Showing posts with label debut novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label debut novel. Show all posts

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Book Review: Where She Belongs by Liz Doran



Roisin has had enough. After the recession hit Spain, her husband, Javier, has fallen into an abyss of depression and is threatening to drag her down with him. In order to save them both, she leaves Spain and does something she has always dreamt of doing. To live by the sea. She wants to gain control of her life, make a new start and finally follow her dreams. 

With a mixture of sadness and anticipation, she moves back to Ireland, rents a house by the sea, and has a fortuitous meeting with Maggie who runs a craft boutique. 
At first everything runs smoothly. Maggie offers her a job and people are more than kind. Too good to be true? The last thing on her mind is another man. But then she meets Tom, the irresistible Irish man. When Javier follows her and tries to woo her back, confusion sets in. After perfect beginnings, where she meets some of the helpful and colourful characters who live there, things begin to get complicated. The first cracks appear on the façade. Why is her old neighbour, Mrs. Walsh, being threatened? What is she afraid of? And why are people suspicious of Maggie, her new friend and boutique owner? 


Where She Belongs is a slow burner of a debut novel from author Liz Doran. Many of the best authors in the world hail from Ireland, where this book is set. It follows the ups and downs of Roisin, who (in a paradoxically shift of pace in the early chapters) has her life literally turned upside down an decides she has had enough of Spanish beau Javier.

Reading this from the male point of view may actually garner interest in this book. You see, I felt Javier had been hard done by. He’s not the model husband, and he does something that is practically unforgivable, but as this happens early on in the story, we haven’t learned enough to form a strong opinion as to whether he is the bad guy or not.

Clearly Roisin acts at first with her heart and then her head. The time lapse is not that long, and soon enough Roisin has decided to get out from the relative comfort of her life and start over again.

I applaud the author for taking this decision. It’s a woman’s story written for women, but that shouldn’t prevent male readers from reading Where She Belongs. It would have been an interesting angle to see Roisin stay post-the-event but that would have taken the story on a whole different direction.

The pace is steady. There’s a lot of information in the story that from the male perspective is less interesting but I can understand why it is in there, as the book would fall under women’s fiction.

"The author does not give us a cop out ending."

Roisin’s journey through Ireland is strongly depicted and if you have never been to the country, the author makes you fall in love with the place. Everyone knows that one person’s paradise is another’s idea of hell, and despite the brave new world Roisin chooses to go after, not everything falls into place. That would be too easy, and the author does not give us a cop out ending.

That said, whilst Roisin began to find herself and a new meaning to her life, it was only a matter of time before Javier popped up again. He’s not a one-dimensional psycho dumped husband like Patrick Bergin in Sleeping With the Enemy, and again, I was grateful for how the character was drawn.

Where She Belongs is an interesting debut novel that demands the readers’ attention. In some ways it is a very easy read, at other times, it is heart wrenching and touching.

A strong debut from Liz Doran.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Book Review: The Sirens of Falkeld by Julie Tuovi

The Sirens of Falkeld


Kade Finley, of the Scottish Isles, was raised on legends of the sea. His Gaffer, Toran Finley said, that beneath Muireall’s wind-swept cliffs, deep under the waves, there lived a legend as old as the Highlands themselves. Of Manannán Mac Lir, the sea god, and his beautiful sea maidens, the maighdean mhara, who swam the tides, luring sailors to their deaths.

But they’re not just legend. 

Kade saw one on his ninth birthday. On that day, a fierce storm swallowed half the island, and his da, Aidan Finley, was never seen again. 

It’s been nine years since Da disappeared, and Gaffer is dying. 

Desperate to save him, Kade decides to capture a maighdean mhara, of whom the stories say will grant one wish if caught. But Admiral Gilbert Owen, commander of the island’s WWII naval base, complicates things. In his quest for power, the Admiral has enraged the maidens, making it dangerous to be human in maighdean mhara infested waters.


