20 Followers
21 Following
DubaiReader

DubaiReader

Shadow-phobia.

Hortense and the Shadow - Natalia O'Hara

This book actually makes me feel rather uncomfortable - why would a young child hate her shadow? I've always encouraged my children and grandchildren to think of their shadow as a friendly presence, not something to be scared of.
Then, when Hortense slams the window sash down, the shadow howls and kicks and scratches at the glass, well, by this time, no wonder she's petrified by her shadow.

The art work is cute, with a Russian feel, cold and snowy, and this book appears to be well received by other reviewers. As yet my granddaughter is still a bit young to really test her reception to it, although I'm in no hurry to give her shadow-phobia. Maybe this is just one that I'll let pass by.

An honest memoir about eating disorders.

Ink in Water: An Illustrated Memoir (Or, How I Kicked Anorexia’s Ass and Embraced Body Positivity) - Lacy J. Davis, Jim Kettner

Graphic illustrations are a rather underused technique when it comes to mainstream literature, but they work particularly well with highly emotional issues like eating disorders. Lacy Davis has come clean with her problems with Anorexia and Bulimia (although she shies away from these terms), through a memoir that is honest and down-to-earth, and will hopefully provide motivation and encouragement for other sufferers.

The art work is done by her partner, Jim Kettner, who we meet in the memoir. I have to admit to being particularly impressed that someone else understands her well enough to do these illustrations, throughout the book I had assumed they were done by Lacy, herself.

 

Society puts huge pressures on youngsters these days, particularly the women, but men too. It is little surprise that many people crack under these pressures. In my opinion, any advice shared by those who have lived through their issues, is of tremendous value to those still battling their demons. This readily accessible format makes these shared experiences even more widely available.

 

Good luck to Lacy and Kett, I shall be interested to see what they come up with next.

 

Romance and humour.

Wild Oats - Pamela Morsi

This is a prime example of the effect of a cover on readers - I requested the audio version of this book through Audiobook Boom, having seen the cover showing a bicycle leaned up against a rustic wooden fence. After listening to the book I registered it on BookLikes, only to discover a pink cover with a couple encircled by flowers. I realised that if I'd been originally presented with the pink cover I wouldn't even have read the book content before passing it by. As it was, it took me a while to get into the book, as I'm not much of a Romance reader, but it was the sense of humour running through the narrative that kept me reading.

Jedwin Sparrow has decided he needs to spread some wild oats before thinking about marriage, and he reckons the best place to start is the local divorcee, Cora Briggs. She is horrified and prepares to send him packing, except for the temptation of taking revenge on the tittle-tattling ladies of the town, led by his mother. 
Set in Oklahoma in 1906, there were serious implications with being involved with a divorcee; the community was fiercely judgmental and the poor young woman was labelled and blamed through no fault of her own.
Cora Briggs and Jedwin Sparrow were immediately likable characters, along with the rather plain daughter of the local vicar, Tulsa May Bruder, who I see becomes one of the main characters of the sequel, Runabout, which takes place ten years later.

The reading by Stevie Puckett was a bit drawn out and some of the women's voices rather shrill, but once I got involved with the story I became accustomed to this. I certainly had no problem with the clarity or consistency of her narration and I will keep an eye open in case she narrates the sequel.

Thomas Jefferson's daughter.

America's First Daughter: A Novel - Stephanie Dray, Laura Croghan Kamoie

Stephanie Dray writes Historical fiction, most recently with Laura Kamoie, but she's also well known as an Historical romance author under the name of Stephanie Draven. Just to confuse matters even more, Laura Kamoie also has an alias as a Romance author, as Laura Kaye. So it's little wonder that this Historical Fiction novel does have a somewhat romantic feel to it. Where it differs considerably is in its length - while both authors write fairly short romance books, America's First Daughter took me by surprise at 580/624 pages (depending on the source). My Kindle percentage seemed to be rising painfully slowly and our book group unanimously decided to delay the discussion for a week.

 

 

Stephanie and Laura between them had 17,000 letters written to and from Thomas Jefferson, on which to base their novel, no wonder it took five years to write.

Jefferson lived a double life, advocating freedom for all, while running a farm worked by slaves. He argued that it would be impossible to maintain the farm without slave workers. Meanwhile, on her deathbed, he promised to love none other than his beloved wife, yet formed a life-long liaison with a slave girl in his employ, fathering several children through her.

This book is written from the point of view of his daughter, Martha, known as Patsy. She relinquished many of her personal freedoms in order to stay at her father's side; travelling to Paris with him at a young age and later playing the role of first woman in Washington. She then married Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. and bore twelve children.

