|Posted by Alana Woods on May 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM||comments (0)|
Poor punctuation on the first page especially is what made the first impression. Plus what I thought was a major spoiler in the first few paragraphs but as the foreshadowed incident happened very quickly after that point I revised my thinking.
Chapter 3 contains a description of a walk in heavy crisp frost in bright sunshine which conjured memories of a similar walk I took several years ago in the south of the UK. Beautiful.
Until chapter 3 I thought the story was going to be third person single point of view but in that chapter another character takes over. From then on the POV jumps back and forth between Maggie Sayer—the counsellor—and her clients. It took several jumps for me to become accustomed to the POV changes but they had the effect of not being able to immerse myself in the story. I felt I didn’t get to know the characters intimately; however, I did like them.
Without giving anything away Maggie Sayer undertakes training and becomes a counsellor after a personal tragedy alters her life irrevocably. She, more than many, is in a position to understand the trauma confronting the people who seek her help. Although alone she is not lonely, having good work colleagues, loving parents, a close friend and an adoring dog. Set in the north of England the scenic descriptions anchor the story within its setting.
I’d hazard a guess that Jackson has some expertise in the subject matter. Her handling of the clients and their problems, and Sayer’s methodology, smacks of someone who knows what they’re talking about.
I was not enamoured of the writing style and language; I thought they lacked spark. My opinion only of course because style is entirely subjective to the reader.
However, I liked the story line and there was a satisfying ending. And, finally, a big plus was the dialogue which was natural and used well.
|Posted by Alana Woods on May 5, 2013 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
This is a memoir with each chapter devoted to significant times in the author’s life. It is a retrospective, a looking back, at the situations and events that have made her who she is today.
Confessions is categorised as Boomer literature but I’m not sure. My understanding of the genre is that the principle character or characters are boomer agers in the present day and the story is an exploration of how they are looking ahead and coming to terms with aging and pursuing a worthy life after retiring from their lifetime career. But Confessions, as I say, is the author reminiscing about her life and what brought her to this point. Therefore, is it Boomer literature? I’m not going to angst about it, it’s a nice read in its own right.
I always wonder when reading memoirs how the author, in revealing the intimacies of their own lives, reconciles the revealing of other people’s, often family members, intimate details. I imagine that they ask for and are given permission. I pose that question because this one does contain such revelations.
Most chapters recall a different event or episode in Robert’s life but several, from chapter 13, follow her through 15 years from the idea and creation of a play Letters from the front she and her husband eventually took on tour to US military bases throughout the world. It became known as ‘The world’s most decorated play’ and if the passion they so obviously poured into it has anything to do with it I can understand why it became such a success.
Confessions is a straightforward memoir, candid, full of warmth and caring. Roberts’ faith that God will show the way shines through. Each parable engenders an emotional response be it a lump in the throat all the way through to a smile.
Simply and sincerely told I found it an easy, at times heart-tugging but heart-warming, read.
Take this link to my interview with Marsha Roberts
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM||comments (2)|
In the interests of transparency let me say up front that I review books and post those reviews because it’s a never ending source of blog material. What I'm doing is putting my love of reading to use.
However, that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore discourtesies from authors when they solicit reviews, and I get quite a few.
I may even knock back requests because of them, but I won’t do you the courtesy of telling you I’ve refused on the grounds of your bad manners—so if you’re getting a lot of refusals take a critical look at your inquiry letter/email.
2. DON’T send the book file (or multiple files) along with your query. What that tells me is you're assuming I'll agree to review, and that's a BIG assumption. If I do agree to review your book I’ll ask for the files and tell you what formats I’ll accept.
3. NEVER tell me how good your book is. I'm not interested in what you think. I'm also not interested in what other reviewers have thought of it. I make a point of not reading other reviews about a book I'm asked to review because I want to form my own opinions.
Committing these three sins is guaranteed to make me think hard about whether I want to be bothered with your book.
If I do agree to review, even after you've been impolite, be assured that it will get an honest review regardless of how I feel about you. But it would be nice to think I’ve also made a pleasant connection with another author.
