Archives for category: Reviews

Hi all:

As you know on Fridays I bring you new books. This one I’d had on my list to share for a while, but I was determined to read it and include the review in the post too. And finally, its turn has come. Today I share a fascinating book:

Chaos is come again by John Dolan and Fiona Quinn. My digital version has a different cover but...

Chaos is come again by John Dolan and Fiona Quinn. My digital version has a different cover but…

“Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul But I do love thee! And when I love thee not Chaos is come again.” Sean hears voices in his head. Travis snorts cocaine. Teagan thinks she’s the next Lady Gaga. Avery has the boss from Hell, and a mother with dementia. And Goose wants to catch a serial killer. ‘Chaos Is Come Again’ is a psychological suspense, a mystery and a love story, loaded with irreverent humour and viewed through the lens of obsession. WARNING: Contains references to Judas Iscariot, a dwarf, and a performing monkey.

I think the description will probably give you a fair idea of what’s to come, but here is my take on the matter:

The publishing business, murders and madness

I have read and love the three books (so far) in the series Time, Blood and Karma by John Dolan. I know Fiona Quinn from her fantastic blog (I recommend it to anybody interested in writing thrillers. I had the pleasure of being one of her guests). And I was very intrigued by their collaboration. If any more encouragement were needed, the reviews were great too.

I had read interviews about the process involved in writing the novel and I wondered how it would have worked in reality, as it sounded fairly complicated.

Given all that I had been looking forward with trepidation to reading the novel and it did not disappoint.

The novel is seamless. I could not pick up parts that I fell were more likely to have been written by either author (I might have my theories, but nothing stood out), and once I got into the story that was no longer important.

The novel has two main protagonists: Sean, a young Englishman, a barista diagnosed with schizophrenia and with a violent incident in his past that weights heavy in his mind (although we’re never given any details), and Avery, an American woman, a literary agent burdened with a mother suffering from dementia, and whose difficulties provide at times light entertainment and at others add poignancy to the proceedings.

The two storylines: life in the literary world, a woman’s point of view, friends and chocolate cakes; and London’s gritty life, anxiety and self-doubt, together with a writer with a penchant for scandal (some would say blasphemous), an aspiring poet/singer and girlfriend with no evident redeeming qualities, and a mysterious serial killer, create as many plot threads as any eager reader would wish for (possibly even more).

Social media (Twitter in particular) helps bring the two protagonists together and reels us into a thriller/romance, with a disquietingly open ending.

It’s dynamic, flows well although the rhythm varies according to whose point of view we’re seeing the story from, and with its mixture of characters and likable central duo it’s difficult not to find somebody to root for.

This is a book for readers who like to explore outside established genres and don’t mind open endings. I’m not sure die-hard thriller fans would approve but writers will have a chuckle. I did.

Here is where you can get it:

Paperback:   http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Come-Again-John-Dolan/dp/0957325665/

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Come-Again-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B00OSP0AGW/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chaos-Come-Again-John-Dolan-ebook/dp/B00OSP0AGW/

Thanks to John and Fiona for their book, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know the drill, if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and above all, read and review!

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Hi all:

You’ll remember a couple of weeks ago I published a post on reviews (by the way, many thanks for all the comments. It was one of the most dynamic posts I’ve published and I enjoyed the discussion it created). As I mentioned, apart from just reading for the blog and posting the reviews in a variety of sites, I do reviews for BTS e-magazine (click on the widget at the bottom of the post to go to the current number if you enjoy reading about new books and checking reviews) and although the actual reviews belong to the magazine, I like to share some of the books if I think you might enjoy them.

I’ve read some pretty heavy books recently and I don’t know you, but I like to combine light reads with heavier stuff. I reviewed these two books for the magazine, both by female authors, that I enjoyed and were like a breath of fresh air.  I’ll give you a taster and you can see what you think:

The Contract by Violet Ryan

The Contract by Violet Ryan

The Contract by Violet L. Ryan

Orphaned Grace Barnett receives many proposals because her property has a dependable year-round water supply. She agrees to marry Jacob Cooper, the stranger from the ranch next door who claims he’ll never fall in love. They’ll have only a straightforward contract.

Jilted two years before, Jake doesn’t trust women. He wants water rights, heirs, and a peaceful home. He expects the boyish girl next door to provide these without the messiness of emotions. When he sees her walk down the aisle, dressed as a woman, clean, and lovely, an inner struggle begins. Two strangers learning to live together in a house filled with emotional conflict and family intrigue will test their ability to cope and hinder chances to fall in love.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NZIHKSY/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NZIHKSY/

One paragraph from my review to give you an idea of what I thought:

With arch-villains, scheming ex-loves and relatives, handsome cowboys, formidable women, sexy Native-Americans and plenty of action, what the characters lack in psychological depth and consistency, they make up for in the sheer variety of misunderstandings and adventures they get involved in.

It reminded me of ‘The Little House of the Prairie’ and it made me smile.

I loved the heroine who is innocent but resourceful and I think you’ll like her too. And the rest of the characters added to the mix.

The author has written quite a few books and she sounds like someone I’d like to meet. Just check her page here:

http://www.amazon.com/Violet-L.-Ryan/e/B00A3A1G8M/

On quite a different note, setting and everything, but again written by another formidable female author (Australian in this case), I read:

See You in Hell (Mel Goes to Hell Series Book 2) by Demelza Carlton

See You in Hell (Mel Goes to Hell Series Book 2) by Demelza Carlton

See You In Hell (Mel Goes to Hell. Book 2)

A devilishly hot CEO. The angelic new office temp. A match made in Heaven or Hell?

Melody Angel takes a job as a temp at the HELL Corporation. Surrounded by eternal bureaucracy gone mad, demons who love making life miserable, and dying for a decent coffee, it may take a miracle for Mel’s mission to succeed. She must find out what evil plans Lucifer and his minions have in store and stop them, using any means necessary.

Adding trouble and temptation to Mel’s job is Luce Iblis, the damnably hot CEO, who has set his smouldering eyes on the new office angel and he’s determined to claim her, body and soul.

Can ultimate evil and angelic perfection escape a limbo of desire and find a paradise of their own?

A tiny taste of what’s in store:

“Do you know how long you’ve made me wait?” Luce lifted his chin. “Close the door.”

Mel turned and kicked the door shut with the sole of one shoe. The click of it closing coincided with her eyes meeting Luce’s once more.

“Now strip and get your arse on the desk,” Luce instructed.

Mel stared at him. He couldn’t be serious, could he?

“Every other girl in this building knows how to do as she’s told. Do you know how many girls I’ve had on this desk? You should consider yourself lucky. The last one I had in here was so quick getting undressed that I managed to give her a full fifteen minutes of my time. At this rate, you’ll be lucky to have five.”

Mel became transfixed by the timber desktop. “Did you wipe it clean afterwards?”

“What?” Luce’s face reddened.

Mel Goes to Hell series

This is the second book in the Mel Goes to Hell series, which includes:

  • Welcome to Hell (#1) – FREE
  • See You in Hell (#2)
  • Mel Goes to Hell (#3)
  • To Hell and Back (#4)
  • The Holiday From Hell (#5) (to be released 26 March 2015)
  • Melody Angel’s Guide to Heaven and Hell.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JZZODA4/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00JZZODA4/

This book I must tell you I thoroughly enjoyed. Despite what you might think, it is not erotica (it’s not high in my list of priorities and unless I’m really interested in the book I’ll avoid books where that’s the main focus) and no descriptive sex, although it is sexy (but you might disagree). What I don’t think you’ll disagree on is that it’s a good read and fun.

This is the beginning of my review:

If like me, you’ve also imagined hell as a bureaucratic nightmare where political correctness and paperwork are masters and your boss is Lucifer himself, you should read this novel. Imagine a world where Hell is in charge of most branches of the public sector.

There is romance, a fantastic angel at the centre of the book, and the cast of characters reminded me of Greek gods, as angels and demons are very human and recognisable, and by the end of it…Oh well, you go on and read it.