 

 

Having spent such a long time on this book I was disappointed in the discussion questions provided by the publisher; they tended to run along a similar theme and were somewhat uninspiring. I had to resort to the passages that I had highlighted while reading to keep the discussion motivated.
Although the book was quite hard going, I learned a lot from it and don't regret the time spent.

 

Ravaged by fire.

The Stars Are Fire - Anita Shreve

Based on a true event that occurred in October 1947, Anita Shreve has returned to the Maine coast, where several of my favourite Shreve books were based. Her writing is as precise and perfect as ever, drawing the reader in, well before the excitement of the novel even begins.

Following a drought that lasted all Summer, the Autumn of 1947 brought little relief to the residents of Hunts Beach, and the looming threat of fire became a reality when dry winds sent flames whipping across the forests, destroying nine towns.

Grace and her best friend Rosie are trapped between the fire and the ocean with four children between them. Ingeniously, they use the shore to save themselves, but life will never return to normal for the two women.
At the time of the fire Grace's husband, Gene, was helping in the forest, creating wind-breaks, hoping to prevent the onslaught. When the flames subside, Grace finds herself with a missing husband, penniless, homeless and with two young children to support.

A great read, highly recommended.


Previously read:
The Pilot's Wife (5 stars)
Fortune's Rocks (5 stars)
Resistance (5 stars)
Sea Glass (5 stars)
All He Ever Wanted (3 1/2 stars)
Body Surfing (3 stars)
A Change in Altitude (4 stars)

I feel like I just spent time with a friend.

Foy: On the Road to Lost - Gordon Atkinson

This is one of those books that would certainly have passed me by if I hadn't requested it for review from Audiobook Boom. The bright orange cover is appealing but I don't think the content would have been able to compete against the huge publicity machine that is today's book industry.

Fortunately it caught my eye as a freebie and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the ruminations of Foy on everything from his childhood as the son of a Baptist Minister, to his following in his father's footsteps, to his questioning what he does and does not actually believe - and leaving the ministry.
It's not at all preachy and has a very genuine, human feel to it. Foy is generous hearted and considerate and I particularly liked the episode where he spent time with a man who was dying of aids.

By the time the audio was finished I felt as if I was losing a friend and I hope I shall be able to follow this with more excerpts from Foy's life in the future.
An interesting comment caught my eye in the acknowledgements - only his wife knows how close, or otherwise, Foy's character is to the author's.

Talking of acknowledgements, I should make a mention of the excellent narration by Karl Miller.
Thank you to Audiobook Boom, the publisher, Material Media and Audible for my free copy in return for an honest review.

Gang warfare and violence.

Brick: an action-packed crime thriller - Conrad Jones

I volunteered to listen to the audio version of this book, expecting a thriller, but not expecting the level of violence that it contains. In fairness to the author, the violence was up-front and in-your-face right from the beginning and under all normal circumstances I would have closed the book there and then. However, I tend to complete audiobooks more often than the written word, so I persevered.

 

An unfortunate teenage boy from a peaceful, if poor family, becomes embroiled in a gang situation where life is cheap and revenge is all. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and mouthed off a bit too much. As a result, he and his family become targets of a ruthless mob and find themselves fleeing for their lives.

My friends read 'body-count' books and we joke about the number of bodies eliminated by the author during the course of the book - well, I have to say I lost count with Brick, there certainly weren't many left to bring to justice by the end.

 

If you're looking for dark and brooding with an ominous presence, then this may be for you; if it's a frantic page-turner you're after, then, no, I didn't find that with this book, it didn't grab me and I'm sorry to say, even the ending was a bit flat.

Notable comment for the narrator, Diana Croft, who nailed the Northern accents.

 

I feel like I just spent time with a friend.

Foy: On the Road to Lost - Gordon Atkinson

This is one of those books that would certainly have passed me by if I hadn't requested it for review from Audiobook Boom. The bright orange cover is appealing but I don't think the content would have been able to compete against the huge publicity machine that is today's book industry.

 

Fortunately it caught my eye as a freebie and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the ruminations of Foy on everything from his childhood as the son of a Baptist Minister, to his following in his father's footsteps, to his questioning what he does and does not actually believe - and leaving the ministry.

It's not at all preachy and has a very genuine, human feel to it. Foy is generous hearted and considerate and I particularly liked the episode where he spent time  with a man who was dying of aids.

