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Alana Woods' book reviews: SHANNON'S LAW & COP'S KITCHEN by Emma Calin

Posted by Alana Woods on April 19, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (4)

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SHANNON'S LAW by Emma Calin

In the premise at least this reminded me of The prince and the showgirl, except it’s the earl and the policewoman. And what a policewoman—every bit as feisty as Marilyn Monroe’s showgirl.

PCW Shannon Aguerri is shunted out of her London jurisdiction and into a country PC Plod situation after acting independently on a case. Immediately she arrives she meets the local lord and, boy, is he a hunk. However, he has a history. His wife died some years before in a skiing accident and his 15 year old son has a police record for possession. Sparks fly between the earl and Shannon almost from day one. But she’s a working class girl with a mechanic father and cleaner mother. How on earth is she going to get on in the earl’s world?

There’s some very steamy sex scenes and that’s usually a turn-off for me. Those I’ve read before usually have a weak storyline that seems to be an excuse for all the sex and it pulls me out of what little story there is. I’m happy to report that isn’t the case with this book. The story is so strong that I could read the sex and then get back to what was happening. Which is a lot. Murder, money laundering, slavery, trafficking, drugs, kidnapping—you name it, Shannon has to deal with it. She also has to contend with Elvis and the Royal Family.

The dialogue during the sex scenes was a bit over the top for me, but other than that, the story, the descriptions, the characters—I liked them all.

The strong story held me.




COP'S KITCHEN by Emma Calin

Man! Emma, Emma, what a treat. Not only the story of SHANNON’S LAW but an accompanying recipe book with the food your characters enjoyed as well! How spoiled we are. The bonus Cauliflower crisp is a real bonus—I love cauliflower! But so many others as well that I’m just going to have make: the kedgeree, the desserts, cakes and little sweet things, and Sausage toad—gotta try that. And those triple cooked chips! Yum. And those blinis and the Pimms—I absolutely love Pimms.

Fabulous idea, well done!

 

SHANNON'S LAW on Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Smashwords   |   iTunes

COP'S KITCHEN on Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   iTunes   |   Smashwords


Take this link to my interview with EMMA CALIN

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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE LONG CUTIE by Dan Alatorre

Posted by Alana Woods on April 5, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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My books on Amazon Imbroglio | Automaton | Tapestries | 25 Writing Tips



 

The title to this book, THE LONG CUTIE, was of immediate interest. I figured it must be something to do with a child because of the cover, and something medical, also because of the cover. Was the child extra tall? But no, it’s not that at all. The words are the phonetic pronunciation of a medical condition called Long QT Syndrome. It’s a cause of sudden death in predominantly children and young adults and is caused by a fault in the heart’s electrical system.

Given that, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether you really want to subject yourself to reading a book about it but I’m happy to report that although it tugged at the emotions it was a good read.

It’s an uplifting and delightful diary of sorts; of a father’s day-to-day enjoyment of his life with his three year old daughter Savvy. That she has Long QT is by-the-by. That he has Long QT is by-the-by.

Interspersed with his stories of Savvy are contributing chapters from others around the world who live with Long QT. Some of the stories are funny, some heartrending, but all touch you.

The author’s laid back style makes it an easy, if emotional, read. I remember a news item last year about a 14 year old boy literally dropping dead after a football game and wondering how that could possibly happen. Now I know. At the end of the book the author invites those affected by Long QT Syndrome to join the Facebook group—you don’t have to suffer it alone.

An inspiring read.


THE LONG CUTIE on   Amazon   |   Smashwords


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Alana Woods' book reviews: CHARLIE'S ANGEL by Samantha Fury

Posted by Alana Woods on March 15, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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CHARLIE'S ANGEL is the first in Samantha Fury's Street justice series.

Charlie Anderson is on the run after being beaten up by her sister’s boyfriend. To escape she took his gun and cash and caught a bus to Chicago to the safety of an aunt, only the aunt is not there, she’s gone to Florida. A good Christian, Charlie’s situation becomes even more dire when she becomes involved with a prostitute and her pimp. Then she meets Angel Morganson, the pimp’s bodyguard, and there’s instant attraction between the two. How can Charlie reconcile her beliefs with the world Angel lives in?