And, extremely good news. If you want to try the first short story in the series, this one is free:

Welcome to Hell (Mel Goes To Hell Book 1) by Demelza Carlton

Welcome to Hell (Mel Goes To Hell Book 1) by Demelza Carlton

Welcome to Hell (Mel Goes to Hell Book 1)

“Good morning. Welcome to HELL.”
Mel hates job interviews – and this one’s shaping up to be the interview from Hell.

From the grumpy receptionist to the disturbingly demonic interview panel and the sleazy CEO, it seems landing her first job is the least of Mel’s worries.

Can she make it out of the office alive without selling her soul?

A tiny taste of what’s in store:

Lilith opened the door, waiting for Mel to leave first. Mel did so, almost running into a man in a dark suit.

His coffee splashed high, yet he caught most of it in his cup. Not a spot landed on Mel – just one on the man’s shoe. “Damn,” he swore, swiping at it with a black handkerchief that appeared almost instantly in his hand. As he rose from his crouch, he took in Mel’s attire, from her toes to her raised eyebrows.

He summoned a smile that clashed with the stormy expression in his eyes. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you in the office before and I make it a point to know all of my staff intimately.” He handed the dripping cup to Mel’s haughty interviewer, who took it without a murmur, even as some of the coffee slopped onto Lilith’s shoes.

He held out his hand to shake Mel’s. “Luce Iblis, CEO of the HELL Corporation.”

Mel gave him her fingers, in such a way that he couldn’t crush them in his firm handshake.

“I’m Mel,” she began.

“This is her first time here. She’s being interviewed for a position here at Health, Environment, Life and Lands Corporation – as my executive officer,” Lilith said.

Luce’s eyes stared hungrily at Mel as she lowered her gaze. “Is that so? I suspect I’ll be seeing a lot more of you very soon, then. I look forward to welcoming you to HELL.”

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IL9ZDH2/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IL9ZDH2/

When I finished the previous one I wanted to start reading this one but unfortunately my Kindle hadn’t downloaded it properly (only to the Cloud) and I had no connection where I was at the time. And then I started reading another book so… But I must say I found the other one therapeutic.

And just in case you like Boxsets:

Welcome to Hell by Demelza Carlton

Welcome to Hell by Demelza Carlton

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S6IK3QY/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00S6IK3QY/

Thank you for reading, thank you to BTS e-magazine and to both authors, and you know, like, share, comment, CLICK, and of course, don’t forget to check the magazine!

Hi all:

As you know apart from writing and translating (when I have time!) I read books and review in a variety of places. And every so often I bring them here for your information. Today I have a varied selection. See if you find something of interest:

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly. Non-stop action and dragons in China.

Thanks to Net Galley I got a pre-release copy of this novel. It’s still in pre-order, so you can read about it before it comes out.

The Great Zoo of China is a good romp, a fabulous ride and a fast-paced adventure/thriller book. You have to be prepared to suspend disbelief and to not mind if situations are stretched a bit far, but if you are happy to do that…you’ll have a fun read.

The book reminded me of Jurassic Park and reading the interview with the author at the end (that I recommend to readers and writers alike) I was not surprised to discover it was one of his favourite books.  The main differences are the setting and the creatures. If Jurassic Park could be seen as a criticism of capitalism’s lack of scruples, one has to wonder, what would be crueller and hungrier, capitalism run amok or communism desperate to become the biggest power by hijacking the world’s attention? While you might have your own opinion on how likely a scenario this is, the possible reasons provided as background don’t interfere greatly with the enjoyment of the story, unless you take them too seriously.

The Great Zoo of China (hardback cover)

The Great Zoo of China (hardback cover)

The similarities with Jurassic Park go from the pseudo-scientific details (although this book’s premise is more fanciful if you like myths and dragons you’ll enjoy the thought), to the size of the creatures, little children, and families, the action-packed episodes and our wondering who (if anybody) will make it out live.

I liked the female hero although we get but a few glimpses of her previous life and there is little psychological depth, but she has guts aplenty. It’s easy to root for her.

To begin with, the book made me think of a huge action movie, later of an adventure computer game where the main character is always looking for a new weapon to fight the big menace (here really enormous). It also reminded me of horror movies with the scary monster who refuses to die and always keeps coming at you. And of the old movies by instalments where you would go from one nail-biting cliff-hanger to the next without time to catch your breath.

The book is a quick and easy read and a page turner. It made me very aware that there are only so many ways one can say big, huge, enormous…

If you’ve read many books in this genre I don’t think it will break new ground or be utterly surprising but it achieves its aims successfully and it is big. If you want escapism, a read that will make you jump and keep you entertained, this novel more than fits the bill.

This is the pre-order link:

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Zoo-China-Matthew-Reilly-ebook/dp/B00MENIERC/

The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell

The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell

The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell. Alchemy, codices and witches in Barcelona

I requested a free copy of this novel from Net Galley when I read the description and saw this was a book about a quest for knowledge, the search for an old manuscript, and the action took place in part in Barcelona. Being from Barcelona and having loved books and reading all my life, it was difficult to resist.

The Serpent Papers is the story of the search for an old illuminated manuscript (a palimpsest to be precise) that has been hidden for years to prevent its destruction. The links of this manuscript with alchemy, an enigmatic figure (Rex Illuminatus confused  at times with the historical figure of Ramon Llull), immortality, witches, and women’s murders make for a complex story. At the heart of the novel there’s a scholar/detective/expert, Anna Verco, who might or might not have some paranormal powers (that might instead be due to organic reasons). Like in many of these books, the search for meaning also becomes an inquiry into the main character and what she stands for.

Cornwell (granddaughter of John le Carré) builds up a complex structure to tell her story. Letters from different periods, accounts of previous attempts at investigating Rex Illuminatus by other experts, interviews of people who knew the victims, dreams and hallucinations…All of them sound and read real, showing a breadth of knowledge and characterization rich and convincing. The language can go from the poetic and lyrical to the mundane and down-to-earth, changing registers with ease.

I loved the little snippets of folk story and legends of the city of Barcelona, the descriptions of the landscape of the island of Mallorca, and the challenges the story poses. It is not an easy read and it can be demanding, both of one’s attention and also of knowledge and deductive capacities. I wondered if a cast of characters for the different eras with some brief descriptions might not make the reading experience easier.

Men using their power and violence to silence women, women being cast as witches as a way of shutting them up, and centuries of attempts at keeping secrets under wraps are not new ideas (at times it made me think of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist although the novel is more complex) but that does not detract from a solid novel that I kept imagining in a big screen near us. I can see actresses fighting over the main character and Barcelona and Mallorca looking very handsome indeed in the adaptation.

I understand this is the first in an ‘alchemical thriller’ trilogy. The appeal and the pull on the imagination of the subject would keep readers coming back for more. Readers who like books about intrigues in a historical setting and with conspiracy theory backgrounds will enjoy it, although I suspect it might be slightly more demanding than previous titles that have become very popular.

In a separate note, I wasn’t sure about the Catalan sentences. There were a number of typos and I couldn’t work out if it was phonetically recorded rather than intended as orthographically correct. More consistency in that aspect would have made the book more seamless for me (that would not be a problem for people not familiar with Catalan).

Just in case you want to check what others have said, here is the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/21/the-serpent-papers-jessica-cornwell-review

Here the link to the actual book:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Serpent-Papers-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00MELZJM2

 

Alex Haley's Roots. An Author's Odyssey by Adam Henig

Alex Haley’s Roots. An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig

Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig. Shining some light on the Roots controversy.

This is an informative account of the period of time in Alex Haley’s life following the publication of roots and the TV series but it is not a complete conventional biography. Although it does not delve deep into the author’s motives (it is not a deep psychological portrait), it does a great job of reviewing existing sources and even on occasions adding new material from interviews. I was aware of some of the controversy surrounding ‘Roots’ but not of the evidence and details that unfolded. This is a must for people interested in Roots and Haley, and considering its length, it offers a good summary of the sources. I’d love to see and read more of the extensive sources the author explored to produce this work, as there seems to exist much untapped potential.

