Stonemouth

By Iain Banks

I think I’d like to live in Stonemouth. In Scotland, on the coast – I imagine it all craggy and rocky, heather everywhere. There’s something about living near the sea, the reason of which is as illusive as the ocean itself.

Anyway, Stonemouth is a ‘coming home’ story. Stewart Gilmour, returning home to attend a funeral. He’d been run out of town five years previously for doing something, well, pretty stupid.

Banks has a way of writing that creeps up on you and before you know what’s happening you’re right in there, living alongside the characters: empathising, sympathising, shaking your head and thinking why’d you do that?.

Top marks to Banks. Can’t recommend it enough.

You’ll find it here.

The Worst Man On Mars

By Mark Roman And Corben Duke

This was a romp. Very funny. Excellent characterisations with some memorable parodies and laugh out loud moments.

We follow Flint Dugdale as mission commander on a journey to Mars and it’s anything but uneventful. From Dugdale’s northern enthusiasm to Zak’s street talk and Harold’s poetry; not to mention the charming Mr Darcy in a way we have never seen him before … we’re kept on the precipice of laughter throughout.

The robots were the best. Hilarious. Angelica from Rugrats is alive and living on Mars in the robotic form of TRUTH …

To appreciate this book you have to read it, of course.

The Worst Man On Mars

Other books by Mark Roman: The Ultimate Inferior Beings and inclusion in a  short story compilation entitled: A Turn of the Wheel

 

Espedair Street

By Iain Banks

This is my first book by Iain Banks (RIP), probably won’t be my last – no, definitely won’t be my last. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, as it’s not my usual choice of read, being a huge crime fiction fan.

Anyway, what made me pick this one up? Well, for a start I found it in a charity shop. I’d also heard a lot about the author and most of it was good so, I thought, why not. Plus the subject matter was interesting.

Daniel Weir: a retired rock star at the age of thirty-one. Well, blimey, that was hooky in itself. The first line: ‘Two days ago I decided to kill myself’ was a killer start (pardon the pun). So there I was, reading in this brightly lit charity shop and thinking: ‘I should really buy this’ …

What makes this book so fascinating is the insight of the main character: Weird – Weir, D … get it? Ha! I can’t count how many times I thought ‘yeah, so true’ as I read. I suppose, in essence, it’s a self-realising tale. As the story unfolds we get to see this young adult grow into a man and it’s pretty enthralling (well, I thought so). He probably encounters more than his fair share of sadness, which is ‘par for the course’ in the drugs and drink addled world of the music business. If you don’t drink or snort you don’t fit in. But what tipped the balance for me was the considered personality of Dan; his vision of life (his life) and the emotional turmoil of being the centre of attention.

Paraphrasing: ‘I hid myself at the back behind mirrored sunglasses and bass guitar …’ a genius songwriter too shy to show himself to the world he was desperate to be a part of. It had me thinking that to be known in whatever creative avenue you found yourself, it was hard to stay anonymous. The world has to know everything, but is it any of the world’s business, really, who you are? Why can’t the words, the music, or the story be enough?

It’s a thought-provoking book and one I enjoyed reading even with a tear in my eye.

Espedair Street: £2.46 from Amazon.

Hamelin’s Child

By D J Bennet

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This was a difficult read – the difficulty being in the story line, not the writing, which is excellent.

Michael is celebrating his seventeenth birthday with a new girlfriend. She unceremoniously ditches him for another bloke. Dejected, Michael decides to leave, but not before he’s approached by a man. The man offers to buy him a drink, which Michael reluctantly accepts – the man spikes his drink. Michael, under the influence, leaves the bar with him and is then persuaded to go to his home.

From there Michael’s world is turned upside down.

If you’re not a fan of detail re: violence and sexual assault, then you might want to pass this one by, but get passed that and you’ll have trouble putting this one down (or turning it off).

I Let You Go

By Clare Mackintosh

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I’d heard good stuff about this book and the prologue lifted me into the story quickly. I was keen as mustard to keep going. But then …

I was disappointed with the portrayal of the police characters – the main detective lacked depth (for me anyway). I’d read that the author had a police background and I think this may have been a hindrance rather than a help. There is definitely a necessity for following the right guidelines, doing research, to make your characters and their actions realistic. However, I felt perhaps the author got a little bogged down with ‘doing it right’ and that made the actions of the detectives too robot-like.