This is the first in the Street Justice series which, I believe, features Charlie and Angel. I’m not an avid reader of Christian fiction but I’m happy to read any story that’s told well. Charlie’s Angel is, I believe, the first novel by the author and I have to say I felt the writing to be not as accomplished and deft as her later books.

Be that as it may I liked Charlie and Angel and will be buying the next in the series (TIDAL WAVE) to see where their next adventure takes them. I think from that you can deduce that despite the shortcomings I was sufficiently taken with the series to want to continue with it.


Take this link to my interview with Samantha.


Samantha Fury also writes under the name of Samantha Lovern.


CHARLIE'S ANGEL on Amazon   |   Smashwords   |   Barnes & Noble



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Alana Woods' book reviews: MAID FOR MARTIN by Samantha Lovern

Posted by Alana Woods on March 15, 2014 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)


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MAID FOR MARTIN is the first in Samantha Lovern's California love trilogy series.

Randi Sanders is employed by an agency that provides temporary maids to the rich and famous. She is their most trusted employee because she treats the clients with respect, doesn’t fawn, and works hard. Randi keeps the temptation to be awed at bay by avoiding films, TV and the media, and therefore doesn’t have a clue who most of the clients are. Martin Taylor is the latest. Drop-dead gorgeous up-and-coming film star, in a going-nowhere relationship and a fast deteriorating situation he can’t avoid—Christmas and New Year with his and his girlfriend’s families. Randi is hired for the 10-day period and spends most of those days believing Martin is the chauffeur Mike and, of course, falls for him big time.

The scenario is totally implausible but the author gets away with it and had my admiration for doing so. It’s her deft handling that makes the story believable. She keeps you hanging for pretty well the whole book and, believe me, I was hanging. Approaching conflict begins right at the outset. With every page turned I expected the denouement but I was kept waiting and waiting. It certainly got me in.

The story is told from third person multiple points of view. It’s mostly from Randi and Martin’s perspectives but other major characters also make themselves heard. The language style is a little different—I think it’s the author’s Southern roots making themselves heard—and it added to, rather than detracted from, the overall. There’s plenty of realistic dialogue that drives the story along.

As well as paperback and ebook editions, this book is also available in audiobook format. I listened to the sample chapter and was impressed with the quality of narration. The author obviously used a professional and it shows.


Take this link to my interview with Samantha.


Samantha Lovern also writes under the name of Samantha Fury.


MAID FOR MARTIN on Amazon


 

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Alana Woods' book reviews: Annie Seaton's DE VARGAS FAMILY series

Posted by Alana Woods on February 22, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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Since reading these novellas I have learned they're in the Steampunk genre. The term isn't used in the reviews because at the time of reading and writing them I had no idea—not having read anything in the genre before.


WINTER OF THE PASSION FLOWER by Annie Seaton (first in the de Vargas family series)


    

 

This one threw me in the opening chapter. I thought I was reading a Victorian period piece when all of a sudden a submarine put in an appearance. I thought ‘Hello? There were submarines back then?’ Then comes biome domes and time travel and I settled back, knowing I was in for a sprinkling of sci-fi shaken over a romance with thriller background.

It’s the first in the de Vargas family series and follows the path of the elder of two sisters, Indigo, living in Cornwall who is dedicated to advancing science, but not without finding Mr Right along the way.

It isn’t a long read, I fitted it very nicely into a quiet Sunday afternoon relaxing on the balcony with a cold white and a cool breeze blowing on what was a very warm day. The story isn’t a brain-taxer, rather it’s an easy and entertaining read. The language was suitable for the period but not overdone, adding to the atmospherics. The dialogue I wasn’t so sure about, feeling that it could have been just a little less period.

Overall it was a good read that I wanted to finish in the one sitting.

 

SUMMER OF THE MOON FLOWER by Annie Seaton (second in the de Vargas family series)





I read WINTER OF THE PASSION FLOWER, the first in the de Vargas family series, before turning to this one so I knew what I was in for, meaning the automata and dirigibles didn’t take me by surprise.

The story follows the younger of two sisters, Sofia, as fair as her older sister Indigo from Summer flower is dark. Indigo lives in Cornwall UK, Sofia in Vienna. She is as committed to science as her sister but given that she’s seeking immortality it’s a pursuit she’s keeping to herself lest her enemies in the form of the Knights Templar discover it.

