Author Archives: David Proffitt

The Hole Opportunity

The Hole OpportunityBy James Minter

OK, this might be just me but can anyone else the link between the title, the author and a distinctly shaped mint? No? Just me then.

This is the first part of a self-published “Hole” trilogy by James Minter, in which we are introduced to the eclectic, and at times eccentric characters who inhabit the rural village of Henslow. Very much at the centre of the hole business (no, that’s not an error, you’ll get the joke in a moment) is Colin Griggs and his wife Izzy. Frustrated with the red tape that threatens to permanently tie up small modern farmers, Colin decides to leave behind several generations of traditional farming and establish his new business: Hole Farming.

No, don’t even try to work it out. It makes absolutely no sense, which is very much at the heart of why the book works so well. The idea of farming holes feeds very well into Colin’s ineptitude. He means well and has all very good intentions, but a mixture of circumstances, misunderstandings and an overzealous local reporter result in a series of unexpected and inexplicable events that would have made Tom Sharpe proud.

The chaos begins when Colin gets the contract to supply the local Golf Club with 18 holes for their newly refurbished course. Why they have found themselves with no holes on the greens just a week from the official opening is one of those questions you shouldn’t ask. Being new to the whole hole farming business Colin decides to employ a warren of rabbits to dig the holes for him. There is just one small problem: rabbits are very good at digging holes, but no one has told them when to stop. What follows is as inevitable as it is hilarious.

And that is just the beginning.

The Hole Opportunity is a farcical look at rural life in an old English county. It is clever and very funny. The characters are perfectly matched to the situations they find themselves in, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole mixed up adventure.

My only criticism, and it is only a minor point really, is that it would benefit from a once-over by a good editor. There are some sudden leaps in narrative and a few points where the story loses some of its natural flow. But these are minor points and don’t distract from the humour and fun of the story.

It is a great book and I look forward to reading the further adventures of Colin and Izzy Griggs.

Day Four (The Three #2)

Day Fourby Sarah Lotz

Day Four is the second part of Sarah Lotz’s “The Three” trilogy. 

The story is set aboard a ship cruising the Gulf of Mexico. For three days, everything goes according to plan. Passengers enjoy the facilities and the sun; the crew deal with their usual mix of awkward, obnoxious and drunken holidaymakers. Just another cruise. Until day four.

That is when things start to go very wrong, and when events onboard the Beautiful Dreamer take a mysterious and sinister turn.

Although part of a series, you do not need to have read the first book (The Three) to enjoy it. There are obvious links and references to the first story, but on the whole, it stands alone very well.  

Each “chapter” tells the ongoing story from the perspective of the book’s main characters. Each has their own reasons for being aboard the ship. Each has a secret they want to keep hidden, but for all of them, events aboard the stricken ship force them to face fears and their own past. 

With no power, food and supplies dwindling and a virus beginning to take hold, tempers aboard the Beautiful Dreamer become increasingly short. And when people begin to see “ghosts”, things just from bad to worse. 

The only person not adversely affected by the changing circumstances is Celine del Ray, celebrity psychic, who seems to thrive on the mysterious events. Is she in some way responsible for what is happening? How does she know so much about her fellow travellers and their pasts?

Day Four is a gripping and intense thriller which questions our view of reality and ourselves. It is every bit as good as The Three with a great mix of wonderful characters, intense plot and skilled storytelling. 

I can’t wait t read the next. 

Nutshell

Nutshellby Ian McEwan

Trudy is separated from her husband, John, and is living in the matrimonial home with his brother Claude, carrying John’s baby, as they plot to murder said husband, John.

It would be a love triangle, but with the narrator of this particular tale being the unborn baby, it gets a little complicated – more of a love rectangle!

Nutshell is an original concept, although the plot itself is extremely simple. In fact, the story is little more than an outline. It is the narration by the un-named unborn child that pushes the book within a whisker of 200 pages.

There is plenty of humour and just a touch of suspense. Will they or won’t they go through with the planned homicide of Trudy’s estranged husband? Can a pair of drunks really manage the perfect murder? Will the unborn narrator be born at Her Majesty’s Pleasure? Will he ever know his father? 