A well-written and compelling account of a fascinating work (however we might choose to define it) that changed people’s perception of African-American history and stories.

As an author, I also enjoyed the collection of blogs chartering the journey of Adam Henig to, first research, and finally self-publish the book. I hope more books will follow.

http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Haleys-Roots-Authors-Odyssey-ebook/dp/B00HRN891A/

Thanks to all the authors for their books and special thanks to all of you for reading. Please, like, comment, share, CLICK and above all, keep reading!

Hi all:

As  you know on Fridays I bring you new books or authors. I thought I might still be in time to bring you a few good reads before Christmas, and today I bring you some  authors I know whose work has been translated to English but you might not yet be familiar with. They are all good yarns, full of adventures and fast paced, so if you want a read to make you forget the weather and the “excitement” of Christmas and help you get lost somewhere  else…give them a go! In the case of the last one that I’ve been lucky enough to read very recently, I include my own review.

 

The Last Crypt by Fernando Gamboa

The Last Crypt by Fernando Gamboa

The Last Crypt by Fernando Gamboa

– MORE THAN 200,000 COPIES SOLD IN EUROPE
– #1 Bestseller in Spanish & Russian
– “Best Action and Adventure novel of 2012 for Kindle” According Amazon Spain
– LAUNCH OFFER -75% OFF

«I could not stop reading it!.»
«I understand why this novel has been so successful.»
«An impressive and surprising ending, which gives you goosebumps.»
«You can´t stop reading. It’s great, spectacular & lots of fun.»
«It is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while.»
«The truth is that I did not imagine this book could make me enjoy as much as it has.»
«A stunning setting, believable characters, a great story and an unexpected ending.»
«Amazing!!!»

Diver Ulysses Vidal finds a fourteenth-century bronze bell of Templar origin buried under a reef off the Honduras coast. It turns out it’s been lying there for more than one century, prior to Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America. Driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure, he begins the search for the legendary treasure of the Order of The Temple. Together with a medieval history professor and a daring Mexican archeologist they travel through Spain, the Mali desert, the Caribbean Sea and the Mexican jungle. They face innumerable riddles and dangers, but in the end this search will uncover a much more important mystery. A secret, kept hidden for centuries, which could transform the history of humankind, and the way we understand the universe.

Fernando Gamboa (Barcelona, Spain, 1970) has devoted most of his adult life to traveling through Africa, Asia and Latin America. He has lived in several countries and worked as a scuba diver, Spanish teacher, entrepreneur, poker player and adventure guide.
At present, he’s the #1 bestseller indie author in Spain. His books have been translated into Russian, Greek and Italian”

http://www.amazon.com/LAST-CRYPT-Fernando-Gamboa-ebook/dp/B00MRD6LRE/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/LAST-CRYPT-Fernando-Gamboa-ebook/dp/B00MRD6LRE/

Fernando Gamboa, author

Fernando Gamboa, author

About the Author

Fernando Gamboa (Barcelona, Spain, 1970) has devoted most of his adult life to traveling through Africa, Asia and Latin America. He has lived in several countries and worked as a scuba diver, Spanish teacher, entrepreneur, poker player and adventure guide. At present, he’s the #1 bestseller indie author in Spain. His books have been translated from Spanish to Russian, Greek and Italian. Among some of his bestselling titles in Spanish are: La última cripta, Ciudad Negra, Capitán Riley, Guinea.

http://www.amazon.com/Fernando-Gamboa-Gonz%C3%A1lez/e/B006RTHR9K/

The Kraken. Part 1 by Jonás Cobos

The Kraken. Part 1 by Jonás Cobos

The Kraken: Part I (The Melville Files Book 1) by Jonás Cobos

Private Investigator John Melville, once a member of the Secret Services of Condal City, is convinced by his former employers to investigate the murder of his friend Alí Bey. His friend’s death seems to be related to the theft of hundreds of platinum bullion, stolen from national reserves in the neighboring Napoleonic Republic. The robbers used Aether Disrupters to freeze officials in time. But who are the so-called “Custodians of God?”

http://www.amazon.com/Kraken-Part-Melville-Files-Book-ebook/dp/B00PT1EQAK/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kraken-Part-Melville-Files-Book-ebook/dp/B00PT1EQAK/

One of the 5 star reviews:

The Kraken is a short introduction to a series by Jonas Cobos. A mystery detective piece following Melville who is on the case of a national theft and the death of a close friend. The two seemingly disparate incidences become intwined and the plot thickens into an interesting mix of crime and mystery.

People that have enjoyed the work of Jules Verne or H.G.Wells will take to Jonas’ writing style. His clear, bold writing is well paced and consistent throughout, a well structured read. Although it is short, it sets up what could be a great series, filled with more of the same twists and characters.

I’ve felt for a while that reading work written these new authors is a really exciting, Jonas’ ‘The Kraken’ is no exception, having all the right ingredients to make a good series, a taste of what is to come. I look forward to the rest of the Melville Files series. Pick it up.

Author Jonás Cobos

Author Jonás Cobos

About the author:

Jonas Cobos (1967) was born in Balearic Islands, Spain, grew up in Minorca. At 12 years Old he discovered a book by Agatha Christie, and that turn him in a book eater. In 2010 studied Creative Wrinting with the writer Holly Lisle. In 2012 published “Susurros en la Oscuridad” and really fast become a best seller in the terror genre in Amazon Spain. It’s one of the first Spanish writers in Steampunk genre. And his book LA CARACOLA DE NEPTUNO (Steampunk) becomes a best seller in his genre. Now his book is translated to an English and Italian.

http://www.amazon.com/Jonas-Cobos/e/B009BTWC9I/

The Manuscript I. The Secret by Blanca Miosi

The Manuscript I. The Secret by Blanca Miosi

The Manuscript I The Secret by Blanca Miosi

When a mysterious man hands Nicholas Blohm a strange manuscript, the unsuccessful author stumbles upon the chance to write the best novel of his life. However, as he starts reading it, he soon discovers that at one point or another, the story is interrupted, and the last pages left blank. Nicholas then decides to find out whether the story in the unfinished novel is fact or fiction.

He readily gathers information and confirms the characters portrayed in the manuscript do exist. Moreover, he could even meet them: the story is real. Fascinated by the possibility, he travels to Rome to acquaint himself with the cast of characters. As a result, he becomes deeply involved in the search for a secret, a missing part of the formula left by Count Claudio Contini-Massera to his nephew, Dante. Nicholas and Dante embark on a two-week action-packed adventure. All through their relentless journey, we find mystery, suspicion, clues, scientists, murder and finally, the most wanted Nazi of all, Josep Mengele.

Set in Rome, Hereford, Capri and New York, The Secret is the first of a series on which Nicholas Blohm always shows up with the manuscript.

http://www.amazon.com/Manuscript-I-Secret-Blanca-Miosi-ebook/dp/B00QFLRTN4/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Manuscript-I-Secret-Blanca-Miosi-ebook/dp/B00QFLRTN4/

Author Blanca Miosi

Author Blanca Miosi

About the author:

Born in Lima (Perú) of a Japanese father and Peruvian mother, Blanca Miosi has been living for the last three decades in Venezuela. She is the author of Waldek, the boy who confronted the Nazis a novel based on the life of her husband, a survivor of the Auschwitz and Mauthausen camps. First published in its original Spanish as La Búsqueda (Editorial Roca) the work received international acclaim and won the 2007 Thriller Award. In 2009, Miosi published El Legado (Editorial Viceversa), a family saga based on Erik Hanussen, the notorious Berlin clairvoyant and personal counsel to Adolf Hitler. In 2011, and as an independent author with Amazon.com, Blanca Miosi published La búsqueda, El Legado, Dimitri Galunov, El Manuscrito I. El Secreto; El Manuscrito II El coleccionista,Amanda and now “Waldek, the boy who defied the Nazis” (La búsqueda in English Language) Her novels occupy first ranking positions among Amazon´s best sold titles in Spanish.

http://www.amazon.com/Blanca-Miosi/e/B005C7603C/

My own review of the book:

A small book hiding a big secret:

As a writer, a book titled ‘The Manuscript’ will always be intriguing to me, and Blanca Miosi’s book did not disappoint me. From the very beginning you are thrown in at the deep end and have many questions that make you keep reading.