Once again the story is a sprinkling of sci-fi laced with romance and thrills. Her enemies send a young Scots nobleman to kill her and, yes, you should be able to guess the outcome.

I liked the juxtaposition of future technology and Victorian era. It made for an entertaining read interspersed with the unexpected.

As with the first in the series I wanted to finish this story in the one sitting. Very achievable as it’s not a long book.


Take this link to my interview with Annie Seaton.


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Alana Woods' book reviews: The Detective JD Welch series by John L Work

Posted by Alana Woods on November 30, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)





Two reviews this week of books from the same author, John L Work


A DARK OBSESSION TIMES 2 (a Detective JD Welch story)



The author spent 20 years in law enforcement in the US and the believability level in all of his stories and novels that encompass crime is sky high.

This novel, like most of his others, once again has as its protagonist Detective JD Welch. I’ve read all of the Welch books now and have enjoyed following his career. To me this one actually comes across as a thinly-disguised accounting of Work’s own career—although I could be wrong about that—and it makes for compelling reading. Welch is now working in the Roberts County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office Jail Division. Still a policeman, but working inside the jail investigating crimes perpetrated by inmates. Work covers a lot of ground, situations, crimes—and there are some nasty ones—locations and time periods that are all in some way connected to men who are serving time or have served time and therefore come within Welch’s ambit.

As I say, we cover a lot of ground but one crime investigation weaves its way throughout. It’s the one that opens and closes the story and every time I thought we might be in danger of wandering too far from the central theme it pops up again—a measure of Work’s weaving skill.

It is apparently a true story and it’s one that affected me.

If you want happy-ever-after endings to your books don’t look for them in Work’s novels. His are definitely reflections of the injustices and inequalities of real life. However, don’t let that put you off. Even though at times the subject matter may be hard-hitting they are well worth the read.


THE RIGHT ANGLE MURDERS (a Detective JD Welch story)



I’m a fan of Work’s. I’ve read several of his novels and novellas now and each displays the same tight writing and attention to detail that I’ve come to expect. This one is no exception.

This is a short novella that takes us back to the beginning of JD Welch’s career as a detective. (Welch is the central character in many of Work’s novels.) He and his senior partner, Joe Bryerson, are assigned to a nasty rape case that has all the hallmarks of a murder gone wrong. Unfortunately for them they have no clues as to the perpetrator and as murder follows murder and the media intensity puts the Sheriff’s office under the unwanted spotlight the detectives feel increasingly frustrated at their lack of progress.

The story opening has a definite feeling of noire about it and the ending is shocking but I can understand the sentiment behind it. I imagine many a cop would like a nasty case to end similarly.

Work’s history in law enforcement and talent for telling this kind of tale once again delivers a believable case with believable characters.



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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE LITTLE UNIVERSE by Jason Matthews

Posted by Alana Woods on November 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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Have you ever wondered about The Big Bang? What it was, how it happened? Wonder no more. Instead, follow the characters in this huge-in-scope novel as they set about re-creating it. Do they succeed? Oh yes. And how. With the help of an infinitely talented and intelligent computer named Jim they build their own little universe within the confines of a purpose-built building and then proceed to tweak, play and interact with planetary inhabitants to suit their own purposes.

 

The investors see only the mind-blowing profits that can be made from exploiting technology from more-advanced planets than their own, and they conflict with venture partners who want to observe and learn from one particular planet whose inhabitants are in tune with the entire universe.

 

This novel is an exploration of creation, the existence of a creator, spirituality, reincarnation and much much more. Matthews exhibits an expertly deft touch as he explores what are obviously to him important subjects. By novel’s end I found myself in a contemplative mood as I pondered the ideas he raised.

 

A lot of the story involves a voyeuristic slant as the protagonists watch what’s happening on the planets that interest them and my interest level dipped as this felt like surface-skimming. My interest lay in the meditation interactions with the Thetans and how the project changes the lives of the protagonists.

 

The story has a definite beginning and ending and about three quarters of the way in there’s a jolt that completely alters the reader’s perception of everything. That was clever and had me smiling.

