It’s been a while since I did some book reviews but there’s no time like, well, now. So, with no bleating around the bush, here we go (note: each heading will take you to the book’s page on Amazon)
Porter Girl – First Lady of the Keys by Lucy Brazier
‘Porters are not the carriers of bags, they are the keepers of keys!’
As one of the most ancient and esteemed establishments of the academic elite, Old College is in for something of a shock when it appoints its very first female Deputy Head Porter.
She struggles to get to grips with this eccentric world, far removed from everyday life. PorterGirl, the proverbial square peg in the round hole, begins to wonder quite what she is doing here.
PorterGirl – First Lady Of The Keys is a touching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, glimpse into a world that is usually reserved for the upper echelons of society.
Whether she is chasing after naked students, drinking copious amounts of tea or getting embroiled in quaint, polite murders, Deputy Head Porter is never far from adventure.
I came to this via the author’s blog. It promised to be the sort of tortuous book with comic absurdities that I enjoy. The narrator is a charming if tea obsessed young woman at first at sea and then finding her feet in Old College. The bizarre characters around her are well crafted and, for anyone who has experienced tertiary education anywhere let alone a medieval institution like an Oxbridge college this has resonance. I found myself happily turning the pages and reading on, always a good sign. The pace doesn’t flag though the plot does veer too far for me towards the unlikely and absurd. I really don’t buy unexplained deaths being kept from the police. But then I never went to Oxbridge. So if you enjoy a smile (it’s not laugh out loud for me but humour is personal and anything that turns up the corners is a good thing) a twisted plot and an easy read this one is one to try.
White Picket Prisons by Phil Taylor
A group of friends with a penchant for goofy nicknames return to their hometown for a funeral and what had been a pleasant, albeit melancholy, reunion quickly escalates into a fight for their lives with an enemy they didn’t know they had. Putting up with each others quirks with good humor they must unravel a mystery that may have started thirty years ago. They unwittingly stumble and fumble their way into a life or death showdown that could kill them all. The question is not whether they will survive the bad guys, but will they survive each other? One reader likened the characters to “the kids from Stephen King’s classic ‘Stand By Me’ but grown up.” This story will make you miss those goofy high school friends from years ago.
Now I liked this a lot. It has a sort of changing room musk to the plot that while not necessarily sweet has a charm and a memory jog all of its own. The author has done a good job with his characters – one fears for his past and present that he knows men together so well that Chuck might just be based on him, I have no idea but there’s something there in the love with which this hapless chap goes about things. As for the plot, well, sure there’s a little of the stretching credibility going on here but it’s such romping good fun that, hey, what the heck let’s go along for the ride. If you want to read about guys together and some of their thinking even in extremis – for instance the fact that Cooper could even think about giving Chuck a wedgie while in mortal danger is so true, I had to laugh – then this is for you, what ever your sexual preferences.
Don’t Touch (Null City Book 2) by Barb Taub
Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it.
Her online journal spans a decade, beginning with the day a thirteen-year-old inherits an extreme form of the family “gift.” Every day whatever she touches converts into something new: bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between.
Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by a monster who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.
Barb Taub has a way with her words, her images, her sass. Her main characters are all flawed irritating people who you love because they know it, they irritate themselves and they find, if not answers, then some sort of life ointment that makes them bearable. The relationship with George the nearly frozen cat is a perfect metaphor for this book. They annoy each other but they need each other. Like so much in life too, we lean on those we have to, not because we want to but because they happen to give the best support. Enjoy the imagination of the author, the witty one liners but mostly enjoy the fact she writes a damn good story.
The Saturday Secret and Other Stories by Linda Huber
Fifteen tales of life, love, and family – perfect for a coffee-break! Previously published in UK national magazines, the stories are about relationships within the family and without – some are humorous, some bittersweet; all are upbeat and emotional.
The Party Partners:: Belinda and Phillip have fun at weddings, engagement parties and all sorts of celebrations. But anything more personal was out of the question – or was it?
Family Matters Gary shares Sharon’s dream of having children – but as far as he’s concerned, it’s something for the future.
Corinna’s Big Day: It was the most important day in baby Corinna’s life, but for Madge, it was one of the saddest…
Lucky for Some: You might say drawing number 13 in the cycle rally was bad luck. You might say falling off was bad luck, too. But Hilary knew better!