The writer protagonist of the book, Nicholas, is having trouble writing. And right in cue, a strange man gives him a magical manuscript of sorts. It is unclear what the magic is, but Nicholas becomes fascinated by the content of the manuscript to the point that he has to go and pursue the story, no matter at what cost.

The novel flows well, and the changes in point of view narration add layers of complexity to the book, and make us feel closer to the characters, a complex array of people, from all walks of life and different corners of the world. Business corporations, Mafia, Colombia cartels, Nazi concentration camps’ experiments, writers block, love triangles, genetics…all have a part to play in this novel that’s deceptively simple. Fictional situations mix with well-known historical characters and create a compelling narrative that will leave you wanting more.

I’ve read many books and one can’t help but guess what will come next. Believe me, I tried, but the book kept going in unexpected directions.

Well-paced, with a great story, likeable main characters and some fantastic minor ones, a great dose of intrigue (and some magic) it is not surprising it was a best-seller in its Spanish version. I’d be surprised if the English version doesn’t do even better.

 Ah, and I wanted to thank my friend and incredibly talented writer Dariel Raye for featuring me in her fabulous blog. Come and pay a visit:

http://pendarielraye.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/dariels-feature-meet-my-friend-olga.html?zx=fba1021076a90388

Thanks to all the authors for bringing us their books, thanks to you all for reading, enjoy the coming holiday season, and you know, if you’ve enjoyed it, like, comment, share, and of course, CLICK!

 

Hi all:

As you’ll remember last week I brought you some of the books I had reviewed recently that I though you might find inspiring if you were looking for something to buy for your nearest and dearest (and of course, who’s nearest and dearest than your good selves?). As I’m a writer and an avid reader, I’ve always loved to have books as presents, so…

I started reviewing for BTS-e Magazine a few months back. The deal is that the reviews belong to the magazine although we can share bits of them and links. I’ve read now a few books and thought that although I wasn’t going to share the reviews (or only a bite-sound of it) you might find something interesting there. I’m also sharing the description of the books for more info.

Here is the link to the magazine where there are many more reviews (you can also click on the button down for up-to-date numbers of the magazine). Some of my reviews will be still pending, so consider this a preview:

http://btsemag.com/magazine/

For horror lovers:

The Devil's Woods by Brian Moreland

The Devil’s Woods by Brian Moreland

Fear wears many skins.

Deep within the Canadian wilderness, people have been disappearing for over a century. There is a place the locals call “the Devil’s Woods”, but to speak of it will only bring the devil to your door. It is a place so evil that even animals avoid it.

When their father’s expedition team goes missing, Kyle Elkheart and his brother and sister return to the abandoned Cree Indian reservation where they were born. Kyle can see ghosts that haunt the woods surrounding the village—and they seem to be trying to warn him. The search for their father will lead Kyle and his siblings to the dark heart of the legendary forest, where their mission will quickly become a fight for survival.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Woods-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00DUB258Q/

http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Woods-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00DUB258Q/

Just a snippet of my review:

Written in a direct style, with vivid descriptions that make you live the action, psychologically complex characters you get to care for and a good rhythm that never lets you off the hook.

And I did like it so much that I repeated with another one of the author’s books:

The Vagrants by Brian Moreland

The Vagrants by Brian Moreland

Beneath the city of Boston, evil is gathering.

Journalist Daniel Finley is determined to save the impoverished of the world. But the abandoned part of humanity has a dark side too. While living under a bridge with the homeless for six months, Daniel witnessed something terrifying. Something that nearly cost him his sanity.

Now, two years later, he’s published a book that exposes a deadly underground cult and its charismatic leader. And Daniel fears the vagrants are after him because of it. At the same time, his father is being terrorized by vicious mobsters. As he desperately tries to help his father, Daniel gets caught up in the middle of a war between the Irish-American mafia and a deranged cult of homeless people who are preparing to shed blood on the streets of Boston.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vagrants-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00K1WUCIC/

http://www.amazon.com/Vagrants-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00K1WUCIC/

This is seriously scary read (and I love my horror!). Don’t say I didn’t warn you and come crying back to me!

Here a brief snippet of my review:

The story is shorter and tighter, graphically rendered and truly terrifying. Prepared to be scared.

If you like thrillers that keep you guessing:

In His Eyes by Nina Pierce

In His Eyes by Nina Pierce

*** SECOND PLACE WINNER in the suspense category of the 2014 INTERNATIONAL DIGITAL AWARDS ***

It’s always wonderful to be noticed … or is it?

To those around her, Maggie Callaghan appears to have the perfect life…a handsome husband, three beautiful children, and her own business. But beneath her thin veneer lies a dark past and self-doubts. When evidence of her husband’s infidelity surfaces, Maggie leases a cottage on the Maine coast and prepares for her inevitable divorce. But a serial killer is on the hunt–and he’s marked Maggie as his next victim. Now her beachside retreat is the focus of an undercover FBI investigation targeting the murderer who’s left a trail of bodies across two states. As lies and secrets are revealed, Maggie realizes her life depends on knowing who’s protecting her–and who’s got her in his sights.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/His-Eyes-Nina-Pierce-ebook/dp/B00H2BBPNG/

http://www.amazon.com/His-Eyes-Nina-Pierce-ebook/dp/B00H2BBPNG/

I must admit this books wrongfooted me from the very beginning. It is written in a very intriguing way, and it goes to show how point of view can be put to excellent use.

A brief extract from my review:

Red herrings, confusing clues and creepy guys with secret identities will keep you guessing throughout. A gripping read.

And, if you need something gentle and relaxed for all ages try this romance:

Firecracker Queen by Cat Shaffer

Firecracker Queen by Cat Shaffer

A NEXT DOOR Category Romance

How can one small town cause Betsey Jones such big problems?

Betsey Jones has one simple desire: to spend a peaceful summer in her hometown of Milford Falls, Michigan, while she decides what to do with the rest of her life. But Betsey hadn’t figured on being blackmailed into competing in the Miss Firecracker contest, mentoring a teen who didn’t want a faux big sister or coming face to face with Quentin Hayes, the cocky jock from her high school years.

Quent knew his editor wasn’t happy with him, but he never expected to be banished to Milford Falls to report on a beauty pageant as punishment. Once there he realizes his past wasn’t quite as he remembered it, Betsey is far different than the usual beauty queen wannabe and that everything he’s always wanted may not be what he really needs.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Firecracker-Queen-NEXT-Category-Romance-ebook/dp/B00LAGEJHS/

http://www.amazon.com/Firecracker-Queen-NEXT-Category-Romance-ebook/dp/B00LAGEJHS/

Although it’s set during the summer, I think it might be the ticket for Christmas when sometimes things can get quite stressful. No big surprises, just a gentle ride, full of characters you’d like to have as neighbours in real life.

Comfortable as an old pair of slippers….It will make you smile but it won’t rock your world.

I hope you might find something of interest to yourself or one of your loved ones. But don’t worry, I’ll keep bringing you more ideas and suggestions on Fridays. 

Thanks to all the authors who’ve worked so hard to bring us these awesome books, and thanks to you for reading. And you know the drill: like, share, comment and CLICK!

Ah, and as a bonus, you’ll have noticed Sally Cronin kindly featured one of my selected carols in one of her posts in the series of the 12 days of Christmas. When reading the comments I remembered this parody of the 12 days of Christmas by Frank Kelly (Father Jack in the series Father Ted). I had to share. It always makes me howl with laughter. Do click!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQkF7fpw-wI

Hi all:

As you know I love to write and read and I’ve been quite busy reading and reviewing of recent. Apart from sharing in the usual places, I also do reviews and share now in Literary World Interviews. And I realised I had not shared those here. So, as Christmas is coming, well, see what I’ve been reading and you might find something for a loved one (and of course, loving thyself is a great policy!).