 

This is the first in a two-book series, the second being JIM’S LIFE which I unknowingly read last year. While it’s not imperative to read them in order I wish I had because, even though I loved JIM’S LIFE and gave it five stars, it would have been advantageous to have the background of THE LITTLE UNIVERSE to draw upon.


This is a well-written, well-told story with characters I felt I knew by the time I finished.


Take this link to my interview with Jason Matthews


THE LITTLE UNIVERSE on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in   |   Amazon.au

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Alana Woods' book reviews: HOME TO STAY by June McCullough

Posted by Alana Woods on November 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)


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Diana Crawford had fled her family home, Aces Corral ranch just outside Calgary in Canada, two years ago to escape a family tragedy.  HOME TO STAY opens as she returns home to pick up the pieces, knowing she will never leave again. The homecoming proves to be an emotional rollercoaster ride for her. Her nearest neighbours, Len and Dot Mackenzie, close to her in both proximity and love have had a tough time while she’s been away and now rely on their nephew, Barry Daniels, to do much of the work around the place.  And, yes, Barry’s the gorgeous hunk who keeps Diana guessing almost until the last page in this light western romance.

There isn’t much in the way of plot and you know things are going to work out well but the will-they/won’t-they tension is handled well and maintained.

Depth to the story is added in two ways: first by the descriptions of a working horse ranch. The author seems to be in familiar territory here and it adds interest to what could otherwise have been a trite love story. Then there is Barry’s mysterious business dealings which keep him busy on the phone and internet and which he won’t discuss with Diana. Together they help to flesh the story out.

The sex is pretty detailed but fortunately, at least as far as my reading pleasure is concerned, it doesn’t go any further than the foreplay before the bedroom door is metaphorically shut.

I had a bit of trouble believing some of the dialogue, in particular the way Barry speaks to Diana. I tend to think that the love talk that is attributed to male characters in many books is what women wish their man would say to them when in actual fact no man would be caught dead uttering such stuff. But it’s not too unbelievable and that’s just a small criticism.

HOME TO STAY is a nice story satisfactorily told. The language is descriptive and I had no trouble picturing the location and scenery, all of which sounds superb.


Take this link to my interview with June McCullough


HOME TO STAY on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in


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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE CRONE CLUB by SV Peddle

Posted by Alana Woods on November 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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I was some way into this book, THE CRONE CLUB, before starting to think the story had more depth than I originally thought. I was thinking, ‘Stereotypical characterisation, lack of subtlety, no spark’ but it slowly became more than that and I found myself enjoying it.

The story begins with a class reunion, the gang now women of that magic age, 60—making them Boomers. Many haven’t met again since leaving school and they’re all interested in what each has accomplished in life. There are the porn star twins, the rich, the bitch, the professionals, the housewife, the widow and ... the missing. They form The Crone Club and set each other two tasks: a dream to realise and a challenge to accomplish.

The book deals with rape and how attitudes have changed over the years. There’s also controlling husbands, cancer, charity and third world hunger—some very big issues. They receive surface treatment only, no in-depth discussion, but then I don’t think that’s what the author was intending. It’s about mature people overcoming obstacles—yes, just because you’re 60 it doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out—and written in such a way that you don’t think of the morals being presented.

Bambi is the fairy godmother who takes everyone in, pays their bills and looks after them, which is very convenient for allowing characters to not find themselves in true-to-life no-way-out situations.

Essentially it’s about women enjoying themselves and empowering each other.

Are they successful? Finding out makes for a light read encompassing comedy, poignancy and drama as you follow each character’s path while they pursue their goals.

I believe it’s the first in a series, so we’ll be able to follow the Crone Club’s development.


I was unable to contact the author for an accompanying interview.


THE CRONE CLUB on Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in

 

 


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Alana Woods' book reviews: TETHERBIRD by Emily McDaid

Posted by Alana Woods on October 19, 2013 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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I loved this book. The story is such a good one, the characters are so interesting and the language is lovely—redolent with expression, description and feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a comfortable read. The storyline could be construed as controversial being taken, as it is, from a real life event. But it’s such a mind-engaging twist on that event that when I saw a film recently depicting the story as we’ve been fed it I found myself saying to the TV “Ha, I know what really happened!”

