Books I Have Reviewed

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A PERFECT VICTIM

PatA Perfect Victimricia Dusenbury

Uncial Press 2013

Reviewed October 2014


Edge of the Seat Suspense

Claire Marshall, traumatised by her husband’s recent, terrible death, struggling to maintain a semblance of normality while establishing a successful renovation business, is thrown into the middle of what turns into a tangle of lies, deceit, fraud and murder.  And she is in the frame.  Seeking to prove her innocence while being forced to confront personal demons, she comes close to losing it all.

This was a marvellously compelling read.  Claire’s personal struggles are so sympathetically and realistically handled and are woven into the story seamlessly as her trauma causes her to react in ways that make her look more and more like the chief suspect.  Exposition is really well paced, and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat until the breathtaking conclusion.  The author handles a cast of several characters integral to the story very well.  The plotting and pacing are really tight and well done and there are some great twists.

I would recommend reading this book before reading the second instalment (Secrets Lies and Homicide).  Though both stand alone, this first book gives extra background and depth to the characters that make reading the second one even more enjoyable.  I will guarantee you will want to.get the second after reading this one.  I can’t wait for the third.


 

Secrets, Lies and Homicide (Claire Marshall Mysteries #2)

Secrets Lies and HomicidePatricia Dusenbury

Uncial Press, 2014

Reviewed September 2014


 

A Thoroughly Enjoyable Mystery

Mystery, suspense, pathos and romance – this story has it all. A grisly find during a home renovation leads to opening of old family wounds and new romantic entanglements for the dashing home owner Tony Burke and building contractor Claire Marshall.

This was a compelling read, with well developed, interesting characters and a gripping plot. I enjoyed the balance between the personal angst in the various relationships that came out during the course of the police investigation, and the more detached police work that was involved in solving the mystery. The gradual revelation of Tony’s back story and his family history, along with Claire’s past interactions, both official and unofficial with the police, were well done. The author kept the many threads of a reasonably complex story well in hand. It was well worked together, and had a very authentic feel. Well paced, with plenty of surprises, twists and turns along the way. This book certainly held my interest until the last page!


 

RelentlessRELENTLESS #1 

Karen Lynch

Published by the Author


I got this as a freebie on Amazon, and it still seems to be free.  Its a YA fantasy/paranormal, not a genre I consume in any great quantity.  But what a find!  I loved it, couldn’t put it down – well I had to stop to sleep (reluctantly) but finished it in two sittings.

It dives into the middle of the story of seventeen year old Sara Grey, orphaned in horrible circumstances ten years ago and still traumatised.  A loner who survives at school with the inexplicable protection of one of the school tough guys and a couple of long time male friends, she has always been different.  In company with her two loyal friends, who have secrets as dark as her own, she gradually discovers who – or what? – she is and from where she gained her unusual powers.

There are many plot threads really well held together in this impressive first novel. The writing is highly readable and very suitable for the genre, the story is pacy and exciting, the characters are three dimensional and interesting, the conflict believable, the tone never falters, the exposition is terrific. A real page turner. I preordered the next one and can’t wait to get into it.


 

 the Ultimatre treasure questTHE ULTIMATE TREASURE QUEST 1 The Jewel of Peru

Sharon Skretting

Published by the Author

Reviewed November 2014


A Rollicking Tale for Kids

This is a fantasy adventure in which Christopher Faramund undertakes a dangerous voyage on his father’s ship, on a quest to find the Jewel of Peru and thus locate his missing parents.   Guided only by mysterious messages from the Ultimate Treasure Chest, Christopher, his guardian Alistair, and a motley crew of orphans contend with assorted villains attempting to thwart them in their quest, including pirates both ancient and modern.  Along the way they learn much about the world, the environment and human nature.

Designed to enhance the curriculum for middle grade students in the US, I could certainly see this book doing so.  It has much educational content and would be a great basis, chapter by chapter, for classroom investigations or for structuring home schooling lessons.

As a fun aid to an educational programme it works really well.  My only minor quibble might be that a young reader reading only for enjoyment might get bogged down a little from time to time in the wealth of educational information.  But I may possibly be underestimating the younger generation!