For the writer you love, what better than:

Self-publishing Steps

Self-Publishing Steps to Successful Sales by Seumas Gallacher

Seumas Gallacher is a writer with a large on-line following. In this book, Mr. Gallacher shares his experiences of self-publishing. From his discovery that this was indeed a possibility, to now having thousands of books sold to his name.

This is not a detailed manual on how to format your book, or how to create you cover. There are plenty of posts, books, etc, that share that type of information. This book offers general advice on the topic, and it is concise and to the point. Moreover, it emphasises the author’s personal experience, that is, of course not fully replicable by anybody else. If you have not read Mr Gallacher’s posts in the various social media, you don’t know how personal his style is. His advice is sound and has to be adapted and transformed by every author. One of the points Mr Gallacher emphasises is the business aspect of writing. Although you might see it as an expression of your inner being or as a need to inform people of something, or as a deep felt vocation, if you plan on making a living out of writing, or trying to, you must approach it professionally as a business, the same you would any other. Of course, your reasons for writing could be others than to make money out of it. In that case you would be well advised to create your own definition of success and not worry too much about rankings or sales, although this book would still provide a useful general guide.

Personally, I found the book clear, easy to follow and a quick read. Mr Seumas’s personal style shines through. I particularly enjoyed the non-internet part of his experience that demonstrates the importance of making connections, knowing the area you work in, and not being shy. Try it. If they say no, you’re no further back that when you started, but if they say yes…the sky could be the limit.

I recommend this book to new authors and also to those who have a number of publications to their name. You might be reassured you’re doing the right things, you might wonder about a change of strategy, and you will enjoy the style of writing and discover plenty about the business. And also a few things about this great and generous author.

http://www.amazon.com/Self-Publishing-Steps-Successful-Seumas-Gallacher-ebook/dp/B00JBL6K80/

Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Geneviene

Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Geneviene

Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Geneviene. Do you know who you really are?

In Atonement. Tennessee a few residents don’t and they make some interesting discoveries throughout the novel.

If there is such a thing as your “standard novel” and I’m not sure there is, Atonement, Tennessee is definitely not it. Although some aspects of the story might seem familiar to readers (we have a newcomer to a small and seemingly fairly quirky town, a catalogue of slightly odd characters, hidden and dark stories behind perfect surfaces…), others definitely will not. Although we spend most of the time in Ralda’s head (her given name is Esmeralda and that plays quite an important part in the book), we also see things from the point of view of Lilith, her cat, and that allows us to gain more knowledge than Ralda has, but from a peculiar viewpoint that means we are observes and what we see is unfiltered by either reason or prejudice.

Other novel and original aspects are its mixing of the everyday and the magical/paranormal. There are dogs barking, cats sneaking out, moving companies that keep getting delayed, but also strange and eerie mirrors, a cemetery that is part of the property and hides many secrets, attractive but strangely bizarre men, unknown magical birds, and fairly unusual dreams.

Ralda is self-reflective and we not only see things from her point of view (for the most part) but her internal dialogue works as a narrator who accompanies us. But how reliable a narrator is she? The many everyday worries that surround her (will the cat get out of the house? Will she finally get her possessions back? How much will it cost to repair the house?) keep pulling her attention away from the many strange and fantastic things that are also happening. She doubts herself, but she’s shown as dealing well with other people’s problems and being highly effective. When it comes to herself, though, things are more complicated and she does not want to accept that she can be at the centre of unknown powers and events. It is not so much that she’s trying to misguide us; it is that she does not even want to allow herself to think about certain things (like what she might feel for the male characters).

Although something mysterious happens early in the book (that seems connected to one of the objects), this is by no means the main mystery. Why Ralda is there and who she is are at the heart of the book and by the end we might have our suspicions, but like the protagonist, we lack information to come to any conclusions. We have the answer to some of our questions, but can only speculate about others. But this leaves room for a sequel and I hope the author will be working on it as you read this.

The writing style is engaging and accessible, there is enough description to fire the imagination without being overly detailed and doing all the work for the reader, and the chosen point of view offers fascinating psychological insights into the main character.

What did I love about the book? The setting, the fabulously strange house, the cemetery, Lilith, the sheriff (not as onedimensional as everybody thinks), the friendship between the four women, the locket, the bed, the dreams…It reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe but not as dark.

What didn’t I like? That there isn’t a second part to tell me more about the mysteries that are suggested but we don’t get to know enough of.

Who do I recommend it to? If you like spooky tales, old houses, mystery, cats, legends, magic and stories about women I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Ah, let’s not forget unusual birds and cemeteries…Is there anybody not included?

I encourage the author to bring us part two very soon. We want to know more!

Here the book trailer, in case you want to get in the mood for the story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koggOn6vcDs#t=57

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HGSVA8A/

Create Space: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1481826948/

Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/atonement-tennessee-teagan-geneviene/1117790203?ean=2940148918431

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Some Luck by Jane Smiley. A novel about the things that really make life what it is.

There is something very attractive about settling down to read the story of a family and getting to know them for a lengthy period of time, as if they were family friends. In the case of Last Hundred Years Trilogy, of which Some Luck is the first novel, a hundred years, no less.

In an era when people don’t seem to have time for anything and everything must be shorter and faster today than it was yesterday, the promise of space and time to see characters and situations develop feels like a welcome luxury.

Jane Smiley’s new novel that starts with the kernel of a young family living in an Iowan farm, has been described as an epic and it is, not only for its large cast of characters (no big figures, no huge names, just people like you and me), but for its breadth, spread and ambition. Some Luck follows several generations of the same family (and they keep coming) through their lives and that of their country and the world. The novel is marvellously democratic, with no hierarchy of voices or experiences, and the same space is given to a toddler trying to understand the world around him and the functioning of his own body than to somebody drawing their last breath.

Readers get to know the many characters from inside, in a non-judgemental way, as you accompany them through their lives in their own heads, and you might like them and agree with them more or less, but you come to accept them as they are.

The book reminded me of a recent and wonderful movie Boyhood although the novel’s reach is greater but the feeling of peace and reflexivity you experience is similar.

The author’s ability to use brief but descriptive language, and combine it with extremely subjective, stream-of-consciousness passages, and quasi poetic everyday wisdom (and philosophy) creates a beautifully textured patchwork of a novel. If maybe the dimensions of the canvas are smaller, this could be the War and Peace of this generation.

This is a novel that moves at a sedate and calm pace, made of little moments and small steps; in summary, a novel about the things that really make life what it is. Extraordinary in its everydayness. I hope to meet the family (that has become mine as well) again very soon.

Paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/Some-Luck-novel-Jane-Smiley/dp/0307700313/

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Some-Luck-Jane-Smiley-ebook/dp/B00LB89SA8/

Dead drop by Jesse Miles

Dead drop by Jesse Miles

Dead Drop. A P.I. and Philosopher at home in L.A.

When I read the description of this novel in Net Galley (I obtained a free copy there) the premise sounded interesting. I enjoy mystery, suspense and crime thrillers. For me, the best are a combination of a gripping story and unforgettable characters. With regards to the story, it could be a fascinating and well described setting, or it might take place at an interesting historical moment, or in a peculiar background… And the characters…Real human beings with quirks, conflicts, lives, and voices. A P.I. who gets a job checking a possible case of embezzlement in a huge corporation (that as you can imagine quickly become far more complicated than that) and who also teaches Philosophy sounded promising on both counts.

Apart from all that, Dead Drop (the meaning of the name is explained in the novel) has elements also of the spy thriller. Jack Salvo, the detective, is in quite a few ways, your typical P.I. The novel is written in the first person and therefore we don’t get much on the way of other people’s point of view as to how Jack comes across to others. He seems popular with the women (although in some cases it is unclear if that might not be due to the attempts of the female characters at getting inside information from him), he knows about everything, he is well conversant with L.A. (I’ve never been there but to my untrained eye, the details seemed convincing), he is self-assured…and he teaches Philosophy and seems to enjoy it. But other than that little detail about him (and a very late brief discussion about his life with one of the female characters who becomes his love interest, Lily) I didn’t get the sense that I learned very much about the character or that he was much more than a collection of all his characteristics (that were neither offensive not particularly endearing, other than his interest in his teaching).