I found the whole thing a little strange and I’m still undecided about whether I enjoyed it or not. It is at times very funny and is an easy read. The plot does not challenge in any way and there are very few characters to keep a track of. But for me there was far too much waffle and not enough substance. 

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)

The City of MirrorsThe epic Passage trilogy comes to a dramatic and conclusive end in this thrilling final instalment. At over 800 pages, it is quite a read, but well worth the investment in time and the wait. Unlike the first two books, City of Mirrors has more than one narrator and doesn’t follow a single timeline.

The action begins 20 years after the climactic events of book two. With the virals gone it is a whole new chapter for mankind. Just when what’s left of North America’s population begin to believe it is safe to turn off the lights and venture beyond the safety of their Texan compound, the old enemy creeps back. For a new generation of American’s, the virals have become something of a myth, the bogeymen from their parents past. But all legends and myths have are rooted in a truth, and they are just about to find out just how real these particular myths are.

One loose end from the previous two books that I felt needed resolving, was what was happening in the rest of the world whilst North America was being overrun by flesh eating virals. After all, the continent was quarantined at the virals themselves contained within its borders. Thankfully, this and other loose ends are neatly tied up.

After two books bursting with action, City of Mirrors feels a little slow at the start as we are introduced to a new narrator whose tale brings some clarity to the origins of the virals and their actions. It is the story of a man whose obsessions and decisions will bring humanity to the very edge of extinction. But his actions are not born out of hatred but love. Despite the body count and impressive stash of weapons, City of Mirrors is centred around a love story.

Unrequited love, maternal love and all-consuming passions direct the actions of each of the story’s main characters. Justin Cronin has proven himself to be a talented storyteller with a real vision. Bringing this incredible trilogy to a climactic and touching conclusion, City of Mirrors is a captivating and compelling read.

The Tent, the Bucket and Me

by Emma Kennedy

The Tent, The Bucket and MeSubtitled “My Family’s Disastrous Attempts to go Campaign in the 70s”, Emma Kennedy’s memoir of her family holidays in the 1970s is as hilarious as it is nostalgic.

The 70s were a decade of social and economic change. It was the decade that gave us disco, punk, strikes and Margaret Thatcher. It also opened up the world with package holidays becoming more affordable. But for the Kennedy’s holidays were under canvass and thoughts of flights to the sun drenched Spanish beaches were definitely off the agenda. 

Using her own memories and those of her parents, Emma Kennedy’s stories of disaster and embarrassment are a kind of moral tale. There but for the grace of God…

As you move from one holiday to the next, from floods and gales on the Welsh coast to food poisoning and man-eating toilets in France, the reader is left under no illusion about the tricks that the malevolent holiday gods have played on this poor unfortunate family. Basically, if it can go wrong, it will, and most probably has!

The Tent, the Bucket Me is a very appropriate title for this hilarious, slapstick account of a family who really should have stayed at home. As a comedian, Emma knows what it takes to take her audience with her. I think most of us can find at least one parallel with our own holiday experiences in this book. Whilst not all of us can claim to have fallen into a French toilet or watched as a caravan is blown over a cliff, we can all relate to the feelings of doom and despair as we watch a family take once disastrous turn or another. From broken down vehicles tro ghosts in the attic, the Tent, the Bucket and Me, is a tour-de-force of wit and farce. Reading it whilst away just made me appreciate my own holiday even more.

Whilst I can’t claim to be too familiar with her act or TV appearances, this book has proven Emma Kennedy to have the observational skills and genuine wit that make this one of the funniest books I have read for a while. The TV adaptation does not do it justice. 

For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, this book also offers a reminder of a world of change and ambition, where anything was possible. Who will ever forget the impact of the original Star Wars movie, or the girls breaking out into floods of tears over Donny Osmond’s marriage? Ah, the memories…

A Far Cry from Kensington

A Far Cry from Kensingtonby Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark is probably best known for her novel The Prime Of Miss Jean Brody. It was made into a TV series, and is considered in some circles to be a modern classic. I must admit that when I purchased this particular book I hadn’t made the connection.