The kind of request I like contains:
Now that I've got that off my chest I must say that I'm currently not accepting books to review because I really need to whittle down the stack I already have. I’ll update my blog status when I’m accepting again.
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
This book has as good a hook as I’ve come across.
Like many ebooks I’m reading nowadays this one isn’t overly long. Having said that, it’s exactly the right length for the story. There’s no verbiage to mar the crisp and descriptive language. And it’s told in the immediacy of first person point of view. I liked it very much.
To me it’s a road story; the storyline centering on Woodstock, the famous music festival held in 1969, and encompassing two time periods: the time of the festival and the present. They run concurrently, chapters jumping between each. The 1969 story tells of the meeting between the narrator, Walter Ellington, a forciby-retired retired professor, and his future wife, Emily, at Woodstock. The present story tells of events leading up to their return with the narrator’s two best friends. Music plays a big part as the three used to have a band in their school days.
This is a boomer genre novel; one that portrays mature characters finding their place in the world after retirement, after the family has grown and left home, after everything familiar has often been turned on its head and they’re left floundering. It’s make or break time for many and at novel opening Walter has been floundering for two years.
Also making important contributions are the lingering effects on war veterans and the onset of Alzheimer’s.
If it sounds like a tough read be assured that it’s not. As I say, the writing is crisp. The dialogue carries the story as nothing else can—I’m a fan of good dialogue—and the story is heart warming. I had a few lumps in the throat while reading.
A good read.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
All seems perfect in the Savannah suburb of Gordonston. The mature ladies meet each day in the local park to sip a cocktail and gossip while their dogs get their exercise. Their neighbours include a new widower, an attractive young couple who appear very much in love, an English house-husband and an elderly black man they don’t know but frown upon because he doesn’t clean up after his pooch.
Where to start with this novella? I have to say it took me a while to get into it, but get into it I eventually did.
It’s very much a telling of the story and I’m not a fan of that style. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it reminded me of how fairy tales are told, a linear unfolding of happenings. The narration does not include a lot of dialogue. The characters also are sketched in, not finely described.
It’s an ensemble piece. The many characters have equal billing and the author changes the point of view between them frequently and without warning. There are no, for instance, extra line spaces to herald a new perspective. You may stick with one character for several pages or a paragraph. However, once you realise you’re subject to frequent POV changes it ceases to be a problem.
Like a fairy tale all seems perfect at the beginning. These many characters are friends or good neighbours who show compassion when tragedy strikes.
However, after a while I began to notice a feeling of impeding doom settling on me, a feeling that something awful is about to happen. It does, but it’s not what I expected. The author very cleverly builds suspense while seemingly nothing of any moment is happening. From there the world of all these characters begins to disintegrate and we see through the sugar coating into their mean and ugly selves. No-one remains pure and although not everyone receives their comeuppance in the confines of the book it’s on the cards they will at some point down the track. Perhaps the author has a sequel in mind.
At the end it remained for me a modern fairy tale with wicked characters wanting to harm others without much reason.
Take this link to read my interview with Duncan Whitehead.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
THE BLUE HOUR. The French call this time ‘l’heure bleue’, the time between dusk and sunrise when the sun is still below the horizon, and the world is awash with a hazy blue shadowed hue that suspends us somewhere between the accepted divisions of darkness and light.’
THE BLUE HOUR. What a wonderfully evocative title.
And as it led me to expect, and didn’t disappoint, it was the introduction to a story told in what could be described as noir style with a decidedly Raymond Chandler/Phillip Marlowe feel to it.
It wouldn’t take much for a review of this book to contain spoilers but I’ll try to sidestep them while also giving something of a synopsis.
According to the blurb at the back of the book this is the first in what will become a series of Churchill and Wade mysteries. Churchill and Wade are the principal characters, Churchill with a law enforcement background, Wade from the private investigation field. The location setting is never identified but you work it out after a bit. Churchill and Wade meet in the opening pages and join forces to tackle an especially sleazy form of crime.
‘I didn’t need to be sober to know I was in deep, deep trouble!’ Got me! Right there with the Chandler style opening. But could Hulse keep me?
The story is told in the first person from Churchill’s point of view. It adds immeasurably to the immediacy and impact of the storytelling.
