how much The Morgenstern Project moved my thoughts and emotions. I received a copy from Eidelwess and really took my time reading it. I tried to digest it slowly because this was Morg's story. It was told simultaneously alternating between Morg's past and Morg's current life as he fights on the current front against the Consortium's machinations and his fight to distance himself from the Bleiberg project. Morg is this larger than life Mossad agent who hunts war criminals, typically those from World War II.

In The Morgenstern Project Morg meets up again with Jackie and Jeremy whom we met in the first book, The Bleiberg Project. They developed a deep bond with Eytan Morgenstern in that story which continues though they have not seen him since the events in that book ended. Jackie and Jeremy are targeted by a faction of the U.S. government who have been made aware of Morg's longevity and they want to study him and are willing to use whatever means they can to capture him, including targeting his friends and whatever family he may have. As the story progresses Eli tells the story of how he met Morg and how their lives had intertwined throughout the many years. We also meet more of Morg's family and as they fight this new front created by The Consortium we step through Morg's childhood and learn about his history.

The Morgenstern Project is the best of the series so far. As far as I can tell the series grows in character development, story development and David Khara, the author, grows in writing, story and character development skills as well. The book is full of excitement, action and the technology and niche of this story regarding Morg's physical abilities. As I read about Morg's past and the current story I was struck with a huge sadness for what he and the people of Poland went through during World War II and for what some of the story depicted during the current day part of the story. The Morgenstern Project draws you into everyone's lives in the story. At one point I was literally moved to tears and that is not something that easily occurs for me when reading a story, but David Khara wrote a very moving story and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

This review first appeared on Lady Techie's blog.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Lie by CL Taylor

The Lie

By CL Taylor 

This is the follow up to the phenomenally successful and well-received ‘The Accident’, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Here’s the blurb –

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .
Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.
Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.
Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .

Like ‘The Accident’, ‘The Lie’ works with two narratives in different timescales. In the present day narrative we follow Jane as she realises that something from her past – something very nasty that she’d hoped would stay buried – has caught up with her.

The other thread tells the story of Jane’s past life. A life where she had a totally different identity. A life where she set off for a holiday of a lifetime to Nepal with three friends. A holiday that was to end in fear, disaster and heartbreak.

The two threads work well together. In the present day strand we find out about Jane’s current life working in an animal shelter. Her work provides a perfect setting to the events that unfold and the animals in her care become an important part of the story.

The Nepal strand not only takes us back in time, but also to a completely different and much more exotic location. There are some great details here, which really made the story come to life.

As we move backwards and forwards between the two strands, the tension builds. As we discover more about what happened in the past the danger that Jane is in in the present moves closer and becomes harder to escape.

This is an accomplished psychological thriller and the author does a great job of building a sense of fear, claustrophobia, disorientation and panic as the sinister events unfold. If you enjoyed ‘The Accident’, you’ll love this. And if you haven’t read ‘The Accident’, you should really read that as well.

You can read my review of ‘The Accident’ here.

Thanks very much to the publishers for an electronic review copy of this book via Netgalley.

You can find out more here.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Black’s Creek by Sam Millar

Black’s Creek

Black’s Creek starts with the narrator, as an adult, looking back on an event that shaped his childhood; ‘the murder of a suspected paedophile and child murderer, over twenty years ago’. Reading that the case is to be re-opened plunges Tommy, and the reader, back into his childhood.

We read about the shocking events that happened one summer in early teenage when Tommy and his friends Horseshoe and Brent witness another young boy, Joey, drown himself in the local lake near the small town of Black’s Creek in upstate New York.

Tommy and the others decide that justice must be done for Joey, and this takes them on a journey where they, as blood brothers, decide to seek revenge. For the three young teenagers, this becomes partly a coming-of-age tale, partly a mystery thriller.

The story is quite visceral, and in many places not a comfortable read. Tommy is confronted with violence, sexual abuse and the secrets that adults keep. He tries to find his way through this whilst having his friendships tested and his heart broken.

The novel explores some important themes, but in the end I felt it was the nature of justice that came through as the strongest. There are some revelations for Tommy towards the end of the book that turn his ideas upside down, and this, alongside a plot that keeps you guessing what has really happened, make for a tense read.

Finally the novel has an ending that is more poignant that you would usually expect in a crime novel. This for me added an extra touch to a well-written and gripping novel.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.