The plot is well developed and combines research, intrigue, action and mystery. Nobody is who they seem to be, and the story takes Jack from the corporate world, through veterans of the French foreign legion (and Philosophy experts to boot), bit actresses, luxury car garages, good old fashioned surveillance, breaking and entering, Swiss bank accounts, murder and bluff and double bluff.

The style of writing is clean, direct, easy to read, and fast-paced and fits in with the story. In summary I enjoyed the book but thought it could gain by developing the main character a bit more. Some of his reactions towards the end of the novel and his love story seem a bit sudden and not completely in keeping with the persona developed throughout the rest. As this is the first of a series of novels it might well be that the background will come more into play in later novels and it might allow the character to grow and become more multidimensional.

A solid story, a good and interesting read, just a notch below the unmissable category.

 http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Drop-Jesse-Miles-ebook/dp/B00NMO1S9I/

I hope you find something you, or someone you know, might fancy, but don’t worry, I have more to come. Also do check my previous recommendations, new books, and I’ll be reminding you of other suggestions on Fridays posts coming up to Christmas. 

Ah, and is that time of the year when we fancy something a bit new, so I decided to change the cover of my YA/NA novella ‘Twin Evils?‘ the story of two twins and their friend where things might not be exactly as they seem. And to celebrate the new cover it’s only $0.99.

See what you think!

Twin Evils? by Olga Núñez Miret

Twin Evils? by Olga Núñez Miret

Thanks to all the writers featured for their books, thanks to you all for reading, and you know, like, share, comment and of course CLICK!

Hi all:

Following on from my short break, where I had a chance to catch up on some reading, I wanted to share some of my most recent reviews. And today I decided on sharing two fairly short books, but completely different.

First, for all the writers who’ve been wondering about Scrivener, or might even have purchased it and wanted a set of easy instructions:

Scrivener Essentials by Karen Prince

Scrivener Essentials by Karen Prince

SCRIVENER ESSENTIALS: A Quick Start Visual Guide For Windows Users by Karen Prince. Easy visual advice from an expert user.

 After hearing many positive comments about Scrivener from other authors, and taking advantage of an offer, I purchased the programme. I went through the video presentation of the features, and I’ve checked other explanations, but they all seemed very convoluted and difficult to remember at the time of actually getting down to writing. Due to that I’d so far hesitated trying to launch a full-blown project in Scrivener.

Thankfully, this book came to the rescue. It is a step-by-step guide, and best still, visual. That means you can actually open the programme and have the book by your side, allowing you to check as you go along. For me, always looking for that button at the bottom right, under the double line, with a non-descript indicator on it, having an arrow pointing, makes a big difference. Another beauty is that the writer, an author herself, gives us her personal tips, things she has discovered through use, that are invaluable (and will not appear in any of the impersonal, “how-to” guides).

The discovery of this short gem has made me feel more confident in trying and using Scrivener. I recommend it to all writers, who, like me, have been wondering for a while about the programme, but been scared by what appear to be never-ending complex explanations. Thanks Karen Prince!

This is the version for Windows users, although Karen has also published a version for Mac users.

Here is the link if you want to check it out yourselves:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N6QFCS0/

Ah, and Karen has shared videos and other information in You Tube, so don’t forget to check her out!

And, a short while back I saw this book, The Proposal was free and downloaded it. I needed a light read at the time, and I leave you the review I wrote. When I checked at the moment of preparing this post, it’s still free so, if you fancy it, don’t hesitate!

The Proposal by Lily Zante

The Proposal by Lily Zante

The Proposal (A Perfect Match series. Book 1) by Lily Zante. A fun, light read that will keep you turning the pages.

Is a male escort the Perfect Match for a high flying executive creative director of an advertising company? If you read The Proposal you’ll have the answer. Of course, Ethan is much more than just an escort and Nadine isn’t your standard executive either. However, as many tell her through the book; she could end up being one if she doesn’t listen to her heart.

The Proposal reminded me of the movie The Wedding Date that is one of my guilty pleasures. I can’t resist to carry on watching it every time I find it flicking through TV channels. It has a similar plot although in the case of Nadine her difficulties are mostly to do with her professional life. Nadine is a driven woman, focused on her career, who has put her personal life on hold to pursue her goals. She’s pressured by her bitch of a boss, Sandra, and needs to make a good impression during a marketing convention. She needs a boyfriend to share the weekend with her and here is where Ethan, whom she met while he was performing as part of a stripper trio, comes in.

The Proposal is a fun, easy read, with engaging central characters that pull the story together and some fabulous scenes that will make you wish it was a movie.

If you like chic-lit and are looking for a quick and cheerful read you’d be well advised to give it a go. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ARFOGQ2/

Thanks so much for reading, thanks to the two authors for offering us help and entertainment, and you know what to do, like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Hi all:

I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading, and although some of the review I’m writing are going to be published directly in BTS-e Magazine (I’ll share links to future numbers) I realised there were some books I’d reviewed recently I hadn’t had a chance to share with  you yet. Today I bring  you Sebastian.

Sebastian by Christoph Fischer

Sebastian by Christoph Fischer

Sebastian is a long novel that chronicles a complex period of Austrian history by following the life of a Jewish family living and working in Vienna. The difficulties of the family (poor Sebastian loses a leg at the very beginning of the book and this will change his whole life, his mother, grandmother and grandfather have health problems, his father disappears in the Great War…) reflect the turbulent historical period that Europe lives in the early XX Century. Although the book is part of a trilogy I understand from the description that each book can be read independently and Sebastian is a stand-alone novel.

One of the beauties of the book is how it manages to paint a very vivid portrait of the Viennese society of the period, cosmopolitan, complex and with its great variety of nationalities, religions and unwritten rules. The novel shows us the wider historical events and how these affect a particular family. Thanks to the characters who come into contact with the family we can gain a wider perspective, as we get to see how people from Galicia felt, the difficult situation of Orthodox Jews from that area, how somebody who is known as a patriot today, might end up in the wrong side tomorrow through circumstances not always of their making. The shop at the centre of the book offers a great opportunity to understand the ins and outs of the public relations between the diverse groups, both from the point of view of the clients and also the staff.

Sebastian is the centre of that world, and he grows from a weak and cowardly young boy to a mature, well-adjusted and highly moral individual. We follow his education, his taking responsibility for the family business and the whole family, his romantic education, his fatherhood…The Viennese society of peace and war times are vividly depicted from a very personal point of view, filtered through the conscience of the characters, some of whom we might feel closer to than others, but who are all multi-dimensional and credible. We have proud mothers, psychoanalysis buffs, paranoid anti-Jewish women, mediums, spies…

I congratulate the author for his ability and talent in interweaving the many complex threads to create a wonderful patchwork of characters, lives and historical events that kept me engaged at both an intellectual and an emotional level. I’m sure this won’t be the last one of his books I read.

Sebastian. (The Three Nations Trilogy. Book 2)

http://www.amazon.com/Sebastian-Three-Nations-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00CLL1UY6/

And here the author’s page in Amazon, just in case you want to check the rest of his books:

http://www.amazon.com/Christoph-Fischer/e/B00CLO9VMQ/

Thanks for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and of course, CLICK and READ! Oh, and next week, I’ll bring you a sample of my WIP! Be scared! (No, not horror… unless you’re scared of romance and cakes)

Hi all:

As you know, apart from a writer, I’m also a reader and when I have time, I read. I’ve been reading many indie books of recent and being a writer I know how important it is for writers to get reviews for their books. I also try and share them here and see if people who might have missed them find the books interesting.

Today I bring you two short and very different reads. One is a distopian YA novella and the other one a non-fiction book about relationships.