There’s a terrific plot line and the characters are drawn well especially, as you would expect, Churchill and Wade, but I also liked very much Madalene Helaine, The French Assistant Director of EUROPOL. She’s exactly what every red-blooded woman in her fifties hopes she approximates at that age.
So, did Hulse keep me to the end? It dipped in the middle. The overall narration is very witty but it felt forced, became ‘clever’ in the middle, but thankfully picked up again. So, yes, he kept me.
Take this link to my interview with Stephen R Hulse
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 2, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
Anjaline Rodriguez, born and raised in Quito Ecuador, is ripped at the age of 14 from all she holds dear by her anthropologist stepfather who takes her and her mother to live in Hope Valley, a remote settlement in British Columbia, Canada. She is an exotic flower from a sun-drenched country dropped into an alien land of cold and snow, and a small village of strangers including—as you would expect in a YA romance novel—several very attractive young males. Angeline experiences all the tortuous angst that every young teen alive has ever felt when she gives her heart to one of them.
McGuire has a way of description that I like very much. Sparse but evocative. Few words paint the picture. Quito comes to life and you feel the bone-chilling cold of Hope Valley.
She develops her principal characters nicely. There’s rather a lot about the physical attractions of the two mains but I guess that’s what teenagers tend to focus on, so it follows that any story involving them is also going to focus on that aspect.
The ‘does he/she like/not like me’ begins early and continues for a major part of the book, but then that’s part of the conflict so resolving it too soon would have been awkward.
McGuire has a nice writing style, it flows easily and for the most part without padding. I was less impressed with the amount of angst. Do teenagers really agonise quite SO much. Still, it’s a few—quite a few—years since I’ve been one, so I’ve probably forgotten.
McGuire steers strictly away from anything controversial in the relationship area, keeping the book a safe but I imagine heart-stopping read for her intended audience of young adults, girls particularly. The closest she gets to the subject of sex (a word that is not used) is ‘His hormones were raging’ followed by a kiss.
Chapters 1 to 10 are told totally from Anjaline’s point of view, after that multiple points of view take over but stay principally with Anjaline and her love interest.
The book has everything: love, torment, happiness, tragedy and hope.
Take this link to my interview with Amy McGuire
Amy's Amazon author page
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (2)|
The book’s sub-title is 31 men in 31 days—what could possibly go wrong? and then we dive straight into an often very funny, often very insightful look at exactly what can go wrong, or right, about online dating.
While it would definitely appeal to Bridget Jones' fans THE SERIAL DATER'S SHOPPING LIST actually tells a better story, one where the main protagonist, Isobel MacFarlane, or Izzy Mac to her friends, is not a journalist desperate to find a man, although she is a journalist. She writes the technology column on a Northamptonshire UK newspaper. The story opens with Izzy just having been given an assignment of a different kind—to join an online dating service and, pretending to be a secretary, date a man a day for a month and write an article about each date. With loose-lipped colleague and friend Donna party to the intrigue keeping her identity secret sometimes takes effort.
The story is written in first person present tense and Bailey handles it well, keeping the pace moving and keeping it entertaining.
I liked the descriptive narrative, such things as ' ... Tea shoots up both nostrils, which isn't pleasant but clears the blockage nicely'. That and many more had me wondering if Bailey is writing much from life and if she actually took on this assignment in the interests of making it come across as real, because it has the ring of authenticity. I was smiling often and even breaking into a grin with some of the dates, and I don’t do that often.
The story is interspersed with a well-rounded drawing in of the lives of work colleagues, friends and family—a necessary diversion away from the 31 dates which, as an unbroken litany, could otherwise have become boring even though well told.
This is quality chicklit. The story and characters kept my interest, the writing is polished. My one criticism is the use of whilst, not once but often. I'm Australian and such spellings haven’t been common here for years. We go for the simpler while, among, program etc. If I'm being unfair I apologise but after the first couple it annoyed me.
That aside this was a very entertaining read.
And in spite of not really looking, does Izzy actually meet a man she'd like to take home?