A Far Cry From Kensington displays great wit and charm. It is a relatively short (190 pages) and uncomplicated story about life in the world of 1950s publishing. By uncomplicated I mean it has an easy flow with no sudden swerves or change of direction. As far as the characters are concerned, it is far from uncomplicated.

The book has a friendly and at times informal style as its narrator, Mrs Hawkins, looks back at a year in which her life changed dramatically. It is 1954 and London is still scarred by war.With rationing only just coming to an end, Mrs Hawkins, a 28-year-old war widow, is living frugally but conformably in a furnished room in a quiet corner of Kensington. The tenants each have their own eccentricities but there is an air of companionship between them that makes it sound homelier that might otherwise be the case when a group of strangers find themselves living under one roof.

Mrs Hawkins has respectable job working for a publisher, but all is not well and there is an uncertainty in the air about the company’s future. Then, on her way into work one morning she has an unexpected meeting with one Hector Bartlett that will change everything. In fact, this meeting costs her two jobs and makes the obnoxious would-be writer a thorn in Mrs Hawkins’ side for many years to come.

The book has some wonderful characters and the vagueness of some of Mrs Hawkins’ memories is actually quite refreshing. I have never been a fan of first-person narratives, due mainly, I think, to the certain knowledge that I could never recall past events with such clarity. It is a light-hearted look at life during a period of profound change. Britain was on the cusp of a revolution in music, social attitudes and economic prosperity, but the characters and situations portrayed in this story are comfortingly old-fashioned. 

I found the style of the narrative refreshingly honest and just loved the character of Mrs Hawkins. A good, unchallenging holiday read. 

A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold (A Song of Ice and Fire #3.2)

A Storm of Swordsby George R R Martin

And the fun and laughter just goes on!

Or it would of there was any. One thing you can say about the epic Songs of Fire and Ice series is that they are neither funny or fun. If you have already read the preceding books, you will already know what to expect, if you haven’t then don’t bother trying to pick up the story at this stage. 

The squabble over the Iron Throne of Westeros continues unabated. And as the death toll continues to rise amongst the story’s leading characters, their relationships and allegiances becomes more complex and fragile.

Young Robb Stark seems unassailable as he leads his army of northmen inexorably south towards Kings Landing. But all is not as it should be back home, with Robb’s enemies hatching plans of their own. 

Beyond the Wall another war is brewing, but this time against an enemy that seemingly cannot be stopped. Jon Snow faces enemies on both sides of the Wall as he returns to Castle Black.

In the east, Daenerys Stormborn continues her campaign against the slave traders even as she prepares her return to Westeros to reclaim her father’s throne.

This is one of the most intense and complex series of books I have read in a long time. The carnage amongst the leading players in this deadly game is particularly unnerving as you never know who is going to fall next. This volume has a few surprises for those who have not already seen the TV series, with regicide seemingly becoming something of a pastime in Westeros. 

The Songs of Fire and Ice has become a modern classic, even though the last book(s) have yet to be published. The immense scope of the story itself is staggering and this book is just as intense and driven as the previous volumes. The characters around whom then story is told continue to be as bold and well-structured as the tale they tell. It is common for mid series books to falter a little as the plot hits a kind of lull before the climactic ending, but in this case, there are no signs of slowing down the pace or compromising the integrity of the characters.

Sex in the Title

Sex in the TitleA Comedy about Dating, Sex, and Romance in NYC (Back When Phones Weren’t So Smart)

by Zack Love

I suppose there is a kind of art to coming up with book titles. They should covey the essence of the story; they should be snappy, memorable and, above all else, they have to grab the attention of the potential reader. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t be drawn to a book called “Sex In The Title”, even if it’s just for the sake of curiosity? But does it tell you anything about the book it is trying to sell? In a way yes, it does. That is not to say it is either erotic or pornographic. It is a romantic comedy, and a very funny one at that. What the title does tell you is that this is not a run of the mill rom-com. 

Set at the turn of the new millennium, Sex In The Title follows the loves, losses and dating disasters of five young men, newly arrived in New York and seeking fortune and love. It is a time when the internet is still trying to find its feet and mobile phones were, well, just phones. For these intrepid wannabe executives, the dating game is not always one they seem destined to win.