 

By the time the audio was finished I felt as if I was losing a friend and I hope I shall be able to follow this with more excerpts from Foy's life in the future.

An interesting comment caught my eye in the acknowledgements - only his wife knows how close, or otherwise, Foy's character is to the author's.

 

Talking of acknowledgements, I should make a mention of the excellent narration by Karl Miller.

Thank you to Audiobook Boom, the publisher, Material Media and Audible for my free copy in return for an honest review.

 

Meet a more mature Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma - Larry Millett

I can't claim to be an expert in Sherlock Holmes, so I can't judge Larry Millett's version as in-keeping, or otherwise, with the genre of Holmes also-rans, but it kept my attention and benefited from the narration by Steve Hendrickson.

 

The Sherlock Holmes of this novel is a much older, less fit version of the man in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books. He is visiting the Mayo clinic in Minnesota, US, to find answers to his health problems and comes away with a diagnosis of emphysema, from years of smoking.

As he prepares to return to England, he receives a note under his hotel door, from a past adversary, The Monster of Munch. The Monster had evaded capture nearly thirty years earlier and is now living in near-by Eisendorf. He issues a challenge that Holmes's pride cannot allow him to ignore.

 

So Holmes visits the ailing town of Eisendorf, with only forty residents remaining. They are a fascinating characters bunch of though, all of German descent, who relocated to this part of America in three waves, very few of whom remain.

 

There is secrecy and violence, a fascinating series of tunnels and a somewhat simple girl who wears angel wings and a tiara. An interesting mix, and plenty of puzzles for Holmes to solve.

 

I listened to this rather than reading it and enjoyed Steve Hendrickson's voice, which was perfect for Sherlock Holmes. His characters were easily distinguishable, just his German voices didn't quite ring true.

 

With thanks to Audiobook Boom for the audio version in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good book with excellent narration.

Unethical Conduct: Book 1 in the Terry McGuire Series of Thrillers (for The Garnwen Trust) - Arthur Cole, Nigel C. Williams

I don't suppose I'd have read this book if I'd come across it in a book shop, the cover is not at all inspiring, however, I listened to this as an audiobook via Audible and that was a totally different experience. Jake Urry was the narrator and I loved his sultry drawl, which perfectly matched the characters.

 

The two authors have served many years in the police force, so when they write a police procedural about internal police corruption, it adds another dimension to a hidden vice, that we prefer to believe does not exist.

 

There are three aspects to DI Terry McGuire's inquiries - firstly a corruption case brought by some proven criminals who claimed that some of their offences had been planted on them by the police. Secondly, a dead body that had been dumped after spending five years in a freezer. And thirdly, a flasher who was stalking women in the local park.

 

As the investigation proceeds and evidence gradually reveals itself, I became more involved with Terry McGuire's character, though I didn't manage to keep all the villains in place in my brain. No matter, it was an excellent listen and I shall be searching out more from the narrator.

Interesting.

The One - John Marrs

Maybe this book had just been too hyped for me to give it a fair trial, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. The precept of there being a gene that links two people as a perfect match for one another was excellent and immediately caught my attention, but the book itself lacked depth and there were a few holes in the plot.

In addition, I'm not a great fan of the format where a number of people are introduced along with their back-story and we follow them through their own separate chapters, as in this narrative.

 

In this case there are five main characters, each of them does eventually send in their mouth swap to find their perfect match, even if it takes some persuasion from others to encourage them. Then we get the fall-out, the complications, the issues, that arise - especially given that the match could live thousands of miles away, be of any age or marital status, could even be a criminal or the same sex as yourself.

 

It was an easy read and the end was believable, if a bit frustrating. I was also thinking that there could be several ideal matches - why only one?

Most reviewers seem to have identified with Nick but I felt really sorry for Ellie, can't say why without spoilers.

 

My book group will be discussing this in September and I'm looking forward to their comments.

 

 

Friendships.

Invisible Me - Debbi Mack

I enjoyed this Young Adult novel, although I was not a fan of the narration, which was strangely staccato. Once I managed to adjust to this, however, I found I was rooting for the unusual albino lead character, Portia, even though she had a huge chip on her shoulder.

 

Portia has travelled from school to school all her life, being the daughter of a military man. The added complication of her unusual appearance has left her pretty negative about friendships, she doesn't expect any and doesn't go searching them out.

Her latest move finds her in a fairly typical American secondary school and she is very surprised to be singled out by the most popular girl; to go spying on her boyfriend whom she suspects of cheating on her. In addition, another girl approaches Portia for help with maths. 