When an author creates something out of pure fiction, it has to be written with authority. The characters have to be believable. Most of all, any preconceptions one might have had about the story have to be discarded right from the outset.

The Sirens of Falkeld is the debut novel of Julie Tuovi, but you wouldn't know it from the writing. Here is a story that has rather incredible world building. The author really has a talent for describing literally everything in the book. The titular Sirens, of course, are nothing like the Disney mermaids. It's a risk to describe them as Miss Tuovi has done in her story, but the payoff is wonderful because the main Siren, Cora, is no airhead waif. She's actually something to be respected, and yes - something to be feared.

The style of the book is interesting given its shifting perspective, chapter to chapter. Our hero, Kade, is threatened with death more times than seems fair by the shifty, arrogant and pompous Admiral near the start of the story. Kade's perspective is quite formulaic so we can relate to him easily. Initially, he is not an overly complex character. But as the story advanced and he interacts with Cora, we get a glimpse of the man in this youngish-boy. 

Cora seems too advanced, too wily, too clever and yes - too dangerous for Kade to interact with her.
But inbetween these wonderful character developments, we really are swept along by the author's engrossing story. Not once did I think 'this is a fluffy story about mermaids.' 

"It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end."

However, I did find the book a challenging read at times. The first third of the book takes a little while to find its 'sea legs', but once it does, it rewards readers with action, danger, romance and thrills. 

This could be said of many a debut author's story, so it is no slight on the author, who has created an incredibly detailed and believable world. I like the authentic use of the Scottish language, it's well done and never grates. 

One thing I really loved and rounded off the book just perfectly was the author's notes. I know, some of you will skip that part but I urge you to read it. The author is honest in her influences for her story, which I could see early on in the book. Thankfully The Sirens of Falkeld grows into its own very deep rewarding story.

It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Book Review: No Name by Bryan Nowak



The soul of a rapist and murderer, killed by the young brother of one of his victims, is resurrected in an environmental disaster. This, part human, part dirt, part chemical, creature morphs into an unstoppable force. The, now older, boy, Dale Edwards, is somehow psychically linked to the creature and starts having nightmares as it focuses on its first victim, Allie. The girl proves to be far more difficult to kill as she demonstrates the resourcefulness taught to her by her adoptive family, and outlaw biker gang. 

Allie, Dale, and her outlaw biker uncle Red, must out think, out plan, and out run a beast that can move around regular bullets, change its shape at will, and has almost limitless strength. The three take up a life on the run while trying to find its weakness. 

Ultimately the three lure the creature to a location for a final showdown. Content with the idea that it will either be them or it, they prepare for a final battle.


4.5 stars rounded up to five.

"And Allie," J.D said, "bolt the door. No one comes in without Red or me."

- J.D, either being very optimistic or completely deluded.

Reading a new author can either be a rewarding experience or a case of 'I'll never make that mistake again.'

So any authors' first work can receive a hell of a lot of scrutiny. Although nicely presented with an engaging cover and strong synopsis, you might me thinking 'pfft! another zombie story....move along, nothing to see here...'

Except that No Name is a remarkably stylish and well written thriller, whose key strength is through the dynamic of the main characters Allie, Dale and J.D.

"I really like it when an author gives us the basic premise then allows our readers brain to process and decode it"

Then, there is the mysterious No Name of the title, though you can probably guess his role in the story. And that's part of the fun. Author Bryan Nowak gives us quite a bit of narrative, which in a lesser talent might have been a chore to work through. Fortunately, the set up is so good that when the characters use 'functional dialogue' it works because...this is thriller with a mix of sci-fi horror dropped on it in considerable quantities.

What is most pleasing about No Name for me is the way that the adult scenes are handled. The violence is well described without ever being over the top. I really like it when an author gives us the basic premise then allows our readers brain to process and decode it. When an author writes, 'so they went down the stairs and opened the door and then went outside' et cetera it is like 'why are they telling me all this worthless nonsense?'

