Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Ramblings of a Fledgling Book Reviewer

I have had some lovely feedback on my reviews. Indie authors in particular are pleased to have their work recognised and promoted on Twitter for free by someone who read their work and loved it.

As I was writing a review recently, it struck me how the tables are turned once the review is written, at least for me. If I have liked a book enough to review it and put it on my blog I also want the author to be pleased with the review and there is often a nail biting moment while I wait for them to see the review and let me know what they thought.

I suppose I am not a typical reviewer. I don't give a book review unless I like the book. I talk about emotional responses not style, voice or POV. I write reviews the way I do because reviewing is subjective, what one person will hate, another will love. No amount of picking the books structure apart is going to change that. I have read a few books by published authors, and thought they were pretty dire, yet they have had literary prizes heaped on their work. Equally, I have read books others thought were below par which I have absolutely loved. Of course, I am sometimes in agreement with the majority too, so I am 'in the club' on occasion! This is why I write about how a book made me feel because human emotions are far more similar than human ideals.

We all have emotions, I read to exercise mine. What I choose to read depends on my mood at the time. I have what I call 'Holiday Reads', those books which aren't taxing in their style, which are suitable for lazy days when you almost want a story read to you. I also like to have a more 'wordy' book on the go. My current one is written by someone I follow on Twitter and it is very heavy going but the story is keeping me interested and that is what counts. Then there is my review list, a mix of genres which I read in order of submission. I love that list, it's like a treasure dip where I put my hand in the bag, not knowing what I am going to pull out next.

Have you read any books which you had been told were the 'next Big Thing' and found yourself wondering what the fuss is about? I have, plenty of times and I know I am not alone. When I was much younger, I felt perhaps I ought to like these books. Perhaps I was lacking in my ability to appreciate a fine piece of creativity when I saw it. I went through a stage where I read books which I 'ought' to and it was an expensive and frustrating experience sometimes. I quickly realised it wasn't a lack of intelligence on my part of perhaps failing to understand the finer nuances of the text or the beautifully forged prose. I just didn't like some of these books, it was that simple and no amount of flamboyant reviews from internationally acclaimed sources was going to change that.

Book snobbery on the whole is something I don't have time for, I lose respect for an opinion very quickly if all I see is the need to sound superior. Recently I have read some truly horrific and venom based reviews of books on Amazon. Some have been written by people who seem to delight in telling the world how much they hated the book and why. There are those which are written by people who feel a sprinkling of 'wordy' literary phrases will make them be taken more seriously and those with the well-worn phrase along the lines of 'keep ya £1.50' at the end. You know the types I mean. In my opinion, if you don't like a book then don't review it if you really can't find anything nice to say, there is never a good reason to get personally nasty to the author. Never. If a book doesn't work for you then please move on. Don't launch a mouth foaming attack as if your eyes are bleeding and you are seeking monetary compensation for emotional distress...or at least ya £1.50 back.

Books are for sharing so if you find a book which left you feeling a bit of a glow then write a review and let everyone else know too. Authors will thank you for it and so will their potential readers. Don't be afraid to keep it simple. In my opinion, a review doesn't have to be high brow, just honest and respectful.

The Paris Notebook by Cynthia Harrison

Although this isn't an indie book I am keen to share it as one of those feel-good books us girls need sometimes.

Deena is a character with a personality which made me root for her from the start. In her twenties she had a relationship with Ian, the self-centred and unfaithful singer in the band Yellow Star and she wrote the lyrics for the band's first album. After their relationship ended she gave him a copy of her notebook containing new song lyrics for him to look at but he doesn't get back in touch. Years later, she hears her own words barely masked in his new song and realises what her unscrupulous ex has done. She wants the notebook back and she wants the credit due to her but it means getting close to him again. Jack, a friend and colleague, asks her to dinner but she doesn't know if she wants her heart broken again. When Jack says he is leaving soon, she finally agrees to go, feeling safe as he will soon be gone. Ian is certain he can win Deena round and get her to agree to give him the lyrics because he is used to getting what he wants but Deena is equally determined he won't. Ian's shenanigans had me grinding my teeth and I was very keen to see if he had his comeuppance.

The background characters all add to the plot and each has their own story, interwoven very nicely with Deena's. There is a feel of real friendship in this novel.