Told from multiple points of view, one in first person, the switches are so well sign-posted I was never confused.

The story tells the tale of Benjamin Cane, a supposedly-PTSD-suffering Afghanistan veteran, and Mackey, his long-suffering wife. There are also their small twin boys, an English Duke and journalist all twisted in to the fate of Osama Bin Laden and the use of a truth drug. I’m not going to say any more about the story because to do so would lessen its impact for other readers. But I will say it’s an exploration of so much: heroism, love, constancy, betrayal, and conflict on both a global and intimate scale.

There are shifts too in time and location (Afghanistan, the UK, the US) as the story jumps from the present into the past and back again. This is also handled well. At no point did I wonder where I was and who I was following.

I cared for Benjamin and Mackey. I wanted things to turn out well for them. I wondered about the narrator, and was not disappointed when his part in the story was revealed.

I can’t fault this book. There were no dips in engagement and no slips in believability or language.

A classy, powerful novel.

Tetherbird on Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in


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Alana Woods' book reviews: NAKED DETERMINATION by Gisela Hausmann

Posted by Alana Woods on October 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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This is an autobiography of a different kind. The author tells her story in a series of flashbacks that she describes as lessons she has learned along the way, from early childhood to present time.

Immediately I began reading I found the language to be stilted, until I realised that English is her second language. Then suddenly in my head I heard her words in the voice of a Dutch friend who speaks the same way. After that I found the mistakes and the often formal style very charming.

Autobiographies and memoirs amaze me. It astounds me how much people can recall. I certainly can’t remember details and conversations from years ago, especially from when I was a youngster. So when I read a good one, such as this is, I’m fascinated.

Hausmann was born and grew up in Austria, moving to the US as an adult. From an early age she had wanderlust and began travelling in her teens to such wild and exotic locations as Russia, Kashmir and China in the days when it required major logistical organisation. She lived frugally with the purpose of travelling, saving as much as she could from the diverse and sometimes fascinating spheres she worked in, such as the film industry.

The enthusiasm and effort she puts into everything—travel, work, family—shines out. She believes in putting everything of yourself into everything you do and has applied that to herself along the way.

As I said, the book is told in the form of life lessons and she finishes each story with an afterthought and what the lesson has taught her.

Honesty shines out of these stories, sometimes intimate, sometimes humorous, always inspiring. She’s had it tough, losing her husband in an accident and her brother to illness. What you finish the book thinking is that this is one of life’s indomitables.

The drawback to reading this on my Kindle was that it didn’t do full justice to the photos. The scenic shots in particular are probably magnificent in full size and colour.

An inspiring read. If it doesn’t instantly energise or re-energise you to conquer your own mountains then perhaps we haven’t read the same book!


NAKED DETERMINATION on all ebook vendors


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Alana Woods' book reviews: LIFE WITHOUT by Ben Warden

Posted by Alana Woods on October 5, 2013 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)


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LIFE WITHOUT starts with a sex scene. I thought “Hello, is this what the book’s about?” It isn’t. The scene acts as an indicator of where the main character, Stephen (Steve) Goodman is in his life at that moment. But the book is so much more than that.

It could have been so much better, as a read, if spelling, wrong word usage and poor punctuation didn’t litter it. As well, I thought the language could do with tightening up.

I was not going to persevere but I’m pleased I did because, unlike much fiction from young male authors who tend to write in the action, sci-fi and fantasy genres, this one is refreshingly contemporary. I liked the storyline very much.

Steve is a 30 year old Londoner who seemingly has it all: striking looks, intelligence, fabulous job, money enough to own a multi-million pound apartment in Notting Hill, women falling at his feet and a best friend he can rely on. However, there are two things he doesn’t have. The first is his wife, the woman he adores, who left him because of his infidelity. The second is a career he cares about.

The opportunity to pursue his dream career comes in the form of an unreliable depressive artist, well-known Julian Storm. Why he hitches his wagon to someone unreliable is for you to find out by reading the book.

As I have said, the story is fresh, I liked the way it flowed and I liked the plentiful use of dialogue to drive it along.

A final comment: the title intrigued me. LIFE WITHOUT. Without what? You find out in the story’s final words and I loved it. Such a good title.


I was unable to contact the UK author for an interview.