Patiently Waiting: Mike woke up after his operation and saw the girl of his dreams. The problem was the engagement ring she wore on a chain round her neck…
The Saturday Secret: What was she up to? The whole family wanted to know! But Gran wasn’t telling…
And many more…
I so enjoyed this. I read it over two days, which for me is exceptional. The author tells a great story and her characters are immediately recognisable and well drawn. I’ll be the first to say I’d normally not be drawn to romance and happy endings but these are so well told with some neat twists that it’s very easy to be hooked and move through to the conclusions, even if they are going to be upbeat! If I had to pick a favourite it was Speedy the dog, a character that deserves a wider audience.
Death by Pumpkin by Noelle Granger
At the annual Pumpkin Festival in the coastal town of Pequod, Maine, Rhe Brewster, an ER nurse and Police Department consultant, responds to screams at the site of the Pumpkin Drop. Racing to the scene, where a one-ton pumpkin was dropped from a crane to crush an old car, Rhe and her brother-in-law, Sam, Pequod’s Chief of Police, discover the car contains the smashed remains of a man’s body. After the police confirm the death as a homicide, Rhe embarks on a statewide search to identify the victim and find the killer. During the course of the emotional investigation, she survives an attempt on her life at 10,000 feet, endures the trauma of witnessing the murder of an old flame, and escapes an arson attack on her family’s home. There is clearly a sociopath on the loose who is gunning for Rhe and leaving bodies behind. With Sam unable to offer his usual support due to an election recall and a needy new girlfriend, Rhe realizes that the only way to stop the insanity is to risk it all and play the killer’s game.
Maine’s most tenacious sleuth is back, this time to confront a menace that threatens to destroy her life and those closest to her. The latest installment of the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Death by Pumpkin, is a murder mystery and thriller that tests the limits of Rhe’s strength and resolve like never before.
I read the first Rhe Brewster mystery a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. I wondered how the author would get on in the series – would the characters be compelling? Would the story be as well constructed? I am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is far more gritty more subtle and with more depth. The story is multilayered and the continuing battles with her nemesis well-drawn – comparisons with Patricia Cornwall aren’t far off the mark. Death stalks our heroine and you wonder, Game of Thrones like, which of the main characters might go next. I read this book quickly, it is a page turner. Where I do take slight issue is at the ending. I don’t want to plot spoil but the tracking device arrangements didn’t work for me; that said the final chase was well constructed and I will definitely read the next in the series. I just worry who will die…
Glimpses by Hugh Roberts
‘Glimpses’ allows the reader a peek into the lives of everyday people who are about to have life lead them on an unpredicted path. From a mysterious deadly iPad app, to a hole in the fence that is not all it seems, to a strange lipstick that appears to have a life of its own, you will encounter terror, laughter, sadness, shock and many other emotions on journeys which promise a thrilling and gripping climax.
If you are a lover of shows such as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’, then you’re in for a real treat with this first collection of short stories from Hugh.
Dare you take a glimpse into the lives of these unsuspecting characters?
A compelling set of tales that take you from warmed cockles to frozen hopes via laugh out loud funny through the frankly bizarre and back again. The truth app is a stunning story but it would be invidious to single out just one in what is a fine first collection
Hinting at Shadows by Sarah Brentyn
No One Escapes Life Unscathed Delve into the deeper reaches of the human condition and the darkness that lives there. A girl haunted by her sister’s drowning. A boy desperate for his father’s affection. A woman forced to make a devastating decision. A man trapped by his obsessions. Experience tales of love, loss, murder, and madness through this collection of flash and micro fiction. Take a peek behind the smile of a stranger. Get a glimpse inside the heart of a friend. Scratch the surface and discover what is hidden beneath. These stories will open your mind, tug at your thoughts, and allow you to explore the possibility that, even in the brightest moments, something is Hinting at Shadows. Author’s Note: Each selection is approximately 100 words, with a bonus section of Microbursts in which each story is told in 50 words or less.
It is hard to believe so much can be packed into so little; this is a new genre: Tardis literature – at its finest. Brentyn has limited herself to almost starvation levels of words and yet crafted such functioning characters and scenes that the stories stay with you, rolling around in your head for a time after. When I picked this book up I thought ‘one afternoon and I’m done’ but how wrong was I. Of course that is possible but each story makes you stop and think – some even make you stop halfway through and ponder what is behind what we are told. Often the ‘hinting’ is almost a cruel tease; on other occasions it’s like a worst nightmare from which you wake desperate to remember the rest but knowing it is out of reach without more work. This is a book where the author expects you to do a lot of the work, not for, but with her and the pleasure in that shared revelation is her special skill. She is not afraid to show enough and rely on we the reader to do the rest. That takes supreme confidence and skill.