Take this link to my interview with Morgen
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 19, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (2)|
This is another quality, albeit short, read from Nougat. Well-thought out plotline, character depth, polished prose. What more could you ask for.
This book tackles the elemental story of aging. In common with YA fiction it looks into one of life’s transitions, this one the transition from work to retirement, from a life of busyness—if not usefulness—to one of what to do with oneself when one no longer has a primary purpose.
Nougat is in fact the initiator and driving force behind the next big thing in genres: baby boomer literature, be it fiction or non-fiction. A HOOK IN THE SKY is her first contribution. If the online airplay Nougat is receiving is any guide it’s generating massive interest.
The story follows a childless couple from the day of husband Robert’s—French—retirement from the UN. His wife Kay—American—is 20 years younger and a contemporary art gallery owner. They have nothing in common, a fact that comes very much to the fore once Robert’s no longer working. He rekindles his interest in painting. Locations shift from the US to Italy to France as Robert and Kay separate then come together again with a big art project, all the while Robert exploring what else life has to offer, namely other women.
What’s wrong with the book? Well, I prefer longer novels but that’s not a criticism. The plot and characters don’t suffer, they’re well developed.
My one criticism is that the story is told from Robert’s point of view except for several brief instances where it swaps to Kay’s. I didn’t like this. If you’re going to swap points of view, give the characters equal time. As it is it looks like the author has inadvertently veered or hasn’t figured out how to convey what Kay is thinking or feeling any other way. However, it’s a small criticism.
I enjoyed the read. I can see it having general appeal—not just to the BB age group—because it draws in so much.
I imagine Nougat used her own experience to build the character of Robert. She worked at the UN herself and is a painter. I loved the details about art and painting. In one particular scene Robert is choosing what paint colours to buy. I’m not going to tell you the wonderful descriptions Nougat gives them, you’re going to have to read the book yourself for that delight.
As for the cover design, its meaning becomes very clear towards the end of the novel.
Take this link to my interview with Claude
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
This is the second book in the Jonathon Savage trilogy, the first being FINAL DIAGNOSIS which I reviewed last week.
Because it's called The Jonathan Savage trilogy I expected BLOWBACK to also feature Jonathan Savage but it doesn't. The link is Miranda Phillips, the criminal in the first book who lived to get away. FINAL DIAGNOSIS was played out for the most part in New York and Bali. The setting for BLOWBACK is England with brief excursions to other places including Africa.
The story revolves around a very nasty virus being let loose in public places around London, the first in a late night tube train, and the assumption that it is a terrorist attack. Until that is confirmed Chief Inspector Jim Moore of Scotland Yard is asked to lead the investigation into the multiple murders. As the second and then a third attack occurs the pressure on Moore to solve the case becomes increasingly intense. I won't reveal what Phillips' involvement is except to say she is one nasty piece of work. Moore has to contend with his own demons while trying to track down the real ones holding the UK to ransom.
All in all a good read well told. There is no in-depth characterisation, Walters concentrates on the plot. Characters are drawn to the extent needed to advance the story.
It's a read that will keep you absorbed without taxing your brain. In other words, a good book to relax back with, glass in hand, to while away an afternoon or evening.
Take this link to my interview with Paul V Walters.
|Posted by Alana Woods on January 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
First off the bat let me say that the FINAL DIAGNOSIS plotline is a good one with only one flaw for me. That flaw has to do with the number of people who work for one of the baddies—Miranda Phillips, a drop-dead gorgeous female with cascading red hair and Botticelli face—who are party to what she’s doing. I found it hard to believe that all these employees are okay with what is required of them, which is to carry out investigations that have deadly consequences.
The story: Jonathon Savage, a communications billionaire with a company fast rivalling the likes of Apple, receives some devastating medical news and hatches a plan to circumvent what he’s told will be a fast downward spiral. The plan sees him leaving a trusted friend in charge of the company while he globe trots in an effort to evade an assassin. Bad luck of a personal nature follows Savage around. Several years previously his wife and daughter died in a plane crash. In Spain he meets a beautiful young woman and is instantly attracted. That attraction puts her in danger’s path. It’s touch and go whether they survive.