LIFE WITHOUT on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk


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Alana Woods' book reviews: REVERB by J Cafesin

Posted by Alana Woods on September 28, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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James Whren is the illegitimate son of an English aristocrat and MP. When his older brother, the legitimate heir, dies of a drug overdose, James is expected to step in and take over the role. What his father subjects him to when he refuses is something no parent should inflict on their child. James disappears for over a year and when he resurfaces he’s a traumatised, terrified criminal on the run. While running he meets newly widowed Elizabeth Whitestone and her toddler son Cameron and together they embark on what they hope will be a life together. However, as a criminal James has to stay hidden, and staying together is perhaps not in their destiny.

A good story told in present tense, which can be brilliant for keeping you mesmerised if meticulously maintained. Unfortunately in REVERB it is not. The author slips often into past tense, which has the effect of pulling you right out of the story and on edge for the next slip.

Ditto the spelling errors, wrong word usage and missing words.

Told mostly in first person from several alternating characters’ point of view, when it unexpectedly veered to third it threw me until I realised what had happened.

I must say I like the title, it’s a good one that resonates on multiple levels within the story: the music theme, the impact that James has on others, how deeds ripple out forever.

I caught myself wondering how many times we had to be told that James Whren was the world’s most desirable male. Charismatic, drop-dead gorgeous, prodigiously talented, he’s universally either admired or envied, often both. Both sexes either want to be with him, or be him. There must be a reference to some aspect of his beauty and/or talent on almost every page. It was something else that pulled me out of the story.

The torture scenes are graphic and not pleasant but could be argued as necessary, given the depths to which James plummets as a result of all he is subjected to.

Around half way my attention wandered and I began to wonder if I wanted to persevere. I did, and was not displeased with the decision because the writing is good, very good. I know nothing of music and the author’s knowledge of its theory and practice and the way she integrates into the story the way it can consume a person is insightful indeed. It’s used very effectively to reveal character depths.

The story and characters are well developed. Despite the negatives it was overall a good read and because of that I recommend it.

If you’re a reader who can forgive imperfections and you enjoy thrillers then you may well like this one.


The author was unavailable for an interview.


REVERB on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk


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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE COUNSELLOR by Gillian Jackson

Posted by Alana Woods on May 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM Comments comments (0)


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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.


Take this link to my interview with Gillian Jackson


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Alana Woods' book reviews: Confessions of an instinctively mutinous baby boomer: and her parable of the tomato plant by Marsha Roberts

Posted by Alana Woods on May 5, 2013 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)


My books on Amazon.com   |   My books on Amazon.co.uk





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


Confessions of an instinctively mutinous baby boomer and her parable of the tomato plant on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk


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Alana Woods' book reviews: GOODBYE EMILY by Michael Murphy

Posted by Alana Woods on March 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)


My books on Amazon.com  |   My books on Amazon.co.uk





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.


GOODBYE EMILY on Amazon.com   |   on Amazon.co.uk   |   Barnes & Noble






Alana Woods' book reviews: THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB by Duncan Whitehead

Posted by Alana Woods on February 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)


 My books on Amazon.com  |   My books on Amazon.com






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.



THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk

THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB website   |   Facebook page   |   Goodreads





Alana Woods' book reviews: THE BLUE HOUR by Stephen R Hulse (a Churchill and Wade mystery)

Posted by Alana Woods on February 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)


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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


THE BLUE HOUR on Amazon.com   |  on Amazon.co.uk


Stephen's Amazon.com author page   |   Amazon.co.uk author page





Alana Woods' book reviews: THE HEART'S DISCOVERY by Amy McGuire

Posted by Alana Woods on February 2, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)


My books on Amazon.com  |   My books on Amazon.co.uk






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


THE HEART'S DISCOVERY on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca

Amy's Amazon author page


Amy's webpage   |   Amy's blog






Alana Woods' book reviews: The serial dater's shopping list by Morgen Bailey

Posted by Alana Woods on January 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (2)


 My books on Amazon.com  |   My books on Amazon.co.uk






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


THE SERIAL DATER'S SHOPPING LIST on Amazon.com   |   on Amazon.co.uk


Morgen's blog  

Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group   |   Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group  

Morgen's Online Script Writing Group    |   Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group