The story is great fun, the characters are charming and the message worthwhile.  There are nice touches of leavening humour throughout, and some great slapstick provided by the pirates, and all round it makes a rollicking good, clean read for pre-teens.


 

turn of the tideTURN OF THE TIDE

Margaret Skea

Capercaillie Books Limited 2012

Reviewed November 2014


A Superbly Written, Highly Engaging Novel

Scots historical fiction is not a genre I seek generally, and I was very agreeably surprised with this book, set in sixteenth century Ayrshire.  From the opening lines, with their vividly evocative prose, the elegant writing does not falter.  Having Munro with a foot in both camps is a masterly device to give insight into the scheming of both feuding clans, the Montgomeries and the Cunninghames.  The switching of sides, the constant jockeying for position, the hatreds and vengeance, the doubt and sorrow, the self-questioning and ultimately the decisions that have to be made on an individual, human level, are eloquently brought to life in the story, from the initial ambush to the consequences that ripple outward and overtake so many members of both families.  This opening episode and subsequent events become an archetype of every blood feud that ever foiled any possibility of peace in Scotland.

Ms Skea has a good ear for easy dialogue and has found an excellent balance between the modern and archaic forms.  By judicious use of minor idiom that in no way detracts from immediate comprehension by the reader, she has managed to suggest dialogue in a Scots accent – no mean feat!   The characters are three dimensional, believable, and many of them are of considerable charm.  To one who can claim no great knowledge of Scots history but with some historical knowledge of the England of that time, the evocation of day to day life is certainly authentic feeling and flows naturally.  There is a most appealing warmth and humanity in the affectionate and earthy family scenes, and the romance elements are delicately drawn.

The list of characters at the front and the glossary at the end are both useful additions, though I found that contextual understanding was easily gained for any unfamiliar Scots expressions.  The characters quickly sorted themselves out in my mind.  It could almost be argued that any difficulty in working out who was who and what side they belonged is part and parcel of the real situation, a metaphor for the actual quandary of several of the characters.

The vivid descriptions of the countryside and the vignettes of farm life are just beautiful, economically yet fully drawn and wonderfully integrated, so that everything moves the story along, and I found no wasted words, padding or history for history’s sake anywhere.  The author is to be congratulated on a tightly plotted, superbly written, highly engaging novel.  I will be looking out for more from Ms Skea.


 

SidekicksSidekicks

Linda V Palmer

Uncial Press 2014

Reviewed October 2014


 Fantastic Mix for A Satisfying Read

Attending a new high school due to government-enforced amalgamations, Mia Tagliaro is apprehensive as to how she will fit in with a new crowd. Though her psychic gifts are accepted in her home parish, will the wider communities she now interacts with feel the same? Add in the complication of Cooper Marsh, her childhood sweetheart, now gorgeously grown up, his new name a symptom of his denial about their past, his attraction to her, and his own psychic abilities. For good measure, throw in the appearance of darker, uncommunicative but definitely tragic spirits more frightening than Mia has ever encountered before, and a sceptical policeman.
With effortless timing and touch, Palmer cleverly leavens the darker theme that emerges to make an amazingly enjoyable read, with terrifically appealing, well-paced writing and great dialogue. Attractive main characters have plenty of sassy teen spirit and wry humour, and well-rounded, believable background characters and locations add to a highly evocative sense of place.
Drop a reader into the middle of a great story that never flags, with plenty of budding romance, suspense and surprise, and here is a great recipe for a compelling read, from start to finish. Devoured at one sitting, and relished every minute.