Other than Savage I felt the characters were rather one-dimensional. Miranda Phillips tended to scream a lot, which got on my nerves. Fortunately she doesn’t appear on every page. The dialogue, for me, was not quite natural, and at times I had to read it twice to see who was talking because exchanges between characters ran on instead of dropping down when there was a change of speaker.
Other than those points, as I say, the story is a good one. It kept me turning the page to see how Savage survives because, as this is the first in a three-book series, survive he obviously does.
The next in the series is BLOWBACK.
Paul is travelling overseas at the moment - lucky him - and I have unfortunately been unable to contact him about an interview to accompany the review. Another time then, perhaps with one of the next in the series.
|Posted by Alana Woods on December 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
In ambitiously categorising this book as Literary Romance and Realism the author has not overstated its quality.
The lovely, complex language is redolent of a more leisurely age in reading, when being able to get through a book quickly was not the imperative it is to many today. The story, also, is complex and veers wildly, for me, between extreme realism and extreme surrealism.
Definitely not a book for the casual reader if only because of its length, which at 200,000+ words is more than twice the size of most books on shelves today. It demands total attention and lengthy sojourns within its pages. It deserves prolonged immersion.
Reminiscent of serialisation of novels in past times, chapters finish on cliff-hangers. The tensions are well-maintained, aided by successive chapters swapping between the two main characters.
I found I had to persevere for the first several chapters—the detail makes for slow going. In fact, this is true throughout the book but as I became used to and accepted the degree of exposition the more I found myself falling under its spell.
The title CLOTHO’S LOOM is a reference to Clotho, one of the Three Fates, who was responsible for spinning the thread of human life. References to the warp and woof, as allusions to the vagaries weaving through lives, run through the story. At one point the female protagonist actually restores and uses a handloom.
The story: Will and Nexus are a childless couple approaching middle age. He is a university professor, she a lawyer. In his youth Will was in the military and it’s the experience and specialist knowledge he holds that on his 39th birthday sees him being inducted back into service. From there it’s a downward spiral of competition between the factions wanting him while the philosophy of each constantly wars within him. He abandons his wife just as she falls pregnant, leaving her to fend for herself in an unsatisfactory and often unnerving office situation.
Both undergo extreme physical and emotional tests. In searching for their own paths do they find each other again? One wonders how, given the path down which Will allows himself to be led. But given the sub-title ‘A novel of romance ...’ one could be forgiven for thinking, perhaps hoping, that somehow all obstacles are overcome.
I was less taken with the character of Sage, an almost goddess-type who befriends Nexus. What transpires between them is a little too vague at times. I couldn’t quite believe in her.
Whew! was my reaction on completion. For the length, for the complexity, for the language, for the scope, and for StJean’s vision in writing it.
Take this link to my interview with Shawn StJean
|Posted by Alana Woods on December 18, 2012 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
Isn't it a joy to read a well-thought-out review beautifully expressed.
That's what I woke to this morning.
A new review for IMBROGLIO. I'm including it in its entirety here but also including the link to the reviewer's site: Clotho's loom
The reviewer is none other than Shawn StJean, author of literary romance novel Clotho's loom
If the title of my review seems far less original than that of the novel it explores, that's because there are some clichés that well-earn their familiarity. For example, if overheard conversations, mistaken and assumed identity, and misdirected letters (nowadays more prevalent as lost or stolen e-mail correspondence and hacked computer files) are not fresh enough for your taste in fiction, then the entire suspense/thriller genre probably isn't either. Alana Woods deploys them all--there's even a diary--but recombination is everything.
Far more compelling than these stock conventions are the book's two main characters, David Cameron (you may need a pen handy to keep track of his several aliases) but more especially Noel Valentine, a heroine worthy of a series--though Woods doesn't appear to be setting us up for one. Among all of fiction's many self-made detectives, few are given a motive for their investigations--which lead them into all manner of professional and personal hazard--more credible than simple money. The universal catalyst, serviceable for everyone from Sam Spade to Jim Rockford. Oh, other reasons have been invented among the better writers: egomania for Sherlock Holmes, or the occasional impressment into service (Rick Deckard). Woods' David, like Hamlet, was bequeathed the task by his dead father. Good thing for audiences, too--for it doesn't always wash, that the motives of those seeking truth are the identical ones held by those seeking to cover it up.