The Paris Notebook left a smile on my face and it's perfect for those days when you just want to enjoy the sunshine outside with a good book and the tipple of your choice. I'm not an avid reader of romance novels but this one is well written with an easy style and a satisfying ending.  I liked it.

Twitter: CynthiaHarriso1

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Doppelganger - (A Jack Lockwood Mystery) by Geoffrey David West

This book is all you could want from a crime thriller and I have spent the best part of a day happily glued to its pages.

Jack Lockwood is a fabulous character. A criminal profiler and true crime writer, he acts on hunches and instincts but like every fallible human, he doesn't always get it bang on first time. A good investigator of the facts, he chases down information and makes a nuisance of himself with the police, who aren't his greatest allies. Nothing seems to really faze him, whether he is being hunted down by gangland criminals who want him dead or finding out the woman he loves may not be what she seems. He always keeps going no matter what the personal cost. I think this character is very unsure of what love should be about as he seems a little confused when it comes to matters of the heart but, in a way, it makes his personality very real and engaging.

I love the fast paced flow of this novel, although there is a lot going on the author has a knack of keeping you fully informed. The writing is clear, descriptive and crisp with a satisfying ending and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and also to lead you down the wrong path until you reach that 'A-ha!' moment and realise you have been had. At least I was at one point and not in the most obvious way! I also liked the references to real life events, such as speculating the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Naughty but plausible...

This is the second in the series of Jack Lockwood mysteries but it can be read very well as a stand alone book. Geoffrey David West gives enough background information to establish Lockwood's personality, and the things he has gone through before, to make it easy to join in the journey.

Twitter: @GeoffreyDWest

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Blake Soul by I. C. Camilleri

Now this book is a strange one. The author has written a story about a man who can see into the future, he sees various pathways his family life could take and tries to prepare for the ones which look the most fatal. Some he can change, some get worse when he tries, some don't happen at all.

Josh Blake has the mother from hell and never knew his father. He was brought up by a woman who begged his mother not to have an abortion, his mother only visiting once a year to tell him how unwanted he is and how much she dislikes him for existing. Josh has a photographic memory, is very intelligent and can see his future mapped out...well, almost. Hurt by his past, he shields himself and his heart from women and simply uses them as they glide in and out of his glamorous world of film premieres. Then he sees a woman he thinks he knows and slowly the visions he has had all his life start to make sense.

This is one of those novels which leave you with a sense of wondering what just happened but in a good way. The author pulls you along, giving you tidbits of anticipation mixed in with a bizarre feeling of wondering if you really want to do this or not.

The story has romance in it which is slightly off kilter, they are in love but they hurt each other by saying the most bizarre things and you are allowed to watch as if you were looking through the CCTV camera which is hidden on the wall in their apartment in the story. It's like they both periodically lose their minds. They dip in and out of reality, with their insecurities playing a deep role in their outlook of love and their future.

This book is all about the extremes and flaws in human nature, the moments of madness, the five second thoughts of revenge most sane people dismiss as unacceptable. It is the first in a series of three.

I rather liked it.

Twitter: @ICCamilleri

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Blood Pool by J. E. Ryder

Blood Pool is an excellent thriller with so many twists and turns to the plot I wasn't sure who the good guys were until the author told me right at the end.

Sam Shelley inherits her husband's family boatyard when his body is discovered on the beach. The locals aren't happy as the Shelley empire, such as it is, traditionally falls to the next male heir but, since none have been traced, Sam is left to run things. When another body turns up on the beach, its face a bloody mess, and Madge, the wife of Sam's close friend Professor Jonas Weal, turns up at the boatyard office saying he urgently needs to see Sam, things start to get out of hand and Sam doesn't know whom to trust anymore. There is a touch of romance between Sam and Mik Portillus, one of the hands at the boatyard, but is Mik all he seems?

This tale is really well written, complex and intriguing. From the start the pace and descriptive writing made it feel as if I was living it all with Sam, almost like watching a movie pan out. The author has done a fabulous job with the background characters as well, giving them depth and personalities which make them just as real and believable as the main ones.

The only criticism I have was when the story led the characters to Spain, it all seemed a bit pointless to the plot but it was a very small part of what is an excellent and absorbing story and I thought it was very good.

Twitter: @Jeryder5Author