I stuck with it and, as the story rolled out, it improved – the police side ‘filled in’ especially in part two. The character of Jenna is very believable. Her chapters are harrowing in places and they kept me reading. Halfway through part one, I began to feel more involved with the story and the characters.

I’m not going to say what happens as that would spoil the read, but suffice it to say there is a huge twist/shock at the end of part one, which the author handles well, I think.

What Goes Around

By Julie Corbin

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A good psychological thriller.

Ellen and Leila come together in a narrative that happens so often to couples these days. Not many women would go to the lengths that Ellen goes to though. We follow her on her chosen path, and meet Leila. Close-up Leila’s not a very likeable person, but there’s a history which draws on the reader’s sympathy (well it did mine). Suddenly I was worried that Ellen may have bitten off more than she could chew.

The end result is calamity, but it wouldn’t be a story if there wasn’t, right?

Some scenes were difficult to read re: animal cruelty, but necessary I think to give the reader an idea about Leila and why she did what she did. It’s never easy to write (or read) violence and aggression, but I think the author manages it well. The psychological and emotional torment is also well crafted.

There were parts I felt ran a bit too easy, especially toward the end of the book where Leila begins to come to terms with her ‘problems’ for want of a better word – she became a bit too ‘accepting and nice’.

Overall, a decent story and very well written.

Six Years

By Harlan Coben

I found this book in a charity shop and liked the blurb, read the first page and bought it without hesitation. Coben has mastered first person narrative so well. I’ve never been a lover of the narrator ‘talking’ to the reader, but I’ve decided with first person that’s a difficult thing not to do – so I forgave him.

In Six Years we follow Jake Fisher, a university lecturer. Fisher is deeply in love with Natalie, but she marries someone else – Todd. As you can imagine, he’s not happy about it, but she asks him to promise her that he’ll leave them alone. Fisher keeps his promise until six years later when he reads the university’s obituary column.

From the first page to the last, this is a thrilling ride. Its twists and turns almost making you believe you are actually riding that cliché of a roller coaster. Yep, it’s true.

I enjoyed it a lot and will be reading more of Coben’s stuff.

You’ll find Six Years here.

The Girl On The Train

By Paula Hawkins

I think I read this in a couple of sittings, which is pretty quick for me not being a particularly fast reader. An excellent psychological thriller, it follows Rachel on her daily commute into London where she fantasises about the people she sees, the houses they live in and the lives they lead. But all is not hunky dory in Rachel’s world and the story takes an ominous turn after she witnesses something shocking ...

Edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Available to buy here.

Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn

I had trouble putting this book down, if I’d been able I’d have read it without taking a break – no sleep, no food, nothing … I’m not a fast reader so the human in me said: Stop! Eat! Drink! Sleep!

The first half of this story I was totally sure of my reasoning, but then, I wasn’t. There was something too damning about Amy’s Diary. What I do know is, as I read, I became incredibly sad – a really deep heart-wrenching sadness. I know Amy would laugh at that – she’d look me in the eye and say: ‘Be real, be who you are’. And then I began to empathise with Nick – poor, bloody, beaten, Nick!

I became an invisible character, a fly on the wall, for roughly 48 hours.

This is an exceptional story, well written – in your face writing. I admire writers who can make me part of the story, bring me in, sit me down and say: Buckle up …

I have only one criticism – the abbreviation of microphone is: ‘Mic’ NOT ‘Mike’.

Available to buy here.

Blind Side

By Jennie Ensor

Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

I remember reading some of this on Authonomy and thinking how good it was then. It’s even better now!

An excellent psychological thriller and love story – with all the twists and turns that involves. Although, not your everyday love story – the detail of the Russia/Chechnya conflict and the terrorists attacks in London in 2005 were very well done. It conjured feelings of abhorrence, frustration and helplessness. How useless one is in the face of war/terrorism. It takes a good writer to create those emotions.

Good characterisation. Georgie is a well-drawn main character – just the right amount of edge to make her interesting. Nicolai a good support with baggage of his own. Julian is a brilliant antagonist – loved his part in the story, real on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Descriptive narrative is nicely done, a great sense of place – I could smell London. 🙂

Plot mechanics are excellent and there’s a good twist at the end that I thought worked really well.

Overall, a good story, well written. A very enjoyable read.

 

Blind Side

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