For Noel Valentine, the impetus necessary for the pursuit of semi-comatose David's nearly successful assassins, leading to discovery of several convolutions of corporate wrongdoing, surfaces from the depths of her very plausible, damaged psychology. "Why not go to the police?," she's asked at several points, and the answer simply lies outside the realm of logic and reason.
Sure, she wants to ensure the man she dragged from a fiery car wreck heals, she wants a prestigious account at her PR firm, she wants the perks of her boss' favor. It all makes sense, yet none of it is really accurate. In fact, one of the latent enjoyments of the novel is witnessing how many different misogynistic interpretations of her behavior can be put upon Noel by the old boys' network, projecting their own malfeasance onto a vulnerable target. "If there's one thing I hate, it's a dirty, double-crossing dame," says one of the villains of the Hollywood noir classic The Killers, and apparently little has changed in three-quarters of a century. Woods' heroine must also endure multiple layers of claustrophobic pressure: from the confines of her tiny flat invaded by her healing counterpart, to sexual pressure from her boss and a nefarious client, and finally to the crushing depths of the sea itself.
No, for Noel, investigation is first about living dangerously--perhaps subconsciously attempting to carry out a long-time suicide wish of her own--and later, about simply living. In fact, when the bad guys provide her with the perfect opportunity to slip quietly into that good night, guiltlessly in the world's eyes and her own, it's only then can she recover the id-energy to carry on and survive that her efforts on David's behalf have been attempting to revivify all along. That scene of crucible is worth the price of admission alone, straying so far as it does from the strictures of the genre, and invoking naturalistic archetypes from more high-brow literary fiction like Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and even some Hemingway.
What difficulties there are can be faced down within the first half of the novel, which gathers much steam afterward--though thankfully eschewing many of the predictable action-elements we may expect (no car chases, and just a little obligatory gunplay.) Sex, naturally, plays its role, though not overdone. Woods provides several of her majors with fully stocked families, and various minor characters fill out the cast, necessitating full attention to relationships. As for the geography, the locales of Cairns and Sydney, while well-described, may feel less familiar to non-Australian readers than we'd like. However, it's exactly this transportation of time, place, and generally stretching beyond the constricting neighborhood of the known-comfortable, among landscapes ranging to the deep psychic, that many will appreciate most.
|Posted by Alana Woods on December 15, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
Sunday is usually my book review and author interview day.
I'm conscious that I missed last week and very conscious that I'm not going to be posting a review and interview again this week.
There are two reasons. The first is that the husband and I have been carrying out long overdue maintenance to Casa Woods for the last few weeks and haven't finished yet. It's a two-storey place so we've had to use scaffolding to get to the gutters, fascias and upstairs external windows and doors. In the middle of it we decided to add a deck out from the lounge in time for Christmas entertaining. The windows and doors are western red cedar (gorgeous wood) but they were painted. I'm not going to voice what I think of people who paint wood. I've sanded until my nails and fingerprints are non-existent.
The second reason is that I'm reading a 200,000+ word novel and because I'm busy elsewhere I'm not putting in as much time with it as I'd like. I'm aiming for next Sunday but I'm not promising.
So this week I thought I'd talk about a new Goodreads group I've joined, started by an Italian-based author by the name of Claude Nougat. Claude's started a new genre in fiction: BB - baby boomer. There's plenty of fiction out there that fits the bill (protagonists aged 55+), but no-one (that I know of) has categorised it until Claude.
Her interest? She has just published her own BB novel A hook in the sky.
Claude recently wrote an article for Boomer Cafe about BB literature and how it may become the next big genre, a mirror image of Young Adult (YA) on the other side of 'maturity'. There's also an excellent article to show how boomers are changing popular culture through the movies.
The article was picked up by Kindle Nation Daily. Its take? That Claude is on to something.