The characters and their stories are both engaging and believable. Each has their own hang ups about sex and romance. For some, the attempt to follow the stereotypical macho path society has set out before them is not leading them where they want to be. For others, their own past and family commitments make dating in New York city fraught with dangers. On their own, each struggles to find and maintain any kind of lasting relationship. But, when a freak (and I do mean freak!) incident brings them all together, that all begins to change.

The support they find in each other’s experiences and strengths lead them all on a path of self-discovery that ultimately helps them discover now only who they are, but what they truly want from their lives.

For me the book is pretty much a first. I have read plenty of romantic comedies, but I have come across very few that are written from the male point of view. That alone makes this a book worth trying, but add Zack Love’s honesty, wit and engaging style, Sex In The Title is a unique insight into the male view of the world. His characters are engaging and tragic and the story itself compelling and at times, laugh out loud funny. There is a gentle humour that makes even the most extreme character traits endearing. I loved the way these diverse and rather mixed up individuals come together to support each other in their pursuit of love. 

There are moments of introspection sitting alongside slap-stick comedy. The plot does on occasions veer towards the absurd, but I think it is a very accurate reflection of the period, and a painfully accurate look at the anxieties of twenty-something males trying to make their way in a world that is more competitive than they would like. 

A very enjoyable read from a writer from whom I have come to expect nothing less.

Impact (Outer Earth #3)

Impactby Rob Boffard

The final part of Rob Boffard’s “Outer Earth” trilogy packs just as munch punch as the previous two books. Impact picks up the story immediately after Zero-G’s cliff-hanger ending, with our hero, Riley Hale and he companions drifting away from the Outer Earth space station.

The bulk of the action in the final instalment takes place on a cold and almost barren Earth. Raveg by a nuclear holocaust, the whole planet is swathed in an eternal winter; except for one area centred on Anchorage, where things have started to change.

The pace of Impact is relentless, and the body count just as high as in the previous two books. But now Riley is no longer trying to save the station – that is beyond saving now – this time she is after revenge. There is definitely going to be reckoning, and she knows who is going to come out on top. She also needs to decide who she wants to be with.

Back on Outer Earth things are going from bad to worse. The damage inflicted by the fire fight at the end of the second book has forced the remaining residents into the lonely intact section of the station, but time is running out and there are not enough escape pods for everyone. Who lives and who dies is to be decided by lottery. 

The race to escape the station and Riley’s personal race for revenge and answers can only be won by the kind of daredevil escapades that have become the hallmark of this series. If you like your thrillers full of action then this is definitely a must. A great read that kept me hooked from the very beginning to the climactic end.

Zero-G (Outer Earth #2)

Zero-Gby Rob Boffard 

This is the second part of Rob Boffard’s debut Outer Earth trilogy. In the first book (Tracer) we were introduced to the Outer Earth space station and the storey’s central character, Riley Hale, the tough, independent and resourceful Tracer. 

Whilst I was convinced by the first book of Rob Boffard’s skills as a storyteller, I was a little concerned that the pace and intensity might be slowed down a little. I needn’t have worried. Picking up the story six months after the events if Tracer, Zero-G starts on a high with a hostage situation that tests Riley to the limit, and it doesn’t let up until the cliff-hanger ending 450 pages later.

Riley is now a “stomper” – part of the stations security force and her team get embroiled in a conspiracy that ponce again threatens the future of then whole station, where personal animosities become a danger to everyone.

Riley once again finds herself having to make impossibly tough decisions, but her resourcefulness may be the only hope the residents of humanity’s last outpost have to survive.
Outer Earth is not just any orbiting space station. It is the home of the last of humanity after a cataclysmic nuclear war made Earth itself uninhabitable and wiped out all life on Earth. Or did it?

But it is not just the relentless pace that keeps the reader gripped. Rob Boffard’s characters are both larger than life but also comfortingly vulnerable. Each is faced with conflicting loyalties, their decisions impacting on the lives of those closest to them. As Riley Hale is the driving force behind the plot twists and turns, she is not the only one who’s actions ricochet through the station’s population. Greed for power, desperation over resources and blind revenge all play their part on bringing Outer Earth to the very edge of destruction.

I was as gripped by the story as I was by the first. The dual narrative works well and I love the mix of thriller and science fiction.