A Glimmer of GuileA Glimmer of Guile

Mary Patterson Thornburg

Uncial Press, 2014

Reviewed October 2014


Witches Are People Too

Thegan Vivia, highly gifted with guile, is sent on a dangerous mission to rescue King Horok’s son and heir; a mission on which she will have to confront Orath, the most powerful witch of all. Vivia’s suspicions as to the less than pure motives of her jealous superior, Harken, grow stronger as she progresses on her quest. When she discovers that her earlier teacher, powerful witch Taso Raym has disappeared, and that Orath’s powers seem to be growing, Vivia knows that she is in for the battle of her life. Along her journey she meets friends and foes, finds and loses family, and ultimately finds her place in the world.
I don’t read a lot of paranormal or fantasy, so this was a lovely surprise for me. The author has created a plausible fantasy world, and Vivia and her allies and enemies all move through it naturally. The explanations of the guilish arts were intriguing. The fights and battles were exciting and the conclusion satisfying. I enjoyed the flashes of wry humour, and surprises and twists keep the pages turning.
I particularly enjoyed the universally very recognisably human emotional responses and confusions of the characters – extraordinary gifts can’t solve those human quandaries like love, hate, jealousy, envy and vanity and witches have to negotiate the emotional world just like we lesser mortals! Read and be immersed in another world.


Improbable SolutionImprobable Solution

Judith B Glad

Uncial Press, 2014

Reviewed October 2014


Oregon Dreaming … 

Gus Loring, running from a guilty past. Sally Carruthers, confused and exhausted from the exigencies of nursing a father afflicted with senile dementia and inexorably dying by degrees – just as she sees her career doing while she cares for him. When the pair are thrown together by circumstance in Whiterock, Oregon, neither wants the connection but still the peculiar magnetism is there.

How they negotiate the delicate path through their difficulties and doubts towards a workable solution makes the story eminently and sometimes heart-rendingly compelling. I was especially intrigued by the suggestion that the town is much more than the passive setting for the drama as it plays out. But hey, maybe it is just the struggle towards forgiveness, hope and love in themselves that changes Sally and Gus’s perception of the world around them.
This quirky book gained and held my interest to the end. Gus and Sally are real people, the small town atmosphere felt real, and the author has made all the secondary characters natural and authentic. There is wisdom, experience, sorrow and humour aplenty. I was rooting for Gus and Sally, willing them to make it work for them, but life isn’t always happy endings. Their doubts kept me turning the pages right to the end. A great read.



 

Playing by the RulesPlaying By The Rules

Imelda Evans

Destiny Romance, 2013

Reviewed September 2014


 

Very Enjoyable Read

Kate Adams, just jilted in Paris, is home in Melbourne for a school reunion with everyone expecting her with a fiancé on her arm. Step up Josh Marchant, older brother of Kate’s best friend Jo, roped in (willingly enough) to save Kate’s face at the reunion. Then fate steps in and the gorgeous Josh has to continue his role as faux-fiancé for the next week. When a mutual teenage crush seems to be fast turning into something much more real and lasting, complications are bound to ensue for goal oriented and plan obsessed Kate and fun-loving, globe-trotting Josh.

This was such an engaging read, very well written and with interesting, likeable and three dimensional characters. There was wit, humour and sadness, and real heart as Kate and Josh worked out themselves and their relationship. The conflict between their immediate and strong physical attraction and the other, deeper feelings that may/may not be there also is really well worked through. Really well-judged but unobtrusive use of Melbourne as a great back-drop for a modern romance like this. – I could picture every scene.

I bought the sequel. Enough said!


Rules are for BreakingRules Are For Breaking

Imelda Evans

Destiny Romance, 2012

Reviewed September 2014


 

A Fine Romance

This book follows seamlessly from the first book in the series, Playing by the Rules. Jo Marchant, beautiful and successful owner of a bijou Melbourne art gallery and up until now quite a player, is over romance. Until her sister in law and best friend Kate persuades her to lend her spare room to Declan O’Leary. He is just the type she has previously favoured – except she has just vowed herself off men. Kate challenges her to keep her promise and leave her new house guest strictly alone for his six week stay. The mutual physical attraction is immediate – and with Jo determined to prove she can win Kate’s challenge, and Declan equally determined to make her lose it, sensual sparks inevitably fly.

This is another witty, sparkling and engaging romance. The characters are well drawn and interesting, the dialogue natural, and the situations again often have unexpected turns, with some great humorous and romantic moments. The reader is taken along for a very enjoyable romantic journey with the main characters. The denouement is as heart-warming and satisfying as that of the first book. Again, skilful use of Melbourne as a setting. Most entertaining.


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