Read Claude's introductory reasoning on her Goodread's discussion group site: BABY BOOMER NOVELS, a New Genre
Claude is welcoming members to the group so if you're interested just drop her a line. If you have any books you think could be added to the growing list of BB novels, let her know about them.
|Posted by Alana Woods on December 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
In THE TATTOOED RABBI Marvin J Wolf has given us a story that stays firmly on the side of being a good read.
It’s the first in a mystery series about the adventures of a rabbi by the name of Ben Maimon.
Ben‘s an attractive young rabbi at-large, having been unable to find a pulpit of his own. Six years before the story opens, while teaching the Talmud for a semester at a Jewish high school, he was asked to keep an eye on a teacher accused of molesting students. From there a career as a private investigator opened up for him.
He's kept busy with requests for his investigative services while memories of a tragic personal history punctuate his every day, the legacy of what befell him something he can't afford to forget. Called to look into the appearance of mysterious millions in a Californian synagogue's bank account he quickly discovers there's much more going on than he has been told. He's also constantly being propositioned for sex, so much so he wonders what it is about Californians and sex.
Ben isn’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill rabbi—not that I know any rabbis. He’s a martial arts expert, knows quite a bit about the complexities of computers and has an almost six sense about people.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story. There’s plenty going on and plenty to keep you guessing. I’m completely ignorant of all things Jewish and found this book a delightful introduction. Wolf details, without ever straying into lengthy and tedious, the daily considerations of a rabbi.
I liked Ben from the outset and liked him even more by story end. Other characters are less well drawn but are effective in carrying the story along.
The story is well written. For me, it doesn’t have an extraneous word in it.
All in all, a good read. I'll be looking for the next Rabbi Ben adventure: THE YOUTUBE RABBI.
Take the link to Alana Woods interviews Marvin J Wolf.
|Posted by Alana Woods on November 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
You can tell by the title that this is a how-to guide for authors.
Authors like signing books for their readers. It personalises the experience for both parties. One of the negatives of eBooks has been that authors can’t sign them—until now. Well, actually, apparently there have been systems around for a while but as an author myself I have to say I hadn’t heard of any until I read this guide.
The guide is terrific. I’m one of those people who go into a mini melt-down when presented with technical instructions; I just want someone else to do it for me and then, very patiently and slowly, take me through it step by step repeatedly until it’s made an impression on my grey matter.
You don’t get it done for you with this guide, but you do get the metaphorical hand-holding. The author doesn’t presume knowledge on the part of the reader; she guides you through the process every step of the way.
She introduces several systems—Autography being the one I think I’ll tackle first but I like the sound of Bamboo Paper too—and explains what can be done with them, e.g. send signed copies of your book over the net. Imagine being able to attend a book club meeting or meet-the-author get-together via a video link, say Skype, and be able to sign everyone’s books. How good would that be!
I’m giving this guide 5 stars because 1. it introduces a valuable resource to authors and 2. the instructions are comprehensive and easy to follow with plenty of screen shots to illustrate the instructions.
Take this link to Alana Woods interviews Shelly Snider
What do eBook authors sign? on Amazon.com
What do eBook authors sign? on Amazon.uk
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|Posted by Alana Woods on November 3, 2012 at 10:00 AM||comments (0)|
‘A camera obscura is a darkened boxlike device used for photographic purposes, sketching, and visual exhibitions. This explanation of the title precedes the novel and I’m grateful to the author for providing it because the term is used several times in the story in relation to how characters and situations are perceived. The explanation obviated the necessity for me to pick up a dictionary.
Bart Zacharin’s life changes in a moment. A newspaper photographer, he arrives home in Fremantle earlier than expected and is drinking coffee in a local cafe when a young woman (Minnie Cuff by name) sitting at the next table is injured in a freak accident. Minnie becomes Bart’s obsession.
The story poses several meaningful questions: one being the influence that parents exert on their children, another raises nurture versus nature—are we doomed to repeat our parents’ mistakes and life decisions—a third is how far and in what direction we allow love to lead us. And finally there’s the big one of how we come to terms with what life deals us.
I have only one criticism to make and that is there is not a lot of dialogue. My preference is for a story rich with dialogue. But that’s just my preference.