No Name is just about the perfect length, taking the reader through a number of shocks and spills before coming to a satisfying conclusion.

I hope if the author returns to this world, that some of the other characters can be further developed.

Nicely done, Bryan Nowak!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: Without You by Preethi Venugopala


Synopsis: When Ananya, a bubbly twenty-year-old engineering student, reaches her Grandmother's house in Sreepuram on a month long vacation, romance is the last thing on her mind. However, she meets Dr. Arjun there and falls head over heels in love.

As it often happens, the path of true love never runs smooth. Circumstances force them apart even though they were madly in love. She becomes a victim of depression. When everything fails to return her to normalcy, help arrives from an unexpected source. Will she ever find happiness again? Will time allow her heart to heal and forget Arjun? What indeed is true love? What is that strange secret that locks all the circumstances together? 

Travel with Ananya to the picturesque Sreepuram, face the chaos of Bengaluru, and relish the warmth of magical Dubai in this heartwarming tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and miracles.

Review: Without You is the debut novel of Preethi Venugopala and it is an uplifting tale of romance that will stir your heart and fire your passion.<

It's obvious from the early pages of this book how passionate the author is about her subjects. The main characters, Anu and Arjun are fun to watch, as their relationship develops and goes through its various ups and downs.

The author's forewarding notes, as well as the quotes that open each chapter are endearing and make you think.

As befitting an Indian author, readers should be prepared for an indoctrination into Indian culture. This is to be welcomed, because the author writes with a style and panache that always engages the reader.

Some lines I liked:-

"If you had given this to Shakespeare, he would have written a thousand sonnets about it." (Anu discussing food).

"Both of us can't bear to live without the other. But we still managed to make our lives a living hell making asinine assumptions about each other."</i> (Anu and Arjun, on the difficulty of relationships.)

Without You is a credible addition to the romance genre, fans of which will see inspiration from all kinds of authors, from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen. There's a hint of Judith McNaught in there too - no bad thing.

It's a lovely story that romance fans will hold dear to their hearts.

On Amazon this book gets five stars.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book Review: Serendipity by James Duncan

Synopsis: 'If you have your health, but you don't have your wealth - then you have less nothing.' asserted Edward Noble. 
First, utterly bankrupt in spiritual terms, the amoral Edward Noble is then utterly bankrupted financially. 
For a man who dismissed most people as losers, he is now humiliated in every sense as he becomes 'a big league player for the Loserville Losers'. His misadventures soon lead to Skid Row, as he is cuckolded, ripped off and rejected in a perverse about-turn of Fate. 
But if Edward can only learn humility, Serendipity, sweet Serendipity is calling to him. She offers him opportunities that he had never dreamt were possible. 

Review: Serendipity is quite a roller coaster ride of a book. Our main character, Edward Noble, appears to be the polar opposite of his name, at least at the start of the book.

He seems to be driven by money, making money, and lots of it. Not exactly a likeable trait in today's 'me me me' world.

When an investment goes wrong, it is not the investment owners that take the hit (in a scene that is almost Biblical in its execution), but Edward himself.

He finds himself suddenly unable to live the life he is now thrust into, and the future doesn't look rosy for him all of a sudden.

The narrative is good - it explains Edward's actions whilst at the same time giving us a background into the financial world he was part of. At the first time of reading I wanted to understand exactly why Malcolm and Matt were tucking him up. I then accepted it that banking is very much a dog eat dog world - moreso perhaps than other industries.

In essence, the author tries to get us on side with Edward, even though at the outset, I certainly didn't want to root for him.

Serendipity is a serious book that has occasional light overtones. It takes you on a journey with a man who had suddenly lost everything he considered valuable in his life.

When it is Edward asking a beggar for money, you know that this man's journey is one you have to take alongside him.

