Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bonfire Memories

Bonfire Memories by Sally Quilford

Can't add a link as it is an Easy Read from DC Thomson, not available on Amazon, or anywhere else online I don't think.

This is one of the first four Easy Reads to be published, and it is the first in the Crime - Intrigue category. Set mostly in 1966 with a few bits from 1946, it follows wannabe journalist Cara who is interviewing Australian actor/film director Guy Sullivan who has unexpectedly turned up in the fictional village of Midchester. Cara falls for him almost immediately. But Guy has secrets, and is here to find out what happened to his long lost sister, who disappeared in Midchester just after the war. As bonfire night approaches, Cara begins to remember events from 20 years earlier, when as a child she witnessed something very odd. And then there's a murder...

This was a really enjoyable quick read. The plot is full of twists and turns, and Sally keeps you guessing throughout - who IS the sinister narrator in the 1946 sections? She skilfully leads you up all sorts of blind alleys, and like a little puppy I trotted after her up each one. The final reveal, when it came, was a genuine surprise. I've read several of Sally's pocket novels now, but this is definitely my favourite of the lot, and I would recommend it. You'll have to be quick to get out there and buy it in book form, as they'll only be in the shops another week or so. But Sally will no doubt e-publish it later which will be worth watching out for.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Fan Tan Players

The Fan Tan Players by Julian Lees

Not sure where I heard about this book but I liked the sound of a story set in Macao in the 1920s so bought it for Kindle.

It starts off in Macao in 1928, following Russian refugee Nadia who lives with her mother and uncle who runs a tobacconist shop. She meets Scotsman Iain Sutherland, who's working for the British Consulate trying to stop smuggling. He's interested in her, though is it to get information on Chinese gangsters or for her own sake? Nadia's father was lost in Russia during the revolution, but it is not known whether he is alive or dead. To win Nadia's heart, Iain goes to Russia to try to find him and bring him back. And then they marry and go to Scotland, and then war breaks out (1939) and Iain is put in a Hong Kong internment camp, from which Nadia must rescue him.

Does this synopsis sound muddled? That's because the plot is, too. There's an awful lot of plot in this book. I started off thinking it was an interesting historical novel, with that unusual and enigmatic setting of Macao. Then it becomes a thriller, then an adventure-quest, or is it a love story, then it's a war story.

It's not a bad book - there are some lovely descriptions in it, some beautiful prose. I found myself reading some lines twice because I loved them so much. But the plot twists and turns had me frowning. The author could have stretched this out into about 4 different books if he'd wanted to. In the end, I just wasn't sure about this book. I can't say it's not my genre, because there are so many genres represented in it!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dear Agent

Dear Agent - Write the Letter that Sells your Book by Nicola Morgan

Here's a book that does exactly what it says on the tin - teaches you how to write the perfect covering letter to go with your submission. Well not the perfect one perhaps, but a really good one that won't put off an agent and will hopefully entice them to actually read your submission.

I've read it quickly as I'm not yet ready to send out any novel submissions, but will refer to it no doubt when I am. I got the impression you could almost paint by numbers - include the paragraphs Nicola suggests, add your own details and twists, hone it and polish it and you're done. 

This book and Write A Great Synopsis (both available for Kindle) should take away all the fear of writing these pieces, leaving you with more time and mental energy to focus on the important bit - your book itself.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Gillespie and I

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris 

I read this on my Kindle, and bought it after friends told me I'd love it. And I did. I've previously read the author's The Observations which I loved too.

Harriet Baxter, newly arrived in Glasgow in 1888, befriends the Gillespie family. Head of the family is Ned, a talented but as yet unrecognised artist. Harriet becomes friends with his wife and mother, and with their two little girls, wayward Sybil and sweet little Rose.

Tragedy strikes when Rose goes missing, apparently abducted.

Harriet is telling the story from nearly 50 years later, as an elderly woman living alone in London. She wants to set the record straight, and tell her side of the story.

But as you read on, you gradually realise there's definitely more than one side to this story, and is Harriet's really the truthful one? This is a delicious unreliable-narrator novel. I'm in awe of any author who can pull that off convincingly and Jane Harris has certainly done that here.

The characters are fully rounded, believable though not all of them likeable. The plot keeps you turning the pages, especially once you pass the half way mark. The language used is absolutely convincing for the period and yet it flows along brilliantly.

I loved this book and just wish I could write like that...