Be that as it may, the author has given us another well written and beautifully atmospheric story, this one set mostly in Malta and wrapped around international art theft. Each chapter is begun with apt quotes that add to the atmospherics and the sense of expectation of what that chapter will bring us.
The characters do the story justice: Bart, whose thoughts and feelings we share; Minnie, who we aren’t allowed to know until the end; and Charles, who we meet only through journals after his death but who makes his presence well and truly felt.
An absorbing read.
Take this link to the interview Alana Woods interviews Rosanne Dingli
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|Posted by Alana Woods on October 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM||comments (0)|
This is a well-paced thriller packed with lots to keep an action reader happy. There’s intrigue and violence with just a touch of romance and sex to round the story out.
Jack Calder is ex-SAS now working for a security firm contracted to keep a Dutch diamond merchant’s goods safe from a Hong Kong triad doing its best to relieve the merchant of them. The triad isn’t particular who gets hurt or killed along the way. Jack and his colleagues, also ex-SAS, thought they’d left the risky life behind when they demobbed. Going up against the triads soon disabuses them of that idea.
Why I haven’t given a five star rating: Firstly, the opening is violent, setting the scene no doubt for what is to come, but it hung in the air for me. It wasn’t until well into the story that it fell into place with another act of violence by the same group. I felt the second incident was enough to illustrate the callousness of the group, the first was not needed.
Secondly is minor criticism about the language and dialogue occasionally becoming awkward. When it occurred it jumped out at me in what was otherwise top-notch storytelling.
What I liked about the story: There’s lots of shooting and killing but it’s put into context with excellent back stories on the main characters. It’s so good you can forgive yourself for agreeing with them that how they deal with the baddies is justified!
I also liked the characters. As far as I know—and you would think you’d know if you had—I’ve never met any SAS types, so I can’t say if these are portrayed as more skilful than those in real life. I’d say not, given the deft meting out of information by the author. They’re at the top of their game, they act honourably to those who deserve it, and they care. They’re well-rounded characters brought to life with a miminum of description. I like that.
And except for those minor lapses the story is well told. The narration pace is very fast at times, slowing slightly during exposition but never coming to a halt.
I’ll be looking for more by Gallacher.
Take this link to my interview with the author, Seumas Gallacher.
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|Posted by Alana Woods on October 6, 2012 at 11:00 AM||comments (0)|
As you might deduce from the title this is no light-hearted romance. Set in a small town in Nevada USA at the time of Oscar Wilde's trial and imprisonment for 'acts of gross indecency' the story reflects the narrow-minded thinking of the time.
I was expecting something heavy-going and weighty. Instead I found a beautifully written story of intolerance and courage, hate and love, fear and triumph, death and life, and in no small way meanness and friendship.
Mildred Dunlap is the wealthy woman in town, the wealth inherited from her father. She's generous to everyone less fortunate. She's also a spinster, plain and lives with her younger cousin Edra. Lives with her in every sense of the word. The mean-spirited in town envy her the wealth and despise her for her 'manliness'. They look for ways to bring her down.
I found myself not wanting to put this one aside to do the chores. The language is gentle and lovely, a little formal by today's standards, evocative of the writing style of the time in which it's set. But that suits the story to the ground.
The characters and story come to life under Mahurin's sure handling of the subject.
Now read my interview with the author Paulette Mahurin
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|Posted by Alana Woods on September 29, 2012 at 11:00 AM||comments (2)|
I began this book with high expectations because I really like CS Lakin's work. This one did not impress me as much and I'll attempt to give my reasons.
When writing reviews I generally assess a book on three fronts: how much the story engages me, how well it is written, and how involved I become with the characters.
To begin with the story did not engage me, and in this instance the characters cannot be separated from the story because I didn't like any of them. And if I can't like the characters then the story has an uphill battle.
Lila Carmichael is an incredibly successful comedian. She's overweight and not particularly attractive. As a young woman she escaped her bible-bashing father by going to college and eventually found her way into the college theatre scene. Something happens within the theatre group that warps her thinking. One weekend fifteen years later she invites the principals of that group to a reunion. The events during that reunion highlight the mean-spiritedness of them all, guests and hostess alike.
The characters may not have appealed to me and hence the story, but it is a well written one.
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