The Ivory Tower

The Ivory Tower

Review of Kirstin Pulioff’s ‘The Ivory Tower’

A sharp, shiny and precise jewel of a dystopian novella.

I read The Ivory Tower very quickly some time ago and have finally managed to catch up with a review. This dystopian story is brief but hides a good punch. I’m always in two minds with regards to shorter stories. On the one hand I want to know more, but on the other hand, the best of them are like perfect jewels, nicely shaped, shiny and precise. Sharp with no rounded edges. I suspect some of that precision and the effect might be lost if they were longer.

The Ivory Tower is one of those stories. The reader is given some details but not the full story behind the situation or the reasons why the characters live as they do. And that makes you think and imagine. It also works because when the main character finds herself in a situation that she cannot quite understand, you are in her shoes and as astounded as her by what happens. The sense of menace and threat increases as one reads and the writing helps create an atmospheric and intriguing tale. Although there are no unduly lengthy descriptions, the reader knows where s/he is. And the ending…

If you only have a little time and want a good story (not a feel good story, though) go and grab The Ivory Tower, quick!

http://www.amazon.com/Ivory-Tower-Kirstin-Pulioff-ebook/dp/B00FJ3A58A/

After "I Do!" A Marriage Map

After “I Do!” A Marriage Map

After “I Do!” A Marriage Map by P.J. LaRue Common sense advice about relationships, from the heart.

Before I write the review I must confess something. I’m not married and I’m not in a relationship at the moment. I’m not sure if that qualifies me more or disqualifies me completely from writing this review, but I’ve already warned you. If you want to read on, it’s up to you.

Having said all that, I have to confess I loved the book. Like all advice, one can take it or leave it. And Oscar Wilde already told us that the thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. That one should never use it oneself. I don’t agree although understand the sentiment.

P.J. LaRue explains her reasons for writing the book. She is aware of the statistics on the survival of relationships and observes that although her marriage seemed to have many numbers for not working, it has (so far for over thirty years). As people kept asking her and her husband for the recipe, that got her thinking, and as she is a writer, she thought she’d write a book about it.

The author’s advice is common sense, but not for that less valuable. She reflects on what she calls ‘Starter Marriages’ and observes that if there is no true commitment to a relationship from the beginning you might as well not even bother. If you’re going to give up at the first hurdle, don’t get in the race. She also emphasises the importance of communication, true communication, and she highlights the elements she thinks are necessary for such communication to exist: honesty, be open, listen, never trash talk, don’t play games, whisper sweet nothings, choose your words carefully, change requires self-awareness, change takes effort, compromise, tone, body language, golden rule and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Other than ‘whisper sweet nothings’ I’d say they are very good principles to follow in any communication, but even more important when the communication is with your loved one.

If the advice is sound, as I say, what I found more touching (and it is a touching book) was how the author uses her own relationship as a yardstick and example of both the things to do and the possible pitfalls, the type of problems that relationships experience. She is candid and honest when talking about her personal difficulties and the trials that they have had to go through (and they’re still coming to terms with).

It might be that some of the ideas exposed in the book (yes, I’m talking about her stance on sex in relationships) might sound old-fashioned, and she herself acknowledges that, but just because something is old or has been said before it doesn’t mean it is wrong. You can always decide what parts of the advice you think should apply to you, but if you can be as selfless and insightful as the author is after you read it, I guarantee you will have a much better chance at making your relationship work.

http://www.amazon.com/After-Do-Marriage-Map-LaRue-ebook/dp/B00LIGL9FK/

By the way, very recently I’ve joined the BTS-e Magazine team of reviewers (I’ll let you know when my reviews come up and give you a link to the magazine), so I leave you links to it for you to check and explore.

Thanks so much for reading, and you know, if  you’ve found it interesting, like, share, comment and of course CLICK! Ah, and if read any books and enjoy them, remember to review and recommend them to your friends!

Hi all:

As you will know I review books and share the reviews here every so often. I have recently reviewed the third book in John Dolan‘s series ‘Time, Blood and Karma‘, that I loved, and I thought I’d take a chance to remind you of the two other books in the series (as I mention them in the review too).

A Poison Tree by John Dolan

A Poison Tree by John Dolan

A Poison Tree (Time, Blood and Karma Series) by John Dolan.  You can’t escape you past even if you move to Thailand

I have had the pleasure of reading all of John Dolan’s books in his series ‘Time, Blood, and Karma’ (up to now) about a very singular detective/therapist David Braddock, who lives in Thailand, is witty, deadpan, a pocket philosopher, fascinated by Buddhism, and with an intriguing back story.

When I read the first novel ‘Everyone Burns’ I wanted to know more about the main character, who is the conscience and narrator of the book, and through whose eyes we see the action. The more the story advanced, the more I wondered how reliable a narrator he was, and how many things he wasn’t telling us about himself.

I loved ‘Hungry Ghosts’ where the story further develops, the incidents get much closer home, and the interconnectedness of everything and everybody becomes clearer and clearer. The author leaves a big hook hanging at the end of the book but then…

He publishes ‘A Poison Tree’. The title is taken from a quote by William Blake and it is very appropriate. Because instead of following the story, Mr Dolan goes back to give us the background to his character David Braddock. We meet him in 1999 —when everybody was concerned about the possibility that the New Year might bring the end of the world —in England, Leicester of all places. His novel is hardly a recommendation to visit Leicester. See this description of the location of David’s office (he’s managing his father’s car dealership):

‘Behold ye the land of cheap exhausts, tyre-changing ramps, blackened welding shops, and undercapitalised garages mutating slowly into car washes.’

Unfortunately he could be describing a large number of places.

David is the witty character we get to know and love later, but he appears more vulnerable and very troubled. Although his troubles are not quite in the same league as those he encounters as a detective, he is not a lucky man. He meets a very shady character, Jim Fosse, who starts talking about the perfect murder and quotes Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers in a Train’ scenario. He wants rid of his wife and thinks that swapping crimes might be the way forward. David dismisses it as he is happy with his wife Claire…or is he? His sister-in-law and old friend, Anna has a disastrous marriage, her husband is having an affair, and at some point it seems as if everybody is having an affair, even Claire. We later discover that things are not as they seem, but unfortunately it is too late by then.

Although the major voice in this novel is again David’s, and by his own confession, he is trying to write everything that happened, as an exercise in exorcism (although not quite), there are other characters we hear too, Jim Fosse (although a nasty man and a psychopath, I must confess he is very entertaining and devious. Hear him: ‘I don’t have any friends. I don’t need them. Friends are an unnecessary burden. I only have accomplices.’), Adele, a Scottish woman, now living in Leicester, who makes her living working in a shop and prostituting herself, who is an observer but somehow involved with many of the main players, Claire (David’s wife), Anna…They all have secrets, they all live a lie, but nearly all of them survive to tell the tale. And to carry on with other stories.

‘A Poison Tree’ (reflecting on the nature of desire David concludes that it is ‘a poison tree’) closes the circle taking us to the point when David decides to leave the UK (‘I will be glad to be off this shabby little island. It’s so fucking pleased with itself. I’ve been here too long.’) and is going first to Bali but then moving to Thailand, making use of the money his wonderful Aunt Jean (I’d love to hear more of her story) leaves him in her will, encouraging him to live. He mentions becoming a detective and going back to using what he’s learned about therapies.

And so there we are. Now I see many things and I understand a bit better. ‘A Poison Tree’ can be read independently without any knowledge of the other two, as it sets up the scene. Having read the other two novels I could not help but keep having ‘ahhhh!’ moments and sharing in the anxiety, worries and sadness of the characters. I enjoyed getting to know David’s family better and getting to grips with the relationship with his wife and his guilt. This novel is far less exotic and not as fast paced as the rest of the series, but it is much more reflective and insidious, built like a complicated puzzle where pieces eventually fit in but not as you thought, and it is suffused by a sense of dread, melancholy and regret. Not all prequels are good but this is one of the excellent ones. I think it was a good choice to publish the novels in this order. It feels as if the author is giving us some space to breathe and feeding us information that might help us fully understand and enjoy what’s yet to come. And I very much suspect it will be a very bumpy ride.