Serendipity is one of those novels that taste like a trifle you are not sure about. As you delve more into it, it reveals itself to be a clever tale, and in part, how one can redeem themselves from such a terrible situation.

There's lots of very English slang words to the book, and those of us who are from different parts of England will have fun decoding some of the references.

A line that stood out for me:-

The problem with ladies with real class is that they are fully equipped with a powerful b***-s*** detector, which would eliminate a man with a story to tell like Edward's at 200 yards.

This is a strong debut from author James Duncan. He has also co-authored another work with the multi-talented J Kahele. So if you want to get an understanding of how this author's mind words, start with Serendipity. You cannot go wrong with this!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Book Review: Language in the Blood by Angela Lockwood


Synopsis: Until the outbreak of the First World War, young Cameron Blair would have liked nothing better than to stay in Edinburgh and marry his childhood sweetheart. As the call to arms goes out, Cameron and his pals sign up to fight for their country. They are soon delivered into the nightmare of war, and there Cameron more than meets his maker. 

The story follows Cameron as he comes to terms with his new ‘life’, from his first days as a hapless vampire in war-torn France to the glamorous modern day setting of the Côte d’Azur. Along the way, he develops a distinctive taste for the finer things in life: jewels, yachts, small dogs and champagne-infused human... 

Review: Language in the Blood is a very impressive debut novel and is the first in a compelling vampire tale. When the story begins, our *hero* is fighting alongside many of his colleagues in a world war. Cameron's transition from soldier to vampire is cleverly done, and once I had arrived at that point in the book, I was hooked.

The title is perhaps the most cleverest thing about this book. It's very difficult for a vampire story to bring anything new, but the author absolutely delivers here. I loved how the title was weaved so intricately into this vampire's very special way of existing.

I think this is an extremely ambitious story, because it covers several decades of the vampire's existence. The driving factor for him is to find his maker, but in the meantime, he has to feed, and again, this is well executed by the author.

There is a tiny bit of middle story lag, which is perhaps understandable when a story has a reasonable length like this one, but the pace is broadly steady, picking up apace in the final third of the book.

It is full of surprises, twists and turns. The supporting cast is great, and how they interact with Cameron is again, superbly well done. You almost feel for anyone getting close to him, because a vampire only exists to feed - even on those he has some feelings for.

Cameron reminded me a lot of Lestat, from Anne Rice's superb Vampire Chronicles. That's perhaps the best recommendation I can give to this book, in that it is the best vampire story I have read in many years.

A big plus to this story, and extremely hard to pull off in a vampire story, is the humour. Cameron narrates the tale, exclaiming at one point:-

'I found cinemas just too dangerous to be in - all those warm bodies packed together....just too tempting!'

If we were in his position, wouldn't we feel the same?

Another line I liked, especially as I have Scottish friends who would agree with this following:-

"I'm Scottish. We only come in pale."

The humour should not make you think the book cannot hit you with great statements. I just have to highlight this,because I loved it:-

'That was the problem with human blood, it healed and made you feel better, but it also washed the humanity and moral sense right out of you.'

Watch out for the reference to Madame Marechal. This literally had me rolling about on the floor. And my floors are hard, but the bruises were worth it.

"She was found screaming blue murder saying that a vampire took and sucked the dog dry right in front of her."

"A Vampire?"

"She really has gone quite mad and walks around holding a large cross, saying that vampires are coming to eat our dogs."

There are many others that will have you smiling, but essentially this a vampire tale that slow burns, building to a rather fantastic ending. It's great to know book two is out there already. As for ratings, I was leaning from a strong four rating to five. In the end it gets a five because the story, just like Cameron, has a swagger and a coolness that no-one could fall to love. Is he flawed? Of course he is. he's not really that attractive, though women do seem to find him charming.