What follows is an interesting reflection on teenage friendships, with all their complexities, except that this did feel as if it had bit of a - help one another and don't judge - moral attached, which was well presented.

 

This would be an interesting discussion novel for young adults and I would recommend it for teenage libraries.
The only thing that did seem to be missing was any discussion about the problems of actually being albino; there was no mention of Portia's reaction to light or severe tendency to burn.

 

My thanks to Renegade Press and Audiobook Boom! for a courtesy copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

 

Death in Japan.

Fallen Idol: A Kyoko Nakamura Mystery (Nakamura Detective Agency) (Volume 1) - Percival Constantine

Fallen Idol was a crime mystery set in Japan, and I was hoping for a bit more of a feel for Japanese life. There was a fair bit of bowing and reference to items like tatami mats, but otherwise it could have happened pretty much anywhere. The low-life and hostess bars were certainly not unique.

 

I was offered this as an audiobook for review from Audiobook Boom and I enjoyed the narration by Andrea Harbin, though it could have been a little faster. 

I struggled with the Japanese names at first and I have to admit that they are going to make this review difficult as I have no idea how to spell them.

 

Arkanay Suzuki is a former pop idol who falls from her balcony in the first scene. The police label her death as suicide and prepare to close the case, but Kyoko Nakamura is approached by Arkanay's parents to look into the circumstances of their daughter's death. Kyoko was a police officer until she left the force in disgrace and she is now running a detective agency with her two colleagues.

Together they follow clues, chase suspects and generally put themselves in danger, to solve the mystery of Arkanay's death.

 

The ending was disappointing and I think I was all set to give 4 stars until the last few minutes; the mystery is solved but is justice served?

3 1/2 stars.

Parent and child yoga.

Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids - Kristen Fischer, Susi Schaefer

With yoga enjoying widespread favour, I'm sure this will be a popular book. Children love to share with parents, and what better than exercising together? 

 

Although intended for children aged four to eight, my 18 month grandchild was mesmerised by the colourful illustrations of the zoo animals, and I don't think it would be long before he might attempt to copy some of their movements. 

Maybe not a book for grandparents to share as I'm not as nimble as I once was, but I'm sure this will be a hit with parents who are happy to slither on the ground or balance on one leg to demonstrate the actions.

In case of any doubt, full descriptions of the eleven poses are included at the end of the book.

"What doesn't kill us makes us strong".

Twisted Webs - Darlene Quinn

How would you cope if one of your identical twins was removed from the hospital at birth and appeared to disappear off the face of the earth? And, if you were reunited eight years later, how would you respond to the woman who had raised her - should the child be wrenched from all that she holds dear, to return to her birth parents?
These are the questions raised by Darlene Quinn in book 2 of the Webs Series.

 

There is a bit of a cast of thousands and I did eventually have to write myself a 'family' tree to explain who was who, but in brief: Ashley Taylor gives birth to Callie and Cassie, but only Callie returns home with them. Cassie is abducted by Mario Castanelli, to replace the baby his wife has recently lost. Although he knows this is totally wrong, he sees it as the only way to bring Erica out of her depression and back to him.

 

This book was very much sold as a kidnap story, so I wasn't prepared for all the corporate department store stuff. I tried very hard to get involved with this, I even re-wound a large chunk of the book to try and get a grasp on it, but a complete lack of experience with the corporate world, combined with a narrator who seemed to be in a race against time, I eventually gave up and concentrated on the characters and their social interactions.

 

I was given this audiobook through Audiobook Boom, in return for an honest review. I would have liked to have given a higher star rating, but I didn't enjoy the narrator, who was not only fast, but also rather strident and not good at male voices (her best voice was the sultry Vivianna). In addition, the business aspect of the narrative left me cold.

Stunning artwork.

I'm Just a Little Someone - Sharen S. Peters, Amanda Alter

This is a beautifully illustrated book about loneliness and the difference it makes when you have a friend to share things with. The Little Someone of the title is sad rag-doll, until she spots a sad boy-doll on the other side of the toy shop. Once they meet and become friends they are both much happier. And when a toy dog joins them, their happiness is complete.

 

A very simple story with a moral about friendship, suitable for young children from about 3 to 6 years. It is available on Kindle, which is a plus, as it enables entertaining youngsters away from home without resorting to games or videos on the Ipad.

 

This book has rhyming text, which I enjoy in children's books, but I need the words to flow to a precise pattern and in places this fails to do that - hence the dropped star.

 

There are nineteen activities at the end of the book, from counting and naming colours, to drawing faces to express feelings.