Links:

A Poison Tree USA

http://www.amazon.com//dp/B00K0CRX8A

A Poison Tree UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00K0CRX8A/

Here, the first book in the series:

everyone burns

Everyone Burns (Time, Blood and Karma Book One) by John Dolan Counselling, politics and detection in Thailand

Everyone Burns is a detective novel. And although it lives up to many of the detective novels expectations (David Braddock, the detective protagonist is a somewhat cynical man who has seen everything, is a bit of a womaniser, smokes, has a bad opinion of the local cops, and keeps us entertained with a sometimes insightful, sometimes clueless, but always entertaining internal dialogue) it is by no means your usual run-of-the-mill detective novel.

What makes it different? For one, its setting. This is not New York or a big city. This is Samui, an island part of Thailand, where sexual tourism is rife, politics and the local police are corrupt, and foreigners (Sarangs) have to live in the outskirts of society following unspoken but very strict rules. The author managers to paint a vivid image of Samui, a place of contrasts, with very wealthy patrons, gangsters who control everything and everybody, and extremely poor individuals who can’t pay for a cataract operation. But what I found personally fascinating was the deep understanding of the functioning of such society, where gross corruption can be offset by an appearance of outward morality and normality.

David Braddock, despite the many recognisable traits he shares with your favourite detective, is anything but a common guy. He has no known qualifications for the job he does. He is a triumph of vocational approach to training. He does the job because he can. In the same manner that he offers (mostly to foreigners like him) his skills as detective, he also offers counselling (that he seems to have mastered via some courses, ample reading and a generous dose of common sense) to natives. To handle these two strands of his business he has two rooms in his office and will show (or his pregnant secretary will) his clients to the East or West office. His fees also vary according to the clientele. He is married, but his relationship with his wife is mysterious from the start and although he is deeply in love with her, she seems to be a very rare presence in his life. He has a housekeeper who is a character and steady influence, he visits a Buddhist monastery and the novel is peppered with Buddhist wisdom and Braddock’s attempts at applying it to his investigations. He has a number of female friends, some married, and he is receiving what appear to be blackmail letters that seem to come from somebody in the know about his relationship with the wife of the chief of police.

He is British but has lived in Thailand for a number of years, although his standing appears to be still uncertain. We don’t know much about his background but this is a man who can quote the classics, speaks Thai, is well informed on local, international and current affairs and is a deep thinker with a peculiar but internally consistent sense of morality. This being a first person narration I was left wanting to know who he really is. If the many cases he gets involved in get solved in some fashion (foreign men get killed and burned in a spot where years back a young man killed himself by setting himself alight), I felt there were more questions left unanswered than fully satisfying answers.

I loved this novel. Although I’ve read a few detective novels and seedy settings are not uncommon, the degree of local knowledge, understanding of customs and familiarity with procedures (and I understand from reading about the author that Mr Dolan spends a fair amount of time in Thailand) goes well beyond what I expected and rather than a filler to justify some elements of the story, I felt it was integral to it and fascinating to read for the insights it provided. The cases were interesting and the first person narrative, like in many of the most loved classic detective novels, allowed you to test yourself, look for clues, and try to find the elusive connections that you knew existed but couldn’t quite work out.

The characterisation not only of Braddock but of most of the important secondary characters was vivid and rang true. How reliable a narrator Braddock is, is something that you’ll have to decide. I can say I was surprised at a particular point in the novel, because although something had not made much sense to me (and I won’t spoil the plot) when I realised why I still wasn’t sure if it was the way the scenes were set or my own lack of acumen at points.

My feeling and opinion is that this series will be a five star series, but I wanted more background, more story and more development in some of the characters. I believe that all will come together as a whole and can’t wait to read the rest of the novels. If you like detective novels and want to try something new, don’t waste any more time and read Everyone Burns.

Links:

Everyone Burns USA

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008I6GXM2/

Everyone Burns UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008I6GXM2/

And this is the second:

Hungry Ghosts, 'Time, Blood and Karma' Book 2 by John Dolan

Hungry Ghosts, ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ Book 2 by John Dolan

Hungry Ghosts (Time, Karma and Blood Series Book 2) by John Dolan. Family secrets, family feuds, betrayals and ghosts.

‘The spirits of the dead are all around us, but it is we, the living, that are the true hungry ghosts.’I could not agree more with the reflections of David Braddock, the detective-cum-philosopher and therapist who is the protagonist of Hungry Ghosts, the second book in the ‘Time, Karma and Blood Series’ by John Dolan. I read the first book in the series Everyone Burns and when I reviewed it I mentioned that I thought this would be a five star series but the first book left me wanting more and with too many questions pending. Be reassured, Hungry Ghosts delivers on all the promises of the first and more, and although, of course this being a series everything could not be resolved, it answers many of the questions, whilst opening new avenues for inquiry and intriguing plots.

‘Sometimes I come across as superficial. Of this I am aware. However, you may be confident that inside my head I am forever plumbing new shallows, finding novel ways to express the obvious, reheating old jokes.’

David Braddock, one of the most peculiar detectives I’ve met in fiction (and I am aware all famous detectives have quirks and characteristics that make them memorable) is back with a vengeance. Or rather, he is the intended victim of a revenge attempt. Vending the rules, although it appears to be the standard MO in Thailand, does not come without consequences, even there. People die, lives are destroyed, and strange alliances are made and broken. Not your standard day at the office.

If Braddock still retains many of the characteristics we’ve come to expect of most males detectives (he has an array of love interests, two of them married, one related to him by first marriage…), we get to see more of his soft/emotional side. His strange relationships with his first wife (now dead), his daughter (away in England), his housekeeper (not his maid, as he insists throughout the whole book. She is clearly much more than a housekeeper, as signaled by the fact that they have never had sex), his mother-in-law, and crucially, his father. Family secrets abound, not only those of the Braddock family, but also of other families. Fathers and sons with troubled relationships are mirrored on both sides of the law (although the lines are very fine and there is no black and white here, rather different shades of grey, but no, not fifty), and even Braddock’s Zen master, the Old Monk, has sons who are on opposite sides of the law.

The author shows his talent by using a variety of points of view throughout the novel that allow us to understand better the events and the motivations behind the actions of the characters. We share in the murderer’s frame of mind, the Chief of Police of Samui and his wife (and Braddock’s lover), the detective’s sister in law, the gangsters… We might side with Braddock but we are privy to the thoughts and feelings of others and are a step ahead. That is why the twist at the end is even more effective. We should have seen it coming but we were too taken by the action and the story, and rooting for the flawed hero to realise that…

John Dolan treads carefully and manages to recap enough information to allow somebody who has not read the first novel to enjoy and make sense of this one, whilst at the same time not boring somebody who has recently read ‘Everyone Burns’, and just nudging their memory (especially with the unfamiliar names) along.

David Braddock is fast becoming one of my favourite detectives. Although an amateur at both detective work and psychology (or therapeutic interventions), he has a natural flair for both. I couldn’t help but think that he might make an interesting team with Mary, the psychiatrist who gets involved in all sorts of crimes in my stories. It’s a thought.

Hungry Ghosts has gang-warfare, police corruption, revenge, murders and violence, secrets and revelations, honey traps and meddling employees, witty repartees and reflections (‘I need to simplify my life so far as women are concerned. Maybe I should get castrated and have done with it.’), ghosts and padrinos (Thai style). I, for one, can’t wait to see what happens next and what will come of the sudden epiphany Braddock experiences in this book. As he observes: ‘We are the artisans of avoidance, the fabricators of falsehoods. We sell ourselves snake-oil and we call it medicine.’ I’m sure there will be more revelations to come and I suspect the author might take us in unsuspected directions. I am getting a ticket for the next trip. Are you?

Links:

Hungry Ghosts USA

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ENZAURQ/

Hungry Ghosts UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ENZAURQ/

Thank you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, you know what to do, like, share, comment and of course, CLICK!

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