I just felt the author helped us understand the vampire more, than making him a simple one dimensional killer, or a pathetic love struck fool. Angela Lockwood's vampire has authority. He is powerful, rather scary, and seemingly, cannot be stopped. I'm intrigued to know where the next book will take us.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Book Review: Venus Lionheart - The Witch and the God

With every adventure, comes a great risk, otherwise it wouldn't be an adventure. Let's find someone who knows a little about that:-  

 For 12 year old Venus Lionheart, things are pretty normal at first. She's at school, has geeky friends like Sebastian and Eric, and's fine, until she finds herself in Freaksville, Shropshire (well no, it's

 Helmsmere, Shropshire)  

 Fortunately, our Vee is not without help, and she soon finds herself on a mission (yep - a mission, not a quest, I think that implies she might just fail!) and has friends like Galahad (I kid you not) and a really special guy whose name begins with M (but I can't tell you who it is because it will give all the choc-covered treats away in one go but I can say it is not M from the 007 movies).

With this band crew of hardened warriors (and not so hardened, in some cases) Ophelia traverses time, visits stones before they became a tourist attraction (yeah, Wiltshire Council, all your bus tours and spoken guides are way less interesting than the Stones themselves, okay?) But let's not forget that Venus has some powers of her own. And they don't go down too well with a man who may or may not be a man of the cloth...

Overall, Venus Lionheart's first adventure won't be her last. This is a fun and thrill packed debut novel, which will have you chuckling at one moment and cheering at others. In the best tradition of my all-time favourite children's novel, Rebecca's World, this book can hold it's head high. The reason why debut novels are enjoyable is because the author can write not knowing what the world will think of their book. Write fearlessly, and you never know what you'll be capable of. I think you'll be hearing a LOT more about Dino Costi in the not so distant future.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Book Review: The Recession Groom by Vani


The Recession Groom by Vani is the first book I have ever read that focussed exclusively on a prominent male Indian character. I felt I learned a lot about Indian culture and also about the arranged weddings that take place.

As a teenager, I had many Indian friends at school. After we left school, some of us stayed in touch, and one friend told me he was getting married soon.

When I asked him where he and his wife-to-be would be living, he said simply 'Oh, the same house.'

In English culture, we want to move out as soon as we can, often with devastating consequences! I managed to stay out and remained independent once I had left home. My siblings had to return.

But having read this book, I love the culture it introduced me to.

I have to admit approaching this book wondering if I would really like it. I can happily say it is a truly great book and wonderful debut novel.

It mirrored some of the aspects of my own experiences in the IT world.
Parshuraman Joshi is 27 when we first meet him. He is an IT Professional, lives in Canada, and earns good money doing what he does. For my part, I was 26 when I started working for an IT company, and 35 when 'let go' due to the recession.

It still affects me to this day, to the point that I never wanted to return to work in IT again. So even reading a work of fiction I felt might be quite traumatising for me!

Fortunately, the writing is far from dry, unlike many IT and marketing projects (though the mention of the words 'Project Infinite' had me running for cover!) that some consider sexy - (ugh!'ll never convince me of that!)

I really thought it would be about Parshuraman and his wife-to-be, but within a few pages we are introduced to Jennifer, who is a fun character but not really wife material.

Even funnier are the calls Parshuraman receives in the middle of the night from potential father in laws. I can imagine my reaction would be the same as his if I was pushed in this manner.

Things get very interesting when Parshuraman ends up in India to head up the IT project, and has Jennifer along for the ride.

By far the best character is Nani, Parshuraman's grandmother - who has a wit and tenacity with the best of these older generation characters. It makes me want to cherish those around me all the more before we leave this world. 

There was nothing pretentious about the writing. The story flows effortlessly and characters are well drawn. It's easy to say some characters are predictable, like the rather bossy sister - but we've all had one of those in our lives!

Overall this is a must read for anyone interested in Indian culture, marriage, Canada, or IT! 

It was much better than I thought it was going to be, so I applaud this author for drawing us so easily into her world.

Bravo to Vani!